§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."£[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
Late in July I learned that the President of the United States would welcome a meeting with me in order to survey the entire world position in relation to the settled and common interests of our respective countries. As I was sure that Parliament would approve, I obtained His Majesty's permission to leave the country. I crossed the Atlantic Ocean in one of our latest battleships to meet the President at a convenient place. I was, as the House knows, accompanied by the First Sea Lord, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and the Vice-Chief of the Air Staff, together with the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Office and others. We were, therefore, in a position to discuss with the President and with his technical advisers every question relating to the war and to the state of affairs after the war.
Important conclusions were reached on four main topics: First of all, on the Eight-Point Declaration of the broad principles and aims which guide and govern the actions of the British and United States Governments and peoples amid the many dangers by which they are beset in these times. Secondly, on measures to be taken to help Russia to resist the hideous onslaught which Hitler has made upon her. Thirdly, the policy to be pursued towards Japan in order, if possible, to put a stop to further encroachment in the Far East likely to endanger the safety or interests of Great Britain or the United States and thus, by timely action, prevent the spreading of the war to the Pacific Ocean. Fourthly, there was a large number of purely technical matters which were dealt with, and close personal relations were established between high naval, military and air authorities of both countries. I shall refer to some of these topics in the course of my statement.
I have, as the House knows, hitherto consistently deprecated the formulation of peace aims or war aims£however you put it£by His Majesty's Government, at this stage. I deprecate it at this time, when the end of the war is not in sight, when the conflict sways to and fro with alternating fortunes and when conditions and associations at the end of the war are 68 unforeseeable. But a Joint Declaration by Great Britain and the United States is an event of a totally different nature. Although the principles in the Declaration, and much of the language, have long been familiar to the British and American democracies, the fact that it is a united Declaration sets up a milestone or monument which needs only the stroke of victory to become a permanent part of the history of human progress. The purpose of the Joint Declaration signed by President Roosevelt and myself on 12th August, is stated in the Preamble to be:To make known certain common principles in the national policies of our respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.No words are needed to emphasise the future promise held out to the world by such a Joint Declaration by the United States and Great Britain. I need only draw attention, for instance, to the phrase in Paragraph 6.after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny.to show the profound and vital character of the solemn agreement into which we have jointly entered. Questions have been asked, and will no doubt be asked, as to exactly what is implied by this or that point, and explanations have been invited. It is a wise rule that when two parties have agreed a statement one of them shall not, thereafter, without consultation with the other, seek to put special or strained interpretations upon this or that passage. I propose, therefore, to speak to-day only in an exclusive sense.
First, the Joint Declaration does not try to explain how the broad principles proclaimed by it are to be applied to each and every case, which will have to be dealt with when the war comes to an end. It would not be wise for us, at this moment, to be drawn into laborious discussions on how it is to fit all the manifold problems with which we shall be faced after the war. Secondly, the Joint Declaration does not qualify in any way the various statements of policy which have been made from time to time about the development of constitutional government in India, Burma or other parts of the British Empire. We are pledged by the Declaration of August, 1940, to help India to obtain free and equal partnership in the British Commonwealth with ourselves, subject, of course, to the fulfilment 69 of obligations arising from our long connection with India and our responsibilities to its many creeds, races and interests. Burma also is covered by our considered policy of establishing Burmese self-government and by the measures already in progress. At the Atlantic meeting, we had in mind, primarily, the restoration of the sovereignty, self-government and national life of the States and nations of Europe now under the Nazi yoke, and the principles governing any alterations in the territorial boundaries which may have to be made. So that is quite a separate problem from the progressive evolution of self-governing institutions in the regions and peoples which owe allegiance to the British Crown. We have made declarations on these matters which are complete in themselves, free from abiguity and related to the conditions and circumstances of the territories and peoples affected. They will be found to be entirely in harmony with the high conception of freedom and justice which inspired the Joint Declaration.
Since we last met the Battle of the Atlantic has been going on unceasingly. In his attempt to blockade and starve out this Island by U-boat and air attack and the very formidable combination of U-boat and air attacks the enemy continually changes his tactics. Driven from one beat, he goes to another. Chased from home waters, driven from the approaches to this island, he proceeds to the other side of the Atlantic. Increasingly hampered by United States patrols in the North Atlantic, he develops his malice in the South. We follow hard upon his track, and sometimes we anticipate his tactics. But it is not desirable to give him too precise or, above all, too early information of the success or failure of each of his various manoeuvres, and it was therefore decided that the publication of our shipping losses at regular monthly intervals should cease. Accordingly, no statement of losses has been published for July and August, and I do not think the time has come to give the actual figures yet. The public, and indeed the whole world, have however derived the impression that things have gone much better in those two months. I cannot deny that this is so.
The improvement in the sea war manifests itself in two directions. In the first place, there is a very great falling off in the sinkings of British and Allied ships, 70 with a corresponding increase in the tonnage of invaluable cargoes safely landed on our shores. The estimates which I made at the beginning of the year of the volume of our importations for 1941, and which I mentioned to the House on another occasion, to which it would be improper to refer, look to me as if they would not only be made good but exceeded. The second improvement is the extraordinary rise during the last three months in the destruction of German and Italian shipping. This has been achieved very largely by the development of new and brilliant tactics by the Coastal Command and the Royal Air Force bombing squadrons, acting with the Coastal Command. To the exploits of the Air Force must be added those of our submarines. The destruction of enemy shipping by both these forms of attack has been enormous. In fact, I may say£and I would like the House to pay attention to this statement because it is really an extraordinary one for anyone to be able to make£the sinkings of British and Allied ships by enemy action in July and August, added together, do not amount to much more than one-third of the German and Italian tonnage which we have sunk by our aircraft and our submarines. How remarkable that statement is may be judged when we remember that we present perhaps 10 times, or it may be even 20 times, the target to hostile attack upon the seas as is presented to us by the shipping of the enemy. His ships make short voyages, darting across a narrow strip of water or slinking along the coast from one defended port to another under air protection, while we carry on the gigantic world-wide trade of Britain with, as has often been stated and can hardly be too often repeated, never less than 2,000 ships at sea and never less than 400 in the danger zone.
I have for some time looked for an opportunity of paying a tribute to our submarines. There is no branch of His Majesty's Forces which in this war has suffered the same proportion of fatal loss as our submarine service. It is the most dangerous of all the Services. That is perhaps the reason why the First Lord tells me that entry into it is keenly sought by officers and men. I feel the House would wish to testify its gratitude and admiration for our submarine crews, for their skill and devotion, which have proved of inestimable value to the life of 71 our country. During 1941 British submarines have sunk or seriously damaged 17 enemy warships. Some of them were U-boats. Besides the warships, 105 supply ships have fallen to their torpedoes. This is an average of 15 ships a month, or one ship every two days. The ships which have been torpedoed varied between large liners of 20,000 tons and caiques and schooners loaded with troops and military stores. They also included a considerable number of laden troop transports and tankers, most of which were passing across the Mediterranean, through the British submarine attack, in order to keep alive the enemy's armies in Libya. Submarines of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Free French Naval Forces have been operating in combination with our submarines and have contributed in a most gallant manner to these results.
There are other perils which have been overcome and other labours of splendid quality which have been performed unknown, or almost unknown, to the public. I mentioned some of these to the House upon a private occasion, and it has been suggested to me that this particular reference should also obtain publicity. The first deals with the anti-mining service. We do not hear much about the mine menace now. Yet almost every night 30 or 40 enemy aeroplanes are casting these destructive engines, with all their ingenious variations, at the most likely spots to catch our shipping. The attack, which began in November, 1939;£which began, indeed, when the war opened£with the ordinary moored mine laid by night in the approaches to our harbours, was succeeded before the end of 1939 by the magnetic mine, with all its mysterious terrors, and is now waged continually by the acoustic mine as well as the magnetic in many dangerous combinations. We do not hear much about all this now, because, by the resources of British science and British organisation, it has been largely mastered. We do not hear much about it because 20,000 men and 1,000 ships toil ceaselessly with many strange varieties of apparatus to clear the ports and channels every morning of the deadly deposits of the night. You will remember the lines of Kipling:Mines reported in the fairway,Warn all traffic and detain.Sent up Unity, Claribel, Assyrian,Stormcock, and Golden Gain.'72 This is going on night after night, day after day, and it may well be imagined, as the service has to be performed in all weathers and constantly under the attack of the enemy, how excellent is the service rendered by the brave and faithful men engaged in it. We do not hear much about them because this work is done in secret and in silence, and we live on. We take it as a matter of course, like the feats of the salvage service, to which I must also refer. The salvage service has recovered, since the beginning of the war, in every circumstance of storm and difficulty, upwards of 1,000,000 tons of shipping which would otherwise have been cast away. These marvellous services of seamanship and devotion and the organisation behind them, prove at every stage and step the soundness of our national life and the remarkable adaptive-ness of the British mind and the tenacity of the British character by which we shall certainly be saved and save others.
Although, as I have admitted, there has been a very great improvement in our losses at sea in July and August, it would be a very foolish mistake to assume that the grave dangers which threaten us are at an end. The enemy has been employing a greater number of U-boats and a larger number of long-range aircraft than ever before, and we must expect further increases. We have made prodigious exertions and our resources are continually growing. The skill and science of the Admiralty staff and their commanders, working in perfect harmony with the Royal Air Force, have gained these successes, but the Admiralty would be the last to guarantee their continuance as a matter of course, and certainly the slightest relaxation of vigilance, of exertions and of contrivance would be followed swiftly by very serious relapses. It must be remembered also that the Germans are much hampered on the American parts of the Atlantic, which are very extensive, by the fear of trouble with the powerful American Naval forces which ceaselessly patrol the approaches to the Western Hemisphere. This has been a help to us. I could wish it might be a greater help. But here again, the enemy's tactics may change. No doubt Hitler would rather finish off Russia and then Britain before coming to close quarters with the United States. That would be in accordance with his habitual 73 technique of one by one. Hitler has, however, also the greatest possible need to prevent the precious munition supplies, now streaming across the Atlantic, in pursuance of the policy of the United States Government, from reaching our shores. Should he do so the area of the danger zones would again become ocean-wide. In the meanwhile, let us hear no vain talk about the Battle of the Atlantic having been won. We may be content with the successes which have rewarded patience and exertion, but war is in-exhaustable in its surprises, and very few of those surprises are of an agreeable character.
It was with great pleasure that on my homeward voyage I visited Iceland, where we were received with the utmost cordiality by the Government and the people, and where I had the honour of reviewing large numbers of the strong British and United States Forces which, no doubt for entirely different reasons and in pursuance of separate duties, happen to be engaged jointly in defending this all-important island and stepping-stone across the Atlantic from Nazi intrusion and attack. Very considerable British and United States Air and Naval Forces are also assembled in Iceland in the harbours and on the airfields. The spacious airfields which we have constructed, and which we are expanding there and in Newfoundland, will play an ever-increasing part, not only in the control of the broad waters, but in the continual flow of that broadening stream of heavy bombers, now attacking Germany night after night, which will play a decisive part, or one of the decisive parts, in the final victory.
Our affairs have also prospered in the Eastern theatre of the war. Our relations with Iraq are governed by the Treaty of Alliance, which in time of war or other emergency accords to us wide powers for the purposes of defence both of Iraqian and British interests. The Germans had, of course, practised their usual methods of building up by infiltration and intrigue a pro-German party in Baghdad, and on 2nd April the pro-German leader, Rashid Ali, carried out a coup d état in Baghdad, forcing the constitutional ruler of the country, the Regent, to fly from the capital. This move did not find us wholly unprepared. We had the right and the duty to protect our lines of communica- 74 tion through Iraq, and orders were at once given to send to the Port of Basra, at the head of the Persian Gulf, an Indian division which was held in readiness for this emergency. This division disembarked at Basra on 18th April, without opposition. Hoping perhaps to secure from us recognition for his illegal regime, Rashid Ali even pretended to welcome the arrival of our troops. Soon, however, instigated by the Germans and lured on by promises of prompt and powerful air support, he resorted to open war against us in utter breach of the Treaty. Our air-training station at Habbaniyah, where about 1,500 airmen and soldiers were stationed, was attacked on 2nd May by the Iraqian Army, and the position seemed for some days most critical. Reinforcements were sent through Basra and India by air, and strong mobile columns moved from Palestine to relieve Habbaniyah by land. Before they could reach Habbaniyah, however, the reinforced garrison, aided by the aircraftsmen in training, turned the tables on its attackers in the most spirited manner, and, in spite of a superiority of three to one, drove the enemy off with heavy losses. By a bold stroke the bridge across the Euphrates was then captured intact, and, in spite of difficulties due to floods, our troops reached Baghdad on 30th May, thus liberating our gifted and resolute Ambassador from his virtual blockade in the British Embassy.
While all this was going on, Rashid Ali appealed constantly to the Germans to make good their promises, but only 30 or 40 German aeroplanes arrived from Syria and endeavoured tentatively to instal themselves at Baghdad and also to the North at Mosul. But meanwhile there was an explanation for this failure of the Germans. The German parachute and air-borne corps, which no doubt was to have operated in Iraq and would have been assisted on its journey across Syria by the Vichy French, had been largely exterminated in the Battle of Crete. Over 4,000 of these special troops were killed, and very large numbers of carrier aircraft were destroyed. This specialist corps were so mauled in the ferocious fighting that, although they forced us to evacuate Crete, they were themselves in no condition for further operations. We, therefore, suppressed the revolt of Rashid Ali, and he and his partisans fled to Persia£ I like to call it Persia, if only out of 75 consideration for my right hon. Friend, and I hope the House will permit me to indulge myself in that fashion£and the exiled Regent was able to return and to re-establish a lawful Government in Iraq. With this Government we have been able to return to the basis of friendly co-operation which we have followed for a good many years, and which we propose to follow. The Treaty is now being loyally observed on both sides. Our ground and air forces have been accorded full facilities throughout Iraq, and the situation which in April had appeared so disastrous was fully restored by the end of May. There are still dangers in Iraq which require attention, but which need cause no serious anxiety.
The intrigues of the Germans with the Vichy French in Syria had meanwhile been in full swing, and the Vichy French Governor, General Dentz, in a base and treacherous manner was striving his utmost to further the German interests. We were ourselves hard pressed. Our Armies in Greece had been evacuated, having lost much of their equipment, our Western Front in Cyrenaica had been beaten in by the incursion of General Von Rommel's German Africa Corps, and we had the revolt in Iraq to put down. Nevertheless, we found it possible, in conjunction with the Free French, to invade Syria on 8th June. The six Free French Battalions under General Le Gentilhomme fought gallantly and co-operated with our Forces, which ultimately reached the equivalent of about four Divisions. The Australian and Indian troops distinguished themselves repeatedly in action. Although the Vichy French forces in their antagonism to the Free French movement fought with unusual vigour, by nth July the conquest of Syria was complete and all Germans had been driven out. The occupation of Syria by the-Army of the Nile carried with it the means of securing the safety of Cyprus, which until then, as anyone can see, had been in great danger from the air forces which the Germans were trying to build up in Syria in order to cut Cyprus off from naval protection. All this part of the Levant thus came in to a far more satisfactory condition. Our naval and air control over the Eastern end of the Mediterranean became effective, and we obtained direct contact with our Turkish friends, and the 76 control of the pipe line and other resources.
This is the point at which it will be convenient for me to explain our position in Syria. We have no ambitions in Syria. We do not seek to replace or supplant France, or substitute British for French interests in any part of Syria. We are only in Syria in order to win the war. However, I must make it quite clear that our policy, to which our Free French Allies have subscribed, is that Syria shall be handed back to the Syrians, who will assume at the earliest possible moment their independent sovereign rights. We do not propose that this process of creating an independent Syrian Government, or Governments£because it may be that they will not be one Government£ shall wait until the end of the war. We contemplate constantly increasing the Syrian share in the administration. There is no question of France maintaining the same position which she exercised in Syria before the war, but which the French Government had realised must come to an end. On the other hand, we recognise that among all the nations of Europe the position of France in Syria is one of special privilege, and that in so far as any European countries have influence in Syria, that of France will be preeminent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why? "] Because that it the policy which we have decided to adopt. We did not go there in order to deprive France of her historic position in Syria, except in so far as is necessary to fulfil our obligations and pledges to the Syrian population. There must be no question, even in war-time, of a mere substitution of Free French interests for Vichy French interests. The Syrian peoples are to come back into their own. This is fully recognised in the documents which have been exchanged between the Minister of State and the representatives of the Free French.
I was asked a question about our relations with Iraq. They are special; our relations with Egypt are special, and, in the same way, I conceive that France will have special arrangements with Syria. The independence of Syria is a prime feature in our policy.
While all this was going on in the Levant, on the Eastern flank of the Army of the Nile, that Army struck two heavy blows at the German and Italian forces which had recaptured Cyrenaica. These 77 forces found themselves unable to advance upon Egypt as had been foreseen, without destroying the stronghold of Tobruk, which was firmly held by Australian and British troops. The heavy attacks made by our Forces in the Western Desert in the middle of May and the middle of June, while they did not succeed, as we had hoped, in forcing the enemy to retreat, played a great Part in bringing him to a standstill. All the German boasts which they had widely circulated throughout Europe and the East that they would be in Suez by the end of May have thus proved to be vain. Powerful reinforcements have reached the Army of the Nile in the interval, and I feel considerable confidence that we shall be able to defend Egypt successfully from German invasion across the Western Desert. Thus the position both on the Western and on the Eastern flanks of the Nile Valley has been greatly improved. A marked recovery has been made from the unfortunate setback coming after the victories over the Italians which occurred at the beginning of April. Altogether we are entitled to be content with these favourable developments.
