This is no time for sorrow or rejoicing. It is a time for preparation, effort and resolve. The war is still going on. I have never taken the view that the end of the war in Europe is at hand, or that Hitler is about to collapse, and I have certainly given no guarantees, or even held out any expectations, that the year 1944 will see the end of the European war. Nor have I given any guarantees the other way. On the whole, my information—and I have a good deal—goes to show that Hitler and his police are still in full control, and that the Nazi party and the Generals have decided to hang together. The strength of the German Army is about 300 divisions, though many of these are substantially reduced in numbers. The fighting quality of the troops is high. The German General Staff system; which we failed to liquidate after the last war, represents an Order comprising many thousands of highly-trained officers and a school of doctrine of long, unbroken continuity. It possesses great skill, both in the handling of troops in action and in their rapid movement from place to place. The recent fighting in Italy should leave no doubt on these points.
It is true that the results of our bombing have had a noteworthy effect upon Germany's munitions production. In the people they have produced a dull apathy, which also affects munitions production and all A.R.P. services. The splendid victories of our Soviet Allies on the Eastern front are inflicting immense losses upon the enemy. The fact that so many of the enemy's divisions have been drawn into Italy and into, Yugoslavia, while other large bodies of his troops are held in France and the Low Countries by the fear of invasion, has been a help to these victories. Moreover, the Anglo-American bombing of Germany, absorbing, as it does, above three million Germans has drawn, together with other British and American activities, four-fifths of the German fighter force to the British and American front; and I believe a large proportion of their bombers are against us and our American Allies.
This also has been of assistance to the Soviet Union. I think these statements should be made in justice to the Western Allies. They in no way detract from the glory of the Russian arms. It must also be borne in mind, in surveying the general foundations of the scene as we see it to-day, that as the German troops retreat westwards they will find many opportunities of narrowing their front, and that if they choose to cut their losses in the Balkans or in the Italian peninsula at any time, a considerable number of divisions can be made available for the purpose of strengthening their central reserve. It is far from my wish to make any boastful statements about the part which this Island is playing in the war. It has, however, been borne in on me that the interests of the Alliance as a whole may be prejudiced if its other members are left in ignorance of the British share in the great events which are unfolding. The Dominions also have the right to know that the Mother Country is playing its part.
I think it is therefore my duty to state a few facts which are not perhaps generally realised. For instance, since 1st January, 1943, up to the present time, the middle of February, ships of the Royal Navy and aircraft of the Royal Air Force, that is to say the Forces of the Mother Country only, have sunk more than half the U-boats of which we have certain proof in the shape of living prisoners, and they have also destroyed 40 per cent. of the very large number of other U-boats of which either corpses or fragments provide definite evidence of destruction. Again, on the naval side, apart from enemy U-boats we have sunk by British action alone since 1st January, 1943, 19 enemy warships and also a large number of E-boats, escort vessels, minesweepers and other auxiliaries. British action has been predominantly responsible for sinking during this period 316 merchant ships, aggregating 835,000 tons. In that same period, 7,677 officers and men of the Royal Navy and about 4,200 Merchant Navy officers and men have lost their lives in British ships. This last, however, does not at all represent the total war sacrifice to date of our merchant seamen, because matters have improved so much lately. Since the beginning of the war the proportion of merchant seamen hailing from these Islands alone who have been lost at sea on their vital duty has been about one-fifth of the average number engaged in this service. The total of personnel, officers and men, of the Royal Navy since the war started is just over 30 per cent. of its pre-war strength, the figures being 41,000 killed out of 133,000, which was its total strength on the outbreak of war. Since 1st January, 1943, ships of the Royal Navy have bombarded the enemies' coasts on 716 occasions. In the same period we have lost in action or had disabled for more than a year—serious disablement—95 ships of war.
Turning to the air, the honour of bombing Berlin has fallen almost entirely to us. Up to the present we have delivered the main attack upon Germany. Excluding Dominion and Allied squadrons working with the Royal Air Force, the British Islanders have lost 38,300 pilots and air crews killed and 10,400 missing, and over 10,000 aircraft since the beginning of the war—and they have made nearly 900,000 sorties into the north European theatre. As for the Army, the British Army were little more than a police force in 1939, yet they have fought in every part of the world—in Norway, France, Holland, Belgium, Egypt, Eritrea, Abyssinia, Somaliland, Madagascar, Syria, North Africa, Persia, Sicily, Italy, Greece, Crete, Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong. I cannot now in this speech attempt to describe these many campaigns, so infinitely varied in their characteristics, but history will record how much the contribution of cur soldiers has been beyond all proportion to the available man-power of these Islands. The Anglo-American air attack upon Germany must be regarded as our chief offensive effort at the present time. Till the middle of 1943 we had by far the larger forces in action. As the result of the enormous transportations across the Atlantic which have been made during 1943 the United States Bomber Force in this Island now begins to surpass our own and will soon be substantially greater still, I rejoice to say.
The efforts of the two forces fit well together, and according to all past standards each effort is in itself prodigious. Let me take the latest example. During the 48 hours beginning at 3 a.m. an 20th February, four great raids were made upon Germany. The first was against Leipzig on the night of 19–20th by the Royal Air Force, when nearly 1,000 machines were despatched, of which 79 were lost. On Sunday morning a tremendous American raid, nearly 1,000 strong, escorted by an even greater number of fighters, American and British, but mostly American, set out for German towns, including Leipzig, in broad daylight. The tosses in this raid were greatly reduced by the fact that the enemy fighters had been scattered beforehand by the British operations of the night before. The fighters descend at bases other than their own and cannot be so readily handled on a second rapidly-ensuing occasion, and the full effect of the American precision bombing could therefore be realised.
Following hard upon this, on the night of 20–21st another British raid was delivered, this time on Stuttgart, in very great strength—about 600 or 700. The effect of the preceding 24 hours' bombing relieved this third raid to a very large extent. Finally, the American force went out on Monday, again in full scale, and drove home in the most effective manner our joint air superiority over the enemy. Taking them together, these four raids, in which over 9,000 tons of bombs were dropped by the two Allied and complementary air forces, constitute the most violent attacks which have yet been made on Germany, and they also prove the value of saturation in every aspect of the air war. That aspect will steadily increase as our forces develop and as the American forces come into their full scope and scale.
The Spring and Summer will see a vast increase in the force of the attacks directed upon all military targets in Germany and in German-occupied countries. Long range bombing from Italy will penetrate effectively the Southern parts of Germany. We look for very great restriction and dislocation of the entire German munitions supply, no matter how far the factories have been withdrawn. In addition, the precision of the American day-light attack produces exceptional results upon particular points, not only in clear daylight, but now, thanks to the development of navigational aids, through cloud. The whole of this air offensive constitutes the foundation upon which our plans for overseas invasion stand. Scales and degrees of attack will be reached far beyond the dimensions of anything which has yet been employed or, indeed, imagined. The idea that we should fetter or further re-strict the use of this prime instrument for shortening the war will not be accepted by the Governments of the Allies. The proper course for German civilians and non-combatants is to quit the centres of munition production and take refuge in the country-side. We intend to make war production in its widest sense impossible in all German cities, towns and factory centres.
Retaliation by the enemy has, so far, been modest, but we must expect it to increase. Hitler has great need to exaggerate his counter-attacks in order to placate his formerly deluded population; but besides these air attacks there is no doubt that the Germans are preparing on the French shore new means of attack on this country, either by pilotless aircraft or possibly rockets, or both, on a considerable scale. We have long been watching this with the utmost vigilance. We are striking at all evidences of these preparations on occasions when the weather is suitable for such action and to the maximum extent possible without detracting from the strategic offensive against Germany. An elaborate scheme of bombing priorities, upon which a large band of highly skilled American and British officers are constantly at work, in accordance with the directions given by the combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington, has governed our action for some time past and is continually kept up to date and in relation to our strategic needs and aims. I do not believe that a better machinery could be devised. It is always flexible enough to allow us to turn aside for some particularly tempting objective, as, for instance, Sofia, the capital of caitiff Bulgaria. The weather, of course, remains the final factor in the decision where each day's or night's activitiesshall be employed. That leaves very great responsibility in the hands of the officers who actually handle these enormous masses of aircraft. The use of our air power also affects the general war situation by the toll which it takes of the enemy's fighter aircraft both by day and night, but especially the Americans by day, because they have fought very great actions with their formations of Flying Fortresses against enemy fighter aircraft.
Already we have seen the German air programme concentrated mainly on fighters, thus indicating how much they have been thrown on to the defensive in the air. Now this new German fighter strength is being remorselessly worn down, both in the air and in the factories, which are the objectives of the continuous attack. Every opportunity is and will be sought by us to force the enemy to expend and exhaust his fighter air strength. Our production of aircraft, fighters and bombers, judged by every possible test, already far exceeds that of the Germans. The Russian production is about equal to ours. The American production alone is double or treble the German production. When I speak of production, I mean not only that of aircraft, not only of the machines, but of all that vast organisation of training schools and ancillary services which minister to air power and without whose efficiency, air power could not manifest itself. What the experiences of Germany will be when her fighter defence has been almost completely eliminated, and aircraft can go all over the country, by day or night, with nothing to fear but the flak—the antiaircraft defences—has yet to be seen.
The same is true of the air power of Japan. That also is now being overmatched and worn down, and the production is incomparably small compared with that of the great Powers whom Japan has assailed. Whereas on former occasions when I have addressed the House and tried to give a general picture of the war in its structure and proportion, I have always set in the forefront the war against the U-boat menace. I, deliberately, on this occasion, gave the primacy to the great developments in air power which have been achieved and which are to be expected. This air power was the weapon which both the marauding States selected as their main tool of conquest. This was the sphere in which they were to triumph. This was the method by which the nations were to be subjugated to their rule. I shall not moralise further than to say that there is a strange, stern justice in the long swing of events.
Our other great joint Anglo-American offensive is in Italy. Many people have been disappointed with the progress there since the capture of Naples in October. This has been due to the extremely bad weather which marks the winter in those supposedly sunshine lands and which this year has been worse than usual. Secondly, and far more, it is because the Germans, bit by bit, have been drawn down into Italy and have decided to make extreme exertions for the retention of the city of Rome. In October, they began to move a number of divisions Southwards from the Valley of the Po and to construct a winter line South of Rome in order to confront and delay the advance of the Fifth and Eighth Armies under General Alexander. We were, therefore, committed to a frontal advance in extremely mountainous country which gave every advantage to the defence. All the rivers flow at right angles to our march and the violent rains, this year above the normal, often turned these rivers into raging torrents, sweeping away all military bridges which had been thrown across them and sometimes leaving part of the assaulting force already committed to the attack on the far side and beyond the reach of immediate reinforcements or support.
In addition to the difficulties I have mentioned, there has been the need to build up a very large supply of stores and vehicles of all kinds in Italy. Also, the strategic air force, which is being developed for the attack on Southern Germany, has made extremely large priority inroads upon our transportation, especially upon those forms of transportation which are most in demand. An immense amount of work has, however, been done, and the results will become apparent later on. Among the Allies we have, of course, much the largest army in Italy. The American air force in the Mediterranean, on the other hand, is larger than the British, and the two together possess an enormous superiority, quantitative and also, we believe, qualitative, over the enemy. We have also, of course, the complete command of the seas where an American squadron is actively working with the British Fleet. Such being the position, many people wondered Why it was not possible to make a large amphibious turning movement, either on the Eastern or Western side of Italy, to facilitate the forward advance of the army.
The need for this was, of course, obvious to all the commanders, British and American, but the practicability of carrying it into effect depended upon this effort being properly fitted in with the general Allied programme for the year. This programme comprises larger issues and forces than those with which we are concerned in Italy. The difficulties which had hitherto obstructed action were, I am glad to say, removed at the Conferences which were held at Carthage at Christmas and at Marrakesh in January. The conclusions were approved, step by step, by the President of the United States and the combined Chiefs of Staff. All that the Supreme War Direction could do was done by the first week in January. Preparations had already been begun in anticipation of the final surmounting of difficulties, and 22nd January was fixed as the zero day by General Alexander, on whom rests the responsibility for fighting the battle. It was certainly no light matter to launch this considerable army—40,000 or 50,000 men—in the first instance with all the uncertainty of winter weather and all the unknowable strength of enemy fortifications, to launch it out upon the seas.
The operation itself was a model of combined work. The landing was virtually unopposed. Subsequent events did not, however, take the course which had been hoped or planned. In the upshot, we got a great army ashore, equipped with masses of artillery, tanks and very many thousands of vehicles, and our troops moving inland came into contact with the enemy. The German reactions to this descent have been remarkable. Hitler has apparently resolved to defend Rome with the same obstinacy which he showed in Stalingrad, in Tunisia, and, recently, in the Dnieper Bend. No fewer than seven extra German divisions were brought rapidly down from France, Northern Italy and Yugoslavia and a determined attempt has been made to destroy the bridgehead and drive us into the sea. Battles of prolonged and intense fierceness and fury have been fought. At the same time, the American and British Fifth Army to the Southward is pressing forward with all its strength. Another battle is raging there.
On both fronts there has been in the last week a most severe and continuous engagement, very full accounts of which have been given every day in the Press and in the official communiqués. Up to the present moment the enemy has sustained very heavy losses, but has not shaken the resistance of the bridgehead army. The forces are well matched though we are definitely the stronger in artillery and armour and, of course, when the weather is favourable our air power plays an immense part. General Alexander, who has probably seen more fighting against the Germans than any living British commander—unless it be General Freyberg who is also in the fray—says that the bitterness and fierceness of the fighting now going on both in the bridgehead and at the Cassino front surpass all his previous experience. He even used in one message to me the word "terrific." On the Southern front, the Cassino front, British, American, Dominion, Indian, French and Polish troops are fighting side by side in a noble comradeship. Their leaders are confident of final success. I can say no more than what I have said, for I would not attempt to venture on a more confident prediction, but their leaders are confident and the troops are in the highest spirit of offensive vigour.
On broad grounds of strategy, Hitler's decision to send into the South of Italy as many as 18 divisions involving, with their maintenance troops, probably something like half a million Germans, and his decision to make a large secondary front in Italy is not unwelcome to the Allies. We must fight the Germans somewhere, unless we are to stand still and watch the Russians. This wearing battle in Italy occupies troops who could not be occupied in other greater operations and it is an effective prelude to them. We have suffi- cient forces at our disposal in Africa to nourish the struggle as fast as they can be transported across the Mediterranean. The weather is likely to improve as the Spring approaches, and as the skies clear, the Allied air power will reach its fullest manifestation.
This time last year, to a day—22nd February—when, I remember, I was ill in bed, I was deeply anxious about the situation in Tunisia where we had just sustained an unpleasant check at the Kasserine Pass. But I placed my confidence then in General Alexander and in the British, American and French troops who were engaged in the battle—and that is how I feel about it now.
In the discussions at Cairo, and during my enforced stay amid the ruins of Carthage, I was able, by correspondence, to settle with the President and with the War Cabinet here the remodelling of the commands for our joint operations in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. The principle which should obviously be followed between two Allies working together as closely as we and the United States is that the nationality of the commander should generally follow the majority of the troops in any theatre. In General Maitland Wilson and General Alexander, we have at once the supreme commander in the Mediterranean and the fighting head of the Army in Itay. We and our American Ally have full confidence in these officers, under whom the United States General Devers and General Clark, the most daring and gallant leader of the 5th Army, are the corresponding American chiefs. In Great Britain, on the other hand, where forces are being assembled for future operations of the greatest magnitude, General Eisenhower, with whom we have worked for so long, so happily and so successfully, has been placed at the summit of the war direction, with Air Chief Marshal Tedder as his deputy and with his brilliant United States Chief of Staff, the trusty General Bedell Smith—these are the central figures of this command under whom many distinguished commanders, British and American, are serving, including General Montgomery, and these officers will, when the time comes and in accordance with the arrangements which have been made, lead our Armies to the liberation of Europe.
As certain statements have been made in America—unofficial statements—about the relative strengths of the Armies to be employed from here, I think it necessary to state that the British and American Armies at the outset of the struggle will be approximately equal, but that if its duration is prolonged, the continuous inflow of the American build-up at an enormous rate will naturally give them that superiority of numbers which would be expected from the great resources of manpower which they dispose, and which they desire above all things to bring into contact as speedily as possible with the enemy. Hence, it is right that the supreme command should go to the United States. I would turn aside for one moment just to emphasise how perfect is the co-operation between the commanders of the British and the American Armies. Nothing like it has ever been seen before among Allies. No doubt language is a great help, but there is more in it than that. In all previous alliances the staffs have worked with opposite numbers in each department and liaison officers, but in Africa General Eisenhower built up a uniform staff, in which every place was filled with whoever was thought to be the best man, and they all ordered each other about according to their rank, without the slightest regard to what country they belonged to. The same unity and brotherhood is being instituted here throughout the Forces which are gathering in this country, and I cannot doubt that it will be found most serviceable, and unique also in all the history of alliances.
I must now turn from the actual military operations to the European scene, which influences all military affairs so vehemently. In this present war of so many nations against the Nazi tyranny, there has, at least, been a common principle at work throughout Europe, and among the conquered peoples there is a unity of hatred and a desire to revolt against the Germans such as has never been known against any race before. The penalties of defeat are frightful. After the blinding flash of catastrophe, the stunning blow, the gaping wounds, there comes an onset of the diseases of defeat. The central principle of a nation's life is broken, and all healthy normal control vanishes. There are few societies that can withstand the conditions of subjugation. Indomitable patriots take different paths; quislings and collaborationists of all kinds abound; guerrilla leaders, each with their personal followers, quarrel and fight. There are already in Greece and Yugoslavia factions engaged in civil war one with another, and animated by hatreds more fierce than those which should be reserved for the common foe. Among all these varied forces the German oppressor developes his intrigues with cynical ruthlessness and merciless cruelty.
It is hard enough to understand the politics of one's own country; it is almost impossible to understand those of foreign countries. The sanest and the safest course for us to follow is to judge all parties and factions dispassionately by the test of their readiness and ability to fight the Germans and thus lighten the burden of the Allied troops. This is no time for ideological preferences for one side or the other, and certainly we, His Majesty's Government, have not indulged ourselves in this way at all. Thus, in Italy we are working for the present through the Government of the King and Badoglio; in Yugoslavia we give our aid to Marshal Tito; in Greece, in spite of the fact that a British officer was murdered by the guerrilla organisation called Helas, we are doing our best to bring about a reconciliation, or at least a working agreement, between the opposing forces. I will say a word, if the House will permit me, about each of these unhappy countries, and the principle which should govern us, and which we are certainly following.
We signed the Italian Armistice on the basis of unconditional surrender with King Victor Emmanuel and Marshal Badoglio, who were, and up to the present are, the legitimate Government of Italy. On their authority, the Italian Navy, not without risk and loss, surrendered to us, and practically all Italian troops and airmen who were not dominated by the Germans also obeyed the orders they received from the Crown. Since then these Italian forces have co-operated with us to the best of their ability, and nearly 100 Italian ships of war are discharging valuable services in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Italian troops have entered the front line in Italy, and although on one occasion they suffered severe casualties they continue to fight alongside our men. Very much larger numbers are engaged in indispensable services to the Allied Armies behind the front. Italian airmen are also fighting at our side.
The battle in Italy, for reasons which I have already explained, will be hard and long. I am not yet convinced that any other Government can be formed at the present time in Italy which would command the same obedience from the Italian Armed Forces. Should we succeed in the present battle and enter Rome, as I trust and believe we shall, we shall be free to discuss the whole Italian political situation, and we shall do so with many advantages that we do not possess at the present time. It is from Rome that a more broadly-based Italian Government can best be formed. Whether a Government thus formed will be so helpful to the Allies as the present dispensation, I cannot tell. It might, of course, be a Government which would try to make its position good with the Italian people by resisting, as much as it dared, the demands made on them in the interests of the Allied Armies. I should be sorry, however, to see an unsettling change made at a time when the battle is at its climax, swaying to and fro. When you have to hold a hot coffee-pot, it is better not to break the handle off until you are sure that yon will get another equally convenient and serviceable or, at any rate, until there is a dishcloth handy.
The representatives of the various Italian parties who assembled a fortnight ago at Bari are, of course, eager to become the Government of Italy. They will certainly have no elective authority, and certainly no constitutional authority, either until the present King abdicates or until he or his successor invites them to take office. It is by no means certain that they would have any effective authority over the Italian Armed Forces now fighting with us. Italy lies prostrate under her miseries and disasters. Food is scarce; shipping to bring it is voraciously absorbed by our ever-expanding military operations. I think we have gained 12,000,000 tons this year increase to the Allies, yet the shortage continues, because our great operations absorb every ship as it comes, and the movement of food is difficult.
It would be a mistake to suppose that the kind of political conditions or forces exist in Italy such as work so healthily in unbeaten lands, or countries which have not been shattered by war or stifled by a long period of Fascist rule. We shall see much more clearly how to proceed, and have much more varied resources at our disposal, if and when we are in possession of the capital city. The policy, therefore, which His Majesty's Government have agreed provisionally with the Government of the United States is to win the battle for Rome and take a new view when we are there. On the other side of the Adriatic, in the vast mountain regions of Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece, an area of perhaps 800 miles from North to South and 300 or 400 miles from East to West, a magnificent resistance to the German invaders is in full and violent progress.
With the surrender of Italy—with which I think Great Britain had something to do having fought the Italians since the summer of 1940–62 Italian divisions ceased to be a hostile fighting factor. Forty-three were disbanded and enslaved, apparently without any of the safeguards which attach to prisoners of war, by the Germans. Ten were disbanded by the guerrillas in the Balkans, and nine, which were stationed in the South of Italy, or in Corsica and Sardinia, came over to the Allies. Confronted with this situation, Hitler decided to reinforce the Balkan Peninsula heavily, and, at the present time, no fewer than 20 Gerrnan divisions are engaged in the Balkans. That is to say, there are 25 German divisions in Italy, of which 18 are in the present battle South of Rome, and another 20 are spread over the vast area of the Balkans. Well, they might be worse employed.
In Yugoslavia, in spite of the most ferocious and murderous cruelties and reprisals perpetrated by the Germans, not only against hostages, but against the village populations, including women and children, the Partisan forces have the upper hand. The Germans hold the principal towns and try to keep the railways working. They can march their columns of troops hither and thither about the country. They own the ground they stand on, but nothing else. All the rest belongs to the valiant Partisans. The German losses have been very heavy, and, so far as actual fighting is concerned, greatly exceed the losses of the Partisans, but the killing of hostages and civilians in cold blood adds to the German score—and to our score against the Germans. In Yugoslavia, two main forces are in the field. First, the guerrilla bands under General Mihailovitch. These were the first to take the field and represent, to a certain extent, the forces of old Serbia. For some time after the defeat of the Yugoslav army, these forces maintained a guerrilla. We were not able to send them any aid or supplies, except a few droppings from aeroplanes. The Germans retaliated for any guerrilla activities by shooting batches of 400 or 500 people together in Belgrade. General Mihailovitch, I much regret to say, drifted gradually into a position in which some of his commanders made accommodations with the Italian and German troops, which resulted in their being left alone in certain mountain areas, and, in return, doing very little or nothing against the enemy.
