At 1.30 last Wednesday morning the Soviet Ambassador communicated to Her Majesty's Government a message stating that the Government of Czechoslovakia had appealed to the Soviet Union and its allies for direct assistance, including the use of armed force; that the Soviet Government and the Governments of certain of their allies had decided to accede to this request; and that Soviet military units had accordingly been instructed to enter Czechoslovak territory. The Ambassador added that these forces would be withdrawn from Czechoslovakia as soon as the "threat to security" was removed and "the legitimate authorities" had decided that their presence was no longer required.
The Soviet message concluded by claiming that their action was not directed against any European State, nor against British interests, but was dictated by a concern to "strengthen peace", as they put it, in the face of a dangerous growth of tension which had left no choice to the Soviet Government. The Ambassador assured us that his Government assumed that these developments would not harm Anglo-Soviet relations to which they continued to attach great importance.
One of the first actions taken by the Government after receiving this message and learning that an armed invasion of Czechoslovakia had taken place was to recommend you, Mr. Speaker, to recall this House. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that that was right. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There were perhaps some who felt that the House would be powerless to do anything beyond recording its profound sense of shock and dismay at this act of blatant aggression, a feeling reflecting a similar doubt as to whether Governments here or in any other part of the world could register more than an impotent protest.
But protest need not be impotent. Moreover, even if we here today could do no more than register the strength and unanimity of feeling throughout the country, that of itself is important and, still more, that is our duty. For just as this people had thrilled at the stirrings of freedom in Czechoslovakia over these past months, just as we had rejoiced in the robust determination with which the Czechoslovak Government made it clear that they would not be deterred in their chosen path, so equally our people, all of us, were chilled by the feeling that we had been here before, that the tragedy of those months of August and September, 1938, just 30 years ago, was being enacted once again before our eyes.
Thirty years ago we saw first the AustrianAnschluss and then the effective take-over of Czechoslovakia as part of Hitler's territorial drive to the East. Last Wednesday'sAnschluss—it seemed to be one in the real sense of the word—was decided not in the spirit of territorial aggrandisement, but in a grim and cynical determination that no Communist country in Eastern Europe should be allowed to decide for itself that it wished to turn away from the deadening uniformity of internal control towards new conceptions of freedom and of freer expression.
That cynicism was made articulate by the Soviet representative in the United Nations Security Council last Thursday, when he declared that the Soviet Government had given repeated warnings that attempts to interfere in what he described as the domestic affairs of the Soviet Union and relations between socialist States would not be tolerated and would meet with an immediate rebuff. He called on all States "strictly to adhere to the principle of non-intervention." Events in Czechoslovakia, he said, were the concern of the Czechoslovak people and of the socialist States linked to them by treaty. It was on this basis of the Soviet Union's right to overrun the territory of its allies that the Soviet representative at the United Nations sought to deny the right of that organisation to discuss the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
That claim, if accepted as the basis of policy, meant a deliberate and calculated decision by the Soviet Government, which, in the terms of the statement issued by Her Majesty's Government within a few hours of the invasion, represented
a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and of all accepted standards of international behaviour".
It raised, too, the question which was pointedly put by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to the Soviet Ambassador on Wednesday afternoon, when he asked what confidence any State that was not allied to the Soviet Union could be expected to have in the policies of a State which treated its allies in this way.
Those responsible must have counted the cost of the inevitable world reaction and must have considered how the Soviet Union and her unhappy client States would appear to the world—particularly when one remembers the image which the Soviet Government have painfully sought to build up at great cost in so many non-aligned countries of the world. The tragic thing is that they knew that there would be a price and they were prepared to pay that price. But even by last Friday it had become clear that they had woefully underestimated the strength of that reaction, the damage to that image, just as it was by that time clear that they had even more crucially underestimated the vigorous and determined reaction of the Czech leaders and Czech people.
But it was not only to enable Parliament to express with a clear and, I believe, united voice the feeling of the whole British people that the Govern- ment recommended its recall. It was equally to enable the Government to report to Parliament and to enable us to take counsel together as to what would be helpful—helpful, above all, to Czechoslovakia—at this very delicate time.
At the same time as we advised the recall of Parliament the Government issued a statement of our attitude to the actions that had been taken. The text of that statement is included in the White Paper which we thought it would be useful for Parliament to have. In addition to categorical condemnation, we referred to the close consultations we had already begun "with our friends". And by that we meant our friends throughout the world.
From the outset it was clear that this was a matter of world concern and that, as such, the proper forum in which to raise it was the United Nations. My noble friend Lord Caradon, with whom we were in contact within minutes of receiving the Soviet message, immediately entered into consultation. The Security Council was called on Wednesday and a resolution was sponsored by eight members of the Security Council. The record of voting and the speeches made on behalf of Britain by Lord Caradon are set out in the White Paper. I know that the whole House will wish to endorse not only the action taken, but the terms in which Lord Caradon spoke.
Hon. Members will have noted that the decision to adopt the Council agenda was carried by 13 votes to two, the minority being limited to the two member States which bore the responsibility of intervention in Czechoslovakia. The resolution itself would have been carried but for the Soviet veto. Ten members voted in favour, two against and there were three abstentions. It is noteworthy that, despite these abstentions, arising chiefly from the inability of the three Governments concerned to approve every word of the resolution, nevertheless 13 members of the Council were unanimous in calling for the withdrawal of Soviet and other foreign troops from Czechoslovakia.
The inevitable Soviet veto could do nothing to diminish the force of this powerful expression of world opinion. In the debate on the resolution. Lord Caradon challenged the Soviet representative about the whereabouts and safety of the Czechoslovak leaders. Immediately following the voting on the first resolution, the same eight countries—Canada, supported by Britain, France, Denmark the United States, Paraguay, Brazil and Senegal—tabled a further resolution calling for a representative of the Secretary-General to be sent to Prague to investigate the position of the Czechoslovak leaders.
When the Council met again on Saturday it was addressed by the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister, Mr. Hayek. He said that while a solution of the crisis lay with the Government which had occupied Czechoslovakia, in negotiation with the Czechoslovak authorities, this act of force could not be justified by anything. He once again confirmed that it had not taken place upon the request of the Czechoslovak Government or of any constitutional organ of the Republic; nor could it be justified by concern for the external security of Czechoslovakia or for the fulfilment of obligations under the Warsaw Treaty.
Mr. Hayek added—these were his words—that
those who thought they were entitled to interfere by such means as the occupation misunderstood our situation, misunderstood our people and misunderstood the whole of our social development.
The Council is meeting again this afternoon.
I have said how powerless the Soviet veto was to diminish the force of world opinion, but there is a further point. In our sense of disappointment at the casting of the veto for the one hundred and fifth time by the Soviet representative, the House can, nevertheless, mark this great contrast from 30 years ago—not only that this great United Nations organisation now exists and is so widely representative of the whole world, but that the representative of the invaded nation was able to state his country's case in person with the whole world looking on, unlike 30 years ago.
These proceedings in the Security Council reflect the vigorous denunciations of the action taken by the Soviet Governmsnt and the four others—denunciations coming in equal measure and in equal force from all five Continents. They have come from the Commonwealth—and the House will know that on Wednesday morning the Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs convened a meeting of all the Commonwealth High Commissioners in London, to ensure that our friends and partners should be as fully in the picture as we were.
And the House will have noted that the Soviet action has been unequivocally deplored by countries so diverse in their political attitudes, but so representative of our multi-racial Commonwealth as a whole, as Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia—to mention only some of those that have made their voices heard.
Denunciation came, too, from outside the Commonwealth. Hon. Members will have noticed such statements, in addition to those by members of the Security Council to which I have already referred again from the Governments of countries as diverse as those of the Commonwealth which I have just cited. And let there be no doubt that all over the world, as in Britain, these statements are the voice not only of Governments, but of peoples.
The House will have noted, too, the highly critical reactions of the Communist parties outside the Soviet Union and the countries that have acted with it, criticism and condemnation by Communist parties in advanced and developing countries alike.
But if the Government which planned and led that action last week have now been obliged ruefully to recognise how grossly they underestimated the world reaction, still more rueful must be their recognition of how they miscalculated the reaction in Czechoslovakia itself—the reaction of a people who, having once briefly savoured the hopes of freedom, saw these hopes apparently so brutally and irrevocably frustrated.
If we here cannot dismiss from our minds the memories of 30 years ago, how much less can they—and they have not been slow to draw the moral and hurl it at the invaders. It is true that the movements to a greater freedom which we have seen this year were taking place under a Communist régime. But they have, I think, been welcomed too by those of us in this House and outside who believe that there cannot be true socialism unless it is democratic.
But in the case of Czechoslovakia they were being asserted for the first time for 20 years—indeed, apart from a brief interval, practically for 30 years—asserted with the easing of the restraints on free comment in Press, television and radio, and freer and freer discussion in factory, farm and market place—with all the hopes these held out of a growing freedom for the individual—the freedom which, through all the centuries, has been the classic test of liberty. Mr. Dubcek was—is—a Communist. But he has been speaking equally with the voice of Czechoslovakia, the voice with which other leaders of that country have spoken, from Hus to Jan Mazaryk.
The events over these past months have struck a chord—not so much of nostalgia, since that it too negative a concept, but a chord of excitement and hope in that country. What is more encouraging than anything else for all who value freedom is the fact that this sense of excitement has captured the young in particular. When the history of these past days comes to be written, a central rôle will be accorded to the courage and enthusiasm of the young people of Czechoslovakia, reaching out and risking their lives for a freedom of which they have no personal experience—a further proof, perhaps, that an undeniable urge to freedom is something bora in man.
We have all been moved not merely by what we have read—and I believe that our Press has excelled itself in dispassionate and factual reporting of these events—but by what we have heard on radio and seen on our television channels—perhaps those films of the entry of the tanks into Prague, smuggled out and shown on our screens last Thursday evening. And, no less moving, the sincere, sometimes desperate but always courageous, messages coming from the clandestine radio stations and rebroadcast in our own news bulletins.
Particularly moving to some of us was the broadcast in English by a woman announcer last Friday, as the net tightened on the free radio stations, appealing to a whole list of named countries—Communist and non-Communist— to carry Free Czechoslovakia's message to the world.
It would be right for me here to pay particular tribute to the B.B.C., not only for the service which it has given in bringing home to every one of us in this country the conditions under which life is being lived in Prague and other Czechoslovak cities and towns, but also in the way it has carried in the opposite direction a message of hope, and a clear and honest statement of the facts, and of the world's opinions to the people of Czechoslovakia.
Equally clear as early as Friday was the failure of the invading Powers to reckon with what all sections of the Czech population—the man in the street—would do under seige and under occupation.
This is a people of immense bravery and infinite resource. Overrun by foreign troops, they yet convened within a matter of hours an almost complete Party Congress, which showed its courage in its clear declaration against the invasion, its demand for withdrawal and its challenging decision to re-elect its freedom leaders. The National Assembly, too, has continued in persistent and defiant session.
Resource and restraint were shown alike in the organisation of the token strikes last week and again, indeed, this morning. Resource, tempered even with a sense of dry humour, marked the progress and ultimate halting of the armoured train which contained radio identification apparatus. Railwaymen were told that it was desirable that the train should become stationary, and it did.
As we meet this afternoon the talks in Moscow are going on—talks which have lasted now for over three days and which have now been widened by the inclusion of other Warsaw Pact countries. We cannot at this stage know what the outcome is likely to be. We cannot even know what are the conditions under which these talks are taking place. If any authoritative statement emerges during the course of our present debate—and there is a Reuter message that one is about to be issued—later speakers will, no doubt, wish to take it into account. Of course, if that were to happen, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would wish to give the House such assessment as is possible of what it appears to mean.
It would be right to warn the House against drawing any hasty conclusions even if a statement—as one hopes, a statement recording an acceptable agreement—is issued. I say this not least because it might well be impossible for any of us to form an immediate judgment of the reaction of the Czechoslovak people to what has been decided. Should there be developments either later today or overnight, my right hon. Friend will, of course, be willing to make a further statement when the House meets tomorrow if that appears helpful.
The whole House, I know, hopes that when these protracted discussions in Moscow come to an end, the Soviet Union will have been proved ready to draw the right conclusion from the events of the past five days. If this is so, it will not have been an easy decision. For, as I have said, the Soviet Government must, before their decision to march, have taken into account that a price would have to be paid. Their concern about the security of their buffer States to the West, but still more their fear that liberalisalion once rooted in a single country of Eastern Europe would be impossible to contain—these were the reasons why they were willing to pay that price.
If now, as all the world must hope, a conclusion acceptable to the free leaders of Czechoslovakia and to the Russians and their partners alike can be reached—if this is now to occur—it will have been because of the world reaction—yes—but, above all, because these five days have shown that while a tank can destroy it cannot create, and, above all, it cannot impose a Government acceptable to a people determined on having its own Government. So we can watch with vigilance and also with restrained hope.
But even at this stage we must seek to draw some of the lessons from the events of last Tuesday and Wednesday. The first lesson for us and our friends must be the need to maintain the defensive system provided by the North Atlantic Alliance, and here I mean the alliance as it has been evolving during the past few years, an alliance determined in defence but equally determined on creating the conditions ofdétente.
I would remind the House of the immediate response of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to the first question put to him in a television broadcast last Wednesday. My right hon. Friend affirmed our resolve to maintain the strength and efficiency of the alliance and reminded us that it was because the alliance existed that many of its members were not subject to the fate of Czechoslovakia.
Last month the House endorsed the policy set out in the Government's Defence White Paper, which included the strengthening of the British contribution to the defence of Europe and this policy has been possible only because of our earlier recognition, which I announced to the House last January, that
our security lies fundamentally in Europe and must be based on the North Atlantic Alliance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th January, 1968; Vol. 756, c. 1580.]
A vigorous and resilient defence system based upon that alliance is essential, but it is not in itself enough. It must be responsive, also, to political developments throughout Europe.
All of this means change and the willingness to accept change. The Concert of Europe broke down more than a century ago because its inflexible structure made it incapable of adjusting to change, still less of accepting change as its ally. Indeed, it was a holy alliance against change, and it broke down when it sought to stem the tide of European liberalism in its constituent parts. I believe that we have learned this lesson. It is the Soviet Union which has some hard thinking, some fast thinking, to do to shake itself free of the posture in which it appears to have frozen itself.
The lesson for us is that not only must our posture in the North Atlantic Treaty be flexible in its defensive responses; it must be flexible equally in its readiness to respond to the opportunities fordétente. And, in the same spirit, we, all of us in Europe, must be ready to move more positively in the direction of European unity. We must show not only that we are united in our defensive purpose. but, even more, our conviction that only on the basis of real political and economic unity in Europe can our Continent heal its divisions and regain, through that ever-widening unity, its rightful influence for peace.
Because, whatever the tragic disappointments of the last few days, however undoubted and united our response to the brutal act of 21st August, we all know that the only future for the world rests upon continuing to work fordétente between East and West, and everything that a lowering of tension can bring. None will question that now, and for an unforeseeable period ahead, this will be much more difficult. Fordétente means trust, and the events of the past week have undermined the trust and the confidence that can develop only on the basis of that trust.
Time will be needed, but I reject the view that the events of the past week leave us no choice except to relapse into the frozenimmobilisme of the cold war. For this same reason I would warn the House against hasty and ill-considered gestures which would be harmful to the longer-term aim of an easement of world tension, and which, at the same time, would be of no help whatsoever at this time to Czechoslovakia.
This would, in our view, apply to economic measures. Obviously, governmental and parliamentary contacts with the countries responsible for the invasion must be at a discount for the immediate future.
But, as far as cultural contacts are concerned, the Government feel that it would be a mistake to impose a ban on visits which have been planned. Individual British citizens, of course, are free to decide how far they want to support these visits, because we believe that the reaction of individuals can be much more eloquent in this context.
Meanwhile, I should inform the House that, as a direct help to Czechoslovaks presently in this country, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has agreed that no Czechoslovak national at present visiting this country will be required now to return to Czechoslovakia when his visa expires if he is unwilling to do so. My right hon. Friend is arranging for appropriate advice and assistance to be given to Czechoslovak visitors here.
Finally, I think that there will be two further considerations in the minds of all hon. Members. The first is that we—the world, every nation—must reject the assertion that a State, if it is powerful enough, has the right within its own backyard, its own claimed sphere of influence, to extinguish the rights, and particularly the right to choose its Government, of any smaller nation which it thinks is standing in its way. The United Nations exists to protect the integrity and rights of small Powers, and the world reaction last week has shown how widely this view is now accepted. What was rejected last week is that the existence of an alliance, or the claim of a sphere of influence, justifies any nation in employing force to deny the sovereign rights of another nation and use it as a means to the furtherance of its own self-interest.
The second is this. No one in this House is seeking to dictate to the Soviet Union and its allies any change in the relationships which have existed between them. Indeed, the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister has himself emphasised the desire of his Government to settle these matters by negotiations within their Communist partnership. What he rejects, what his country rejects, what all of us in this House reject, is that where these matters cannot be settled by discussion one or more of the partners to that alliance have the right to impose a settlement by force.
This is not a confrontation between the Communist and non-Communist world. This is an argument about the right of one Communist country to decide its own internal system on a basis which reflects the clearly expressed desire before, and still more since, last Wednesday of the Czechoslovak people for a greater freedom; it is about the right of a Communist country to decide how that country shall govern itself under Communism. What we here assert, as the greater part of the world has asserted, is not only that it is wrong to seek to settle these issues at gunpoint, but that, in the long run, it is futile—that, in words we read last week,
The day will surely come when there are more free thoughts than tanks.
The House is indebted to the Prime Minister for the full and detailed account that he has just given us of recent events in Czechoslovakia. We in the Opposition believe that it was absolutely right for the Prime Minister and his colleagues to advise you, Mr. Speaker, to recall Parliament in these circumstances and for the Leader of the House to arrange today's debate on the Adjournment in which I believe that the House will be able to display its complete unity.
It is right to recall Parliament, for a number of reasons. The first is for Her Majesty's Government to have the opportunity of stating their position and the action which they consider should be taken in these circumstances, and perhaps I shall have a word or two more to say about that later. It is right as well since it gives the Opposition an opportunity to make their own attitude clear. Above all, it is right for Parliament to be recalled in order that in the debate right hon. and hon. Members can express personally the anguish of this nation at what has happened in recent days in Czechoslovakia, as well as to put on record the House's protest at the Soviet action in suppressing the first glimmerings of freedom in that country for 20 years and, with a slight interruption, 30 years, as the Prime Minister has said.
It is right that Parliament at this time should be the expression of this country's conscience, for Czechoslovakia has deep and poignant memories for most of us in this House. On three occasions, in 1938, 1948 and 1968, Czechoslovakia has been the victim of aggression. In 1938, it was my generation and that of the Prime Minister and many of our colleagues on both sides of the House who felt sick in the pit of the stomach when we heard of what was happening to that small country, and we knew then that war within the immediate future was unavoidable.
On each occasion, the sturdy Czech people have found their land invaded by foreign troops, their individuality affronted, their independence destroyed and their freedom, new-found again in 1948, emerging as it was just beginning to do this year, brutally suppressed. But what none of the tyrants throughout the ages in Central Europe has been able to do on these occasions all through the histories of the peoples who together form Czechoslovakia is to crush the spirit of the men and women and, above all, the young people of that small country. Today, we in this House have the opportunity of expressing our admiration, as the Prime Minister has done, for their courage, their determination and, indeed, their skill and ingenuity in the last few days in passively resisting the invader.
In this debate, we can show that we understand their yearning for freedom, their desire for respect for the individual personality, even within the context of a Communist society which, the Prime Minister has reminded us, still is, and within the alliance of the Warsaw Powers in which Mr. Dubcek himself emphasised that he wished to remain. We can demonstrate unequivocally to the Soviet Union and its allies who have taken part in the invasion our utter condemnation of their action, as the Government's spokesman has already done so eloquently in the United Nations.
After the Prime Minister's speech, the House still finds itself asking what more we can do. Here I think that the House also finds itself representing the national mood of the British people today—the mood of frustration that there appears to be so little that Britain can do to help the Czechoslovak people in their struggle. Today, the events are seen on television in almost every home in the country. That is one difference between now and the situation in Hungary in 1956, quite apart from 1938 and 1948. So the individual impact goes far deeper and is more immediate, and the frustration is all the greater.
The situation at this present moment in Czechoslovakia is confused, and the outcome of the talks in Moscow uncertain. I find myself in agreement with the Prime Minister that there is little point in trying to speculate on what is going on and what the outcome may be. But, whatever emerges and whoever survives, it appears to me that three matters are clear.
First, the Soviet Union put massive forces into Czechoslovakia without invitation or authority, without threat from that country, and without the merest thread of an excuse. It was naked aggression of the most blatant kind. It was breaking international law and the Charter of the United Nations, and it is also interesting to note that it was in direct opposition to the agreement in the communiqué by the Prime Minister and Mr. Kosygin after their talks, in which they both declared their conviction that
…states with different social systems can and must co-operate in peace, observing the principles of independence and national sovereignty, equality, and non-interference in the
internal affairs of others, and renouncing the use or threat of force in settling disputes between states.
Second, it emerges that any settlement now is negotiated under duress of a foreign occupation. Therefore, we heed the Prime Minister's wise words that any agreement must be considered carefully by the House and by the Government, because there must at least be doubt about whether it is the free and voluntary decision of those taking part in the present talks.
Third, there remains a danger to peace in Europe. As the internal situation in Czechoslovakia deteriorates, that threat becomes all the greater. It may come from elements in East Germany rising in sympathy with the Czechoslovak people. It may come from hard-liners in Rumania seeing the opportunity of reinforcing their view there or of Soviet intervention following them. It is possible to visualise a threat to Yugoslavia or even, as some are saying, to Austria. These are all dangers that we must recognise since the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the doubts that it now throws on Soviet policy.
It is in that context that I would like to consider for a moment the action which Her Majesty's Government should take. First, we support what they did at the United Nations in the Security Council and in voting for the resolution calling for the withdrawal of Soviet forces. I would suggest to the Foreign Secretary that he might consider whether this matter should now be taken to a special meeting of the Assembly under the "uniting for peace" resolution. I know full well from experience at the Foreign Office that there has to be a balance of advantage and disadvantage in taking this action. Therefore, it must be a matter for the Government's judgment with all the information at their command. But I put it to the Foreign Secretary as a suggestion for his consideration.
Second, there is the question of economic sanctions, which the Prime Minister mentioned. I, too, doubt the wisdom of this. It must surely be a matter for extreme doubt whether they can be effective against the Soviet Union, even were it possible to have a complete blockade of that country, which I do not believe would be possible in the circumstances. What is more, any attempt at economic sanctions would be bound to drive the Eastern Socialist countries still further under the domination of the Soviet Union, at the very moment when some of them may be having further thoughts about moving into a more individual position.
Third, there is the question of cultural sanctions, which the Prime Minister also mentioned. There is perhaps a natural emotional desire in the House that the Government should impose sanctions of this kind, but, again, I doubt the wisdom of a general imposition by the Government of cultural sanctions. However, I must say to the Prime Minister that many in the House will regard it as intolerable that, in the circumstances, an organisation such as the Red Army Choir should appear in this country in public performances. This is a specific case which I would put to the Foreign Secretary as a matter for action by the Government with the means which are known to be open to them. But for the rest, let it be a matter for individual decision. Personally, I would not wish to go to some of the performances in this country while this situation lasts. However, I agree it must be a matter for individual decision.
We were glad to hear the Prime Minister's announcement about Czech citizens in this country at the moment. I would put one further point. Czech students might perhaps be in need of particular assistance, and perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, would consider their positions individually.
Finally, there is the question of diplomatic relations. It is, of course, a historical remedy, where a Government disapproves of a policy of a country in this way, to break off diplomatic relations. Again, I doubt whether this is wise, because it would go far to remove any source of influence, as well as information, which a Government must have. But I suggest to the Foreign Secretary that the Government will have to consider carefully the nature of any Czech régime which emerges from the talks in Moscow. I do not believe that the House would want the Government to recognise what was obviously a puppet régime, particularly if there were to be set up a government in exile outside Czechoslovakia with the members of the previous administration forming part of it.
Having discussed these proposals and the various suggestions which might be acted upon in these circumstances, I must express my doubts whether these will change the Soviet position in Czechoslovakia. They may embarrass them internationally, but I, too, have no doubt that this was taken into account in advance by the Soviet Government. It is clear that they will not be put off from their determined purpose by United Nations resolutions, by protests, by demands to withdraw troops, or even by passive resistance, though it is right that all of these things should take place.
Recent events show that in the ultimate the Soviet Union are prepared to use brute force for the maintenance of their Eastern European empire in the interests of what they believe to be their own security. That must be the over-riding lesson to emerge from recent events. Whether their preparedness to take this action comes from fear of the power of ideas, whether from what they conceive to be the dangers of freedom proving infectious, or whether from the realisation of exposed flanks in their military posture, does not alter the fact that the Soviet Union are still prepared to resort to military means to deal with what they consider to be a threat to their own security.
I suspect that the most powerful influence in this situation was the Soviet fear of freedom in Czechoslovakia leading to an uprising in Eastern Germany, with the possibility of a unification between East and West of the Germans, and the Russian obsession with a German threat to the Soviet Union. I suspect that this is the major factor in the situation. If this is the case, they will go to any lengths to reinforce their own position in Czechoslovakia.
The second fact which emerges, which we have to face realistically, is that this domination by force over the Soviet empire can only be challenged by force. That means a preparedness to use not only orthodox weapons, but nuclear weapons, and that means the direct involvement of the United States of America. For those, therefore, who are frustrated, this is the hard fact of life which has to be faced. The West was not prepared to face this over Hungary. It was not prepared to use orthodox weapons or the risk of nuclear weapons. Nor is the West, as I see it, prepared to do so today. This, therefore, is the hard fact of life about Czechoslovakia and the other countries of Eastern Europe under Soviet sway.
That is why the Lord President is right, if what I understand he said yesterday is correct, that additional divisions—two divisions, perhaps—would not have changed the position of Czechoslovakia in these circumstances. It is not a question of additional divisions; it is a question of being prepared to go to the ultimate in a challenge to the Soviet Union over what they regard as their own basic security. The real question that we have to face is not divisions for that purpose, but for the security of Western Europe in which we do play a part. We must now look to security outside the Soviet empire, in particular within N.A.T.O.
I, therefore, ask the Secretary of State for Defence to look carefully again at the present assumptions on which the N.A.T.O. alliance is based. I understand they are, first, the political assumption thatdétente has arrived and is now a continuous process. The Czechoslovak position shows that political intentions can quickly change. This must be taken into account.
Secondly, the N.A.T.O. assumption is that there will always be plenty of warning of action. This was not so in this case. As far as I know, neither Her Majesty's Government nor any of the N.A.T.O. Powers had long warning of Soviet intentions. Thirdly, there is the assumption that there would be plenty of time to deal with operations. But recent events show that surprise is still possible. Surely, therefore, all of these assumptions need to be looked at carefully and urgently considered: the political assumptions, the method of gaining intelligence, and the level of forces and reserves in N.A.T.O. to deal with this situation.
I would, therefore, support the proposals which have already been made by some other countries that there should be a special and urgent meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council, not only at official level, which I know has already taken place, but either at Head of Government level or at Foreign Minister level, whichever the Government conceive best, so that they can discuss the matter with our allies.
