§ 1.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Baker White (Canterbury)
The matter that the House has just been discussing affects the welfare of the whole British Commonwealth; so, I believe, does the matter which I wish to raise now.
I desire in the time that Mr. Speaker has been good enough to allot to me this afternoon to raise a matter that a large number of my hon. Friends and, I believe, hon. Members in all quarters of the House regard as one of pressing importance. It is the need for His Majesty's Government to establish as part of their general defence plan a department to co-ordinate what I may call "counter-cold war" activity. If we are to engage, as we are engaging, upon a vast and expensive programme to defend ourselves against a possible hot war, we must be equipped to defend ourselves against the actual existing cold war. That, I believe, is but common sense, and in that matter we must act in concert with our friends.
I do not believe I can put the matter better than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer put it when he spoke at Leeds last Sunday. This is what he said:What faces us is the prospect of a long-term, ruthless undermining of the whole strength and independence of the Western 2340 democracies, a process of relentless political warfare, backed by a military threat. The future of the world depends upon our winning that political battle.Let me emphasise those words:The future of the world depends upon our winning that political battle.That, I believe, is the issue. But I do not believe that the Government yet fully realise it. What are they doing about it? At the moment they are doing nothing like enough. In this matter of the "counter-cold war." I believe His Majesty's Government are lagging behind. Indeed, only a few weeks ago they were contemplating a reduction in the money available for B.B.C. broadcasts to Europe. A vigorous protest has made them change their minds, but, even so, some reduction in those services will be necessary. It seems folly to reduce the volume of the "Voice of Britain" speaking to Europe at a time when so many are longing to hear it. There is more to it than that. The democracies of the West, notably France and Italy, are most anxious to hear what we have got to say, and, by letting them hear, we can make our contribution to the fight against Communism in their countries.
Let there be no mistake about these B.B.C. broadcasts. They have the very highest reputation for honesty, accuracy and integrity on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The trouble is that there are not enough of them. The B.B.C. European services are rather like a man with one hand tied behind his back fighting a battle against an opponent with two strong arms. They have to live and work under a sort of cheese-paring economy, when they should be given enough money to put over every programme at the highest possible standard. The very first thing to be done in the "counter-cold war" is to give the B.B.C. European service, and indeed the B.B.C. overseas service as a whole, the money and facilities they need to speak with the maximum strength.
May I try to give, very briefly, the picture of what is being done on both sides at present in the cold war? I will take the Russian side first. The Kremlin controls a great chain of broadcasting stations which runs from Leningrad in the north to Tiflis in the south, from Berlin and Prague in the west to Peking and Vladivostok in the east. All those radio stations play their part in the cold 2341 war. Moscow, Warsaw, Bucharest and Prague, at any rate, are broadcasting to an increasing degree in the English language.
But that is only a part of the machinery under the control of the Kremlin. In every democratic country the Communist parties are actively engaged in a cold war designed to destroy democracy. Let us have no illusions at all about that being their ultimate aim. Let me take this country as an example. In Britain, the printed output alone of the Kremlin's cold war machine—the Communist Party and its ancillaries—consist of each day, except Sunday, the "Daily Worker" and Moscow's own publication, the "Soviet News." In addition, there are six weeklies, 14 monthlies, two quarterlies and four publications that appear at irregular intervals.
Coming into Britain and emanating from Communist sources outside the country, but circulating in appreciable quantities here, there are three weeklies, nine monthlies and three other publications appearing at irregular intervals. All these are in English, and this total does not include Polish and Latvian daily and weekly newspapers brought in in bulk and distributed to Polish and Latvian workers in British industry and agriculture.