However, a new and far more formidable champion appeared on the scene. In the autumn of 1941, Marshal Tito's Partisans began a wild and furious war for existence against the Germans. They wrested weapons from the Germans' hands, they grew in numbers rapidly; no reprisals, however bloody, whether upon hostages or the villages, deterred them. For them, it was death or freedom. Soon they began to inflict heavy injury upon the Germans and became masters of wide regions. Led with great skill, organised on the guerrilla principle, they were at once elusive and deadly. They were here, they were there, they were everywhere. Large scale offensives have been launched against them by the Germans, but, in every case, the Partisans, even when surrounded, have escaped, after inflicting great losses and toil upon the enemy. The Partisan movement soon outstripped in numbers the forces of General Mihailovitch. Not only Croats and Slovenes, but large numbers of Serbians, joined with Marshal Tito, and he has at this moment more than a quarter of a million men with him and large quantities of arms taken from the enemy or from the Italians, and these men are organised, without losing their guerrilla qualities, into a considerable number of divisions and corps.
The whole movement has taken shape and form, without losing, as I say, the guerrilla quality without which it could not possibly succeed. These forces are, at this moment, holding in check no fewer than 14 German divisions, out of the 20 in the Balkan Peninsula. Around and within these heroic forces, a national and unifying movement has developed. The Communist element had the honour of being the beginners, but, as the movement increased in strength and numbers, a modifying and unifying process has taken place, and national conceptions have supervened. In Marshal Tito, the Partisans have found an outstanding leader, glorious in the fight for freedom. Unhappily, perhaps inevitably, these new forces came into collision with those under General Mihailovitch. Their activities upset his commanders' accommodations with the enemy. He endeavoured to repress them, and many tragic fights took place and bitter feuds sprang up between men of the same race and country, whose misfortunes were due only to the common foe. At the present time, the followers of Marshal Tito outnumber manifold those of General Mihailovitch, who acts in the name of the Royal Yugoslav Government. Of course, the Partisans of Marshall Tito are the only people who are doing any effective fighting against the Germans now.
For a long time past, I have taken a particular interest in Marshal Tito's movement, and have tried, and am trying, by every available means, to bring him help A young friend of mine, an Oxord don, Captain Deakin, now Lieut.-Colonel Deakin, D.S.O., entered Yugoslavia by parachute nearly a year ago and was for eight months at Marshal Tito's headquarters. On one occasion, both were wounded by the same bomb. They became friends. [Laughter.] Certainly, it is a bond between people, but a bond which, I trust, we shall not have to institute in our own personal relationships. From Colonel Deakin's reports we derived a lively picture of the whole struggle and its personalities. Last Autumn, we sent a larger Mission under the hon. and gallant Member for Lancaster (Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean). Having joined the Foreign Secretary and myself at Cairo to report, he has now re-entered Yugoslavia by parachute. I can assure the House that every effort in our power will be made to aid and sustain Marshal Tito and his gallant band. The Marshal sent me a message during my illness, and I have since been in constant and agreeable correspondence with him. We intend to back him with all the strength we can draw, having regard to our other main obligations.
What, then, is the position of King Peter and the Royal Yugoslav Government in Cairo? King Peter, as a boy of 17, escaped from the clutches of the Regent, and, with the new Royal Yugoslav Government, found shelter in this country. We cannot dissociate ourselves in any way from him. He has undoubtedly suffered in the eyes of the Partisans by the association of his Government with General Mihailovitch and his subordinate commanders. Here, in these Islands, we are attached to the monarchical principle, and we have experienced the many blessings of constitutional monarchy, but we have no intention of obtruding our ideas upon the people of any country. Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy—all will be perfectly free to settle what form their governments shall take, so far as we are concerned, once the will of the people can be obtained under conditions of comparative tranquillity. In the meantime, the position is a somewhat complicated one, and I hope to have the confidence of the House in working with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to unravel it, as far as possible, in concert with our Russian and United States Allies, who bath, I am glad to say, are now sending Missions to Marshal Tito. Our feelings here, as everywhere else, I should like the House to see, follow the principle of keeping good faith with those who have kept good faith with us, and of striving, without prejudice or regard for political affections, to aid those who strike for freedom against the Nazi rule and thus inflict the greatest injury upon the enemy.
I have now given the House the fullest account in my power of this difficult, and in some ways, delicate situation in Yugoslavia, and I do not desire to add to it in any way at the present time. I have to pick my words with care because the situation is complicated. The saddest case of all, of what I may call the diseases of defeat is Greece. Everyone can recall the sentiments of admiration which the heroic defence of Greece, first against the Italians and then against the German invader, aroused throughout the civilised world. It is, indeed, painful to see the confusion and the internecine strife which has broken out in Greece, attended as it is by so many incidents of treachery and violence, all of which has been to the advantage of the German invaders, who watched with contemptuous complacency Greeks killing Greeks with ammunition sent to them to kill. Germans. There is also present the idea that powerful elements among the guerrillas are thinking much less of driving out the foreign enemy than of seizing the title deeds of their country and establishing themselves as the dominant party, irrespective of the views of the masses of the nation after the war is over. Here, the situation, like that in Yugoslavia, is also most obscure and changing, but it can be said beyond all doubt that the great mass of the Greek people wait with fortitude and longing the hour of their liberation from the cruel servitude and bondage into which they have been thrown, and, so far as we are concerned, they shall not wait in vain.
A very full account was given to the House in December by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secetary of the meeting of the heads of Governments in Cairo and Teheran, and also of the meetings of the Foreign Secretaries which he had previously attended in Moscow. Things move so fast nowadays that this already seems ancient history, and I have little to add to what he said or to what has since been published. It was a great advantage and pleasure to me to meet for the first time Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his wife. The Generalissimo is a world figure and the main hope and champion of China. Madame Chiang Kai-shek is also a most remarkable and fascinating personality. Her perfect command of English, and complete comprehension of the world struggle, as a whole, enable her to be the best of all interpreters in matters in which she herself plays a notable part.
Most of our time in Cairo, before we visited Teheran, was taken up in discussing the strategy and policy to be pursued against Japan; the best means of pressing forward the war in the Indian and Pacific theatres with the utmost energy; and, of course, the fitting of these plans into the requirements of the Atlantic and Mediterranean theatres. At Teheran the long desired triple meeting between President Roosevelt, Marshal Stalin and myself was, at length, achieved. The personal contacts which we established were, and will, I am convinced, prove to be helpful to the common cause. There would be very few differences between the three great Powers if their chief representatives could meet once a month. By such meetings, both formal and informal, all difficulties could be brought out freely and frankly, and the most delicate matters could be approached without the risk of jars or misunderstandings, such as too often arise when written communications are the only channel. But geography imposes its baffling obstacles, and though I trust it may be possible to hold further meetings as the war proceeds, I have no definite suggestions to make to the House at the moment.
The question is asked, I have heard, "Have the good relations established at Moscow and Teheran proved durable or have they failed during the weeks that have passed?" Does the "Pravda" statement, for instance, it is asked, or do the articles which are appearing in various organs of the Soviet Government, imply a cooling off in Anglo-Russian or American-Russian friendship and a rebirth of suspicion of Western Allies on the part of Russia? [An HON. MEMBER: "On the British side.] On either side. I feel fully entitled to reassure the House on that all important point. None of the ground made good at Moscow and Teheran has been lost. The three great Allies are absolutely united in their action against the common foe. They are equally resolved to pursue the war, at whatever cost, to a victorious conclusion, and they believe that a wide field of friendly co-operation lies before them after the destruction of Hitlerite Germany. It is upon such a prolonged, intimate and honourable association that the future of the world depends.
I took occasion to raise personally with Marshal Stalin, the question of the future of Poland. I pointed out that it was in fulfilment of our guarantee to Poland that Great Britain declared war upon Nazi Germany and that we had never weakened in our resolve, even in the period when we were all alone, and that the fate of the Polish nation holds a prime place in the thoughts and policies of His Majesty's Government and of the British Parliament. It was with great pleasure that I heard from Marshal Stalin that he, too, was resolved upon the creation and maintenance of a strong integral independent Poland as one of the leading Powers in Europe. He has several times repeated these declarations in public and I am convinced that they represent the settled policy of the Soviet Union.
Here I may remind the House that we ourselves have never in the past guaranteed, on behalf of His Majesty's Govern- ment, any particular frontier line to Poland. We did not approve of the Polish occupation of Vilna in 1920. The British view in 1919 stands expressed in the so-called Curzon line which attempted to deal, at any rate partially, with the problem. I have always held the opinion that all questions of territorial settlement and re-adjustment should stand over until the end of the war and that the victorious Powers should then arrive at formal and final agreements governing the articulation of Europe as a whole. That is still the wish of His Majesty's Government. However, the advance of the Russian armies into Polish regions in which the Polish underground army is active makes it indispensable that some kind of friendly working agreement should be arrived at to govern the war-time conditions and to enable all anti-Hitlerite forces to work together with the greatest advantage against the common foe.
During the last few weeks the Foreign Secretary and I together have laboured with the Polish Government in London with the object of establishing a working arrangement upon which the Fighting Forces can act, and upon which, I trust, an increasing structure of good will and comradeship may be built between Russians and Poles. I have an intense sympathy with the Poles, that heroic race whose national spirit centuries of misfortune cannot quench, but I also have sympathy with the Russian standpoint. Twice in our lifetime Russia has been violently assaulted by Germany. Many millions of Russians have been slain and vast tracts of Russian soil devastated as a result of repeated German aggression. Russia has the right of reassurance against future attacks from the West, and we are going all the way with her to see that she gets it, not only by the might of her arms but by the approval and assent of the United Nations. The liberation of Poland may presently be achieved by the Russian armies after these armies have suffered millions of casualties in breaking the German military machine. I cannot feel that the Russian demand for a reassurance about her Western frontiers goes beyond the limits of what is reasonable or just. Marshal Stalin and I also spoke and agreed upon the need for Poland to obtain compensation at the expense of Germany both in the North and in the West.
Here I may point out that the term "unconditional surrender" does not mean that the German people will be enslaved or destroyed. It means, however, that the Allies will not be bound to them at the moment of surrender by any pact or obligation. There will be, for instance, no question of the Atlantic Charter applying to Germany as a matter of right and barring territorial transferences or adjustments in enemy countries. No such arguments will be admitted by us as were used by Germany after the last war, saying that they surrendered in consequence of President Wilson's 14 points. Unconditional surrender means that the victors have a free hand. It does not mean that they are entitled to behave in a barbarous manner nor that they wish to blot out Germany from among the nations of Europe. If we are bound, we are bound by our own consciences to civilisation. We are not to be bound to the Germans as the result of a bargain struck. That is the meaning of "unconditional surrender."
It may be that I shall have a further statement to make to Parliament about Poland later on. For the present, what I have said, however incomplete, is all that His Majesty's Government are able to say upon the subject and I hope that we shall not be pressed further in the Debate, because matters are still under discussion.
I thank the House very much for giving me their attention and so much consideration. There are many dangers and difficulties in making speeches at this moment; first, it is a time for deeds and not words; secondly, I must find the narrow line between reproof of complacency at home and encouragement of the enemy abroad. One has to confront the grave times through which we are still passing without depressing the soldiers who will have to fight and win the battles of 1944. Moreover, this should be remembered. There was a time when we were all alone in this war and when we could speak for ourselves, but now that we are in the closest relation on either side with our great Allies, every word spoken has to be considered in relation to them. We have lived through periods of mortal danger, and I cannot say that the dangers are mortal now. They are none the less very serious and we need all the support and good will that have attended us at the time when everyone felt that national existence was at stake.
There is, I gather in some quarters, the feeling that the way to win the war is to knock the Government about, keep them up to the collar, and harry them from every side, and I find that hard to bear with Christian faith. Looking far abroad, it is also election year in the United States and this is the time when, naturally, a lot of rough things have to be said about Great Britain and when popularity is to be gained in that vast community in demonstrating Americanism in its highest forms. We are ourselves well accustomed to the processes of elections and I think we should not allow ourselves to be unduly concerned with anything that may be said or written there in the course of a great constitutional process which is taking place. All this, however, accords none too well—this atmosphere and mood at home—with the responsibilities and burdens which weigh upon His Majesty's Ministers and which, I can assure the House, are very real and heavy. We are in the advent of the greatest joint operations between two Allies that have ever been planned in history. There is the desire in this country in many quarters to raise the old controversies between the different parties. There is also a mood in the Anglo-American alliance to awaken slumbering prejudices and let them have their run; yet Liberals, Labour men and Tories are at this moment fighting and dying together at the front, and working together in a thousand ways at home, and Britons and Americans are linked together in the noblest comradeship of war under the fire and flail of the enemy. My hope is that generous instincts of unity will not depart from us in these times of tremendous exertion and grievous sacrifice and that we shall not fall apart, abroad or at home, so as to become the prey of the little folk who exist in every country and who frolic alongside the Juggernaut car of war, to see what fun or notoriety they can extract from the proceedings.
There is one thing that we agreed at Teheran, above all others, to which we are all bound in solemn compact, and that is to fall upon and smite the Hun by land, sea and air with all the strength that is in us during the coming Spring and Summer. It is to this task that we must vow ourselves every day anew. It is to this ordeal that we must address our minds with all the moral fortitude we possess. The task is heavy, the toll is long and the trials will be severe. Let us all try our best to do our duty. Victory may not be so far away, and will certainly not be denied us in the end.
May I say first with what pleasure the right hon. Gentleman's attendance here has been received by the House. I think we are all delighted to know that, notwithstanding his recent regrettable illness my right hon. Friend has lost nothing of his powers. He has, with the wide sweep of his master's brush, painted a picture of the war as nobody else in this House can do. It is not for me to dwell on the purely military aspects of his statement. There is, however, one aspect of it to which I would like to make reference because it has created a good deal of anxiety in the minds of the people in this country and was, I think, raised in a previous Debate. That is the question, which my right hon. Friend has not fully answered—other aspects of it he has, of course, dealt with to-day—of why, the bridgehead having been taken so swiftly, and with so little resistance, immediate steps were not taken to make good that most successful landing. The matter has been raised in this House on occasions, and it remains one on which there is a certain amount of mystification.
What my right hon. Friend says about Italy in the political sense holds a good deal of truth. It is, I think, perfectly clear that you must deal with a Government, whether you like it or not, which does for the time being represent the constitutional authority, and it may well be, as my right hon. Friend implied, that the King and Marshal Badoglio could make a stronger claim on the loyalty of the Italian forces of the Crown than other agencies in the country outside the Government. That may well be at this stage. It is, I think, true also to say that in Sicily and in the South of Italy there are not strong representative institutions. But once the battle of Rome is won, and one faces the North of Italy, with its great industrial population, with men of every kind and type, men who have been anti-Fascist ever since Mussolini raised his head, then the situation becomes entirely different, and though I appreciate the meticulous care of my right hon. Friend not to appear to be interfering in the affairs of Italy, once the Rome situation clears itself up, I think the House will want to know what steps His Majesty's Government mean to take, by pressure on Victor Emmanuel and Marshal Badoglio, to shape their course according to the wish of the vast majority of the Italian people, poor and rich. I would say in reply to my right hon. Friend's argument as to the influence which the King and Marshal Badoglio have on the Italian forces, that I should think that when the day of liberation comes nearer, those forces would gladly serve under a Government manned by people who have, from the outset, been against the Fascist regime in Italy. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will bear that point in mind.
It is difficult to deal with the problem of Poland. The tribute which my right hon. Friend has paid to the Polish people, is well-deserved, and it is clear that, leaving aside territorial frontiers—and I agree with my right hon. Friend that this is not the moment to settle them with any finality—there must be for ever a beacon of freedom, which we call Poland, in the East of Europe. There is anxiety in certain quarters but I never belittle statements that are made by the Allied nations. It will be part of my task to see that those undertakings are fulfilled, and as my right hon. Friend and the President of the United States and Marshal Stalin have, severally and individually, made quite emphatic statements about a free and independent Poland in the future, we must see that that undertaking, freely offered by all three of them, is subsequently fulfilled. One does not want to disturb difficult discussions that are going on to-day, but if my right hon. Friend and the Foreign Secretary can succeed in allaying the lurking fears of the Poles with regard to their future, I think they will have deserved well of the House and of the British people and also of the Polish people themselves.
War is bound to make difficulties, as the right hon. Gentleman's picturesque description of Yugoslavia and his picture of the tragedy of Greece go to show. I would like my right hon. Friend who is to wind up the Debate to say something about our present relations with Spain. They also are causing a good deal of anxiety. She is a most unfriendly nonbelligerent. She has, as has been admitted in the House on more than one occasion, been guilty of breaches of neutrality. She has not played fair, and I rather gather that the statesmen of that unhappy country over here, and their spokesmen or their representatives in Spain have been somewhat bluntly told by His Majesty's Government and by the American Government of our attitude towards them. I hope that the Leader of the House may be able to add something to the statement which he made a few weeks ago on that issue.
I was sorry that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not say much about the Chinese war. With his tribute to the Generalissimo we are all, of course, in accord, but China seems to be the Cinderella sister of the Allies in this war. The war in the East is a vital war from our point of view. It affects profoundly the future of the Indian Empire; it affects profoundly the future of the East. Our part in it, I should imagine, will increase as the strain comes off us in the West, and a word of encouragement to the Chinese people and the Chinese armies would have come well from the lips of my right hon. Friend to-day. One feels somehow that they are the poor relations; they never appear in the picture. If my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, when he winds up this Debate, could say that we are prepared to give every conceivable help in material and men for their aid, such a message would be of great encouragement to the valiant peoples of China. This Debate is on the war and on the international situation and I hope my right hon. Friend will also carry just a little further the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State (Mr. Richard Law) about U.N.R.R.A. Statements have been made in the Press which show that we are developing the machine, and it would be of interest, I am quite sure, to all Members of the House if we were kept informed of new developments as they occur.
I have no intention of delaying the House. I intend to set a good example by speaking with my usual brevity—perhaps even a little more briefly than usual on this occasion. I want to assure my right hon. Friend that there can be no question, in any quarter of this country, about the determination of all our people to carry the struggle through to the end, whatever it may mean. Our people, I imagine, this year will go through grim weeks and months, suffer- ing anxieties greater than they have ever suffered during the war up to now. But so far as my hon. Friends are concerned, we shall not waver in the course. If we do, on occasions, sharpen the edge of criticism, my right hon. Friend must not think that we are doing it because we want to let him down. It may well be that we are trying, in perhaps a rather stupid way, on this side of the House, to help the good cause. I do want to assure the House however that the attitude taken by my party at the beginning of the war is an attitude which we still hold even more deeply and more strongly, and any sacrifice which is asked from us for the prosecution of the war towards ultimate victory will not be denied to His Majesty's Government.
The first thought in people's minds is, and indeed should be, the successful prosecution of the war. Almost all the legislation which we have been discussing in this House recently has had to do with post-war conditions. It would, however, be a great mistake for Members of the Government or indeed for anyone else, to imagine that because the people are interested in post-war planning, they are not acutely conscious of the importance of foreign affairs, and both curious and, I think, anxious as to the effect which our present foreign policy, or the lack of it, must have upon our lives when the war is over. Signs have not been lacking recently of the nation's determination to have a say in what affects it, and of its resolution not to submit to any threat of dictatorship, no matter where that threat comes from. People do not intend, if they can help it, that the future of their country or of their Empire shall be mortgaged either nationally or internationally.
No one can deny that there has been anxiety about the conduct of the war. The long-promised, so-called Second Front has not yet been opened. The decision as to where and when that Front should be opened must be left to those who are in charge of the direction of the war since only they can know all the relevant facts. What people do require, however, is that while due consideration must be given to political repercussions, the opening of a Second Front should be based upon military necessity and advantage, and not upon political expediency. The conduct of operations which have taken place on the mainland of Italy, while certainly adding lustre to the reputation of our troops, has undoubtedly been the cause of apprehension in people's minds. One lesson above all others which the war should have taught us was that immediate and courageous advantage should be taken of all unexpected good fortune. Mussolini's collapse was as unexpected by Germany as it was by us. By all accounts, there was no great number of German troops in Italy when that collapse took place. We claimed at that time to have virtual command of the sea and of the air in the Mediterranean. What, then, were the circumstances which prevented us from taking full advantage of the unexpected good fortune of Mussolini's fall? Ten thousand men could have done in Italy then what 50,000 men cannot possibly do now, There, in Italy, was the vital spot where an overwhelming blow could have been struck and where we should have concentrated all our available forces. It was more important that landing craft and equipment should have been concentrated in Italy than that they should have been sent to the Far East or retained in this country in preparation for any contemplates offensive. The Prime Minister himself has referred to Italy as "the under-belly of the Axis". So it is, and for quite an appreciable period that under-belly was exposed to us almost defenceless. Yet, in my submission, we missed the chance.
I believe that the Prime Minister's visits abroad so that he may have conversations across the table with those who are charged with the direction of the conduct of the war in the countries of our Allies are of inestimable benefit. Decisions can be taken in half an hour, by talks across the table, which settle more than weeks of telegraphing or telephoning. If that be true—and it is—then it is equally true that the prolonged absence from this country of the Minister of Defence must inevitably result in delay in taking decision here. Had the Prime Minister not been 3,000 miles away when Mussolini fell it might well be that the conduct of affairs in Italy might have been different. What was wanted then was an immediate decision, not the delay which coding and ciphering and telegraphing must inevitably produce. One has to weigh the advantages of the Prime Minister's contacts abroad with the disadvantages which thereby accrue to the direction of the war effort here in this country. In the past some of us in this House have pointed out the risks inherent in the offices of the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence being combined in one man, particularly when they are combined in the person of so forceful a character as the Prime Minister. I do not think my right hon. Friend would deny—and if he did I do not think the average man in the street would believe him—that any really major decision is taken by anybody but himself I believe that because of his absence we may well have lost an opportunity in Italy, and in war-time fortune is apt to be a little impatient of those who neglect their opportunities.
When the good news came of our surprise landing at Nettuno and when the days passed and there was little sign of German opposition I think that most people felt that we had at last made a surprise landing which was a success. What went wrong? Day after day we were told that men and stores were pouring into the beachhead If the stroke was to be successful, it must be a lightning stroke. No one doubts either the genius or the tenacity of General Alexander. Indeed, the cheers when his name was mentioned in the House by the Prime Minister just now show the high regard in which he is held by the people of this country. It is fair to say that it was his brain which was mainly responsible for the Allied victories in North Africa and Sicily. Indeed, it has not passed without remark that although the major responsibility was General Alexander's when things were going well in the North African campaign, it was the name of that distinguished officer, General Montgomery, which was most often seen in the Press, and yet now that things are not going too well in Italy it is the name of General Alexander which is generally bruited about and not the name of the general officer commanding the Fifth Army at the present time. What delayed us at Nettuno? Was it lack of co-operation between ourselves and our American Allies? Tim weather is of course a prime tactor in war and when conducting an amphibious operation you suffer more from it than the other side. But the weather not only affects us, it affects the Germans as well.
I am not alone in being apprehensive about the conduct of affairs in Italy. Something did go wrong at Nettuno and we have the right to know what. To what extent is politics mixed up with our warlike operations? We were told that we should demand "unconditional surrender" from the Axis Powers who forced this hideous war upon mankind. It would be fair to say that if Italy had not joined the Axis this war might not have taken place. We fought Italy to a standstill and eventually beat her but we did not bomb military targets in Rome or other Italian cities to anything like the extent we should have done. Let me remind the House that when we did bomb Rome it was almost immediately followed by the fall of Mussolini himself. We ought to bomb military targets in Italy. Up to now we have not attempted to bomb the military target of the Val d'Aosta, from which most of the electric power which runs the factories of Northern Italy is derived.