I also suggest to the Foreign Secretary that there is an opportunity here to bring in the French Government, because the President of France has also condemned the Soviet action. This would be an occasion on which some of the breach in N.A.T.O. might be healed by a meeting of this kind.
I believe that there should also be a review of the contingency procedures for Berlin and the corridor, and that the review should take place by the three responsible Powers.
At home, I suggest to the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister that we should now look to our defence forces and the organisation of our reserves. In addition, I believe that Her Majesty's Government should consider their policy in those areas where it is still possible to help to prevent other small countries from falling under the threat of subversion or of foreign domination. In the case of Czechoslovakia, there is the lack of power to take effective action, because the West is not prepared to go to the ultimate in doing so. But this is not the case elsewhere. It is not the case in the Middle East and the Far East where the situation can be stabilised. I recognise that this is a matter of difference between the Government and the Opposition. We will want to return to the question of forces and reserves and the deployment of forces at a later date. I would merely say that it is frustrating enough to be able only to protest in the case of Czechoslovakia. How much worse it would be if we were to find later, in the case of another small country in the Middle East or the Far East—perhaps in the Commonwealth—that we were able only to protest, because we had withdrawn from the responsibilities which we now have there.
I think that the Prime Minister will agree that the lessons of these events are clear. The responsibility for drawing the lessons and acting upon them lies with Her Majesty's Government. In this House we can reaffirm our unity in condemnation of the Soviet aggressor and in support of the desires of the Czech people, and we can reaffirm our determination to defend freedom, to show the will, and to make the effort, wherever it lies in the power of ourselves and of our allies to do so.
I should have thought that this Assembly might have contented itself in this debate with a harsh, even ruthless condemnation of the behaviour of the Soviet Union instead of operating as the Leader of the Opposition has done—despite our unanimity about Soviet aggression in Czechoslovakia—namely, seeking to convert this debate into one on defence. I should have thought that it would be sufficient to condemn and then to wait, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has indicated, upon events emerging from Moscow and then, having assessed the situation, to decide on what action we regard as necessary and, in particular, what action is within our capabilities.
But the right hon. Gentleman has gone much further. If we were to attempt to carry out even a tithe of what he has proposed this afternoon, far from frightening or weakening the Soviet Union in the sphere of defence and in the possibility of further aggression—more fear would be created in Europe, because it would be natural and inevitable that the Soviet Union, taking account of what was said and the threats that had been suggested, would strengthen her defence—strong as it now is—and, moreover, take precipitate action to frustrate the efforts of the N.A.T.O. countries. That is the danger.
We have heard from the Leader of the Opposition a strategic disposition. What can be done about N.A.T.O.? I cannot imagine anything more fatal than to convene the N.A.T.O. countries at his stage to discuss military strategy. In any event, let us face facts, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asks us to face facts. We shall begin to recognise our strength only when we appreciate our weakness.
In previous defence debates we have had this out. We have faced facts, and one of the inescapable facts about N.A.T.O. and the military situation in Western Europe is our undoubted weakness. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about approaching France to take part in discussion. France has contracted out of N.A.T.O., not only in the military sphere but in the Mediterranean and the naval sphere. As for the other N.A.T.O. countries, what is their strength? Belgium? The Netherlands? Greece? Turkey? Italy? Divisions assigned to N.A.T.O.? There is nothing substantial; nothing to measure up to the standard of defence that would be required in accordance with the propositions we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman. Western Germany? Again, insubstantial in the context of the military strength of East Germany alone.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about building up our reserves. He feels that the Secretary of State for Defence should have regard to the situation in manpower. What is the proposition that we have heard from the other side in defence debates? It is the revival of the Territorial Army. The conclusion I draw from the right hon. Gentleman's speech in respect of more manpower for military purposes—the logical conclusion—is a return to National Service. Let him say so.
Reserves? What kind of reserves? A few thousand Territorials, untrained and incompetent. Not that they are to blame. Let the right hon. Gentleman and those who agree with him on the benches opposite or anywhere else admit that the logical conclusion of our weakness in manpower—is the revival of National Service. Let them say so; then we shall know where we are.
These suggestions mean little or nothing. They are mere threats. The right hon. Gentleman has just returned from the Antipodes, making speeches of a very foolish character.
I was one of the few hon. Members on this side of the House—and I offer no apologies for it—who expressed doubts about what I regarded as the premature withdrawal of our forces east of Suez. I had regard to Commonwealth implications. But once we are out, to return—[Interruption]—to return with small, weak, futile forces and pretences and promises of coming to the aid of countries in that area would be foolish.
What about the expenditure involved? Let the right hon. Gentleman and some of his chauvinistic supporters in the House tell the Assembly what would be the estimated cost of any kind of return east of Suez, partially or complete? If they want to ruin the economy of this country—I suspect that that is what they do want—[Interruption.] I will tell hon. Members why I speak in this fashion. I came here today, with other hon. Members, to associate myself with the harshest condemnation of Soviet conduct. In my opinion, that would have been quite sufficient for our purposes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] Hon. Members are telling me to get on with it. There is not enough militancy on the benches opposite to frighten me.
I came here—as I gather other hon. Members on both sides came here—to associate myself with the first words of my right hon. Friend's speech and those of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. This is not the occasion to indulge in an essay in military strategy, with all its complications and implications. This is the occasion for condemnation.
I regard the conduct of the Soviet Union as uncivilised behaviour, but I am not surprised. Let us look at what has happened in the Middle East, or in respect of Russia's support of the Arab States, or her incursion into the Mediterranean. What do we expect from her? The right hon. Gentleman has said that the only way in which we can challenge Russia is by a display of force. My answer is that that would be futile. That might mean the end of us all—curtains for all of us, Europe and elsewhere. I do not envisage, with any favour, a possibility of that kind.
Be that as it may, it is necessary for us to understand that whether or not we like the Russians—and we obviously dislike their behaviour at this time—we must live with them. We cannot dispose of them by passing resolutions at the United Nations or elsewhere or by the sort of threat of force in which the right hon. Gentleman indulged. We must live with them.
Some of my hon. Friends have said that we should abandon cultural relations with the Soviet Union and even go to the length of dissociating ourselves from a Soviet orchestra; abandon musicians who have come to this country, as if these men and women are to blame for what the people in the Kremlin are responsible. We should promote more cultural associations and meet the Russians more often. We should meet people in the East of Europe more often and prove to them—make it manifest to them—that we are civilised people who believe in democracy and in the aspirations of freedom held by many people in some of the satellite countries.
That should be our purpose today and I therefore hope that the House will not spend time discussing military strategy. We can deal with that on another occasion, along with all its implications, the cost and its purpose. For the moment, we condemn the action of the Soviet Union. Let us ensure that the fact goes forth to the country and to the world at large. In this matter we are completely unanimous.
I would have liked to have had a unanimous assembly today, not only on this issue but on every other issue associated with Europe. However, that is impossible now, for obvious reasons. Let us at any rate show to the world that we are unanimous in our condemnation of the Soviet Union's act. That is, in itself, sufficient for our purpose today, and I am sorry that the House has gone further. I hope that there will be no more foolish, futile talk about threats of militarism.
Hon. and right hon. Members have come here today to condemn the behaviour of Soviet Russia and to express our sense of compassion and admiration for the people of Czechoslovakia. I therefore agree with the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that to discuss wider matters of defence would be disastrous, for which reason I regard his speech as an unmitigated disaster.
The events of the past few days have not only been a tragedy for Czechoslovakia, but a cruel setback to East-West relations. There is not an hon. Member in the House who had not fervently hoped for an improvement in East-West relations. Indeed, there are many who, through voluntary organisations and various exchanges, have made valuable attempts to bring that about.
That feeling was, I believe, represented during the visit of Mr. Kosygin to this country and it has been manifested in different ways in the free world. Chancellor Kiesinger was returned to power in Germany, largely committed to improving relations with Eastern Europe. President de Gaulle withdrew from N.A.T.O.—in my view, misguidedly—since he thought that this was a necessary step to bring about a Franco-Russianentente. Russia and America have agreed to sign a Non-Proliferation Treaty towards nuclear disarmament. Cultural exchanges have been on the increase. Suggestions have been made of a dialogue between Parliamentarians in the N.A.T.O. and Warsaw Pact Powers. The youth of the world has shown itself intolerant of the hatred, of the negative attitudes of the cold war.
Despite all these things, by an act of naked aggression which has invoked the horror and disgust of the world, a permanent member of the Security Council, supported by its four hirelings, has invaded a small nation with which it was in treaty relationship. Tragically, this has set back the clock on East-West relations five, 10 or 15 years. It is, therefore, right that Parliament should be recalled so that we can express the horror of this country. It is also right that the T.U.C. should have made the protest which it has. In these ways we can make abundantly plain where we stand. This invasion is not merely about Communism and brands of Communism. This is an exercise in Russian nationalism which would have been just as appropriate if Nicholas I was still in St. Petersburg as with Mr. Kosygin in the Kremlin.
Treachery has been all too apparent. It is clear that during the Cierna and Bratislavia talks, Russian signals units were sending back military information and intelligence reports to supplement the military plans, which were already in complete readiness. Their attempts to justify their act of invasion have been as unconvincing as they have been hypocritically repellant. If anyone is left who doubts the thinness and perfidy of the Russian excuses, he need only consider the fact that inNeues Deutschland, the East German mouthpiece, it was originally reported that troops had moved as a result of an invitation received from the Czechoslovak Government on 21st August, which was, of course, the day after the invasion.
This is not the act of a despotic ruler like Stalin or of a drunken peasant like Khrushchev. This is the calculated decision of the cool-headed technocrats who are in collective charge of Russia today, and it is quite plain that the hard-liners, backed by the military, have, at least temporarily, seized the political initiative. The West must analyse the extent to which a military initiative has its own momentum. What will be the dangers if there is an active Czech resistance? Are there possibilities of escalation elsewhere?
Each person has his own interpretation of why these events occurred. There is obviously the precarious position of East Germany, the ruler of which is perhaps the most loathsome of all the dictators in that part of the world. It may be that Ulbricht made it clear that if Czechoslovakia were to go, he would be unable to hold the line. With the recollection of Poznan, Poland and Hungary, it could be that the spirit of freedom would have asserted itself in East Germany so that, whatever had been the policy of the West German Government, it might have been extremely difficult to dissuade the Germans on the western side of the border from interfering and intervening to protect their fellow countrymen on the eastern side. This, in the view of Soviet Russia, is perhaps one of the reasons why it intervened in this brutal way.
It is clear that the geography of Czechoslovakia was as much against her as her policies. Clearly, again, the movement towards freedom spearheaded by the writers, youth and intellectuals in Czechoslovakia could not be allowed to succeed lest it gave encouragement to equivalent movements in the Soviet Union itself. The importance which the Politburo attaches to the necessity for the reimposition of Press censorship in Czechoslovakia is an implication of the fear of the Russians that the people should learn the truth. This whole escapade was militarily superbly executed, but politically it was appallingly bungled.
I do not think that one can guess what is likely to happen; one would have to separate the political from the mili- tary demands which Russia is likely to make. I should have thought it very unlikely that Russia would agree to a withdrawal of all her troops without leaving some forces in Bohemia. It is an area where she has always wished to station Russian troops. I think that we shall now move into a situation in which the leaders of Hungary and Poland will feel clearly weakened, because, there again, this action does not command the support of the people in those countries. This is the evidence today.
One must ask, as the Leader of the Opposition did: what is the position with regard to Roumania and Yugoslavia? I should think that their geography was in their favour and, although the Roumanians have been in much opposition to Russia, they do so more from a Stalinist standpoint. They are, therefore, not likely to present the same dangers of subversion as the Russians fear in Czechoslovakia. I should certainly think that an attack on Yugoslavia would do more than anything else to alienate the opinion of the non-aligned world, the Afro-Asianbloc and those with whom Yugoslavia has worked in the past few years.
It is clear that there is a struggle of minds going on in Russia. To the extent to which these pressures build up, the greater we shall see repression within Russia herself. What, therefore, should we in this country do; what, indeed, can we do? I think that these events have proved, first, the superiority in conventional forces of the Soviet Union, at any rate in Europe. This, I think, has always been realised. Secondly, it has proved the total ineffectiveness of the nuclear deterrent, save in those situations where its existence has deterred actions which would lead to global war. This is a conception of double-or-nothing.
I believe that there is some merit in the suggestion of Kiesinger that there should be a summit meeting of N.A.T.O. not filled with the
offensive spirit of war
but as he said to give
new political life to an alliance that is tired and flabby.
The reason I believe this is vital is that I think that one of the dangers, one of the results, will be the reaction in West Germany itself. At the moment, only
a small minority in West Germany are in favour of the nuclear rearming of Germany.
This is something to which both sides of the Iron Curtain are violently opposed, and rightly so, but I believe the present West German Government need to be able to convince their people that any move towards militarism in the Federal Republic would be politically disastrous for Germany. The main advantage of Germany being within N.A.T.O. is that she is contained in an alliance which can give some political direction to her military and defence policies.
It is now possible that General de Gaulle will realise that his act of withdrawal from N.A.T.O. has not achieved the purposes which he originally desired. We may well see a further build-up in the Mediterranean. We saw it at the time of the Middle East war. These are all matters which should be discussed by the N.A.T.O. Powers. I would not regard that as a provocative act. It may well be in our own self-interest, but it is also our duty to the free world.
So far as concerns the possibility of boycotts, I agree with what has been said. This is a matter for individuals. I very much doubt whether we, as a House of Commons, should continue to accept the Soviet Union in membership of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This is a matter for some consideration. I hope that all official contact between Her Majesty's Government and the Soviet Union will be kept exclusively to matters referable to diplomatic relations. We must make it abundantly plain that we wish to maintain relations, but that they will be exclusively of a diplomatic and trading nature. We must give the maximum publicity at all times to demanding the whereabouts of the Czech leaders. Nothing but good can come from this. The spectre of Imry Nagy and his subsequent assassination haunts hon. Members in all parts of the House. I welcome the reference by the Prime Minister to the position of refugees. I hope that we shall hear a little more about the sort of assistance and the plans which the Government have in mind in this direction.
I am certain that, while this country and the free world must maintain our defences, it would be disastrous if we were to revert to the posture of the cold war. We must show to the progressive forces in Eastern Europe and within the Communist world that we have sympathy for their aspirations and that many of them are those which we ourselves are trying to protect in this country; but, above all, alongside the condemnation of this naked act of aggression we must try to sustain the courage and the determination of the Czech people to prove that, even in the face of Russian steel, the human spirit can ultimately prevail.
I intervene for a very short space of time because I have been disturbed by some of the things which have been said and some of the approaches which are being made. Nobody will accuse me of being, as they used to say, "soft on the Russians", but I am worried if it is to go out from this House that at this moment when, frankly, we do not know the state of the negotiations nor arguments in Czechoslovakia, that our purpose in coming together was to denounce the Russians, the Soviet.
The Soviet leadership, I believe my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will agree—certainly it was so in the period when I was in that office—seem by no means a wholly unanimous group of people. There may be great arguments going on there. If we believe this meeting of our House—I rather doubted the wisdom of calling it—is to have any effect, it is to try to get through to them. That means trying to get through to those who are open to be got through to.
Denunciation in over-tough terms of the Soviet as such seems likely to be counter-productive rather than helpful. Every one of us, of course, can bring, or seek to bring, comfort and encouragement to the Czechs in no uncertain terms. If I do not spend a great deal of time doing that, it is because I do not want to take up the time of following speakers. Of course we have a sense of guilt going back 30 years. Those of us whose tragedy in political life was to be active then perhaps did less than we should have done. We feel that sense of guilt very deeply. That makes us all the more anxious on the third occasion to let the Czechs know how much we feel for them, how much we believe they are right, and how much we seek to encourage them in what they are trying to do by passive—sometimes not quite so passive—demonstration of their contempt for those who want to take away from them their ordinary rights.
I have just come back from Yugoslavia, a Communist country as it would describe itself, yet a country in which I was able to have the freest and frankest arguments and discussions in a sense in which we really did understand each other and tried to find our own ways to the same values, the same attitudes and beliefs. I have seen the change in Yugoslavia, making no threat to the Soviet Union but giving a lot of encouragement to us and doing enormous good for the spirit of its people. Because I have seen it happen there, for the first time since I was last behind what is called the Iron Curtain, in Poland many years ago when things were so very different, I want to give the Czechs all the encouragement I can.
I do not wish to take the other line of denouncing Russia. The pressures of change are on not only in Czechoslovakia. They are on everywhere. They are on in every Eastern European country, and they are on in Russia. Tying these affairs up with N.A.T.O.—I hope that the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) will forgive me here—would be an awful mistake. A little later on, when we see what the solution is, might be the time to consider that. But what we must not do is to give Moscow Radio the opportunity to tell the Czechs who might be wavering, to tell all the Russians who might be wavering or clamouring for change, that these events are being used by the imperialistbloc to build up a stronger N.A.T.O., nuclear rearmament and all the rest, thus giving those interested to say so the one weapon which they can use to damp down the great fight for change, the change of which they themselves are most afraid.
Therefore, on the question of how we speak about the Soviet Union, I would say, "Wait". We have all plenty of feelings inside us if we want to let ourselves go, but there is no harm in waiting a little to see what happens. Having stated our support for the Czechs, it is much more important, surely, to keep telling the Russians what they can do and that, if they would do It, we would swallow hard and go on with the effort fordétente.
Let us tell the Russians what positive moves they can make. They will be hard things to do, as I tried to explain at the Labour Party demonstration yesterday. I gather that those at the back of the audience might have heard me, although we had a little trouble with people in front. They will be hard things to do—they can be nothing less. The Russians must withdraw, if anyone is ever again to have faith in what they say, what they agree, or what they sign. They must withdraw if any administration in Czechoslovakia is to be able to develop its internal affairs in its own way. With respect to the right hon. Member for Devon, North, it is no use saying that the Russians may want to leave some forces behind in one part of Czechoslovakia because they have always felt that they wanted to be there. Once the Russians have the right permanently to station troops in that country, the position of any succeeding civil administration will be hampered.
The Czech leaders, all of them, must be freed. They must be left free to handle their internal affairs, and the Czechs must be free to decide what leaders, of party. State or army, they want. These are hard things to do. There will be the "hardliners" in the Kremlin who will say that it will be humiliation. Our response must be to tell them, "We are sorry, but, unless you do that, you cannot get out with dignity, you cannot get out with any standing in the world outside. How could we persuade anyone to trust you?".
The Russians signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. I can personally testify that we in Britain worked very hard to enlist support in some circles where reserve was felt in order to get that Treaty moving, as it were, when the Russians decided that they wanted to go forward. Inevitably, the Treaty depends in the end upon trust. This is what I had to argue again and again with friends and allies of ours who thought that I was being a bit soft about it. One cannot in the end police it or prove it otherwise. So one has to say to the Russians, "You wanted that Treaty, and there are others you want, as we all know. We are prepared to help you, but how can we do so unless you show that when you say something, when you sign something or you agree something, you will stand by your word, save for the ordinary processes of giving notice of reservation and so on?".
The Russians must, therefore, take the three steps which I have outlined, however hard they may be. But the implication for us is that, if they take those three steps, they are not beyond the pale and, despite their present affront, we must try again from then on.
What ought to be done in regard to N.A.T.O. should have been done in any case, and the Harmel exercises and so on were already doing it. But do not tangle these affairs up with N.A.T.O. Otherwise, there will be permanent casualties. In my view, what these events call for—here, I think my right hon. Friend may feel not hurt but, perhaps, a little aggrieved at what I say—is a new attempt to make further developments in Western Europe, trying to get out of the situation in which we have been bogged down in the past few months. One of the tragedies of this affair is not that each of us is impotent in the face of a Russian move but that the whole of Western Europe is impotent. We have no European influence to bring to bear because there is not such a place to have its influence. Each of us individually will always be impotent. We need greater developments in Europe. I believe that this is the moment—I say this to my right hon. Friend, knowing that I am pushing at an open door—to go back and try again to set things moving.
We ought to speak frankly to the General, the President of France. Dr. Keisinger has called for a Summit, and the President of France has strongly expressed his view about what the Russians are doing. We ought to say to him, "If anyone bears more responsibility than anyone else for making Europe impotent in such a situation, that person, my dear President, is yourself. In these circumstances, we are entitled to ask you to review your own attitude and actions and to ponder whether these events do not give you occasion to reconsider what your attitude ought to be towards a wider Europe which could bring greater influence, political as well as economic, to bear ".
Moreover—perhaps I can say this as no member of the Government can—I think that we ought to speak clearly to the Chancellor of Germany. In passing, I pay my tribute to Herr Willy Brandt for the tremendous job which he has done in edging the Germans out of their traditional thinking on the question of Eastern Europe and into a more defensible policy. The German Chancellor has taken the view that the best chance of achieving the policy which he believes to be right for Germany lay in keeping close to the President of France and relying upon the French President's alleged special relationship with the Kremlin to look after his interests.
In my view, we ought to say to the German Chancellor—as some of us have said in the past privately and diplomatically—"Ought you not to think again? If the President of France will think again, we can go forward on a different basis, but ought you not to stand up for yourself, since it is quite clear from the cynical way in which you were disregarded, with everyone else, including the President of France, in these events, that there is no European influence in your interest, and in present circumstances a European influence will not be brought to bear on events?" Let us suggest to the German Chancellor that he had better think again about some of the assumptions which he has made during the past few months.
That is really what I got up to say. Do not let us exacerbate the situation until we know what is going to emerge. If there is refusal to do the things I have suggested, if there is quite patently a phoney arrangement, then perhaps we should talk in a different way. This is why, on the whole, I would rather have had this debate later. Nevertheless, it is at least good to have it now so that we can show the Czech people where we stand. But do not let us go further than that for the moment. Let us content ourselves with that.
It may be unfashionable to say this in the middle of a crisis in which we all feel so affronted, but I remind all our European colleagues and the House that there are pressures for change in every single nation—including Eastern Europe and Russia, France, Germany, China and the United States and here. We want to keep contact with the forces in these countries which are pressing for change. I shall not myself be caught up in official Russian activity in this country for quite a while, but I would not have any break in cultural or other activities which will give the slightest chance to us to show what we think. To deny them the opportunity to keep in touch with us would be madness.
I do not believe that the Kremlin leadership as now composed will necessarily be there for a long time to come. But it would be madness to think that we could encourage change in Kremlin leadership by denying students, writers, intellectuals and trade unionists of Russia and Eastern Europe the chance to meet us and discuss this situation. I repeat that this attitude may require re-examination if the ultimate decision about Czechoslovakia is not the one we ask for, but I think that those who are for charge need us. They need those of us in the Western world who are also for change. As they do need us, the best contribution we can make in this situation, without condoning what has been done, is to give all the encouragement that we can to those who will go on with the struggle for change in Russia and Eastern Europe.
I intervene briefly to express my sorrow at what has happened, my sympathy with the Czechoslovak people and my admiration for their courage. It is a sad and perplexing situation. It is sad because it is a reverse to the policies which British Governments of both parties have been pursuing, certainly since Stalin's death, because we in this country have tried harder than most to improve relations with the Soviet Union. I remember, as some of us do, Sir Winston Churchill's great speech in May, 1953, and the visits which took place—the visitors we entertained here, the visits we paid to Russia, the attempts to get the strategic list more sensible, the big efforts to develop trade—
—and the increases in cultural contacts.
In 1960, in Paris, after the U.2 incident, there was another reverse. Then there was a feeling of shock and sadness, but also the feeling that it was only a temporary setback for some months and that, after that, we could resume these efforts. That in fact was done, leading to the Test Ban Treaty and other contacts and arrangements.
I have always believed that this was the right policy, provided that it was not accompanied by any lowering of the guard. What has happened in the last few days is a sad reverse for this country and its policies and a much greater one than in 1960. It is also a very perplexing situation because the whole affair seems to have been so crudely handled by the Soviet Union. It has done so much damage to its position and credibility in the world.
I think that the Soviet leaders will probably survive being described as "Fascists" by Chinese Communists and that probably even the TASS statement issued on the morning of 21st August—
TASS is authorised to state that party and government leaders of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic have asked the Soviet Union and other allied states to render the fraternal Czechoslovak people urgent assistance, including assistance with armed forces.
—may also very well be forgotten. But I agree with the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) that many people in the West, in the uncommitted nations, in the satellites and even in Russia itself will be most unhappy, and I agree also with what he said about pressures for change.
The situation is also perplexing because we do not know how power is held or exercised in the Soviet Union. I suspect that among the Soviet leaders there have been considerable differences of opinion. The most probable explanation of what has happened is that those won the day who feel pathologically about Germany in the knowledge of the weakness of the Soviet position in Eastern Germany. They fear the threat of reunification with their memory of the suffering caused to Russia by Hitler and his invading armies. I believe that this is still at the back of the minds of many people in authority in the Soviet Union.
What should be our reaction? First, of course, is sympathy with the Czechoslovak people in their long sufferings—March, 1939, again in 1948 and now again in 1968. I agree with all that has been so well said about that country. I also agree with the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) that we must keep up this continued questioning of what is going on, of where the leaders of Czechoslovakia are and of what arrangements are being made.
My second conclusion is that we should not accept the advice of those who demand immediate sanctions. I understand the indignation but not the conclusion. On a. previous occasion, in another context, I have said that there should be three tests for sanctions. First, would they weaken or strengthen those at whom they are aimed? Secondly, would they hurt the innocent rather than the guilty? Thirdly, would they be effective? I cannot see that a trade boycott by a few countries would be effective against the Soviet Union. I think that it would rather strengthen the extremists and hardliners. I agree that cultural and other contacts should be a matter of individual choice. It may be right to have a suspension in a particular case but I still say that the more one disagrees with another Government the more necessary it is to have trade and other contacts. It is folly to wall them off because one does not agree with their policies.
We must work away at the basic cause, which is Soviet fear of Germany. At an appropriate time, we should resume our efforts to try and create in Central Europe some kind of system which will promote a reduction of tension. We have been trying this for many years. We must go on with our efforts, anti surprise-attack measures, inspection of armaments and the idea of an area of limited armaments. We must try to get to the bottom of this basic Russian fear and see whether it is not possible to find some scope perhaps for discussion at a suitable time between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact with this kind of purpose in mind. I do not think that we can merely select a particular weapon and prohibit it. But I think that there is a strong case, within the bounds of possibility, for getting some means of reducing armaments and some kind of arms supervision of the area which would lead to a reduction of tension and which could ultimately remove Russian fear of a renascent Germany.
I come now to what is perhaps more controversial, in view of what the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has said. I believe that we have to look again at our own collective security arrangements. It is really a matter for a separate debate and a separate speech, but for myself, I think that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition admirably set out the points to be considered and I do not propose to add to what he said.
This has been a very sad day, some very sad days. Our hearts go out to the people of Czechoslovakia. May their agony speedily end.
This is an unbelievably painful occasion for many of us on both sides of the House who for many years have tried to make the East-Westdétente a reality and who know both the countries involved in this conflict. I am Vice-Chairman of the Anglo-Czech Parliamentary Group in the House and Vice-Chairman of the East-West Trade Group, and I love and very much admire the Soviet Union. In these circumstances, I am sure that many hon. Members on both sides of the House who feel as I do will deeply regret what is happening today—this conflict between two Communist countries. It is indeed a bitter blow to all our aspirations and to what we have tried to achieve over very many years, virtually since the end of the war.