What is being done on the democratic side? There are the B.B.C. broadcasts. There is the "Voice of America" and other stations broadcasting from Europe to countries behind the Iron Curtain. On 1st May a new medium-wave transmitter near Munich, Radio Free Europe, opened with large-scale broadcasts to Czechoslovakia. Then there are broadcasts by various anti-Communist political groups. For example, from Madrid there are broadcasts directed to Poland by a Polish group, and to Russia by the R.R.F.—the Russian Revolutionary Forces. From Berlin the Russian Socialist organisation, N.T.S., also broadcasts. There is as well a steady infiltration under the Iron Curtain of anti-Soviet leaflets emanating from various emigré groups, distributed by brave men and women. All this activity is, in one way or another, countering the cold war, but no one can pretend that it is co-ordinated or that it is linked up with the defence organisation set up under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
2342 In a situation like that, I suggest that His Majesty's Government should take four steps. The first is to establish a "counter-cold war" department under the Ministry of Defence; it is essentially a matter of defence. The second is to link up the present overseas activities of the B.B.C., the information services of the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the British Council, to ensure that without interference with their functions—I think that is most important—their output is coordinated for the common purpose.
The third is to take the initiative in setting up a psychological warfare directorate within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, with a high ranking official on General Eisenhower's staff. The duty of that directorate would be to co-ordinate all "counter-cold war" activity by the Western nations and the United States of America. The fourth is to take the lead in setting up a parallel organisation for the Far East, including the erection of powerful transmitters at Hong Kong and Singapore capable of carrying the truth to Communist China. That body would also co-ordinate the anti-Communist psychological campaign in Malaya, Indo-China and Burma.
In the last war Britain showed herself to be the most expert of all the nations in the conduct of political warfare. It is to my mind tragic that after nearly five years of continuous cold war have been conducted against us we should be doing so little in reply, all the more so because there is every indication from behind the Iron Curtain that the field in which we should be conducting our campaign has never been more receptive than it is at present.
I believe that we have today a better chance than ever before of winning the cold war. But we must act quickly. If we spend on cold war defence the annual cost of creating and maintaining one armoured brigade we may be able to save ourselves in the future millions of money, great quantities of material and perhaps blood and lives as well. In the cold war the men in the Kremlin have four allies—ignorance, fear, lies and unbelief. As the Foreign Secretary has pointed out, the best answer to the Red psychological war is the truth.
2343 Let us use our strength, our skill and our knowledge to give Europe, and the peoples of the Far East as well, the truth. Let us speak loud and clear with the voice of the lion. If we do, men and women all over the world will be uplifted and encouraged in their battle for freedom. More than that, millions now groaning under the iron yoke of tyranny will be given new hope of life.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman and His Majesty's Government to look back at the speech from the Throne drafted by Sir Robert Walpole on 20th January, 1726–225 years ago. It contains this passage:When the world shall see that you will not suffer the British Crown and nation to be menaced and insulted, those who most envy the present happiness and tranquillity of this kingdom, and who are endeavouring to make us subservient to their ambition, will consider their own interest and circumstances before they make any attempt on so brave a people, strengthened and supported by prudent and powerful alliances; and, though desirous to preserve the peace, able and ready to defend themselves against the efforts of ail aggressors. Such resolutions and such measures, timely taken, I am satisfied are the most effectual means of preventing a war and continuing to us the blessing of peace and prosperity.I believe that what applied in 1726 applies with even greater force in 1951.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
I should like to add my appeal to what has been vividly expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White). A pall of anxiety hangs over the whole world, anxiety which has been sedulously fostered as part of the war of nerves by the Cominform and by Russia. Indeed, Europe has suffered from anxiety ever since Hitler made his appearance on the European scene. People everywhere are asking themselves what is to happen next, what are the rights and wrongs of the situation. In queues in this country, in clubs in South Africa, in homes in France, in little pockets of doubters and embryo resistance groups in the satellite countries, the same question echoes round because the satellite countries which have these groups of doubters are held down only by the constant repression of human rights, of facts, of the truth, as my hon. Friend said, and of hope.
The situation is not very different from that which obtained in the occupied 2344 countries during the war. Then, the people clung tenaciously to their wireless sets, that little contact with the outside world from which they got reliable news, upon which they seized voraciously. With blinds drawn, with doors shut, with the set suitably muffled, little groups of people listened eagerly to the B.B.C. whenever they got a chance. And when they took to the woods and hills the first thing they thought of, more precious to them, in many cases, than food, was their wireless set. To those people, listening in the woods among the Resistance in France, to the B.B.C, the sounds of Big Ben were real music and comfort. It was something that brought back truth and hope, a faint contact with that sane life that they had known in the past and for which they so eagerly hoped again.