In every theatre of war the gain or loss of islands has been a vital matter. For example, the fact that Malta stood made possible our victories in North Africa and Sicily. When Italy collapsed we had the opportunity of taking Rhodes and the Dodecanese. You have only to look at the map to see the vital strategic importance of Rhodes. We were told that Italy was a co-belligerent yet 20,000 Italian officers and men were incapable of withstanding 6,000 German troops in Rhodes It was the key to that part of the Mediterranean and our failure to secure it made our loss of the Dodecanese almost inevitable. That failure has influenced the whole of the conduct of the war in the Mediterranean. Not only that—it has influenced the situation in Turkey and in the Balkans and that, in turn, has influenced the whole of our international relationships because you cannot influence the Balkans without affecting Russia, and what happens there must have a tremendous effect upon what happens in the United States of America. Why then did not we take Rhodes ourselves instead of leaving it to be dealt with by 20,000 of our co-belligerents, our former enemies? We are now getting mixed up in the internal politics of Italy. Now Southern Italy has been handed back to the Italian Government. What Government? The Badoglio Government, which failed to surrender Mussolini to us when they had him in their hands and when they could have handed him over at any time. We had to protest most forcibly because Generals Ambrosio and Roatta were included in that Government—two men who were wanted for war crimes. I believe that it is a fact that General Badoglio himself is or was on the list of war criminals put forward by the Abyssinian Government. I wonder if the Foreign Secretary could tell us whether we are now to have an Italian Ambassador or Minister back in London?
Sicily and Sardinia, both absolutely vital to us in our war operations, have been handed back to the jurisdiction of the Italian Government. Will the Foreign Secretary, when he replies, give an undertaking to the House and to the country that there is no question of handing back to Italy her Colonial Empire, or any part of it, bearing in mind the speech made by the Prime Minister in this House last year when he said that the Italian Empire had been "irretrievably lost?"
21st September. If this handing over to Italy of conquered territory is the first step towards restoring Italian Colonial possessions, then, indeed, the people of this country have every reason to be apprehensive. It is an easy step from, "Oh, the poor Italians" to "Oh, the poor Germans"—that we are fighting only the wicked Nazis and not the nice, kindly German people. If we think that we are deluding ourselves. No German Government could have prepared for and carried on this war for four years if the vast majority of the German people had not been behind it in its war aims. The German people cannot divest themselves of their responsibility for the German actions which have brought this war upon the world. A change of uniform does not necessarily mean a change of principle. It is true, as the Prime Minister says, that Germany and Italy are somewhat different propositions but the basic principles apply equally in both cases. The peoples of Italy and Germany were behind their Governments just so long as they thought it paid. Last autumn reports appeared in the Press which went to show that the Italians seemed quite unable to realise that they had any responsibility for the betrayal of France, the tragedy of Greece and the atrocities which were perpetrated in the Balkans and the fact that thousands of British sailors, soldiers and airmen were killed by Italian bombs and bullets in North Africa. Now the Italian attitude seems to be that all the crimes and liabilities of the past have been sponged from the slate and that it is up to us now to promote their prosperity and happiness in every way that lies in our power. I cannot help wondering what our soldiers in Italy think about all this? The Prime Minister himself said last October that Italy was "working a passage home," but even if the stowaway is penitent that is no reason why he should be treated as if he were a loyal and well-respected member of the original crew. We are supposed now to be fighting to free Italy from German domination—the fruit of their willing entry into the Axis—an alliance which they enjoyed while it suited them. It is true that we have to feed, clothe and restore the countries which have been despoiled by war but if within a few months of so-called unconditional surrender the people who have been responsible for the death and mutiliation of tens of thousands of our men are to be looked upon as favoured Allies with all an Ally's advantages, then that is going too far. It reminds me of the foreign gentleman whose English was not very good, and who said, "Too much is plenty, more is enough yet."
Departure from the principle that conquered territories should be administered by Allied administrators has led us into this difficulty. Doing away with A.M.G.O.T. has resulted in our getting irretrievably mixed up in Italian politics. Let us beware of the danger of interfering with the decision of foreign peoples as to how they shall be governed. These matters must inevitably fall to be discussed when the war is over, but we are only laying up trouble for ourselves in Italy at the present time if we back either this faction or that. I do not care whether Italy becomes a republic or remains a monarchy, but I do say that the matter ought not to be decided now when vital military operations are taking place in Italy. May I remind the Government of something which was said by one of its most distinguished ornaments, the Secretary of State for Air, when speaking in a Debate in this House on 23rd March, 1933:
I loathe dictatorships whatever form they take, whether of the Right or of the Left,
but I am convinced that the form of Government in any country is a matter only for the citizens of that country.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 5933; col. 535, Vol. 276.]
Nobody can shut his eyes to the very general perturbation which exists in this country at the present time on the subject of Soviet-Polish relations. The question goes much further than just a matter between those Governments alone. It affects the Balkans and the Baltic States and our relationship with the United States of America. While it is true as the Prime Minister said that we should be guarded in what we say it would be dangerous were it to go out that people in this country were not greatly concerned as to the future of Poland. We went to war in order that Polish territory might be preserved, so far as we could ensure it, from invasion. I think that discussions regarding delicate international matters are not best served by blazoning in the newspapers of the day all the details of those discussions as they go along. But whatever view we may take about the discussions between Russia and Poland I think we have to face the future in a spirit of realism. Indeed, there is no other spirit which makes the slightest appeal to our great and valued Ally, Soviet Russia. The fact remains, however, that we gave Poland a definite and categorical pledge regarding her frontiers. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] My hon. Friend says "No," but may I remind the House that on 30th July, 1941, the Soviet and Polish Governments concluded an agreement by which the Soviet, specifically and categorically, admitted that the Soviet-German Treaty of 1939 concerning territorial changes in Poland had lost its force.
On the same day that that agreement was signed the Foreign Secretary handed a note to the late General Sikorski as representing the Polish Government which contained these words:
I desire also to assure you that His Majesty's Government does not recognise any territorial changes made in Poland since 1939.
General Sikorski's answer dotted the i's and crossed the t's. The Polish Government expressed their satisfaction
with the declaration of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to the effect that it does not recognise any territorial changes made in Poland since August, 1939.
There is no ambiguity about that. There is the pledge. The Prime Minister has in the past expressed himself—quite rightly,
in my opinion—very strongly on the subject of Poland, which has been referred to by one Russian statesman as "the ugly offspring of the Versailles Treaty." This is what the Prime Minister said in this House on 13th April, 1933, after the Polish frontiers had been restored:
I rejoice that Poland has been reconstituted. I trust she will live long to enjoy the freedom of the lands which belong to her, a freedom which was gained by the swords of the victorious Allies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th April, 1933; col. 2789, Vol. 276.]
There is nothing very ambiguous about that. But what of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia? What is to be the future of Finland? These are grave and very weighty matters. What is our action going to be if Poland stands by the letter of our bond to her? What is the right hon. Gentleman's action going to be, since he signed that bond? We went to war to prevent the dismemberment of Poland by force. Dismemberment by agreement might conceivably absolve us from our pledge.
I have said that we live in an age of realism. Russia naturally has very definite views as regards her frontiers and, if the rectification of frontiers can guarantee peace in Europe, in God's name let us rectify them. But the rectification must take place by agreement and not by force. I do not think that we can do other than say that, so far as Poland is concerned, we must agree to the Curzon line provided that concessions are made in other directions which would recompense Poland for territories that she will have lost in the East. I am more than a little anxious about our foreign policy. Was the foreign policy enunciated by the Foreign Secretary at Moscow in all respects the same as the foreign policy agreed upon between the Prime Minister and Marshal Stalin at Teheran? If relations there were so cordial, then why did Soviet Russia administer such a slap in the face to us and to the United States when we sought to help in solving the Polish difficulty, because after all we are deeply concerned in the affairs of Poland. Above all, why did the Soviet Government permit the publication in the "Pravda" of the statement on the subject of alleged peace pourparlers between Germany and ourselves? It is not impossible for skilful diplomacy to resolve questions of friction and difference where the causes are determinable, but the inexplicable in foreign affairs is fraught with very grave danger—and Russian foreign policy since the Teheran meeting has in some respects seemed to the British public very inexplicable.
For a few moments I wish to refer to Yugoslavia. By all accounts, Soviet Russia has concluded an agreement with the Czechoslovak statesman, Dr. Denes. I hope that the full implications of that agreement are fully appreciated by the Government. What territorial concessions, if any, have been made to Russia? These are matters of vital importance not only to us but to the nations in the Balkans for whose freedom we are fighting. On 30th January there was a report in the "Observer" that the Soviet Government had declined the proposals of the Yugoslav Government to conclude a treaty on the same lines as that concluded with Dr. Benes. The fact that overtures had been made by the Yugoslav Government was known outside official circles in Cairo a considerable time before the news was allowed to be circulated in London. Why is there this censorship of news in connection with Yugoslav affairs? Why is the Government of King Peter now being referred to, it would appear rather disparagingly, as the "emigré Yugoslav Government"? We are told of differences of opinion between the Government of King Peter, the rightful monarch of Yugoslavia, and what is called the provisional Government recently set up by Marshal Tito. No one can read the Press without being struck by the quite obvious efforts that are being made to discredit the Royalist Government. The Government which Yugoslavia is to have after the war is a matter for the Yugoslav people. Let us beware, either by ourselves or in collaboration with Russia, of endeavouring to instal or boost a Government of the Left or Right at the expense of the other. Not long ago General Mihailovitch, the Commander-in-Chief of Yugoslavia's regular Army, was being extolled in our Press. This Serbian patriot has been conducting military operations against Germany with great success from the moment that the Yugoslav Government struck a blow for freedom.
Balkan domestic politics are often tricky and always difficult for British people to understand. Serbs, Slovenes and Croats all have deep fundamental differences of opinion. Their hates and bitternesses are not easy of comprehension by people here. But let us beware of being unjust. It was the action of the Serbs which overthrew the pro-German Government in March, 1941, and brought Yugoslavia into the war alongside the Allies. Since then the Partisans under Marshal Tito have also been fighting for Yugoslav freedom. But practically all that the British public now hears about affairs in Yugoslavia are the accounts of what is done by Marshal Tito, which come incidentally from a Yugoslav station which is some thousands of miles from Yugoslavia, while information which could come to us from General Mihailovitch in Yugoslavia itself is withheld from the British public.
Let us make no mistake about this. I do not take any sides in Yugoslav politics but I realise that General Mihailovitch represents the Serbian people in Yugoslavia. He has their full support. I beg the Government to beware of being led into a position where we play one statesman or politician off against another in the Balkans, as we did in French North Africa. Do not let us throw over General Mihailovitch and the legitimate Yugoslav Government, which we have until recently affected to support, merely because Marshal Tito happens to be persona grata in Moscow. There may be other excellent reasons but that should not be the reason. We, as well as Russia, are interested in the liberation and settlement of the Balkans. The Serbs are a tenacious and courageous people, and we owe it to them to see that Serbian national entity is neither destroyed nor impaired when the war is over.
I always detect a tendency for those who hate one form of dictatorship to label people with whom they do not agree as Fascists. In some quarters it is now fashionable to revile General Franco. I happen to love the Spanish people, irrespective of their political views. They are a proud, brave and exceedingly courteous and hospitable race. A Spaniard's word is his bond. The form of Government which is to govern Spain is a matter for the Spanish people themselves to decide and no one else. At a time when delicate negotiations are obviously taking place regarding the relationship of Spain to this country and the United States it is dangerous to say very much but, whatever our personal views about General Franco may be, let us remember that he and his
countrymen resisted almost overwhelming pressure to join the Axis at a time when we had our backs to the wall and that if Spain had then joined the Axis, it might have made just the difference between our being able to stand up or being defeated. Thanks to Spanish neutrality we were able to maintain our at times very precarious hold upon the Mediterranean. Never was it so essential that we should have a clear-cut foreign policy based upon British needs. It would be wrong and dangerous for our foreign policy to be to any extent dictated to us by any of our Allies. Speaking in this House in a Debate on foreign affairs, and criticising the foreign policy of the then Government, the Prime Minister once said:
Where anything has been achieved it has nearly always been at British expense and to British disadvantage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1933; col. 550, Vol. 276.]
It would be deplorable if at this vital time in the affairs of the British Empire that criticism could be justly levelled at the foreign policy of the right hon. Gentleman's own Government.
We have listened to-day to a masterly speech from the Prime Minister, surveying thoroughly both the war and the international position—the first speech since he returned from his long journey and since his serious illness. It was a great satisfaction to all of us to see him in such fine fighting form, so full of vigour and readiness to give a lead to the nation. The Prime Minister's wanderings to and fro, at one time to America and at another to Russia, and on the last occasion to Teheran, have been of immense value to the Allies and to this country in particular. I do not think it is wrong to remind ourselves of the great physical strain of such journeys even for a younger man, certainly for a man of his age, with the tremendous responsibilities which he has on his shoulders, The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken seemed to weigh in the balance the facts of the Prime Minister in his dual capacity being here in London and travelling as he was a few months ago. I think he must be the best judge himself, but personal contacts and personal talks are worth tons of correspondence.
The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in saying that if only it were possible for the heads of States, the Pre- sident of the United States and Marshal Stalin and himself to meet at monthly intervals many of our difficulties would be overcome. Allies are always at a disadvantage infighting one sovereign Power. I remember the difficulty during the last war, which was only solved by the appointment of Marshal Foch as supreme military commander. The interests of three nations separated geographically lay vast distances of land and sea cannot be identical. Each Government, even our Government, must approach the problems of war from the point of view of the fundamental interests of its own nationals. The methods of equipment and organisation are different, and we cannot expect the same unity of leadership or of organisation from Allies as we see it in the case of our enemy. Undoubtedly the Prime Minister has made Herculean efforts to overcome these obstacles, and in America and, I believe, in Russia, they are ready to pay him tribute in that respect.
The Prime Minister has made some interesting appointments since his visit to Moscow. There is the appointment of Eisenhower, a magnificent gesture, which shows our readiness to put national sentiment aside in the interests of military unity. Then—and I was surprised he did not refer to it in his speech—there is the organisation of a Mediterranean Council. I was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. H. Macmillan) in his place. I assume that he represents us on that Council, which ought to be a magnificent instrument in preventing friction in those waters. Finally, there is the setting up of the European Council in London. I noticed the other day a picture of its first meeting. This Council offers great promise, and my only criticism of the efficiency of this body is that it is composed of officials rather than Ministers. There is an efficient representative of the Foreign Office, the Russian Ambassador and the American Ambassador, all competent men, but I cannot help thinking that if this Council is to have the weight it should have in bringing about unity, it would be of immense help if a Minister of Cabinet rank were sitting on it.
The criticism I hear—and I think the Prime Minister was conscious of it—about the conduct of operations in recent months is about the lack of elasticity. War is dependent on two important factors, the weather and the strength of the enemy. It is very easy to miscalculate both, and I have a shrewd suspicion that we have miscalculated them during the last few weeks. The enemy is always at a great advantage over us owing to his being in the centre of a circumference and our being on the outside perimeter. The Germans have shown, contrary to their traditional military strategy, immense flexibility. The Italian campaign has obvious difficulties, owing to the terrain and the almost impregnable mountains that have to be crossed. I was glad that the Prime Minister paid tribute to General Alexander. Some of us were rather surprised that we permitted the march through that difficult country in Southern Italy. Anybody familiar with it knows the tremendous difficulties. I assume, and I do not think it is an unreasonable assumption, that when the Italians surrendered it was anticipated that the resistance would be weakened. However, the Germans showed the elasticity of organisation which their geographical situation helps them to exercise, for it has enabled them to draw troops from other fronts. It makes me wonder sometimes how far our strategy is co-ordinated with that of the other two major Powers, and worked out not merely on a long-term basis but from day to day. No front is isolated. It certainly is not with the Germans. They are able to move divisions from the Baltic to the Balkans and to the West from the East, in spite of our bombing of Germany and the big cities and the destruction of railways. This is due, no doubt, to the design of their Autobahnen, which enables them to be very mobile.
I am satisfied and the whole House is satisfied that under the ruthless pressure from outside surrender is ultimately certain, but there must be the utmost unity between all the Powers if we are to secure rapid success. The same applies to political strategy. Like the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), I sometimes doubt whether there is complete unity of aims and objects in our international relations with the other Powers. What can be done had been shown by the organization of U.N.R.R.A. That has brought all the nations concerned together in order to restore economic security for Europe when the war is over. But in other problems we are not speaking with the same voice. The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to newspaper articles in Russia on Poland. This problem has been dealt with in this country from different points of view, but I think the Prime Minister's statement of to-day was immensely reassuring, for it shows a knowledge and understanding of the Polish point of view. I thought that he dealt with the Greek and Yugoslav problems with skill and wisdom. If he had not made that statement I was prepared to be critical, but I thought that the Prime Minister appreciated the situation and was ready to face up to our great obligation to the Polish people.
The Prime Minister made one omission, although I do not think it was intentional, for there was no reference to France. The fact, however, that when the Prime Minister was recovering from his illness in North Africa he had conversations with De Gaulle seems to suggest that there is every hope of our being able to appreciate the French point of view and of giving encouragement to one of the most marvellous movements, perhaps, in many ways more marvellous even than what has been going on in Yugoslavia and Greece, namely, the underground movement in France. Under appalling difficulties, the French people as a whole have been carrying on, sabotaging and helping this nation's efforts. It cannot be too often repeated from this House that we are behind them in their struggle and that in due course we are going to their country to rescue them. I hope that in the meantime the Government will do all in their power to encourage this patriot movement, particularly in the most practical form by supplying the arms that are so sorely needed by the splendid men and women who are fighting in France under these difficult conditions.
I felt that, underlying the Prime Minister's speech, particularly towards the end, was the desire for the support of the country. I can assure him that he has the support of the whole nation. The whole people are behind him in his leadership in these most difficult times. I do agree, and I think the nation must be conscious of it, that we are still a long way from victory. There are difficult times ahead. When the so-called second front opens, whatever part of Europe is attacked by our Armies, there must be tremendous toll of man-power and appall- ing sacrifices. It cannot be said too clearly that in the difficulties which the Government inevitably must face—and we are sure to have defeats and miscalculations—the Prime Minister has the right to ask that we should not be merely fair weather friends but prepared to stand by him when the Government have their backs to the wall and unexpected difficulties arise.
The hon. Gentleman spends most of his time ridiculing everybody. He is a very young man and he ought to control himself occasionally. Self-control is the first thing a politician should learn. Until he has learned that he cannot hope to make the best use of the undoubted abilities which are at his command. I was responsible as much as anybody else for the party truce. When the war began I took the line, and I think the right line, that, following the precedent of the last war, ordinary party controversy should be suspended. I was influenced in that attitude by, as much as anything, the realities of the situation, the danger from air raids, the stale register, and, perhaps more important than anything, the absence of soldiers overseas. But this is an old Parliament, nine years old. Inevitably there is unrest among the electors at being deprived of the right to exercise the franchise. I happened during the last war, in 1916, to be a candidate under those very conditions. I was elected. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be surprised to hear that it was after a very bitter contest, when I was opposed, not by Communists or Labour but by a Conservative, backed by the Conservative Press, the "Daily Mail." That is long forgotten and I refer to it to show that I managed to get in. But there it is; those things do happen. Let the country have a proper sense of proportion. Let people appreciate, and especially let the Government appreciate, what is perhaps more important than anything else, that other nations should realise that, when each candidate professes his or her loyalty to the Prime Minister in the prosecution of the war, those are not empty words, but are meant to make clear to the world that, whatever our political opinions may be, we are whole-heartedly behind the Prime Minister in the prosecution of the war.
If there is disturbance at times because of these contested elections, let it be remembered, as the Prime Minister has so wisely said, that the United States of America has difficulties which are far larger and more complex. The President of the United States is faced not only with minor incidents such as by-elections, but he has to face Congress, which is often critical and not very ready to vote the necessary supplies to carry on the war, and, owing to the working of their Constitution, there is in the offing the prospect of a contested general election. These petty domestic difficulties are a healthy sign in a free country. In Russia or Germany they do not exist, because if there is criticism the critics are liquidated. In a difficult war like this, we should have free expression of opinion. Behind it all, is the healthy sign that victory is in the offing and that the nation is united on the things that are essential—the prosecution of the war and loyalty to the Prime Minister.
I must crave the indulgence of hon. Members for my maiden speech, especially on an occasion like this, when I know that so many hon. Members are particularly keen to talk on foreign affairs. There seem to me to be too few Debates on foreign affairs, so I feel I must try to take this opportunity to say a few words on matters which seem to me very urgent, more with regard to foreigners and this country than on definite questions of actual foreign policy. As hon. Members know, I have just been elected for what I might definitely call one of the front-line towns of this country. Indeed, the constituency represents two towns in the front line. They face to the Continent and they know only two well that they may at any moment be blitzed. They have indeed suffered a great strain on this account, since 1940. Those two towns are really interested in foreign affairs. They consider, as all front-line towns must, that foreign affairs are vital to this country. At the present moment they also think—I am sure of this—that no matter what plans we have for the future of our own country after the war, the plans will be of no use unless we are certain of a clear foreign policy for Great Britain.
As the right hon. Baronet has just referred to my election and has stated that my opponent was a Conservative, I must correct him, before going on with my first point. My opponent was definitely an Independent who in no way belonged to the Conservative Party, and never had. As the right hon. Baronet, as a Liberal, probably knows, my opponent belongs to a very well-known Liberal family in the town, and most of his supporters were leading Liberals. That really does not affect the matter very much. I do think that a number of people in my constituency, as in many other constituencies of the country, would be much more keen at the present moment to support the Government if they were absolutely certain that we had a clear-cut foreign policy. It practically never came out in any of the national papers that such a thing was discussed or worried about at the time of my election, yet I am pretty sure that people were most interested in what I had to say when I discussed, not so much what was going on in the war, as the future of our foreign policy after the war.
If we cast our minds back we shall remember how people in Europe, since the last war and in fact for many years before it, have watched with envy the organisation of democracy in this country. I remember numbers of cases of people with whom I have talked, in many foreign countries, right up to the beginning of the war, who said: "The one reason why we have Nazism or Fascism or Shintoism"—in Japan, where I was talking to people also—"is because we have tried too soon to follow in your footsteps and to copy your organisation and democracy, and the way you run your country. We all hope, in the long run, that we may be able to have a similar Government to yours in our country, but we started too soon after the last war, thinking that what took you nearly 100 years to learn would be done by us in a few months. The result was disaster and chaos, and the regime that we now have." That might well be remembered after this war for foreign countries, and particularly by people in the underground movements, and in the neutral countries and elsewhere, where they are watching us to-day. We must make sure that we still have the ideals and the traditions which made us so strong in foreign affairs during the 19th century. I believe that we still have them, but I believe that we are not told it enough and we are not able to tell it to the world as a whole.
I fought one other election, in 1929, on very similar lines to those on which I fought my recent by-election. It was on a line, of which I am proud to-day, of trusting the Prime Minister, but when it came to a policy on foreign affairs there was little one could say. The marvellous speech of the Prime Minister to-day has, I think, definitely put foreign affairs again on the map, and I hope they will be taken up, as time goes on, and that we shall have more Debates in which we can discuss this very vital problem. Look at the huge majorities that were obtained in this country after the last war, by an entirely new kind and type of electorate—in 1924, when there was a definite foreign affairs issue, in 1931, when, although hon. Members may say the issue was not foreign affairs but finance, it was surely what effect finance would have on our intercourse and trade with foreign countries. Again, in 1935, the issue was foreign affairs. I believe that I am right in saying that had we not gone to war in order to defend the rights of Poland in 1939 the Government could not have stood very much longer. That might very well be remembered to-day, in discussing the present problems in regard to Poland.
