Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £118,000,000, be granted to His Majesty on Account for defraying the Charges for Army Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
Last week we had an illuminating and interesting discussion on the general financial position of the country. To-day it is my duty to ask the House of Commons to sanction a Vote on Account for the Supplementary Estimates for the Army, amounting to £118,000,000. My right hon. Friend explained—and I think he explained with singular clearness—the true meaning of the total amount for which we ask the authority of this House. I was interested to see in the papers the next day that my right hon. Friend was supposed to have exercised some magical influence on the House of Commons, to such an extent as wholly to take away from Members that freedom of judgment which is the distinguishing characteristic of the British Member of Parliament. My right hon. Friend is supposed to have hypnotised or stupefied the House of Commons. That is a great compliment to my right hon. Friend, but I do not think it is a great compliment to the House of Commons, and I do not think it was the House of Commons that was stupefied by what my right hon. Friend said so much as those who had criticised his administration, either without adequate knowledge or without any knowledge at all. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, so far from attempting, or wishing in any way, to affect the freedom of the judgment of the House of Commons took special pains to enable the House of Commons to come to the consideration of the total Army Estimates armed beforehand with such know-lodge as the Papers could give, and he published a White Paper, making as plain as figures can make plain both the revised 1536 amounts and the causes leading to the revision of the figures in the supplementary Estimates.
I looked to see whether those who criticised us from outside had anything to say in regard to the figures that my right hon. Friend either put in his White Paper or used in the course of his speech. So far as I have been able to see, not one figure that my right hon. Friend gave has been challenged, either in this House or oat of it, and yet I think we may be fully assured that both his speech and the figures that he' quoted have been subjected to the closest possible examination. I should like to remind the House of what these figures are, and of what their significance is, and I should like the House to remember that, in asking authority for the first Vote on. Account for the service of the Army early in the spring, my right hon. Friend told the House quite plainly the extraordinary difficulty of forecasting expenditure in the then fluid condition of events throughout the world. I am bound to say that a great deal has happened since my right hon. Friend spoke which has affected the figures of the forecast that he then gave. One has only to remember the long delay in coming to peace terms with Germany. One has only to remember the troubles that arose in India, and the troubles that have arisen in Egypt, to see that events have governed expenditure, and we have not till lately come to the time when policy has exerted its full sway. The main reason for these Supplementary Estimates is the rearrangement in date either of payment or of receipt. It is a rearrangement of expenditure already foreseen, and it is, not, I think, in any sense, occasioned by new policy. It partly comprises payment made this year which it was expected to pay last year, and it partly comprises payment made this year which it was expected not to have to pay till next year. It is partly due to delayed and accelerated demobilisation, and it is also due to the deferred date of payment of money owing to us. It is not fresh extravagance or new commitments other than those of which in the main the House has been already informed. and it is wholly misleading to represent the total of £118,000,000 as being the net recurring or permanent cost of the Army to the British taxpayer.
If I may be allowed to turn to the first figures in the White Paper, the Committee will see that, with regard to gross expenditure, the original Estimate was 1537 £440,000,000. The revised Estimate is £500,000,000, showing an increase of £60,000,000. How is that made up 1 It is explained quite clearly in Table 3. It is made up in part owing to the delay in demobilisation in the earlier period of the year, and causes to which I have already referred, such as India, recruiting of men for voluntary service, and so forth, showing an increase of £6,000,000. It is due to retardation of demobilisation owing to the railway strike, £5,000,000; to increased pay to officers and men from the 1st July, amounting to £11,000,000, and I think there is no one in this House who thinks the increase of pay is excessive, or would wish to see it diminished by a single penny. It is due, as to £7,000,000, to a rise in the rupee exchange, which, as my right hon. Friend explained, is a matter over which the War Office has absolutely no control. It is due as to £13,000,000 to an extra charge for war gratuities. We had to pay this year £6,000,000 of war gratuities more than we expected to pay, owing to the decision to pay all the gratuities on the 4th August instead of at the termination of service. Arrear transport charges account for a further £6,000,000, and other variations, which my right hon. Friend explained, account for a further £8,000,000.
The House will see that, as regards a very considerable portion of the new expenditure, it is true to say that it is displaced rather than freshly incurred, and the same remark applies to the deferment in payment of receipts that are due to us. The German Government owe us a debt for the cost of the Army of Occupation. We expected that debt to be paid in the current year. It has not been paid in the current year, but I do not think that any man living imagines for a single moment that it will not be paid in the future. That matter is engaging the attention of the Supreme Council at Versailles, and I hope they will come to a speedy decision. Although we have to anticipate in this year's Estimates a payment which would have been covered by the receipts from Germany this year, we shall undoubtedly recover the sum of money involved. I hope it may be next year, and that the burden on the taxpayer will be lightened accordingly. The same remarks apply to the debt owing to us by our own Dominions. That is a debt which is perfectly safe, as my right hen. Friend pointed out. There is one 1538 item in the Table of Receipts which I should like to explain, and that is the amount due from Germany for the cost of the Army of Occupation. We had calculated that the cost of the Army of Occupation would amount to £70,000,000. As a matter of fact, owing to the earlier withdrawal of a large portion of the Army of Occupation from Germany, the amount which we shall ultimately look to recover from Germany falls from £69,000,000, as sot out in the White Paper, to £47.000,0011.
§ Mr. FORSTER
It will cover the cost throughout of the Army of Occupation. That was made clear by my right hon. Friend when he spoke, although it is not made clear in the White Paper: The displacement of expenditure and the acceleration of demobilisation, although they impose heavy charges upon the country this year, will lighten the burden of the country in the future pro tanto. The delay in receipts is temporary only; the debts are perfectly good, and will be received in the near future. All those figures my right hon. Friend gave in the Debate on Wednesday last, and I say again that, although a whole week has gone by since he gave them, not one of them has been challenged.
My right hon. Friend, in his desire to keep the House fully informed of the financial effect of his policy, has presented to the House a White Paper showing our commitments in respect of Russia, and the House will probably expect me to say a word or two about that. Although this question is raised in the Debate on the Army Vote on Account, the House will see that a great deal of the expenditure is not War Office expenditure at all. It is expenditure incurred by the Foreign Office, the Admiralty, and the Air Ministry. But it is clearly desirable, under the circumstances, that the House should have presented to it a complete picture of the financial effect of the events in Russia, and here is the picture, as clearly drawn as it can be. I think the figures as they stand convey an impression of greater expense to this country than the real cost. If hon. Members will add up the figures which are given in the White Paper, they will find that as regards non-marketable stores the total comes to £47,320,000, as regards marketable stores the figure is £10,270.000, and the balance of the services rendered, including advances of cash and the like, 1539 the cost of our troops in Russia, and the other commitments, amount to £28,240,000, making a grand total of £94,830,000. Of course, that strikes the House, and strikes everyone, as an enormous sum of money. Although, however, we have put the figures showing the cost of commodities supplied to Russia, marketable and non-marketable, at what we may call the book price, that is not, in my view, the real price at which they ought to be charged. In my view the real price at which they ought to be charged is their selling value in the open market—that is to say, what they are really worth to the British Exchequer. If we take that basis of valuation for the stores supplied, we reduce the total from £94,830,000 to £46,590,000 odd. Marketable stores fall from £19,270,000 to £13,000,000, and non-marketable stores fall from £47,320,000 to 24,000,000. I think that that is the real value to the British Exchequer of the stores that we have supplied to Russia. My right hon. Friend explained some time ago, when he was introducing the original Estimates with regard to the expenditure on our own troops who were in Russia, that that was already taken into account in the original Estimates, and the expenses involved by the proceedings in Russia only affects this Estimate to a very slight extent.
I suppose I shall be expected to say a word about the policy of the Government with regard to Russia. The policy has been explained by my right hon. Friend within the last month, and it remains to-clay as my right hon. Friend described it. In considering whether or not he would himself initiate this Debate and make a statement with regard to Russian policy he has come to the conclusion that it will be better—and I think the House will agree with his decision—to await the development of such criticism as may be forthcoming with regard to the statement which he made only a short time ago. He will then have complete freedom to reply to the points which are made, and I think that that arrangement will commend itself both to hon. Members and to the House generally. If I may come back to the Army Estimates proper, I was struck by the fact that our critics—
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I do not wish to put my right hon. Friend to any inconvenience, but would it be convenient to him to describe what part the British 1540 Forces or the British Government are taking in connection with the operations of General Yudenitch? I do not think we have had any statement as to that.
§ Captain W. BENN
In answering that question, will the right hon. Gentleman also say something about the naval fighting that continues in the Baltic, and what costs?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think that those are points which my right hon. Friend will deal with. He has already dealt—in a fragmentary style, I admit—with the question referred to by the Noble Lord, I think principally in answer to questions put to him in the House of Commons.
I have noticed that, although the statements made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and the figures contained in the White Paper, have been published, there is still a disposition on the part of critics, not so much in the House of Commons as outside it, to continue to harp upon the enormous expenditure upon the Army a whole year after the Armistice has been signed, and among the most recent of those criticisms I have noticed an explosion by Lord Fisher. He holds up his hands in horror at the thought of. spending £400,000,000 on the Army a year after the Armistice, and compares it with an expenditure of £30,000,000 on the Navy in the last year before the War; and he wants to know what in the world we are doing spending so much money on the Army. Quite briefly, we are spending the money largely in getting rid of the Army. It is all very well for persons, distinguished or otherwise, to break out into diatribes of that kind. They do not inform public opinion; they only mislead it. I should have thought it would have been obvious—it certainly ought to have been obvious to anyone who has held the distinguished position that Lord Fisher has held—that you cannot get rid of a great Army, such as we had at the time of the Armistice, by a stroke of the pen or by strong language. You cannot transform a nation in arms into a nation at peace under Peace conditions in the twinkling of an eye. In the meantime the men have to be fed and housed and clothed and paid; separation allowances have to be paid to their wives and dependants; and there are a number of special services, such as the exhumation of bodies in scattered graves in the devastated areas and their collection into cemeteries. This sad duty is being faithfully and 1541 reverently discharged by a large body of men, who meanwhile have to be fed, housed, and paid. We have still got to look after our patients in the hospitals. You cannot scrap them. Transport charges remain heavy. How can you demobilise a great Army without heavy charges for transport? The cost of leave, too, is heavy. I have never heard anybody in this House say that the leave we give to the Army is excessive. A moment's thought would have shown the necessity for all these services which account for much of the large sums spent upon the Armies. The rate of demobilitation is largely governed by transport facilities, and, until peace was signed with Germany, by military considerations. The Armistice did not necessarily mean that all need for large armed forces had vanished. It was not until the year was well advanced that we were able to begin the withdrawal of the Army of Occupation and the repatriation of German prisoners of war.
But the critics urge something as follows: Granted that the expenditure was necessary and unavoidable, you should have endeavoured to secure greater economy in other directions; and you ought to have reduced your bloated staffs and got rid of some of the limpets. You ought to have got rid of the men who have been kept doing nothing, and you should have disposed of the accumulation of stores much sooner than you have done. You ought to have got rid of the hutted camps.
I do not for a moment suggest, nor does my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Churchill) that we are absolutely perfect all these matters. We do not pretend we have- not made mistakes, or that there has not been delay—which perhaps ought to have been avoided—in this direction or the other. When, however, our critics criticise they ought to remember the gigantic problems with which we have been faced. These are of enormous scope. They should remember the liability to error inseparable from human management, and the limitations of supervision on the part of the higher authorities, and the desirability of testing by experience one's own observations. On the whole, I do not think we have any reason to be ashamed of our performance during the past year when we look back upon the problem which confronted us, and in fact I think we ought to be devoutly thankful 'that we have made as much progress as 1542 we have. Once Peace was signed, and ratified by Germany, progress was and has been rapid, and the rate of progress has been in an upward curve. Demobilisation and dispersal have both been accelerated. I am sure the House will hear with pleasure the most recent account of demobilisation of the Territorial Force units in India. We have made very substantial progress with the demobilisation of these units within the past month.
The House will be interested to know the figures. At the time demobilisation was recommenced after the interruption caused by the war with Afghanistan, there were in India fourteen Territorial Force battalions and nineteen Territorial Force batteries. Up to date notification has been received that nine battalions and nine batteries have left India and will commence to arrive in the United Kingdom this week. The shipping programme arranged by India will release the remainder of the Territorial Force units in India before the end of this month. When we remember the unselfish devotion to duty displayed by some of the finest battalions of the Territorial Force in the early days of the War, their self-sacrifice in going to India and uncomplainingly sojourning in that country under trying conditions, I am sure we shall take every opportunity of recording our appreciation of the services they have rendered. I am certain they will receive a very hearty welcome on their return to this country.
§ Colonel P. WILLIAMS
Can the- right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the position of the Derby men in India, who were given to understand—were promised—that they would be home by Christmas?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I hope they will be. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has seen that demobilisation is proceeding rapidly. He will not forget that, so far as the Territorial Force is concerned, they are demobilised by units. I hope the men he has in mind will be home by Christmas.
§ Mr. DENISON-PENDER
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us anything about the transports in which these men are to come back from India. Is not that the difficulty?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I said that the transport arrangements for the demobilisation of the Territorial Force were sufficient to enable all the men who are left to leave by the end of this month.
1543 I should like to say a single word in reference to the question of the War Office staffs. Questions have been asked, and we have also seen the matter mentioned in the newspapers. It has been asked, "Why on earth do you not get rid of the enormous staffs that you accumulated at the War Office during the War?" My right hon. Friend gave figures yesterday showing that whereas at the date of the Armistice we had a staff of 22,000 persons odd, at the end of last month, or the beginning of this, we had reduced that figure to 10,000 odd. Hon. Members may ask, "Why have you not reduced it more?" I want to indicate some of the reasons. The House, I am sure is reasonable in this matter, and in its demand that the reduction should be made. If it can be shown that in some cases not only can we not reduce the staff, but that we have a perfectly valid reason for increasing it, to hasten demobilisation and the consequent work, I am sure the House of Commons will accept the explanation and support us in our action.
I would instance one case in which, so far from being able to reduce the staff, we have increased it. The House will remember that about a year ago the Government decided to increase the gratuity payable to the men on discharge under the pay-warrant to something very much more substantial. This gratuity has to be distributed, not only to the men who have left the Service, but to the relatives and legatees of those who have fallen. This was an exceedingly difficult and, exceedingly complicated duty. It could not be done by a staff that was completely untrained. It has to be done according to law, and also according to the wishes of the soldiers. It is not a distribution which can be effected with any great facility unless you have got a properly trained staff. We decided at once that the only thing to do was to accumulate and train such staff for which we could get accommodation, and to press on, the work until we had got it finished. We felt certain that the House would back us in our determination that there should be no avoidable delay in getting these gratuities distributed to those to whom they were due. In that one section alone we have increased the staff to 1,200 or upwards. That, of course, offsets the corresponding reductions made in other sections, but the House will remember that we have got to distribute gratuities. You cannot wipe out 1544 a staff that is engaged in the Record Office and which is constantly being referred to in connection with the men's military services. Therefore, try as we will, and drive as we may, we cannot get the staff reduced so long as the work of clearing up continues.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down can lie tell us something about the position in Mesopotamia, and in particular, what is the future military policy there? Are we going to garrison it with a large Indian and British garrison, or are we going to assist and encourage the local notables to raise their own troops with as little financial assistance as possible?
I think I must suggest to hon. Members that a number wish to speak on Russia, and it would not be fair, I think, to allow questions like the one just put to come in front of that part of the discussion.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I do not for a moment deny. I cannot deny, that the stun proposed in the Estimates this year is vast. However justly you may criticise this or that item of the Army Accounts you cannot get away from the fact that the cost of winding up a war is enormous. We are straining every nerve to get things straightened out before the beginning of the next financial year. There is no economy in delay, and every reason why we should clear up as soon as possible, but expedition in settlement throws heavy charges on the year in which the settlement is effected, and that accounts, partly, for the magnitude of the sum for which we now ask authority.
I have endeavoured to give a perfectly plain and simple explanation of the figures contained in the Paper. It would have been infinitely more satisfactory to me, and I think it would have presented a truer picture of the financial commitments of the Army in the current year, if. I had been able to bring into the account on the credit side of the very large amounts realised, and being realised, by the sale of surplus stores for which the Army are responsible in the matter of collection, guarding, and transport. They would have made a marked difference in the Army Accounts. I quite admit that that is merely a Departmental point of view, and that what really matters is that the money realised by the sale of these stores will be brought into the national 1545 Exchequer in due course, and so give relief to the taxpayer. However anxious Members of this House and the country are to have a complete picture of the cost of the Army what they are really concerned about is that they should be sure that those responsible for the administration, of the Army are imbued with the spirit of economy and are determined to crush waste and extravagance. That we are striving to do by every means in our power; but economy does not mean that all expenditure can be stopped forthwith. It does mean, however, that expenditure must be ruthlessly cut down to the barest limits of what is necessary for clearing up the aftermath of the War, and securing the safety of the Empire in the future. That is the task on which we are deeply engaged, and I think we are entitled to look to the House of Commons for full support in the discharging of that task.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £15,000,000.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to deaf with the Russian question. On the other hand, he has opened out a very large field for criticism which many hon. Members of this House would have only been too delighted to follow up. We might have dealt with the question of whether it was essential to retain those eleven divisional general, doing nothing but waiting for the Territorial Force to develop, and that is a subject which might have been touched upon. Personally, I deplore not only the expense involved, but also the fact of shifting the men who died and were buried in the War where they fell, and these people have now been dug up, the rude tombstones over them destroyed, and they have been planted down in these barrack cemeteries. I think we might much better have left these men to moulder where they lay.
The question I want to bring up is that Of the £15,000,000 spent upon giving a present to General Denikin or General Yudenitch. I think we ought to ask why it is that we here in England are bearing the whole burden of the expense of this Russian policy. There have been, I believe, £93,000,000 spent, including the £15,000,000 that are to be given now. Even in these days £93,000,000 is a considerable sum. It is twice the cost of the Crimean War, and this amount has been spent since the Armistice on a policy which is neither war nor peace, and neither 1546 blockade nor open trade with Russia. I want to know was it the policy of His Majesty's Government or was it the policy of the Entente? If this policy is the policy of the Entente, why are not the other three great Powers bearing their share in the expense involved? Supposing it amounts only to £100,000,000, sorely we might have taken, say, 225,000,000, and each of the other Big Four Might have taken another £25,000,000. Even if we had only left it as a debt against Italy and France we might have got it from America and £25,000,000 would do a great deal now to put our housing problem in a fair way for settlement. We might have recovered that amount if the whole of the Entente had joined in the expense of this Russian expedition. Now the whole £93,000,000 has fallen on us, and one can only assume that we have borne the brunt of this expenditure because we initiated the policy. If we did not do that, then it might not be too late even now to get back some of these wasted millions from our Allies who should have assisted us in the task for which they are equally responsible with ourselves.
It is not merely on a question of finance that I want to move this reduction of the Vote. The money we have spent has gone, but the money is not the most important in the charge we make against His Majesty's Government. It is not only our money which has been wasted, but the policy of the Secretary of State for War has squandered our honour even more effectively than our money. Let us consider in the first place who it is that the right hon. Gentleman has made England's Allies, England's new Allies. They are General Mannerheim, General Denikin, and General Koltchak. Are these the new Allies of the Government or of the Secretary of State for War?
General Mannerheim has been over here-during his recent visit to Paris, and he may be coming over here again, but he dare not show his face in the streets of Stockholm, because he is hated by the populace of Sweden. Why should we have him as an Ally of the British people? It is well known that General Mannerheim was the instigator in Finland of the movement that called in Von der Goltz to suppress the Revolution in Finland in January, 1918, when there was a Soviet revolution there. There were massacres there, and the Government there put the number- of those who were murdered at 1547 1,200, while the Socialist-Democratic party put it at 600. Mannerheim called in the Germans, and they put down that revolution in three months. It was, I believe, done by the end of March and the White terror began, which is always so much more bloodthirsty than the Red terror which precedes it. Naturally that is so, because vengeance is always worse than the original committing of the crime.
I want to ask the House to consider what the atrocities were that were committed by the Government with which we now apparently find ourselves in alliance, and whom we are now instigating to further attacks upon the Soviet Government in Russia. In actual fighting the Reds are computed to have lost 10,000 men and the Whites an equal number. This is what the present Government of Finland say:On the 1st of May, 1918, there were sixty-three prison camps, containing 74,000 prisoners. By 31st March, 1919 (ten months later) the total number of deaths had reached 11,783.These people died in the prison camps under Mannerheim's rule in eight months, So much for the prisoners. The Social Democratic party has instituted an inquiry into the executions, and in addition to these 11,000 out of 74,000 who died in the internment camps, and who died often of starvation and even of thirst, this is what happened outside the camps. Of these Red troops who had surrendered the inquiry of the Social Democratic party shows that one by one and case by case 18.803 people were executed either without trial or by mock court-martial. This is the Government which the right hon. Gentleman is supporting, and trying to use against Russia.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
We are now asking them to fight against Russia, and there is a question of a further loan of £20,000,000 which is being urged by the "Times" in order to assist Finland.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The statement just made by the hon. and gallant Member is without foundation in any part. General Mannerheim is not at the head of the Finnish Government, and has nothing to do with it. The Finnish Government is a Government on a. Socialistic basis which differs from General Mannerheim, and the British Government have no relations 1548 with General Mannerheim, and made no alliance with him or the Finnish Government. We have no responsibility whatever for what took place in Finland in the early part of the year.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
We know per fectly well that General Mannerheim is not the present ruler of Finland, because he was defeated at the election after all these atrocities had taken place. That; however, did not prevent him coming here in 1918, when I was requested not to put a question about him because the Government did not wish his presence here to be known.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
General Mannerheim is perfectly well known to be the White leader in Fin: land, and the Finnish people are terrified lest he should force a coup d'éat upon that country and force them into war with Russia. General Mannerheim seems to be a welcome guest in the circles that are opposing Soviet Russia, and this is the kind of man with whom the British Government is associated. I am glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that there is riot a word of truth in the "Times" statement that there is any question of pressing Finland to fight against Russia. It was thought that after General Yudenitch, General Denikin and General Koltchak had failed, there might have been this one last chance of Finnish troops taking Petrograd.
How about Denikin? He has been awarded a K.C.B., and I think that stands, for "killing captured Bolsheviks." He has taken 273,000 prisoners, and I venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman what has happened to those prisoners. How are they being maintained, and in what camps are they now? Are they being fed and treated as the prisoners were treated in Finland? What bas happened to these 273,000 prisoners? We saw in the "Times" the delightful statement that when the Yudenitch forces took one of these Baltic cities twenty-seven emissaries were shot on this occasion. This moderation surprises me, and this may be due to the fact that the executions in Finland have been adversely commented upon by the people, who, after all, stimulated this counter-revolutionary movement. It is not only the manner in which these people carry on war that I would 1549 like the right hon. Gentleman to inquire into, but I would like him also to inquire into a story I heard the other day from a Member of this House who has come back after being on one of the ships of our Navy in the Black Sea. He has described to me how the officers on board had been watching through their glasses one of these towns on the Black Sea coast being captured by Denikin's troops, and how they were so horrified at the butchery they saw that they turned and said, "May we not open fire?" This is what we see. It is only natural, because, after all, the Russians are not a civilized people, and when either side comes forward and captures a town butchery takes place. It is degrading to the English name that we should be partakers in the cause of these butchers on either side.