It is not surprising, then, that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said only a few days ago, some of us believe that this activity is more important than expenditure on armaments, for when morale goes, men and material lose their significance. The importance of the dissemination of truth as one of the aims of democracy has not been lost upon the United States of America. Grants to the "Voice of America" have been impressively stepped up quite recently, and the need to tell facts is recognised by Mr. Truman in the United States and Mr. Spender in Australia.
What is our programme by contrast with those activities which my hon. Friend has outlined? The Foreign Secretary told us the other day, as my hon. Friend has said, that whereas there had been an idea that our overseas broadcasting programme would be slightly stepped up now in the interests of economy it was cut back to what had been granted before and that this would result in the reduction of some of our overseas services. This is an insignificant contribution that we are making to a desperately badly needed programme. He did not think, he said, that central control of these activities was necessary. Let each country pour out what it thought desirable in quantities which it thought suitable.
There could be consultation, said my hon. Friend, but that is a dangerous position. That makes for crossed lines, for different interpretations of the same 2345 incident by different people, of different emphasis on the purpose which we have at the basis of our thought and often different advice from different senders. In that lie the seeds of confusion and distrust. If the Allies, in their broadcasts during the war, had spoken with different voices to the people listening throughout Europe the worship of the B.B.C. would have ceased. The voice which speaks must be co-ordinated, authentic, reliable and trustworthy. If it combines those great features it will play a great role.
What, then, is this organisation to send, this central organisation, call it political warfare executive or as I prefer Truth-inform, an organisation as well endowed, as omnipresent as the Cominform, set-up and designed to combat the Cominform wherever it may meet it? What is this organisation to do when it has harnessed up all the publicity media to its support? Its programme in my view, would consist of two parts. To the countries on this side of the Iron Curtain it must tell of the living conditions in the countries which are behind the Iron Curtain.
But what it says must be simple. Ideological arguments may impress the intellectuals, but for the ordinary man in the street it must be the simple truths which are to be told; things like their being no right to strike, like the fate of the small farmers whose farms were collectivised and they separated from their families and sent away, very often for ever; how at their elections there is no alternative choice to the candidate officially approved by the Communist Party; how denunciations within a family are encouraged and listened to and how if one falls into disfavour or even under suspicion one's fate is probably the forced labour camp.
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is not sure that those facts can be proved, but there is a wealth of evidence accumulating all the time from most reliable sources about these matters. We have trade union delegations which went out there and came back and reported. We have the sayings and writings of U.N.E.S.C.O. and refugees, men like the unfortunate Mr. Vogeler, who returned to the United States only the other day, and even the writings of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky themselves. They tell quite enough if it is only unfolded and described. The Russians, with the realisation 2346 of the value that attaches to constant reiteration, go on pumping out their false and pernicious stuff. We, too, must learn to reiterate. It may be boring for some but in the long run it makes a permanent impression on men's minds; and so we would succeed in weakening the Fifth Column which Russia has achieved a certain success in setting up in Western European countries.
What is this organisation to pour out to the satellite countries? It must tell them of the meaning and aims of democracy, that what we set out to do is not to dominate their country but to set their country free to decide its own destiny—a thing it never had the chance of doing under Communism; of supporting the rights of human individuals; of our standards of living and rates of pay; of how much value we attach and with what tenacity we cling to the right of free speech and free thought; to explain why they are relatively so poorly off and are still rationed in many countries in bread; why they are dragooned and sent from pillar to post; tell them the reasons for the new and sinister collectivisation of agriculture; that dog eats dog under Communism; tell them what happened to Litvinov, Tukachevsky, Petkov, Kostov, Rajk and Clementis.
That is the story which has to be told and constantly repeated. It is much cheaper and more humane to bombard human beings with words than with shells, and the result may indeed, at the end of the day, avoid the shells. In the end, truth, pursued with equal vigour and determination, will defeat the lie, but it must be pursued with equal vigour and determination.
§ 1.26 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison), I have had no connection with political warfare. I know that both of them have distinguished records in that field, and are able to speak with that authority which one hopes that one day we shall be able to bring to every subject which is debated in the House.
