I beg to move—
That, in the opinion of this House, rigorous measures should be taken to suppress toe revolutionary propaganda which is being carried on in Great Britain and the Empire, both amongst the civil population and the armed forces of the Crown, by organisations which have for their object the overthrow of the British Constitution.
I am encouraged in the speech I purpose to make on the Resolution that stands in my name by the knowledge that it must receive, I will not say unanimity, but I think it will receive the support of the majority of the. Members of this House, irrespective of party. After all, when we were elected, and before any of us were permitted to undertake our Parliamentary duties, we all took the oath of allegiance, and to that oath I assume every one of us is held, and it is not our desire to depart from it to any extent whatsoever. There are few indeed who will pretend that there has not been a great rise in the propaganda of a subversive and seditious nature throughout this country. I propose this evening, in the first place, to show to what extent that propaganda is increasing and give, if the House will permit me, some idea as to the manner in which it is being propagated. After that I will offer considerable evidence to prove that the party opposite are by no means guiltless in helping this propaganda to dive deep into the body of our nation. Finally, I shall urge that the time has come for us to take more strenuous steps for the suppression of this evil, and if to-day the law be not sufficiently strong for that work, we should immediately with the utmost expedition of this House so strengthen that law that it may be fitted to deal with any emergency that can arise. [HON. MEMBERS:"Hear, hear! "] I am a little surprised at the
sarcastic cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite. After all, it is no later than Friday last that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), speaking on the Economy Bill, made one or two pregnant observations. In the first of them he said, referring to the Communist party in this country:
They are using all their energy and all their power deliberately to break the Parliamentary method.
Five minutes later he said:
I look upon Communism as a danger to the world.
[HON. MEMBERS:"Hear, hear!"] Those cheers seem a little more sincere, but I wonder if that will be the ease when I make my further quotations, showing as I can, that many hon. and right, hon. Gentlemen opposite who sit on the Labour benches have associated themselves with the Communist movement. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) said:
The Communists have really done the Labour movement a service by publishing their hysterical demands for a campaign of sedition and disaffection among the soldiers and sailor.… The whole Labour movement will be with us in disavowing any sympathy with this childish talk of violence and Mutiny.
In view of the fact that, those are words from one of the leaders of the Labour party, I wonder that there is not a little more cheering. I do not believe that any longer we think that this is a bogey. The matter has gone far beyond that. Nor can we accept the claim that this propaganda is upon precisely a parallel basis to the propaganda on behalf of any of the established political parties. I know that that plea which was put forward by one of the men who was condemned in a Communist case—Pollitt—but it was accepted neither by the jury nor by the Court. Communism is an entirely different thing. It is a branch of a world-wide revolutionary conspiratorial organisation, working deliberately to smash up any State which is not organised upon a Communistic basis.
No one will agree with that more readily than the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala), and I give him this credit, that he has always been open in his avowal of these principles, and that is more than can be said by some of those who breathe hot and cold in their sympathies with Communism. This propaganda is growing day by day and hour by hour—[An HON. MEMBER:"It is 'impropaganda'! "] I agree, and I hope the hon. Member will vote with me in the Lobby. I want to give the House one or two ideas as to the manner in which it is carried out. First of all, I would like to mention, in passing, the Proletarian Sunday schools. I am not going to speak of them at any length, but I have taken an opportunity of listening to one of them, and I can only say that to hear wee kiddies being taught to deride religion, to regard discipline as an evil, and to scoff at those whom in years to come they will have to serve, is one of the most pitiful things in our modern civilisation. I only hope the time is not far distant when we can so arrange our laws that these rotten institutions can be closed down. From them I go to the propaganda in the factories and in the workshops. Here, as hon. Gentlemen opposite will probably know far better than I do, the system is perfect. They have their great Communistic centres, and from these they form locals. From the locals, again, they start their factory organisations with their factory papers. To show the extent to which these meals are going ahead, I want to give just one quotation from one issue of the"Workers' Weekly "—that of last week. This kind of thing can be seen in every issue of the"Workers' Weekly":
There might be one member in each district if the whole of the evidence were not entirely to the contrary. There are at the present time 70 factory papers being issued—the hon. Member for North Battersea is nodding his head in confirmation, and he knows it is true—and 50,000 copies of these are being distributed, not one per man, but a few in each place, which are sent round and are read a hundred times over. It is not to be imagined for one minute that this is a small contribution to the propaganda of the Communist party. During the year 1925, they issued no fewer than 3,549,500 publications in this country. These are facts that I have got from a. source which hon. Members opposite positively cannot controvert. Let me show them one or two of these local papers—I have bundles of them here. I daresay hon. Members on the other side have all read them. Let me first take one that demands a recruiting campaign. It tells us the type of recruit that Communism wants. This is what it says:
A new member is not expected to know all the party policy or to be prepared to die on the barricades next week. Every worker who is ready to play a part in the class struggle should be encouraged to join the party, and he will be made into a Communist, by contact with the party and work in its organisations.
I will now give a rather interesting quotation from one of these papers known as the"Empire Rebel," which has a circulation among the miners. [Laughter.] I am sure hon. Members know perfectly well that any amount of laughter is not likely to upset me in this House. My only regret is that they should treat a question of this sort, with which they are endeavouring to persuade the country the party to which they belong has nothing whatsoever to do, in a spirit of ribaldry. It would surely far better become them, in their position as leaders and Labour Members of this House, to pay a little attention to the seriousness and the merits of the question. This quotation from the,"Empire Rebel"refers to the efforts—successful efforts, we are grateful to think—that were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby in what threatened to be a conflict in the railway world. It says this:
Above all, work inside the union to make this the last victory of Thomas. Show that at, the next annual general meeting the majority is the other way. By
steady work inside your organisation, fight the Thomas policy in every branch by rallying and organising the militant elements.
I do not know whether that has any influence upon hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Does it occur to them to think that this is a thing to laugh at? [Interruption.]
I do not remember charging anyone with having read these papers. I am reading them; I am telling hon. Members that they exist—a fact which seems to be of no importance whatsoever to them. [HON. MEMBERS:"This is all new to us! "] If it is new to hon. Members, I am here to instruct them upon it, and I am glad to believe that they can be instructed on Communist matters. Here is a publication issued by the United Group of the Communist party entitled"The New Star," and it has attached to it this very interesting paragraph:
One of the eight members of the Executive Council of our party who have been arrested has been charged with preaching sedition. The typewritten sheet that contains the material complained of we have decided to attach and distribute with this issue of the New Star.' We ask you to read it and judge for yourself whether you think it is sedition, or, on the other hand, facts.
The paper attached starts with this inscription:
To all workers in factories, mines, barracks, warships, and aeroplane depots,
and then it proceeds to the seditious statements upon which was founded the successful prosecution, of which we all know. There is one paragraph in it hat is certainly worthy of the notice of the House, and, if this is not something that is calculated to create class hatred, I do not know what is:
Remember! At Tonypandy, before the War, soldiers were used to break strikes, and workers were shot. At Featherstone, in Yorkshire, Asquith and Churchill sent troops against the miners on strike, and one was shot dead. Gunboats were used to help the scabs during the 1912 dock strike. In March and April last year British armed forces shot down hundreds of Indian mill
strikers. Are the troops of to-day willing to be used against their own class like this?
[An HON. MEMBER"What is wrong with that? "] Hon. Members will find plenty in my speech to associate them with the Communists. Then we get this:
If this is not an attempt, deliberate and even open, to undermine the civil position in this country, I do not know what one can possibly term it. From that I want to turn to the attempts to influence the armed forces of the Crown. If we throw our minds back to what has happened in the case of the civil forces, it is gratifying to think that not even the Socialist Government which followed the Government that took action in the case of the police strike was prepared, in view of the danger that would have been created were a precedent set up, to alter the decision of the Government that had to deal with that strike. Let me say at once of all the armed forces of the Crown, that I am not to be made to believe that circumstances can be brought about whereby their loyalty to the Crown will be broken; but that is not the point. It is that it is a most unfair thing to place seditious matter before these men, perhaps straining at the loyalty of some who are feeling a, passing discomfort in the position they hold under the discipline of these forces. I do not propose to quote many examples, but it has been well established that this seditious movement is going on, and the reason of it is perfectly obvious. What is the good of having a great strike, a vast universal industrial smash, if you know that behind all still, to protect the rights of the civil population, there is a loyal and dependable Army, Navy, Air Force, and police? So these people have set about in a cunning and a devilish way to undermine that loyalty. I want to show just two examples. The first is one that appeared during the manœuvres of last year, and was distributed freely amongst the troops in an envelope, on the outside of which was written,"Joe Smart's 6d. special, late Paddock Message." I rather admire the ingenuity of the blackguard who did that. Inside we find a Communist leaflet entitled,"Are you blue or red?"Only a few paragraphs are worthy of notice, but they are good.