Now I turn to a far wider field. The magnificent resistance of the Russian Armies and the skilful manner in which their vast front is being withdrawn in the teeth of Nazi invasion make it certain that Hitler's hopes of a short war with Russia will be dispelled. Already in three months he has lost more German blood than was shed in any single year of the last war. Already he faces the certainty of having to maintain his armies on the whole front from the Arctic to the Black Sea, at the end of long, inadequate, assailed and precarious lines of communication, through all the severity of a Russian winter, with the vigorous counter stroke? which may be expected from the Russian Armies. From the moment, now nearly 80 days ago, when Russia was attacked, we have cast about for every means of giving the most speedy and effective help to our new Ally. I am not prepared to discuss the military projects which have been examined. Such a discussion would be harmful to our interests, both for what was said and for what was not said. Nor will it be possible for anyone representing the Government to enter upon any argument on such questions. In the field of supply more can be said. I agreed with President Roosevelt upon the message which was sent to Premier 78 Stalin, the terms of which have already been made public. The need is urgent, and the scale heavy. A considerable part of the munition industry and iron and steel production of Russia has fallen into the hands of the enemy. On the other hand, the Soviet Union disposes of anything from 10,000,000 to 15,000,000 soldiers, for nearly all of whom they have equipment and arms. To aid in the supply of these masses, to enable them to realise their long continuing force and to organise the operation of their supply, will be the task of the Anglo-American-Russian Conference.
There has been no unavoidable delay in arranging for this conference or in choosing the personnel of the British Mission. Some people seem to think nothing has been done, nothing has been sent and nothing is going on. The study of the whole problem has been ceaselessly proceeding, both in the United States and here, and we are waiting the arrival of the American Mission under Mr. Harriman, which I trust will soon be here. This Mission contains important representatives of the United States Fighting Services. Our Mission will be headed by Lord Beaverbrook, who has already visited the United States and has been in the closest conference with the President and his advisers and officers It must be remembered that we already have a Military Mission with officers of high rank in Moscow. Those whom Lord Beaverbrook takes with him will therefore supplement those who are already there, and during the conference he will be in charge of all of them. The names are already selected and will be published in due course. It is obviously undesirable to announce the date when the Mission will start for the conference, but no time will be lost. Meanwhile, many very important emergency decisions are being taken, and large supplies are on the way.
We must be prepared for serious sacrifices in the munitions field in order to meet the needs of Russia. The utmost exertion and energy will therefore be required from all concerned in production in order not only to help Russia but to fill the gaps which must now be opened in our longed-for, and at last arriving supply. It must be remembered that everything that is given to Russia is subtracted from what we are making for ourselves, and in part at least from what would have been sent us 79 by the United States. In terms of finished munitions of war the flow of our own production in this country and the Empire is still rising. It will reach full flood during this third year of our war-time munitions production. If the United States are to fulfil the task they have set themselves, very large new installations will have to be set up or converted, and there will have to be a further curtailment over there, as they fully recognise, of civilian consumption. We must ourselves expect a definite reduction in the military supplies from America on which we had counted, but within certain limits we are prepared to accept those facts and their consequences.
Other limiting factors are also present. There is time, there is distance, there is geography. These impose themselves upon us. There are the limitations of transport and of harbour facilities. Above all, there is the limitation of shipping. Only three routes are open£the Arctic route by Archangel, which may be hampered by the winter ice; the Far Eastern route via Vladivostok, which is scowled upon by the Japanese and operates over only 7,000 miles of railway line; and, finally, the route across Persia, which leads over a 500-mile stretch from the Persian Gulf to that great inland sea, the Caspian, upon which the Russians maintain a strong naval force and which again gives access to the very heart of Russia, the Volga Basin.
The Germans were, of course, busy betimes in Persia with their usual tricks. German tourists, technicians and diplomatists were busy suborning the people and Government of Persia with the object of creating a Fifth Column which would dominate the Government at Teheran and not only seize or destroy the oil fields, which are of the highest consequence, but£a fact to which I attach extreme importance£close the surest and shortest route by which we could reach Russia. We thought it necessary, therefore, to make sure that these machinations did not succeed. Accordingly, we demanded of the Persian Government the immediate expulsion of their Teutonic visitors. When under local duress the Persian Government failed to comply with our request, British and Russian Forces entered Persia from the South and from the North 80 in sufficient and, indeed, overwhelming strength.
The Persian Government, having made such resistance as they thought fit, sued for peace. We must have the surrender into our hands of all the Germans and Italians who are on the premises; we must have the expulsion of the German and Italian Legations, whose diplomatic status we, of course, respect; and we must have the unquestioned control and maintenance of the through communications from the warm water port of Basra to the Caspian Sea. It is from this point particularly that American and British supplies can be carried into the centre of Russia in an ever-widening flow, and naturally every effort will be made, and is being made, to improve the railway communications and expand the volume of supplies which can be transported over the existing British-gauge railway, which has happily only recently been completed and now requires only large accessions of rolling stock and locomotives to expand it greatly as a line of supply.
The House will, I have no doubt, approve the somewhat drastic measures we thought it right to take to achieve those important objects and the further measures we may have to take. The occupation of Persia enables us to join hands with the Southern flank of the Russian Armies and to bring into action there both military and air forces. It also serves important British objects in presenting a shield which should bar the eastward advance of the German invader. In this the Armies of India, whose military quality has become shiningly apparent, will play an increasing part, and in so doing will keep the scourge of war a thousand miles or more from the homes of the peoples of India. One must, therefore, expect that very considerable deployments of British, Indian, and Dominion Forces, will gradually manifest themselves in these enormous and desolate or ill-developed regions. The Allied front now runs in an immense crescent from Spitzbergen in the Arctic Ocean to Tobruk in the Western Desert, and our section of this front will be held by the British and Empire Armies with their growing strength fed and equipped by ocean-borne supplies from Great Britain, from the United States, from India and from Australasia. I am glad to say that adequate naval power will be at hand in 81 both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to secure the sea routes against attack.
If we now look back for a moment, we can measure the solid improvement in our position in the Middle East or East which has been achieved since the French suddenly fell out of the war and the Italians made haste so eagerly to come in against us. At that date all we had in those parts was from 80,000 to 100,000 men, starved of munitions and equipment, which had all been sent to the French front, always first to claim the best we had. We had lost our means of safe communication through the Mediterranean and almost all the main bases on which we relied. We were anxiously concerned for our defence of Nairobi, Khartoum, British Somaliland and, above all, of the Nile Valley and Palestine, including the famous cities of Cairo and Jerusalem. None was safe, but, nevertheless, after little more than a year we have managed to gather very large and well-equipped Armies, which already begin to approach 750,000, which are supplied and are being supplied with masses of equipment of all kinds. We have developed an Air Force almost as large as that we had in Great Britain when the war began, an Air Force which is rapidly expanding. We have conquered the whole of the Italian Empire in Abyssinia and Eritrea, and have killed or taken prisoner the Italian armies of over 400,000 men by which these regions were defended. We have defended the frontiers of Egypt against German and Italian attack. We have consolidated our position in Palestine and Iraq. We have taken effective control of Syria and provided for the security of Cyprus. Finally, by the swift, vigorous campaign in Persia which has taken place since the House last met we have joined hands with our Russian Allies and stand in the line to bar the further Eastward progress of the enemy. I cannot help feeling that these are achievements which, whatever the future may contain, will earn the respect of history and deserve the approval of the House.
Thus far then have we travelled along the terrible road we chose at the call of duty. The mood of Britain is wisely and rightly averse from every form of shallow or premature exultation. This is no time for boasts or glowing prophecies, but there is this—a year ago our position looked forlorn and well nigh desperate to all eyes 82 but our own. To-day we may say aloud before an awe-struck world, "We still are master of our fate. We still are captain of our souls."
§ Mr. Lees-Smith (Keighley)
The Prime Minister has surveyed the whole field, I think, of our present operations and has given a sober and very carefully restrained account of the recent course of the war. We have just passed the second anniversary of the opening of the war, and listening to the Prime Minister's account of our present position I feel that we can, with very solid satisfaction, compare our situation now with the situation in which we were at the first anniversary just about this time last year. There have been four great turning points in the war which the Prime Minister has described as climacteric, and when we met this time last year we were really still staggering under the fatal tragedy of the first great climacteric, which was the fall of France. As the Prime Minister has said, it is true that when we met this time last year there was only one country in the world which thought we could survive, and that was our own. Since then there have been three other great turning points in the war; they have all occurred in the second year and they have all been in our favour. There was the end of the Battle of Britain, which took place less than a year ago; there was the passage of the Lease-and-Lend Act; and there has been this marvellous resistance of Russia which has taken by surprise not only the German High Command but, I venture to surmise, every general staff in the world. Steadily fought out behind it all has been the Battle of the Atlantic, in the end the most decisive of all battles, which, if it may not be termed an actual climacteric, has, as we have heard from the Prime Minister, turned in our favour, although it is not yet at an end. So I think we may justly summarise our present situation by saying that the long distance forces in this war have steadily accumulated on our side, and that the time will soon arise when it will no longer be a case of delaying action on our part but when the initiative will pass into our own hands.
It was in the background of that situation that I listened to the Prime Minister's account of the Eight-Point Declaration drawn up by himself and the President of the United States. From the point of view of this House that declaration came at a most fortunate time. I do not know 83 whether the Prime Minister actually read the Debate which took place in this House during his absence, but it did happen that four out of five, I should say, of the speeches all took the same line. They seemed to concentrate on this point, that the time had now come when what may be called propaganda, sometimes called political warfare, would become just as important as our military operations, and that the first stage in the possibilities of effective political warfare would be a broad declaration of our general peace aims, particularly in the economic sphere, which would give not only the German people but the German troops who occupy the enslaved countries an alternative to the Hitlerite Germany.
That was what was advocated in this House, and for that reason I think the House can say that the Eight-Point Declaration was just the right kind of declaration and issued at the right moment of time. The people of Germany are now told quite definitely that when they have extirpated the Nazi system they will have access to the trade and raw materials of the. world on equal terms with other nations, and that other nations will be willing to co-operate with them on equal terms to provide social security and freedom from fear and want for all people. I would say, therefore, that the next stage in this gradual development probably lies in the Department of the Minister of Construction. The Government, through this Department, are working out plans for post-war reorganisation, both domestic and international. I think it is now very necessary that the blanks in the Eight-Point Declaration should begin to be filled in, as no doubt is being done in the Department, without further delay, so that the plans may be ready to be published to the people of Europe when the right moment arrives.
I will turn for a few moments to the actual military operations. The nation has shown that it is most anxious that help should be given to Russia without stint, and there has undoubtedly been an anxiety abroad, not confined to any one section of the people, that this may not be done, and for various reasons, partly on account of what appears to be delay in naming our representatives who are going to Russia, although those from the United States have been named, and 84 partly, I must point out, because it is a fact, and the Government must recognise it, on account of the report of the speech alleged to have been made by the Minister of Aircraft Production. It is a speech which has received very great publicity, and a serious explanation of it should be given when the right moment comes, and I think it will arrive before the end of this week. It is necessary not only to give help to Russia, but to let it be known very widely that help is being given, although not the exact form. or place of such help.
The Prime Minister rightly pointed out that the Government alone know the facts which show the kind of help that can best be given. I can only make observations of a general character on the subject, but I should say it is pretty clear that help from the air and in the air can be the most effective. The Russians have admitted that their own losses in aircraft have been immense and number thousands. It is clear that air attacks on this side have been effective in compelling the Germans to bring a number of their most experienced pilots from Russia back to the Western Front. Not only that kind of help, but help actually on the spot, touching the heart of the campaign in Russia, is required, by means of actual assistance with aircraft. I will not pursue that point, except to say that this all seems obvious to any outside observer.
Suggestions have been made that we should send a land force to the Continent of Europe. Again, the facts concerning that possibility are known only to the Government, but any land force sent into the occupied territory would obviously have to be on the defensive and subject to German hammering for an indefinite period of time. We do not want that kind of stagnation. It would lead to an impasse and very likely to a stalemate. These possibilities and prospects bring us back to the vital importance of propaganda and political warfare in this war. I hope the Government will recognise that importance in its proper order. Political warfare needs the most careful advance preparation and the most complete synchronisation with military operations. It needs the most elaborate staff work, and it should have a status and an authority practically equal to those possessed by the Army, Navy and Air 85 Force. I am immensely impressed with the potentialities of this form of warfare when assiduously applied. The first few months of the war began in a very queer way, and I rather foresee that, if the proper tactics are not employed on our part, the last few months of the war may end also in a very queer way.
I listened with very special interest to the considerable portion of his speech which the Prime Minister devoted to the operations in the Near East. I think the whole House felt that he spoke of them with a special note of pride. It is now becoming clear that, in the history of this war, the account of these operations in the Near East, which began with every possible advantage on the side of the enemy and have led up to the situation which the Prime Minister described to-day, and which have gone sometimes up and sometimes down, will, in its totality, be one of the most remarkable stories in the history of warfare. May I add my special congratulations on account of the exploits of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean in the last few days? Those successful operations have been striking at the very heart of what is the most probable winter campaign. The Prime Minister spoke of the maintenance of our position in Egypt and in the Suez Canal. They are the keys to the whole Near East- and if that position were lost, we should lose our positions in Iraq, Iran, Palestine and Cyprus, as well as our control of the oil of Iraq and Iran and our new control over the oil supplies of Baku. Egypt is one of the countries suitable for winter campaigning. I presume that the immense efforts which Hitler is making to transport supplies across the Mediterranean indicate that he is as aware of that fact as we are. For that reason, the Navy's recent operations deserve the special congratulations of the House and of the authorities, because they are fighting in advance the possibilities of such a winter campaign.
One last point. The Prime Minister dealt with the necessity for production in this country. It is necessary to emphasise that the entrance of Russia into the war raises again the whole issue of production in its sharpest form, and makes production and output more than ever the key to the final result of the war. More than ever it is in the industries and the workshops of this country that the final result of the war will be determined. 86 Hitherto, production has been urgent. Why? Because we have had to hold the fort and to bridge the gap until production in the United States turned over from peace to war output. We cannot rely now upon that United States production in the quantities we had assumed possible three months ago, because much of it has to be diverted, and is already being diverted, to Russia. In this country we have not only to fill that gap in our own defences, but we have pledged ourselves to send supplies to Russia from our own factories in unstinted quantities.
One fact in this situation the Prime Minister did not point out, but it must be very apparent to his mind. It is worth while pointing out that if we can provide Russia with the equipment that she requires in the air and on the land, we deprive Germany of the one remaining long-run advantage which she has had in this war. Germany has had one long-run advantage all this time, and it has been at the back of all our minds: it is that, whatever we did in this country, we could not compete with Germany in actual manpower. That has been Germany's strength, but it has now been altered. The Allies have now more man-power than Germany. Man-power is now supplied by Russia in quantities which surpass anything which Germany can provide. We must equip Russia so as to bring that man-power into the field. We have already learned that, properly equipped, the Russians are, man for man, better than their German opponents.
I emphasise this because I doubt whether, of late, there has been the same sense of urgency with regard to the, whole issue of production as there was when we were fighting the Battle of Britain at this time last year. There is not quite the same sense of urgency, because all this is rather far away, and yet the fact still remains that probably the fate of Russia may well be decided by the production and output of this country during the winter months. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, it is now perfectly clear that Germany has given up hopes of defeating Russia before winter, but all her plans are being so made as to make her ready for a great spring offensive, and that is what she is trying to prepare for now. She will have the winter to provide herself with communications and supplies. We shall have exactly the same time. This 87 war is now more than ever developing into a race between the production and workers of Britain and the armies of Hitler, and just as the production of Britain turned the scale in the Battle of Britain last year, so it may well turn the scale in the Battle of Europe in the winter to come.
Mr. Gary (Eccles)
The Prime Minister, in his own unrivalled fashion, has told us to-day of the prospects facing the nation, and the good purpose which has been shown by our Forces in the field and at sea in discharging our obligations in this war. I think I should be right in saying that the one thought that dominates the mind of everybody in this country, and certainly of most people throughout the world, is the immediate outcome of the struggle which is taking place between Germany and Russia. Germany's failure to attain swift victory against Russia has probably already destroyed German military plans, for some time ahead at least. That failure, in fact, may already have decided the ultimate outcome of this war, provided we on our side lose no time in mobilising to the full all the great resources which are still in the possession of the democracies and which were referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). We must organise, scheme and plan, with an intensity worthy of our commitments. In the battle of production and in the personal battle against the lazy preferences of pre-war existence, we must be ruthless to ourselves and callous to the welfare of any who seek to side-step their civic obligations.
Germany did not invade Russia without the most meticulous examination of Russian limitations. Having assessed those limitations, the German high command automatically knew its own possibilities. It would seem, indeed, as if the German high command made a bad appreciation of the situation. The political decision to invade Russia bore to some extent the taint of desperation: owing to the slowing-down of the advance against Russia, to that taint of desperation must now be added the taint—if I can call it that—of military failure. Recovery may be difficult, even perilous. The Prime Minister to-day talked of vigorous Russian counter-strokes, but I will ask the House to remember that the penalties of the 88 winter for the German army will also apply to the Russian Army, and that both these great forces, throughout the winter, will be immobilised. The Prime Minister has told us in a previous Debate how easy it is for the German army, built up on interior lines, to be thrown from one side of Europe to the other, and in my own modest opinion the Germans will take the opportunity of withdrawing a substantial part of their forces from the Russian front. The severity of the winter is such that in my opinion that front could be held with almost a skeleton or cadre force.
Perhaps the House will forgive a personal note. In 1921 I was with the last British Field Force in the field, in the countries surrounding the Southern end of the Caspian Sea, under the command of General Ironside and later of General Cory. In winter conditions I remember accompanying General Cory on a ten-day cross-country journey to British headquarters at Kazvin. We travelled by pack pony for 10 days over a country which was frozen, crossing mountain ridges deep in snow-drifts and rivers covered with pack ice. I myself suffered agonies from snow-blindness, and my face, hands and neck were cut to ribbons by knife-like sores caused by an unending blizzard. That small experience of mine tells me, if those are the conditions on the fringe of the southern Russian winter, what conditions must be like north-west of the Caspian and up into the heart of Russia.