Before the news of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, many of us had been saying that the lessons of the past had been learned, because here were two Communist countries, with conflict between them about their future political patterns, who had got around a table and discussed the problems which lay between them. We had been saying that they had discussed these problems, thrashed out the difficulties and signed an agreement. Indeed, this appeared a highly civilised and sensible way of dealing with problems between two countries—a way which we felt other countries with differences between them ought to follow. Alas, the agreement was broken and troops were sent into Czechoslovakia. All of us reacted with horror and intense disappointment at the news.
My second reaction when I heard the news—and here I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown)—was that the Soviet leadership were not united. An article which appeared inThe Times today confirms that. It shows that the leadership in the Government were divided but that they were compelled into this action by the military leadership.
I agree absolutely with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who say that it would be disastrous if we were to take some of the advice which has been given to us and to sever our contacts with those people in the Soviet Union and in other Eastern European countries which are involved in the invasion, because that would prevent us from putting forward our point of view to them and expressing to them views which I believe represent the united feeling of most people in this country.
In my heart, I could not believe this of Mr. Kosygin or of President Podgorny—or of Mr. Paletskis and Mr. Spiridonov. The hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) will recall that we had discussions with the latter only last May. When I discussed the problems of Czechoslovakia with them, at that time none of them appeared to show any undue concern about the Czecho-slovakian situation. In fact, they said that they were quite convinced that the problems would be resolved in a peaceful way by discussions between the countries.
But we find that the Soviet Union has done precisely that for which they attack the Americans in Vietnam, that for which we have attacked the Americans in Cuba and in the Dominican Republic and that to which we ourselves, unfortunately, were a party when the Conservatives were in power, in 1956, during the Suez affair. That is a bitter thing for us.
But we must face the fact that it is not wholly black on one side and white on the other. Just as the Soviet leadership was divided in this situation, and about the way to deal with it, so we must recognise that there was division, too, in the Czech Communist Party. There were those, the majority, who supported Mr. Dubcek and his proposals for liberalisation. There were the ultra-liberalisers who were always anti-Soviet and who wanted Mr. Dubcek to go much further than he was prepared to go. There were, thirdly, the hard-line Novotny Communists who wanted no liberalisation at all. Mr. Dubcek had to steer a very difficult and delicate course among these groups. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, Mr. Dubcek is a Communist leading a Communist Government. Indeed, Mr. Dubcek made it clear that he had no intention of taking his Government out of the Warsaw Pact. There may be elements within Czechoslovakia who wanted that to be done, but that was certainly not his proposal If the Soviet Union were not satisfied with what had been done by Mr. Dubcek and his Government since Bratislava, surely in this day and age the correct step to take was to hold more talks and more discussions not to send in their tanks and their soldiers.
Having said that, we must also repeat what many of us, particularly on this side of the House, but also on the opposite side of the House, have said on many occasions in the House and outside: we understand the valid and reasonable fears of the Soviet Union for their own security, particularly after recent developments in West Germany. We have spoken about that many times. We know the kind of maps which are being produced and have been produced in West Germany since the end of the war showing the 1937 frontiers of Germany. We know that there are large numbers of people in West Germany who continue to claim the return of what they call the lost territories, of which Poland is one and part of the Soviet Union and part of East Germany are the other two. We know of the rise of the N.P.D. in West Germany. We know that the West German army is the most powerful in Western Europe. We know that there are many former Nazi Germans in posts of power and responsibilty in the N.A.T.O. forces.
If my hon. Friend will wait I will reach that point, too.
Those of us who follow the West German Press know that, certainly since 1966, Herr Strauss's Germany has somewhat changed its tune and has been demanding the economic penetration of the Eastern European countries. If we look at the Czech trade figures with West Germany we see that in the last year there has been a greatly increased amount of trade with West Germany. I wish that they had done their trading with us and not with them.
But in spite of all these things, for the Russians to act as they did and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) pointed out, to bring troops from East Germany, from Poland, from Hungary and from Bulgaria to invade Czechoslovakia is something which we cannot accept. It has aroused the feeling of Governments all over the world. It has been notable for the disapproval and concern expressed not only by capitalist governments but Communist parties in almost any country that one can name. There are not many Communist parties in the world which have not expressed their concern and disapproval.
The proposals that we hear from the other side of the House, and outside, that we should now react to this situation by spending more of our economic resources on building up N.A.T.O. is something that I hope my right hon. Friends will resist with all their power. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton (Mr. Shinwell) said, this is something that we cannot bear economically. I can well see that if the Government were to accede to this clamour, by the time the next election comes the party opposite will have as one of its main planks in its election programme "Cuts in Armament Expenditure". [Laughter.] Oh, yes. This will be a gift to the party opposite. It will say, "We will reduce armaments expenditure if we are returned and will spend the savings on this, that and the other,"—as we said and as we are now endeavouring to do.
This would be highly dangerous for the Labour movement in this country. To cut cultural ties, as everyone has said, would not help us or the Soviet Union, or the people of Czechoslovakia. Rather than cut these ties we should use those that we have, and where we have towns and cities "twinned" with others in the Soviet Union, those towns and cities, those trade unions and Labour parties within them, should express their point of view on the Czechoslovakian situation through their opposite numbers in the Soviet Union and East Germany, as well as in Hungary and Poland where such "twinning" arrangements exist.
This is an opportunity for us to express what we feel. To suggest, as some have, that we should cut our trade relations would not help the Czechs and would harm us, because the Russians would retaliate. Even if we were to lend£30 million to£40 million, let alone£65 million, this would be a very painful thing for us.
We now have an opportunity, through all our contacts with these countries and through this recall of Parliament, to impress not only upon the Soviet Government but other Governments involved what we want. First of all, there must be the return of Mr. Dubcek and President Svoboda to Czechoslovakia, and to the government of that country. Soviet and other East European troops should be withdrawn, and notes on these lines must go to all other countries involved, including East Germany. It is said that we have no diplomatic channels for sending such a note to East Germany because there is no recognition of that country, but my right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that there are ways and means of transmitting our views.
We must impress upon the Soviet Government that threats to Rumania and Yugoslavia must cease. In order to deal with what I firmly believe is partly the root cause of this difficulty, the insecurity felt by the Soviet Unionvis-à-vis its common frontier through Czechoslovakia with West Germany, rather than convene N.A.T.O.—which would be disastrous, because it could be used as propaganda against all Western countries—ought we not to reconvene the Potsdam Powers—the countries responsible for the establishment of this set-up after the war?
Should we not think of the conclusion of a peace treaty and discuss with the Soviet Union its fears which stem directly from the situation in West Germany today? This would be very much more to the point than the proposal to reconvene the N.A.T.O. Powers. Then we could see what are the difficulties, what action can be taken, to prevent any further activities of this kind. All efforts so far to achieve a reasonablerapprochement between East and West, particularly between ourselves and the Soviet Union, which most of us passionately desire, have been set back for a number of years. We have also to bear in mind the fundamental truth that an East-Westdétente is the basis of world peace, in spite of what has happened in Czechoslovakia, and we have to go on, however difficult this may be and however long it may take us, working to achieve just that.
I will not comment on the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), except to say that I do not believe that it reflects the views of most of the people of Wolverhampton.
I am very glad that the Government have decided to recall us. It is right that the feelings of the British people over the callous rape of Czechoslovakia should be voiced in Parliament by their elected representatives. I am, however, sorry that we are not to vote a Motion which would declare our collective views to the world.
The Prime Minister spoke of the feeling that we have been here before. That is particularly so for those of us who were in this House before the war. This debate certainly revives cruel and bitter memories. Once again, this small, brave nation has been ruthlessly crushed by naked force, while the rest of the world stood by and watched.
I do not think so. There is nothing we can do to reverse what has happened. But I am by no means convinced that this tragic event could not have been prevented. The United Nations should certainly have made some effort to do so last month when the Russians were openly trying to intimidate the Czechs with a show of military force around their borders.
Faced with this direct threat to international peace, the total silence of the United Nations is unforgiveable.
I wrote to the Foreign Secretary on 24th July, urging him to raise this matter at the Security Council. I felt that a warning shot across their bows would give the Russians a foretaste of the worldwide indignation which an invasion of Czechoslovakia would arouse, and that this might perhaps make them hesitate. In my letter I concluded by saying:
The time for the Security Council to intervene is now, and not after an irrevocable breach has occurred.
In his reply the Foreign Secretary expressed the view that this was not a matter in which Britain should take the initiative. However, on the radio yesterday, the Lord President of the Council said: "We must rally world opinion on the side of the Czechs." He is quite right. But would it not have been better to do it before and not after the invasion? Today, the Prime Minister said that the Russians grossly underestimated the reaction of world opinion. That only reinforces my view that some prior warning by the United Nations might perhaps have been useful.
However, it is no good now arguing about what might have been done. Our task today is to take stock of the new situation, and to draw the conclusions. History does not repeat itself exactly. But it would be foolish to ignore the lessons of past miscalculations. Up to the time of Munich, there were many who still held the view that, with patience, it would be possible to establish confidence and co-operation between Nazi Germany and the West. At Yalta, despite Churchill's warnings, Roosevelt believed that Communist Russia could safely be entrusted with the task of restoring freedom to the occupied countries of Eastern Europe.
More recently, the Western Governments persuaded themselves that the Soviet Union was becoming more moderate and that this would open the way to a genuinedétente. This latest illusion, like the others, has been shattered by events. We are obliged now to recognise—the Prime Minister said it himself this afternoon—that for an indefinite period any hope there was of building up a new East-West relationship resting upon mutual trust has disappeared.
Coming now to action—the Prime Minister rightly said that it is our duty to register our protest. Protest is sometimes futile. But in this case it is essential. The Russians, who are highly sensitive to outside opinion, must be made to feel to the full the universal disgust which their brutal, treacherous and cynical behaviour has aroused. In this, the United Nations has a major part to play; and I support my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in suggesting that the General Assembly should be convened as quickly as possible. It should be asked to pass a resolution condemning Russia in uncompromising terms. I know that the Foreign Office may have doubts about the amount of support which such a resolution would receive. All I can say is that those countries which are not prepared to join in condemning aggression should stand and be counted.
There are many different ways in which we can mark our disapproval. We can withdraw ambassadors, without necessarily breaking off diplomatic relations. We can enlarge the list of goods which are not allowed to be exported to Russia. We can refuse to sit with Russian representatives on international bodies, such as the I.L.O., which have already introduced the principle of political discrimination. We can decline to compete in the Olympic Games unless the Russians are excluded. We can suspend cultural exchanges, trade fairs and visits of various kinds. Those are some of the suggestions which have been put forward.
I do not propose to comment on them individually. All of them, of course, raise difficulties of one kind or another. But I warn the Government that, in their present mood, the British people will not be content to do nothing. If the Government fail to give a lead, others will. If our protest is to be taken seriously, it must be expressed in deeds as well as in words.
Hitherto, the view has been taken that any contacts of any kind between the West and Russia, though their influence may be small, can only do good. But in the present situation, that is no longer entirely true. While the Czech people are bravely resisting the Russian invaders by every means open to them, we have a duty to show them that we are not indifferent to their fate.
Nothing would be more dispiriting than for them to see photographs of prominent Western personalities shaking hands and exchanging compliments with their hosts in Moscow, or Russian dancers being feted in Western capitals. The Czechs, who are risking their lives in the struggle for freedom, would feel betrayed. They understand quite well that we cannot take military action to help them. But they rightly expect us to give them the fullest moral support. In order to make the maximum impact any protest action must be initiated quickly and must be supported by as many countries as possible. But, if others hesitate, it is no reason for Britain to hang back. Where peace and freedom are at stake, we should not be afraid to take the lead.
Apart from purely moral support, there is one practical way in which we and our N.A.T.O. allies can help the Czech resistance. It is by providing facilities for a free Czech radio station in one of our countries. That we should certainly offer to do.
There remains the task of reviewing and, where necessary, revising, our foreign and defence policies in the light of the new situation. In the West, as the Prime Minister explained, British policy has two main objectives. The first is to assure security against Russian attack by means of the North Atlantic Alliance. The second is to build a United Europe, economically strong and independent and capable of exercising an effective influence in world affairs. The events of last week have emphasised the Tightness of both these aims and make it more than ever necessary to pursue them with vigour.
N.A.T.O. must be strengthened, politically as well as militarily. Too little attention has been paid to its political rôle. The members of the Alliance must make more effort to evolve a common approach. Above all, we must agree upon a joint policy towards Eastern Europe. For, unless we are able to speak with one voice, we can never hope to exercise any influence on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
The rape of Czechoslovakia has put N.A.T.O. on its guard, and will give a timely jolt to those countries which thought that the so-calleddétente justified the relaxation of defence efforts—and Britain is one of those countries. Having seen what Russia does to her Communist friends, we can imagine what she would do to us, if she dared. The only thing which deters her is the military strength of N.A.T.O. We shall be safe so long, but only so long, as this is maintained.
But, outside the N.A.T.O. area, there is no reason to suppose that Russia has abandoned her aims. On the contrary, she will almost certainly try to distract attention from her troubles in Europe by building up her prestige in other parts of the world. Her most obvious target is the Middle East. Apart from maintaining her influence in the Arab countries by supplying them with arms, it is clearly her aim to replace Britain as the dominant Power in the Persian Gulf.
The Government must now surely see what a grievous mistake they made when they decided to withdraw all British forces. But there is still time to reverse that decision, and so prevent this strategically vital area from passing into the control of a Power which is implacably opposed to everything we believe in and stand for. If, despite the lessons of last week, the Government stubbornly persist in their mistaken policy, they will bear a heavy responsibility for the consequences.
The economic and political case for maintaining a British presence in the Far East, though different, is equally strong; and I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on the clear pledge which he gave on behalf of the future Conservative Government to our Commonwealth partners in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.
To sum up, we must give the Czechs all possible moral support. By action as well as by words we must make the Russians feel our indignation over their contemptible behaviour. We must recognise that talk ofdétente was a dangerous illusion. We must back N.A.T.O. up to the hilt and strengthen our own defences. We must reverse the decision to withdraw British forces east of Suez. While remaining on our guard we must continue to seek a basis for peaceful and constructive co-existence. But henceforth our policies must be founded upon experience and reality and not on wishful thinking.
Russia's crime against Czecho- slovakia has had almost universal and merited condemnation, and even if, as seems possible, the negotiations which have been taking place under duress in Moscow finally come to some conclusion nothing will ever be the same again. The invasion has ended the hopes that under the present leadership the Soviet Union has been sincerely interested in peaceful coexistence. By her action Russia has demolished many years of propaganda and protestation that she is sincerely concerned with peace.
Only recently, when I was in Russia as a member of a Parliamentary delegation—this was also the experience of my colleagues—I found that wherever we travelled the slogan set up in banners over entrances to citizens' dwellings was "Peace and friendship". Only recently the Prime Minister, at the Soviet Exhibition, responded to a toast of peace and friendship between the Soviet Union and ourselves. Now we have seen what a mockery the whole thing has been. Mr. Brezhnev has shown the true and brutal face of Communism. The question that the House ought to ask itself is why the Russians have thrown the mask away, and in what wider interest.
Recently, we have been encouraged by optimistic reports—based partly on the heroism and endurance of the Czechs, but also on the reports of the negotiations coming from Moscow—that somehow or other there are grounds for optimism. I must record that for my own part I see no real ground for optimism in the present situation. There may be glimmers of hope—of these I shall speak—but I believe that it would be dangerous to encourage any self-delusions. I was disappointed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) when he seemed to reprehend the Government for having recalled Parliament today to make this protest. For my part, I believe that it is vitally important that we should register that protest.
More than that, it is particularly important if we look at the scene in Eastern Europe today to recognise that what appears on the surface is not necessarily what lies below. I am convinced that despite the more hopeful reports now coming out of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, beneath it all there is a serious danger that, as in the case of Hungary, ruthless round-ups by the Stalinists are in train already or in preparation. I believe that the lorries are already waiting for stage two of the invasion—the mass deportations and imprisonments and perhaps executions.
Today, we are talking not of an academic manœuvre, not of a tactical exercise without troops, but of actual invasion in which lives have been lost and in which perhaps hundreds of people have been wounded. If the deportations and mass imprisonments have not taken place already it is because in the early stages the invasion was taking place under the eyes of television cameras and journalists who were witnesses of the events. I think that the fact that there has been some appearance of restraint in the early stages of the invasion should not deceive us. After all, assassins like to work in secret. We must be alert that the patriots in Czechoslovakia are not removed secretly to some kind of "final solution" which may yet be the object of Soviet policy.
The mystery remains: why have Mr. Brezhnev and his colleagues exposed themselves so crudely that not only their enemies, but even their former friends, can view them only with execration? One simple answer is that Czechoslovakia, from being an Eastern salient into the West, might somehow or other be transformed into a Western salient into the East, and that it was, therefore, necessary for the Russians to take anticipatory action.
Indeed, the trauma of the 1945 war—as my hon. Friends on the parliamentary delegation will recall—is very much present in the minds of the Russians. They recall that one out of every eight Russian citizens died during the course of the Nazi invasion. So it is possible that the Russian leadership may find some kind of persuasive argument to address to the Russian people to justify its incursion. I think that an argument presented in that way, however bogus it may be, would certainly find an echo. There is a primitive response in the Russian mind to the fear of a West German attack, particularly of one which might be sustained by some uprising in Eastern Germany. This may seem to many Russians to be a justification for the pre-emptive strike against Czechoslovakia.
There is one positive thing that our Government can and should do, and that is to attempt by every means within their power—by the use of radio, by diplomatic means, by every means accessible to them—to disabuse the Russian people themselves of the fear and of the plausible, though false, argument put forward by the leadership that somehow or other the West was on the eve of an attack against the Soviet Union.
I have spoken about the fear of Germany. I must say that I think there is a much deeper reason for the Soviet action, and that is that the Soviet leadership, far more than having a fear of Germany, fears liberty itself. There is a fear of non-conformity, a fear of the heresy of dissent for which Bohemia has been renowned ever since the reforming heresy of John Hus. It is not merely the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact that the Russians fear. They are afraid of the liberal heresy inside Russia spreading and being stimulated had the heresy of the Czechs been allowed to go unpunished.
In Western Europe the concept of the intellectual, and, still more, of the intelligentsia, has little appeal. But in Eastern Europe, where autocracy after autocracy has brooded like a black night over the countries under its sway, the intellectuals have been bringers of light. They have acted as spokesmen and interpreters of the people. They have formulated in poetry, novels, drama and song the deepest aspirations of the ordinary men and women of the countries of Eastern Europe. Their songs have outlasted tyrants. It is the revolt of the intellectuals which the Soviet leadership today fears as much as it fears N.A.T.O.
After all, there have been many signs and portents to which perhaps we did not give enough attention. The trial of the authors Sinyavsky and Daniel, which was notorious, was already a harbinger of that fear. After the death of Stalin, the poet Yevtushenko spoke up able to command vast audiences for his poetry readings, which were denunciations of the evils of Stalinism, the stifling of liberty, anti-Semitism and all the other expressions of bigotry and cruelty which flourished in the time of Stalin. I dissent from the hon. Member who spoke about Mr. Khrushchev as a drunken peasant. Let us remember that the thaw in Russia took place precisely when Mr. Khrushchev was in power. We should not ignore that element, which I believe is very relevant to the present day.
Then there is Solzhentsin, who is probably Russia's greatest novelist writing today, a former prisoner of Stalin. He was banned a few years ago for so-called anti-Sovietism, which means that he spoke in the interests of liberty.
These men whose names I have mentioned are notable intellectuals in a great movement of the Soviet intelligentsia, but they do not stand alone. When I was in the Soviet Union—this must have been the experience of many of my colleagues—I observed that there is a sort of second academy, an academy which takes place in private houses among people who have not the opportunity to speak in public and who are thwarted in their discussions by academic intolerance. They are the people who speak for the writers in the Second Literature and the Second Academies and who, in the relative privacy of their home, live among friends and are able to give their views.
The real opposition today in Russia—the people to whom we must address ourselves because they are the hope of the future and of a peaceful co-existence—is precisely the intellectuals who represent an alternative system of thought to the orthodox Stalinists.
Briefly, I should like to refer to the double talk and what George Orwell called the double think of the leadership in the Soviet Union today. Words like "aggression" and "democracy" have lost all rational meaning. During our visit to the Soviet Union we were accompanied for most of the time by the Academician Fedosseyev, who, if I may use the expression, is the high priest of Marxist-Leninism in Russia. He handed us an essay for private circulation on what was called "The Strategy of Peace in Modern Sociology", in which he has endeavoured to give a definition of "aggression".
I should like to quote it because it is directly relevant to the events in Czechoslovakia. He says:
No country, even the most powerful one, should be permitted to impose its will on other countries. No country or coalition of countries has a right to take it upon itself to resolve questions of internal organisation in other countries, be they big or small.
I quote that as an example of double talk and double think, because it shows that it is almost impossible to have a rational dialogue with the Russians, whether through diplomacy or at the United Nations, because the basic tone of the discussion means different things to East and West.
The Czechoslovakian invasion has spelt out the double standards which the Communists consistently apply—one for themselves, and another for those who disagree with them. The intellectuals inside Russia whom I have been talking about are the men who reject double think and who affirm the ethic which has been in the mainstream of Western thought for the last 2,000 years. Some of them have been banned and imprisoned and, most sinister of all, some have, in a byzantine way, been shut away in lunatic asylums. It is characteristic of the mind of the rulers of Russia today that, from the seizure and murder of foreign political leaders which took place at the time of the Hungarian uprising to the imprisonment of awkward critics as madmen, they use the same techniques of strangling opposition as were used by the most atrocious despots of Oriental history.
What can we do? Much has already been said today about the possibility of cultural reprisals which, I am glad to say, has been rejected by most hon. Members who have spoken. To some extent, we can talk to the Soviet intelligentsia through our cultural manifestations in Russia. I believe that if we were to cut them off from those cultural manifestations we would deprive them of the opportunity of hearing friendly and civilised voices.
However, I believe that our agencies should be much more selective The British Council should be much more definite in its selection of what goes to the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries. For example, only recently we have had "Don Carlos" playing at Covent Garden. How admirable it would have been had we in the past—perhaps it is no longer possible—been able to send to Russia "Don Carlos", which contains that magnificent conversation between the Marquis Posa and King Philip of Spain. On being asked for a boon, the Marquis Posa replied," Sir, give us freedom of thought". If, by those means, we can address ourselves to the people of Russia we shall have established a proper communication.
I see the point of the hon. Gentleman's argument about getting through to the intellectuals in Russia, but does he not see the danger to our friends in other countries, perhaps bordering on Russia, if we give the impression that this rape has made no difference at all?
No. From my observation—and I believe that this is the observation of hon. Members who have visited Eastern Europe, either officially or otherwise—I believe that the intellectuals of the Eastern European countries are only too eager and willing, and indeed long, to hear British voices and to see manifestations of British culture. Therefore, the maintenance of these links can only do good. To lower the Iron Curtain in such a way that there was no cultural communication would be a grave error and a loss to those in the Soviet Union who long to hear a friendly voice.
Let us remember that the Russian people are not the men in the Kremlin. The Russian people themselves are simple, ingenious, and warm hearted, and are capable of vast suffering and great endurance, as they proved in the last war. I never believed that all the Germans were Nazis, and I do not believe that all the Russians are involved in the horror inflicted by the Kremlin on Czechoslovakia. There is a great, lost generation in Russia which has no place in the hierarchy which is largely occupied by elderly men. There is a student generation, an inarticulate generation, which is longing to speak and which, I am convinced, will regard the invasion of Czechoslovakia with detestation.
When I visited Moscow when Mr. Khrushchev came to power after "the thaw", I asked an old Russian journalist whether it was possible for the young people to go back to the Stalinist days. He replied, "They can never go back. They have had a taste of liberty, and they have been spoilt". Let us use every means of talking to the intelligentsia of Russia. Let us remember what the leading poet of the Soviet Union, the spokes-
man of Russia's youth, Yevtushenko, said in a poem which he wrote about Bratsk, in Siberia, the country of slave camps under Tsars and Stalin:
In Bratsk, Mother Russia, your image
Shimmered and revealed itself to me…
And by suffering like love itself you earned the light…
There are still too many slaves in the world.
The slave-drivers haven't gone.
I believe that the youth of Russia will one day expel the slave-drivers themselves.
Although I do not agree fully with some of the conclusions to which the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) came, I am sure that I express the view of hon. Members on both sides of the House when I say that his thoughtful and balanced speech was a joy to listen to. I very much agreed with what he said at the beginning of his remarks, when he made the important point that the events which have occasioned our recall for this debate have the sort of historical significance which results in things never being the same again.
It is right, therefore, that hon. Members should express on behalf of those whom we represent not only our revulsion and horror about these events but our thoughts about what changes in our country's policy will result from the new situation.
As to the events themselves, the vocabularies of adjectives of hon. Members have been so fully exercised that it is difficult to find a new one or one fitting to the occasion. I agree very much, however, with what, I think, the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) had in mind in an intervention when he emphasised what also seemed to me to be the peculiar in-sensitiveness of the Russian leaders in using satellite troops to assist them in the rape of Czechoslovakia. To use, in the first place, the Poles and the Hungarians as Russian satellites in precisely the same rôle that they were used in 30 years ago as Hitler's jackals reveals a quite peculiar insensitiveness. To use East Germans in this operation carries that even further.
When one talks, as most hon. Members have done, to Russians, one of the things when they "let their hair down" which most impresses one is the deep fear and hatred of Germany for what the German armies did in Russia during the late war. That is an attitude of mind which one can well understand. It is, however, an attitude of mind that makes it quite extraordinary that they should have loosed German soldiers on a country which was herself one of the earlier victims of German aggression 30 years ago.
In expressing the general view which we all feel about massive military force being used to crush a country which sought to do nothing except to govern itself as it thought fit, one cannot but be impressed and rather alarmed by the extraordinary mental opacity which caused those who planned this aggression to carry it out in this particularly repulsive way. In parenthesis, this way of doing it, as well as the act of doing it, makes the action of the Governments of India and Pakistan in abstaining in the vote in the Security Council peculiarly incomprehensible. Without wishing to intervene in the affairs of other Commonwealth countries, I cannot but think that the Parliaments of those countries will wish very closely to scrutinise the reasons of their Governments for taking that line.
I am never very keen on walking out. It is better to stay and criticise. But everybody knows what peculiar tactics are suitable in one's own Assembly. I prefer, on the contrary, to walk in.
I should like the Minister of State to ask the Foreign Secretary, when he replies, to deal with the question of where this will stop. We have seen today most menacing accounts of the mobilisation of Russian forces on the borders both of Rumania and of Yugoslavia. Are we certain that the onslaught on Czechoslovakia is the only tragedy of this kind which has to be faced? What steps are the Government taking with world opinion to try to improve the situation and prevent further tragedies? Yugoslavia is a country for which many of us have a deep admiration and affection.
She was one of the most gallant of our wartime allies, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) knows better than any of us. She is not a member of the Warsaw Pact. What steps are the Government taking to make it clear that an onslaught on Yugoslavia—I use my words very carefully—might produce a very dangerous situation? In such situations, ambiguity and obscurity in advance are very dangerous things. I would like to know what are the thinking and the action of the British Government in this respect.
