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I put a Question to the Foreign Secretary earlier to-day on the subject of a report which I have received relating to the goings on, or proceedings, at the Teheran and Yalta Conferences, in regard to a supply of free male labour to the U.S.S.R., after the termination of the war in Europe. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs replied, in effect, that this matter was not specifically discussed either at Teheran or Yalta, but he gave no real assurance as to the intentions of His Majesty's Government.
The reason I have raised the issue is simply that I have received what appear to be authoritative rumours, that it is the intention of our Russian friends to insist on the supply of 2,000,000 male slave labourers for 20 years after the cessation of hostilities. Whether this report is true or not I do not know, and I do not think that materially affects the reason for my raising the issue. If it is untrue, the sooner the rumour is exploded the better. If it is true, the sooner we make our position clear the better for everybody concerned. I think that, as a matter of principle, it is entirely wrong to condone a policy which your friends may feel inclined to adopt, but which you would condemn in your own case or that of your enemies. I am bound to say that I was somewhat perplexed, and was more encouraged to raise this issue to-night, because of the supplementary question which the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) put to the Foreign Secretary. I am sorry that the hon. Member is not here. I gave him full warning that I was going to mention the fact that he put the supplementary to the Foreign Secretary. He asked, if the Russians should, at some future date, require the services of German labour for the purposes of reconstruction, whether there would be anything wrong with that. What precisely my hon. Friend meant I find it difficult to discover, and in his absence I am afraid I shall not get any further enlightenment to-night, but in the context in which the remark was made, it would seem to me to imply that the hon. Member would not object to slave labour.
I feel very strongly on the point, more particularly as it would seem to be completely against all the principles for which I and hon. Members on this side of the House stand, in this respect. I quite appreciate that the Russians have suffered tremendous damage to their country, and that they are entitled to fair recompense and to demand restitution in kind. But I believe that at least 99·9 per cent. of hon. Members on this side of the House would regard the idea of slave labour for generations as absolutely abhorrent. To think that children now four or five years old are to be carted off fifteen years hence and used in another country, because of matters over which they had no control at all, is abominable. If the rumour is untrue, nobody could be more delighted than I shall be. I shall seek to obtain from the Minister an assurance that whatever may have been discussed at the Teheran and Yalta Conferences, the policy of His Majesty'S Government is at least to resist a suggestion of any kind from any Government that there should be an arrangement which involves slave labour for the victors at the expense of the vanquished. It may be necessary by arrangement, and under proper conditions, to secure the assistance of technical advice, and technical labour if you like, but if that is done it must be done under proper conditions, voluntarily and with full pay. I do not myself feel able to speak with such fervour as others who have knowledge of the matter, about what is involved from the trade union point of view, but we want no slave labour of any kind whatever from anybody, and the sooner that is made perfectly clear to everybody the better it will be for all of us.
So far as I have studied and observed our political propaganda to the Germans, practically everything we have said has encouraged them to go on fighting. One thing that would make me go on fighting if I were in a similar position to the Germans would be the idea that slave labour would be imposed upon my country, and not only that I should have to go—that would be bad enough indeed—but that my children and other people who had had no responsibility for the horrors that Governments, and not the peoples themselves, had visited on the world, were to be carted off and worked in other territories as slaves, for 15 or 20 years. Facetiously, one may say that if the Germans must go to rebuild Russia, therefore, logically, as we have knocked most of Germany down, we should go to rebuild Germany, the Americans should go and rebuild Japan and the Japanese should go and rebuild China; but that scheme would not work.
