I beg to move
That this House strongly condemns the revolutionary propaganda which is being carried on in Great Britain and the Empire by Communists and others and will support the Government in any action necessary to suppress it.
In rising to address the House for the first time, I am singularly fortunate in being able to bring forward a Motion which I feel sure will meet with the support of all three parties in the House. During the brief period of my membership I have heard many reproaches flung at us by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I think they do not always fully understand the excellence of our motives. But no one has so far suggested that we would do other than condemn revolutionary propaganda, and I am sure that I can count on the support of the whole of the Conservative party. When we turn to the two Back Benches below the Gangway opposite, where the cream of the cream of the Liberal party sit, the very careful and the very splendid selection from 339 candidates, we do not perhaps find quite such a perfect colour scheme as we might
have expected under the circumstances; in fact, there is one rather glaring patch of red, but I feel sure that the Liberal party will also condemn revolutionary propaganda.
When I turn to the official opposition, there surely I must be on safe ground, for did they not by bell, by book and by candle, exorcise, expurgate and excommunicate Communism and all its works? That was only last October. 1 wish it had been done. rather earlier, because such a Resolution coming just before a General Election gave the impression of window dressing, and at best it turned out to be but a death-bed repentance. Here is their opportunity, and here is their chance to prove the sincerity of their Resolution, and I hope that the Labour party will support the Motion which I ant bringing forward. Hon. Members may ask if there is so much unanimity in supporting this Resolution why I trouble to bring it forward. I move it because I know, and we all know, the frailty of human nature. Last August did not right hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches start the prosecution of a Communist, and I think it will be within the recollection of the House that within a week they dropped that prosecution? Does not that show that although the spirit may be strong the flesh is lamentably, deplorably weak? I will give another instance. Last November the British Trade Union Congress sent a mission to Russia. It was one of those flights of doves sent out periodically from our Socialist ark to fly over that distracted, desolate, ruined country in the vain hope that they might be able to return bearing a green leaf. They proudly announced this time that they had found a leaf, but from the report just published I regret to find that the leaf they brought back from Russia turned out to be a very prickly leaf, and probably came from a common or garden thistle.
Three members of this mission were Labour candidates at the last election, and so we must take it that on 29th October they cannot have had any trace of Communism about them, and yet within a few days, whether because of revolutionary propaganda which they read in the train, or whether because of the hospitality which their Russian hosts lavished upon them with stolen money,
much of it from British citizens, this mission within a few days of their arrival were proclaiming their desire to introduce similar changes into Great Britain to those they found in Russia, and they were describing Soviet Russia as "the first bright jewel in the world's working-class crown," instead of, as we know it to be, the longest nail in the coffin of international Socialism. This was written by the former Socialist Member for Coventry (Mr. Purcell), arid I should like to give a quotation to show the inconsistency of this comrade. He said at Hull in September last:
International anti-war days must be used in every village, town, and city to create positive detestation and hatred of war. … Our duty is to proclaim that we dare to refuse to associate with war movements and war preparations.
And yet in Moscow in I November this same Mr. Purcell attended a review of the Red Cavalry held especially in honour of the British Trade Union Delegation. He addressed the troops, and he told them that already they had "struck terror into the hearts of the British bourgeoisie as the champions of labour," and he called for three cheers for the Tied Army. The pacifist Mr. Purcell, of Hull, had become a red-hot militarist at Moscow. It is thus that evil communications corrupt good manners; but we must protect such mercurial gentlemen from bad influences. We in this House are the watchdogs of the Constitution, and it is our duty to hip right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the shepherds, to' keep the wolves from the flock behind them. Wolves broke in rather badly once. or twice last summer. Certain hon. Members seem to be particularly susceptible to subversive propaganda, with the result that they make inflammatory speeches and do a great deal of harm, which, I feel sure, in their more reflective moments, they must regret. I do not want to weary the House with many quotations, and, as there is a salmon in the pool, we will not waste time on the trout. Ipsos custodes, quis custodiet? which, being interpreted, is, "What doctor can cure the late Minister of Health?" I will read a few extracts from recent speeches by the right hon. Gentleman. On the 21st December, at Glasgow, he said:
The Russian Revolution was the greatest event in the history of the working-class world. However unpopular it may be,
however much vituperation it may get for me in the Press, I make the public statement that, if any attempt is made by the Government of Britain to launch us into a war with Russia, I, for one, am prepared to spend not only my time but my life appealing to the working class of this country, not merely to refuse to join in the attack on Russia but to utilise the opportunity of a war with Russia for an attack on British capitalism with a view to securing its overthrow in this country.
In other words, the Russians may do what they please to any unfortunate Englishman who may fall into their clutches; they may stir up revolution and massacre in India; and they may rest assured that, if we move a finger against them, the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Health (Mr. Wheatley) will be working for Russia and against his own country. Let me remind him that without our export trade this nation would starve. Our export trade can only be secured by British citizens who are prepared to travel abroad to invest their money and energy abroad to secure orders for the rest of us in this country. Unless we are prepared to protect our citizens in Russia or any other country where they may go, our foreign trade will cease, and with that will come starvation and misery to this country. Let me resume my quotations from the right hon. Gentleman. On the 19th November, in London, he said:
He was not sure that he was not more revolutionary t-day than three years ago, for all his experiences bad convinced him that. if we din not quickly overthrow the capitalist order of society, it would overthrow us. What might not be practicable to us might be practicable to a more intelligent people, and in endeavouring to get men and women converted to his point of view he was hastening the day when revolution would be a practical policy.
Again, on the 6th December, in London, he said:
Until the working class learns that it is engaged in a class war, we shall make no progress. None of us sympathise with the class war any more than we sympathise with rotten weather, but nothing is to he gained by putting our heads in the sand and pretending that the class war does not exist.
And at Liverpool, on the 21st November:
Maxton and I come to Liverpool with one object, to add five or six thousand to the number of rebels in this City.
The right hon. Gentleman is a highly educated man and a Privy Councillor,
who has experienced the responsibilities of office. He knows the meaning of words. But what effect is the refrain of strife, warfare, and revolution likely to have upon a less educated audience? What effect is it likely to have on people in distress among his audience? He sows the wind; who is going to reap the whirlwind? Not he, but the poor misguided people who are thus led into revolt against law arid order. We do not see him with a revolutionary red cap on the side of his head, advancing with a stone in his hand to lead the mob against the police. No, the right hon. Gentleman's class in class warfare is first-class. He leaves his audience in a state of wild frenzy and excitement at Glasgow or Liverpool, and goes peacefully and quietly off to his first-class carriage to be conveyed back to London at the expense of the nation. There is precedent for that. Did not the Germans send Lenin and Trotsky carriage paid into Russia? The next morning Mr. Hyde remains in Glasgow; it is Dr. Jekyll who comes down to the House and beams at us so benignly through his gold-rimmed spectacles. There is revolution brought up to date! There are riot and civil war with all the comforts of a home and no possible risks to the leader. So much for the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Health. But if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? If revolutionary propaganda has had this effect upon hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who, I must again remind the House, were guaranteed by their party on the 29th October to be entirely free from all traces of Communism, what effect is it likely to have on the masses of this country? What effect will it have on the unemployed, or on those who are really in want, and who will clutch at any straw that is offered to them by a right honourable Privy Councillor? I will now turn to written propaganda. As soon as I knew that I should be able to introduce this Resolution, I went straight off to headquarters to get the latest information—to the Communist headquarters, I mean, of course. I found a fine shop, beautifully equipped, and filled with masses of literature, largely written by foreigners. I stayed there some time, and I was throughout the only customer. I gather that the sale of literature is not paying for that expensive establishment, or even
for its own printing, but we have definite proof of this, for the late Home Secretary said in this House on the 19th June last, that the Government was in possession of information showing lab the Communist organisations in this country are in receipt of money grants from foreign revolutionary societies, and this has been confirmed at various tunes by the late Secretary of State for the Colonies, who has declared that Russian money has been subsidising British Communists. I bought these specimens of their literature—2s. 7d. worth; at least, I paid 2s. 7d., but I certainly do not think it was worth it. There is a little book here entitled, "Lenin and Britain: his message to the British Workers." It is written, or rather compiled, by a Mr. A. Lep-eshinsky, and it talks glibly of revolution throughout. It is particularly severe on right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. It says:
The Henderson, Clynes, MacDonalds and Snowdens are hopelessly reactionary, but in the interests of the revolution the revolutionaries of the working class must give these gentlemen certain Parliamentary support.
I wonder whether that is the reason why the late Minister of Health accepted Office? It goes on on another page:—
The majority, in the event of Henderson's and Snowden's victory over Lloyd George and Churchill, will, after a short tine, be disappointed in its leaders, and will come over to Communism.
Then I suppose the late Minister of Health will be in sole possession of that bench.