In the case of Czechoslovakia, the question is where do we go from here? I agree with all those who reject economic sanctions because, as a matter of historical fact, they have never been effective in any direction which I can recollect and have generally ended in the humiliation of those who imposed them.
I have a very open mind on the cultural relations side. I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, North that there may be continuing value in cultural relations, but on the whole—and here I come down against the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown)—in these matters when something desperately wrong has been done, the less one associates with and the less one shows unnecessary friendliness to the aggressor, the better. That is the fairer for the victim. It marks most clearly the abhorrence of the world against those who have done these things.
It is, of course, the Russian game to suggest that this is simply an incident and that we will go on exactly as before; our contacts, our cultural relations and everything else will continue just as before after we have made our routine protest. Surely, the lesson of the 1930s is all against that. To say, as did the right hon. Member for Belper, that we do not quite know how this will turn out and that we had better not react too sharply, clearly and critically is surely exactly what most of us of our generation attack our predecessors of the 1930s for doing.
Surely, where something has been done which is beyond argument wrong, and is also profoundly dangerous for the future safety of the world, the safest course, while following, no doubt, the niceties of diplomatic protocol and correctitude, is to make it clear in personal relations, in cultural and public relations and in everything except diplomatic relations that, for the time being at any rate, the Russians are people who must accept that they are subject to the criticism, the dislike and the contempt of the rest of the world. That, I think, is the right line.
A good deed has been done to us in one way in destroying the illusions which have been built up about Russia.The Times had a powerful leading article on this point under the heading "Dented assumptions" the other day. For years, a lot of us have been trying to kid ourselves that the Russians were now kind and unaggressive, that the brutalities of the Stalin era were peculiar to Stalin's character and were now in the past, and that the vast armies and vast fleets of submarines were maintained rather for decorative purposes. That is the illusion of which we all, to a greater or less extent, tried to convince ourselves, although in fairness to the Russians they have done very little to create those illusions, as those who talked to Mr. Kosygin on his visit here a little while ago will recall.
It is now clear, however, that Russia will use force wherever she thinks that she can use it without being met by comparable force. This is brutally clear and two lessons emerge from it. One is that safety is to be found only in the close-bound N.A.T.O. Alliance where countries bound loyally together make it clear that an attack on one of them is an attack on the lot and will be met by the massed resistance of the lot. The second lesson is for us to stop the procedure of unilateral disarmament which we have been following for the last three or four years.
The Prime Minister was this afternoon more than usually disingenuous when he referred to the redeployment of forces as the result of the July Defence Statement as strengthening our position in Europe. He did not mention that that Defence Statement is only one further instalment of a procedure to reduce the total strength of our forces in the world. With all his experience, he surely did not fall into the error of believing that it is only in Europe that the Russian threat exists.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) pointed out that the Russian Navy is already prominent in the Persian Gulf. If Russia is to be contained, we must not create a power vacuum there by our own withdrawal which Russia will be only too happy to fill. By remaining there we are serving the interests of our friends in Europe, many of whom depend for their oil supplies on the oil of that region.
Therefore, we should not go away for another seven weeks, as the Leader of the Liberal Party saw fit to suggest, without discussing the defence implications of the situation. The suggestion by the Leader of the Liberal Party that to introduce the defence implications into this debate would be very wrong—"tragic", I think he said—was a vivid illustration of the complete uselessness and futility of the Liberal Party. If anybody can really think that aggression in Europe by hundreds of thousands of troops and thousands of tanks is a thing which can be ignored from the point of view of the defence arrangements of this country, then he must have a very odd state of mind indeed.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party, and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister have talked of unity and called for unity and unity has been shown. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) will observe it.
If the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, in appealing for unity, was suggesting that unity is so precarious that it would be imperilled if the most important topic of all in this connection were actually mentioned, and thought there must be a kind of conspiracy not to discuss it because there might be a great division about it, then that is precisely the attitude of the Liberal Party, because, whenever it gets on to realities, it becomes divided.
It was, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition, in his wholly admirable speech, who emphasised the very point which I am trying to support, and that is that retention of British Forces in the Middle and Far East is a step which is made infinitely more urgent by reason of the events which we are now discussing I hope that when the Foreign Secretary replies to the debate he will tell us in terms that unilateral disarmament is to be stopped.
I will put to him several specific suggestions. He should announce that the disbandment of the five units specified in the July White Paper has been cancelled. One of them, if not more, is in Germany at the moment confronting the Russians. Must they not think us mad to talk about disbanding such units in such circumstances? The Government should state they will be retained and should be free to recruit to the full. Let is be made clear that the Territorial Army will be retained. Let it be made clear that aircraft carriers will be retained, and that when the "Ark Royal" has completed her£30 million refit in 1970 she will be given a longer life than the two years planned at present. Let it be made clear that the Royal Air Force will be given an efficient bomber even if it is necessary to base it upon the reactivation of the TSR2. Let it be made clear that this country has stopped disarming unilaterally. Let the right hon. Gentleman take the suggestion given to him, byThe Times, the other day, that the argument that we spend a higher proportion of our national income on defence than other people is not an argument for cutting down our contribution to defence but one for urging our allies to increase theirs.
If we take advantage of the brutal lesson which the Russian Government have taught us, the tragedy of Czechoslovakia may yet ensure to the future peace of Europe.
I am quite convinced that the news which came from Czechoslovakia last Wednesday filled each and every one of us with a deep sense of shock and shame—shame, I suppose, because we were unable, as in 1938, to go immediately to that country's assistance. The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact allies are to be condemned for this blatant, brutal piece of aggression.
It may be that the Soviet Union, having given its excuses for that intervention, may find it has made a mistake. I believe that history will show that the Soviet Union has made a mistake. In this instance it misread the political signs. It misread, first of all, the reaction not only of the world, but of the Czechoslovak people themselves. I was in Czechoslovakia immediately before the aggression last week, and many of us who have been there must have been impressed with the patience and the dignity and confidence of the Czechoslovak people. Today, under the heel of the jackboot of the Soviet Union, they are still showing those very great attributes. We in this House today speak for the British people, and must wholly condemn the action of the Soviet Union.
There have been comparisons made—not in this House today, but they have been made—between the Soviet Union's action in August, 1968, and its action.in Hungary in 1956. There are many comparisons, of course, but there are many essential differences as well. Whereas in Hungary in 1956 there was a call for a change from the Communist Party system to another system which would divorce itself from the Warsaw Alliance, that did not apply today. Mr. Dubcek and his team of Ministers are confirmed, convinced Communists, and there was no desire to leave the Warsaw Alliance or, indeed, to pursue an independent foreign policy. Assurances had been given all along the line in this respect.
There must have been some other reason, some reason other than the one used in Hungary, and I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) was right when he said that the reason was fear. There is fear that the liberal policies which had been pursued since January this year will spill over into East Germany, into Poland, into Hungary, and into Bulgaria, and it was the fear of these events which persuaded the Soviet Union to invade Czechoslovakia last Wednesday.
What has been the position since January? Let us analyse the situation for just one moment. Until January of this year the Czechoslovak people were ruled with a rod of iron. They were oppressed. The usual paraphernalia of the police State was in existence—die knock at the door in the early hours of the morning, and they were taken away from their homes to undisclosed destinations to suffer long periods of imprisonment without fair trial. This was the situation until January this year.
Then, since January, the situation dramatically changed. For the first time in 20 years the Czechs have been able to feel free to discuss the political situation inside Czechoslovakia, inside Eastern Europe, and in the world at large. There was no looking over their shoulders any more. They were not afraid of the secret police. They were able to discuss with everybody around the current situation in their country. This was the new-found freedom, a freedom which the young people, particularly students, had never enjoyed before.
Then there was another change which took place. Czechoslovakia, under the heel of the Soviet Union, has been held back economically. Its industrial and economic efforts have been designed to fit in with the economic planning of the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia has been compelled to manufacture goods which are world-renowned simply and solely for the benefit of the economic planning of the Comecon, and this restricted the economic activity of the country. The Czechoslovaks have been unable to trade on a worldwide basis. They have been unable to obtain convertible currency to buy the essentials for their everyday lives. There was this further restriction on the Czechoslovak people, and this was another reason why they changed in January this year. Therefore, the Soviet Union was afraid of this new-found freedom overflowing into the other satellite countries, and that is why the Soviet Union took the action it did.
We talk about our possible action. This is a very difficult and a very painful thought that we must have, but, of course, the question we must ask ourselves is, what can we do? A number of possibilities have been put forward. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) suggested among other things that we might withdraw from the I.L.O., that we might refuse to participate in the Olympic Games if the Soviet Union participated, that we might employ cultural sanctions, and so on. However, we have to ask ourselves what this will achieve ana how it will help the Czech people. My view is that it will not assist them one iota.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to a détente in Europe as being a dangerous illusion. My view is that a détente in Europe offers the only possible hope for peace in the world. From now on, having demonstrated our abhorrence and condemnation of the Soviet Union's action, the Government's policy should be to redouble their efforts to achieve a détente in Europe because, as I say, it is the only possibility of lasting peace in this part of the world.
In August, 1938, the Czechs were raped in the way that they are being raped today. The events of that year led to a position which culminated in freedom in the Western world. I believe that the stand of the Czech people in the face of a powerful and overwhelming aggressor will shine as a beacon light for the freedom forces which exist in Eastern Europe and that the events in Czechoslovakia will lead ultimately to greater freedom, and to peace in Europe and throughout the world.
I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Gates-head, East (Mr. Conlan), and I would point out to him that, much as we all agree about a détente in Europe, it takes two to arrive at one, and the Russians have not been making much of a contribution lately.
Apart from that, I have found little to disagree with in his interesting speech. In fact, having listened to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), I think that we may feel reasonably certain that this House will be more or less unanimous in its condemnation of the Soviet attack on Czechoslovakia. The hon. Lady did her best, but even she could not make out much of a case for what the Russians have done.
To my mind perhaps the most significant feature of the invasion of Czechoslovakia has been the immense harm that the Russians have done to themselves. And, by that, I do not mean to their image, for what it is worth. I mean the incalculable damage that they have done and are doing to practically all of their own most vital interests.
In the first place, they have demonstrated, for all the world to see, that, in their view, 50 years after the Bolshevik Revolution, Communism is so fragile and unsure of itself that it cannot safely accept the smallest admixture of freedom and equality, and that, 20 years after their enslavement, they cannot afford to allow their unfortunate satellites even the slightest degree of independence.
Because, let us make no mistake about it, what the Czechs have been trying to do is not to walk out of the Warsaw Pact or out of Comecon or, indeed, to abandon Communism. On the contrary, they have repeatedly declared their unswerving loyalty to all three. All that they were trying to do was to temper their Communism with a slight degree of freedom in the hope that it might make it work better. And it was for this and for no other possible reason that, just like Hitler 30 years earlier, the Russians sent their tanks rolling into Prague, taking their Polish, Bulgarian, Hungarian and East German puppets with them.
How ironical it is that, 12 years after the 1956 rising, the Poles and Hungarians should be used to discipline the Czechs. How ironical it is, too, that a member of the alliance which fought against Hitler should send German troops to do once more what Hitler did 30 years ago. Indeed one cannot help wondering if some of the senior officers and N.C.O.s in the German contingent have not made the trip twice. No wonder the Czechs drew swastikas on the tanks of the invaders.
For the world at large, such an act of aggression against what was nominally and what has shown itself in fact to be an independent country is at once a threat and a warning, which I hope will not go entirely unheeded. It seems to me extraordinary that the matter was not brought before U.N.O. a month ago, as some of my hon. Friends and I urged at the time. Certainly it is high time that N.A.T.O. took account of what is going on on its borders, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition suggested. It is high time, too, that we in the West realised the danger of doing what we did before the war and gratuitously encouraging aggression by our manifest and self-inflicted weakness and inertia. And let us remember that it is by no means certain that the Czechs will be the only victims of Soviet aggression. If the Russians get away with this, they may well seek out other victims.
But I want to address myself first and foremost today to the trouble into which the Russians have got themselves by their action. For one thing, they have enormously increased the disunity of the Communist world. Rumania has now bravely joined Yugoslavia in open defiance of Moscow, while the Albanians, for what they are worth, have joined the Chinese in attacking the Russians and Czechs alike, as revisionists on the one hand and as ultra-revisionists on the other. Even such abject toadies of the Russians as the Communist Parties of France, Italy and Great Britain have thought it advisable to express mild disapproval of Moscow's action, while as for our old friends the fellow travellers, some have travelled off in one direction and some in another. As someone has said, the 1940s saw the communisation of the Balkans. The 1960s are seeing the Balkanisation of Communism.
The disruptive process which we are witnessing began 20 years ago with Tito's successful defiance of Stalin in 1948. We all know the story of the farmer's boy who was asked in a mental arithmetic test, "If you have six sheep in a field and one gets out, how many are left?" I need not remind hon. Members that his answer was, "None", and he was quite right. The process that started in 1948, is still going on. And to my mind, it is bound to go on, in spite of what was done in Hungary in 1956 or in Czechoslovakia last week. Under Stalin, Soviet power rested on the absolute authority and infallibility of the Kremlin. But once that authority has been successfully challenged and the first crack appeared in the Soviet monolith, world Communism could never again be the same well-trained menagerie. That was Tito's achievement. I spent last weekend in Belgrade, at the moment very much an epicentre of the earthquake which is convulsing Eastern Europe, and I found people there very conscious of Yugoslavia's rôle and very proud that their Government at least, from their relatively exposed position, should have supported the Czechs from the outset. This at a time when Western statesmen, for one reason or another, found it preferable to hang back and not say much. At a time when perhaps a more resolute or, at any rate, a more interested attitude might have given the Russian pause.
I should like to touch briefly on another aspect of the situation which seems relevant. If the Soviet empire is no longer as monolithic as it was in Stalin's day, neither are the thought processes of the Russian people. And that, too, could be a significant factor in the present situation. I feel certain that there are a good many Russians who are just as appalled as we by what their Government are doing. The gradual evolution, the gradual letting-up of pressure which has been taking place in the Soviet Union for the past 15 years, has been partly deliberate, but partly, as human nature began to take charge—and Russian human nature is about twice as human as most—involuntary. Once Khrushchev and his successors had started letting up the pressure, they found themselves on a slippery slope. The more freedom you give people, the more they will take and use it to demand still more. Certainly to anyone who, like myself, knew Russia in Stalin's day and goes back there now, the difference is very noticeable indeed. Of course, the Government can tighten things up for a bit—they are doing it now and they have been doing it for the last year or so—but however much they might want to, they cannot put the clock right back to where it was in Stalin's day when the answer to everything was a bullet in the back of the neck. Things are no longer quite as simple as that. In Russia today there are the beginnings of a public opinion that has, up to a point, to be taken account of. That in itself is a healthy sign.
And that is why I should be sorry to see an end put to all contacts between East and West, contacts that have been built up with difficulty over the last 10 years. I believe that these contacts help to accelerate this gradual process of evolution, to let in a little light and fresh air which would otherwise not penetrate the Iron Curtain. But, quite frankly, so long as the Russians are occupying Czechoslovakia by force and shooting down Czech civilians in the streets, I cannot imagine that there are many people in this country who will feel inclined to exchange deputations and delegations with them, or even, for that matter, to attend the otherwise most enjoyable performances of the Moscow State Ballet.
That brings me to how this crisis is likely to end. One thing seems abundantly clear. The Russians, from their own point of view, have made a mess of things. In Czechoslovakia they have so far failed to find any quislings to collaborate with them. They have also failed to find a pretext for all-out military action of the kind they used in Hungary. And finally they have failed to silence or subdue their victim. As a Yugoslav friend said to me the other day, this must be the first time on record that a successful full-scale Communist Party Congress has ever been held illegally in a Communist country.
And so, whatever the outcome of their action may be, it is hard to see how it can fail to be unfavourable to the Russians. If they persist in trying to hold down Czechoslovakia by force, I think that they will find in the long run that, quite apart from the universal odium they will incur, they may have bitten off more than even they can chew. Their rôle as occupiers will, I believe, be full, as it so often is, of unpleasant surprises, some of them perhaps from uncomfortably near home.
On the other hand, there is, I suppose, still a faint possibility that they may be going to think better of it, withdraw their troops, and settle for some kind of compromise solution. This would not be an easy thing for them to do, but it would certainly be infinitely preferable to the other course, both from their own point of view and that of everyone else concerned. From the way in which the whole thing has so far been handled, it has sometimes seemed as though the Russians must have been in two minds about the whole business—as though more than one view was held by more than one faction in the Kremlin. If this is so and there are people who hold a more moderate view, we can only hope that in the end it will prevail. If not—and specially if this aggression is followed by others—the outlook is indeed bleak.
As is well known, I was born in Czechoslovakia—in fact, in that province of Czechoslovakia that the Czechs were made to cede to Russia after the last war, Ruthinia.
I remember well the betrayal that I, though very young, and the whole nation of Czechoslovakia felt at being let down by Great Britain and France at Munich. There followed the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in due course and I found myself being harassed by Hungarian troops. To cut a long story short, the House might like to know that it was not just German officers who probably participated in the same invasion of Czechoslovakia; there were also Hungarians and Poles who participated in it and I will not be surprised if some of their senior officers and N.C.O.s were the very same people who did it then who repeated it this time.
With many thousands of other young people, when war broke out we tried to make our way illegally out of occupied Czechoslovakia to France to join the Czech expeditionary force. I, with many hundreds, was arrested by the Hungarians and imprisoned. Some of us managed to escape. The extraordinary thing is that it was the Yugoslavs then, as it is today, who helped us across Europe with false papers and money. Eventually I, with many thousands of others, ended up in the Czech expeditionary corps in France.
After the defeat of France, and in spite of our disappointment of Britain's attitude, I, with many thousands, came to Britain as a Czech soldier. I did this as did many other soldiers and airmen, because, when the chips were finally down, Britain was willing to stand against Hitler alone.
Like several other hon. Members, I have just come back from Yugoslavia, where I had discussions with ordinary Czechs, some of them in official positions, as well as Yugoslavs. In my opinion, the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and any right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who are using this debate as an opportunity to fan the embers of the cold war and as an opportunity to panic this Government into extra defence expenditure are doing a disservice not only to this country, but to the people of Czechoslovakia.
I hope that the Government and our people will not permit themselves to be panicked into that kind of situation. Is it not a fact that whereas we, together with most of the world, condemn the Russians for their dastardly act in invading by trickery this defenceless country in the way they did, that invasion has not altered thestatus quo? The position as between East and West remains the same. It would be utterly wrong to give up thedetente for which we have all fought, worked, and made sacrifices, merely because of this ghastly Russian invasion. It would be no service to the Czech people—not to mention us—to do this.
From the discussions that I have had with the people of Yugoslavia I have concluded that the real reason why the Russians have been driven into this mad act is not because of their fear of Germany. In truth, the Russians, with their nuclear arsenal, do not fear a resurgent Germany. That does not mean to say that they are not willing to use the German excuse to bamboozle the world and to say that they should be given a free hand in Eastern Europe and be allowed to do all kinds of things because they are afraid of the Germans. Who is the big bad wolf in Europe today? Who has the bigger and nastier teeth?
The reason for the Russian invasion is that the Czechs, under Mr. Dubcek and President Svoboda, were on the verge of holding their official party conference, and the resolutions from their appropriate constituencies, works and regions made it absolutely clear that there would be a clean sweep—that all the old Stalinists would disappear and that a completely revived, reconstituted and refurbished Communist Party would come into existence, opposed to what the Russians believe is centralised democracy. They believe that it should be a case of, "You do what you are told by the top, or else."
The Czech Communists were willing and able to begin an experiment along the lines of that of Yugoslavia, and the Russians decided, upon the call of those conservative Czech elements who were going to be kicked out, that unless they nipped this development in the bud before the new committee was called into being they would never again be able to stop some of this freedom from seeping into their own party, their own army, and their own satellite forces. They were afraid to let the shaft of light into their own party. After 50 years of Communism they felt unwilling or unable to talk any other language but that of the tommy-gun and the tank. They may well have gained for themselves a few years' respite, in which their kind of dictatorship can prevail and their way of democracy can continue. That is for them to judge.
We must condemn the Opposition for misusing the opportunity afforded by this debate to condemn the Russians for their ghastly action in Czechoslovakia, and using it as a drive to get further expenditure on rearmament and thus to bring the cold war back into Europe and across the world. It is not necessary. The Opposition appear to have learnt nothing. They have forgotten nothing, just as the Russians have not. They still talk about the oil in the Middle East and forget what happened at Suez. It is nonsensical to continue talking in this way.
Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the let-down that he felt in the 1930s, when Britain did not intervene to prevent the rape of Czechoslovakia, was necessary because we were so badly armed at the time? Was it not the Labour Party that had been pursuing the policy of disarmament, and is not his party making the same mistake today?
I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not reply to that point.
For 30 years our people have had a special feeling for the people of Czechoslovakia because of the way in which we left them in the lurch at Munich. This makes it very important that everybody in this country should do what he can to support the Czechs today against this brutal Soviet oppression. The Government can and have offered their sympathy. Their early statement that they will not recognise any puppet Czech regime has been of inestimable help to the present negotiators in Moscow, and has stiffened Governments across the world and impelled them to notify the Russians, publicly or privately, that they will take the same line.
I agree with the Government that it would be wrong to enter into formal trade wars or cultural battles. That would do nobody any good. But I hope, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested, that the members of the Red Army Ensemble will have their visas either not granted or withdrawn. It really would be a nonsense to have that lot coming here today.
For the rest, what can we do to help the Czech people? In my opinion, it must be as little as possible in the form of Government action. Any attempt to turn the heroism and suffering of the Czech people into a weapon of the cold war for stiffening the posture of N.A.T.O. against the Warsaw Pact would harm the Czech people. One hon. Member asked why Her Majesty's Government did not take the Czech issue to the United Nations. I do not know what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will say, but I can tell hon. Members that the Czech Government would have objected most strongly to any member of N.A.T.O. taking this issue to the United Nations, because the Czechs felt certain that they could solve this issue with the Russians. They believed that they had a firm agreement with the Russians.
What is the use of comparing Hungary with Czechoslovakia? Hungary was allied with Germany against Russia, so the Russians took the kind of measures which the Czechs never believed the Russians would adopt against them. What the Czech people really need is action by individuals. In view of the illegal and treacherous invasion by the U.S.S.R. and her four satellites, and in support of the Czech people, any persons who have booked holidays, tours or visits of any kind to the Soviet Union or to the countries which are assisting them should consider cancelling or postponing such visits until we hear what is the outcome of the negotiations in Moscow. Ordinary citizens should avail themselves of every opportunity to protest against this invasion in the strongest possible way.
There is something which everybody can do, to take up a suggestion made by theSunday Mirror. If people can think of nothing better to do, they should send a postcard to Mr. Brezhnev telling him how they abhor this ghastly act of oppression against this friendly country. Such steps would prove extremely helpful and encouraging to the long-suffering Czechoslovak people.
Ostracism by individuals and organisations in cultural, scientific and sporting exchanges could be very effective. The splendid example of the T.U.C. in cancelling agreed fraternal visits to certain
countries is to be applauded. That action contrasts with that of the London Chamber of Commerce, the attitude of which is "Business as usual". Something which has disheartened the Czechoslovak people more than much else has been the attitude of some British businessmen, as epitomised by the deplorable statement made last Sunday by Mr. James Scott, Chairman of the Russian Section of the London Chamber of Commerce, who is quoted as saying:
I arranged some time ago to visit Moscow next month in search of orders and I have no intention of cancelling the trip. Business is business.
British businessmen seeking Russian trade, ballet or music lovers seeking Russian culture or even simply tourists seeking Polish or Russian holidays cannot carry on as if this rape of Czechoslovakia had not happened. As individuals, not as action by the Government, we must take a leaf out of the Czech people's book. We should not forget what checkmated the Russians. It was the willingness of the ordinary Czechs and Slovaks to stand up and say, "Certainly, you have occupied us, but you do not own us. You cannot command us and you will not control us. We will take instructions only from our legal Government". This is what we want from the people of Britain and the peoples of the free world. It would be utterly wrong to try to do this through Government channels.
I conclude with a quotation from a Czech student in Prague as published inThe Times today. This student ends his message by saying:
The only way to help us is not to forget Czechoslovakia. Please do help our passive resistance by escalating the pressure of public opinion all over the world. Be still with us when Czechoslovakia will cease to be news.
The House listened with interest and, in some respects, with sympathy to the personal experiences of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell). I agree with him about the cause of. the Russian attitude to and action in Czechoslovakia; especially, indeed, pure eyewash for Russia to pretend that it is still afraid of Germany. But I am not sure that I understood some of his other remarks. For example, does he wish Her Majesty's Government to pursue thedétente, while individual Britons should not?
Oh. As for N.A.T.O., it is not simply to help the Czechs that my hon. Friends wish to strengthen our defences and see to our moat. It is to help ourselves. I am afraid that it is the hon. Gentleman who has learned nothing and has forgotten nothing—for his is exactly the attitude taken by his party in the 'thirties, when the Germans were the aggressors.
I express my appreciation to the Government for having recalled both Houses of Parliament. This was absolutely necessary for two reasons. The first—and here I disagree with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), who talked such sound common sense about Europe—is to enable us to express horror and detestation at the abominable crime against the Czechoslovak people committed by the Soviet Union what the Prime Minister called "their unhappy client States". The phrase "this abominable crime" was used by Peking, and while it is correct, it might have been more telling had it been used by a country which had not committed exactly the same crime against Tibet.
But, above all, it is right that this great forum of the nation should express its unbounded admiration for the incredible courage—though "incredible" is not the word which those who know the Czech and Slovak peoples would use—the immense courage, fortitude, determination and patience of the Czech and Slovak peoples. I wonder how many other nations would respond to such events in such a way? Not a quisling voice has yet been heard and these gallant people have behaved in the true Masaryk tradition.
Apart from the tragic consequences for the Czech and Slovak people, the most serious results of this crime are the possibilities of further aggression, and even war; its devastatingly destructive effect on East-West relations and on any chance there might have been to reunite Europe; something which has been the declared objective of both Front Benches for many years.
It is especially grievous to me and to some hon. Members in the House who have been trying, in a small way, to bridge the gap between this country and some of those behind the iron curtain. I have the honour of being the chairman of the governing body of the Great Britain-East Europe Centre, and the hon. Members for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) and Faversham (Mr. Boston) are its vice-chairmen.
The prospectus says that the Centre is an
…independent organisation, enjoying the full support of Her Majesty's Government and of the two Opposition Parties…which…aims to become a forum where Europeans from the East and West of the Continent will meet in a new. more personal, less official way.
It was only last November, when the Centre was opened by the then Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Belper, that I felt able to say at the opening ceremony, recalling the words of Sir Winston Churchill, 22 years ago:
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
I felt able then to say:
Happily, in more recent times that curtain has begun to lift.
I expressed my belief that the Governments and peoples of Europe were becoming ever more conscious of the history and culture which they shared in common and were slowly becoming aware that despite ideological differences it was suicidal to sub-divide this small subcontinent by such a barrier. I went on to describe the object of the Centre as being
to intensify the efforts, of this country at least to promote a closer understanding between the people of the United Kingdom and the peoples of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Roumania by fostering closer cultural, economic, social and other contacts between ourselves and those peoples.