If we contemplate anything like that we shall sow the seeds of another and more devastating war. I have said again and again that we have got to approach this whole programme of peace in a constructive manner. I have protested again and again about this cry of unconditional surrender. If I may use an un-Parliamentary phrase, it is a childish and silly-ass cry, and nobody, not even a third form boy, would dream, in the light of history, of using such a phrase. It is bound to make the Germans go on if you consider the circumstances and the sights that have been seen as a result of our deliberate policy of indiscriminate bombing, the smashing up of cities, the devastation, yes, and even the Morgenthau plan. Indeed, it may be all part of it, it may very well be the implication or the implementation of the Morgenthau plan to bring benefit to certain interests across the seas; but by lowering the standards of life in Central Europe you are bound to lower the standards of life of everybody else. We had better find out what is happening. All I can say is that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give me an assurance that there is nothing in this idea, that the Government are not even contemplating listening to a suggestion of this kind. It is all very well for him to shake his head, but whilst I am not prepared to name those responsible people both in this country and in America who have stated this, it has been stated. It is no use pretending it is not quite common talk in the Middle East that one of the conditions is the use of 2,000,000 German slaves for 20 years.
From the whole of Germany. It does not really matter, and I do not understand the point of my hon. Friend's interruption. He may have put it in quite a friendly manner, but I do not see that it makes any difference.
With great respect I would say that tit is not the point. We have these great conferences going on. I personally object to the secrecy which surrounds them. I think it is terrible. I can understand that when the Allied Nations are at war the leaders must meet together and discuss military plans whereby they hope to overthrow their enemies and it is important, obviously, that those plans should be kept secret. But why the political decisions and the political consequences of victory should be kept secret beats me. I have always said I believe that the conditions the Allied Governments propose to impose are so disgraceful that they dare not tell our people about them. It is one of the things that haunts me. It is an abomination. And when I hear the hon. Member for Seaham apparently condone the idea of the slave labour I wonder whether my sanity will last very much longer, particularly when one hears the Labour Party or any Member of the party apparently support it.
Well, any Member of the Labour Party, and I was referring to the hon. Member for Seaham. It is important that our position should be made clear and the sooner it is done the better for all of us. While I have not the authority to speak for the Labour Party I believe I know well enough what the working men of this country believe and they believe in freedom all the time. They do not believe in slavery of any kind whatever. It is recognised that it is not the peoples who are responsible for the war but their misguided and very often corrupt rulers. What the working man and his brother overseas expect when they come home and what they have been fighting for is that fair and proper treatment shall be meted out to all peoples, enemy nations as well. I seek an assurance that there shall be no approval of slavery anywhere, at any time, under any conditions.
I rise to support my hon. Friend in the first part of his speech with regard to slave labour, but I want to make my position quite clear on the second part, because I have always supported the unconditional surrender of the German people. I have advocated it times without number, and I should not like it to be thought that I was associated with him in his point of view on that. I do want the matter to be cleared up to-night. During the third day of the Debate on the Crimea Conference the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) made remarks to which I took exception. He said he was general secretary of the Reparations Committee in 1920 and he believed then that it would have been better if the major part of the reparations had been taken in the form of the physical rebuilding of the devastated regions of France and Belgium by German labour and German materials. When I tried to
protest he was not prepared to give way and I had to wait until later. When the Foreign Secretary replied to the Debate he said:
The right hon. Gentleman also said yesterday that we should not ask for millions of pounds in reparations but for reparations in kind. I agree, and that is exactly what we are doing. No doubt mankind learns slowly, but we hope that it does learn, and from the lesson of the last war we have learnt that reparations in kind are what we should seek. We should like, for instance, a little timber for the reconstruction of our houses. Russia will certainly provide some, but I do not see why Germany should not too.
I interrupted then and asked:
Does that mean the transference of German population? The first speaker to-day made the point that reparations in kind meant transferring the German population to other parts.
The Foreign Secretary replied:
Reparations in kind mean the delivery of materials like timber."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1945; Vol. 408, c. 1665.]
He left it at that and I was satisfied with that reply. I took it that reparations meant that Germany would be called upon to make reparations in kind, materials and all that kind of thing. Judge of my surprise when I find that there seems to be some doubt whether he did not mean the transference of labour, and I promised my hon. Friend if he did raise the matter on the Adjournment to support him on this point. I ask the House to be very careful on this matter. Wars are caused by this kind of thing. If we leave in the minds of the people who are beaten the feeling that they have not been dealt with properly it will only be sowing the seeds for future wars.