I have, however, taken an interest in this question because I have seen something of some of the countries which are now behind the Iron Curtain or which 2347 have escaped very narrowly. I am convinced of one thing. If, which God forbid, it should ever come about that we do have to go into Europe again because we could no longer carry on politics save through war, then, in the interests of our own troops, we should make sure that everything is done to ensure that a friendly population will greet us, rather than one which is opposed to us.
There is nothing more frightful than to live in a country where one never quite knows whether one is to be stabbed in the back by a member of the local population. There are other even more unpleasant things which could happen, and which I am sure the experience of my hon. Friends would bear out. We do not want to see those things again, and that in itself might be regarded as an adequate reason for saying there should be something better through which to conduct our political warfare, than there is at the moment. But I do not believe that to be an adequate reason, if one compares that particular point with the greater one.
The greater point seems to me to be that, spiritually, the greatest danger we have to contend with in the world today is the Antichrist materialism of Bolshevism. That is the great enemy of the kind of world we want to see. I do not refer to that Antichrist materialism merely because I am a Christian, or because I believe that everyone who wishes to lead our way of life is necessarily a Christian. I believe that the Antichrist is the enemy not only of the Christian but of many other religions, which, also, would suffer gravely if the materialism of Bolshevism were allowed to establish itself throughout, say, the Western world.
Believing that to be the greatest enemy, where then is the greatest weakness in that enemy? I believe the greatest weakness in the Bolshevistic concept lies in the terror they have of allowing people to know enough either of morals or moral politics to enable them to think for themselves. It is because that weakness exists, and because we and the other free peoples who are endeavouring to do something about it tend to confuse the issue rather than simplify it, that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that he has paid very careful attention to what my hon. Friends have said about co-ordination. I am sure that there is 2348 no greater danger to a good cause than that individual groups should try to express it in their own way, and as a result, give an impression to those at the receiving end, that no one of them has made up his mind as to what it is, in fact, that they are trying to do. I think there is a very great danger in that today.
Since I have been interested in this matter, I have been in communication with many people who have had experience of this particular type of activity, and with those who are anxious to see other countries restored, or shall I say rebuilt, on lines in keeping with the modern age. I think there is a very great danger, and we ought to face up to it, that this type of warfare—if that is the word we must use, and I am afraid it is—will fall into the hands of those who were discredited in days gone by and who are discredited now in the countries concerned. This must not be just a refugee organisation.
There could be nothing more fatal to the Christian and Western cause than that it should be thought in the countries behind the Iron Curtain that all this propaganda is being done to restore the old and discredited regimes. We must produce something better than that; what we have to do is to try to rebuild a religion which will right the Antichrist of Communism. Unless we do that, and unless we have it based, first of all, on the spiritual side, I do not believe that however effective we may be on the purely material and political side it could ever last.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Scotstoun spoke of making the message simple, and I would agree with him. It is important that we should make the message simple, but I do not think that we can ignore the intellectual. I think the Bolshevists would be the first to claim that much of what they have achieved has been done through the intellectual idea. In fact, a leading Bolshevist not very long ago said:All the victories of the Bolshevik Party are due to its ceaseless anxiety for the theoretical education of party cadres.I do not know what history will record about this modern age, but I should be surprised if a great deal of the credit for extreme Left Wing thought is not given to such journals as "The New Statesman and Nation," with its appeal 2349 to the intellectual. In fact, that opinion has very often guided those who have not had the good fortune to have had as good an education as some of the more intellectual members of the community. If that be so, it would seem to me that we are running a very great risk by simply appealing to the vast mass of the population and omitting a special message for the intellectual. There is a very great danger of having the intellectuals in the countries which we are trying to reach deliberately spiking the guns of our own campaign, which is directed to the vast mass of the population there. That, I think, would be fatal.
There have been many methods worked out by bitter experience during the last war, and we know that there is a wealth of that experience ready, if the Government cared to draw upon it. At the moment, as the right hon. Gentleman said to me on 23rd April, we have the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Central Office of Information and the British Council. Is there all the coordination in our own plans that there ought to be? Still more, is there that co-ordination with our friends overseas that there should be? All the reports that I am receiving show that there is a considerable divergence of method and of the line of approach between the Americans and ourselves. It seems to me that what we have to do first is to put our own house in order, because that is very far from being the case at the moment.