We do not beg anyone's friendship. We simply believe that, in this short life, and in this small world, it will be to the lasting advantage of all our differing peoples to be friends; and that, to be friends, it is necessary to get to know each other much better.
When opening the Centre, the then Foreign Secretary said:
I see the creation of this Centre as one more practical step to bring our peoples into closer touch with each other…We are all working for a time when the present
divisions in Europe will have vanished; when, in all our variety, we are united in building a flourishing continent which, prosperous and strong will pull its true weight in the world. That is what this Centre is about.
Never has our Centre attempted in any way, overtly or covertly, to sow dissension between these Governments and then-peoples. We have recognised these Governments for the same reason that Her Majesty's Government recognise them, because they are, in fact, the Governments of those countries. We have been called fools and asked if we really believe that the Communist leopard could ever change its spots, but we thought that was a defeatist and static attitude and that the effort seemed worth making. Well, was it? I still think so.
The vice-chairmen and I, when we had got together as quickly as we could after the invasion, sent the following telegram to the Czech Embassy in London:
Request your Excellency transmit to your Government an expression of the deepest sympathy of all true friends of the Czech and Slovak peoples in this tragic hour and of the horror and detestation with which we have learned of this invasion of your country in cynical and brutal breach of every pledge made both directly and through the United Nations.
We applaud the courageous stand taken by Rumania, but for the time being how can we continue to hold out the hand of friendship to the official representatives of the Governments of Bulgaria and Hungary? The governing body of the Centre will shortly be meeting to decide upon our future action.
What should we do as a country? There have been many suggestions. I shall not take up the time of the House for very long in making some more. We have, of course, and rightly, referred the whole case to the United Nations; some people think far too late, but at any rate it has been done. The Security Council, by 10 votes in favour, two against and with three abstentions, has passed the resolution condemning the armed intervention and confirming the right of the Czechoslovak Republic to political independence and territorial integrity. Of course, the Soviet veto was certain. Perhaps the abstention of two Commonwealth countries India and Pakistan was not. But we voted for the resolution and its operative paragraph 3
Calls upon Member States of the United Nations to exercise their diplomatic influence
upon the U.S.S.R. and other countries concerned with a view to bringing about the prompt implementation of the Resolution.
What influence can we exercise? I do not think that we can possibly be seen to carry on just as if nothing had happened. There seems to be a fatal facility—not, of course, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, but of other apologists—for finding excuses. For example, the Russian action in Czechoslovakia has been compared by more than one in this House and many outside to the American action in Vietnam. No just comparison is possible. Into South Vietnam the Americans went at the express invitation of the legitimate Government there.
I do not think that that is absolutely fair to our American allies.
We have also heard others saying that it is not as if the Czechs had done as Hungary had done—threatened to leave the Warsaw Pact. As if, if they had done that, it would have excused the Russian action. Of course it would not. Nothing can excuse the Russian action.
What influence can we exercise? I certainly would not recommend our withdrawing our mission because that does not imply approval of a Government, but merely the fact of its existence. I am, however, in two minds about cultural exchanges. When I say "in two minds" I mean that. I am not sure on which side I would come down, on that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) or on that of the two Front Benches. I would certainly cancel the visit of the Red Army Choir. That goes without saying, but I am in two minds about the Olympic Games and the Exhibition at Earl's Court.
Unfortunately, the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) has left the Chamber. She is a constituent of mine and I know that she has long cherished illusions about the Soviet Union. Those illusions must have been shattered. She made a brave effort to try to pick up some of the pieces, but how can any Western statesman think it worth while to sit down at a table with those people in the Kremlin today? How could they do that with the best will in the world, which I am sure we all have?
Under duress the Czechs are doing it, but can anyone believe that these men who have the honour of a Hitler and the ethics of an Attila would carry out any engagement they might make a second longer than it suited them to do so? This is what makes the situation so very desperate. Let the hon. Lady and others who think like her recall the poignant words of Mr. Dubcek:
How could they do this to me? I have devoted my whole life to co-operation with the Soviet Union
What is quite certain is that Communism and individual liberty are incompatible. If we want to protect our way of life and to preserve peace with freedom we must be prepared, if necessary, to fight for it. That means in cooperation with our allies because we could do nothing alone, and that means-strengthening N.A.T.O. I was appalled to hear the defeatist speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) who, apparently, has assumed the rôle of champion of the Left. It may mean conscription, but does the right hon. Gentleman prefer conquest to conscription. Surely this event must have aroused the most apathetic into realisation that N.A.T.O. is still necessary.
I very much hope that Dr. Kiesinger's suggestion will be taken up, because there is a possibility at this moment that we may be able to influence the French. I cannot accept that we ought not to meet with our N.A.T.O. allies because wavering Russians and others behind the Iron Curtain might object. How much more encouragement would the "hawks" in the Kremlin derive from the fact that we sit here and do nothing.
My last words are to remind every hon. Member of the words spoken by a young Russian in the street to a B.B.C. reporter this week:
Why didn't we go all the way and occupy West Germany while we were at it?
As the House knows, I am associated with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) in the organisation which has been set up to try to improve relations on a personal level with a number of the countries which are still behind the Iron Curtain. In the latter part of his speech, with not all of which I agreed, the hon. Gentleman put to the House the extraordinary problems which we have always had, and which have not really changed, when we in Western and democratic countries deal with the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. In my view, the situation has not changed. It has always been so. There has been an appalling illusion about the possibility of a free exchange of views or even of trust with and in the rulers of the Soviet Union as it is at present governed.
We have spent four or five days with a sense of utter outrage and frustration—this has been true especially for those of us who remember all the events leading up to 1938—a sense of outrage and frustration at the appalling action taken by the Soviet Union now, including, perhaps, the most cynical action of all—as I could not help intervening to point out in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short)—the bringing of the East German army into Czechoslovakia again, an army which, as everyone knows, has many officers who are themselves ex-Nazi officers.
No, I do not accept that. In any case, the West German army has invaded no one's country and will not do so. The East German army, on the other hand, has raped Czechoslovakia for the second time in 30 years, and that is something which stinks in the nostrils of every decent person
I had some connection with Czechoslovakia fairly recently when I was in office, as I lead a team of economists to discuss economic planning with the Czechs and with other countries in Eastern Europe. I saw what was happening and could see how it would develop. We met Dr. Sik, the economic theoretician behind the changes which have been taking place. There is no doubt that the economic changes and the movement towards a market economy have necessitated a movement towards greater political freedom, and this has met the intellectual developments and the moves among the intelligentsia to which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) referred so movingly and so well.
We met the present Prime Minister, Dr. Cernik, who was at that time chairman of the Planning Commission, and I later had the honour to receive him when he came to this country as the guest of the Government and, in particular, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown). We got on together very well while he was in this country, and I feel very deeply about his present position. The Government must continue to press for the safety and the lives of these courageous men.
Perhaps one of the most extraordinary developments in modern times—one might say that it may well be significant technologically—is the ingenuity and the courage of the radio and television staffs of Czechoslovakia. I do not believe that what they have done was not planned in advance. It must have been brilliantly organised. It shows the possibility that exists nowadays for the dissemination of information and intellectual support, news, and so forth, which it may not be possible any longer to suppress. Whether that is true or not, the radio and television staffs have to some extent been the heroes of the Czech resistance.
After these events, the world political situation must be worse. The movement towardsdétente is temporarily halted. The "hawks" in all countries will rear their heads—or whatever the appropriate expression be. The electoral fight in the United States will undoubtedly be thrown to Mr. Nixon, whether that be good or bad. The situation in Czechoslovakia and the situation of the other Iron Curtain countries is bound to be rather horrible in the immediate future.
On the other hand, I agree with those who have said that there is no real change in the military situation. Whether or not we should reassess our defence policy is another matter, but what has happened has not changed the military balance of power. Now, we have to wait. We have to wait because we do not quite know how political developments in the Eastern European countries will go.
I agree, also, with those who have said—perhaps the two best speeches on this point came from my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North and from the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean)—that this is not really Russian imperialism. It is, on the other hand, an expression of desperate fear within the very divided body of Russian leaders at the opening of a small window of freedom and independence.
It is an illusion, an illusion shared by many people, and, perhaps, by some of my hon. Friends in particular, to believe that there can be a limit to the development of freedom or the development of changes in the economy. Once the process starts, it gathers pace, and it is this fear, I am sure, which has caused the Russians to act. The movement cannot be suppressed and it will not be suppressed. Whatever Government finally come to power in Czechoslovakia as a result of the discussions now going on in Moscow, the movement towards freedom in all these countries, including the Soviet Union, will continue.
However, I agree with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and others who have said that our own essential interest lies in the maintenance of the N.A.T.O. Alliance. I am not in a position to judge whether it needs strengthening militarily, but I am con- vinced that it must be maintained. It is a tragedy that there is nothing we can do to help Czechoslovakia. Indeed, there is nothing we can do in a military sense to help any of the countries on the other side of the Iron Curtain. But since 1948 there has been no advance of the Iron Curtain and there must be no advance. The reason why this is so is that N.A.T.O. has been in existence, and, if anything, demonstrates that it must remain in existence the events of the past few days have done just that, although, as I say, they have not actually changed the military situation.
I think that I have made up my mind about cultural exchanges. It would be impossible to receive a Red Army ensemble in this country now. The immediate feelings of disgust have made it necessary to cancel some engagements and for people to refuse to attend some cultural activities. However, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper in saying that we must not pretend to powers which we do not have. My right hon. Friend was referring, I think, more specifically to the military situation, but it is generally true that we shall not change the situation east of the Iron Curtain, and it is no good pretending that we can by military action. The East European countries will change their situation themselves when the time comes.
All we can do to help that progress is to maintain as much as we can our personal relations, particularly personal cultural relations, the sort of thing which the Great Britain-East European Centre was set up to encourage. It will be more difficult now because, in the next year or two, we may well find that visas are given only to rather more conformist and orthodox persons from the other countries, and we shall find more difficulty in exchanging ideas, particularly political ideas, than we have found in the recent past. But that situation will improve again after a time.
One of the great problems in connection with cultural relations with countries east of the Iron Curtain is that when they are on a large scale or of an official nature—the Red Amy ensemble is a good example—they inevitably tend to be extremely "hard-line" affairs probably bringing their political commissars with them, and so on, and they are used entirely for political propaganda on behalf of their home regimes. This does not apply, on the other hand, to the smaller-scale and more personal exchanges. This has been increasingly so in exchanges with other countries behind the Iron Curtain, if not the Soviet Union itself.
Therefore, I come to the conclusion that we should maintain these cultural relations. I believe that we must try to do so because they are the only way in which the very large and increasing number of people in these countries who are undoubtedly trying to embrace the ideas of political and cultural freedom can get anything out of the West. I would not be surprised if, in a year or two, the effect on the Communist world and the Soviet Union of this action in Czechoslovakia is quite startling, not because of what is done from outside but because of what is likely to happen inside these countries themselves.
The cruel limitation of the national and personal freedoms of the Czechs and Slovaks and the brutal and contemptible way in which this was done has shocked the world and isolated Soviet Russia and her satellites. I want us to face the fact that there are two forces meeting now in Czechoslovakia. One is Czech and Slovak nationalism and the other is the power of Russian imperialism. Czech and Slovak nationalism has a very attractive face. It stands for personal and national freedom and is life enhancing. But Russian imperialism is ugly and repulsive and stands against freedom. It is a way of death.
But there are other imperialist Powers in the world and they have all without exception condemned this action of Russian imperialism. Some of these other imperialist Powers are themselves not without some blemishes on their record, and one remembers today the action of what I would call American imperialism in Vietnam. I should think that this has gravely compromised the moral position of the United Statesvis-à-vis Czechoslovakia.
So is the position of our own Government compromised because of the support they have given to American imperialism in Vietnam. Of course, the Americans were "invited" there to stand for democracy and we are told by Mr. Brezhnev that he, too, was "invited" into Czechoslovakia to stand there for Communism against democracy. It seems to me, therefore, that this is not an ideology that is involved primarily, but rather the fact of imperialism, which is the extension of the power of one State over the territory, people and resources of another. This action in Czechoslovakia is imperialist.
I do not see that this means that Russia now has necessarily any passionate allegiance to Marxist Communism. That is not why it has been driven to trample on Czech freedom. We have heard of Russia's fear, but it is fear for its own power, for its imperialist power, which drives it to do this sort of thing. It is not allegiance to any ideology which drives Russia to do this.
Perhaps one who comes from a small nation can see this a little more clearly. It puts me in mind of the boy in Andersen's fairy tale. He can see that the Russian invader in Czechoslovakia is not attired in any glorious Communism at all, any more than the American invader in Vietnam is attired in the glory of democracy. They are all just naked imperialists—and unlovely sights they make.
But in our anger at this situation we should remember that there are many nations in Russia which have suffered more than an invasion of their territory and have been incorporated in Russia itself. We should never forget that. For example, there are Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and other nations. They all hope one day to recover their freedom. The three Baltic countries placed some gold in safe keeping in London in 1940, looking forward to the day when they would again be free. But our Government made a deal last year about that gold and it is no longer available to those countries.
My own sympathy, naturally, is, quite unforced, with the Czechs and the Slovaks. I have no difficulty in imagining their anguish in their present position. It is true that Welsh freedom has not been limited. That is because we have no national freedom to limit.
But does not the hon. Gentleman realise that it is because the Slovaks and the Czechs are sticking together and resisting any attempt to divide them with nationalist appeals to Slovakia that Czechoslovakia has stood firm as a nation?
I am glad of that intervention. I hope that my own people will listen. I am asking the Welsh people to stand together in the same way, but it is a fact that we have no national freedom. Freedom is a positive thing. It is freedom to act in a certain way, and we have no freedom to act in Wales. We are governed entirely from outside.
It is a long story. We have been denied it for centuries. We have political movements in Wales whose policy it is to continue denial of national freedom. I say, shame to them. The fact is that we cannot act for ourselves. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I will illustrate. I had not intended to do so, but since I am being interrupted on this point I will recall to hon. Members what happened to me when I first entered this House. I cannot imagine a worse position for the Czechs and Slovaks to find themselves in of being unable to speak their own national languages in their own parliament. Yet here, in the only Parliament Wales has, I am not allowed to speak a word of Welsh.
This position is maintained because we are told that what the world needs is unity and not division. Of course I agree that the world needs unity,, but tell that to the Czechs. Do we not want a border between Czechoslovakia and Soviet Russia and the other satellite countries? Is a border always a bad thing? I would say that it is not.
It is strange that there should be so many who will applaud Czech or Slovak nationalism while denying the same kind of thing in the countries of Britain. It smacks of a little hypocrisy. The Czechs have stood together with the Slovaks, as we have been reminded. But they did so because of their consciousness of their own national heritages. Yesterday, this sentence appeared in theSunday Times:
Awkwardly for the Great Powers, this brave republic remains the home of a superbly durable nationalism.
That is a fact. What do they want? Last week,The Times said, approvingly:
Czechs were not asking for liberty doled out in driblets from above. They were wanting a new society, with initiative coming from below.
Splendid. That is what every nation wants and this is our aim, too. It is approved by Her Majesty's Government for Czechoslovakia, but not for Wales. It is approved by President de Gaulle for Czechoslovakia, but not for Brittany. It is approved by General Franco for Czechoslovakia, but not for Catalonia or for the Basques. If we are talking about freedom for the Czechs let us be consistent and talk about freedom for small nationalities everywhere. Let them have the right to live their own lives in freedom.
Not only are the aims of Czech and Slovak nationalism good, but their behaviour is splendid. In the face of Russian barbarism they have shown the strength of non-violent resistance.
That is true. They have stuck together. They have shown the world how the highest values in life can be defended, but not by violence. In this crisis, their own armed forces are worse than useless to them. If they employed their armed forces it would be catastrophic for Czechoslovakia and probably for Europe and the world. They are defending their values by moral strength. That is not starry-eyed theory, but hard-headed realism. That is what is happening.
Outside Czechoslovakia—indeed, in this Chamber—we see the reaction of the blind Samsons who rely on their own armed strength and who seek still more strength because of this crisis—the kind of strength which is in danger of bringing the whole world down about our ears and which might mean that this is the last living generation on earth.
The Czechs are showing us a different way. To me, at any rate, that is the great significance of what is happening in Czechoslovakia. They are placing the whole world in their debt. They are showing that they are capable of moral resistance—and they are able to show that because of their national solidarity; that is what is making it possible. Resistance of that kind can never be effective in any country unless there is that national solidarity. That is a part of the function of nationalism. When the strength of the human spirit is expressed in that way, it becomes quite unconquerable.
Czechoslovakia has provided a worthy example of this kind of resistance to take its place beside the story of the Norwegians during the war, because the Norwegians employed the same methods against Hitler and his army. It is possible for Czechoslovakia to do this because it seems that they have very few Quislings. It was possible for the Norwegians to do it because they too had very few Quislings who were willing and anxious to be governed as part of the great German Reich. The history of these days in Czechoslovakia can help the whole world by helping to wean it from its blind faith in military power. Nothing is more urgent than that.
Time may prove this example of Czechoslovakia to have been a mortal blow to the Russian dinosaur. As a result, some great good may come to the whole of humanity out of this great evil. Already, the Czechs have demonstrated the superior power of moral strength. I hope with all my heart that they will continue to rely on it, and then their freedom—their full freedom—will be a matter of time.
I salute the Czechs and the Slovaks. Through this House I should like to express the Welsh people's deep sense of gratitude to them for what they have already done for the world.
I agree with the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) on one matter: it may well be that at the end of these great events the most important discovery will be the power of passive resistance. In that much I agree with him. However, I think that from the point of view of his own argument he used an unfortunate instance because, as the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) pointed out in an interruption, in fact it has been the association of two nations, the Slovaks and the Czechs, which has provided this power of resistance. I believe that the Welsh, the Scots and the English together will continue for many years to provide the same power.
I believe that the Government were absolutely right to recall Parliament. It would have been most deplorable if that had not been done. Although, if I may say so, I thought that my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) made an excellent speech, I could not agree with him on one point. He seemed to suggest that whereas it was not right for Parliament to meet to condemn the Russian leaders, he would have been satisfied for Parliament to meet for the declared purpose of condemning the President of the French Republic.
However that may be, Parliament has been recalled. It was right that we should meet, if only for reasons which my right hon. Friend stated so eloquently. In such a situation it is right that we should say as clearly as we can in this, the main forum of the nation, how strongly and in what unqualified terms we condemn what the Soviet Government have done. In the same breath we should say how much we admire the heroism, the patience and the determination which have been displayed by the Czechs. For that purpose alone it was right for Parliament to be recalled. So far, we are all agreed.
But it is also right that we should discuss matters on which we disagree because that, too, is one of the purposes of Parliament. I can well understand the reasons why the Prime Minister said that he did not wish to speculate on what might be the outcome of the discussions at this moment taking place in Moscow. But the rest of us, and the country and the world, are bound to speculate about these matters; they are central to the whole argument. All depend on how it turns out. Even if the Russians decide now to withdraw their troops, that will not alter the condemnation of their original action. But it will certainly alter the situation with which we have to deal. I am sure that all of us most earnestly hope that the conditions which my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper expressed so succinctly and intelligently will be accepted by the Soviet Government. If that were to occur, there would be a transformation of the situation. If that were to occur, it would indeed be true that the power of passive resistance had secured its most important political victory in the whole history of mankind.
Therefore, we cannot refrain from speculating about these possibilities—and there are at least two. There may be more. If the discussions in Moscow end in deadlock and a fresh resort by the Russians in Prague to all the apparatus of tyranny, then the situation will be even bleaker than it is today, and we shall have to consider the steps which this and other countries will need to take to deal with such a situation. In such circumstances, Parliament should be recalled again. I am strongly in favour of the Government consulting Parliament on all these matters.
But it is also possible—as we all hope—that the second alternative may occur. Nobody knows for certain whether the reports, being received via Bonn, of disputes inside the Soviet Government are correct, but it is very likely that they are correct. We do not know for certain whether Mr. Brezhnev and Mr. Kosygin were among those who opposed the military expedition. We do not know, but if that were so it might alter the whole situation and it might be one of the factors which would lead to the possibility of the Russian Government being forced by the weight of public opinion, and even more by the action of the Czechs, to change their mind. I certainly hope that that occurs.
If we wish it to occur, if that is our paramount hope, as an outcome of the whole situation, we must ensure that our actions today are governed, first of "all, by seeing that we do everything possible to assist that outcome. That is why the speeches of the right hon. Members for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and, I dare say, the speech which we shall hear later from the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), should be so strongly condemned.
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes in advance to say that he repudiates the speeches of the right hon. Members for Streatham and Kingston- upon-Thames, no one will be more gratified than myself. By the simple way in which I have illustrated the difference between them, I hope that it will almost be unnecessary for the right hon. Gentleman to make a speech at all.
But let us suppose that the speeches of the right hon. Members for Streatham and Kingston-upon-Thames were to be flashed across to the Kremlin during the present discussions. Nothing could play into the hands of the "hawks" in the Kremlin more. Those speeches, if reported there, could be used against Mr. Dubcek and his colleagues, who I am sure, are doing everything they can to stand up for the rights of Czechoslovakia. It is, therefore, disgraceful that such speeches should have been made. This is partly because they show such a misreading of the situation. If it were the case that such a second development were to arise, then what will have happened will accord much more closely with the analysis of the situation given by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), who speaks with much more authority on these matters than either the right hon. Member for Streatham or Kingston-upon-Thames—and pretty well the rest of the other side of the House put together.
The hon. Member knows a good deal about it. And what is the central point of his analysis—contradicted, I am sorry to say, by some of his conclusions? In my opinion, it is that the Soviet Government have not merely committed a crime—we all agree about that—but have committed also a gigantic blunder, one which does enormous damage to Soviet power and influence throughout the world. That is the case, and what we are dealing with is not an act of strength by the Soviet Government, but an act of weakness. This weakness could be such that instead of living in the presence of an event which may be compared primarily to what happened in 1948 or 1938, we may instead be living in the presence of something quite different—in the presence of something which might be called a gigantic Bay of Pigs operation, or a gigantic Suez operation, if that is not a reference too indelicate for hon. Members opposite. It may be that a great Power will be compelled to retreat. That is the hope we must all have and work for.
In my opinion, such a development would accord more with the facts as we see them than the other alternative explanations. If one looks at Soviet policy over the last three or four years it is not one that impresses us as that of a Government with a single-minded, steadfast idea of how to serve its best interests throughout the world. That has not been the aspect presented by the Soviet Government—it has been much more a policy which has turned this way and that, not knowing exactly how a foreign policy should be conducted. The people in the Kremlin have been in a position of weakness partly because of these events in Eastern Europe. They have not known how to deal with them. How to deal with the upsurge of freedom does not appear in the Soviet textbooks, and they have not known how to deal with it.
One of the most intelligent ways to which we might try to deal with this new situation was suggested, strangly enough, by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). He was one of the few Members who so far have put their fingers on a very important aspect. He said—and I do not mean that this provides any excuse whatever for Soviet action—that these developments are concerned with security in Central Europe. Of course they are. If we all get what we are hoping for—an agreement whereby Russian troops withdraw from the places that they now occupy—there may be a fresh opportunity for a new security agreement. That was one of the hopes that the Czechs had. If we had had negotiations previously providing for a new security pact in Europe which would help to lift the fears of people in East and West, it might be that this appalling crime and tragedy in Central Europe would not have occurred.
The major conclusion which we should draw from this situation, contrary to what has been said opposite, is not military, but diplomatic. The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral was perfectly correct when he said that we should look afresh at how we should make proposals for providing for the security of Central Europe. There will have to be a new security system, according to which can give legitimate guarantees to the Soviet Union and the other countries in between.
We will have to do this precisely because of the upsurge of freedom in all these countries. It is not the peoples of the Warsaw Pact countries who have wanted to commit this crime against Czechoslovakia. Many are no doubt aghast at what has been done in their name. All these countries want to follow, in one way or another, the kind of road taken by Yugoslavia or Rumania, or the road which the Czechs were seeking.
How will we encourage them to do it? By saying, "Oh no. We are to encourage you to develop in a much freer way on your side of Europe by consolidating the N.A.T.O.bloc into a much tighter military organisation."? That is the very opposite to what we should do. If that is our reaction and if, Heaven forfend, the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham became the policy of Her Majesty's Government, we would have drawn all the wrong conclusions from these events, and would now be heading back towards the worst days of the cold war.
It has been rightly said on both sides of the House, although not by the right hon. Gentlemen I mentioned, that it would be extreme folly for us to say that the whole idea of the possibility of adétente is gone, particularly, and the whole of my speech is delivered on this basis, as we are still speculating about what may be the outcome of these present critical negotiations in Moscow.
There has been some reference to Vietnam. I will not delay the debate by elaborating on this, but I must say this much: there are tens of millions of people all over the world who think that there is a very close parallel between Vietnam and what has happened in Czechoslovakia. There are 600,000 American troops in Vietnam. In my opinion, they are there in defiance of the Charter of the United Nations. Certainly, the massive and continued bombing of people in North Vietnam is in defiance of any rights accorded to any power under the United Nations. Such action has been condemned time and again by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and it has been condemned, whatever may be the various arguments of hon. Gentlemen, by the vast masses of people all over the world.
There is an almost unanimous verdict of condemnation of what the Russians have done in Czechoslovakia, but equally there is a very wide measure of condemnation of what the Americans still seek to do in Vietnam. Our Government would be in a much stronger position to put forward their policies for Europe if they were carrying out the same policies, and standing by the same principles in Asia—and, incidentally, thereby executing the official policies of the Labour Party—in opposing what we regard as American aggression in Vietnam.
These; two operations in different continents cannot be separated and it is foolish in a debate of this nature for us to think that we can talk only of Europe and leave aside affairs in Asia, when more have been killed in Vietnam in the last week than in Europe.
One more matter. I do not say this offensively to the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, but I do say it directly. I think that it is a pity that the Opposition selected him to speak on this occasion. In dealing with Czechoslovakia it is wrong and unwise, and not in the interests of this country, that one of the main spokesmen in this House should be one of the few surviving "men of Munich ". It would be more graceful if he had forgone this privilege.
I remember very well, I shall never forget, the last broadcast that came out of Czechoslovakia when the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were helping to deal with the affairs of that country. I remember when the German troops marched into Prague the radio stations were closed down. They were not able to conduct the brilliant operations that the Czechs are managing this time. I shall remember to my dying day the last message that came over the radio from Prague:
We bequeath our sorrows to the French and English people.
That is what happened in March, 1939. For the reasons I have given, I believe that we can have more hopes now, but I think that this depends partly upon the wisdom with which we act. I believe that the way in which the Government have approached the question shows that they have that wisdom in dealing with this situation. I think that they will continue to display that wisdom all the better by rejecting the advice of the right hon.
Gentleman the Member for Streatham and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames all the old cold warriors who have gone into battle again so eagerly in this debate-—and by rejecting, also, the advice that may come from an old "man of Munich", however much he may have suffered a conversion in the interim.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I raise it now before you leave the Chair and the Deputy-Speaker takes over. I recognise the tremendous difficulties you must have in selecting speakers, but I wonder whether I can ask your advice. I do not raise the matter facetiously, but I wonder whether, if one had been a sponsor of an Early Day Motion, which had received a substantial number of signatures, and the subject becomes debated, the possibility of being called would have been greater than normal?