I always try to turn the picture round for myself. For instance, if Germany had beaten us and had come along to transfer some of our population for the purpose of rebuilding and repairing the damage they had suffered, the only thing it would have done for me would have been to leave in my mind the seeds of revenge. There must be many like myself who will feel that if the German people know there will be large transfers of their men for slave labour then we cannot hope for anything but the fears of future wars, because in that action we shall have been sowing the seeds of hatred and revenge in the hearts and minds of the defeated peoples. That is why I join with my hon. Friend to-night. We have a lot of differ- ences on many points, and we shall have more, but on the broad issue of trying to get other countries to recognise what ought to be done after this war I agree with him.
I hope the Under-Secretary of State will make it clear that all the power we have at these conferences will be used for the purpose of trying to show the other nations that we do not agree with this kind of thing. It may be that we shall not be able to succeed. Russia may demand it, and may succeed, but we can tell them that we do not agree with that policy, and I hope others will be influenced by our point of view. If by any chance remarks are made to-night to the effect that we agree that Germany has caused all this trouble and suffering and should pay the penalty, if we lend credence to that, some people will think that Britain believes in that kind of policy and will help us in getting slave labour for Europe. I hope that Britain will give a lead to the world in this matter. Much depends on what Great Britain thinks in leading the Continent to a proper conclusion. I join with my hon. Friend in the hope that the British Parliament will decide that slave labour shall not come within the terms of settlement.
As this discussion turns on the question of slaves it is desirable that the House should get a clear idea in its mind of what the word "slave" means. I speak subject to correction. Hon. Members opposite will kindly interrupt if I say anything with which they do not happen to agree. I take it that a slave is one who works under certain conditions, that he has only one possible employer, that all his livelihood is provided for, he is fed, he is lodged, and his family are al provided for. He is encouraged to breed by his family being looked after for him. He has to work where he is told to work, do what job he is told to do, work when he is told to do so. He has no choice as to where he shall work, or what job he shall work at, or how hard he shall work, or for whom he shall work.
The hon. and gallant Member will soon see to what I am referring. Having now defined what a slave is, that he is one who is directed as to what work he shall do, where he shall work and for whom he shall work, and that his family is provided for, I ask, Who are we, particularly the hon. Members opposite, to object to slavery, when our whole policy is proposing the introduction of slavery in this country in every respect I have mentioned? What is the location of industry for? A device to prevent a man from working where he likes. He is to work where his master, the State, says he has to work. What is the direction of industry and the guaranteeing of employment, such as is provided for by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge)? It is direction as to what a man shall work at, what work he shall do. He is going to guarantee full employment, and I suppose hon. Members agree that full employment cannot be guaranteed without the power to direct what work a man shall do. His family is to be provided for, he is to be encouraged to breed more slaves for the community, by means of a device called family allowances. He is to be provided, like any other slave, with shelter, He may want to spend the money he has earned upon dog racing, but it will he taken away from him in rates and taxes. A house is to he provided. He is not to be allowed to say how he will spend his own money—another feature of slavery. I think if we examine the policy of the party opposite, as so carefully laid down by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, we must agree that everything which makes a man a slave is the basis of the policy of the party opposite.
I shall not pretend to be as learned in the art of enslavement as the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), but I do not remember any protest in this House on the part of the hon. Gentleman when a form of slavery was practised in our own country comparable with that against which my hon. Friends are protesting this evening. The hon. Gentleman and his party were responsible—the party with which I understand he identifies himself on occasion—
I should be most unsportsmanlike if I were to tell the House that the hon. Gentleman is likely to get what he has been asking for this long time. I will not express that view, but dealing with this question of slavery, I am certain that neither the hon. Gentleman nor any of the Members opposite protested against the sheer enslavement of 500,000 of my people in Wales in the inter-war period. Half a million men, women and children, one-fifth of the population, were by force uprooted from their country, driven throughout England, badgered, importuned, and many of them forced to live under conditions no better than will be those of the German worker if he is forced to work in Russia. We had no protest then, when thousands of homes were disrupted and even destroyed, when hundreds of our own young people were driven, by the policy of the hon. Gentleman and the Government of the day, to leave their homes in South Wales and return in a few years to die, literally by their hundreds, of tuberculosis. It happened in my constituency and in the constituency of my right hon. Friend who will reply to this Debate.
