§ 5.14 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD rose to draw attention to the situation in Hungary and Eastern Europe with particular reference to the Report of the United Nations Commission on Hungary and the Prime Minister's recent reply to Marshal Bulganin; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have been considering for an hour or so the state of the British citizen under the hazards, as I understand, of the laws of banking in this country, I ask you to bear with me while I draw your attention for a few minutes to the fate of about 103 million people in Eastern Europe. Your Lord ships will remember that when this Motion was first tabled it was confined to the one issue of Hungary, and some of your Lordships may have felt that in view of the publication of the690
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 7; Not-Contents. 39.689
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Chorley, L. [Teller.]||Mathers, L.|
|Crook, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Haden-Guest, L.|
|Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Colville of Culross, V.||Grantchester, L.|
|Crookshank, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Jessel, L. [Teller.]|
|Reading, M.||Hailsham, V.||Merrivale, L.|
|Hereford, V.||Merthyr, L.|
|Balhurst, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Newall, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Stonehaven, V.||Salter, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Saltoun, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Abinger, L.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Gosford, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Morley, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L. [Teller.]||Strang, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Birdwood, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Swinton, E.||Chesham, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Thurlow, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ United Nations Report I should have returned to that more limited issue. I have read through most of that immense Report, and as I read I became more certain than ever that the right thing for us to do this afternoon was not only to review the limited crime—dreadful though it was—committed against Hungary, but to take the opportunity to survey the broad picture of millions in Eastern Europe suffering in mental and political slavery.
§ In the meantime, we have had the Prime Minister's reply to Marshal Bulganin—frank, fair and conciliatory, providing us with pegs on which to hang a whole range of arguments, because if we are considering Eastern Europe we must include Eastern Germany; that, in turn, leads us to consider matters of reunification, and we get into the maze of disarmament, controls and the like. If some of your Lordships care to follow up the chain of reaction, I am sure none of us would complain. For my part, I hope to avoid disarmament problems and confine myself to political issues. Above all, I shall attempt to give my own idea of what I would term Eastern European policy. I would ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent they agree with such a policy, and where there is disagreement I think we can expect to hear some reasons.691
§ May I first stress what I regard as the nature of this problem? To me, it seems completely fantastic that there is a range of opinion in the world, from the leaders of Great Powers down to something like a mere lunatic fringe in our own country, that will work itself up into a pathological state of frenzy over the quite unknown effects of the fail-out of a hydrogen bomb, and yet be seemingly unmoved, year after year, by the visible evidence of a nation suffering on our doorstep in Eastern Europe. Such suffering is not a matter simply of Party concern. I do not know whether the recent monopoly of Miss Anna Kethly, when she visited this country, by the Labour Party, was due to Labour Party initiative or to Conservative and Liberal apathy. I only know that it just should not have happened. Indeed, when one speaks of Eastern European policy, such a policy loses all significance unless it is put forward by a Government with the united force of a united nation behind it. Personally, I should like to see the emergence of an All-Party Committee of both Houses of Parliament, in fairly constant session, sitting to advise Her Majesty's Government in relation to Soviet affairs. It is in that spirit that I am hoping that before we conclude this evening we shall have registered something more than the ability of the already converted to agree, and that we shall have some idea of the path down which a future Europe in freedom may travel.
§ I am still stressing the character of this problem when I say that responsibility rests upon us in this debate. It may well be that there are certain policies and certain plans which Her Majesty's Government have in view, particularly of the action that may or may not be taken on the United Nations Report on Hungary, which should be left in obscurity. I appreciate that. For that reason, I stress that I am not asking for details of a plan; nor, of course, do I expect any uniformity of political treatment of Eastern Europe. Obviously, to such a country as Poland it is necessary to use a different kind of approach from that to Hungary or to Czechoslovakia. But there is another danger. If we fail to display our interest in and our willingness to help Eastern Europe, then certainly the Soviet will come forward with their own proposals and will reap their own advantages. 692 Indeed, if the West, and this country, in particular, do not prove by their actions and policy that they are prepared to help Eastern Europe, there is no other alternative for those countries but to turn back to the Soviet.
§ Arising from that conclusion, I would draw your Lordships' attention to another feature of the situation: that is, the wisdom or the folly of pursuing a calculated, relentless, psychological attack on the Soviet leadership. The opposing argument is that if we do this, if we press all agencies into our support, using language certainly far removed from diplomacy, then we are really turning the Iron Curtain into an iron wall and will end up by permanently enslaving those we are out to help. I am afraid that that is an argument with which I do not agree. As I see it, if truth is to endure, it has to be protected, and its defence requires both positive and active measures. I say that, remembering that there is a duty to emphasise that there is to-day a very definite indication that the whole Soviet empire is beginning to doubt the validity of its own ideological premises. Brave statements that are being made are arguments not from strength but from weakness. In confirmation, we see that three directors on the board are sacked.
As to the satellite empire, I would quote only one extract which happened to come into my hands a few days ago. On May 25 the Czech Communist paper Lidova Demokracia, the "People's Newspaper", for no apparent reason suddenly quoted an extract from a Czech history written by Vancura, the dead historian, quoting from page 277. Here is a translation, much reduced:
Shameful treaties are curtailing the rights of the kingdom and frustrating the country's freedom…. The very seeds and foundations of our Czech life are suffocated. Only treason has forced us to peace. We were never defeated; in battle. Let us abrogate these shameful treaties. Victory or an honourable death.
I leave it to your Lordships to draw your own conclusion. I only suggest: is this the moment to display weakness in policy or in intention towards the Soviet leadership? For our purpose this afternoon I think that we may conclude that, within reason, bearing in mind certain conflicting elements, we can speak our minds.
§ I am finished with theory and want to turn to the practical aspect. Before I turn to the broader picture of Eastern 693 Europe I want to say a few words about Hungary. In the case of Hungary I suggest that we have a duty. Your Lordships will remember that the ultimatum to Israel and Egypt was put out on October 30, the same day that Budapest radio announced the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the city. It would be mischievously wrong to suggest that the ultimatum in any way influenced the Soviet decision, which in fact had been taken weeks before. At the same time as that bogus withdrawal was playing its part as a political smoke-screen, Soviet troops were on their way into the country from Roumania and Soviet Russia, crossing by bridges which had been erected over the rivers certainly on October 21. But what I think can be said is that Suez provided an alibi for the Soviets enabling them to say, "The oppressor on the Nile could not become the liberator on the Danube", and things of that sort. While we have no responsibility, I suggest that we have a particular obligation.
§ I will not waste your Lordships' time in drawing attention to the features of this revolution. They are all recounted in this great Report. All I would do is add one or two footnotes to a document which surely represents one of the great indictments in history. First of all, let me remind your Lordships that the Report is signed by five nations, of no particular political sympathy, of no particular bloc and of no single geographical area. Two of the signatories might well have been described by the Soviet a few years ago as "emerging from the grip of Western Colonialism". So it would be impossible for the Soviet to persuade anyone except their own millions of mesmerised mice to think that this Report is in any way instigated by the West and by the United States in particular. That being so, it occurs to me that one might hope to see the next step being taken by one of those small Powers usually classified as the "uncommitted".
§ I suggest that there is a clear and simple duty, in which Her Majesty's Government can play their part, to see that the world knows about this Report. The first issue is of 20,000 copies. I suggest that Her Majesty's Government should not rest content until they have 694 seen 2 million copies published in different languages, and that in this country we could take steps to see that a reduced copy is available on all bookstalls at about 2s. 6d. apiece. Most important, I suggest, is to see that the Soviet people know about this Report. Your Lordships will recall that the Report draws attention to many examples of Soviet troops who had sudden flashes of humanity and sudden doubts about the morality of the orders they were receiving. Is it not our simple duty to reinforce those doubts?
§ Here I think the B.B.C. can play their part. Nothing impressed me more during my recent visit to Vienna than to find praise for the work of the B.B.C. who, year after year, while not presenting anything particularly spectacular about the West, have played their by part by merely giving the facts of life in the West. I understood that that had been a real factor in keeping alive behind the Iron Curtain faith and confidence in Western democracy. Finally, in undertaking this Report, I suggest that the United Nations have to some extent reinstated themselves as a forum of world opinion to be recognised. This is the world's protest. While we may not see the immediate results that can flow from it, we can be certain that to have made no protest would have achieved nothing at all.
§ At this point I would draw attention to a difficult problem which faces Her Majesty's Government. I said that I was not going to press for any declaration of intention in regard to this Report, but I would draw attention to the situation as it is in Hungary to-day. So far from conditions in any way being alleviated, they have become utterly unendurable: special tribunals roaming around the countryside with the right to re-try, to step up sentence of life to sentence of death; a pall of despair hanging over the whole country; and perhaps that most accurate gauge of conditions within a country, the barometer of suicide. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, who is going to speak, will doubtless be able to tell us something about the validity of these tribunals as they roam about the countryside. But those conditions have to be remembered by Her Majesty's Government when they come to face the problem, which, as I see it, is to decide whether we press for 695 the reconvening of the General Assembly now, or wait for the next Session in September.
§ I said that I would not repeat the story of the revolution. But, for my purpose, I must just refer to the closing phase, when on November 4 Hungary had reached the parting of the ways. For Kadar it was a choice either of following Nagy down a road which clearly led right away from Communism—for, your Lordships will remember, Nagy had openly renounced the Warsaw Pact—or of turning back to the Soviet. The difference between these two men was this: that Nagy saw the desires of his people and was determined to stand by them; Kadar saw only the inevitable return of the Soviet—a Soviet which feared now not the breakaway of a satellite "down a different road to Socialism", but down a road that would leave Socialism far behind and let in at last the open seas of freedom. Kadar chose the Soviet, and so the great betrayal of our time was perpetrated.
§ For a week or so we witnessed the spectacle of twenty Soviet divisions held by men, women and children, fighting with bottles, sticks and stones and bombs made in their own backyards. Of all the things that one may say of the heroism of a small, proud country I would choose only this as my comment: that the world had become dangerously near to taking its division for granted. Perhaps Hungary has shown it that that kind of weak, inept judgment is wrong. Hungary has restored confidence, and has shown us that this satellite empire rests not on any indigenous kind of will of the people, but only on the mere presence of the Soviet military might. I felt that that much was due to be said about a nation which, in a sense, lost its bid for freedom not only on its own behalf, but on behalf of the other millions suffering in captivity from the Baltic down to the Black Sea.
§ So I pass to the broader picture. I would remind your Lordships that there are ten States, because I include the three Baltic States, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, none of them even offered the privilege of a Communist dictatorship, their identity merely terminated in 1944, in one case, probably typical of the others, with 150,000 people removed in cattle 696 trucks to Siberia. One mentions the episode as a kind of debating point, and we, who have never had to send a British refugee over to the Continent of Europe, find much difficulty in understanding it. I confess that I did not fully understand its meaning until I had to study the Report of the Select Committee of he House of Representatives of the United States.
§ We come now to face the grave question which all men of conscience ask: What can we do? I think we first have to swallow a very bitter pill. I see it in this way: that there is no heroic stroke of rescue; no political pressure which we can bring to bear on a satellite country which would not at this point heap misery on to a people who are already suffering an overwhelming burden. At this moment there are nine Soviet divisions in Hungary; there are seven Soviet armoured divisions in Poland; there are twenty-two Soviet divisions in Eastern Germany, and there are many divisions at short call across the border in Soviet territory. It is not that suffering can be entirely avoided. To win freedom, obviously sacrifices will have to be made. The problem is, as I see it, to secure the minimum of suffering with the maximum results.
§ In doing so, we have, I think, always to hope and plan that the spirit of freedom will live on inside these countries; that the initiative will come always from the heart of the people themselves, rather than from outside; but of course, that there will be encouragement—and that is what I mean when I refer to the rôle of the B.B.C. It is within that context that I see that organisations claiming to represent their countries, such as the Assembly of Captive European Nations (A.C.E.N.) and the Federation of the Freedom Fighters of Hungary, must find their level. I mention them because, if Her Majesty's Government cannot find it within them to offer what might be termed resistance movements fair recognition, then, at least, it should be recognised that it would be callous and cruel to ignore them entirely. Those who have met General Bela Keraly, who has placed himself at the head of the Federation of Freedom Fighters, recognise quickly a leader who is going to dedicate the rest of his life to the freedom of his country. Her Majesty's Government have nothing 697 whatever to be ashamed of, in my view, if they give such men a little encouragement, even though it may cut across the normal processes of diplomatic procedure.
§ In attempting to answer the question, "What can we do?", I would say that if there is to be no coup, then at least there can be a long-term policy, and that can be supported by what I call a number of short-term plans, minor political engagements, all directed not at the satellite countries, but at the central control of oppression. In the East there is a saying that it is better to kill the serpent than to break her eggs, and, as the Soviet leadership is what one might term "summit-minded," as I see it a grave responsibility rests on men such as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. In what I have to say now there will be some measure of agreement, and there will most certainly be quite a measure of disagreement, but I would press for your Lordships' consent on this one point. So often, when proposals are put forward from the West, they are met with the objection that the Soviet will never accept them. That misses the point. The point seems to me to be this: that every time a fair proposal is put forward, even if it is turned down, a minor engagement on behalf of truth is won. Let us then saturate the political atmosphere with proposals. The danger does not lie in the Soviet refusal, but lies in the loss of political initiative.
§ I would say just a word or two about what I have termed these short-term plans and skirmishes. From time to time certain situations arise, and each one of them is capable of being put to some use. To give an example, to-day, only twenty kilometres down the road from Vienna, one encounters a double-apron barbed wire fence, put back by the Kadar Government the other day, mined, with watch towers at intervals, and patrols slinking about to ensure that there is no escape. At the same time, one reads that in August a World Festival of Youth is going to assemble in Moscow which is to be the last word in Soviet "window dressing", and from our own country some 2,000 applications have been made for visas. I am not certain whether those two situations can be linked together, but they are the kind of situation that can be linked. For me, one of the most 698 impressive passages in the Prime Minister's letter to Marshal Bulganin was the logic of his reference to the barriers which the Soviet have erected to prevent their people from knowing the West. Here, it seemed to me, was an appreciation of the technique of presenting a fair kind of condition which it is up to a fair-minded Government to accept.
§ The long-term policy, of course, in contrast, concerns the very existence of the Iron Curtain itself, and I think we should be drawing false conclusions if we attempted to differentiate between one area or another in a moral sense—that is to say, the crime is the same wherever it is being perpetrated, whether it be Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia or anywhere else. Nevertheless, in so far as in Eastern Germany the effect has also been to divide a nation, I would suggest to our friends in Eastern Europe that we are justified in believing that perhaps in Germany and its reunification lies the key to a settlement of the trouble; if we can effect the reunification of Germany, then Eastern Europe will be much nearer its day of liberation. In view of the emphasis which the Prime Minister, in his letter, placed upon the reunification of Germany that would appear also to be the view of the Government. Personally, I have always felt that the day on which free elections could be initiated all over Germany would be the dawn of a great new era for all Eastern Europe. That much is non-controversial.