Take Admiral Koltchak. I understand that my hon. and gallant. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Colonel Ward) is going to follow me. It is very easy when you have lived with a man intimately for many months to see his good points and to defend him, and I am very glad to say that my hon. and gallant Friend always defends his friends, but let him in his defence answer these simple questions: What happened to the Constituent Assembly? Was it dissolved? If Admiral Koltchak is such a friend of democracy, why did ho destroy the Constituent Assembly? Why does lie not call together some form of democratic assembly which will give his title some sort of legal form in the eyes of democrats? Why is it that the Czecho-Slovaks, whom we were all praising two years ago, when they broke East and drove back the Bolsheviks out of Siberia, will have nothing to do with Admiral Koltchak or his Government? I have had reports from Siberia, and anyone who reads the Prime Minister's evidence before the Supreme Council will see that the Czecho-Slovaks have refused to support Admiral Koltchak on the ground that he is not democratic. It is not suggested that Admiral Koltchak himself is a monarchist or a reactionary in the sense of desiring to restore Czarism, but it is well known that he has all round him people who are distinctly monarchist and who control Koltchak just as they controlled Denikin. They constitute the only support that Koltchak or Denikin have had.
1550 In this connection, may I ask the Government whether they have yet perused those documents that were captured in the Caspian Sea when they were being sent from Denikin to Admiral Koltehak? I believe that there are copies at the Foreign Office at the present time. They give an interesting picture of these two great democrats not only planning the future in the sense that we on this side of the House have always maintained that they were planning the future, but they also give their flattering comments upon those people in the West of Europe who are backing them at the present time. It would be interesting for the right hon. Gentleman to study that intercepted correspondence, about which I believe the Foreign Office knows something. Then they might get some idea of what these reactionaries are thinking, while with their mouths and their pens they talk democracy for the sake of the support that they get from the Western countries. The Allies that we have collected round us in Russia, the people whom we are supporting with our tanks and poison gas and battleships, are people that no-English Government in the past would have supported. Have you considered what Lord Palmerston would have thought of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, or what Mr. Gladstone would have thought of this sort of action by the Government? And reflect that this is fifty years later in time We find to-day, after a war which was t9 destroy autocracy and to establish the freedom of small nations and democracy throughout the world, England using all her forces and squandering her men and money in order not to establish a new world but to re-establish the old world.
The removal of the troops from North Russia does not end our responsibility in this matter. We cannot wash our hands and say, "Now we are, innocent of what happens in Russia, because we have removed our troops." It is our money and even our uniforms that are being used in this suicidal war in that country. We are as much responsible for the acts of Denikin, Koltchak, Mannerheim, and Yudenitch as if those battles that they are fighting were` being won by British troops. Every atrocity committed in those countries is being committed by us so long as we enter no protest against the Foreign Office government. Great play has been made of the fact that we have withdrawn our 1551 troops. But let us always remember that we have not removed the supplies which we are constantly sending to these people, nor have we removed that much more terrible weapon, the blockade, which today is starving the women and children of Russia. These things still go on. I saw the other day a man back from Archangel, and he described to me the detestation with which the English soldiers opened fire with poisoned gas upon the Russians. He told me how they fired 1,500 shells, and how at the end of this bombardment they sent over a specialist surgeon to see if he could not restore life to some of the Russians. He said that the Russians had never used poisoned gas against us, and everybody in the Army felt that it was a disgrace that we should be using it against them. When yon consider the justifiable indignation of this country in May, 1915, over the use of poisoned gas by the Germans, when you consider the intensity of fury against this infernal form of warfare, and then when you consider that our Army is using it against these unfortunate Russians, though our own troops object to the use of it, you have some measure of the degradation to which the British name is being sunk by our present policy in Russia.
Of all the calamities, perhaps the worst has been the appeal to the German Government. It is not enough that we have the four great Powers attacking the Bolshevist revolution. After all, they seemed pretty capable of hurling back their attackers on all sides, and we had to call in the Germans. At first, immediately after the Armistice, it was felt that Von der Goltz with his Army would be the most suitable barrier to any further Bolshevist advance, and negotiations with Von der Goltz were opened up, and he was asked to remain; he was ordered to remain. We saw the natural result of that policy. Into this German army of occupation in Russia drifted all the Baltic barons and landlords of the Baltic States, the Germans in Russia, and the Germans in Baltic Prussia, who have held down the peasants of those countries for the last five centuries. These drifted into Von der Goltz's army, and permeated it, and this army which we ourselves put in that country, and which we ordered to remain there in order to defend those countries against the Bolshevists, turned upon the new States who are peculiarly dependent upon Great Britain, and whom we avowed it to 1552 be our intention to protect. That is an example of the way in which the weapon forged by the right hon. Gentleman is turned against him. Could he not take some guidance from the past experience and consider whether Yudenitch, Denikin, and Koltchak may not, when they can dispense with British stores and British uniforms, turn out second Bermondt'a and second friends of Germany.
The Junkers in Prussia and Russia are very much the same. Are they also the same as the Junkers in England? Is this all a concerted party? Is the action by the right hon. Gentleman dictated by a real desire to restore Junkerism, not only in Courland and the Baltic -States, but also in Germany and Russia? Our Russian policy instead of making Russia a friend of England has made her the most contemptuous enemy of this country. It has turned all their eyes towards the Potsdam system of Junkerism on the one side or to the Berlin system of social democracy on the other. Both the Soviet Government and the reactionary element in Russia are looking to German assistance, to German kultur, to German ideas, and worst of all to German trade. We have thrown the trade of the country into the hands of Germany by this suicidal policy. It is not yet too late to get back something by dropping this policy, because Germany is not in a position to trade with anybody at the present time. But the day will soon be too late. It means that the right hon. Gentleman is again gambling. He is gambling upon the chance that Yudenitch, Denikin and Company will remain loyal to Great Britain and prefer Great Britain to their own friends and relations, the barons of the Baltic States and the Junkers in Germany. I do not think that it is likely to be a successful or a profitable gamble to this country.
I beg hon. Gentlemen who look upon this Russian question purely with business eyes to reflect that the best way of opening up profitable business with Russia is not to allow the trading class, the capitalist class, to depise England and consider Germany to be their best friend. Over and over again I have seen extracts from the German papers glorying in the action of the British Government in Russia and using it in order to show the Russians that the Germans and not the English are their best friends. That policy can only lead to disaster so far as the prospect of this country's trade in Russia is con- 1553 cerned. All that we want is peace. It is not only so in this country, but it is so in Russia, in Siberia. I am quite certain that the hon. and gallant Member will agree with me that there is not a single man in -Siberia who to-day wants to continue the fight. It is the same in this country. We are deliberately keeping on this war against the wishes of the people. We want peace, but we do not want Bolshevism in this country. Bolshevism means the tyranny of a minority over the majority. It is the sort of rule which has always been the rule in Russia. They have always had An autocracy of some sort there. It is unthinkable in a country like this, which has 'centuries of democratic progress behind it. I hope that everybody clearly understands that. Bolshevism means tyranny. It may mean tyranny of the proletariat but it is Mill tyranny and it is impossible in this country. But it is a much more natural state of affairs when you come to a country like Russia, where they never know anything -but tyranny. It is not our business, therefore, even in the interests of Russia, to try and give them a form of government to which they are not accustomed, and which Apparently they do not want. Moreover, I would ask the House to observe that in Russia itself all those elements and those political parties that were utilised to support the anti-Bolshevik movement are now coming round to support the Bolshevik Government. Take the Menshevik party, which is the minority party opposed to Bolshevism. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
On the contrary, they are the overwhelming majority, and they are only called Mensheviks because they want less than the Bolsheviks.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think my hon. Friend is wrong when he says they are the more numerous party in Russia. This is the policy of the Mensheviks, who have recently published a manifesto denouncing the intervention policy of the Entente in ignoring political conditions. They urge support of the Bolshevik Government in the face of foreign aggression. My hon. and gallant Friend says that this is the most 1554 numerous party in Russia. But there are also the Social Revolutionaries of the Right—the Kerenski party—the Agrarian as opposed to the Town party. The Right Socialist Revolutionaries have now followed the example of the Mensheviks, and, as late as and October, their party leaders were urged by the constituents to join the Red Army. The Right Socialist Revolutionaries are the Marxian Agrarian section of the Revolutionary party. Thus you have enormously important parties in Russia gravitating towards the Bolshevik Government solely because of the continual intervention of this country in the affairs of Russia. It is quite clear we are alienating the people of Russia, and we are not even pleasing those who are anxious to re-establish the Czarist form of government. I want the House to realise that the Bolshevik Government has now been going on for two years, and we have had people like Arthur Ransome and Mr. Goode giving us their views on the state of affairs under that regime. Mr. Ransome supplied us with a straightforward diary of his visit to Russia, and Mr. Goode has published in the "Manchester Guardian" a frank exposition of exactly what is going on in Russia to-day—of what he saw there. He sees the children in Petrograd well looked after, he sees complete absence Of the prostitute class, he sees that the position of the working classes in regard to pay and hours of labour and their condition generally have been changed out of all recognition. These are the best accounts we can go of Russia to-day, for, after all, it is a closed country so far as information is concerned. We have accounts written by a friend of the hon. Gentleman on one side and on the other side we have the evidence I have quoted. The House must judge between the two. They are not necessarily in conflict, but under the picture they drew of Russia, we see the Government there attempting to reconstruct a new world, to do exactly what we are being asked in this House to do. The real difficulty is that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are not anxious to see a new world constructed either in this country or anywhere else; they are really anxious to reconstruct the old world, and it is because in Russia we never can reconstruct the old world I hope we shall cease making the attempt as soon as possible.
Our real difficulty on these benches is that we have against us a composite Government, a coalition between the 1555 Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War. Everything we urge from these benches in favour of an immediate Peace has been urged by the Prime Minister before the Supreme Council of Ten. In January last year the arguments I have used here to-night were being used in almost identical terms by the British Prime Minister in order to persuade the Council of Ten to agree to the Conference of Prinkipo. The official record of the meeting for the Council of Ten for 16th January contains the following which I take from the "Manchester Guardian" to-day. Thus, I should explain, is an official Minute taken after every meeting of the Council of Ten and circulated to the different Embassies in Paris. It was given in evidence and printed in extenso in the Senate inquiry into Mr. Bullitt's evidence. The words I wish to quote are those of Mr. Lloyd George—The mere idea of crushing Bolshevism by military force is pure madness.This is of course amplified. There is nearly half a column of the Prime Minister's utterances which were directed to showing the utter futility of the policy carried on by the Secretary for War. In another part I find the Prime Minister saying—The Russian blockade would be a death cordon dooming women and children to starvation, a policy which, as human people, those present cannot consider.We hear it denied by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs that this blockade policy is causing the starvation of enormous numbers of women and children in Russia, and we even have it suggested it is satisfactory that the blockade should go on, although we are actually starving to death the people of that country. The Prime Minister further says—To support Koltchak and Denikin would involve the restoration of the old régime since Koltchak has been collecting members of the old régime about him hint, and they seem to be a party of Monarchists.I am only quoting the words of the Prime Minister in order that the Secretary for War may hear them. It is not the first time the right hon. Gentleman has heard them. The Prime Minister, of course, made them to the Council in Paris, and the Secretary of State, hearing rumours of that, flies over to Paris week after week to urge the stamping out of the system in Russia, where they do not admit the sanctity of private property. He wants, in fact, to wipe out at all costs the, regime in Russia. 1556 What the Prime Minister was urging in January this year the Labour party has-been urging continually since the Revolution of 1917. They have urged consistently that our policy should be one of nonintervention, that we must leave these people to settle their own affairs, that while we do not approve of the form of government—the form of autocracy introduced by the Soviet Government, yet we feel it is not the business of Great Britain any more than in the past it has been our business to stamp out experiments made either by democracy or autocracy in any country in the world. That policy in the past has been good enough for the Liberal party. But now the vast bulk of that party are behind the Government in regard to events in Russia. In the past, however, we heard a very different story from all the leaders of that party.
We ask the Prime Minister to repeat today what he said in January last. Every statement he made then has proved correct. We have not been able to crush Bolshevism by armed force. Every time Denikin or one of the other generals makes a dash on Moscow or Petrograd the right hon. Gentleman thinks we are within a mile of victory, and the papers all write articles applauding it. But while our unctuous hopes are raised the despair of the Russian people is increased. It is repeatedly prophesied that if only we put a little more paint on to the old ship we will get somehow to Petrograd. We are tired of all these prophecies; we had them at. Gallipoli and at many other places; we were told if we had only gone a little bit further all would have been well. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman see it is better to follow the informed view of the Prime-Minister of this country rather than the behests of the Foreign Office, which stimulate him on to these perpetual expeditions? The real fact is that we have an Internationale which is employing the right hon. Gentlemen opposite—the Internationale of the aristocracy and of the landocracy, as well as the capital classes, which all combine in saying that Bolshevism must be stamped out at all costs to England. They agree on this policy, and the right hon. Gentleman is their obedient follower. In asking England to endorse this policy. I think he is forgetting the interests of this country and thinking more of the Internationale of the world. We want peace. We want peace with honour, and we can only get peace with honour by following the 1557 policy laid clown by the Prime Minister in Paris, even although it may be now nine months too late.
§ Colonel JOHN WARD
It seems very strange to come back from Russia, having travelled right through Siberia, over the Urals—starting on my homeward journey from a point 280 miles east of Petrograd, which, if I could have got through that 280 miles, would have landed me here in five days, instead of which 1 have had to do a journey of some five weeks over the railway to Vladivostok before I could get a ship—having seen the actual situation in Russia, and then to hear it represented by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Wedgwood), it really makes one wonder whether there is any real intention of trying to understand the Russian, problem, or whether there is not a certain set of men who have made up their minds on a certain policy relating to that country, and are determined to twist every scrap of information in the direction of maintaining their policy, regardless of the injury they may do, not merely to Russia, but to their own country. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, for instance, made a statement which I resent, having lived for some time among the Russian people. I do not suppose there has been a greater proportion of massacres and murders on either side in this internecine struggle in Russia than there has been when civilisation and law and order have been uprooted in any period in the history of the world. These are the natural consequences of revolution. The unfortunate part of the business is that those who promote revolutions think they can do it on a sort of limited liability basis, but you cannot do anything of the kind. The history of the world has shown that moderate men may, by their very moderation and by repeated attacks upon an effete form of government-, destroy it. But these moderate men do not guide it immediately the old is destroyed. In every revolution in the history of the world, behind these moderate men, who are aiming at higher ideals and a higher form of a humane organisation of society, come the very worst elements, and they take advantage of the absence of law and authority to behave generally in such a way that those who originally initiated the revolution would almost prefer to go back to the conditions which they themselves had previously destroyed. I am very much afraid that is the situation in the country that we are considering.
1558 I must, however, protest with all my power against an observation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who said, "Of course we know the Russians are not civilised at all." I have found them hospitable and decent men, and I am not so-sure that even a body of Russian workmen —if it were not for their language and, the crude gear that they are obliged to wear owing to the climate, considering the-chances our workmen have of education, whereas the ordinary labourer in Russia has no education at all—would not compare quite favourably with any body of workmen you could find in any of the Western countries of Europe. Therefore, I resent the statement, having been, friendly with these people and addressed meetings at which thousands of workmen were assembled. Given a chance, they are equal to our own men. Once human society is uprooted, you go back at once to the jungle, whether you like it or not. You would have the same thing here. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wanted to set loose a similar set of men in this country I would kill him the first chance I got. Naturally every man's life is in his hands. You want to have lived there to see it then you understand immediately. It is general wherever human society is: destroyed, and there is no restraint where the worst elements can wreak their vengeance and satisfy their lustful appetites without any restraining influence of law and of authority. I say then that the Russians are no worse than probably we should be under similar conditions. On the basis of what they have done, or this, that or the other, you can, not make a general statement that the-Russian people are not civilised.
I think, however, it would be much more to my purpose if I were to illustrate exactly the situation as I understand from the time I landed at Vladivostok at the latter end of July, 1918. It may interest the historian to know that I was stationed with half my battalion at Hong', Kong and half at Singapore. Rioting and disorder had taken place at Singapore and half my battalion was left there while headquarters went to Hong Kong. In November, 1917, my battalion first received orders to collect itself together and proceed to an unknown destination. It was so unknown that a private citizen at, the hotel dinner table that night asked me when my battalion was going to move to Vladivostok. All preparations were made and orders given—instructions as to. 1559 the behaviour of the troops and the officers and then about January, 1918, orders came cancelling the whole business. We understood that diplomatic difficulties had occurred. The Allies wished to interfere for purposes of their own, but the situation was not quite clear, and it was not certain whether we could supply the necessary force to enable the Allies to interfere effectively in the Russian difficulties. This went on until June, 1918, when imperative orders came which one could see quite clearly were definite and final. The battalion was to be collected together at Singapore and put upon the first ship which could be conunandeered and go straight away. We landed at Vladivostok about the end of July, 1918. Mine was a garrison battalion, and it was supposed naturally that its duty was garrison work for the maintenance of law and order. My instructions were definite, and I am now in a position, as a Member of this House, to state what my instructions were so far as I think the public interest will not be injured. I was a -senior officer, no Mission having arrived. It was distinctly Understood that the presence of British troops on Russian territory was not to be considered as an act hostile to the Russian people. We were there as friends and not as enemies. We were to fraternise wherever we possibly could with all those elements of Russian society that washed to maintain public order, and we were not to consider what kind of public order it was so long as it was order. As far as the instructions of the British Government were concerned, the forces were everything that the occasion demanded.
I had not been very long in Vladivostok before the Czech and Russian forces on the Usuri were outnumbered, and they retired some fourteen versts in one day towards Nikovsk. My battalion, on instructions, was hurried forward to assist the Czechs, and I need not enter into the business of these operations except to say this, which I think is an important point to remember: This was the time of one of the mast important phases of the War on the Western Front. Germany was then delivering hammer blows at the gates of Paris. There is not the slightest doubt but that the Allies' intention was not so much to be concerned in the internal affairs of Russia as to see if it were not possible to reconstruct the Russian Front so as to draw as many of 1560 the German forces as possible from our front on the West and relieve the pressure upon our own Army. There is no doubt that is what we went there for. There is also no doubt, whatever may be the case now, that there was some kind of secret understanding with the Soviet Government and the Central Powers as to the part they were to play in the military operations, for this simple reason which I think is quite clear evidence on the fact which I suggest. On the Usuri there was scarcely a single soldier in the Bolshevik ranks who could speak Russian. They were almost entirely the prisoners of the Bolsheviks, probably under instructions from Potsdam. They were almost exclusively, both officers and men, released German and Magyar prisoners who had unquestionably, under some arrangement with the German-Bolshevik Governments, been put forward to extend, so to speak, the field of operations and as a centre for obtaining supplies for the Central Powers. In the great battle that was fought between the Japanese and this army, supported by the Czechs and detachments of the French and my own battalion, out of some 600 or some 700 men killed in a most murderous fire, with some five armoured trains, I do not believe there was a single Russian among the whole of the killed.
If we were now considering for the first time the question of intervention in Russia I am not sure that I would not take the hon. and gallant Member's view, but that is not the point. There is no peace in Russia, though you have it, here or at least I hope you have. We have not now to talk about intervention. If one could look through the files of the newspapers I should not be at all surprised if one found from the very papers which are opposing any expedition or any assistance ever having been given to Russia some very interesting statements. Some of the papers came to us later on, and they were wondering what the Allies were doing towards assisting Russia on to her legs in order that she might insist in the final stages of the War. Consequently, we are not considering the question of intervention or anything about intervention. It has been done. You cannot go into a country and ask these men to rally round you and reconstruct for your own purposes in order to assist and take off the pressure on your own soldiers and then say, "Well, gentlemen, we have got peace now; there is no longer a Western Front. Good-bye! We are very sorry to 1561 lease you." Of course, I dare say there are some who would do that; but so far as 1 am concerned—the hon. Member mentioned the word "honour"—I do not think it would be quite honourable behaviour.
Having disposed of the Magyar and German forces collected under the Bolshevik banner on the Usuri, it then became a question as to whether the mere defeat of these different units, some partly Russian, some wholly non-Russian, was of any use unless somewhere, in some kind of form, some Government, some energetic and determined Government, could be established to administer the territories which had been conquered from the terrorists. We definitely decided to move forward to Omsk, and my battalion took the first plunge. With three months' supplies, it went forward over something about 6,000 miles of railway right into Omsk and eventually to Ekaterinberg. Let the hon. and gallant Member picture Omsk as it was when my battalion arrived, because it is well if you can focus the difficulty that your own representatives had to deal with when they arrived to carry out your mission at the particular point you had instructed them to go to Omsk was in a simply terrible condition. Its population had increased from 60,000 to possibly 100,000 or 200,000.
Then we were faced with another immediate problem. The mere fact that the British, though only 800 men, had arrived at Omsk, gave such confidence to the people all round the country who had been driven from their homes—sometimes their families half destroyed, many of them living in the forests, fearful to approach human habitation, wondering whether it was a friend or a foe—all began to collect around this miserable little band of 800 men, with British bayonets, with the result that the population increased from between 60,000 and 70,000 to nearly 700,000. You may guess that you would get all sorts of people amongst that lot, opposite in view, with no kind of order, no police, no anything. It is very nice when you have trouble in your house and you can call on a policeman from outside. That is a jolly fine thing, and it is something that is worth keeping, but when you get into a country where there is nothing of the kind and no order, it is different. Someone looks in at the window and thinks that it is a much better place than they have outside, and if you dispute their right of entry, 1562 well, you do not wake up to find yourself dead; I suppose you wake up in the next world to find that out. Someone takes possession—there is no one to dispute their right to do so—the bodies are merely tumbled out into the street, and the sanitary cart next morning picks them up, frozen, and takes them away. There is no inquest, no policemen, no anything.
That is the condition that prevailed for sonic time. One thing used to happen pretty regularly. There were three lines along which their murder propaganda mostly went. I sympathised with them in one case. If any officer dared to wear his shoulder strap he was to be executed. That is this gentle, democratic Soviet Government. The next line was that as-they had abolished all law, and declared that for the future nothing but common sense was to make justice between man and man, they naturally abolished lawyers, and there was no close time for them. Probably if there was any good thing about their proposals that was it. For a most astonishing reason, the next class that could be destroyed at sight if they wore their uniform were the cadets, the boys, who attended the schools. Those were the three ostracised classes, officers who dared to wear their shoulder straps, lawyers who were known to be such— [Laughter]—and cadets. It is very laughable, but the lawyers did riot laugh. Almost every morning in Omsk, at first, sometimes it would be four officers, sometimes five or six, sometimes nine or ten, and occasionally, General Knox told me, and I know it for a fact from the observations of the supreme Governor, the number would rise to twenty and twenty-four each night, and these officers would be found dead in the street in the morning. Occasionally an officer would be taken into some shed or elsewhere in order to be drawn away from the public streets, and one could see quite clearly that because he had defied them and continued to wear his shoulder strap to show that he was an officer the shoulder strap had been deliberately screwed on to his shoulder before he was killed. This condition of affairs naturally got on to the minds and nerves of the officers, and there being no law and no means by which they could get hold of the murderers, I am bound to confess that eventually the officers banded themselves together, and if there were ten officers murdered one night ten citizens, who they thought might be themselves responsible for the crime against the 1563 officers the previous night, were found dead the next night. I do not know, but I dare say there must have been many innocent people killed as a result of this blindly hitting out to try to prevent their own murder. At the same time it is a fact that eventually the officers must have got hold of the right people, because these midnight murders and outrages suddenly ceased. We Pope they got the right people at last. Those were the conditions that prevailed. That scene of blood and murder was the condition of affairs into which we were hurled about this time last year.
