§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Commander Eyres Monsell.]
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I understand that the subject for discussion to-day will be Russia. I want to ask your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether we are bound by the idea that Russia is a friendly nation, and that consequently we shall not he allowed to use adjectives? I should like to know, however, if we are allowed to make quotations from speeches made by His Majesty's Ministers delivered outside? For instance, the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the Soviet Government as "a hand of miscreants." Shall we be in order in using that quotation, and can we use quotations of that description?
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER
There is an old Rule which has been repeatedly affirmed in this House, that derogatory adjectives may not be used with regard to a Government with which we are in correct diplomatic relations. That Rule has been enforced in modern times by several Speakers, and I think the use of epithets by way of quotations which would not themselves be in order would certainly be out of order.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
Does your ruling against using epithets in regard to friendly foreign Governments extend to the utterances of responsible Cabinet Ministers?
No; but if such utterances arc made to-day in this House, it will be my duty to check them.
Commander OLIVER LOCKERLAMPSON
I wish at the outset to say how sorry I am that to-day has been chosen for this debate. We regard the subject of the Russian menace as second to none in importance and in peril, and we are sorry that we have been given only 700 a Friday sitting at which to discuss it. Another point I wish to mention is that we have put down a Motion in our own names stating our case quite clearly, and we should have preferred to discuss that Motion and have had a Division upon it afterwards. Instead of this, we have to discuss a Motion by the Government, and we shall have to decide the question inconclusively at the end of the Debate. We must, however, be thankful for small mercies, and all I will add now is that I hope we may have a fuller opportunity later on of expressing our views and achieving our ends. I have been asked at the outset to refer to certain remarks made by hon. Members above the Gangway. I understand that they have in the past, and may again attempt in the future, to condemn the grants of money made to such notable Russians as Denikin and Koltchak. May I refer to these grants in explanation of what otherwise might be forgotten? I intend in a very short speech to deal with the origin of Bolshevism in that connection.
The War was about 2½, years old when the Russian Revolution took place. I happened to be under arms in Russia at that time. I served under the Tsar, and the prolonged strain of the War was so great that the Monarchy collapsed. When the Tsar abdicated, there was no Emperor to succeed and rule over all the Russias, and a Republic took the place of the Monarchy. I served under the Republic as I had served under the Tsar, and I think I can say that with other Englishmen we served our Lew master every whit as honourably as we did the old one. And why? Simply be cause the Republic stuck to the common cause and tried to end the Great War. Under that Republic the Press was unshackled, the prisons were flung open and freedom flourished. Even the death penalty was abolished in the army. The Republic was successful, and the moment the Germans realised how successful it was going to be, they decided to take action. They were unable to meet the Russian armies openly in the field and defeat them, so they decided to try to undermine them in the rear. They sent a renegade revolutionary called. Lenin with millions of German marks to Russia to try to demoralise the troops and steal Russia from her allegiance to the common cause. Alone, Lenin would have been absolutely powerless, but with 701 German gold he overcame all obstacles. When he succeeded in this, I ask hon. Members to remember that what Lenin destroyed was not a Monarchy, because he did nothing of the kind. He destroyed a Republic. He not only destroyed the Republic, but in a few months he wiped out freedom as well. He took away from Russia a free Press, free speech, free votes and free faith; he suppressed the right 'to address meetings in the open and the writing of letters to the newspapers. He even reintroduced the death penalty in the army, and he set up the most pitiless tyranny of modern times. Then behind the backs of our Russian Allies he negotiated a treaty of the most perfidious character with his paymasters, in which he sold millions of Russian acres and citizens to Germany, and hut for that shameful peace hundreds and thousands of Englishmen would have been alive to-day. But all Russians were not like Lenin. On the contrary, all over Russia, valiant comrades in arms held out, who could not he bought and who would not give in, and their names were Koltchak, Denikin, and others who kept the flag flying, and these we supported with funds. We gave them some £100,000,000 and we gave it quite rightly. Are you not right to help your friends who stick to you, and is there any analogy whatever between the grant of money from the Soviet in the General Strike and the grant of money to Denikin and Koltchak? There is no analogy whatever. The only analogy is between the grant of money by the Soviet to England during the General Strike and the grant of money by the Germans to Lenin in Russia. In each case the money was given by an enemy, not to succour a State, but to ruin it. Lenin was a Hun agent, and Lenin's agents are enemies of this country to-day. I will quote one word in this connection from a gentleman who is in the public eye to-day— Mr. Cook. Mr. Cook has made no bones about it. He said thisTo me the hand of the German and the Austrian is the same as the hand of my fellow workman at home "—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear"1—and he has his supporters even here. Lenin triumphed, and turned a quarter of the globe into a graveyard and a shambles; he made assassination an art, and expropriation a policy. It may be said 702 that we have no right to object, for he was doing it to Russian nationals. Granting that, however, I say that if be did it to British nationals we have a right to object. I say that the honour of England is engaged when any Englishman, anywhere, comes to harm or ruin.
What happened in Russia? Alone of our Allies, Russia has repudiated her debts to this country. [Interruption.] It is the same old story—" Have the French paid?" Russia alone has repudiated £800,000,000 of debt, and, not content with that, what have they done beside? They have confiscated the property of every British merchant who was working in Russia; the accumulated thrift and enterprise of years has all gone; they owe £ 250,000,000 to these unhappy people. And, not content with taking their money, they have in many cases seized these unhappy merchants, who were quite innocent, and imprisoned them; they have beaten them, they have wounded them. they have murdered them— they have even blinded them. There is sitting in the Gallery to-day a man, Mr. Martin— [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]— I am not out of order. Hon. Members may not want me to say this. [Interruption.] Sitting in the Gallery to-day, and, I hope, listening to this speech, is a man whom these monsters deprived of sight. He can hear us, but he cannot see us; he was blinded by the Bolshevists—[An HON. MEMBER "Cheer that!"]— Why should they not cheer it?
Commander LOCKER - LAMPSON
Why have not you paid him? There is another case, that of Captain Cromie, who was our envoy, and our representative in Petrograd. The Soviet agents entered our Embassy, which is sacred soil. The Kaiser himself, during the War, acknowledged our Embassy to be sacred, and never violated it in Berlin. He actually apologised when some Germans did so to our Embassy in Berlin. Yet Russian agents went into our Embassy in Russia and killed Captain Cromie. What compensation has been paid for any of these victims? There is £250,000,000 owing to them, and there are only two who have been paid. One of them is Mrs. Stan Harding. I would ask hon. Gentlemen, if there was money coming 703 in in large sums during the General Strike from Russia, might not some of it be given to Mr. Martin?
I will leave that issue, and come to the next point. A few years later, as we know, the Coalition Government decided to start trade relations with Russia. The Coalition Government, I think in 1921, thought that the best way to overcome the Russian peril was to encourage trade facilities with Russia. That was a perfectly legitimate view. After all, so many people had been killed, so much property had been taken, that it was legitimate to argue that there was no more left to take, that there were no more left to kill, and, therefore, you might as well come to a trading agreement with the Soviet. There resulted the Trade Agreement of 1921. So much has been said about this Agreement, so many attacks have been made upon it, that it would be futile for me here and now to elaborate our views upon it. I will only give a quotation from a speech of the man who was the most important Englishman in connection with that Trade Agreement— the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). He was a signatory to that Agreement; lie was the chief Minister in connection with it; he signed it full of hope. This is what he said the other day. He said that it was one-sided in value and most disappointing, and he concluded with these words:Nearly every stipulation that was solemnly made in the Agreement has been broken from time to time, and has been broken in the most flagrant fashion during the past 10 days by persons who were solemnly bound to its terms.Under that Agreement, special privileges were accorded of a diplomatic character to commercial agents in this country, and I would like to say this that I do not believe those privileges would have been accorded then to the Soviet if the Government of that day had realised that later on de jure recognition was going to be given to the Russian Government also.
Those privileges were given. Then, as we know, the Coalition fell, and its place was taken by the Labour party who came, if not into power, at least into office.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]— Then I will say the Labour Party came into power.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] They came into power. What was their first act? They opened their arms to 704 the gory embrace of the Bolshevists and they decided to recognise an administration which was dedicated to our destruction and built, up on the plunder of our nationals. I have no objection to recognition, as such, of the Soviet. I think the time might come when you would have to recognise the Soviet under some conditions. Let us be perfectly fair about that. But the point is this, that the privilege of British recognition is paramount, and you have no right to fling that great privilege to a defaulting despotism as a gift. It was putting a premium, first of all, upon wrong-doing and fraud, and it should never have been done without conditions.
What should those conditions have been? To me they were perfectly clear, namely, compensation for British losses and redress for British wrongs; and if those had been the conditions I should have been willing to negotiate a treaty and recognise the Soviet. That, at least, seems to me to be the position. After that, as we know, the Government of the day developed its friendship with Russia, wanted to enter into closer negotiations, and ended by advocating a loan. They actually wanted to lend money to people who had gone off with our money to the extent that I have already described. They actually suggested lending money to people who were using it to do us injury all over the Empire. This loan was given, or suggested, at a time when our industries were starving, when our workless crowded the streets, and our Dominions were calling out for help and support, and it is not unreasonable to think that the Government was right in having to go to the country and asking the country first whether or not it approved of a loan to Russia.
There was an election fought upon that loan, and the loan was lost at the election, and as if we had not had enough of Russian interference, in the middle of that election we were accorded an example of meddling from a so-called friendly State which was outrageous. There fell a thunderbolt from Heaven in the form of the Zinovieff letter. Well, perhaps, the origins of the letter were not strictly celestial. [Interruption.] am not making a point against hon. Members, I am only saying that letter helped to win 'the election. and any similar letter would help to do the same. In- 705 deed, the country answered with clarion voice to that letter and returned a Government to power with a huge majority, and what was that majority given for? It was given to turn out the Bolshevists from this country. There could not be a clearer mandate from the country. If we had done our duty, we ought at once to have ripped up that trade agreement and withdrawn our recognition of Russia. But we know peaceful persuasion—[An HON. MEMBER "The peaceful attitude of the Government."]—peaceful persuasion is a better word—resulted, and we know His Majesty's Government had other difficulties and decided to leave matters as they were. Among other things it told us we, ought to wait and see and that perhaps the Soviet might alter, but the only change in the Soviet has been one of tactics and not one of heart. Still the same pitiless despotism in Russia exists to-day. Its goal is anarchy. Its motive power is the petrol of hate. [An HON. MEMBER "Just as in the Tsar's day."] Worse than in the Tsar's Government. Still, the Tcheka rules, spying in peoples' houses, filling the prisons and the hospitals, persecuting religion and trying to wipe it out. This last week a message has come from Russia, telling us that the Tcheka have imprisoned the Metropolitan, who is the head of the Church in Moscow and messages this year indicate that the Tcheka sent agents to Kiev, where they burned down churches, destroyed altars and scattered images far and wide, simply and solely because people wanted to worship God in their own way.
If the speech of the hon. Member's not heard, hon. Members cannot expect the answer to be heard in silence either.
I speak very rarely. The hon. and gallant Gentleman never stops speaking. He of all people ought to be on my side in supporting redress for a murdered 706 officer. He was in the Navy. He ought to have stood up for a shipmate. He ought to have got his widow some help, but he has never done it. All he can do now is, for the first time, to sit silent. I want to tell him something. This is what is happening, and yet in millions of Russian hearts to-day there is a little lamp still alive kept trimmed and holy against the great return. That is the position in Russia to-day, arid yet we have his Majesty's Government recognising this régime. I want to know how much longer it is going to, go on.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
On a point of Order. In view of the fact that His Majesty's Government recognises this régime, is not the House entilted to proof of statements of this character that are being made?
If no statement were made in this House of which proof were not tendered, our Debates would be remarkably different from what they are.
I think that is a rule that would be more damaging to the hon. Member than to me. Throughout this close association with a friendly State -no opportunity seems to me to have been lost, by the Soviet to abuse its diplomatic rights and, under the cloak of friendship, to stab us in the back. Of o1d, an enemy came and attacked you openly. You could see him. Our enemies now are unseen. We do not know where they are. We cannot track them very often. It is true to say that at the present moment our enemies do. not use, as of old, steel. They use a new metal, gold, and, instead of sending guns and armaments against us, they send the poison gas of propaganda, which gets in, and spreads pestilence among our ranks and taints the fountain-head of good will. Until you can say that, whether it is in China, in Australia, South Africa, India, or the United Kingdom, there is not a street corner meeting, there is not a by-election, there is probably not a strike where the atmosphere is not septic with suspicion, and where you cannot discover furtive agencies nourishing revolution and revolt. Take the Communist party in England. There would not be a Communist party in England to-day worth the name if it was not suckled upon Soviet shekels. You only want to read through the report issued yesterday of 707 the Communist documents seized at their headquarters. You find a close cash connection between London and the Soviet and a close diplomatic connection between the Communist headquarters in London and Arcos. All the money which we saved and which they stole is coming back to us now in the form of subsidies to subvert constituted order throughout the Empire. We might even say that it was our money which was offered for the general strike from Russia, now coming home to roost.
I would ask His Majesty's Government, "How long is this going to last? How long are you going to take it lying down "We know the views of hon. Members belonging to the Labour party, and we know the views of certain hon. Members behind me and certain hon. Members who recently went to Russia. Four Unionist Members of this House recently made a pilgrimage to Mecca. While out there, on a not too prolonged visit, they looked into the Russian question, and came back and published a report. The substance of that report was that we should invest more money in Russia. That is really what it came to. Let us examine that view. They saw, as people who go to Russia, as I have done, and people who have been there much longer than me, have seen the huge wealth of Russia. It is the richest country in the world. You have only to go to the Caucasus which were visited by the hon. Members when they went to Russia. In the Caucasus alone there are the most incredible potentialities. Here is a great bastion of mountains 400 miles long and 200, miles deep, a territory richer than any similar territory. You can get there nearly every mineral—gold, silver, oil, copper, tin, manganese, and even antimony. We all remember the story, on which we were brought up, of Jason and the Golden Fleece. The Golden Fleece came from the Caucasus. I have known villages there where the women go at night with the skin of a lamb and hang it in the river, and return in the early morning and pull it out glittering with alluvial gold. It is unbeatable in its riches.
We gaze at Russia on the map, sprawling over one-sixth of the globe, with these vast potentialities, and 708 then we look at a little tiny smear in the North Sea, labelled England. We have no gold here, no silver, no antimony, no oil or manganese. True, we have coal, but we have no sun and very little good weather. Yet I want to ask hon. Members this: "Where do you want to invest your money? Would you rather invest it in Russia or in England?" If I have to invest my money, I am going to invest it where the trade union funds of this country are invested. I am going to invest it in English securities, and I do not think hon. Members will do otherwise. I do not think that trade union funds will be sent yet to Russia. Why? Because the Russian Government lacks what our Government and British Governments generally possess— the vital commodity of character. The Russian Government is not trusted. If you do not trust them sufficiently to invest your money in Russia, why do you trust them to send their money here?
