The House has been engaged in a very interesting Debate on evacuation and problems arising from it. I do not want to touch upon that Debate but would like to turn to what I think is a larger issue. But let me say in passing however, in reference to evacuation, that I live in Manchester, where we have suffered as much, I think, as some other places, and I agree with the Secretary of State for Scotland when he said that when you are at war you cannot expect the same housing accommodation as you can get during peace time. And hon. Members who are harassing the Government ought to understand that housing accommodation is lessened every time we are Blitzed. I want the House to be courteous enough once again to allow me, in the short time at my disposal, to say a few words upon the issue of peace aims. I know that the subjects connected with the war which I raise here from time to time may be unpopular, but during the many years I have been here the House of Commons has always been good enough to listen, although hon. Members may not always have agreed with me. I hope that may be the case to-day. When I speak on such issues I have always to make it clear that I speak for myself alone. There are, however, some few hon. Members who adopt my "slant" on the problems of war and peace. I make no secret of my views upon war. I abhor war, I hate war, and, in my reading of history, in the long run wars never settle anything. They simply make working people poorer than they were when the war began.
The last war actually widened the gulf between rich and poor in this country, and probably this war will do the same thing. Let me say that the Labour party to which I belong, it is the only party to which I have ever belonged and the only party to which, I suppose, I shall ever belong—
If the hon. Member joined it I think I should despair. On 9th February, 1940, after the war had been proceeding for some time, the Labour party issued a statement, "Why discuss peace aims now?" For the last 30 or 35 years, with honourable colleagues of mine, I have stood on, probably, thousands of Labour party platforms to enlist support for the things contained in that statement and that I hope to say this afternoon. I do not change my mind on war because war takes place. I take the same view upon war whether peace or war prevails. This is what my party said:
The Labour party issues this declaration of peace aims now, although the war is not yet won. Victory is our immediate task, but before the peoples are further estranged by slaughter and suffering a lasting and just peace may be brought nearer by stating clearly what our immediate war purpose is, and what should be the principles and methods of the final settlement. Discussion of territorial details is out of place at present, but a statement of the broad lines of settlement may be useful and opportune now.
Living in Manchester, and having been through two nights of hell, and having seen the devastation there—and I am not unlike other hon. Members in that respect —I think the time has arrived when the growing volume of opinion about this war ought to be stated in Parliament, the views of some of the homeless, the injured and the maimed, the people who have suffered because of this war must be voiced. And I can assure hon. Members that there is a growing feeling that we ought to do something better than shouting slogans about a final victory, a fight for freedom and smashing Hitlerism. Let me make it clear that I have always been proud of being a Britisher. Whenever I am abroad, if anybody criticises the
country to which I belong—and no doubt other hon. Members have felt like it—1 become an ardent British patriot, but when I am at home I feel that I am entitled to criticise our institutions and the policy of our Governments. Since the Labour party issued that declaration the Coalition Government have come into being, and we on this side have asked His Majesty's Coalition Government several times whether we cannot have a statement of peace aims. The reply on every occasion has been that the time has been inopportune. I am not without feeling that there are difficulties at times in stating peace aims during a war, but Lord Halifax, our representative in the United States of America, delivered a speech. Speaking in New York on 25th March, 1941, he said:
The principal war aim of my people and of those who are fighting with us is to win this life-and-death struggle for the cause of human freedom, but even the achievement of victory would be Dead Sea fruit unless we could also achieve that which must be the greatest peace aim, of securing the world, so far as it is within human power to do so, against a repetition of this tragedy
I agree with that statement, but it is too nebulous by far as a statement of peace aims. I do not want, of course, a detailed statement as to what should happen to Danzig, the Sudeten, Austria and Eastern Galicia but we are entitled to a reply to what is called Hitler's new order in Europe. I am not familiar with economics, high finance or international arrangements, but things like the Ottawa Agreement, tariffs, quotas and payment for goods by barter or by gold between one country and another, are problems that ought to be settled at some time, and something ought to be said about them now.
The Prime Minister made what I thought was a very irresponsible statement the other night over the wireless, when he said that there were 70,000,000 malignant Huns, millions of them curable and millions killable. I challenge that statement; that philosophy is just like Hitler's charge against the Jews. To say that a race or nation is all malignant is not true. If there are, as we are told, 32,000,000 Catholics, millions of Protestants, some Quakers and millions of Socialists in Germany who do not agree with Hitler any more than I do—I want to make that point clear—I would prefer the British Government to say something that will appeal to those millions of people in Germany who probably detest Nazism and all that it stands for as much as we here detest it. It is not enough either for the British Government to answer Hitler by saying what they are going to do with the economics of Europe. They ought to say something about what they intend doing here at home. They ought to say whether the capitalist system, as we know it, is to continue as in the past. What are we to do about that question? All over Central Europe the capitalist system has practically disappeared. Is it to remain here?
I understand that the barter system entered into recently between Germany and Russia abolished many of the complications of capitalism affecting trade between one country and another. I am not sufficiently familiar with that problem to pursue it any further. I am annoyed when I hear hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House talk glibly about fighting for freedom and Democracy. I have never seen India, but while hon. Members talk about freedom and the rights of the individual, 5,000 or 6,000 leaders of the Indian people are kept in gaol. It is sheer perfidy and hypocrisy when that sort of thing is allowed to continue. The clergy, the statesmen, the politicians, the Press and the B.B.C. all say the same thing about a final victory. As a member of a very humble denomination let me say what has induced me to take the line which I have taken on the war. If I am blamed for my opposition to war, the ministers of the church should be blamed for the teaching which they have given. I have yet to understand why the Christians of one country should fight the Christians of another country and why they should pray for victory in Germany and at the same time pray for victory in this country to the same God.