But if we are not to see a major clash of arms between Germany and Russia during the winter months, there is absolutely no reason why a major clash of arms should not take place in the west or in the Mediterranean between Germany and the Forces of the British Empire. The Prime Minister in his speech to-day names the urgency of the production position. In this new phase of the war, what must be the thought in everybody's mind? I think it must be this: how is it that Russia, said to be a backward and undeveloped country industrially and assumed to lack the vast engineering resources of the democracies, is able to fight, and fight well, on a thousand-mile front, and is able to produce readily and in vast quantities the innumerable articles of war required to maintain great armies in the field, whereas we for five 89 years of time have had so much difficulty in producing the means of war and in some instances have probably come nowhere near the totals of Russian output? Since war broke out, excuses could be found; indeed, so often during Debates leading up to this war on the co-ordination of defence, I was even reminded of those lines of Aristophanes in the chorus of "The Frogs":This obtuse and mighty battle, of profound and learned prattle.But we have been at war for two years, and still there are delay, uneven-ness and lag in production. Let us face the blunt truth; is individual gain an acceptable standard of value when the crying need is for universal service? Our great chance to throw Germany on the defensive draws near. Nothing must be allowed to shackle or choke that greater efficiency which we all desire, and without which victory cannot be attained.
In my opinion, disinterested universal service will be required on a scale which is as yet but dimly appreciated. The morale of the nation is good. Our achievements since the fall of France make the brightest page in British history. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force have surprised the world. The whole Empire must surge forward to consolidate that position, and in no matter what country of the Empire there can be no person in this struggle to whom the winning of this war is still a matter of secondary consideration. Lord Beaverbrook has told us of the problems in one back room, but there are many other problems in other rooms, rooms as yet unopened, unexplored. The problems they represent are hard and difficult—wages and prices, the fight against inflation, the commercial interests which still outrun national interests, and last, but not least, the adjustments in sacrifice which will have to be made between rich and poor alike so that all and every one of us enjoy a common standard of life, in expenditure, in requirements, and in service.
Germany has ceased to be a political State; it is a military State, the most powerful ever built, and Hitler is its supreme commander. Unless we fight this war on the most ruthless and the most determined basis on which we can fight it, on level terms with Germany, and in excess of Germany, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for 90 Keighley, that this war may have a queer ending. We are superior in morale. The Germans are superior in mass. We have got to make ourselves superior in mass, and, having done so, we have got to seek our opportunities to fight the Germans at the time, the place, and in the conditions best suited to ourselves. General Wavell, before he left Cairo, in a farewell interview he gave to the "New York Times," frankly admitted that Britain could not win against Germany without America's full-scale participation, including another American Expeditionary Force. That was confirmed by his successor, General Auchinleck, who said that the Germans must be beaten on their own soil exactly as Napoleon was beaten. If this is to be the way it is to be we are certainly going to need American man-power, just as we did in the last war. When we have mustered that man-power the first task of our army and every other army will be to break the spell of German invincibility that has paralysed men's minds too long.
I hope that the War Office will take some steps to put an end to this insane opinion in some quarters that we do not need a large Army. We need the largest Army we can build, and before this war is over we may have to produce a larger army than the one we possessed in 1918. When the war broke out I was horrified, in some instances, at the conditions in which I found regular units of the British Army at Aldershot, units which should have been up to full war establishment from the day we gave our automatic military guarantee to Poland. Even now it is not generally realised how great was our military contribution in the last war, and how that at the end of it, the best brains in industry, combined with staff officers whose training was the battlefield, not Camberley or manoeuvres, gave to us a military efficiency which overwhelmingly defeated Germany in the field. It was not, as so often said by the German leaders, that they from behind defeated themselves. The records are there for all to study, not only in the work of great tactical leaders like Haig, Allenby and French, but in the work of men behind the scenes like Sir William Robertson and Sir John Cowans.
Those are the sort of men who did most in the winning of the last war. We need such men to-day. When we have found them we can then begin to think of im- 91 posing military defeat upon Germany and, if need be, forming a bridgehead on the Continent again, a bridgehead which will extend out into a triumphal battlefield for British arms. These things are not impossible. They can be made possible by the total energies of the whole of the British Empire. We may have to go on for some time yet alone in this struggle, and immediate steps must be taken to improve the Imperial war effort. In some quarters it is suggested that it would be improved by bringing Dominion Prime Ministers to sit as ex officio members of the War Cabinet. I wonder whether, in practical reality, that would improve the Empire's war effort. I often think that so many people who favour that course tend to over-estimate the possibility of government by committee and possibly underrate the personality of the Prime Minister.
One of the things which contributed most to the outbreak of this war was the belief by the German Chancellor that the outbreak of another world war would divide the British Empire. When war did break out not only was the German Chancellor proved hopelessly wrong, but the British Empire proved itself, as a political machine, the most sane, most flexible, most developed and most honourable system of government yet devised. As such, it is approaching the time when it can inflict the thrashing on Germany which Hitlerite Germany in particular so richly deserves. But if changes are to be made in the centre I hope that these changes will not be made except in full collaboration with India. India played a great part on the last occasion; its contribution was greater than that of any single Empire country with the exception of our own. Its contribution on this occasion may have to be greater than it was then.
The Prime Minister said in the Debate on production that it was only by a superb, intense and prolonged effort in the whole of the British Empire that victory could be attained. I should like to see an Empire Shipping Board set up to direct and control the total shipping resources of the whole Empire, and technical skill combed out from Empire countries and diverted to India in the hope of improving the production programme there. I do not think it is generally recognised 92 what an immense scheme of expansion has been left behind by General Auchinleck for his successor, General Wavell, to work upon. I should like to see the Dominions Office, the Colonial Office and the India Office dispersing production through the Empire. One of the tragic weaknesses of our position is that so much of war production is centred in these islands. Lastly, I should like to see, immediately, steps taken to revive as much as is possible of Empire air communications. If these things are done, and done quickly, we can improve drastically the Imperial war effort in spite of what the Prime Minister said in regard to the sacrifices in production which we have to make for Russia. The months ahead are critical.
The Battle of the Atlantic is still the most important of all battles. In 1916. the German high command selected British merchant shipping as the centre of their target. Again in this war, British merchant shipping has been elected to the premier place. The Germans know the cradle of our greatness, and do not mislead themselves into inventing new sneers about shopkeepers. In as much as we are dependent on our shipping lines, so also will our armies in the field be dependent on their land lines. It is an immense tribute to the purpose and skill of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Sea Lords and the officers and men of the Royal Fleet that even at this hour the risk of a passenger not completing a voyage is less than five per cent. Outward bound or on the long voyage home, each ship, be it of tramp or a liner tonnage, is carrying not merely cargo, but the blue riband of victory. It is our tradition of the sea which is our strongest title to hold out to the whole world the hope of victory. That tradition is so strong, so vital to our existence, that there is not a city, town or village throughout the entire Empire that does not owe something to it. Let us preserve it, let us cultivate it, let us vow to pass its magic on to the future, with the certainty that that future belongs to us and not to Nazi Germany. The freedom of the seas means the freedom of the human race. 1943 will perhaps be not only the critical year of this war, but the year of victory. The people most entitled to that victory are the people of these Islands, but in the first instance it is dependent upon our own efforts to get that victory.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich)
It is tempting, after the fine and comprehensive speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to deal with some of those topics upon which I, in common with the rest of the House, find myself in complete agreement with him; but I do not think that it would be the most useful thing to do. I hope my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends on the Government Bench will not think any Member a less loyal supporter of the Government if he deals not with those matters upon which he finds himself in complete agreement with the Government, but with some of those matters upon which, however reluctantly, he finds that he cannot agree with them. My right hon. Friend has given incomparable leadership to this country, and he is a very great man. The whole country rejoiced when he met in the Atlantic another very great man. But I think it would be the greatest mistake to think that the document to which those great men put their signatures commanded general approval. It is very desirable that on this, the first occasion on which it has been possible to discuss the matter in this House, those of us who feel great doubt on some of the matters contained in the document should make our position clear.
I am not going to suggest that there are not good things in what the Prime Minister has called the Atlantic Charter. In particular, both the points to which he drew attention in his broadcast speech after his return are important and valuable. The first of these is the disarmament of Germany while we remain armed ourselves. That is most valuable. The second point to which he drew attention was that it was not the purpose of ourselves or of America to deny economic prosperity to Germany after the war. That, I think, also was right. But do not let us blind ourselves to many other matters contained in that Charter. Let me say at once that I fully appreciate the point made by the Prime Minister that he could not vary, through any declaration by himself or by any Member of the Government, anything which was contained in an agreement with the representative of another Power. Any variation, amendment or explanation of the Atlantic Charter must, of course, command the assent of both parties to the agreement. But it is very desirable that the Government should have before them the 94 criticisms that are being widely expressed in the country and in this House, and that they should consider with the Government of the United States how some of the dangers could be avoided. Let me remind the House of the Prime Minister's own description of what he had in mind when he signed the Atlantic Charter. He said:Above all it was necessary to give hope and the assurance of final victory to those many scores of millions of men and women who are battling for life and freedom, or who are already bound down under the Nazi yoke."The assurance of final victory." That was the Prime Minister's own description of what he had in mind when he signed that declaration. Some people who do not think very deeply on the question sometimes speak as though Hitler's enunciation of a new order rendered it necessary that we should announce some new order ourselves as an alternative. That is clearly not true. It may or may not be desirable that we should announce a new order—I am not going to discuss that—but it is certainly not called for by the fact that Hitler has announced a new order, because there is no country in the world in which Hitler's new order is not detested. It requires no putting forward of an alternative by us to make them detest Hitler's new order. As President Roosevelt, I think, observed, it is not new, and it is not order. It is as old as human tyranny, as old as slavery itself. In so far as there is any silence or acquiescence in conquered countries, it is the silence of the prison and the acquiescence of the grave. No, what the peoples who live in these subject countries want assurance of is not that we oppose the new order. That they already know, and they are with us on that very ground. What they want is what the Prime Minister mentioned in his own statement, "assurance of final victory"—assurance, that is to say, that we are going to win. I ask Members of the House, in every quarter, to consider this: how far does this declaration indicate to any doubting person that this country and its Allies are likely to win? Surely we are all agreed on this, that we shall be more likely to win if certain Powers at present neutral come in on our side and less likely to win if certain Powers at present neutral come in against us.
If that is agreed, look at what the Atlantic Charter says. From the begin- 95 ning to the end it makes it absolutely clear to everybody who reads its eight points, and who believes that they are a sincere declaration of intention, first that no advantage of any kind whatsoever will be gained by helping the cause of Britain and her Allies and, secondly, that no disadvantage or disability of any kind whatsoever will be incurred by any nation which prefers to join our enemies. I ask Members of the House whether that is likely to cause any neutral Power which is at present doubtful to come in on our side rather than on the side of the enemy?
In the last Debate in this House on the subject of the war my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who, I notice, has just entered the House, said, in a passage which was generally applauded, that Bulgaria would repent of having come in on the wrong side. He said:Her action will not be forgotten by ourselves, nor by our Allies, when the day of reckoning comes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th August, 1941; col. 2042, Vol. 373.]Where does he find that in the Atlantic Charter? It is not in the Charter at all. If you believe what is said in the Charter, Greece will gain no advantage whatsoever from having joined in one of the most gallant and helpful struggles in history, nor will Bulgaria incur any penalty whatever because she joined the enemy. I say that this blemish on the Atlantic Charter is very serious and very grave. This omission of any differentiation whatever between those who come in on the right side and those who come in on the wrong side certainly does not mean that this Charter will give the assurance of final victory which is the Prime Minister's own description of what was his principal object. To any student of the English and American languages who examines the Charter carefully it is quite obvious that it is predominantly an American document. I do not suppose there is anybody in the House who has failed to notice that, but if there is, I could easily quote the passages on which I base that view. Most of us would do a great deal for Anglo-American friendship, but one of the things we ought not to do is too readily to express agreement with magniloquent declarations of principles which have not been very carefully examined and which are put forward by a nation which made very profound mistakes in regard to Europe at the end of the last 96 war and shows every sign of making similar mistakes at the present time.
There are passages in the Atlantic Charter which run the risk of impeding the prosecution of the war and which seriously prejudice the chances of a worthy peace. I shall not examine every point in the Charter, but I invite the House to notice a few things in it. It may be that some of my remarks will be unpopular. I do not know whether that is so, but the House is always generous in listening to views which are based on careful thought and are held with sincerity. I ask the House to notice Point 2 of the Eight-Point Declaration. The signatories say:they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.How good that looks until you begin to examine what it means. What does it mean? First, do "the peoples concerned" mean the inhabitants of the countries in question? Or are others included? If others are included, what others? Do the words "freely expressed wishes" mean that the signatories are again expressing their belief in plebiscites? If they are, they are doing so with very dangerous disregard of some of the lessons of the effects of plebiscites in the past. Think of the number of countries which may come within the principle enunciated in that second point—Alsace-Lorraine, the Sudetenlands, the Polish Provinces of Poznan and Pomorze, East Prussia, perhaps the island of Rhodes. You could go on and mention a great many others, but this is the point to which I invite the most serious consideration of the House. If the people concerned means the inhabitants of the territories at the time when the peace is made, and if their wishes are to be decided by a vote of the majority, what will be the inevitable effect of that declaration? These are countries of which Germany is at this moment in occupation. Are you to tell Germany that the Polish provinces of Poznan and Pomorze—that the so-called Polish Corridor—will not inevitably go back to Poland, but that their fate will be decided by the votes of the majority of the inhabitants at the time peace is declared? If that is the meaning of the phrase, is that not an incitement to the Germans to do what they are already showing an inclination to do—to ensure that the majority against them is wiped 97 out by murder, banishment and even by the sterilization of both sexes? This is what Germany is already doing in Poland; we are witnessing before our eyes the attempted murder of a nation. Nobody has described this process with a nobler eloquence than the Prime Minister, but I fear that the message of the Atlantic Charter, instead of containing some word which might have checked the Germans in their atrocities in that country, has by the vaguely and badly drafted nature of Point 2 given them direct encouragement to proceed with their barbarous work. I beg the Government carefully to consider the effects which the enunciation of Point 2 may have, and I would ask them whether they cannot amplify or amend it in agreement with the American President at the earliest moment. It may be that we cannot entirely wipe out the mischief of the Clause as it is now drafted, but we might make it clear to the world that Germany will do herself no good by the murder, sterilization and banishment of the peoples opposed to her in these various territories.
The third point says that the signatories respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of Government under which they will live, and that they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them. I welcome the mention of the restoration of sovereign rights. Some rather unwise writers, generally described as of the Left, have expressed some regret in regard to that point because it is said to be too polite to national sovereignty. But national sovereignty does not cease to be a great good because it is capable of great abuses. Sovereignty is to a nation what freedom is to the individual, and just as freedom can be abused by the individual, so may sovereignty be abused by a nation. But national sovereignty as well as individual liberty is necessary to the good life of persons and of States. Therefore, I welcome the mention of the restoration of national sovereignty, but the words with which this is introduced—that they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live— are, as has been pointed out by many commentators, in direct conflict with a later declaration in which one of the principal war aims is stated to be the destruction of Nazi tyranny, which happens to 98 be the form of government under which the German people has chosen to live.
I come to the fourth and fifth points. Those points deal with economics, and I think that, in spite of some inevitable lack of details, they have been generally welcomed; but I want to mention one thing in regard to the fourth point which I think ought to be emphasised in this House. The mention of access on equal terms to the raw materials of the world has been read in some quarters as lending some support to the German lie, very much propagated by Hitler and other German leaders, that the Germans were debarred before the war from raw materials in non-German territories. That, of course, is quite untrue. If there is anybody in any quarter of the House who has forgotten the facts, I invite him to read the report of the League of Nations Committee which inquired into this matter—an inquiry in which it is very noticeable that the Germans refused to take part—and also a part of an admirable article which appeared in the "Economist" on 23rd August. It is, of course, a fact that Germany never had the slightest difficulty in acquiring raw materials everywhere in the same quantities and at the same prices as the nationals of every other country. It is not in the lease our fault that she preferred guns to butter and preferred to use her potential export surplus for importing and retaining the raw materials of arms. I will read one sentence from the article in the "Economist":It is argued by Nazis that practically all the world's jute, over nine-tenths of the world's nickel, three-fifths of the world's rubber and ground nuts and half the world's wool are produced in the British Empire and 'controlled' by Britain. But three-fifths of the world's potash and three-tenths of the world's coal (without including the German output of lignite) are produced in Germany; and other countries have not complained about their lack of access to German potash, German coal and lignite or German zinc and iron ores.No, Sir. Whatever merits these two points in the declaration have—and I think they have many—do not let it be said that they lend the slightest support to Hitler's lie that before the war Germany was excluded from the raw materials of non-German countries.
The 6th point refers to the final destruction of Nazi tyranny. It is a curious thing about the Atlantic Charter that Germany is never mentioned in it from 99 beginning to end. Yet we are at war with Germany, and not with a particular government. It is a curious thing that the word "Nazi," which has long been obsolete in Germany, so that most Germans would not know what you meant if you used the word "Nazi," should make its appearance in an official document. We all enjoy hearing the Prime Minister use the word "Nazi" because he does it so delightfully and puts such passion into the word, but unfortunately, in the early stages of the war, the drafters of newspaper placards discovered that the word "Nazi" was considerably shorter than the word "German," and consequently used "Nazi" instead of "German" in every possible way until they completely destroyed its meaning and made it synonymous with German. Thus one gets allusions not only to the Nazi party and the Nazi leaders, where the use of the word may be justified, but to Nazi ships and Nazi aeroplanes as well, which is as sensible as it would be to talk about a democratic torpedo or a democratic high-explosive bomb. One of the demerits of putting in this allusion to the destruction of Nazi tyranny is that it is one of the very worst ways of bringing about the thing which the drafters seek. They think that by that sort of statement they will cause a separation between the German Government and the German people. It is much more likely to have exactly the opposite effect.