§ My further contention, I realise, is probably full of controversy. I put it in this way. To me it is quite obvious that the Soviet will never accept a reunited Germany which has opted to be under the umbrella of the North Atlantic Treaty; and I believe that they would have some justice, for the first time, in refusing that kind of development. Similarly, if it were possible, the West equally would never accept a reunited Germany which was under the umbrella of the Warsaw Pact. So we may suppose that the terms for the reunification of Germany must logically develop from an assumption that Germany would be neutralised by being neither in the North Atlantic Treaty camp nor the Warsaw camp.
§ What then remains? Surely, only a Germany demilitarised, and neutralised, but at; last reunited and free In putting it that way, I realise that I have gone well 699 beyond the present position of Her Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister recently reminded Marshal Bulganin that at Geneva, in 1955, we recognised the possibility of a United Germany which might opt to join the North Atlantic Treaty, with certain assurances being offered to the Soviet covering their own security. I am also aware that Dr. Adenauer to-day firmly rejects the whole conception of neutralisation. In all humility, I would ask the great architect of the new Germany whether, if he continues to adopt that attitude, he will ever see Germany reunited within his own lifetime. He recently offered that if the Soviet would agree to reunification he, in turn, would agree that North Atlantic Treaty forces would not be stationed further East than the present Zonal border. It is the further step of renunciation, as I see it, that is required.
§ Your Lordships may naturally ask: What is the fate of the North Atlantic Treaty in those circumstances? I well appreciate that the North Atlantic Treaty has been the symbol by which we have rescued the European heritage. Not one yard of European territory has been yielded to the Soviet which lies within the scope of the Treaty. But the Treaty is only a means to an end, and not an end in itself. If the price of achieving the end, or getting at least a little nearer to its achievement, is some modification of the means, then I suggest that we should be unwise not to consider those necessary adjustments. So long as the Soviet have many divisions just over the border in their own territory, it is out of the question, of course, to break up the North Atlantic Treaty. The process I am suggesting is a gradual disengagement of forces by the North Atlantic side on to the fringe of Europe, in return for similar disengagements and withdrawals on the Soviet side. If that can be combined with the natural development of a military guarantee for any country which is afraid for its own security, on the lines which Sir Anthony Eden has frequently put forward, then we should welcome it.
§ I have developed this theme of Germany because the process of neutralisation is sorely infectious, and in Europe the soil is most certainly receptive. For, paradoxically, in these satellite countries, in the midst of all their misery, there are the seeds of a new Europe. I think it 700 stirs the imagination to contemplate the future that might lie ahead for these nations if they were in a position, not necessarily to go into the capitalist camp or the Communist camp, but to build their own future in their own way. If the only way in which they can win that freedom to which they are entitled is through some conception of neutrality and its extension from one country to another, then a very grave responsibility rests on any Power which would resist that kind of process.
§ I have only one final reflection, and that is of a different nature. When the Khrushchevs and Kadars of this world condemn whole communities to mental slavery, it is difficult to avoid being forced into that frame of mind which would fasten the hatred of a system on to the individual who operates it. And yet, if we are to be in tune with the God we profess to worship when we enter a Christian church, we have not to fight the individual but the system. Yet what does fighting in any form involve? It involves harnessing every agency at our disposal—the exchange of trade and cultural relations; the Press, the radio and television—into their place in this great battle of mind and word. So I would ask the right reverend Prelate who is to speak this question—I purposely put it in its most unfavourable light from my own point of view: is what one might term "organised hatred" justified, assuming always that one believes it to be the means to an end? As to that end, it may be that we in our time may never see Jerusalem built in these lost lands of Europe. But have we then to cease from mental strife? Have we not a duty to perform in handing on a torch to those who might come after? It is to discover whether these ideas in any way fit in with the policy which Her Majesty's Government have in mind in Europe that I have raised these matters in your Lordship's House this afternoon. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, by the Motion which he has submitted this afternoon, has raised a number of important problems. I have listened with great attention to his speech, because I know that he takes a great personal interest in the affairs of Eastern Europe, and he has 701 taken special interest in the Hungarian tragedy. His speech has shown a constructive approach to the problem of the captive nations, and I can only hope that the debate we are having here this afternoon will in some way or other be reported to the satellite countries so that they may have further evidence that the West are concerned with their present enslavement and anxious to help them forward in whatever ways they can to the peaceful recovery of their national sovereign rights.
I believe that all of us regard what happened recently in Poland and Hungary as momentous events that will have an important influence on the future course of European development. The Soviet empire was deeply shaken by them and conditions of crisis within the Communist camp were intensified. We have all known for a long time that the Soviet leaders have some very awkward problems and anxieties, both within the captive empire and inside their own borders. Official confirmation of this is forthcoming to-day, as my noble friend mentioned, with the news of the split in the top leadership of the Soviet Government and the dismissal of Molotov. Malenkov and Kaganovich. I am not going to speculate as to the real significance of this drastic action or its likely effect on Soviet foreign policy, but it is clear that there have been strong disagreements and dissensions.
What has happened in recent times in the captive area of Europe—flashpointed by the uprisings in East Berlin, Poznan and Budapest—must have made a disturbing impact not only on the Soviet leaders themselves but on the minds of large numbers of Soviet citizens. They must recognise that disaffection, long-endured grievances and a bitter resentment of Soviet domination are now the open or underlying realities in the Communist-controlled neighbouring countries. The unanimous Report of the United Nations Special Committee, to which reference has already been made, confirms the view, which I think most of us formed at the time, that the revolts in Poland and Hungary were spontaneous popular bids by two small nations to liberate themselves from an intolerable foreign yoke, and to get for themselves a greater measure of national independence. The whole world knows now that the captive peoples are not reconciled, 702 and will never become reconciled, to Russian overlordship. It is an old lesson of history that the ideals of national independence and personal freedom cannot be torn from the human heart. The Polish and Hungarian nations have re-emphasised its validity.
One of the principal conclusions of the Special Committee is that what happened in Hungary wasa massive armed intervention by one power on the territory of another with the avowed intention of interfering with the internal affairs of that country.Contrast that impartial verdict of the Special Committee with an important passage in Mr. Bulganin's recent letter to the Prime Minister—I quote Mr. Bulganin's own words:The tasks of safeguarding a lasting peace in the Middle East demand, it is our profound conviction, that the great Powers strictly adhere to the principles of the peaceful settlement of all disputes connected with that area, respect the sovereignty and independence of the Middle East countries, and do not intervene in their internal affairs.That, to me, is an unexceptionable statement, in harmony with the Charter of the United Nations. But if it is valid for the Middle East, it is valid also for Europe. It is, to say the least of it, strange that this "profound conviction" of Mr. Bulganin and his associates does not govern their policy and action towards their European neighbours. Had that "profound conviction" been translated into practice in the case of Hungary, how different would have been the situation in that country to-day!
I do not intend to introduce matters that have been thoroughly debated in this House in recent months, but I cannot refrain from expressing deep regret that at a crucial period in captive Europe's struggle for national rights the nations of the free world were torn by divisions and disagreements on the Suez crisis, with the result that they were unable to bring their united political and moral pressure effectively to bear in support of the Hungarian people. The Special Committee's Report has yet to be discussed by the General Assembly, and we must await the results of that discussion. I want, however, to refer to a relevant matter. As a result of recent events the United Nations has come under criticism for having what is termed a double standard. The facts do not justify that criticism. In 703 the case of Suez, the General Assembly called upon Britain, France and Israel to withdraw their armed forces from Egyptian territory. Intervention was ended and their armed forces were withdrawn. In the case of Hungary, also, the General Assembly called upon the Soviet Union to withdraw its armed forces. Intervention was not ended: Soviet armed forces were not withdrawn but were reinforced, and then they smashed Hungary's attempt to regain its freedom. Soviet armed forces remain in control of the country to-day. The double standard was set not by the United Nations but by one of its foundation members which refused to obey its call and continues to defy it.
All of us must recognise that these are circumstances in which there is not a great deal that the United Nations can do now. As the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, said, there is no heroic action that can be taken by the West on behalf of the Hungarian people in their tragedy, but there ought to be no question of Soviet Russia's armed attack against Hungary and her defiance of the United Nations being glossed over. Nor can we pretend that what is reported by the Special Committee did not happen. The main facts as recorded cannot just be received and noted by the General Assembly. It would be wrong for member nations to close their eyes to the damage that has been done to the rule of law. They cannot safely regard armed intervention on the Western side of the Iron Curtain as something to be opposed and denounced, and armed intervention on the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain as something to be ignored and condoned. And surely there are no nations who should be more concerned at the armed suppression of freedom in a small country by a powerful neighbour than the newly emergent independent nations. No nation can feel wholly secure unless respect for the rule of law is universal, and it is in their common interest, as well as their common duty, to record their condemnation of Soviet Russia's armed intervention and repression in Hungary.
I know that there are those who think that to censure Soviet Russia's action will not do very much good, but I do not believe that the Soviet leaders are, or can afford to be, as impervious to critical 704 world opinion as we are sometimes inclined to believe. World condemnation on this occasion might help in deterring the Soviet Government from a repetition of armed intervention to suppress future efforts among the captive nations to win a greater measure of independence. Soviet Russia has worked hard and schemed skilfully to build up political and economic credit with the uncommitted nations. We may be sure that her leaders will think carefully before they run too big a risk of squandering that influence and good will.
Then, at the very time the Soviet leaders are seeking to restrain the demand for "national Communism" based on the theory of "the many roads to Socialism" Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese Communist leader, has strengthened the basis for that demand by expounding the case for "tolerated diversity" within the Communist bloc. Moreover, the movement of mind and spirit in the captive peoples has, as we know, its counterpart within the Soviet Union itself, where the strong natural desires for more tolerable conditions of life and more personal liberty are astir.
My Lords, in the light of these developments, of internal and external pressures, how can we be sure that the Soviet leaders are not being influenced by them or that they all react to them along a single line? How can we be sure even that there may not be doubts about the action taken in Hungary, or that there may not be some misgivings about whether it was handled in the best way from their own standpoint? Some of them must surely have been pondering for some time past whether in certain ways their East European empire is not becoming more of a liability than an asset, both politically and economically, and that a more liberal policy might give better results. They have good reason to know that the satellite military forces are not a reliable source of strength to Russia; that in fact they can prove to be a source of grave peril in time of crisis. This knowledge could have a deterrent influence against what might be called an activist policy.
Furthermore, how long can Soviet Russia with advantage to its own long-term interests maintain its grip on Eastern Europe by sheer armed power? Nobody knows better than they do that the Kadar 705 Administration in Hungary is not supported by the masses in Hungary; that indeed it is hated and despised by them for having betrayed the nation; and that it depends entirely upon the tanks of the Soviet occupation forces for its continued existence. Can they really believe that Soviet Russia's security is strengthened when an unwanted Government, upheld by an unwelcome foreign force, rules an unwilling people? That situation, as they know, is not confined to Hungary alone.
I am not suggesting that the Soviet leaders have begun to think of withdrawing from the satellite nations. That would be absurd. But neither should we consider that their present policy is unalterable in all circumstances. The governing principle of Moscow's East European policy is the security of Russia, and the captive States continue to be regarded by Moscow as a vital strategic area in existing circumstances. The main reason for the Russian military subjugation of Hungary was, I believe, a determination not to allow her to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and adopt a status of neutrality on the Austrian model. To suggest contracting out of the Russian defence system touches Moscow's most sensitive nerve. The Polish leader, Gomulka, avoided that clanger, and thereby averted Soviet armed intervention.
Herein, I suggest, lies the real significance of the new series of treaties which Moscow has made with East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Roumania regarding the stationing and movements of Red Army forces in those countries. What were formerly hailed as the forces of liberation have become the forces of occupation. Not even Poland could secure their withdrawal. Red Army forces will remain in all these national territories, and Russian military power will continue to be the visible symbol to the inhabitants of their inferior status. In East Germany the Soviet military authorities have now a treaty right to intervene if they consider the security of their armed forces is threatened by internal events. Under this provision the Soviet leaders could no doubt claim the right to take action if there were a dangerous revolt against the East German puppet Government. Moscow will not allow a collapse of its control over East Germany because that 706 would mean the collapse of its European policy.
What has happened in recent months in Eastern Europe seems to underline the fact that, so long as: he German problem remains unresolved, the problem of the captive States cannot be solved, and so long as the problem of European security remains unsolved, the German problem cannot be solved. Neither the Russians nor the Western Powers will consider dismantling their present defence systems until both sides are assured that they can have an alternative form of all-in security which satisfies their requirements. That is a common basic position.
I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, and I think that the West must now be convinced that Russia will not agree to German reunification while there is a possibility of a united Germany being a member of N.A.T.O. Soviet Russia on her part, must realise that no Federal German Government will negotiate reunification with the puppet Communist authorities of East Germany. Our Prime Minister has declared that an all-in European security system is contingent on a reunified Germany with a freely elected all-German Government free to choose its own foreign policy. It seems clear, therefore, that the reunification of Germany and the liberalisation of the captive nations will have to be sought through what has been called a "comprehensive and indivisible European Security Plan."
The main elements of such a comprehensive plan have been the subject of considerable public discussion over the lust two or three years. The Leader of the Opposition has outlined proposals in what has come to be called the "Gaitskell Plan". In recent months the Leader of the German Social Democratic Party has indicated the broad lines on which they think the problem of German reunification in freedom should be sought. Proposals have been elaborated by the exiled leaders of the captive nations. One of them, Mr. V.V. Tilea, who was the Roumanian Minister in London at the outbreak of war, stated them in a constructive article in The Times about a month ago. Comparison of all these different statements shows that they have much in common. I need only state the main elements concisely. They are: (1) The reunification of Germany on the basis of genuinely free elections; (2) the 707 gradual withdrawal of Soviet armed forces from East Germany and Central and South-Eastern Europe; and of Western armed forces from Federal Germany; (3) the choosing of their own Governments by the liberated States on the basis of free elections, without external intervention or pressure; and (4) the establishment of what we now call a neutral zone, whose members would be internationally guaranteed in their territorial integrity and military neutrality.