I think I am a little more sensible than that. I am pleading that our Government ought to make a statement of what we are fighting about. [AN HON. MEMBER: "We have."] We have never said what we are fighting about, except in slogans which are meaningless. Once the British Government make a statement such as I suggest, I hope they will rally behind them, not only the men and women of good will in France, Germany and Central Europe, but men and women of good will in this country also. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that many men, probably millions, in this country who support the war, still want to know what the fight is about. That, in short, is the contention that I make.
Let me come back however to the question of the Church. I have never understood the Church's attitude towards war. For some three centuries, after its foundation, the Church decided not to have anything to do with war in any circumstances, in spite of persecution.
In 1936, the Prime Minister made a statement which I think was correct. He said—
Another great war would destroy what is left of the civilisation of the world, and the glory of Europe would sink for uncounted generations into the abyss
When people descend gradually into poverty they do not feel it as they would if the drop were sudden. Gradually, Europe is now sinking into the abyss. I hope it may never come true, but if the statesmen of Europe do not take steps to bring this conflict to a close by some means other than a fight to a finish they may find an exhausted Continent, under famine and pestilence, with the result that Communist groups will emerge and Communist Governments will be in control over most of the European countries. If we destroy Nazism, and Communism takes its place, may I ask hon. Gentlemen whether they are prepared to declare war on Bolshevism afterwards? Some of us feel very strongly because the statesmen of Europe have not found some better way out of this situation. Some day they will have to meet round a table to discuss the very problems that caused this war, and as far as I am concerned—and I think I am speaking the minds of a goodly number of folk in the mines, factories, offices and shops when I say so—if any power in the world, Government or individuals, could do anything to remove the gloom and hatred now smothering Europe and bring peace to the peoples, that power would be thanked by many generations to come. Whilst I am not for peace at any price I am opposed to war at any cost.
I would like to say a few words in reply to my hon. Friend and colleague on these benches because I think it is about time that the statements he has made should be met by his colleagues, so that the House may know how we feel on this matter. It is a wonderful tribute to this country, which the hon. Member seemed to belittle —
—that in this House he can express the views which he has expressed this afternoon and that those views are listened to with tolerance and respect. That is something of which he ought to be proud, and something for which he ought to give credit to the country.
It must not be assumed for a moment that I wish to belittle this country. I am as proud of this country as any person, but I would be prouder still if it kept out of war.
But it is this country which, by a huge majority, has determined to stand against Hitlerism. The country is made up of its inhabitants, and so far as I can see about 99 per cent. of its inhabitants are out for seeing that Hitler is beaten. They make up the country, and so, if my hon. Friend is proud of his country, he ought to be proud of his countrymen who wish to carry on the war until victory comes. That is the line I think he ought to take.
Dees the hon. Gentleman think it would be democratic, even though 90 per cent. of the people are in favour of carrying on the war, if the other 10 per cent. were not allowed to put forward their views? That would not be real democracy.
I am trying to say to hon. Members that if they believe in this country, where there are over 90 per cent. of the people behind the War, respect ought to be given to the vast majority. 1 go as much as anybody among the people to try and find out what their feelings are, and even after the terrible blitzes I find this spirit dominating: Carry on until this terror, this menace to Europe, is removed. That is the verdict of the people. The hon. Member was talking about what would happen if certain things took place. Yes, all that will happen if Hitler is successful, but if we are successful in crushing him, there will be some opportunity of developing along the lines which the hon. Member has been trying to describe. What is to happen to the churches, he asks, if this war goes on? What is to happen to the churches if Hitler wins? What has he done in Germany, to free speech, religion and everything else? It is because we know what he has done in Germany, and in every country he has conquered, that we say, however much we may hate war, that it is the only stand that an honourable man or woman in this country could take.
To remain idle and supineas we have done would be a tragedy, and I blame hon. Members like the hon. Member who has just spoken for the fact that we have arrived at our present position. I believe that if this country had prepared for war six or seven years ago, this would never have taken place. I have reason to believe that Hitler and Germany have been weighing their chances and, seeing that this country was not ready for war, they took the opportunity of striking and of conquering country after country. If we had been strongly prepared, and if Hitler had known that when he struck at a weaker country we should be ready to deliver a counter-blow, he would never have dared to do what he has done. I am as big a peace lover as anybody else —and I am a fighter too when I am driven to fight—but I want to say to peace lovers that Hitler does not recognise that kind of thing at all. He is out for the domination of the world, to kill free speech and everything else that is free, so that Europe will be governed by him.
The hon. Member blames the Prime Minister for having criticised the whole of Germany. I do not blame him. For a number of years we have been trying to appease Germany—even after the war started—and have been saying that we are only against Hitler and the few behind him. But the German people keep helping Hitler, and giving him all the help they can. If it is correct that the commander of the "Bismarck," when that ship was sunk, sent home a message about "God bless the Fuehrer," or "Long life to Hitler," does not that show that the German people believe in the Fuehrer? We do not believe in him, and we are right to tell the German people what we think about them. I wish I could believe that the majority of the German people are not of that way of thinking, but seeing that they are behind Hitler, surely the Prime Minister is not to be blamed for telling the world what he thinks about them. I hope the hon. Member will try to think about these things, because the freedom that he now enjoys would, should Hitler conquer, be swept away altogether. Both he and I are hoping that at the end of the war a new system will be developed which will give the working people a better outlook in life than they have yet had, but I realise that unless we are able to defeat Hitler, neither he nor I will have the opportunity of working for a better world.
Before I conclude I would also say this: The people who are fighting this war and putting their all into it will, when a successful issue has been brought about, be able to give their all to develop this country on the right lines, in order to give to everybody the standard of life to which we are entitled. I do not object to the hon. Member's criticism of what has happened in the past in this country. I have fought along with him to try and get it altered.