The hon. and gallant Member referred to the old directorate. He has suggested that Admiral Koltchak, with the sanction -of the Allies, destroyed the Constituent Assembly. No such thing existed. The Constituent Assembly had existed in Petrograd and was maintained in Petrograd to form a new constitution for Russia, but Trotsky and this gang of murderers that he hon. and gallant Member is so fond of, destroyed that Constituent Assembly.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I should like to know what right the hon. and gallant Member has to say that I am a friend of a band of murderers. He has been out of the country, and is absolutely ignorant on the subject. He is speaking through his hat.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)
The hon. and gallant Member has a right to interrupt to make an explanation, hut he has no right to make an attack.
§ Colonel WARD
My hon. and gallant Friend, if you think that I have done so, I have no wish whatever to offend you, and I withdraw and apologise immediately and absolutely if you think I have done so.
§ Colonel WARD
I do not want to offend in any way. Every man and every hon. Member is entitled to his opinion. The only thing is that it is a misdirection to this country and the House to pretend that Koltchak destroyed the Constituent Assembly. It is the Soviet power, lead by Lenin and Trotsky, that destroyed the (Constituent Assembly. Out of the 300 or 1564 400 members the Soviet power managed to leave, I think, about 130 or 150 alive, and these collected together later on to fight the Soviet power and form what they called the permanent directorate of five. It is that permanent directorate whose mismanagement of affairs led to the terrible condition of things which I have described at Omsk, and out of which it seemed impossible to get except by concentrating power, for a time at least, in the hands of one man. I am not fond of dictators or dictation. The word stinks as far as I am concerned. But I feel certain that if hon. Members had seen the situation and understood the difficulties more than half of them would have agreed with what was done in removing the directorate and centering the power, as at least a means by which you might hope to get out of your difficulties, in the hands of one man. This was done. I am pleased to say that I was there; and, while I have no doubt that it would have been serious for the directorate of five if no independent. force had been there—and this seems to me to be sufficient justification for our interference—and that the directorate would have been executed, feeling against them ran so high, yet I demanded that these men should either be given a fair trial or should be placed in the hands of the Allies for safe conveyance out of the country. The hon. and gallant Member seems to think that that was ridiculous, and that we ought to have let them be murdered. But I do not think so. I know that they were Socialists. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member thinks that that was their chief crime. I think quite the opposite. But they were conveyed out of the country.
I may say of Admiral Koltchak's administration that it was supported by every organisation in Omsk and in Siberia representing either the peasants or the workmen. I tell the hon. Member—because I am sure that if I can convince him I can convince all his friends—that the cooperators, immediately they heard of the appointment of Admiral Koltchak, supplied him with huge sums of money to be able to carry on and consolidate his Government. Admiral Koltchak at the first meeting refused the appointment of supreme governor. Then it was forced upon him. There was no other way by which it could be done. Everybody was agreed on that. Eventually he undertook the task, which has been most irksome to him, because by nature he is a democrat—there is not the 1565 slightest doubt about that—and the reason attacks are not being made so much upon General Denikin and the others, who are known to be Royalists, is because of the fear that the English may render Koltchak assistance; because he knows our institutions and he wants the same liberty for the Russian people as the English have in their country. They know, therefore, that he is a much more formidable opponent than either of the others who are merely soldiers, and naturally, the propaganda is directed against the one man who can save Russia and save constitutional democracy in Russia. They do not want democracy. It is a well-known fact that directly Admiral Koltchak made a declaration as to his object: "I have no object," he said in his declaration, published and signed by himself, "except to restore order to Russia that she and her people may by universal suffrage elect a Constituent Assembly to take over the power at once from me and decide the, future government of my country." That policy ought to have received the support of every Britisher who calls himself a democrat.
Why I object so much to the statements that have been made is because of the suspicion that it is only the aristocracy, the great landowners, the capitalists, who are opposed to the Soviet Government in Russia. That is absolutely untrue. You have only to look at the line. I have been out over the Urals. I have visited most of these villages. You go to a place called Tagil and a little further on to Pushva. They are under one commissar. The next place is a big iron-mining district. That is under a second commissar, the most northern commissar, who was evidently a man of high principle, in spite of the fact that he was a commissar under the Soviet Government. He tried to the best of his ability to apply in a humane way the principles of the Government he represented, and I am bound to say that in that immense district there was not one word of complaint against-the way in which the Soviet authorities had behaved. But when you come down to the next district, Pushva and Tagil, where you had evidently got some narrow-minded scoundrel, who thought that he was the only man who knew how the world should be governed, -you get a scene that beggars description. This man by murder and by one form of robbery and another has almost depopulated the entire district. He filled the wells of Pushva and Tagil with the bodies 1566 of his victims, sometimes alive and sometimes dead before they were placed there, until the name of these two wells spread round in the adjoining district, into the Vadkin district, where some 60,000 men, with their wives and families, carried on the business of mining.
These workmen themselves without any officer, seeing the murderer's policy which was pursued next door, decided that such a power as that must be prevented from coming into their midst if possible. They organised themselves. They got an army of something like 16,000 workmen together, and while the others did the work these men had to guard certain positions. Some of the civilian engineers managed to select some of the best points in the district, and for five or six months, they held the entire Soviet Army at bay without assistance from anyone. When in November last the Bolshevik line stretched from the Caspian Sea right away through Siberia just immediately behind the Urals, and even when the Bolshevik line had surged forward, you could see a huge great loop coming back almost to the same point again where these workmen, without a single bit of military advice, armed mostly with merely sporting guns—and they tell me of the terrible effect of the charges of buckshot on the Reds when they came forward, which played more havoc among them than rifles, whether that is so or not I do not know—continued to defend themselves and their homes long after the whole Bolshevik army had swept forward over the futile army of the directorate. Director-General Bolderoff reported that these gallant workmen had been forced to surrender, and he was extremely sorry that the directorate had not been able to protect and succour such a gallant body of men.
A few months later when Koltchak's army moved forward this was one of the points which were struck, and after a few days' fighting it was reported that there was confusion or mutiny behind the Red line because fighting was seen going on there. But when the line eventually surged forward and Perm was captured it was discovered that sheer terror of the devil next door had aroused in these workmen such a determination to protect their homes and people that even when the Reds had defeated the whole directorate army those workmen not only held the field against them, but continued to hold out. The hon. and gallant Gentle- 1567 man may take it hour me that while in Siberia when the revolution broke out there was a population of only:30,000,000, in Siberia to-day, owing to the terror which caused everybody to bolt whenever they got a chance, there are 70,000,000 people.
§ Colonel WARD
I must confess that I. did not count them. I am only speaking from the observations in the published reports of the zemstvos. The hon. and gallant Member must know that it is extremely doubtful whether more social democrats even than capitalists have not been murdered by the Bolsheviks. It is one of the most strange things because the whole directorate was social democrat, and they were the party who were fighting the Soviets because of the wholesale murder of every social democrat they could get hold of. That was the situation there. Then for some of the newspapers here to describe this as an attack on social democracy shows that there are some people who do not want to study the thing.
I myself have not much to say with regard to actual atrocities which I myself have seen. I have only, as the hon. and gallant Member will see, been able to see the results of these things. But there is one case to which I want to refer now. I went a step forward to Perm. I was there about April this year at the time when ice on the huge river Kama was beginning to melt. Speaking to the chief officer of the place I asked him about the town and how it had fared during the Bolshevik regime. He said: "We know that immense properties have disappeared, we know that hundreds and hundreds of families, estimated by some at something like 3,000 or 4,000, and by others as high as 12,000, have disappeared entirely during the Bolshevik régime." At a lady's house we heard another description from the old women who did the washing down on the river. A hole bad been cut in the ice to enable the women to get water for the washing, and forms were placed around for their tubs. In this district, it must be remembered, there was martial law. No one but a Soviet official was allowed in the streets after sunset. The lady told us how the women used to describe the sort of scuffles and the blood that could be seen in the 1568 washing shed at night, and they were positive that this sired was the place where a great many bodies were disposed of. They calculated that when the river thawed they would know something about the deeds that had been committed. I happened to be there at the time when the river thawed. It thawed on the left-hand side immediately under a great cliff, a little below this gruesome washing shed. The people of Perm, not having any means by which they could do the thing scientifically, as the snow had not broken away lower down, stuck fir trees in the river. When the river began to move first they collected as many bodies as possible. My sergeant major had been walking alongside the river and he informed me that the contrivance was then working, and that some hundreds of bodies had been got out during several days, that soon the whole of the ice would go away, and that then they would be able to get no more bodies, because the stream would be swept away With one of my officers I walked along the place that morning, and with the aid of my interpreter I asked the old man who was looking after the business what he had found that day. He replied that he had not found much, and that an hour and a half's work had resulted in only forty bodies being taken out of the river. I asked if I might look at them. I did so. There were young women, even some children, and, what was remarkable, you could tell by the blackened marks on the hands of some of the old workmen—the proletariat that we are supposed to defend—what some of the other victims were. They were all mixed up in hopeless confusion. The Soviet Commissioner who sets out on that sort of business cares neither for class nor sex nor anything else, and I say that the system is such as it is almost impossible to imagine, and that there can be no defenders of it in any part of the world.
For myself, going back to the Motion and to the question whether we ought to continue to assist our friends, I say that we have given them guarantees; we have made definite promises to them. We could not have expected them to help us unless we had done so, and the whole question to decide now is what kind of assistance you can give them. We may be war-weary, and men may be impossible, but that you should continue in every material way to assist those organisations which you yourselves have brought 1569 into existence, which have given you pledges as to the object for which they are striving—objects which are in favour of democracy and in favour of extending the principles of constitutionalism to the huge Empire of Russia—I say does not admit of any doubt. We have helped during the most difficult part of this procedure. If, at the moment when the atmosphere of Russian life and national existence looks to be clearing, we should withdraw our help, it would be the most fatal policy for the future that this country could possibly adopt. You have two elements fighting against each other They are coming closer to grips each day. There is the marked influence of the British Mission as a result of the opportunity given to a few decent-minded Englishmen to give advice, to temper the savagery that has produced crimes, committed admittedly on both sides. If at the moment when you might be able by your correct attitude and advice to balance the scale either in favour of progress or back to reaction and the old regime, you should retire, I think would be fatal, not merely to the interest of Russia but to the interest of this country also. If you are so palsied and poor in spirits and mind that you cannot undertake the burden, freely confess it and let someone else do it. There are others quite willing to do it—others who would be only too delighted to get the chance.
§ Colonel WARD
There is no doubt about it. One of the things that Admiral Koltchak protested was that his near Eastern neighbour had made offers, and that if only the Allied Council would let him accept those offers he would be out of his difficulty to-morrow. But he is not prepared to do that. After all, Admiral Koltchak is a Russian, a real Russian. Reading the newspapers, one can scarcely understand why it is that Admiral Koltchak refuses to concede the agreement which the Allies want him to concede. It is, however, quite understandable. The right hon. Gentleman opposite could get an agreement from him, signed and sealed, relating to the Baltic Provinces, in forty-eight howl if he wanted it, I expect. I say that, knowing the inside situation fairly well. Admiral Koltchak's position is simply this: "The Allies present me with a demand that I shall agree to certain of the old territories of Russia forming new states. They want me on behalf 1570 of Russia to sign that agreement, and yet they will not admit that I am the ruler of Russia for the time being." That is Admiral Koltchak's private and definite position on the subject. It turns on the question of recognition of Admiral Koltchak and his Government. He has a council of Ministers, led by a famous Social revolutionary, the President of the old Duma. The attempt is being made to fasten on to Admiral Koltchak a reactionary policy. It is not true. Whatever suspicions there may have been in the past, Admiral Koltchak has given both the Allies and the British Government ample guarantee as to the use to which he would put his power if once he became master of the Russian dominions.
I have been able to present the case only in a fragmentary way, but I assure the House that, having lived amongst these people, I must confess that I have liked them and loved them. I have shared as much as I could in their sorrows and difficulties. I have been in their market-places and I have talked with the peasants. I have not listened merely to the officers. I have—as could be shown quite easily, though it is not worth while going into the matter—met thousands of the workmen in public meetings. I have tried as far possible to get at their psychology and to understand their point of view. They have absolute confidence in the country that we represent; they have confidence in r o other. I am certain that if the policy of desertion is carried out, if by mere ignorant, uninformed, public clamour, the Government of a great Empire like this, forgetful of the future, forgetful of the difficulties that desertion may involve—here are 180,000,000 people in one of the wealthiest countries of the world—if the policy of desertion be adopted now, and you make these possible friends into potential enemies, you will do an injury not merely to England, but to the world.
I think it my duty, first, to say a few words with regard to the British prisoners in Soviet Russia. I am not going to repeat the report which I have already rendered to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I hope that whoever replies on behalf of the Government will give us an assurance that the negotiations in regard to the prisoners will he concluded before the winter sets in in Russia. The winter clothing and the supplies of food sent to these men for last winter have not even yet entered Russia. I should like to know why that is. There 1571 are not great difficulties in getting into Russia. I believe it would be possible for a parliamentaire to meet a Soviet official on the frontier and settle these negotiations in a few hours. If that is not possible I would like a definite assurance that arrangements can be made for supplying these men with the food and clothes which are essential to their welfare during the hard winter ahead of them. I hope something will be done on their behalf and on behalf of their relatives and friends in this country who have been cut off from them so long. I think that I may preface my remarks on Russia with a reply to the insinuations that have been made against me both in this House and outside of it. This afternoon the hon. Member for Splingburn (Mr. Macquisten) stated that I went to Russia to earn a living. It is a base insinuation, it is a foul insinuation it is an infamous insinuation, it is an insinuation which I hardly expected from the Benches opposite, and it is an insinuation I should hardly expect from a member of the legal profession, and it is absolutely untrue. What do you think the public outside will think of statements like that? Is it any wonder that they begin to look upon the Parliamentary machine as effete? Is it any wonder that they resort to direct action if that is an example of the mentality of this House? I am going to deal outside with statements that have appeared in the Press. I would not press this matter so much if I was not aware that certain organs of the Press were usually inspired from Downing Street. I am all the more certain of that because certain of the phrases in those statements were only known in the precincts of Downing Street. It was stated that I was associated with all the revolutionary plots and conspiracies in London; plots to overthrow the Government, to capture Whitehall and invade Westminster. I never heard of such statements. That is the sort of work the Government can do to discredit one in advance. They went on to elaborate the list of supporters and plotters and started with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), a gentleman who has loyally served His Majesty for over ten years in the Royal Navy. As to the remainder of that list, all the fellow plotters and brigands, I do not know a single one of them even by sight. It is well for the public to know 1572 here and now the sort of attacks that are made against anyone who tries to say the truth. I do not know what the object was, but perhaps somebody on the Treasury Bench knows. I will just say this: In Moscow there is an institute known as the Secret Diplomacy Relics Museum. 1 have some interesting documents which I have brought to this country out of that museum, which range from secret treaties down to the scales of bribing foreign ministers. They would make interesting reading for the British public in the long winter evenings. For me they have only an academic and historic interest, but if these attacks continue I shall feel justified in employing the legitimate belligerent expedient of reprisals. Let us try and be honest, even if we are politicians.
I believe that if some of the matters connected with Russia were known to the British public they would rise in revolt against them. Take a few examples and incidents connected with Petrograd and the attack on Petrograd, which are not generally known. I happened to be there at the time. The merest tyro in military strategy could have foreseen that the attack by General Yudenitch with 15,000 men could never succeed against a great town like Petrograd, surrounded by natural and artificial fortifications and defended by over 100,000 men. I would tell you a little more about that attack. One of General Yudenitch's colleagues, his financial colleague, is at Helsingfors. What happens? General Yudenitch issues a statement that Petrograd is about to fall, or that. Petrograd has fallen, and the rouble rises in value from a penny to a pound, and Mr. Rubenstein makes £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. There is another reason for the attack on Petrograd. On 25th October—it may be a laughing matter, but I do not think the British public considers it such—the Peace Conference of the Baltic States was due to take place at Dorpat, but that Conference commenced a few days previously. I believe that the motive of that attack was to prejudice the policy of the Baltic States. That is the opinion of political men throughout those countries, and I believe it is true. That is the sort of thing that is going on in the environs of Russia, and that is the sort of dirty work and intrigues we are supporting, and for which the British taxpayer is paying. I do not believe that there is any matter of greater importance than our policy in Russia, but I am sure the majority of the 1573 people in this country have expressed and feel deep doubts as to the truth of the situation in that country.
I wish my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Ward) had been able to come with me and see the facts from inside and the actual state of affairs, and not report from afar off from the heights of the Ural and from the uncivilised spaces of Siberia. I think if he had come with me he would not be so keen on carrying on this bloody slaughter, this massacre of humanity. I went there an open-minded observer. I went alone. I had no axe to grind. I have come back not enamoured of Bolshevism and not convinced that extreme Socialism is a good form of government. But I have come back convinced of one or two things. The stories which we have been told are grossly exaggerated, and the British Government by their present policy, or rather lack of policy, are doing harm not only to themselves but also to mankind. The majority of the stories which are published in Great Britain and elsewhere are completely untrue, utter falsehoods, and the remainder are grossly exaggerated or distorted. I believe that they are the work of emigré Russians, Government officials and others who fear the spread of communistic principles in this country, and who desire to restore the old régime in Russia. I believe that fear of communism in this country is a bogey. I do not believe the Prime Minister or anyone else could lay his hands on a dozen working men who want to better their condition by violence and bloodshed. I do not fear communism in ibis country. No open-minded man can go to Russia and come back without seeing the black side of it. There have been executions there—far more executions than I would like to see in any civilised country. I have had statements of the executions put before me, and bear this fact in mind, that the Bolshevist Government has been faced by serious attempts at counter-revolutions, and, to use the words which on countless occasions have come from the benches opposite, it has employed "all the resources of the State" to protect the community against the serious results of counter-revolution. My view of the executions was modified when I read in the "Times" that only twenty-seven Red Commissars had been shot, and when I heard of the pogroms and slaughters which are being carried on throughout the country that is being recaptured by General Denikin. I did not 1574 attach so much importance to the executions when I heard those facts. But in spite of all this, the Bolshevik Government are embarking on a great programme of reconstruction, the details of which would occupy this House for a great many hours. I have not yet had time to translate all the documents which I was able to bring back with me, but there are a few facts I would like to put before the House. The most important Departments dealing with social reconstruction are those dealing with social welfare, public health, and education. I do not know n hat there is humorous about tins—
I was able to see something of the work which they are trying to do in regard to social welfare. In the last twelve months a very considerable increase has taken place in the establishment of crèches, milk kitchens, communal nurseries, and institutions of that kind. I saw examples of it; I saw, in addition, examples of the work which the Bolshevik Government are doing to try and better the status of time people, both in regard to health and social welfare. Lectures and exhibitions are given and posters displayed showing how to deal with children, how to wash them, and so on, and showing by means of broad diagrams to the illiterate peasant masses how they can bring up a better generation and how they can make their children an improvement on the illiterate Russians we have always known in the past. I could dwell on this for a long time. Special attention is being paid to the care of children. No one will deny the horrible privations and terrible shortage of food in Russia, due in no small degree to the inhuman blockade of the Allies, but special provision is made for children and special rations supplied to them and special care taken that they do not suffer under the conditions imposed by the Allies. In addition to education, special theatres are organised in order to make a better life for the children of the working classes in Russia. In Moscow alone no less than thirteen theatres are open for children. I went on one Sunday to three of them to try and see that I was not being bluffed, and when I saw those thousands of little children enjoying so thoroughly this new venture, I wondered whether it was really necessary that they should have to endure the terrible hardships of the coming 1575 winter. Statements that the institutions, exhibitions, models, and schools which was shown were rigged up for my special benefit it is, of course, difficult to disprove. I cannot believe that these bodies were really dressed up and the-colossal work undertaken simply with a view to bluffing a foreigner who might by chance get into Russia. I do not believe that for a moment. Hypocrisy has been defined as the last tribute paid by vice to virtue. The very strongest supporter of anti-Bolshevism, of intervention, must admit that at least the Bolshevik Government wish our Western world to think that they care for these matters and for real social reconstruction. Personally, I believe that it really does care for these things and really is embarking on a programme of social reconstruction and that it is really trying to carry through a programme of compulsory education. What a change from the old Russia we used to know so well.
All these reforms are being carried out in the face of a gigantic war, a war which is being waged on nine fronts. What is the effect off his war and of the blockade? The inevitable effect is to increase the communistic unity of the people inside Russia. The mere shortage of commodities brings about a control such as we experienced in this country during the War, a control which is not very far removed from Socialism, and by the continuance of the blockade and the war we are doing more to bolster up Bolshevism than anything eke. We are making it a success. For myself I hope the House will approach this matter from a humanitarian point of view. I think that is most important. I am convinced in my own mind that Moscow and Petrograd will only be captured by, I will not call them reactionary forces, but by Denikin or Koltchak or his colleagues after the bloodiest slaughter that has ever been known. I am convinced that there is genuine enthusiasm among the workers in Russia for the Soviet form of government, certainly as opposed to the alternative with which they are faced, and I was able to judge of that by going amongst the people inside Russia, not in Siberia, attending meetings, and going about the country with the leaders and judging the sort of reception which they were accorded. At least, that was not stage-managed, at least that was spontaneous. But I fear something much [...]. Even if these towns are captured 1576 the bloodshed and slaughter will not end there. My hon. and gallant Friend made some remarks about Finland. I am able to corroborate this statement. I have seen the official figures of these things. Red Terror may be bloody, but White Terror is ghastly and terrible. I think I am quite right in saying that the official figures of the Red Terror are something between 600 and 1,000; over 20,000 perished in the White Terror, and I have brought back sonic of the implements which were used on those poor, strong, innocent workingmen who had risen and captured the reins of Government. There is no doubt that when the class once overthrown gets back vengeance indeed is terrible.
