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Foreign Affairs

Part of Orders of the Day — Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st July 1961.

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Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton 12:00 am, 31st July 1961

If I understood the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. M. Hamilton) aright, he dismissed any alternatives to the present policy as being hobby horses, which he treated with contempt. I would have said that the present policy is a dead horse and that its decomposition is becoming noisome and dangerous to public health.

We have to do something about the arms race and the cold war. There are people who are saying that N.A.T.O. and the piling up of nuclear arms are the way to preserve peace, and they point in proof of that to the indisputable fact that there has not been a war since the last one. But to argue from that that therefore we must go on preparing for war in order to preserve peace, is not merely post hoc, ergo propter hoc as a piece of reasoning; it is about on a level with one of the Gadarene swine telling another as they proceed at a hand gallop to the steep places, "At any rate, this proves that the only way to keep from falling into the sea is to keep going."

I remember what the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said about the last arms race, which ended in the Second World War. On 23rd April, 1938, he said: I cannot believe that, after armaments in all countries have reached a towering height, they will settle down and continue at a hideous level…and that that will be for many years a normal feature of the world's routine. Whatever happens, I do not believe that will. Europe is approaching a climax…Either there will be a melting of hearts and a joining of hands between great nations, which will set out upon realising the glorious age of prosperity and freedom which is now within the grasp of the millions of toiling people, or there will be an explosion and a catastrophe the course of which no imagination can measure, and beyond which no human eye can see. What policy have the Government for bringing about this reconciliation and for settling the issues which divide the Western and Eastern alliances? What policies have they for putting an end to the nuclear weapons race which threatens us at any moment with universal death and destruction? According to the Note of the 19th July to the Soviet Government their policy is to stick to the offers they made in 1954, 1955 and 1959 on the question of Germany. But those offers, every one of them, began and ended with the contention that Germany should be united by free elections and should then, in the name of the right of self-determination, be allowed to join the military alliance of N.A.T.O.

On the first point, there was a rather good letter from Sir John Slessor in the Sunday Times of 10th July in which he dismissed this aspect in the following words: In our view German reunification can come only by the gradual evolution of arrangements between Bonn and Pankow in circumstances in which direct Soviet control is removed from Fast Germany, and we regard continued talk about reunification through free elections as the language of cloud cuckoo land. Of course the Government know that it is the language of cloud cuckooland. If they are so keen on free elections as the way of reuniting Germany when they know that it is an absolute obstacle to settlement and that the continuation of the situation may at any moment run us into a world war, why not display the same zeal for the reunification of Vietnam by free elections? We had a treaty in 1954 for the reunification of the country by free elections under international supervision. But Mr. Dulles at that time said that he opposed this on the ground that the Communists would win the elections. Instead, he proceeded to divide the country in disregard of the 1954 settlement and sot up a reactionary dictatorship in South Vietnam so oppressive that it roused the population to revolt. President Kennedy, and so far as I can understand the Government statement on the subject, with British support, said that he is determined to support that policy even at the risk of starting a nuclear war.

There is so much humbug talked about freedom in this connection. President Kennedy's t.v. message, with which the Foreign Office says that this Government agree, talks about defending freedom in South-Easa Asia—e.g. in South Korea, where there is a military dictatorship, 30 per cent, unemployment and a standard of living of £35 a year for the peasantry. There is no freedom or social justice there. It is an abominable régime. The same is true of South Vietnam, and of the military dictatorship which the U.S.A. have tried to impose on the people of Laos, after overthrowing half-a-dozen neutralist Governments. There they have had to beat a partial retreat, but it is only partial.

The Lord Privy Seal talked of the danger in Latin America. What is the danger? Reactionary dictatorship kept by American big business and backed ultimately by American marines, are being opposed by the peoples who have been encouraged by the revolution in Cuba and by what the Castro régime has accomplished far its people, and by the fact that an attempted U.S. military intervention and hypocritical aggression was defeated and thrown back. So now, I suppose, we shall wade in there to help those abominable policies and régimes at a tremendous risk to world peace.