We all know, of course, that it is one thing to state objectives and another thing to attain them. But it must be recognised that there can be little hope of progress if both sides stand firmly on old positions and leave it at that. The kernel of the difficulty continues to be German unity and a united Germany's military status. However often the Western Allies proclaim that N.A.T.O. is a purely defensive shield against aggression, there seems little likelihood that Soviet Russia's opposition to the inclusion of a united Germany will be modified. It is, of course, true that the Western Powers have recognised the right of a united Germany to stay in or to go out of N.A.T.O., but that does not satisfy the Soviet Government, and they have made it abundantly clear that they will not agree to reunification, with freedom for Germany to be a member of N.A.T.O. if an all-German Government so chooses.
Even if the Soviet leaders were to give an affirmative answer to the four questions posed to Mr. Bulganin by the Prime Minister, none of the difficulties which have prevented agreement hitherto will be removed or eased. A solution appears to lie, therefore, in seeking a comprehensive agreement on European security as a whole. The need is for a practical start to be made to that end. I believe that the key to progress lies through disarmament, which will ease tensions, strengthen mutual confidence and open the way to agreements on other problems connected with European security and freedom.
Much depends, in my judgment, on what is achieved by the present Session of the Disarmament Sub-Committee. Both the latest Soviet and the Western statements on nuclear disarmament mark an advance on their previous positions. If negotiation on these two statements lead to an agreement to suspend 708 at once all further H-bomb tests for an agreed period, during which agreement will be sought for the cessation of production of nuclear materials for military purposes and for the establishment of proper control measures, a major step forward will have been taken on the road to a comprehensive disarmament agreement. It will, in my view, have a tremendous psychological effect upon the world as being a practical advance in the right direction. The sense of frustration which the prolonged absence of disarmament results has created will be replaced by a growing public confidence that the world is moving away from the perils of nuclear competition.
My Lords, we now have an opportunity to forge the key to greater world security. We must surely all be profoundly hoping that the opportunity will be seized. A positive achievement on nuclear disarmament with the promise of comprehensive disarmament to follow would help to transform the political climate of the world, in which a new political initiative would have more favourable prospects of success than any in the past decade. Conditions would then be ripe for another high-level conference at which negotiations should be directed at getting a European settlement providing for the reunification of Germany in freedom and the restoration of their sovereign rights to the captive nations in Eastern Europe.
My final word is therefore to urge upon Her Majesty's Government the need to prepare and undertake a new initiative in conjunction with the United States and France and in consultation with Federal Germany and other directly interested N.A.T.O. partners. When they go to another Summit Conference they should be ready to submit their own proposals for a political settlement in Europe. Their object must be to remove not only the division of Germany but the division of Europe, and so give freedom and security to all the European nations.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it is my pleasant duty, on behalf of the whole House, first of all to thank the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, for the admirable manner in which he has given Her Majesty's Government the opportunity of dealing with most important questions; and secondly, to thank the 709 noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for one of Chose shrewd, knowledgeable and restrained surveys of international affairs for which the House is repeatedly in his debt. But neither of the two noble Lords who have spoken will question the fact that they have put two immensely difficult and important problems to me for my consideration. The first is the situation in Hungary and the policy that should be pursued after the changing events there; and the second is the main problem of Eastern Europe, including German reunification and the advantages and disadvantages of mutual withdrawal of forces. I must ask the House to bear with me if I take some time in making my effort to deal adequately with these important problems.
I begin with the problem of Hungary, and I would remind your Lordships that from the early days of the rising Her Majesty's Government have been in no doubt whatsoever about its nature. Both noble Lords who have spoken have entirely agreed that it was the force of Soviet arms, and that alone, which frustrated the desire of the Hungarian people to rid themselves of foreign domination—because all that they wanted was to be ruled by a Government of their own choice. Therefore we have consistently and wholeheartedly supported all the efforts of the United Nations, first to alleviate the lot of the Hungarian people and secondly, and above all, to do everything we can to secure the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Hungary.
We also supported the setting up by the United Nations of the Special Committee on Hungary, charged with ascertaining and placing on record all the facts they could obtain about the circumstances of the rising. I believe that both my predecessors will agree with me that, if ever there was an episode which required investigation by an authoritative and impartial body, it was the Hungarian episode and its aftermath. I believe that I shall be following both the letter and the spirit of what was said by my noble friend Lord Birdwood if I pause for a moment to remind your Lordships of the strength, impartiality and importance of the Committee that produced this Report. It is worth noting that the Committee was composed of representatives of small nations: Denmark, Australia, Ceylon, Tunisia, and Uruguay, one from each continent and none—I repeat none—from 710 among the major Powers whose own interests might be held to be closely involved. It is really ludicrous to suppose, as the Soviet Government have alleged, that the findings of the representatives whom I have mentioned could have been dictated by the State Department in the United States or any other organ. Such a suggestion disparages both the distinguished and impartial members of the Committee and the United Nations, which appointed them.
The Report which the Committee made is a model of comprehensiveness and clarity. I should also like to add this. It should go out from your Lordships' House that we, at the heart of the Commonwealth, can take pride in the fact that two distinguished fellow-citizens took part in the preparation of the Report. They were Mr. Shann, of Australia, who was rapporteur, and Mr. Gunewardene of Ceylon—and I shall quote in a moment from a statement by Mr. Gunewardene. I am sure your Lordships would like to join me in thanking them for the admirable manner in which they discharged the heavy task laid on them by the United Nations.
An immense amount of material was gathered by the Committee. It came from documents, including newspapers published in both Hungary and the Soviet Union, and broadcasts; and, above all, it came from over 100 Hungarian witnesses chosen by the Committee themselves from many applicants as being most able to give most accurate testimony as to the events of the last nine months. I can note with special pleasure—because at; one stage the gentleman in question was my pupil at the Bar—that the Committee heard one non-Hungarian witness. Sir Hartley Shawcross, who asked to testify on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, who had conducted independent examinations of the legal aspects of the uprising and its aftermath. As a lawyer, I should like to pay tribute to the judicial impartiality of their investigations.
The Report was an astonishingly revealing document, which I think travels that territory which I am just finishing, and I want to urge that it deserves to be read in full. I say, agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, that one should do everything to encourage the reading of it. Therefore, I venture to 711 make these remarks to your Lordships to-day. Let us realise that the main conclusions completely vindicate the attitude adopted from the first by the General Assembly, but necessarily based on information which was less detailed and complete than that which was afterwards collected by the Committee. I shall certainly bear in mind—I cannot give any promise except that of careful consideration—the suggestions which Lord Bird-wood made as to increased publicity for the Report. I think it is also worth stating quite shortly, clearly and crisply, what were the five main findings of the Committee.
The first was that what took place in Hungary last year was a spontaneous national uprising, led from start to finish by students, workers, soldiers and intellectuals, many of them Communists. Secondly, the demonstrations which started off the chain of events were entirely peaceful—I think that needs to be stated again. None of the demontrators carried arms or had any intention of resorting to force. It was the action of the Hungarian Secret Police in opening fire on unarmed people and, later, the attacks by Soviet tanks which drove the Hungarian people to take up arms. Thirdly, the Committee find that, during those few days of freedom which the Hungarians were able to enjoy, life began quickly to return to normal, and there sprang up spontaneously the things that we all take for granted—political Parties, trade unions, a free Press. For those days, the burden of fear was magically lifted. Fourthly, the Committee find that the basic human rights of the Hungarian people were violated by the Hungarian Government prior to October 23 and that such violations have been resumed after November 4. Fifthly, they find—and this is important—that the consideration of the question by the United Nations was legally proper and, moreover, was requested by a legal Government of Hungary, Mr. Nagy's Government.
I hope that your Lordships will bear with me if I emphasise this point. The Committee specifically stated that the thesis that the uprising drew its strength from reactionary circles in Hungary and from Western "imperialists" did not stand up to examination. I should like to quote Mr. Gunewardene on this point 712 because I think this is very valuable. He said in Colombo on June 23:Not one witness had wanted a change in Hungary's social or economic system. No one was prepared to let the factories go back to the capitalists. If the revolution had been inspired by the Western Powers they would have wanted to break with the social and economic systems and to return to a capitalist system. They wanted a socialist republic based on Marxist and Leninist principles, with greater friendship with Russia and other socialist countries. But they also wanted independence from any foreign control.That is Mr. Gunewardene's summary of the position. I hope that it will go out to the world. The Report concluded with these words—again I quote because the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, drew attention specifically to this point and I desire to underline it:A massive armed intervention by one Power on the territory of another, with the avowed intention of interfering with the internal affairs of the country must, by the Soviet Union's own definition of aggression, be a matter for international concern.That is a grave and important statement that the world should understand at the present time.
The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, asked me to say a word about events since the uprising. In particular, he asked me to say something with regard to the legal system—and, though I call it a legal system, I must not be taken to admit that it has any of my conception of legality or rule of law; but I wanted to follow the noble Lord as he asked me to deal with the point. The aftermath, generally, has been a bitter one, and our heartfelt sympathy must go out to the whole Hungarian people, because undoubtedly they are being subjected to ruthless repression and a wholesale reign of terror. This campaign is now being waged by the Kadar régime. All the apparatus of the Police State has been introduced—beatings-up, disappearances in the night and arbitrary arrests are again common; and executions are a daily occurrence. So far as we can discover, even when cases are brought to court, the proceedings are only a travesty of justice.
I could go through—as no doubt Lord Birdwood has done—a whole line of decrees dealing with this matter. I want to quote only two that demonstrate my point. The courts hold wide powers of summary trial which they are expected to use to the fullest extent, and have 713 done so since the end of the uprising. But a Hungarian newspaper on January 11 carried the following statement:Trials at a summary court are short. The prosecutor brings the defendant before the court of summary jurisdiction, submits the proof and the charge, guilt is stated and sentence passed by short process.That seems quick enough, to say the least of it. But two days afterwards a Government spokesman explained that these powers of summary jurisdiction had proved inadequate and that expedited procedure would be introduced. If I may take another example, under a decree of June 15 the right of persons on trial to a proper defence has been severely limited, for the Hungarian Minister of Justice is drawing up a short list of lawyers who alone will be entitled to appear for the defence. Even the courts of appeal are packed, because they now have one professional judge and four lay representatives who appear to be chosen because of their readiness to support the régime. Even so, there is a continual call for sterner measures. That is the situation.
The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, asked me about the more general aspect. It is impossible to say accurately how many have suffered through the reign of terror. The best estimate we have of those executed or done to death is that they are numbered in thousands; and even the Hungarian authorities themselves may have no accurate idea of the total, because the secret police have killed many rather than bother to hand them over. I should just like to give two examples of the fate of those who reached the courts. On May 16—which, after all, was a considerable time after the events that brought this matter up—no fewer than 14 out of 21 persons accused of counterrevolutionary activities were sentenced to death and probably executed on the same day. On June 6, six persons were sentenced to death for the part they played in attacking a group of secret police who had massacred 80 unarmed demonstrators in a provincial town on October 26. In addition, there are at least 20,000 political prisoners, and I really need not elaborate on the conditions of life and manners of death in such places. I should like to say only that we have been informed that one of the Hungarian officials sent to inspect a concentration camp is said to have returned in three days and had to be treated for a nervous 714 breakdown. So, obviously, they have got to the depths of concentration camp procedure which the Nazis achieved in the course of same years.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson that although organisations have been proscribed, and although it is no use denying that all this has had the desired effect that resistance to the régime both active and passive has, to all intents and purposes, ceased, that is not the end of the story. The recent proceedings of the Communist Party Congress show that the leaders know well enough that not only in the country at large but even in their own Party their support is negligible. The spirit of the Hungarian people has not been broken, although they know it is no use banging their heads against a brick wall. They have not accepted the dictatorship. Rather than face the voters even in the Communist travesty of elections, Kadar has postponed them, with specious excuses, for two years. The point where I think the noble Lord, Lord Henderson and I would agree at once is that Hungary, like most Communist States, is ruled by a minority, perhaps as small as 3 per cent., and that minority is in power by reason of one thing only—namely, the force of Soviet arms. That is the central fact of the tragedy of Hungary.
The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, quite fairly said that he would like me to say what was the policy of the Government in these bitter circumstances. I will treat it under three headings: first, the policy as regards the United Nations: secondly, the policy towards Russia; and thirdly, the policy towards Hungary and the other East European States. As regards the United Nations, Her Majesty's Government accept the findings of the Report of the Special Committee. The conclusions are so damning and the picture we have of events, both at the time of the uprising and since, is so appalling that we shall be satisfied only by the General Assembly giving their full attention to the situation. We shall therefore press for the Assembly to meet as soon as it is practicable to organise effective consideration of the Hungarian question. As two noble Lords have pointed out, the earlier resolutions of the Assembly are still on record. They call for the withdrawal of Soviet forces so that the Hungarian people can exercise their right to have a Government of their 715 own choice. This call, which has hitherto been disregarded by the Soviet-Hungarian Government, must be reaffirmed.
Now with regard to Russia: a heavy responsibility lies on the Soviet Union to right the wrongs which she has committed in Hungary. When, therefore, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister wrote last month to Marshal Bulganin he said—and I quote his words:The policy of repression now being pursued in Hungary by a régime maintained in power by the presence of Soviet troops, and the continued refusal of the Soviet and Hungarian Governments to comply with the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, are bound to remain serious obstacles to any real improvement in any Anglo-Soviet relations.I am sure my right honourable friend in saying that spoke for this country. The Soviet leaders are again pressing the doctrine of co-existence, and we, for our part, will carefully examine any issue on which we think we can make progress. But—and here again I think I am only quoting the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in words as well as in spirit, and the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, too—there is no good purpose to be served by whitewashing Soviet actions of which we disapprove. That cannot be the basis of a genuine friendship such as is wanted. Hungary is such a case. We cannot hide, and we should be wrong to ignore, the profound feelings of disquiet that Soviet actions there have aroused in this country and, indeed, throughout the free world. The remedy lies in the hands of the Soviet Government. They should withdraw their forces from Hungary.
I know it is tempting to say—and there are people who say it—that the Hungarian episode is over and one should not rake up the dead embers. We have no wish—and certainly not I, who have the happiest personal memories of my co-operation with Soviet colleagues twelve years ago, and have always had personally a great and abiding interest in the Russian people, their history and literature and music—to add bitterness to Anglo-Soviet relations. But, having said that, the truth is that the Hungarian situation is not dead, and cannot be while the Hungarian people are in their present situation and half a dozen Assembly resolutions stand unheeded by the Soviet 716 Government. That is the situation which we must face.