The fact is that the Nazi leader, Hitler, has, in all his aggressions, had the support of the overwhelming majority of the German people. It is quite possible that one day—and I hope that this will come about—the German people will find Hitler and the rest of the leaders profoundly unsatisfactory. I do not think any good psychologist would say that you would be likely to increase any difference which may exist between the German Government and the German people by asserting the existence of such a difference while you are fighting against them, but rather that the way to increase any such difference as may exist is by assuming, until the German people prove the contrary, that they are behind their Government. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in one or two recent speeches, has said that in no circumstances whatever would we negotiate with Hitler at any time about anything. If the emphasis 100 is on the word "negotiate," that proposition will have universal agreement, because everybody knows it is impossible to negotiate with Hitler about anything at any time. But if it means that our attitude to Hitler is such that we would not even accept unconditional surrender from him, we may be making a very profound mistake indeed. In the last war, the place occupied by Hitler and the Nazis was occupied, in Allied propaganda, very largely by the Kaiser, the Junkers, the military caste, Hindenburg, Ludendorf, and so on.
What was the result? They ran away and escaped signing the Peace Treaty, with the result that Hitler, when he came to appeal to the martial instincts of the German people, was able to make use of the fact that it was the republicans, the democrats and so on who signed the Peace Treaty, and not the others. Do not let us make it too easy for a future Hitler to get away with the same sort of thing. I do not believe that this war will bring a very lasting peace, unless, whatever Government is in power in Germany at the end of the war, that Government has to surrender more or less unconditionally. It is necessary that Germany shall be absolutely disarmed, and it is necessary, as the Prime Minister himself has emphasised, that we shall remain armed. I do not believe that such a peace is possible unless it is imposed. If we wish, as I believe we all do, that the German people should hereafter consider Hitler and all other such leaders to be absolutely discredited, it is desirable rather than undesirable that those who set out to conquer the world should have to sign and confess their utter failure, and that those who wished to disarm everyone else should have to sign the document by which they are themselves disarmed. We cannot foretell what the end will be, but we should not assume it is necessarily an undesirable thing that the Nazi Government should be the Government which will have to surrender to the Allies.
The 7th point is a very curious one, namely, that such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance. Why it was thought worth while putting that in the Charter, and what it is supposed to mean, no one has yet been able to suggest. As far as anyone can tell, there 101 has never been the slightest difficulty in traversing the oceans in times of peace, although a different view has been held in the past in England and America as to what should be maritime rights in time of war, and there has been a good deal of dispute on whether there should be in time of war what the Americans call the freedom of the seas. But, as far as I know, the right to traverse the seas in time of peace without hindrance has never been disputed. I have no conception of why it was thought right to put in that provision—you might just as well say everyone should be enabled to have a happy Christmas.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
It would be a big advance if you said that everyone shall have a happy Christmas.
§ Mr. Strauss
That may be so, but I am pointing out that this is a rather curious provision to make in the Charter, and that it is a provision which as far as one can make out means absolutely nothing. Then we come to the 8th and final point, namely, that they believe all the nations of the world, for realistic as well as for spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Surely there is nothing at all wrong with the use of force where force is right. Therefore I assume that they mean the abandonment of the use of force for aggression, but I wish they had said so, although I do not wish to make too much of that point. There is, however, one matter which is of very great importance, and to which the House should pay some attention. it is a matter which has already been brought to public notice in a very brilliant article by Mr. Voigt in this month's "Nineteenth Century." The 8th point requires the disarmament ofnations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers.In so far as the disarmament of Germany is concerned, I do not think there is any difference of opinion in any quarter of this House or in any part of the country. But this goes much further; it refers to any country which threatens, or may threaten, aggression. For instance, no one can dispute that the armaments of Japan threaten or may threaten aggression. It may well be that if Japan enters this war, she will have to be disarmed when the Allies obtain their victory, but is it really suggested that if Japan does not enter the war she 102 is nevertheless to be disarmed, and that we are to continue the war until we can disarm her? If that is so, it is a very serious declaration. Unless it does mean that, it is very difficult to see what meaning can be found. The reason why we have all this vagueness is because those who drafted the Charter had a very great desire to avoid any mention whatever of Germany or the German forces. I think it is unfortunate that draftsmen should not have the straightforwardness to say what they mean. That declaration as it stands is, I think, dangerous.
There is one other omission to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. There is no mention of reparations. There may be some people who welcome this omission because they think we made such a fantastic blunder in this matter after the last war. I do not accept the proposition that in no circumstances should there be any reparations, and I very much doubt whether the Government take that view, and still more whether the Russian Government take that view. The Russians have excited the admiration of the world by their long-sighted heroism in destroying what was perhaps the greatest achievement of their five-year plan, the Dnieper Dam. I wonder when the time for reconstruction comes whether it is quite certain that the Russian Government will say, "Oh no, there is no reason why the Germans should make any contribution towards the loss of this dam." I do not know what they will say, but for my part, if Russia did make some claim that Germany should spend something in reparation for the act of which they were the cause, I do not think it would be asking for anything unjust or unreasonable. I think that it is right that at the first opportunity we should mention in this House some of the defects and omissions in these eight points. I hope the Government will examine the exact meaning of some of the vague declarations which have been made, and some of the dangers that I have pointed out to which they may directly lead. I believe that most people in this country and many of our Allies believe them to be unwise in many respects, and I beg to call the attention of the House to those defects.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss), who has just addressed the House, has 103 appeared in a role which, I think, he always rather enjoys, namely, that of being the cat among the pigeons. Of course, the eight points of the Declaration cannot be accepted literally as covering everything which is likely to be raised in a settlement of Europe, but certainly I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member in regard to two of the points he raised. There may certainly be a case for including some form of reparations. But we remember the serious economic ill-effects of reparations after the last war, and I am not surprised that the Prime Minister and the President steered clear of that somewhat thorny topic in their Eight-Point Declaration. I am inclined too to agree with the hon. Member that what is said with regard to raw materials may give some assistance to German propaganda, that they have been excluded from the raw materials of the world. At no time was it impossible for Germany to obtain all the raw materials that she required. The trouble was not to obtain them but to get rid of them in the economic situation that has existed in the world in the last 15 years.
On other points that the hon. Member raised I find myself in much less agreement. He seemed to think that under the Declaration no disadvantage would be incurred by the defeated side as the result of its defeat. I do not read that into it at all. There is a passage in the Declaration which implies that the defeated side will never again be in a position to create the chaos that they have created in the world, and that the Empire and our Allies will remain armed while Germany will remain for a very long time disarmed until such time as she says she is prepared to work in with the civilised States of the world. I cannot, therefore, read into the Declaration the interpretation that the defeated States are going to suffer no disadvantage. If, however, the hon. Member means that economic disadvantage should be imposed upon the defeated States, there I very strongly disagree. One of the reasons which enabled the Nazis to get power in Germany was the economic chaos that followed the last war. It was not entirely due to the Versailles Treaty. It was partly due to the world's return to the gold standard and the big deflation and 104 the great crisis which took place in world economy from 1929 onwards which assisted the Nazis to power. But if there is to be any idea of economic punishment for the defeated States, I think we shall find, as we did then, that this is a boomerang which will come back on the victor States as much as on the vanquished. I think the President and the Prime Minister were right to create the impression by their declaration that, whatever other punishment there may be, the only hope of a lasting world peace is that all the nations of the world should be able to work and enjoy the fruits of the earth in equality.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I did not express disagreement with that view. My criticism was that, if you examine the Declaration from beginning to end, there is nothing to induce any Power at present neutral to come in on our side rather than on the other.
§ Mr. Price
Perhaps there is not all the difference between us that there appeared to be, but I do not see what we can offer to these neutral States to come in which will not conflict very seriously with the principles that we all have in mind. We shall all be glad to hear of anything the hon. Member can offer which will induce neutral States to come along without at the same time doing violence to the principles enunciated by the President and the Prime Minister.
I should like to emphasise the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) that there is a great danger of too great complacency in the country. Since the great diversion on the Eastern front and the relative quiet on the West, I feel that there is in all classes and all sections of opinion a feeling that we are now past the worst. I do not look upon it in that light at all. I am not prepared to accept the position exactly as put forward by the Press. Germany is losing very heavily in men and equipment, but I fear Russia is losing, too, in men and equipment. It is true that Russia's man-power is very great, but this war is fought on equipment, and to my mind it is abundant reason why we should stress upon our constituents the extraordinary importance of making use of every minute in the respite we are gaining now to redouble our efforts to supply equipment to Russia. The hon. Member for Eccles 105 (Mr. Gary), who spoke of Russia's manpower and his experience of the difficult conditions on the Eastern front in the last war, seemed to fear that not only Germany but Russia would suffer from exposure in the winter. During the last war I was on the Eastern front, for part of the time in the Caucasus. I think I am the only one from Western Europe who saw the Russian armies under the Grand Duke Nicholas storm Erzerum, on the Armenian plateau. It was a marvellous feat of endurance, and it showed what Russian soldiers could do then. But the Russian soldier then felt that he was fighting for landowners, grand dukes and the Czar and his Court. To-day he feels much more a man with something to fight for.
Cromwell said about his Ironsides that he loved a soldier who knew what he fought for and loved what he knew. That is true of the Russian soldier to-day. He knows and loves what he is fighting for. I believe that the morale of the Russian Army is better to-day than it has ever been, but it is our business to sacrifice everything we possibly can, even to our own detriment here, in order to help Russia re-establish the losses which she is bound to have suffered. I know there is a strong feeling in the country to-day that we: should be doing something more active on the Western Front. There are even hints that we should be sending forces across to the Continent. I am not prepared as one who is not a military expert to urge upon the Government things which their military advisers may think undesirable. All I will say is that I hope the Government are fully aware of the strong feeling in the country that everything must be done that can be done to help Russia, whether in the form of equipment or in the form of diversion.
As a nation we have in great wars in the past, against Louis XIV and against Napoleon, never sent great armies to fight alone on the Continent. We have relied on sea power and have helped allies on the Continent or in the East by equipping them, financing them or sending forces to augment them. That I think should still be our main line of approach. Now that air weapons have come into use it is difficult for us to be a great sea Power and air Power and land Power at the same time. It is for us to seek out Allies wherever they may be—and they are to 106 be found everywhere—and try to make them effective. For my part, I welcome the fact that the Government have taken strong measures to deal with the situation in the East. I believe that is the best possible diversion, and that the best help to the Russians would be to drive the Germans out of North Africa and settle with Vichy France in North Africa as we have done in Syria. I do not want to anticipate what the Government are going to do, and the Government, of course, cannot tell us, but I shall be very disappointed if we do not take strong action this winter on the African Continent.
I am glad the Government took the action they did in Iran. The road and rail communications across Iran will enable us to help our friends in Russia. When I travelled in that country many years ago one had to ride on horseback, and one could see the ruins of the great roads that former Shahs of Persia made which had fallen into disrepair. I believe that something has been done since then to improve them, and I hope that we shall do more in that direction as quickly as possible. In regard to Iraq, the Prime Minister said that there were still dangers. It is true, I think, that we have not got the confidence of all the people of Iraq. They have still grievances against us. I am not one of those who think that Rashid Ali and his friends were pro-German for the sake of being pro-German. I believe they have merely used Germany as Germany used them. They are nationalists first and foremost, and they feel very strongly about the Palestine question. That is a very difficult question, which we must not shirk. If we can see our way whenever opportunity offers to satisfy Arabs that we do not threaten their existence in Palestine and that we stand by the principles of the White Paper, we shall do a great deal to improve the situation in the Arab world. That is where I believe the dangers lie. Danger might arise again if the Germans tried to make a drive through Turkey, or if events do not go well for us on the Eastern front. I hope therefore that the Government will bear these points in mind.
Finally, I would like to mention one point which has been referred to by previous speakers, and that is propaganda. Propaganda is our Sixth Column, and we must press home certain points which 107 were brought up in the Declaration of the Prime Minister and President Roosevelt. We must run no risks with Germany in future, Taut at the same time we do not want to have economic chaos following on this war. Those two things ought to be stressed in our propaganda to Germany. I do not consider that propaganda in Germany is useless now. The German people are behind the Fuehrer in various degrees. They are not all convinced Nazis. There are among them a few civilised people. As it becomes clearer and clearer to them that they cannot obtain their military objectives, so the voice of propaganda will make itself felt. Therefore, I hope that the Government will do all in their power to stress these two points. In the long run such propaganda will be like the ocean waves slowly eating away the hard rock and it will result ultimately in the collapse of Germany.
§ Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)
I am afraid I do not agree with the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), who has just spoken. I believe that the value of propaganda among the German people can be very greatly exaggerated. I do not believe that there is at the present time any strong anti-Nazi force in Germany. The best propaganda dealing with Germany at the present time is bombs on Berlin and attacks on other towns.
One other point to which I would like to refer in the hon. Member's speech is the plea which he made and which others have made for further help to Russia. A good many of us are surprised and delighted and filled with admiration of the efforts of the Russian Armies, which are greater than many of us thought they were capable of. They have, indeed, put up a magnificent fight and are contributing very greatly to the final overthrow of Germany, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Cary) remarked in an earlier speech to-day, it is likely that if the Russians can hold out until the snow comes upon the countries between Germany and Russia and if it happens to be a severe winter, something like a stalemate on the Russian-German front may ensue. Then it may well be possible before the spring comes for the Germans to turn westward once again. It may take them some months, after they have licked the sores inflicted on them by the 108 Russians and repaired their material, to get an expeditionary force sufficiently powerful to try an invasion of England. Although we must give every help which we can to Russia, we should not forget that here at home we are not yet fully equipped, and although to deprive Britain of arms and to send them to Russia will not leave us destitute, to fail to arm our own people up to the hilt in this country would be a great disaster. I firmly believe that this war, while it will be finished partly by efforts on different fronts—the Russian front and the Near Eastern front —will ultimately be settled in the west.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss), I would like to speak on the question of the so-called Charter of the Atlantic. In a cogent and well-argued speech he took the points one by one, but I propose to take only two. I do not for a moment deny the advantages which can come and which probably have come from the meeting between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States. Direct contact at such a time and in the present circumstances was highly desirable and productive of good results. Ordinarily I am terrified when Ministers go outside this country, partly for what they may bring back but even more for what they may leave behind. In this case, however, I think that not only the meeting, but the staff talks which accompanied the meeting, may be productive of desirable results. The Charter itself, however, gives us cause for considerable anxiety. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich mentioned several points on which he felt doubtful, and I agree with him. I have found it difficult to understand why it was necessary to come out with any pronouncement at all. Surely the fact of the meeting with the implications which everybody knew lay behind it should have been enough. In the earlier part of the war a great commotion was caused by many people in this country who were urging upon the Government to state their war aims. The Government wisely refused to do so, and even recently the Lord Privy Seal refused to be drawn into this doubtful controversy, because we have only one aim at the present time, and that is to beat the Germans. When we have finished the war and beaten the Germans I trust that we shall not be in too much of a hurry to make the peace but will sit down and think.
109 We have in the past had many declarations of a similar character. I seem to remember that in the earlier part of the war of 1914–18 14 points were produced by President Wilson. It cannot be claimed that those points have really been productive of satisfactory results. I remember that much was said at the time about the self-determination of small nations, which was looked upon as the pièce de résistance. A hash was made of that, and now it has been brought out again in the Atlantic Charter. These loose phrases may have dangerous effects, some of which have been drawn attention to by my hon. Friend, it is difficult to take exception to some of the eight points. Some of them are merely agreeable, pious platitudes to which we have been accustomed for some time. There are two points in particular which I believe are very dangerous. The first is the declaration that no territorial concessions are desired nor any aggrandisement desired by either of the two countries concerned. It is perfectly true to say that Great Britain—and I am sure it equally applies to the United States—has no desire to come out of this war with any increment of territory, but nobody knows at this stage what will be the territorial conditions when the war is finished. We may be in occupation of other territories for the time being. I can think of at least one—I need not mention it—which will obviously have to be under some form of temporary control, either by ourselves or by America, when the war is over if general chaos is to be avoided. A statement of that kind can very well be taken up by our enemies when the war is over, and supposing it is necessary to establish a temporary protectorate over a certain country, we may be accused with some justification of seeking, if not obtaining, territorial aggrandisement.
The second point to which I wish to draw attention is point No. 2, which reads:They desire to secure no territorial changes which are not in accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.It is very undesirable for us to tie ourselves down at the present stage of the war to such a declaration. Take the Polish Corridor alone. Presumably that running sore cannot be allowed to continue when the war is over, but does anybody seriously think that a re-arrangement of the Polish Corridor or of East Prussia will 110 or can take place with the consent of the peoples concerned? Obviously, as a result of the war, a certain number of readjustments will have to take place if we are to avoid another gigantic and horrible conflict of this nature.
It is highly unwise to state war aims in any detail. It is unwise and asking for trouble even to go as far as was done in these eight points which were issued from the ship in the Atlantic. I join in the plea which my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich has put forward that the Government should approach the Government of the United States with a view to examining, not in the heat of the moment, but over a period of time and with great care, considering all its implications, the intentions and purport of the document which has recently been issued. If as a result they find that it may be misunderstood and that certain false impressions have been conveyed to the peoples of the world, I hope that they will not, out of any motives of false pride, refuse to amend it. Finally, I would say that if any declaration of peace aims is to be issued again, if anything which would tend to bind us in the future comes up for discussion, or if the Government are anxious to make a pronouncement which will affect the future and will affect the peace, I trust before anything definite is said, still more before anything definite is pronounced publicly, with the whole world waiting for it, that we in Parliament may be consulted.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
On one point I find myself in cordial agreement with the hon. and gallant Member for Penryn (Major Petherick) and that is that it is our primary duty to concentrate cm beating our common enemy, Germany. All other purposes must take second place. Even talk about peace aims. At a time like this it is perhaps a good thing to emphasise that, because now that the attack upon these shores has been somewhat slowed down there is a real danger of our people being lulled into a feeling of false security. The British show most fighting spirit when they are attacked, and, as anybody who has studied their psychology will agree, tend to become lethargic at other times. Our people must be made to realise that if the Russian armies are liquidated the whole force of the Nazi military machine will be concentrated upon these shores. But for Germany's 111 attack upon Russia and the magnificent resistance of the Russians it is not unreasonable to say that we might not have been sitting peacefully to-day in this building and discussing the war situation. Accepting the generally understood dangers which might arise in the first week in September, we might have been facing a violent and large scale attack on our shores. Nor must we even now underrate the German menace. After all, their man-power is as two to one, and even if the Dominions are thrown in, and all our Allies, we cannot ignore the considerable man-power and munitions potentialities of Germany and Italy.