But there is another factor. The Jewish population of Russia has amounted to something like 6,000,000 or 7,000,000. I wonder how many of those Jews will be alive if Denikin or Koltchak win, and I would appeal to members of the Jewish community in this country to utilise all the strength of their power to bring about peace in Russia. There is another danger with which this country is faced—a danger of a graver nature, a danger which even the most vehement Imperialists can not ignore It is the military danger. My hon. and gallant Friend was quite right when he said we had not helped Denikin and Koltchak whole-heartedly. We have not thrown all our resources into the anti-Bolshevik Army, and there is no love lost between Koltchak, Denikin, and the British Government. On the other hand, we have the Soviet Government. IL is absolutely wrong to assert that the Soviet Government is supported by Germany All the evidence goes to show that the Soviet Government made every effort to come to terms with the Allies. That was in the early days of Brest-Litovsk. Anyone who has seen the correspondence, and I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite, must be aware of the efforts w4lich were made by Trotsky before signing Brest-Litovsk to bring about an alliance with Great Britain against Germany, and this has been repeated by frequent communications and by radiograms which have not been shown to the British public ever since. As the conditions exist to-day, there is no reason why Soviet Russia should not combine with Germany. She has everything to gain and nothing to lose by co-operation with Germany and by the utilisation of German engineers and skill to develop her untold resources. The only communications that have taken place so 1577 far were a deputation that proceeded to Berlin in the early part of this year. No results accrued, as I presume the German Government had not either the strength or the temerity to undertake them, but the danger lies in front of you, and you may find yourselves faced one day with a great military alliance between Germany and Russia, and, as before the War we were frightened by the phrase, "Hamburg, Berlin, Bagdad," you may yet live to fear "Hamburg, Moscow, Vladivostok." There is a military danger which is a very apparent danger. The Red Army is every day increasing in strength, increasing in technique, increasing in military efficiency. As testimony to that, you have only to ask General Yudenitch, or Koltchak, or Denikin. In fact, that cannot be disputed. I would ask people who seek a solution to read the history of the Red Revolution and imagine what may happen if the revolutionary spirit which infused the Red Army becomes a military spirit, and out of Russia arises a Russian Napoleon.
I would like to say a few more words about our arrangements with Germany. I wish they were more open, I wish they were public, and I wish we knew exactly what is going on between Paris and Von der Goltz. It is common talk that a secret arrangement has been undertaken between Paris and Von der Goltz. I had the misfortune to find myself in Riga during the bombardment. A British admiral arrived on the scene, ostensibly with a view to protecting the Letts in Riga from assault by the German general, which I am glad to say, for my own personal safety, was successfully accomplished, but—and this was published in the Lettish papers—Von der Goltz issued an ultimatum or a declaration to the British admiral calling for an explanation, and the British admiral apologised to the Germans. He apologised for firing, and said he had only fired on them because some stray shots fell round his ships. So we have got to keep friends with the Germans against the Russians and to try and sit on the fence as long as we can. I wish I could discuss the internal situation in Russia at length. It is frequently stated that the Soviet Government is a band of brigands. Go to Russia and find out, and you will believe my words. Trams, trains, theatres, operas, and all the usual amenities of life are in full swing. Anarchy does not run trains, trams, shops, and theatres. The British public has been systematically and defi- 1578 nitely misled, and there is no justification whatever except financial intrigues for supporting the partisans of either side or interfering in the internal politics of a great country like Russia-. I would like the British public to know how Yudenitch, Denikin, and Koltehak pay for their stores. I would like them to know what assistance the British and Swedish Governments render them. I hope they will find out some day.
An investigation into internal Russia would not be complete without a discussion as to the prospects of peace. I took an opportunity of discussing the matter with the leaders of the Soviet Government, and I believe it is possible. I took the opportunity of checking the documents which are known vulgarly as a-tissue of lies, and they seem to me to be substantially the same as those published by Mr. Bullitt and his colleagues. I hardly think they were fabrications. From my first acquaintance with those gentlemen in Paris on the 29th April of this year, when I met them in the official headquarters of the Peace Conference, up till three hours ago, I had had no communication with those gentlemen and no collaboration. I believe that it is possible to bring about peace in the world now. I am convinced myself that peace with Soviet Russia — certainly peace in Russia—is already within the scope of sound practical statesmanship, and I have in my possession a draft on which 1 believe such a discussion could well take place. I believe it can be done, and I believe it will be possible to call a conference of the warring factions in Russia, to get them to meet round a table, and to bring this horrible orgy of death and bloodshed to an end it is more difficult than it was at the time of the attempt made, without the knowledge of the Prime Minister, by Mr. Bullit Conditions have changed. We have supplied arms and ammunition and men and finance, and it will require all the economic, all the diplomatic and every other means—all the pressure we can put to bear—to bring such a conference into being but I agree it can be done. Action must come as a proposal from the Allied Powers, and what Power has a better reputation for a love of humanity than this old country of ours?
The general conditions on which such a conference could take place are as follows: All the existing de facto Governments should remain in full control of the 1579 territories which they occupy, excepting in so far as the conference might agree to the transfer of territories, or the peoples inhabiting the territories controlled by these de facto Governments shall themselves determine to change their Governments. I will not weary the Committee by reading all the points. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"] By the leave of the House, I will read some of the more salient features. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read them all!"] The economic blockade to be raised; trade relations to be re-established under conditions that will ensure that supplies from the Allied and Associated Governments are made available for all classes of the Russian people; the Soviet Republic of Russia to have the right to unhindered transit of all railways and the use of all ports which belonged to the former Russian Empire, including Finland, Esthonia, and the other Baltic States which are necessary for the disembarkation and transportation of passengers and goods between their territories and the sea. There are a number of other clauses dealing with the rights and liberties of the citizens of the countries composing the former Russian Empire and Finland. A peace conference is bound to be a matter of discussion, and such technical details can be adjusted when a conference takes place.
I would not venture to stand as an Amateur mediator, or even to put these suggestions before the Government for its earnest consideration, if I were not aware of another factor, a subtle factor, a vital factor, a most important factor, a factor which I believe will bring about the reestablishment of peace and harmony in Russia. I refer to the Jewish question. A great deal of absurd copy has been made about the Jewish question in Russia. I see no object for this absurd attack by certain organs of the Press on a class of humanity who are, after all, only human beings like ourselves. It is made without a real knowledge of the facts, without a real knowledge of what is going on inside. It is said openly that the Soviet Government is a Government of the Jews. Why, there are not in Lenin's Cabinet as many Jews or crypto-Jews as there are in any other Cabinet in Europe. There is only one—Trotsky. Of course, there are Jews in control in Russia. There are Jews behind the Commissars, and, there is no doubt, in Russia now the Jews are not subjected to those horrible persecutions which 1580 they have endured for countless ages. But there is a split amongst the Jewish factions in Russia. There is a split between the Jewish Zionists and the Jewish Communists, and when I found this out I could not help, for once in a while, feeling a little admiration for the policy of the Foreign Of-Lee in furthering the Zionist movement, and I do not think one ought to allude to the work of the Zionist movement without referring to the statesmanlike declaration known as the Balfour Declaration, and also the great and important work carried out for this cause by the late Sir Mark Sykes and the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford. I believe that the Zionist movement, when it matures into actuality, will be one of the predominant factors, if not the predominant factor, in changing profoundly like trade and commerce, the whole internal constitution of the Russian Soviet administration.
I do not think that I need go on to a categorical description of the details of the internal conditions of Russia. These facts have been substantiated by every independent witness who has returned from Russia, who has been inside, and who has been in touch with the personalities, seen the facts, and confronted realities. I believe peace is already within the scope of sound, practical statesmanship. Consequently there is no reason for a continuance of the blockade. If our statesmen fail to grasp the opportunities now presented to them, they may one day be called upon to account for swelling the total of misery laid on humanity by the War, and the people who allow this state of affairs to continue, and the Government in power who agrees to its continuance and directs its continuance, will be guilty of one of the greatest crimes in history.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
On a point of Order. I have been attacked by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, 'and I think I am entitled to say a word or two in reply.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Perhaps the Committee will allow me, before I proceed to deal with the observations which have been made by the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last, to say one word as to the great pleasure all of us felt in being able to welcome back to this House the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Colonel J. Ward). Speaking for myself, I have never listened with greater pleasure or admiration to any speech that I have heard during the time I have been a Member of this House, and I am quite sure that all Members of this House, whether they agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman's views or not, could not but feel that they have seldom listened to a more sincere or more impressive speech. Now the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken has, I understand, recently returned from a visit to Soviet Russia. He seems to have had a very interesting time. I envy him his experiences. If he will allow me to say so, he seems to have had a kind of Cook's tour with Trotsky. He has gathered there a great many impressions. He has every right to bring back from his visit any impressions he liked to gather, and I am certain that they will afford him-any quantity of copy for articles in the "Daily Express" or the "Manchester Guardian." [An HON. MEMBER: "Or New York."] Certainly, or any paper to which he likes to send. [An HON. MEMBER "Why not?"] But when he attempts to impress the. Committee with the lessons of his experiences, speaking for myself, I should like to say that I infinitely prefer the evidence of the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke, who for a year and a half was in Russia, to the fortnight's experience of the hon. and gallant Member for Leyton (Lieut.-Colonel Malone).
May I congratulate the Secretary of State for War upon the course this Debate has taken? Up to the present it seems to me that nothing has been said to shake the confidence that many of us feel in the policy that he has recently carried out at the War Office. I am one of those who have never disguised from myself the fact that the Russian situation is a very difficult one. It is bristling with problems of enormous complexity, and it seems to me that that difficulty has been greatly enhanced by the vacillations and in- 1582 decisions of the Allies in Paris. The Secretary of State for War, therefore, has been confronted by a task greatly complicated by the events that have taken place in Paris during the past year, but no one can blame the Secretary of State for War for not having had, throughout the whole of this period, a definite and consistent policy. He has faced a great deal of misrepresentation; he has laid himself open to any number of charges on public platforms and in the Press; and, in spite of that, he has stuck straightforwardly and honestly to a perfectly definite policy, and a policy which, in my view, is absolutely right. He has believed in the policy of backing our friends and doing everything that we can to defeat our enemies. The fact that he is carrying out his policy in face of the grossest misrepresentation on the part of certain sections of the Press in the country is, if I may say so, immensely to his credit.
Today we have had suggested to us other policies. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the reduction (Colonel Wedgwood), put before the Committee the policy of no intervention. I quite agree that on the face of it the policy of no intervention, at the end of five years of war, has much that is attractive in it. No one desires to continue for a day military operations in any part of the world. No one desires to embroil this country for a moment in the civil wars of foreign countries. No one wishes us to take sides in what is nothing more than a domestic dispute in Russia. On the face of it, therefore, it is possible to expose in the most attractive form the policy of no intervention. But what does that policy mean in actual fact? Take one single case. It means, I am convinced, the sacrifice to Bolshevism of all the small provinces and states that are growing up in the East of Europe. I am quite confident, looking back over the events of the last year, that if we had not given the help that we have to Koltchak and Denikin, Esthonia, Litvia, and probably Poland, would have gone Bolshevist. I am equally certain to-day that, if we carry out in deed as well as in word a policy of no intervention, it will mean the exposure of those small peoples to submersion by Bolshevism within the next few months. Further, I believe that a policy of no intervention is in principle a negation of everything that the League of Nations stands for. I believe that if the League 1583 of Nations is to develop and be a force in the world it will have to take sides between what it believes to be good and what it believes to be bad; and I believe that if, at the very outset of its operations, it stood aside and allowed it to be thought that there was no difference between one faction and another faction in Russia, it would be doomed at the very outset to sterility. In this connection let me say quite frankly that personally I should be delighted if, as soon as the League of Nations comes into being and begins to operate, it would take over the whole of this Russian question. I acknowledge at once that it has been unfortunate that we have been, I would not say the only Ally engaged in Russian intervention, but the Ally that has been principally engaged. I should have preferred that the whole of the Allies should have been equally engaged in trying to find a solution of the question, and I very much hope, as I have said, that when the League of Nations begins to operate it will take over, as one of its first duties, the Russian question, and do everything in its power to find a solution for it. That being so the Committee will see that I do not believe that a policy of no intervention is possible.
Moreover, I do not believe in the policy which was suggested and outlined, on the last occasion when we discussed the situation, by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil). I very seldom differ front my Noble Friend, and it is a matter of sincere regret to me that I should differ from him, at any rate to some extent, in his views about Russia. The Committee will remember that the Noble Lord on the last occasion when he addressed the House in reference to Russia, made two proposals. The first was to treat all these factions, at any rate now, alike; and the second was to tell them to stop fighting, and that when they stopped fighting we could decide which was right, and, having done that, could settle upon the policy that we wish to adopt. I do not believe that you can treat all these factions, if factions they be, alike. I believe that still, perhaps more than ever you must continue to draw a- distinction between tile men whom we believe to he our friends and the men whom we know to be our enemies. I cannot accept the suggestion that the course of time has made any difference to that position. On that account I would 1584 deprecate as strongly as I can any policy of the nature of Prinkipo, that really made no distinction between the men whom we believe to be our friends and the men whom we know to be our enemies. Moreover, I do not believe that the Noble Lord's second proposal is likely to be of any practical use. The Noble Lord says that we should tell these people to step fighting, and that, when they have stopped fighting, we can then decide which is right and what we will do. The Secretary of State for War can speak with much greater authority on this question than I can, but it certainly is my view that, if we went to Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin and said to them, "Stop fighting. and when you have laid down your arms we will settle whether we con go on helping you or not," they would say, "Mind your own business"; and I think they would be right. I do not believe that you can expect Admiral Koltchak or General Denikin to treat the events of the last two years as of they had not taken place at all. You have the anti-Bolslievists, with all the atrocities that have been committed during the last two years still living in their minds; you have men of every class and walk of life who have had their wives and families and relations murdered and outraged by the Bolshevists. I believe that it would be a positive insult to go to those men now and say. "Lay down your arms, and when you have laid down your arms we will settle whether you are it the right or not."
And so I come back to the policy of the Secretary of State for War. In my humble opinion, I believe that, with certain developments, it is the only possible policy. The Secretary of State for War has carried out, as far as I can see, in every respect the pledges that he has given to the House. On several occasions he has addressed the House on the Russian question, and he has spoken very frankly and candidly. In the summer he told the House that his policy was a two-fold policy—in the first place, the withdrawal of the British forces from Archangel, and in the second place, a continuation of material assistance to General Denikin. I am glad to remember that the Prime Minister applauded and approved that declaration of policy. The Secretary of State for War has been eminently successful in carrying out the withdrawal from Archangel. I was one of those who very much regretted the necessity for that withdrawal, but I fully recognise that there 1585 were many strong reasons that made it necessary, and I do think it is a matter of congratulation to everyone that a very difficult military operation was carried out practically without loss and with such great success. As to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's policy, the continuation of military supplies to the anti-Bolshevist armies, I believe that that is in every way an excellent thing, but I take this opportunity of saying that I do not believe it is sufficient in itself. I believe that other things are necessary to supplement it, and I was very glad on that account to hear what the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Colonel J. Ward) said about the recognition of Admiral Koltchak's Government. I am quite confident from every point of view, political and military, that it would immensely strengthen our position, as well as the position of the anti-Bolshevists in Russia, if Admiral Koltchak's Government were officially and formally recognised by the Allies as a de jure Government of the territories over which it operates. I believe that not only would that be of great value to anti-Bolshevist Russia, but I am equally certain that it would be of great value to the Allies. It would put our relations with the anti-Bolshevist forces upon a much more satisfactory basis. There in Paris you would have the official representatives of Admiral Koltchak's Government dealing directly and officially with the representatives of the Allies. That, I venture to suggest, would be a much more satisfactory arrangement than the present system of almost informal communication that now goes on between the Allies and anti-Bolshevist Russia. I believe also that it would enable us, if it were necessary, to keep some measure of control over the policy of the anti-Bolshevists in Russia. There are some Members of this House who still believe Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin to be reactionaries. It would be much more satisfactory if we had definite official recognition of the Koltclink Government. By that means we would be able to influence it, and if not influencing it, if necessary, at all events we might prevent it showing reactionary tendencies.
Thirdly, I think we ought to supplement the material help that the right hon. Gentleman is sending to General Denikin by every kind of encouragement of trade and economic relations with Southern Russia and with Siberia. If we do that, do not let us make any secrecy about it. 1586 There is no need for secrecy in our Russian policy, which is a perfectly straightforward one. The plainer we make it the better. Let us say quite clearly, as the British Government, and bring our influence to bear upon the Allies to say the same thing: "We believe that the permanent forces in Russia which are going to remake Russia, and again to reconstitute it, and Eastern Europe, are the anti-Bolshevik forces. We believe that Bolshevism is temporary evil; we believe if there is going to be peace in Eastern Europe the anti-Bolshevik forces must win." As we wish for peace as soon as possible and without having any unnecessary delay, we need to throw all our moral and material help into the cause of the anti-Bolshevists, and send General Denikin military supplies and our material help in every kind of commercial product. Let us give him facilities for credit. Let us encourage trade relations with the territories over which lie rules. Better still, let us give Lim our moral support officially and without further delay, by recognising his Government and the Government of Admiral Koltchak, and bringing our influence to bear upon the Allies to undertake the same recognition. I am quite certain if we do that we should immensely expedite the day to which we arc all looking forward, when again there will be peace in Russia, and when Russia will be able to take her place in the comity of the civilised nations of the world.
§ Sir PARK GOFF
For the second time I ask the indulgence of the House for a few minutes. My only reason for venturing to intervene in this Debate is that I have considerable knowledge of most of the parts of Russia which conic within the orbit of this Debate. While I have not been since the Armistice in Archangel or in North, South, or Eastern Russia, I desire for a few minutes to confine my remarks to Finland, Esthonia, Lithuania, and Litvia. In sending our military missions to these places and our ships to defend their coasts, the Government, in my humble opinion, have shown extraordinary strategic foresight. Trade follows the Flag, and the Flag in this instance is represented by our military missions in these regions. My desire is to say a few words on these two points, because I do not think people realise the enormous importance of the Baltic States, both commercially and strategically. From a military point of view, our missions to these States have been the immediate cause of strengthening 1587 and giving heart to all those oppressed Baltic States. They have procured an enhanced British prestige in those parts of the world where the military missions are looked upon as the saviours of their freedom. In these foreign countries I never endeavour to get my information entirely from our own officials, but from the natives, from legislators, from traders, and from workmen whom I judge would endeavour to give me impartial information. East Prussia to-day does not consider she has been defeated. East Prussia still thinks she has won because she has driven out the Russians. When I was last in Litvia a reign of terror existed.
I had the opportunity of being twice in the Baltic States during the Recess. A reign of terror existed at that time under Von der Goltz, who assumed a Russian name, and who presumably was stationed at Mittau, though his real objective was Revel and Riga. He made continuous raids there and committed abominable atrocities. I could have wished that the same publicity could have been given by the Press of this country to what was going on at that time in the Baltic provinces before our missions arrived there. I have no reason to doubt, and I believe the people there had no reason to doubt, that at that time Von der Goltz was in constant and direct communication with the ex-Kaiser. We have to thank our military missions in the Baltic provinces at that time for assisting to save all those places from complete subjection. The Baltic States from a strategical point of view—a glance of the map is the best illustration of it—are of the greatest importance. On the one side you have Esthonia, Lithuania, and Litvia, and on the other side you have East Prussia, with Poland in between, with Dantzig, a free port, and Memel to the north-west isolated by itself. The Baltic States are buffer States between Poland and Germany. What would be the effect if they gained the supremacy in the Baltic States? Poland would be crushed by East Prussia on the one side and by the Baltic States on the other side, with Dantzig, a free port, and Memel a little to the north belonging to Eastern Prussia.
Another point is this: Another branch of our military service there has been doing extraordinarily good work in the Baltic both by night and day by striking terror into the Bolshevists—that is members of 1588 the Royal Air Force. An incident happened while I was in Stockholm lately which struck me as being of some significance. I was there when the first passenger Zeppelin arrived from Berlin. The people turned out in their tens of thousands to greet this airship. They cheered themselves hoarse. I said to a distinguished politician who happened to be with me tit the time, "What is the meaning of this?" His reply was, "They have never seen an airship of this kind before. If you British would only send over one of your ships, the R 33 or the R 34, it would get a far greater reception." That was the position in Stockholm. I have no hesitation in saying throughout the Baltic and the Baltic States that our military uniform and the White Ensign whenever they appear are hailed with the greatest delight by all the inhabitants. The oftener these are seen the better. The greater then will be the respect for, and confidence in, Great Britain, which not only earned the eternal gratitude of Russia and of the Baltic States but fulfilled an obvious and honourable duty when by their foresight and promptitude the Government made possible the opening up of trade again to us in the Baltic.
Russia is the richest undeveloped country in the world. Nobody realises that better than does Germany, and if she ever succeeds in getting a hold upon that country then we have fought the late War in vain. Many of us who thought they could anticipate events did not rejoice at the Armistice. Many of us did not rejoice at Peace. Many of us did not understand the meaning of the word "Armistice" at the time. Many of us would have preferred a little longer war till the Allies could have marched through Germany direct to Berlin. I do not wish to waste the time of the House by passing in review all the Baltic States ob uno disce omnes. I will only mention the one I know best, one that I have myself seen, and one of the most important. It is Esthonia. The Baltic German barons had so great a grip on Esthonia that one-fifth of the population have been forced to emigrate during the past fifty years. The most important posts were given to the exclusion of Esthonians. Who were these Baltic-German barons? If you trace their ancestry I think you will find that they were all dwellers in Mesopotamia. These barons are moving heaven and earth to regain possession of Revel. If we do not realise its importance, they do. They 1589 are quite unscrupulous in the means they adopt. Esthonia desires Revel to be a free port. If it falls into the hands of the Germans or into Bolshevik hands our Baltic trade in flax, timber, pit-props, and hemp would be closed for ever. The same applies to Riga, Libau, and Dantzig, for the strategical and commercial importance of the Baltic States lies chiefly in three towns—Helsingfors to the north, Revel to the south, and Riga to the south-west. They command the gates of both the Baltic and of the Gulf of Finland.
I think a great deal of misunderstanding is due, so far as the Baltic States are concerned, to ignorance of history and geography. I hope charitable millionaires of the future will spend their money in sending our countrymen round the world to show them what the world and the Empire is. Then, with a broader view and with the greater knowledge gleaned, they will come back better equipped to make use of those free libraries which are often now only a burden on the rates. I think if that were so there would be less cold feet and more compressed hot air. As regards General Mannerheim, I should like to tell the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme—I regret he is not present—that I saw him several times, and I never heard him hissed once. On the contrary, I heard him most vociferously cheered on every occasion, even when he stayed in the same town with the President there, Professor Saltzberg. I think it is only fair that there should be no misrepresentation with regard to General Mannerheim, who is worshipped by the people of Sweden. I have tried to suggest a few arguments as regards the Baltic and the Baltic provinces and the neutral countries of Scandinavia in the lowest form of advocacy—the simple truth. I feel convinced that anyone who has been there and has seriously and dispassionately examined the whole situation—it is most important and will have a far-reaching effect upon the problems of the future —cannot fail to give their whole-hearted support to the Government to-night.
Before say a very few words in support of the general conclusions that have been come to on this question, although not on the lines adopted by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), let me say a word by way of deprecation of the hon. and gallant Member's too sweeping condemnation of all 1590 Russians, and of the Russian anti-Bolsheviks in particular. I should not like those statements to pass uncontradicted as far as I am able to contradict them by my own experience. I had the honour of commanding for six months a force of anti-Bolshevik Russians in action against the Bolsheviks, and I found them at all events gallant, disciplined, orderly and faithful fellows, and I have not seen any of those bad characteristics which have been so freely attributed to them inside and outside this House. I desire briefly to outline to the Committee a point which I have, not heard raised or emphasised in this discussion. I speak from the point of view of one who detests the Bolshevik Government and all its work, and yet I cannot draw a conclusion in favour of our present policy. Our discussion to-day appears to have become too much a discussion on the demerits of the Bolshevik Government in regard to which I do not differ from hon. Members opposite, and there has been too little discussion as to whether we are setting about the right way to work to rid the country of the evils of Bolshevism.