If the hon. Member tells me that when we have defeated Hitler we shall build a new world, may I ask if he does not remember that last time we gained the most decisive victory in the history of. the world, and although we achieved that victory thousands of miners in my division were unemployed for 10 years?
I realise the tragedy of all that, and I realise that it will be a lesson for us when we have won this war. But I can visualise a period after this war when there will be no unemployment at all, and when we shall try to build up on the lines we are now following for the. successful prosecution of the war. We shall turn our energies to finding employment for everybody, and the same brains and intellects which are now doing that for war purposes will be able to do the same in times of peace. I hope that when the hon. Member is making speeches in the country he will not point out to the populace that they were promised all this after the last war, and did not get it, and try and get it into their minds that after the conclusion of this war they are likely to get what they got last time. That is not right, because the same men who are now putting their all into winning this war can help us to develop on better lines after the war is over. Then the hon. Member said we were travelling to the abyss. I think we shall be travelling to the abyss, and rapidly, if speeches like his get any hold at all. If he means that we should try to patch up peace with Hitler— and I can see no other meaning in his speech than that—with all Hitler's broken pledges in the past, how can we expect any peace for the world in future? We are up against the greatest tragedy of all time. It means either the survival or the defeat of civilisation as we know it. If Hitler wins, that civilisation will be defeated.
I have a great liking for the hon. Member; but I would ask him, has he carefully weighed up the true position? Any overtures at this time might lead to aweakening of the war spirit and make Hitler think that he has a greater chance than he has. I put it to the hon. Member that there can be no agreement with Hitler, who has never carried out any pledge that he has made. If I may, I will pay one tribute to a man with whom I never agreed. No man went further than the late Mr. Chamberlain. He put trust in Hitler's word. After he had been to Munich to meet Hitler, he came back believing that he had got peace. Many of us doubted it, but the hon. Member for Westhoughton, I believe, cheered him. The hon. Member knows of the tragedy of Czecho-Slovakia. Within a few months. Hitler had marched in, and had broken all his pledges. That has been his policy all the time. Whatever the consequences may be, I see no other way but carrying on the fight as bitterly as we can until Hitler cries for peace. Otherwise, there is no hope for civilisation. I feel, as a member of the Labour party, that we have to tell the people that the views of the hon. Member for Westhoughton are not those of the Labour party. That is why I am pleased to have the opportunity of putting my views before the House of Commons.
It is a little unfortunate that this Debate has turned into a dispute between the pacifists and the non-pacifists. The hon. Member for West- houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is a pacifist, but I do not think it was his intention to allow the Debate to develop on those lines. He rather wanted to urge the importance of getting a statement of peace aims from the Government.
It is not the same thing. Perhaps if my hon. Friend, with his usual patience, will let me speak, he will see that there is some sense in what I say. Although I do not agree with the hon. Member for Westhoughton, because I am not a pacifist, I very much admire the sincerity and the perseverance with which he puts his point of view. I think that the difference between him and me is that people holding my philosophy recognise the existence of positive evil, which has to be resisted. But that is not to say that you must go on resisting positive evil with your head down, completely blind, and with nothing to steer by.
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) said that the rebuilding of Europe, in the way that we want it, would come about if and when we were successful. He did not tell us what kind of Europe he proposed to offer. I do not want delimitation of frontiers and so on, but T want the main principles stated. I think the hon. Member is wrong in his assumption that all the Germans are necessarily as evil as he would like us to believe. I think his analogy was false when he spoke of the commander of a large battleship sending a message to his commander-in-chief in Berlin that he saluted him as he went down; and, because a serving officer in a high position is moved, in the hour of death, to send such a message to his leader does not mean that millions of ordinary people think likewise. What I and people who feel like me are pressing for is some constructive positive statement on principles. It is no use the Government telling us that the time is not convenient. A statement of principles can be made at any time. Our propaganda is a complete failure because there has been no such statement of principles. It is no use the hon. Member for Leigh saying that we all perfectly understand what we are fighting for and that the Germans must be beaten, unless he recognises that the kind of propaganda we are putting out, in the shape of "Black Record" and that sort of thing, can only have the catastrophic effect of rallying behind Hitler all those elements that we want to separate from him. The hon. Member for Leigh is the last person who wants to see this country defeated— and I am the second last. [Interruption.] I will give the hon. and gallant Member second place if he wants it.
That was only a manner of speech on my part. If we are to get the result we want to achieve, we have to get the sensible people in Europe to rally behind us. The propaganda we are putting out is having the opposite effect. We know that one of the strongest weapons we have is the blockade, and that, behind it, Hitler is organising his "new order," which is nothing less than people taking in one another's washing. Why cannot we say that the moment this war stops and they throw over the regime that they are under at present, we can offer them something better than anything that Hitler has to offer, free trade with the whole of the world? That would have a vast and far-reaching effect.
With Hitler in control of the Press, radio, films, and every other means of propaganda communication in Germany, how does the hon. Member propose to get over our peace aims, or what we are fighting for, to the ordinary man in the street in Germany, to the 32,000,000 Catholics in Germany, or to the people whom he hopes to enlist as allies?
That is a perfectly fair question. I am not suggesting that Dr. Goebbels, on request from the House of Commons, would publish our peace aims on the wireless. But there are many ways in which it could be done. Has the hon. Member any experience of being a soldier in occupation of another country? The further the German armies spread over Europe, the easier it will be to infiltrate this kind of propaganda among the people of Germany.
The most uncomfortable memory I have is of occupying Germany. Soldiers do not like to be in other people's countries. You can get propaganda over in many ways. I do not believe the Germans do not listen to the wireless. I know there are heavy penalties, but I do not believe that there is nobody there with any courage.