When we talk about enslavement I suggest to my hon. Friends most kindly that we try to maintain some sense of proportion in the matter. What happened in my country of Wales in the inter-war period is something we shall never forget, and I do not think we shall forgive for a very long time to come. But I appeal to my hon. Friends to maintain some little sense of proportion. The protestations they have made in the House this evening are protestations on behalf of slaves. The whole working class of Germany has been enslaved for the last 10 or 12 years. It is no good attempting to build a case by protesting against some rumour or other, by which Russia is supposed to be the guilty nation, on behalf of a nation of people who have not been free for half a generation.
I think my hon. Friend is confusing the issue. Let us agree, for the purpose of his argument, that everybody is a slave everywhere. Does he not see any difference between people working in their own country, under whatever conditions there may be, and people being carried off to another country, against their will?
Not in the least. Slavery is slavery, wherever it is experienced, and I see no greater evil in the masses of German people being enslaved in Russia than in their being enslaved in Germany. There was running through the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) the assumption that here was the possibility of free people being converted into slaves, and taken into another country. Most of the people on whose behalf he has made his appeal have known very little about freedom for the last 12 years. But I cannot, as a Welshman, condone the uprooting of vast masses of population merely to serve the selfish needs of people whose only interest is to sustain and perpetuate a rotten, corrupt, decaying economic system.
I was referring to the economic system in these islands that compelled the uprooting of 500,000 of my people of Wales, who were simply driven, like sheep, up and down the land of this country. I got up to make those two points. Slavery is slavery wherever it is practised. I see no difference whether the man is being enslaved in his own country, or in any other part of the world. Freedom to work and freedom to express one's own personality, and obtain one's legitimate desires, is the freedom that I stand for. I hope that we shall maintain some sense of proportion on this subject, and that the House will forgive me for having taken memories back to a wretched page in our history, which I hope will never be repeated.
I had not intended to intervene in this discussion, but the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) again said something with which I disagree, and I never seem to get the chance to say how much I disagree with him. He said that unconditional surrender was complete nonsense. At the risk of repeating what to the majority of the country, I am sure, is a glimpse of the obvious, I say that it was the only possible course. If we had not insisted on unconditional surrender we should have betrayed all those who fought and died in the last war, and in this war. Of course, if we had not insisted on unconditional surrender, this war, in all probability, would have been over last August, or even earlier; and we should have sown the seeds for another war later on. We have to beat the Germans to a standstill, and the only way is the way we are doing it. We shall not be long now.
This subject of German Labour seems to have aroused a great deal of passion. As one who has never deliberately aroused passions, may I say a word or two? I have always objected to the use of force to compel the French or Poles to work in Germany. We have to deal with this discussion entirely apart from the question whether the Poles or the Germans are to be compelled to work in Russia. I think it is wrong for any Government anywhere to swoop down on the working classes of another country and punish them for the evils of their leaders. I would not mind one bit if the Russians on the other hand called upon Hitler, Himmler, Ribbentrop, and their associates to work in Russia; but they will not of course call upon those. As a workman, and as a trade unionist, I object strongly to the assumption that any Government should enslave the working classes of any other country as a punishment. Take our own country, for instance. What has the ordinary miner, textile operative, or engineer to do with deciding whether our country shall go to war or not? Only the other day the Prime Minister told me that even the House of Commons had nothing to do with declaring war. I would like, however, the House of Commons to bring its influence to bear on these important issues. I go further than some of my hon. Friends. I do not like even an Englishman from Lanacashire to be directed to work in Birmingham. I have protested here several times against the prosecution of 36,000 British workpeople, some of whom have been sent to gaol, because they would not proceed to work where they were told to go by this Government. If Members agree with that argument, they should agree also that it is wrong for a German workman to be forced to work in Czechoslovakia or Russia. Suppose when all these passions are over that you have 2,000,000 Germans working in Russia under duress. What are the I.L.O. going to say about it? The constitution of the I.L.O., to which I am glad to say our Government are affiliated, lays down definitely that this sort of thing shall not occur, and the I.L.O. is right.