I am in perfect agreement with what the hon. Member for Stoke (Colonel Ward) said about the Bolshevik Government, and I agree that what is necessary for the peace and good order of Europe is the speedy downfall of Belshevism and Bolshevik ideas, and yet what we are doing is to be criticised because so far from tending to achieve that end it is tending to confirm and strengthen Bolshevism. The glowing rhetoric and convincing favour of the hon. Member for Stoke has produced in the minds of us all the delusion that we are on the eve of some great and effective action in Russia, which will lead to the immediate downfall of the Bolshevik Government. This is not a question of using our forces for effective intervention. It it a question between ineffective intervention and no intervention. There was much to be said for effective intervention, but for the ineffective intervention we are carrying on there is not a word to be said at all, and it is not tending to help our friends in Russia.
What have we done in the past? We sent small forces to Northern Russia and elsewhere which were ludicrously ineffective to achieve any military success, and all they did was to provide the Bolshevist Government at that time with the rallying cry they needed in order to bring the 1591 country into line in support of Bolshevism, and this provided them with a cloak to cover up their own misdeeds from the people of Russia. What are we doing now? We are providing the anti-Bolshevik forces with munitions and naval support, but these are not enabling them to achieve a military success, and the only result of our efforts in this direction is to enable the Bolshevik forces to reproach their enemies with the taunt of being assisted by foreigners and working for foreign interests. Again, we are giving the Bolshevists that patriotic cry which enables them to keep the people of the country behind them, and it gives them something to talk about in order to conceal their own misdeeds.
We seem to have forgotten the effect of our own efforts in trying to suppress differences of political creeds. What was the effect of our blockade of Germany? It had not the effect of a knock-out blow. Its only effect was the slow reduction of the country into poverty, misery, depression, unrest, discontent, and Bolshevism. If that was the effect on Germany, have we not seen, and shall we not see, that that will be the effect of our blockade in Russia? By the production of discontent and poverty and lack of prosperity in Russia we are actually manufacturing the raw material out of which Bolshevism is raised. It is for these reasons, and with every desire for a speedy restoration of peace, order, and prosperity in Russia, and as one who heartily recognises that we have the strongest obligations to our friends there, that I urge that we can best discharge those obligations and serve flit interests of our friends in Russia by a neutral policy, and that will lead to the most speedy suppression of Bolshevism. To assume an attitude of strict neutrality is to deprive the Bolsheviks of their rallying cry of foreign invasion by which they keep the people of the country behind them. It does appear to me that common-sense leads to the conclusion that those who are opposed to the Bolsheviks and all their works ought to be equally opposed to any form of military aggression or intervention in Russia. As regards the internal affairs of Russia, I think there should be an immediate return to an attitude of strong neutrality.
Sir J. D. REES
it is a painful thing for one who loves Russia and the Russian people to hear in Debates in this House any palliation or approval of the Bolshe- 1592 lists, but it is well to be impartial, and one thing must be said on their behalf that by the intensity of their cruelty and crimes they have practically whitewashed all the previous bands of brigands who ever imposed an odious tyranny on a prostrate people. I think what the House should chiefly be engaged ill to-day is not a consideration of the merits or demerits of the Soviets in Russia, but what is the policy that should be pursued, and how it would be effected by the carrying of the Amendment before the House. Whatever policy may be good or bad in the opinion individually or collectively of Member of this House, the only policy that in the end can prevail must be a policy that the electors will approve of and support. Therefore, any hon. Member of this House who wishes to Lake any practical part in the decision of a question like this must endeavour to discover what is the attitude of the electors of this country on this question.
My own personal feelings would be that I would like to see this country join in supporting General Denikin and Admiral Koltchak to put an end to the misgovernment of Russia, but what will the people of this country do? is there any chance of the electors of this country supporting any such policy? For my part, I believe there is not the remotest chance. The country is thoroughly tired of war, and naturally it says. "What is the object of our finishing a war and concluding peace if we are subsequently to go interfering by operations in distant countries after we have succeeded in winning the war?" Personally, I believe it would pay this country for us to do all we can to prevent any rapprochement between Germany and Russia, which is highly undesirable from the point Of view of our Eastern Empire and our trade, two of the greatest considerations which could affect us.
But what will the electorates of this country support? I believe they will not be moved by any such considerations, and if they support the policy announced by the Secretary of State for War it is as far as they will go, and we shall only be wasting time here by suggesting more heroic measures. Whether we like it or not we must be content with the moderate measure of support which we are now giving to the anti-Bolshevik forces in Russia, and it is hopeless for us to attempt, much as one would like to do, any larger and more heroic forms of intervention. As to the League of Nations, many hon. Mem- 1593 bers have suggested to-night that seine salvation might be found in that. 1 know there are many sanguine people in this world, and they must indeed be sanguine who think that the League of Nations is going to have any practical effect upon the settlement of affairs in Russia, or, it seems to me, anywhere else. Personally, I think the League of Nations will help us very little in this matter, and there is really no alternative but to support the policy announced by the Secretary of State for War, which is a moderate policy which does not throw over our friends in Russia and at the same time makes it perfectly clear that this country detests the odious tyranny of the Soviet Government.
The House heard to-night two speeches, one from the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Colonel Ward), whom we are so glad to see back here, especially those of us who served with him in the last Parliament. He made an admirable speech, and he is one who has played a man's part in this War. I regret, for the reasons which I have already stated, that he should have given utterance to the suggestions he has put forward, for he must feel that it is perfectly useless to take the course he wishes us to pursue, because it is not likely to meet with the approval of the people of this country. Being convinced, from many inquiries I have made, that the country will not pursue the policy he has suggested, with the utmost regard for what he has said, I am not prepared to go so far as the hon. Member for Stoke would like us to go.
Then there was the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for one of the divisions of Essex. That hon. and gallant Gentleman addressed the House at some length about the internal conditions of Russia. He said that he had made it his care to visit the people of Russia, to go to their fairs and their towns, and to travel in the interior, and that lie had acquired information which justified him putting before the House the opinions of the people of Russia. I have not been in Russia very lately, I own, and possibly anything I may say is to be discounted for that reason. But I do not think that Russia has changed since I was there so as to enable anyone to communicate with the people of Russia unless he tan speak the Russian language, and l regret that the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not inform the House that he had that one all necessary qualification for expressing any opinion whatsoever as to the 1594 views and feelings of the people of Russia. Those whom lie described as the illiterate masses are an admirable people, not perhaps highly educated, though they arc none the worse for that, if I may say so in the presence of the Minister of Education. They are admirable, loyal, sensible folk, and, as I believe, having at any rate been able to communicate with the people of Russia, opposed not only to the Soviets but to the Revolution, which I think was engineered in Berlin. When a man comes and professes to voice the opinions and feelings of the Russian people, I think it is not too much to ask that he should inform the House that he has the necessary preliminary qualification without which, as everybody is aware, you cannot communicate with anyone in that country. That is one of the reasons why Russia is the most misrepresented country on the face of the earth. The Russian, described as illiterate, is one of the most sensible and admirable persons in the world, and I am perfectly certain that he groans under the odious and detestable tyranny imposed upon him by the Soviets and their supporters.
The last hon. Gentleman who addressed the House (Sir Park Goff) spoke of Finland. I have had the good fortune to spend some months of my life in Finland, and to come across General Mannerheim. All that the hon. Gentleman said is perfectly true. The accusations that have been made against Mannerheim are really perfectly monstrous to anyone who knows anything about that humane, civilised, cultured, and admirable gentleman, who commands the approval and the support of all the best elements in Finland. Accustomed to hear speaker after speaker misrepresent and misunderstand Russia, it was exceedingly grateful to me to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Colonel Ward) say what he did of the landlords in Russia, to whose opinions he gave extremely fair expression. I must confess that I rather doubt if general disquisitions about Bolshevism are altogether in order to-night, but as they have been indulged in by every speaker, I cannot help making these remarks, with the indulgence of the Chair, extended to me as it has been to ad the other speakers. There is one thing which I rather wish the Secretary of State for War had made clearer than he did. It is not clear to the public in this country why it is legitimate for our Fleet to sink 1595 Russian ships when it is not legitimate for our Fleet to bombard Petrograd. it is a pity that it is not made more clear that the action of the Fleet in regard to the Baltic Republics is presumably of a more or less defensive character, or protective of those Republics, and not offensive operations against the Russian misgovernment. If my hon. Friend below me (Mr. Forster) is taking any notes, I wish he would ask the Secretary of State for War, if be speaks again, to make that a little clearer.
Again, I should like to refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke from the benches opposite (Colonel Malone). He endeavoured to palliate the executions in Russia by the Bolshevist tyrants. It is the case—I had the curiosity- to look this up—that those unspeakably bloodthirsty misgoverners of Russia have slain in a day more victims than all the aristocracy executed during the French Revolution. We do not know in this country the fearful sufferings of the admirable Russian people, and how they-groan and tremble under the detestable rule of the Bolshevists. Nor do people understand—again the writers and speakers arc to blame—that Russia has always been a most democratic country. No doubt at the top there has been an autocracy, but beneath the autocracy the actual texture of the Russian system has been the most democratic in Europe, and now, for the first time, in their villages and districts, they are suffering from that tyranny which was falsely imputed to the Government of the Czar.
Let me come back to the real relevance of this Debate. If there is to be any greater intervention in Russia than I believe the Government contemplate and than the Secretary of state for War announced it will mean that upon the already crushing taxes under which this country groans another 2s. Income Tax will probably have to he imposed. That is a relevant consideration alien we are giving play to those finer feelings which impel us to assist Russia in relieving herself of the incubus at present upon her back. I do not think that it will be possible for a much greater intervention to take place. When the Russian Revolution was announced, and was received with acclamation in this House, there was only one Member who got up to say a kindly word for the late Emperor, our ally, who helped us in the earlier part of the War, 1596 and who has gone down to his grave in bloodshed and misery. I repeat that-he helped us in the time of our need, and it is a sad thing to think that it might be said of him as Homer said of Odysseus: "There are none now who remember him of all the people he ruled."
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am sure the House has listened with interest to toe tolerant speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I only wish that Ids example of tolerance and broadmindedness was followed by all the Members of this House who are apt to give verbal expression to their feelings when the opinions offered do not quite meet their ideas. The Emperor of Russia has gone down in bloodshed to his grave, and we are very sorry for that, but I think it is well established now that his Court was as corrupt, as treacherous, and as untrustworthy as any Court in modern times. I do not want to rake up the Rasputin revelations, for example, but I think one is justified in saying this, because all points of view should be given. Intrigues had been going on between the pro-German Court of the Czar and the German Government. But for the Revolution there would have been a separate peace-between the Czar and the Germans. The revolution was not made by Lenin and Trotsky or even by the cadets of Kerensky. It was made by the Government. The Government thought that there would be some rising after the War or possibly before the end of the War, and they took time by the forelock. They thought that they would get the first blow in, and that they would have an excuse for making a separate peace. Unfortunately for them, the masses had become sick of the War and had begun to think. They had been in the trenches without drink without vodka, and without the influence of their priests, and they had begun to wonder why they were in the War, and what they were fighting for. The revolution broke out spontaneously without leaders.
The much-abused Lenin was in Switzerland and Trotsky was in America. Of course, they made frantic efforts to get back to their own country. Trotsky was arrested by the British at Halifax, and was only released on the urgent representations of Kerensky who was then Premier, because popular opinion in. 1597 Russia was so strong for this man who had worked underground, and had suffered for the revolution in the past. I am not defending him in any way when atrocities were committed. Popular opinion, rightly or wrongly, demanded his return. We gave Trotsky a safe conduct from Halifax, where he was in a British gaol. Lenin was sent across to Russia by the Germans, because they knew that he was an internationalist and a pacifist, and they hoped that he would disintegrate the Russian front. He did so, and his internationalism and pacifism spread over the borders of Germany and had a great deal to do with that loss of moral in the German Army which helped our troops to win the victory. The plot they played on Russia boomeranged back on their own country. We must remember these facts to see the thing in its proper perspective. From the moment that revolution broke out, when Kerensky and the cadets were willing and anxious to go on with the War, they did not receive moral support from this Government and the Allies, and that was the beginning of a policy which all the speakers agree has been a policy of tremendous blunders. The first blunder was not understanding the reasons for the revolution and how it should be handled. Then at the time when Kerensky was doing his best to make an offensive, the German propaganda among the Russian peasants began, the object being to induce those peasants who were in the trenches to believe that they were not fighting for democracy or against Germany, but were lighting for certain secret Treaties which had been entered into, giving Russia Constantinople, and so on. The Russian soldiers said they could not believe it. Their belief was that they were fighting for freedom and democracy. They demanded the truth of Kerensky, and he sent a cable to this country asking for an official denial of the existence of these secret Treaties. Of course such a denial was not forthcoming, and could not be, because it was perfectly true that the Treaties had been entered into. I am not attacking that at all. It may have been necessary to enter into the Treaties in order to induce Russia to go on with the War. But the next thing I do attack was another gross blunder which was committed. Having realised there were doubts in the minds of the Russian people at to what they were fighting for, we 1598 should have been willing to reconsider our position in regard to the secret Treaties. But we did not take that step. That was our second great blunder, and there has been nothing but blundering, and vacillation and staggering to and fro ever since. Certain attacks have been made on the hon. Member for East Leyton (Colonel Malone). I think everyone in this House is entitled to voice his views honestly held. It has been suggested to my hon. and gallant Friend by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who induced his hon. Friend the Member for the Springburn Division of Belfast. (Mr. Macquisten) to, put the question that he accepted bribes. I am sorry the Noble Lord is not in his place to hear my views on his action. I do not think the House approves such personal attacks against hon. Members. My hon. and gallant Friend admitted that he-did not speak the Russian language, but lie came across Russian Commissaries who, spoke English and he was able to get information from them.
Sir J. D. REES
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman really suggest that the Commissaries are credible witnesses as regards the merits of this question?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
All I say is that in the fortnight lie was there my hon. and gallant Friend was able to see that a certain great church (St. Basil) was untouched, that great, historic houses were undamaged, that works of art had been preserved, that the streets were not full of dead bodies, that the trams were running, and that the electric light was in use, and, whether he spoke the language or not, lie at any rate could see these things.
Sir J. D. REES
All I suggested wan that, not knowing the Russian language, he could not have got information concerning Russia except from interested sources.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I listened with great pleasure to the very sincere speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Colonel Ward). But I must point out that he made one or two very damaging admissions. The political revolution in Russia took place in March, 1917, and the economic revolution in the following November. It was about that time, before there was any disintegration of the Russian front, that a journal which has a small circulation, although consider- 1599 able influence in certain Government circles, in this country—the "Morning Post" I mean—issued its famous article, in which it stated that it would rather make peace with Germany than with Soviet Russia. That was about the date that the battalion commanded by the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke was sent to Vladivostok. With what object was it sent there? There was chaos and panic in Russia at the time, and released prisoners had to get together for mutual protection, especially if they desired to find their way from the internment camps to the coast. But I must point out that the much-advertised Admiral Koltchak, the saviour and the regenerator of Russia, appeared upon the scene and eventually got himself appointed Supreme Dictator of Russia only after the Armistice was signed with Germany, and therefore any assistance he has received or any promise made to him must have been after the Armistice when Germany was down and out, and when there was no sort of idea of reconstructing the Western front. I have not met Koltchak myself, but friends of mine have and have found him to be a very liberal man, who is unfortunately surrounded by the very worst elements in Russia, including ex-officers, who are egging him on and will continue to egg him on. I am afraid, however, that these reactionary forces against which he is fighting will prove too strong for him, and it is extremely doubtful if he will ever succeed.
It is said we ought not to abandon Koltchak and Denikin to the Bolsheviks because of the atrocities to which they may be subjected. But one of the terms which have appeared in all the offers which the Bolsheviks have made for peace has been a promise to recognise the de facto Governments on their borders and to grant an amnesty to their political opponents. Hon. Members will say, "Oh, but you cannot trust them!" We trusted Germany. We trust her now. We have signed peace with Germany, but we shall keep an eye on her. We can do the same with Soviet Russia, and if she breaks the terms of that Clause we car always re impose the blockade. There are, of course, a great many people who have sympathy with the Russians, and who say we cannot abandon them because we are under obligations to them. But we can safeguard their safety. In any case, in Siberia, the military position of Koltchak, in spite of the lavish assis- 1600 tance he has received from us in the past, and is now receiving from another Ally, is most serious. His Army has broken before the Red Army. They are deserting him in great numbers. New fronts have been opened up behind him. True, he has promised that when he gets to Moscow he will call a Constituent Assembly. Why did he not do so when he had the chance in Siberia, at a time when it was necessary for him to convince the liberal elements in England, France and the United States that he was a sincere democrat and that he intended to rest on the good will of the people? It was then that he had his chance. When he had established some sort of law and order in Siberia he should have called a Constituent Assembly. But he did not do it. Instead lie suppressed the local authority and ruled simply by force. He allowed himself to be guided by the reactionaries of whom I have already spoken.
Reference has been made to the case of the Baltic Provinces. This constitutes a very difficult question. Here we have one more in the long train of blunders which have been committed. In the case of the Baltic Provinces, when the Armistice was signed with Germany, the Army of Von der Goltz was in full retreat back to its own borders, and it needed some pressure from the Allies to get included in the Armistice terms a provision that that Army should remain in the Baltic Province to fight against our former Russian Allies. Some of us in this House have pleaded for a little tolerance for ex-enemy aliens. We are accused of loving the Germans. I do not think we do—it is a bit too soon—but we do feel a certain amount of indignation that this country should be cooperating actively with such a man as Von der Goltz, who is typical of that Prussian military class which prove such a curse to civilisation. In December, a month after the Armistice was signed, the first British man-of-war went into the Baltic and its captain had orders to enter into negotiations for co-operating with Von der Goltz. That is a blunder, the results of which we have not seen the end of. It was due to our insane fear of Bolshevism and was dictated by an unreasonable fear of the Workmen's Soviets. This man Von der Goltz, with his German Army, has recruited the most reactionary of the Russian emigrés, as the Minister for War admited this week in answer to a question. He is up to no good. Might I quote a few words from a French paper, 1601L'Action Francaise," which is a clerical Royalist paper, and stands for the extreme Conservative view in the world of politics. It is apparently alarmed at the development in the Baltic provinces, where, in spite of Notes, and in spite of the sham blockade, these German troops now under Von Eberhardt and the Russian adventurer Colonel Bermondt are carrying on a very clever game but a very dangerous game for the Allies. "L'Action Francaise," on 11th October, writes:Russia delivered from Bolshevism will be a military and nationalist Russia. What will Germany have to offer her? To begin with, access to the Baltic Sea. They will also have a revenge in common against Poland to offer. This will make many powerful bonds. And we, what have we to bring for the seduction of this resuscitated Russia? Demands for our money and the principle of nationalities, as destructive to the Empire of the Czars as to the Monarchy of the Hapsburgs. What welcome presents! The conjunction of a great united Germany with the united Russia of to-morrow, over the bodies of the nationalities which separate them is, in a manner of speaking, fatal.I suppose we have no paper quite so Conservative as that very well known and well-written French journal.
This policy of continuing civil war and devastating one of the richest food-producing areas of Europe, at a time when, in the words of Mr. Hoover, there are 50,000,000 persons in Central and Eastern Europe for whom there is no food, this policy of continuing to destroy and trample down the fields of Southern Russia with Armies swaying backwards and forwards, and British tanks, sent in our precious tonnage so badly wanted at present, the volunteer army there, pogroms in the towns, of which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster) will see a full account in the last number of the "Jewish Commonwealth," a paper which prints these matters, which has a reputation to lose, which goes all over the world, and is not usually accused of printing sensational statements—this mad criminal policy of stirring up war, subsidising and helping any sort of reactionary, whether he is German or Russian or Austrian or Czarist, as long as you only attack the first workman's republic in the world, the reasons for it are as follows. First of all, we are told the Bolsheviks are pro-Germans. We are co-operating with Germans in the Baltic provinces. For the moment Bermondt and Von Eberhardt have overstepped the mark and we are protesting, but German troops are fighting shoulder to shoulder with British troops in Yudenitch's Army. We have British officers and privates handling tanks 1602 with which Yudenitch has attempted; to take Petrograd, and his army contains pro-Germans and actually Germans. Yet we are told we must go on with this policy because the Bolsheviks are pro-German. If that were not enough, take the case of Finland. During 1918, when we were struggling for our lives on the Western Front, before the tide turned, when it looked as if Germany might win after all, the Finns invited this same Von der Goltz —the White Government which Mannerheim is now acting for—and threw in her lot with Germany. They actually appointed a German prince of the Hohenzollern family to be King of Finland. And yet in spite of that the Finns were recognised and are now receiving the assistance of the British Navy, which is still technically at war with the Germans.
We are told the Bolshewiks made a separate peace with Germany and, therefore, betrayed out troops. They made a separate peace because their armies simply disintegrated. They could get no denial of the reports of secret treaties, and they said, "This is not a war for freedom, and so far as we are concerned we are going home." Nothing on this earth could stop them. But let that be. Roumania, made a separate peace with Germany. She was forced into it. As soon as she could she entered the War again. We have given Roumania support and encouragement from the day she entered the War to this. We are told we must intervene because the Soviet regime in Russia is not democratic. At any rate, it is the rule of the proletariat. It is the rule of workers and peasants. There are excesses. There are certain features of the Soviet regime which I should resist in every way I could. But there must be a basis on the will of the people, otherwise they could not have fought as they have for the last two years, with all the difficulties they have been faced with. I am told the way the heavy artillery is transported across Russia is really surprising. The Red Armies are formidable and efficient, and they could not go on if these stories we are told of Bolshevik tyranny were true. I have not had any means of testing it, but I am told the Soviets are elected every three months. We are not allowed to know the truth. When any one comes back from Moscow he is usually arrested. We are then told we must intervene because of the atrocities. There have been very regrettable atrocities, I am afraid, in many parts of Poland—pogroms 1603 against the Jews. We do not take very active steps there except in the way of making representations. The atrocities committed throughout all these wars are well known. I am afraid wherever you have intense national feeling you have these atrocities. They are certainly committed by the White Armies of Denikin. There are atrocities on both sides, and it is time to consider whether the mere recital of atrocities, whether Red or White, is altogether relevant to this very difficult problem.