Now what of Hungary and the Hungarian people themselves? We can take pride in the thought that private organisations and the Government were both in the forefront of the free world's campaign to help those whom it was in our power to help directly—the refugees. The Red Cross has done magnificent work, and we have contributed largely to the relief organisations of the International Red Cross. There are nearly 20,000 refugees still in this country, half of them already in work. Our power to help those still in Hungary under Soviet bondage is, unfortunately, much more limited. Sanctions, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, suggested, if I understood him aright, could only add to Hungarian sufferings. It would not be the Hungarian people but their Communist rulers who would benefit from economic aid from the West.
But there are three things we can and will do. First, we must make clear to the Hungarian people in every way our respect for their courage, our sympathy with their aims, and our constant hope that they will one day obtain the freedom that they so desire. I think the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, asked me specifically about that point, and I wanted to make it clear. Secondly, we shall do our best to see that the peoples of Eastern Europe are not cut off from the West. Their aspirations have much in common with our own philosophy of life. Finally, we must spare no effort to bring the whole world to realise the true nature of the Hungarian uprising. The fact must be faced by everyone, including the Soviet Union, that the Soviet Union stand condemned by the United Nations of the deliberate suppression by force of a whole nation in its struggle for freedom. As I have said, it has been quite clear that the basic desire was neutrality, their own way of life, and a Government of their own choice.
I want to finish on this note. Our hope must be that the Soviet leaders will ponder these facts; that they will realise the tone in which they are being put forward in your Lordships' House, from every part of it, and that they will heed the unanswered agony of the conscience of the world. There is the problem, and 717 it is no good setting it out except with its naked facts fully disclosed.
I am sorry for detaining your Lordships so long, but, if your Lordships will allow me, I want to deal with the most important second point of both noble Lords who preceded me, and that is the problem which involves German reunification and the suggested withdrawals of troops. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, talked, eo nomine, of the Gaitskell Plan for a long-term solution of the problems of Europe by the establishment of a neutral belt. That was not intended to mean the abolition of N.A.T.O., and as part of the suggestion the reunification of Germany by free elections was envisaged. We agree with the main aims and objectives of the proposal if they are to obtain the withdrawal of Soviet forces from the satellite countries and the reunification of Germany. We are prepared to consider seriously any scheme which seems likely to achieve these aims without prejudicing our own security.
I assure your Lordships that the proposal has been carefully considered. But in present circumstances we do not think it would be a satisfactory solution. In the first place, there is no indication at present that the Russians would be willing to consider a proposal for the withdrawal of their forces from the satellite countries in return for the withdrawal of N.A.T.O. forces from Germany. All the evidence points to the contrary. Their experiences in Hungary and Poland last year have led them to concentrate on strengthening their position in Eastern Europe, and particularly in Eastern Germany where, as was pointed out, they' keep a force of twenty-two divisions in a country of 17 million inhabitants.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
May I interrupt my noble and learned friend for one moment to draw attention to the fact that Mr. Khrushchev did say that the Soviet would be prepared to withdraw their troops from Eastern Germany, from Hungary and Poland, in return for a United States withdrawal from Western Germany and, I think, France?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am coming to that offer; that was the next point with which I was going to deal. I am grateful to the noble Lord, but perhaps I might come to that as it is the 718 next point in my argument. What I wanted to make clear was—and I think this is a point that should be made—that the past, in so far as it is relevant as atmosphere, and especially the intervention in Hungary with which we have just been dealing, show that the sort of solution now proposed certainly did not appear to commend itself to them. There is nothing in past action to support it. I think the noble Lord will go with me that far, because, as I have said, and I think as he has said, the Hungarians did not want to join N.A.T.O.; they wanted to be neutral like Austria, so long as they were independent; and they were prevented by the Soviet intervention from achieving that aim.
I come to the point which the noble Lord mentioned to me. Of course, it is correct that Mr. Khrushchev himself put forward proposals dealing with the mutual withdrawal of forces. They were contained in his television broadcast on May 28. In this he proposed that the United States and other countries should withdraw their forces from Western Germany and all other N.A.T.O. countries. In return, Mr. Khruschev offered the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Eastern Europe. I say that the main Soviet aim in Europe is the abolition of N.A.T.O. and the removal of the United States from the Continent. That is exactly what Mr. Khrushchev's proposal would involve, and that is its intention. It would mean the complete disruption of all our Western defence arrangements, and Mr. Khrushchev is well aware that a proposal with that effect must be unacceptable.
There is no doubt as to where the balance of advantage would lie. On the one hand, United States forces would be moved back 3,000 miles, across the Atlantic. On the other side, the Russians would be poised only a short distance away on the Western frontiers of the Soviet Union. One can indeed imagine that in these circumstances, with Western Europe's defences weakened and disrupted, the Russians might be willing to pull back their forces to a position from where they could return at short notice. But, if this is the Russian aim, if this is their price, there is nothing to show that they would be willing to pay it in return for any arrangement which included the retention of N.A.T.O. These 719 are reasons why we do not see any likelihood that the noble Lord's suggestion for troop withdrawals would be accepted by the Russians in present circumstances.
It may be suggested that the offer should be made, in an effort to break the deadlock and to give encouragement to the peoples of the satellite countries. As I pointed out, such an offer would involve substantial concessions on our side—for the offer to withdraw N.A.T.O. forces from Germany would be a very real concession. How real it would be tan be seen from a study of the map. I hope that my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, with his infinitely greater experience, would agree with me, because I suggest that the N.A.T.O. area in Europe is already deficient in depth, whereas on the Soviet side there is unlimited depth. But what would the position be if all that N.A.T.O. had was France and the Low Countries? One does not need to be—and I do not claim to be—a great strategist to see that it Would make military nonsense. I am glad to have an approving shake of the head from the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. In any case, such an offer would have an incalculable result on morale in N.A.T.O. countries. It would quite probably result in the disruption of N.A.T.O. This is a risk which, without the assurance of any compensating benefits, the West cannot afford to take.
We could expect no answering concessions from the Russians, nor have the Russians given any real indication that they would be willing to agree to German reunification by free elections (and here we come to where I believe these points are interwoven): it would be all the other way, very much to the contrary. They have said in fact—I am quoting now from their Note to the Federal Government of Germany of October 22 last year:any talk about uniting Germany through the holding of all-German elections has no real foundation. There are no conditions in Germany at present for the holding of such elections.They went on to say thatthe question of reuniting Germany is, above all, a question of changing the present political course of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germanyand then to maintain that reunification was a matter which could be worked out 720 only between Dr. Adenauer and Herr Grotewohl, the Prime Minister of the Communist Government of Eastern Germany. This has been their constant theme ever since the Geneva Conferences. But Herr Grotewohl has laid down numerous conditions which must be fulfilled before such negotiations could begin.
I want to give these conditions, because I think they show perfectly clearly what is the real situation. He demands, of course, something that sounds comprehensible—the removal ofleading Nazi functionaries from the Governmental and economic machinery in Western Germany ";the renunciation of thepolicy of re-Fascistisation "—which is a new word to me: I thought I knew all of these forms of words. He demands a proletarian leadership to be established; the abolition ofmilitaristic and Imperialist forces ";the removal of the privileges of large landowners, anddemocratic land reformand so on. I think it is quite clear what these conditions mean. They mean two things. In the first place, the East German Communist leaders are not prepared to submit themselves and their régime to the free choice of the German electorate. Secondly, before they will even discuss reunification they insist that the Federal Government should adopt a social system of which they, and presumably their Russian masters, approve. In other words, they are intent on postponing indefinitely the reunification of Germany unless they can get it on Communist terms.
If one looks at the Soviet proposals for a European settlement which have been made at and since Geneva, one sees that they have all been based on and designed to perpetuate, the continued division of Germany. One can look at the proposals of Mr. Molotov, at the Geneva Conference of Foreign Ministers in 1955, and at those contained in the Soviet statement of November 17, 1956, just a year later. Both sets of proposals envisage security arrangements in Europe in which the two parts of Germany would participate separately. Mr. Bulganin's letter to Mr. Macmillan made no mention of the reunification of Germany in regard to the security arrangements.
721 Then one has to face the situation that it is quite illusory to suppose that any system of security in Europe could provide genuine stability if Germany continues to be divided. In fact, the Soviet Government have deliberately ignored the problem of German reunification and failed to put forward any constructive proposals for achieving it. That is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister thought it right to ask these specific questions of the Soviet Government about their policy towards German reunification. We want to know whether the Soviet Government have any intention of fulfilling the responsibility which Mr. Bulganin recognised in the directive issued by the four heads of Government to their Foreign Ministers at Geneva in July, 1955, for the reunification of Germany by free elections.
The essence of the scheme which the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has referred to and given a modified blessing to, and which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has also mentioned, is that there should be a neutral belt, and especially a neutral Germany, which would provide a satisfactory basis for a European settlement. To this idea there are grave objections, and they were put very succinctly by my right honourable friend Sir Anthony Eden. Your Lordships will remember that the way he put it was:If Germany is to be neutral and disarmed, who is to keep her disarmed; if neutral and armed, who is to keep her neutral?That, I think, puts epigrammatically but quite clearly the difficulty that arises.
My Lords, I will try to explain the abjections in greater detail, but as shortly as I can. We have always said that a Germany reunified on the basis of free elections should be free to determine her own future. We have not been hypocritical. We have considered it most likely that in these circumstances Germany would elect to join N.A.T.O., but we have proposed the answer to that. It is no good pretending that something will not happen—that is what I complain about in regard to the other approaches. That was why, at the Geneva meeting of Foreign Ministers, we offered the Russians security assurances designed particularly to meet that contingency of Germany joining N.A.T.O. But we recognise that, in the exercise of the free choice that is provided for in the "Eden Plan", 722 an all-German Government might decide to remain neutral. If it did, we should, of course, respect the decision. Even if it is not considered a very satisfactory solution, it is for them to make it, although the present Federal Government are opposed to it.
But I ask your Lordships to consider whether we are not right in believing that it would not make for stability in Europe to have a military vacuum in so large and powerful a country as Germany. We do not think it possible that a country of that size would remain for long neutralised and unattracted by other groups of Powers. I do not believe there is a real comparison between the positions of Austria and Germany. One must face the fact that, inevitably, there would be competition between East and West for Germany's support, and that would increase rather than diminish the insecurity and instability in Europe. I noted, as did my noble friend Lord Birdwood, that Dr. Adenauer made the same point in Vienna a short time ago.
What appears to be suggested, however, is not that an all-German Government—or, for that matter, the Governments of the satellite countries—should choose neutrality. It is rather that a decision should be made before an all-German Government exists and that the status of neutrality should be imposed on a reunified Germany. That is what the proposal for neutralisation means. We may have views on the likely attitude of an all-German Government based on free all-German elections, but until that Government is formed, there is no authority in Germany which is competent to take a binding decision on its behalf. So it would require a decision by the four Powers that, by the terms of the Peace Treaty to be signed with a future unified Germany, Germany would be compelled, whether she wished it or not, to adopt the status of neutrality. That seems to me utterly impracticable and utterly illusory as a basis for the future stability of Europe. I do not think I need develop that.
On the other hand, the Soviet Government, apart from the television broadcast, to which my noble friend referred, have so far shown no willingness to make any concessions at all—certainly not concessions on the question of German reunification. I think that, taking it in all, they 723 have demonstrated their determination to retain their grip on the satellite countries; and there is no sign that they have modified their aim of destroying the defence arrangements of the West. That is the situation up to date. I want to make one point clear, however. If the Soviet Government themselves were to propose a scheme of this sort—I mean a scheme involving a sensible and sound basis for German reunification—there would be an entirely new situation. We should have to examine the Scheme carefully, in the light of this new situation, in order to see whether it provided a suitable basis for serious negotiations, and whether such negotiations would have any prospect of real success.
§ LORD HENDERSON
If I may interrupt the Lord Chancellor, he says that if Russia would submit proposals along these lines, the West would be prepared to consider them, and so on. The suggestion I have made is that the West should submit these proposals. Why should it be left to Russia to take the initiative? Why cannot the West take the initiative? The noble and learned Viscount has said that Russia stands by her decision. But so does the West. If we go on like this, we shall not make any progress at all. Perhaps I might remind the Lord Chancellor that I pointed out that the fact that there is now a possibility of agreement with Russia in regard to disarmament—for the first time we seem to be getting nearer disarmament—might put us along the way towards progress in other directions. But if the British Government and the other Western Governments are going to sit and await proposals from Russia, it means that we are not taking our part in the initiative of trying to get a settlement of these outstanding problems.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think that I made perfectly clear that, in my view, up to now the Soviet Government have not suggested concessions. Not merely have they not suggested concessions, but everything they have said has been on the basis of no reunification of Germany. If they were prepared to strike a new line, then we should be prepared to consider it. But what we are not prepared to do in the meantime is to commit strategical madness and also 724 to undermine the whole morale of the N.A.T.O. Forces. We are not prepared to do that. If they make a new suggestion, then it will be considered, but we are not going to put forward suggestions which include paying the price I have endeavoured to make clear in the speech that I have made to your Lordships. On the other point, the importance of the disarmament steps that are being taken, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson.
We have made our position and aims perfectly clear. We consider that the first step towards a European settlement must be the ending of the division of Germany. This is a matter on which we, together with the French, Soviet and United States Governments, have definite responsibilities. To this end, we have proposed free elections, under supervision, throughout the whole of Germany. We have insisted that, when an all-German Government has been formed after these elections, it should be free to decide its own policies. We have offered to sign with the Soviet Government and other countries a Treaty of Assurance which would come into force in conjunction with the reunification of Germany. That Treaty, which was tabled at Geneva in 1955, contains substantial guarantees for the security of its members. Among them, I would recall the provision for a zone of limitation of forces and armaments on either side in East and West, with the proposal for "special measures" in that part of the zone nearest the line of demarcation.
