Government Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th October 1947.

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Photo of Mr Christopher Shawcross Mr Christopher Shawcross , Widnes 12:00 am, 28th October 1947

It is because political changes occur that this matter is so urgent at the moment. It could not be better demonstrated than by the result of the French elections last week. There we see the Socialist Party has been slightly strengthened. But another Party has grown up which, if it ever came into power, would not be regarded by anyone on any side of the House as representing a democracy. We see there the imminent danger of Fascism in modern dress, may be with velvet gloves for a short time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] I am sorry to hear an hon. Gentleman on the other side say that was nonsense. I suggest that he does not know enough about it. If he would examine the constituents of that party—those who have risen to the top and advise its leader and those who are now joining it and the reasons why they are now joining it, he would, I think, agree that there is a little more in what I have said than he seems to think.

I cannot overstate, indeed, I cannot find words to describe to this House the terrible sense of fear and urgency which prevails on the Continent at this moment. People there regard it as if a conflict—I do not mean an actual military war—had already begun, just as in the years 1936 to 1939. They regard the time as being very short. They feel certain that unless something is done immediately—it may be six months or six years, but in either case a very short time—these disasters will befall, that is, there will be conflict between West and East, in which again once more and this time finally, Europe will be ravaged by warfare. Whether that happens or not they believe that unless something is done to stop these dangers the whole of Europe will be subjected to totalitarianism. What they propose to do is to establish a United Socialist States of Europe.

I do not want to develop, and I could not do so as ably as the hon. Member for North-West Hull has done, the economic advantages of such a federation. I want to turn to an aspect with which he did not deal. I invite the House to consider what a great thing it might be if indeed only the great Colonial powers—Great Britain, France, Holland and Belgium with Colonies in Africa and the Far East united in a joint administration and trusteeship to develop these Colonies and give to their peoples the education, emancipation and standard of living to which we all in principle are pledged. It may be that we shall be able to do a lot alone, on the lonely path to which the Minister for Economic Affairs in his speech pointed. But can we ever do as much as we ought, for example, in Africa, when, although we have great Colonies there, alongside and in its midst are large areas and great populations under the rule of other Powers.

I suggest that is an aspect which cannot be over-emphasised. Hon. Members opposite and on this side of the House know better than I do the great economic and so far largely undeveloped resources of the African Continent. They must realise that if those resources and those immense populations were incorporated in this great area, together with the Commonwealth of Nations of the Empire if they would join with a federated Europe, not only should we not need more dollars from America but we should be able to produce in time and properly organised on a Socialist basis a far greater mass of wealth than was ever dreamed of in the U.S.A.

Moreover—and here I cannot do better than repeat what was said yesterday in the debate on Germany—there is no real or permanent solution for what is called the German problem which treats it as outside Europe or deals with it regardless of other nations of Europe. The only solution, I suggest, of the German problem is one which incorporated Germany as a part of a federated state in Europe and which thereby would dispense with any thought of Germany having an army or armaments of any kind. A federation such as that would not only make arma- ments impossible and unnecessary but might at last enable a great European people to make a great contribution to the civilisation and prosperity of Europe instead of forever trying to destroy it.

I want to make clear that this project of United Socialist States of Europe is nothing like what has been called the Churchill Plan. I found that the opinion of most people on the Continent was that that was a horse that would never run. It could hardly stand up under the weight of its jockey, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. This United Socialist States is not intended as a military alliance to counter Soviet expansion or Communist infiltration. It is not something to be set up in order to help American Imperialism. It is, on the contrary, to be a third force which will stand between those two and which, if conflict ever comes between them will either stand aside secure in itself or, what is more hopeful, provide a bridge of peace between them. I want to make it clear that this conception which, I hope will be officially adopted in a short time by most of the Socialist Parties of Europe, including the French Socialist Party, is not something which will take the place of what is called the Marshall Plan.

Here may I say a word in agreement with what has been said on both sides of the House about the help which we have had and hope to get from the U.S.A. I think that it is utterly wrong to refer to American bankers or any Americans as thugs or moneylenders or anything of that kind. I am personally acquainted with some of these American bankers and I know that suggestion to be utterly false. I have never had the honour to meet General Marshall, although I have a friend who is intimately acquainted with him, but I believe that if it could be said of any one man that he was the architect of the allied victory in the late war, that man is General Marshall. Therefore, I believe that any plan which comes from him is likely to be a very good one. I am also convinced that he who has put forward that suggestion and many of those on the other side of the Atlantic who want to see it accepted in America and put into operation in Europe have no idea of enslaving Europe or exploiting European workers for the benefit of American capitalists. On the contrary, they want to secure liberty in Europe. That view of the Marshall Plan I find also very largely held by the Socialists I met who support this project for a United Socialist States of Europe. At the same time, they believe that certain elements, treacherous elements, in their own countries would be only too glad of the opportunity to make their countries depend on American capital.

These elements would be only too glad to see the particular country concerned entirely dependent on loans financed in Wall Street and administered by private enterprise and the manufacturers of the country concerned. Therefore, if it is said that this project is to guard against the menace from the East on the one hand, and the menace from the West on the other, it is only in the last sense that I have just explained, that the term "menace from the West" is used. Indeed, the Marshall Plan would be essential for the establishment of and initial stages of any such federation as has been proposed by the hon. Member for North-West Hull.

Finally, I would ask the House to look a little beyond and see whether I am not right in saying that behind this immediate economic crisis there is a very much greater one ahead. I would ask them to agree that the time has long past when this country by its own efforts could save itself and at the same time save Europe by its example. It can, I suggest—and I earnestly ask the House to agree with me—only save itself and only recover the solvency of this great Britain by saving Europe and saving it now. That can be done in the way that my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hull and I have outlined. The word "Europe" like "Socialism," is too infrequently on the lips of some right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Front Bench. Europe is the cradle, the home, the castle of our civilisation. If we act now we may save Europe, although even then it may not be for long. Who live, if Europe die? Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.