Therefore, I am glad that the Prime Minister and every other speaker has insisted upon the necessity of giving all help to Russia. We have all been filled with admiration of the tremendous, the magnificent Russian resistance to the horde of Huns who sprang a surprise upon them at the end of June and for 12 weeks have been overrunning their land, destroying their homes, laying waste their farms and reducing their cities to ruins. There is apparently an impression in some quarters in the Press, and I have no doubt among sections of the public, that the Government are half-hearted in their desire to help Russia. I am sure that I am expressing the general feeling in every quarter of the House when I say that in the interests of mankind we must not allow any prejudices or dislike of ideologies to lessen in any way our assistance to our Russian allies, and Russia is our ally, our ally against the common foe. The "Times" put it extraordinarily well last Saturday—and the "Times" is not a Communist paper with Left-wing leanings:If there is still the slightest hesitation in any quarter (though it seems incredible) to realise that the war in which Russia is engaged is our war, then the doubt or the doubters must be removed.I believe I am expressing the feeling of all Members of the House when I endorse that statement. I do not know where the doubters are, or if they do exist, but if they are in the inner circle, or in the Government, then, to use the words of the "Times," they must be removed. I want to be fair. I agree with the Prime Minister that the difficulty of making contact with Russia has been a very real one. Before Russia came into the conflict it 112 was almost impossible for our own ambassador to get from Russia to these shores except by a circuitous route. The situation has been very much improvd by the opening of the road to Russia through Iran. Here I should like to congratulate the Foreign Office upon their skill in diplomacy. Not very long ago I criticised them, and an hon. Member opposite took the same line, for their kid glove methods. There is no room now for kid gloves, or for a too-meticulous interpretation of conventions. The Government were right, in the interests of our common humanity, and in common sense, in taking the line they did with regard to Iran.
The Persian people may rest assured that we have no territorial aspirations in their country. Perhaps it is fortunate that the first clause of the Atlantic Charter, which the hon. and gallant Member for Penryn seemed to dislike lays down the principle that neither the United States of America nor ourselves seek any aggrandisement, territorial or otherwise. That can be pointed out, to use the fashionable phrase now, to the Persian people. Secondly, it is a good thing, as it applies both to Iran and Iraq, that no territorial changes which do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned are desired. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penryn took exception to what I thought was a principle which had found general acceptance throughout the country. He spoke rather mysteriously of some country for which we might have to provide protection. I do not know what country he meant. I think with great respect that it was a very mischievous remark. It might be interpreted in many ways. If Dr. Goebbels is listening, he will be very quick to read into it and to broadcast a meaning that, I am sure, my hon. and gallant Friend had not in mind. At a time of great international tension hon. Members should weigh their words and be very careful to avoid phrases that will not strengthen our position in foreign lands and may help to alienate people who otherwise might be our friends.
Coming to the Atlantic Charter, the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) did not seem to like it, and the hon. and gallant Member for Penryn did not seem to be in love with it either. I am amazed to find that there is any section of the House which would quibble about 113 this or that phrase in it. I was convinced that it would have the backing of more or less of the whole House and of all supporters of the National Government. Apparently I am wrongly informed. The principal speakers for the Conservative Party, the hon. Members for Penryn and Norwich, seem to think, I will not say that the meeting should not have taken place, but at any rate that nothing should have been put into writing and that there should have been no published statement. I should like to see the Atlantic Charter inscribed on the records of this House. Of course, we can criticise this or that feature of the Charter or this or that phrase. Some people would like to see the Charter go in one direction and other people less in that direction, but the document, signed by the two greatest statesmen of the world, the two greatest men of our generation, our own Prime Minister and the President of our friends in the United States of America, will remain. I am surprised that some hon. Members have gone out of their way to quibble about phrases and have even suggested that they should not have been published.
I believe that the Charter provides a foundation on which we can build. No doubt when the structure has to be designed details may have to be changed, but the general principles ought to have the acceptance of any House of Commons, irrespective of political alignment. Do hon. Members find fault with the third Clause, which relates to the right of people to choose the kind of government under which they shall live? The hon. Member for Penrhyn referred to the Polish Corridor, and I agree that that presents a difficulty, but this clause of the Charter states that people should have the right to choose the form of government under which they wish to live. This Mother of Parliaments showed great wisdom in the case of both Canada and South Africa. I do not want to refer to history, but there was much controversy about giving self-government to South Africa. The events of the last war and of this have shown how far-seeing we were when we took that step. In Ireland, the trouble was that we made up our minds too late. If we had been prepared to give the same generous treatment 30 or 40 years ago to the Irish people, they might have been alongside us in this war, together with the South Africans. I recognise that the position of India is difficult and that the difficulties 114 are great and complex. I was glad to hear the special reference made by the Prime Minister to the great Indian people, and to notice that he was prepared to accept them as free and equal partners in the British Commonwealth. We have to surmount the difficulties of that problem, and if we can do so during the next few months, in the middle of this life-and-death struggle, there will be great advantage to us, as it will show an example to other people that may well be followed.
I am aware that some exception has been taken to the emphasis in the Atlantic Charter upon sovereign rights. I accept the view that if there is to be firm peace in the world, and order, there must be some modification of the ordinary conception of sovereignty, but we cannot expect in a few days fundamental changes in such a long accepted theory. Our first duty is to solve the economic problem. One cannot reason with starving people. If people are starving, you are not likely to achieve any form of political settlement. That was one of the difficulties after the last war. You cannot do much in the way of political change unless you have the right economic conditions. We owe much of the appearance of Hitler and Nazism to the economic chaos which followed the last war. The Charter signed by those two great leaders of the British-speaking democracies states that we wish for all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, access on equal terms to the trade and raw materials of the world.
Some exception has been taken to the fact that Germany is not referred to, but the word "vanquished" plainly refers to our enemy. The qualifying words "due regard to our existing obligations" obviously refer to the Dominions. The Dominions have made splendid sacrifices for our common cause. They have come without hesitation to our aid in a time of difficulties, and it is right and proper that we should consider our obligations to them, but if the Declaration is to count for anything after the war, and is not merely a pious opinion, the British Commonwealth of Nations must be prepared to set an example and to adjust its economic system to the general economic needs and necessities of mankind. The British-speaking democracies control the greater part of the food and raw materials of the world. After the war, we shall be confronted with a Europe laid waste by war and short of 115 food, oil, cotton, rubber and other materials, and of every necessity of life. No doubt the United States will give credit to the fighting nations, ourselves and other European States. Men from the Army will have to be got back into civil life, and industry will have to be changed over from manufacturing munitions to the manufacture of articles for peace. Literally, the sword will have to be turned into the ploughshare. That was comparatively easy to do in the 18th century, but in a time of mechanised industry it is extraordinarily difficult. If millions of soldiers are left marching about Europe, anarchy, followed by revolution, must result. [Interruption.] No doubt the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) rejoices in that prospect. The only way to prevent the hon. Member from having his way—his mischievous way—is to get men rapidly back into industry.
After the last war every obstacle was placed in the way of economic recovery, not only of our enemies but also of our own friends—quotas, exchange restrictions and every ingenious device men could think of, were introduced to make it difficult for countries to exchange their goods. Europe has been divided for centuries by old racial and religious antipathies. There will be a terrible temptation after this war, as there was after the last war, to use the economic weapon to continue these old blood feuds. We English-speaking people, whether in America, in the Dominions or in our own country, must be prepared to set an example in economic co-operation by showing our readiness to break down all unnecessary barriers to trade. There will be many difficulties—do not let us underrate them—including vested interests and a natural and a proper desire to protect our standard of living, but the only thing which I believe will enable us to reach economic peace will be a recognition of the inter-relationship of the economic interests of all nations. It is very easy to accept sound theories in principle, but extraordinarily' difficult to put them into practice. It cannot be done by ourselves alone, but only if our Dominions and the United States of America are prepared to co-operate with us. We know that it is the desire of our own Prime Minister and of the President of the United States to bring that about.
116 As I have said, I should have liked to have seen the Charter endorsed by the House of Commons. I agree with my hon. Friend opposite that it is far better, when the Government come to a vital decision, to get the endorsement of Parliament, and I should like to see the same thing done in America by Congress. I recognise the difficulties. At any rate, it would be a good thing to have the Charter confirmed by all the Allied Governments who have their representatives in our country, by the Dominions and by Russia, if you like, as well as the United States of America. That Charter is a great event in our political history. I think it was a marvellous thing that in the middle of a great war the Prime Minister, in spite of his heavy responsibilities, was prepared to take his life in his hands and go out into the middle of the ocean to meet the leader of the United States. It was a period of great anxiety, and it is a subject for congratulation, first that he achieved his purpose in coming to an understanding with the President of the United States, and second that he happily returned safely to this country with that document in his pocket.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
We have had a most interesting Debate to-day, and my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has made a very interesting contribution towards it, but I wonder if we have not fallen into the error of saying too little about what, after all, is the fact that stands out about everything else at the present time, namely, the magnificent resistance which has been offered by Russia and the Russian people to the enemy. After all, words, affirmations, statements of opinion, charters of liberty— as my hon. Friend described the recent document—are excellent things, but at the moment what is hitting the enemy harder than anything else is the resistance offered by the Russian Army—with its living body, not with its words—to the German army. In the past I have been a critic of the Government and of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, and it would be ungracious and ungenerous if I did not on this occasion pay him the most sincere and humble tribute I can for the work he has done during the Recess—and indeed before it—by his meeting with President Roosevelt, and pay a tribute also to the War Cabinet and the right hon. 117 Gentleman in particular for the admirable action which they took in the case of Iran. That is the kind of thing that we must see more of.
Certain terms which before the war were very much discredited are now coming into their own again. I remember that ever since the last war we have had speech after speech in every part of the House saying what a dreadful thing militarism was. I never quite knew what was meant by it, but in war-time it is evident that it is an extremely important thing, because without it one cannot win wars. I believe there has been a very happy junction of diplomacy and militarism in our treatment of Iran. We started by taking the proper action in representing to the Iranian Government— and in passing I should like to pay a tribute to our Ambassador in Teheran for the; way in which he managed it—and we showed a restraint which almost came to the borderline of danger before we acted. I think opinion in all quarters of the House will agree that it is better to have fallen into that error than to have done anything which would supply our enemies with an excuse for the statement that we had taken unnecessary aggressive action. When we did act we acted promptly, and I, personally, was very glad to hear that we are not going to tarry any longer on the question of the Germans already in Iran. That is the sort of thing in which neutral countries are interested. The very distinguished Ambassador of a neutral country—I will not say who he was—said to me the other day, "When you say to us neutrals 'Why do we not do this or that?' you must remember that our people say they do not yet know who is going to win in this war, and until the German army has been defeated and until the British Air Force can show a numerical superiority over the German air force, they cannot make up their minds." I naturally controverted that and said it was nonsense, that of course we all knew who was going to win, but you have to remember that the action you take is worth all these statements put together.
I think the critics of the Declaration have been unfair to the right hon. Gentleman and, indirectly, unfair to the President. I do not myself agree with all that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick) said on the subject. 118 I do not read into the statement anything quite as definite as my hon. and gallant Friend does, and public opinion in both countries has been unfair. Let me point out to the House that the President has a tremendous number of critics in the States. He is meeting a good deal of trouble from some of the supporters of his own party. There seems to be an impression in some quarters of this country which it is our duty to try and dispel the notion that the President possesses constitutional powers which in fact he does not possess. It is never realised that the American President is in many respects much less powerful than the British Prime Minister. For that reason we are liable to fall into an error even more dangerous, that is, a reading into Presidential declarations a pledge to this country and the world which, in fact, no President can give. No President of the United States can pledge his successor.
There is a distinct constitutional difference between government here and the President of the United States. It is generally understood that in foreign affairs a definite pledge given on behalf of the British Government does in fact pledge its successors. That, unfortunately is not true where Presidential statements are concerned, otherwise the United States would have supported President Wilson's 14 points. I made myself very unpopular in this House when I came back after the last war on leave, by making a speech which was described as utterly irresponsible, in which I pointed out that it was all very well for President Wilson, who was regarded almost as the saviour of humanity, to say what he was going to do but that he had not got the assent of the American people. One hon. Member criticised me severely and said that everyone knew that the people were 90 per cent. behind the President. Unfortunately I was completely right. It was one of the misfortunes of the last war which we must never repeat, because it did more harm to Anglo-American relations than anything else in our time.
It is not for us to praise or blame the great captain of public opinion in his own country, the President. I would venture with great respect to say that he has not fallen into that error. For that reason the affirmation made in mid-Atlantic cannot be as definite as some people, both 119 here and elsewhere, would like it to be. The United States is undoubtedly our best friend after our Dominions and Colonies and Allies, and as such we must heed her wishes, and she ours. She is not in a shooting fight with us, and there is no evidence which I can find that she is nearer a shooting fight, so far as the opinion of her people is concerned, than she was three months ago. I cannot imagine anything more utterly irresponsible than for anyone in this House to criticise Americans' attitude in that respect. It is purely a matter for the United States.
While what I am going to say must not be considered as having application to any particular speech by any particular person, I deeply regret any statement by newspapers or other statements which seem to suggest to the United States that it is her duty to enter this war now. Nothing could be more calculated to injure the very delicate machinery of Anglo-American friendship. It is very delicate and, at the moment, very strong, machinery. We have probably a greater weight of opinion on our side than ever we have had. We have not only good will but, in addition, valuable production in that country. I believe that I have the assent of the whole House when I say that it is far better that statesmen both in the Dominions and in this country should turn their attention to the question of production here and in the Dominions than in making speeches to America on the lines to which I have referred.
The Achilles heel of the whole thing is still production. The right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) and the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), and others, not acting together in any concerted way with the idea of bringing down the Government, have constantly said during the last nine months exactly what members of the Government are saying to-day. For that we have been condemned by the Prime Minister and told by hon. Members that we are irresponsible people. Yet the Foreign Secretary has recently spoken far more strongly in many respects than we have done regarding greater production. If ever resentment—and the Prime Minister did show some resentment of criticism— was shown to be unjustified it is in this respect. It is curious how history repeats 120 itself, because some five years ago I was working in a group of which the Prime Minister was the head. We were endeavouring to bring to this House and to the Government the need for greater rearmament. We were terrifically criticised, especially by Members of my own party. We were called alarmists and people of whom no notice should be taken. Yet to-day it is universally admitted that the present Prime Minister was right. It is a curious thing to see how, in a smaller degree, this has been repeated in what was said last year about production not being what it should be either here or in the United States.
I recollect a speech I made in January about production in the United States. Speech after speech had been made by Ministers as long ago as last October, the only meaning of which could be that we had only to wait for a few weeks or months and production in the United States would be of such enormous volume that it would give us superiority over Germany. I made a speech on 21st January in which I said that not until very near the end of this year would we get from the United States such an appreciable accretion of strength in the things we need that it would make a real difference to the war issue. Then came an interruption from an hon. Member, who said, "What a dangerous thing to say." I went on to say that it was not dangerous and that it should be known and that not until the middle of next year or later would we get that amount which would mean superiority. The Government have woken up to the fact that production is not yet satisfactory so far as this country or the United States is concerned. It is to that, in the main, that the attention of statesmen on both sides of the Atlantic should be turned.
Why is production even more important to-day than it was a few months ago? It is for this reason, which has not been sufficiently brought out, perhaps, in this Debate. We have constantly been told in the past, even by the Prime Minister— and, of course, the statement was quite true, with some qualification—that we were inferior in man-power to our enemies. It is only true with qualifications, because we have a great untapped reservoir of man-power in Africa and India. To-day it is no longer true. We and our Allies have the man-power. It 121 is worth considering how enormous it is. We have about 70,000,000 European citizens of the Empire, a number only 10,000,000 less than the people of Greater Germany. We have a great untapped supply of fighting strength among our African and Indian fellow-subjects. There are 750,000 Indians under arms today, as against a pre-war Indian army of 123,000. I understand that we are aiming at 1,500,000. We should have something like 500,000 in Africa, which gives us 2,000,000, in addition to European man-power resources, and we have enormous potential resources for munitions production in India and Africa. Some of us, belonging to all parties, have been acting together recently, trying to interest public opinion in the vast opportunities, if the war goes on for another two years, of munitions production in India, Australasia, Malaya, and, to a smaller extent, the Union of South Africa, and even West Africa. I make the assertion that, properly developed, in two years—assuming the war goes on so long —we can produce in those countries as much munitions as is produced in the United States to-day. There has been great delay in realising the importance of the Empire.