In his letter to Mr. Bulganin, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, reaffirmed that Her Majesty's Government are prepared, as part of a mutually acceptable European security arrangement, to give an assurance that in the event of Germany choosing to join N.A.T.O. they will not take any military advantage as a result of the withdrawal of Soviet forces from East Germany. These are genuine and positive proposals. These are proposals which we have put forward, and they provide, in our view, a constructive basis for a European settlement. So far they have met with no response and no willingness to negotiate on the part of the Soviet Union; and without such willingness there is little hope of real progress. But I ask my noble friend, who is the personification of fairness, whether, when we have put 725 forward these proposals and in face of the Russian refusal to negotiate on a basis which offers any prospect of settlement, it can be expected that we should, in advance, undertake to make concessions which would weaken Western security.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, Will the noble and learned Viscount allow me to interrupt him? I did not suggest making concessions in advance, but I recall that in the letter which he sent to the Prime Minister, Mr. Bulganin said quite firmly that neither side was going to break down its existing defence systems—Warsaw and N.A.T.O.—and he accepted that; but he went on to refer to the Eden Plan for a demilitarised zone in Europe, and was prepared to enter into discussions on that and other temporary measures. The reply which he received from the Prime Minister was not an acceptance of the proposal for a discussion; it merely referred him to the fact that the original proposal made by Sir Anthony Eden was part of the Western assurance plan and apparently nothing further is to be done about it. With all respect, I do not follow the argument that we are prepared to do all kinds of things and that the Russians will not do anything when, in point of fact, the question of dismantling the defence systems on either side does not arise at this moment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am sorry to have entirely to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. I do not want to repeat what I have said but I know that if he will do me the honour of reading it carefully he will see that I have tried to think the matter our carefully. What I said was that not only were these proposals put forward in 1955 but they are still open. The Soviet Union has made no response. There was no mention in Marshal Bulgaria's letter of the reunification of Germany, as I pointed out earlier; and without that willingness we are not prepared to go beyond these offers and make concessions which would weaken the security of the West. Where I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson—and I am glad to end this very long speech on a note of agreement with him—is that that is the opening in the avenue of disarmament where some progress may be possible. I refer to the talks now proceeding. In these discussions the Soviet Government have the chance to show that they are genuinely interested in 726 achieving a settlement with the West. I do not want to say anything, and the noble Lord would be the last to ask me to say anything, which might prejudice negotiations. We must, of course, proceed with caution, and any progress which is made can only be gradual and step by step, because we must at every stage ensure that nothing is done which might prejudice our security and that of our Western Allies.
If, however, we can reach agreement on certain initial steps and see that the Soviet Government are prepared to carry them out, then it may be possible to proceed to a consideration of some of the political problems the solution of which might restore international confidence and without which that confidence cannot be re-established. Foremost among those problems is a European settlement, including an arrangement for European security and reunification of Germany. But I believe that this is the big difference between us, and all I ask is that the noble Lord will consider it: in advance of a settlement of such problems we must avoid any steps which would be dangerous and prejudicial to the security of the West and at the same time contrary to the true interests of the people of Western Europe.
I apologise to your Lordships for the length of time I have taken, but I have endeavoured to deal with two of the most difficult problems that exist in the world to-day, and I can only thank your Lordships for the patience with which you have heard what I have had to say.
§ 7.16 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, the whole House must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, both for his initiative and for his speech, and also grateful for the two impressive speeches, from the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack which have followed. I speak from a personal angle, with recent knowledge through a visit to Hungary, and on a slightly different line from what has already been said, though I will do my best to answer the question put to me, as a Prelate, by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood. The occasion of my visit to Hungary was the holding of a meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. 727 That body consisted of some 200 members and their colleagues of the Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican Churches. It was part of their annual programme and was the first occasion on which the World Council of Churches had met at all on Communist-controlled territory.
My Lords, if I may interrupt the right reverend Prelate I do so simply for the reason that what he is about to say is of exceptional interest. I wonder whether he would tell us the date of his visit, because that would make it still more helpful.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, my visit was made last August. I had been in Hungary in 1954 and there was a slight contrast. In 1954 there was a very great sense of terror, poverty, unhappiness and dictatorship. In 1956 the unhappiness, the poverty, the terror and the dictatorship still remained, but there was to some slight extent a lifting of the strain. The fear which had clouded over one's conversations two years previously was slightly diminished.
We were most hospitably entertained. Your Lordships may ask why were the Churches of the East and West, including those in Communist-controlled countries, invited to Budapest last year. The reason was partly that the rank and file of church people—and not simply the leaders and the official government of the churches—were very anxious indeed for a real contact with their fellow Christians in other parts of the world. But why did the Government agree? The reason was that they were paying some regard to public opinion outside Hungary. When I met the President of the Republic, Mr. Dobi, who is still the President, I asked him why this hospitality was being shown to us. He said without any hesitation, "Because we want to have friends in the West."
I also had an important conversation with the President of the State Office for Church Affairs. I am under no illusion as to the complete opposition, moral, spiritual and ideological between Christianity and Communism, but I recognise the courtesy of President Janos Horvath and his wish to understand and to be understood by others. He had already described the arrest and sentence 728 of the Lutheran Bishop Ordass, which had been carried out before he came into power, as a grave miscarriage of justice, and he had already arranged for his civic and ecclesiastical rehabilitation. In a conversation of some two hours with him I raised the question of the Catholic bishops and clergy under arrest or detained. I took many of their names seriatim from the Cardinal to lesser people, and I noticed that, while there was no question of a real change, there was a re-examination of individual cases. I communicated with some fullness the result of my conversation through the Apostolic Delegate for the United Kingdom to the highest authorities in Rome.
I also had conversations with many other people in Budapest and other parts of Hungary. There was no impeding of freedom of movement or freedom of discussion at our meetings, and I would also say that there was no sign whatever of any kind of counter-revolutionary preparation or conspiracy. In case I may be misunderstood, I want to say that I am under no illusion either that the whole country and the Churches, not least, were under a cruel dictatorship and were suffering from the general terror.
Then, just over two months later it came—this marvellous uprising of the Hungarian nation. As the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack has said, it was clearly spontaneous, nation-wide and unfomented by any imperialist or counter revolutionary forces. It was to some extent the fruit, no doubt, of the effort in Poland, but it was really the desperate situation which prompted a whole nation to rise up. There was nothing reactionary, Fascist or imperialist about it. Indeed, the Report of the Special Committee in paragraph 392 quotes a girl student as saying:We wanted freedom and not a good comfortable life. We the young people were particularly hampered…brought up amidst lies. We could not have a healthy idea because everything was choked in us.The Special Committee say that these words express as concisely as any the ideal which made possible a great uprising.
Then came the savage suppression by Soviet forces. I have read almost the whole of the Report of the Special Committee, so objective, so judicial and so 729 descriptive. It makes plain that the massive armed intervention of Soviet forces was faced with the unanimous opposition of an outraged people, and it quotes the remark of Mr. Kadar on November 6, which shows the spirit of the suppression. He said:A tiger cannot be tamed by baits. It can be tamed and forced to peace only by beating it to death.That is a terrible sentence. As the noble and learned Viscount has said, the Report presents a terrible condemnation of the whole process of suppression. It insists that the desire for the withdrawal of the Soviet armed forces was based on the patriotic feelings of the Hungarians, having their sources in their historic past. Now the terrors and the worst features of the old A.V.H. system has returned, and Hungary's position is grievous indeed.
I turn now to the proposals made by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood. No one who heard Lord Birdwood could fail to be interested both in his long-term and his short-term plans, or in his references to the reunification of Germany and so forth—but I will not refer to them now. The noble Lord addressed a question to me in which he asked: "Is organised hatred justified if one believes that the end justifies the means?" I hope that, no less sincerely than the noble Lord, I condemn and deplore the Communist system and the fearful crimes committed in its name. But Western civilisation has its own record of materialism and injustice, and I think that we in the better-off Western countries have to take a wide look over the whole world, especially the Continents of Africa and Asia; and I think we must take full account of the attitude of many of the peoples in Asia and Africa when they contrast the prosperity comparatively speaking, of the West and the destitution of so many countries in Asia and Africa.
Let me give one or two facts. In 1949, the world's population was 2,400 million The population of North America was 213 million—less than 10 per cent. of the total. But the American population receive 44 per cent. of the world's income Asia's population is 1,300 million—that is 53 per cent. of the total world population, but they receive only 10.5 per cent. of the world's income. The citizen of the United States has, on an average, an income of 1,453 dollars each year. The 730 citizen of India has an average of 57 dollars and the citizen of China an average income of 27 dollars. The inequality is surely startling.
It is fair to remind ourselves that Western society has not yet realised the profound meaning of the judgment contained in Communism as an idea. Jacques Maritain, the Catholic, asked this question in 1939:What is the cause of this [atheism of Communism?]".And he replies:It originates chiefly through the fault of a Christian world unfaithful to its own principles, in a profound sense of resentment not only against the Christian world but…against Christianity itself.The noble Lord then asks me what kind of a campaign have I to suggest? I do not believe in organised hatred. I do not believe in threatening violence. I do believe, with the noble Lord and with the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, in publishing and exposing, objectively and widely, violations of human rights by Communist States, and the inequalities, oppressions and persecutions of which they are guilty, noting the sentences which are week by week passed in Hungary itself. I do believe in calling the attention of the General Assembly of the United Nations in a vigorous way to that splendid Special Committee's Report.
I also believe in publishing such demands as those which the Union of Hungarian Writers made spontaneously:We want an independent national policy based on the principles of Socialism; relations with all other countries, notably Soviet Russia, based on the principle of equality; and a review of international treaties and economical agreements in the spirit of equality of rights.And since, as the United Nations Special Committee Report shows, and the startling news of the expulsion of the four Stalinists from the Praesidium in Moscow this morning confirms, there is a great struggle now going on amongst the Communists themselves in Russia and Hungary and other States of Eastern Europe between the advocates of the new trend and the Stalinists, I believe in appealing to the defenders of the new trend and telling them, firmly and plainly, that the only possibility of friendship between their countries and other countries outside Soviet control is to encourage truth and justice and law and freedom in their own country.
731 The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, spoke of "other agencies" which he is anxious to have harnessed to his general campaign. He did not speak of the Church as an agency, but he did ask me before the debate began whether I should be willing to say, briefly, something of what the Churches are doing in order to penetrate the Iron Curtain and to link up persons of a similar religion with persons of the same religion on the other side. The Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches have a great importance in those countries, far greater than is sometimes realised in the West. The great Roman Catholic Church stands behind the Catholics in the Eastern European countries. The World Council of Churches stands behind its member Churches, Orthodox and Protestant, in the same countries. And in all we do, whatever agency, Government or interest we represent, it is, I think, of fundamental importance to remember the ordinary people who are under such great pressure in these Communist-controlled States. The Churches in Hungary, speaking for those that I know—the Protestant Churches—and the Orthodox and Protestant Churches in the other countries, dread being isolated and cut off. They beg us to keep in touch with them at all costs. They look for solidarity and fellowship. They know that we are on the watch to help them, and perhaps to take up individual cases with the Government; and they know also that the Churches outside of Eastern Europe are ready to stand up for the rights of man, and, what is more, the rights of God.
Sometimes the World Council of Churches make a statement on a critical issue which is upheld and has some educational value to the Governments themselves. For example, at the end of our meeting in Budapest last August a statement was issued which ended in the following words:To move out of a state of ' cold war ' into one of real peace requires respect for truth under all circumstances. People must not be subject to deliberate misrepresentations and false propaganda. They must have access to information and be free to discover truth for themselves. People must be free to travel, to meet and to know their neighbours, through personal encounter to seek understanding and create friendship, and thus to achieve mutual confidence and respect. They must also be free to choose by whom and in what way 732 they wish to be governed. They must be free to obey the dictates of their consciences. They must be free to worship God, to witness to their faith, and to have their children educated in it in church, school or youth meeting.That was said and sent out in Hungary, and it was very welcome to the rank and file of Church people. It was also received with some applause by one of the Stalinist members of the Government himself.
But the greatest and most substantial help which the Churches can give, of another kind, is material relief on a large scale. Since the uprising—and the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor spoke of the Red Cross and other agencies—the Catholics have been very much to the fore in their material aid. The World Council of Churches has paid out 700,000 dollars from its member Churches to the Hungarians; and, without any interference from the Government, 225,000 dollars for the rehabilitation of Hungarian churches and church institutions, and so on, 25,000 dollars for special supplies in Hungary, and 350,000 dollars for services to Hungarian refugees. In all these ways the Christian Church penetrates the Iron Curtain and assists those on the other side, as well as those who have escaped, and gives real help to those who are most in need. Here you see—and this is most important from the humanitarian, and even perhaps the social and general point of view—the Church in action. By action and voice the organs of the Christian Church, if possible (and let us hope) in cooperation with one another, raise the moral tone of international conduct, and also make a definite and valuable contribution to the building up of a responsible international society.
§ 7.40 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am glad to follow the right reverend Prelate, not merely because he is a great personal friend but because we all know—and we know even better this evening—the great work which he has done in the cause of freedom in the countries of which we speak. It seems to me that the least we can do this evening is to remain here a little late on this very hot evening. The slight sufferings which we may have are but small compared with the sufferings of which we have heard.
733 It is extremely difficult to know what to say about the position in Eastern Europe. The last thing one would wish to do is to embarrass friends anywhere, but I feel in duty bound to speak, first of all because, like the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. I believe that we must never let the people in this country, or in other countries in the Western World, forget the savage rape of Hungary last autumn, in which, as we have heard, probably 15,000 Hungarians were slaughtered—the Indian figure puts it as high as 25,000. Despite: he "sacking" yesterday of the old Soviet guard, and the fact that perhaps, in consequence, some brakes on the Soviet liberalising policy may thus have gone, Mr. Khrushchev has in no way tried to disclaim responsibility for the massacre in Budapest. Therefore the more publicity we continue to give to the United Nations Report on Hungary, the better. Perhaps we might go so far as to ask whether in these new circumstances, now that the "old boys" have gone, Mr Khrushchev might not perhaps change his tune. Many doves are cooing to-day through cultural channels. I saw the Soviet film of Othello the other night, and the dove chorus was especially loud after it With all that kind of cooing, we may tend to forget the sort of military action and savage tyranny of which the Soviets are still capable, and of which the noble and leaned Viscount has given us so moving a description.
I rise, secondly, because I wish to pay a tribute to my noble friend who set down this Motion for his great efforts in this country on behalf of the people of Eastern Europe. It was largely due to his efforts that the all-Party, interdenominational mass meeting was held in the Albert Hall at the end of November. I had the honour of taking the chair at that meeting, and I know what great efforts the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, put into the organisation of it. Then, with friends of all Parties and different creeds, which included the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, we went together to the Soviet Embassy to present to the Soviet Ambassador the resolution which had been passed at that meeting The Ambassador would not receive us, nor would he receive the resolution, and we turned away from the Embassy to tell the world, in no uncertain and in most indignant terms, what we felt of a régime that could order such a dastardly and 734 inhuman attack on unarmed people. I am glad the Ambassador had not the elementary courtesy to receive us. I think that he thereby—and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, will agree—helped our cause in the outside world.