The hon. Member is most ingeniously pleading that the Chair will call him in the debate. It is, however, for the Chair to decide who speaks in the debate. Mr. Dodds-Parker.
I should not like to embarrass the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) by saying that there are a number of occasions on which I agree with him, particularly when that wagging finger of his is pointed at his own Front Bench, but today is not one of those occasions. It is strange to hear from him the language of appeasement of the 'thirties, suggesting that we would be better off by negotiating from weakness rather than from strength; when he said that we should not try to consolidate Western Europe in dealing with the situation we face immediately ahead.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman in supporting what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) said, which is that we should take a new look at the security system in Central Europe, but this is no new idea. It started when my right hon. and learned Friend was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and during the time of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and it has gone on for 10 or 12 years. It is a form of the Rapacki and Gromulka plans which said that we should look for a thinning-out of forces, but in looking at the military aspect we should look at the political aspect, too, because that has clearly become more of a factor in what is going on in that part of the world.
To the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) I would say that one of my earliest memories was of a Welsh Prime Minister leading not only Welsh, but English, Scots and Irish, and people all over the world to victory in the First World War. Possibly Mr. Dubcek is the Lloyd George of Czechoslovakia at this moment.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) has gone into orbit again. If he had gone the other way in 1939, our paths might have met 29 years earlier, because 29 years ago today, on 26th August, I left Kracow—when I was helping Czechs to get out of Czechoslovakia to France following the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement on 22nd August. I have always admired very much the hon. Gentleman's gallantry in war and enterprise in peace. The only thing that seems odd to me is that he should find himself landed on the benches opposite.
This is a moment when we need the greatest number of speeches, so I will clip my remarks to the shortest duration.
First, I agree with all that has been said on both sides condemning utterly the action taken in the last week by the Soviet, and also by individual Communist leaderships of four European countries. I do not think that there is any need to underline this point. It has been made all over the world, and not only from our two Front Benches. The tragedy is continuing. At the moment, we still do not know the outcome of what is happening in Czechoslovakia. One thing that is quite clear is that, as happened with the Russian occupation of Hungary, there will be disillusion of the Russian troops, who were told that they were going in to liberate the people from Fascist beasts but, instead of that, found the ordinary people of the country.
There is, incidentally, no report that I have seen of the troops of those other four countries being committed. Perhaps it is too much of a risk to allow them to meet the Czechoslovaks, with whom they might possibly find themselves fraternising. But even if the Russians were to withdraw now, they will never remove this slain from Soviet repute.
I want to suggest what we in this House might do after seeing the rhetoric that goes on in the United Nations once again proving quite ineffective.
Will the Foreign Secretary tell us whether he is proposing not to look at general sanctions? We on this side have always been agreed that there is no future there, and perhaps he will tell us whether he has now come to the same conclusion. But there might be certain specific actions which, in the circumstances, he might consider taking with some advantage. One is to take another look at the continued giving of credit on quite a large scale to the Soviet. We know that the Russians have plenty of gold, and at this moment, if they were so anxious to buy from the West, they might well use some of their gold instead of coming to our hard-pressed taxpayers seeking credit.
Again, he might look at the import of timber. There was a time, 15 or 20 years ago, when we needed non-dollar timber, but there is plenty of timber now to be got from Canada and other countries such as that. It might make it easier for us to bring home to the Soviet that these agreements are not something we cannot look at if they behave as they have behaved recently.
On the cultural side, I agree with hon. Members on both sides that to bring the Red Army Choir here at this moment would be the utmost hypocrisy. Indeed, I cannot believe that the Russians will now send it here. Further, as I think the Prime Minister suggested, we might leave individuals to decide for themselves in some cases. One decision they might take is to send back their tickets for the two Soviet concerts which are to take place at the Albert Hall on 29th and 30th August. That is an individual gesture that people might make in the circumstances.
I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he will look at what the B.B.C. is up to. I have regretted for the last ten or 15 years the reduction very often in what the B.B.C. is sending, particularly into Eastern Europe. I suggest strengthening the power of the broadcasts, if that is technically possible, of the services in English. The growth of English in Russia and all over the world is of great consequence, and when travelling there I have found that they prefer, when they can get it, to listen to the B.B.C. news in English. There is always the slightest but unwarranted suggestion that what they hear in their own language is rather different. If we can get it through the Iron Curtain, now that jamming has started again, I believe that it will be well received beyond the countries of Eastern Europe and in Russia itself. When broadcasting to the Czechoslovaks it might be that they could be told that among those listening to this debate today is the late Mr. Jan Masaryk's secretary during the war years.
We must not penalise those sections of society in Eastern Europe, including Russia, whose ferment is leading to the situation in Eastern Europe and in Russia itself—the young, the opinion-formers, the artists and others who, in the last 10 or 15 years particularly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) has pointed out, have done so much to relieve the tension throughout these countries. To all who have been involved even in the smallest way, it is tremendously encouraging to see these developments which have taken place. Beyond this, I believe that these, as in so many countries, it is inevitable that we will get this striving for intellectual freedom resulting from education and contact with the rest of the world.
Neither must we by our actions damage the efforts towards adétente in the long term. That is of vital importance to all of us. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, who knows so much about this, said, it takes two to produce adétente. It is very difficult in present circumstances to suggest that we should push on, but I think we have to look beyond the immediate problem, beyond whatever happens in the next few days or weeks, to what is likely to happen in the years ahead.
How can we, therefore, say what we are going to do in that time? First, we must try to differentiate between the politburos—which are representative of, I believe, ever fewer political opinions—which take these decisions in those countries. They still hold the power of decision, which is the vital thing. We must not be misled about the opinion-formers who are fermenting throughout Eastern Europe and Russia and think that they are affecting the decisions taken by those who are sitting in the seats of power; and cannot be changed in the way that we are used to changing them in this country.
We must differentiate more and more between those smaller, but still immensely powerful groups of decision-takers and the great masses of the people, including many of the thinkers whom I mentioned, in Russia and these great countries of Europe. Let us never forget that. They have as long histories as European countries as we have in this country. They are sick of the conflicts and class warfare of Marxism. When they come to see what goes on in the outside world, they are looking for a way to get out of it.
Thirdly, I ask the Foreign Secretary what he is proposing to do about the future of N.A.T.O. Many of us who were brought up in the 1930s feel that we must negotiate from strength. This point was well put by the Leader of the Opposition in an admirable speech. Many of us feel that there has been a weakening of N.A.T.O. as a whole, and of this country's contribution to the defences not just of N.A.T.O. but of the free world outside the N.A.T.O. area. I ask the Foreign Secretary to follow up the suggestion of my right hon. Friend about a meeting of political heads on N.A.T.O.'s defence in the seven weeks before the House sits again.
Finally, to those of us who were in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939 it seems, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, that the Russians have made a tremendous blunder in the re-introduction particularly of the German troops. I was in the Sudetenland with Dai Grenfell, who was a friend of a number of hon. Members, in October, 1938, when the Czechs were coming back and German troops were moving in. From what I have seen of them recently, they are the same troops except for the swastika, which has been taken off. They have the same uniforms. It is an immense blunder to have brought the German troops in again. It will only reaffirm the determination of the Czech and Slovak peoples to maintain their hard-won, half-independence on their road back to being one of the most effective democracies in Europe, which they were between the wars.
While condemning utterly the Soviet action, let us welcome this latest upsurge of human freedom in the last few months in Czechoslovakia, for 30 years suppressed, which we hope will lead to better things for us all before too long.
Any statement of the horror and shock that we feel on account of what has happened in Europe during the past week would be an under-statement. Yet I must identify myself with what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said about being too precipitate and taking action which might intensify the cold war. I agree with what he said today and would issue that word of caution.
However, I have two suggestions to make. They are sincere. They may seem wild and harebrained to hon. Members, but they are given with sincerity. Therefore, I ask the House not to be too derisive when I make them.
First, I should like to identify myself with the view put forward inThe Times this morning by the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), who suggested that the Prime Minister should attempt to go to Moscow. If anybody is persona grata, it is the Prime Minister. He is very well thought of in those quarters, and he may be able to do something if he goes, or attempts to go, to that city. It may be that he will fail, but any attempt is worth the effort. I strongly suggest that he should attempt to go to Moscow to see whether he can succeed in disentangling this terrible situation.
My second suggestion may seem even wilder. America went into Vietnam, and there has been a terrible carnage there since. It is true that she was invited, as the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) said, by Diem, whom she put there, just as Russia was invited into Hungary by Radar, whom she had put there. But very many people in America and all over the world feel that America has committed a grave blunder there. However, America is so far committed that she cannot pull out without losing face before the world. She is stuck. Similarly, many people in Russia feel that a grave and tragic mistake has been made in sending troops into Czechoslovakia. But the Soviet Union cannot pull out without losing face and possibly without heads rolling in the Kremlin. She, also, is stuck.
Perhaps America could approach the Soviet Union with a view to doing a deal. Perhaps if America were to pull out of Vietnam the U.S.S.R. would pull out of Czechoslovakia and get ahead with her obligations as chairman of the 1954 Geneva Conference with Great Britain and hold free elections in Vietnam. Both countries would be pulled out of the impasse in which they find themselves now, but this time without losing face. Each country could say, "We have pulled out of the country that we have occupied but have obtained a corresponding advantage from the other country." Russia could say, "We have pulled out of Czechoslovakia, but America has pulled out of Vietnam, and so it is to our advantage to do so." America could say, "We have pulled out of Vietnam, but Russia has pulled out of Czechoslovakia and has assumed her obligations as chairman of the Geneva Conference with Great Britain, and so it is to our advantage to do so." Neither country would lose face.
This may be a fantastic idea, but fantastic ideas sometimes become a reality. I urge my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary deeply to consider making representations to the United States and Russia along those lines.
The hon. Member for Watford has made a very interesting suggestion connecting Vietnam and Czechoslovakia, but I shall be very surprised if it is one that is practicable. I think that these two events in different parts of the world can too easily be related. The difficulties which immediately come to my mind as a result of such a suggestion are immense, and I could not expect this hope, no doubt made with the best possible intentions, to be regarded as one likely to be fulfilled.
I think that it was right for the House of Commons to be recalled. Although we cannot do much, regrettably, in this situation, we can at least show clearly how deeply we in Britain feel as a country about the situation of the Czechoslovaks, and we can voice disgust for the Soviet action.
In our admiration for the Czechs and Slovaks, we see not only their spirit in the face of overwhelming forces and bullying methods, but their restraint in their conduct, allied to courage of a very high order. As a nation, they are demonstrating unity of purpose but without causing provocation to the Soviet Government. The Soviet Government would welcome riots or incidents which they could use as an excuse for putting down what they could describe as an uprising instigated from abroad. This was what the Soviet Union tried to make out was happening in Hungary, where the Hungarians—again, very courageous but more volatile—gave way to temptation and as "freedom fighters" indulged in throwing Molotov cocktails and resisting with force.
The Russians, it appears, have not been able to find willing Quislings, or Quislings at all, in Czechoslovakia. It seems, also, that they have been unable to reactivate any of the Czech secret police which may have existed in the past. But we must expect elements of the Soviet secret police to be moving into Czechoslovakia at the moment. What we are witnessing is a most remarkable feat—the passive resistance by an entire nation in its daily strikes and the continuation of secret radios. But I fear that there is a limit to the time in which action like this can continue. We know too well that the whole apparatus of a police State can be moved into Czechoslovakia once the troops have occupied it, and it may simply be a matter of time before intimidation, terror, arrests and other pressures make it much more difficult for the Czechoslovaks to continue this passive resistance.
Many have been surprised by the suddenness and brutality of this occupation of Czechoslovakia, particularly after the very recent conferences between the Russians and the Czechoslovaks. The surprise is immense when we see East Germans being used, and we wonder whether the Soviet leaders can have any sense of shame or of history in promoting an occupation which included soldiers from East Germany. But this event was not surprising to some who have been closely following events in Czechoslovakia over the past year and the dialogue which has been continuing between the Czechoslovak and Soviet leaders.
That is why some of us, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) tabled a Motion, Early Day Motion No. 412, before the Recess, proposing that the Government should raise, or cause to be raised, the question of Czechoslovakia in the Security Council. We believe that the Soviet invasion would have been made much more difficult for the Russians to undertake if the Security Council had been quietly seized of the situation beforehand. I speak with some experience, having been for three years a member of our permanent delegation on the Security Council, during which time the invasion of South Korea in 1950 took place.
I recognise that the Czechoslovak leaders may have been anxious about the subject being raised, and they may not have requested it, but it is clear that they were completely deceived. Some of us realised that the Soviet leaders were capable of doing this, but the Czechs were, in Mr. Dubcek's own words, entirely deceived and did not think that this was possible. I wish that they had been a bit more cautious and had allowed the matter to be raised quietly at the Security Council a month or so ago.
Another cause for our admiration of the Czechs and Slovaks in what they are doing is the fact that they have held together. They are two quite separate peoples, but they know that their future is bound up together. The attempts which have undoubtedly been made by the Soviet leaders to exploit Slovak nationalism against the Czechs have utterly failed.
One of those who have been named by the Soviet leaders as a possible puppet in a new Czechoslovak Government is the Slovak leader Vasil Bilak. It is not yet clear from the Press reports whether he is prepared to co-operate or collaborate with the Soviet leaders; we simply do not know. But we can applaud the way in which the Slovaks, the minority people, have resisted attempts of this kind and are solidly with the Czechs and have not been seduced by false offers of independence for Slovakia.
A point which affects Britain is the question of Mr. Bilak's daughter, who has been in this country. This morning I was in touch with the Foreign Office about this matter, because during the last 36 hours we have had reports about her disappearance in Cumberland last week, with all the signs of a kidnapping by Russians. Unfortunately, there is little which we in Britain can do to help Czechoslovakia in the present crisis. But if Mr. Bilak's daughter has been kidnapped by Russians on British soil, this is something on which we can take action.
I very much hope that the Government have been investigating this matter and that they will be able to give us a report. I am aware that while this debate has been going on there have been reports that a Soviet official in the Russian Embassy has apparently said that she has already arrived in Moscow. But we do not know whether that has happened. Sometimes people are said to have left when they are still in the country.
Surely immigration authorities and others in this country should have co-operated to keep a friendly eye on such a sensitive visitor to this country and to be ready to help. Because this Soviet abduction, if it has happened, could make it more difficult for the Slovak leader to resist the pressures of the Russians. I cannot help suspecting that, whatever explanations may be given by the Russians, the purpose is to kidnap her as a hostage and to add this to the pressure being exerted on someone who has already been named as a possible puppet. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will say something about this matter tonight, because it would be most unfortunate if, by carelessness, we allowed the Soviet leaders to take action in this country which would make it more difficult for any Czechoslovak leader to withstand the pressures to which he is being subjected.
I come to the wider question of what we in Britain can do. I agree that proposals for a trade embargo, although at first attractive, would be useless in the long run, and I do not recommend them. But if we, with other countries which are like-minded, are to mark our dis- approval of what has happened in Czechoslovakia, I suggest that we agree to withdraw for a period our ambassadors in Moscow and in the other States which have been associated with the occupation. This would not be a severance of diplomatic relations and, therefore, all the ordinary contacts would continue. I may say, in passing, that ourcharges d'affaires in various places, particularly in Peking, have shown that acharge d'affaires can do very well all that is required in many difficult situations. I recognise that some Asian and African countries will not probably even join us in that, but at least it would be a way of making it clear how disgusted we are with the way that the Soviet Union has acted.
I agree, also, that where cultural, educational and similar contacts are concerned, there is again nothing to be gained in the long term by boycotting the Soviet Union. I have for many years been a member and supporter of the Great Britain-U.S.S.R. Association, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) has played a leading part. That organisation, with others, has in recent years been encouraging the exchange of music, drama students, and so on. All this has been valuable on both sides and has helped in the general thawing behind the Iron Curtain.
Many will now feel immediately and personally that they cannot attend some function or other after what has happened, but in the long run it would, I believe, be a mistake to cut off peoples from each other. We must distinguish between the Soviet leaders, who are responsible for this crime, and the Soviet people, with whom we want to continue to have as wide contacts as possible.
It is, of course, disappointing to those of us who, through that organisation, have been sponsoring cultural contacts as much as we can, now to know that in the coming weeks and months these are useless. Those who are invited—eminent musicians, for example—will be cold-shouldered. They are not responsible for what has happened in Czechoslovakia, but they represent a country which is responsible. It is disappointing that in this way we should have a setback and have to start again later.
The events which are occurring are happening so fast that the position changes from hour to hour. It is, however, clear that the Soviet leaders are putting pressure on President Svoboda and also, no doubt, as prisoners under duress, on Mr. Dubcek and his colleagues. They are doubtless attempting to form a collaborator Government, but so far without success.
Let us in this House remember that grim episode which happened in Budapest in 1956, when the then leaders of the Hungarian people, Imre Nagy and General Pal Maleter, were given safe conducts to leave the Yugoslav Embassy and as soon as they came out, with that guarantee of their lives, they were arrested by agents of the Soviet Government, conjured away and later murdered. It is the Government who were responsible for those events with whom they are having to deal, so let there be no possible doubt about the kind of fate that could be hanging over the Czechoslovak leaders.
I hope that the Russians may be forced to make some concessions to the Czechoslovak leaders before agreeing to remove their troops. It takes time to set up a repressive system of control of a whole nation if that nation is intelligently applying passive resistance, as the Czechoslovaks so clearly are. I believe that the main stumbling block for the Soviet leaders is the question of Press and radio censorship. The abolition of Press censorship in Czechoslovakia seemed to the Russians to be the breach in the dam which could later cause the floods to pour in to Eastern Europe, and particularly East Germany, and later, perhaps, even into the Soviet Union itself. This will be one of the key matters on which the Soviet leaders will be trying to obtain assurances from the Czechoslovaks.
In the wider picture, the free world is faced with a dilemma arising from the fact that the Iron Curtain in Europe and spheres of influence elsewhere between the Soviet Union and the West have been delineated fairly clearly. There is the paradox that the division of a large part of the world in this way has, on the one hand, helped to preserve peace by preventing wars from breaking out by accident. Everyone has known that the Iron Curtain was the barrier beyond which a military act which could provoke a world war. An example was Cuba because, although the line there was not so clearly delineated, it was none the less there and the Soviet Union withdrew at the psychological moment. But this also—this is where the paradox comes in—implies control within the area of influence. This the Soviet Union have brutally applied in Hungary and, now, Czechoslovakia.
It may be asked: what about Yugoslavia? The Yugoslavs in 1948 and 1949 survived their defiance without occupation, but they had never been overrun by the Russian Red Army. That was the key. President Tito no doubt recognises now more than ever what peril he was in in 1948 and 1949, when he was also surrounded and was at odds with his Communist neighbours.
The Soviet Union have now shown that they are prepared to resort to force in circumstances of this kind. I believe that we in Western Europe must look to the efficiency of our alliance, not because we can intervene in Czechoslovakia or in Roumania, if the same thing should happen there, but because we must be sure of a deterrent which will make it clear to the Russians that they cannot embark on expeditions elsewhere or into Western Europe.
The Soviet Government have put back the clock. This is a retrograde step in coexistence—a principle which they themselves have supported. To deal with this situation we must pick our way with care, but it must depend upon realistic diplomacy and effective alliances.
About 30 years ago at this time, I was helping to organise demonstrations in a futile attempt to get the Government to support Czechoslovakia. I did not realise then that 30 years later I would be speaking here and that this Parliament would have as little power to do anything now as it apparently had at that time.
I listened with interest to the telling speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). He was a little unfair, however, in his remarks about the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), who was, apparently, involved in the Munich Agreement. Although that Agreement was shortsighted, we also ought to take a certain amount of blame on this side of the House for the fact that it was necessary, from our military weakness at that time. There was no alternative to do anything different. [HON. MEMBERS: "Quite wrong."] I ask my hon. Friends to remember that continuing that policy so often in the past has meant that we have had to accept these situations.
Does my hon. Friend recall that for 16 years before the Munich conference, the Conservative Party had been in office except for two and three-quarter years, when there was a minority Labour Government, and that they had had six years of complete control before the Munich conference? If there was any shortage of defence, the responsibility was 100 per cent. theirs.
Apparently, no one is ever prepared to learn the lessons of the past. During these 30 years, I have wondered why we have so often been confronted with situations similar to that which existed in 1938. Perhaps it was explained this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) who apparently thought that all that was required here today was to say what nasty people the Russians were and to give our condolences to the Czech people, and then to go home. If that is all we have come for, I think we shall be wasting our time. If we cannot come to any conclusions from the events of this past week we should not be here speaking today.
If anything has happened during this past week, it is, I hope, that the events of the week have helped to remove a few of the blinkers from the eyes of the people of this country who, over the past years, have assumed that the Russians were having a change of their policy. Of course, when it has been necessary for them to change their policy because of confrontation with Powers which could repeal it, they have done so, but it is quite obvious, as the Foreign Secretary said the other day, that Russia must fear for its safety if any small country within the Russian orbit seeks to do so. I would say that, to my mind, what has happened gives us an undreamed of opportunity in the future that the rest of the world—perhaps five years, perhaps 10 years from now—will some day get freedom to elect its own Governments in the way it wishes and to have the opportunity of free expression, and that is what is required.
Then we come to the problem whether we should involve N.A.T.O. in discussion at this stage. It is said that to mention N.A.T.O. at this stage might be harmful. As I understand it, there was no suggestion at all that N.A.T.O. would intervene in the internal affairs of any Warsaw Pact country. That is implicit in the agreement.
This is what I could not understand about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown). He was suggesting that, had France still been in N.A.T.O., President de Gaulle would have supported us in this situation. However, there was no suggestion that, even so, we could have assisted the Czechoslovaks militarily.
I still think that N.A.T.O. should consider its strategy afresh. Until this last week or so it was held that possibly Russia had no intention of any further expansion, but, as was said in one of the editorials the other day, a country like Russia, which is a dictatorship, can be a danger, but one which is frightened can be an even greater danger, and this, I believe, is the situation today in Russia. I believe that it is a frightened country. We talk about the equilibrium between East and West not having been upset, but I believe that it has been upset, because I cannot believe for one moment that the Russians could ever trust Czech troops to hold the front against Western forces. I think that whatever agreement is reached in Moscow, Czechoslovakian forces will not be entrusted with the defence of that frontier, and, therefore, this automatically means a weakening of the Warsaw Pact countries, and, because of that weakening, I believe that there is an even greater danger that, through the fear which is real in Russia today, further steps could be taken.
If, in Moscow, an agreement is reached which satisfies the Czech people, all right; but if Russia has to keep her troops in Czechoslovakia against the wishes of the Czech people, then, of course, she has to consider the attitude of both Rumania and Yugoslavia because, if she has to do that, she knows she has got to do it against whatever the rest of the world thinks, and, having gone that far, she would not hesitate to go further if she thought it necessary for her own defence.
Therefore, I ask the Government, what will happen if threats are made against Yugoslavia? Is N.A.T.O. considering this possibility? We know that there are a large number of Russian naval ships in the Mediterranean. Could we stand idly by if Russian troops were to threaten Yugoslavia? These are questions we ought to be asking ourselves. I suggest we ought to make it quite clear to the Russians that, whatever decisions they take about Czechoslovakia, this country will not move one troop to help; I think that that is a realistic assessment; but I think we ought also to make it quite clear to them that any other adventures in other parts of the Balkans might bring repercussions, and that we could not stand idly by to see them happen.
I know that many people are waiting to speak, and I shall conclude. I believe that the Russian people as a whole are good, decent people. It would be a great fault if we broke off communications or any cultural relations whatsoever with them. Reading about some of the Soviet soldiers in Czechoslovakia this week, we see that they were disillusioned; they did not know that they were going into Czechoslovakia; some of them thought that they were going to Germany. We must maintain these contacts. We must offer the hand of friendship to these people, because they, too, are suffering under a dictatorship which it is sought to impose upon Czechoslovakia, but I believe, too, that in the meantime we ought to read the lessons from the events of the last week. If Russia gives to the problem a solution which suits Czechoslovakia, then it will be done because of world influence, which has been brought against Russia, not because the Russian Government would not have done differently had an alternative solution suited them.
I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), who has brought to the benches opposite a breath of fresh air and reality about the situation in the world today. When I heard hon. Members on the other side of the House talking today exactly as their party did in the 'thirties, and suggesting that the mere act of arming ourselves and being strong would be likely to provoke trouble, and saying that what we ought to be is to talk from weakness, I must say that we have been here before, and not only about Czechoslovakia, but about the attitude of so many hon. Members opposite.
It is indeed quite right, as the hon. Member has just said, that we should today not merely express our disgust with what Russia is doing or merely our admiration of the way in which the Czechoslovaks are behaving, but we ought also to draw lessons from what has happened. For my part, I am very glad we have been recalled so that I can add my praise for the courage, cool-headedness and determination of the people of Czechoslovakia. It seems to me that their conduct is as worthy of our praise as Russian's conduct is worthy of our wholehearted condemnation. I hope that our expressions of praise and admiration will help to sustain them in these desperate days.
I wish that I could believe that the Russians will be influenced by our words of disgust and condemnation. One thing seems to me as clear as it has ever been, and that is that the Russians are prepared to use the United Nations when it comes to attacking, to embarrassing or to dividing the countries of the free world, but when it comes to their own interests and their own aims, then they are prepared to use brute force to get their own way and to hamper the United Nations in the meantime.
We see today in the United Nations a situation in which there is still no decision whether observers should be sent, or whether a representative should be sent to make contact with the legal Government in Prague. All we have is a veto which prevents any action from being taken, and stalling speeches from Russia and other countries. By now, Mr. Dubcek, along with his colleagues, could have been annihilated, could have been spirited away, as others have been in the past, and removed from the scene literally and actually. It is only the determination and courage of the Czech people that has succeeded so far in preventing this where the United Nations has failed. It is difficult for me to have much confidence in the United Nations' ability to act in any important crisis when I see the events of the last few days.
That being so, it is clear that no country can afford to count on the United Nations preventing acts of aggression or even of using some means of forcing the aggressor to withdraw after he has made his aggression. That must mean that there is a vital need for all countries to learn the lesson that they must maintain their own defence forces and their alliances. It means, above all, that they should maintain their conventional forces, because no one wants to see the N.A.T.O. countries put in the position of going nuclear or giving in, which is the obvious answer to much that has been said in recent debates on defence.
In my view, there are very disturbing elements in the present crisis affecting N.A.T.O. First, there is the question of intelligence. The whole basis of N.A.T.O. military planning is that there is a change in political climate which warns the Governments of N.A.T.O. that perhaps something may be about to happen. Then there is the counting on troop movements which give a warning that, although they may look like manœuvres, they may be aimed at a certain objective, so that one has sufficient time to make the appropriate dispositions of troops.
On this occasion, if what one reads in the newspapers yesterday is to be believed, there were reports from the West German intelligence that plans for such an invasion had been in being for some time. These reports were available three months ago and, when the Foreign Secretary replies, I would like to know what happened about them and why they were played down. We are told in the Press that it was because Washington felt it to be necessary in view of her troubles in Vietnam. That may not be true, but, if there were reports of troop movements and intelligence reports to the effect that they had the invasion of Czechoslovakia in view, it is monstrous that N.A.T.O. should not have been able to make some troop movements to show that we were determined to defend the free side of the Iron Curtain should there be any moves against us.