I cannot tell the hon. Member. But if they are not they ought to be. [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I cannot understand the vociferous cheers from the other side of the House. I trust that nothing said in a Debate like this will do anything to mar the good relations existing between ourselves and Russia. I cannot understand the British people in that respect. I may be an odd sort of person, though I am quite willing to be odd in the views that I hold on war. The British people hated the Russians for years upon years. [HON MEMBERS: "No."] Oh yes they did. The people of this country hated the Bolsheviks, and then we got up one fine morning to fin I that all the Russians were saints and Stalin has been an archangel ever since. How childish!
I remember one day standing on the deck of a ship in the port of Alexandria, when I saw a man whipping labourers carrying sacks of sugar on their backs. I turned to an Egyptian friend of mine and said "It is a strange state of affairs that that fellow should whip workmen because they are rot moving fast enough." "Ah," he said, "the man with the whip is one of their own countrymen. If an Italian or a person of any other nationality whipped them we would soon see what would happen." Strange as it may seem, even the Britisher does not mind being whipped politically by a man of his own nationality. I am glad that in the few remarks I have made, I have dispersed some of the seriousness connected with this problem and that I have made it a little more human than it was at the beginning. My final word is this: When the passions of war are finished; when peace is declared and we are back again to normal conditions in Europe I doubt whether anybody then will even suggest that a single German shall be forced to work in Russia or that a Russian shall be compelled to work in Germany.
This Debate has been interesting, but at the same time rather depressing. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) are people of warm hearts and are kindly disposed, but, if I may say so, I think if the attitude of mind which is displayed in their speeches were the attitude of any Government, it would lead to another war before very long. We have had several hon. Members talking about the German people having been enslaved. What evidence have we that the German people were enslaved by a small gang? The German people enslaved themselves. They had every opportunity They had a Republican Government but did not want it. They had a chance of forming democratic principles but did not want them. The German people are a militarist nation and they want to see Germany great and powerful. This is not a recent development. It has existed over a very long period.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh said he would like to picture himself in the same circumstances there could be nothing more ridiculous. He approaches the subject with an entirely different attitude. He sees the picture from the point of view of justice and kindliness to his neighbour, but that is not the point of view of the German. The atrocities, murders and cruelties which have been perpetrated have not been perpetrated by 10 or 20 Nazis. They have been perpetrated by hundreds and thousands of Germans, and without a protest from any section of the German people. They only recognise ruthlessness, and, if we are going to accept this principle of the hon. Member for Leigh that the way to prevent future wars is to be kind to Germany, then I honestly believe that that course would be absolutely fatal. Germany will not understand weakness, and we cannot afford again to risk civilisation for ideas of that kind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) lost no time in initiating this Debate this evening. The Question which he addressed to my right hon. Friend this afternoon was replied to and I am afraid that I have very little to add to the reply which my right hon. Friend then gave. But the Debate is not really based so much upon the reply which my right hon. Friend gave as upon a fallacy—a rumour which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich in a supplementary question, when he suggested that it is proposed, by some country or another, that 2,000,000 Germans should be used as slaves for a period of 20 years, and that, by recruiting children from Germany, the number should be kept up to 2,000,000 during that period. May I assure my hon. Friend at once that, so far as we know, no such suggestion has been made by any Allied country at any of the Conferences which have been held? Indeed, I think that my right hon. Friend was ready to deny the statement which was made by the hon. Member for Ipswich. So the Debate is very wide of the mark, and I am sure that my hon. Friend himself would not suggest for a moment that it was the intention of His Majesty's Government to agree to any transfer of any persons to work under the conditions which have been suggested. I am afraid that our Allies will have a very bad opinion of certain hon. Members of this House, when they know that there is any suggestion that such a condition should apply to any persons who, it is suggested, should be transferred under conditions of that kind.