Over and above that, there is the vast man-power of Russia. To use a banal phrase, for which I apologise—but I cannot think of anything better—imagination boggles at the prospect of what we can do with the man-power of Russia and of the British Empire joined together. With munitions, we can have such forces as the world has never seen. First, I think that the arms industry on the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada could be co-ordinated and made complementary to that of British Empire countries in the north and south Pacific. They could be linked up again with the valuable potential resources of Asiatic Russia, from Vladivostok westward, so that eventually the vast armies of Russia and the Middle Eastern armies of Britain, which I hope will be growing every day, will be self-supporting, or will not be interfered with by whatever may happen in the Battle of the Atlantic. We are, of course, working towards that end. It is not only a question of manpower and of raw material. It is curious that in this Debate, even in the speech of the Prime Minister, there has been no reference to the enormous moral and 122 physical advantage of our having joined together in battle the incomparably great peoples of Soviet Russia and the British Empire. It is said that never in the history of war has there been greater courage shown than that shown by the people of this country last year, by our Air Force fighting against odds, and by the people of Russia to-day. What a theme for a broadcast by the Prime Minister.
I am not attempting to denigrate or to suggest that this meeting of statesmen in the Atlantic and their so-called charter of liberty is not of value, but surely the matter which stands out above everything else at present is the terrific fight that the Russian Army, helped by us, is putting up against the Germans and the tremendous potential opportunities for closer union between the British Empire and the Soviet Union. I do not think anyone could differ on this point. If together the Russians and ourselves win this war, as we must and shall, the Russians and the Poles must not be checked by Government or public opinion here if they seek a rectification of Germany's eastern frontiers for their own safety's sake. I think such rectification will be absolutely necessary. I do not want to get on to a very controversial matter, on which there are differences of opinion in every party, but it seems to me that our Russian Allies are less prone than we are to differentiate between the poor dear Germans and their nasty wicked leaders, who, five times in 70 years, have caused, according to some people, those dear people to participate in aggression.
Incidentally, here is an interesting incident that happened the other day. It is the kind of thing which, as the saying goes, makes one sick in the stomach. A small boy—I think his name was Maurice Vandescen—was playing with other children on a slag heap in Belgium. He was told by a German sentry to go away. He did not go, or he went slowly, and he called out a phrase which was popular in the last war and is popular in this war with French-speaking people to describe our enemies. He called out, "Sale Boche." He was shot dead by that sentry. Was that sentry one of the poor dear Germans who have been deluded for the last 70 years or was he a nasty Nazi? About 24 years ago, on that very spot, or 100 yards away, another Belgian 123 was shot dead by another sentry. Was that sentry one of the poor dear Germans, or was he not? They were not called Nazis in those days. I cannot see our Russian Allies making quite the same differentiation as we do in this country between the two sorts of Germans. I desire to associate myself in the fullest degree with the statement made by a distinguished Russian statesman the other day that he would see that every one of the 30,000 members of the Nazi party were placed on trial if the Russians won the war. [Interruption.] I doubt whether, when my hon. Friend says that, he knows what has been going on in Russia in recent months.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
My point is that this man suggested that the Nazi party should be differentiated against. That is just what we suggest.
§ Earl Winterton
I quite agree. That illustration of mine does not strengthen my argument. But surely the liquidation of 30,000 Nazis would cause consternation in some quarters here. I want to give our Russian Allies a free hand in dealing with this menace on their frontiers. It is difficult to over-praise the friendliness and correctitude of the Soviet Government towards this country since our alliance. I hope this friendship will continue after the war on the basis of our recognising that our respective systems of government are the sole concern of each and not of the other. We have almost an approach to the Russian system in respect of the two political commissars, one in the Near East and the other in the Far East, the Minister of State and the Chancellor of the Duchy.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
But they are political commissars for one particular party.
§ Earl Winterton
I understand that they are political commissars for the Government, for the Prime Minister. We are not, as has been often said in this House, a very logical people. I am not sure that we are yet awake to the tremendous importance of this joint action on the part of Russia and ourselves in this war. It is the Russian Army and the British Navy and Air Force which are going to defeat Germany if she is to be defeated in a military sense. If America entered this war to-morrow she could not by the very 124 nature of things have an army of sufficient mechanised power to fight the German Army in Europe on a large scale under two years. Why should there not be perfect friendship between the U.S.S.R. and the British Commonwealth of Nations after the war if the component parts of the Commonwealth, exercising their undoubted constitutional rights, will agree to that course? It may easily prevent another war in Africa, Asia or Europe for another century. What combination of Powers could attack such Allies with success?
Why should we seek to deny the right of other Powers to have access, by a fair system of purchasing, to the store of raw materials which we control? We have never done so in the past, and there is no reason why we should do so in the future. The mere fact that we have handed over to America bases in the West Indies that would be necessary to us if the unthinkable occurred and we fought against America is a pledge that such an alliance could not be a menace to the United States. Such an alliance could not cause anything like the perturbation in South America that anything like an Anglo-American bloc might create in these territories. The average South American has been frightened in the past at the possibility of joint British-American action in those countries. What a tremendous power we should have with 600,000,000 people, something like half the population of the world, with enormous resources of every kind. What a power for good we could be. It would not require any affirmation or declaration of liberty.
I am afraid that I speak alone in this House on this matter, but I do not share the view that after the war everything will be settled merely by friendly negotiations. It will be settled by power and authority. It is power and authority, properly directed by our country and by Russia, that will win the peace. I think that on both sides of the House there is support for the statement that in our dealings with Japan we should maintain the absolute firmness which has been shown by the speeches of the Prime Minister during the last few months. There must be no hint of appeasement; we must do nothing to jeopardise in the slightest degree the most gallant fight which China is putting up against Japan. 125 Our interests with China in this respect are absolutely the same. I mistrust amateur strategists, and I do not wish to become one, but it is no breach of that rule to say that the Fascist Powers clearly intend to make a further attack upon Egypt via Libya, upon Syria, the Iran or Iraq oilfields or begin a pincer movement on both simultaneously. We must try to meet that situation and, if possible, act first. I think public opinion in this country would be very critical of any Government if we were in any way lacking. By a brilliant stroke of policy by the Foreign Secretary, the War Cabinet and the Prime Minister we have now joined up with Russia, and we must act. We understand desert warfare, which used to be vulgarly termed, "bush-whacking fighting," and the Nazis do not. They have admitted that they do not.
It is only by killing Germans that you will win this war, and the further they go the more will be killed. It was their fearful casualties that broke what was admittedly the splendid morale and spirit of the German people in the last war. I do not deny the tremendous power of propaganda, and I do not deny that you must keep it up all the time, but you will never have a successful revolt in Germany until you have defeated Germany really heavily. Killing them and depriving the civil population of food is the real answer. Simply to answer that people will revolt against Hitler merely because you tell them to do so is no answer so long as men in armoured cars are prepared to shoot for him. It is only when the men in the armoured cars are so shaken because casualties are mounting—as they are mounting to-day—and only when every family in Germany has two or three dead, when their children are going short of food and bombs are crashing down on their cities, that the morale of this misguided people will begin to break. Those who think otherwise are still living in the first dangerous months of the war. How often were we told that if we would only wait a little, German morale would crack, that the German people did not really want war and that they were all against Hitler. That is why we should be grateful to our Russian Allies for what they are doing; we should be prepared to continue their work. Mention has been made in some quarters of our losses in our recent raid on Berlin, when 20 of our bombers were destroyed. I say that it 126 was worth doing, because it was smashing the morale of the German people in the only way in which it can be done. The time may come sooner than we think when this process will have its effect, and when it does I hope that we in this House, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister will pay a tribute first of all to the Service men of the British Empire and to the gallant Russian people.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
With what the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) has said to the House about the need for the support of Russia and the importance of continuing our close relations with Russia after the war I thoroughly agree, and if I have time I would like to say a little later on how that could be easily accomplished when the war is over. There have been several criticisms, particularly those of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) and the hon. and gallant Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick), of the Atlantic Charter. I thought their attacks were rather unfair and rather characteristic, because it seems to me that they were applying their ingenious minds to criticising a rough and ready set of principles—as I think the Prime Minister called them—and finding fault with them because they were not detailed terms of peace. The hon. and gallant Member himself said that it would not be advisable to put forward detailed terms at the present moment.
Nobody could have listened to the Prime Minister's speech without realising that, as President Roosevelt has said, this is no ordinary war. The great sweep of the military operations, as depicted by the Prime Minister, shows how different this war is from most of the wars of which we have ever heard. Not only is it not an ordinary war in the magnitude of its operations, but it is a different kind of war altogether in quality and in kind. Most wars during the last 400 years have been conducted by small professional armies, and have ended in military victories. Provinces have changed hands, indemnities have been imposed, frontiers have been rectified, but after the peace, the defeated nation, although weakened, has gone on much as before; it has preserved its independence and sovereignty and has been able to build up its strength again, it may be for another war of revenge in 40 years' time. The defeated nation has 127 resumed its normal life. In this totalitarian war, however, not only are whole populations involved, but the object of the aggressor is not merely to defeat his opponent but to destroy him, to abolish his independence, to blot out his national life, to exterminate large sections of the population, and to reduce the remainder to a state of slavery in which they are mere hewers of wood and drawers of water for the herrenvolk, the master race of Nazi Germany.
Hitler's object is not victory but conquest, and as I believe, the conquest not merely of Europe but of the whole world. It is against that grim and desperate background that the Atlantic Charter and the peace aims of the Allies must be viewed and discussed. I have said that the war aim of Nazi Germany is the conquest not merely of Europe but of the whole world. South America is honeycombed with Nazi intrigue. Recently, I read in the "Times" that in Chile, where the German colonists are not in any fear of the tyranny of the Gestapo, because they are living under Chilean law, they are prepared in the eventuality of the United States of America coming into the war, to raise an army of three divisions of equipped soldiers. I understand that the Nazi leaders do not think they can conquer the whole world in one war. They would like to finish this war first, and then, having conquered Europe and Africa, as is their aim, develop the resources of Europe and Africa for a second war with the United States of America. In my opinion, no peace which would leave Nazi power unbroken in Europe could ever be contemplated for one moment by ourselves or, one would think, by America.
Germany's immediate aim is to conquer Europe, large parts of Asia, and Africa; to establish at the centre a greater Germany, including on the West, Denmark, Holland, Flemish Belgium, Alsace Lorraine, the German-speaking canton of Switzerland, and on the East, Poland, the Baltic States, the Ukraine and large parts of Russia, other parts of Russia, including the oilfields of Baku, being turned into German protectorates, and Russia being pushed back across the Urals, if not further. West Africa, with Dakar and perhaps practically the whole of Africa, would fall into German hands. 128 The way would then be clear for the establishment of the new order, with subject peoples—and this is the whole principle of the new order—to minister to the requirements of the German masters. The subject peoples would live on a lower economic level than the Nazis. Last month the "Frankfurter Zeitung" said:Hitler's Europe will reach from Gibraltar to the Urals and from the North Cape to Africa, plus the natural supplementary spaces.Dr. Ley, the Nazi Minister of Labour, said last November that "the higher the race the greater the requirements"—The Germans must have better dwellings than the Poles and the Jews. We Germans want to lead the world because we deserve to be its leaders.In January, 1940, he said:A lower race needs less food, less clothes, and less culture than a higher race.This is illustrated in a practical way in Poland where, under the rationing scheme, a German gets nearly twice as much food as a Pole. It is very difficult to find out exactly how the new order would work, because there have been so many varying definitions of it in Germany. But apparently the whole of Europe would be put into one Customs union, national tariffs would be abolished, the bulk of the manufacturing resources of the continent would be concentrated in and around Germany as the centre, the remaining States being ordered to take up as far as possible an agricultural economy. These States would exchange their agricultural surpluses at fixed prices against German manufacturers, and would not be allowed to trade with the outside world. Europe would be a self-contained unit under Nazi control, and any trade which Europe as a whole might have with any other Continent would be under German direction and in the form of barter, and not ordinary trade. Germany would allot to each country its special task. There would be a central wages policy and price control, and, according to Dr. Funk, this would guarantee to the German Reich a maximum of economic security and to the German people a maximum of consumption goods. What it would guarantee to the remainder of Europe beyond a hard agricultural life and a state of serfdom it is difficult to see. It would certainly not guarantee them peace. Dr. Stohtfung, of the German Ministry of Labour, said the other day 129 that one of the tasks imposed on Germany by the new position is the maintenance and strengthening of her military power, and only the master race, the Germans, would be allowed to bear arms. That is the German doctrine.
I have said that the result of totalitarian war is not defeat for the other side, but destruction. This is illustrated by the fate of Poland. Every Pole is a slave. He wears a special badge to show that he is a Pole. It is not a "V" badge; that will come later. Polish peasants are assembled in market places as were the slaves in olden days, and German farmers pick out and carry off people, very often separating husbands and wives and taking them to different parts of Germany, to work on German farms. Whole populations are deported from Poland and Germans are settled in their places. The other day I read in the "Times" that 70,000 Poles had been massacred, and that 24,000 of them were women and boys. A ruthless effort is being made to blot out Polish culture and national life. Professors, writers, people who stand for intellectual life and leadership, disappear every day. Everything is being done to prevent the possibility of Poland ever becoming independent again. We are witnessing in Poland the cold-blooded and deliberate murder of a nation.
What the Germans are doing to Poland is nothing to what they would do to us if they won a victory. No peace terms would be imposed. We should be conquered, enslaved, destroyed. Death and destruction would be our portion. To-day England stands in the way of Germany's march to world victory. If Germany ever won the war, the Nazis would see that nobody in this country would ever stand in Germany's way again, and nobody would ever breathe again a free breath of English air. Fortunately, two great countries, Russia and Britain, see Nazism as the evil it is. They are determined that there shall be no compromise with Nazism. Nazism must be crushed, defeated and annihilated. These, as I conceive them, are our war ends as distinct from our peace aims.
These are what our war aims should be. First of all, the war must be fought to a finish and the Nazi armies defeated. Nazi Germany must be disarmed and 130 occupied for a term of years to see that disarmament is carried out completely and there is no prospect of it again raising its head. The leading criminals, if they have not committed suicide, must be put on trial and executed. The Gestapo must be rooted out. The Black Shirts must expiate their crimes. Nazi text books must be burnt, and Nazi teachers and professors must be dismissed. The educational system must be brought into line with that of civilised countries. The law courts must be re-established, and there must be freedom of the Press and printing. Free association must be restored, and trade unions, co-operative societies and political parties must be allowed to form themselves. The Civil Service must be democratised and purged of Nazi and militarist influences. No corps of ex-officers must be allowed to roam about the country murdering democrats as they did after the last war. After a term of years, perhaps three years, during which we should supply food to the German people, as we are supplying food for the people of Persia, and raw materials for industry, a party of civilised and reasonable people might arise with whom we and our Allies could deal. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why three years?"] I am not binding myself to any particular term of years. I had in mind that by that time we might be able to discuss arrangements with a reformed and purged Germany, and that they could freely enter into a civilised order which we and our Allies and America would then, I hope, be in process of establishing in Europe.
I think we should have a new order in spite of what the hon. Member for Norwich has said—a formulation of our peace aims as distinct from our war aims should be considered. I was not one of those who joined in the cry at the beginning of the war that the Government should state in detail their peace aims. In the first place I had not myself made up my own mind what they should be, and, remembering the old adage, I did not want the Government to rush in where I feared to tread myself. As I said last autumn, before detailed peace aims can be stated to the world other peoples who are not now vocal would have to be considered, and the course of the war would determine very largely what is possible and what is not possible. I stated that the design of the temple of peace depended on the area of ground cleared for its erection, as well as 131 upon the materials available for its building. I think I was right in that. I think many people will agree that a declaration of peace aims made before Russia came into the war or before America was so nearly in the war, might differ materially from the terms which could be drawn up at the present time. I think it would have been a mistake, therefore, for the Government to have made a premature declaration of aims which would have hampered them in making new ones under the changed conditions. I am still cautious. Although I think nothing but good could come from discussing peace aims, I do not think we can yet see sufficiently far into the future, or predict the course of the war with sufficient accuracy, to formulate in great detail what our peace terms should be. A great deal of hard thinking is still needed, and many consultations will have to take place before we can present to the world openly and confidently a detailed charter of the kind of peace and society we wish to see established.
One important feature of the Atlantic Charter is its insistence on. social security, and I was wondering why no one has mentioned that point during the Debate. Clauses 5 and 6 of the Charter mention that amongst the objects we are fighting for are improved labour standards, economic advancement, social security and the assurance that all men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want. To old fashioned politicians it would seem strange that questions like social reform and security should be embodied in peace aims. Those old-fashioned statesmen would say that these were matters of internal policy for each country concerned, and that they had nothing to. do with a peace treaty. But as I have said, and as other people have said, this is no ordinary war, and the settlement must not be an ordinary one either. A remarkable article appeared in the "Times" on 12th April last. It stated:A daily war effort measured in millions of pounds … will be rendered vain if it is not to be crowned by the effort … necessary to bring a reasonable standard of welfare and plenty to a better fed and better housed and better educated population. If unemployment is incompatible with the full mobilisation of our resources for war, it can equally find no place in the proper organisation of our resources for the nobler ends of peace. The experience of the past two de- 132 cades has proved beyond reasonable doubt that want and unemployment can be cured only through a far-reaching transformation of our financial and economic structure.We are getting on—this is from the "Times" of last April. Another important thing to remember is that social insecurity leads to social unrest, and social unrest leads to the weakening of moral restraints, and that means that the ground is prepared for the revival of such evil movements as Fascism and Nazism. Therefore the authors of the Atlantic Charter are very right indeed in giving prominence to this matter of social security. More and more we shall see this question coming into the forefront of the discussions which will take place before the war comes to an end. During the short recess I have been interested in reading the many suggestions which have been made, in this country and in other countries, by leading statesmen and organisations as to what their idea of peace aims should be. Two notable suggestions seem to have gathered great prominence during the last 18 months. Firstly, there is the suggestion that there should be a declaration of the rights of man embodied in the peace treaty, and, secondly, that nations should be bound in some federation, or political union, or in several federations, closer in texture than anything contemplated in the Covenant of the League of Nations.