The comic thing is that the people who do this think that they are combating Communism. In fact they incubate Communism. Two or three years ago I said that if we persisted in giving to the Communists a monopoly of the appeal to the three strongest motives in the modern world, the desire for social justice, the desire for national independence and the desire far peace, the minds of men would increasingly turn away from us in the countries of Africa and Asia and in the under-developed Countries. That is what is happening.

In order to preserve N.A.T.O. we lose Tunis and the whole of North Africa by siding with France. In order to preserve N.A.T.O. we turn a blind eye to and empty buckets of whitewash on the attempts of Portuguese Fascists to commit genocide in Angola. In order to preserve N.A.T.O. we let the Belgians get away with reducing the Congo to a shambles, setting up a puppet régime under Tshombe in Katanga, and letting him murder Patrice Lumumba. That is why the countries of Africa and Asia and Latin America are turning away from the Western Alliance. I do not know where the Government keep their brains, if they have any. It is clear to me that this policy, apart from being suicidally dangerous, is utterly mad! Let us see what it has done in relation to Germany.

The note of 19th July is exceedingly complacent about it. It says that the authorities in the Western sectors of Berlin are not disturbing public or international order in any way, nor is there any reason to suppose that they will in the future. There are over 200 sabotage, subversion and propaganda agencies in West Berlin, conducting hostile campaigns against the surrounding territory of the D.D.R. There is also the habit of the West German Government and others of holding meetings there with inflammatory propaganda for recovering the lost territories of Germany. These things create bad feeling and tension.

As long ago as 4th December, 1958, the late Aneurin Bevan spoke of the status quo in Berlin. He said that he did not believe that the present position was acceptable because so long as Berlin is in its present anomalous situation it will always be a source of trouble in Europe…It must be obvious that we cannot go on as we are and in his Note Mr. Khrushchev is perfectly right when he says that incidents might happen there at any time. Anybody who has been to Berlin knows that the sentries are so near to each other, the frontier lines are so absurd, the contiguity of enemy forces is so serious, that anything can happen at any time. As the situation deteriorates the possibilities of conflict increase. Apart from that and the political difficulties which I mentioned, there is also the flourishing black market and smuggling, stimulated by the wholly artificial exchange rate, by which one West German mark is exchanged in West Berlin for four East German marks. That does not correspond to the difference in purchasing value the difference should be less than two to one. It creates very serious difficulties and complications.

The note is equally complacent about the present German régime. It says that the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany cannot reasonably be accused of causing tension in Europe or of provoking a crisis over Berlin. On the contrary, I accuse the Federal Government of Germany of causing tension by their obstinate refusal to accept any form of disengagement, or to recognise the existence of a second German State, or to agree to any negotiations to change what even President Eisenhower at Camp David described as the anomalous and dangerous status quo in Berlin, or to abandon their ambition to carve up Poland again. They obstinately refuse to recognise the present frontier between Germany and Poland.

The note goes on to say that the German Government does not aspire to a nuclear force of its own, nor is it trying to secure national control over nuclear warheads. But the ex-Hitler generals in charge of the German forces last summer created an uproar by demanding nuclear weapons for Germany. That demand has been endorsed by the Defence Minister, Mr. Strauss, who has justly been described as the most dangerous man in Europe. It has been given the blessing of Dr. Adenauer, and the propaganda is proceeding apace. They talk about the international control of German forces. The German Government have never ratified the W.E.U. Treaty with the system of control. Such controls as exist are perfunctory and farcical and on a purely voluntary basis. Finally it says: The Federal Government has undertaken never to have recourse to force to bring about the re-unification of Germany or the modification of its existing boundaries. I will deal with that point, because it is important. On this point the German Government's policy and Dr. Adenauer's pronouncements have been remarkably consistent over the years. We thought that in arming Western Germany we would use Germany as a glacis to protect the West; the Germans would be wiped out, but they would take the first shock. That was the idea. Not unnaturally, the German Government wanted to rearm for purposes of their own, which they identified as defence, since defence in the régime of power politics for which N.A.T.O. stands means "negotiation from strength", it means imposing your will under the threat of force.