There are certain good points on the other hand which all observers agree to, and the thing that impresses me most is that the children in Soviet Russia appear to be healthy and well cared for. Whatever else they have done, they seem to have spent a great deal of money, knowledge, and time in trying every sort of means of educating the young and looking after them and making them as happy as possible. I have seen all the people I could get hold of who have come back from Russia, and they all bear this out, that the children are well looked after. We hear the story about the nationalisation of women. It was first printed in the "New Europe," then it was denied by the New Europe," but it has been allowed to go round the world, under this Government propaganda which has done so much harm in the last year or two. The only country where the women are not nationalised is in Soviet Russia. All observers agree that prostitution has practically disappeared, but anyone who knew the old Russia would tell you that the large towns teemed with women of that unfortunate class of prostitutes. My right hon. Friend's predecessor at the War Office had the effrontery in 1918 to defend the maisons tolérées behind the English Front in France, and to say it was better for our soldiers to be able to get clean women. Now the story is going round and being told at street corners by paid speakers for the Government that the women are nationalised in Soviet Russia. The Minister for War suggests in his more spiritual moments that Bolshevism is a foul baboonery and that we must endeavour to stamp it out by any means in our power. I do not want my word to be taken, so I will read something from the Paris "Temps" of 16th July. It is a report of a paper on the actual position of Russian science under the Bolshevik regime, which the well 1604 known scientist M. Ch. Lallemand read before the Paris Academy of Science. M. Lallemand based his paper on information brought by M. Victor Henri, lecturer at the Sorbonne, who has just returned from an official visit to Soviet Russia. I suppose it will be admitted that the Paris "Temps" is anti-Bolshevik and that the French Academy of Science can be acquitted of any suspicion of sympathy with the Soviet regime. This is what M. Lallemand said with reference to science in Soviet Russia.
The intellectual centre of new Russia is the Petrograd Academy of Science, which has taken under its care museums, laboratories and faculties.This will interest the hon. Member for the Springburn Division of Glasgow, who is much concerned in education.
A great Commission has been set up for the study of the wealth and forces posssesed by Russia. It is composed of thirty-three sections, of which twenty-two work in Petrograd and eleven in Moscow. Among the newly established institutions are the Institute of Chemistry, the Platinum Institute, where Russian scientists have rediscovered the process for the separation of platinum and of iridium, the secret of which was held by the Germans; an institute of building materials, one for the improvement, of cattle breeds and one for the study of the soil and of manures. Institutes for the study of radium, of x-rays, of theoretical and applied optics—this is the foul baboonery—of crystallography, of hydrology, and of labour, have been at work for several months. The Petrograd Academy of Science has undertaken a series of geodetical studies and has begun work for a magnetic map of Russia. The institute of weights and measures has been provided with new laboratories. The Soviet Government has in general been very generous to scholars and scientists. It considers that science has nothing to do with politics, and as a consequence has granted all the funds demanded. Russian science has never been so well endowed.Yet we are told that whatever the sufferings and whatever the cost we must go on blocka[...]ng these people, and we must use the great British Navy—which in the past has a ways been known for its use in the service of freedom and in the fight for the liberty of the people—for this blockade, and for bombarding towns, attacking them with aeroplanes, and striking at them in every way, because they are said to be a foul baboonery. But what do the officers of the Navy say who come back from the Baltic provinces? What do they say about our friends in Russia? These men spend their time in the cafés drinking, and in driving about in droskys with peculiar women. They do not want to fight, these gentlemen, these Allies of 1605 ours, who are to liberate Holy Russia. The hon. Member for the Springburn Division of Glasgow, who I hope is going to reply, might speak to a few of the bluejackets and the simple sailors from the ships in the Baltic and hear their opinion of these regenerators of Holy Russia, of their dirty slovenly untidy habits, and their immorality, in Riga, and the great towns. If the hon. Member got that information he would perhaps form a different opinion of our liabilities towards these people who are said to be the regenerators of Russia.
During the War we complained that the German people must be behind their Government, because they always voted their credits in the Reichstag. I do not know if this honourable House is behind this sort of official war in Russia. It can only show it by voting credits, and if it does so it cannot escape the responsibility which may one day be brought home to its Members. I make no secret of the fact that I consider this war against Soviet Russia one of the greatest crimes ever committed in the history of the world, and I look forward to the day when a House of Commons more representative of the people of this country will impeach at its Bar those right hon. Gentlemen who are principally responsible. The test will be the voting of credit. With other hon. Members I have moved to reduce this Vote by £15,000,000, which is the amount which is going to be supplied to an admitted Czarist—on the word of the hon. and gallant Member for toke-on-Trent—General Denikin. I shall vote against it, and I hope other hon. Members will think carefully before they record their votes for credit in a war which will not redound to the honour or the credit of the country to which we are proud to belong.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I assure the hon. Member for Hull that I, and I think most Members of this House, will think carefully before we give a vote. I had no intention of intervening in this Debate, but it so happened to-day that I asked a supplementary question. The hon. Member for Hull was sitting on the other side of the House, and there was a good deal of talking and a certain amount of noise and he could not hear what passed between me and the Noble Earl the Member for Horsham (Major Earl Winterton). At least I do not think he could have heard, unless his ears or his hearing are a great, deal longer than I imagine them to be. 1606 But because he saw me speaking to the Noble Lord he has the audacity to suggest that I cannot frame a supplementary question for myself. I have not been very long in the House, and have not asked many questions. Such as I have asked no doubt have been foolish; but they have been my own. As for the suggestion that the hon. Member for Horsham would be afraid to ask a question of any kind after his fifteen years' record, and would get a civilian like myself to ask him, I can only say that the principal danger which his friends see is that there is no kind of question invented which he will not ask. Therefore, I tell the hon. Member for Hull that while I did suggest the question to the hon. Member for Horsham as one which he might put, because I had already put one supplementary, the hon. Member said, "It is your question; put it yourself." However, audacity has always been one of the main characteristics of the British Navy, and I congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The hon. Member for East Leyton (Lieut.-Colonel Malone) treated my supplementary question with a great deal of indignation. I am very glad to accept his statement that no consideration whatever passed between him and the Soviet Government. I accepted that in the fullest possible manner, and was glad to hear it. I notice, however, that he did not extend the same repudiation to the Pelman Institute.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The two questions were part of the one supplementary question. If he had repudiated one he could have repudiated the other, but I have always held that this Pelman business is not quite the sort of thing which one would expect from Members of Parliament. I would like to ask the hon. and gallant Member how did he get through to Russia? Did he get through by Sweden or otherwise? Whom did he see? Somebody should be here to tell us how he got there. He now comes forward as the accredited representative of Trotsky, bearing olive branches in his bill, like the dove that went out of the ark. Of course, when he got there he was taken by Trotsky on a conducted expedition, and he was shown the choicest spots.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
He was not allowed to wander fancy free. He was taken o-n a conducted tour, and he tells us that lie found little children in a theatre on the Sabbath. If he wants to recommend the Soviet Government to the people North of the Tweed be had better not tell us about that. Obviously, he was spoon-fed by Trotsky. Of course, the man who could be stuffed with Pelmanism can be stuffed with Trotskyism, but whatever the value of the former, at all events it has not improved the hon. Member's memory. I do not see how any gentleman could have the audacity to try to get Over the tremendous and striking oration, full of power, conviction, and natural eloquence of the man who has seen the real thing, the hon. Member for Stoke. It was an immense relief to me to hear it, because I have always detested this worth the bones of a single Highlander. Russian expedition, and I did not consider the whole people of Russia were They were the first to come into the War and the first to let us down by going out of it. My right hon. Friend talks of a revolution happening. It is perfectly plain that if you interfere with the deep-seated social habits of a people you will have an enormous disturbance, and that is what the poor foolish Czar did. He thought he had dethroned vodka and vodka soon dethroned the Czar.
Look now at what is happening in America and consider Mr. Gomper's remark as to what Pussyfoot did there. We have a similar danger here. We have our cocoa slop bags going about, and we have the wives of representative Ministers on the same platform with Pussyfoot Johnson in Scotland. I may tell the lady that we will take no lessons in morality from the American people until they have paid their share in the War. It had an immense deal to do with the Russian outbreak, to have the social habits of the people so altered. The real test was what the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke has said. When there was a constitutional democratic Government formed in Russia it was put to the sword by the people who are running the Soviet Government now. I do not care from what source the Government flows, whether from a Czar or Soviet or in any other form. If it is a Government based on violence and imposed against the free will of the people, then the people responsible for that state have an ineffaceable stain on their hands. We are glad to accept the word of the hon. 1608 and gallant Member for Stoke, that those gallant men besides whom he was prepared to fight all these long months are the people on the side of freedom; and it is an immense relief to me that we should have had this first-hand testimony from one of the most gallant Members of the House, for I feel that we can now go on with a free mind, voting on the same side as the hon. Member. Certainly I will be sorry to see the bones of a single Highlander or the blood of a single Briton lost en Russian soil, because Russia must be saved by her own self. But it is a very different thing getting supplies. Supplies are sent from America and why not from us, and I trust that we shall be paid for them some time. It is a great thing to know that we have got first-hand evidences and that is why I shall go with confidence into the Lobby.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I would have hesitated to intervene in the Debate but for the fact that very few subjects have occasioned more controversy in the Labour movement than our intervention in Russian affairs. Let it be admitted that we must try to approach this problem in a perfectly calm frame of mind, and that we will not solve it in any way by abuse of private-individuals or public men, or by seeking to impute to statesmen motives which are really unworthy of the dignity and traditions of British public life. We will gain at once in this controversy if we regard it as a great international issue and try to emphasise the point of view of Labour. I listened with the greatest interest and sympathy to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke, and I should be the first respectfully to associate myself with any tribute which might be paid to the great services he has rendered to the State. But it does seem unfortunate that one of the impressions one gathered from that address was that Labour in this country, the organised Labour movement, was committing itself more or less wholesale to the support of Bolshevik theory and practice. Nothing could be further from the truth. The plain position of the Labour candidate or Member who has thought out his case is simply this: that if ever there was a problem in world affairs which calls for impartial investigation, it is the problem of Russia at this hour. What the Government should have done or should have tried to secure, through Paris or some other channel, was a comprehensive or 1609 broad commission of inquiry into the whole-political and economic position of Russia. What is our position now? We are supplied with information from at least two sources—a source which is highly pro-Bolshevik in character and another source which is just as strongly opposed to Bolshevik method and practice. Anyone reading the information flowing from these two sources has not the slightest difficulty in concluding that both are strongly biased, and we are not likely to arrive at the exact position by their aid.
Labour could never be so incredibly foolish in this country, and more particularly at this juncture in its progress, as to tie itself body and soul to the support of Bolshevism, if from no other consideration than this—that we realise fully that it is 'mischievous and useless to try to impose on a people a form of government to which they are unaccustomed, which they detest, and which contains and represents qualities which we should all heartily resent. The Soviet system may be perfectly useful for some parts of Russia; it may attain sonic temporary or passing end; but it is no business of ours to try to get it re-commended or adopted in this country at a. time when, by the use of a constitutional weapon, according to the common admission of large numbers Of impartial men, we are moving to ever-increasing success. That would be a thoroughly short-sighted policy on our part. What we require, and urge most strongly, is impartial investigation. Is any Member of this House able at the moment to tell us exactly what Bolshevism is? As far as I can gather, it is a mixture of tyranny, autocracy, plunder, and social and political ideals. All these things are bound up in any ordinary definition of Bolshevism. It is probably true that there could hardly be a more dangerous mixture in any country. But surely it is one which wants analysis and careful consideration. Even if it were thoroughly bad, or whatever its merits, are we going to assist Russia at this hour by intervening in that country or by continuing a form of minor assistance? On that point I am perfectly prepared to take the statements of the Prime Minister to this Chamber. We all remember the discussions some months ago, in which the right hon. Gentleman outlined the choice of two lines of policy, as far as Russia is concerned. He said in effect that we can leave Russia to her fate, 1610 leave the fires to burn out; or else we can intervene in an effective way by sending enormous numbers of men, and enormous stores, and by conducting over as large a part of Russia as can be coveted a great campaign against Bolshevism, and in favour of whatever form of government is likely to emerge as being in the best interests of the Russian people. For neither of these policies was he able to claim a measure of support. Obviously, at the end of a devastating War we could not invite the people of this country to embark upon a large campaign. The other consideration was to leave Russia to work out her own salvation, and at that time that policy was apparently thrown aside in favour of what I might call a dwindling intervention—that is to say, a policy of intervention, during which troops were to be withdrawn gradually and the assistance cut down to stores, in the hope that someone would turn up in Russia who was likely to give it stable government. I think the course of Russian history since that choice was made has riot helped us to accept the view that dwindling intervention was correct.
The plain truth about Russia to many of us is that you can trust no one within its borders. Heroes have risen one after the other in the past few years, certainly since the revolution; they have been promised consideration and support from this and other countries; and then we have lived to prove that they, too, were murderers, that they, too, were engaged in a campaign to which we could not subscribe, and we have seen our resources dissipated and misused. What are the objections which weigh with many of us, even to a minor form of intervention? The first objection, I admit, is of minor importance. The £15,000,000 represented in the assistance now proposed is relatively negligible as international finance goes. It is more the spirit of the policy and the uselessness of that effort which appeals to us. Even on the lowest plane the saving of that £15,000,000, the sale of those stores for some other purpose within our own borders, commends itself to us as a far better policy than the handing of them over in favour of some result which we shall never see, if the current of history in Russia is in keeping with its history in recent times. Apart from that minor point, the first leading consideration is this, that the very fact that we are helping in that way against the Bolshevist forces will have the effect, that was very properly 1611 pointed out by the hon. Member for Norwich (Lieut.-Commander Young), of rallying to the Bolshevist standard probably a large section or a large proportion of the Russian people who would give their support to some better policy. That cannot be in the interests of the immediate or future peace of Europe, and it cannot possibly be in the interests of the economic or political progress of the Russian people, and 1 should strongly support him on that head. In point of fact, the more this case is analysed, the more it is clear that the people who arc opposing this intervention are really anti-Bolshevist, in tare sense that they oppose revolution and chaos and murder and disorder. In the second place, let us look at the consequences of this blockade, which is again part of our policy. We have declared no war on Russia, yet a blockade is being maintained which must affect very large sections of the Russian people, and it is agreed that it leads to the starvation of women and children and penalises the poor in that quite poor country after these years of revolution and disorder, and that in the long run it will impose a burden upon us, because we shall be committed ultimately to some policy of reconstruction for Russia, as for the rest of the world. It brings for us a burden in that respect which we are piling up quite unnecessarily for ourselves at the present moment.
Again, and this perhaps makes a larger appeal to the people of this country, what is going to be the effect not only on Russian trade in the immediate future, but on the trade of this country and on the economic reconstruction of Europe? I think in the year immediately preceding the War we had in the aggregate something like £60,000,000 of trade with Russia taking imports and exports together, and, more particularly, we imported into this country £22,000,000 worth of raw material, in many cases for some of the most urgent of our industries. We all want to think that European trade is going to be reconstructed and revived at the earliest possible moment, and there cannot be the slightest doubt that as long as we are parties to any policy which many of us regard as being calculated to perpetuate disorder in Russia that reconstruction in trade cannot take place. But beyond that Russia, in pre-war times in the year immediately preceding the War, supplied us with £15,500,000 worth of food. There, again; is a consideration of the utmost 1612 importance to the Russian people. What is the world suffering from economically-at present? We are familiar with the statement that there is a world shortage, and we are familiar with what is rightly emphasised as the importance of increasing production. But the only way properly to lower prices throughout the world is to stimulate the output of food not in one country, but in all countries. As a preliminary to that a proper policy is necessary in the interests of Russia in-order that it shall at the earliest possible moment be able to send to these shores the food supplies which it contributed in pre-war times. That is from the point of view of imports to this country. But what about the point of view of our export trade? The subject has been investigated within the past few days by a: competent person, and it is estimated that Russia requires at the present moment no less than about a £100,000,000 worth of machinery in order, to start that country industrially on its feet. Who is to supply that machinery-to the Russian people? Are we going to embark on a policy which, directly or indirectly, may have the effect of securing a demand for that machinery from other countries, such as the United States or the Central Powers, rather than from our own industry in this country which is able to turn it out and to supply it to the Russian people I am firmly convinced that one of the indirect results of this policy of even a minor or dwindling intervention will be to penalise this country as regards exports to the Russian people immediately a more settled state of affairs. emerges in that country. The last consideration which I urge is that it is a very short-sighted policy for the immediate future efficiency of the League of Nations. I want to see: the League not only a strong, political and. moral consideration, hut a very powerful economic proposition. Let us look exactly at what has happened. There has been no declaration of war on Russia, and according to the terms of the League of Nations, if a country proposes to declare war there is provision for consultation and other purposes, and in short, a series of guarantees of protection that war will not be embarked on lightly by any country and without consideration and reflection as to the various points of view. There cannot Ea the slightest doubt that this policy of blockade and minor intervention is foreign 1613 to the spirit and even the letter of the plain terms of the League of Nations, and is setting up in this country an adverse atmosphere, when we are bound as a people, irrespective of party, to do all in our power to create a moral and political and economic atmosphere which will be the very foundation of the League of Nations in the future. I say to the Government that that is a point of view which they cannot neglect in this controversy. What will be the political and economic effect of the blockade? I think most hon. Members would admit that it is calculated to perpetuate in the Russian people an attitude of mind or point of view which will make it very difficult indeed to incorporate them fully in the League at the earliest possible moment. I close with the point which has been urged before, and that is the importance of doing nothing in international politics at this hour which is going to make the peaceful enterprise of trade more difficult, or, in short, which is going to render economic reconstruction, and beyond that political progress, more difficult than it need be.
§ Mr. BILLING
I really do not think there is any need for any Member of the House opposed to the views expressed by the last speaker to rise, but there are one or two points I should like to mention. One half of the attack on the Government policy has been that if they had only done something else we should not be where we are to-day, and almost, if I may say so, there has been a post mortem on the policy in Russia. An hon. Member behind me who addressed the House about half an hour ago suggested that our great error was that we had not sent a sufficient force to establish ourselves, and that our policy in Russia was ineffective. I gathered from what he said that under these circumstances he wished us to recognise the Soviet Government. I lament, and I think many hon. Members lament, that what should have been an Army of Occupation was only a punitive expedition, and I think that if we had sent the Army which we could have sent into Russia the present trouble would be an affair of the past. The other arguments which have been, put forward only lead one to the conclusion that it is desired that we should recognise the Soviet Government as representative of Russian public opinion, and that the sooner we approach them and endeavour to conciliate them the sooner shall we be able to re-establish trade with Russia. To my mind that is absolutely unsound and 1614 impossible, and certainly undemocratic-We have heard two addresses this afternoon which were not only of considerable interest, but, if I may say so, of considerable value, but from two distinct points of view. We heard, in the first instance, an hon. and gallant Member who gave us the result of fourteen months' actual fighting the forces of disorder, and in reply to that we heard the experience of another hon. and gallant Member of fourteen days' personally conducted tour through Russia. Is there any hon. Member in this Committee who would so insult his intelligence as to compare the respective evidence? There was my hon. and gallant Friend who stayed there long enough to know what the real thing was, and there was the hon. and gallant Gentleman who went to Russia quite recently. Why he went to Russia I do not know. Having regard to a question that he had on the paper this morning, I fail to appreciate how he dared to go to Russia. He had a question down to the Prime Minister this morning asking whether we were or were not in a state of war with Russia, and that immediately after his return from Russia. Surely that was a question which would have been better put before he went to Russia. If there was any doubt in his mind about whether we were in a state of war or not, surely he should have set that doubt at rest before he went into what I regard as the enemy's camp, the enemy of all constitutional government and the enemy of liberty.
We read in the papers various reports of what has taken place in Russia, and those people who hold what I may regard as the Bolshevist view dispute these reports. It is no good hon. Members getting up in this House and pleading that the Soviet Government should be recognised by the British Government in one breath and in the next objecting to being called Bolshevists. If they come here and plead for Bolshevists, whether it is for the purpose of notoriety or for the purpose of pleading for a lost cause, is their own affair, but if any hon. Member gets up here and holds a brief for any nation or cause he must stand by his guns, and if he is denounced in this House or outside for holding those views he must take his medicine. It was surprising to see the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) rising from his -seat flushed with indignation and temper at being accused of being in favour of what I might call a British report 1615 of an order of affairs, simply because an 'hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested that he is. I regret that the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Lieutenant-Colonel Ward) apologised. I only wish he had repeated what he said, which in my opinion represented the considered view of this House. The last speaker asked why are we wasting £15,000,000 in Russia to-day, and suggested that it should be better to realise this property in England. Is there ally hon. Member in this House who will bid for these high-explosive shells? What is the face value of high-explosive shells in this country today, or of any other of the impedimenta of war'? If they can be used, as they hove been used, for continuing the considered policy of this Government and this country —namely, fighting for constitutional government against tyranny, murder old outrage, which is only being repeated in Russia to-day, inspired as it was by Germany—so much the better, and any hon. Member who suggests that it is of more value to dump these shells in the North Sea than it is to use them by the process of destroying those people who oppose law and order is a pacifist of the worst order. We are all, I hope, pacifists; we all desire peace, but peace can be bought at too high a price. I do not think any hon. Member would suggest that kowtowing to Germany and accepting her domination would not have been paying too high a price. We could have had peace, if we had wished it, in 1914, and we should have had a highly efficient Government along with it, but not the sort of Government that I would care to live under, and I think the majority of the people of this country would sooner live under a somewhat inefficient democratic and constitutional Government than the exceedingly efficient and autocratic Government of Germany. We fought it for four and a half years; we fought it successfully; and the remnant of it is in Russia, the reactionary remnant. How hon. Members can plead for our Government to discredit this country not only in the eyes of Russia, but in the eyes of the whole world, by taking the knock in Russia to-day, by admitting that we either have not the spirit or the financial resources to carry to a successful issue an enterprise which we have entered into, do not know. I think they are not only paying their country a very poor compliment, but piling up a great deal of trouble and sorrow in the future.
1616 The issue before this Committee should be, Shall we recognise the Soviet Government or not? And that is what I should like to see the Division on. All the rest of it is a mere side issue which is likely to delude the public. Our obligation is to carry on with the work to which we have put our hands. No one wishes to see economy in this country more than I, but there are forms of economy which result in far greater loss than courageous extravagance, if it may so be called. I have nut been to Russia for fourteen days, and if I had I should be in the same unenviable position as the hon. and gallant Member for Leyton (Lieutenant-Colonel Malone). I do not even think their thoughts, but I have discussed this with many friends of mine who have returned quite recently from Russia, senior officers in our Air Service who have returned even as late as last Saturday, and I have their opinion on it after many months—in one case sixteen months after—and they say that every day that goes by the name of Great Britain, which, apart from any patriotism, has its commercial aspect, is being more admired and respected by all those people who are opposed to Bolshevism. The world now seeks and searches for raw material. It wants oil. It wants a hundred and one other, if I may call them, raw materials, for the very purposes that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down quite rightly suggested. This means concessions. Unless some country is going to dominate Russia, the Russian people themselves will be those who give the various concessions. If a vote were put to this House as to whether we should send an expeditionary force of volunteers—not conscripts—to endeavour to establish order in Russia to-morrow, I should support it in the Lobby—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not in Russia though!"]—and I may say that, if called upon, in Russia, only too willingly.