The next paragraph is headed"Bloody Hell." We then learn:
The workers through their trade union movement have declared that they are opposed to the designs of the capitalist war-makers, and will have nothing to do with any future Imperialist war. We want you to do the same; take a similar definite stand.
If this is not a close association between the Communists who issue this and the party on that side, it ends up in this way:
John Wheatley, Labour M.P., has rightly said, If you obey the orders of your superiors, who are our class enemies, and allow yourselves to be used as blacklegs, and even murderers, victory will be for the brutal capitalists and defeat the lot of the workers. When the workers strike, fight with them and not against them.'
The next one, which is a leaflet thrown into Chelsea barracks four days ago in immense quantities, is the first deliberate incitement to mutiny that has appeared. They are making their case by progressive steps. They are not fools behind this movement, but merely rogues. This is to the men of His Majesty's forces:
You are workers in uniform. Your officers are bosses in uniform—
That is deliberate incitement to mutiny. This leaflet, curiously enough, ends up also with a quotation from a Front-Bench member of that party:
The following appeal was repeated after George Lansbury, M.P., by 10,000 workers in the Albert Hall on Sunday, 7th March: We call upon all soldiers, sailors, and airmen to refuse under any circumstances to shoot down workers in Britain, and we call upon all working men not to join the capitalist Army or Navy.
What is the responsibility of the party opposite? I think it ought to be brought home to them. I am not going to pretend for a second that a half or even a third of the Members on those benches have any truck whatsoever with the Communist policy of Russia or desire for a moment that we should have any parallel with the state of affairs in that country, but to say the least, they have been amazingly indiscreet. I want to make some apology here, that if I make a quotation of something that has been said by any hon. Member opposite who does not chance to be in the House, I shall be forgiven. Let me start with the Leader of the party. Does he come out of this with clean hands? Let us have a look at that. The right hon. Gentleman said:
Revolutions are as much in order against democratic majorities as against tyrannical kings.
But though he does not claim to be an open Communist; he is just as open as the hon. Member for North Battersea, for in this House he made this amazing statement:
Those who have advocated the shooting' of upper class and middle class Germans have no right, no reason for objecting to the practice of bloodshed as a policy. If you are entitled to claim the right of shooting rich Germans, whose removal you think would help you, you have the right to advise the working classes to shed the blood of those who stand in the way of their prosperity.
The hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) said in June, 1923:
The Monarchy should be swept away." The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said:
I am a Republican and advocate Republicanism. When the social revolution conies we shall know what can be done with Kings, Presidents or anyone else. One day perhaps you will not have a King and Queen.
I want the House to appreciate this point, that it is not a matter of raising up those who are poor, but of dragging down those who are rich. When I read expressions like these—and I could have added to them one-hundred fold—I ask myself,"Is is possible that those hon. and right hon. Gentleman have had the audacity to stand at that Box, and to take the Oath of Allegiance?"If they have done so, I can only believe that there are different conceptions of the meaning of the word honour, and that the difference lies as poles apart between the conception on the benches opposite and that on these benches.
They have made a great parade of turning out the Communists. Pious resolutions passed at packed party meetings at Liverpool and Scarborough cut no ice with the common-sense men in this country. The Communists deride them. They know that the Communists deride them. I like to know what the nation's enemies are doing. The Communist knows that if you publicly kick him out of the door, there is a welcome waiting for him down the, chimney and through the window. When you, in the heat of your passion, lose that common sense which controls some of your speeches in this House, you foment trouble and—
I admit that it was a slight slip on my part. I will say that the Members of the party opposite are in the habit of fomenting trouble in the country in a. manner which is certainly a detriment to the country at large, whatever advantage it may be to our party at the polls. I say in all sincerity to hon. Members opposite,"we on this side would infinitely rather be able to believe that there are none of you associated with these people, and that you are really developing into a possible alternative Government, instead of being an incohate mass of men holding a variety of different views, some to the left, some to the right, none of which can aid in the better governance of our land."
It is impossible for hon. Members to advocate revolution one minute and then to come here and tell us that they have nothing to do with it. I do not know whether they will believe me when I say that the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) is believed in America to be a Communist. [HON. MEMBERS:"Oh! "] Yes. You must be judged by your associates. After hon. Members of the party opposite thought fit in this House to question the decision of an English jury in a case with which we are all familiar, the hon. Member for North Battersea, as a result of certain negotiations over which he had no control, found that he was unable to enter America. His case was defended over there by a number of members of the party opposite, and here is the comment in a leading article in the"Washington Post."
A leading article appeared in an important American newspaper, the"Washington Post." This is what it said:
With the exception of a few Communist sympathisers like Ben Riley and F. W. Pethiek-Lawrence, members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union have expressed approval of the action of the United States in excluding the Communist.
The Communist in question was the hon. Member for North Battersea. I know that hon. Members opposite will get up and say,"How preposterous all this is. Everybody knows we are not in favour of Communism." Everybody does not know that. They probably interpret their own speeches in a very mild manner, but I am among the other 50,000,000 of poor, foolish people who interpret their speeches as pure sedition, and we want to protect our fellow men from that type of thing. I cannot for the life of me understand the attitude of mind which desires to treat this as a laughing matter, when their names are mixed up in it by reason of their close association with these types of persons.
Now let me turn to the newspapers of the party opposite and their attitude towards class warfare and the Communist movement. I do not wish to mention any newspaper by name, but the chief daily newspaper of the Socialist party to-day has in almost every column—I am sure that I can say that without being accused of exaggeration—some attack upon the fairly comfortable or upon those who want things to remain as they are. It makes astonishingly dull reading, but it is not advancing the cause of peace as between man and man. One of the worst instances that I came across was an article by an hon. Member who sits on the benches opposite which appeared in a weekly newspaper run, I believe, by another hon. Member opposite. It was entitled the"Diamond Cross."
"Lansbury's Weekly." This particular Member had been one of those who attended the opening of Parliament, when we listened to the King's Speech. Apparently, the only thing that caught the eye of this writer was a diamond cross upon the person of one of the ladies who sat on the seats below. She proceeded to exploit the appearance of this dazzling jewel in an article attacking the particular class to which the lady belonged, and, what is much worse, made reference to certain matters in language which not only comes as a profound shock to the average English man or English woman, but at the same time develops a feeling of greed, which is very easy to exploit when you have a million of unemployed people as we have at the present time, and discontent with things as they are. In one of the paragraphs there appeared the names, in juxtaposition, of Lenin, Barrabas and Christ. That is not pleasant reading. That in a newspaper which might be helpful if it were dealing with Labour matters and not Communism!
As a matter of fact, the party opposite treat Communism as the heart treats human vices. They condemn it in public, they cherish it in secret. They prosecute it but they dare not proceed with its prosecution. They throw it out, but they come back to it again as a dog returns to its vomit. They have not done a great service by their advocacy of friendship with Russia. Why is it, I ask myself, that they do not turn their attention to the prosperity of America. Would it not be a rather gracious thing that they should publicly receive and publicly issue the reports of the men who have been on a mission to America and Germany. I know in advance what their attitude will be. It will be said these men have been bought. They will go down to the country and stand on platforms knowing that they are wrong from beginning to end when they try to make out that the Soviet ship of State is a fine and well found and up-to-date vessel, with an enormous number of happy passengers, manned and officered by men working in happy communion one with the other with its holds bulging with the surplus goods of Russia which only await acceptance at the ports of countries which at present refuse to have anything to do with them. They know perfectly well that such a picture is a lying picture. The real picture is quite different. The Soviet ship of State is a noisome hulk, rotten from truck to keelson, with a starving and verminous crew, and officers who have been drawn from all the foul ghettos of Europe or the scum of all the international prisons.
On a point of Order. Is it not the fact that in the King's Speech references were made to our friendly relations with Russia, and is it in order for an hon. Member to make the remarks which the hon. and gallant Member has just made?
The precise words I used were these: I said that the Soviet ship of State is a noisome hulk, rotten from truck to keelson, manned by a verminous and starving crew—
I think such a reference to a Government, in friendly relations with this country, ought not to be made. The hon. and gallant Member will see that it is our duty in this House not to make a reference of that kind to a Government with whom we are in friendly relations.
I am not running away from anything. I say that this propaganda is going on ceaselessly throughout our land. They are getting at the children, they are permeating our industries and they are undermining the loyalty and the discipline of our armed forces. I have proved, I think, that the party opposite have not been guiltless in this matter. The position of the country to-day is far too pregnant with difficulties for us to raise bad feeling, and I have made these remarks, and given these extracts, in the hope that now we shall find members of the party opposite on our side. Surely we can appeal to them not to go on making the present discontent greater—
They know that out of increased discontent no hope for the future can arise. I know there are one or two hon. Members on the opposite side who do not take the view of the hon. Member who has been occasionally interrupting, and knowing that, and also the possibility of trouble, I think the second thing for which we might appeal is that the law should be strengthened. I have seen only to-day the copy of a measure which has been introduced into the Union Parliament of South Africa, and has passed its Second Reading by the Labour and Socialist Government, under which the law in regard to sedition has been made more stringent. I hope the Home Secretary, if he is to speak this evening, will be able to give us some assurance that he is watching matters. Meanwhile, I do not want my critics to think that I have approached this question in anything but a most serious mood. It is a big thing. It has gone altogether beyond the range of being a bogy, and the suggestion that if we leave it alone it will die out, and that if we attack it we are only advertising it and giving it strength, is as puerile as it is wrong. I regret nothing I have said. In view of what I have been able to show the House, I urge that we should take some steps to remove this canker from our midst, and so better the position of the people of this country.