We all know and we all deplore the hateful habit of the cuckoo. He lays his egg in a poor little robin's nest, and as the young cuckoo grows he pushes the little robins out of the nest. It would be in the nature of a calamity if sonic cuckoo were to push those dear little robins with their bright red breasts out of their snug little nest on the Front opposition Bench. There are several on that Front Bench whom we all respect and admire—men who are not afraid to speak out the truth, men who do not play to the gallery, men who are prepared to talk about duties as well as about rights. They strive for unity and not for dissension, because they know it is only thus that they can secure prosperity for their country. They are very different to those who shed crocodile tears over distress in the country and yet seek to intensify it
by strife so as to prepare the ground for a revolution in which the dictator may take the place of the demagogue. Here is a "Manual of Party Training of the Communist Party," price 6d.—
Our task towards the State is to expose its real nature, to undermine its authority and ultimately to destroy it.
The task of the party in the trade unions is to unify and co-ordinate their activities and turn them into instruments of revolutionary struggle and to transform them into organisations to enforce the dictatorship of the Proletariat.
The general refrain of all these papers is hatred, class warfare and revolution. They openly proclaim their intention of capturing the trade unions by means of what they call the minority movement. They attempt to spread discontent and mutiny among the forces of the Crown and they do all they can to instil hatred, rebellion and blasphemy among the children of the country. It is our duty to prevent our people and their children, and still more the uneducated masses of a country like India from: being destroyed by the poison of this sedition. I do not propose to deal with India, because my hon. Friend who is seconding the Motion has had a lifelong experience of India and is better qualified to speak about it.
The Communist is like an incendiary, who goes through the pine woods or on the moors in March, after a hard winter, before the sap has had time to rise, and drops a lighted match. Fire sweeps the whole country, but the incendiary gets away. It is the people who pay. ft is the people who lose their belongings, their homes and often their lives. We are only just emerging from the hard winter of the war. There is much inevitable and deplorable distress, but instead of trying to help, as any decent-minded person would, the revolutionary propagandist is fighting against the return of prosperity, because with it he knows that he loses his chance of revolution. He is like one of those beggars one meets in the East who rub open their sores every day so as to excite the sympathy and the alms of the passer by. Only our modern Communist is more scientific in his method. It is other people's sores that lie rubs. He is healthy and prosperous himself. It is peace we need, not war; unity, not discord. The country declared finally and decisively at the last Election that it will not tolerate revolutionary doctrine, and will not be dictated to by foreign Communists. We look to the Government to take all possible steps to stamp out revolutionary propaganda in any and every form, and I appeal with confidence to the House to rise above party considerations and work together as a band of brothers to promote the unity, the peace and the prosperity of the country.
I beg to second the Resolution.
I also have to ask for that indulgence which the House accords to a Member addressing it for the first time. My hon. Friend has dealt most ably and humorously with the evils of subversive propaganda in Great Britain. I desire to place before the House some few aspects of the evils of subversive propaganda in the Empire, and more especially in India, where I have lived and worked for a good many years, more recently in a position which enables me to claim some knowledge of my subject. There are two kinds of propaganda, roughly speaking. which are prevalent in the Empire. On the one hand, we have the Communist type of propaganda, which has for its object the overthrow and the complete destruction of British rule in India, and, on the other side, we have a more localised species, which also has for its object the overthrow of British rule in the Empire, but in order to place in its stead self-government by the indigenous inhabitants of that country. We have both of these in India, and I think the latter might well be described as propaganda subversive of British ideals in India. by which I mean that our aim and object in the life's work we have done in India. is to introduce into that country ideals which have hitherto been foreign to it, and which, I believe, are being gradually absorbed. I do not need to describe in a great many words the whole aim and object of the Communist outlook in their avowed object of destroying the British Empire, but I think I can best describe it in the words of one of their own speakers who spoke in Moscow on the occasion of the fifth Congress of the Communist Internationale last July. He said:
Is it possible to destroy the might of the entire capitalist system of Great Britain without bringing into motion its Colonial population? Will not British Imperialism,
which has such enormous human and material resources in the Colonies, offer a successful resistance to the workers of Great Britain if the latter do not deprive them of these human reserves?
In very concise language that statement describes the whole aim and object of Communist propaganda. The Communist works in India to destroy British rule both there and in the Colonies. The Communist web extends over India, Africa, Australia, Canada, Palestine and so on, and their methods in most of these countries are much the same. Their methods increase most heavily that heritage of responsibility which rests upon the shoulders of those who endeavour to govern the British Empire.
The key-note of the whole of the British policy with regard to its Protectorates and Dominions is to lead and to guide them, eventually, to responsible self-government. I do not need to tell the House that that difficult road, difficult under any con ditions, is made ever so much more difficult by this dangerous propaganda, the miasma of which is spreading weekly and monthly throughout the Indian Empire The responsibility of those who govern the Indian Empire is a very heavy one. Not only are they responsible for the lives and the property of all who live there, irrespective of race and creed, but it is also their duty to endeavour to further and advance by all the means in their power the prosperity and welfare of the indigenous population of that country. But the ultimate responsibility-for preserving the safety and well-being of the British Empire, and for devising and sanctioning such methods as may he necessary to stem revolutionary propaganda, rests upon the British Parliament. We have so far protected, and I do not think anyone will deny it, the Indian masses from injustice from their own superiors. Anyone who takes the trouble to look into the various Acts affecting India will find a silent and unimpeachable witness of that.
Where we have failed, if we have failed at all, has been in our inability to protect the Indian peasant from the poisonous campaign of misrepresentation and lies which have surrounded him for the last few years, propagated on the one hand by the Communist agent, and on the other hand put in front of him for his education by a certain type of Indian politician. I wish to stress the last few words, "a certain type of Indian politician." I have lived a great many years in India, and I have many friends among the Indian politicians, and I wish it to be very clearly understood that I do not include all Indian politicians in the expression "certain type." I have many good friends among the Indian politicians, and I hope that I shall retain them.
Of recent years, the responsibilities of those who have had to govern the Indian Empire have been so great that they are almost impossible to realise by anyone who has not had an opportunity of acquiring first-hand knowledge. Revolutionary organisations, and there are many, have been constantly active in their propaganda and in their endeavour to gain new recruits and, worst of all, in infecting the student class. Some of the incentive towards this propaganda comes from Europe, and some of the money by which this revolutionary work is carried out also comes from Europe. Only last year, as must be well known to the House, four Indians were found guilty and convicted, on appeal, by the High Court. of conspiracy to overthrow by force British rule in India. During the course of that case a mass of literature was seized. I think I shall not be wearying the House if I read one extract from a pamphlet which I have chosen at random from the documents which were seized. The House will then understand the type of propaganda that is used to foment revolution in India, and is translated in all sorts of ways all over the country. The extract says:
The first step towards the real freedom of the Indian people is the overthrow of foreign domination. Mass action thus begun will develop into organised agrarian strikes, with food riots, the plunder of foreign stocks, and assaults upon large estates, with the idea of confiscation. Reactionary pacifism must be repudiated. Peasant revolts should spread like wildfire from one end of the country to the other.
That pamphlet was written by a gentleman purporting to be called D. M. Roy, a man not unknown to certain hon. Members of this House. He lived in Berlin, and for all I know he may still do so, with occasional visits to Moscow, and from the comparative safety of those two cities, he fomented this revolution in India, with the result that four of his paid agents have been sentenced to four years' rigorous imprisonment. Here is a type
of agitator who, from comparative safety in Europe, foments this kind of agitation, which leads to riot and bloodshed and to what we read of in the English Press under the heading of "Further unrest in India."
India is very fruitful ground for this type of propaganda to flourish. The next census, I think, will probably show that the number of India's inhabitants will be 330,000,000. The area is two million square miles, and something like 150 languages and dialects are spoken. Probably 70 per cent. of the population is of the illiterate type of agricultural labourer—easy to bribe, easy to lead, and easy to mislead. Practically since 1908 a revolutionary conspiracy has existed in Bengal. Murders and dacoitics, both of Indians and Europeans, have been frequent, and much of the ammunition which has been captured has been proved to be of foreign manufacture. Literally, a positive reign of terror has existed in Bengal. I do not propose to weary the House by enumerating, one by one, deplorable outrages, but I will content myself by saying that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne), who has spent long years in India, and myself, could give details of outrage after outrage of this particular type.