When we are inclined to feel rather more hopeful about the possibility of enlarging relations between East and West, from the economic as well as from the cultural point of view, we must remember that it seems unlikely that we can yet achieve any really decisive change in the political outlook and methods of the Soviet Government. I hope that I am proved wrong. We should all, of course, like to help bring down the last vestiges of the Iron Curtain. There is a considerable upsurge of feeling among the young people in this country to-day to mix with the young of the Soviet Union. Witness the considerable number of applications—I think my noble friend Lord Birdwood said 2,000—from young English men and women who wish to go to the World Youth Festival at the end of this month. That Festival is, of course, Communist-run, and is being boycotted by the N.A.T.O. Powers. They are right in doing so, yet I do not see how we can prevent our young people from going to that festival if they wish so to do and can obtain their visas. If we did, we should be using the very methods we deplore in Soviet policy.
According to a recent newspaper report, only one-third of these young people are members of the Communist Party; another third are probably fellow-travellers, and the last third, apparently, have no connections whatever with the Communist Party. It is interesting that they should wish to go, despite, I imagine, discouragement from their masters and their parents. There is, however, a strong belief among these young people, and some elderly people, too, that while Soviet officialdom is to be condemned for certain of their actions, these actions are not endorsed by the young people in the Soviet Union. They cite dissension among the students in Moscow and Kiev University as proof of this. They say, therefore, "Why should we not go to meet our contemporaries in Russia?" I Chink we must allow them to go on this adventure; but I hope that, if they do go, they will be properly briefed beforehand, for they must not delude themselves 735 into thinking that they will see anything more than they are expected to see.
Do not let them think that it is now safe for us to drop our guard, and no longer put our main effort behind the Atlantic Alliance. Support for N.A.T.O. must remain the cornerstone of our policy. It must remain so until the Soviet Government are prepared to make the kind of concessions in regard to Germany and in other fields that were suggested by my right honourable friend in his admirable reply to Mr. Bulganin. I shall read with great interest Mr. Bulganin's replies to the questions contained in that letter in which the initiative was taken by the Prime Minister. I hope that the reply, if it comes from Mr. Bulganin, will mark a step forward.
There seems no doubt that the Russians are beginning to think, and that they do not now believe that all of us in the Western World can be quite so criminally negligent in our social policies, or so ruthless towards the underdog, as Soviet propaganda would have them believe. When a Russian looks at an Englishman in the streets of Moscow I am told that you see an inquisitive and not a hostile look on his face. So perhaps gradually suspicions are being broken down. It is like water dripping on a stone. I am certain that the greater the number of visits to the Soviet Union which can be organised through the British Council, and perhaps—I say perhaps—in other ways, the better. There lies the future.
May I also suggest that there might be advantage in reopening the British Council offices in Hungary? I know that this is an extremely complicated question, but I venture to raise it. I understand that the Institut Française has remained open, and that it does a great deal of good. It scrupulously avoids anything which might be interpreted as propaganda, even to avoiding the daily French Press. The Institut concentrates on science and the arts. Could the British Council not do the same? The people of Hungary, like, perhaps, the people in the Middle East, do not want politics and propaganda, but they do want our technical assistance and our technicians, whom they believe to be the best in the world. If the British Council were reopened, another ray of light would 736 fall into the dark chamber which is Hungary to-day.
Therefore, regardless of the progress which may be made in disarmament—and that is the most important way in which progress might be made—I hope that in the long term there may be some future, as the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has suggested, in the exchange of radio programmes and television films, and that in due course the Eurovision network will be extended to other countries in Eastern Europe as well as to the Soviet Union. It has already reached Czechoslovakia, and I am certain that great use could be made of films—perhaps a greater use than the "live" network would permit. The B.B.C., as the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has said, are already doing great work but more requires to be done; and if it is done, it should at least be possible for us to share with Soviet citizens certain programmes and experiences of sport and entertainment, such as boxing, football, variety or the ballet, in which the language barrier is no obstacle. In this way we may come to understand each other a little better and break down these childish suspicions.
Perhaps we in the West should organise an even bigger and better World Youth Festival, to which the young in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe would be invited, and not merely criticise rather negatively the Festival which the Russians have organised. If Russian youths are not allowed to come to our Festival, then the fact can be widely publicised. I do not think such activities should be confined only to the N.A.T.O. Powers—there are a great many youth meetings within the Atlantic Powers—or to the more friendly Powers in the West. Let us try to multiply the channels of communication with the East. Perhaps thereby our ways of life may come a little closer to one another, and so the terror which reigns in Eastern Europe will abate and the silver lining will shine through.
§ 7.53 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I was glad to hear the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor mention the Hungarian refugees. I, too, should like to do so, from this point of view: that if there is nothing, as is unfortunately true, that we can do to help the actual people in Hungary at the 737 moment, at least the Hungarian refugees are Hungarians. They are in a position where we can help them, and their numbers are such that any help we may give them will be on quite a substantial scale. But in fact there is more to it than that, for I believe that our help to them is more than a humanitarian gesture: it is more a token of our attitude to the Eastern half of Europe. For by our efficiency and our willingness in giving this help to them will, I feel, be measured our desire in practical terms, rather than in words, to support all those behind the Iron Curtain who look to-day for freedom. In proportion to what active steps we take to absorb and accommodate the refugees, to give them new work, new livelihoods and new countries to which to be loyal, so will our credit rise or fall; and so, too, will those countries look to us to see what sort of welcome they can now expect, and are likely in the future to be able to expect if they succeed in turning to the West.
But, surprisingly enough, there are two sorts of Hungarian refugees. There are those who went to Austria and there are those who went to Yugoslavia. About 173,000 went to Austria and 19,383 went to Yugoslavia, and it is about the difference in the treatment of these two classes of refugees that I should like to speak this evening, It is a surprising difference. As soon as the Yugoslav authorities allowed the: United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees to send a representative to Yugoslavia, it was evident that, in spite of the Yugoslav authorities' desire to make this an internal matter, it could not be thus confined, and international help was going to be needed.
At the end of December, on January 14 and on many subsequent occasions, the High Commissioner appealed to the Governments of the free nations to accept refugees from Yugoslavia. He could not, of course, use anything but persuasion through diplomatic channels, but ho made these requests, and the results, in spite of the fact that at the time most countries were taking refugees from Austria, were extremely disappointing. As I say, at first very few countries would accept from Yugoslavia. Only 500 of these refugees have been able to be integrated into Yugoslavia itself. In the first place, it is not surprising that they did not altogether wish to stay in Yugoslavia, for Yugoslavia is admittedly still a Communist country, however 738 different it may be from that under the Kadar régime in Hungary; and that, to some degree perhaps, is what they wished to escape. We must sympathise with them in that. Furthermore, Yugoslavia has still considerable unemployment, and it is not fair to expect her to take more than a very limited number of these refugees. Therefore, they had to go abroad.
At the end of January, this was the result of the High Commissioner's appeals. France had indicated willingness to take any refugees from Yugoslavia who wished to stay permanently in France. That was all right. The Federal Government of Germany was willing to accept the permanent settlement of Hungarians, but only those of German ethnic origin who had close relatives in Germany willing to sponsor them. These were very strict conditions. The Italian Government was prepared to give temporary asylum to sixty of them, and the Swiss Government permanent asylum to 100; and, to their eternal credit, they especially asked for 100 tubercular refugees. However, fortunately this position improved.
By June 18, the total of 19,000-odd who had originally been in Yugoslavia was reduced to 9,950. Of these, 600 left for France last week and 800 more will be leaving this week. There is an offer of ad mission of 1,000 to Belguim, 2,000 to Australia and 700 to Canada. The Belgium ones should go soon, but Australia and Canada, of course, require time, and these people may not be able to go immediately. In addition, 700 refugees will go to Latin America. The Latin American quotas are very generous, but there is the difficulty that the absorption facilities of the Latin American countries are somewhat limited and the number of refugees who can go at one time must be small: they must go stage by stage. However, I am hoping that that will continue. Also, Sweden has probably offered places for another 450, and another 200 are to go to Switzerland. So that by now quite a large number of them have either arrived or are on their way or have been offered homes to go to. By the end of the year, only 4,500 should be left.
One thing, however, stands out from these lists—I apologise to your Lordships for quoting them, but there is a point— 739 on none of them does the name of the United Kingdom appear. The United Kingdom attitude, from the private point of view, has been admirable. The British Red Cross, of course, has been very active, chiefly through the League of Red Crosses, and has also, on its own initiative, given £5,000 in cash to the Yugoslav Red Cross to set up their own administration. In addition, the Lord Mayor's Fund has contributed very largely to the Yugoslav position. The Red Cross is training three Yugoslav Red Cross officers in Austria on camp management in which they are inexperienced. Furthermore, Red Cross money is being sent out there, either in the form of goods or direct to the League of Red Crosses bank account, so that it may take advantage of the particularly favourable exchange rate in Yugoslavia which, for the Red Cross bank account, is 600 dinars to the dollar, as opposed to the normal rate of 300. That is very encouraging.
But what of Her Majesty's Government's attitude? When the Yugoslav authorities registered the refugees, they asked them to select countries to which they would like to emigrate. Five hundred selected Great Britain. Of these, 50 only have so far, on compassionate grounds, and very often with incredible delays, been allowed to come to this country. Another 50 may soon be coming. So, out of the very small total of 500 who wanted to come here, only 100 have at the moment the chance of coming to Great Britain. I know that it is largely a question of the shortage of space, and I know, too—at least, I believe—that Her Majesty's Government have now said that they are willing to have Hungarian refugees from Yugoslav as well as from Austria. Almost all European countries have already done so—Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium. West Germany, Norway and Italy have all taken their quotas. Admittedly, Holland has not done so, but the financial contribution that she made was so high, in comparison with her size, as to exonerate her fully. Yet so far only 50 have come to Great Britain.
My Lords, I submit that there are two things of importance in this. First of all, there is the attitude towards the refugees themselves, to which I have already pointed and which, although we may have done a great deal on the 740 Austrian side, I believe is still important; for I think that we might help all the refugees and not only some of them, or the point is lost. But I believe that the vital matter about this is the chance we are missing of doing a great service to Yugoslavia herself. They see us taking refugees from Austria, yet until recently we have not been prepared to do so from Yugoslavia. What complexion are they likely to put upon this? Might it not be a feeling that there is in the mind of Her Majesty's Government some sort of discrimination against Yugoslavia, at a moment when Yugoslavia is in the greatest need of international assistance? Docs it not look as though the United Kingdom, almost alone in the Western World, is not trying to do anything to help her? I am sure that Her Majesty's Government are very far from desiring to give that impression.
Yugoslavia is a country which is being wooed at the moment by both the East and the West. Perhaps it is significant—I do not know that one should put too much credit on these things—that the explanation of Mr. Molotov's expulsion to-day was given in the statement by the Soviet Communist Party as centring largely around his intransigence towards Yugoslavia. Might we not in future expect a renewed and more fervent wooing of them from the East? Yet Yugoslavia has done a very bold thing. She has given political asylum to 19,000 refugees from a Communist régime. What would appear to be the result of her boldness? The United Kingdom, at any rate, seems to have been unwilling to support her—although the other countries of the West have. Further, though Austria has had in her hands nine times as many refugees as Yugoslavia, the United Nations estimate that Austria's out-of-pocket expenses over the whole affair will amount by the end of 1957 to only 993,000 dollars. That is because of the vast subscriptions and grants—which have been magnificent—that have been poured into Austria from the United States and other Western nations.
On the other hand, at the end of 1957, it is estimated that Yugoslavia's out-of-pocket expenses will be in the nature of 6 million dollars, in spite of the fact that she had only one-ninth of the number of the refugees on her hands. Their great expenditure has been alleviated only by 741 the receipt of grants from the United Nations Fund. No Western country has contributed to her. Only the High Commissioner himself has been able to allow United Nations refugee funds to that country, to make good some of her expenses. Further, at the end of the year she will still have 4,500 refugees on her hands whom she cannot absorb and whom she will be hard put to it to support. Is this not an ideal situation in which Her Majesty's Government: could excel themselves in showing their eagerness to help Yugoslavia? If only they could accept at once the 500 refugees who want to come here, it would be a gesture, the effect of which in gaining Yugoslav good will would surely vastly outweigh any inconvenience at this end. Further, we must deal with the other 4,500. Could we do something to persuade the Western democracies to meet part of Yugoslavia's bill? I can only think that this would be a most rewarding way, at a most propitious moment, for Her Majesty's Government to commit themselves to a gesture of imaginative and progressive friendship to Yugoslavia.
§ 8.5 p.m.
My Lords, I am drawn into this debate, irresistibly, by a new and uplifting belief. I believe that at last, after a dark and hopeless epoch, there is something to be done for the slave nations of Europe, and that we can do it by acting now. In this I differ if only in tempo, from my noble friend Lord Birdwood. And I differ also in method from my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor—a thing I had never expected to do.
But one factor is very clear in my mind. If we are to help in solving their desperate problems, in any attempt at rescue, we must approach these problems with humility, not with patronage. I think this has been fully recognised by noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. I think that, in particular, the understanding and authoritative words of the Lord Chancellor should give great heart when they are read, as I am certain they will be, behind the Iron Curtain.
Whatever the warmth and intensity of our sympathy, we are on the outside looking in. It is close on 900 years since this island suffered foreign conquest. A few of us—some hundreds—who worked with resistance movements during the war, learned something, not very much, 742 about the subtle, hardly detectable thought-waves that pass through a conquered and occupied population. Prisons have a strange, secret music of their own. But now that music has swelled and reverberated beyond the prison walls, and across the world. The peoples of those subject nations are, most of all, vitally conscious of the new political orchestration of Europe, because the first splendid chords were struck in Poland and Hungary. It has kindled a new spirit among them. They dare not call it hope, until some echo reaches them from the West. But the minds of men and women, beyond that monstrous barrier of disillusion, are tuned again to hear a hopeful, responsive chord from us—a signal of survival, a positive sign that our conscience as human creatures survives and that their courage may have some reason, some incentive to survive.
The causes of this condition are well known to your Lordships, and I refer to them only for emphasis and to contribute detail These countries which, until lately, represented plunder and revenue to their Soviet masters, are now instead a drain, a burden on the Russian economy. Since the Poznan revolt, even more since the October revolts in Poland and Hungary, the Soviets have been obliged to give economic help to each of their satellites, with the single exception of Albania—help that is estimated at 8 billion roubles (2 billion dollars at the official rate) up to now. That sum, the equivalent of £700 million, is over half what this country spends on our entire defence in a year. I will offer your Lordships only a few examples of that Russian expenditure, that forced extravagance. Gromulka on his visit to Moscow last year obtained the following: a cancellation of all obligations on previous loans amounting to 2 billion roubles; a trade credit of 700 million roubles; a loan of grain valued at 400 million roubles. East Germany obtained last January a loan of 100 million roubles in goods. Hungary, even before the revolt, was given a loan of 100 million roubles in goods, and since then aid has amounted to another 300 millions. And there is no doubt that the shaken economy of that country will require more aid in the near and continuing future. That is only a part of the heavy bill for tyranny. London brokers report that 743 Soviet gold exports in 1956 were the largest since the war.