If N.A.T.O. is not to react to a gradual build-up of tension which indicates the possibility of danger, what good is N.A.T.O.? I know that it is suggested that if one reacts to such troop movements one may be thought to be provocative. However, on that basis, N.A.T.O. will never be able to move round troops in times of political tension and when there are warnings of troop movements on the other side, simply for fear of being misrepresented and being thought provocative.
Yes, I have thought of that possibility. However, the reports that one has heard about the state of alert do not encourage one to believe that as much preparation was made as might have been. I may be wrong in saying that and, if I am, I shall be delighted to be put right. It seems to be vital to make sure that we are prepared to react when we see these warning signs and are not afraid of being accused of provocation.
One of the principal casualities of the last few days has been the Government's new strategic concept for N.A.T.O. In that connection, I draw attention to a speech by the Secretary of State for Defence in March of this year, when he spoke of the change in N.A.T.O.'s strategic thinking and said:
When the N.A.T.O. Council met for the first time in Brussels last December it endorsed the first major revision in N.A.T.O.'s
defence strategic thinking since the Alliance was set up 19 years ago. Much of this change in N.A.T.O.'s military thinking will be familiar to the House since Her Majesty's Government have been pressing it continuously over the last three and a half years. First, the Alliance has now agreed to take its opponents' intentions into account as well as their military capabilities, and sees those intentions as broadly peaceful at the moment. In the second place, N.A.T.O. has agreed that since the factors contributing to the present situation are unlikely to change overnight, the Alliance is likely to get a period of political warning should Soviet intentions change, in addition to the expected military warning of troop movements and so on.
I have just dealt with the warning of troop movements, and so on, but what about political intentions? Is this not the most dangerous and irresponsible policy, dictated only by the Government's anxiety to reduce the cost of our defences to a fixed figure? Over and over again at conferences of N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians, I have heard the Commander-in-Chief, Europe, General Lemnitzer, make it clear that the military view is that the threat to the West lies in the number of divisions sitting on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
It is monstrous for politicians to say, "It is all very well for the military to say that, but we know that the intentions of these people are honourable and peaceful at present". Even if they are peaceful at the moment, they can change overnight, as clearly they have done over Czechoslovakia. They could change with Mr. Kosygin and Mr. Brezhnev and, even if hon. Gentlemen opposite believe that they would not with those two gentlemen, they themselves could be changed overnight, with two others coming in with more belligerent intentions towards the West.
So long as N.A.T.O. forces are faced with the Russian military might in East Germany, it must be strong enough and well enough equipped to deter any aggressive adventure, and it must be ready to react to both political and military warnings. The Government constantly talk of adétente of encouraging it by balanced reductions of forces in N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact. I hope that they have learned the lessons of the past week.
I was not impressed when Mr. Kosygin came to Westminster to address both Houses of Parliament. I remember that in one sentence he told us that he wished to have a treaty of friendship with Britain. In the next sentence, he started to try to divide us from America by attacking this, our principal ally in N.A.T.O. It was at that point that I walked out of Royal Gallery, because I felt that I could not listen with confidence to what he said. I felt that that should have been a clear enough warning to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that this leopard has not changed its spots.
I hope that the Government are now alerted to the danger of hacking away steadily at our defences while we are faced with the might of Russia and other countries, when they could, if they wished, hack away instead at some of their expenditure on which our security does not depend. I believe that they must abandon wishful thinking and at last face reality.
We shall not be relieved of all fear of Communist aggression against the West even if, as we hope, Russia withdraws her troops from Czechoslovakia. There will be a period of upheaval and tension in Europe during which many changes may take place. That will be a sensitive time when no one will know which way the Russian Government will jump when they find themselves in trouble again. Quite often, Governments suffering internal difficulties seek external adventures to try and distract their people from troubles at home. If the United Nations fails entirely to achieve any success as a result of the Soviet veto and filibustering, the risk of limited adventures by Russia in Western Europe becomes greater.
If I were living in any city near the Iron Curtain in West Germany, or even in West Berlin, I should think that I was at greater risk than ever before unless I saw N.A.T.O. today strengthened to make certain that at least one thing is now made clear to the Russians: that though we may not be able or feel able at this moment to intervene, and would not intervene on behalf of Czechoslovakia, because this is not one of the objects of N.A.T.O., when it comes to any adventures to the West we should react at once and prevent this happening. This means that the Government will have to change their whole approach to our defence policy instead of continuing the reductions that they have been making.
I remember the Secretary of State for Defence scoffing at my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I know that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like to hear it, but it is important. The right hon. Gentleman said:
We have always argued, and I shall come to this argument in a moment in relation to the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South West, that no attempt to provide effective conventional defence against an all-out Soviet attack is neither desirable, possible nor necessary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1968; Vol. 760, c. 59–60 and 62.]
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind about that view today. If not, I think it bodes very ill for this country and for N.A.T.O.
We should be sure that we are strong enough to defend ourselves in conjunction with our allies in N.A.T.O. I hope that one lesson will have been learned from today's debate and from the events of the last week: that the Government realise that they must change their mind about defence and realise that this is one thing we cannot afford to cut, whereas there are plenty of others we could.
The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) never fails to raise the debate to the most unintelligent level. No matter what we are discussing—and I have heard him speak on many occasions—he never ceases to attempt to make either the most trivial party point or to attack unnecessarily the work of the United Nations.
Whatever view is taken of the Czech crisis, the Soviet invasion of the Czechoslovak people is clearly based on the fear that their Communist system, as understood by Marxism and Leninism, is about to collapse. Soviet troops moved because the men in the Kremlin were afraid that their own gigantic totalitarian edifice was itself in direct danger by those revisionists who had the temerity to talk of a free mass media and individual liberty.
Perhaps the tragedy of the Czech crisis was the recognition that a liberal Communist régime was a contradiction in terms, as well as being a phenomenon that was inconsistent with the security of the Soviet Union. Therefore, we have witnessed the collapse of Communism as well as a frightening example of the abuse of military power by a super-Power.
There is one very important and alarming feature, however, out of the events of the last few days. The East-Westdétente, of course, is both desirable and practical; but the maintenance of thedétente—I must be frank about this—is based upon the permanent slavery of Eastern Europe. Nothing short of nuclear war, however, would be involved if we attempted to move militarily in respect of the events in Czechoslovakia in the last few days. Therefore, we have to realise that that is part of the price that we have to pay fordétente. We cannot fight the Soviet Union, as some hon. Gentlemen opposite tend to give the impression. Freedom of Eastern Europe cannot be upheld or denied simply by military means. The total subjugation of Czechoslovakia makes it certain that it is dangerous to be at the mercy of the Soviet Union, particularly the small countries. Therefore, we must examine some of the implications of the last few days in some depth.
I do not agree with hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who have argued that it is improper to discuss some of the defence implications. It is also proper to discuss some of the political implications, apart from defence. There is no doubt that great damage has been done to the attempt to try to get some regulation in respect of the A.B.M. system which the United States initiated with the Soviet Union in the last few months. It now looks as if a sense of agreement in respect of the A.B.M. system will be very difficult to reach.
It would also have an effect in the United States on the presidential election. I am sure that the Nixon men will benefit at the expense of the Humphrey men. I am also of the opinion that the Vietnam war will, as a result, continue in its intensity and that the "hawks" will prevail over the "doves". These are some of the political implications of the Soviet moves in the last few days.
Everyone knows that in 1969 the future of N.A.T.O. will come under review. In 1969 there will be a period of intense review of the purpose of the alliance, including perhaps whether it should survive in its present or an amended form. When N.A.T.O. was created in 1949 it was based on the premise that the Northern half of the globe was divided into two parts: one part Communist and one part not. The Communist part was supposed to have a tightness of organisation and discipline that the free or Western part did not; a drive towards expansion without scruple as to means, a goal of total world conquest, a willingness to risk violence and to engage in it if necessary, and a capacity for never losing what once it gained, so that, even if its foreign adventures alternately succeeded and failed, it would win when it succeeded and would hold its own when it failed.
As so commonly happens, the menace was oversimplified. Unity in the Communist world was taken for granted, while disunity in the West was always a problem. Soviet threats were credited absolutely, while the credibility of the American counter threat was perpetually debated. Nationalism was expected to be smothered by Communist ideology throughout the Sovietbloc, while in the West an appealing successor to European nationalism was an aspiration, never a reality.
We have learned a lot in 20 years, even though we have learned it slowly. First, we have learned that co-existence without major war is possible. Secondly, we have learned that European security cannot be divorced from world security.
The problems of Europe and its future have to be seen in a world context. The crucial question is: if N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact were to be disbanded, what positive alternative could Europe offer to maintain peace on the Continent, taking into account the political implications?
The simplest solution is to maintain thestatus quo. The events in Czechoslovakia and the general unrest among allies on both sides of the Iron Curtain makes it evident that, in practice, there must be room for greater flexibility among the smaller allies in relation to their giant protectors. Although there are several permutations there are really only two positive alternatives—first, the withdrawal of United States and Soviet troops from European soil, leaving Europe to its own defence devices and, secondly, a modification of alliance frameworks, with greater military and political flexibility within them.
In effect, this would mean that European countries would themselves have to seek either bilateral or multilateral agreements to maintain a balance of power and, in particular, the control of Germany, unless it is possible to conceive of a United States of Europe with a strong governing body. Anything short of this must mean that Germany would dominate the European scene, whether for good or for ill. Even if such a European union or federation were probable in the foreseeable future—which in my view it is not—other problems, both intermediate and long term, arise.
Let us assume that there would be no overall control in Europe. In this respect I agree with what was said by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling)—who is not here for this debate—when he spoke in the defence debate on 25th July last. He said:
A Europe divided into more and more armed nation States might…produce…serious dangers of a kind which none of us would welcome."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1968; Vol. 769, c. 1029.]
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Defence has reiterated a similar view. It therefore seems to me that such questions are raised as whether a Europe, united or otherwise, should have conventional weapons or should combine the nuclear capabilities of Britain and France, with other nuclear resources, presumably from Germany. That is a solution which I would reject.
Could, therefore, a united Europe, let alone a Europe of divided States, remain neutral as between the Soviet Union and the United States? This is inconceivable today, but if such a powerfulbloc were to swing one way of the other this must increase the nervousness of one of the great Powers, upset the wider balance and create the kind of situation for one of them to provoke an opportunity to step in and restore the previous state of affairs.
It is an acknowledged fact that the Soviet Union and the United States do not wish to become involved in a nuclear confrontation unless their vital interests are involved. As Pierre Hasener points out, this has encouraged countries like Israel and the United Arab Republic to indulge in war. With a Soviet and United States withdrawal from Europe this situation might be created here, with possibilities of internecine warfare in Europe, but this time with more dire consequences. In the circumstances, a European security pact, divorced from the protecing influence of the United States and the Soviet Union is likely to prove more of a liability than an asset in the future.
The lesson to be learned from the events of the last few days is that it is essential that the future rôle and capacity of N.A.T.O. should be looked at afresh. At the same time, it would be foolish to over-react, because the situation in Czechoslovakia is bound to be part of the general pattern arising from the pressures from underneath in closed societies, and whatever the Soviet Union may attempt to do by the use of force there is no doubt that in the end the people will triumph.
As a member of a party of one in this House I am sure that the House will appreciate my desire to say how much my party bitterly regrets the crisis which has led to the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Everyone that I have spoken to in Scotland is shocked and sorrowful. As members of a small country they identify themselves with the situation with no difficulty. Like Czechoslovakia, Scotland has no wish to be dominated by any other nation. I believe that Czechoslovakia wishes to control its own affairs in its own way.
I am very sensitive to the implications of this crime. I believe that in Scotland there is a feeling of great disquiet—a feeling that we all have a responsibility, because this aggression is just a link in a chain of events beginning when the United Kingdom failed to honour our undertaking to Czechoslovakia and then, again, when, at Yalta, we traded her for advantages which now are seen to be meaningless, I do not believe that nationalism in this world is a menace. Once again, it is a large nation which has shown that it is the menace to world peace—a multi-nation State which cannot keep its hands off others or its armed forces in its own boundaries. Until this multi-nation State and others like it are reduced to their component parts they will remain a menace to peace.
Much of what I had wanted to say has been said by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans), but I want to go on to mention something which has not been referred to. The satellites have played only a nominal part in this invasion. I do not believe that any of them is governed by men who have the support of the majority of their people.
Despite the tragic feeling of impotence which we must all have, to some extent, I am encouraged by the degree of Czech determination, which has surpassed our wildest hopes. I believe that the Czechs will solve their own problems in their own country. They do not want help from the West. Perhaps that is not surprising, since the Western nations have let them down twice already. Nevertheless, the degree of concern that all hon. Members feel requires to be registered in some way. I am glad that the House was recalled.
What can we do? I reject the argument that there should be a cessation of cultural activities. I do not believe that the people of Russia know the facts. They do not have a free Press. I cannot claim much expertise in this matter. I am not a well-travelled visitor to Russia, but I have been there as a tourist and it seems to me that there is no free Press there. The invading Russian troops believed that they were going to Czechoslovakia for a different purpose.
I do not believe that a musical occasion should be turned into a political one. It is better to remember that if we want to persuade someone to do something the lines of communication must be kept open.
I want to make a much more drastic proposal. Another hon. Member made a drastic proposal, and, like his, my proposal is not likely to meet with much support in this House. I believe that recent events have exposed the impotence of the United Nations. The power of veto of the Security Council is much to blame, and emphasises its futility. When we talk in the House about strength and weakness it seems as though we are playing with toy soldiers, and moving them here and there. That does not help towards a solution of the present situation. We should be aiming at moral strength and moral example. I propose that we should abandon our veto in the Security Council.
This is not a directly related matter, but it would indicate that we are going to pay more than lip service to international co-operation. We should then be the first to take such moral action which somebody must do if there is ever to be any hope of getting a real forum of nations for international co-operation. I suggest that the world would listen a little more strenuously to what we said if, now and again, we were prepared to take a moral stand.
The events in Czechoslovakia have shown the world-wide repugnance that exists to actions of this kind and underlines the universal acceptance of the principle of a nation's right to self-determination, as laid down in the U.N. Charter; that any nation should be entitled to take its own decisions in its own way. The gallant stand which the Czechoslovak people have taken demonstrates the tremendous new emphasis that we can now place on moral resistance. It is clear, in a world in which one test tube can wipe us all out, that moral resistance is our greatest hope. I am not suggesting that we should not have conventional forces. They should exist, but only for specific defensive purposes, or under the direction of an international forum such as the U.N. should be.
I believe that not one iota of the courage being expended by Mr. Dubcek and his fellow Czechoslovaks has been wasted. It has been an example for the world. The better reports which we have been receiving compared with the earlier reports coming out of Czechoslovakia indicate that the Russian authorities are aware that Mr. Dubcek is just the tip of the iceberg or the top of the volcano and that behind him is the massive support of the people of Czechoslovakia and countless thousand, of others in Russia and its satellite nations.
I hope that when Scotland takes its place in the United Nations, as I hope it will, it will be able to welcome Czechoslovakia not as a satellite country but as a self-governing one, choosing its own ideology,
I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) will forgive me if I do not follow her into Scotland, attractive though that idea might be.
I do not intend to take up the time of the House by repeating the expressions of condemnation of the outrage which has been inflicted on Czechoslovakia. That has been done far more eloquently and forcefully than I could do it, by authorities as far removed as Peking and King Street.
This debate will have been worth while if it enables us to learn some lessons. I cannot say, however, that I agreed with any of the lessons which the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) suggested should be learned. The first lesson which should be learned is one to be learned not by us but by those in Moscow and in the capitals of Russia's allied countries. That lesson is that the rest of the world, including ourselves, is vitally concerned with what happens in any country which is part of the Warsaw Alliance. The authorities in Moscow must not think hereafter that they can do exactly what they wish, so long as they confine their activities to countries in the Communist world, without the rest of the world being concerned.
A number of lessons can and should be learned from the events of the last few days. Although one can see the lessons, it is important that one should not jump to hasty conclusions before the events have come to an end. With some predictable exceptions, the majority of hon. Members have taken a balanced view of the situation and have not jumped to hasty conclusions.
Of vital importance is the question of trust. The vast majority of hon. Members had taken the view that the sequence of events of the last few years had increased the chances ofdétente between East and West and that that was of the greatest possible value to the security of the world. It would be wrong if, because of the recent series of events—notwithstanding the fact that the trust on which that point of view was based must necessarily to some extent be eroded—we now took the view that all possible future progress towardsdétente was at an end, and adapted our policies accordingly. That would appear to be the view expressed by some hon. Gentlemen opposite.
We must be clear, looking at the matter from the military and political point of view, that it cannot be said that the events of the last few days have altered the balance of power in favour of the Warsaw Pact countries. On the contrary. They have clearly altered the balance of power against them. This is likely to happen even more in future unless some acceptable compromise is produced between Mr. Dubcek and his colleagues and the authorities in Moscow. When I speak of an "acceptable compromise" I do not simply mean the return of Mr. Dubcek to Prague and the withdrawal of Russian forces. I mean that that must be accompanied by a guarantee from the Russians that they will not seek to infringe the freedom for which the Czechs are groping.
It seems to follow from that that although, of course, Her Majesty's Government should look at the situation with fresh eyes—this is an important event and one must reconsider one's policy as a result of it; naturally among the matters that must be considered are the questions of defence, military alliances and so on and the assumptions that have been made about the disposition of our forces—it would be wrong and foolish to go to the extreme to which the hon. Member for St. Albans seemed to be inviting the House to go and now adopt a policy of looking at everything on the most pessimistic possible assumptions. It remains true thatdétente is the ultimate hope we have and that we must look on that, however realistically we look at the situation in other ways.
The next matter of great importance is the question of free speech generally, an issue which has been raised as a result of these events. There has not been a victory for the forces that are against freedom of speech. On the contrary. I believe that there has been a victory for free speech. I say that because the Russians, by their actions, have shown that the ony way in which freedom of speech can be curtailed or removed is by the use of force, of stratagem and of tanks and soldiers. That is the message we should be sending out by every possible means to our friends in Czechoslovakia, indeed, to the Communist world generally, that in order to prevent freedom of speech from spreading throughout the Communist world it was necessary for the Russians and their friends to bring in tanks and soldiers to repress it.
If that is accepted, the next lesson we must learn is that Communism, unlike freedom, is not indivisible. There are different forms of Communism; the Peking Communism, the Moscow Communism as we believed it to be and the Communism as we have now seen it, and the Communism to which Mr. Dubcek and his friends were groping in Prague. It is surely our task not to adopt the sort of monolithic approach towards Communism which has been suggested by some hon. Members opposite as a result of the last few days, but to be selective in our approach, to show that there can be freedom within a Communist society and that freedom is to be encouraged.
That leads one to ask how it came about that this freedom within the Communist society has been growing. I believe the answer is quite inescapable. It has been growing because of the very exchange of cultural activities between East and West, this trade which has grown between Eastern and Western countries, this exchange of tourists between ourselves and countries behind the Iron Curtain, between their citizens and ours. This has led to ideas of freedom being expressed to the ordinary people of the Communist countries. It has led to their receiving them. It has led to the youth of those countries being receptive to these ideas. It has led to them wanting to express these views.
If that is right, can it be a mere coincidence that this idea of freedom has been growing at the same time as these exchanges have been developing? If that is right, the last thing we want to do is to cut off the food of that very freedom, the cultural and trade exchanges and exchanges between citizens which would produce that desire for freedom. These things we should be encouraging rather than discouraging. We ought to be leaving it to the Communist countries, which are afraid of freedom, to pull down the Iron Curtain again, not ourselves to pull it down in their faces.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) in his views on the unity of Europe. This has been expressed again and again in debates on that and other subjects and my views are well known. When we debated the British application to join the Common Market and I succeeded on the third day towards the end of the debate in saying a few words on it, I said that the biggest political reason for a united Europe was that it seemed that the greatest danger to Europe is a divided Germany and that we shall never solve the problem of a divided Germany so long as we have a divided Europe.
I was interested to hear the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, who pinpointed the division of Germany as the great danger which exists today. I agree with him entirely there. If we are to try to heal this rift in Europe—which has grown greater, we cannot deny, as a result of the events of the last few days—we must adopt policies which consciously go towards creating a united Europe. I do not mind whether one agrees with the idea of Britain joining the E.E.C. or not. That is not in issue at the moment. What is in issue is the creation of a united Europe.
I happen to believe that Britain joining the E.E.C. is the best and quickest way of achieving it, but there may be other ways. I am not concerned about that, but I urge, whatever else we do, that we should adopt a policy of strengthening the bonds between the countries of Western Europe with a view ultimately to creating—with the help of the countries of the Warsaw Pact, groping as I am sure they will be in future, towards the same freedoms which we enjoy—that united Europe which will be a safeguard against such events as have occurred in the last few days.
I am glad that Parliament was recalled, if for nothing else, to give me an opportunity to express my contempt for the treachery and cowardice of the Russian action towards Czechoslovakia, a. feeling which, I know, is shared not only in every comer of my constituency but is shared throughout the whole of Britain.
I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) in saying that there will be a change in the military balance of power, though I believe that it will be only marginal. I do not think that the Russians put great dependence on the Czech Army—they were probably wrong in that—and they will now have to garrison Czechoslovakia unless something quite remarkable and drastic comes out of the exchanges now proceeding in Moscow. However, the difference, which will be a difference to the advantage of the West, is only marginal.
The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of obtaining a guarantee from Russia In all seriousness, I ask him what sort of guarantee from the U.S.S.R. would be of any value whatever now. After this latest example, we cannot believe one word the Russians say.
We know that the Russians were acting from weakness and from fear, but in many ways this circumstance is far more dangerous than the circumstances of 1939 and before that, which I so well remember, when Hitler's Nazi Germany was acting from strength—folie de grandeur, perhaps, but still strength. Fear, as we all know, is a bad counsellor.
The trouble with the Russians is that in recent years they have been looking over their shoulders to the East and trying to keep up with the Chinese Joneses under Mao Tse-tung, and that has created a dangerous situation. But what has happened in recent weeks was predictable. It certainly seemed likely to me in the early stages of the crisis, when manoeuvres were going on so conveniently close to the Czechoslovak border. We were all lulled, perhaps, into a false sense of security when the manoeuvres stopped and there were negotiations which seemed fruitful. Even Mr. Dubcek himself was taken in by them. But all of a sudden the manoeuvres started again, even closer this time, not in Czechoslovakia itself but very near the border.
It is all very reminiscent of events 30 years ago. I am extremely perturbed to read inThe Times today that Moscow has issued a statement guaranteeing the integrity of Rumania and saying that it has no evil intentions towards that country. It may well be Rumania's turn tomorrow or the next day. Then what chance has Yugoslavia? Then, perhaps, West Berlin's turn will come. We seem to be going down the same painful slope which we all remember so well.
I do not shed many tears for the Czechs. I admire them for their courage—they have exhibited that in full measure in recent days—but for a generation they have been supping with the Soviet devil and they did not even choose to use a long spoon.
It is all very fine to say, as the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well) did, that we just come here is register our protest—that is all there is to do—and then we shall adjourn and go happily home for another few weeks of Recess. There is far more to be done than that. We have to look to our fences. The Mediterranean, in particular, is flanked by the less stable countries in Europe. That aspect has been referred to in the debate, quite rightly. I hope that the Foreign Secretary has taken note of what has been said in that regard. We must look to our defences. We owe it to ourselves and to our allies.
What else should we do? We must miss no opportunity of encouraging the liberal forces behind the Iron Curtain to go on with what they have been doing. We must do this in ways which cannot be concealed from them or disguised to them. This applies not only to the Czechs, but to the Ukrainians, the Baltic peoples, the Poles and others—indeed, to all those who are working for change in the Communist world.
There has been much talk in the debate about boycotts and embargoes or of cutting off the Russians from diplomatic, cultural, trading and even sporting contacts. These are drastic measures and some of the advantages might be completely obliterated by the disadvantages. But the Russians, like many peoples who have emanated from the East of the land mass, are governed very much by the rules of "face"—loss of face and gain of face—and I think that they are very attentive to the sort of ways in which we could bring our disgust and our protest home to them and to the more liberal people among their populations. This is what we have to try to do.
I do not pretend to know what is the right method of approach. But I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) suggest one method which seems to me to be sensible. Do not let us stop all trade with the Russians but make them pay cash on the nail without any of those attractive arrangements for long-term or short-term credit which recently they have been obtaining from us. The Russians are always wanting to acquire more gold or foreign currency and this is one way in which I thing we could bring home to them the disgust and distress we feel at their methods.
We do not want to close channels through which messages of encouragement from the West can get to the more liberal and more sensible people behind the Iron Curtain. But, on the other hand, if we do nothing, we shall embark inevitably on the appeasement slope which led to disaster in 1939. I am glad that we have registered our protest in this House but, apart from that, I am convinced that we must take other measures which will not be damaging to our own Interests nor to the propagation and encouragement of liberal ideas behind the Iron Curtain but which will do more to ensure that Russia and the Russian people generally understand the horror and contempt we feel for what they have done to Czechoslovakia.
As a Socialist I condemn without reservation the Russian invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia. I believe that it was criminal and illegal, and I am glad of world reaction to it. The illegal, criminal invasion of Czechoslovakia last week has shocked world public opinion.
I have been in the Chamber since 2.30 p.m., and a few rumours have been coming into the Chamber that some kind of settlement has been reached in Moscow. If it is true, and if there is an agreement which will allow Mr. Dubcek and his colleagues to return to their country, one reason why the Russians have backed down is world-wide pressure and the angry reaction in working-class, Socialist and progressive movements throughout the European countries.
There cannot be the slightest possible justification for what Russia has done. The Russians claim that they were invited into Czechoslovakia. The only authority in Czechoslovakia which could have invited them in legally was the Czechoslovak Government, and they have denied inviting the Russians in and, indeed, have described the invasion in the same terms as those in which I have described it.
It is a great pity that Russia has treated Czechoslovakia as if it were a satellite or, rather, as if it were one of the provinces or republics inside the Soviet Union. Last Wednesday not only did Russia commit a grave crime against a friendly independent country. I also believe that Russia committed a grave crime against the cause of Socialism in Eastern Europe.
Many right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken today have condemned Russia, and I am not at all surprised that they have done so. But, if I may say so, I speak on this issue, as do a number of my right hon. and hon. colleagues, without being a hypocrite. I have always opposed aggression from the Western side, too. We know that in the last few years the United States has committed various forms of aggression in Latin America—for example, in Guatemala in 1954, in the disastrous Bay of Pigs attempt to overthrow the Castro Government in Cuba and in the intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965, let alone in the colonial war which the United States is waging in South-East Asia.
What has been the reaction of most Socialists to American intervention in Latin America and Vietnam? We have condemned such aggression, and we have done so without any reservation. In the same way, in 1956 we condemned the attempt by the Tory Government at the time to commit aggression against Egypt. I find it very difficult to understand how anyone who in any way justified what Britain did in 1956 can now lecture the Russians.