I want to pass to the measures which have been necessary, and may still be necessary, to suppress this type of outrage. I do not need to emphasise in this House the dangers and hardships which nowadays are the lot of the average civil servant and of the average police officer, and other officers of the public service in India. Literally and absolutely, of recent years, many of them have had to carry their lives in their hands. It was only last year that an Englishman was shot dead in one of the main thoroughfares of Calcutta, in broad daylight. Another Englishman survived a fusillade, fortunately misdirected. Both these outrages took place because these men bore some slight resemblance to the Commissioner of Police of Calcutta, a very gallant gentleman, who for the last three or four years has had his life threatened periodically. The ammunition used in the murder of the first-named Englishman, Mr. Day, was proved to be of foreign manufacture, and the motives of the murderer were publicly praised by a leading Indian politician, one S. R. Das, and this gentleman in turn was subsequently alluded to by the then Secretary of State for India, Lord Olivier, as being of a saintliness of character second only to that of Mr. Gandhi. I ask hon. Members above the Gangway to believe that I am not resuscitating this unhappy incident from any desire to make a party point. I should have done so whether or not it had been spoken by a member of the party to which I have the honour and privilege to belong. But I do ask them to believe that nobody who was not in India at the time that that unhappy speech was made, can realise in any way the deplorable effect which it had upon British rule.
I wish to touch, if I may, just for a moment, upon the immediate reasons which led to what is known as the Bengal Ordinance. The immediate reasons which led to the Government of Bengal asking for extraordinary powers were four. These were two murders, three attempted murders, the discovery of a bomb factory, and the publication of a now notorious Bengal leaflet. This leaflet openly announced a campaign of unrestricted murder of police officers, and condemned to death in no unmeasured terms anyone who was found assisting the Government in putting down this type of revolution. I mention those reasons why special powers were asked for by the Bengal Government in order to bring before the House something of the atmosphere which then existed in India. The House will forgive me if I read just a three-line extract from the leading article of an Indian newspaper at the time. This leading article said:
Violence and terrorism are the sappers and miners of the constitutional advance to self-government.
Those of us who have the interests of India wholly at heart, those of us who sincerely desire to see her take her place among the self-governing nations of the world, realise and deplore the hindrance to her progress that this kind of revolutionary propaganda causes. Upon Parliament rests the heavy responsibility of determining the time and measure in which each progressive advance towards responsible self-government for India shall take place. But in my view a far heavier trust lies upon Parliament. That is to see that this progress shall not be retarded by a comparative handful of revolutionaries, who have in no sense the interests of India at heart and in no sense represent the millions of people who live in that country, and whose sole aim and object is to foment revolution, riot, and bloodshed for their own ulterior ends. The main duty of the Viceroy and Governors of the Provinces of India are to administer the Government of India Act of 1919 which was passed into law by this Parliament. And I consider that our duty in this respect is to see that the powers given to the Viceroy and the Governors under this Act to suppress revolution should not in any way be curtailed but if necessary increased, so that the millions of people whom this Act is designed to benefit shall be allowed to continue their progress unimpaired towards the goal, which we all want to see them reach, of full, free responsible self-government under a Dominion Parliament.
I can assure the House that no greater disservice can be done to India to-day than by throwing once again into the melting pot the future of 330,000,000 people by granting them self-government before they are ready for it. If I may be accused of any desire to be pedantic perhaps hon. Members, especially those above the Gangway, will believe me when I tell them after my 20 years odd time in India there is no short cut to self-government. The long way round has to be chosen. It is perhaps imperfectly realised in this country how every word uttered in this Parliament is telegraphed out and is seized hold of by every kind and type and condition of Indian. So many phrases have fallen from hon. Members in this House which have been misunderstood in that great country that great harm has been done.
I have sat in the Legislative Council, at the time the Governor of Bombay was the right hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir George Lloyd), and we have been working in a broad-minded responsible manner for the gold of India when some telegram has come out, perhaps misreported, but certainly misunderstood, which completely altered the whole atmosphere of that particular debate. Hon. Members above the Gangway may disagree with my politics and with what I have said, but I will plead with them to take every possible care in their speeches not to condone in any way violence of method in India with the object of gaining any particular end. In conclusion, may I remind the House of what one of the staunchest friends of the British in India, the late General Sir Pertab Singh, said in this connection. When self-government was first mooted he expressed the opinion that within six weeks of the English leaving India there would not. be left a rupee in Bombay or a virgin in Bengal.
I beg to move to leave out from the word "House", to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words
recognising that the ordinary process of Law is sufficient to deal with acts of violence, declines to assent to any proposals which would prevent any subject of the British Crown in any part of the Empire from advocating any political or economic change; declares that freedom of speech is the inalienable right of every British subject; and holds that the rapid and sympathetic redress of grievances is the method whereby violence in deed and propaganda is rendered useless
I wish in the first place to congratulate the Mover arid also the Seconder of this Resolution on the very admirable maiden speeches which they have made and to express the hope that we shall be able to welcome them later on in other Debates. But in saying that I also must confess that I have been listening in vain to find out the reason for the proposing of this Resolution. I expected that the hon. Member who moved the Resolution was going to make some fresh announcement and to explain that there were some awful secret conspiracies going on not only in India but in the heart of the British Empire, and that he would tell us that we should probably he murdered in our beds. Instead of that he amused us by chaffing the ex-Minister of Health (Mr. Wheatley), and he gave us several extracts from his speech. I hope that he will continue that study of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that if he does that the time will come when he will not be the Conservative Member for Frome, but will be sitting on these benches.
I feel that the Amendment really puts the actual position as it should appeal to those of us who are concerned with constitutional development in this country and in every part of the British Empire. When we come to deal with questions of revolutionary propaganda and Com- munism, I am always interested to hear the speeches of hon. Members opposite, and I generally find when they talk about Communism that they know very little about it. The people who are prepared to face the Communists, to argue with the Communists and to convince the Communists of the fallacy of those portions of their doctrine which we believe to be wrong, are the members of the party which sits on these 'benches. We are not afraid, in our party meetings or in any part of the country, to argue this question with persons who profess the Communist faith. I think one of the most priceless possessions of this country is that there is absolute freedom of speech not only in this country but in every part of the Empire which owes allegiance to the British Crown, and that everyone has the right to advocate any political or economic change, no matter how absurd it may appear to some people.
The record of the development. of this House is not a record of peaceful develop ment. It is not even a record of development brought about only by the natural-born people of this country. The very foundations of Parliament, lying as they do in the days of Simon de. Montfort, may be said to have been created very largely by revolutionary propaganda. Yet to-day we do not condemn Simon de Montfort; we glory in the fact that he made a stand against the tyranny of kings, in order that there might be created this body which we now honour with the name of the Mother of Parliaments. I have, on many occasions; performed the pleasant duty of conducting around this House parties of children from our elementary and other schools, and it has always given me the greatest pleasure to point out to them the picture on our walls of the Five Members. We are all proud of the fact that the Parliament of that time had the courage to stand up to a King who wanted to override the decisions of the people. So far as that Parliament was concerned, it was, in the eyes of Charles I, practically a Communist Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] One has to judge every form of political and economic advance, in the spirit of the time in which it takes place. What was advocated by the Parliamentarians in the time of Charles I was, for that period, just as advanced, just as revolutionary, just as far ahead of the time, as present-day Communist propaganda seems to be far ahead of the time in which we live. All through the history of this country there have been periods of violence and periods of what, people in authority regarded as subversive propaganda, and yet the time has come when we have erected memorials to the subversive propagandists.
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Stroud (Sir F. Nelson) in his exceedingly interesting speech with regard to India, because I think there Will be further opportunities for dealing with that subject in Debate, but I quite recognise that his desire, like my own, is to give to that country as speedily as possible self-government within the Empire. If you have subversive propaganda and violence in India the way to deal with it is, not by repression, but by a rapid and sympathetic examination of the grievances which cause it. You never have any propaganda of this kind unless there is a grievance. For example, we never had any propaganda against Russia by hon. Members opposite until they had a grievance against Russia. I have a distinct recollection of a time when, under a particular form of government in Russia, people were imprisoned, executed and exiled, and when protests were made to this country, hon. Members of the party opposite said: "This is not our business, but the business of the Russian people." Not only so, but the British Government of the day entered into alliances and understandings with the then Russian Government and negotiated with them in regard to the division of Persia, in regard to Afghanistan and in regard to other matters which they considered essential.
To-day we are told that the Soviet Government executes, imprisons and exiles people, which is exactly what the Tsarist Government did, but the reason why hon. Members opposite are so much concerned is because they and their friends have lost money and property as a result of the Russian revolution. It is because they have a grievance against Russia that they are so keen on denunciations of Soviet and Communist propaganda. Had the Soviet Government not confiscated the property of certain English nationals, we should not have heard anything at all from hon. Members opposite regarding Russia. We have to remember that the Indian people, like the working-class people of this country and in other parts of the British Empire, have grievances. So far as this country is concerned, and so far as other parts of the British Empire over which we have control are concerned, those who sit on these benches are determined to use the whole of the constitutional machinery of this country in order that we may bring about a revolution. I hope hon. Members opposite will not be afraid when I use the term "revolution." From the words which I heard this evening I gather that some of them regard revolution as merely insurrection and riot. It is nothing of the kind. Riots and insurrections are absolutely useless because, after all the violence has happened, you may have a worse condition than that which existed before.