Moreover the value of the Warsaw Pact as a military asset has vanished. Instead, this satellite territory has become an area which must be constantly and expensively policed—policed by tanks, so long as the present hatred of Russia persists. And the Russian leaders know that it must persist for as long as those peoples are held down by force. That is why I believe that the time is ripe for new positive proposals—proposals at which the Russians would have sneered a year ago, but upon which a bloodless bargain might well he struck to-day.
I speak of a plan which my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has, I imagine, overthrown in many of your Lordships' minds. The fact that even he has not been able to overthrow it in mine must be the measure of my conviction, for what it is worth. I should like to see the Western Powers laying on the table definite terms for a neutralised belt across Europe. The initial requirements of those terms would be the withdrawal of Russian troops from the captive lands, followed by free elections under United Nations supervision. If that could be brought about, as I believe it can, it would enact the uncompleted provisions of the Yalta Agreement, and at long last vindicate our signatures on that Agreement. To me it has always been unthinkable that so great an Englishman, so great a human being, as Sir Winston Churchill could have endorsed, on our behalf, the Russian occupation of those countries, as anything but the limited military passage which it purported to be. So long as that savage occupation lasts, the honour itself of this country remains in pawn.
Earlier this week there met in London an international body, the Central and Eastern European Commission. Statesmen and politicians from a number of countries, prominent among them exiles from the Iron Curtain nations, sat in a conference of which I had the honour to be appointed honorary secretary not long ago. The two principal founders and inspirers of this body during the twelve years of its existence are now the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister of this country. The Prime Minister is its Honorary President, and the Minister of 744 Defence addressed the delegates most stirringly at the luncheon held on Monday last. Among the resolutions passed at this Conference was one which affirmed thatthe withdrawal of Russian troops from the countries behind the Iron Curtain is an essential condition for any system of mutual security in Europe.I do not suppose there is one Member of your Lordships' House who would deny that premise. I believe that we now have at hand the means to act upon it.
The Soviet leaders are, above all, realists. They know that the age of grasping colonialism is past, that it is out of date and impracticable, especially with regard to countries with far higher cultural standards than the colonisers themselves. Those who denied that fact in Russia have been out of a job since yesterday. It is significant that both Molotov and Kaganovich were with Khrushchev on his Warsaw visit last October, and it was their opposition to any appeasement that caused the failure of that mission. The remaining leaders know that the satellite countries are now political, economic and military liabilities.
I believe that the hard facts of that situation have induced a new mood in Soviet policy behind the scenes, at utter variance with the bombastic statements still being made for internal consumption. But I would also say that even if such a plan as I have outlined, put forward in good faith by the Western Powers, were rejected, ultimately or out of hand, by the Soviet leaders, it would still be of benefit to put it forward. Because the peoples of the slave nations would know that the proposal had been made, they would draw courage from it, and the position of their Russian persecutors would be even harder than it is to-day.
Such a plan does not envisage the break-up of N.A.T.O., or the entire withdrawal of American troops from Europe. It does envisage a good deal of bold rethinking with regard to our political defence, compatible with the bold rethinking we have already done on our military defence. It would establish an area well over 500,000 miles in extent, 800 miles wide at its narrowest point, made up of independent countries not demilitarised but neutralised, on a par with Austria to-day. Indeed we could not require 745 a more heartening example than the Austrian Republic as it has proved itself in recent months. The armed state of these countries would be governed by a clear security system, and Germany would be controlled under that plan. But the true splendour of this project would be in freeing more than 100 million people, now the slaves of Russia.
My Lords, I have included in that area what would undoubtedly be the Russian quid pro quo demanded—the neutralising of Western Germany with the rest. I take it that Russia, would insist upon that, the withdrawal of what is now Federal Germany from the N.A.T.O. pact. I frankly cannot see why that prospect should cause our hearts to ache or our knees to knock. In fact I am disturbed by one important detail of our European policy. And I feel it would be dishonest to keep silent about that anxiety. So far no argument that I have read or listened to has persuaded me that it is either politically wise or morally just, not only to separate the German problem from the whole problem of Eastern Europe, but to give it a definite priority over the needs and sufferings of friends to whom, in all conscience, we owe considerably more. I am disturbed by this tendency, this intention, on two counts: first, because I believe that at this point in history a comprehensive approach will be more rewarding than a piecemeal approach; and secondly, because I believe that such a policy will shock and disillusion the people of those other countries sufficiently to offset the recent murderous blunders by Soviet Russia, from which, I insist, the blameless victims and ourselves could reap enormous, peaceful benefits at thin time.
It is again a question of being on the outside, looking-in. We have known neither Russian nor German occupation: the countries that we are discussing have known both. Whatever our own confidence in the New Germany (and I, for one, do believe that a great change of character is potentially taking place) we cannot expect the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe to share that confidence at the present time; especially subject as they are to Communist propaganda, which does not lack fuel to inflame the distrust of their previous conquerors.
746 Also, it seems to me that this policy reactivates another danger within Germany itself. We must not ignore the fact that a large majority of Germans are very ready to look upon themselves as the élite of Europe, even when they are not seized by the Herrenvolk mania itself. This readiness on our part to allow Germany priority of regard and treatment could, I suggest, embolden the extremists among that majority, and distil anew the heady spirit of German nationalism which has cost the world so much. Some are already brash enough to be re-claiming the Sudetenland. We are not going to win the trust of the Czechs or their neighbours with any prospect of a new Munich. In any case, for Germany's own aspirations, I believe that the surest, perhaps the only path to the reunification that every true German desires, will be through a general settlement, not through a separate local contract on her behalf.
I have spoken along similar lines to what was said, at one point, by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. He referred to the idea with which I am so absorbed, as the "Gaitskell Plan". But I know I am right in saying that neither the right honourable gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in another place, nor his Party, claim the authorship of this plan. In fact, Mr. Gaitskell at Strasbourg on May 2 referred to the plan "sometimes associated" with his name, as having been approved by many people in Britain, and being based upon the Eden Plan. For my part, despite his self-denial, I hope that Mr. Gaitskell's part in its promotion will be remembered, because I believe that it is a wise and practical plan, and that its sponsors are owed due recognition. What is most important, in my esteem, is that it stems in its original form from ideas held by exiled statesmen of the captive nations.
My Lords, we have at this point, as I believe, a new condition in Western Europe, fertile in possibilities. We have a harmony of purpose in your Lordships' House and among our countrymen; and we have a Prime Minister long-dedicated to the task. Here, it seems to me, are the vital components for the effort required—an inspiring effort, to save some of the best and bravest of our friends from the cruellest and most implacable of our enemies. I believe that every Member of your Lordships' House, that everyone 747 in these islands with any conscience or feeling, will go about his daily business with a lighter step, and sleep better in his bed at night, if this can be achieved.
§ 8.19 p.m.
My Lords, I know that all who have spoken—and we have listened to a number of very weighty and cogent speeches—are labouring under a heavy sense of responsibility, whether they occupy great official positions like the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, who spoke so impressively, or the right reverend Prelate and my noble friend Lord Henderson, who speak for large numbers, or whether they are unofficial persons, if I may so put it, like myself. We are all conscious—and this was made very clear to me in the speech with which Lord Birdwood opened this important debate; a speech, if I may say so, of very great thoughtfulness for which we must all be grateful—of the Hungarians who are listening to us. It is not for me to suggest that they would pay any special attention to my words but, taking the House of Lords as a whole, I think one must say that anyone who takes part in a debate like this must expect that his words—it will of course take some time and will mean some sacrifice—will be studied by many responsible people who are now suffering under the yoke in Hungary.
There is a wide measure of agreement in all that has been said hitherto. It was seen in the earlier and, if I may so describe them, more official speeches, and seen also in the very telling contributions from rising Members of your Lordships' House to which we have listened later. There is general agreement that this Report of the United Nations is decisive history. There may be details on which it will have to be corrected later, but I think we are all satisfied that there is the substantial truth about what happened and that responsibility is allocated in a way that is basically correct. We are all agreed that the actions of the Russians were quite unpardonable. We are agreed also, I fear (the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor spoke upon this with much greater knowledge than I can) in recognising that the situation in Hungary is not getting better but, if possible, is getting worse. The terror is mounting. Let us hope that it may be alleviated later, but certainly up to the 748 present the evidence suggests that the terror is growing steadily more horrible.
We are agreed that the present Hungarian Government is a Government of agents or puppets for which the Hungarian people must be saddled with no responsibility. We are agreed, therefore, in our diagnosis of what has occurred and what is now taking place. We are agreed also, unless I am much mistaken, in a profound feeling of impotence. An article in the Daily Telegraph called it, I think, a feeling of "desparing impotence." Certainly at times that feeling must assail us all. There seems to be so much that we ought to do and so little that we can point to as being in any way possible; so little that is in any way commensurate with the terrible things that are happening.
I was very glad indeed that Lord Colville of Culross and the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester and other speakers dealt with the refugee question. It may be said that to a limited extent we are doing something there now, but I am sure we can play in the future a much greater part in furthering assistance in this connection than has been possible hitherto. Apart from that, what solid action of any kind lies open to us? Military action has been ruled out. Economic pressure? I do not want to be provocative so I will not go into the past, but whether or not in other circumstances that might have been possible at the time, it is clear that it is a non-existent policy to-day. Even diplomatic action—about which I shall say a few words later—seems a very doubtful possibility. I think it is not too much to say that when we talk of this as a Hungarian tragedy we are limiting the reference to tragedy too narrowly. It may be there are some who would have us see it as a Russian tragedy. To think that a great people like the Russians should be inflicting these horrors through their Government upon a much smaller people like the Hungarians is indeed a tragic fact. I think that, in view of this feeling of relative impotence, the tragedy may be regarded in a sense as a British tragedy until and unless we can find some course of action more definitely helpful than anything that seems to be available to us at the present time.
We may ask: what can we do? I would agree with nearly all the concrete suggestions that have been made in this debate, particularly those (they are the 749 ones that come to my mind at the moment) suggested by the right reverend Prelate. Let us consider first our attitude to the Hungarian people. We must let the people of Hungary know that we are not deceived. We must prove to them that we know the truth, that we know they are victims and that they are not delinquents. We must make it plain that we recognise that they are free from any responsibility for what has occurred and is occurring in their country. We must reaffirm our confidence that the people of Hungary will win out by peaceful methods in the end. I am sure that that message will, in fact, have gone out to them from the many speakers in this House tonight. What more can we do?
For the moment I propose to deal entirely with Hungary and the wider implications of the Hungarian question, and not with other great topics such as Germany, on which I have ventured to address your Lordships' House rather frequently in the past. We might, perhaps, for a moment study the question of contacts with the people of Hungary. This is an issue which has troubled me in conscience a great deal in recent times, and I have discussed it with many friends and experts. It seems paradoxical, and indeed wrong, that just as we are expanding contacts will Russia, for purposes to which I am entirely favourable, we should, most of us, see very great difficulty—even if it were permitted—in encouraging personal contacts with Hungary at the present time. After all, the people of Hungary are the victims of the people of Russia There seems something strange, something contrary to human nature, that we should cut ourselves off from the people of Hungary at this time. I have tried to take the opinion of Hungarian friends now living in this country as to what in fact would be the effect of increased human contacts with Hungary.
There are certainly strong arguments in favour of discouraging contacts—at least for the time being. No visitor to Hungary today could avoid getting involved with the authorities there; delegations or more important individuals, in particular, would have to associate with representatives of the régime in public, thereby giving the impression of acceptance. Hungarians (I think 95 per cent. of them at least; the Lord Chancellor mentioned a higher figure) who are hostile 750 to the régime might justifiably wonder what all the solemn words of sympathy and of condemnation amounted to, for it would seem to them that the same Britons who pronounced judgment on the Kadar régime were willing to mix and fraternise with the agents of the oppressors. Again, it might endanger friends in Hungary. I am assured that that is the case. I am assured that if one went to Hungary and mixed with people who are opposed to the present régime it would be not unlikely to result in the placing of a noose round the necks of those people. For these and other reasons it is difficult to see what can be effectively accomplished just now.
Nevertheless, I do not feel that the arguments on the other side can be dismissed lightly. First, it seems that personal contacts with ordinary Hungarians afford perhaps the best way of showing to the Hungarian people that we have not forgotten them. The alternative is to see nothing of them and to exclude them from our lives—exclude them from the lives of the civilised West altogether. Then there is the question of the influence which we might exert. A number of enlightened visitors might exercise a helpful influence far greater than has perhaps seemed to some of us to be possible. Again, if visits from this country to Hungary could be encouraged, it might be the means, and the only means, of securing visits from Hungary in return. I have always believed, going back to German experience and to other experience, that this country, with all her faults, has a beneficial effect on her visitors. That may perhaps be rather an old-fashioned point of view, but I hope that on this one occasion I shall be forgiven for expressing it.
So there are, it seems to me, strong arguments against drawing in our skirts and saying that it is dangerous for the Hungarians, or morally contaminating to ourselves, to have any close contact with that country, apart from the influence, which I do not for one moment underrate, of the radio, which in many ways is doing remarkably fine work. At the same time, I think that most of us in this House would feel that contacts with Hungary should be developed slowly and with caution. There is always the danger that some fellow-travelling body in this country might somehow work itself into a position of assuming responsibility for 751 the visitors; and in that event, the last state might be much worse than the first.
So I would say that, particularly during this period of terror, we have perhaps got to be more cautious than adventurous in promoting contacts; but we must never rest happy for one moment until we do find a way of safely and prudently increasing contacts between our people and the Hungarians, and generally increasing contacts between the Hungarian people and the West, if we want to bring about an influence. I am not only thinking of converting the recalcitrant; I am thinking, too, of strengthening the resolve of those who are doing their best to keep hope alive. If those are our aspirations, this idea of contacts outside official diplomacy must rank high among our objectives in years to come.
There is one diplomatic point that I feel I must mention and put to the noble Lord, though I do not wish to seem too dogmatic, because so many technical provisions are involved. I find it difficult, if recognition of the régime means anything, or carries any moral connotation at all, to support the continued recognition of the Hungarian régime. Here is a régime which is not only utterly evil, on all showing, but is not in fact a Hungarian Government: it is simply a body of Russian "stooges". Although there are many Governments in the world of which we do not perhaps approve, this seems to be the extreme case when we try to distinguish it from free Governments. Therefore, on moral grounds, I should feel it difficult, if I occupied any official position of responsibility, to play any part in recognition of that régime. However, I know that there are technical objections. This plan of non-recognition has been tried more than once; the results have seldom been beneficial, and often there has to be a somewhat humiliating "climb-down". I therefore hope that the noble Earl who is to reply will tell us frankly the attitude of the Government to the recognition of the Kadar régime; and if he feels bound to inform us that non-recognition would carry greater evils than recognition, will he at least make plain that we continue to keep on recognising this Government for a purely technical reason, and that there is no lessening of our condemnation of their policy?