If the hon. Member says that they live in a hermetically sealed tin, that is a matter of difference between us. Another question is the way in which these views are held in America. I have an extract here from the New York "Times" of 2nd March of this year. The article was headed, "Peace Aims regarded as Essential to Peace," followed by "Marked influence on German people seen should democracies make known what they were willing to grant to all of Europe in victory" The article is largely the story of a correspondence between an American writer and a German friend who left Germany for political reasons in 1933. He writes:
I still maintain that Hitler's hold can be broken if acceptable peace aims were to be announced. You know as well as I that Germany will fight it out to the last man if there remains only the choice between two evils— Hitler and another Versailles—andI have gradually come round to the view that the only hope for our people in that case lies in a fusion with the Soviet Russia.
He goes on to say:
You know better than anyone that I have not changed my mind about Hitler and all that he stands for. We have hoped and we have worked for a different Germany and for a different Europe but I cannot desert my country. The idea of fighting for Hitler is revolting to me but I feel that my place is in Germany now and I shall leave for Europe next week
The article concludes with this comment from the writer:
The demand (for peace aims) must again be voiced not in the interests of any one people but in the interests of all of Europe and of Western and democratic civilisation. A pronouncement of peace aims can become the cornerstone for the building of a new and better Europe
It may be Goebbels' propaganda, but I find it much too easy to expect that the opposite point of view in every case really is the work of the enemy. I do not understand that point of view at all. You can say that it is Goebbels' propaganda. I cannot prove it. I did not know that the New York "Times" is essentially pro-Goebbels. Is it so? I always understand to the contrary.
Then we shall go on for ever and ever, and no one will be able to trust anyone any more. I am not asking that you should not say it if you wish to, but I am convinced that the best war weapon that we have is a statement of principle showing to the people of Europe the very great offer that we could make to them when peace comes, and it is possible that as a result of such a statement we would face a far shorter war than at present appears likely.
The hon. Member who opened this discussion said that he hated war. We all hate war as much as he does. Every person in the country hates and loathes war and surely there is no point in bringing in an issue of this kind. He also said that he hated Hitler. His policy is one which would hand over this country to Hitler. We all recognise his complete sincerity, but at the same time he was unable to face up to the issue that was put to him, "What would you do now? Would you lay down arms?"
It is a fair question., We are responsible Members of Parliament and have to defend the policy we take up. His policy is simply to hand over this country to Hitler. The policy works out exactly the same as the policy of the Communist party in practice, much as he may dislike being found in the same boat. The hon. Member is, as he must recognise in what he says, not in the lease representative of the opinion of this country. Much as we should regret it on personal grounds, if there were a general election now or a by-election in his constituency he would not have any hope of being returned. The people of the country had an opportunity at a recent by-election at King's Norton of freely expressing their view, and it was clear what they thought of the Peace Pledge Union candidate on that occasion. I think it is clear to all of us who mix with our constituents that they are in a very grim and determined mood. They are prepared to bear all and to suffer all and to go right through to the bitter end until victory arrives. No difficulties, no dangers and no defeats will keep them down. They recognise that the struggle is real. However it may have arisen, or whether it might have been prevented or not, that is not the issue we are considering at the moment. It is an issue now between right and wrong, and saving that which civilisation has built up in many centuries past, and the darkness and bleakness of the barbarism of the Middle Ages.
With regard to what the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) said, I would make one comment. It has always seemed to me, and, I suppose, to all of us, that there are three ways in which victory can be brought about—by the pressure of blockade, by increasing the power of air bombardment and by propaganda in getting over to the German people—and I do not think that it is impossible—by one means or another, what our views are and what we are thinking. We should try and make them realise that their cause is hopeless, that we are going on to victory at all costs and nothing is going to keep us down, and that will have a very considerable effect on their morale. The position is quite different in their case. They are not going to bear up and suffer and go on to the bitter end. If they see danger of defeat coming, they will certainly break. The danger of defeat facing this country would not cause us to break, but only make us more determined than ever. We certainly ought to try and get before the German people the reasonable point of view from the world aspect that we have that we are not going to make slaves of them after the war is over as they would make slaves of us. They do not know that and we have to make it clear to them.
When the hon. Member talks about the necessity of these aims being stated, I agree that in principle that is very desirable. It is the Government's own policy. Many of us who are 100 per cent. supporters of the Government in the war —far more than the hon. Member for Ipswich—have been pressing them to put forward their views on war and peace aims. We recognise that it can only be done in most general terms, and recently a statement has been made. Since the article in the New York "Times" which has been quoted, it was stated by Lord Halifax in New York. Although it was in general terms—and I hope it will be developed a great deal—it goes a considerable way and covers a number of important points. I ventured to take out a number of points that seemed important and put them down in the form of a Motion asking that this House would definitely approve of the policy put forward by Lord Halifax. If I might mention two or three of these points, I think we shall see what a long way they go. Lord Halifax emphasises in effect—and this point is one which it is necessary to bear in mind almost more than anything else— that we must, after this war, set up a system of military might, prearranged, certain to operate, that will be available to attack any aggressor in any part of the world at the first moment he attempts to raise his head. We did not have that before this war. Many of us urged that it should be done, but it was not in operation. Lord Halifax said:
There should be co-operation between nations for mutual economic warfare and, if need be, for mutual defence, the establishment of an international order admitting of ordered change in the relations between States and a willingness to join hands with any State which genuinely seeks peace and the prosperity of the world by honouring its engagements and ensuring individual liberty.