The revolution for which we stand is a revolution in the minds of people, a revolution by which we shall have, not only a change of attitude on the part of hon. Members opposite and their friends throughout the country, but such a change of mind that the relations between people will be totally different from what they are to-day, a revolution which will mean that, instead of a system of society carried on in order that the few may be able to make profit at the expense of the many, we may be able to use the whole forces of nature for the benefit of the people as a whole. That is the revolution for which the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Health stands, for which I stand, and for which the Members in this part of the House stand. If you tell us that that is subversive propaganda, then we are prepared to carry on that subversive propaganda in season and out of season; but I appeal to hon. Members to stand by the traditions of their country and not to be scared because a few men here and there may be able to utter wild utterances and say things which are absolutely foolish, and are recognised as foolish. That is not the way in which to deal with these things. Let us examine seriously all the grievances from which the people suffer, and see if we cannot solve some of these difficulties instead of holding unreal Debates of this character about Communist and subversive propaganda all over the world.
Let us rather see if we cannot unite our brains in order to make our country and the Empire committed to our charge a place worth living in for all. Let us make it impossible for an hon. Member to rise in his place, like the hon. Member for Stroud has risen to-night, to tell us that 70 per cent. of the agricultural population of India are illiterate, and that after over 100 years of British government. That is a most, disgraceful thing to have to be said in this House, and it is the more disgraceful when we know that it is true. Yet we are responsible for the administration of India, and what is the good of talking about subversive propaganda? Let us get down to educating these people, and then we need not be afraid of subversive propaganda at all, for they will be able to appreciate what is right and what is wrong. It is because I believe that freedom of speech is the inalienable right, not only of every citizen in this country, but of every subject of the British Crown throughout the Empire, because I believe that it is in accordance with British traditions, because I am opposed to any repressive measures being used, because I regard any expression of any opinion, no matter how extreme it may be, no matter how absurd it may be, as desirable, in order that it may get a vent, it is because I regard that as the greatest safety valve that it is possible to have, that I move this Amendment. Let people give expression to themselves, let us be able to argue with one another, and as a result of that argument, we shall be able to find what is right, and true, and just, and for these reasons, and because they are in accordance with the traditions of Great Britain, I move my Amendment.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do not propose to take much of the time of the House, because I believe certain of my hon. Friends are desirous of taking part in the Debate, but I should like, if I may, to congratulate the Mover and Seconder of the Motion on the very effective speeches which they have made this evening. It is rather presumptuous of me, probably, bat I say that quite sincerely, and I would like now to address myself to this really extraordinary Motion which has been put down for discussion. As a democrat, and as one who believes in constitutional government, I cannot understand how any Member of this ancient House of Commons should come along with the suggestion that the right of free speech and free opinion should be curtailed. I made. it my business a short time ago to go into the Library here, and I read there a magnificent plea for freedom of speech and freedom of opinion by John Milton. It was addressed to this House of Commons, and I think it would do those hon. Members of the party opposite who are thinking of restricting that great, inalienable right of our people to read that great work, to get back to fundamentals, and to realise that there is a tremendous tradition in this country in regard to the right of free speech and the right of expressing any opinion which may be sincerely held.
I want to ask the Mover and Seconder of the Motion what they mean by subversive and revolutionary propaganda. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) said very rightly, the Labour Party stands for a social revolution. It does not mean by that that it stands for violence in order to achieve that revolution, but we see a state of society existing which produces enormous wealth at one end of it and appalling poverty at the other end of it, and we do not believe that this extraordinary gulf can be bridged within the limits of the present system of society. Therefore, we say, the whole system of society has to be changed, and in order to effect that change you have to have what to all intents and purposes is a social revolution. We go out on to the platforms of the country, and we preach the need and the urgency for that social revolution. I want to ask the hon. Members who are supporting this Motion whether they are going to deny us the right to go out and preach that kind of propaganda.
Then we come to subversive propaganda. What is meant by that? Every time a Member of this House ventures, very legitimately, to draw a contrast between the extraordinary luxury and profusion which exist in Mayfair and the squalor and misery and poverty which exist in the East End of London, he is doing something which is really subversive, so far as the present system of society is concerned, because he is engendering discontent with the present system. Every time I take the opportunity, as I do very freqently, of denouncing the empty pomp and the flunkeyism which is attached to the Court in connection with this country, every time I do that, very legitimately, in accordance with my rights as a free Englishman, I am doing something which, presumably, is subversive of the monarchy in this country. Am I going to be prevented from doing that kind of thing? When my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) gets up in this House and speaks on the tour of the Prince of Wales, which is going to cost a large sum of money, and points out what tremendous poverty and suffering there are existing on Clydebank, drawing the moral that. if there is that amount of money to spare in this country, it might very well and more properly be spent upon Clydebank rather than on this Royal tour, every time he does that, and gets tremendous support from the country in doing it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—I understand he has already received nearly 1,000 congratulatory letters because of the stand he has taken on that subject—every time he does that, he is doing something which, presumably, hon. Members opposite would call subversive. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I make hon. Members opposite a present of those cheers.
I was going to say also that when I, in performing my duties as a Member of Parliament, go down to my constituency, as I did last night, and draw the attention of the poor people I see there to the appalling difference there is in their housing conditions and their general conditions of life as compared with the conditions of the people in the West End of London, and when I also draw their attention to the great gulf there is between the treatment which their poor children receive and the, treatment which the children of the rich receive in feeding, in clothing, in health, in medical care, and in every way whatever, then, of course, I am stirring up discontent, and I am guilty of subversive propaganda. I can only say that if that be subversive propaganda, I am very proud of it. The more those who believe as I believe are able to stir up discontent in the hearts and minds of the people of this country, the more we can make them realise that they have a right to a much better life and that they ought to demand that better life, the greater good we are doing for the country as a. whole. The whole idea of this Motion is to stifle truth. I think this House ought to be prepared to say that it is not afraid of truth, whatever the truth may be. If it is not afraid of truth, then it ought to be prepared to allow absolute freedom of expression, freedom, so far as publications are concerned, and in every form of propaganda. The House is not prepared to do that, and I want to say that the result of denying that right and the result of oppression is to bring about the very violence that hon. Members opposite profess to abhor.
I am going to take the opportunity, as my hon. Friend has referred to India, of saying a word or two about India. We know very well, as he has pointed out, that India has been subjected quite recently to very harsh measures of oppression. People have been arrested and fined without any proper trial, and they are likely to be confined for a considerable time without any trial. That kind of thing is the worst way of dealing with any discontent, or demand for freedom, which may be existing in India. The hon. Member referred to certain outrages—one or two murders, various threats of murder—and he cited those things as a justification for imposing some new and extraordinary measure upon India. I ask the House to remember that even in this country we have had outrages. We have had murders and threats of murder. It is only two or three years ago that a distinguished and gallant British officer was shot down in Sloane Square, and about that time there were other acts of violence taking place, and there were many threats of violence. But in spite of this situation this House never thought it necessary to introduce measures such as those which have been introduced in India. The ordinary resources of the criminal law were sufficient to maintain good order in this country. I submit that even in India, if the Government had relied upon the ordinary resources of the criminal law, there would have been quite sufficient to deal with the situation. Only yesterday the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for India, in reply to a question about certain books, said that these books were not to be allowed to go into India, because, presumably, it was not safe to allow them to go there. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I wonder if the hon. Members who cheer know these books? I know nearly all of them, and so far as my judgment goes they are perfectly innocuous books. They are certainly not books which would have harmful effects upon intelligent people. My hon. Friend says that the people who might read these books are not intelligent. As a matter of fact the only people who would be likely to read books of this sort are people of a very high intelligence and considerable education. After all, what an insult it is to the educated Indian people. They have an older culture than we have, and yet you say to the educated people of that race, "These books are fit for us to read, but they are not fit for you to read." It is a deliberate insult to their intelligence, and that kind of attitude of mind is the very thing which produces the wrong kind of atmosphere and causes the troubles which every Member of this House says he wishes to avoid.