§ Mr. BILLING
And if such an expeditionary force were sent I should be only too happy to belong to it and relieve the Labour party of my presence and opposition here. If such a force were sent it would not only do much to establish law and order in the world, but would strengthen our position in Russia, which up to the moment of the withdrawal of our troops was stronger than that of any other nation in the world. I have been 1617 accused in this House of being an alien hater. I have an admiration for this country; and I do not wish to see this country discredited in the eyes of the world. I think that anything this House can do to save the credit of this country in Russia should be done. The Soviet (government cannot live, because it is a bloody thing. It is an outrage to all the beliefs and all the knowledge of Christian Civilisation, and cannot exist permanently. Something must grow up in its place, and that something, or the seed of it, is in the volunteers who have come forward in Russia and followed the lead of a British expeditionary force to find a constitutional solution of their troubles. And the people who help Russia to find this solution, if this bait must be offered, ale the people who will eventually receive the concessions which it will be in the Russian Government's power to give. Those concessions will be of the utmost value to this country, and will do more to promote industrial rest in this country than many of the propositions that have been put up by the leaders of industry in this House. If it were only for that reason, apart from any appeal to Christianity, which possibly might be out of place in a Committee of this House, apart from any appeal to decency or liberty, or even democracy, let me sit down with a final appeal to the vested interests of England, which provide the work for the men who elect the Labour party to this House. If only for commercial gain for capital and labour of England—which, unless they go side by side to-day will never have an opportunity of realising the Utopia which this House was elected to create—if only for that, let me make an appeal to this House to support any policy which tends to bring peace in Russia and goodwill between the Russian people and this Empire.
Lieut.-Colonel Lord H. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or War the other day said there were a great many Members in this House whose minds were always violently convulsed whenever the subject of Russia was mentioned. I can assure my right hon. Friend that I am not one of those who see red when the subject of Russia is mentioned. I am just as much opposed to Bolshevism as he is himself. I have no liking for minority Governments, whether it is in Russia, in Great Britain, or in Ireland. Like the hon. Member opposite, I am convinced that the workers of this country have a much greater 1618 chance of gaining greater freedom and liberty, prosperity and happiness under a Constitutional Government than any other. My chief complaint, indeed, of the policy of the Government, and the policy with which the Secretary of State for War is so prominently associated, is that it seems up to the present to be so perfectly futile as an anti-Bolshevik policy. The more money we squander in Russia the greater does the strength of Bolshevism become. The only result of our efforts is to add vitality and strength to the movement; in fact, we seem to be doing what the Emperor of Austria did for the French Revolution. We are adding to a revolutionary idea military and national ardour. We used to hear a good deal about the cordon sanitaire that was to be drawn round Russia. We hear very little about that cordon sanitaire now. On the Eastern Front of Russia, although I have no doubt Admiral Koltchak is an excellent person, it cannot be denied that, as the result of the action of his subordinates, people in Siberia who were originally strongly anti-Bolshevik now definitely prefer the rule of Bolsheviks to that of Admiral Koltchak. In the West it is the same story, and the Baltic States have to be goaded into opposition to Bolshevism by the grant of territories to which, ethnologically, they have not the slightest claim. Personally, I am utterly sceptical, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) and like the Prime Minister himself, of being able to destroy a political idea by a display of force. I have always been led to believe that the only way of killing a bad idea is to oppose a better one. Bolshevism is engendered by famine and misery, and the only way to kill it, to my mind, is to make anti-Bolshevism stand for prosperity, peace, and happiness. If, instead of setting the partisan factions fighting against one another, we had only exercised our influence in the direction of peace, and encouraged them to settle down to peaceful avocations, I believe that by this time Bolshevism would have died a natural death. At all events we should have been spared the disgrace of seeing Eastern Europe scoured by Condottieri who are in our pay and in whose trail brutality, murder, and all sorts of horrors follow. In a recent debate in this House the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) said that the great hope of restoring the finances of this country to a sound condition was to 1619 adhere honestly and rigidly to the principle of the League of Nations. The League of Nations is not only a splendid ideal, but is a very sound, practical business proposition. In other words, the League of Nations is the last word in enlightened self-interest. I am convinced that if we had only followed the principle of the League of Nations and applied that principle of conciliation and co-operation, not only to Russia, but to the whole of Europe, our financial position would have been stronger, the prices of goods and the necessaries of life would have been lower, and trade would have been even more active than it is at present. Moreover, we should have avoided the responsibility of seeing Europe torn with dissension and threatened with an even more serious famine this winter than there was last winter. We have, however, applied to the Russian situation, and to the European situation generally, thoroughly militarist considerations. By our blockade we have intensified the miseries of the Russian people and of Eastern Europe generally. We might have treated the claims of tile different nationalities and partisans with strict impartiality. We might have led them into the paths of peace. Instead of that we have fomented the differences between them, we have supported one against another, we have loosed off Roumanians against Hungarians, Poles against Ukrainians, and Baltic States against Russians; and we have squandered millions in supplying them with arms, ammunition, and credit. The consequence is that the whole of Europe is in a distracted and distraught condition, and we ourselves are suffering from the highest taxation. If we had applied the highest principles we should have given the League of Nations vigorous life and it would have been a strong plant by this time. As it is, it looks as if it were going to be destroyed by militarism and Chauvinism of the worst description.
I personally am only a humble member of the Tory party. I am not a Coalition Liberal; I am only a Tory; and I have some considerable preference, in consequence, for the traditions of such old-fashioned Tories, whatever their failings may have been, as Wellington and Castlereagh. Whatever their failings may have been, at all events after the French wars they did adopt an enlightened policy towards the defeated enemy, and resolutely turned their backs upon the Holy 1620 Alliance, We are told that men learn nothing at all from history. I must say I am surprised that, after five years of war, our Prime Minister should seem to give so close an imitation of the methods of Metternich and the policy of the Holy Alliance. As far as one can judge, the only policy he is pursuing at the present time is that any Government whose political complexion is not pleasing to him and his plutocratic supporters must be removed at all costs. The whole heart of the matter is that, if we want to have peace in Russia, in Europe, or anywhere else, we must return to the principle of the-League of Nations. As it is we are cutting off our noses to spite our faces. We are squandering millions of money in futile expeditions; we are subsidising people who, to my mind, are nothing more or less than brigands. I do wish the House of-Commons would make a resolute stand in the matter, and tell the Government that they must pursue the principle of the League of Nations the principle of cooperation and conciliation; and, if one vote makes any difference, I shall have pleasure in supporting this Amendment.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
I was somewhat surprised at the statement made by the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. Billing). His later remarks indicated why he thought we should continue to supply Koltchak and Denikin with money and stores, but what surprised me was the remarkable zeal that he displayed in wishing to go either as a volunteer or otherwise to Russia to fight the Bolshevists, and yet when, several months ago, the Secretary of State for War was appealing on posters and in newspaper advertisements for volunteers to go to Russia to assist in extricating the British forces that were then there, the hon. Member did not then see fit to volunteer for the rescue of his own countrymen from Archangel and other places. He told us why, in his opinion, we ought to continue not merely to fight the Bolshevists, but actually to send an armed mission and declare war, instead of carrying on as we are just now, like so many pirates and brigands, sending naval forces to the Baltic to fire upon Russian ports, and supplying armed men and stores to Denikin and Koltchak, and proposing, as we are now, to hand over to those individuals a gift of £15,000,000 to help them to carry on this campaign against the Bolshevists in Russia. The hon. Member hold us that there were some con- 1621 cessions to be obtained, because Russia was rich in natural resources. It is true that lie said there were other commercial possibilities, but I am convinced that that is his sole reason, and the reason of others in the country as Well as in this House, for wishing for a continuation of our support of Denikin and Koltchak. It is not from the high humanitarian motives that we hear sometimes from the benches opposite, but because of the commercial Resources of Russia.
§ Mr. BILLING
I am sorry to interrupt, the hon. Member, but I should like to correct him. I made an appeal to Christianity and democracy, but I said that if, failing that, one must make a commercial appeal to certain Members in this House, let use make it, and then I went on as the hon. Member said.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
There is no occasion for me to withdraw anything that I have said. I was replying to something that the hon. Member said. I have no reply to make to his reference to Christianity, because if Christianity prevailed there could be no war, and consequently to appeal to the Christianity of hon. Members who intend to support the Government is to appeal to something that is not there. As I have said, the reason why we are assisting Denikin and Koltchak is to try and obtain the valuable confessions from Russia which it will be in their power to grant to those who may assist them. Various speakers in the House assume that we ought to crush the Bolsheviks because of atrocities. Nearly every Member of this House, I am certain, receives every week a paper called Ukraine." Let them read that, and not throw it into the waste-paper basket. It. is not a Bolshevist publication, it is against Bolshevist, and in its columns will be found statements with regard to atrocities committed against Ukrainians by Koltchak and Denikin's followers, and not by Bolshevists. Let us wipe out altogether the idea that we must crush the Bolsheviks because of atrocities. If you admit that argument you are never going to be free from some foreign nation. You could have been in wars time and again if atrocities were to justify intervention in foreign countries. Let us find out what really is taking us into Russia. It is marvellous how the trade journals, that are not read generally 1622 by the working classes, tell us why we are-in Russia, and why we continue to remain there. We are there, they say, and shall continue to remain there, because—In Siberia there is the most gigantic prim offered to the civilised world since the discovery of America.That comes from the "Bulletin of the Federation of British Industries." The "Board of Trade Journal," dealing with; the importance of the Baltic says:The Baltic is no longer merely a shallow of water leading to Petrograd and Finland and dividing the German Empire from a distant and, somewhat vaguely comprehended Scandinavia, but a Northern Mediterranean washing the coasts of nearly as many different and independent countries as the Southern MeditMeditar-ranean—countries capable of exporting the most valuable of raw products and of absorbing an increasing quantity of finished products.All over these trade journals you find references to the richness of Russia. You, have maps published by the British firm, in which Viscountess Rhondda holds practically the controlling interest. This firm has published a map, and upon that map, you do not find the towns or the places that you usually discover on maps issued for general enlightenment. This, map contains, carefully marked out all over in Russia and Siberia, the regions in which tin, lead, copper, oil, grain, and timber can be found. It tells us of a vast tract of territory from which these raw resources can be taken.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I agree, but stop the war with Russia, and then you will get them. Do not continue the trouble there, and so help to build up hatred against, ourselves. They want our finished products, rails, locomotives, and so on; they want engineering productions, and they will give us in exchange for these timber and grain. In the Southern part of Russia alone, if you allow peace in Russia and cease fighting there, as you are doing, it is calculated that there can be exports sufficient grain to feed over 300,000,000, people in addition to those living in Russia. Russia is limitless in its resources. Very well, then, let us help Russia to exploit their own territory. Do not let us continue financing one section of them to crush another. Try to find out some common ground upon which we may unite the two sections of the Russian people, so that you can have some form of Stable government that will enable the Russians 1623 people to build up their own affairs and their own Government, and take out the richness of their own raw, resources.
I sometimes feel that if our Ministers, and other Members as well, who come down here and talk to us about going to Russia, and about continuink the grants to assist General Denikin and Admiral Koltchak would go before the working classes of this country, they would know at once how the working classes feel on the intervention in Russia. I challenge any hon. Members or right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Government Benches, either from Dundee or any other part, to stand before a working-class audience in his own constituency and try to justify this voting of money and assistance to Koltchak and Denikin. I tell the House frankly they would be howled down in any audience of working men. Working men will not have it! Why? Because we require the money being squandered in Russia to build up some things here at home. You have one of the young Britishers who writes from the Russian front, writing like this:Finally there is the great bulk of the population, the splendid, solid sound common-sense unreasoning, stupid Britisher who cannot see that Russia is worth the bones of a single Tommy.It is not worth the bones of a single Tommy in the eyes of the British working man, according to this writer. What does he say in regard to other things?Russia wants certain materials that we can give her. The Russians wish to build up certain matters. and included in these things they wish to build up are houses.We have got to go on with our war with Russia to give the Russian peasants houses. Sonic nation will have to go to war with this country to give our people houses. That is a highly satisfactory argument in which to embroil a country in war with another. By this we justify our intervention in Russia! We have our Navy in the Baltic. No war—or no declaration of war has been made upon Russia. Our airmen are bombarding towns and fortresses belonging to the Bolsheviks. Our ships are bombarding fortresses. Under whose orders are they?
We are told by the Financial Secretary who addressed the House at the commencement of this Debate, that the bulk of the money mentioned in the White Paper has been spent by the Navy, and the Air Force, and that his Department, the War Department, takes responsibility 1624 for all the Money so spent. That may be I think most hon. Members will remember that it has become a practice in this House that any Member who enters the Cabinet holding a director's place in any public company should resign that post. He has to chose between that course and remaining a member of the Cabinet. The First Lord of the Admiralty, who directs and controls the Navy, that is at the present time acting in the Baltic against Russia, is, according to the Russian Almanacks for 1919, a debenture trustee of the Anglo-Russian Bank. One might imagine that a man in that position would consider very carefully his duty to those for whom he was acting as debenture trustee and his duty towards those he was acting as First Lord of the Admiralty and where he found the least liability to suspicion of certain financial interests with which he was personally connected that lie would do as Cabinet Ministers have done in the past, would resign either from one post, that of Cabinet Minister, or would on the other hand resign his trusteeship as debenture holder. That is riot done, and according to the 1919 Almanack the First Lord of the Admiralty still acts in that position cannot charge him with anything particular in connection with the two positions which he holds, but, at airy rate, it is an anomalous position to occupy, and a man who has presumably that control ought to remove from himself any possibility of suspicion that may be directed to him by anyone outside of this House. I submit that, there is no justification for the continuation of this gamble in Russia. We have had sufficient gambles in the War that has just finished, and we do not require another £15,000,000 gamble.
We were told the other day from that Box the necessity for economy, and how every pound must be saved, and yet you propose here to hand over £15,000,000 to Denikin! Why not hand it over to your housing committees? Why not hand it over for reconstructive work in this country instead of dirty work in a foreign country? An hon. Member below the Gangway told us how much would be obtained for these stores that were being sent to Koltchak and Denikin. We are not concerned with how much could be obtained for them. Has it become one of your principles that because you cannot get a pound for a pound value for this country's stores you must send them to be 1625 used destructively? That is one of the most unreasonable arguments I ever heard.
I warn hon. Members on the opposite benches that you had at the end of last week a warning as to what will happen if you go to the country upon an issue of this kind or upon a working-class issue. The Labour movement throughout the country has swept the Municipal Electoral Board. We challenge you to go before the country, and I predict that we will sweep the political board and remove all those who vote for things like this. You had a majority of 400 the other night, whereas on the previous evening many of them went into the Lobby against the Government. Some of them thought there was going to he a General Election, and, of course, they voted for the Government the second time. Let us have a square issue upon something that matters to the people, and then we can do politically at the Parliamentary election that which we have done in the municipal elections, and then Labour would occupy those places on the Treasury Bench. We should save £15,000,000 in the expenditure of the country to-night if we occupied those benches.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I, at least, have the courage of my opinion, but hon. Members opposite had to change their opinion in order to get back into the House. I can stand for my principles. I am a Socialist, and I do not call myself a Bolshevist. You do not know what Bolshevism is, and you say that anyone who disgrees with you is a Bolshevist. That is your definition and not mine. I suggest that, so far as we are concerned, we appeal to the free Members of this House to accept the Amendment that has been proposed that the Vote be reduced by £15,000,000, which is the sum you propose to give to Koltchak.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The House has listened to a lively speech from the hon. Member opposite (Mr. N. Maclean), which is, I think, his first appearance in the responsible position of speaking from the Front Opposition Bench—[Cries of "No!]—at any rate it is the first I have had the good fortune to hear, and I must say I observe that a growing responsibility is exercising its usual moderating effect upon "the hon. Gentleman, and as he approaches the 1626 centre of power his political creed has become more carefully defined. He told us he was not a Bolshevist, but on the 27th of June, at Southport, I am credibly informed the hon. Gentleman said:I stand for the Bolshevist regime. The Bolshevist Government, whatever their faults, are fighting the battle of our class in Russia, and t appeal to, you to back them up.Now the hon. Gentleman says that lie is, not a Bolshevist, and ranks himself with those Socialists who are, as we have-been told, the special objects of Bolshevik resentment.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
This is the second time that this quotation has been used against me. It was used on a previous occasion at a meeting of the Labour party. What I said at Southport on that occasion—and I think hon. Members who were present will admit that what I say is correct—Wasthis I was pointing out what was happening in Russia, and I said that if I had to choose between the Czarist regime and the Bolshevik regime I would choose the Bolshevik. Those were my words.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Then the words must have been taken down wrongly by the reporter. We know that these mistakes do happen, and are alleged to happen, when one sees next day something which one would much rather not have said. The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong if he thinks I quoted this reference to his speech for the purpose of reproaching him. On the contrary, I was complimenting him on the increasing gravity of his political position, and his steady advance towards the centre of power. There was one re mark, however, which the hon. Gentleman made which I think requires comment. He said that it would be impossible for anyone to defend the policy of the Government in giving this £15,000,000 to Denikin on any working-class platform without being howled down. Of course, anyone knows that in an open meeting thirty or forty rowdies can howl down a speaker, and interrupt the political deliberations of 400 or 500 people, but that is no argument. On the more general question as to what the will and pleasure of the country really is, what are their intentions and wishes, and what kind of policies and governments or political combinations they will support and what they will oppose, we claim to be just as good judges as hon. Gentlemen who belong to time Labour party.
I think that I have said something very like this before. If I have, I apologise, 1627 but it does seem to me that hon. Gentlemen who belong to the Labour party have got a sort of idea that they represent the whole great international Labour world. Believe me, it is a delusion. They represent a very important, very active, and very valuable portion of the labour classes of the country, but only a portion, and they must not overbid their hand. The hon. Gentleman is a new arrival here, but many of us on this bench have for twenty years been winning elections in great democratic and industrial constituencies, and we really do not require to be instructed in the manner in which to address our working-class and other constituencies.
§ 10.0 P.M/
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I did not address the House before dinner because I felt that the whole House has been so profoundly impressed by the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Colonel Ward) that they would wish to have full leisure to weigh and consider his admirable statement. I would like, even on behalf of those who most disagree from the views which he has put forward, to express the general sense of the House and welcome him on his return from his long and gallant service overseas. His example in many different circumstances of danger have been very valuable, and his counsel will be valuable here in this House on this and many other subjects. Really, as far as the War Office is concerned, and as far as the Government is concerned, we have no reason to complain of the course of this Debate. I have been waiting for any serious attack, and I have not felt that the policy we put forward is seriously or massively challenged in any part of the House. I think that is due, not entirely to complete ad- 1628 miration of our policy, but to a realisation of the immense difficulties of the Russian problem. Everybody feels the need of a clear-cut policy in regard to Russia, and many people ask for a clear cut policy. But it is a great deal easier to ask for a clear cut policy, a clear, bold, wise, moderate, far-seeing, and decisive policy, in regard to Russia than it is to supply it. Anybody can ask for it, but nobody yet has been able to supply it. All the great nations of the world with whom we fought in the Great War are in tie same situation as ourselves. Even Switzerland, a neutral State. a State always the home of international labour and Socialist movements, the refuge and the asylum of extreme politicians—I will not use controversial expressions—of every land and of every race, has been unable to have relations of any kind with the Bolshevik Government, has had to expel large numbers of them from its bounds, introduce all sorts of special legislation, and has formally given its assent to the continuance of the international blockade of Russia—even Switzerland, the most democratic of countries, has had to do that. As for the great Allies who fought with us in the War, everyone of them has been baffled by the peculiar aspects of this problem in the same way that we have. Japan, perhaps alone, knows exactly what she wants. The United States, France, and Italy, like ourselves, when confronted with the direct question, "Are you at war or not with the Bolshevists?" would be unable to give a perfectly monosyllabic answer, but would have to say, "We have not declared war upon them; we have not waged war upon them with all our might, but, in fact, our troops are engaging in hostilities with the Bolshevists whenever they come in contact with them." That is the position not only of this country, but of all the other great countries in the world with whom we have been allies in this great struggle. They are all in a quandary, and the reason is that this problem of Bolshevik Russia presents at many points features which are utterly unprecedented and which do not lend themselves to the ordinary formulae and processes which have governed the relations of the quarrels of civilised States.
If we are unable to present an absolutely clear-cut policy it is no good blaming the War Office or the British Government. One must recognise that all the other great Powers in the world have 1629 found this problem equally bewildering. Let us just look at one or two of the alternative policies that have been suggested. One can quite easily see the kind of policy not to adopt. One policy not to adopt is to pour masses of conscript soldiers from England, or from France, or from America, or from Italy into Russia and to endeavour by main force of foreign arms to alter the internal government of that country. Such a course would have been not only injurious to the countries sending forth the troops, but it would, I believe, have raised a national spirit in Russia itself which would have done far more harm to the general cause that we have at heart than anything which arises from our present methods. Therefore, we have firmly held throughout to the principle that Russia must be saved by Russian manhood. Then there is the policy, "Let Russia stew in her own juice." That is, I understand, the last political inspiration which comes from some sections of the Labour party and from the Dissentient Liberals.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The policy which we have heard to-day unfolded in various quarters is the policy of letting Russia stew in her own juice.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
And that is the one thing she will not do. Either Bolshevik Russia will try to stew you in her juice, or else reactionary Russia will stew in German juice. Then there is another policy which a certain class of critics commend, unconsciously in the main, to us. That is the policy which may be summed up as follows. "Give Koltchak and Denikin directions what to do, and give them nothing else." We are to tell them they are to give up all parts of Russia which formerly belonged to the Russian Empire and which wish to secede. They are to acknowledge their absolute independence; they are to assemble a constituent body immediately, and they are to submit themselves absolutely to its decisions. At the same time they are not to submit themselves to any decisions which conflict with the independence they are to guarantee to these States. They are to bind them selves to be very enlightened, very merciful, and very progressive. They are to pay all their debts, they are not to be 1630 reactionary—and in Russia a man is called a reactionary if he objects to having his property stolen, and his wife and children murdered. Above all, they are not to make friends with Germany and not to accept any aid from Germany, however opportunely, tactfully and effectively it may be proffered, and however bitter their need. And apart from this, the policy is to be, "Hands off Russia. No arms, no food, no help, no money, no countenance, no recognition, nothing at all." On the contrary, we are advised by some people who are trying to set these hard tasks to anti-Bolshevik leaders—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The hon. and gallant Gentleman made a very full statement to-day to which the House listened with exemplary patience. I think he should repose his fame solidly on the basis of his oratorical triumph, and not try to gather an additional reputation as an apt and happy interrupter. At any rate, he should not try to do the two things in the one day. The same people who are asking all this and giving nothing recommend that we should enter into relations with the Soviet Government and send from our scanty stocks of food and material aid to that Government. I want to point out to the House that the measure of influence which this country can have on the future fortunes of Russia, the measure of the influence which she exerts on Russia's policy, is determined by the amount we give of assistance, material and moral—and moral assistance may be just as great, just as valuable, and just as sought after as material assistance —the measure is absolutely equal. It is idle to suppose you can on one hand wash your hands of Russia and on the other hand attempt any sort of controlling influence over her future destinies and development.