Then he went on:
The possibility of utilising the British Commonwealth by reason of its geographical dispersion is the approach to greater world unity
Whether we try it again as before, through the League of Nations, or, if that is not practical, whether as an alternative we reach it through the British Commonwealth of Nations, let us do it by all
means. It seems to me that it would be an admirable thing if we linked up with our Allies in this war who, I believe, would be only too willing to make mutually agreeable arrangements for foreign affairs and defence purposes, and made them for practical purposes working members of the British Empire. It would be simply extending our practice and experience to the whole world. That is the policy adumbrated by Lord Halifax, which, I believe, would be acceptable to our Allies and peace-loving States and which is, possibly, the easiest line of advance for world peace in future. Lord Halifax also said:
There must be after the war a sufficient armed strength to make effective the will of the nations to preserve peace and freedom. There must be a refusal to negotiate for peace with Hitler
Some hon. Members have said that we shall have to meet Hitler in the long run, but it is no use meeting round the table crooks and gangsters whose word you cannot trust or a man whom you have to watch the whole time. No; we shall have to get somebody much more respectable if he can be found.
I mean associated with the British Empire, perhaps in the same way as we have alliances with Egypt and certain other States at the present time. For all practical purposes for foreign affairs and defence there would be unity between the British Empire and her Allies. I am sorry if there has been any misunderstanding about that. As I was saying, there must be a refusal to work with Hitler, because you cannot possibly trust him. When the time comes to sign the terms of peace we must make sure that this time the representatives of the different sections of the German people put their names on the paper as agreeing to the terms of surrender which will have to be finally exacted. That is not excluding the Nazis. I know that their signature is not worth the paper it is written on, but we do not want them in future days to turn round on those who have signed the peace terms
and say, "It was your doing; we have no responsibility" The Nazis and their friends must be made to be just as much responsible as anybody else for the terms that are made after this war. I think, too, that when that time arrives the victorious Allied troops should be seen in Berlin and the main cities and towns of Germany so that the Germans can never say again, "We never lost this war" Let them see for themselves that they have lost it. Finally, Lord Halifax says:
There should be a declaration that we desire neither vindictive peace nor territorial gains but steps should be taken to insure the world against a repetition of war at the hands of Germany
Sir Robert Vansittart, in his famous "Black Record," referred to the fact that there were never enough good Germans at any one time to have any effect on the policy of Germany. That is an admission that there are some good Germans, and our policy should be to try and increase that number. It may be a long process, requiring a tremendous system of re education, but we must try to bring that about while holding Germany down and preventing her starting another war during her period of re-education, and make sure that it will never arise afterwards.
Assuming that it amounted to a programme of satisfactory peace aims, does the hon. Member say to this House that the speech of an Ambassador in Washington can take the place of a declaration by His Majesty's Government?
With regard to his actual terms, they were picked out by me from the speech made by Lord Halifax and put forward as a Motion which is on the Order Paper of the House of Commons. That speech has a certain value; it was made on behalf of the Government and published as a White Paper, and it should be elaborated as I have tried to elaborate it to-day. I think the Government would be very wise, in the interests of shortening and winning the war, to make use of the principles embodied in that declaration as a means of propaganda by endeavouring to get over to the German people by all possible means the sort of ideas set out so clearly and admirably in that speech by our Ambassador. I hope one result of this Debate to-day will be to increase interest in the matter, that action will be devoted to that aspect of our war weapon and that it will be made clear to the whole world that we here in the House of Commons stand more united and determined than ever to go on until the war has been won and Nazism has been destroyed for ever.
I do not think there is any difference on any side of the House about the question that we must win this war, but I have the impression that some hon. Members think those of us who desire a declaration of peace aims arc in the position of going to Hitler on bended knees. I emphatically repudiate that. There is no doubt whatever that nobody in this House or in any part of the country is prepared to go to Hitler on bended knees and sue for the peace that he would impose upon us. That is not our position. My point of view, and the point of view of others, is that what we want to do is to divide the German nation and unite the British nation. One of the great problems in this war is to effect a real division inside Germany. For many months at the beginning of the war, we were told that Hitler would be forsaken by the German people, but the events that have taken place, instead of dividing Hitler from his people, have brought him and his people closer together. As far as I can gather, Hitler, with his military victories, has something to show to his people, and he is now more in their hearts than he was at the beginning of the war. It seems to me that we have done nothing to divide the German people from him. To state it bluntly, we have been unable to do so on the military plane, and therefore I urge upon the Government the necessity of their making a statement of peace aims in order to do whatever we can to divide the German people from Hitler and unite the people of this country.
It is useless to say at this time that among people of what is broadly called the Left there is the same unity and the same trust as there were 12 months ago. I have seen articles in publications of what is generally called the intellectual Left in which it has been stated that, whereas the war started with the aims and purposes of the Left, it is now being waged for the aims and purposes of the Right. I mention that only to show that already, among Left opinion, there is some doubt, scepticism and questioning as to the aims and purposes for which the war is being waged. J submit that this is confirmed by the statement in a recent speech of the Prime Minister, delivered, I believe, to the Central Conservative Council, when he said that the Government cannot state peace aims because in the statement of peace aims there would be a danger of a division and a difference of opinion. That remark confirms the suspicion of those who write the articles to which I have referred. I say quite sincerely to the Government that if they want a united nation they must get it, not merely by military action, not even by military victory, but by a concensus of opinion on clearly stated and determined peace aims.
I think the hon. Member has misrepresented the Prime Minister's remarks. I think the Prime Minister directed attention to the conditions which might obtain in this country after the war, and that he made it quite clear that there was no division of opinion in the country as to the peace aims of this country in defeating the enemy.
The military defeat of the enemy is a war aim. I repeat that doubt and suspicion as to the purposes of the war will grow at an increasingly rapid rate unless the Government clearly and definitely state their peace aims. I am not a pacifist, and I say that one of the finest and most effective war weapons which the Government could have at this moment would be a declaration of their peace aims. I make this appeal to the Government in the interests of defeating Hitlerism. I know that the Under-Secretary of State is as well aware as I am that people in various grades of society are now asking whether the war is really against Hitlerism, or whether—I am stating bluntly what people have said to me —it is an Imperialist war. The Government can settle people's minds on that question. It is only the Government that can allay people's fears.