I say that in this matter we ought to be prepared to trust the good sense of the people. I am not standing up here defending the Communist Party of Great Britain. I have been attacked by the Communist Party of Great Britain. That has been my privilege in the past. I have no doubt I shall enjoy the same privilege in the future. Quite apart from the Communist Party of Great Britain, I do feel that we ought to stand for freedom of speech, and in all these matters we ought to be prepared to trust to the good sense of the British people. If the Fascist organisation likes to propagate certain doctrines, do not let us attempt to suppress them, but let us trust to the good sense of the British people to reject these doctrines. If the Communist Party of Great Britain likes to propagate ridiculous doctrines, let us give them plenty of scope—
Let us give them enough rope to hang themselves, and let us trust to the good sense of the British people to see the errors and the fallacies of their doctrines. If we do that, we shall be on very much safer ground than by attempting any kind of oppression. I believe the real reason why hon. Members are seared by this talk of revolutionary propaganda is because they realise there is so much truth on which it is based. If the conditions of the people in this country were not so appalling, then it would not be possible for us to go and
talk to them and get back, as we do at all our meetings, a wonderful response, a wonderful spirit of revolt. If you would house the people properly, if you would feed them properly and clothe them properly, if you would give their children a fair chance, and if you would take the million unemployed off the scrap heap, put them to useful work, and pay them good wages—if you would do these things, then you need never have any fear at all of what you call subversive propaganda. That is really why I believe hon. Members opposite are disturbed about this subversive propaganda. They realise that the conditions of the country are so appalling, and that people are becoming so desperate that when people come along and tell them there is a means of getting out of their deplorable state, they listen to it eagerly. If hon. Members are really seriously concerned about this matter, what they had better do straight away is to assist us in remedying at the very earliest possible moment these tremendous evils from which the people are suffering. 1 want to conclude by saying that my gospel in regard to this matter is the same as that of John Milton, to whom I have already referred—
'Give me the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely, according to conscience, above all liberties,
That is the liberty which we want for everyone in this country.
I associate myself with those very generous and frank congratulations which have been given to the Mover and Seconder of the Motion. I think the very amusing speech to which we listened will have been received nowhere more appreciatively than—shall I say?—upon the Front Opposition Bench. I know that many hon. Members of this House will feel, as I do, the appropriateness of the benign smile which we have seen and experienced on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Health. I also want to say, having had considerable experience in India, how much I appreciate the references made to the difficulties in India made lay my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Sir F. Nelson). The hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) complained that the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution had given no reasons for bringing it before the House. He
proceeded to show, by his Amendment, that there was no particular reason for this Resolution, because of the necessity and the advisability of every person in this country having the power of free speech and the free expression of opinion. With that there will be no disagreement. But may I suggest to the hon. Member that if there was—I do not agree with him—nothing in the speeches of the Mover and the Seconder who supported the proposition, there was almost nothing in his speech which dealt with the subject of this proposition at all! I do not here refer to his references to India, I do not think the hon. Member would for one moment accept, or believe, that in his opinion the ordinary discussion and the ordinary right of free speech have anything to do with the sort of propaganda which is referred to in this Motion. Every hon. Member of this House knows there is no country in the world where free speech is so enjoyed as it is in this country. It is only necessary to take in the simplest walk on Sunday evening in Hyde Park to find how wide are the limits allowed to anyone who does not actually preach actual revolution. If, however, the idea of the hon. Member is that the free speech and the propaganda that should he permitted is the kind of thing we find recently circulated in this country, then I am afraid that he and T differ very much as to what is safe and possible for any Government or any people to allow in their midst. For instance, T find in the "Communist Review," only issued last month, the following:
It is thus with great pride and sincerity that we in Great Britain go forward to the task of winning the majority of the working classes to the standard of Lenin and dealing with our bourgeoisie in the same manner as the Russian Bolshevists did with theirs in 1917.
That surely is a very different thing from the kind of free speech to that which those hon. Gentlemen who have just spoken would have us believe they would give their approval? Again, only here to-day I find J. R. Campbell!—whose name is not unknown to this House—he is very much more careful nowadays—publishing something which may not particularly appeal to the hon. Member for Mile End, because I and everybody else realises the pride he has in this ancient House of Commons.
The hon. Member will, therefore, appreciate this:
It is the profound conviction of the Communist patty that the workers cannot tags over this ready-made machine (Parliament) and run it for Socialist purposes. They will … have to smash it …
I think that is perfectly clear. I want to make it perfectly clear, for there can be no doubt in my mind, and I want hon. Members to realise that the objects set out by the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution are totally different from those which my hon. Friend who has just sat down, the Member for Mile End, defended so nobly—the rights of free speech. If it is bad enough, as it is, to carry on a campaign of this kind among the labouring population or among uneducated people, it surely is a very different thing when you begin to sow the seeds of this kind of propaganda, with the evils that develop from it, in the minds of children. Only the other day I found that in the "Bulletin," published under the auspice of the Communist party, children are advised to carry out a real school revolution. That may not appear to be a very serious matter. I am bound to say that I helped to carry out a good many school revolutions, as, I have no doubt, have other hon. Members. But that is not the proposed kind of revolution contemplated by the writer of this article. I do not want to go into details, except to say that the whole school are to rise on the slightest sign of discipline being enforced.
I am bound to say that I have great sympathy with that, although I cannot give my approval to the idea underlying it. To be serious for a moment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—again the "Young Comrade," of December, 1924, which is not very long ago, says:
The teachers tell us"—
I want hon. Members to listen to this, as it shows exactly what is going on in the schools—
'The teachers tell us that the Union Jack stands for freedom wherever it flies. Lies! The British Empire means murder, robbery, and profits, slavery and oppression for millions of people.
I do not think there is any right hon. or hon. Gentleman in this House who will for one moment support opinions of that kind, or give even the most qualified approval to propaganda which can result in this kind of thing being taught to
children. It is this kind of propaganda, I take it, that is in the mind of the Mover and the Seconder of this Resolution. It is not with the slightest desire to interfere with free speech, or to prevent any person expressing ideas as to how much better we will be in a few hundred years if we live in this country under a benign president, when everyone will be equal—that equality which is the aim and the dream of the Socialist since the world began. As if we ever could be equal in that sense! [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Ask any of the mothers of those children to whom these things are addressed. Ask the mother of, say, a couple of poor children born in the same house, brought up in the same neighbourhood, in the same environment, and so on. The one will be clever and the other a duffer. You cannot get away from it. They never will be equal. But all I wanted, in reading these extracts, to make clear to the House is this: There is no intention whatever, in putting this Resolution before the House, as I understand it, of suggesting that fret: speech would be interfered with in any way, but there is every intention of showing that the House will be behind the Government—this or any other—which will say that beyond a certain point it is impossible to go, and that active revolution must not be preached, especially to uneducated, ignorant or childish minds.
I am afraid I cannot answer, because I did not catch the statement very clearly. The point I want to make is that I am certain no person desires that this kind of propaganda addressed to children should be allowed to go on. That is the basis of the trouble we are having. I would now say a word or two in connection with what has been said regarding India. The hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) will forgive me if I do not quote him quite accurately; I shall do so as closely as I can. He said that in India it was a question of a few murderers.
I rather gather that in his opinion there were only occasional murders, and that the ordinary law ought to suffice. It is a very natural point of view for anyone who has not very carefully studied what happened in Bengal, and I am not suggesting that he has not, because I do not know. But in this House Members on all sides, I am sure, will desire to support those who, under great difficulties, are carrying on the work on the spot, and those people have clearly laid down, in the Bengal Government itself, that the ordinary law in India was not sufficient to deal with these outbreaks. That possibly answers the point the hon. Member made. I am not sufficient of an expert to say whether that view is right or wrong, hut at any rate it was the convinced opinion on the spot that a special Ordinance was necessary, and that Ordinance, as the House knows, has been passed.
I am aware of what the Legislative Assembly have done, but, unfortunately, the Legislative Assembly in India are not yet exactly in a position in which you can say that they always act in the best interests of India. I am perfectly certain that in the course of time we shall he able to say it, hut we have not arrived at that point yet. The hon. Member referred to the fact that 70 per cent. of the people of India are illiterate. I would remind him that it is not only in India that people are illiterate. There are other countries nearer home which have even a larger percentage of people illiterate—not that I mean to defend the fact. that there are 70 per cent. illiterate; but if he has any idea of educating the that of India, he ought to understand what it would mean to educate a population such as that of India. I dare say it will not be in our lifetime that there will he any material change in that figure, in spite of all we can do and a great deal that is being done.
What is the object of allowing this kind of propaganda to go on? What possible good can it do to anybody? Is it not bound to do an immense amount of harm? We have in India, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud has said. a grossly uneducated and illiterate and very easily preyed upon population, a population who are so easily swayed that a speaker can gather round him in any village a huge number of people and change their ideas almost in a moment. He can put arguments which would have no effect whatever on people in this. country, and yet produce a tremendous change in the opinions of those people, and rouse them to a dangerous pitch of enthusiasm or the contrary. What is the object of allowing it to go on? I do not believe anyone in this House will disagree when I say of India that we do not intend to get out and we do intend to govern. We intend to lead India in the way laid down by the Act of 1919, and by the Message which His Majesty gave to this House before that Act was passed. The plan, the outlook, for India is perfectly clear; there is a clear path straight ahead; and propaganda of this kind can do no possible good, and it can do and does immense harm. I hope the House will view this Motion not as an attempt, under any circumstances, to interfere with free speech. I think it was unfortunate that the hon. Member made reference to the speech on the Prince of Wales' tour made by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). I think that was unfortunate. I think that throughout the country, whatever that thousand letters may have said, that speech is looked upon as one which would have been better not made.