I desire to second the Motion which has been so eloquently proposed by the hon. and gallant Member. It is my firm belief that all these ideas from which the country is suffering at the moment come from the unfortunate country which used to be called Russia. Whether it is the Third International, or the Soviet Government, or the Soviet Union of Labour Internationals it all comes to the same thing. In 1921 they started here an organisation called the British Branch of the Red Union of Labour Internationals. The name was not very popular among our British workers, who, after all, are not internationalists in any sense, though their enemies try to make them so. They did not care for the name, and so in 1924 we found the name changed to the International Minority Movement. Practically the same organisation went on. That organisation has conferences about twice every year. They had a fourth conference the other day. Always the un- fortunate constituency of North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) is chosen, apparently, for the meetings. According to the reports there were 883 delegates, representing 950,000 wage-earners, attending the conference. Of course the 950,000 we need not pay any attention to, but I would like to ask from what source the 883 delegates got their travelling allowances. At £2 per head it would come to £1,700, which is a very considerable sum. Did that money come from some foreign agency or from the trade unions of this country?
I would like to allude to some of the activities of the National Minority Movement outside the Conference. We all know of the unofficial strikes that have occurred. There was the strike of carpenters at Wembley. By whom was that led? By a Mr. Lovell, who was the secretary of the Communist organisation of Willesden. Then we come to the engineers' strike at Southampton, repeatedly addressed by Mr. Harry Pollitt. There was also the unofficial seamen's strike, which lasted so long last year. At the head and front of that were Mr. Tom Mann and Mr. George Hardy, also of the Minority Movement. Are these men doing any good by creeping about and stirring up disaffection between the classes? At the present time, when our country is going through a period of strain and stress, every man with any sense of responsibility, no matter to what party he belongs, tries to avoid any reference to the burning question of coal that will excite the susceptibilities and the passions of people. With one or two exceptions, that is done. But let me make a quotation from the"Workers' Weekly," which, I understand, is the official organ of the Communist party in this country. On 12th March it described the members of the Coal Commission as
a quartet of outstanding bourgeois exploiters,
and referred to their report as
this latest move of the capitalist offensive.
" The Worker," the official organ of the National Minority Movement, on 20th March referred to
this infamous document,
and in the following number said,
Scrap the, Coal Report.
That is not the frame of mind in which to approach the problem if it be desired to get any settlement, and I hope that we all want a settlement of this burning question. I am the first to acknowledge that there are members of the party opposite who have the courage to speak out openly against these machinations. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) said as recently as 11th October last:
We must smash the Reds, or they will smash us.
But, as the numerous quotations given by my hon. and gallant Friend have proved, not all hon. Members on the benches opposite have the courage or the conviction to speak out in the same uncertain voice as the right hon. Member for Derby. I want to ask the members of the Government to what extent a Government can stand this sort of thing, how long ought the Government to bear with open sedition in the country?
I want to tell the House of three countries which have lately adopted the policy of the ostrich by hiding their heads and pretending to notice nothing, and I will point out what has been the result. It will be remembered that in 1916, at Faster, there was a rebellion in Ireland. In July, 1916, there was a Royal Commission of three Judges, which reported on the rebellion, and said that the prime cause of the rebellion was the way in which increasing lawlessness was allowed to go on without any check. Then I come to Russia. I happened to be out in Russia during the two revolutions. I vas there on the occasion of the first revolution on 12th March, 1917. I was in Petrograd on the occasion of the Bolshevik revolution and coup d'etat of 17th November, 1917. I think the case of Russia will always be an outstanding example of how poisonous propaganda can ruin a fine Army in a marvellously short space of time. On 1st January, 1917, the Russian Army in the Eastern theatre occupied 1,586 enemy battalions. The whole of the Allied forces in France occupied only 1,327 battalions on the same date. Russia was pulling more than her share.
I know that the Russian Army was tired, but not more tired then than at the beginning of 1916. In 1915 it had gone through the terrible trials of the retreat from Poland. It would have come again, and, with all the facts at my fingers' ends, I say unhesitatingly that we would have ended the War in 1917. If that first revolution had produced one who was man enough to protect the Russian Army from pacifist Bolshevik propaganda, we would have fought through to victory before the end of 1917.
I would like to allude briefly to one or two interviews that our Ambassador had, for I was called in to act as interpreter. As I have said, the first revolution was on 12th March. On 9th April Kerensky, who was the popular man in Russia, visited our Ambassador, and I was interpreter at the interview. We complained to Kerensky that a paper called the"Pravda"was attacking the Allies in a most disgraceful way. Kerensky replied that the"Pravda"had no influence, and that we need take no notice of it. We asked him about the Soviet. He replied:
It will die. We could destroy the Soviet to-morrow, but politically it is better to let it die itself.
Then he got rather impatient with our various questions, and said:
You must allow that we are not children. We are grown up men with brains. We know Russia, and the course that we are taking is the only course that will lead us to the end that we desire.
Then he pushed a request for the return of the political exiles, Trotsky and others, who were abroad. It was pointed out to him that these people would fight and work in Russia against the War. He said he believed in freedom of speech.
The exiles returned, and the result was the downfall of Kerensky, and, what is far more important for the world, the downfall of Russia. A few days later the British Ambassador went to visit the Prime Minister, Prince Lvov, and read a paper which I had drawn up asking that for the sake of the Allies he should prevent any politician of whatever shade of opinion visiting the forces of the
Crown. Our Ambassador read this out to Prince Lvov. He listened carefully, and in reply said:
You need not worry yourself. The Russian Army was never in better fighting trim than now, and is perfectly well able to take care of agitators.
I knew myself at that time the Russian Army was not fit to fight at all. That was proved on the 1st July. Then on the 16th and 17th July, 1917, there was the first abortive rising of Bolshevik troops in Petrograd. Two units, roused by the fiery speeches of Trotski and Lunacharski, made a demonstration—not a demonstration of the kind we have here in Trafalgar Square, but a demonstration with machine guns which were dragged through the streets. A few people were killed, and the rest of the peaceful citizens trembled. Things were critical in Petrograd, No one knew how the troops were going to declare themselves, and there was no discipline. That rising was not put down by the Government. The Government had not the courage to act, but two subordinate officials in the Ministry of Justice had in their hands complete proof that the Bolshevik organisation was in receipt of funds from the German General Staff through Parvus and Ganitski and two others. They gave this information to the Press and the troops; the troops at that time proved loyal, and the situation was saved. In spite of all our representations, this rot went on in the army, and the second coup d'Etat took place on 7th November of the same year. That is the second instance.
The third instance of where insidious propaganda had been going on and where a Government took no notice of it, is Italy. I happened to be travelling in Italy in 1920 when that country was on the verge of Bolshevism. The Government did nothing, but the people of Italy roused and saved the situation by their own unaided efforts. It is far better however that a Government should take action and not allow the people to do it. I look upon a Government as a trustee for the safety of the people. It is their duty to protect people against foreign aggression and against disorder in their own country. I am only a new politician, or perhaps I should say I am not a politi- cian yet, and never will be, but I am representative of the man in the street. I have given my vote for my Member of Parliament, and I look upon it as his duty to help to protect the people of the country from any disturbance. I do not worry myself; I go about my business and do my work and play my games and do as I like, looking to the Government to protect me. I ask the Government to-night if they think things are all right now and if it is not their duty to take further steps to protect this country from the insidious propaganda which my hon. and gallant Friend the Mover has so aptly described?
I desire also to refer to a speech made by one who is a very great writer, and what is more a very great British patriot and Imperialist, namely, Mr. Rudyard Kipling. Some months ago, describing the condition of this country, he likened Great Britain to a ship and called it"His Majesty's Ship Britannia." He said this ship is moored between two continents and has the added disadvantage of suffering the foul weather of both. She is crowded from stem to stern with 45,000,000, including stowaways, many of whom are discontented while some are storm sick and some are ship stale, getting in each other's way and each telling the other how the ship ought to be run. He added that such is the faulty construction of the ship that she only carries at any one moment six weeks' supply of foodstuffs, and if by enemy action or the folly of the people on board the supplies should be cut off, the people on that ship will be reduced to cannibalism. That was his picture, and he went on to say that there is an enemy power trying to bring in a new kind of warfare, by trying to induce our own people to cut each other's throats—that being a cheaper and safer method of waging war than coming aboard the ship to do it themselves. I think that is a true picture of our condition. Is it not the duty of the Government to do everything they can to turn out the people of ill-will who preach the deadly doctrines I have indicated—those slaves of class consciousness who talk of nothing else and dream of nothing else but trying to spoil our British character? Surely it is not too late for the Government to take steps to save our country.