I am stating the questions that arise in people's minds. People are asking why the Government do not state their peace aims, why they do not give an assurance that what we are fighting for is the real downfall of Hitlerism. Blood, sweat, toil and tears are no real peace aim, and will not keep the morale of our people going during the long stresses and strains of war. Morale can be maintained only if people are convinced that there will not arise after this war a similar situation to that which arose after the last war. Do not let us forget that many people are alive who went through the last war. Many people had their dreams of what might happen after that war. Many people thought there would no longer be unemployment, poverty and degradation, and that all those things would be done away with. There is scepticism on these matters. I ask the Government what contribution they have to make. In a sense, Hitler has peace aims in Europe; not that I agree with them; but if one follows events and the opinions that are expressed, one finds that he has brought a Hitler order to Europe. There is something positive about that. We may dislike it, we may differ from it, quarrel with it, and want to overthrow it, but it is something positive, and indeed, there are many people who are saving that it is something positive that may last.
I ask the Government what positive contribution have they to make in the way of a declaration, not merely on the military plane but on the political and economic plane? For, after all, behind the military action and the weapons, behind the war itself, behind Hitlerism, lies the gigantic problem of unemployment and poverty. There lies the root of the trouble that exists. The qualities of Hitler may explain why Hitler is there, but they do not explain why Hitlerism is in Germany. Without doubt, it is a product of the post-war economic difficulties and the gigantic unemployment throughout Europe. Hitler took advantage of the unemployment and poverty that existed. I ask the Government, therefore, what positive contribution have they to make to the European order? What positive contribution have they to make to the economic and social order in Britain? I do not want to see us under the heel of Hitler. I would rather be dead than be under the heel of Hitler. It is on that basis that I appeal to the Govern- ment to give us a weapon to show that we are a united nation and that we really mean to get a better world. I appeal to the Government, therefore, to state their peace aims now, because now is the opportune time, in order that we may march forward to victory with a united nation such as has never been known.
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is a substantial figure, but I wish he would recognise certain physical facts. He did not tell us, for example, how we could convey to the German people that constructive statement for which he pleaded so eloquently. I know we heard him say certain things, but he might not have heard that it is an offence in Germany to listen to foreign broadcasts. He stated that as the German tide swept over the Continent of Europe it might be possible for our propaganda to make an impression on the fringe of that tide. I do not agree with him. The further the Nazis go, the more nations they trample down, the more progressive the submergence of freedom. What Czech, what Pole, what Frenchman to-day can say what he likes? How much freedom of speech or of opinion is there left to-day to the Bulgarians, the Rumanians, the Yugoslavs and the Greeks?
I am sorry I interrupted the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) while he was speaking. But I could not help feeling that he was most anxious to assume a rôle of peculiarity. He is not peculiar in detesting war. He is not peculiar in having experienced severe air raids. He is not even peculiar in desiring a statement of peace aims. But it does not occur to the hon. Gentleman, nor to the other hon. Members who have spoken in the same sense, that before so very long the United States may desire, in common with the British Commonwealth of Nations, to say something upon peace aims. Do not let the hon. Member suggest that the sufferings of war are sustained solely by the poorer classes.
I was answering the hon. Member for Westhoughton, but if the hon. Member for Ipswich wishes to undertake the task of the hon. Member for West-houghton I do not object. I believe that we a re going to proceed to victory in common with the United States. I believe that that will come before so very long and that we shall be engaged on this common task. It is at least common sense, if and when the United States have joined our side, that we should be inspired by a common purpose. I do not see that that is anything more than the merest common sense. I must repeat again to the hon. Member for Westhoughton that it is quite a fallacy to suggest that suffering in wartime is limited to the poorer classes. The greatest suffering, the greatest sacrifice, the greatest loss which any man or woman can undergo is death. Sudden death spares neither the rich nor the poor.
I have heard the hon. Member, when his national susceptibilities have been touched from time to time, charge whatever has been the Government of the day with insults to small nations. I would remind the hon. Member that Wales is not the only small nation in the world; although upon no Welshman has; any ban of silence been imposed. I wish the hon. Member would direct some of his Doric fury against that monstrous enemy of small nationalities—the present Government of Germany. That is one of the things for which I take leave to define we are fighting to-day—the freedom and independence of small nationalities, as well as the dignity of the individual man. I say to the hon. Member that there is one thing which is worse than war, and one thing which is more un-Christian than war, and that is tyranny and submission to it. That might not be clear to the hon. Member, but it has become clear both to the President of the United States and to the American people as a whole. The hon. Member says that he will have nothing to do with war, but if we lose this war, of which the hon. Member so graciously washes his hands, he will certainly no longer enjoy that freedom to speak as he has spoken to-day—a minority voice which is contrary to the general will of our people, as anyone can tell by conversations inside and outside this House, and by diagnosing the results of by-elections in which absolute freedom of speech is to all intents and purposes still allowed. His is a minority voice contrary to the general good, as we-believe, as well.
The hon. Member referred to "the abyss" How is Europe going to be delivered from this abyss which the hon. Member describes? Is it to be delivered by acquiescence in Hitler's conquests? Such acquiescence would surely mean the disintegration of the British Commonwealth of Nations which is the greatest citadel of freedom in the world to-day. No, we are only going to be delivered from this abyss by the defeat not only of Nazism but of modern Germany as well. I do not mind if it offends the hon. Member and those who agree with him, but I do not want the next generation, which we have begotten, to have to undergo the same experiences which we have already suffered. I do not want them to undergo in another quarter and half century hence what our day and generation have seen —two great wars. Germany must and will be thoroughly defeated, and must not be allowed to break the peace again at will. At the bitter end of this war it will be better to compel peace by the defeat and disintegration of this great and ruthless power in the centre of Europe, than to allow our children and grandchildren to be cursed by any revival of the insane ambitions of Germany.