However one may appreciate the sincerity of the hon. Member who made it, I do not think it is a speech of which in after-years he will be proud. What is the use of making a speech against anyone who cannot answer? And if he could answer, what a wonderful answer he had got. He could Very well have said, "instead of telling me to go down and look at the Glasgow slums, why do not you and your colleagues in the House put the Glasgow slums in order and leave me to do my job." He had a good answer if he could give it. I want the House to realise that the object of this Motion is aimed at propaganda, particularly amongst children, which is going on in this country, and other parts of the Empire where the people are as it were as children, and the immense harm it can do, and towards strengthening the hands of the Government to deal with it.
I would like to associate myself with the very sincere congratulations that were tendered to the Mover and Seconder of this Motion on their wonderfully successful maiden speeches. I am sure all felt intense satisfaction that the freedom of speech which they would like to destroy had not been removed from this House before we listened to their remarkable orations. The hon. Member for the Frome Division of Somerset (Mr. Geoffrey Peto) was good enough to quote rather extensively from speeches of mine, and seemed to have a more intimate knowledge of those speeches than I can boast of myself. I am delighted that he reads those speeches, and I hope it is from a deep study of them that he is able to quote. and not as the result of the activities of some secretary who, perhaps, has been compelled to produce them by subverting propaganda.
One thing that always strikes me as rather amusing is that when a Member on this side of the House, speaking inside or outside the House, refers to the conditions of life under which the class who make up the majority of his constituents dwell, as a result of the operations of the political and economic system which Members on the other side of the House support, that description of the class struggle is referred to as a preaching of class war. The hon. Member, in quoting one of my speeches was good enough to quote a passage in which I stated that we deplore the class war as we deplore the rotten weather. He interprets my deploring the class war as being responsible for the class war, though he is kind enough not to carry the argument so far as to blame me for the weather. I submit that it is not very flattering to the working-class manhood of the country that a mild, conservative constitutionalist like myself should be labelled as one of the country's extremists. I think it would be more creditable if the horrible conditions of life to which millions of our people are subjected were felt and expressed in a much more extreme manner than I in my comparatively comfortable circumstances can hope to express them. I wondered as I listened to the speeches, and do as I frequently listen to similar speeches, what would be the effect in this country if right hon. and hon. Members opposite were compelled to submit for 24 hours, with no hope of social salvation, to the conditions under which millions of our working-class population have to exist.
Suppose that to-morrow morning I were able, as a result of my economic power, to awaken the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. G. Peto) in his bed at six o'clock, and to cover him with the oily and filthy rags which are euphemistically described as the clothing of a miner, and compel him to go down a mine and to endure for even the statutory seven hours the ordinary normal experience of a British miner. I am inclined to think that there would be an addition to his vocabulary, that he would not address me in the tones in which he has addressed this House, but would be inclined to use to me expressions that would be unparliamentary if I addressed them to him. Supposing I carried it even further, and told him at the close of his seven hours that, instead of expecting to be raised to the Peerage in recognition of his valuable services to the nation, he had to go home to perhaps a single-apartment house, where he had not even the ordinary facilities to enable him to remove the grime from his body, and that he had to accept there the very coarsest of food in meagre quantity; that not only had he to suffer that, but that his wife day by day was worried by the thought of whether she would be able to maintain even this meagre quantity of miserable food; and if he did all that with a knowledge that it was probably to be permanent, and that the lot which my economic power imposed on him was the lot that I had in store for his children—do you think that his references to the social conditions of this country would maintain that humorous vein with which he delighted his audience this evening?
I venture to say that if hon. Members were subject to that condition of things for 24 hours they would not preach revolution merely: they would practice revolution. I admire them in my belief that they would do it. They would give you such a demonstration of the possibilities of revolution as would inspire the human race during all the years of human history. I cannot help feeling that when they expect the working classes not to revolt it is because they think that somehow the working classes of this country are a different brand of humanity from themselves. I believe that if the question was put to them directly, as a matter of courtesy and out of regard for their training they would say, "Oh dear no, we do not believe that. We admit that you are just as capable as we, speaking generally, but in so far as you are as capable as we, then you rise to the surface, and the miseries of the majority are the result of their incapacity." I want to assure the House that the working classes of this country, to their credit, no longer believe that hon. Members opposite represent a superior class, They are intelligent enough to admit that experience and opportunity have made the members of the ruling class, the owning class, and the rich class more capable and have given them a greater amount of knowledge. But the important fact to bear in mind is that they now know that they have been deprived of these things. They know it now for the first time. The greatest grievance that they have against the class which keeps them in subjection to-day, is that they are deprived of the opportunities of developing to the highest. and giving their fellow human beings of their best.
We have heard a good deal in the course of the discussion about the horrors of inciting people to bloodshed. I regard it as simply cant and humbug to have lectures like that from the other side of the House. I ask hon. Members opposite, how do you people come to have any justification for telling us that we ought not to preach, if we did preach, a policy of bloodshed? Do you not believe in bloodshed? Is there a man sitting on the other side of the House who during the late War refrained from advocating bloodshed as a means of settling human affairs? Because you could not impress the people of Europe with your views as to how Europe should be run, you were prepared to advocate, not the shedding of one person's blood, but you were prepared to advocate and succeeded in encouraging the shedding of the blood of millions of people. You chaff us with having preached revolution, and then retiring to our first-class compartments to get clear of the trouble. Surely that is not an attitude of which we have a monopoly. Surely there are people on the other side o;: the House who owe their very existence to the successful manner in which they acted during the five terrible years of war. The hon. Member who seconded the Resolution talked about the shooting of an Englishman in Calcutta in broad daylight, but if the shooting of the people at Amritsar did not shock the hon. Member, it is sheer humbug to assure this House that his flesh crept at a single murder in Calcutta.
It is only those who stand for the settlement of human affairs without bloodshed who are justified in pleading for a settlement without resort to violence. [Interruption.] Those who have advocated the shooting of upper-class and middle-class Germans have no right, no reason, as I have already said, for objecting to the practice of bloodshed as a policy. We have a right to deny to the Communists the right to shoot people with whom they are in disagreement, but you have no right to object. If you are entitled to claim the right of shooting rich Germans, whose removal you think would help you, then they have the right to advise the working classes to shed the blood of those who stand in the way of their prosperity. You cannot have one ethical standard for yourself and preach another ethical standard for the people you want to keep in subjection. You have no more right to moral privileges than you have to your financial and economic privileges. But I think the most offensive thing of all that is suggested in this Motion to-night is this: You have, as I have said, got millions of our people down in the gutter, and, having got them there, you want to make it illegal for them to squeal.
I submit that the real propagandists of revolution—of a bloody revolution—are represented on the Government Benches of this House. Revolutions are not made by speeches; revolutions are made by conditions. [An HON. MEMBER: "What did you do to meet them?"] There would be no use in my appealing to the party opposite to rise and revolt, and risk their skins in attempting to overthrow the existing order of society. It would be sheer nonsense for me to appeal to the party opposite, because they have no grievance in the existing order of things. It is only to people who have a grievance that propaganda can be successfully directed. The people who are making revolutions to-day are the people who stand in the way of our social and political system being adapted to the changes that have taken place in our industrial system. In every part of the House to-day you arc lamenting the existence of unemployment, you are lamenting the fact that you cannot get an adequate outlet for the goods that the workers produce.
The same condition of things exists in every industrial country of the world. We have more coal than we can dispose of, more ships than we require. The people in other countries are in the same position, I admit, with the exception of Russia at the moment—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you not go there?" and Interruption.] You went there when you could make profits. I say the people of every industrial country in the world are baffled with the abundance of goods for which they cannot find a market. America cannot get rid of its goods. The same is true of France and Italy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] You in Britain, at any rate, are embarrassed with the riches that the workers have produced, and while we have mountains of these goods, the product of labour all round us, the workers are deprived of the opportunity of producing similar goods; their labour is no longer necessary, they have been so successful in production. Their labour not being necessary to the same extent, their wages are reduced, and their purchasing power is reduced. We have a shortage of houses due to the breakdown of your system, and one fears that you will carry on the same policy in regard to other industries until the whole social system comes crumbling down in exactly the same manner, because the very best propaganda towards revolution is to tell those people who have produced all this wealth, and who are only too willing to produce more, if you allow them, that notwithstanding the existence of that wealth in superabundance, you expect them to starve quietly in the midst of plenty.