I beg to move, to leave out from the word"House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words
the loyalty of the forces is beyond doubt, and proof against seditious attempts, and that all experience of the past has shown that the prosecution of opinion is useless and defeats its own ends, and that the stability of national institutions is best reserved, not by panic legislation or administrative violence, but by the progressive removal of grievances and injustices and the improvement of the lot a and the increase of the opportunities for the mass of the people.
The Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury (Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Burgoyne) was, I think, no surprise to the Home Secretary. In fact, I think the Home Secretary has been one of the angels in this case, and that the hon. and gallant Member has rushed in with a ready-made Motion handed to him by the Government Whips.
That is perfectly untrue. I think I may say on behalf of the Government Whips, and certainly on my own behalf, that there is not one single word of truth in the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion.
I naturally withdraw at once. I informed one of the Government Whips I was going to refer to the matter, and I do not think if is any disparagement to do so. Whips very often suggest certain Motions, and I understood a similar Motion to this was suggested by the Whips. However, if I have done any injustice, I withdraw unreservedly. I will await with interest the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to see how far he agrees with the Motion before the House and with the Amendment which I now move, because the Government in this matter undoubtedly does talk with two voices. I do not often praise the present Government, but there is a section of them who have a few traces of political sanity left, though I am sorry to say the Home Secretary is not in that camp. Although the accents we heard to-night were the accents of Esau, I think the hand of Jacob was not very far distant from the speech of the Mover of the Motion.
I purposely put it the other way round, and if the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) thinks it out, he will see the reason. This cry of Communist propaganda is very convenient for the Conservative party. It is the one political cry by means of which they hope to divert attention from their political bankruptcy. Making this a political cry will not do much harm in this country, but it does harm to British credit and reputation abroad. Speeches of the kind to which we have listened are used for the repression of British credit in foreign markets. There are people ill other countries, otherwise well informed, who owing to this artificial alarmist agitation, think we are on the verge of a revolution. Everyone knows that the institutions of this country have never been more stable and that we have never been further from a revolution than at the present time.
The Mover talked about undermining the discipline and loyalty of the armed forces. That is an insult to the Army and Navy. The Army and Navy have shown no signs whatever of being affected in any way by leaflets of the sort he has quoted. I do not pretend to answer very much for the Army, although hon. Gentlemen who served as private soldiers in the Army have added their names to mine in support of this Amendment, but I do claim to know something about the British bluejacket because the greater part of my time in the Service was spent in small ships, and I was thrown in much closer association with my men than is the Army officer unless he be in the front line. I know the sort of men we have to lick into shape, the"Nobby Clarkes," the"Dusty Millers," the"Spud Murphys"and all the rest of them. Very few of them are what would be known as active politicians; they have the politics of the families they come from. All three parties are represented. The sort of agitation that is carried on in attempts to subvert them will be absolutely futile as long as they have no real grievance.
Although we went though trying times in the War when other Navies mutinied, the last great mutiny was the Mutiny of the Nore. Although at that time the party in power attempted to saddle their opponents with it, the historian admits that political agitation had nothing to do with it. They had certain grievances and they were war weary, but neither political agitation nor the Jacobinism of that day had anything to do with it. We went through the War in the Navy with only a few disorders in a few ships, but with nothing in the nature of a political mutiny. In fact, the word"mutiny"could be wiped out of the Navy vocabulary for the last 50 years. I would remind hon. Members opposite that there was a time when to sing the"Marseillaise"meant transportation. At the time of the French Revolution, the forerunners of the hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury and more prominent people, were frightened to death of Jacobinism and afraid of a sudden uprising in England.
What happened during the War? We went through that time without any serious disorders at all. Other navies in the war did mutiny, and the most serious case of all was not that of the Russian Navy. The hon. Member who seconded spoke a good deal about Russia, and talked about German money passing into Russian hands. I thought he was going to tell us about the monk Rasputin. The German navy had a very bad mutiny in 1917, and another just before the Armistice when they refused to go to sea at all. When they surrendered the German ships were in the hands of"Sailors' Councils"and the officers had to be very careful what they did. Before the War the German discipline was much stiffer and harder than ours. The same thing applied to the whole Prussian system. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are badgering the Government and spurring on the willing steed, the Home Secretary, to more vigorous measures. Do they think they will he able to set up a system of repression in this country as efficient as the Prussian system, or a system of political tyranny as ruthless as the Tsarist system? Yet both systems came crashing to ruins, and there is a democratic republic in one country and a Socialist Republic in the other. The whole system of Prussian political organisation was such that no one could get any post unless he supported the Junker party. The Conservative party of this country has not the nerve to put into force such a system. They have not the nerve to be as politically ruthless as the Tsarist Government. Yet those, two Governments could not stand the strain of the War and, in the case of Russia, of partial defeat, and, in the case of Germany, of complete defeat. Both those systems came crashing down.
The Liberal party has a great deal to be proud of. The Liberal party has earned the gratitude of this country by its fight for the free institutions of this country, by its fight for freedom of speech and freedom of opinion. It was that which enabled us to go through the very great strain of the War and of the years afterwards, the troubled years of unemployment, without any serious disorders in this country at all. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Motion read out copious extracts. He revelled in their strong language. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy quoting some of the swear words that appeared in those documents. He told us that there were 17 weekly papers. The hon. Member for North Battersea. (Mr. Saklatvala) said that there were 700 of those papers. We heard a tremendous lot about the thousands of pounds—I suppose in gold roubles—that have been poured into the coffers of the Communist party from abroad. I have not heard of them being received over the counter of any public house, but I suppose hon. Gentlemen opposite believe this tale. What is the effect of it all? Has there been one case of a soldier or sailor refusing to do his duty on account of this propaganda? Can the present trouble in the engineering trade be traced to these efforts? Can the threatened trouble in the mining industry, and the trouble we recently escaped in the railway industry, be really seriously saddled on all this agitation? [HON. MEMBERS"Yes! "] What absolute nonsense this is. Can the strikes before the War be traced to the same source? [Interruption.]
I marvel at this country when I look at the condition of the people. When I go into my own constituency, into the worst quarters of the working-class districts there, I wonder at their extraordinary patience. There, in Hull, we have been suffering from the most terrible depression in shipping and fishing and in the coal export trade. We have had 10,000 unemployed for years. The housing conditions in the worst part of my constituency are beyond belief. Yet the Communists are a mere handful, and do not matter a row of pins. The people work hard when they get work, and are only too glad to get it. They are most patient and most loyal, and my only trouble with them is that, even now, so many of them will vote Conservative. It is a sort of hereditary political madness. The action which has already been taken against Communists has only strengthened and advertised them. As to the Communists who are endeavouring to work their way into the trade unions, I know that the non-Communist trade union leaders do not welcome the efforts of the Home Secretary. Those efforts do not help their position at all. We are a politically grown-up people. We had our revolution at the time of the Commonwealth. We will not find it necessary to have another revolution at all, unless muttonheaded people are able to frighten sufficient old women of both sexes and to stampede the Home Secretary into the sort of Measures asked for by the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution.
That is the only danger in this country. We have a law that can be applied and that can deal with real incitements to violence or with actual violence. The law is there, and the police are absolutely loyal. No suggestion can surely be made that this propaganda has had any effect upon the police. [An HON. MEMBER:"What about the police strike? "] How many years ago was that? The Army is absolutely loyal, from all that I can hear; I know the Navy is; and I am sure the Air Force, the youngest force, is just as loyal as the other two. If only we will show a little statesmanlike sanity in this matter, and not allow the temptation of possibly good political propaganda, from the Conservative point of view, to make us forget the history and the experience of the past, we will win through our pre- sent trouble. One may be in doubt about that if the present Government goes on much longer, but one can always hope for the best, and we can, at any rate, change the Government without violence. The British people are absolutely sound, law-abiding, sensible, and most patient. The common law can be enforced, and, I believe, is all sufficient for the purposes required. We are a free people, and after the very trying and testing years through which we have gone, in spite of this panic-inspired movement that has been started by what is, I believe, even now a minority of the Conservative party and a small portion of the Conservative organisation, unless those panic-stricken people get control of the machinery of government, which I do not think they will do, there is no danger whatever.