My hon. Friend who raised the matter, and I think we are all grateful to him for having done so, suggested that the Minister of Defence should have the main responsibility as co-ordinator so far as our own efforts are concerned. I do not believe that that would be enough. We have been asking over and over again for a combined Chiefs of Staffs organisation to be set up, so that we may have a world concept of the defence problem. If this political warfare organisation is to succeed, it must work on lines similar to those laid down for the combined Chiefs of Staffs. It is part of warfare, but I believe that in respect of those who take part in it, nationality must come second. In fact, I should say that they have to be, rather than supranational, perhaps ultra-national; and that 2350 they have to place predominantly in their plans the idea that we are fighting Antichrist in the world, and that, unless we combit it with the ideas which Antichrist has set out to destroy, we have no hope of ever succeeding.
§ 1.37 p.m.
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Younger)
The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White) and the hon. and gallant Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison), have personal experience of the subject on which they have been speaking. It is a very important subject—the question of propaganda in the cold war, both the propaganda that is levelled against us and the means by which we are to combat it. With a good deal of what was said I am in the fullest agreement. I agree with what was said about the nature of the campaign which comes out through the Cominform, and about the long-term purposes to which it is directed. I also agree with what was said about the ruthless and single-hearted persistence with which it is carried on. There is nothing between us on that; nor is there anything between us on the need to counter this propaganda.
There are two quite separate issues which could be raised. There is, first of all, the question of quantity. It is simply whether we are doing enough. Do the Estimates for the services provide enough, and are we organised on the right lines? There is the further point whether it is not so much a question of quantity, but one of how we are organising ourselves. The hon. Gentleman who opened the debate gave an indication to the House that he was thinking principally, at any rate, in terms of organisation, but I think the speeches which we have so far heard were, for for the most part, more directed to the question of quantity.
When hon. Members rightly emphasised the importance of the B.B.C. programmes, they were not complaining about their quality, but simply saying that there are not enough of them and that the B.B.C. should have more facilities and more finance. That is a question which I do not propose to argue here; it is a very difficult one to decide. Obviously, the precise level at which we ought to put our expenditure for matters of this kind at any given moment is a matter of opinion; there is no exact 2351 right or exact wrong about it. Only recently we had heated discussions in this House about certain proposed cuts in our information services, and the hon. and gallant Member for Scotstoun, quoted some of the statements made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at that time.
This is a matter to which we must certainly give very careful attention, and I do not think we can ever consider any particular level, for budgetary or other reasons, as necessarily final. Those who are concerned with this matter, and that includes, above all others, the Foreign Office, even when they agree to a cut in the service, as the Foreign Office recently did, are not at all happy about it. We agree that it would be a good thing if we could have more money for information and propaganda services, but it all depends on a sense of proportion between one form of expenditure and another. Since practically all the argument has been directed to the propaganda for those countries behind the Iron Curtain, I should like to repeat what was said in the previous discussion about the propaganda sent to the Iron Curtain, namely, that the quantity would not, in fact, be reduced.
It is important in this matter to get two things clearly in mind. First, there is the question of an overseas information and propaganda service, which I think I can say is recognised internationally as a perfectly legitimate instrument of national policy. The propaganda that is put out by those who are opposed to us may be disliked, and the propaganda put out by our friends may not be always to our liking, but it is recognised as a perfectly legitimate thing for them to put out propaganda which they think interprets their way of thinking. We should not confuse it with political warfare.
The term "political warfare" is very often used in a general sense. The hon. Member for Canterbury referred to a speech by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he used this phrase, "political warfare," but in the context in which we are discussing it today, with our eyes on what the organisation should be, we should realise that organisation for political warfare, as conducted in times of actual war, is something rather different from the type of 2352 organisation required in peace-time and certainly has a very different bearing on one's relations with the States to whom it may be directed. I will return to that in a moment.
