Orders of the Day — Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st July 1949.

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Photo of Mr David Williams Mr David Williams , Neath 12:00 am, 21st July 1949

A number of speakers in this Debate have stressed the need for defence, but so far no one has said what is to be defended. One Member said that democracy should be defended, another brought in feudalism and oil in the Middle East; and the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. F. Maclean) said that we must defend China and the Far East and nationalism. If all these things are to be defended, then we are faced with a formidable task. I would remind the Committee that only on Monday we debated what was called a serious economic crisis, and that that crisis has not yet been solved. Moreover, no one has said how all these things are to be defended and, most astonishing of all, no one has said against whom they are to be defended.

This Debate is one more proof that we are now engaged in a cold war, and it is clear that the longer this cold war continues the more difficult it will be to solve the world's economic problems. The cold war has now become a burden on our economy and on that of Western Europe. Economics are now being used as a weapon in the cold war, and the political division of the world—the great tragedy we have witnessed in the course of the last five years—is to be followed by the economic division between East and West.

The United States of America is using her tremendous economic power to erect an economic iron curtain between the agricultural East of Europe and the industrial West. This is bound to have disastrous consequences on all the countries of Western Europe. It will widen the gap between East and West; it will retard the recovery of Western Europe; and it will make it more difficult for Britain to solve her balance of overseas payments and achieve economic independence by 1952.

Another product of this cold war is the Atlantic Pact, and this, too, is bound to have serious effects on the economies of Western Europe. It was debated recently in the House, and I do not propose to repeat anything that was said then. In any case I am not a specialist in military or strategic matters, and I am not qualified to speak about these things. However, the Atlantic Pact raises far-reaching economic and political questions, and I want to make some observations to these aspects.

It has been said in support of this treaty that it is a defensive pact. I do not quarrel in the least with that argument. Indeed, I accept it. I do not regard the pact as an American plot against the Soviet Union. I take the view that the pact, though signed in Washington, was originally created in Moscow. But though the pact is defensive, we have to remember that defence costs money. It is no cheaper to arm for defence than for attack. The weapons are the same, and the cost is the same. It makes the same demand on the national resources and the same burden on the national economy. We have to remember that if armaments are to be our only defence, there is no cheap defence policy.

As my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) said this afternoon, many of us, while approving of the pact, have serious misgiving about its financial and economic implications. We realise that the nations of Europe, including this country, cannot, in their present condition, carry heavy additional armament burdens. The proposal has been widely canvassed that the United States, out of her colossal resources, should foot the bill to re-arm Europe. If America agreed to this, it would considerably ease our difficulties, but will she? Personally, I doubt it very much. The Americans are worried about their economic prospects. There is the possibility of a major slump, and it is clear that America is now haunted by the spectre of another 1929. In any case, we have to realise that if there is to be rearmament Europe and Britain will have to accept the responsibility and make their contribution.

May I say a word about the objectives of the pact? Its aim, as stated here recently, is to prevent aggression, and there is no doubt at all as to the source from which that aggression is expected. Let us be quite frank about it, it is Russia. Of course, Russia is not mentioned in the pact. Indeed, there is a provision in it somewhere that Russia can join, but if that were so there would be no cleavage between East and West, and probably we would not be having this Debate this evening. But if the authors of the pact are clear as to the source of the aggression, they are by no means clear as to what form the aggression is expected to take. Are they afraid of the Red Army or of Communism? Are they afraid of territorial aggression or ideological aggression? Are they afraid of Stalin as a marshal or as a Marxist? I think that distinction is fundamental.

The idea of territorial aggression arises from a complete misunderstanding of the Soviet system and of the philosophy on which it is based. There has been an idea widely spread since the end of the war and the defeat of Hitler that all dictatorships are alike and that there is no difference whatever between Hitlerism and Stalinism. I agree that there are certain very unpleasant similarities, but I would remind the Committee that there are vital differences. It is important that this Committee and the country should understand that there are fundamental differences between the Nazi dictators of Germany and the Communist dictators in the Soviet Union and the satellite countries. On this point I would quote a man who should know something about it, namely, Kerensky, who was head of the Provisional Government in Russia from March to November, 1917. He is now in exile in America. He has recently made this statement to a correspondent in New York: Stalin will never assume the role of aggressor in the classic style of Napoleon or Hitler. Undoubtedly, Communist strategy allows a new world war as a possible occurrence, but Stalin himself is quite sure that the war, if and when it comes, will be started by dying Capitalism in the Western democracies. There is a great deal of truth in that.

The danger now is that we are preparing for the wrong kind of war. We are preparing for the next war—Viscount Montgomery spoke of this the other day—in terms of the last war. It is well-known that history does not repeat itself, least of all in war. Russia's actions since 1945 have caused a great deal of anxiety and fear in the West. Indeed, the greatest condemnation of Stalinism is that it has frightened all the smaller nations in Europe who at one time looked to the Russian revolution to bring their emancipation. But it is in America that this fear has taken the greatest hold upon the minds of the people.

America has so far given two answers to this challenge of Communism. The first is Marshall Aid, which was a sensible and effective answer. The second answer is the Atlantic Pact and armaments, which, of course, are no answer at all to the problem of Communism. I do not think that America is afraid of Russia. Indeed, she need not be. She has overwhelming superiority in technical resources; but America is afraid of Communism—psychologically and pathologically afraid of it. America may defeat Russia in war but she will not defeat Communism by force of arms. That should be stressed and repeated in every town and village in the United States of America. Communism cannot be defeated by guns and bombs, even atom bombs. War will not destroy Communism. Modern history shows that war spreads Communism.

The danger is that the weight of armaments on the European nations will prevent their economic recovery and may lead to crises and unemployment, which are the traditional breeding grounds of Communism. The danger is also that the weight of armaments will make it impossible for the European nations to recover, by breaking down their economies. It is precisely in the breakdown and in the spread of crisis that Communism will flourish afresh. The real danger now is not war but economic crisis. If Europe is to be over-burdened with armaments, she cannot be prosperous, which is the only effective answer to Communism. Armaments are no answer to the modern challenge of Communism. Indeed, the armaments programme of the democratic nations is Stalin's secret weapon, and the most effective weapon in the armoury of Communism.