The policy to follow is to try and remove the just grievances that do exist, to open the doors of opportunity wider for the people. The trade unionists who-have returned from America recently have been quoted. One of them was a constituent of mine, and I had the pleasure of talking to him yesterday. One thing he will talk about presently, when he gets back to Hull, is the fact that in America a man has a chance absolutely according to his merits. Nobody in the American business houses asks at what school a man was educated, from what university he came, whether he is a cousin of So-and-so, or from what family he comes. There is equality of opportunity there, and the business people there do not take days off in the middle of the week to play golf and then come and grouse at their workmen for idling. They all work there, from the top to the bottom, and I am sure that the lessons those men who have recently returned from America will bring back are not quite what the hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury would expect. If they were capable of blushing, I think they would make some Members of his order blush very deeply, if they ever heard them. My objection to the Motion and my constructive alternative to it are contained in the Amendment on the Paper, which I now move.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am sometimes amazed at the subjects upon which the time of this House is very often wasted. We have heard to- night a good deal about the word"propaganda," but I think we should apply it to the other side of the House, so far as the besmirching of the party above the Gangway and the belittling of the party which sits below the Gangway on this side in part are concerned. When hon. Members opposite talk about the nightmare of which we have had abundant evidence to-night, they forget the real character of an Englishman. We have had comparisons made to-night by the hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Motion as to what happened in the Russian Army, with what might happen here, but does any hon. Member in this House think that what happened in the Russian Army could happen in the British Army? As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has pointed out, we have heard about fears concerning the contamination of the forces in the Navy and the Army, but I know sufficient of the men, although I have not been in either Service, in both branches of the Service to prevent me having any fear whatever of them being at all intimidated, frightened, or misled by any of the propaganda that has been referred to.
With regard to the propaganda mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Motion, let me say that I have no sympathy with it whatever. I want to say that quite frankly and sincerely, and, with regard to a suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull, I do not always agree with the Home Secretary, and, if he will allow me to say so with all respect, I sometimes think he is a better Home Secretary when he does not speak than when he does, but I should never associate him at this particularly critical time with a Resolution of this kind, because if there is a time upon which a subject of this kind ought not to be treated in the lighthearted and irresponsible fashion in which we have had it treated from the other side to-night, this is that time. If I understand anything about history, the way to prevent revolution is to reform abuses, and the responsibility for the reforming of abuses, for the granting of greater opportunities, and for the improvement of the lot of the individual worker, and of the man in the Navy and the Army, is neither upon those who sit on the benches above the Gangway nor upon those below the Gangway on this side of the House; the responsibility is upon the other side of the House.
When I listen to hon. and right hon. Members talking about the influence of Communism among the working classes, I am amazed at the many things they forget. My hon. and gallant Friend talked about the housing conditions in his constituency. I can talk about the housing conditions in mine. One hon. Member opposite rather attempted to make us nervous because we have only six weeks' food supply in this country, but whose fault is that? It is certainly not the fault of the workers of this country. I could take hon. Members to a farm in England to-day of more than a score or even a hundred acres of good arable land, upon which neither a plough nor a spade is being used to-day. I could take them to an official whose business it was to inspect the condition of certain agricultural land not so long ago, and who drew the attention of the tenant to the very filthy condition of a field and to the fact that nothing but weeds was growing in that field. The tenant replied:"I have only been here a few years, and I have never touched it." When hon. Members opposite talk about the food supply of this country, let them not talk about it being necessarily kept at six weeks' supply, but let them press their Government to bring in some legislation to give the people an opportunity to till the land of this country.
You can walk about the City of London. I did that last night, and what did I find? I found men working on all the great services that every citizen of London and every visitor to London has made available for him by very disagreeable tasks that no hon. Members would like to do, but that the workers of this country do for us, at not too high wages, and so long as we have these duties carried out for our comfort and convenience by men who do it without grumbling, and, who even do the disagreeable work cheerfully, I am not afraid of any of the Communistic doctrine or propaganda interfering with the loyalty of the men in the Navy or Army or ordinary workers up and down in the factories, lanes, or fields of the country, or in the sewers that are under the great municipalities. I think that if there is' anything which puts on a lower level the character, the intelligence, the probity, and the sound constitutionalism which the great majority of the British working men always exhibit, it is a Motion of this kind, brought forward by Members opposite in a semi-serious fashion, and asking the House to consider and walk into the aye Lobby to support.
I have not always agreed with the Home Secretary in some of the things he has said and some of the things he has done while he has been Home Secretary, but I have confidence in the Home Secretary and the Home Office in this respect, that the right hon. Gentleman has too much commonsense to be led away by the twaddle to which he has been compelled to listen to-night in support of the Motion. I believe if the present Home Secretary had had his way, he would have deprecated the bringing forward of this Resolution at the present moment. We read in newspapers, and hear speeches, that everything is all right as far as the critical conditions in a certain industry is concerned. I am afraid those who know the least about that industry are the people who are the most optimistic about what may happen at the end of 10 days.
I entirely agree with the constitutional terms of the Amendment which my hon. and gallant Friend has moved. Did ever any attempt at repression, such as the transportation of men who attempted 100 or so years ago to combine in order to protect their wage and livelihood, in any way help the progress of this country at that time? Certainly it did not. Is it not a fact that history has always proved that any Government or any country that excels in repression is not for long either prosperous or progressive? If you are to have a country opening the door wider for freedom to the men who want to help themselves, and in helping themselves help their country, this is the country, and the party to which the hon. and gallant Member and myself belong is not going to hide its head under any shade whatever as far as the past of the party is concerned in making the bounds of freedom wider yet. But—and I say this with no taint of disrespect—when you are talking about interfering with the armed Forces of the Crown, it will not do for Members on the other side to go too far back into our national history. There is a proverb which says, Let sleeping dogs lie." Some people put it the other -way and say,"Let lying dogs sleep."
I do not think the interests of our national institutions, the interests of the great mass of the peaceful workers of this country, who only want the opportunity to earn an honest living and do an honest day's work, are helped in any way by the terms of the Motion to-night, and still less by the speech and the spirit of the speech in which the hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury (Sir A. Burgoyne) moved the Motion. While I have no sympathy whatever with the propaganda which may be going on here, there and yonder, for which the Communists or any other unconstitutional organisation may be responsible, I would say that, personally, I know something both about political prosecution and persecution, and what I have had to stiffer in that respect from autocrats and people who hold opinions which Gentlemen opposite have hinted at. My vote will go for the Amendment proposed by my hon. and gallant Friend that there shall be no aggressive repression, that there shall be a reasonable and free opportunity for a full expression of opinion, relying through all the troubles we may have to face in the future, as we have been able to do in the past, without being let down, upon the common sense, honesty and good will of the great majority of the men and women of this good old country.
I did not realise at first, as I realise now, that the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member was one of common form, which had been handed round, possibly for some considerable time, among hon. Members to be moved according to the fortune of the ballot. I thought it represented the really spontaneous feeling of the hon. and gallant Member, produced by some specific act of lawlessness. We now know it is merely a piece of the ordinary political armoury—a somewhat tarnished piece of armoury—which has been produced to fill up an idle evening. Notwithstanding that fact, the harm which may be done by a Motion such as this, if taken seriously, is quite considerable.
I understand that a similar Resolution has been in contemplation for some time, but whether it is the same Resolution or not, the fact is the harm that it can do is very considerable. It is really a reflection—I think an undeserved reflection—on the capacity of the Home Secretary. The suggestion of this Resolution, if it means anything, is that the Home Secretary, the Attorney-General and the very competent officials and authorities who assist them in their work, need stiffening up in some way in regard to the inactivity or activity which they pursue. Therefore, I think the Home Secretary can regard this Resolution, if it means anything at all, as a vote of censure on himself. What are the facts of the case?
The Home Secretary has, we may assume, in his possession far more information about this alleged Bolshevik danger than the hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury (Sir A. Burgoyne). The Attorney-General is far more competent to decide whether a particular prosecution should be entered upon than is the hon. and gallant Member. These right hon. Gentlemen, in their wisdom, have not seen fit since they took action in a certain case—the merits or demerits of which I do not propose to discuss to-night—to take any further action. When the Home Secretary does take such action, no doubt he will be criticised by some people—possibly correctly or incorrectly—but I am quite sure that he will be able to justify himself. But what the. House may fairly object to is that the hand of the Home Office should be forced by the hon. and gallant Member or by any Member merely on the ground of certain tittle-tattle of a species which is several years old and which has no direct reference to anything which is happening at the present time.
There is another objection to the sort of attitude which the hon. and gallant Member is taking. There is nothing more important, when the Attorney-General has to decide whether he will embark on a particular prosecution or not, than that he should be free in that matter and that he should not be fettered by any opinion of any hon. Gentleman as expressed in this House. Surely the hon. and gallant Member has sufficient confidence in his own leaders to let them decide whether there is a Bolshevik peril, and how they should act. If the hon. and gallant Member says:"I do riot complain of any administrative act here, but I do say that the law should be strengthened," meaning, I suppose that the Government are at fault because they have not introduced further legislation to deal with this terrible matter, then again I would point out that, as most persons who are familiar with this subject know, the present common law of this country dealing with sedition is amply sufficient for any case which may need correction in any Court of Law, and this really does resolve itself into a mere idle clamour on the part of the hon. and gallant Member. I hesitate to think that the hon. and gallant Member has moved this Resolution for political purposes. I am sure that he is only actuated by a sense of the public good, and I am endeavouring to point out to him that, so far from promoting the public good by raising these scares and agitations, he is really doing a very considerable public disservice. What is really the situation today? We have a population, much which unfortunately is very poor, many people are unemployed, but a population which I think the hon. and gallant Member will agree never was more peaceably disposed, never was more loyal, never was more quite satisfied with constitutional Government. than the people of this country at the present time.