I believe that people in this country are earnestly watching to see what we are going to do in regard to our own foreign policy. There are people who are nervous, on the one side, that we may be doing too much what Russia asks us, and some people, on the other hand, who think that we are doing too much what the United States asks. If we want to have real enthusiasm and unity in the country, we shall have it only if we can show that we have our own old foreign policy ideals. I am certain that the country as a whole is more keenly interested in foreign affairs than hon. Members may possibly realise.
The reason for that is that now, more than at any time in the last 140 years, since indeed the days of the Napoleonic wars, we have more foreigners in this country in positions of standing than we have ever had before. They are members of foreign Governments, of our own Army and Air Force and there are refugees who have escaped from other countries. They are all over the country. They are going about meeting our own people. We have them in the squadrons of our Air Force and connected with the Navy and the Army. All these people are studying us, and one day they will be going back to their own countries. Are we, and are the Government, trying to do enough for them? Are we trying, as a country, to do enough, to make them understand what is behind our intentions, what is in our minds, and how we work in with the Dominions? That is something that they must understand after this war, if they are to have a real trust and belief in us in the future. They want sincerity from us, and they want to know exactly what it is that we feel. They do not only want to know what Great Britain and Northern Ireland feel, but they want to know what the Dominions are thinking and whether they, the Dominions, are going to work with us in the years to come.
If the Dominions are to take an interest after the war in our European problems, surely this, of all times, is the time, when we have Dominion sailors, soldiers and airmen in this country, for us to try to put them in touch with all the foreigners in this country, and to see that they get to understand their problems, so that they and the foreigners can go back later, and be our ambassadors in whatever country they come from. In addition, we must remember that many of the foreigners here will be traders and businessmen in their own countries, and they will possibly give us orders which will be of benefit to the people in this country. Are we taking the right steps to meet these people and see that they meet our industrialists and know what is going on? I am not quite, certain that we are. I know, from occasional friends in the Foreign Office, that they are not meeting the lesser representatives of our Government. In the old days, our young diplomats not only met officials of the Governments of foreign countries but also met people and parties outside the Governments, and got to know what was really felt in the country for which they were accredited. To-day one meets these foreigners and one is informed by them that they never meet so-and-so because they are not accredited. The Poles are accredited to the Norwegians and so they never go to the Foreign Office. Sometimes when I ask some of our Foreign Office to come to dinners to meet foreign Government officials they say: "Oh no, thank you, it is too much like shop." That is all very fine, but our diplomats must meet as many foreigners as possible. There are many of these people scattered about in our Services and Forces. We must get out of them what they want for their countries. They must, if possible, be made to contact the Dominions.
Travelling a lot in Europe as recently as 1938 and 1939, in Yugoslavia and through Norway, Sweden and Denmark, I often heard the following sort of remark: "We are not interested much in your ordinary political problems, but, is your Navy strong? Is it all right? If that is so we will stick to our ideas and hope for the best." That has since been proved in this war to be right. Now there is a new force here, that is the Air Force. It is something that nobody really thought about seriously very much before the war. We were terrified by the Luftwaffe. We did not realise that there was also an Air Force in our country ready to do all the things it did in the Battle of Britain and elsewhere. Even to-day I doubt whether we put that, in fact, I am certain we do not, fully across to the other countries. We want them to know in Europe and throughout the world that here is a people, maybe small, but a worth while people, a people who have proved themselves to be as good in the air as they have proved themselves to be at sea. We did not know it before the war but we know it now and it is really something that ought to be made known. People do not realise that only 700 people took part in the Battle of Britain, which was as important in many ways as Trafalgar and Waterloo. That may sound exaggerated now; but I think that as the years go by it will be found that the Battle of Britain was a turning point.
The Prime Minister to-day talked about the air fleet going out and bombing, but do we realise what it all means behind the scenes? Do we realise how much more damage it can do than by the colossal work and effort that have to be put in by one army trying to capture a town? It is something that can well be understood by people in South Coast towns and other places where they hear the roar of the fleets going over night after night. These are the things which, I believe, it is very necessary we should tell people abroad. We should not only tell them about it, but we should do everything possible—for we may only have for another few months the Dominion and foreign people in this country—to make them understand our system of government and to make them realise that our Dominions and ourselves are determined to stick together after this war in a policy which will not be a Russian policy or a United States policy but will be based on the old ideals and traditions of freedom for small nations and small people. Moreover, we want to do everything that can be done to make a peaceful Europe and world where we can all live and think reasonably freely.
It falls to my lot and honour to compliment the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Flight-Lieutenant Teeling) on his maiden speech. Much has been said about men coming into Parliament with no knowledge of political matters, but he has shown us that he has a thorough grasp of the most important of all, which is called foreign affairs. We are very glad to have him with us and to hear about his travels and the knowledge he can impart to this House. Also, he is one who has survived the political storm, or rather weathered it, and come to us to tell us that someone is standing behind the Government in this crisis. The Prime Minister seemed to be a little nettled to-day about the political trend of events. I would warn the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party, as one who has stood by the political truce, to be more careful in their choice of candidates. The most recent by-elec- tion was lost—I am not saying a word against the man who got in—largely, I believe, because of the method that was adopted to get his opponent the Noble Lord chosen. It has been criticised as a subterfuge, adopted in order to get the Noble Lord in so that his family could carry on as it had done for so long. Right throughout the country people are as firm for the Prime Minister as they ever have been, but what was done at that by-election is one of the things the public have protested against. I believe those responsible will take heed when they next have to choose a candidate.
I wish to speak about bombing. Recently there has been criticism in another place, and I have seen some in the Press here and in America, to the effect that we ought to be more careful in our bombing of enemy countries. I would ask those people who talk like that not to be so foolish. After all, it is war. You cannot say before going out on a bombing raid "Will there be any civilians injured?" or "Must I not carry out my mission because someone might be injured?" We cannot do that in time of war. We have to try to destroy the enemy as much as we can, and all their production plant wherever it may be. If they build a production plant in a certain part, that is their fault. We warn the civilians "Get away from them, because we cannot hold back our effort from being as full and as strong as ever it can be."
I also wish to refer to what happened regarding Cassino Abbey. It seemed to me that we adopted a wrong policy there. We ought not to have thought about ancient monuments or anything like that. If it is a matter of military tactics to get our men through, then warn the people to get out and get on with the job. I remember that in the last war I was on the Judean Hills when we were attacking Jerusalem. We were told "We cannot take or bomb Jerusalem, so take it on the flanks and work round it." If those in positions of responsibility could have heard the comments of myself and my men about that kind of thing they would not have hesitated. They would have got on and taken it. If the enemy settled there, then clear them out. Historical places, however well famed they may be, come second where human lives are concerned, to my mind. When our men are fighting and sacrificing everything and then we say "We cannot attack a certain places because of its historical value," and we sacrifice men's lives because of that, I claim that that is wrong to the men we are asking to give so much to the nation. Whoever may be in command when any of these places may have to be taken will, I hope, weigh up the consequences to the men who have to take it. If the question is, "Is it a better plan to take it and save men's lives?" then take it, whatever the cost may be. If we hesitate and play with the matter our ruthless enemy will take advantage of that kind of thing; he does so at the present time, I wish to press this on our leaders and those men who wonder what we are thinking about it, that if they can get an assurance from men like myself to get on with the job so far as destroying bricks and mortar is concerned, that they will take notice of that.
I was pleased with the Prime Minister's reference to-day to what is called unconditional surrender. We have men, some in this House I am sorry to say, who are talking about offering peace terms and letting the enemy know what we want. There can be no peace terms with Germany. The only offer we can make to them is unconditional surrender. Then they will know that we shall deal more fairly with them than they have ever dealt with anybody else. Those who talk about peace terms have some idea that we are weakening the enemy. There can be no patched-up peace for this country. The sacrifice has been too big. There can be no ending to this war but the complete surrender of Germany, however long that may take. I want the Prime Minister to follow that line of thought, as he did with Italy. The same thing was argued about Italy, but we set out for unconditional surrender and carried on and landed on the toe of Italy. In this war with Germany there can be only one ending, unconditional surrender.
On the general aspect of the war the Prime Minister held out some idea that the war was not nearly over, and that it seemed to be dragging on longer than many of us expected. That is no reason why we should be less resolved to see it through to the bitter end. We have sacrificed so much that, whatever has to be done to bring victory, must be done. When speaking on these matters I have in mind all the time that I was never so deeply moved as on that occasion when the Foreign Secretary made a report to this House a short time ago on the treatment of our prisoners in the hands of the Japanese. I have been in this House for nearly 20 years and have been moved on many occasions, but never so deeply as then. The thought is before me that whatever else may happen in the social sphere of our country I must always have regard to what those men are going through every day. It falls to us who can urge the war to a quicker conclusion by united effort to think of those who have given so much and who are wondering what we are doing in our country. What I am asking for is that we should try on every occasion to drop what I might term personal differences on this, that or the other point, and try to get united effort to bring the war to a speedy and victorious conclusion—to follow the Prime Minister's lead to-day because I was very glad to see how vigorous he was. I was very glad at the whole trend of his speech. He gave an inspiration to me and to the rest of the country as to how he feels on this matter. It is for us who believe in the ultimate course of the war and who believe we have to take our share in it to see that there is no hesitation in taking any step that will aid its prosecution.
In conclusion, I would refer to a difficult problem, that concerning Poland and Russia. We went to war for Poland. We had a Treaty with them, and I remember the historic day on 2nd September when the then Government were urged and forced to enter this conflict. That was because Poland had been overrun. On the other side there is Russia. I have as great an admiration as anyone can have for what Russia has done. I hope and trust that Russia and Poland will realise that in this great struggle they cannot be at variance with each other. Surely there should be some method by which they can come to agreement. I want both sides to have fair play and I do not want any outside interference if it can be avoided, because it would be a terrible thing for us if we had to take sides in this matter. Poland we honour for her more than four years' struggle. Russia we honour also for the valiant and brilliant work she has done. Is there no means by which these two peoples can get together and reach a solution of their problem? It is too big for me to say at the moment what should be done, but I want a message to go out to these two peoples that this country stands by them and trusts that they will come to some agreement. If we can foresee that, as I think we can, the termination of the conflict between them will be welcomed by all the world.
I wind up in the hope and trust that however long the war lasts Britain will be united to carry it through. We may have to make many big sacrifices. Whatever they may be I believe that the spirit and will of Britain stand firm behind the Prime Minister for the successful prosecution of the war.
I should like first of all to congratulate most warmly my old friend, the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Flight Lieutenant Teeling) on a most successful and fluent maiden speech. I think anyone who embarks on this Debate today must do so with a very profound sense of responsibility and certainly anything that I may say is not intended to render the Prime Minister's task any harder. But true friends tell the truth that sycophants sometimes shrink from telling.
Up to a few months ago, the authority and prestige of our country in Europe, particularly in the occupied countries of Europe, had never been higher. Britain, almost alone against the embattled might of Germany, stood up for right, and that attitude was inspired, led and personified by the Prime Minister. What was that right for which we dared then to face half the world in arms? It was, essentially, freedom for individual men and freedom for individual nations. That was the freedom which was also inscribed on the banner of the United States when she later came into the struggle. To-day, Europe is looking to Britain even more than to the United States or to our gallant Ally, Russia, to stand up still for that freedom and for that ideal of right. She is looking to us more than to the other two, in the first place because of geographical reasons and, in the second, for cultural reasons, because we are the nearest to Europe of the three great world-Powers.
As I see it, the tyranny which threatens Europe to-day is a double-headed monster. There is, first of all, the tyranny of Nazi Germany of which we are all too painfully aware. All Europe is groaning under it, and we have suffered its fell effects. But there seems to me to be an equally dangerous and perhaps even more ruinous tyranny threatening Europe—a more sinister one, perhaps, because it is less obvious. I refer to the danger which is already raising its head, that of civil war and perhaps pitiless, bloody class-war which will go like a forest-fire, leaping from country to country throughout Europe until the whole Continent is consumed in its conflagration. There can be no freedom in a country ravaged by civil war. The first instinct of any law-abiding person who values freedom in a country threatened by civil war is instantly to place everything at the disposal and support of one strong man who can ensure peace, and we see, unfortunately, too frequently the consequences of that natural tendency leading at once to dictatorship.
It is no bogy. The Prime Minister himself mentioned it to-day. Those many hatreds which made Hitler's task so easy, hatreds within nations themselves and hatreds between nations, will still be there even after we have liberated those countries from the German tyranny. Indeed, in consequence of the German tyranny and in consequence of the struggles to get rid of it, in many cases these hatreds will be exacerbated and even more embittered. How are we to get over that? It is vital that Britain should oppose to this menacing tyranny of civil war and to these hatreds a definite foreign policy. It is not enough for us to say that our policy is to win the war. Though that is a necessary condition precedent to a policy, it is not a policy in itself. It is an instinct. We must have a positive, constructive, clear foreign policy to put into practice at the first available moment on the conclusion of hostilities, and it is the seed of that foreign policy which we have carefully to plant even now in the midst of hostilities.
In view of the state of feeling in Europe, we have to shape our foreign policy to-day to achieve unity among the European peoples, and not disunity. These hatreds of which I have spoken between members of the same nation and also between nations, the hatreds of the Lithuanians for the Poles, the Czechs for the Austrians, the Slovaks for the Czechs and the Croats for the Serbs, must be overruled, and they can only be overruled by a carefully thought out, a clearly stated and a vigorously enforced British foreign policy. The essence of such a foreign policy is something based on a principle which can rally to it all the law-abiding men in these nations, all those who genuinely seek for unity, without which there cannot be freedom, as there cannot be order, and that principle must be the recognition of the authority of the legitimate constitutional government of the respective allied countries and the encouraging and reforming of those national aggregates into which the various peoples spontaneously grouped themselves when their moment for freedom came in 1918. Europe is just as much weakened by the hatred of individual Frenchmen for other Frenchmen, individual Yugoslavs for other Yugoslavs, and individual Greeks for other Greeks as it is by these national rivalries.
I am coming to that. The advantage of supporting legitimate authority in Italy has already been shown by the Prime Minister. Honourable soldiers and sailors respect legitimate authority, and it is not from ideology but from a sense of principle that they do so. The legitimate national Governments of Poland, Greece and Yugoslavia have sacrificed everything but honour to their loyalty to us and to our ideals of freedom for European men and nations.
What reward do we offer these peoples and Governments for their sacrifice of everything, for loyalty to us and to our ideals? To the Government and people of Poland, we offer the loss of two of their most historic cities, Vilno and Lwow, and the sacrifice of one-third of their national territory, if we insist upon the so-called Curzon line as their Eastern frontier. To the Government and people of Greece, we offer uncertainty as to what punishment, if any, will befall their implacable and most cruel foes, the Bulgars, and internal anarchy, because we do not, as it seems, firmly support the Greek National Government and the one focus point of Greek national unity and stability, which is the monarchy. To the Government and people of Yugoslavia—and I understand the difficulties there—we not only offer, but encourage—it is against our will, but we do encourage it—civil war, by supporting and helping one who, if he does resist the authority of the Germans and to our advantage, equally resists that of his own legitimate Government, commander-in-chief and sovereign, who are our loyal allies. Further, and perhaps even more disturbing to a British public used to freedom and the free expression of opinion, and to a regard for truth, no matter how it may conflict with previously-held ideologies, a large section of the British Press heaps abuse on all these governments who have sacrificed everything for us, while their own Press is muzzled, and the patriotic achievements of their underground and other fighters is kept out of our Press and our radio. British public opinion is thereby deceived as to the nature of our true friends.
I am interested in many Governments, including our own, to which at least I have been loyal. I was amazed to hear the Prime Minister quoting 250,000 as the figure of armed men who are supporters of Tito. On information which I cannot but believe to be absolutely accurate, this would appear to be a considerable exaggeration, and I would beg the Prime Minister to compare his figures with the official figures of the Yugoslav Government. The question of rationing 250,000 men in the Yugoslav mountains alone would be a stupendous task even in peace-time, with the resources available in Yugoslavia. There are, of course, the advantages that Tito has from his proximity to the coast, but I have very good reason for believing that most things which are reported in the British Press regarding Tito's men and activities have been considerably exaggerated.
They are likely to know fairly well; but we heard the Prime Minister say that there was considerable difficulty in understanding politics in other countries, and I know, from my own experience in the last war, that British officers attached to one body of our supporters believed that the whole truth lay with that body, and that that partial and partisan belief concealed the whole picture from them. Lawrence of Arabia is a case in point in his ignoring the Sykes-Picot Agreement through his natural enthusiasm for his own Arabs.
Will the hon. and gallant Member not agree that the information which comes from our own liaison officers with Tito has just as much value as and even more value than the information which the hon. and gallant Member gets from Mihailovitch's headquarters?
I do not think so. My information comes from the Yugoslav Government, which has better means than the British Government of finding out the whole truth. [An HON. MEMBER: "That Government is in Cairo."] True, and the Free Yugoslav Radio came from Tiflis, which is even further away. After the way the British Government have treated these loyal Allies of ours, who have sacrificed everything for solidarity with our cause, is it any wonder that the Turk hesitates to throw in his lot with us? He has seen the fate which has befallen our smaller Allies. He has got the impression—I hope, wrongly—that we are prepared to throw over our small Allies, that we are not prepared to stand up against what looks like irresistible strength on behalf of the rights of small nations. All neutrals are now looking to Britain to see how she will champion the cause of those who are the weaker amongst our Allies. This is the supreme moment for Britain to retain for all time or, in my view, to lose for all time the moral leadership of Europe, and that is the moral leadership of civilisation. Is it unnatural that our smaller Allies say, "What is the reward for which Britain is prepared, apparently, to sacrifice her honour?"
I hope that no one will insult that great nation for whom I have great admiration and much sympathy by saying that the reward will be the friendship of Soviet Russia. In my experience, the Russians despise more than anything else weakness and vagueness, and the one thing they admire more than anything else is clarity and firmness. After all, the basis of true friendship, between men and between nations, is mutual respect, and if Russia sees us not being true to our other allies, how can she expect that we shall be true to her in the future? We must earn her respect as well, and not merely through our military achievements. It is not fair on the Russians to give them the impression that we have no clear policy in Europe. How can they shape their policy to harmonise with ours, unless we make it very clear and very firm? They cannot believe, any more than this House can believe, that Britain, after standing up for freedom and civilisation against Germany, will now abdicate in favour of European anarchy, and turn the other cheek to civil war between her friends. Of course, we must have friendship with Russia, but, as I said, for friendship there must be mutual respect. It would be false friendship, either for Russia or for Poland, to allow Russia to think that Europe, and the world ultimately, will tolerate a fourth partition of Poland. Most of Europe's subsequent troubles flowed from the three Partitions of Poland in the eighteenth century. The Curzon Line closely corresponds to the Russian line of the Third Partition of 1795. If Britain and the United States are consenting parties to yet another Partition, they will be the first to suffer from it hereafter, in the same way that France, Sweden, Austria and Turkey ultimately suffered from the last three Partitions of Poland.
Russian desires in regard to Poland are threefold; they are natural desires and they are desires which, with good faith and not too much interference, but enough to see that fair play ensues, can be met. What are they? The first one is the co-operation of the Polish Underground Movement with the Russian forces as they enter and move through Poland. This has already been ensured by the commands given by the Polish Government and the Polish Commander-in-Chief General Sosnkowski to the Polish Underground Movement. These orders are cer- tain of execution, because there is complete and absolute harmony between the Polish Underground Movement and the Polish Government in London. No other authority is, or can be, recognised by the genuine National Polish Underground Movement than the genuine National Polish Government in London.
The second desire of Russia, which, I think, sometimes escapes the consciousness of many people in this country, largely from our concentration on the geography of other parts of the world, is to be relieved from a certain—and it sounds odd to say it in connection with Russia—fear. Russia is, of course, a State made up of many nationalities indeed, and she does fear the attraction of that part of the White Ruthenians and Ukrainians who are on the Polish side of the Polish-Russian border for those Ruthenians and Ukranians who remain on the other side of the border as it was left by the Treaty of Riga. She fears that these parts of these two peoples would act as Piedmont did in the case of United Italy—as centripetal nuclei for an independent White Ruthenian or Ukrainian state independent of Russia. It is a natural fear, because the idea of Ukrainian nationality was deliberately fostered, first by the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and secondly by Germany, precisely in order to weaken Russia. Of that problem, the Poles are perfectly well aware, and they have no wish in the slightest to use Ukrainian nationalism as a weapon with which to weaken Russia. They wish to be rid of all their racial problems. It was precisely so as not to have relations between themselves and Russia embittered that, at the Treaty of Riga, they deliberately refused territory as far as 100 miles to the east of the Riga Treaty line, which was then offered to them by Lenin, Tchicherin and Trotsky. This was refused for the very good reason, as was stated to me by M. Grabski, who was the Polish chief plenipotentiary for the territorial settlement at that Treaty, because the Polish Government in those days, which was not such a Liberal Government as the Polish Government to-day, did not wish to have within its borders people who, through their racial sympathies, would prove to be poor Polish citizens. The Polish Government to-day would be very ready for an exchange of those Ruthenians or Ukrainians, who may wish to cross the border into Russia, by a transfer of population by which they would receive back inside Poland the Polish people who may be left alive of those who are still being retained in Soviet Russia.
The third desire of Russia in regard to Poland is natural again—the loyal co-operation of the Polish Government and people in peace as well as in war. The Poles have proved that co-operation in war at the price of a greater martyrdom than any other nation in Europe. They still go on. The Battle of Britain was mentioned just now. It is probable that, but for the Poles in the Battle of Britain, the result of the battle might have gone differently. The proportion of German planes shot down by them was higher, in fact, than those shot down by our own pilots. I ask the House whether it does not agree that loyal co-operation between the Polish Government and people on the one hand, and the Russian Government and people on the other hand is not more likely to be achieved by fair treatment of Poles to-day, by a recognition by Russia of the united, national, democratic and independent Polish Government in London as the only possible Polish Government, and by a Government of Poland after the war elected without any pressure from any outside nation but solely according to the entirely freely expressed wishes of the Polish people themselves. It would be criminal folly to suggest that, without forcing upon our Polish Ally the necessity to amputate more and more of his own body, any renewal of the relations or alliance between these two Slav nations is impossible. Let us, therefore, take whatever aid we can from any Allies against the Germans, but not such aid as can only be given by the sacrificing of our loyal Allies, because that is a sacrifice of our own honour, and then, when the day of reckoning comes to us, as sooner or later it surely must, we shall not then ourselves have or deserve a single friend in the world.
I listened very intently to the speech of the Prime Minister to-day, as I always do to the right hon. Gentleman's speeches. May I say, with all sincerity, that he showed himself a master of evasion in connection with all the ticklish points that affect the nations of the world. If we cast our minds back to 1939, and remember the high-sounding and lofty phrases in which were announced in this House, our reasons for going to war, we see they have all been shed to-day, and that the moral and idealistic aspect has been scrapped, as very often happens as a war goes on. The Prime Minister has talked in the most contemptuous and evasive manner about pledges given to the various nations in 1939. Indeed, it was advanced at that time as one of the great reasons for our going to war, that if we did not then make a stand for justice and human rights, we would have no sympathisers when our own turn would come; no friends and no mourners to wail over our fate.