The charter of the rights of man was first put forward, I believe, by Mr. H. G. Wells. He suggested that a charter should be drawn up stating that every man should have certain rights. In all there were eight points. Firstly, there was the right to health, including food, clothes and medical attention; secondly, the right to education, including freedom of discussion, association and worship; thirdly, the right to work; fourthly, the right to buy and sell; fifthly, the right to have legal protection against private violence; sixthly, the right to move freely about the world at his own expense and to preserve the privacy of his own home; seventhly, the right to freedom from imprisonment without trial, including freedom from torture, beating etc.; and, eighthly, the right to challenge any dossier or record concerning himself held in any administration or department. These proposals as the result of discussion have I believe since been modified, simpli- 133 fied and made more specific. The proposal is that such a charter should be embodied in the peace settlement itself, and that any nation which did not accept these fundamental rights should not be admitted into the community of civilised nations or at any rate of Western civilised nations.
These terms, I think, find an echo in the words of Lord Halifax, when he spoke about "the right to think, speak and act freely within the law and to have free access to the thoughts of others; the right of free association, both national and international with their fellow men; the right to live without fear of aggression, injustice or want; and the right to believe and worship as conscience may dictate." They also found an echo in President Roosevelt's four essential human freedoms which he proclaimed in his message to Congress last January—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. These to some extent are embodied in Clauses 5 and 6 of the Atlantic Charter, and if these were made part of a peace settlement, as I hope they will be in some form or another, the first part of Clause 3, which refers to the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live, will have to be read in the light of the basic declaration of the rights of man.
The second suggestion I have mentioned, that of a close federation of nations, much closer than the League of Nations, has also been widely discussed. In the early part of last year, before the fall of France, the advocacy of this principle took the form mainly of a close partnership between Britain and France which it should be open to others to join. Speeches were made in favour of that by the Foreign Secretary, the Minister of Labour, Lord Cecil, Sir Norman Angell, and of course the Prime Minister, and in France by M. Reynaud. After the fall of France that particular form of federation became less prominent, but the idea of a federation transcending national boundaries persists and will persist, because it has the root of the matter in it. Mr. Trygoelie, the Acting Foreign Secretary for Norway, suggested that there should be a Scandinavian federation of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Britain. Others have suggested a Slavonic federation of Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and Jugo-Slavia, with Russia as a friendly 134 god-father and of course union between Britain and America as advocated by Mr. Clarence Streit is much in the limelight at the present time.
Against this idea of large federations of nations freely associating in economic unity and as far as possible in political unity, all accepting the charter of the rights of man, with possibly a common currency, common law, common education and common control of military forces, must be set the old-fashioned, traditional, short-sighted Foreign Office policy of which I find traces in the speeches of the Foreign Secretary, the old idea that we must restore the old pre-war Europe of sovereign independent States. That appears in the third of the Atlantic points, which says:They wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.Of course, in their position the two leaders could hardly have said anything else. In the first place, in this country there are on our side many Allied Governments exiled from their own countries. They naturally want their national sovereignties restored. Their peoples living under German martial rule are not able to speak freely. It may be that their minds ought not to be confused or disturbed at present by anything more elaborate than the simple statement that we are going to give them back their independence. President Roosevelt is not in a position to go any further in a public statement of that kind than either the Constitution of America allows him to do or than the people of America at present are willing to go. This is a further reason to doubt the wisdom of pressing the Government to go into further elaborate detail as to their peace aims. I do not think we ought to do that until we are sure that they will say what we want them to say and until the time has arrived when progressive ideas are able to find freer expression than they can do now throughout the Continent, and this may not be until the Nazi forces are in process of being beaten back to their own frontiers.
I have tried to deal with some of the issues of this conflict and what I think may follow it. I have not mentioned Asia for reasons of time but have confined myself to Western Europe. I have said definitely what I think our war aims should be, I have lightly touched on a couple of ideas concerning our peace aims, 135 and now I should like to contribute an idea of my own which I hope may be discussed in the future and which I throw into the common pool. Hitler has done by force one good thing. He has broken down a dozen tariff barriers and has shown upon what slight and morally weak foundations some European Governments have rested. He has brought into practical politics the possibility of a reunion of Europe. For hundreds of years the whole of civilised Europe West of the Rhine and South of the Danube was united in the Roman-Hellenic Empire. We were ourselves a Roman Province for 400 years, and in our veins flows the blood of thousands of Roman and Greek ancestors. There is more of Roman blood and spirit in the little finger of the Prime Minister than in the whole of the gross body of Mussolini. From that great Roman-Hellenic Empire we and all the Western nations, including the United States, have inherited our traditions of law and ordered freedom, of art, literature and philosophy, exact thinking, speaking the truth, and keeping our word, our oaths, our pledges and our treaties. We look upon Caesar and Pericles as our statesmen predecessors of the Prime Minister and President Roosevelt. We leave Attila to the Huns and to Hitler. Even their mythology is ours, the gracious deities of Greece and Rome, Pallas Athene and Apollo, not the blood-begrimed monsters of Teuton barbarism—Wotan and his ugly crew. The destruction of that great civilisation by the barbarians from across the Rhine and the Danube was the greatest blow that Europe has ever been struck, and probably the greatest blow that civilisation itself has ever suffered from the beginning of recorded time. The unity of Rome was broken, and as a result there were set up a number of separate sovereignties, with consequent ever-recurring wars.
We now have an opportunity, I believe, of restoring the essential unity of civilised Europe. I would start first of all with economic unity. Let all the States which formed part of the Roman Empire, those West of the Rhine and South of the Danube, or as many as can be persuaded, come into one Customs union, all tariffs being abolished. The Balkan States, for example, produce raw materials but they are poor because they have not been able to find markets. They will be able to find those markets in the manufacturing areas 136 of Britain, France, Belgium, Northern Italy and elsewhere. A union or federation ought to have one currency as well as one tariff policy. The Scandinavian nations could come in if they wished, and Germany could be admitted if she carried out certain stipulations and conditions. Every nation would have to accept the charter of the rights of man on pain of being deprived of the benefits and protection of the union. I should like to see a European system of education and a European judiciary. Of course, there would be international control of transport and postal facilities, perhaps European postage stamps, and so on. Political frontiers would be weakened because there would be no Customs houses and no large separate armies, and some States— such as some of the Balkan States—might be merged into one. The more things become European, the less stress there will be upon national rights and privileges, but differences between various States or Provinces could be settled by a federal court or senate or other machinery. The private arms industry would be abolished and military forces limited and controlled.
For all this, of course, machinery would have to be worked out and in the meantime Britain, Russia and the Allies could look after the defence of the union. We have the germ of an international army in this country in all the contingents and headquarters of the various Allies which would be able to look after the defence of the union. I believe America would take more than a friendly interest in this and would co-operate in a good deal of the international work, but possibly she would not wish to join the union herself. If she did, all the better. Possibly Russia would not wish to join the union politically but would be content to organise her own vast sphere from the Baltic to the Pacific. She would, however, be able to take advantage of all the international machinery in regard to transport, trade facilities, the provision of raw materials and so on. Possibly she might link up with Poland, Finland and other countries. Those great store houses of raw materials in Africa and other tropical regions would come into the scheme, the control of which would be international rather than European. I envisage a policy of pooling, rationing and quotas on the lines suggested by the Minister of Labour and, I think, by the First Lord of the Admiralty.
137 If this plan emerged, Europe and the world would have all the advantages of the Nazis' new order without its evils. It would not be a union for war but a union for peace, and instead of slaves working for barbarians we should have a union of free men living in the broad stream of historic civilised tradition and working for the common good. At the end of the war the prestige of the victorious Powers, of ourselves and our Allies, of Russia and the United States, will be enormous. It should be our task to follow up the work of destroying the Nazi system by building up a free, united Europe. Let us not shrink from this mighty task out of any craven fear of being great. In this country of course the Labour party, no doubt assisted by others, because many party differences have melted away in the crucible of war, would press for wide measures of social reform and national control and for as wide a measure of practical, sensible Socialism as we can get.
Further than this it would be unprofitable to go at present. Anybody can draw up a blue print of Utopia, but the conversion of that into solid masonry is another matter. I am one of those who like to keep their feet firmly on the ground. I like to see exactly where I am going. I have sketched the outline of the structure which might be built if we have the power and opportunity and determination, and there is nothing in it that is inconsistent with the Atlantic Charter.
But one cannot see far through the fog of war. Long and terrible struggles are before us. We have not even begun to win the war yet. Hitler has won most of the victories. There are grave, perhaps almost unforeseen, dangers ahead of us. Before the war ends there may be great changes and a wider conception of future peace may be possible. All we can do now is to press on to the goal—the distant but certain goal of victory. In the meantime, however, discussions on the future are helpful, for it is only by hard and continuous thinking, imaginative and creative thinking, as well as by fighting, that it will be possible to build up the structure of a peace which will be worthy of the heavy, grievous but heroic sacrifices which the present generation is being called upon to make.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
It is a pleasure to listen to the hon. Member 138 for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), because not only is he a man of great learning and deep philosophy but he has the advantage, denied to many of us, of being able to frame his speech not only in correct English but in poetic English. It was a real pleasure to listen to him. In the main this Debate has ranged over the Declaration signed by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister, which has been variously described as a charter of liberty and the Atlantic Charter. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister confess quite openly that he has changed his mind with regard to the advantage of making such a Declaration. I quite agree that the first essential is to win the war, but it is also a great advantage to know why you should want to win the war. You have psychological and spiritual reasons which will influence the material assistance which will be given in defeating the enemy. I am glad to know that the Prime Minister sees the value of that even in a Joint Declaration. To my mind that Declaration would have had far more weight if more people had been consulted in regard to it and if more signatures had been attached to it, particularly if the Declaration had been signed on behalf of the people who are at the present moment suffering most. It seemed rather extraordinary that the President of the United States and the Prime Minister should have met in mid-Atlantic to discuss this Declaration and, I presume, to discuss at the same time the assistance which both countries can render to Russia when that country had not been consulted beforehand as to the terms which are contained in that Declaration. However that may be, I feel that the discussion to-day has been rather academic.
As one or two speakers have reminded us, we have been rather free now for a number of weeks from immediate attack, but to-day men are dying in their thousands on Russian soil. Their capital, or what used to be their capital, is surrounded, and tens of thousands of people are awaiting to-day the onslaught in the determination that death is preferable to slavery. They are awaiting that onslaught determined that they will pull down the houses of Leningrad rather than see it in the hands of the enemy. That is what is going on at the present moment. I therefore had expected that we should hear more, both from the Prime 139 Minister and from hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate, about the assistance which this country has given, or is giving, or will be giving in the immediate future, to the people of Russia and about the part which the United States intend to play with regard to Russia. I feared that it might be said that such information could not be given in public. For that reason I suggested that perhaps it would be as well if the Prime Minister felt in any way hampered or limited in making his statement that he could make that statement in Secret Session. He thought otherwise, but I am sure there is not an hon. Member in this House who is not anxious for that information.
The House has just returned from a Recess, and I am quite certain that hon. Members have been in touch with their constituents. I challenge any Member of the House to deny that the first question put to them was, "What are we doing to help Russia? Do you know when we are doing something? "Another question that is being put is, "When is the war to begin on the second front?" I am not in a position to discuss it. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentlemen who are sitting on the Front Bench are in a position to discuss it, but that is the question which is worrying the people of this country. I heard the Prime Minister repeat what he has already said in a broadcast, and that is a description of the technique of Hitler. That technique is to take each country one by one. There was a remarkable cartoon by Low in the "Evening Standard" and the "Manchester Guardian" the other day, showing the empty chairs of the nations that had evacuated the Governments of their own countries, only one chair being occupied by one nation. That undoubtedly is the technique. The Prime Minister repeated it and went so far as to say that if Russia fails and if we fail, what of America?
If that is the technique, what are we doing now to counter it, and what is our policy against the policy of Hitler? A heaven-sent opportunity has come. It was certainly not in the imagination of any of us that on 23rd June the greatest people in one mass in the world would suddenly be brought on our side as Allies. I should have thought that that was the 140 moment we had wished and longed for, the moment that gave us the possibility of waging war against Germany on two fronts. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has warned the House of the position of Germany and with his great experience in the last war has told us of the value of Russian help. He stood at that Box when we gave our pledge to Poland and demanded to know whether Russia had been consulted. He pointed out the necessity for consulting Russia and said that the one great danger to Germany would be a war on two fronts. Russia has now come into the war. When is the. war going to begin on the second front? Is it pretended that the bombing which is going on daily and nightly on Germany is our sole contribution to the war on the second front? Would that bombing have gone on if Russia had not come in? Would it have gone on with just the same pace day and night with which it is going on now if Russia had not come in? I submit that that, at any rate, would have gone on. The relief that has happened to us is that the bombing by Germany on us has almost ceased, and Russia has taken it on to her own body instead of it coming upon London as it was coming 12 months ago.
I do not know what may be the answer with regard to the second front. May it be that those of us who, as the noble Lord has said, have called attention to these matters month after month may, after all, have been right when we said that production was not what it was pretended to be? May it be that the production which has been talked about by Minister after Minister has fallen far short of the requirements even of this country? May it be that it was necessary to make a change in the Ministry of Supply in order to bolster up production? Is that the reason why our Armies remain in this country to-day? Is that the reason why Russia is still fighting on a lone front?
Whatever may be the answer to that, there is another question. When are we going to move? Russia was attacked on 23rd June. The Prime Minister made a noble broadcast immediately afterwards which heartened us all, which had an amazing effect not only upon this country but upon America as well. It gave a promise of help to Russia. This was followed by the meeting between the Presi- 141 dent of the United States and the Prime Minister on 14th or 15th August, and another Declaration was made that help was to be given to Russia. It was accepted at once by M. Stalin, on the next day. Although the Prime Minister has told us that the names of the Mission to Moscow have been agreed upon, when is it going to start? What has been happening between the 14th August and 9th September? Hitler has been moving on. Since 23rd June he has travelled distances of between 200 and 450 miles. In that short space of time he overwhelmed a whole nation, and Poland fell. Still have we time to go on wondering whom we shall send, what we shall send them for, what they shall discuss; and even yet their names are not forthcoming.
Is it still the opinion of some right hon. Gentlemen opposite that time is on our side—as if we could beat Hitler by standing? I was glad the noble Lord made a reference again to production and called for greater production. I think that production has to be even greater. The production that we were engaged upon prior to this event was intended to equip the British Army and only the British Army. We had to turn to the United States, to the Dominions and to India to assist us, and still we have not enough. Still, apparently, production is not enough for us to start the war on the second front. But what is happening to-day?
The Prime Minister has said that we are to give assistance to Russia. I take it that that assistance will take the form not only of men but of guns and tanks and ammunition. Are we going to help to equip the Russian Army? We have got to—got to. Russia has lost her biggest industrial area, where her population was thickest, where her new factories had been built, where she had created the greatest dam on earth in order to provide electricity. To-day that has gone. Her power of equipment is not what it was two months ago. Where is it to come from? It may be that mighty Russia can create factories on the other side of the Urals, but that will take months. In the meantime the call must come from this country, and I hope that is the call to which the Prime Minister refers. I hope it is going to be answered, to be implemented, by handing over the munitions, and the guns, and the planes.
142 We cannot afford to let Russia down. What has Russia taken to herself already? Something like 200 divisions have been hurled against her, mechanised divisions that up to 23rd June were waiting for us, prepared against us and us alone. The Prime Minister says that the losses Germany has suffered in the 80 days are greater than the losses that Germany suffered in any year in the last war. Russia has done that. We cannot afford to let Russia down. If, perchance, it happened, can any hon. Member doubt that Japan would not hesitate to move? What about Spain? Would Turkey show resistance at that time? What would happen to our position in Iran, Iraq and North Africa? We have to stand by Russia, and whatever Russia is demanding we must try to supply.
How are the supplies to go? There are only three routes: the White Sea, which, in another month, will be a sea of ice, Murmansk—I agree that it can be kept open, but without Leningrad it is not very hopeful—and Vladivostok, with that long trail over the whole of North Asia. There is Iran. We are told that we have done wonderfully in Iran, but why did we not move more quickly? It was the obvious gate to Russia. Where are we to-day? Have we reached Teheran? Have we made roads, and are we building a railway? Are we taking all the steps that may be necessary to push through to Russia by the quickest possible route the assistance that she will require? I regard the situation as one fraught with tremendous dangers, and I crave and beg the Government once more to consider their organisation and to reconsider whether they can put it upon a better footing so as to get every man and woman turning out the utmost possible. This production will be wanted not only for this country but for our Allies, and if we let down our Allies, it may be that we shall let down ourselves. God forbid that that should happen.
§ Captain Poole (Lichfield)
We have listened to a remarkable and impassioned speech from the hon. and learned Gentleman. At the earliest possible moment I want to say that I regard it as a thoroughly mischievous speech to have been made in this House. I stand by that statement, whether it meets with approval or not. Every schoolboy, every boy of nine years old, agrees that it is desirable that we should have a second front and that we 143 ought to give the maximum assistance to Soviet Russia, but to come into this House and make such a plea as the hon. and learned Gentleman made upon an elementary matter which is known throughout the length and breadth of the country, and to ally it with a suggestion that we may be going to let Russia down, is, in my opinion, most mischievous.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
What is this Assembly for, except to say in the most forceful way what people are thinking? I do ask my hon. and gallant Friend not to repeat the nonsense that we heard from the opposite benches in the last few years, because we got rather tired of it.
§ Captain Poole
I do not know whether my hon. Friend's remarks are directed to me. They seem irrelevant. I understood that this House was a debating Chamber and that an hon. Member had a right to disagree with a previous speaker. I disagree with the viewpoint put forward by the hon. and learned Member, in the form in which it was stated. I do not think that even the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), with all his superior knowledge, can take any exception to my doing so.
§ Mr. Bevan
The objection which I was taking, and which I think is shared by many Members of this House, was to the suggestion that an hon. Member cannot say, in this House, something which is being said in the country without the statement being described as mischievous. How is it mischievous to say here what many people are saying outside?
§ Captain Poole
My hon. Friend misunderstands me. The mischievous part of the statement was that it was made in conjunction with a suggestion that we might be going to let Russia down.