The hon. and gallant Member shakes head. He relies on the facts in leaflets thrown over the wall of Chelsea Barracks. But, seriously, is he really prepared to make an accusation against any considerable body of people in this country that to-day they are not a loyal, law-abiding people? I am sure the great majority of his colleagues would disagree with him if he said anything to the contrary. Let us get at the realities of the situation, and let us not indulge in these scares so largely manufactured. The people of this country are law-abiding, and they are able to use constitutional methods as a means of obtaining any redress which they may legitimately seek against the social injustices which at present exist. On the hon. Member's own admission, these Communists of whom he speaks have been at work in this country for three or four years. He gave us statistics and spoke about all kinds of propaganda of the most wonderful and cunning knaves who climb in through windows and chimneys when they cannot get in through doors, and who go about with dark lanterns and Heaven knows what. What has been the result It may be accident, but there were far more industrial disturbances in this country before Bolshevism and Communism ever occurred than there are at present.
If we have had important crises in various industries—which I do not propose to discuss at present—there has been no indication at all of any real tendency to lawlessness or impropriety on the part of any substantial section of the community. There may be a little disturbance here, and there may be a little disturbance there at intervals of several years, but, taking the bulk of the population of this country, it is obvious that the whole of this propaganda, this talk of incitement to revolution, has utterly failed, and that it has been going on, on the hon. and gallant Member's own admission for a considerable time without the. slightest result. The reason why it has been a failure is because the only way in which this propaganda might happen to be successful would be if it were taken seriously and if it were advertised by the hon. Member and his colleagues. If these people were the sort of people which the hon. and gallant Member described, if they liked to be talked about, and to have their little bodies multiplied a thousandfold, what better instrument could they find for advertisement and for bringing their message home to everybody than the eloquent words of the hon. and gallant Member? As a result of this Motion the sentiments of these people will be multiplied in all the newspapers. We have had a rest from the Communist peril, but the news papers will once more be talking about it, thanks to this Motion. But there will be no more peril than there was before, but what there will be, thanks to the hon. Member and his friends, is an advertisement of these very people which may result in an accession to their number.
I want to go a little further. The hon. and gallant Member and his friends in this matter do not come into this House with clean hands. There is only one party in this House which has ever succeeded in subverting the loyalty of the forces of the Crown, and that is the Conservative party. The Communist party may or may not have attempted this, but the only people who have brought it to success and fruition are the members of the party opposite. I do not care to mention these things, but when we are attacked we are entitled to reply, and the incidence which occurred in 1914 at the Curragh Camp and elsewhere clearly proves that the only party in this country which has succeeded in tampering with the Forces of the Crown is the party to which the hon. and gallant Member belongs. What can we think of the Conservative party, which has such a had record and which has disregarded the law in the past, when its members come here and sign psalms about constitutional propriety? Another matter—the Conservative party are very largely mixed up today with an organisation which, whether it be lawless or not, is at any rate favourable to a system of government opposed to Parliamentary government. If Fascism means anything, it is a system opposed to Parliamentary government, and if the British Fascisti are anything, they are a group opposed to Parliamentary government and many hon. Members opposite belong to that seditious group. [HON. MEMBERS:"Name! "] Are hon. Members suggesting that they do not belong to any Fascist organisation?
I was going on to say that I am perfectly willing to ease the situation by saying that there are large numbers of the Fascisti which belong to the Conservative party. [Inter- ruption.] I am not going to withdraw the statement at all. I do not pretend to have ascertained the exact influence of hon. Members opposite. I am very glad to have the admission of the hon. Member for Penrith (Mr. Dixey) that he agrees with me that the Fascisti are a lawless and possibly dangerous organisation. May I point out, further, that the Labour party had specifically excluded the Communists, whereas the hon. Members opposite have not taken action through the Primroses lodges, or wherever they carry on their business, to exclude the Fascist;?
Therefore, if there be any unlawful relations between the two parties, the Conservative party are in the very worst position to talk about the constitution. While the hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury in his Motion has not explained to us—possibly wisely—in what way he wants the law strengthened and altered by the Home Secretary, with whose inactivity most of us are quite satisfied, he has done a thing—I think most unfortunately—which is doing the very thing he desires to fight. We must assume of you, and you of us, that we both do believe in constitutional methods of Parliamentary government. It is impossible to conduct Parliamentary government in this country unless we give each other a certain competence in believing that we really do one and all intend to alter the law only by means of Act of Parliament. The hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury may snatch at some particular quotation of one of my hon. Friends and I may snatch a particular quotation from a speech of his, but surely, taking the thing as a whole, if he wishes to promote Parliamentary government, it is much better that this sort Of game should stop.
I believe it is true that this Government is being corroded by the influence of trusts, and he thinks we are trying to corrode and corrupt him by transferring wealth to guilds and states. The sort of suggestion that one party is constitutional and the other is not, is quite opposed to the idea that they are the Government and we are the Opposition. May I point out, finally, that the hon. and gallant Member cannot point to any way by which the Labour Government in office allowed the prestige of this country to suffer in any way. If we allowed these things to happen, I could understand the hon. and gallant Member making these points, but in the matters of constitutional propriety of every kind the Labour party behaved like any other party. That is not a fair way of dealing with us. Our economic and political views may be right or may be wrong, but there are as many good constitutionalists on this side of the House as on that. In Russia, to which the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) referred, there never was been parliamentary government at any time. I think he will agree with me as to that.
In every case in Europe where Parliamentary government has been overthrown, it has always been overthrown by reactionary Conservatives—in Italy and Spain and Bulgaria—in every case it was the Conservatives and the Fascisti. There is not a single case where Socialists or Labour have overthrown a Government, with the exception of Russia. It is true that there is nothing more necessarily inherent in the Conservative principles than the Labour principle which protects constitutions. The hon. and gallant Member has shown in the past, and some members of the Cabinet have shown, that they were perfectly prepared to alter the Constitution when it served their purpose. As regards this Motion, let us have sufficient confidence in the Home Secretary to believe that he is doing what is necessary, and also sufficient confidence in the law of this country to believe that the law of sedition is sufficient, to protect us against any dangers.
In the very short time at my disposal I shall try to review the position from an independent point of view. I would beg the House on both sides, from my right hon. and hon. colleagues on the Labour Benches as well as the Members opposite, not to misunderstand or misconstrue my words in any partisan spirit. I agree that the time has arrived, and definitely arrived, when the legal position of this country in regard to propaganda and in regard to sedition as it is known in the language of the old world, in regard to what you call subversive propaganda, must be all redefined and reconstructed in the light of the growing consciousness of the proletarian masses in this country and all over the world. I do not take it as a light matter that the laws of 1797 and laws enacted 20 and 50 years ago are sufficient.
I also desire to point out that the alterations of these laws does not always mean an act of official vindictiveness or desperation on the part of the apostles and upholders of the old school of thought. I rather want to place frankly before this House the position which I, as a humble member of the Communist party, seek to establish. There is no doubt that what the hon. and gallant Member who moved this Resolution has said in moving it requires some consideration. There are these factory papers. The propaganda used to be carried out in the labour world and the labour organisations before the Russian Government was formed. The Minority Movement is there. Propaganda and messages through Communist newspapers or filbert Hall or Queen's Hall meetings, or hints at Independent Labour party meetings are facts. I at once admit that Communists are not infallible, and they may make mistakes. Sometimes they may do things in a clumsy and hasty way, but these are only human and individual elements. The fact remains that the ideal of the soldier has undergone a great modification since the termination of the. War, not because of anything that happened in the War, but because of the last Russian revolution.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has moved an Amendment which I am sorry to say I fail to understand as being relevant to the real issue. It is a general pious expression of opinion and a. line of conduct similar to that which we understand when people grumble you have to bribe them and give them a little. If that is so, we shall grumble all the more. When there is a definite struggle marked out and a definite issue laid down that the workers of Great Britain are out to take possession of the means of production, distribution and exchange; that the nation is entitled to take entire possession of the land and houses of the nation, that programme being there and rubbed into the minds of the workers and the soldiers and the soldiers' families, there is no escape from it but for the proletariat of this country to march up to it, or for the capitalists of this country to beat them back. Whether 'you take notice of it or give advertisement to it, or whether the last prosecution gave undue advertisement to it or not, makes no difference, because that is not a serious way of considering a serious position which is becoming a world position. The hearts and minds of people are being educated. I myself am the child of the British Labour party. [Interruption.] I am the product of the teachings of the British trade unions. I am a member of the Communist party because, rightly or wrongly, it honestly appeals to me to be pointing the way through which the objects laid down by the Labour party are to be achieved. I may be wrong, but that is my perfectly honest conviction.