I think the time has come to stop Russian money coming in. I shall be told "We cannot do it." My answer is "Try to do it. Anyhow, do not encourage the Soviet Government to send their money here for subversive purposes." As it is, the Soviet Government enjoys opportunities here which we have denied to our most devoted Dominions. How much longer are we going to cuddle up to these cormorants, and take our marching orders from Moscow? The time has come to withdraw this monstrous monopoly and to cease making free-born Englishmen the helots of a slave-state.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I cannot help sympathising with the hon. and gallant Member, because I think he and his friends have been very badly let down. I want to draw the attention of the House to the really serious side of the origin of this discussion. I will not follow the hon. and gallant Member in his historical survey, which is not very accurate, because I want to use the time at my disposal for drawing attention to the attitude and the opinions of His Majesty's Government. As an ex-Under-Secretary, I suppose I ought to speak with bated breath about high Ministers of the Crown, but I have never been able to bate my breath, and I do not feel very much inclined to do it this afternoon. The origin of this debate was the 709 charge that was made that the Soviet Government had sent money to this country in support of the general strike. We are not going to allow that charge to be forgotten this afternoon. The Home Secretary, on the 10th June, in reply to a question said:I have just received an intimation from the Foreign Office that we are satisfied that, during the general strike, the Russian Government did send money to this country, transferring funds for the purposes of the strike.Later, on the same day, he said:His Majesty's Government are satisfied that money has been sent from Russia, including some money from the Russian Government." (OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1926; col. 1680, Vol. 196.]On Monday, the 14th June, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said:What is within our knowledge, and what was the ground of my protest, was that the stipulations of the law in force have been waived in order to permit the transmission of this money in support of an illegal and unconstitutional strike." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1926; col. 1961, Vol. 196.]It is perfectly clear that the Foreign Secretary did not admit that the Soviet Government had sent any money. The Home Secretary had been misinformed and, accordingly, on the 17th June the Home Secretary, in reply to further questions, entirely climbed down. He never repeated the charge that money had come from the Soviet Government, but followed the lines that had been laid down by the Foreign Secretary on the previous occasion. That is to say, between the 14th June and the 17th June, the wires of the telephone between the Foreign Office and the Home Office had been warmed up a goad deal, and the Home Secretary was made to toe the line and be accurate.
Let me take the two further points. Having disposed of the point that the money came from the Soviet Government—[HON. MEMBERS "No, ro!"]— the Foreign Secretary himself has never made that charge, and he will not make it to-day—let me take the further two points. The Foreign Secretary said that his charge was that they had permitted this money to be sent, that they had waived the prohibition on the export of money from Russia in favour of this particular sum. It is clear that, in doing so, they were not doing any- 710 thing at all exceptional, but something which is practically a general rule, because the Commissariat of Finance, which has control of these transactions, prevents the export of money in order to suppress speculation in the transfer of currency. That is the object of this rule, but when they are satisfied that there is nothing of a speculative nature in the export of gold in the natural course they allow it. Therefore, there is nothing exceptional in the attitude of the Government in allowing this money to pass.
The argument is used that the Soviet Government and the trade unions of Russia are one and the same thing; that they are so mixed up that you cannot distinguish between the two. Let us inquire into that, because the ignorance of the organisation of the Russian Government seems to be very great on the part of hon. Members opposite. [Interruption.] To hon. Members opposite the word" Russia" is always sufficient for them to give vent to zoological noises. We like to have something more definite, and therefore let us go into this charge. In the Presidium of the Executive Committee there is only one trade unionist. In the Central Executive Committee there are four or five minor trade unionists, and in the Unions of the Peoples Commissariat there are two minor trade unionists. The trade unions, therefore, do not figure greatly in the Soviet Government. If that charge was true, then when the Labour party in this country were in office in 1924, when some 20 trade unionists were in the Government, it could be said that the trade unions of this country became official and were practically controlled by the Government. In Russia there are only one or two trade unions in the Government, and no Government representative has any official position in the trade unions. In 1920 a move was made by Trotsky in order to bring the trade unions under the direct control of the Government. He and his friends tried to persuade Lenin to agree, but they were unsuccessful. Lenin and his party were determined that the trade unions of Russia should remain completely autonomous—as there would no doubt be disputes with the bureaucracy, therefore, they should be allowed to be free. A resolution was passed allowing them complete freedom, 711 and so much is that the ease that strikes take place in Russia, although they do not last very long. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite seem to be proud of the fact that our strikes last a long time and they jeer at a form of government which is able to settle strikes.[Interruption.]
This bogey of Russian Government money supporting the general strike has been completely disposed of out of the mouths of Ministers themselves, and I am not surprised that the hon. and gallant Member who opened this Debate did not refer to it at all. The whole thing is a gigantic mare's nest, but in order to keep up the courage of hon. Members opposite and put a little interest into this Debate, this amazing Blue Book was produced yesterday afternoon. I found the Press representatives in the Lobby going about with wet pens looking to see if they could find something suitable for headlines, but being very much disappointed. It is art extraordinary dull collection of papers, nicely got up, and I think it is the finest bit of propaganda work for the Communist party in this country that has ever been produced. I wish the Home Secretary would raid Eceleston Square and other places. I will give him the address—14, Great George Street, the headquarters of the Independent Labour party, so that he can produce all our propaganda and letters and manifestoes, with the Royal Arms, in a nice little book of this kind. The Communists ought to be very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I can assure him that we are deeply grateful, because it only exposes the, gulf there is between the Communist party and the Labour party. But the Home Secretary has made a very grave omission. He has forgotten to put as a frontispiece the Red Letter— especially, as we have learnt to-day, that it was sent from Heaven— ther/ob> think everybody would have been very well pleased. As a monument of official imbecility I do not think this has ever been surpassed.
Not only have we had a fusillade of questions in this House about money from the Bolshevist Government, not only have we had this expensive document produced, but outside Parliament we have had speeches, notably from the Secretary 712 of State for India and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am in some difficulty, because I understand by your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that rude and offensive remarks against a friendly Government, even if they are quotations from a speech, cannot be made in this House, and that precludes me from quoting hardly a line from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. [HON. MEMBERS "Go on!"] No. Mr. Deputy-Speaker has ruled that we are not allowed to do so. The right hon. Gentleman made a speech at Tunbridge Wells in November, and it was pretty bad. He made another speech at Alexandra Palace last Saturday, which was filled with expressions about the Soviet Government and the Russian nation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not the nation!"] I will risk one quotation. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Russia as "an ignorant slave State"; that is to say, the people are slaves. This is a very important matter, and when I am referring to these speeches and saying what I am about them, whatever the Foreign Secretary may say in reply, I feel sure that he in his heart is very glad that someone should call attention to the speeches, because a Foreign Secretary is placed in an extremely embarrassing Position if his colleagues go about talking of foreign countries in this way.
I say that this offensive language, coming from a high officer of State, constitutes not only a serious breach of good manners, but an outrage upon the decencies of international intercourse. Hon. Members opposite no doubt say, "But what do they say about us?" Yes, but I have yet to learn that a man should regulate his manners by other people's standards. We expect a very high standard from those who speak on behalf of Great Britain, and the vulgar abuse and cheap sneers of street corner oratory, while they are intended to insult those to whom they are addressed, are even more bitterly resented by those on whose behalf the Chancellor of the Exchequer presumed to speak. If our Ministers cannot speak like gentlemen, let them he silent. I have not read of any French or Italian or American or German statesmen referring to the Bolshevists in terms such as these. It is for us alone in Great Britain to have our statesmen speaking from the gutter.
713 12 N.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who started this discussion was anxious that the trade agreement should-be scrapped. I do not know how many hon. Members support him, and I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not get a vote. I do not really believe that there are many hon. Members, however strong their feelings are in this House, who want to break off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Government. I will again plead with the Foreign Secretary for an advance along other lines. This period— since the Conservative Government has been in power—of recrimination and of attack and of abuse ought to come to an end. Complaints are made of propaganda, but really, when the complaints are brought down to hard facts and to printed paper, they amount to nothing more than this book. What could be more hopelessly and miserably inadequate? Everybody knows perfectly well that this country is not going Communist; everybody knows perfectly well that these methods are entirely foreign to our nature. But the Home Secretary is doing all he can to propagate Communism, to advertise it, to print it in finely got-up books. His original intention, was, of course, to tar the Labour party with the Communist brush, but unfortunately he has completely failed. His last production simply shows that the attacks of the Communists are not against Conservatives or Liberals, but always against the Labour party. This period of recrimination, this bootless atmosphere of hostilities between the two countries, ought to cease.
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, who in this matter has taken up quite a different attitude, has had no part or lot in all this wretched brawl that has taken place over this Soviet money, and he is anxious, I am cure, to continue his general policy of conciliation. I would ask him whether it is not possible to make more direct advances, for this reason— that so long as the hostility exists, so long as there is a feeling that there is to be nothing done between the two countries, so long will you get propaganda such as this, and embittered relations in speech and in opinion. During our term of office, the hon. and gallant Member who started this Debate disapproved of what we did. But it was 714 a great act of conciliation. It was bringing into the comity of nations a vast people. It is no good pretending that you can leave them out of account; it is no good pretending that you can go on year after year with this vast country left out in the cold. It makes all your efforts at peace and disarmament absolutely sterile, so long as this great country is treated as it is. No other country in Europe treats Russia as we do. [HON. MEMBERS "America."] American statesmen do not make speeches such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer made. [Interruption.] American representatives in Congress do not make the noises that hon. Members opposite. make I do plead with the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary to endeavour to make a fresh move. He tore up the Treaty, and since then no movement has been made.
It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to laugh at the Treaties. I am entirely unrepentant, and I know a great many business men who wish very much that those Treaties were now in force. It was not easy. I was in a difficult position. I was a Socialist Minister negotiating on behalf of a capitalist nation, with a Communist Government. I do not suppose anybody could be placed in a more difficult position but I am bound to say I succeeded and, had it not, been that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) thought a General Election was going to rehabilitate the Liberal party, these treaties very likely might have been in force now. But the right hon. Gentleman made a slight miscalculation.
Cannot we make a beginning by negotiating a commercial treaty? The political matters might be set aside until relations are better, but to get the commercial affairs on a proper footing is well worth while. After the Labour Government came into office in 1924, Russian purchases in this country rose from £4,500,000 to £14,500,000, and they have been continuing and increasing. It is a want of confidence on both sides that prevents the re-establishment of proper commercial relations. There are many people who would he perfectly ready to invest their money in Russia, if they thought the Government were prepared to renew friendly relations, and I would say to the Foreign Secretary that the renewal 715 of friendly relations is the best means of curbing this propaganda and of preventing the Government from making ridiculous charges in the Press and on the platform.
This is not a small question. It is a very big one, and is A question which affects us very closely, and I am glad to see that the hon. Members who went out to Russia and investigated this matter have in their report declared in favour of the renewal of commercial relations. [Laughter,.] I do not think that report need be laughed at at all. I do not think it is a biased document. I think they condemn, very rightly, a great many of the methods adopted in Soviet Russia— as we all do— but the character of the Soviet Government is a matter for the Russians to settle. If we are going to set ourselves up in this House to condemn and criticise all Governments of which we disapprove, our hands will be too full. I do not see that even we here in the Mother of Parliaments have the right to dictate to other people how they should govern themselves.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
Hon. Members on the other side below the Gangway are very sensitive. They get into a. perfect state of frenzy. They must learn how to control their feelings, and they must see that our business in this matter is not to criticise Bolshevist methods, but to see that these two great peoples, the Russian and the British, are brought together in friendly accord, to establish friendly relations between them and the other nations of the world, and so to help in the great work of conciliation and peace.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, at the commencement of his speech—in the more humorous part of it—referred to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend who opened this discussion as being inaccurate. I can only say that all through these disturbed times I served in Russia, as the hon. and gallant Member did. I listened to every word of his speech, and I cannot recollect a single point on which he was 716 inaccurate. I would also like to say a word about Admiral Koltchak. When the name of the late Admiral was mentioned, hon. Members opposite above the Gangway jeered. I do not suppose one of those hon. Members ever saw Admiral Koltchak. [HON. MEMBERS "And do not want to!"] It was my duty to see the late Admiral every day for a period of about a year. I consider I am as good a judge of a patriot as hon. Members opposite, and I would like to say that Admiral Koltchak from beginning to end was a patriot pure and simple, and in no sense a self-seeker.
§ Sir A. KNOX
If he failed in his great task of the regeneration of Russia, it was not his fault. Circumstances were too strong for him, but he gave his life for the cause in which he believed, and his name should always be treated in every civilised assembly with decent respect. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonby) said the trade unions were not identical with the Government of Soviet Russia. I do not know if anyone else said that they were, but the trade unions in Russia are a sorry camouflage. The three hon. Members who published a report the other day were somewhat confused to know why these trade unions existed, and why they were necessary in a country where the proletariat has the dictatorship and where, presumably, there is no need to fight for wage conditions or better conditions of labour. I can quite see that a fortnight's visit to Moscow would not be sufficient to convince the hon. Members on that point. I think the trade unions of Russia are kept chiefly for the entertainment of Labour Members of Parliament who go out there— those guileless gentlemen who are groping about in the dark on the way to "Socialism in out time." The trade unions have no real use. I would call the attention of the hon. Member for Brightside to a Resolution passed by the Third International only some 10 or 12 days ago in which they ordered a strict and regular compulsory deduction to be made from the wages of all Russian workers—
§ Sir A. KNOX
If the hon. Member will he patient I will try to show him. These deductions were ordered by the Third International from the wages of all workers in Soviet Russia—by the Third International and not the Trade Union Congress. We have the word of the Leader of the Opposition that the Third International is in close contact and connection with the Soviet Government. Everybody knows that the whole of this galaxy of talent in Russia is ruled by the Communist party, and as the Earl of Balfour, in another place, put it wittily the other day:They all come together when there is any work to be done; when there is any excuse to be made they all scatter. To take a military metaphor, they attack in close order; when they are fired on they scatter and take cover.You have the Communist party ruling the Third International which works for the world revolution. Next to that you have the Soviet Government, and the primary duty of the Soviet Government is to extract money by taxation from the peasants of Russia in order to feed the propaganda of the Third International. They will spend all the savings of the Russian people, and, in order to keep this as a safe jumping-off ground for the Third International, they are endeavouring to stifle the soul of the Russian people by atheistic and anti-religious propaganda. Last of all you have the trade unions. I have referred to the resolution of the Third International ordering a deduction from the wages of these trade unionists to be sent here. I would like to quote from a speech made by Zinovieff at the 1924 Communist Congress regarding the exact status of these trade unions. In that speech he saidOur Russian unions are Leninist unions. They are to be considered, in this connection, not as Russian unions, but as an integral part of the Red International of Labour Unions, which will carry out all the decisions of the Third International.It is very difficult to distinguish where the responsibility ends between the trade unions, the Third International, and the Soviet Government, and I think His Majesty's Ministers, when they charge the Soviet Government, who provide all the funds from which the trade unions are paid, with direct complicity in sending this money to this country, are fully justified. A word about the wages of these poor slaves of Communism, those scanty 718 wages from which this money is deducted. There has just come to this country a copy of a paper called "Torgovo Promishlenaya Gazeta," which means" Gazette of Trade and Commerce, "dated 20th May. It gives details of the average wages of 2,000,000 workers last February in Soviet undertakings. The average wage, in standard roubles, that is, in nominal roubles, is £4 16s. per month, but taking into consideration the rise in the cost of living compared with pre-War that wage is equal to £2 10s. 1¼d. You can have it which way you like; they get either 25s. a week, or they get 15s. a week. Do you think those unfortunate men would willingly allow deductions from their pay in order to bolster up a standard of living here which they can never hope to attain for themselves? The whole thing is absolutely ludicrous. Hon. Members opposite do not believe it, and cannot believe it.