The position has been reversed within the last six, nine or 12 months. Where formerly Hitler was advancing throughout various countries, incorporating all the States into the German Reich, and declaring them to be under the guardianship of the Nazi party, now, in a large measure, we see the armies of Hitler retreating and disgorging the booty that they had claimed when they were over-running Europe. As Hitler is receding, the partner with whom Hitler entered into his aggressive crimes in 1939, is taking the place of Adolf, and as Germany is disgorging territory, it is being swallowed up by Russia. The Prime Minister has, in my estimation, now become Stalin's "Charlie McCarthy." He refuses to disclose the mass of his information to this House or to assert himself in relation to the great problems which are being thrown up as the war goes on.
When does aggression cease to be aggression? Is it aggression only when perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazi party, or does it cease to be aggression when it is perpetrated by Stalin and the Bolshevik party? That is a question to which this nation will have to provide an answer before very long. Events are moving rapidly, and the transformation that is taking place on the Continent and in the Balkans will be so complete that we shall require that declaration in an honest statesmanlike manner and not in the evasive way adopted by the Prime Minister to-day. Let us get this straight. From the way that various countries are being condemned to-day, one would think that they had provoked the war. Finland and Poland are surely defenders against aggression, no matter what we think about their Governments. I have no time for the Polish Government. Many tricks have been learnt from the Polish ruling class, but that is beside the point at the moment. The question is to bring one's mind back to the time when Stalin and Hitler had a pact, which was termed a pact of non-aggression, but which actually became a partnership in crime and resulted in the raiding and raping of the nations on the borderline. Where does this country stand in relation to Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Rumania?
The partnership was dissolved in 1941 because one of the partners got all he could out of the partnership and feared that the position was going to be reversed at a very early date. He proceeded to transfer his allegiance to see what he could get out of the other partnership which he made in 1941. Russia, from the point of view of the war, became an Ally of those who were heart and soul in this bloody struggle. To the people of London and various other cities, it ended the bombing nightmare, and, therefore, superficially, the people of this country welcomed Russia not for what Russia stood, but because of the fact that she took the weight off this country in many respects. Let us accept that. That meant to say that this country was prepared to enter into a partnership that was going to play the self-same game in a cunning form. I see in the papers to-day that they have set up a National Council, as a Government in Poland. Anybody who knows of the happenings on the borders of Russia and in other countries, or of the Communist party in relation to other parties, knows the old game. We know that, in Fife, they marched unemployed men to the mines to induce other miners to strike. We know what they mean by all these committees to ensure that democracy shall operate freely. I have heard people say that nothing could be fairer. Russia would offer independence. Yes, it would be an independent Poland, but it would be a linking up of Poland by means of a Government subservient to the Soviet State and would be extending the power of Soviet Russia. The same is happening, we are told, also in Finland. One of the proposed terms is a certain line of demarcation, with a Government friendly towards the Soviet Union. We know what that means. Another nominated State will be set up in Finland. Before you know where you are, the whole of the States, as the Armies roll forward, will be incorporated into the Soviet Union.
The speech of the Prime Minister stated that we were going on with our bombing policy and that the Atlantic Charter did not apply to Germany. I begin to wonder to whom the Atlantic Charter does apply. It does not apply to British Colonies and it does not apply to enemy States. It is only a grand dramatic trick to cash in on public opinion throughout the world, and the villain stands unmasked to-day in having proclaimed that the Atlantic Charter was only a sham proclamation to the world in order to get sympathy for this country at a dangerous time and in its hour of distress. He says that we shall go on, and that he discussed the possibility of incorporating, or giving, parts of Germany to Poland in return for property taken from the Poles by the Russians. Then he talks about going on until unconditional surrender is achieved and the German people place themselves in our hands and at our mercy. No greater support can be given Goebbels in any declaration in this country, than that which has been given by the Prime Minister.
During this war no real attempt has been made by the Government of this country to separate those who are progressive-minded in Germany from those who are bestially-minded and who are incorporated in the Nazi party. The Government should have been able to say to those people in Germany who matter, "Get rid of your Nazi bosses, and we will treat you in a decent manner. You can depend upon the Atlantic Charter being applied, not only in theory but in reality to the people of Germany just as to the people of other parts of the world." But we have thrown even the doubtful people in Germany behind their Nazi masters, because they are told that to surrender, to ask for peace, would be to place themselves at the mercy of British and United States financiers and capitalists who would make them complete slaves and would exploit them for a generation.
I was shocked to hear from other lips in the House to-day statements regarding foreign policy. There is no pretence now about the bombing being a bombing only of military objectives. The Press has said that we are systematically wiping out towns. Indeed, the Prime Minister said on one occasion, "They do not require to stay in their cities. Let them go out into the countryside and to the hills, and watch the home fires burning." What a brutal expression. If it were by any person in any other country, it would be paraded in the Press as the personification of everything that was evil. I do not believe that that is the policy of a large mass of the people of this country. I hear many of them in the streets, in the trams, and they use expressions such as "How horrible," "How vile," "Is it not a horrible thing that this war is making of the world?" and then politicians come along and say, "Continue bombing Berlin." We read in the Press about the frenzied, wild-eyed women who come from the undergrounds and the shelters after a night of torture and terror, and we remember that the same thing took place in London.
I saw it, as others did, at close quarters and said at that time the Nazis paid no attention to military objectives. They bombed recklessly, without consideration, in an attempt to terrorise the civilian population of this city and this country. But it did not terrorise. It did not set the people howling and shouting for the end of the war. In many cases it set their hearts and minds to the continuation of the war. But in a large number of cases to-day they ask, Was it a moral philosophy that was being expounded when the Germans were bombing the cities of Great Britain, or was it simply a protest, because we had not the bombing planes to reply in kind at that time? If it was a moral protest, they say, you would not emulate the Nazis. You would not attempt to carry on the same type of work that they carried out in 1940 and 1941. Therefore, the bombing policy brands you as hypocrites of the worst kind who only used that moral language because you had not the planes at that time to bomb the Germans as they were bombing our cities. It is true that you make war on the Nazis but it is the poor suffering millions of each country that pay the penalty. When you say, "Why do they not rise against their Nazi masters?" you talk in superior tones. But the Government of this country would send out the aeroplanes and the machine guns to mow down people in their own Empire if they attempted to revolt and tried to free themselves from the financial tyranny of the present day.
Therefore when you are appealing to the Germans to rise, when you are talking about giving guns and arms by aeroplane and parachute to those whom you are encouraging to revolt, our minds go back again to the young man who shot Darlan. He took your advice, faced the firing squad and was buried in quicklime because he followed the path that you had asked him to follow and took the advice that you had given. This war, we are told by the Prime Minister, may go on over 1945 or 1946, if the German home front can hold, because there is no reason to believe that the military front will collapse if the German home front can hold. All hangs on that. What a different story from the false advisers we had in 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939 when we were encouraged to go to war, because the German people were anxious to get the Nazis into war so that they could overthrow Hitler. We were told that they were short of food, short of materials, short of oil. All these old stories that have gone by the board.
I say to every lover of freedom in this House and to every anti-Imperialist: If anybody had any doubts about this being an Imperialist war in 1939, if they are honest, they can divest their minds of those doubts now because it is steeped in Imperialism. Every move has behind it the consideration of oil, of coal, of iron-ore, of cotton. Every group in this country, financial and capitalist, and in America is thinking in terms of how they can make secure those resources which they require to carry out their own industrial undertakings. I would say the same of Germany and the occupied countries. Germany, looking to the loot that this country and America and France and Holland had previous to the war, crossed the path of the British and then the American ruling classes. They challenged them for supremacy. We went to war ostensibly for the Polish Corridor. Now we see not only the corridor but the drawing-room, the dining-room, the bedrooms, the whole of the castle is going, but going from another direction, and we have not got a Prime Minister who can get up at that Box and state honestly that his illness at Teheran was not only a physical illness but the political illness of a man who knows that he is being driven remorselessly along a road on which he cannot stop.
To-day the Prime Minister has become apologist for the crimes that are being committed in this war. I stand against the ordinary capitalist Governments, but I also stand for something. It is no satisfaction to me to know that if I am refused the right to think, read and write and to give expression to my point of view, the rulers shall wear the hammer and sickle, instead of the Nazi swastika. I say to both dictatorships that I am relentlessly opposed to them and their philosophy. I will never subscribe to any philosophy that will put mankind under the grinding heel of either Soviet, Nazi or British Imperialism. I stand for the free expression of Socialist thought and opinion in this country—
I am not saying I like what the hon. Member is saying, because I do not. All I am saying is that this is the only place where the hon. Member could say what he has just been saying.
I stand for economic order for the workers. They who produce all shall own all, and dispose of all. I say to the hon. Member that because we are allowed free expression in this country, it does not necessarily mean that we are nearer economic freedom. The greatest slave is the man who believes he is a free man. If I were tied with chains I would know I was a slave.
I am not objecting; I see the hon. Member's point but it is a superficial point. There is no deep thinking behind it. In the present situation, one would have expected from the Prime Minister something more open and honest than we had to-day. He could have told us a great deal but he said nothing. He did not tell us anything about the Teheran Conference. He did not tell us that when he went to meet Chiang Kai-shek, Stalin refused to go to the Conference because Japan was being discussed. He did not tell us why no second front was being opened by Russia against Japan; why the Soviet Union refused to enter into the work of U.N.R.R.A. in the Far East; why they refused to be committed in any way to taking action against a country, the Ambassador for whom, Matsuoka, was kissed on the cheeks by Stalin before he went back to Japan—
The Prime Minister did not tell us about the mission of A.M.G.O.T. or why King Victor Emmanuel and Marshal Badoglio were being recognised as the Government of Italy. There are many men in Italy who could be used to form a Government with progressive ideals. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell us why America and this country are associated with every cut-throat of Fascist days and why they are being set up in power and authority, showing that the Tories of this country are more in common with Emmanuel and Badoglio than they are with any underground movement in any part of the world. His speech was notable, not for the things it said, but for the things that were unsaid. The right hon. Gentleman spoke a great deal but said very little indeed. This welter of war and bloody struggle will go on until the masses of the people in every country can have complete freedom of thought and action and the opportunity of setting up some form of Government that will represent a real new order. We hope that that day is not far distant when the dawning evidence will come to these people that nothing is to be attained by this terrible holocaust of war but that everything is to be gained by using reason. We hope that the workers will throw off the burdens imposed by those who are to-day using them for war and will realise the opportunities which are open to man-kind.
The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has inveighed against what he calls indiscriminate bombing by the Royal Air Force. I wish he had been walking with me in a certain part of London at 10 o'clock the other night, because there he would have seen indiscriminate bombing in real life. There he would have seen the wild-eyed women he talked about, scrambling out of their little wrecked houses. I challenge him to show us a single war factory which was damaged by a bomb that day. He will not find one: all the damage that was done was done to little two-storied houses, once so clean and respectable and now lying in ruins.
The hon. Member attacked our Air Force and I want to defend them. I want to point out that although indiscriminate bombing is undoubtedly disastrous and damaging it is done far more by the enemy than it is ever done by us.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wirrall (Captain Graham) made an extremely interesting speech. I am afraid that my views on the subject he dealt with with such learned exposition will seem crude and cowardly. But I am too old to fight, and it is cowardice on behalf of the young men who are doing all the fighting. My attitude is that I am not sufficiently altruistic to fight both Germany and Russia on behalf of Poland. I, too, listened with great interest to the speech of the Prime Minister and I must say that I was glad he was indefinite with regard to the Second Front. I have thought for some time that we have been saying too much on these lines. At one time it was considered to be an advantage to the enemy to know who was to be your opponent's commanding officer in chief.
We have now announced the Commander-in-chief and the second in command who are to lead the attacking forces. I am of the opinion that Hitler and the Nazis are just waiting for that Second Front, because they hope and believe that they can, not necessarily drive us back to the sea and defeat us, but inflict such vital casualties that public opinion here and in America will not stand it and will open the way to a compromise and an agreed peace. I suppose that the General Staff, by means of air photographs and other methods, have some tolerably accurate idea of what the fortifications are against which we shall be opposed, but the Germans are past masters in the art of camouflage and many of their photographs may not show the latest works which they have put in to hold up the attacking troops.
I do not know what those fortifications are likely to be, but at the end of the last war I had an unrivalled opportunity of studying and surveying the defences of a coast line which had been put up by the Germans towards the close of the war. The line ran from Switzerland to the sea ending up at Nieuport. That was the extreme right of the German line. Beyond that line there stretched 45 or 50 miles of open coast, until Belgium merged into Holland. I know, from what subsequently appeared in German writings, that that coastline was the anxiety and headache of the German general staff, because they thought that, sooner or later, we should make an attempt to land and outflank their defences. The plans for such an attempt were cut and dried. It was intended in July or August, 1917, to put the first division into flat-bottomed boats and take them round the end of the German line and land them somewhere in the neighbourhood of Blankenbergh or Knocke, and, in conjunction with a simultaneous attack on Passchendaele, roll up the entire right of the Geman line and enable a breakthrough to be made.
That attack never came off, and I was not at all sorry, because I happened in 1919 to be spending quite a long time on the Belgian coast, and as in 1917 I had been serving in a unit which had been warned that in all probability it would be called upon to support the first division, I took a great interest in seeing what we should have been up against. The first obstacle would have been barbed wire. There was a belt of zigzag barbed wire 30 to 50 yards in depth. We wondered why it was zigzag, until we discovered that every line of those zigzags was covered by machine guns sited in concrete pillboxes. In the sand dunes, every thousand or 1,200 yards, was a battery of four 15 centimetre guns to deal with landing craft. A little further back, in open ground, was another line of barbed wire with complementary pillboxes and machine guns, and further back still, in the open country, were three more lines of barbed wire entanglements, all zigzag, and every zigzag covered in the same way by machine gun fire, and in addition batteries of 11-inch naval guns intended to deal with landing craft or any heavy vessels which might have been supporting them.
It may be said it is one thing to fortify some 45 miles of coastline and another to fortify the entire coastline of Europe from the North Sea to the Dardanelles. That is true, but there are comparatively few places along the coastline which are suitable for landing large invading forces. It is no earthly good landing men under Cap Griz Nez, or on the rocky coasts of Normandy and Brittany, and it is not much good attempting to land them in the shallow waters further North because there is a serious danger of the landing craft running aground on sandbanks and remaining the hopeless target for shore batteries. Another factor which circumscribes the possible area of the attack still more closely is the question of air power, from shore based aircraft. Without that, I do not think an invasion would have the least chance of success, which means that the invasion must take place in a very narrow and definite area.
The problem which the attacking troops will be confronted with first is that of barbed wire. Can that be cut from the sea by gunfire? I very much doubt it. Observation would be very difficult even from aeroplanes and, even if they do, there are certain to be successive fortified defence lines behind it. Of course, if we can land heavy tanks, and they are not destroyed by mines on their way up the beach, the barbed wire entanglements can be crushed, but it is not going to be too easy a matter landing those heavy tanks from landing craft. They must be pretty nearly straight head-on to the beach. The least tide or wind will swim them so that they come on broadside, which will increase the difficulty of landing men and tanks by about 50 per cent. After that, when the beachhead has been captured, it is essential to obtain depth. It is useless unless the first attack can carry until a depth of something like 12 miles has been reached, which must be fortified before the enemy can bring up their reinforcements to make a sustained attack. Another problem with which we shall be confronted is that of seasickness. If there is any sea at all flat bottomed boats will roll in a particularly unpleasant way, and perhaps some 50 per cent. of the storming troops will be in a state of collapse. I know it is possible to obtain drugs but I cannot help thinking that a partially drugged man will not be able to fight his way out of the difficulties I have endeavoured to describe. I have thought it well to say something on these lines because, for something like two years, there has been an incessant clamour for a second front. I cannot help feeling that if, in response to that clamour, the second front is opened before a satisfactory answer is found to the various problems which I have enumerated, it can only mean a serious and terrible disaster.
The House has listened with a great deal of interest to my hon. and gallant Friend's reminiscences of the last war, but I am not sure what deductions he wants us to draw from his experiences in France or the Low Countries. If it is that the task is irnpossible, the time has arrived when we should put into force the diplomatic arts that we possess in our Foreign Secretary and sue for an early peace. I am not going into the pros and cons of a second front, but I am one of those who believe that the difficulties, which I think my hon. and gallant Friend has tended to exaggerate, are not insuperable. Undoubtedly a very hard task is in front of our men. We are not sure where the second front will be, for, although the Prime Minister talked of major operations, he did not tell us that the form of the operations would be an attack on the Northern coast of France. If that is to be the battlefield, as I expect it will be sometime, I do not underrate the immensity of the operations which our troops will have to undertake. I did not get up to follow my hon. and gallant Friend's remarks to their logical conclusion.
I merely wanted to give expression to a thought which I am sure is in the minds of many hon. Members and of millions of people in the country. My criticism sometimes of the Prime Minister is that he tends to view events which he is helping to shape in a false perspective. As I listened to him to-day speaking in elo- quent language of current events, it seemed to me that there was speaking the historian, talking about past events, The country is not so much concerned about past events, certainly not those past events mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wirral (Captain Graham) as with the more realistic events that are taking place now.
The hon. Gentleman is splitting hairs a little, as he sometimes tends to do. I hope that he will try to understand the purport of my remarks, even if they are not expressed in such impeccable language as he sometimes uses. I am trying to convey to the House that millions of people in our land and other lands are beginning to say to themselves, "Four-and-a-half years of war have gone by, and there does not seem to be an end to it." That does not mean to say that our people are not determined to see the end of it. They are, but they are determined to hear from the Prime Minister what steps he and his colleagues are taking in conjunction with our Allies to bring the war to a speedy conclusion. In that respect they have doubts in their minds, and quite rightly, as to some of the actions taken by my right hon. Friend and his Government, particularly in Italy. I regret to hear such a man as the Prime Minister, in dealing with the operations in Italy, talk about the weather. One expects only a German communiqué to talk about that. Surely, before we undertook these operations the Prime Minister and his advisers knew all about the weather they were likely to meet with. The people are not concerned with the weather, nor are the troops, because the troops have always had to put up with the weather in all campaigns in the past.
What the people want to know is whether we took advantage of the opportunities which presented themselves to us when Mussolini and Italy collapsed. There is a feeling in their minds, and also in the minds of some hon. Members, that we did not act with all the speed and expedition of which we were capable, for reasons which I will shortly mention. The people do not have quite the same standards as the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is a good war horse. He has lived all his life amongst battles, almost from his boyhood days. We can admire him for the way he looks at this war and we can be grateful, indeed, that we had a leader of that calibre in 1940 to uphold the spirits of our people when there were alarm and despondency, not only in humble cottages but in high places. The Prime Minister was the one who kept up our spirits and bridged over that terrible gap about which some of us now know. If the Prime Minister is to keep our good will and support he cannot live for ever on 1940 and the qualities that he displayed in 1940. We have not given the Prime Minister a blank cheque. We have selected him as our war leader for one reason. I think that my hon. Friends on this side of the House will agree with me in this, and perhaps some other hon. Members opposite, too, that we did it because he is a war leader and nothing more.
The results of the recent by-elections show conclusively that there is a doubt in the minds of the people, at any rate in those constituencies, about the standards of the Prime Minister and the methods he is adopting to bring the war to a speedy conclusion. The Prime Minister talked about monarchical principles. What does he mean? He is using these monarchical principles—which he does not define to us, but which we ought to understand—to pursue a certain policy in Yugoslavia, and particularly in Italy. I hope that the Prime Minister will permit me to criticise him, because he has been a great critic in the past. He is using these methods to pursue a policy which, I say, and, I believe, the people in the country say, is not delivering the goods. I know that in war one cannot draw too fine lines. We have often to use all sorts of expedients that we would not use in peace time. Therefore, I have an open mind as to whether in the interests of our cause we should utilise a Darlan or a Badoglio or a Victor Emmanuel or a Tito or a Mihailovitch. I judge them in this way—do they assist our cause? I believe that as far as Italy is concerned, the delays that took place before we negotiated the unconditional surrender with Badoglio and Victor Emmanuel did nothing but impede our operations. The Prime Minister has spoken in the past of the "soft under-belly of the Axis," and he really meant it—or, at least, I should hope he meant it. What are we experiencing? To-day the Prime Minister told us that the rivers did not run the right way and that the mountains were a terrible obstacle to us. We shall meet with such difficulties when we invade France and Germany, and we shall have to confront them. The only question in my mind is whether the Prime Minister confronts these difficulties in the best possible way.
Monarchial principles survive only in normal times of peace. During war-time, monarchical principles and monarchs disappear. During the last war quite a number of crowned heads lost their thrones. I look forward to a good many more losing their thrones, because we are in revolutionary times. War is itself a revolution. We have to take advantage of revolutionary methods in bringing about victory. Let me explain what I mean, because that opinion may frighten some of my hon. Friends. I believe that it will not be possible to get victory on the Continent without using sabotage and revolution. Hon. Members opposite may call it civil war, and maybe they are right, but it is a concomitant of ordinary war. My only point is that unless we use revolutionary methods, as the Russians are using-them in the countries that they are about to over-run, we shall not get a complete victory by the efforts of our own troops alone, at any rate, not in the time which this country will expect.
How long does the Prime Minister consider that the people of this country are expected to put up with war? I have a great deal of sympathy with some of the philosophy expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). I believe that war is a tragedy and that, if it were possible to get a system which would allow the peoples to operate freely in every country, including the enemy countries, war would very speedily cease. I also believe that the military machine will run down in time, because of the apathy and indifference of the peoples in all countries. All I hope is that it coincides and that it happens simultaneously in all countries, and not in this country first; but there is a danger of it. Do not let my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, or other hon. Members, imagine that, with the slow rate of progress that is happening in Italy, the people in this country are going to sit down and say nothing, and merely go on obeying orders. I do not think they will. It is partly the utterances of people in responsible positions here and overseas, and particularly in America and Canada, which have led the people to believe that the war in Europe is likely to end this year. If the time conies when people see no possibility of the war in Europe ending this year, there may even be a few more unpleasant by-election results for the Prime Minister and some of his friends.
Does the hon. Member realise that his argument is playing completely into German hands? Their main object is to wear us down, and that is what the hon. Member suggests will happen to this country.
If it comes to a contest between myself and other hon. Members as to depressing our own people, or giving Hitler comfort, I can let the issue rest on my own record, and even on my own utterances.
I believe there has been a lack of vigour for some time past in the prosecution of the war. I am not at all satisfied that the hold up in Italy was inevitable but if it was, it is a very ill omen for some of those major operations which we have to undertake later on this year and which the Prime Minister spoke of. People cannot view our operations without comparing the results which Russia has achieved. Russia is speedily overcoming probably the finest fighters of the German fighting machine. I suppose that the Russians have also the weather to contend with, and they have probably got rivers which are inconveniently placed. They also have hills and mountains to overcome. [AN HON. MEMBER: "They get plenty of help from us".] It is true, but are we not getting plenty of help from the United States? We have the Prime Minister's own words on record that the aeroplane production capacity of the United States alone is three times that of Germany. Very well. I remember the Prime Minister once saying that in the first year, you are not ready, and in the second year you are just starting the machinery, and, in the fourth year you have got everything you want. We are in the fifth year of war and it will not be long before we are in the sixth year. The Prime Minister must not say things like that.