All our action in regard to Russia has been taken in harmony with the views of the other great Powers with whom we fought in the War. Their troops are also-involved, and just as there was no accurate summing up of the relative individual efforts in the Great War, so in this difficult business of trying to produce a satisfactory state of affairs in Russia the efforts of the different Powers have not been equal. At the present moment it is true there is a brigade at Batoum on a Foreign Office Mission which has nothing whatever to do with the general state of Russia. It is a very tem- 1631 porary matter. We have many fewer soldiers in Russia than the United States of America; we have fewer than France; and we have incomparably fewer than Japan. We have, it is true, supplied a large quantity of munitions, but France has also supplied a large quantity of munitions to the Poles, and that has some relation to this Bolshevik fact. The United States have also sent supplies and contributions. If our actions appear much more prominent than the action of these other Powers it is not that they have not been working with us, but it is because, perhaps, our action has been so successful and has produced such fruitful results. The course we have taken in dealing with this problem has been taken in concert with the other great European Powers who were our Allies in the War. The question which arises at the outset of any reflections on this subject of the policy which we should pursue towards Russia is, What is Russia? Certainly I dispute the title of the Bolsheviks to represent Russia. Indeed, I think they would be the first to repudiate any claim to represent Russia. Their views are far greater than the representation of a single country. Their position, if it means anything, is an international position. They despise such a mere commonplace as nationality. Their ideal is a world-wide proletariat revolution. It may be good or it may be bad, but it has no connection with the Russian State or with the Russian nation which was our Ally when the War commenced. Therefore I cannot believe that the title deeds of national Russia will ever rest durably or recognisedly in those hands.
There is, however, a Russia somewhere, and not far away if it could only be evoked, which represents and embodies all that treasury of the centuries which the nation has built up from the days of Peter the Great. There is a Russia which represents that great community, with its railroads, its art, its exchanges—[An HON. MEMBER: "Its prisoners!"—there are prisoners in other countries besides Russia—its great newspapers, its organisation, its hopes, its aspirations. There is that decent, civilised Russia that existed in the world sometimes as a force for evil and sometimes as a force for good. Well did we know it in the early days of this War There is this Russia somewhere, and events may easily come to pass which in a flash would bring this Russia above the threshold, bring it into being as another real great entity in 1632 the world's affairs. My anxiety in dealing with these matters has always been in case that should happen which I firmly believe will happen, and in our own lifetime, that there will be a great, civilised, responsible power in' Russia which can take its place in the League of Nations and bear its part in the general work of mankind. If that should happen, my anxiety is that that nation which rises again from the dead as-a nation shall not arise as the foe of the Allies.
You cannot deal with this question of Russia apart from the historic aspect. You cannot deal with it to-night as if here, all of a sudden, we had to find £15,000,000, of stores for Russia. You have to look at the history of the subject and the recent War. I dwell first on the services of Russia to the Allies. They were-very great. Anyone who reads the books which are now being published from German sources can see how immense were the services which Russia rendered to our cause. She upset all her mobilisation in order to rush forward, and squandered her men in the hope of drawing off the pressure in the decisive battle for Paris, and we now know she did, at the cost of 200,000 or 300,000 of her soldiers, draw away three army corps from the most decisive point of the Western Front. Her suffering and loss exceeded those of any individual combatant on our side. I cannot forget that. I do not think the House of Commons ought to forget that.
The next point that is in my mind is the tragedy of Russia. The Bolsheviks robbed Russia at one stroke of two most precious things, peace and victory—the victory that was within her grasp and the peace which was her dearest desire. Both were swept away from her. The victory was turned into defeat. As for the peace, her life ever since has been one long struggle of agonising war. A few more months of holding on and Russia would have had a victorious peace. We have had the celebrations in Paris and the celebrations in London, but there was one absentee. There was one great Power, whose dead are scattered over the Eastern marshes of Europe in millions, which had no flag flying and no contingent marching, which was cut out absolutely of the comity of nations. That is what the Bolsheviks have done for her. Let me point out that it was not the Czarists of Russia that were-overthrown. The revolution had taken place. The old regime was gone. New 1633 men, men of very advanced views, had come into power—men perhaps untutored in Government, with no experience, but men who held views as democratic as those which existed in any of tae modern states of Europe. This was the government which the Bolsheviks overthrew, wantonly and cruelly, at a moment when they deprived their country of the fruits of all that it had suffered for and struggled for so long.
How was Russia struck down? It is one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of Europe, and I think it shows the extraordinarily sure and accurate knowledge which the Germans have of Russia. I would like the Committee to consider whether there is not real substance in that remark, and that the Germans know infinitely more about Russia than we in this country can ever know. Here is my illustration. The Germans sent Lenin into Russia with the deliberate intention of working the downfall of Russia. On the Western Front they used only poison gas, the flame projector, the high-explosive shell, and the machine gun; but they had something far more deadly for Russia. They sent Lenin and his emissaries into that country, with the sure knowledge that they would bring about its undoing. This is what Ludendorff writes in his very remarkable book— Vol. II., page 509:by sending Lenin to Russia our Government did, moreover, assume a great responsibility, but from the military point of view has journey was justified. Russia had to be aid low. But our Government should have seen to it that we were not also involved in her fall.Lenin was sent into Russia by the Germans in the same way that you might send a phial containing a culture of typhoid or of cholera to be poured into the water supply of a great city, and it worked with amazing accuracy. No sooner did Lenin arrive than he began beckoning a finger here and a finger there to obscure persons in sheltered retreats in New York, in Glasgow, in Berne, and other countries, and he gathered together the leading spirits of a formidable sect, the most formidable sect in the world, of which he was the high priest and chief. With these spirits around him he set to work with demoniacal ability to tear to pieces every institution on which the Russian State and nation depended. Russia was laid low. Russia had to be laid low. She was laid low to the dust.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Her national life was completely ruined, the fruits of her sacrifices were thrown away, she was condemned to long internal terrors, and menaced by famine, when her country contains not only food for everyone there but supplies that could be exported to the rest of the world. Her sufferings are more fearful than modern records hold, and she has been robbed of her place among the great nations of the world. Russia was laid low, but it was not only Russia that suffered. We shared in the misfortune. A million German troops came from the Russian Front, and poured from the East to attack our men on the 21st March in France and Flanders and to fight us through the bloody struggles of last year. Three or four hundred thousand homes in France and Great Britain are desolate today as the direct result of that one deadly, if you like, masterly act of the German Government in sending Lenin back to Russia, and of the many deadly acts which Lenin did on his return. It is very early to forget this sort of thing. There were still, however, men in Russia who were title to the compact sworn between the great belligerent nations in the Pact of London on the 4th September, 1914, by which these nations bound themselves to make war in common and not to make peace except in unity. Among such men the most prominent names are Alexeieff Korniloff, Koltchak and Denikin. All those men marched with us when the storm burst on Europe. All those men started off to fight in the same quarrel with us. Show me a moment in their career at which they deviated from the path of honourable engagement into which they entered at the outbreak of hostilities. There is an unbroken continuity between the position now held by Koltchak and Denikin and the position held by our erstwhile great ally without whose aid we never could have won the War. Denikin was the lieutenant of Alexeieff and Korniloff, and when the one died and the other was killed in battle he succeeded to the position which they had held.
I was very sorry indeed to read in papers the other day* that Mr. Asouith described General Denikin as an "adventurer." I am sure he could not have acquainted himself fully with the incidents in his career, because you may call him 1635 other names, but there could hardly be an epithet less well chosen than that. Denikin succeeded to his position because two of his chiefs in succession were removed by death. He was one of those who when the Germans came into the Ukraine, when they had Odessa and the whole of the country in their grip, and when his voluntary army was holding on with about 4,000 men in the mountains at Kuban, refused utterly to have any relationship at all with these Germans who made the most flattering promises. The most remarkable fact I know about him is that at the very moment when he was winning, when his men were advancing and taking thousands of prisoners and gathering up rich territory, when everything was going at its best for him and at its very worst for Koltchak, Denikin placed himself under the authority of Koltchak. In the whole history of revolutions and desperate struggles made in the course of revolution by fighters who have problems to solve far harder than, pray God, may ever come our way, there are few instances of clearer subordination of self to the general purpose of the common cause than were given by General Denikin in this very subordination of himself to Admiral Koltchak.
I was just going to read to the House what General Briggs, whom many of us here had an opportunity of seeing, wrote to me about General Denikin. He said:I have made a special study of General Denikin—it was my business to do so— and I unhesitatingly say that he is a large-minded, very strong, very clear-headed and resolute man, with the best interests of Russia at heart. He is a poor man, he has no desire for financial gain, no personal ambition, and no desire for power. He is a real patriot, whole-heartedly out for the Russian people and for Russia.I hope that in dividing up the honours between Lenin, who was sent to lay Russia low, and General Denikin, who, during the course of this year has so enormously improved his position in the Southern parts of Russia—I hope that in estimating the relative merits of these. two careers we shall have a little greater measure of fair discrimination than is implied in calling General Denikin an "adventurer," and, no doubt, regarding Lenin and Trotsky as great and enlightened and progressive statesmen.
The House is in Committee and the financial aspect must ever be in its mind. Because it is in its mind it will be particularly on its guard against exaggeration. 1636 I was very sorry to see that Mr. Asquith, in this same speech, had not given sufficient attention to the actual facts, and had been laying himself open to the charge of exaggeration, or miscalculation, or what might easily be regarded as misrepresentation. He said that we had spent in the present year, since the Armistice, £115,000,000 upon Russia. The actual figure is 05,000,000, or rather £94,800,000.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Let us be accurate. Of these £94,000,000, no less than £47,000,000 were non-marketable stores. I have taken the trouble to have an estimate made of the value of these stores, the actual value in the market, and I am told that the total value is £4,700,000. The total value of the marketable stores is not £19,000,000, but £13,000,000, if they were sold. Therefore the total amount we have spent in Russia during the present year, including this final supply of stores for General Denikin, is: Cash, £28,000,000; marketable stores, £13,000,000; non-marketable stores, £4,700,000; a total of 46,500,000, and not of £115,000,000. Let us at any rate be accurate.
On a point of Order. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what the stores originally cost us?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
When hon. Gentlemen wish to take part in a controversy, the correct figure is not £115,000,000, but £46,000,000, and there is a great difference between them.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
This was a speech in which Mr. Asquith was attacking my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having made "the grossest miscalculation of modern times." Here is a miscalculation which is at any rate 300 per cent. in excess of the actual fact. It may be asked, has this money been wasted? If Russia becomes again a great civilised State she will pay. She will not only pay for the aid we have given her, but she will also assume liability for the five hundred millions or more of her general debt to his country. But we have never attempted to argue this matter on the basis of profit or loss. We argue it on the basis of right 1637 and deity. We had our duty to those men who, as the Prime Minister reminded us, we called into the field to guard the food centres of Russia, and we were not entitled to throw them aside when in the course of events the German danger had disappeared and when there was no longer any need of them. There are two other points of immense consequence to this country which arise out of our policy in Russia and our efforts to help that gigantic country. The first is this. We, in common with the other parties to the League of Nations, assumed a direct responsibility for the protection of the new States from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the States on the eastern side of Europe, little States such as Czecho-Slovakia and all that line of small States.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
All those States were so much in jeopardy at the beginning of this year that no one would have said they could have maintained themselves during the year. I see from reports of conferences which are now published in the papers that it was estimated by all military authorities that 150,000 troops would be required to sustain those small States in their action against Bolshevist attack. They have all lived through it; they have all been protected and have all come safely through—nay, more, they have all advanced against the enemy which threatened to devour them. Why? What is the reason? Who has protected them? It was not the League of Nations; it was not the great Allied Powers. They have not protected them. Koltchak and Denikin have saved those States. Koltchak and Denikin, aided by British munitions, have drawn off on to their fronts three-fourths of the whole military strength of the Bolshevist Empire, and it is due to them alone that you have not been compelled, by the collapse of those small States, by the spread of anarchy and rapine throughout Eastern Europe, to make good our guarantee and send not only munitions but British troops and other assistance as well.
Lastly, we retain up to the present, arid for the months which are immediately before us, great friendly influence upon Russia. We will use that influence to the full to mitigate the ferocity of the conflict, to secure protection for the Jews, and, using: it to the full in every quarter, we will use our vic- 1638 tory to crown the efforts which are being made to secure and to establish, as far as it is in our power, a broad and democratic system of government in Russia. We will use it to prevent Russia, as far as we can, from throwing herself into German hands and making an arrangement with Germany, which, as we all know, if it became effective would confront our children, and possibly even ourselves, with a repetition of that same evil deadly equipoise of gigantic Powers, with the marshalling up against us of that same formidable danger which plunged the world in disaster in August, 1914.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The Committee has had the advantage of hearing so many experts on the position in Russia in the course of this Debate that it is with considerable trepidation that I intervene. The Minister for War has just concluded a very eloquent and impassioned speech, much of which, however, had little or no connection with the subject which is under discussion. The subject which we are discussing is, What is our policy in Russia, and will that policy be to the advantage of the Russian people and of ourselves? I venture to say that much of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, interesting as it has been, had little or no connection with that subject, and has shed little light on the policy of His Majesty's Government. We had a very interesting and eloquent speech from the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Colonel J. Ward), and, like other Members of this House, I should like to express my pleasure at his reappearance among us. In the course of that speech he informed us that Britain's honour and Britain's good name were at stake. While I have no doubt that he was quite sincere in his belief, I should like to inform the hon. and gallant Gentleman that those of us who are coming in daily contact with the Labour movement of this country know that the overwhelming mass of opinion amongst the working classes is against intervention in Russia in any shape or form. The workers of this country have borne their share of the burdens and the sacrifices of the great War
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I have never taken up the position, and I do not think any of those with whom I am associated have 1639 taken up the position, that they have borne a greater share than others in proportion to numbers.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I was pointing out that the working classes of this country have borne a large share of the burden and the sacrifice involved in the War which has just finished. They did that for the purpose of destroying militarism, and also to establish the principle of self-determination among the nations of the earth. They are not going to continue to shed blood, either in Russia or elsewhere, for a continuance of the evils we have been fighting to destroy during the course of the last five years. During the course of the present Session the Labour party has been continually pressing the Government to refrain from intervention in Russia. I do not think their efforts have been altogether in vain. The Government have at last made up their minds, whether willingly or unwillingly, that the military forces in North Russia are to be withdrawn, and they have been withdrawn.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
Yes, it was decided in February, and after that date more troops were sent to Russia. That shows the bona fides of the Government. So strongly do we believe that the policy pursued by the Government is a wrong one, that we will continue to exercise that pressure until we have complete non-intervention in Russia. We believe that but for the huge financial interests that are involved, that policy would not have continued so long; we believe that our men would have been taken out of Russia long ago. An hon. arid gallant Gentleman pleaded with the House and the country to give the Russian workmen a chance, and we would find that they were equal to our own people. That is exactly what we want. We want to give the Russian people a chance. We take up the position that the people of Russia themselves are the proper parties who shall say what form of Government they shall have.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
We are nearing the time when we will have complete nonintervention in Russia, and the Russian people will be given the opportunity of working out their own destinies. If the policy that has been pursued by His Majesty's Government is to continue, it will prove to be a disastrous one for our own reputation and our own interests, and may I say without any offence, in my opinion it will prove a disastrous one for the reputation of the Secretary of State for War himself? Because I can assure him that it is not only in the Labour movement of the country that he has got into disfavour regarding the policy that is being pursued in Russia. I would like to know if this policy that has been pursued by the Government is the policy of the Prime Minister himself. Personally, I have grave fears that it is not the policy that recommends itself to the Prime Minister. I have in my hand a report of what he is reputed to have said when discussing this question with his colleagues of the Supreme Council, and it is stated here—
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I am reading from a report of the meeting of the Supreme Council in Paris at which the Prime Minister spoke, and as I have said he said there were—[Interruption.]—The Prime Minister will have the opportunity of stating whether or not the statement I am about to read is correct.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
On a point of Order, are we not entitled to know where this paper comes from?
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The Prime Minister said.There were three possible policies, and the first is military intervention. It is true that 1641 the Bolshevik movement, is as dangerous to civilisation as German militarism, but as to putting it down by the sword, is there anyone who proposes it? It would mean holding a certain number of vast provinces in Russia. The Germans, with 1.000,000 men on their Eastern Front, only held the fringe of this territory. If he now proposed to send a thousand British troops to Russia for that purpose, the armies would mutiny. The same applies to United States troops in Siberia; also to the Canadians and French as well.Since those words were spoken we have actually had a revolt of the French troops that were sent to Russia. He went on:The mere idea of crushing Bolshevism by a military force is pure madness. Even admitting that it is done, who is to occupy Russia? No one can conceive or understand to bring about order by force.The Prime Minister stated that the second suggestion was to besiege Bolshevik Russia. He wondered whether those present realised what this would mean, and said that, from the information furnished him, Bolshevik Russia contained 150,000,000 of men, women, and children. Continuing, he said:There is now starvation in Petrograd and Moscow. This is not a health cordon; it is a death cordon. Moreover, as a matter of fact, the people who would die are just the people that the Allies desire to perfect. It would not result in the starvation of the Bolsbeviki; it would simply mean the death of our friends. The cordon policy is a policy which, as humane people, those present could not consider…The third alternative was contained in the British proposal, which was to summon these people to Paris to appear before those present, somewhat in the way that the Roman Empire summoned chiefs of outlying tributary States to render an account of their actions. The Prime Minister pointed out that the argument might be used that there were already representatives of those Governments. But, he went oh to point out, they were not all present, and that they would require to have fuller representation.There is no end to the present policy of the Government. Even if it were to succeed in setting up Denikin and Koltchak,
does anyone believe that would be the establishment of stable government or a stable form of society in Russia? Frankly, I do not agree with the expression of opinion of several hon. Members that it would be a settlement. A policy of that sort would not establish a stable form of government in Russia. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) said that Russia must depend upon her own manhood. That is exactly our position on these benches. We carry it further. We say that not only should you withdraw the soldiers, but that we should stop pouring the millions of money into Russia that we have been pouring in. We should I stop supplying munitions to either of the forces. We should withdraw the Fleet, because that Fleet is one of the important factors in the situation. The Fleet is being used to overawe one of the sections of the Russian people in favour of the other. That is a policy that was not favoured by the Prime Minister himself on the occasion to which I have already referred. In the course of his speech, he said:
It is hardly the business of the Great Powers to intervene, either in lending financial support to one side or the other or in sending munitions of war to one side or the other.
§ Mr. BILLING
On a point of Order. Having regard to the fact that the leader of the Labour Party has been quoting the Prime Minister, should he not give the Prime Minister at least two minutes in which to answer?
§ Mr. ADAMSON
My time is up. I conclude by saying that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has been a very disappointing speech as far as we are concerned.
Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £103,000,000 be granted for the said Service."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 52; Noes, 251.1645
|Division No. 125.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hayward, Major Evan||Spoor, B. G.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wisbech)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Been, Captain W. (Leith)||Hogge, J. M.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Bentinck, Lt.-Col. Lord H. Cavendish-||Holmes, J Stanley||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Irving, Dan||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Thorne, Colonel W. (Plaistow)|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander||Tootill, Robert|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lunn, William||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lance.)|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Malone, Col C. L. (Leyton, E.)||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwelty)||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Neath)||O'Grady, James||Williams, J. (Gower, Glam.)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Finney, Samuel||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wood. Maj. Mackenzie (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Gratiam, D. M. (Hamilton)||Rose, Frank H.||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Guest, J. (Hemsworth, York.)||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Hayday, A.||T. Wilson and Mr. T. Griffiths.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Grant, James Augustus||Nail, Major Joseph|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Green, A. (Derby)||Neal, Arthur|
|Ainsworth, Captain C.||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, M'ddx.)|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)|
|Armitage, Robert||Gregory, Holman||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Greig, Colonel James William||Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (Leic., Loughboro')||Oman, C. W. C.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, London)||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hn. W. E. (B. St. E)||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hacking, Colonel D. H.||Palmer, Major G. M. (Jarrow)|
|Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood||Hailwood, A.||Palmer, Brig.-General G. (Westbury)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Hanson, Sir Charles||Parker, James|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar (Banff)||Hennessy, Major G.||Pearce, Sir William|
|Barton, R C. (Wicklow, W.)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hickman, Brig.-General Thomas E.||Peel, Lt.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hilder, Lieut-Colonel F.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Bennett, T. J.||Hills, Major J. W. (Durham)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Betterton, H. B.||Hinds, John||Perring, William George|
|Billing, Noel Pemberton||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G.||Pinkham, Lt.-Colonel Charles|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Hope, Harry (Stirling)||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Blane, T. A.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pownall, Lt.-Colonel Assheton|
|Bascawen, Sir Arthur Griffith||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Pratt, John William|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Brackenbury, Captain H. L.||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Horne, Sir Robert (Hillhead)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Briggs, Harold||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Britton, G. B.||Hurd, P. A.||Rankin, Capt. James S.|
|Bread, Thomas Tucker||Hurst, Major G. B.||Raper, A. Baldwin|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Jephtott, A. R.||Ratcliffe. Henry Butler|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Jodrell, N. P.||Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R. (Torquay)||Johnstone, J.||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Butcher, Sir J. G.||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Reiner, J. B.|
|Campion, Colonel W. R.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Renwick, G.|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Carr, W. T.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Casey, T. W.||Kidd, James||Rodger, A. K.|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||King, Commander Douglas||Roundell, Lt.-colonel R. F.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Kinloch Cooke, Sir Clement||Rayden, Sir Thomas|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Knight, Captain E. A.||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Child, Brig.-General Sir Hill||Law. Rt. Han. A. Boner||Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)|
|Clough, R.||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)||Seager, Sir William|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Seddon, James|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Lloyd, George Butler||Seely, Maj.-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.)|
|Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||South, Harold (Warrington)|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Lonsdale, James R.||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander|
|Cory, Sir James Herbert (Cardiff)||Loseby. Captain C. E.||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lyle-Samuel, A. (Eye, E. Suffolk)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Lynn, R. J.||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Davidson, Major-Gen. Sir John H.||M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)||Starkey, Capt. John Ralph|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Mackinder, Halford J.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Davies, Sir D. S. (Denbigh)||M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Macleod, John Mackintosh||Stewart, Gershom|
|Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Macmaster, Donald||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
|Edge, Captain William||McNeill, Ronald (Canterbury)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Edwards, A. Clement (East Ham, S.)||Macquisten, F. A.||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Marriott, John Arthur R.||Terrell, Capt. R. (Henley, Oxford)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander||Mason, Robert||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Falcon, Captain M.||Matthews, David||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell. (M'yhl)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Meysey-Thompson, Lt.-Col. E. C.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Middlebrook, Sir William||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Forrest, W.||Mitchell, William Lane-||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Forster, Rt. Hon. H. W.||Moles, Thomas||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Foxcroft, Captain C.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Vickers, D.|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.||Waddington, R.|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Ganzoni, Captain F. C.||Morden, Col. H. Grant||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke, Trent)|
|Gardiner, J. (Perth)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Morrison, H. (Salisbury)||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mount, William Arthur||Whitla, Sir William|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Murchison, C. K.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Glyn, Major R.||Murray, Hon. G. (St, Rollox)||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)||Winterton, Major Earl||Younger, Sir George|
|Willoughby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud||wormer, Viscount|
|Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Wilson, Col. M. (Richmond, Yorks.)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord E.|
|Wilson-Fox, Henry||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)||Talbot and Captain F. Guest.|
Original question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported to-morrow; Committee to sit again to-morrow.