I would like to explain, by an illustration that came to me when I happened to be in Russia, how the whole country is scattered. About five or six weeks after the first Revolution—I never tire of explaining that there were two Revolutions; hon. Members opposite talk about" the Revolution," meaning the lapse to anarchy and the reactionary revolution of the Bolshevists, but about five or six weeks after the first Revolution— which took place on 12th March, 1917, I visited the Army at the Front. and I was sitting in the room of a General there when the peasant soldiers were coming back from leave. As he signed their papers, he talked to those men, and he said to one man:Tell me, brother, what is going on in your village? What is the news?I remember this man, who came from a village somewhere on the Volga, replying:Your High Excellency, there is nothing new, only some fools came from another village and told us a story which we did not believe.The General saidWhat was it?The man repliedThey told us there had been a mutiny in Petrograd, and that they had turned the Tsar off the throne.The General said:What did you do?719 He replied:We gave them a jolly good beating and kicked them out.That was six weeks after the Revolution in Petrograd. I tell that yarn simply to indicate the extraordinary way in which that country is scattered, and to tell me that these unfortunate Russian miners know anything about the sufferings of the miners here is perfectly ridiculous.
I agree with every word of my hon. and gallant Friend who opened this discussion in regard to the conduct of this matter by successive Governments of this country. First of all, we had the Trade Agreement of 1921. I think that is the most immoral agreement that any, even Coalition, Government in this country ever Brought about. It is immoral for this reason, that it let down the interests of our nationals, who had been robbed and plundered and tortured in Russia. These unfortunate men have returned in many cases as penniless refugees to this country, and some of them have had to see their own goods, stamped with their own names, sold in this country. They are denied all redress in the Courts of law, and I call that anti-national and a grievance which is really a disgrace to this country. Then, after the first period of Conservative administration, the Socialist Government came into power. They went a little further, and recognised, diplomatically, the Soviet Government of Russia. I have nothing to say against that. After all, they were elected by Socialist votes, and if any elector in this country gives a vote for a Socialist, he has a right to all he gets. After all, they ran according to form.
Since then we have had in this country a Government elected by a vast majority of the electorate, and I contend that this Government came back here with a mandate more than anything else to regularise our relations with Russia. My chief complaint is that in the period since we have come into power we have done so little to stop this propaganda and to get our relations with Russia on a proper basis. In a Debate on this subject last week in another place, the Earl of Balfour made a most masterly appreciation at the situation. In my younger days, when I was a young student at the Staff College, we had to do appreciations of the situation, and then we were always 720 told to select a course of action. The Earl of Balfour's appreciation of the situation was masterly, but when he came to select the course of action, the course of action he did select would, if it had been put in a paper at the Staff College, have caused him to be sacked on the spot.
I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that it is against the Rules of the House to quote from speeches in another place in order to answer them.
§ Sir A. KNOX
I do not know whether I shall be in order in saying that what really fills me, and others on this side who think with me, with profound suspicion is the fact that the Opposition parties in another place met that decision regarding the course of action, or of inaction, to be pursued, one, with complete accord, and the other with profound relief. When the Opposition parties meet any proposed course of action with their complete accord or profound relief, it fills me, as a Conservative, with profound apprehension. What I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who, I believe, is to reply on this question to-day, is to try if possible to get away from what we, on this side, who are pure Conservatives, consider the Coalition taint, to get back to our traditional Conservative policy. The right hon. Gentleman has proudly worn the laurels of Locarno. Locarno was a great attempt to ensure peace abroad. Let him do something to ensure peace at home. Until we get rid of this Soviet. sore, and cease to have any connection with it, we shall have continual industrial strife in this country. Cut off the source of the virus, and we can do something with the danger at home. I consider it, as a Britisher, a real dishonour to our country to continue any relations with these people.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down claims that the Conservative Government were returned by a vast majority of the electors of this country. I hope his facts with regard to Russia are more accurate than his facts with regard to this country. I simply intervene in this Debate as one who in 1921 was responsible, with the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), for the nego- 721 tiation of the Trade Agreement, which is denounced by the Motion which has been put down. I do not know whether I shall be in order in going as far as this, not in referring to a speech by Lord Balfour, but in saying that. I entirely approve of the conclusion at which he arrived in that speech. I am very glad the Government have had the courage to take this line. The question is not whether we approve of the Russian Government, its principles or its methods, but whether we are going to cancel a Trade Agreement which brings trade to the extent of several millions to this country. Figures may fluctuate. Some quote them at £10,000,000; some quote them at £40,000,000. But it is a very substantial amount, and the real point is, not whether we approve of Communists, not whether we approve of the Cheka, but whether, because we disapprove of the methods of a foreign Government, we therefore ought to break off diplomatic relations and cease to trade with them. [Interruption.]
I would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who knows very much more about it from the military point of view than anybody in this House, whether he would approve of the Tsarist Government or their methods? There is nobody here who could give more formidable evidence against the Government which preceded the Bolshevists than the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I was a very close student of his military reports, and let me say, that. if the information supplied had been acted upon by the Allies, a very different story would have been told about Russia. The information was about the only accurate information we had of the condition of the Russian Army. He warned us, and warned us in time, upon the subject— the condition of the army, its equipment, the inefficiency and the corruption. He behaved, if I may say so, as one who took part as a. Minister at that time, with very great courage. It was very difficult to send reports of that kind, and I know the difficulties with which he was confronted on that side, and, perhaps, on this side as well. But he told us exactly what the state of things was. He gave us an account of millions of the bravest peasants in the world without rifles, going into action with sticks, waiting until their comrades fell in order to pick up a rifle, with rifles without ammunition, such rifles as they were, of all sorts of scrap 722 patterns, simply gathered from every quarter of the globe, begging us to buy for them anything we could find, with hardly any guns, the guns without ammunition—all due to the corruption, not of the Bolshevist Government, but of the Government whom those peasants, after three or four years of gallant sacrifice, could stand no longer. He knows very well how devoted they were. The description he gave was a very pathetic story of the worship there was of the Tsar—positive worship and adoration. They gave it freely. They were betrayed by that Government, and no one knows better than the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the revolution in Russia was a reaction against the most cruel, dastardly, treacherous corruption and mismanagement ever inflicted upon a brave people.
§ Sir A. KNOX
I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman for a moment, but I do not think he is quite accurate in calling the old Russian Government "treacherous." It was inefficient, but with each move to the left the corruption got worse.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No one knows better than the hon. and gallant Gentleman that that is not accurate. [interruption, and HON. MEMBERS "Withdraw"!] I have very great respect for the work the hon. and gallant Gentleman did in Russia at that time, and if he thinks I said anything which he regards in the least as a reflection upon him, I shall be willing to withdraw. But he knows that from the point of view of military efficiency, there was no comparison between the Bolshevik military control and that which he was reporting to us.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have the hon. and gallant Gentleman's assent. That is exactly what I mean. The first was damned by corruption. At any rate, the Bolshevik control was not corrupt. From the military point of view, I take the words of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. What I want to point out is, that this is not the case of a wicked, inefficient, tyrannical, despotic Government being put there in substitution for a free, beneficent, efficient Government. On the contrary, it is a tyranny. It is a terrible tyranny, but it is only one terrible tyranny, which 723 is efficient, substituted for a terrible tyranny which was inefficient, corrupt, treacherous. My recollection dates very much further back than that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I remember the rows with Russia in 1876 up to 1878, and I remember perfectly well the line that was taken by the Conservative party. The attack was upon the tyranny and despotism of the Tsarist Government. There was one speech, which made a great impression throughout the country, by Mr. Joseph Cowen, of Newcastle, who deserted the Liberal party upon that great point, and I remember the speech with which he denounced the tyranny of the Tsarist Government, its Siberian policy, its exiles, the scourgings and lashings, the murders. I remember his phrase about "withering the roots of liberty." [Interruption.] The whole case is upon the ground that this is such a despotism that you ought to break off relations with them. [Horn. MEMBERS "No! "]. That was the case made by my hon. and gallant Friend in a very able and powerful speech, if I may be permitted to say so. Yet not many years afterwards we were Allies of exactly that Government. We never made conditions. We never said, "You have, first of all, to give liberty; you must stop sending your political people to Siberia you must restore the Duma." There were wholesale massacres under a Tsarist regime. [HON. MEMBERS "Where?"] I am going to answer. There were the pogroms in Southern Russia
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think it would be better, if I might respectfully say so, if Mr. Deputy-Speaker's suggestion were carried out, and each speaker allowed to present his own case in his own way, and replied to in the usual manner. I only wanted to put this point: I am looking at this Resolution which demands that we should cancel the Trade Agreement which benefits our industry, and I can see no ground for that. If you simply say you must not deal with a Government whose methods you do not approve, whose principles you condemn, does that mean that we approve of the methods of all Governments with whom we do business?
724 It is contrary to every principle of government. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have stood up for the Trade Agreement which, as a whole, has worked well, and in the interests of industry.
What are the grounds? The ground, first of all, presented by my hon. Friend has been the horrors of Bolshevist government in Russia. The other is that they are an infringement of the agreement. I confess there are many things which have been done by the Bolshevist Government which I deeply regret, as one of those who negotiated the agreement. I do not think they have exercised sufficient care in carrying out the conditions in regard to propaganda. But Lord Balfour has pointed out that there is a special difficulty, and we must take that into account— the difficulty of a Government which is organised upon a different principle from that of any other Government in the world, and where the responsibility, the direct responsibility of the State for all activities is greater than any other country. That undoubtedly is a difficulty. That means that the State becomes more responsible for the activities of its subjects. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] That is so; and becomes more directly responsible for the activities of its subjects than is the case with Goverments who, to use a usual jargon, arc Governments of purely individualistic communities. But anybody who is watching what is going on in Russia can see that the nationalisation is in many respects a nominal one. Nationalisation in Russia is confined practically to the cities, and confined practically to certain activities even in those cities.
Recently I was talking to a gentleman who has had many dealings with Russia. He was telling me of the difference between 1922 and 1925. In 1922 there was a real effort to carry out the Communist principle. The result was starvation. The picture which he gave me of the state of the shops and miseries of the people was a striking one. Even when you had money in your pocket the food you got was quite inadequate and very poor. The shops were a joke. He went there two or three years afterwards—I think last year— and he said the change was so complete that you would not know 725 it was the same country. The change is very largely attributable to a change of policy. Before Lenin's death, with the courage which he undoubtedly possessed, because he was a man of colossal courage, a man undoubtedly of great ability—he knew that under present human conditions the attempt to carry out purely Communistic experiments was bound to fail—he initiated a new economic policy. My friend who went there told me there was a complete change in the shops, the industries, the activities, and the conditions of the people. He said that the peasants were hardly ever affected by the Communist policy. It was very largely a town policy. So that though as I believe, the Government of Russia is more nominally responsible for all activities than, say, our Government would be because they have no control—not always even of their own party—it is not really the case. It is only theoretically so, and I am very glad to see that the Government have taken the view that although theoretically the Soviet Government might be held responsible for these indiscretions and follies they are not really responsible altogether for them, and that therefore the responsibility is not sufficiently direct to entitle them to punish this country by depriving us of trade which we cannot afford to he without.
I thought really that at last the Home Secretary had dug something out. He has been very active. But he evidently came to his conclusions before he got his evidence. That happens sometimes in politics. I will read some of this document. I think it is a very remarkable document, but it is a document that, if anything, vindicates the Labour party. What is it? Here is the correspondence which is supposed by some of my hon. Friends here to justify the breaking off of diplomatic relations with a great country on the ground that that country is spending unlimited gold to overthrow our institutions. In the first place the complaint throughout is that the gold is very limited. Here are letters from the Communist party getting this unlimited gold to say that they are running into debt because they owe £14. Here is another letter to a Com- 726 munist gentleman whose pockets are bulging with Bolshevist gold!
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes, that was a phrase I got from one of the hon. Gentleman's White friends, and I have never trusted him since! I have been misled once. Another of these gentlemen who is receiving this stream of gold complains that he has not got a stenographer. He says that he has to turn the office boy on to copying his letters. He says the arrears of his correspondence are so great that he cannot go out to address meetings. So he applies for a typist. He does not ask for poison gas, machine guns, rifles—only one poor typist. And this is the Russian gold that is pouring into the coffers of the Communist party!
Then I notice a reference to Parliamentary candidates. They ran three or four candidates at the General Election, where they were fighting the battle of M. Zinovieff—it was their fight. But see that in one place they had not enough money to pay expenses, and they said:Balance paid by Mr. Joss—£11.£11! Well, really, I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for exposing this conspiracy. A real Daniel come to judgment! I never expected to see him do this. It is a real betrayal of the die-hard principles. Who is it that is attacked? Who is the menace to Communism here? Not even the Home Secretary. The Russian Government do not say a word about him. They do not regard even the Prime Minister as a danger. Saddest of all, they are not even worried about the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The one danger is the Ramsay MacDonald Government, andthat hypocrite Lansbury.That is not my phrase. It is the phrase of the Russian Communists. Here is another great phraseWe must adopt merciless measures.What to do? To overthrow the Government, to overthrow the British Empire? No.We must adopt merciless measures to fight the Labour Party.727 Here is a long list of the activities for which the Russian gold is to be used. First in the list isSharp criticism in principle of the conduct of the MacDonald Government.A bitter fight should be carried on against MacDonald's policy—and above allActive agitation should be conducted against—What?the I.L.P.Was there ever a more ridiculous Blue Book? And this is the basis! We have had a description of what they are going to do. They are going to subvert the whole of British society; the bourgeois, is to disappear—not merely the capitalists but the petit bourgeois; the British Empire is to be wiped out—by funds that cannot provide one stenographer! Trade which runs into millions—£34,000,000 last year, and it will be more when we take what we want in the way of timber and other essential commodities from Russia —trade which is growing year by year, is to be thrown away for this miserable abortion of a book!
Mr. HILTON YOUNG
—the wit of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) which was as pointed as it was irrelevant. If I may venture to say so, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has quite appreciated—I judge this from the silence in some parts of the House while he was speaking—how deep and how righteous is the indignation felt that British subjects should be appealing for foreign gold to influence their fellow countrymen. The Members of the House, or the faithful who have attended it to-day, have enjoyed. a great pleasure in the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Handsworth (Commander o., Locker Lampson) which charmed us as much by its matter as its manner. He made a strong appeal to our emotions. The emotions to which he appealed were sane and true emotions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs equally has made an appeal to 728 our emotions, and to some part of that appeal I felt myself able to respond with the same spontaneity; but amidst all this emotional appeal I have been seeking, as I have no doubt hon. Members in other parts of the House have been seeking, for some guidance on the practical issue propounded in this Motion—shall we, in effect, cease to recognise the present Government of Russia?
Deeply as I respond to the emotional appeal of the hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth, it not appear to me that he gave us all the guidance that we might expect as to what the consequences would be of the action which he advocated. It is recognised freely in this discussion that there are two parties to be considered. First and foremost we in this House must ever consider the interests of our own people and the British Empire. Secondly, I think it is recognised, with that freedom which one would expect, that one has also to consider the interests of a great people, the people of Russia. The rich contribution made to civilisation by that great nation is known to all. Those who, like the hon. and gallant Member and myself, had the privilege of serving with Russians in the field know the great. gifts of character of idividuals of that nation. We all know the great debt we owe them for their assistance in the early days of the War, and we cannot turn aside from those obligations.