I was a member of the Independent Labour party for several years, and the Independent Labour party sings a hymn to-day entitled"England, arise!"It is considered to be a constitutionalist hymn, and at Sunday schools, Independent Labour party meetings, Labour party meetings, socials and concerts, they all sing that hymn. It was not composed in Moscow; it was composed, perhaps, one or two generations before the Russian Revolution. I have learned the lines:
Workers, on your face a web of lies is woven;
All your laws are false.
If I learned that day and night within the Labour movement, does the Home Secretary expect me to pay respect and unqualified obedience to capitalist-made laws which the Independent Labour party and the Labour party have taught me to believe are all false? That is the position. I was taught that, on the first day of the first session of the Trade Union Congress which took place in Birmingham in 1868, it was resolved that the Trade Union Congress was brought into existence for the purpose of organising the workers of this country in order that they may take possession of the means of production, distribution and exchange. I want to know how and when I am to take possession of the means of production, distribution and exchange. [Interruption.] I am told that I am a member of the dispossessed class, bereft of everything; that my class opponents have acquired all means of production as well as all accumulated wealth produced by the workers in the
past. Now I am quietly told that I, the dispossessed one, must wait till I am strong enough to buy out everything from those who have monopolised the whole wealth. When I hear of such processes, I naturally disbelieve in their feasibility, and I say:"No; my idea of taking possession of the means of production is simply to take it." [Interruption.] That is my view, and when I read the Conservative newspapers—[Interruption ]—
When I read in the Conservative papers, and even in the Liberal papers, that the workers must first learn the art of obedience to law and order, that the O.M.S. will be organised, that special constables will be appointed, that Fascists are the patriots of this land, I do take it that that is also a serious fact which must be borne in mind by thoughtful persons, and then I come to the conclusion—I know that my respected leaders in the Labour movement do not agree with that conclusion—that in this wicked world I must, as a trade unionist, form my own defence corps. I take it for granted that what are known as constitutional rights, privileges and practice have all arisen out of a. system of habit of thought which openly sanctions the possession of the few possessors, and it has been traditional, up to the point of the Russian revolution, that the duty of the Army, the duty of the machinery of law, the duty of legislation is all to give sanction and back up and fortify the possession of the individual possessors who have acquired things not by producing them but by illegal process. When that happens, I naturally consider what is going to happen to me when I sincerely, faithfully and honestly strive to do what the Labour party has taught me to do, namely, to go and take possession of the means of production. There are guns, there are rifles, there are revolvers, there are aeroplanes, there are bombs. I cannot, with my fists or my hands or by speeches or by propaganda, stand against those bullets and those bombs. Then I consider, quite naturally, that I and the 80 per cent. of the population of this country who represent the working classes are entitled to safety. I then come to the conclusion that my safety is not to arm and fight them, because I cannot arm. My safety is to go to the people who are armed and tell them,"Do not shoot me. I am your friend. You are our friends. Your families and my family suffer from the same injury. Your families and my family are all out to follow the teachings of the Labour party, to take possession of the means of production and distribution, and on that occasion, when I engage in that revolutionary performance, I want you not to shoot me."
I seriously put it to the other side that they should remember there is one great difference between this country and others where there is the law of conscription. Where there is conscription the need of propaganda within the Army is not so justifiable and not so necessary, for this simple reason, that every lad who goes to a Socialist school, every lad who goes to Labour party functions, takes the lessons to heart, and in course of time they are all bound to be within the Army. In this country, where. there is no conscription, and where young boys are lifted away from certain spheres of life which are purely created by economic misfortune, our only hope of teaching peace, and Christian doctrines, and Socialist doctrines, to human beings is to appeal to the men who are actually armed and say,"Thou shalt not."
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonby) has issued a peace letter. I am determined to work for him, but should I confine myself to going to women, to aged persons and to persons of known proclivities of an anti-militarist character and say to them,"You sign this peace letter "? No, my greater effort, and my more earnest effort, and my more sincere effort, should be directed to going to the men who are armed and wean them away from their trade, and to point out to them a new phase of life. A reference has been made to the Albert Hall meeting. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Resolution read the pledge that was taken at that meeting. The action of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) on that occasion was described by the Home Secretary as melodramatic. Be it so. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that the 8,000 persons who were there could not all be described as melodramatic.
Out of the seven or eight thousand people a few hundreds were bound to be closely related to the soldiers and the naval boys. They are bound to convey the message to them, and the Home Secretary, our Home Secretary, is bound to consider the situation. He has two alternatives in front of him. He has to take the view, on the one hand, of the Mover of the Resolution, to stop it all, to build a new wing to Wandsworth Prison, to enlarge all the prisons and lock these people up continuously. I can assure the Home Secretary and those who support that idea that there will not be land enough on which to build the prisons, because the British citizen will go to prison rather than surrender his feelings.
There is the other view, namely, to analyse what is happening, and what hon. Members opposite call sedition!in the Army and what they call mutiny. One hon. Member has told us that he has faith in the loyalty of the Army. The Communist propaganda, the Socialist propaganda, the effect of the teaching of trade unionism in this country is not aiming merely at disaffection in the Army with a view to raising a wanton mutiny or to replace one thing by another thing. The issue is perfectly clear. The propaganda in the Army is not for a mutiny to-day or to-morrow, but it is to prepare for the coming Socialist revolution for which everybody is working. I will read a paragraph from a speech of the Leader of the Opposition. It is excellent sentiment. Speaking at Cambridge last Saturday, he said:
The House is doing mere work at the present moment. I do not like demonstrations, wildness, and shows of any kind. I am one of those quiet sort of people, one of those coral insects which build and build and build and nobody seems to know that they are doing it, but ore day, lo and behold, the work they have done comes up out of
the water, and everybody knows, without talking, without boasting, without highfalutin' language, that the work has been done. That is what we have to do in the Labour movement.
The Leader of the Opposition vas expressing his own personal opinions and sentiments, mixed up with the general view of the movement. He takes, personally and quite sincerely, a- distinct view of -his own. We must allow for human nature. He says that he does not like disturbances and demonstrations. That does not mean that each and every individual on this side does not like disturbances and demonstrations. It is obvious that it holds on both sides. I agree with the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman that we are like the coral insects,"building, building, building." The Russian revolution was something that came up above the surface of the water as a result of what trade union leaders and British Labour party leaders were teaching to Europe and the world before the Russian revolution. They were teaching the workers of the world to unite together and take possession of the means of life. I put it to the other side that there is a distinct challenge here.
There is no attempt at wanton military mutiny of the ordinary type, but there is a direct preparation, upon a large or a small scale which ever you like to call it, and I put it to hon. Members opposite that they will have to make up their mind either to stop it or to revolutionise their own way of thinking about it. If you want to stop it, then I do not appeal but I warn you that you will have to stop Communism to-day, Socialism to-morrow, and the Labour party functions on the third day. You will not be able to draw the line, because this building—the building of the coral insect—is continually throwing up Communism on the surface of the water. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) said that as an officer of the Navy he has licked many a young man into shape. The officers of the Army and the Navy enjoy full political rights and freedom. They are able to have full political contact with political literature and political speeches—
I do not mean when they are on active duty. I contend that these same rights and privileges should be allowed to the lower rank, and my appeal to the country is to squash their old-fashioned ideas about sedition, modify their old-fashioned ideas of the Army being kept in a glass cover and being unable to think politically, communistically, or socially, and alter the law in the direction of allowing the rank and file the same rights and privileges as are now open and possible to the officer class.
We have just had the privilege of listening to a speech, a clear speech, and a very logical speech, which a good many Members on both sides of the House will find difficult to controvert, from an hon. Member who styles himself a child of the British Labour party. While he was speaking 1 had an opportunity of watching the proud and happy parents, and I must confess that I never saw a more unhappy group in all my life. The poor old hen was never more surprised at the ugly duckling than were the respectable parents on the other side of the hon. Member who said he was a child of the British Labour party. I should like to say a word or two in regard to the attacks which have been made upon me and upon the Government at not being sufficiently severe, and also the compliments which have been showered upon me by hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. It is the first time the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has called me an angel, and I appreciate the compliment. It is one of those things that lend flavour to our sometimes angry discussions—
I want to make quite clear the position of the Government in regard to this question of sedition, and the view which has been expressed in more than one quarter that it is the duty of the Government to stop expressions of opinion, to take such steps, either by administration or prosecution or by obtaining further powers from Parliament, as will put a stop altogether to the expression of seditious opinions, or, at all events, Communist opinions, in this country. I want to be quite clear on this subject. Great Britain has been built up on the absolute freedom of opinion, thought and speech. The last time I spoke on this subject I quoted a statement of Lord Erskine, one of the greatest Judges we have ever had, in regard to the question of prosecution for opinion. He laid it down quite definitely that at no time in England was a man allowed to be prosecuted either for holding or for expressing opinion.