752 I come now to our dealings with Russia. I feel sure that many noble Lords will agree with me if I say that this is the supreme moral difficulty of to-day. Here we have the Russian Government, with whom we must do business if we are to rid the spectre of war from the world. Yet we feel bound to mince no words in condemning their actions in Hungary and elsewhere—most specifically, at the moment, in Hungary. I was glad that my noble friend Lord Henderson, who speaks always so carefully, and therefore so weightily, pulled no punches in what he said about the Russian responsibility for the events in Hungary. It is bound to be tempting for good men negotiating with the Russians and seeking world peace to feel that a particular moment is not propitious for publishing the truth; but I think there is a general consensus in your Lordships' House to-day that such an attitude would be not only useless but cowardly, and unworthy of your Lordships and of Britain.
So we continue the search, with all its infinite significance, for some kind of disarmament agreement, compelled to tell the people with whom we are negotiating that we regard their action in Hungary as that of being of a criminal character. It cannot make the task easier (on this point, I do not share the optimism of the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, who spoke in sparkling fashion just now) that we should go to the Russians and be compelled to tell them frankly exactly what we think of their conduct. But it is a burden that falls on us; and it seems to me that if we shirked it, we should rightly find ourselves despised, not only by the satellite peoples but ultimately throughout the world and in our own country.
I am not going to embark on the details of the attempts to reach agreement with the Russians. I do not condemn the Russian people. I think that in this House we have all got past the stage of abusing particular nations. I detest their régime; I detest the actions for which that régime has been responsible recently in Hungary. There is an old saying that I came across in a book of the sixteenth century—the right reverend Prelate may inform me that it goes further back—that one must not hate the sinner, but must hate the sin, because the sinner was made by God, and the sin was made by man. Therefore, in dealing 753 with the Russians, remembering our own weaknesses, we must never fall into the state of mind of treating them as lost beyond redemption.
As I draw to a conclusion, I would only add the thought that what the Russians really care about—and this must help; if you like, it can be set on the "assets" side in this terrible balance sheet—is the weight of opinion in the uncommitted nations. I think it is obvious, if we take the Russian policy at the present time, and, if you like, imagine the horrible possibility of our being in their shoes, that what we should rather take for granted, would be the fact that we were opposed by the West. I think, that, in the long run, that barrier could be broken down. But let us assume, from their point of view, that they take for granted the barrier that has arisen between them and the Western nations. There is then the remaining one-third of the world, on which their eyes are cast the whole time, It seems to me that there, among the uncommitted peoples, among the countries sometimes referred to as underdeveloped, the great opportunity of persuasion arises; and it is there that this Report of the United Nations, and anything we can say to-day, will be of the utmost assistance. In the task of persuasion, therefore, these terrible events could prove to have had a positive compensating value.
We in this country are not very good propagandists. We have a fairly shrewd idea that in the end good conduct will be respected by those who understand what we are about, but I think that an overdeveloped confidence, born of our historic past, makes it difficult for us to understand that any honest uncommitted person can, in the last resort, disagree with us. We find it hard to believe that very much further effort is necessary to convert the peoples of Asia and of Africa to our point of view. We are convinced—certainly I am—that our system is vastly superior to that of the Communists, and that any reasonable man of Asia or Africa should automatically realise this essential fact. If he fails to do so, we write him off as a fool or a knave. I feel that on that point we are somewhat short sighted and narrow-minded propagandists. It seems to me that the facts brought out in this whole Hungary story, properly handled, can help us enormously in persuading the uncommitted nations— 754 the real third force in the world—that there is, in fact, a tremendous moral gulf between the West and the Communists, and that even in their own interests, and also for higher reasons, the advantage must lie in conjunction with the Western side. I agree with what the right reverend Prelate said about our own record and standard. Here we are, Western nations, immensely richer per head than the peoples we are trying to persuade. We inform them that if they have any sense or decency, they will side with us, but they look to us not only for words but also for deeds.
I will not detain the House further on this matter. It is a subject on which noble Lords have spoken more than once, and from different parts of the House; but I agree absolutely that in the last resort this Hungarian horror, this terrible story of human suffering, is a challenge to the West and, perhaps, most of all to this country of ours that prides itself on standards unsurpassed by any. It is a challenge to exert ourselves more strongly on behalf of the backward peoples of the world and, more intimately still, to exert ourselves more urgently in our own spiritual lives. If it proves that these very brave men in Hungary have stimulated us into a more self-sacrificing way of life they will not have died in vain.
§ 8.43 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF GOSFORD)
My Lords, before I reply to some of the points which have been brought up in this debate, perhaps your Lordships would like to have a few short preliminary comments on the news which has reached this country in the last twenty-four hours on the developments in the Soviet Union. The question of greatest immediate importance to this country is undoubtedly the effect which these disputes among the Soviet leaders will have on Soviet foreign policy. It does not seem likely that there will be any rapid changes of great significance. It appears that the policies laid down at the Twentieth Party Congress will still be followed. Mr. Khrushchev, whose personal prestige has been enhanced by the ousting of his critics, has been himself closely associated with all the main changes in recent Soviet policies, and it must be assumed that the policies he has advocated will be continued, probably 755 with even greater vigour and authority. It would seem that the changes which have taken place have not solved the contradictions which are inherent in the Soviet scene. On this it would be unwise to say more at present, but it is a point of such importance to us all that we shall need to watch it very closely indeed.
Your Lordships will not wish at this late hour that I should cover any of the ground covered by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor in his exposition of Government policy on the satellite countries, and on Hungary in particular. I will confine myself to answering one or two questions which have been put during your Lordships' debate. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, asked about Her Majesty's Government's policy on recognition of the Kadar régime. Her Majesty's Government have never taken any special step to recognise the Kadar Government; but neither, for that matter, have they taken any special step to break off relations. They have, in common with other Western nations with representatives already in Budapest, continued to maintain a diplomatic mission there and to accept a Hungarian mission in London. Generally speaking, Her Majesty's Government's policy in the matter of recognition of Governments is to face facts and to acknowledge de facto a Government which has effective control of the territory within its jurisdiction, and of the inhabitants within that territory. Such de facto recognition does not constitute a judgment on the legality of the Government concerned; still less does it imply approval of it. I hope that this will satisfy the noble Lord.
The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, asked what the Government's attitude is to the Assembly of Captive European Nations, and to the Hungarian Federation of Freedom Fighters. Thirteen years ago many Poles who fought the war alongside us settled in this country. Among the first and most important emigré organisations which have been set up were, therefore, Polish ones. They have been doing admirable work here in the social, welfare and cultural spheres, and we wish them all well. But, as, your Lordships will be aware, there are many other organisations established in this country whose purpose is to preserve the national heritage of countries now behind the Iron Curtain. We sympathise with these aims. 756 It is a sad commentary on the suppression of human rights and freedoms in the satellite countries that it is only refugees in exile from their homelands who can freely associate and speak their minds. We have no wish to deter people from lending their support to the legal activities in this country of the emigré organisations which have established themselves here. But to give official support or encouragement to any emigré body, particularly one which purports to be a Government in exile or anything of that nature, would be contrary to the established policy of successive British Governments. There is no question, however, in any way of discouraging or ignoring such organisations.
The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, also made a suggestion that the United Nations' Report on Hungary should be given wider circulation—that it should be reprinted under Government auspices in this country, and sold at a far cheaper price. I am afraid that, in answer to this, I must confine myself to the answer given by my right honourable friend the Minister of State in another place yesterday to an almost similar question, in which he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 573 (No. 133), col. 1095]:I will certainly bear this in mind.Her Majesty's Government feel that this is a United Nations document, and it is not up to the British Government to take it on as a. White Paper of its own, but that the United Nations themselves, it is hoped, will give this document the widest circulation, possibly by abbreviation; thus making it cheaper.
The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, who has asked me to give your Lordships an apology for having to leave as he was due at the Mansion House, asked whether there was any good reason why the British Council should not operate in Budapest. If the noble Lord opposite will allow me, I will couple this with his remarks about contacts. The British Council representative in Hungary was turned out by the Hungarian Government in 1949 following accusations of espionage. Given the necessary finance and reasonable freedom of action, the British Council would be ready to consider operating again in Hungary. In passing, I would call attention to the work of the Soviet Relations Committee of the British Council which was set up in 1955 at the request of Her Majesty's 757 Government to foster cultural relations between the two countries. Until interrupted by the events in Hungary, the Committee was able to sponsor or finance many types of professional, educational and cultural exchanges. A programme for the resumption of the activities of the Soviet Relations Committee has now been agreed with the Soviet authorities.
The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, mentioned the Institut Français. Although the Institut Français has continued some work in Budapest without interruption, as has the British Council in Warsaw ever since the war, it seems improbable that satellite Governments would consent to the opening of further offices. Her Majesty's Government will do what they can to see that cultural relations develop on the right lines and as far as possible under the ægis of the Council. As regards visits, Her Majesty's Government have no objection to visits to Hungary, but naturally this depends on whether the Hungarian régime will let in visitors.
The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, also mentioned the World Youth Festival, and I believe so also did the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough. Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards attendance at the Work Youth Festival was clearly set out by my right honourable friend, the Foreign Secretary, in another place on October 24 last. A Communist nation can, of course, offer inducements (for example, by way of subsidies) to enhance the appeal of a journey of this kind. At the: same time, we can, I think, rely on the common sense of British youth not to be deceived by the elaborate preparations which have been made for the Festival. Her Majesty's Government would not wish that any form of pressure should be applied to prevent attendance. Those who do decide to go would be well advised to make themselves familiar with the outlines of the Soviet system, on which there is an abundance of literature, in the Press and elsewhere.
The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, has urged Her Majesty's Government to make arrangements now for the; admission to the United Kingdom of 500 Hungarian refugees from Yugoslavia. I do not propose to go into this subject in detail since it was dealt with fairly exhaustively in your Lordships' House only two days ago. Her Majesty's 758 Government have given this question very detailed and sympathetic consideration. It is true that there has been no bulk intake of Hungarian refugees from Yugoslavia since the Hungarian uprising, but at the end of last year and the beginning of this Her Majesty's Government concentrated all their efforts on the large-scale admission of Hungarians from Austria, where the major problem originally existed. I think your Lordships will perhaps have it better in perspective if I remind you that over 23,000 Hungarian refugees have arrived in this country, of whom 5,000 have gone on to Canada. This is no small number of refugees, when one considers that at the same time we have other refugees of our own to deal with.
Nevertheless, Her Majesty's Government have now decided that they are prepared to admit Hungarians from Yugoslavia as well as from Austria, but they will have to take the place of those refugees who are moved from the United Kingdom to countries of their own choice, under similar arrangements to those made with Canada. The United Nations High Commissioner has already been told of this decision. Nevertheless, arrangements are already advanced for the departure of many refugees from this country, and I do not think that it will be very long before the 500 refugees can in fact be absorbed.
I am afraid that my remarks have seemed to be somewhat negative, but answering questions which are put obviously because they have not been satisfied before must produce that result. I hope that your Lordships will not get the impression from what I have said that Her Majesty's Government are disinterested or unsympathetic towards the countries behind the Iron Curtain. On the contrtry, I think that if your Lordships will read again the speech which was made by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, you will see that Her Majesty's Government have done and are doing all that they can, and all that they have in their power to do, to help these countries. But I must add that festina lente must, alas, be the watchword unless we are to have the fate of Hungary repeated perhaps elsewhere. Finally, I am sure that your Lordships will join with me in expressing deep sympathy for the Hungarian people, 759 and the hope that they will one day attain the freedom for which they have already fought and which they so justly deserve.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, we have had a long debate covering a very wide range, and at this late hour I certainly will not detain your Lordships for more than two or three minutes. I realise that many of us have missed our trains and meals, but let us keep things in proportion. While we have done that, probably somebody has been condemned to death for nothing at all in Hungary.
It is curious that in this kind of long debate one's mind seems to focus on points on which one disagrees, which are very few, and one forgets all the many points on which one certainly agrees with all the speakers. The two points which stand out in my mind concerning disagreement—not serious disagreement but disagreement of a limited nature—are these. One concerns my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, and perhaps also the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who is not here and who did not speak but who, by a mere nod of his head, conveyed his disagreement with my own views.
The Lord Chancellor referred to the dangers of prejudicial interests which would accrue to the West supposing a policy of the withdrawal and the shrinkage of North Atlantic Treaty Forces were to be pursued. It seemed to me that what I could have done if I could have intervened at the time was to point out that surely the whole of the North Atlantic strategy is to-day undergoing a profound change; that whereas formerly we depended upon 90 divisions—90 divisions was the figure named for Western Europe—by our own admission we now accept 30 divisions, and that the policy is for the guided ballistic missile to be regarded as the long-range deterrent and the ground forces are, as I understand it, regarded as the trip wire; whereas the real force behind such an instrument as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is 760 the power to deter, and in these days that can be exercised from New York. I think perhaps that that particular aspect was out of focus.
Then, whereas I agree profoundly with my noble friend Lord St. Oswald in the general conception of neutralisation in the future fate of Eastern Europe, I disagree with him slightly in his approach. I suggest that all who share oppression share a common cause. One speaks of the brotherhood of arms; there is also a brotherhood of suffering. I think it does not do any good to encourage the conception that we are rather giving preference to Eastern Germany and to the German problem than to other areas in Europe. If one could see the release of Eastern Europe through pressure being applied in Albania or Bulgaria, by all means let us accept that. But merely because the German situation lends itself to some flexibility, it seems to me that the key to happiness of Eastern Europe is to be found in the solution in Germany.
Those are the two points which I felt I should stress. I was most grateful to the right reverend Prelate for answering my questions. I agree very much with him that we in the Western democracies should make no effort whatsoever to hide our feelings. Finally, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, for his careful reply to all my questions, particularly in regard to the attitude to these exiled organisations. I imagine that one can link that attitude, which, of its nature, must be slightly vague, to the equally and quite correctly vague attitude which Her Majesty's Government have suggested they adopt to the Kadar Government. I think the spirit in which we should break off would be to remember a saying thatAll that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.Perhaps if we can go on doing something, evil may not triumph. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at two minutes past nine o'clock.