These are the two parties to be considered—our own people and the people of Russia. My own view, shared by, I think, almost all on this side of the House, is that the party we do not consider is the present Soviet Government of Russia. You, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, have saved us a great deal of trouble by inhibiting adjectives, and I may spare myself the exhausting effort of describing the present Government of Russia as I would have done hut for that inhibition, and as I have done in other scenes and other places. That is the party we do not consider. But let me make the usual concession to international comity. What Government the people of Russia have is their own affair, and not ours. We have no desire to meddle or to interfere with their institutions. One may be inclined to think that people have the Government they deserve. [Interruption]. By what strange secret sins we deserved the 729 short Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I do not know. The great military Empire before the War deserved their militarist rule by their political backwardness. So it may be that the people of Russia deserve their present Government by some unknown lethargy or disloyalty or some shrinking from responsibility which is not disclosed to us.
We observe the principle of international comity, that their Government is no business of ours. But in this region of international comity there is the most conspicuous demand for absolute reciprocity. If their Government is no business of ours, our Government is no business of theirs. In this region of ideas the. best of all principles is the old rule of do as you would be done by, for you will be done by as you did. We are entitled then to demand from the Russian Government abstention from intervention in our affairs. I think that is particularly important at this tune in this nation. We are labouring with great difficulties. We have in the last resort to help us that greatest of all national assets, our British political common sense. That is a. strong plant, but it is a very peculiar plant. It, is like a. little fern of which botanists know that grows with extraordinary vigour on the British side of the Channel, but which when you transplant it across the Channel wilts and dies. Our British political common sense, which brings us through our difficulties and trials, is a plant which thrives only on British soil and in our native atmosphere. It wilts and dies when surrounded by foreign influences. It is rooted in tradition, in history, and, finally, in that deepest of all roots, the sense that we are all brethren in one house together. It needs its native soil.
There is another thing which makes it necessary to protect this nation against corrupt influence from abroad. There is a certain insular innocence about us in our policy. We are not so well used to the immediate impact of the forces of corruption and underhand work as our Continental neighbours. We are separated from these. Both these influences make it necessary to protect us from corrupt influences from abroad, and I therefore feel driven, as I am sure we must all feel driven, to the conclusion 730 that the Government owes a deep and urgent duty to the people of this country to protect them against the corrupt influence of foreign gold and foreign secret agents.
May I proceed one point further? You can keep out corrupt gold, and you can keep out foreign secret agents, but can you keep out opinion? do not think you can. Nobody has ever yet succeeded in excluding opinion from a country, and, what is more, nobody ever will succeed. Yon can no more keep it out than you can keep a bad smell out of your house with a broom. Moreover, nobody has ever yet succeeded in suppressing opinion by force. The more you try to suppress it, the worse it gets. The long lesson of the history of opinion in civilisation is that to try and suppress opinion by force is like sitting on a bomb to prevent it from exploding. It only goes off all the worse. What you ought to do is to put it in a bucket of cold water, and the bucket of cold water in this ease is to meet the opinion by argument, by discussion, by education, and, best of all, by -endeavouring to remove the grievances out of which that opinion grows. If we cannot exclude and suppress opinion, I think that should lead us directly to the conclusion that it would be a very great mistake at this time to break off relations with the Government of Russia. You will not do any good by it. Communistic propaganda will leak in just the same as ever, and all you will succeed in doing will be to drive it more and more underground. I do not mean to say that the formal relations which we have with the Russian Government are very much of a safeguard, but they are better than nothing.
There is a very great positive harm which might result from an immediate breach of diplomatic relations with the Russian Government, We are slowly rebuilding peace. We are trying to restore a system of international agreements which will cover the whole Continent of Europe, and will remove further off the dire peril of a renewal of war. What great injury would be done to that cause at this time by a sudden -breaking off even so slight, even so gossamer, a connection as the diplomatic connection between us and the Russian Government? It must do great harm and cause grave disquiet in many parts of the world. [HON. MEMBERS 731 "Where?"] That is the very point I earnestly desire to urge. The place where it will do great harm is in the danger spot, in Middle and Central Europe. That is where the harm will result. In the course of other occupations it has been my lot to obtain some knowledge of the state of mind in Eastern Europe as regards the Bolshevik Government, no doubt very superficial, but perhaps better than none. I know the frame of mind there. They are profoundly alarmed at it and deeply suspicious of it. Above all, they desire that the Bolshevik Government in its diplomatic relations should be kept above ground, and that its connections with the Governments of Western Europe should be strengthened, because as long as its working can be kept above ground they have some guarantee against surprise. What they fear is that, if the Bolshevik Government be driven back into absolute seclusion and separation, there will some day come upon them an absolute surprise. So I say that by a breach in our relations at the present time we should be promoting in Western Europe a state of suspicion which would immediately tend to the increase of armaments and of the peril of war.
By hard work, by strenuous endeavour, by the brilliant achievement at Locarno, we have founded in Western Europe the beginning of a re-establishment of a system of peace. It is surely to our interest that that work in the West. should be completed by the re-establishment of a similar system of peace in the East of Europe. It is to our interest that we should see the nations of Europe drawing closer together, even with the Bolshevik Government of Russia. I do not believe that confidence in the Bolshevik Government is possible. But some sort of established relations between Russia and its neighbours is in our interest and in the interest of peace. What a bad example it would be for those we desire to win to that policy if we were to throw this brick (if the phrase is permissible) into the waters upon which the waves of war are gradually sinking into returning quiet.
Let me say one more thing. I referred at the beginning of my remarks to two parties to be considered firstly, ourselves; and, secondly, the people of 732 Russia, who have been our Allies, and by whose sufferings and losses in the War we are profiting at the present time. What we desire for them most of all at the present time is to see them saved from their present Government, and led forward into the path of returning civilisation and prosperity. How can it be done? Is it to be done by hurling Russia out of the civilised world and breaking all connection with her? While we have not a ghost of a spark of sympathy with the Russian Government, while we most cordially dislike it, particularly because it travesties democratic principles, I still contend that it should be maintained in some sort of relations with the rest of the world. That is the only way in which the sound opinion of returning civilisation can once more begin to permeate back into Russia, and lead her by a process of evolution into some form of decent Government.
You cannot do a better day's work for maintaining and strengthening Bolshevik Russia than by giving the people of Russia the impression that their Government is being antagonised and bullied by foreign peoples. If a national Government wants to swing popular opinion back into its favour, what does it do? It beats the drum against the foreigner. That is the reason why some of us used to speak against the encouragement of the campaign in Russia, because we felt that by encouraging that we were really strengthening the Bolshevik Government. The Bolshevik Government obtained a good deal of national support through the attacks made upon it in those early days. We should not repeat that mistake. We should not enable the soviets to strengthen their hands in Russia by raising the cry, "The foreigner is moving against Russia again." In this matter we feel, not irritation because that is not a worthy word; we feel great indignation that men who stand for ideas which we detest, men who we believe have made the most grotesque failure in statecraft that the world has ever seen, should endeavour to interfere with the basis of Government. in this country. But there is a reasonable course for us to pursue which is best for us and the world at large. We should not step aside from that course because of our indignation even by a pace.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I hope the House will pardon me for any slips on this occasion, because I have only just returned to this House from a semi-Socialistic institution in which I have been taken care of on a much better scale than the poor miners. I also beg at this juncture to express my gratitude for the many considerations which have been shown to me, and also for the happy impressions I carry away of some of the bright sides of British character in regard to the treatment meted out to me by British prison officials, which I have reason to admire. With regard to to-day's Debate I want this House, and through this House the country, to develop a sense of justice in those instances where, as we heard from the last speaker, our emotions are apt to carry us away. I have been permitted through the courtesy of Mr. Speaker and the Home Secretary to follow in prison the Debates that have taken place from day to day during my absence, and I understand from a study of those Debates that this morning the special subject for discussion here is the question of the money which has been sent to the miners from a country which we still know as Russia in aid of the miners' families who at the present moment are in dire distress.
I want hon. Members to realise how they are apt to forget the entire history of the world in their emotional bias against Russia in the first place, and against British miners and trade union organisations in the second place. We are apt to forget that it is the right of all those possessing money to spend it as they like, and in whatever country they like. This has been done by the British nation and British individuals in the past, and they are still doing it in other countries.
When these facts are borne in mind, we soon see how mad we are in trying to differentiate between our own action in this respect and similar actions by other nations when we are blinded by prejudice. On a previous occasion, when I was challenged with regard to money coming from Russia in the matter of a Parliamentary election, I was just in the midst of my researches when I was taken away from my library to some other place. I ask hon. Members to be good enough to remember how some short time ago a 734 very keen interest was taken by a number of French citizens in the Parliamentary elections in this country, where a campaign was being run by free traders, and these Frenchmen 'sent subscriptions to help the Free Trade movement in this country. I was right in the midst of my research on this question when I was compelled to take a rest. Again, I ask the House to make quite sure whether one or even two Liberal Members of this House, who are honourably associated with the history of this House, were not enthusiastically financed, quite honourably of course, by that well-known American citizen Andrew Carnegie.
I would ask the House whether this nation, individually as well as nationally, has not poured forth British gold into Armenia on humanitarian motives? Do they never think what suspicions the Turkish Government has been casting upon that? Have you not been pouring out money to help the abolition of slavery? How would those people who sincerely believed in the benefit of the slave system at that time think about your action then? How about temperance associations? Travellers come from America, France, Germany or Belgium, look at various institutions here, and subscribe £5, £20, £30, or £50 to any institution which appeals to them, merely from humanitarian motives. What is wrong? You want to undermine the whole of that. You want to say to the world that money shall only be subscribed geographically. Look at your Christian missions; look at the millions of pounds that you are sending out of this country to China. It may be a very noble act from your point of view, but it may be quite the contrary from the point of view of the Chinaman or the Mohammedan or the Buddhist in other countries. You want this country to forget its past, present and future proclivities, and to be ruled by blind prejudice against Russia.
Let us look at the facts. There is a strike, either a general strike or a sectional strike— it does not matter which. The one thing which does matter, and which no human being can deny, is the economic and material hardship and distress that follows during the period of a strike. It is no use trying to deny that. Once upon a time you set a national standard of anti-slavery, a national 735 standard against opium-smoking in the country of some other nation—against polygamy, or against any social custom or religious system which from your point of view was wrong, but which was perfectly right from the other people's point of view. There is no denying that in all sincerity, with a studied and developed faculty, the present people of Russia believe that the supremest good in this world is to assist struggling and starving workers and their children, in whichever part of the world they may be. That is their new standard. They do not make a secret of it. There is no conspiracy whatever about it. To them the supremest standard of philanthropy, the highest standard of human good, is not temperance, is not religious institutions, is not the question of legal slavery or its opposite, is not Socialism. To them at the present moment, honestly arid in all sincerity, the highest standard of human good is the assistance of workers in other countries during their moments of distress. In the exercise of the great national principle which they have now established and acquired, and of which they have seen the immense benefits during the last six or seven years, they want to assist the miners of this country. I myself announced a few weeks ago, when there was a strike of mill operatives in Bombay, that I had been instrumental in remitting to Bombay £1,054 which I honestly believe was subscribed by the textile workers of Russia, and in regard to which a stipulation was made that it was intended for the bonâ fide purpose of assisting the suffering textile workers and their families, and was not to be squandered on officials and organisations.
What did we hear this morning? The hon. and gallant Member who opened the Debate never for one moment objected, on principle, to Russian gold being received by Britishers. He rather, all the time, insisted on having it. But he objected to the workers of Russia sending Russian gold to the workers of Britain, and demanded that the workers of Russia should continue to send their gold to the capitalists and dividend owners. All the time the demand of the Tory party, the demand of the commercial magnates, is to extract and extort gold from Russia. They are trying to blackmail the Russian 736 nation; they are trying to squeeze out of it so-called debts which they know in their heart of hearts are false and fictitious debts. They are dishonourable figures of debts. All the time they are demanding, not that Russian gold should be stopped, but that more and more gold should flow from Russia than Russia is financially capable of sending them, but that it should be sent to the dividend owners and bankers of Britain, and not to the children of the miners.
We were permitted to listen to news from the outside world in the church on Saturday morning in the Wormwood Scrubbs Socialist institution where I was. I ask the House to forgive me and to be quite impartial about it. I heard that there are miners and their children still starving, that this is the sixth week of the strike, and so on, that trade union funds have become exhausted; and then it was impressed upon us that a sinful and criminal action was being carried on when some human beings Were sending £100,000 to assist those starving human children. At the same time we were told that a certain gentleman had offered the sum of £100,000 as a prize for some racehorse. We are told to believe that this last action was a glorious, patriotic, righteous action, when miners and their families are starving owing to the action of those who came to possess that surplus of £100,000 for racehorses. We as human beings were told that we were wrong because we believed that the action of the Russians was far more honourable, far more Christian, far more noble and far more highly and loftily minded in sending whatever they could spare for the miners and t heir children.
We heard this morning that this country has claims on Russia. I think it is just as well for the world to know that those British merchants who are forging their claims are deliberately and purposely and knowingly putting forward false figures. The sum of £800,000,000 has been mentioned, comprising a certain sum of money for unpaid interest, in the first place. What was that sum of money? Probably £300,000,000 to £400,000,000. But to whom was it given? Was it ever given to the people of Russia? It was given to a Tsar who was known by the financiers to be a despotic Tsar. That money was sent to a country where it was to be used for corruption, for all the 737 ignominious purposes of life, where it was to be handed over to officials, to tyrants, and to enemies of the people of that country. As was said this morning, and as we have known for a long time, there is no demand which is a righteous demand upon the present people of Russia. You never advanced that money to a country where the people could be held answerable. It was never advanced with the consent and at the request of the people of Russia.
It makes a great difference in the liability and responsibility. Then we are told about the £250,000,000 of private individuals. Every hon. Member knows that at that period when the Bolshevists took possession of the country it was ruined and devastated, partly by our action in sending anti-revolutionary expeditions. They were still further reduced in value by our stupid, obstinate, malicious and spiteful economic boycott of the country. There is no auditor, no honest accountant, in the country who would value those institutions at anything more than Is. in the £. They were not worth it. To still put on the value of £250,000,000 is not playing the game. It is making a false claim. Therefore I again submit, that the present action of some people in Russia who have set to themselves the pattern of public spirit and public philanthropy, the assistance of the workers in all lands, is a perfectly bona fide action and is equivalent to the action taken by other nationals on many other occasions, and it is very stupid on our part to keep on talking of it as conspiracy.
May I refer to a past incident in the time of Tsarist Russia? I am not quite sure whether it was 1897 or 1898, when India was visited by one of her devastating famines. I have a perfectly clear memory that when the situation became very horrid, the Lord Mayor of London opened a special fund and announced that it had become necessary for outside assistance to go forth to India. I have a very clear memory that the first foreign instalment paid was from the Russian Government of those days, and that two Parsee newspapers in Bombay had a very big quarrel, because in those days the British rulers in India had a bigger. prejudice against Russian. One Parsee paper stated that this money was sent, not as assistance for starving peasants in famine- 738 stricken areas, but in order to get the sympathies of the people on the side of the Tsar of Russia, who wanted to be the ruler. The other Parsee paper vehemently attacked the meanness of that newspaper and said, "Such is not the spirit in which a noble gift should be accepted." History is now repeating itself. It is your blind prejudice that is looking upon one of the noblest and finest acts of philanthropy and humanitarism in a spirit of injustice and unfairness.