I have not forgotten it, but the Prime Minister did not catalogue that in his speech. That is one of the matters that we have to overcome. We know what the obstacles are; the question is, are we overcoming them? I am trying to show that, as far as material resources go, we have now reached saturation point. We can afford to send bombers over Germany and lose a tremendous number of machines and well-trained men, as the Prime Minister has told us to-day. It is regrettable that civilians have to be killed in these operations. It makes no difference to me whether they are Germans or British civilians; they are all civilians. We have to ask ourselves whether the policy is producing results. I am trying to show that it is not producing quick results, at any rate.
There is only one other matter with which I want to deal in relation to the Prime Minister's speech. I do not know why, in speaking about the war, the Prime Minister concentrated almost exclusively upon foreign affairs and the situation overseas, but that is probably typical of the Prime Minister's own thoughts. He omitted to say anything about home affairs. After all, home affairs amount to something considerable, when we are dealing with the war. Many of us feel that perhaps in that respect the Government are not doing all they can to disclose to us, to the country and to the troops, their plans, if they have any plans. The troops are thinking about and discussing these matters, day after day, but the Government are not telling us what they have in mind if Germany should suddenly collapse, as may very well be. In that respect, I would ask the Prime Minister and the Government, in which there are some of my colleagues, to consider these matters and to take us more into their confidence.
What happened in Italy the other day, regarding the censorship of news, is a test of the lack of sureness of the Prime Minister's touch. We may take it for granted that that action which forced General Alexander to bring down a curtain of secrecy on the correspondents was due to the Prime Minister's initiative. Within eight hours the Prime Minister had to retract his orders. It shows that the Prime Minister is not alive to all the factors which enter into this war, especially those which affect the people of our own country. The hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Flight.-Lieut. Keeling) spoke about people not taking more interest in foreign affairs. I do not think that is so with our own people, but when the hon. and gallant Member has had a little more political experience, he will know that elections are generally won and lost in this country more on home affairs than on foreign affairs. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) will agree with me that that is a fact. He knows history better than I do.
I trust that the Prime Minister will not misunderstand these remarks of mine. I have been critical of some of his actions in the past. I sometimes still am, but I give him my support as much as I can as long as he is conducting this war in an expeditious and successful manner. That, however, does not prevent me from expressing what I think are some of the deficiencies of the Prime Minister as far as his conduct of home affairs is concerned. I think that he, or at any rate one of his subordinates, might pay a little more attention to some of these matters which are agitating the mind of the public and my hon. Friends and myself on his side of the House. The war may last a long time or it may not. The Prime Minister indicated to-day that it may last a longer time than many of us expect.
I think it will be more than ever necessary that the Prime Minister should try to convince us that he is marching in step with us as well as asking us to march in step with him. Too often he gives the impression of being too sensitive to some of the constructive criticism offered to him. He must not think that all wisdom resides in the Members of his Government, some of whom are very tired now. It may be that before the war is over the Prime Minister will need to have a complete change in his Government. In that I am staking no claim myself, because in that respect I am not an optimist. But if that happens and if we are going to keep the same texture of political parties in this House, the Prime Minister under those conditions will want all the good will and support he can gather in this House.
Long experience of this House has convinced me that my own thoughts are not of any particular value to Members or to anyone else. But it does seem that I have, at any rate, a capacity for inducing other Members to think about problems and think about them straight instead of thinking about them round corners.
The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) brought up the subject of the indiscriminate bombing of open towns. He was in the rather unfortunate position of not being able to press his point home, because if I may say so, and subject to his correction if I do him an injustice, he has not been conspicuous in helping the military effort of this country in the last 20 years and that rather cramps his style when he criticises a tactical scheme which is favourably regarded by the vast majority of the Members of this House. If he had whole-heartedly done his best for the rearming of this country and had served the country in the field, I think he would have been in a better position to deal with the tactical and strategical questions involved in the bombing of open towns and civilian populations.
I was brought up to be a soldier and, comparing notes with other soldiers and with officers of the Royal Navy and with some even of the Air Force, I find they all agree that the fundamental principle of war is this, that if you allow your attention in war to be distracted by any other objective than the armed forces of the enemy, inevitably, whether you know it or not, you are wasting personnel, material, or morale, or all three. That was a fundamental principle which was drilled into us and I think myself—and probably a very large body of well-informed military opinion would agree—that that principle should still be main- tained in spite of the different technique of warfare as we know it to-day.
Let us apply that principle to the present situation and see whether there is any practical basis for my view that we should continue to observe it. The outstanding feature of the present military situation is that we have complete control of the Southern and the Eastern seaboards of the Mediterranean. We have Sicily, Cyprus and the Northern coast of Africa, but we have not command of the Mediterranean Sea in the true sense of the word. The enemy commands the Aegean and the islands, and he also has command of the Upper Adriatic and even the Gulf of Lyons. The reason for that command is one thing only—our lack of long-range fighters which could operate from air bases in Sicily, Cyprus and the North coast of Africa. It may be thought that there are technical difficulties in the way of our producing these long-range fighters with full armament, full operational speed, and yet capable of remaining in the air for some hours and operating say from Sicily or Africa on the present Italian front, or from Cyprus throughout the whole Aegean and even as far as the Greek coast—certainly over all the islands. We might have had these fighters. They might have been in the squadrons to-day. All the preliminary steps were ready and then the word went forth, "Everything is to give way to big bombers for wiping out the cities of Germany." Regarding this purely as a tactical and strategical question, I maintain that we have made a very big mistake indeed in this matter and it is not too late even now to retrace our steps to some extent.
To take another aspect of this affair. Are we going to repeat the error we made in the last war, the error that caused this war, the error of not convincing the enemy that, man for man, in the field of battle, we were better than he? What was it that enabled them to start this war? What was it that enabled Hitler to get them to follow him and re-arm Germany? It was simply that he was able to go to his fellow-countrymen and say, "We were never beaten in the war of 1914–18. Our army was intact, our general staff was intact. We were not beaten. It was the home front that let us down, the home front suffering from blockade." One thing must certainly be borne in mind—that wars with Germany are wars against a thoroughly martial race. To every man of that race war is his profession, his lifework, and anything else is a side-show. If you are dealing with a race of that sort, sooner or later you have to convince them that they are beaten in battle and not by bombing their women and children or by starving them by means of blockade. For one has to break the German in the field and show that man for man in battle we can beat him, it is not necessary to wipe out his wife, his children, his home, his cities, in order to convince him that the game is up.
Let us consider the matter further. I happened to take part in the Boer War of 1899 onwards. In that war we very soon found, as we moved up-country, that the wives and families of the men out on commando were in the very greatest danger from the natives. Therefore, quite rightly I think, we collected them into the various camps that we had, in order that those on the outlying farms should not be murdered—and for no other reason. I think our enemy—and a very fine enemy he was: Field-Marshal Smuts is a very good specimen of the sort of enemy we were fighting against—was very grateful to us. We solved for him the problem of the safety and welfare of his wife and children while he was fighting us. In this war we have provided for the enemy's wife and children and relieved him of anxiety about them by bombing, burning, and blasting. Being nothing but a poor, barbarous Hun, what does the fellow do? When you have wiped out his wife and family, instead of wishing to make peace with you, he gets quite angry with you, and that seems to take a lot of people by surprise.
I have raised objection to our bombing policy because, in the first place, it is against a well-known principle of the conduct of war, the principle that you are wasting men, material or morale if you do not devote all your efforts to defeating the enemy in the field. I gave the example of how by adopting this tactical scheme we have seriously prejudiced our military position throughout the Mediterranean. I would not have said these things unless they were just as clear to the enemy as to our own people. Many people are asking, "How much longer are we to be hamstrung in the real theatres of war, because we have not got long- range fighters, owing to the fact that the whole of our efforts have been devoted to the destruction of German towns"? I now come to another aspect, perhaps the most important of all. We are accustomed in this House to worry ourselves, quite unnecessarily, about the effect of the war on the enemy. I admit that it is very selfish of me, but I do not care a tinker's cuss about the effect the war on the enemy. I say, let the enemy go to hell his own way. He will go to hell, and I do not think it matters to us how he does it. What does worry me is the effect of the war upon ourselves. The question whether we really win this war or not depends simply on this: At the end of this war, shall we be obviously a better nation than the Germans, or shall we be such that there will be considerable doubt as to which of us ought to have won?
Although some people exaggerate the ill-effect of this feature of our conduct of the war, I do not think that, on the whole, this bombing of open towns has a good influence on the people of this country, who are by nature disinclined for revenge. They are now becoming persuaded to regard revenge as being a creditable thing. We have just heard an hon. Member telling us, "I have seen the horrible effect of bombing of open towns: I have seen these terrible things before me in the East End of London, and, therefore, we must do exactly the same thing to the enemy." That does not seem to me logical. Because your enemy happens to be a nasty brute, is it really logical that you yourself should be a still more nasty brute? That is where the hon. Member's argument leads. We are making this war to prevent ourselves from becoming like Germans. If we really become like Germans, it seems to me that the enemy, at the end of this war, can say that he has won, and not us. I do not, for a moment, suggest that we should not wage war by every means we have, by sea, on the land and in the air, but let it be the sort of war that all of us in our heart of hearts can go into with enthusiasm, in the sort of way that I do not think we can go into the bombing of open cities.
For many years I have knocked about a great deal with the men of the Air Force, and I venture to say that nobody who has done that can have anything but a real love for that Force. Let us look
back to 1940 and what we called the Battle of Britain, when
there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not.
There was no doubt in that battle that we were on the side of Michael, and the enemy was on the side of the dragon. But look what we have done for the enemy now: we have put him and those youngsters of his on the right side, and we have put those youngsters of ours on the wrong side. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That "No" comes from those for whom I have the greatest respect: it is not just the howl of opposition. Yet there is a clear-cut issue here. I think it goes to the whole root of what we are fighting for, and if it is decided, for military or other reasons, that bombers are to go on their errand, we should at least see that such aircraft are manned, not with the best of our youngsters, but with us older men, who possibly can do that horrid work without irreparable injury to ourselves.
During the Debate on the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Bill, an hon. Member put a question to the Minister of Labour. The hon. Member said that when the war with Germany is over as many as possible of our men would want to come home: they would have had enough of it. He supposed that then volunteers would be asked for in order to deal with Japan. The Minister of Labour, promptly and, I think, very rightly and correctly, said, in reply, that he thought he ought to correct a faulty impression. There would not be volunteers for Japan. It was one war, and the National Service Acts would operate until the whole thing was finished. As I happen to have spent a number of years in the Far East, I think it is high time that we should all appreciate that, to a large extent, the Japanese are our worst enemies. They have attacked and temporarily occupied a number of British positions, and to-day would be occupying Australia and New Zealand had they not been stopped just in time. Let us not forget, too, that many men, women and even infants, Britons like ourselves, and some of them a great deal better than ourselves, have been brutally murdered by the Japs. Many more are prisoners in the hands of the Japanese, and we know what that means.
I will endeavour to say what I have to say without reading it all, although it would have been perhaps more satisfactory to hon. Members, and certainly to those people who have to take it down, if it had been read rather than spoken. These poor people in the Far East, Britons like ourselves, have lost their livelihood, many of them permanently and many others temporarily. They have lost their jobs, and, what is still more, we have lost the prestige which we had for so many years in the Far East. I want the House to remember that so far, at any rate, through the persistence of our American Allies, some of our Australian and Dominion people, the Dutch and others, we have merely, to all intents and purposes, held the Japanese at bay and have advanced very little indeed towards conquering Japan. Whereas, at home in Europe, we talk of our aeroplanes and our forces operating over hundreds of miles, in the Pacific it is a question of thousands of miles, and I can assure hon. Members that the distances which we still have to go in order to reach Japan are very considerable indeed. It is, therefore, important to remember our prestige in connection with the future of our trade relations and in order to fulfil our promise to those gallant Chinese people who were fighting in this war long before we were.
We have a great deal to fulfil. We have been talking a lot about our social services. I am now in a Ministry which is dealing daily, almost hourly, with nothing but social services and reconstruction—all very important and very necessary—but they all depend upon our victory over the enemy, and our victory over the enemy means Japan just as much as Germany. On Japan and the Far East, to a very great extent, depends our export trade. These are things which must not be cast aside, because they are very important. Trade is one of the most important things if we are going to get all our people back into employment as soon as possible after the war, and therefore I wish that the country as a whole would realise that we must not let up until all our enemies are beaten—Germany and Japan—and, what is still more, not only beaten, but beaten as soon as possible. It is all very well to say that we expect this war to end some time this year, but how is it going to end? Nobody seems to know, and nobody has any proposals to put forward to the man in the street as to how this war will end. They all seem to feel that it may end in 1944, and that, after that, it will be just a matter of beating the Japanese. But the Japanese have prepared for this war for 20 years, to my own personal knowledge, because I have seen them preparing, and they are going to be very tough customers to beat. We read in the papers of a victory here and there, but what does it all amount to? We are sill thousands of miles from Japan. Japan consists of islands, like this country.
With all the years they have had for preparation I think our job will be a very tough one, and I ask the Foreign Secretary, when he comes to reply, to say a few words of encouragement to our Allies and those carrying on for so long, to show that the people in this country and especially in this House, who continually talk about nothing else but post-war reconstruction, realise that it is very necessary to remember that, while we are looking forward tremendously to these things, none of them can take place until we have won the war.
We have reached, or are within three minutes of reaching, the hour at which a wise normality brings our proceedings to a close, and I almost feel reminded of the words used by Mr. Arthur Balfour in the Debate just before the last war was declared, when he inquired of Mr. Speaker whether it had not reached "the very dregs and lees of debate." I hope we have not got to that, but I have an uneasy consciousness that we have now reached those speakers who are not likely to get a very large House, nor any Press at all. But I am very grateful.
I am a little disturbed by some remarks of the Prime Minister. It would, obviously, be completely ridiculous for a person of my sort and stature to complain of the absence of the Prime Minister. I have no doubt he has far better things to do than to listen to me, and, even if he had nothing else to do, I could sympathise if he felt that listening to me was not one of the duties which he felt himself compelled to perform. I think, at any rate, that it is not disrespectful to the other speakers in this discussion to say that the whole Debate is a Debate with the Prime Minister, until, perhaps, at the end, it may become a Debate from the Foreign Secretary. It is difficult to persuade oneself of the reality of speaking in these circumstances, and that difficulty was aggravated by some words of the Prime Minister when he said that this was a time for deeds, not words. That reminded me of the rather sour critic who said that the late prophet Carlyle preached the virtues of silence in 35 volumes. Indeed, in this place, of all places, it should never be forgotten that the most important kinds of deeds are words—as anybody may know who has read the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, or, even, anybody who has read the first chapter of Genesis—
And God said, Let there be light.
I do not know what words can be more in the nature of deeds than a discussion on foreign policy. And just now there is not any other kind of policy except foreign policy. Everything else is hypothesis, fiddle-de-dee, and fraudulence, I will not say in what proportions.
I wish to begin by being what might be thought rather academic, going a long way back, to inquire into the major faults of policy which got us into this war. I do not know whether still, but certainly once under the rules of the old common law, the old way of interpreting a statute was to inquire what had been the gap in that law before the statute was passed, and with what the statute endeavoured to stuff the gap. It was not a bad procedure. What were the major faults before the war from which we are now suffering? I am profoundly convinced, as is the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson), that unless we are conscious of our own faults in these matters, we shall be bound on this wheel, and round and round the wheel will go for ever. When I say, "our own faults," I mean our own faults and not each others' faults. The three first things that come into my head as the faults from which we suffered before the war are—first of all, the Government's excessive desire for a foreign policy which should at least not look very different from that of the Opposition and coupled with that, the Opposition's excessive desire not to strengthen for strategic or diplomatic purposes, a Government which it did not approve. Those are the two sides of that fault. I do not know what Member in this Chamber could get up and say that he does not fall within one or other side of that condemnation and deserve all the miseries that might fall upon him.
Now for the second great fault in the years before the war. We have heard a lot of talk about democracy. It is a difficult word to define. There was in this country freedom and Parliamentary Government long before there was anything which, in a reasonable sense, could be called democracy. One essential of a free country, and particularly one essential of a Parliamentary country, is that it must be the business of Ministers to make the people know, at any given moment, what from time to time are the decisive factors in international affairs. It is no use blaming the people afterwards for not having known. An hon. Gentleman, whose speech I would like to spend one-and-a-half-hours pulling to pieces—and I say it without disrespect—said that all elections are decided by home affairs and not by foreign affairs. That may be so; if we let it go on being so, we shall be bound on this wheel for longer than any man dare attempt to foresee. It is our business, in particular it is the business of Ministers to keep the public informed. The public never fully understood—and I think it was partly because governing persons did not have the courage to make it clear to themselves and could not make clear to others—that once you enter upon the field of sanctions, you have given up the initiative. It is then in the possession of the other man; it is his decision at what point it shall be turned into the path of war. It is always an unforgivable fault, and particularly for this country, to enter upon the path of sanctions, trying to apply force to other States, or even to say unpleasant things about some other State, unless you are sure that the thing for which you do it is worth the risk of the other side choosing to decide at what moment the war shall begin.
I think that the obverse or reverse of that fault was to be found in connection with appeasement. Appeasement has become a term of abuse. Appeasement, in its natural sense, is a proper thing and a thing for which we have the highest authority for expecting to be blessed. There is a secondary meaning to appeasement, when it means appeasement by concession, and especially by conceding something which you ought not to concede, something unjust or something which was not yours to sacrifice. That was one of the errors before the war. The public were not told that if your appeasement gets to the point where it can proceed only by concession which amounts to injustice, appeasement becomes worse than war. If you stop at that point and the other side is dissatisfied, there will be war, unless you make it clear when you begin where you will draw the line. It is the other man's initiative to draw the line. To make one of these errors once is forgivable, but to do it again in one life-time is either unpardonable levity or the most contemptible senility. It is one or the other. It will not do for us to lead the world to suppose that this State is senile.
The third of the great errors before the war was that we very much underestimated the importance of the Mediterranean Sea. If you regard this war as a Bill now going through its Committee stage, these are the three evils which we should be trying to avoid for the future. What are the contraries of these things, for which we ought to seek in order to put them right? I put them in no particular order because no one can take precedence of another. We have to be the trusted mediators of Europe. There was a silly pamphlet published early in the war about 400,000,000 Allies. It meant that if you took up the particular kind of internal policy which the bright young man who wrote the book liked, then 400,000,000 foreigners would, at once, agree with you. That, of course, was nonsense. Nevertheless, it remains true that the greatest of all potential allies, is Europe. One of the things we must do in this country, unless we are going to sink into the rank of a third-rate Power, is to see that every State in Europe trusts this country rather more than, or at least as much as, it trusts any other country. That must be one of the objects of our policy.
We have all talked nonsense, on both sides, about the British Empire, before the war. There is one clear truth about it which, if we do not know it, every foreigner does, and that is, you cannot protect the lives of men, women and children in these islands without the help of the Empire. The thing cannot be done. Either we are at the mercy of some great power in Europe, which may treat us as well as perhaps we treated Belgium in the 300 years that have gone, or Holland—or may not treat us so well; or, if we are to defend ourselves, we must be assisted by the whole of the Empire. That must be the second object of our policy. The third object of our policy must be, that we are, and are plainly seen to be, the equal partner of the United States and of the U.S.S.R., because unless that is done we shall not have either of the other two objects. The thing can be done; if it could not be done, it would not be worth going through the agonies and glories of this war, unless we could hope for that.
I said I put these three objects in no order, but the House will have perceived that the one I mentioned first—and that is the one which is our prime business to-day—depends more on plain moral rectitude—I am sorry to use words which may sound priggish—upon it being thought that you honour your bond, that your pre-dated or post-dated cheques are honoured when the date comes. It depends more upon moral rectitude of conduct than even upon strategic situations, much more. There is this other difference between moral rectitude and the strategic situation, the one is wholly within our control and the other is not. What the strategic situation will be at the end of this war, whether the same as now or what it will be, none of us can tell.
Our policy in relation to Europe which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe nevertheless remains the same, which is not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its Powers, to consider the Government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm and manly policy meeting in all circumstances the just claims of every Power, submitting to injuries from none.
[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to have those cheers, particularly from hon. Members opposite, because the sentence I have just been reading comes from the Monroe doctrine. I hope, therefore, that no one will suggest that it is a piece of reactionarism upon my part. It is the international statute of the United States, their title deed in international affairs, I can bring other evidence to that view of the way in which we ought to treat these States in Europe. "War and the Working Class" in "Soviet War News" of 12th November, 1943, said:
The principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving States … contrasts with the pernicious attempts of the Hitlerites to sow distrust for the great peace-loving Powers among the States of small and medium size.
Fascism is not the issue here, if only for the reason that Fascism in Italy, e.g., has not prevented the U.S.S.R. from establishing the best relations with that country.
That is M. Stalin, and there are similar definitions from M. Molotov's book. I recommend hon. Members to read it, if they can get it. There is a very amusing preface indeed by the hon. and learned Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Pritt). M. Molotov points out that it is a great mistake to think that it matters whether a country entering into international relations is Fascist or Socialist or Communist or what it is. He says:
People ask with an air of innocence, How could the Soviet Union consent to improve its relations with a State of Fascist colour? Is that possible? they ask. But they forget it is not a question of our attitude towards the internal regime of another country, but of foreign relations between two states.
He says it more than once, and M. Stalin says it more than once too, and I do ask hon. Members to consider that our only chance of retaining the respect of Europe is that we stand firmly upon the old European notions in these matters.
Franco has nothing at all to do with the matter. Quite honestly I rather like interruptions because if they have any relation to the argument, they help one over the next paragraph. If I may say so to, I think, the only other Member with a West Indian background, that interruption has no more to do with the question than Barbados.
The hon. Member is wrong again. This is a war, and wars are activities between States, and M. Stalin has told us that war remains war and aggression remains aggression. What was the cause of this war? The cause of this war was the infringement of Polish frontiers. It is a very common argument that it was a mere occasion, not the real cause, but that seems to me to be perfect nonsense. It is quite true, I have no doubt at all, there was going to be near the middle of the 20th century, or before it, another great European war, but not necessarily this war, beginning in 1939; this war is really the war which arose in a definite way and time and it is of the essence of this war that that was the way in which it arose. The "New Zealand Herald" put it on the 11th January:
The war began through a certain British pledge to Poland. Habitually, such pledges have been kept.
I ask the House to consider the word "habitually"; it seems to me to be extremely well chosen.
I do not think that it is of great value now—if I may say so with respect to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—to argue exactly or legalistically what the pledges meant. I have them here. The words seem to me to be fairly clear, but really I see no great point in arguing now exactly what the pledge meant, or what words like "guarantee," "territorial integrity," "sovereignty," "independence" meant or mean. I do not think we need really worry about those words at the moment. But I can throw some light upon them from our Allies—and I will not tell hon. Members which one of our Allies said this:
Any affiliation of a small or weak nation to a bigger and stronger State, without the former's consent and wish to be declared unequivocally, clearly and on its own accord," or "if this nation is not accorded the right to
decide the form of its existence, as a State, without any pressure, through free vote, while the Armed Forces of the affiliating State or any stronger State are removed completely, then such affiliation is an annexation, is foreign rule, and a crime.
