§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Waterhouse.]2198
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
One day last week I put a question to the Secretary of State for War about a man in Glasgow who had been a member of the International Brigade and who applied for admission to the Territorial Army. All the answers the right hon. Gentleman gave to questions appeared to be satisfactory until it was divulged that he had been a member of the International Brigade and then all other interest ceased so far as that applicant was concerned and he was refused admission to the Army. When the Secretary of State answered he answered in a very evasive fashion when he was asked whether any instructions had been given to bar members of the International Brigade from military service. He was so evasive that a further question was put, which was answered by the Financial Secretary to the War Office, and he was even more evasive, with the result that I gave notice that I would raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.
To-night I want the representative of the War Office to face the situation that is presented to the people of this country in connection with the Army. If he is prepared to state that the Army in this country is organised, as many of us believe it is organised, for the defence of capitalism and capitalist interests, then he can make a claim that only those who are prepared to maintain that system have a right to be in the Army. If he is prepared to state publicly that the Army is not concerned with the people of the country and is not concerned with democracy, but is concerned only with maintaining the big monopolies, then he has a right to keep out members of the International Brigade, but the claim is made that the Army is democratic and that it is maintained for the defence of the people and the defence of democracy. If that is true then there can be no question of excluding anyone from the Army unless it is someone who by his attitude, by the expression of his opinions, and by his conduct, makes it clear that he is for the destruction of all that is conceived by the term "democracy."
When we talk about democracy we must take into account that which has arisen as the result of the struggles of the working classes in the past. We must take into account the trade unions, and the great Co-operative movement. We 2199 must take into account the great political movement of the working class. There are people in this country who are opposed to trade unions and to the Co-operative societies and who would destroy them and oppose the whole conception of working-class politics and would prohibit it. Yet the door is wide open to these people. If it is a people's Army and an Army concerned with the defence of the people, and if it is an Army concerned with democracy, then the members of the International Brigade have given a heroic demonstration of their devotion to democracy and should be the very first to be welcomed in an army that claims to be concerned with defending democracy. It may be said that members of the International Brigade are somehow or other associated with the Communist party, and that many of them are members of it, and that the Communist party is not interested in democracy. Let me make this clear. There is no member that would take up any other attitude than that capitalism with democracy is far far better than capitalism without democracy; that capitalism where there is an opportunity for the trade unions to function and the Co-operative movement to grow, is much more desirable than capitalism without these things. We are for capitalism with democracy as against capitalism without it. We will fight with all, our power to maintain that democracy and try to advance it to a higher state—what is known as Soviet or proletarianism democracy. That must be understood—always for democracy.
So, members of the International Brigade, whether or not they happen to be associated with the Communist party, have given a most heroic demonstration of their devotion to democracy and to the people when the people are faced with the Fascist menace. Therefore, they should be the first to be enrolled in the Army if they want to join. The whole attitude of the Government and of the class they represent is that the Army is to defend them, their property and their privileges. They want to see any other views suppressed. There was, for instance, a case where a lad engaged in clerical work was bringing up documents and among them was one dealing with this very question, but when tried in 2200 court, there was some story told about groups being formed and carrying on subversive activities. That is utter nonsense and rubbish. There is nothing subversive in carrying on activities and work in defence of the people and democracy. I have here a letter which I received the other day from a lad who has been called up. He is an exceptionally sensible lad, although he does not belong to the Communist party. [Interruption.] He does not belong to any political party. He refers to himself and a friend, and he writes:We would not be against conscription if we thought that the Chamberlain Government had done all in its power to stop aggression. But has it? We say emphatically, 'No'.That is written by a young lad of 20 years of age who is being called up. Towards the end of his letter, he writes:So, Mr. Gallacher, we go to be made into soldiers, but believe me, if all the conscripts feel as I feel, there will not be much chance of using us to break a strike.That young man is being called up and his whole desire, as he is being conscripted, is to train himself, and for his mates to be trained, to defend what has been won in the past. The essential thing about democracy is not the big landed estates; they were stolen before we had democracy. The essential thing about democracy is not millionaires and all the wealth that is manifest in the West End of London and the West End of other cities; that is a growth in democracy which sooner or later democracy will have to get rid of. The essential things about democracy are the trade union movement the co-operative movement, the working-class movement, free speech and the free Press. All these young lads who are being conscripted will—and quite rightly—see to it that those with whom they are associated understand, as far as possible, the character of the responsibility that should lie upon them. So it is with members of the International Brigade or members of the Communist party who want to join the Army. They will do all that they possibly can to ensure that those with whom they are associated understand what is meant by the defence of the people and the defence of democracy.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.