Here is this interesting book about which much has been said on all sides of the House. In the first instance I think, in a spirit of justice and fair play, I may ask the House to understand the position quite clearly. It has been rightly pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that throughout the whole of the House there is no evidence whatever of Russian political funds flowing to some party political funds in this country for the. deliberate purpose of wantonly, and. merely through devilment, upsetting the institutions or the Government of the country. But it is pointed out that here is a political activity being run by a very small section who are part and parcel of the working classes, who wholly accept the Labour party doctrine that human good now requires that the individual ownership of land and all means of production should be put an end to and that communal ownership should be the system of society. That section claims to be in advance of the larger body of the Labour party because it is pointed out in the latter part of the letter of which the first sentence was quoted by the right hon. Gentleman that in the opinion of some of us the Labour party is losing its real character and its real objective and is drifting towards the Liberal party. We may be wrong or we may be right, but that is the whole position. So it is obvious to the Home Secretary, the Cabinet, and the House that the Communist movement is a small movement run with very small finances, living from hand to mouth. It is composed of men who are essentially part and parcel of the working class, who wholly and entirely accept the fundamental principles and ideals laid down by the British Labour party, that that system should be insisted upon, and should be brought into existence as early as possible at all costs. I claim no 739 infallibility for this. We may be entirely wrong.
With regard to the quotation from one of the letters under which my signature stands, that there should be a merciless measure to fight the Labour party, it is very unfair for the right hon. Gentleman to quote a sentence like that, because I am afraid, in spite of his cleverness, that would not bring about a fusion between him and the Labour party any quicker. The letter is dated 7th October. It followed immediately upon the Labour Party Conference at Liverpool on 29th September and the following days. Therefore, it was written within the first week of the Liverpool Conference. The Labour party carried out a political attack, without any particular malice or in it, against the Communist movement and endeavoured to put it outside the pale of the working-class organisation neck and crop. All we said in the letter was that the situation now created is so serious that we should be submerged into insignificance, we should be wiped out, and that now we must take up an attitude of uncompromising fight. It is not by Russian gold, it is not by arms, it is not by poison gas. It is pointed out that it is not to be carried on by any devious conspiratory means, but by adopting the rival system, of inviting the trade unions to affiliate with the Communist party, as they are now affiliated to the Labour party, so that the nation as a whole might have a correct index to see how many branches of the trade unions have a partiality for Communist party methods and how many for the methods of the Labour party.
The most serious thing that I see in this correspondence, and to which I take very serious objection, is the abuse of the Home Secretary's Office by the present holder. There is not the slightest question that within all political movements there are sections, and there are pulls and tugs-of-war. If I could capture the correspondence of some of the Conservative clubs, I am sure that I could find something worse said about the present fine Prime Minister than was said by some of the Communists about the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) or by me. If I could capture some of the correspondence of the head of the Northern Irish Government and 740 some of his confederates in this country I could find many announcements and many suggestions which would be very interesting. If we could get the correspondence of one set of directors of a company against another section of directors, or the correspondence of one section of a family against another section of a family, we should find all sorts of things written as to what should be done in order to get power over the other. That is perfectly human. It prevails everywhere, yet we find the Home Secretary using his office and public money and treating the Labour party and the trade unionists of this country as though they are a pack of fools, which they are not, capturing this sort of correspondence from the Communists and publishing it with the meanest of motives, to make the split between the Communist movement and the Labour movement bigger than it is. That is the direct object.
The Home Secretary was not at liberty, when capturing such correspondence, to disregard the privacy of correspondence where such correspondence did not break the law. When the Home Secretary employs Scotland Yard to capture the correspondence of an individual, he can only give publicity to that part of the correspondence which directly breaks the law or creates violence. If there had been found in the correspondence of the Communist party any suggestion to kill or belabour anyone, or to raid the Labour party offices, or anything of that sort, I would ask the. Home Secretary to give publicity to it; but where there was no crime but only a wrangle, a political tug-of-war, it was the meanest of mean acts on the part of the Home Secretary and the Government not to regard the privacy of the correspondence of any section of society, and to abuse their opportunities in this despicable and contemptible manner by giving publicity to private correspondence, for which there was no authority either on the part of Scotland Yard or the Home Secretary to search.
I am sure that we have nothing to apologise for and nothing to be sorry for. The Communist movement at the present time is a persecuted movement. I would ask hon. Members opposite to realise that all the bad things said about Russia have originated on account of the policy of individual persecution, and I hope they will not try to plant these methods of 741 persecution in this country, which will inevitably produce the same results as in Russia. I appeal to the Government, if they are really righteous, if they mean well, if they want peace between this country and Russia, if they want good feeling towards the miners, that it is their duty to write an official letter to the trade unionists of Russia and thank them for the magnanimous way in which they have assisted the miners of this country and for asking the workers of other nationalities to follow a noble example instead of leaving all this despicable squeamishness about it.
§ Mr. EDMUND WOOD
In rising to address the House for the first time, I crave the usual indulgence which I believe is granted to hon. Members. I want to approach this matter more from the point of view of the ordinary man-in-the-street rather than from any violent partisanship one way or the other. I think it would be impossible to say to what extent the Trade Agreement has affected the amount of subversive propaganda which has been introduced into this country. That propaganda of one sort or another has very largely increased up and down the country during the last two or three years is undoubtedly true, and probably only members of the Government could tell us how much of it has been introduced into the country through the medium of the Soviet Trade Delegation.
§ Mr. WOOD
I mean Communist propaganda. To my mind, the far more serious aspect of the matter is the attempt, and I regret to say in some cases the successful attempt, which is being made by men of pronounced Communist tendencies to seize the reins of leadership in the trade unions in this country. So far, too little notice has been taken of this movement, either inside or outside the movement. The avowed object of these people is not to help but to hinder the trade unions and every industry in the country through the trade unions, by every means that lie in their power. The very last thing that would please them would be to see our industries on a prosperous basis, because they know perfectly well that it is only on the fertile soil of discontent and 742 industrial unrest that the sort of teaching which they profess can prosper. At the same time, it is absurd to suppose that our local Communists are unconnected with their comrades in Russia, or that the Communist leaders in Russia, judging from the various pronouncements they have made, are in any way friendly towards this country.
The general strike having failed to produce the revolution hoped for both by the home and the foreign branches of the Communists, I think we may expect to see the efforts to capture the trade unions redoubled not only in this country but throughout the Empire. Napoleon tried to conquer the world by force of arms; the Communists are trying to do the same thing by propaganda and capturing the trade unions. Napoleon failed largely, indeed almost entirely, because of the efforts of this country, and the Communists will fail for exactly the same reason. We must not forget that because the danger is not very spectacular it is none the less real. Leaving aside the question of propaganda, surely our first consideration in this matter must be whether the Trade Agreement has really benefited our trade with Russia. I do not want to weary the House with figures, but if we compare our figures of trade before the War and now we find that in 1913 our exports to Russia totalled, in round figures, about £18,000,000; in 1920, when we had no Trade Agreement with Russia, the figure was round about £12,000,000, and in 1924 about £4,000,000. It is only fair to say that the States which surround Russia are not included in the latter total, because those States are now independent countries.
On the other hand, the American exports to Russia before the War totalled £5,000,000. To-day, they work out at about £10,000,000, or about 30 per cent. of the total Russian imports; and yet the strange thing is that the United States have never begun diplomatic relations with Soviet Government. I think these figures prove that our Trade Agreement has really not made much difference one way or the other. The balance of trade in favour of Russia in 1924 was computed at about £8,000,000, and I do not think anyone can suppose, even if this Agreement was abandoned, that Russia would be so foolish as to sacrifice the large trade balances which have been accumulated in 743 this country. The conclusion must be obvious—namely, that in spite of the fact that the United States is not in diplomatic relations with the Soviet Government, they have done quite as much and even better trade than we have. If individual traders wish to do business with Russia there is nothing whatever to prevent them. I cannot see that the mere fact that they have a private post bag which is not subject to censorship can be of any assistance to legitimate trade in any way, but I think we have now reached a point when every sane man must ask himself whether this trade delegation with its private mailbag is really worth while maintaining in this country.
Some connection between the trading organisation and the propaganda organisation undoubtedly exists. That is clearly proved in this Blue Book, but can we afford to allow uncensored trade communications to come to this country from a country whose leaders do not disguise the fact that their one aim and object is the destruction of the British Empire and all that it means. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) told us that the one hope for the future prosperity of British industry lay in closer co-operation between employers and employed. Every Member on this side of the House will endorse that sentiment, but how can we hope to obtain that object if this country is to be flooded from end to end by this subversive Communist propaganda. I urge the Government not only to stop this imported brand of propaganda but also the home-produced article, and thus give some opportunity to our harrassed industries to obtain a little industrial peace and rest.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I should like, as a humble Member of the House, to congratulate the hon. Member who has just spoken on his maiden speech. Although I disagree with him on most of the points he raised, he has put his case in quite the most understandable manner, which is all that one can expect even from the most experienced speaker. It is a mistake to imagine that strikes and lockouts and labour disputes have only arisen in this country since the Russian revolution. A man of my age has lived through them ever since he was a little boy, and the fact that there has been a revolution 744 in Russia, and that there is a Communist propaganda in this country, does not account for the fact that we are now in the midst of a tremendous economic crisis brought about by an industrial dispute. The one has nothing to do with the other. You will not get rid of industrial disputes until you get rid of the causes, and the causes are fundamental to the capitalist system; and you will not get rid of them until that system is transformed into a better system of production and distribution.
I want to say also that none of the objection that is being taken to the sending of money into this country from Russia would have been taken if the Soviet Government was a capitalist Government and poured millions of tons of coal into this country in order to assist the coalowners. I am certain the mentality of hon. Members opposite would not have allowed them to take up the attitude they are taking up in regard to the assistance that is being given to the workmen at the present moment if the capitalist Government of America, or of any other country, had made a present of a million tons of coal to Great Britain at this moment. It would be accepted with gratitude and thanks.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
No, it would be accepted, in my opinion. Ever since people of my age have been boys there have been quarrels in this House between ourselves and Russia. Almost the same self-denying ordinance was inflicted upon Members when discussing those relations in 1874 to 1880 as are inflicted upon us to-day. It is nothing new for British statesmen to complain about Russian activities in Asia and India and other places. It has been going on for years. It is not new. It was true in the days of the Tsar, and these difficulties will only be overcome when we all have a better idea of what should be the relations between ourselves and other nations. I want to lay this down as a truism, that every modern Government employs secret service agents for propaganda purposes and spends millions of pounds upon it. All the great civilised Governments interfere in the internal control and management of other Governments.
745 The Americans have interfered in the Philippines. We and the rest have interfered in China, and we are interfering there at this moment. France and Spain have just wiped out the Moors in Morocco, and are taking over that country and ruling it. We ourselves at this moment are denying to the people of Egypt the full right of self government which we promised them, and it is rather late in the day for hon. Members to complain about the interference of one Government in the affairs of another. It is clone by every capitalist Government. I think we should take to heart the words of Lord Balfour when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland, and "clear our minds of cant." Anyone would imagine that the Soviet Government alone was interfering with the affairs of other nations. Our own Government, and every other so-called civilised Government, has done the same.
Then as to subsidies from abroad. It does not lie in the mouth of any Englishman to say much about that. In the days of the Stuarts our Kings were subsidised by the Kings of France, and right down to the Ulster pseudo-revolution, when Lord Carson and his friends were fighting against the Constitution of this country, foreign arms and foreign gold were taken and piled up in order to be used against the Constitution of this country.
Before I deal with that I want to say one or two things in regard to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox). There was also the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson). Speaking as one who disagrees most thoroughly with what he said, I quite appreciate the spirit in which he said it, and I am quite willing to believe— there is no reason why I should believe otherwise—that he thinks he is doing a service to his country, and to humanity generally, by the line that he takes. But both he and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke after him, spoke as if this conflict between the Soviet. Government and ourselves was something that had arisen out of sheer devilishness on the part of the Soviet, Government. I would like to call attention to the fact that, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), speaking at the Genoa 746 Conference in 1922, stated that Great Britain had spent more money in trying to put down the Soviet Government than all the other Allies put together. In this House also on one occasion, he said that when he came to the point of asking how much would Japan put up, how many troops would France put up, how many troops would Italy put up, practically all of them answered, "None"; and it was left to the British Government and the British people to put up the money and the troops. When you are all saying that you object to the Russian Soviet Government interfering in our affairs, I ask by what authority and what application of international law, our Government had the right to pour money and troops into Russia and to make sacrifices in order to destroy the Soviet Government during the years that we were fighting them?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am not going to ask the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and I am not asking hon. Members who interrupt., but I do ask those who at present sit on the Front Bench and who were in the Government of the right hon, Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. There is no answer to the question. It is no answer to tell me to ask the right hon. Member for Carnarvon or anyone else. This country was represented by him, and without the Soviet Government having taken any action against us in any sort of way, we and the other Allies entered into war against the Russians, blockaded them, and did other things without even declaring war. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in his usual jocular manner, said that the claims which the Russian Government set up because of that intervention of ours, were claims for damage because of the Bolshevist revolution. That is only playing the fool with a very serious question. The fact remains that this country, by allowing ships of war to leave our ports and to take part in the civil war that. was raging in America, was called upon afterwards to pay tremendous damages. That was not for having sent out, but for having permitted the "Alabama" to leave our ports.
On this occasion, against all international law—I challenge any international 747 lawyer in this House to stand up and quote any international law which permits it—we sent troops and money against the Soviet Government of Russia. We were asked to believe that the people whom we helped were really good, nice people. No one cares to speak evil of the dead, and I do not question that Koltchak and Mannerheim and the others were patriotic according to their lights. What I say is that it was a very bad light. One of them, the gentleman called Mannerheim, who was backed by the Germans in Finland and backed by ourselves in Finland, until we suddenly woke up to the fact that if he got control, German influence might be predominant, and then we turned away from him—this gentleman, during the period that he was suppressing what was called the Revolution in Finland, made 90,000 prisoners, shot 15,000 without trial, and one May morning turned his machine guns on the women and mowed them down. He put 10,000 men and women into prison camps, and deprived them of water. They died of thirst in unspeakable agony, with parched lips and swollen tongues. That statement was published and has never been denied. I verified it when I was in Helsingfors in 1920.
Then there was General Denikin. He buried 20 people alive in their camp, leaving their heads projecting above the ground. He executed 23,000 workers at Rostoff, and at other places shot other Russians possessed of Socialist literature. Because of this, our Government—I will not insult the King by saying that he did it—our Government recommended the King to make this man a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, and we presented him with 150 tanks, 350 guns, a number of aeroplanes, equipment for 100,000 men, and £100,000,000 of our money. Parliament never voted a penny of that money, never voted a single soldier, never voted a single gun or aeroplane. Not only did these men break international law, but they broke the Constitution of this country by dealing with public money and public property without getting the sanction of this House. Then Lord Balfour talks about patriotism, and an hon. and gallant Gentleman to-day spoke about taking money from foreign 748 countries to use in your own country for propaganda. He said that it was a very unpatriotic thing to do.