I would have no hope in the future of the human race; I would have no faith in my fellow-countrymen if I thought they were capable of enduring a position like that. We on this side hope, and pray, and work to adjust our social system while there is time to do so constitutionally. 1 am not, however, going to shelter myself by saying that I think our social system will be reformed in time to enable us to escape without violence, but that violence will he at your door. I tell you that if I were enduring those conditions, or if I felt to-morrow that by exercising a little violence—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—I could emancipate the millions of my fellow-countrymen from perpetual poverty, I should feel, in taking that course, that I was more justified than you were justified in the course you took in 1914.
Naturally a humble Under-Secretary like myself feels a certain amount of trepidation in replying to a speech from such a fine Parliamentarian as the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, but I think the House will agree that in some respects be has made my task a very easy one. In the first place, he has misunderstood the object and purport of the Resolution which has been moved, and, in the second place, by introducing into his speech so many subjects entirely extraneous from the Resolution under discussion, and particularly the closing words of his speech, he has disclosed so nicely what his real political ambitions are in the future. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to disclose his real hand. Those of us who know him—and among his political opponents there are those who have the greatest admiration for his qualities—know perfectly well that he is always refreshingly frank, but. he has never been more so than in his closing remarks to-night.
I should now like to pay my tribute to the speeches made by the hon. Member who proposed this Resolution and my hon. Friend who seconded it, because I think they contributed two most notable maiden speeches, and they also threw a valuable light on certain events which do certainly require discussion in this House. I will now come to the main theme with which we are concerned to-night, namely, the revolutionary propaganda, which is !being carried on in Great Britain and the Empire by Communists. I should like to commence by saying that this subversive propaganda from without is no new feature in this country. There is usually some inflamed spot on the world's surface which acts as a germ-breeding area for the infectious spread of revolutionary ideas in Europe and in Asia. We had that condition of things in revolutionary France at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. We have seen it recently and we still see it to-day in Russia.
I hope that no one, or at any rate few, in this House, will dissent from the proposition that I am about to lay down as regards the attitude of this country towards such movements. In the early days of such revolutionary movements the sincerity and enthusiasm of those who are overturning a tyrannical or outworn system of government evoke in this country a generous appreciation of their efforts. I think that that was certainly the case during the early days of the French Revolution, and it was the case in the early days of the Russian Revolution. But gradually as cold and calculating cruelty takes the place of fine, if impracticable, ideals, what I may call the common-sense morality of the British people rejects the particular theory that has arisen, leaving only to support it in this country either the impossible fanatic or the criminally-minded person who believes in murder and physical violence for their own sake. There is another feature of such movements as they affect public opinion here, and it is worth noting. It is that, whenever the final stage to which I have just. referred is reached, then what I may call the pacifist revolutionary, he who believes in the overthrow of the existing basis of society, but who generally rejects force, he who holds that idea is placed in a pathetically impossible position. He is glad to see the achievement, but he detests the menus of achievement. He has a conscientious objection to violence; certainly in some cases he lacks the physical courage to use an automatic pistol or a bomb even if he wanted to. He is, therefore, in this position, that he has to admit that what he is in favour of, what he has always advocated. has been obtained by methods which must he abhorrent to him and to every other decent-minded person. That is certainly the position of a great many in this country who, quite genuinely—and I have heard it in this House—believed, in the early days, in the Russian Revolution. To-day they are, beyond doubt, thoroughly sickened at what they have seen of it.
I pass from that to ask the House to consider for a moment what is the duty, not. only of this Government, but of any Government, in protecting the country-over which they rule against the kind of subversive propaganda and action that has been referred to by the Mover and Seconder of this Motion to-night and at this point I should like to make some reference to the arguments used by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), because it is at this point that I see so profound a misunderstanding on the benches opposite. not only as to the meaning of this particular Resolution, but as to what is the clear duty, not only of this, but of every other Government—a duty which I would venture to say was, with some exceptions, carried out by the late Government, as it has been carried out by every other Government. Against what is it their duty to protect the country over which they rule in this connection? I would lay down a proposition from which I should have thought that no one would dissent. It is against complete changes of the existing order of society being achieved by other than constitutional means. I said just now that I thought no one would dissent from that, but I am really a little doubtful, after some of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston; but it seems to me to be a proposition which at any rate the great majority of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this House, and of people outside, would support.
The hon. Member for Mile End and the hon. 'Member for Shore-ditch never discussed that aspect of the question at all. The hon. Member for Mile End drew a resemblance between the Communists and Cromwell. He said that what the Communists advocated to-day was very little different, if you had regard to the difference in the attitude of public opinion generally, from what Cromwell advocated in the 17th century. I should have thought, if the hon. Member really believes there is a resemblance between that and the great policy which was advocated in the 17th century by Cromwell, it would be enough to make the statue of that gentleman come down from its pedestal and threaten the hon. Member with personal violence. The hon. Member for Shoreditch made a. speech which was interesting as illustrating the attitude which those on the benches opposite take towards this Motion, an attitude of suspicion which some hon. Members opposite entertain about all the operations of law and order. He saw in the Motion, and in the attitude of mind which produced it, a real menace to free speech. It was quite obvious, listening to him, that he was entirely sincere. He spoke almost with trepidation and asked whether, if the- Motion was to be put into practical effect, and the Government were to accept the views of the Mover and Seconder, it would be the case that if he drew a comparison between the appalling conditions of Shoreditch and the conditions in the West End, he would be guilty of subversive propaganda and liable to prosecution. Let me assure him there is nothing whatever to prevent him continuing, as I have no doubt he has often done in the past, drawing a comparison between the misery in Shoreditch, and the wealth of Mayfair, Belgravia, Golders Green, or any other district of the West End that he likes. The Resolution has no reference whatever to political discussion of that. kind or to comparisons of that kind.
The hon. Member went on to say this was an attack on free speech. I should like to say a word on this subject of free speech, a term which I have heard S.) often misused in this House. In the opinion of some hon. Members free speech means liberty to advocate the breaking of the law by violence. I would say, speaking generally. and I challenge anyone on those benches to deny it, that there is no country in the world which, either historically or to-day, has been more tolerant in the matter of free speech than this country or this House in which we sit to-night. haters option.] Believe me, it is not a question of this Government or that. There has been a policy of continuity, and the continuous policy which has prevailed in this country for years and years, Tight back for two or three centuries, has been to allow the average Englishman and woman a freedom in the matter of speech which is very rare in any other country. It is right that these matters should be known, because a foreigner hearing or reading the speech of the hon. Member for Shoreditch would suppose that there was really some drag put. upon free speech in this country. There is no country where, for example, criticism of the existing Government, or even of the existing Constitution, is more freely allowed than in this country. There arc very few countries with a constitutional monarchy such as we have where the advocacy of Republicanism in a theoretical way is tolerated as it is in this country.
Sometimes in this House, sometimes out of it, there are those who have advocated Republicanism. I have by me an extract from a newspaper which I understand is largely supported by hon. Members opposite called "Forward," published in Glasgow, which boldly advocates Republicanism. Is that putting a ban on free speech? Can hon. Gentlemen opposite point to any country in which such articles would be allowed, except this country, and under the continuity of policy which has been followed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Under the Kaiser!"] One hon. Member says that it would have been allowed under the Kaiser. I would ask him whether he thinks that the words which I am going to quote, and of which, I understand, an hon. Member opposite knows something, because he is connected with the paper in question, would have been allowed under the Kaiser in the old days. This article says:
Kings, queens and princes at the present time are perfectly useless to the people. They act as a rallying point for militarism, and in this regard they are useful to capitalism which finds it as necessary to maintain the military aristocracy as its feudal predecessor did. But that is all a King is. In one country … the jingo element dominates him; in this country he does what an alleged democratic Government tells him to do. He of himself is nowt and a Prince is a trifle less.
If any hon. Member opposite supposes that a statement of that kind would have been allowed in Germany before the War, he cannot have been a very profound student. of history. It is exceedingly fortunate for him—
The hon. Member cannot be really serious in that statement. I do not wish to pursue that matter further, except to make this observation, that hon. Gentlemen opposite are quite entitled to hold that view if they wish to do so, and to write an article which, to judge from the mixture of approval and mirth with which the quotation was received by hon. Members on the benches opposite, is one that some of them rather take to their hearts. If they ever suppose that they will get a majority and sit on this side of the House so long as they hold those views, they are vastly mistaken.
We have heard a good deal to-night about propaganda. We could wish no better propaganda for our cause, in 99 out of 100 divisions in England, than such an article for which, apparently, an hon. Member opposite is largely responsible. Yet, so tolerant is British public opinion that, although 99 per cent. of it is opposed to the views which are put forward in this article, which I have quoted from the newspaper "Forward," they allow these things to be done which, under the law of most other countries, would be regarded as propaganda against the State. Therefore, I say that when the hon. Member for Shoreditch claimed that there has been or was going to be an attack upon free speech in this country he is really over-anxious. There is no risk of that happening.