I want now to make the point that merely to say that we should have more information and more propaganda does not mean that we should start up this rather different thing, political warfare. No doubt it is wise, in a time of uneasy peace, when defence programmes are being stepped up, to have plans of what should be done in war. No doubt, in war something similar to the Political Warfare Executive of the last war would prove to be necessary, but one should be cautious in suggesting that war-time methods should be applied to a peacetime situation, even if it is an uneasy peace.
In a time like the present we have two tasks, and I do not quarrel with what the hon. and gallant Member for Scotstoun said about what he thought were the tasks of propaganda. We have to deal with those countries behind the Iron Curtain, which we find very difficult to reach by the normal methods of exchange of travel, business relations, visits, and so on. We have to try to give them, above all, the truth about what is going on in the world, and particularly about ourselves, countering the false propaganda that is put out about us.
Secondly, we have to think of the very much wider and varied area outside the Iron Curtain, especially that which includes our own public at home, our friends in Western Europe, the Commonwealth, the Colonial areas and the immense areas of Asia, people who are at varying stages of political and social development and education. If one is to get behind the Iron Curtain, the B.B.C. is the main instrument for this task, and I am glad that a tribute was paid to the reputation which the B.B.C. still has. We cherish that very much, and it is of the greatest importance that that reputation should be maintained.
I have been asked about the co-ordination of the other branches of the Information Service, the Foreign Office, Commonwealth Relations, the Colonial Office, the British Council, the Central Office of Information, and so on. There was considerable criticism about that co-ordination, but it was not, I think, supported by 2353 any detailed accusations. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) said we should start putting our own house in order for it was far from being in order. If he meant by that, that there was a lack of co-ordination with the Colonial Office, the Foreign Office, and so on, and that they were sometimes at loggerheads and putting out conflicting propaganda I do not know of it.
We have not the same formal co-ordination as was established under the Political Warfare Executive, but there is no great inter-Departmental difficulty within our own country for having proper consultation both on the official and working party level, and also at the Ministerial level on the question of policy. The Foreign Secretary is generally responsible for the co-ordination of overseas information, and I do not think he and his colleagues experience any serious difficulty, nor do I believe that in present circumstances there is much in that respect that we have to do to put our house in order. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring to the fact that we are not doing enough, that is a matter of opinion on which there can obviously be different points of view.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I think perhaps I would have made it clearer if I had stated that the main criticism against the present organisation, apart from the fact that there is entirely satisfactory direction from the head, is the feeling that there is not really an organisation in existence which is designed to combat such a ruthless campaign as that of the cold war. There may be machinery to put over ideas in the Colonial Office to the Empire, but there is not anything designed to defeat the cold war.
§ Mr. Younger
I am not sure that that makes it any more precise. I do not think I am in a position to offer chapter and verse to refute that, and I do not really know to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring. It is true, of course, that our information and propaganda are of a different kind, but that is true of all democratic countries. We do not stoop to all the methods used by our opponents. Our propaganda is perhaps more sophisticated, and, therefore, less absolutely clear-cut and hard punching. It is more in the nature of long-term education.
2354 I do not think there is any justification for saying that the present organisation is not designed to deal with something as ruthless as the cold war. After all, the cold war, even though we describe it as war, is essentially a political thing and this is one of the points on which the hon. Member for Canterbury has gone wrong. I think it is a matter of general political education and propaganda, and not in any sense a branch of the Ministry of Defence or directly a military problem.
I was dealing with the question of inter-Departmental co-ordination and I should like to say one word on the admittedly more difficult question of international co-ordination. I think the hon. Member for Canterbury was quite right when he said we had to be on our guard against allowing this thing to develop into an unco-ordinated series of efforts by groups of discredited refugees and regimes. At the same time it would be unrealistic not to appreciate that complete uniformity of a policy line and of programmes directed from all parts of the free world to countries behind the Iron Curtain is a very much harder thing to achieve in time of peace than it is in time of war, where, inevitably, one's field of vision is narrow and one's objectives are very much more precise and clear and, in a sense, short-term.
It is a fact that the attitudes of the sending countries which carry out these programmes are not in every respect identical, though their general attitudes come very close together. For instance, all the nations within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have a unity of purpose, but when it comes to detail they have all their points of view and their different emphasis on different political ideas.