Let me come to the subject that I said I would deal with when I roseSir Edward Carson had the honour of receiving an invitation to lunch "— and did lunch—" with the Kaiser last week at Homburg.That was published on 27th August, 1913. Lord Carson was then organising the raising of an army of 100,000 men in Ulster. I want to know what he was doing with the Kaiser who, it was well known at that time, was preparing for war in this country. I will read to right hon. and hon. Members opposite an account of what he was doing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Having lunch!"] Yes, but here is the quotationIt may not be known to the rank and file of Unionists that we have an offer of aid from a powerful Continental Monarch, who, if Home Rule is forced on the Protestants of Ireland, is prepared to send an army to save England from any further trouble in Ireland by attaching it to his dominions, believing, as he does, that if our King breaks his Coronation oath by signing the Home Rule Bill, he will by so doing have forfeited his claim to rule Ireland, and should our King sign the Home Rule Bill, the Protestants of Ireland will welcome this Continental deliverer, as their forefathers under similar circumstances did once before. The people of Ulster had behind them the Unionist party. Behind them was the Lord God of Battles, and in his name and their name he said to the Prime Minister, Let your armies and batteries fire. Fire if you dare! Fire and he damned! —(Joynson-Hicks).I also quote thisWhen the first shot of civil war was fired in Ulster, as sure as lie stood there one of the Cabinet Ministers would be hanged on n lamp-post in Downing Street."—[A. 31. Samuel.]Now we come to the sequel of Lord Carson's luncheon with the Kaiser and the arrangements that were made for fomenting rebellion, in case this House passed a certain Act of Parliament:The officer commanding the 5th Lancers said that all officers except two and one doubtful are resigning their commissions. I much fear same conditions in 16th Lancers. Fear men will refuse to move.Who are the people who spread disaffection in the Army? Who are the people who sought to stir up rebellion, and who did it at the instigation of foreign Governments? I want to know this afternoon. I want someone belonging to the Unionist party to tell us what 749 Lord Carson said to the Kaiser, and what the Kaiser said to Lord Carson. I want to know, because, immediately afterwards, we had this rebellion at the Curragh Camp. Here is another thing— and I want to know who gave the guarantee in this caseI have got a signed guarantee that in no circumstances shall we be used to force Home Rule on the Ulster people. If it came to civil war, I would fight for Ulster rather than against her."—[Brigadier-General Gough.]A good loyal citizen and good loyal soldier breaking his oath. I remember that Lord Roberts said there were limits to human endurance. Certainly there are, and if a general can choose as to when he will serve, I hope the working-class soldier, when he is called upon to fire on his own class, will turn his gun the other way. Here is the sequel to the visit to the Kaiser. On 24th April, under cover of a test mobilisation of Ulster volunteers, a huge consignment of 40,000 German Mauser rifles was landed at Lame, County Antrim, and Bangor and Don—I cannot pronounce it.
A Debate on the Motion for Adjournment is a very wide one, but I must say that it ought to have some relevance to something on which some member of the Government can reply. It is not quite clear how far the argument of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) touches matters for which any Minister is at present responsible.
§ Captain BENN
On that point of Order. Was not this Motion chosen by the Government in order to evade the issue on the. Russian question?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The Foreign Secretary, who is, I understand, to reply, and the Prime Minister and the Financial 750 Secretary to the Treasury, and large numbers of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen were much more efficient revolutionists than the Communist party in this country, or in Russia either. In fact, they have shown us how, when you need a violent revolution, you ought to do the job— by communicating with an Emperor abroad and getting him to send you guns and ammunition, and then under the cloak of a pretended march getting them landed. I congratulate them on how they did it. I think it was a fine piece of work from that point of view, but they are arrant humbugs to grumble at other people. I understand that other hon. Members wish to speak, and I have made the point which I wished to make. [HON. MEMBERS "Go on!"] There are lots more which you can have on another occasion, but I have given you enough to go on with for the present, and if any of you can contradict a single word I have said I will be very glad to listen. On the question of the Russian gold, however, I must ask the House to allow me to read something from a source as trustworthy as any which we have heard quoted to-day. I preface this by saying that, speaking for myself and nobody else, I look upon the struggle of the future not as a racial struggle but as a struggle between Capitalism and Socialism, and if I had a pound, and if there were workers striking in Germany or in Russia, I should subscribe it to help them. I should do my best in any circumstances to help the workers of any country who are fighting their employers, because I believe the worker is always right when he is struggling to raise his standard of life. The Russian workers are in the same boat as all Socialists must be, and the Miners' Federation have sent many thousands of pounds abroad to feed starving children not so very long ago. Before the War men like myself, together with Liberals like Dr. Spence Watson put up money in the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom in order to help Anarchists, Nihilists and Communists fighting against the Tsarist autocracy. Therefore, I cannot think it wrong that the workers of Russia should be sending money to this country to-day to help the miners in their fight. The great argument is as to whether the workmen are sending the money or not. I received this letter on lath May from my daughter in Russia. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. LANSBURY
After all, my daughter is as honourable a person as any other. I should like to know exactly what is meant by the hon. Member opposite who jeers? Do I jeer at your women? It is easily done, but I would not be so low-down as to do it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
On a point of Order. I think the hon. Gentleman misunderstood what I said. I asked him why he did not join his daughter in Russia?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
That, after all, was a remark which was quite uncalled for. I am dealing with a serious subject. This is the letterThe refusal of the General Council to take the money collected here for the workers is disgusting, to say the least of it. I am here and can see the eagerness and spontaneousness with which the workers in the various unions suggested a levy to help the British workers. I used to look askance when I heard of the Russian workers loving the British when I lived in England, but since I came here and heard how they talk I realise that the English are a cold lot of devils with no fire in them and not much initiative, when it means levies and things, in comparison with the Russians. It is very difficult for the generous Russian workers to understand why the gift was not accepted which they gave gladly though they are all so hard up. Life for the Russian worker is no joke. He is not overpaid although he has many privileges. He often goes hungry like the English worker though the Russian understands why and realises that no money in the Soviet Union is spent unwisely or extravagantly on luxuries for a section. The talk of Russian gold and that ancient rot is too thin. If we believe in the brotherhood of man in the broadest sense that you religious people believe, then the money could be taken just the same, because you may be sure that if the capitalist class need money to oppress the workers, the British capitalists would get it in some other way, and if you believe in the class war— and some of you say you do, at any rate— then you do not believe in the national boundary, and levies of money from Russian workers can be accepted just as levies from British or any other workers.That exactly puts my position with regard to this money. I do believe in the class war. I believe the class war is responsible for the starvation of my kith and kin, people who are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, down in the coalfields of Britain. The only thing that is being asked to-day by the Government and the, capitalists is that the workers should 752 sacrifice. I hope to God that the workers will be able to stand out and, with their women, defeat the most nefarious campaign that has ever been waged against them. This Debate this afternoon is to me a red herring drawn across the track. The fight to-day is a fight for a standard of living for the common people of this country. You are up against that. You do not want to say so bluntly and plainly, but you rake up that wretched book, full of nothing at all of any importance, and you are trying just to twist the whole issue, but I am certain that the workers of this country are going to do what you are afraid they will do. They are going to capture this House, and they are going to pass such laws as will make capitalism a thing of the past, and will establish Socialism for good and for all.
§ Sir FRANK NELSON
I should not, in the ordinary course of events, have referred to a very short journey that some colleagues and I took to Russia, had it not previously been alluded to by other hon. Members to-day. There is only one thing I desire to say, very briefly, on the subject of that much criticised journey, and that is that the shortness of it was dictated by a difficult decision which we had to take while out there, as to whether or not the general strike in this country, the repercussions of which we knew absolutely nothing, in so far as our country was concerned, meant that we ought to come back or not, and, secondly, that if three members of a large political party with some desire to see something of a problem for themselves are met on their return with criticism, not all of it ill-natured, but some of it very ill-natured, it is not best calculated to induce other people to undertake similar pilgrimages which, after all, when all this heat has died down, may prove to be in the best interests of any large political party.
I think a very short restatement of the reasons which led up to this Debate might not be inopportune. They are, I think, that because undoubtedly propaganda—I say this, well knowing that it will be received with jeers from above the Gangway— has been put out for a great number of years by the Russian Government, that because, in addition, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) has already pointed out, several persons, of whom both he 753 and I have personal knowledge, have had to watch goods that have been confiscated by the Soviet Government actually put up for sale in this country, and, lastly, because undoubtedly sums of money which could not possibly, in my opinion, have emanated directly from the Russian miner have entered this country, the question has arisen whether or not, in view of those, happenings, the British Government should break off negotiations with Russia and or alternatively, close up the Russian Trade Delegation. That is, I think, a very brief restatement of the reasons which led to this Debate.
I wish to say quite impenitently that I stand here quite unrepentant as a strong opponent of any extreme measures such as breaking off relations with the Soviet Government or even closing up the Russian Trade Delegation, and hope that in the very short time that has been allotted to me, I shall be able to give some real reasons for holding this view. First of all, it seems to me that we have, after all, a law in this country, and a very good law, which enables the Home Secretary to deal, and to deal quite adequately and competently, with any Soviet subject who illicitly or openly emits subversive propaganda. calculated to disturb any institution in this country or the Constitution of the country. It seems to me that it is a far more statesmanlike method— instead of putting into operation the ponderous machinery of the Foreign Office and breaking off diplomatic relations— that we should put into operation the law of the land, the law of England, and deal with those people in a manner that I am sure the Soviet people would realise, and that is to deport them. If any hon. Member of this House or anybody else has any doubts as to what would happen to any Englishman who went to Russia and preached anti-Sovietism, he has only to go to Moscow and make a speech there of that nature, and he will soon know, and I am certain that he or she would be very fortunate if deportation were the only thing that happened.
I cannot see, if I may say so with respect to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Motion for the Adjournment, why he should make such a tremendous song about this. We have the law of the land, and we have the Home 754 Secretary, who could deal with it most adequately, and I cannot see why we should bring into operation all this talk of breaking off relations and so on. I want to go one step further. My point of view is solely actuated by material motives and conditions, and as I see it, the three things that will happen primarily if we break off diplomatic relations with Russia are these: In regard to those people for whom the hon. and gallant Member and others are fighting, in endeavouring to get back property which has been confiscated by the Soviet Government— and they have done it in a way that has my admiration— I wonder how they think that their interests are being furthered by breaking off diplomatic relations. It would result in this, first, that all hope of pre-War debts being settled on any reasonable basis could be jettisoned. Secondly, it would mean that a more virulent attack than ever of anti-British propaganda in all the other countries of the world would be set on foot by the Soviet Government, and that money would continue to come into this country. Let us be under no misapprehension that by breaking off diplomatic relations we are going to stop propaganda or to stop money coming in. Lastly— and I think this is far more important than any other— it would mean that by a diplomatic rupture we should make a present to America and Germany of the very large trade that is undoubtedly to be done with Soviet Russia.
I see it stated by a Member of this House in the Press that if we- were to break off diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia, in his opinion, every other nation which has relationships with Russia would do likewise. I do not believe that for a moment. I think it is the most muddled conception of what I conceive to be the relationship between this country and Russia and between this country and other countries that I have ever heard. Other countries who saw us break off diplomatic relationship with Russia would see us do it with undisguised relief as merely removing from their path one of their most effective competitors for the trade which I am certain is there if we want to go and look for it. It has even been said to me: "How can you, or any Conservative, stand up in your place in the House of Commons and advocate and advise that we should enter into 755 trading relations and into a closer relationship with the rulers of a country steeped in bloodshed and robbery and every other kind of violence?" To that, I have only this to say, that we must not altogether lose sight of the fact that there are precedents, as in China, Turkey and, perhaps, other countries. But, apart from that, surely it is hardly the tradition of this country, a really religious nation, to ignore and completely cut out a nation of 140,000,000 people, led, it is true, by leaders who, in order to impose their particular administration, have indulged in bloodshed such as the world, I suppose, has never seen before. Well, how are you to reconcile with the religious spirit of this country an attitude which completely cuts them out? It is far better to realise what is perfectly true, that the increasing penetration of the trade of Western countries is far more likely to bring relief to the downtrodden Russian peasants than a policy of die-hardism, of burying your heads in the sands of die-hardism while ignoring, or endeavouring to ignore, Russia diplomatically and commercially, and letting other countries have what, after all, you might have yourselves. I challenge contradiction when I make the statement, that since 1922 there has been absolutely no business obligation of the Soviet Government which has not been met promptly.
I will not weary the House with a whole lot of figures, but I should like to quote a few to show what trade with Russia really means to us. In 1921, our imports from Russia amounted to £2,690,000; in 1922, to £8,000,000; in 1923, to £9,200,000; in '1924, to £20,000,000; and in 1925 to 226,000,000. Our exports to Russia in 1924 were £2,000,000; in 1923, £2,500,000; in 1924, £4,000,000; and in 1925, £7,000,000. Those are not very big figures, 1 admit, but they are figures I would sooner have here in this country then make a present of to Germany or to America. The last figure comprises something like £800,000 for machinery £700,000 for herrings, and £85,000 for chemicals. In 1913, Great Britain was responsible for 12½ per cent. of Russia's total imports; in 1923, it was responsible for 24 per cent.; and, in 1924-5 for 17 per cent. America in 1913 was responsible for 756 only 5½ per cent. of Russia's total imports; in 1923–24 for 24 per cent.; and in 1924–25, the last available year for which I have figures— and I challenge anyone to contradict them—America's share of the total imports of Russia was 30 per cent. I challenge the hon. Member for South Kensington to dispute the accuracy of my figures.
§ Sir F. NELSON
It may, perhaps, be of interest if I quote briefly from the monthly publication of the National City Bank of New YorkRussia's wants would put European industry on its feet … The manner in which industry in every country of Europe is suffering by the prostration of Russia is a striking illustration of the interdependence of the modern industrial organisation.I would ask all those hon. Members who believe that by this policy of maintaining diplomatic relations we have not something to gain, to study those figures, especially in view of recent utterances of the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir.R. Horne), because I am perfectly sure he will agree with me, that however much we may detest— and I detest— however much we may deplore— and I deplore— the method taken to build up the present Soviet administration, and however much we may detest and deplore the methods of autocracy, nevertheless there are very efficient men who form that administration, and if, as is not an unarguable proposition, at any time in the next 10 or 15 years they should manage to bring a greater purchasing power to the 160,000,000 Russian people who want our imports, and the imports of the world, and we have in the meantime broken off diplomatic relationship, in what kind of position should we then be? Is it imagined that other nations of the world will wait for us to come up? Does anyone think, after the lapse of 10 or 15 years, we are going to be able to get anything back at all for the people whose property was confiscated in 1917–18, or for the people who are maimed and blinded?
There is no dividing line, unfortunately, between diplomatic friendship and breaking-off relationship. You are either in a state of friendly relationship, or you have broken it off altogether. It is suggested that not to end diplo- 757 matic relationship with another country presupposes some approval of the methods and administration of that country. Again, I think, that is a great fallacy. It seems to me it is more than possible that, by means of closer trading relations with a country, we should succeed in inculcating a better and more civilised outlook. The hon. and gallant Member who opened the Debate himself said that Russia was one of the richest countries in the world. There is no possibility of denying the chances of the future in regard to trade, and it is upon that issue— and upon that issue alone— that I stand here, as I have already said, completely unrepentant, and opposed to any suggestion that we should break off diplomatic relationship. Either rightly or wrongly, I hope and believe it is likely to be far easier to turn Russia, or make Russia realise the need for diplomatic good behaviour, diplomatic honesty, straightness, and a far better code of behaviour altogether, by closer relationship, rather than by this policy of endeavouring to ignore a country, which in size embraces one-sixth of the entire world, and in wealth is probably unrivalled in the civilised and uncivilised countries of the world.
§ Sir PHILIP RICHARDSON
I think the last speaker has not realised that the Motion is one for the Adjournment of the House, and that those with whom I am associated in this Debate put forward their Motion after the declaration of the Foreign Secretary that they were not going to break off diplomatic relations with Russia at the present time. I hoped that this Debate would produce information and consideration, which would be useful either to the Soviet Government in its attitude towards the British people, or would give us further grounds to come to some decision. I do not think an occasion of this sort is one for the remarks of the hon. Member who has just spoken.