It began as early as December, 1951, when Dr. Adenauer addressing a meeting in Hamburg said: 'Our object in joining the European Army is to obtain a position where we can recover our lost territories. A few years later, on 18th July, 1955, Walter Lippman, the well-known American political commentator, testified in the New York Herald Tribune that Dr. Adenauer on his visit to Washington that Spring had made it clear that his policy is to be armed by the United States, and then, with the loyal support of the whole Western Alliance, led by the United States, to negotiate a German settlement with the Soviet Union. Dr. Adenauer believes that in two or three years, when there is a German army in N.A.L.O., his position will be strong enough to obtain re-unification with frontiers that are much better than Potsdam. Mr. Lippman explained that for that reason Dr. Adenauer did not want any negotiations yet, because it was too early to raise the question of frontiers.

A few years passed. On 3rd December, 1958, Dr. Adenauer made a speech to a meeting of his party, the C.D.U., in which he repeated the point that he was against negotiations with Russia for a settlement because Germany was not yet in a position to raise the question of a revision of the frontiers. On this Aneurin Bevan, speaking from the Front Bench here in the foreign affairs debate on the following day, commented as follows: What is he"— that is, Dr. Adenauer— waiting for? Is he waiting until Germany's armed forces are stronger so that they can take a more independent line?…When is the time ripe? Is it when all the German formations are established and the Americans are there with nuclear warheads ready to provide them with them should the need arise?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 1385–6.] Time passed and the situation developed. The irredentist propaganda, which was first unofficial and confined to the refugee organisations, became official and was being peddled hard by the leaders of the German Government and also, I am sorry to say, by Mr. Willy Brandt, the Leader of the Social Democratic Party. Some of these meetings took place in West Berlin and were regarded as a provocation in that part of the world. The situation got so bad that in the debate on the Loyal Address on 1st November of last year the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer), who I believe is chairman of the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians' Defence Committee, animadverted as follows on the situation: I am getting extremely worried about the irredentist movement in West Germany. It causes me and, I am sure, many other hon. Members deep concern. We have heard of heavily attended public meetings—for example, at Dusseldorf on 10th July and 28th August and at Berlin on 4th September—when Dr. Adenauer, Professor Erhardt and Herr Willy Brandt addressed vast, excited gatherings. The gist of what they were saying was that if Germany stood fast with the West, one day the West would see that East Prussia was freed…That sends a cold shiver down my spine. Are they not just the sort of noises we heard in 1936, 1937 and 1938? He concluded by hoping that …one member of the Government will make it clear that we would never dream of supporting Western Germany in any form of either attack or pressure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1960; Vol. 629, c. 52.] I would be very grateful if the Government would make it clear at the end of this debate that they have no intention of letting this country be made a catspaw for German irredentist ambitions, on the pretext of defending the freedom of Berlin, or on any other pretext.

This brings me to the most sensational development of all, and the most recent. It is important, because it is an article in the big, West German, radical, independent weekly, Der Spiegel of 12th July. The fact that such an article appears in such a quarter shows how strong the opposition is to the present cold war policy of the Adenauer Government, because the constructive side of the article is to demand the recognition of the Polish frontier, to give up the vain territorial ambitions, and to accept a policy of disengagement very much on the lines put forward by our Opposition here.