The hon. and gallant Member for West Leeds (Major Adams) and the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) have answered very fully, and have expressed the views of many of us sitting here, the speech of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). I would not wish to add to what they have said, but there were one or two points which the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) raised which, I think, do require a brief answer. The hon. Member for Ipswich said that no constructive and positive statement has been made. The hon. Member for East Wolvernampton (Mr. Mander) gave us some very fine words which were spoken by our Ambassador to the United States.
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member. Lord Halifax is a member of the War Cabinet, and he has made a statement on principles. It is not the case that there has been no statement made. At the beginning of this war the late Prime Minister made a very clear statement on principles, and on other occasions statements have been made showing that we are fighting this war for our survival, for decency and for upholding those things which the hon. Lady the Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie) stated our forefathers had fought for throughout the centuries. What greater principles could you have to fight for than that?
I do not wish to enter into a scrum with the hon. Member, but the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) only quoted extracts from the speech of Lord Halifax. There are certain passages with which I profoundly disagree, and I should like to put that on record, because I have not got the exact quotations with me.
That may be so, but it does not alter the fact that some very positive statements were made. However, it is not the case, as the hon. Member suggested, that no statement has been made, and I think it is as well that that should be also on record. The hon. Member for Ipswich went on to say —
The hon. Member is raising a point which ought to be dealt with at once. Perhaps the right hon. Member who replies will deal with it. The statement made by Viscount Halifax was made on behalf of the Government and represents their policy. Do not let us have any misunderstanding about that.
The statements have been made, and that is the important point. The hon. Member for Ipswich went on to deprecate the statement made in "Black Record" by Sir Robert Vansittart. I think that is a very valuable statement, because it shows how difficult is our task in educating the Germans into our way of thinking. What is this task which we have to pursue? The Nazis have led the German people into thinking that they can hit other people without themselves being hit. That was why they invaded Poland and hit aircraft on the ground there, so that Germany could not be bombed. They invaded Norway because they knew very well that the Norwegians had no aircraft to enable them to bomb back. They did the same thing in the Low Countries. We know how in 1914 they expressed contempt of the British Army, and they said the same thing about the Royal Air Force at the beginning of this war. The only way in which we can make Germans realise that war does not pay is to hit back so hard that they will never want to go to war again for many generations. The hon. Member suggests that we can start talking about peace now, when only a few days ago we read of the brutal, deliberate dive-bombing of cities in Crete and of the machine-gunning of women and children in the streets. How can you make peace with people who do that sort of thing? It is impossible* Until we hit Germany, as I hope we are going to do in the coming months, harder and harder, we shall not get them to talk or think sense.
If tyranny comes from within, it is up to us to remove that internal tyranny, but you cannot remove tyranny imposed on you by force from without. I do not want to live, and I do not want my family to live, under the sort of conditions imposed in Poland and other countries overrun by Germany.
None of us wants the war lost, but we want the war stopped at the earliest possible moment under decent conditions. It is for the sake of ourselves, of our children and our young men, and not because of any tenderness for Germany.
The quickest way in which we can stop the war is by building up our Air Force as rapidly as possible to hit Germany as hard as possible. The sooner that is done the better. That leads me to the observations made by the hon. Member for Aberavon. He said, "Divide Germany, unite Britain" It was the military victories of Hitler, he said, that had united Germany, and he went on to say that we had done nothing to divide the German people from Hitler. How are we best to divide the German people from Hitler? By hitting them hard and hitting them still harder again in their cities. Hitler promised them immunity from us. He made the German people a lot of promises. The sooner we can show the German people that the promises of the Fuehrer are false, the sooner will we get victory and the sooner will we divide the German people, and the sooner will the German people be ready for the sort of statement he thinks ought to be made now.
May I ask the hon. Member if he read two articles in the "Times" about five or six weeks ago as to conditions inside Germany and the relation of the working classes with Hitler?
May I ask the hon. Member whether he does not recognise that the majority of the German people are behind Hitler, but that there is a minority who are opposed in their hearts to Hitler? We hope the time will come when they will be on our side.
I am anxious to turn that minority into a majority, and that can only be done by hitting the Germans hard and making them recognise that this war does not pay. I am sorry to say it, because it is a terrible thing to say, but the German people have been brought up to believe in force, and the only way we can make them disbelieve in force is to menace them with overwhelming force of the kind that they have tried, and unfortunately with a considerable amount of success, to use in other countries. Then the time will be ripe for putting statements over to the German people.
I think we are indebted to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) for having raised this Debate, though I am afraid I do not agree with him at all. The Debate has not unnaturally roused considerable heat, because many Members are divided on this question, and I want to endeavour not to add to that heat. This is a question of policy which must be discussed as far as possible outside the terms of popular emotion. The important thing, in my view, is that we must not overlook the fact that the end of the war may come a good deal more abruptly than many people suppose. It is the function, obviously, of the Government to prepare for a long, an arduous and an uncertain war, but equally their function is to prepare, on the other hand, for a war which may have many surprises and which for some reason or another may come to a sudden collapse. If there were some lack of preparation on the part of the Government in making provision for a sudden, 1 dramatic change in the situation of Europe, it might cause us to be faced with the question of peace aims at a very short interval of time. It would be a calamity of the first magnitude, as I think people on both sides would agree, if we were in fact to be faced with the problem of peace without having made sufficient preparation for it.
There are two aspects of this matter which affect us. It is generally agreed that the first is propaganda. We have to build up a policy which can be effective in operating upon the minds of the German people at exactly that point of which the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) spoke when he said the only think to do was to hit the Germans and to hit them hard. I cordially agree with that point of view, but we are bound to come to a moment, sooner or later, at which we shall have to add to that policy of hitting them. We cannot simply go on bombing until nothing is left of the German people and the spirit to negotiate has simply died down. We must seize the psychological moment at which the German people will revolt from the tyranny of the Nazis, and press the German people with every weapon in our power. We must be ready to add the psychological weapon of propaganda and of a policy which may inspire the German people to accept peace. There will be general agreement that the preparation of that policy is an extraordinarily difficult function.