This Debate, I think, ought to bring out the actualities of the situation. There have been so many statements made as to the Russian Government about Arcos, and their representation in England. The people as a whole have not had set before them the actual facts. I should like to state the position in a way that I think will not be argumentative. The actual Government, the actual Soviet Govern- 758 ment, is a central executive Committee of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The head of this body— let us have the matter quite clearly— is Kalinin, who is assisted by Zinovieff, Trotsky, Stallin, Bukharin, Tomsky—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! oh!"] Well, I do not know that I want to read them all, but I take this list from the "Izvestia" of 21st May, 1925, The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) went back 30 years. I am going back one year. [Interruption.] If hon. Members say I am wrong, they can hear what I have got to say. The matter is one it is desirable to inquire into, and there are some hon. Members who seem to think that another hon. Member should be shouted down. At any rate what I suggest is that this is exactly the position in Russia.
§ Mr. BROMLEY
The hon. Gentleman does not know that Zinovieff has no more to do with the Russian Government than has Sir Herbert Blain with the Government of this country?
§ Sir P. RICHARDSON
I know that may very well be, but I also know it is easy to camouflage the position in these matters. At the present time there are a variety of kaleidoscopic bodies which are continually changing, and when you try to find out and fix upon one that is in a particular movement, he runs to earth and you get another. I intervene in this Debate because I have had intimate relations with Russia for the last 34 years. I do not think that there is anybody to whom I could give way as to experience in this matter. There are those who go to countries, stay there for a short time, and write books upon the country. Those who have been in a country a long time find out how little they knew about a country. The more you move about Russia, the more difficult you find it to arrive at a thorough understanding of the people. "Scratch a Russian and you find a Tartar." The fact is that the Russians at the present day are 200 years behind other peoples; also in their mentality. There are those in Russia who play an important part, and if we cannot fix them down in one department of their Government, we can fix them down in another. We cannot prove that the sun is shining in Russia, but we know that in all probability it is shining. I am going to quote to the House pronounce- 759 ments of those who are taking a leading part in the affairs of Russia so that we can understand exactly with whom we have to deal.
At the present time the fight is really about the Russian money; about money coming from Russia in order to assist, first, the general strike, and, secondly, the miners. It has been asserted that the money was raised by the people, and the Russian Government have had nothing whatever to do with if, but, according to the pronouncements of the leaders in Russia, it is perfectly obvious that the economic and the political are indissolubly mixed together. Here is a pronouncement of 1926. I will not go back to 1925, because then the speaker probably occupied another nominal position. This quotation is from a pronouncement by Zinovieff, and is from the "Izvestia," 13th May, 1926:Nevertheless the British General Strike will play an important part and will become the rehearsal of future great battles.I do not know whether this gentleman is now engaged in politics or commerce. That is what he said on 13th May. Then it the "Izvestia" of 16th May, 1926, Lozovsky saidThe near future in Britain will be a period of separate battles which sooner or later will amalgamate into a new attack by the British proletariat against capitalism.In addition to interfering in the affairs of another country, we find this gentleman talking about the battles of the British proletariat. Then Trotsky, in the" Izvestia," 2nd June—only a few days ago—saidIf we are patriots, we are patriots of the working class, including the British working class, the patriots of an International Proletarian Revolution.Then, further, it is not only the Communist National, but the Communist International and its affiliated sections which supported the striking miners in Great Britain. Again, we have Mr. loffe, in the "Pravda," of 27th May, sayingIt is foolish to say that the capture of power by the revolutionary elements in contemporary Britain is insufficiently prepared in an economic sense as well as in a political sense.These pronouncements are by leaders in Russia. I cannot say whether or not they were actually in the Government 760 Department at one time or another. I have 29 pages of this matter. [Horn. MEMBERS "Oh ! "] They are their own speeches. All show that the members of the governing body in Russia seek to interfere in British affairs. Here is something more about instructions of the Communist International from the "Izvestia," of the 8th MayIt is essential to form immediately mixed Councils of Action, to organise special watch service in the ports and the whole coast for the boycott of loading and unloading British ships, to watch carefully that all decisions are put into action, etc.These are the instructions given in the country which is supposed to be in very friendly relations with us. I do not think that in the time at my disposal I can possibly go into further quotations. Supposing anybody, however, thinks that there is no further evidence of the connection between the members of the Russian Government and the members of the bodies in England, it can be given.
That being so, we have to consider the Trade Agreement and how it is affected. The Trade Agreement is with the Russians as a State, with the Russian Government; it is not anything else. It is the Russian Government. It has got a specially privileged position in England at the present time. We have not got the same privileges, or the right of doing the same in Russia. My hon. Friends above the Gangway and I differ perhaps in political opinion, but all I am concerned with now is in doing business with the Russian people, and with doing business, indeed, in all parts of the world. I welcome this. We go to other parts of the world. Can we do business with Russia? Can we follow our interests there? There is nothing at present to prevent anybody doing business with Russia if they like to do so and as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Sir F. Nelson) thinks. It has been stated that the Americans are doing business with Russia, but then the Russians are not occupying themselves with American politics. The Russians do not regard the Americans as an immediate object for them to think about. The Russians are out for a revolutionary movement. They are out for the education of the Proletariat and for Revolution. Everything they say points to their trying to interfere in our affairs in order to 761 stir up strife in our country. That does not apply to the United States. If they did it there, it is perfectly certain that Uncle Sam would let them know something of it. He would object to having his tail twisted like the tail of the British lion is twisted.
What is the position? I am trying to bring out the facts. Here we have published in London a paper called the "Soviet Union Monthly." If anybody should want to find some useful facts, this Soviet monthly publishes the fact that there are 25 Russian companies registered in London, and that other institutions have 23 agents. That is a measure of the advantage that the Russians obtain in London by their Trade Agreement. I should like some hon. Member who has more knowledge of the subject to tell me how many British companies established in Russia have the same? That is rather important, because this seems to be a one-sided arrangement. If they have their organisation here, we ought to have a corresponding organisation over there. Furthermore, it is quite easy to establish in London a trading organisation to sell products which have cost nothing, on which there are no trade charges. [Laughter.] If you steal all the other mart's goods, it is easy to sell them; and that is what they are doing in London at the present time. It is a one-sided trade which we are conducting. It is entirely to their advantage, and very little to ours. There is nothing to prevent an individual trading with Russia if he likes to give Russia credit; but that is not what the Russians want. They wish to stir up revolution in England, they have stated so over and over again, and their object in establishing themselves in this country and bringing their trading organisations here is to provide credits in this country for revolutionary purposes. There is no question about it. The. oil, the timber and the other things which have been taken from our people in Russia and nationalised are being sold in England, and add to the credits of those trading organisations in England, which are used against us for a variety of purposes.
There is no question that the Communistic party in England are supported by funds. Where do they come from? They do not manufacture anything. Where do they get their funds? From outside. [Interruption.] All those who 762 have had a connection with Russia extending over some years will know that it is very easy to say "prove it," and will know that, in connection with Russia, you cannot prove anything. When I was at school I remember once talking to a big boy and asking him to prove something. He kicked me and asked me not to be funny. To ask me to prove something in this instance is merely being funny, and if you are not being funny it is because of your ignorance of these people. Anyone who has lived a long time in Russia will know that the Russians are masters of chicanery, masters of intrigue, masters at camouflaging anything. In years past I have been engaged in trying to negotiate deals with them. It has gone on months and months, and at the end you thought you had got them down to something; but they always found some backdoor out. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh as much as they please, but that does not detract front my experience shared by very many people I know, that it is impossible to deal with the Russians in commercial matters on the English basis.
I have quoted certain things which hon. Members do not perhaps agree with, but in a Debate of this kind I think it is the duty of everybody to put forward his own experience and such facts as he has at his disposal, because things being as they are we ought to have less of party politics and more of a desire to serve our country. From those who are most vociferous in applauding that statement I have over and over again heard applause for Russia. but there has been very little applause for those who lost their property in Russia.
§ Sir P. RICHARDSON
It is not a question of money bags at all. Money was invested in Russia in the adventurous spirit that has taken British money into all parts of the globe, to establish oilfields, and to help the people to build their tramways, their railways, their gas works and other things which are of enormous social value to those people. It was not the money of the rich capitalist alone, but the money of the small person. Over and over again I have been approached by people who had put £10 or £15 into an oil company in Russia—money that was the savings of clerks and workmen. That 763 money was put into Russia and the Russians have confiscated it—nationalising it, or what even you may be pleased to call it. [Interruption.] I am willing to put in another category loans for other purposes. I am willing to admit that there was much bribery and corruption, and that all the objects for which the money was subscribed did not get the money; but there is no doubt that much British money was put into British property, and that the Soviet will not give that property back again. Now we are asked to make new loans in order to establish new companies—I suppose to give them another opportunity of re-nationalising and repeating the process! There may be others who have more confidence in the Russians than I have, but I hope this Debate will have elucidated the situation and have brought to life further facts which may be useful to our fellow citizens in assisting them to judge whether the time has now come when we should alter our relations with Russia or whether the time is likely to come or whether and when the Russians will come down to the English way of dealing, to English fair play to the English spirit of playing the game and treating us as we have always treated them, and I hope that I have made a little contribution to that end.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I confess that I have risen to address the House with some hesitation. Why should I or my hon. Friends behind me interfere in a family quarrel? The wildest and most vociferous attacks on the Government have come from their own benches. Not only have they not been contented with attacking their own Government, but we have heard speeches from hon. Members— very old, familiar speeches— to the effect that, if two or three honest inquirers go to a country and do their best to find out the facts, and have the courage to publish them, that they belong to the species of globe-trotter, and know nothing about what they are saying. I would take any one of the three Conservative Members who published that report and face them with the hon. Member who has just spoken. I am not a betting man, but I would put my money on any one of the three who has been in Russia only a few days. I have listened to speeches which I had 764 hoped would be illuminating. All sorts of tales have been told. Supposing They were all true, what do they amount to? There is not a single complaint that has been made to-day against the Russian Government or against its administration of the Trade Agreement that is not a legitimate subject for diplomatic representation, and I decline to believe that the Foreign Office has not made that diplomatic representation if the facts stated were found on inquiry by the Foreign Office to be accurate. The position is this. A new stunt is wanted, apparently. The Government want to save their decline and fall, and they think Russia is still prolific of votes.
I am not going to speak many minutes, because I am so anxious to hear the Foreign Secretary reply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—to the speech he delivered last Saturday, which was disgraceful in its recklessness and unfounded in its accusations. This Debate was started not because the Trade Agreement was not being observed, but because the stream of misrepresentation about Russia has begun to flow again on account of the General Strike. Where has it all gone? Why has it disappeared? I listened to a very charming speech by the hon. and gallant Member who opened this Debate—a very charming speech. Regarding the historical information he gave us about his own experiences with people in Russia I have nothing to say. Regarding his political statements, I should say that nine out of every 10 of his sentences were inaccurate. [HON. MEMBERS "Which?"] Well, we will agree about oneThe hon. Member for Central Hull is a silent Member of this House.Another, which we will all agree about— and I am perfectly serious about the matter, because he did deal with certain things regarding which I have first-hand information— is that the Labour Government followed the Coalition. I admit these are small things. [HON. MEMBERS "Tell us something about Russia!"] I can tell you yarns about the occupation of Archangel and so on. The point I am coming to is this: In all these matters, in which charges have been made against. Russia by certain organs and certain political sections, it would have made this country a little more decent if they had been inquired into before they were given circulation.
765 Take, first of all, this statement about the Russian Government sending money. The Home Secretary stated it with unqualified emphasis. Why does he not reply? Why does he not tell us whether he was accurately or inaccurately reported? Nobody knows better, and nobody appreciates better than the Foreign Secretary that nothing can embarrass him more than for a colleague occupying an exceedingly important position to make a charge against a Government with which he is in diplomatic relationship, we will not say whether cordial or not, which he has to handle, and with which he has to deal. He knows perfectly well, and every Foreign Secretary knows, that nothing is more improper than that a Minister in a high position in the Government should make remarks about a foreign Government which is derogatory to it, and which is not true. Will the Foreign Secretary tell us exactly how that matter stands? He, himself, was much more cautious, and took what appears to me to be much stronger ground. He says that there are certain rules which prevent the export of money from Russia without the sanction of a certain Finance Committee, which is officially part of the Government. I am informed— perhaps he will tell me— that is not so. I am informed that the function of that Committee is fulfilled when it is satisfied that the export of money, the export of gold, is simply not for the purpose of disturbing the equilibrium of the Russian exchange.
Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will give us his views upon the interpretation of that ordinance of the Russian Government. But, if there is going to be propaganda either from this or any other Government conducted in this country by its agents, then this country has no business to allow it. [Interruption.] Hon. Members need not be offensive, and need not be ignorant. But in protecting ourselves we have got to use common-sense, and we have got to use the best means of doing it. The Trade Agreement was made by the Coalition Government. The Trade Agreement may have been a good or it may have been a bad one when it was made—personally, I should have supported it—but it is in operation, and it is not enough for hon. Members to come and give American trade figures and British trade figures, and, from a recital of the two columns 766 of figures, come to the conclusion that, therefore, it would do no harm to this country if the Trade Agreement were renounced. That is not the situation. We cannot now renounce the Trade Agreement without doing what is substantially a hostile act.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
That may be, but is the hon. Member going to go at it like a bull at a gate? Really, does the hon. Member with all his enthusiasm live under the delusion that he has some stronger conception of the right of this country to refuse to allow agreements to be broken or propaganda by foreign Powers to be conducted inside this country than we have? [HON. MEMBERS "Yes."] Then he is under a delusion that is all. What has to be done is this. The acts of protection have to be taken in such a way that in the result they produce the maximum good and leave this country in relation to the world in a position of doing the maximum good. Take the question of propaganda. Does anybody mean to say that by the renunciation of the Trade Agreement that this propaganda is going to stop? Of course, nobody can. If they do, they rule themselves out of court, because countries that have no Trade Agreement are subject to this propaganda. Countries that are more hostile in the form of their relationship with Russia than we are have got this propaganda. It has just as much to do with the Trade Agreement as it has to do with the moon. It may be true that they have broken the Agreement, though I do not say it is, and that that Clause of the Trade Agreement which prevents propaganda has not been carried out by the Russian Soviet Government—
§ Sir W. DAVISON
The Trade Agreement itself requires no notice. It is specially provided at the end that if the matters in the Preamble are not carried out, the Trade Agreement shall cease to be operative.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
If I may say so with respect, I have had more occasion to study the Trade Agreement than the hon. Member himself.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
But, on that point as to whether the Agreement has been broken, and, if it has been broken, how the Soviet Government should be handled, I would have far more confidence in the responsible official, whichever party is in power, than in hon. Members below the Gangway. The propaganda will go on, and if we break the Trade Agreement now the Russian Government will do its best to increase their hostility to us. That is the view not only of politicians, but of business men. I hold in my hand a letter which I have received from a very important business man who takes the precaution of saying that he in no sense agrees with any of my political opinions. [An HON. MEMBER "Is he a biscuit man?" and Interruption.]