What this and every other country has to consider is the action to be taken against those who would overthrow by violent means resulting in widespread bloodshed and misery, the existing order. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Carson?" and "Order!"] I was struck by what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston. He used a most extraordinary argument, and I trust that he will not consider me discourteous if I say that I hope that it will be quoted widely in the Press and on the platform, for it will do no small amount of harm to his party and be no small benefit to ours. He said with obvious sincerity, speaking of my hon. Friends. "What right have you to speak of bloodshed, you who shot or tried to shoot Germans during the War?" Is it the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that there is no distinction to be drawn between bloodshed incurred in a righteous war between one people and another, and bloodshed caused by revolutionary propaganda? If that is really the view of the right hon. Gentleman he is as much an advocate of revolution as anybody could be outside this House.
But having said that, he went on to use a most extraordinary argument. One of my hon. Friends had referred to the murder of a policeman in Bengal. The right hon. Gentleman, pulsating with passion, obviously very much moved, and obviously believing with all his being in what he was saying, asked," What right has the hon. Gentleman to speak of the murder of a policeman when he himself did not protest against the murders at Amritsar? "[HON. MEMBERS" Hear, hear!"] I am very interested to hear those cheers. Then I take it that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, which apparently is approved by those who sit behind him, was that there is no difference or distinction to be drawn between murder—I suppose he will admit that the killing of the inspector was murder—and the use of force by the law which results in death. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wholesale slaughter" and "massacre!"] If a bloodthirsty mob—I am not referring to Amritsar—attacks a building, in which men, women and children are, with the intention of killing them, and the troops or police, in the execution of their duty and under orders of their executive officers, fire on that mob—[Interruption]—perhaps hon. Members will do me the courtesy of allowing me to finish my argument—if these soldiers or police use force, if in the execution of their duty, and under the orders of their executive officers, in order to save the lives of men, women and children, they are compelled to use force against the rioters, and certain people are killed, then the argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite is that that is wholesale murder. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
That appears to me to be the argument used on the other side. I do not wish to press it further, but, if time permitted, I should not be in the least afraid to pursue it, because I think this is a big issue of principle. All I can say is that, speaking in my capacity as representative of the Secretary of State for India in this House, I deprecate in the strongest possible terms, a right hon. Gentleman and a former Cabinet Minister using the argument which was used to-night, that you have no right to condemn the murder of a police inspector if you hold certain views on another case in which the Government or the executive authority were compelled to take certain action.
I turn to the main issue of subversive propaganda and of Government action in relation to it. Looking back on history one sees that there have always been two schools of opinion in this country as regards the duty of the Government in this respect. One says that the Government is weak, that its members are pusillanimous and they are taking no effective steps to smash a conspiracy against good order. The other school says there is no conspiracy and that the idea is invented by reactionaries in order to smother free speech and that the Government and its tyrannical police are fighting against liberty. We see that well illustrated in the Debates in this House over 100 years ago, when this country was faced with a menace by the spread of Jacobinism in France equal to the menace with which it has been faced in recent years from Russia. I believe, again looking at the matter historically, that both sets of critics are wrong, and that, on the whole, taking one Government with another, the Governments of this country, irrespective of party, have wisely dealt with the situations with which they have been faced at different times. To come to the present day, there is not the slightest doubt that revolutionary propaganda has been carried on by the Communist party of Great Britain under the direction of the Third Communist International.
Well, the number is not large. There are probably not more than 3,000 or 4,000 members in the country, but there is no doubt they are a pernicious body and would stick at nothing if they had the power—if their own statements are to be believed. I find among many statements which have been made by the British Communist party one to the effect. that only the downfall of the bourgeoisie, the confiscation of property, the annihilation of the bourgeoisie Government from top to bottom and the internment of the most stubborn and dangerous exploiters. will be able to guarantee complete submission of the whole class of exploiters. Then it Says:
The goal of the Communist International is to struggle by all means, even by force of arms, to overthrow the international bourgeoisie.
This party is not a large one, although it has various related bodies, such as the British Bureau of the Rod International of Labour Unions, the Young Communist League, and others. To do these people justice, they make no secret of their aims, and they lose no opportunity of explaining and advertising them, but I think it would be easy to take their long-winded and polysyllabic manifestoes too seriously. Looking back over the last two or three years, and seeing the difference between the threats of what they were going to achieve and what they have actually achieved, I think there is good ground for hope that this movement is going backward rather than forward. I think it is in accordance with British !tradition generally to allow the widest freedom of speech, as I have already shown, and certainly it has been allowed in generous measure to the Communists. I believe it is partly the result of that toleration. and the fact that these violent utterances have been, allowed to take. place, that there has been such a reaction in favour of stability in the country generally. I am convinced myself that if Communist statements and threats were even more widely known than they are to-day, that reaction would be even greater. But where the law is broken, and where that violence of speech is translated either into violent action or attempted violent action, the Government will act, as it is its bounden duty to do.
I may refer to a case recently before the country, the case of one Gibson, of Newcastle, a, member of the local Communist organisation and, I understand, a prominent Communist organiser in the district; he. I understand, is at present safely lodged in gaol on the charge, of which he was found guilty, of being in possession of dynamite for blowing up public buildings. [Interruption.] The hon. Member opposite may pretend that this is a matter for mirth—
I am grateful to the hon. Member for calling my attention to that. It is the first time I have heard that the case is under appeal. There is no mention in the Press reports, but, of course, I accept the assurance of the hon. Member, and will make no further reference to it. There was a similar case quite recently in Hyde Park.
So far as the position in India is concerned, I take it that the terms of the Motion do not relate to ordinary political troubles but only to those caused by subversive propaganda of a Communist and external character. I have not time to go into the ordinary extremist agitation. I propose to deal with the question of Communist propaganda, action instigated from outside sources. It is true to say that the recent terrorist campaign in Bengal was not mainly due to any external subversive propaganda. There has been a certain amount of money remitted to Indian revolutionaries from outside sources, but there is no reason to think that the amount is large, and it comes almost solely either directly from or through organisations connected with Russia, and they have undoubtedly sent both letters and literature to Bengal.
I would like to supplement something that my hon. Friend the Seconder of the Motion said. He told us that there was something like a reign of terror in Bengal. The effect that would be left upon his hearers was that conditions were very much worse than they nave ever been. That, I would say, with all due respect to the hon. Member's knowledge of Indian affairs, is not so. I should say myself that conditions in Bengal are 'better than they were, for example, in 1907 or 1908. They could not well be worse, and I am sure to-day they are better. It may be interesting to recall to the House what occurred. In 1907–8, the conspirators derailed the Lieutenant-Governor's train, they murdered two English ladies, shot an approver in gaol, murdered an inspector of police, fired at the Lieutenant-Governor, and murdered the Calcutta public prosecutor as he was leaving the Court. I am glad to be able to say that no such series of outrages has occurred in Bengal to-day. I would like to say emphatically that the reason why in my opinion they have not occurred, is that the Government of India and the Government of Bengal have taken time by the forelock, and have taken steps by the promulgation of an Ordinance and by other exceptional police measures, to prevent such a state of affairs arising as unhappily arose in 1907. There could be no greater justification for the Ordinance than the comparative peace of Bengal to-day as against what it was three or four months ago. I think the arguments that one very frequently hears from hon. Gentlemen opposite, that suppression never prevents the occurrence of revolutionary action is scarcely correct I would like to say emphatically that where suppression takes the form of prevention of revolution instigated from external sources, that suppression is in nine cases out of ten effective; and in all cases it should be attempted. In regard to the Punjab there is only slight connection between the movements there, to which reference has been made, and subversive propaganda from outside. Finally, the only activity in India that can he traced to external propaganda is that which has been adequately described in the judgment of the High Court of Allahabad set out in the recent White Paper, and I think a perusal of that Paper would show that the Indian Government is fully alive to the movements of agitators and others, and can take all the counter-measures necessary. The Indian Government is alive to the tunnellings and burrowing of those underground workers, whether they emanate from Russia or elsewhere, and I consider that the efforts of these people are far more likely to fall in upon themselves than to do any harm to the main structure of society. In respect of the Resolution which has been moved and seconded by my hon. Friends, every Member of our party is desirous that everyone should have every right of free speech in the proper way. As regards hon. and right. hon. Gentlemen opposite, I must say—and this is my last word—that after the experience of the elections of 1923 and 1924, I wonder that they should be such enthusiastic advocates of free speech in view of their noisy followers. [Interruption.] There is nothing in the Resolution which cannot be supported by any patriotic Member on either side of the House. In passing it the House will show that these movements which have been the subject of discussion to-night, though they may not be serious, are rejected by the overwhelming majority of the people.
After all the talk about free speech, the House, I think, will show some indulgence to its only Communist Member and. to its only Indian Member in exposing many of the one-sided arguments and so-called facts put forward by speakers opposite. I must say, Mr. Speaker, that again there is a tendency—