We are making very considerable progress in the work of co-ordination by means of joint consultation, but I think it is unrealistic at this stage to imagine that we could at all readily put the whole thing in a strait-jacket, or put it under a single organisation under the North Atlantic Treaty—in a department which would put out propaganda in a uniform stream. All the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have their contribution to make and they also have their own public opinion to consider. Even when it comes to putting matter 2355 out for the outside world one has to consider one's own public. Even on the international stage I think we must rely on joint consultation rather than on a hard and fast type of organisation.
I do not want to be in the least complacent about the effect of the propaganda efforts of the Western and democratic countries, but I think it is possible to be unduly pessimistic about it. Despite this immense machine the Cominform has at its command—which has been correctly described—very great progress has been made by the countries of Western Europe in combating it and the flood has been receding rather than advancing in recent years. Perhaps the same could not be said of South-East Asia, because that is a very difficult proposition. But I think that in the Commonwealth and Empire as a whole it would be wrong to say that this great flood of Communist propaganda is having all its own way.
I want now to make a point which has not already been made, but on which I do not think hon. Members will disagree. It is that it must not be thought this combating of propaganda is entirely a matter of counter-propaganda. By far the most important thing outside the Iron Curtain itself is having our own constructive policy, having a sane and reasonable economy and being ourselves a going concern. If we have that the problem of our propagandists becomes relatively a simple one.
This debate was announced as one about the establishment of a political warfare executive. A political warfare executive became essential in wartime because of its military character, because much of the information with which it was dealing was military information, because there were serious questions of security and secrecy and because the channels that had to be used to enemy territories were to a large extent military channels, such as the R.A.F. dropping leaflets. It was overt hostility. In that game there were no holds barred. We were prepared to enter into all forms of deception from the military point of view as a means to a relatively short-term military end. Those things do not apply in a cold war however intense it may be.
§ Mr. Younger
I quite agree, but it is a little more than a question of a word. It is only when these military considerations loom very large that we think it necessary to have an organisation, whether one calls it political warfare or "Truthinform" doing the specialised job which is suggested by the words "political warfare executive."
While I agree very much with a great deal of what has been said, I have some disagreement with three out of the four points which the hon. Member for Canterbury has put forward as definite proposals. I do not think that a counter-warfare department or "Truthinform" should be put under the Ministry of Defence. I believe it is essentially a matter of politics at this stage, although that must have repercussions on defence. The one point with which I do not disagree is the second one—that there should be an adequate link between the B.B.C., the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the British Council to ensure co-ordination for a common purpose. It can be argued, but no evidence has been adduced, that it does not exist at present, and I think that on the whole it does exist.
The third point was that an executive should be set up within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Presumably that would involve uniformity of programmes, emanating not from individual members of the Treaty Organisation but from the organisation itself. In the first place, I think that would be difficult to obtain at present. However, if that were the only reason we should try. But I think we have not reached the stage when our information and propaganda should assume that military character internationally any more than it should come under the Minister of Defence at home.
The fourth point was that there should be a parallel organisation for the Far East and increasingly powerful transmitters. I am quite ready to agree with the argument that we should attempt to increase propaganda by boosting the transmission power of our radio or by some other methods. This is an important area of the world where our facilities probably do require to be improved, but, again, I do not think a separate organisation of the type envisaged is really necessary.
2357 I can assure hon. Gentlemen who have raised the subject that our disagreement on the question of organisation is not due to disagreement on the basic purpose or to an under-estimate on our part of the importance of playing our full part in the cold war. In a cold war as opposed to a hot one we have two objectives. We must first try to continue to promote peace. We must not have information and propaganda programmes that assume the inevitability of war. Secondly, we must bear in mind the sort of situation which might arise if all other efforts failed. It is the second purpose, the war-time purpose to the exclusion of the peace-time purpose, which dominates the Ministry of Defence.
§ Mr. Baker White
If I am wrong about putting the direction of this kind of activity under the Ministry of Defence, should it not be borne in mind that the direction of a cold war such as we have to counter, is in the hands of the Red Army staff?
§ Mr. Younger
That may be so, but I do not think that in this as in so many other matters we can model our methods entirely on what is done on the other side of the Iron Curtain.