War Situation.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 25th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr Vernon Bartlett Mr Vernon Bartlett , Bridgwater

It is a very great change on the surface, and I hope it will justify the stimulus that it has given to the people.

May I make one or two suggestions about the foreign side of things? In view of the shortage of military weapons from which we are still suffering it is vitally important that we should do what we can in political warfare. We still do not do anything like as much as we could. I do not believe that the country, I am not sure that the Government, have yet woke up to the effect of the changes produced by the intervention of Japan, Russia and the United States, inasmuch as now in two of the great theatres of war, in the Far East and in Europe, we have a vastly preponderating man-power at our disposal, and I am not sure that we are making the full use that we could of it. The Government have never been given sufficient credit, to my mind, for the risks that they ran in sending tanks and aeroplanes to Russia. We do not know to what extent they have been responsible for the disasters at Singapore and elsewhere, but it was a very courageous decision.

But I wonder whether the Prime Minister is right when he talks about taking the offensive in 1943 or 1944, because it seems to me very probable that this year either Russia will defeat Germany or Germany will defeat Russia, and if Russia defeats Germany, I think it would be a very disastrous thing for this country that we should not have played a part which justified our raising our voice in the peace settlement; and if the appalling thing should happen that Germany defeats Russia, it is vitally important that no one on the Continent should be able to say that the defeat had come about in part because we had not done everything we possibly could to help the Soviet Army. When I came back from Russia four months ago I thought it was absurd to talk about opening up a Western front, but now I am not so sure. I hope the Government, despite the shortage of armaments, will realise that in some cases rashness is the best defence and that we dare not allow the war between Germany and Russia to come to a conclusion this year and more or less stand aside from it. If we were to do that, we would lose the confidence not only of the Soviet Union but of all the occupied and defeated countries in Europe.

As to the Far East, again there is this question of man-power. I do not believe that we are yet doing anything like as much as we could to get the active help of people in India and China. We still under-estimate the effective way in which the Japanese are able to carry on propaganda among these peoples in Asia by claiming that they are turning the white man out of Asia. I believe we have to realise, whether we like it or not, that the war is going to be won by people whom our ruling classes in the past have treated with indifference, dislike, or sometimes fear, the citizens of the Soviet Union and the people of China and India.