As to what is happening in the German Government, the author sums up a blistering criticism as follows: The era of Adenauer who, on the whole, has been a pretty obedient satrap of the West, is coming to an end, and the era of Strauss is beginning. The psychological warfare of the Minister of Defence to get atomic weapons has started. Without tactical atomic weapons in the front line, is his astonishing argument, the American power of resistance to the Soviets would be undermined. One must realise that the Soviets understood straight away what the Americans have only recently begun to understand, and the West Germans have so far failed altogether to understand, that at latest by 1965 the Bundeswehr will be powerful enough to involve the whole Western coalition in a spontaneous or provoked conflict about frontiers that have not yet been settled. The maintenance of Soviet positions in Germany and Poland as a whole will then depend on the will of Bonn, and the Germans will be in a position to challenge the Soviet war time gains. The Soviets do not believe that the Germans will for long lye denied the right to dispose of atomic weapons. They do not believe in assurances, so long as the atomic potential is being accumulated on German soil. They have, to be quite honest, very little reason for believing German assurances on this point. This comes from a very prominent writer in a prominent West German newspaper.

The Soviets are menaced by a situation in which they may be deprived by the Germans of the fruits of their victory over Hitler, and their whole position in Europe may be challenged. What is threatened is a revision by force of their victory of 1945, by those whom they defeated. That is a very serious warning from a German source. I have a lot of friends and contacts in Western Germany, and I know that there is a most grave preoccupation and anxiety on the part of a large section of opinion which is afraid to come out into the open. The writer of this article has had the courage to do so. In those circumstances, it is more than ever evil and wrong to encourage German militarism and German irredentism, instead of encouraging the sensible and sane elements in Germany who want a negotiated settlement.

A settlement is not difficult if we really mean business with a negotiated settlement, because the issue is not the freedom of Berlin. Nor is it that of access to West Berlin. It is whether we are prepared to extend some form of recognition to Eastern Germany, in exchange for obtaining a settlement with the Soviet Government which will put the freedom of Berlin and access to Berlin under international guarantees agreed by both sides, and which will do something to remove the anomalies and dangers of the status quo in West Berlin—and I would willingly see that extended to East Berlin.

That is the real issue, and to try to speak of it in terms of something for which we are to risk nuclear war seems to me not only nonsensical politically but morally abominable, insane and suicidal. As for the rest of Germany, this would be a pilot scheme for an ultimate settlement.

The lines of a settlement for Germany have been propounded for years by the Opposition. They were put forward at one time by the German Social Democratic Party and after their defeat in the coming election they will no doubt revert to it. They are also being advocated by the German Peace Union, newly formed, which will I believe get 40 to 50 M.P.s in the election of 16th September. There is a strong body of opinion for this settlement, which would unite Germany outside the rival alliances, within an all-European collective security treaty, based on the Charter of the United Nations, and accompanied by measures of disengagement and disarmament which, eventually, would involve the winding up of both the rival alliances and their replacement by the all-European security system, accompanied by disarmament and joint controls.

Within that system, agreed and guaranteed by the powers, Germany would be united by the efforts of the Germans on both sides. At some stage there would be free elections to ratify or reject the agreement reached. The effect of such a settlement in Western Germany would be the triumph of those forces who are against German militarism and nationalism, and who want Germans to behave like good Europeans.

In the East—as the two German states worked together and their association developed into some form of loose confederation—there would be increasing freedom in the formation of political parties and in the flow of ideas, publications and people across the frontiers. I do not see how the present political régime in Eastern Germany could survive those winds of change and liberalisation coming from the West. I believe that the net result of a settlement on those lines would certainly be to strengthen the case and the demand for some form of Socialism in West Germany, or, at least, for measures of public ownership and planning, to take up the economic slack reulting from the end of the arms race. It would, however, also be a powerful influence for democratisation in East Germany.

Those are the only lines, I believe, on which we can negotiate an agreement with the Soviet Union. They are the only lines on which we can wind up the cold war and lay the foundations of peace in Europe. I believe that unless we take an initiative and do something about it, this situation will get out of our control in a few years and we may find an irreparable catastrophe caused by some mad adventure in Germany.