I think it would be well that I should quote from the published Yalta communiqué dealing with this question, and state what the declaration was. It was stated:
We recognise as just that Germany be obliged to make compensation for the damage she has caused in kind to the greatest possible extent. A Commission for the compensation of damage will be established and will be instructed to consider the question of the extent and method for compensating the damage caused by Germany to the Allied countries—
I will try to deal with that if my hon. Friend will allow me.
The Commission will work at Moscow.
There can be very little criticism of this declaration or of its intentions. I would like to emphasise that the decisions about the methods of reparations have yet to be taken. The Commission has not yet met, and the House will realise that, when it meets, it will be dealing with very complicated matters. It has to find the best practical means of securing that Germany makes compensation for her ill-deeds. We cannot say finally in what way she will meet her reparation obligations with the least possible damage to our own interests until we are in control of Germany and can see what resources are available there. The matter will have to be approached from a commonsense angle, bearing in mind the lessons of reparations in the period after the last war. It is impossible to promise that the use of German labour as a means of obtaining compensation from Germany for the damage she has caused should be ruled out. Many thousands of German prisoners of war will at this stage be in the hands of the Allies. They cannot be sent home overnight, and it would seem foolish not to take advantage of the useful labour they might offer.
Nothing is more reprehensible than for anyone to assume in advance that any of the Allies who make use of such German labour will do so in the manner which has been suggested in this Debate. Nothing of the kind is contemplated. No Allied nation thinks of treating human beings as Germany treated the forced labour in her own country during the war. I would repeat what I said at the commencement of my speech, that the allegation by my hon. Friend about Marshal Stalin and 2,000,000 slaves is completely untrue. There is no need to emphasise to the House the enormous degree of devastation which the Germans have wrought in so many European countries, the millions of lives which have been lost as a result of the action of Germany and the millions of Allied men and women whom Germany has used for her own purposes during the war. I know of no difference of opinion among the people of the country, as has been shown at many Labour Party and trade union conferences, and by the views of the people generally who are all strongly supporting the principle that Germany should be obliged to make compensation for the devastation she has caused, to the greatest possible extent and by whatever means appear most practic- able. The methods by which this principle will be implemented have to be determined by the Reparations Commission and the decisions that will be arrived at by that Commission cannot be anticipated.
In the minute or two that remains I should like to take one point that my right hon. Friend made, just a little further, and that is his very interesting point about prisoners of war. There are in the hands of the Allies now very large numbers, hundreds of thousands, of German prisoners, and it is only in fairly recent months that some of us in this House and alsewhere have interested ourselves in finding out to what extent there has been any segregation between Nazi and non-Nazi German prisoners of war. To condense as drastically as I can, my point is that after the war you will have ready to go back to Germany hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, I do not know, of prisoners, extremely well fed, physically fit and completely Nazi in their outlook and doctrines, who have been looked after in the prison camps in this country, and even beter fed in the prison camps in America. It would surely be extremely dangerous to send those hundreds of thousands of men straight back to Germany and turn them loose, in the rather difficult conditions, to put it mildly, that will prevail there, as a possible cadre of underground Nazi resistance. These men will have been cut off and protected from the disillusionment which is at present affecting the ordinary German people in their own country.
They have led a sheltered life in the prison camps, well fed, and still strictly Nazi in their outlook. I suggest that such men would form very suitable material indeed for the kind of labour to which my right hon. Friend referred as not being excluded by the terms of the statement which has already been made. We do not want any vindictiveness, or any inhumanity, but I am rather sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) chose to refer repeatedly, in a rather question-begging way, to "slavery," and to keep on using the word "slave" merely to bedevil the intentions and the good.faith of a great Ally.