I wonder if any Member can tell me where that comes from? It is the resolution of the second All-Russian Congress, of 18th November, 1917. I do not want to go by my own light into the question of what is annexation or what is not, but I wish to fortify myself from definitions of one or other of our great Allies at each turning point of my argument, and I do not think anyone can find anything to object to in that. But I do not think really that much in the way of legalistic argument about what our contract was, or in relation to whom, is of much use to us now. Nor anything else except the answer to this common-sense question, at the end of the day, however long that may be—and I have always thought it was going to be long, I would not dare yet to think that we were half-way through—this common-sense question: Shall we be clearly seen to have done for each State on our side everything possible, everything which was not strictly and materially impossible? And especially for each State to which the war came because of its reliance upon our promises and upon our general principles of conduct. If by such fidelity we retain the reliance of Europe, then everything may be won back, even after never-mind-what, defeats we may have had to go through. If we lose that reliance, then I believe that everything may be lost, even after victory; and we shall be half lost if we once begin arguing about legal interpretations of our promises, or if we once begin doubting that we must do for fidelity everything that possibly can be done—using those words with extreme strictness. The House will bear with another quotation:
Formerly, the principle of self-determination of nations was usually misinterpreted. It was frequently narrowed down to mere cultural self-government. As a consequence, the idea of self-determination stood in danger of becoming transformed from an instrument to combat annexations into an instrument for justifying them.
This comes from a book which is curiously unread. There is no copy in the House of Commons Library, although it seems to be the most important of all books at the moment for politicians, more important, even, than "Mein Kampf" was in 1938.
It is a book called, "Leninism," and the author was Mr. Stalin. In it he was protesting against the idea of self-determination being transformed from an instrument to combat annexations into an instrument for justifying them.
Believing in the importance of these principles, believing that the old European principles of decent relations between self-subsistent States and the old British principles of freedom are much older than democracy and that with them we can have the support of Europe and of our Allies, I very much welcomed the answer to a question my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave us the other day about our maintaining the principles which the Prime Minister had announced in 1940, which he himself announced in 1941, and which were contained in the Atlantic Charter.
But I must say that I am a little puzzled about the Atlantic Charter now. I never thought it was very much of a Charter—a disrespectful thing to say—and I always thought its name was slightly silly. But really, I do not quite understand where it is now. You would have thought that it was fairly obvious our side was not proposing to suffer annexations, and apparently it does not apply to the other side. I am a little baffled, not about what it meant but about what they meant us to think it meant. There was one promise of this sort which my right hon. Friend did not recall to us in answer to the Parliamentary Question some two or three weeks ago. This was from another Minister, and perhaps the House will not mind me reminding them of this one; the Minister belonged to the party opposite. He said last November:
I am proud of the fact that I was our spokesman when the Anglo-Polish Treaty was concluded. I spoke at that time—I was speaking then for the Labour Party in opposition in Parliament—and said 'We have opposed many of the Acts of foreign policy—it was the time of Chamberlain—now, though already late, we applaud the fact that you have cemented the alliances with Poland, made many years ago, in the whole range of collective security, with the Polish signature.' We gave full support to the Anglo-Polish alliance. In conclusion, I am a friend of your country, I love Poland, I admire Poland and I admire the future that you are going to build up.
That was the President of the Board of Trade. [Laughter.] I am sorry, in a way, to be amusing because I was not
setting out to be amusing. I hope nobody doubts that I speak every word in extreme seriousness and with an extreme sense of responsibility. I am conscious of the danger that if one says anything at all awkward in Debate one can be told that one is doing Goebbels' work. Indeed, worse than that, I have been asked in the smoke room whether the hon. Member for Shettleston was my leader. That really did shake me a bit. I think that the hon. Member, compared with most of the rest of us, has a better sense of Europe, although he has a peculiarly indurated bee in his bonnet—if bees may ever be indurated—which somehow always buzzes at the penultimate point of his argument into a peroration wholly upon the wrong side. Perhaps, however, I am doing him an injustice; I should have said, two or three perorations. I am perfectly conscious of the danger that one might say something which is diplomatically unfortunate, and the much greater danger—that it will be loudly asserted that one has said some such thing. On the other hand, I shelter myself in my insignificance. And I hope I have said nothing, nor have I meant to say anything, which is in any sense critical of our Allies, or indeed of any foreigner.
Make no mistake, Europe is watching this country. I do not know how many Members have read "Press Digest," or have any other means of reading the European newspapers, but if they have read them at all widely I am quite certain that they will agree with me in two or three propositions. One is that these considerations have been talked of over and over again in all neutral newspapers and in many others. Another thing—which is regrettable—is that I think that on the whole English newspapers are now inferior to those of almost any other country. I do not think it has been by formal gleichschaltung; it has been done partly through ignorance or incompetence by newspaper proprietors: they often say how incompetent we are and I think we may say the same of them. I also think it is due to the fact that in war our best young men go into other professions. But partly it has been gleichschaltung and especially a form which has been not so wicked in the perpetrators but is more contemptible in the victims, which is being done by asking journalists to luncheon with a Minister or even introducing them to a peer for dinner. Incidentally, those journalists who are most anti-old school tie always seem to be the most susceptible to this kind of business.
I have tried to indicate one or two of our obligations. I have not tried to say that we are not fulfilling them fully, or even that we must fulfil them. The Prime Minister said that he hoped he would be pressed no further. One cannot press much further because one might do harm, but my right hon. Friend said one or two things which I think were illogical. He said he was still in favour of what has hitherto always been our principle and the principle of international law since I don't know when, perhaps the 15th century — that annexation, territorial changes should all wait for the end of hostilities. But he then went on to say that anything in Poland east of the Curzon line ought to go and that it was a pity that Vilna had ever been Polish territory, and so on. I think we should be awful idiots in the House if we got on to where the line should be drawn: but I thought I found a want of logic in that passage in my right hon. Friend's speech.
I wish to speak of another obligation of honour we have, and here I am conscious of being on more dangerous ground. I speak with some prejudice in favour of the Serbs. I saw the Serbs in the last war and I hope for no greater glory for my sons, or the sons of my friends, than that at the end of this war it shall be said that Englishmen were as courageous as at the end of the last war we thought the Serbs were. So I start by frankly admitting some slight prejudice. On the other hand, I speak in no way as a Serb spokesman. I have not seen one Serb, except their King whom I met on a formal occasion, I have not seen a Serb for 20 years nor have I had any direct communication with any of them. I ask the House to consider this question of Yugoslavia and especially Serbia. It has been said more than once in this House that our policy was to supply arms and munitions to whoever could most effectively fight against the Germans.
When I asked the Minister of State whether he did not see some risk of arguing in a circle, he did not understand what I meant. It seems to me that that is the danger which stares you in the face once you try to understand the internal politics of some other country. The Prime Minister said to-day that when General Mihailovitch was at the head of the army of resistance that he could not send him any help, but that to Tito we did send help. I will not suggest that times had not changed but I am suggesting that I think there has been a difference of inclination, of line of approach, for all sorts of reasons. I am certain that the argument usually employed about General Mihailovitch and General Tito isn't on the face of it conclusive, that Mihailovitch is not doing his stuff and Tito is. I think it was on 8th September, that General Sir Henry Maitland-Wilson issued his radio message to Mihailovitch, "The hour of final liberation has been brought much nearer, but it is not here yet. Await the signal for a general rising." I dare-say a good deal has happened since then. I know that long before 9th September, the British Press and the B.B.C. had been almost wholly on the one side and wholly against the other. Almost all the newspapers were equally bad.
The one at the top of my notes is the "Daily Herald" but I am not suggesting that it is worse than the others. Then there has been a continual refusal to tell us where the free Yugoslav radio is. Every German must know where it is. I still do not know why it is not possible for us to be told. I think Mihailovitch Yugoslavs had very little B.B.C. air time for many months before September. The other side have had very much more. I have been told that very great care is taken by the Germans not to jam our B.B.C. Serb-Croat broadcasts. Certainly the Germans sometimes reissue them from German controlled stations. We were told that 100,000 gold marks were put on General Tito's head. As far as I can observe, no one has told us that 100,000 gold marks have been put on Mihailovitch's head.
This all turns on dates. What date is the hon. Member referring to, because up to the autumn of last year complaints were made that Mihailovitch was also referred to as leader of the partisans in Yugoslavia and Tito was always written down?
I have spoken far too long, much longer than I wished, but it is frightfully difficult to make this kind of argument short. I have no doubt that for months before September last the preponderance of the British Press and radio was on General Tito's side. It has to be remembered how the war started in that part of the world too. I do not know how many remember who was on our side and who was not when the Secretary of State of India made that broadcast, "Will Yugoslavia sell her honour?" and wound up, "Your Government is a democratic Government"; and two days later the Prime Minister told the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations, "I have great news for you and for the whole country. Early this morning the Yugoslav nation found its soul."
For all I certainly know, Mihailovitch is now a traitor. He may be the wickedest and the worst of men. He may be in the pay of Germany, I almost cannot believe he is. I certainly cannot believe it has been proved so for long. I am arguing that during a long period there was little or no evidence against General Mihailovitch but the weight was being thrown upon General Tito's side, and secondly I am arguing that Europe is watching these things and, if we are considered to be good friends—I do not mean miracle-working friends; there are a lot of things that we cannot do—but if it is not considered that any contract into which we enter will be voided by nothing but plain impossibility of performance, our hope of using the war in order to gain peace is vain. May I read one quotation—and then I will enter upon my peroration—to illustrate this general thesis. This is from a Turkish journalist in "Tanin" dealing with Moscow radio broadcasts and British Press articles which said that General Mihailovitch was collaborating with the Germans. He says:
It is impossible for us to deny that the report took us by surprise. It is also very difficult to believe this report. Mihailovitch did not hesitate to resist the German armed forces and did not even sacrifice his love for his country when the Germans arrested his wife and children as hostages. He was recognised by the official Yugoslav Government in London. Who is Tito? What does he represent? We do not know. He may be a republican president and thus reject monarchy, but according to the principles laid down by great countries, the people of any free nation have the right to adopt their own regime. Why did not Tito collaborate with Mihailovitch, who was an official representative of the Yugoslav Government in London? The duty of all true patriots is to collaborate in the fighting against the enemy and to forget all internal problems.
There has been almost nothing in the English Press about the Anglo-Turkish
crisis. Every Turkish paper has been dealing with it. The cause of it is no doubt partly our failure in the Dodecanese, but also, this question of the Balkans must be one of the difficulties in the minds of the Turks. Have the English any power, and if so, can they be trusted? This is the final sentence of Yalchin:
If, however, the report that Mihailovitch is a traitor is true, we are faced with graver problems. Till the reasons for this report are known, London, Moscow and Washington are considered responsible. Who knows what Mihailovitch was subjected to? Who knows what the facts were with which he was faced? A soldier like Mihailovitch would not collaborate with the Germans unless he foresaw a serious danger for his country. If this report is true we are sorry for Mihailovitch until the actual truth is known and we consider the Allies responsible for making him take such a bitter step.
I think it is a fair gloss on that to say that, in the opinion of a leading Turkish journalist, if Mihailovitch is a traitor it is because he became convinced that the Germans were going to win and that the British were not to be wholly trusted.
There is all the distinction in the world between, on the one hand, a policy of moralising, which is always wicked, and a policy of gestures, which are always ineffective, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, believing that no policy can be clever enough to follow a foreseen line except by dint of fidelity to principles and pledges—fidelity to principles and pledges, a fidelity which should give way to nothing less than absolute force.
It is not for us to promise or pretend that we can do what we cannot do, but it is for us to say what we think ought to be done. Any under-estimate by us now of our nation, of its just rights and proper duties, would amount to a desertion of our fathers and a betrayal of our children. And, indeed, we have no excuse for devaluing our stock. We have one great shame and guilt upon our consciences which we must at a heavy price redeem. Individuals have varying shares in that guilt and shame, but on the whole the variations are too slight to merit discussion now. It is the guilt and shame of failing to defend everybody who looked to us for defence East of Calcutta. For that shame and guilt we could not mourn enough if we were less than wholly determined to see that guilt wiped out.
In that task we might claim almost all the world's grateful help, if it were ever any use asking for gratitude in international politics. But the world's help at any rate we can have. Victory is now in a sense within our reach; not that it is there at arm's length to be had by accepting it, but that now we know that if we do not obtain victory it will be by our own fault. When that victory has been grasped, even if between this moment and that moment we were to do nothing at all, we might still fairly claim the larger half of the credit. Of us, and of us alone, it is undeniably true that if we had not done what we have already done, nobody, no State and no person, would now have escaped German dominance.
That is what we have done and what nobody else has done; and nobody else can do as much, whatever may happen. The world is not going to be a German world even for a time. The world now knows that that freedom it owes to us. It knows that if Britain had not saved itself, which without the British Empire it could not have done, the world could not have been saved. That is our greatness, and if we are content with that greatness how pitifully small we shall be. If we leave unfulfilled any contract for any reason but plain impossibility of performance, and if for any other reason we break one pledge, betray one principle, deny one clear article of faith, then fate may fairly judge that we have merited the one thing in this war which might inflict despair upon our children, and the one disaster which might be irreparable—victory without honour.
It is a long time since I have listened to such a cunning, unscrupulous and immoral speech. We are told that Mihailovitch is justified in becoming a traitor. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The hon. Member was very anxious to impress on us that we must pay attention to the concluding section of the article he quoted by a respected Turkish journalist. He was anxious to drive it home. He said that if Mihailovitch was a traitor it was because he believed Germany was going to be beaten and that he had no trust in Britain.
The same could be said about Lord Haw-Haw and any other Quisling. What an attitude of mind for anyone at a time like this. The character of the hon. Member's speech was indicative of what he was after. Before the Foreign Secretary went to Moscow I drew attention to the fact that the essential thing for victory was co-operation between America and the Soviet Union. The Foreign Secretary agreed with that. Co-operation can only be built on a basis of confidence, and the thing that has been lacking in this country has been confidence in the Soviet Union. Was the hon. Member trying to create that confidence, so that we could get a basis of co-operation? He said that he was not criticising the Soviet Union, but he gave quotations in a manner which said, "I am giving you a quotation to show you that in years gone by these people were honest." The implication of that is that they are not honest now and that is what he was trying to convey. The hon. Member and others in this House, one of whom has spoken to-day, are in the closest possible association with the pro-Fascist type of Poles.
I was with the hon. Member at Cambridge when the Finnish situation was on and the man he had with him was a Finnish Social Democrat, and a lower blackguard I have never met. That is the sort of company the hon. Member keeps. The hon. and gallant Member for Wirral (Captain Alan Graham) talked about the difficult situation in Europe. He pointed out that the Lithuanians were against the Poles, the Poles against the Czechs, and the Czechs against the Austrians. I interjected, "What about Russian foreign policy?" In Russia there are innumerable diverse races, of all colours and religions. Some of them 20 years ago were a backward illiterate tribal people. Now they are in the forefront of education and culture and there is no question about the fact that they are all united. It is not a question of some dictatorship preventing them from expressing themselves, because they are expressing themselves not only culturally but in the closest possible unity in defence of the great Soviet land. The other night when we had a so-called Brains Trust at the Central Hall, someone asked "Has Poland to be thrown to the wolves?" I answered that I was prepared to trust the Soviet people and me Soviet Government to assist the Polish people to get rid of the wolves which had ravaged the land for centuries. There was not in Europe a more poverty-stricken and illiterate peasantry than the Polish peasantry.
It is all the more strange, therefore, that that nation should have remained so completely united throughout history and that it is proving so difficult to find even enough Communists in that country to form a bogus Polish Government. In fact they have to be brought from the United States and one or two from here.
Under Pilsudski there was no question about the Fascist character of Poland, and there is no question of what happened to the Communists there. They were massacred.
Read what happened to the Communists and to the progressive workers in Poland, and how the Fascists encouraged tame Social Democrats. Anybody who understands the mentality of the Members who interjected will realise that only Poles of a Fascist type would fit in with their opinions.
The important thing that we have to remember is the heavy task and the heavy sacrifices that lie before the people of this country. In such a situation there ought to be the greatest measure of unity, but we find that there is a great measure of disintegration taking place in the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] Well, go among the people, among the workers. What do you find? Suspicion and distrust of the Government, and a feeling of frustration. What do they say of this House? They say that it is overloaded with Conservatives and that the Government are also overloaded with Conservatives. One hon. Member interjected when the right hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) was speaking, in connection with certain candidates that got in, to say that the Tory voters did not get them in. That is correct, and Tory voters will not get many people in, in this country. The Member meant to say that the Tory voters did not get the Independents in, and that is also correct. They will not get many more Tories in, in the days that lie ahead. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know?"] It is obvious by what is happening in the by-elections. In this House and in the Government there are too many Tories, and the workers see how it works out. They see that the Tories are anxious to maintain the gentry and their privileges not only in Europe but in this country also.
The clever lad, the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said that before the autumn they were boosting Tito as against Mihailovitch, but it was last autumn that the notorious film was introduced to this country and boosted in every paper and on every hoarding. Was it about the Liberation Army under Tito? No. It was about the Chetniks and Mihailovitch. It is still going about the country. The Chetniks are Mihailovitch's crowd.
Yes. Mihailovitch and the Chetniks. As a matter of fact the only paper in this country a year ago that tried to give a lead regarding Tito and Mihailovitch was the "Daily Worker." That is correct. The Government now accept the line and the attitude which the "Daily Worker" took a year ago. The people in the country understand that the Conservatives are anxious to maintain things as they are, not only in Europe but in this country. It is the commonest thing imaginable to find workers saying: "I know what's going to happen when the war is over; the same as happened when the last war was over."
During the discussion in this House a few weeks ago progressive young Tories, the bright boys of the class, were demanding privileges for the crippled soldiers, and when the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green said that we should look after all cripples, the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Major Thorneycroft) said that when the war was over there was going to be a scramble, and they were going to see that the men who fought at the front were to get the privileges. Who is going to scramble? The hon. and gallant Member for Stafford, or the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), or the young Tories? Are they going to scramble for jobs and for a living? No. The cripples are going to scramble, and the young Tories are going to see that those who were crippled in the war have an advantage over those who were crippled in industry. The workers understand what that means. If there is to be a scramble among the cripples for jobs, what chance will the other fellows have? They see that the majority of Members in this House want to get back to 1939 and the old privileges that existed in those days, so they get a feeling of suspicion and distrust. The desire is expressed continually throughout the country for a more active policy on the part of the Labour movement. They want to see the Labour movement, and particularly the Labour Members in the Government, asserting themselves, but they will not do it. It is unfortunate, because, instead of getting a change in the composition of this House and of the Government, which is what the people want, it is suggested that we should simply accept things as they are. We find at a by-election a particular group selecting a man, and when he is selected he is expected to go automatically to the House of Commons. The selection may be of the most reactionary character. A man may be selected whether he is fit for the job or not, or when he has no qualifications for coming to the House of Commons.
The West Derbyshire by-election has been one of the most shameful things ever forced upon this House or the country. The seat is regarded as belonging to a family, but, not having a member of the family ready to go forward, they put forward a brother-in-law to hold the seat for the member of the family. There is a possibility of a scandal developing so, before the scandal can break, they get very busy and get the brother-in-law out, and the young fellow home on leave to take up the candidature. It is a dirty business, and when it all comes out there will be some repercussions so far as certain Members of the Government are concerned. You cannot put that across the people of this country. You cannot go on in that way.
We proposed to the other parties that in a situation such as we have, where there is an urgent need for bringing the people together, for strengthening national unity, instead of this playing about with the constituencies, with a small group here or there selecting someone for reasons that may not all be of a desirable character and sticking him forward and expecting him to come automatically to the House, there should be in each constituency where there is a by-election a conference called, representative of all the parties in the constituency, all the important organisations in the constituency. Our proposal is that from that conference a representative should be chosen, and if as a result of a democratic selection of that character someone is chosen for the constituency then there might be a reason for expecting that he would come to the House of Commons and actually claim, and rightly claim, to speak for the best elements in that constituency. But in the situation that exists at the present time, for the Government to carry on with this policy of shutting their eyes to the difficulties that exist and the feeling that is growing, the irritation, the disunity, and to fail to realise that the Government are responsible for it, is something that can become very dangerous at the present time.
The Prime Minister spoke to-day very strongly about the tasks that lie ahead of us, but the Prime Minister should understand that it is absolutely necessary to get changes in the Government that will bring the Government into line with the political thought of the people of this country. The people of this country have advanced far away and beyond anything in the nature of Conservatism, and it is very necessary that the Prime Minister and those closely associated with him should take up this matter and should see to it that the necessary changes are made in the Government and that speed should be made with the reconstruction policy of the Government.
All kinds of discussions are going on just now in Tory quarters and certain sections of the Tory Press about getting rid of controls at the earliest possible moment after the war. That would be going back to where we were in 1919 and the years that followed the last war. It will be more necessary when the war is over not to lessen the controls but to strengthen and extend them, in face of all the problems that will confront us, the problems of demobilisation, the problems of the transfer from war to peace industry. There will be greater need for control than ever there was. No one can discuss this until the Government bring forward their policy of reconstruction. I say it is necessary for the Government not only to have a sound line on foreign policy and policy regarding the European countries but a sound line on domestic policy and that the policy carried out in relation to Europe will be determined by the policy carried out in this country. An hon. Member on the other side spoke of the terrific differences and threats of civil war that existed in Europe. What is the cause of that? What is the cause of the potential civil war? There must be a reason for it.
I will answer my question myself, as I want a correct answer. The reason is that certain groups of people have got control of the land and the industries in these various countries, or had control, and they want to go back into the positions they occupied before they came out. They want to go back as landed gentry, they want to go back as monopoly capitalists. The men and women in Poland do not want landed gentry saddled on top of them. They do not want monopoly capitalism sent in to rob and loot them. The men and women in Poland and in Yugoslavia and in the other countries who have been doing the fighting want the land and the industries to be used to the advantage of the great masses of the people, for the health and well-being of the great masses of the people. That is the division that exists in Yugoslavia. Mihailovitch represents the "old guard," and because he sees that the "old guard" are finished so far as the Yugoslav people are concerned he goes aver to the side of the Germans. It is not a question of thinking that the Germans will win and that he has not any trust in Britain. He sees that the Yugoslavian people do not want the "old guard"; they want new conditions in Yugoslavia. He wants the old conditions, so he goes over to the Germans in the hope that they may be able to maintain the old conditions. So it is in every other country.
There has been some talk to-day about the failure to blow down ancient monuments and the sacrifice of our men. But does any one ever discuss the unspeakable sacrifices of millions of men, women and children of this country, starved to death generation after generation, just to keep going ancient monuments, our ancient nobility, our big monopoly capitalists? If the Government of this country are prepared to pursue a policy of reconstruction without regard to ancient privilege, without regard to the maintenance of a wealthy parasitic class in this country, but only concerned with the wellbeing and the health of the masses of the people of this country—if they are prepared to do that in this country they will be capable of pursuing a sensible and useful foreign policy with regard to the other countries in Europe.
If they are determined to maintain wealth and privilege in this country at the expense of the people, that will guide and determine their policy in regard to the various countries in Europe. I ask the Government and the Labour Members in this House to see to it that the strongest possible measures are taken in order to get the necessary changes in the construction of the Government so as to get the necessary changes in policy that will bring about what we need more than anything in this country, a united people in co-operation with the Soviet Union. That is the path to victory, that is the path to peace and to better times for the people of the country as a whole.
I do not intend to emulate the cascades of eloquent indignation that have just dropped from the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I want to deal with some of the direct and more oblique criticisms that have been levelled at the Prime Minister. Like the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), who spoke much earlier in the Debate, I consider that our debt to the Prime Minister increases. Assuredly where he dealt with foreign policy in his speech he was a great deal more helpful than several other speeches that we have heard to-day, but were, unfortunately, very nearly as prolonged as that of the Prime Minister.