The Debate has manifested the great cleavage of opinion that there is in the House upon the subject and it is obvious that, when we come to the point, a great many people will wish to treat the Ger- mans with greater severity and others who will wish to treat them with less. I hope there will be a consensus of opinion about this. I do not think it should be treated as an emotional matter, but I hope the Government are alive to the necessity of tackling courageously those fluctuations of public opinion because, only by courageous leadership, at the proper time —I mean when it is not too late—will it be possible to unite the country, not for the comparatively easy task of waging war, because that is a comparatively easy task, but for the much more difficult task of putting over the kind of peace that is required.
Beyond propaganda lies the question of' reconstruction. We have sooner or later to build up this new world in which we shall all participate, the Germans as well as ourselves. The whole purpose of our propaganda is to represent that new world in a light which will make it acceptable to a sufficient number of the German people to enable them to revolt against Hitler at the proper moment, and also ensure that we shall get the kind of Germany which will prevent this thing ever happening again. It is for that reason that a good many of us have been considerably disturbed in our minds at the report that there has been some division of opinion in the Government on the subject. The Prime Minister indicated that there would be some division in the country, and conveyed the impression that behind that there was a possibility of division in the Government. It becomes the most delicate question of leadership of the present time that the Government should be able to unite all the parties now supporting them on the subject of prosecuting the war on the subject of putting over a new order in Europe. I would press the right hon. Gentleman to give the House some assurance that this matter is deeply in the minds of the Government, and that they are making preparations for putting in front of the people of this country a new order which will be acceptable to all classes of the community, and will also appeal, not only to the Germans, but to the small neutrals all over the world.' These have, in the past, been inclined to say, "What after all is there for us between these rival Imperialisms? Is it worth our while plunging ourselves into the furnace of war in order to give success to British Imperialism at the cost of German Nazism?" That is a situation which we are bound to face.
I make no complaint that the Prime Minister and the Members of the War Cabinet have found it impossible to deal with this matter more effectively than they have done in the past. I realise the extraordinary difficulties with which they are faced. I agree that so long as the world remains in its present condition of acute military action and danger, they have no option but to remain silent on this matter. What many of us would like to know, however, is that behind that silence and that apparent hesitation there is a profound sense of the urgency of this question in the minds of the Government, and that they are not only doing research work into this subject and giving it anxious consideration, but are building up the fabric of a new order which they will be prepared to present at the critical moment to the peoples of this country and the world. If we postpone that task beyond the critical moment, we know from our experience in 1918–19 what will happen. Directly after a war, is the most difficult time for building up the fabric of a new order and for laying down the principles of the new peace. From the moment that the "All clear" is sounded the work of reconstruction begins. All over the world men and women are "muscling-in" on the new order and vested interests are being built up—it may be capital, or labour, or some new economic system. It is the function of the statesmen of the world to anticipate that, if the peace that we must inevitably build is to be worth having. If we fail in that, we fail not only the people of this generation but those who will follow in the days to come.
It was not the intention of the Government to take part in this Debate. I rise simply to say that the Government are, as everybody expects, prosecuting the war with vigour and with confidence in ultimate success. During the course of this vigorous prosecution of the war it is natural that attention should be paid to the need for enunciating one's objectives in the war. Opportunity has already been taken by Lord Halifax to make a statement, which has been referred to in this Debate, and I was very glad to note the manner in which that statement was received by the House in general. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) made a particularly relevant observation when he said that Lord Halifax was speaking as a member of the War Cabinet, and that, I think, is sufficient answer to those who ask what connection Lord Halifax's statement had with the Government and with the policy of the Government
In addition to that, hon. Members will have the opportunity, within a short time, of reading a speech which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary happens to be making in the City of London to-day. Hon. Members may well ask, as I would ask as a Member of this House, why a statement is not being made here at this moment. I should like to have said more had I had any notice at all of this Debate. I did not know there was to be a Debate on this subject until a few hours ago, and I naturally made it my business to come here and to pay that attention to the Debate that I should wish to pay to it. But I do not think the House could expect me, or anybody else, to make impromptu —
May I interrupt to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his statement means that the Government have not considered this matter sufficiently to enable a statement to be available for him to make?
No, that is not so at all. The Government have given close consideration to this, and speeches have been made, and are being made, on the lines of describing our objectives which I think hon. Members will find it very interesting to study; but they really could not expect me, or any representative of the Govern- ment, to make an impromptu speech on matters of this sort in the midst of this serious war. I want to assure hon. Members who have spoken that this is no criticism of them or an attempt to get off "on the cheap" without making any remarks. It just happens to be the fact. Notice was given to the Whips a few hours ago that this Debate was being raised, but I do not think that is sufficient notice on which to expect a reply to be worked out by the Government, however full our pigeonholes and dossiers may be with suitable remarks on this subject.
In conclusion, I would say that the remarks made on all sides of the House have been noted by me, as the representative of the Government present to-day, and proper and due attention will be paid to them. Those remarks which I have found straying from the point have, I think, been answered by other hon. Members in the course of this Debate. There have been effective debating speeches, not the least of them the speech of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), upon which I should like to congratulate him, and to those speeches I do not think the Government have anything to add at the present time. In ending, I would say that we all, I think, would dismiss as irrelevant any remarks in this Debate which would try to give to this country or the world a picture that we are fighting for anything other than greater social security in this country and in Europe and in the world, and for a perpetuation of that freedom and liberty, which has been the historical tradition of this country, for which Europe has always had to fight, and in fighting for which now Europe will, with our help, achieve victory.