Hon. Members opposite, or people in any part of the country, are quite entitled to hold the view that the present economic system is wrong, and that it is desirable to substitute for it another system based on the doctrine of Karl Marx. They are quite entitled to that opinion, and they are quite entitled to spread that opinion. They are quite entitled to do their utmost at a General Election or at a Bye-Election and to express that opinion by means of the Ballot Box, which is open to everyone in this freest of all democratic countries. And in saying that I believe that all the compliments which have been paid by hon. Members opposite to the commonsense of the British people and the way in which they have been"sober, quiet and constitutional"under great hardship—I believe all those compliments are due to the fact that the British people know that they are the freest democracy, and that it is open to them, if they can get a majority, to change the. economic position of this country. On the other hand there are my hon. Friends and myself and others who totally disbelieve in the theories of the Socialist and Communist party.
I appreciate what was said by the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), that hon. Members opposite are honest in the holding of their opinions. I have said so frequently in this House, and I have very often appealed to them to give me credit, as the hon. and learned Member did, for the honesty of my opinion. Hon. Members opposite think that they will make a new Eldorado for the people of this country by an alteration of an economic system which we believe, equally honestly and clearly and equally determinedly, is the system under which the prosperity of the country has been built up, and under which the position of the working classes of the country has been enormously improved during the last 50 or 100 years. I do not think that anyone will deny that the position of the workers of this country under the present constitutional and economic system—I am not saying that it is as good as it might be—is infinitely better than it was 100, 70 or 50 years ago. I do not think any hon. Member opposite would question that statement except perhaps the hon. Member for—
; At all events the view I have expressed is a view which we honestly hold. But the Government say, and I say on their behalf, that we do not intend to depart from the fundamental right of every Englishman to state his views and to try to get his views accepted by the people as long as he proceeds on constitutional lines. He is entitled, as I say, to use the ballot box and to express by speeches to the people his view in favour of an economic system other than that in which we believe. But the moment he goes beyond that—and I believe I shall have the assent of the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds in this proposition—and says,"I desire to bring this about not by constitutional means or by the ballot box, but by an attempt at armed revolution," then' it is the duty of the Government to take such steps as are in their power to put a stop to that action. That is exactly where we have to draw the line between the economic views and the political methods of the great bulk—I admit—of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the views and political methods of a certain section of the community which is led very largely by the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala). We may be asked, as we were in a previous Debate, and as we have been asked tonight by the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds: Why give these people a gratuitous advertisement?
I was not referring to anything which the right hon. Gentleman might do to interfere; I was referring to the interference of the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Resolution.
Then I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coble Valley (Mr. Snowden) in the last Debate quite distinctly put this to us,"Why do you prosecute; why should these people be advertised? They are a very small section, leave them alone and no harm will be done." I think a Government is not entitled to take that view. If half-a-dozen men are seen setting alight a number of small fires in a factory, a little one here and a little one there, each one of no importance possibly, is it the duty of the policeman or the watchman to walk away and say,"They are only little fires," although when morning comes the whole factory may be burned down I have drawn a clear distinction between revolutionary Communism and Socialism, and I always have done so both in my speeches here and throughout the country, and in spite of the small character, it may be, of Communist revolutionary propaganda where there is revolutionary Communism preached definitely and clearly and frankly enunciated, then it is the duty of the Government to consider two things. First, is it illegal according to the law of the land, and, second, is it desirable to take proceedings against it?
I was challenged two weeks ago in reference to a speech made by the lion. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) at the Albert Hall and referred to by the hon. Member for North Battersea just now. I did not seek to prosecute in that case. I did not ask the Attorney-General, with whom the initiation of a prosecution rests, for his opinion because I thought, and I still think, that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley was melodramatic in the speech which he made on that occasion. At the same time, I may be guilty and the hon. Member for North Battersea has shown me where I maybe guilty. It may be that I was wrong, and that the hon. Member for North Battersea is right in saying there were in the Albert Hall on that occasion hundreds of young men who were not melodramatic and who took the view that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley was right and that his melodramatic speech may have the effect of leading hundreds of these young men into paths of revolutionary Communism in which they would be guilty of breaches of the law. That is, of course, what the
Home Secretary has to weigh, whether a thing is within the law or not, and whether it is desirable to take proceedings in regard to it. If I may say so, the hon. Member for North Battersea has for a long time been a great temptation to me. I must confess that more than once my fingers have itched when I read some of the hon. Member's speeches. Listen to this: on 22nd March this year be said:
The Union Jack is nothing but a symbol of murder and robbery.
That may not he seditious, but, after all, we on this side, and many Members opposite, believe in the Union Jack. Our blood boils when we hear statements of that kind made in regard to the Union Jack.
No, I am not. The hon. and gallant Gentleman either did not hear what I said, or I fear did not intend what he said. I said that we on this side of the House, and many Members opposite—those were my words—are just as keen on the Union Jack. The hon. and gallant Member, who served himself under the British flag, ought to be equally proud of it, and equally resentful of these words.
Surely, the best way of preventing it being made a political party symbol is for the whole House to rise up and denounce a speech of that kind. To go a step further in regard to my itching fingers: On the 21st of last month, at Bow Baths, the hon. Member for North Battersea said:
They must be prepared to go to places like Aldershot and the naval ports and carry placards pointing out to those unfortunate men who had joined the armed forces through economic pressure that their duty was to refuse to fight the workers and to join the Labour party and the Communist party.''
He went further than that a week ago, and I hope it will interest a large number of those who do not agree with the views of the hon. Member. Speaking at Mansfield he said:
The Army and Navy was composed of hired assassins, officered by the capitalist class, and they would be used in the capitalist interests.
Hon. Members opposite do not believe that. I am quite sure that they do not believe that, except perhaps one or two.
The workers made the bullets for the Army and Navy, and, when they were made, they handed them over to the capitalists. No wonder the capitalists felt safe. If the workers went to the Boss Clubs and said, 'Give us higher wages and shorter hours,' would they get it? No! Then it appeared that the only way was to break the law. The law said that the capitalist class should have these things. The law, the Church, the Army and the Navy were all behind the Boss Clubs.
To break the law! If the hon. Member or any other speaker in this country deliberately goes out and challenges me, challenges the Government., by saying that he intends to break the law, he knows what the law is. He has given a very fair interpretation of the law in this House to-night. He has been perfectly frank. He has told the House that all he said was the logical conclusion of what he learned at the feet of the Labour party some few years ago. Wherever the hon. Member learned it does not matter. The fact is that there is a distinct organisation in this country—it is not denied—the Communist party, who are out far in advance of the Labour party, far in advance of the trade union movement. They have been expelled from the trade union movement. [An HON. MEMBER:"No! "] They have been turned out of the trade union movement. [An HON. MEMBER:"No!"] Well, the bulk of the trade union movement do not agree with them. If there is that section, the Communists, who are out to deny the democratic position and the constitutional right of action through the ballot, and to say quite definitely:"We will use force; we will go to the Army and Navy, and we will ask them to join with us in using force, in order to destroy and alter the constitution of the country," then at all events it is the duty of the Government to govern. I was struck at hearing the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), in a previous Debate, quite frankly use those words, that the Government has a duty to govern, I agree, very respectfully, with him. We are placed here as the Committee of the great. democratic millions of this country. We are elected for a certain number of years. We, the Ministers, are in effect the apex of the democratic constitution.
For the time being, you have entrusted us with the powers of the community. The country as a whole has entrusted us —that is the position, and it would be the same if the party opposite got a majority —with the duty of governing the country, within the constitution, of course, and with due regard to law and order, and I say that when we took the steps which we did take a few months ago in regard to the Communists, we thought we were acting in accordance with what we believed and were advised to be the law. We thought it our duty to act, and we acted. We have not gone back from that action, and I say to hon. Members on my own side of the House that there is a very grave and a very heavy responsibility, upon the Home Secretary, perhaps, above all others, in regard to this matter. It is I who am, responsible for the maintenance of law and order in this country. Six months ago we struck. I have not asked my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General to make any further prosecutions up to the present, but I know the position, I think, perhaps, even more fully than the hon. Members who have spoken here to-night. Information is in my hands, and from time to time that information accumulates. If the hon. Member for North Battersea, or if any other, inside or outside of this House—
If anybody, inside or outside of this 'House, thinks the time has come to challenge the right of the democratic Government to maintain law and order in this country, he will find that this democratic Government will not be averse from taking up the challenge.
I want to say a word in connection with this matter. The right hon. Gentleman said that the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) had himself said that he was the child of the Labour party. May I say that the hon. Member, in conversation with me, told me he was a Liberal before he was a Labour man?