For many years before the war, in some cases as long ago as 1933, it was obvious to some—notably the Prime Minister—that Germany would have to be resisted sooner or later if civilisation was to continue to breathe. So some of us thought that appeasement stopped and resistance began several years later than could have been desired. The moment at which Germany was resisted was every bit as important as the occasion on which that resistance began. The real war—the second stage of the German war—did not begin in September, 1939. In fact it began much earlier, as early perhaps as 1936 with the breach of the Treaty of Locarno and the remilitarisation of the Rhineland, perhaps even as early as 1933 when the Nazi party gained ascendency in Germany.
I wish to refer to what the Prime Minister said to-day about Poland. We are often apt to forget, or not to remember sufficiently tenaciously, that the occasion of this war was the German aggression against that country. Personally, I do not regret any forgetfulness there may be about that, although I personally am likely to remember, because if my memory is accurate, it was Mr. Chamberlain who announced the British guarantee to Poland—but not to existing Polish frontiers—in answer to a question by myself in April, 1939. We have heard today on several occasions, and I underline this without any reservation, that no people have suffered more degrading cruelty than the Poles, and in particular the Jewish element in Poland. Their short, valiant and tragic resistance will never be forgotten by other free peoples. To such Polish nationals as succeeded in making their escape to this country, we have been as hospitable and considerate as we could have been expected to be. That applies to both sexes of our population. We shall welcome the opportunity of their return in triumph to a land of their own. The hon. Member for Leigh made use of a phrase which I deprecate. He said, "We went to war for Poland," and by the time the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) had spoken our cause had shrunk to the Polish Corridor. But it is not only for Poland we are fighting. We are not fighting only for France or for any other single nation. We are not fighting only for the British Commonwealth of Nations. Certainly we are not fighting only for democracy. We are fighting for the freedom of the spirit of mankind. We are fighting to prevent Germany ever again being able to jeopardise that freedom. We ought by every conceivable means in our power to strengthen the powers of resistance everywhere.
One of the greatest guarantees available to civilised mankind in the world against future German aggression will undoubtedly be a strong Soviet Union. As much as any other single factor in this war the Russian resistance has ensured the eventual defeat of Germany, and, incidentally, the survival of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That is something which, whatever the motives underlying Russian foreign policy may be, no citizen of the British Empire should ever allow himself to forget. Whether by accident or design, the continuance for many decades in the years to come of the British Commonwealth is due to the tremendous and heroic resistance of the Russian armies in the East of Europe.
Our Russian Ally is entitled to the security of her frontiers. I do not think that modern Russia—I have said this almost ad nauseam on many occasions before the war and during the war—has any great territorial ambitions. What, however, she does desire, and, I think, legitimately, is the certainty of a margin of physical safety between her centres of government and the places which bred and fostered the evils of Nazism. This is no revolutionary doctrine: it is merely restating what the Prime Minister said to-day. I hope that no pedantic insistence on the former frontiers of Poland will be allowed to disturb the good will which should subsist between Russia and the Western Powers. If, as I hope may happen—as, in fact, has happened already—Russia wishes her frontier to be further West than the line of 1939, let us not forget that there are areas of the German Reich which should certainly not be allowed to stay under any German sovereignty which may be permitted to survive. I see no geographical reason, and certainly no political reason, why East Prussia should be allowed to continue as a territory exclusively reserved for German inhabitants. Why should not that territory go to Poland, and the German population of East Prussia be sent somewhere else? It is quite wrong, it is pure sentimentality, to say that populations cannot be shifted from point to point. Germany knows perfectly well that they can be shifted. Sentimentalists, in this country and abroad, used to lap up the propaganda which said that Germans anywhere and the territory they inhabited should belong to the German Reich. That doctrine was even sought to be promulgated in the United States of America. And for a time how well that propaganda worked! The Saar, Austria, Sudetenland, Memel, Danzig—every place used as a strategic point in conquering the world; and such sentimental surrender to that doctrine meant insecurity, and at a short remove it meant war. I believe that the reverse process would mean security and peace. It would not be a political expedient; it would be a duty.
We have often heard criticism of the propaganda which we have broadcast to Germany. As a matter of fact, I think that our propaganda to Germany is not so bad, if I may say so without presumption. It is well to err on the side of severity, rather than that of future leniency. This is not a moment to hold out to the enemy any hopes of great political importance after the war. Such propaganda would be bad because it would be false. That is a reason which every Englishman ought to be able to understand. It is true that, whatever may be done to the present leaders of the German nation—and I hope that these men may not escape death—nobody is proposing the mass extermination of numbers of Germans. But it is our duty to preserve peace, and I believe the House will agree with me that there are six conditions without which all the treaty-making in the world to form combinations against Germany will not avail to stop the goose-step.
Would the House allow me to enumerate what I believe to be these six prerequisites? The first is the dissolution of the Nazi Government and the absolute defeat of the German nation, which is sometimes called unconditional surrender. I do not think there will be much dispute about that. About the second we do not hear frequently enough. It is the visible presence of foreign armies on German soil. The next is something which we ought to say with reluctance, but we had better say it if we are to be honest. It is the acute suffering of the German people. So only can it be proved to them that war is not wholly glorious. I am certain that the German people are at present having that experience. The fourth is the splitting of the present German State—its disintegration. The next is the liquidation—which word the Prime Minister used to-day—the liquidation of the German military class, the professional soldiers who believe that the noblest human activity lies in the use of war as an instrument of national policy. The sixth point—by far the hardest point of all—is the re-education of the German people. I am not particularly optimistic that these last three points can be carried through by wishful thinking. I admit that they bristle with difficulties, but unless they are undertaken I for my part can see no certainty for a peaceful Europe with a Germany that is no longer Nazi. It would be well to remember that a Germany without a Nazi Government is not a relatively innocuous nation, like Italy without Fascism. And when we hear the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) implying that the internal government of any country is no concern of ours, I say of course it is, because the very essence of some internal governments is aggression against other countries.
To those who say, as the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) said—he might have been singing a song by Mr. Noel Coward, "Don't let's be beastly to the Germans"—this news from Guernsey, formerly British territory and soon I hope to be British again, may be of interest as being evidence of the manner in which the Germans are polluting territory once British. I am going to read an extract from a report by a British subject who escaped from that Channel island. I cannot divulge to the House—although they are available—either the name of the writer of this report or the method of his escape. I want to say two things about these sentences I am going to read. It will be observed that no complaint is made about German treatment of British nationals. Of course, if there is no such complaint to be made, it is merely because the Germans fear our power.
The word "slave" is used in it, and refers to the imported slave labour which the Germans are using to complete the defences of the Channel Islands. I wish the hon. Member for Mossley were here,
because he seemed to have some doubt on which side we might be. This extract might soon convince him whether we are on the side of St. George or the dragon:
With regard to the foreigners—slaves—their general condition is too terrible for words. They were landed in a practically starving condition—
This on British soil!
their only clothes being cement bags. It is nothing unusual for them to be whipped at their work until they drop dead. They are then picked up by the arms and legs and flung into the lorries and tipped out by Vale Castle. There was no burial. The bodies remained there until loads of rubbish from the quarries were dumped on top. What the sanitary conditions are going to be like I dare not think.
We, as well as the subject populations of Europe, have a score to settle with the Germans.
We may be quite sure that the Germans will fight desperately to avoid their own defeat. They will not believe that defeat is going to mean anything for them but their own extermination, and I think it would be imprudent to assume that the Germans have no bombing force left to use directly the so-called second front is set in motion. Even an attempt at counter-invasion is not impossible, and I hope those in authority, usually civilians in authority, exercising influence in the industrial world, will kindly stop from now onwards criticising the Home Guard.
Those of us in the Army know how vital a part of our future tactics and strategy is this great body of devoted citizens. I believe that the actual end of the Germans, whether it comes sooner or later, is going to come with an incredible suddenness, and I beg the Government not to allow our fortunes to be injured by any indifference to the difficult days of peace which are going to follow hostilities. The more ready we can be, the more careful preparatory legislation we can now pass, the less likely are we to lapse into the dark days of disillusion that followed 1918.
One last point. What I have just said may be looking rather far beyond the waging of war. We have met through the accident of war, both soldiers and civilians, a great number of our American partners. There are to-day not a few Americans in this country, and no doubt a rumour of their presence has already reached the ears of the enemy. I may say that it is a privilege of mine to come into constant contact with large numbers of Americans in the course of my duties. In our contact with the Americans, whether soldiers or civilians, I think we should remember to explain to them as tactfully as we can—because an American respects someone who stands argumentatively on his own feet—that we have somehow survived the war of American independence, and that its lessons have not been wholly ignored by us in this country. Otherwise, it must be plain to them we could hardly have held Singapore or Hong Kong or become the political partners of Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians. The main thing we have to prove by implication or by direct statement is this—we have to say and demonstrate to the Americans that the debt we owe to Japan for what she has done to us is every bit as substantial as the score which America has to settle with her. And so we can truthfully assure our American partners and friends of the simple fact that it will not enter our heads to relax our efforts for a moment until Japan no less than Germany is shattered.
May I ask the hon. and gallant Member one question? Does he think that it is going to conduce, either to a quick end of the war or to peace afterwards, which he so much desires, if we teach the German people that we intend not only to take from them a huge province, such as East Prussia, but deprive a few million Germans of the homes they have had for generations?
There are many answers to the hon. Lady's questions. One is that the mere fact of the density of population in Germany has not had any effects, one way or the other, upon war, because Germany before the last war had enormous overseas territories and had the opportunity to emigrate populations to colonies overseas and never made any use of them at all. As to the first point, I believe in being truthful even with your enemy about the future. It seems to me the worst possible line, which would produce another war, if we were not quite clearly to state to the Germans that they must accept that unconditional surrender which will leave the victorious Powers free to make what territorial arrangements they please.
We have heard the Prime Minister give a realistic account of the state of the war— a survey of great value that helped us to clear our minds and see things as they are, and it does seem to me from some of the speeches to-day, that it was very necessary that this statement should be made, because I fear that some hon. Members are not willing at the present moment to face the grimness of the war as it is. Any weakening at the present time in the waging of war, and war is an extremely unpleasant business, is merely giving away all the advantages which by our tremendous united effort we have up to the present gained.
We should not allow the desire to indulge in what might seem to be softer emotions prevent us from attending very sternly to the business of the war, which is, the destruction of our enemies by every suitable and proper means known. I do not believe that the R.A.F. bomb undefended towns merely for the purpose of destroying civilian population. They bomb industrial, administrative and executive headquarters, as the Germans have bombed here as well as in other places. It is rather absurd for criticisms to be made on those lines at the present time when we need every effort behind the war. It is no good, in one breath, using fine words about our airmen and, in another breath, saying the reverse about the work they are doing, and I hope that this will not continue.
It is not on those lines that I rise to speak but with a desire to say that I hope we shall get from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he replies to the Debate, an equally clear, and, if necessary, an equally grim, and certainly equally realistic, picture of foreign affairs, so that we may know what the situation really is and what our line of policy really is. The Prime Minister, in his survey, touched rather lightly upon certain matters with respect to Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece and Poland. I understand the necessity for discretion—which I wish some Members in this House had exercised in speaking on those matters—in speaking carefully about those matters, but we ought to know not only what is being done with regard to particular areas, such as Italy or Greece, but what is to be the general line of our foreign policy and which side we are to support. Are we supporting the insurgent, democratic forces— using the word rather loosely—in Europe or are we to try and bolster up the forces of the older regimes in Europe, which in themselves had a great deal to do in bringing about the present catastrophe? Surely, we are not too tied to bolstering up any royalist or monarchical regime simply be cause this country has a monarchical institution.
It occurs to me, in passing, that some time ago a friend of mine was showing a representative of some foreign potentate round a very important institution in this country. My friend said to this gentleman, "What do you think of kings in general? What do you think of your king?" This man, who was the attendant on the foreign potentate, replied, "There are only five kings. There is the King of Clubs, the King of Hearts, the King of Diamonds, the King of Spades and the King of England, and all the rest of them are not in the same class at all." There is something in the fact that our monarchical institution is individual and distinct from those of other countries, but because we support the monarchical institution in this country for constitutional reasons, is no reason why we should be expected to support monarchical institutions in other countries where they are not used in the same way, not by a long chalk, if I am permitted to use that un-Parliamentary expression, as they are in this country.
With regard to the support of Tito, I think we are definitely on the right side. Tito has the majority of the peoples of Yugoslavia, apparently, on his side. They have had something like a conference amounting almost to a legislative assembly meeting; they have appointed officers; they have got something going in their underground movements of a very astonishing kind. There is, however, as one hon. Member remarked to-day, in all of these countries something like a civil war going on, and it is not a civil war which is likely to be confined to the inside of Yugoslavia, or of Greece, or even of Italy, or of Poland. It is likely to exist in all the different countries of Europe, as they are gradually liberated, because there are these two tendencies—the one towards reaction, and the one towards freeing Europe—and those tendencies will come into violent conflict with each other. On which side are we to stand?
I say I hope with the assent of the House that we ought quite definitely to stand as a matter of our foreign policy on the side of the democratic and liberalising tendencies in Europe, whatever they may be, and not on any other side. I do not want to enter upon the very difficult terrain of Poland but I was very glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), after making a very vigorous defence of the proposals on behalf of the Polish people, saying that he thought they ought to accept the Curzon Line. I hope they will; I think it is a very admirable arrangement. An hon. Member who spoke later was rather more difficult and, I think, possibly rather unhelpful in his contributions to the question of foreign policy. He seemed to think that any country which had not got a king at its head or, at any rate a large number of landlords, was not really a country fit for gentlemen to associate with, not a country with which he agreed.
I also hope that when the Foreign Secretary replies, he will say something on that matter to which I took opportunity to refer in the Debate on U.N.R.R.A. and that is the question of the functioning of the United Nations as a whole. We ought to have at an early date a meeting of the representatives of all of the United Nations, and I hope the Foreign Secretary will have something to say about this. Let me again remind the House, as I reminded them before, that there has been no meeting of the representatives of the United Nations as a whole since the end of 1941. There has been set up the organisation of U.N.R.R.A., the organisation arising out of the Hot Springs Conference on food. There have been other valuable organisations of a subordinate character formed to act in the international field, but the main body, the Council of the United Nations, has not met since the end of 1941. It is to that Council that these very difficult matters of foreign policy—the relations between the Soviet Union and Poland, the relations between the different and conflicting elements inside the different countries, the direction of the underground movement and so on. It is on those matters that this Council ought to say wise and helpful words.
May I interrupt my hon. Friend for a moment? When he speaks of the United Nation Governments does he include amongst those the rather bogus emigré Governments here in this country, because they do not really represent the people?
I do not suppose for a moment that all the Governments are of equal status, but I take my stand on the perfectly simple proposition that if you are associated with, and fighting as the Ally of any Government, you have to take the Government as it exists at the time. That may be thought to be in direct contradiction to what I have just been saying about helping on the democratic side; it is not. But until you have a Government of your own liking, a Government of a democratic kind, you must use and work with the Government you have. That is the answer to my hon. Friend, although he may not like it. I am afraid that many of my opinions would not be shared by my hon. Friend, including some opinions about bombing. We may not like the present Italian Government. As I have said before in this House, I think it would be a goad thing if the King of Italy were to abdicate and Badoglio were to disappear from the scene. We have been told to-day by the Prime Minister that the decisions on these matters are waiting until we are in Rome, from which they can be promulgated, perhaps, with more authority so far as the Italian people are concerned. I do not like that situation, but I accept it, and my hon. Friend has to accept it too.
My hon. Friend may say that he does not accept it, but he has to accept it. He cannot do anything else about it. You have to take the Governments that exist and work with them. The way to get Governments changed is not to have underground manœuvres, or to make eloquent speeches such as those my hon. Friend can make much better than I, but is to have a meeting of representatives of the United Nations and let them themselves come to a decision. We are too much in the habit at the moment of relying on the United States of America, the U.S.S.R., China and ourselves.
Let me say, finally, a few words on the subject of China. Frankly, I was very disappointed indeed to hear the Prime Minister make only one reference to China, a very pleasant and delightfully flattering reference to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, but he told us nothing about the military help that was being given to China. China in the East is as important to us from the point of view of global war as the Soviet Union is in the West. The war against Japan will not be won by hopping from island to island; it will be won on the land of China, and if it is won there it will involve the Chinese Armies being equipped with modern weapons, with provision trains and the whole apparatus of modern war. At the moment there is no road open into China, except by way of transport planes. The Burma road is closed but we hope it will soon be open again so that the long agony of China—longer than ours, because they stood alone before we were in the war—may be relieved. I speak with feeling on this matter, because I have lately made it my business to learn at first hand, from unimpeachable sources, what the conditions are inside China. Hon. Members of this House who have visited China would certainly corroborate what I am saying. Up to the present, for reasons good and bad, we have not been able to help China and I hope that the Foreign Secretary, when he replies, will tell us something of what is being done in that respect. It is most urgently necessary that the first beginnings of certain kinds of organisation should be made in China in order to enable her armies to take part in the operations which will last at least for two or more years. China's Army is in an almost mediaeval condition to-day. I am not saying anything that the Japanese do not know; I am only saying something that, unfortunately, this House does not know. I think it of the highest importance that we should do everything in our power to help the Chinese to equip themselves. Send them instructors and patterns, as it were, from which they can make things for themselves.
Give them instructions so that they can set to work. They have men with great brains and millions of men with highly skilled hands. Let us help them with the patterns of things which can go, by aircraft, over the mountain ranges. Let us help them with the patterns of things which they can do. I hope the Foreign Secretary will say something about this vitally important matter. We have said nothing about this, but we who have been trying to help China have come to the conclusion that it is no good saying nothing about it. We must speak out, and that is why I have said these few words.
Listening to the wide survey made by the Prime Minister, I was particularly struck by his reference to civil war in the Balkans, because civil war in those countries is more bitter and savage than in any other part of the world that I know of. In listening to the hon. Member who spoke last, when he phophesied civil war breaking out in all European countries, I could not but remember in the years before the war how many political and intellectual leaders in this and other countries used to say that another world war might well mean the end of European civilisation. I think those eminent individuals may have been right and that the damage done in this world war may be irreparable. But although I am convinced that if, following this war, we have in every country in Europe civil war going on, perhaps for years to come, those prophecies may be fulfilled and Europe cannot possibly recover. After all, many civilisations have disappeared and left but little trace and those which have left written records, in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome, were just as satisfied as we are to-day that their civilisations were enduring. I suggest that, when we discuss foreign affairs, we should always have in the background of our minds what Europe will be like at the end of this war.
We are creatures of habit and it is said that the War Office always prepares for the next war in the terms of the last. I think the majority of people in this country are thinking of the armistice and the condition of Europe at the end of this war in the terms of 1918–19. It will be vastly different, infinitely more tragic and more difficult to build up again. We shall have to minister not only to subnormal bodies but to abnormal minds. We have read terrible stories of what happened in the siege of Leningrad and in the streets of Athens, We got glimpses there of the sufferings of Europe. It is reported that in many countries, such as France and Belgium, 70 per cent. of the children are suffering from tuberculosis and that there is increasing under-nourishment in all European countries.
Bad as that is, it is not the worst aspect. Let the House realise that there are millions of children in Europe to-day who have heard the fall of bombs near their homes and realise all that that means. There are millions of children, probably the majority of the children of Europe to-day, who have had their parents or the parents of their friends suddenly seized by day or by night and taken away to unknown destinations. We shall have to deal with a rising generation that has never known the security and joys of childhood and that has lived under a constant state of terror. That is not confined to children. The general breaking up of homes, the separation of families and of husbands and wives, the taking away of parents, has broken down the old restraints and destroyed family life, and there is a general loosening of all the moral restraints which have been an imperative part of European civilisation for centuries.
Faced with that problem after the war, how does it affect our own foreign policy? First, I would suggest that wherever we find in Europe a Government, whether an emigré Government or not, which before the war was generally accepted by the people, a respected Government giving political liberty and individual freedom, we should, when its country is liberated from the Germans, support it for the time being. I will give instances. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last rather sneered at the monarchies of Europe. There are certain monarchies which are to-day national rallying points. The House of Holland has stood for centuries as the symbol of national liberty and individual freedom to the Dutch people. Again, Belgium is a case in point, and Norway is another. Yet another case is the Government of Denmark, and I suppose that there has been no king in the history of Denmark who is so respected and looked up to as the King of Denmark is to-day. When we return to Europe to liberate these countries, let us help and support these Governments in every posible way, thereby establishing, at least in some corners of Europe, stable conditions in which the tortured people will be able to recuperate, and where men can live in their homes free from all fear of civil strife, foreign and domestic enemies and domiciliary visits from the police.
I admit that there is and must be a mental gap between the exiled Governments and the home people. Such Governments as the Dutch, the Norwegian and the Belgian have been away for four years, when the people have not only been enduring entirely new conditions, but meeting new leaders, and that must cause a mental gap. The people of these suppressed countries will have found new leaders in the leaders of underground Europe, who, at daily risk of life, are living in these countries and meeting all classes and conditions of people. Therefore, I suggest that it would be advisable that the Government should ask foreign Governments to co-opt, on their return, some of those underground leaders who are far more in touch with the actual conditions at present than those who have been living in London can possibly be.
Reference has been made by many hon. Members to other Governments which possibly are not generally acceptable by their people, such as the Governments of Yugoslavia and of Greece. I am not in a position to judge, because I do not know sufficient—and very few of us do—about the internal conditions of those countries, to say whether those Governments are acceptable or not. I would only suggest that, after the Germans are driven out, if there is risk of continual civil war, we should arrange to get a free expression of opinion under fair conditions from the peoples of those countries. It could be done on the model of the Saar plebiscite, British and American troops occupying the country, perhaps, as in the Saar, while the plebiscite is being taken. I would add one thing that should be said in this Chamber, which is that, whatever the result of the national decision in those countries, we should treat the representatives of those Governments with the utmost courtesy and remember their services with gratitude.
Take the case of the Greek King. We must remember, whether we approve of his system of government and of his Prime Minister Metaxas or not, that when the Italians, and subsequently the Germans, attacked Greece, it was he and his Government which took the decision to fight to the death, at enormous risk to their country and personal risk to their own lives. I have talked with individuals who were with the King and Queen. Having regard to our reputation in the world generally, we ought to remember that, when we were alone, they stood by us and fought for us at the time when we sorely wanted an Ally. I am glad that they are treated with the utmost respect and courtesy by His Majesty's Government, and I suggest that that attitude should extend to every section of the Press. Above all, there should be no abuse, either by word or by cartoon, in any British newspaper. Otherwise, our reputation will suffer throughout the world, and especially in neutral countries.
As to Poland, I recognise that the less said the better. I welcome the declaration of the Prime Minister and, with "The Times" newspaper, I feel that we owe a debt of honour to the Poles, in the country where honour is still regarded as more than a mere word. I trust that this most difficult situation will be settled by negotiation, not only for the sake of the Poles and the ties that bind us to the Poles, but for the sake, above all, of our whole policy of post-war reconstruction. We are all agreed that that policy depends upon maintaining to the uttermost the closest possible collaboration between ourselves, Russia and the United States. And if a catastrophe should happen and the matter was not settled by negotiation but by unilateral action or force, that would strengthen immensely the forces in the United States—