§ Mr. MacDONALD
This is a letter from a very important business man who is engaged in trade as an engineer, and he says he allows me to use the substance of this letter. This is what he says:Mr. Churchill's speech has undoubtedly caused great uneasiness to Lancashire firms who have entered into large contracts for the supply of machinery to Russia. These orders have kept us busy for some time, and if deliveries are kept up we shall be kept going for a further six months; if on the other hand Mr. Churchill's advice is taken and the deliveries are stopped, then we shall be obliged to close down almost entirely, and the men with be thrown idle. Nearly 2,000 men will be affected in our firm alone.Then he gives two or three other well-known firms and some who are not so well known, and he saysOther large firms in other parts of the country have booked large Russian orders. You will appreciate that the Government warning through the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have a disastrous result. The Observer's statements in regard to these orders and the prompt and regular payments of the Russians are correct.That is why we stand for the Trade Agreement.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I do not know, but hon. Members must follow the argument. I am putting myself in these matters in a neutral position. If we were still thinking about negotiating a Trade Agreement I could understand the attitude of hon. 768 Members but if they really are business men and want to get hold of the Russian market for English production, they must know there is all the difference in the world between refusing to negotiate an agreement that does not exist and in breaking an agreement which has been in existence for some years. I confess that I did not support the Trade Agreement, keep it going, and try to extend it, merely for material purposes. I unblushingly say that it is the duty of a Government to help an industry of its own in every legitimate way that it possibly can, by opening out fields, quite legitimately, and so on; but there is another question which we have to consider, which certainly the Foreign Office has to consider. The Foreign Office has not only to deal with Russia and Russian trade, but it has to deal with that extraordinary and baffling complexity of conflict known as Europe.
The Foreign Office has to go to Geneva, again rightly or wrongly, several times a year, to try to get agreements which will give international security—not agreements to suit France and ourselves, or Germany and ourselves, but agreements that will give every nation in Europe sonic sense of security, so that they can shed their anxieties regarding what is going to come upon them from the outside, and concentrate their attention upon their own self-development. How can the Foreign Secretary do that while this huge Power— huge in population, huge in resources— remains outside that comity with which he has to deal? He cannot do it. When people talk about lack of organisation and so on, I dare say the Foreign Secretary never forgets, when he goes to Geneva and finds these things staring him in the face, the extraordinary military success which the Bolshevists have had in organising the Russian Army. Hon. Members talk about this Trade Agreement being cancelled because it has been broken, but my position has never been in doubt at all. I thank the Home Secretary from the very bottom of my heart for giving us such a handsome tribute as he has in publishing these letters. Instead of Tory party propaganda, he has helped Labour party propaganda.
I have never budged an inch from my view that diplomatic handling of the Russian situation is required. There are 769 certain things which we ought not to allow to go on, but these things are not stopped by the kind of speeches we have listened to to-day, even when they are so charming as that of the hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson). They have to be dealt with in the ordinary diplomatic way, perhaps with the ordinary diplomatic slowness, though perhaps the best things that are done are done with a certain amount of slowness. Jerry-building is very easy to undertake, but good, sound permanent building is not quite so easy to undertake. If there are breaches, they can be dealt with in the right. way. My appeal to the Foreign Secretary would be to go on and extend the width of the Trade Agreement, and bring more things into it. I am perfectly certain that that is the only way in which he and the office which he holds are going to remove from Europe this terrible uncertainty that is upon us to-day; but, what is still more valuable, it is perhaps going to remove from the minds of men some of that hard passion and some of that cruel prejudice which is not confined to Russia, and which is mot only sown here by Russian hands, but springs from a system that is breeding true to itself.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Austen Chamberlain)
I am glad the House has found an opportunity for the discussion of the questions which have been raised to-day, for I think much of the difference that exists between us comes of imperfect information or of misunderstanding, rather than of fundamental differences of principle or purpose. I cannot speak on this occasion without saying with what pleasure I listened to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson) who opened the Debate. For many years he lent me his aid in the capacity, well known to this House, of Parliamentary Private Secretary. I have immense obligations to him and I have sometimes reproached myself, and reproached him, that he gave me, and I accepted, too much of his service and so deprived the House of Commons of his contribution. Whatever our views, we welcome his intervention in Debate and we hope it will be often repeated. I may express also a measure of gratitude, strictly tempered, for the 770 support the right hon. Gentleman opposite has accorded me. I should be more profuse in my expressions of gratitude if he had not so obviously shown us that he praised me, not so much because he approved of what I was doing, but because he thought my friends disapproved. His opening sentences perhaps gave a colour to the measure of confidence he was pleased subsequently to express in the Foreign Office. But however that may be I am glad of this Debate, for I think it will enable the House and the country to judge the situation.
There are, as I see it, two questions raised. Have His Majesty's Government and this country good reason to complain of the action of the Soviet authorities in Russia, and, if they have such reason, would it be wise for them to show their indignation or resentment in the particular way suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend and others— namely, by breaking off all diplomatic relations and terminating the Trade Agreement? The two questions are distinct. Among all the speeches that most nearly and very closely coincide with the opinion of his Majesty's Government I should single out the one delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. Hilton Young). I. should answer the first question unhesitatingly in the affirmative, as he answered it. I shall answer the second question in the negative, not because I think the Soviet has a right to ask anything of us, having regard to their attitude towards us, but because I do not think British interests or the interests of world peace would be served by breaking off relations with them. The Soviet Government is something standing in a class by itself. It resembles the Government of no other country. It is not easy to maintain relations with it. It is impossible to say that the relations which it maintains with other countries are either friendly or correct. If the mere question were, "Has the Trade Agreement been kept"? I should answer, "It has not." The words of the Trade Agreement are clear:That each party refrains from hostile action or undertakings against the other and from conducting outside of its own borders any official propaganda, direct or indirect, against the institutions of the British Empire or the Russian Soviet Republic respectively.771 A little further on it says:It is understood that the term conducting any official propaganda ' includes the giving by either party of assistance or encouragement to any propaganda conducted outside its own borders.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
No, Sir, I will not. I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I do not want to be discourteous.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not want to be discourteous, but I have said nothing with which my hon. Friend disagrees, and it was unnecessary for him to interrupt me. My hon. Friend interrupts everybody in turn. I would beg him to allow me to conduct my argument in my own way. I say it is perfectly clear to His Majesty's Government, and should be perfectly clear to everybody, as it must be clear to the Soviet authorities, that they are not conforming to that definite engagement in the Trade Agreement. When right hon. and hon. Members opposite suggest that we should enter into some new negotiations with them, and try to construct some new agreement or treaty, whether of commerce or amity or the rest, I reply, as I have replied to him in every interview I have had with the Soviet, Charge d'Affairs, that His Majesty's Government think it, is useless to enter upon the negotiation of any new agreement so long as old agreements are not honoured or kept.
I have said that the Soviet Government is a Government unlike any other. It is unlike any other Government because, in truth, it is only one of the organs by which the Communist party of Russia—the only party permitted to exist in Russia—expresses itself. It is not even the dominant or governing organ within that party. The fact of the matter is, that behind the Soviet Government, behind the Third International, behind the Red International, behind the trade unions, stands another body, the Politbureau, which has its hands upon them all, which controls them all, without whose consent none of them can act, and which is the real governing authority in Russia, whatever particular organisation 772 may be presented as freely acting on this occasion or on that, which serves the purpose, not of action, but, as my Noble Friend said in another place, of excusing action which is inexcusable on behalf of a friendly Government.
Right hon. Gentlemen opposite complain of the language held by colleagues of mine, and they would desire to erect me into a censor of that language. I conceive that it is better that a Foreign Secretary should study rather to understate the case that can be fairly made than to press it to its full extent, and I have deliberately adopted language always courteous, though it has never been cordial, and I have never gone in any official utterance beyond that of which I was certain by information which I had in my hand. But when I am challenged by hon. Members opposite to say that this money is not Soviet money, they ask me to say what I am not prepared to say. What is the explanation that is given? It is, that it is collected from the members of the Russian trade unions, miners and others, not one of whom is as well paid as his opposite number here; not one of whom has. a standard of life equal to the standard of life here ; that it is collected from them as a voluntary contribution for the relief of distress in this country. Sir, you cannot find a word, perhaps I had better not say that, but you will find in almost every Russian Soviet newspaper, in the speeches of almost every Soviet leader, ample proof that it is not collected for the relief of distress, that the sufferings of the miners as such, or their wives and familes, are perfectly indifferent to them—[interruption]—and that the money is collected and sent not to help people in distress, but to foment revolution. [Interruption.]
What is the responsibility of the Soviet Government? What is the position of the trade unions ender the Soviet Government? They are in effect the Government. The Chairman of the Trade Union Central Council is a member of the Politbureau. They discharge important Government functions, and you have only to go to the books of authority on the Soviet constitution to learn what their position is. Stachka in his statement on the Soviet Constitution includes the Central Council of the Trade Unions under the heading of the People's Commissariat and the Executive Authority, 773 and he adds that the All Russian Central Council of Trade Unions is purely a social elective organ of trade unions, but plays a deciding role also among the central state institutions. And Kovalenko in his Political Grammar explains that the trade unions have become State organs of government. Does anybody believe—
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I have not got it now, but I could get it. These are the most authoritative works I know on that constitution, and nothing has changed since they were written. [HON. MEMBERS: "There is a new economic policy! "] The new economic policy has given no liberty to any R,uskoian. I say that the trade unions are organs of the State. I say that they have no liberty, except such as the Politbureau allows them. I say more. I say that the money which is sent here is not the free gift of the individuals from whose wages it is deducted, and who are worse off than the worst paid in this country. It is a compulsory levy enforced by the authority which is the only authority that governs Russia, and it has required—here I come to a point on which the right bon. Gentleman challenged me—exceptional treatment, in breach of the law by the Soviet Government, of these remittances, to allow them to be transferred. The law of 14th April of this year provides that for sums over 100 rubles, the remittance or transfer of currency values abroad shall only be allowed on permission being given by the special Currency Commission of the People's Commissariat of Finance of the Union of Soviet Republics. But what the right hon. Gentleman did not say, and what he thought was not true is proved true by what follows:upon the production of evidence of the necessity of remittances or transfer of the said values in payment for imported goods for covering current commercial expenses, for the fulfilment, of official orders, etc.They come in under the "et ceteras," or, as the hon. Member the late Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs put it, they are permitted because they are not for speculative purposes. If they are allowed because they are not for specu- 774 lative purposes but for good investment, then the Soviet Government is making the mistake of its life. It could not find a worse field for the investment of money in revolution than among the working classes of this country. How is this law interpreted? Do you suppose, as the right hon. Gentleman does, that everybody is allowed to remit freely, provided he is not speculating in exchange? On the contrary, such is the condition to which Soviet finances have been reduced, that foreign orders are curtailed to the utmost, orders for necessary machinery urgently required are being withdrawn and cancelled. It is with the greatest difficulty that anyone can get permission to take money abroad with him, and if he leaves the country and gets permission, he must give an inventory of the wardrobe with which he leaves, and he must not come back with a collar that he did not, take out of the country. Then I am asked to draw a distinction, not a technical distinction—
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I am asked to draw a distinction between money directly contributed by the Soviet Government out of Soviet funds—
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
—which may or may not have been clone—I do not know—and money collected by compulsion from the workmen, remitted in breach or by special exception of the law. I say I am wholly unable to distinguish, except technically, between the direct contribution of the Soviet Government and sums collected in those circumstances and remitted in that way. His Majesty's Government thought it. right to draw a distinction—[Interruption.]
It cannot be expected that a Debate of this kind will go through without interruption, but I must ask hon. Members not to carry their interruptions to such a point that the House cannot understand the arguments which are being used.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
His Majesty's Government thought it right to draw a distinction between money contributed in aid of the general strike, which was illegal and unconstitutional — [HON. MEMBERS: "You cannot prove it!"]—and money contributed to the support of the miners. One, we thought it right to prohibit; the other, we have not, so far, thought it right to prohibit.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
When we consider what action we are to take, it will be clear to the House, from what I have said, that we have no reason to be tender to the Soviet Government. We are under no misconception as to the way in which the Trade Agreement has been broken. We do not pretend that relations with a Government which acts in that way in defiance of the comity of nations and the obligations which one nation owes to another can be, I will not say cordial and friendly, but can be even cordial and correct. The only question we have to decide is whether, in view of the situation in this country and in view of the situation in Europe, it is in our own interest to continue, with our eyes open, these diplomatic relations, or whether our interest would be better served by terminating them. If there be any difference between some of my hon. Friends and me in this matter—in the matter of domestic polity—I think it is because I have perhaps a profounder trust than they in the good sense of our own people, a greater conviction that our position, our freedom and our liberty are, as it were, inherent in our blood and will be as jealously guarded by every class in the community as by any one class. If I think we can afford, I do not say to neglect, but to pass over some things which might at first sight appear to be unforgivable, it is because I believe the protection of the people by themselves would be even more effective than executive action by the Government on their behalf. It is not only that I think that, at a time like this, when we have serious problems of our own, when it is desirable to secure the largest measure of public opinion for those steps which are required for the 776 safety of the State, it would be unwise to introduce a new and disturbing issue into the political and economic spheres; it is not merely that I think it would complicate domestic issues and lend strength to the people to whom we desire to lend none, and help them in their efforts to foment disagreement and disunion where our effort must be to recreate union and agreement; it is because I am convinced that it is not effective for that purpose.
You cannot, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich said, keep out propaganda by executive action of this kind. You may be able to keep out a good deal of it, but I doubt if you could keep out all, having regard to the forms in which it can come in and to the complexities of international financial and commercial relations at the present time. But I say that if you attempt to do it now, you introduce a new element into the situation which is occupying our attention, and that element is not a uniting but a disturbing and a separating element, and that it would therefore, on that ground alone, be unwise to do it. But I go further. No one, no Member of the Government, least of all the Foreign Secretary, can take decisions of this kind without having regard to their larger effect in the world outside beyond our shores. All Europe is perplexed and harassed by economic and social problems. Much of Europe in addition suffers from political uncertainties and a sense of political insecurity which itself reacts upon the economic conditions to their diasdvantage, and it is these things which it must be the object of statesmanship in all our countries to alleviate and, if possible, to remove. If we break off diplomatic relations with Russia, we not only introduce a new and a disturbing issue into our domestic politics, but we introduce a new and a disturbing issue into European politics. The situation is a very deliciate one. I was a Member of the Government which made the Trade Agreement. I invite my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Lloyd George) to remember that our hopes of it have not been fulfilled.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
From any point of view. If we had to make it to-day, I would not make it. If the question to-day were, "Shall we at this 777 moment resume diplomatic relations with the Soviet Government"? 1 should answer it in the negative, but that is not the issue. The issue is, "Shall we break off relations which have now existed for some time; shall we terminate an Agreement which has been in force"? I believe that to answer those questions in the affirmative would be no good to us, would give us no weapon for fighting disorder or disloyalty or revolution within our own borders, would create division where we seek union, and would in its echoes abroad increase the uncertainty, increase the fears, increase the instability of European conditions, which it is and ought to be our chief object to remove.
The Government occupy a middle position between the extremer views which have been expressed to-day. We do not think we should serve our own interests by breaking off the relations which exist. We do not think, like the right hon. Gentleman opposite, or as be appeared to indicate, that it is possible to enter upon any fresh agreement while the engagements which the Soviet Government has already undertaken are daily and persistently broken under the shadiest and shabbiest of excuses.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
On a point of Privilege. This Debate has arisen out of the Russian gold coming into this country, first to aid the workers in the General Strike, and next to aid the miners in the lock-out. There are 50 mining Members in this House, and not one has been given an opportunity to express an opinion.
It is not a question of Privilege, nor do I think the Debate has so arisen. The Debate has arisen because certain Members put their names to a Motion on the Order Paper, and the Government have given this day, in order that the subject covered by that Motion might be discussed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not take the Motion"]
The House will be willing to give a hearing to those who brought forward the Motion.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
On a point of Order. Is it not a fact that this Debate has arisen with regard to the British miners?
§ Adjourned at Six Minutes before Four o'Clock until Monday (28th. June).