§ Captain Poole
There may be millions saying it, but to-day is not the time to repeat such suggestions, which are completely untrue. If some of those people who to-day have been exhorting us to a close alliance with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had been talking in those terms four years ago, we might not to-day be at war. If we could have heard the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) at the time of the 144 Spanish war talking in the terms in which he talked to-day, we might have a different story to tell. If we could have heard hon. Members on the other side of the House talking in these terms of a close working arrangement with Russia at the time when the late Prime Minister visited Berchtesgaden and Godesberg, we might not be at war to-day. It ill becomes some of those people to stand up to-day in this House and tell us that we ought to be working for a close union with the Soviet Republic when they have had no respect, either for the ideals or for the efforts of that Republic.
§ Earl Winterton
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to say that I agree that his first point is extremely fair, but what possible relevance it has to saying that because we have all made mistakes in the past, we should not now work in the closest alliance with Soviet Russia, I do not know. I was asking for unanimous support for an alliance with Soviet Russia, and I invite him to give it.
§ Captain Poole
There is no need for me to declare publicly my position in that regard. At least the Noble Lord admits that he has made mistakes, but quite 50 per cent. of his speech was devoted to quoting something he said in the past and to saying how right he had been, while the rest was devoted to saying something some of us would have liked to have heard him say three or four years ago. That disposes of 100 per cent. of his speech. The Noble Lord desires me to assert with all the sincerity of which I am capable that I am in favour of an alliance with Soviet Russia. I am, and I was, long before the Noble Lord.
The point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down was that we should have a second front at the present time, and, he asked why have we not got one? I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member has really faced, or has made any effort to assess, what is required to establish a second front on the Continent. I know nothing of military technique and strategy. The whole of my military experience is that little bit which has come to me during the past two years of this war. But, being engaged in supply and the obtaining of supplies, I do not agree with the many people who seem to think that you can send a force of 10,000 145 or 20,000 men here, there and everywhere and land them, so that there is your Army and your second front. I think it would do the hon. and learned Gentleman good if it were possible for him to go through the whole of the routine and work which is necessary before a small force can land in Iceland, the Shetlands, the Orkneys or anywhere else. Then, when he talks about establishing a second front which has to compete with the panzer divisions of Germany, he may consider what force would have to be assembled and successfully landed, so as to be able to hold a large stretch of territory for a fixed time and consolidate a position on the Continent.
Those are the difficulties of the establishment of a second front. We hope they will be overcome. We all hope and pray and trust that soon it may be possible for us to establish a front. I am not in a position to say when; the hon. and learned Gentleman is not in a position to know when, and I think he is ill-advised to ask the Government when. I think none of us has the right to ask the Government to disclose their plans, unless it is desired to jeopardise the lives of hundreds of thousands of our fighting men. There, also, is the answer to the second point the hon. and learned Gentleman made as to whether we are giving assistance to Russia or why we are not giving assistance to Russia. Whatever we are giving to Russia—and I am not disturbed in my own mind as to our relationship with Russia—we dare not and cannot disclose it at the present time without jeopardising the lives of the men who are shipping the cargoes across the seas.
It ought to be abundantly obvious to anyone who knows anything about shipping at the present time that every pound of assistance that can be got to Russia must be involved in two months' ocean transit before it can reach its port of disembarkation. To suggest that because Russia was attacked in June we should now disclose the amount of assistance we have given to Soviet Russia, while it is on the high seas, is to me the height of folly, because disclosure would jeopardise the lives of our men and also the cargoes which the hon. and learned Member desires to see safely landed for the assistance of our Russian Allies. I came to the House to-day not expecting to be involved in a controversy such as this. I came feeling that we had cause to congratulate 146 ourselves generally, on the improvement in our position. Events in the Middle East have revealed a marked improvement in our intelligence work and diplomacy. Also there is revealed, I feel, a new courage in the initiative we were able to take in the case of Iran.
I am not unmindful of the titanic struggle which is taking place in Russia or of the colossal loss of life and the colossal hardship involved in the magnificent struggle which the Russian people are putting up. I think that we in this House to-day salute the gallant defenders of Leningrad. Anything and everything that can be done to assist Russia in this struggle must be done. All those who have slandered that great country and all she has achieved can to-day hide their heads in shame. It is needless to urge that maximum aid should be given. I agree with the hon. Member who urged that there should be no restriction on the use of our bomber strength. We all know of the destruction of civilian life and property in war-time, but who of those who have seen the destruction in this great city and in other cities and towns of our country, and have seen the misery of our people, did not feel glad on Monday morning to learn that the capital city of the madman of Europe had had a taste of the Germans' own medicine on Sunday night? I am not one of those who believe that there are in Germany two sorts of people, that there are some exceptionally nice people and some exceptionally horrid people.
My hon. Friend knows the answer to that. I am afraid that the German working class has become immersed in Nazi doctrine. They are working to manufacture implements of destruction and are gladly doing so. There was a working class in Poland, but I do not think they found their torture and suffering any less kind, because it was administered by the working class of Germany. I do not think that the working class of this country will appreciate a bomb on their houses any more because it has been made by the working class of Germany. Yet while agreeing that our opposition has improved, in comparison with 12 months ago, I want to back those who have urged a greater effort on the part of our people here at 147 home. I know that they are doing great things in our factories. I ask for still greater effort on the part of our people. There is still a colossal task ahead. It is still no easy way because Russia is taking a great burden of the share of the fighting.
We still require to make a total effort in this country. Yet what do we find? When the whole of this nation ought to be mobilised, when every man and woman ought to have a job, we find such things as this. A month or more ago, having seven days' leave, I toured a coastal area to find accommodation for myself and my family during my leave. Every room and hotel of the safe residential areas and seaside places of this country, I found cluttered up with wealthy people who have scampered there out of danger and are spending their days in idleness. I want to see those people given a job. Many are capable of making a contribution to the war effort, and it is not right that they should be allowed to get away to their hide-holes.
§ It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Major Dugdale.]
§ Captain Poole
I want to address a word to the Minister of War Transport. I ask not only that the common people should make their maximum effort, but that Ministers should see that available resources are used to their maximum. In my opinion, the Minister of War Transport is a prime offender in this respect. He is still playing with the transport system of this country. I have said repeatedly that he has failed completely to make the maximum use of the transport system, and that is still true. Our railways still function on a peace-time basis, except that they are overloaded with committees at the top.
I ask the Minister of War Transport—if he reads the report of this Debate—what is the position of our road services? We are all being asked to economise in petrol, yet road transport services are wasting thousands of gallons weekly. Let me quote one instance. I took a census over a four-weekly period at a certain Govern- 148 ment depot, of private motor vehicles entering the depot. There were 876 vehicles entering the depot laden with stores. Of these, 842 left empty, to run to all parts of the country with no back loads. In peace-time the trade itself had an organisation which enabled vehicles to get back loads. Does not the Minister think something should be done about that? The War Office have issued an Army Council instruction about it. I know that if the Minister were in a position to reply he would say that instructions have been given that back-loading should be done. But it is not anybody's job to see that the instructions are carried out.
I ask the Minister—and I am pleased that the First Lord of the Admiralty is here—whether he is satisfied with the shipping position. Shipping has been only partly requisitioned and partly left in the hands of the shipping companies. Why has it been thought desirable in war-time to leave half the merchant shipping of this country in the hands of the private companies? I do not ask for control of shipping as the ultimate desire of Socialists. I say that, purely as a war security measure, it is desirable that the whole of the shipping should be controlled by a central Government Department. What happens now? While you have your shipping in the hands of private shipping companies it means that you have to indulge in unnecessarily extensive disclosures of your shipping movements throughout the offices concerned. Instead of being able to keep the moves in the hands of a small number of people, it means that instructions must go to the shipping companies and that everybody from the general manager to the office boy knows the whole story.
Is it not a remarkable thing that at one of our North-Eastern ports not many weeks ago, the military organisation whose job it was to superintend the discharge of particular ships and know what ships would berth, had their first intimation about the matter from civilians in the town? There is still a serious and unnecessary disclosure of our shipping moves, and there is much that can be done to tighten up the organisation. One of the most effective moves that could be made in that direction would be for the Minister to requisition all ships in this country. Until this part of our war effort 149 is more closely tied up, we must still expect the enemy to know too much about our shipping moves.
With regard to the Atlantic Charter, I cannot help feeling that it was somewhat out of harmony with something that happened in this House to-day. The Charter pleads for social justice and states that social justice will find a place in the scheme of things after the war. I think that is rather out of place, when we consider the answers given to-day to questions about the treatment meted out to dependants of our men serving in the Forces. This is part of our war effort and the morale of the people at home, which has been lowered and destroyed because dependants know they are not receiving just and fair treatment. The Government, the House and the country have no right to treat the dependants of fighting men as they are now being treated. How can we expect men to give of their best in the field, when they know that those at home have to visit the public assistance officer every week in order to live? Do you expect officers to inspire and lead men, forgetting all else except how best to achieve victory, while you leave the officer's wife and family to exist on two guineas per week?
We are told that something is to be done. I do not know, but this is the third year of the war, and a married serving soldier with three children has 42s. a week allowance, when, in many cases, rent is 17s. 6d. or £1 per week, leaving them very little more than a pound with which to feed and clothe themselves and do all the other things that are necessary, with prices as they are to-day. That is the treatment which is accorded to dependants of our serving men, and it is a scandal which, I hope, will be removed speedily and which ought not to have existed right into the third year of the war. For the sake of the cause for which we are fighting, for the good name of this country and the wives and children of our fighting men in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, the Middle East, Iceland and other parts of the world, I urge that the House should compel the Government to give justice to the dependants of the men in our Forces.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Attlee)
I intervene for only a very few minutes, because I do not think hon. Members have made very many specific points 150 requiring an immediate reply from the Government Bench. We have had a very interesting discussion ranging over a good many subjects, free from acrimony and with no greater differences of opinion expressed than are compatible with complete national unity in the war effort. I think that the speeches tended perhaps rather to answer each other. For instance, the speeches of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) and the hon. and gallant Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick) were answered partly by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and partly by the hon. Members for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) and Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris).
I think the hon. Members who criticised the Declaration were taking a rather too narrow and legalistic point of view. In a general statement made by the heads of two great States, you cannot expect to get more than general principles. The application has to be worked out later on, and it is impossible to elaborate at the present time a detailed programme for the future of the world. I suppose that every hon. Member could think of something he would have liked to have seen put into the Declaration, but the result would have been an unreadable declaration and certainly a declaration which would have raised a great deal more controversy by the fact that for every point put in there would probably have been a number of opponents of it. The real and vital thing about the Declaration is that it represented a large measure of unity among a great many people on points of absolutely first importance for the future of the world.
The next note which I thought was struck in the Debate was again one of unanimity. It was the need for full support for Russia and our admiration for the wonderful efforts that are being made by the fighting men and the people of Russia. I think there was no dissent from that proposition. This Government and this country are resolved to do their utmost to assist our Allies.
§ Mr. Attlee
Perhaps if the hon. Member did not interrupt me, I should be able to give him a better opportunity of making his own speech. I said every member of the Government. I caught a kind of suggestion here and there that for some reason the Government were not as keen as members of the House, or did not fully appreciate reasons which were perfectly obvious to every member of the House. Quite apart from our natural desire to help our Allies, it is perfectly obvious that it would be in the interests of this country to support them. Let me assure hon. Members that those arguments are quite as well appreciated by every member of the Government as by anybody outside it. There is no possible difference between us on that. But when we come to the question of what can be done, we have to examine the resources, the time, the geography, the whole facts of the situation. I thought that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lichfield (Capt. Poole) made some common-sense points on that. It may seem easy on paper at a moment's notice to throw in a tremendous force here or there, but what can be done will be done. There would be nothing more stupid, however, than to make a futile and dangerous gesture for fear that someone should think that you were not doing your best.
A point which came out in this Debate was the vital need for production. It is not easy always to get every part of the machine of production running at its height, and there is a danger of over-stressing failures and not recognising success, and of over-emphasising the few that do not do their best as against the many who are doing their best. I sometimes see a little danger in the tendency constantly to reiterate that there are slackers here and slackers there. It may have exactly the reverse effect from the desire of the people who write these words in the Press. So far from stimulating exertion, it may cause people to say, "Other people are slacking; why shouldn't I?" I do not think that is the mood of the country. I think there are very few slackers. The machinery always needs tightening up. It is not an easy thing to get a machine of this size ready, 152 and, wherever there are failures, I hope hon. Members will bring them to the notice of the Minister concerned, so that he can at once take action on the actual failures. I consider that to be much more valuable than to make a general statement that things are not keyed up as they should be.
There is no doubt in the minds of hon. Members or in the country as to the urgency of our need. Remember that just as Germany was preparing for this war for years, so Russia has had many years in which to build up great forces, while we still have had a comparatively short time to build up ours. We shall give all we can to Russia, but, remember, it has to come out of our production, which is not yet adequate for all our needs. Therefore we must prepare to make sacrifices and increase production. I think a little word of warning is required. Remember also that there is always a time lag. The Noble Lord was a little optimistic when he spoke of the great reservoir of man-power in different parts of the world. Undoubtedly, if we could harness that to the machine of production, we should get results, but we have to get the machine first of all.
§ Mr. Attlee
It would take quite two years. It takes a long time to train skilled personnel, even if skilled personnel are coming in as well. You do not turn out a capable enginer in two years. The limiting factors are skilled men and machinery, and there is always the abiding difficulty of transport. I quite agree with the Noble Lord that we should look everywhere. We have tremendous forces on our side, and we have to mobilise them. I do not think there is anyone in this country who has not been enormously heartened by the great fight put up by Russia, as I am sure all the peoples of Europe are stimulated by the fight put up by this country, and together with our other Allies and helpers I am convinced we shall win it.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I think everyone present in this House would agree that the fate of the people of this country is associated with the fate of the people of the Soviet Union. I regretted to hear the discussion to-day taking the form of a sort of editorial committee on the eight points, and I was glad when 153 the Noble Lord introduced the essential question which should be the chief consideration of this House, and that is the question of getting the most effective cooperation with the Soviet Union. It is of no use anyone talking about what would have happened if he had expressed these opinions before, because, if we are to discuss that, we should have to rule out not only the Noble Lord but the Prime Minister and the whole of his colleagues. The question before us is how to get the maximum co-operation between this country and the Soviet Union, and associated with that is of necessity the question of production. These are the two all-important questions. How can we have the closest possible co-operation with the Soviet Union unless we have a Government in which every member is prepared to declare himself a real friend of the Soviet Union? The Minister of Aircraft Production has given an explanation of his speech. It was extempore; he had not been thinking of what he was saying. But because he was not thinking what he was saying his inmost thoughts came out. One of the essential tasks of the House of Commons is to get a Government which will represent what the people desire. How is it possible that we can have in the Government a member such as the Minister of Aircraft Production and out of it a man with the energy, ability, and long record of friendship with the Soviet Union, such as the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shin-well)? I mention his name without consulting him and only take it as an example. I could take others. Mention has been made of the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) long ago to gel: close association with the Soviet Union.
The people of the country are deeply suspicious of certain members of the Government. This House ought to see that every measure is taken to weed out of the Government and out of Parliament those who are friends of Hitler and enemies of the Soviet Union, because enemies of the Soviet Union, in the situation in which we are, are enemies of the people of this country. The important question is to get the maximum of cooperation and to get rid of anyone who does not want that co-operation. If the Government were concerned to ensure the most effective measures, they would 154 expose the names in that book of the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay) and let us see who have their names in it and whether any members of the Government are closely associated with those names. There is deep suspicion in the factories. None have greater influence in the factories than the shop stewards. They are deeply interested in the "Daily Worker." Why has not the ban been lifted from it? Why do they refuse to lift the ban? Why is it that so many things are said about the Communists and why is there refusal to use the great ability of the Communists? What offence have Communists committed? It is their loyalty. There is not a Member in the House who can dare to get up here or anywhere else and question the loyalty of the Communists throughout the blackest darkest hours—their loyalty to the Soviet Union. When they were attacked and spat upon they never flinched. No one can question that. The Home Secretary may say, "Yes, loyalty to the Soviet Union, but not loyalty to this country."
What is it that determined their loyalty to the Soviet Union? Is it cash? Let the Home Office make investigations into that. It will be found to be clear that every penny for the maintenance of the Communist party and for the maintenance of the "Daily Worker" comes from the people of this country. Not a penny comes from outside sources. Let the Home Secretary look into that. The documents are there in the Home Office. There is not a Labour leader, not a co-operative society leader, not a trade union leader that has not three or four or five times as much per week as any leader of the Communist party. When it is made clear that the Communist party are not loyal because of cash an hon. Member gets an ingenious idea into his head and says that we must be blackmailed by Stalin. Instead of looking far afield, why not look here at home? Our loyalty to the Soviet Union is determined by loyalty to the people of this country, and our loyalty to the people of this country has been manifested time and time again. Who was loyal at the time of the Spanish war? It was because we are loyal to the people of this country that we were loyal to the Spanish people. Why was it our party alone that opposed the late Prime Minister going to Munich? Did not we say 155 that the betrayal of Czechoslovakia would bring disaster to this country? It was loyalty to the people of this country that determined our attitude to Czechoslovakia.
We have stood for an alliance between the people of this country and the people of the Soviet Union. We want co-operation with the Soviet Union, but, if we are to have that co-operation there has to he the maximum of production. If there is to be maximum production, there has to be the greatest possible unity in this country, based on co-operation with the Soviet Union. I say that the people of 156 this country are not satisfied with, and are not confident in the Government as it exists at the present time. It is the duty of people in this House to strengthen this Government as a Government of cooperation with the Soviet Union. I ask hon. Members to apply themselves to that task. Whenever anyone shows his head as an enemy of the Soviet, he is an enemy of the British people. Every friend of Hitler is an enemy of this country, and we have got to clear them out.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.