Today, when we condemn what the Russians are doing, we do so with sincerity and as Socialists who have always condemned aggression on the Western side. We are not hypocrites. We know only too well what has been done by the West in the last few years. But that in no way condones or excuses the Russian crime against the Czechoslovak nation or people.
I want to speak briefly about the internal situation in Czechoslovakia in the last six months. I was greatly encouraged by the changes and reforms which have been carried out in Czechoslovakia in the last six months, because it seemed to me that in that country they were making a genuine attempt to marry a Socialist economic system with democratic rights and liberties. Here was an attempt by one Communist country to build a Socialist society without a secret police, without coercion and without brutality. I thought that not only was Czechoslovakia offering a lesson for her Eastern European neighbours but, in my view, under the Dubcek leadership, she was offering important lessons for many of us in Western Europe. People like ourselves, who want to build a Socialist society and to see a change in the social system, want to see it without bloodshed and brutality. An experiment was being tried in Czechoslovakia which I believe to be of the utmost importance.
Let it be stated that the experiment which has been tried in Czechoslovakia has been crushed for the moment, not by superior Russian arguments, not by better debate by the Russian leadership but by Russian tanks and Russian troops, and at present by the terror of the occupation inside Czechoslovakia.
I also believe, together with a number of my hon. and right hon. Friends, that the Soviet leadership, the little people who run the Soviet Union at present, have been frightened by the ideas of freedom, frightened that those ideas put forward in Czechoslovakia could spread even to the Soviet Union itself. I do not want to deviate from the main subject, but it must be said that, as a Socialist, I am very disturbed by many events inside the Soviet Union. I am disturbed by the way in which it has been found necessary to imprison intellectuals and writers, and by the way in which it is virtually impossible for a number of Russian novelists to have their letters of protest published, let alone their works.
It reflects no credit on the Soviet Union that it finds it necessary to do this. I believe that if the people in the Soviet Union could express their views, they would be the same as ours—that there was no justification for the occupation of Czechoslovakia last week, and that the Russian leadership was very much in the wrong. I cannot associate the Russian leadership with the Russian people any more than when I look at the crimes which the American Government is committing in Vietnam can I associate the American Government, the Johnson Administration, with the American people. I make a distinction between Government and people.
I am also extremely worried at various arrests which have been taking place in Czechoslovakia in the last few days. A number of writers and critics of Stalinism have been arrested by the secret police. As long as the occupation continues there must be a great fear in our minds that such people could possibly be murdered, or deported at a later stage to the Soviet Union. The more protests there are, the more concern which is expressed by the working class, the Labour Movement, the greater is the safety of those who have been arrested.
It has been asked what sort of support can we give to the Czechoslovakian people? I have sat here throughout the debate and it is interesting to note that not one speaker from the other side of the House has suggested that we should intervene in a military way. It is out of the question. What sort of support can we given to what I believe are the heroic and brave Czechoslovakian people who are at present defying the occupation troops and showing their desire to remain independent? The greatest support that we can give is moral. Here I can only speak as a Socialist.
When I talk about moral support for the Czechoslovakian people I mean it in the same way as we give moral support from the Left-wing in Britain to the Vietnamese people who are fighting the United States; in the same way as we give moral support to the South Africans, millions of them who are denied elementary and basic freedoms; moral support in the same way as we give it to the Greek people who want to remove the dictatorship which came into existence over 12 months ago.
The immediate demand must be for the removal of the Russian occupation troops. I am not now speaking to the Tories, because there is very little in common between Conservative Members and myself, and I am not ashamed of that. I speak to the Labour movement inside and outside this House. Our job in the next few days is to make sure that the question of Czechoslovakia is raised at trade union branches and at constituency party meetings, to make sure that as many resolutions as possible come from the British Labour movement, to the Soviet Embassy and to the Russian leadership, expressing our complete disapproval and disgust at what the Russians have done.
At the same time Socialists in Britain should not hesitate to send their complete and unanimous support to the Czechoslovakian Embassy, so that it can be sent on to the Czechs. The Russians will be forced to withdraw their troops because they know only too well the situation now existing in Czechoslovakia. Aggression can never be accepted or condoned in any way, whether aggression from the United States, ourselves or the Soviet Union. Aggression must be condemned and, because I believe that, I have no hesitation in saying that we should today express our strongest disapproval of what the Soviet Union did last week in Czechoslovakia.
The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) has been the last of the speakers from the back benches and he has echoed the general condemnation of the Russian action in invading Czechoslovakia. The Foreign Secretary and I have heard most of today's speeches, and if one of the reasons for the Government's recalling Parliament was to receive a unanimous protest concerning the Russian action in Czechoslovakia, that result is achieved. I believe that the House has been entirely unanimous on that point.
The feelings which have inspired the speeches have been a mixture of shock, incredulity and anger that 30 years after Hitler attacked Czechoslovakia, and 10 years after Russia's invasion of Hungary, the Soviet Union has now once again demonstrated a crude display of naked power not only at the expense of an independent country, but at the expense of a Communist ally.
There are certain particularly revolting aspects of this action: the claim that the invasion was a response to Czech invitation; the lies concerning the Western incitement and re-armament of Czechoslovakia; the deception which used the meeting of conciliation at Bratislava as a means to the end of an occupation by force, and, the greatest hypocrisy of all—and surely hypocrisy can be carried no further—the participation of East Germans and Hungarians in this sordid action.
I take the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) that we should seek to encourage in Eastern Europe, and even in the Soviet Union, and even in the Government of the Soviet Union, those who favour less forceful action than that taken by the Russians this week. But it is, as he will know very well, very difficult for us to know who within the Soviet set-up are the "hawks" and who are the "doves"; who were for the action and who were against it. I myself suspect that a large part was played by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Its members were responsible for getting rid of Mr. Khrushchev when, in their view, his views were too liberal. He had to answer to them. So with the present leaders and Government of the Soviet Union, but Governments must take responsibility for actions and the Soviet Government cannot be excused.
The anger of free people is righteous in that the Soviet Union has so lately been preaching the virtues of co-existence, and by contrast it has this week been guilty of acts which deserve no other description than that they are the acts of barbarians. It is anger compounded with frustration because the world, if the Russians persist on their present course, will have to look forward to and endure another period of tension, instead of deploying the resources of the world for the purposes of peaceful construction. Once more we shall have to think in terms of increasing armaments and defence; in other words, in terms of the context of security rather than that of development which all of us want to see, with the probability that, as China finds her strength, we may be in for another period of tension with the Soviet Union—for many years, perhaps, of cold war.
There is frustration, too, because there is an almost universal desire in this country, even though the Czechs are Communists, to be able to help the victims, whose only sin has been to discover for themselves that Communism and freedom are incompatible with each other.
The House has today considered various forms of possible action which might induce the Soviet Union to think again. There is action in the United Nations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) made a point which is, I believe, valid: why did not the United Nations debate this question when attention was drawn to it in this House by a resolution as early as July? Still, it is unwise in this case to job backwards. Any action of the Security Council will, clearly, be vetoed by the Russians, and action will, therefore, be paralysed.
I wonder whether the Foreign Secretary can say what has happened to the resolution put forward by the Canadian Government, which proposed that there might be observers in Czechoslovakia. Is that being proceeded with or not? Does the Foreign Secretary, as my right hon. Friend asked, propose to call together the Assembly of the United Nations? I hope that his answer will be "Yes". This could register world opinion; and if there are any who will not condemn the Soviet Union for this action it is better that we should know who they are.
The House is in general agreement that there is no military action that can be taken in this matter other than, of course, a nuclear response, which is out of the question in this case. We have long known that the nuclear arm has a place in peacekeeping. The Leader of the Liberal Party, I was somewhat surprised to see, admitted this. At least, it prevents a challenge from one great Power to another. Yet one has to recognise, too, that in some degree the nuclear umbrella can facilitate the evil plans of an aggressor determined on promoting smaller wars or wars at second hand or takeovers of smaller countries which are not defended by a collective defence alliance. To that, I shall return.
In the general desire to comfort and help the Czechs short of military intervention, hon. Members have canvassed and proposed a number of actions. Very few, if any, have supported the idea of trade sanctions. Rather more have supported the idea of a spontaneous boycott by individuals of all things Russian. A case—I think that this is worth saying—can certainly be made for sanctions according to the terms of the United Nations Charter, and the rules could be justly applied because this action of the Soviet Union is not only a threat to the peace but actually a breach of the peace in which people of an independent country have been shot down by the invader. The case is valid, although it could not be pressed home because of the veto.
Nevertheless, on balance, I am certain that the decision of one hon. and right hon. Member after another in this debate that we should not resort to trade sanctions is right. First of all, they would not be effective. It is worth recalling that there is an embargo already on goods which contribute to the military build-up by the Western world. But the Russians possess all the weapons they want, conventional and nuclear. Also, sanctions would be represented to the Russian people as an imperialist plot to destroy socialism. If anything, such action would consolidate the Russian leadership in the eyes of the Russian people and in the eyes of the peoples of the countries of Western Europe, so powerful is the Russian propaganda machine.
There is one final consideration which I think is decisive. It was mentioned by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), and it was implied in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). It is this: if anything has contributed to the dilution of the closed society of Communism it has been trade and contact with the people of the outside world. It has shown the Russians how other people live and given to the Russian people the only proof which they ever see that the world is not as their Communist propagandists paint it. With trade sanctions and an official boycott by the British Government, all that would end.
When we come to the more positive action which might be taken by the British Government, I take it that the Government will give very careful con- sideration to whether they should recognise the new Czech Government. I am not asking the Foreign Secretary for an answer tonight; clearly, this is a matter of very delicate balance. But if this Government turned out to be a complete stooge Government, I think that the country would expect the British Government not to recognise it, but to leave it there.
I hope—and this has been mentioned by one or two hon. Members—that the Government have decided that they will look after the Czech students who are here and will help them to stay here for as long as is necessary and until they wish to return to their own country. I remember that in the case of Hungary, which earlier suffered an invasion from the Soviet Union, an institution was set up with funds to maintain contact with people in difficulty. I do not suggest that there is an exact parallel here, but the Government might keep that precedent in mind should the situation harden.
I hope, too, that the B.B.C. can be given the necessary funds to re-establish the broadcasting service in Eastern Europe, for which its funds were cut, so that the plain facts, not propaganda, can be broadcast throughout Eastern Europe.
Like many right hon. and hon. Members today, I come to the conclusion that the demonstration which will have most effect on the Soviet Union is that of contempt of individuals for what they have done. Let it be made clear spontaneously by all individuals that they consider the behaviour of the Soviet Government to be the behaviour of uncivilised barbarians. The Russians are attentive in some respects to world opinion, they are sensitive in some respects, and this will hurt.
There are the great difficulties which the Government face, and which indeed we all face, about whether there should be a ban on all activities under the general heading of "culture". I think that there was a large consensus in the House that this would be a mistake, or, at any rate, for the Government to take the lead, although I would make one exception immediately, the one made by my right hon. Friend, namely, that it would be totally intolerable if the Red Army Choir were to come to this country at present. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will agree and that the promoters, even if they wish to go on with it, should not do so.
However, depending on how the situation develops, there is something else which the right hon. Gentleman will have to watch The Russians are masters at using this kind of thing to spread their propaganda and, therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will watch the activities of any other organisation in this country or which might come to this country which could be said to be part of the State apparatus of the Soviet Union and which would spread propaganda in this country on its behalf.
There is a consideration about the Red Army Choir which weighs with me a lot. It would be incomprehensible in Czechoslovakia and among those in Eastern Europe who look for encouragement to the free if it were allowed to come here. Militarily, the West is not required to intervene in this situation and we have no treaty obligation to oblige us to do so. If, however, Communist can eat Communist in this way, as has been proved in these last few weeks, what are the rest to expect?
It does not follow that because the Russians have acted with particular brutality where they consider that their security is threatened in an area which they look upon as an essential nerve centre, they are thereby serving notice of an offensive against the rest of the world. The real reasons, I think, why they have done this are two. The first is that freedom is infectious and, undoubtedly, if there was freedom of expression in newspapers and radio in Czechoslovakia, this would spread to Poland and East Germany. This they cannot stand. It is a measure of the rottenness of the Communist system that they cannot do so.
The other reason is that since the war they have taken this kind of action in Berlin, in Hungary and, now, in Czechoslovakia, because those countries lie on the security routes to the Soviet Union. This is part of the Soviet defence, part, if one likes, of Soviet colonialism and imperialism. There is, therefore, one aspect of this which has to do with Communism and there is another which has to do purely with the defence of the Soviet Union.
I have said that there is no reason—or it is not a certainty, at any rate—why this should lead to an offensive by the Soviet Union in a wider field. I say that, too, because that is not the Communist way. What we can anticipate now is a lull, quite likely an offensive on the disarmament front to take the eye off what the Russians have done in Czechoslovakia. Nevertheless, countries which are free today may inadvertently cross the path of Soviet ambitions and, perhaps, of Chinese ambitions later. It is for this reason that, not today, but on a future occasion, we must look at our defence policies again.
To review the N.A.T.O. policies is nothing to do with Czechoslovakia or any intention of intervening in Eastern Europe. We have no obligation to do that and no intention of doing it in any circumstances. We must, however, review our defence policy. In response to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell), who made a remarkable speech today—I am sorry that he is not now present; his origins are in Czechoslovakia—I would say that we have to look at our defence policies not in panic, but in prudence.
The Prime Minister, I think, and the Foreign Secretary have obviously concluded that N.A.T.O. must look to its force levels, but, above all, to its contingency planning. For that purpose, it is right to call a Council of N.A.T.O. at Ministerial level, either Heads of Governments or Foreign Secretaries.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who opened the debate from this side, and with other hon. Members who have spoken later, that it is not an occasion to go very much further into the detailed effects of the Russian action on British and allied military planning, but there are certain matters to which the House as a whole will have to give the closest attention in the coming weeks and months, particularly when we reassemble later.
First, there is the state of our own forces. Particularly, I would recommend to the Secretary of State for Defence a look at the size of our Army, at the prospects of recruiting, and the situation of the reserves. Trouble, let me remind the House, could in the next few years arise simultaneously both in Europe and in other places where we still, even with the Government's programme, have obligations. There is, too, need to consider with our allies the implications of the Soviet submarine fleet and its rapid annual increase, putting it far ahead at the moment of the Americans'—I would think, ahead of the Americans' plus the other allies of N.A.T.O. The defences of the free world's trade routes must be secured. This is why we have to look at this aspect of defence again.
We shall ask the Government to reconsider their policy in strategic areas where there is now political stability, where there is now British presence, but which could be targets for subversion and takeover, and, in particular, we shall ask them to introduce flexibility in the dates of withdrawal of British presences now scheduled for 1971. These things can be developed another day.
There are reports this evening from Moscow of an agreement between the Soviet Government and the Czechs. I thought that the essential point, if I may say so, was made by the right hon. Member for Belper, and which has since been repeated by a great many other hon. Members, that unless part of this agreement is that Soviet troops shall finally leave Czechoslovakia there can be no trust in future between the Western world or the free world and the Soviet leaders. Withdrawal must, therefore, be part of any agreement. We shall see. But I am bound to say that even if there is an agreement the Soviet Union has seriously damaged itself. With the best will in the world it is difficult to see how the words of Soviet leaders who have indulged in such deception can be taken at their face value or even believed. It may be possible, if withdrawal is a reality, laboriously to build the broken pieces together again. I hope so.
There is work to be done, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) reminded us, in trying to find a better system of security for Central Europe, including Berlin and relations between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact, and that we ought to do if we can possible do it. There are plans, I would remind the House, which were first laid, I think, by Sir Anthony Eden, and which are now in the pigeonholes and which could with advantage be taken out. If some of those plans could be adopted a great burden would be taken off the shoulders of the people of Europe as a whole.
In such situations as we find ourselves in today, as we have done before in our recent history, we find there is a dictatorial Power practising diplomacy and prepared to back diplomacy with force. There is on the Western side and the side of the free world, let us remember, a well-tried practice of diplomacy in such situations, and that is to pursue a two-handed policy, of conciliation, on the one hand, and strength, on the other. Conciliation is essential because the price of dropping it is too high and the prizes of success are too priceless to miss. Therefore, a part of the British Government's policy must always be one of conciliation, whatever party is in power. How far it should be carried is another matter in any given situation, but conciliation must be one element in our policy.
The other and equally important element is strength. I interpret strength as being the absolute will to perfect the security systems of the free world so that not one yard of free territory and not one human being in the free world can be absorbed into the Russian or Chinese empires. It is not easy to do, but that must be our resolution.
In Europe, we are lucky enough to have the N.A.T.O. Alliance. Those of us who remember the early days after the war would not have laid very long odds against the communists taking over large parts of the continent in Western Europe. The N.A.T.O. Alliance was set up, and, since then, we have not lost a yard of territory and we have not surrendered a free man. That is the value of the Alliance.
I will leave the personalities out of it, but the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) reminded the House of Munich. Some people learned the lesson of Munich, and some did not. I hope that I learned that never again should Britain go into negotiation with a dictatorial power in a state of weakness. Therefore, I hope in this debate that we are resolved not only that it is right to condemn the Soviet Union for a barbaric act, but also that we shall pursue a policy of strength and conciliation. In that way, we pray that even now there may be a chance to rebuild and, even now, that we may be able to make agreements with the Communist world that will be of benefit to all mankind.
I have to tell the House that the only reliable information that I have is that the talks in Moscow are still proceeding. There have been various unconfirmed reports as to the nature of an agreement that might emerge. I am not in a position at this time to confirm those reports. I thought that the House would wish me to begin by a statement of the position as we now know it. In Moscow, it is now approaching half-past eleven and, of course, the situation may change even while I am speaking now. However, that is what I now know it to be.
Whatever statement may come out of the talks in Moscow, I think that the whole House will accept what was said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he opened this debate. We shall have to judge by events, by what actually happens, more than by what is said in a statement. We shall have to interpret the words of the statement, whatever they may be, in the light of the events that follow.
We should also remember the circumstances in which the talks in Moscow are being held. Unlike the talks in Cierna or Bratislava, they are being held after the invasion and during the occupation of Czechoslovakia. Unlike the conversations at Cierna and Bratislava, they are not being held in Czechoslovakia.
As I am not in a position to tell the House more than that, it follows that some of the judgments that we can make in this debate and some of the answers I must give to the many questions that have been asked must be of a tentative or provisional nature, because there are several courses of action where a final decision can be reached only in the light of events about which we may know more in a day or two or perhaps even in an hour or two.
But I take it that the purpose of the House in coming together today was, first, to express its admiration to the Czechoslovak people not only for their courage. but for that rare and more precious com- bination of courage with self-restraint under enormous provocation. For that, whatever course events may take, all Europe and all the world is in their debt.
The second purpose was to make quite clear that the condemnation of the invasion, which was immediately voiced by the Government, should be endorsed by the House, representing the British people as a whole. That has undoubtedly been done. If I add words now, even if it involves repetition of what everyone knows and feels, it is because I do not think I could speak in this debate without adding my own comment of condemnation on this operation.
What was the nature of the operation? It was asserted, in the message sent to us and to other Governments by the Soviet Government, that their troops were entering at the request of Czechoslovakia. That was not true. No shadow of evidence, even of pretended evidence—this is in a way remarkable, almost unique—has been produced to justify that allegation.
It was said that the occupation had the support of the Czechoslovak people. This is what the citizens of the Soviet Union are being told. There is no evidence for that either. It is a complete falsehood.
It was further said that the troops would be withdrawn when the legal authorities in Czechoslovakia decided that there was no longer any need for them to stay. The legal authorities in Czechoslovakia have been of that opinion throughout the whole process. The world now waits for the Soviet Union to make good the undertaking that they gave as recently as that statement in the small hours of Wednesday morning.
Here is an operation, a defiance of international law, of the Charter of the United Nations, a betrayal of an ally, and surrounded by a tissue of excuses that will not stand examination. What is allegedly the reason given for this operation? We should pause for a moment to examine it. It is that this measure is necessary for the security both of the Soviet Union and of the Warsaw Pact as a whole. I suppose that we ought to give some consideration to this, though I have never held it a right doctrine for any nation to say that it is entitled to send its troops into the territory of another country against that country's will simply because it serves its own security. That is not how our alliance works. No country in N.A.T.O. has troops other than its own on its territory, except with the approval of the lawful Government of that country.
Even if there is this concern by the Soviet Government and the Warsaw Pact countries for their security we know what that means; it means their oft-expressed dread of what they call German revanchism.
In the light of what I have already said I do not think that the House will charge me with wanting in any way to excuse or palliate what has been done, but if we are to take the measure of the seriousness of this intervention we must accept that of all the torrents of comment that pour out from the Soviet Union about their dread of German revanchism, much is sheer propaganda, and never intended to be anything else. But part of it represents a genuinely felt anxiety, even though that anxiety is not justified by the facts, and we should not be understanding the position in Europe if we did not realise that that was so.
But why, then, did the Soviet Union take this action at a time when, over months, the German Government and the German Foreign Minister, Herr Brandt, had been diligently pursuing a policy aimed at better relations and a better understanding with the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries as a whole? If there is in the Soviet mind a genuine anxiety—and I do not dispute this—they ought all the more to have taken the opportunity which the trend of German Government policy was offering to try to lay once and for all this spectre that frightens them. To attempt to deal with it violently and illegally when the way was open to deal with it patiently and reasonably, by argument, with Germany and with all of us in the West—this is what is inexcusable. If, now—and I do not rule out this possibility—the Soviet Government will do what my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) has urged, namely, open the door again to reason, let us by all means see, if they have legitimate fears, how those can be laid.
But I do not believe that the excuse of the security of the Warsaw Pact was the only motive for the action that they have taken. The other motive, to which many hon. Members have referred, was the threat of what is called "liberalisation". The fact that they thought it necessary to take action of this sort because of the threat of liberalisation in Czechoslovakia demonstrates something to which the whole world should pay attention. It demonstrates the truth about Communism as the Russians now practise it. I use that phrase because I think that we have all come to accept that the word "Communism" does not mean the same thing in every country of Eastern Europe. If we look over the whole map—Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary—we find that it does not mean the same thing in every case. I speak, therefore, of Communism as the Russians now practise it.
The action that they have taken in the last few days shows that Communism as they now practice it is completely incompatible not with what we could call liberalisation but with what Mr. Dubcek would call liberalisation. It shows, too, that the Russian version of Communism is incompatible with the sovereignty and independence of States which are allied to the Soviet Union. It shows—perhaps most serious of all, in the long run—that Communism as the Russians now practise and understand it is incapable of responding to change and incapable of that flexibility which the present world situation so urgently requires—that flexibility which is particularly required in dealing with the problems of an advanced industrial society like that of Czechoslovakia. This is what the Russian action has revealed about the nature of Communism as they now preach and practice it.
That is what makes the whole matter important, not merely to us in Europe, not merely to N.A.T.O., but to the whole world, because if we look at the world as a whole we see the two greatblocs, the Warsaw Pact and N.A.T.O. countries. We also see a large number of uncommitted countries which look at the military power of the twoblocs with unease, and which look—we must recognise this—at the protestations and justifications of bothblocs with scepticism. We have this large number of uncommitted countries still sitting, sometimes silently and sometimes vocally, in judgment on our actions and principles.
It is surely important, if they are to reach a right judgment, that they should notice what the Russians themselves have now proved to the world about the nature of Communism as it now emanates from the Kremlin. That was why Her Majesty's Government, immediately after expressing their condemnation of the invasion, pressed in the United Nations for world condemnation. We did that for the reason I have mentioned; that there is here a truth and a lesson which should be brought to the attention of the whole world.
We all know the limitations on the powers of the United Nations. It was deliberately framed in such a manner that it could not operate in the sense of direct action unless there is agreement among the great powers. That we have always known to be part of the nature of the United Nations. But to accept that limitation, whether or not one likes it, is not to say that the United Nations is useless. It is, among many other things, the place where this process of judging by the uncommitted—the formation of the judgment which they will ultimately pass on us and Communism—is made. It is in the United Nations in particular that this process of forming their judgment and decision will be made. That, therefore, was why we pressed for speedy action in the United Nations.
I was asked why we did not go there before. I think the whole House will accept—this has been said by several hon. Members—that when a Government are deciding exactly what United Nations procedures they should operate, there is often a nice balancing of pros and cons. I ask the House to note that in the debate in the Security Council there was a very powerful intervention by a man who was able to speak for Czechoslovakia. An intervention of that kind would not have been available to us if we had raised the matter in July. We formed the view that the kind of debate which we would then have got would not have been helpful as a warning and, indeed, might have been injurious.
It is open to hon. Members to say that perhaps the balance of argument could operate the other way. But I submit that it is not open to hon. Members to suggest that Her Majesty's Government or other Governments in the United Nations were averting their eyes from what was happening. I ask hon. Members who have doubts about this to study the speech which I made at about that time in the House, in which, while recognising the delicacy of the situation, I made it very clear what our views about the rights of Czechoslovakia were. The Government have not lost other opportunities of making clear to the Soviet Government in advance what our view was.
I do not think I need go over events in the United Nations because they have been set out for hon. Members in the White Paper, but there are two further questions I have been asked. With regard to the Canadian resolution, at present the Security Council has adjourned because the conversations are going on in Moscow. The Council feels, I think not unreasonably, that it would be better to resume when the results of those conversations are known, when one will be able to make a judgment about the best course to take on the Canadian resolution. Indeed, if all went well, the need for the resolution would have disappeared, but the Security Council is still seized of the whole question.
That is one reason for not immediately taking it to the Assembly. I must ask the House to accept that I cannot at this stage say positively whether we should take this to the Assembly. I have noted very carefully the opinions expressed on this matter and I think the general trend of opinion is in favour of taking it there, but I ask the House to notice, first, the point I have already made, that the Security Council itself is still seized of the matter; second, that we have clearly got to make the judgment on this in the light of the course of events in the very near future; and, thirdly, that in taking a decision about this we must give great weight to the wishes and the interests of Czechoslovakia herself.
I have spoken of our condemnation, of the steps we have taken in the United Nations, and how the matter stands now. Much of the debate has been concerned with the question of what further action it is now appropriate for Britain and her friends and allies to take. It is with that I want now to deal. I think this question of further action fell into three parts, first, further action in the field of defence; second, further action in the field of all the many contacts, commercial, cultural and the rest, that there are between us and Eastern Europe; and then, on the longer term, further action on the whole matter of policy which has come to be designated by the worddétente.
Let me take first the matter of defence. The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) spoke more gently than some of his hon. Friends on this matter, and spoke I think the better for that. He said we must consider this matter of defence in prudence and not in panic. I would accept that; indeed I would commend it to some other speakers in the debate. There are certain to be opportunities for the House to discuss defence policy. It is a matter that is continually the subject of vigilance by the Government and frequently the subject of inquiry and debate by the House. When we next have such a discussion quite certainly we shall have to make the evaluation, which I do not think we can justly make at the present time, of exactly how far the present situation has shifted the balance of power.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) expressed the view—I think he argued this very forcibly—that it has not shifted the balance of power at all. An hon. Member opposite argued that if there were a shift it was only a marginal one. In the light of that, we must set aside demands, such as that made by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), for the immediate taking of a whole battery of military measures, some of them far from appropriate to the present situation.
I do not think that he was in the House at the time, but is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the request I made was perfectly simple—to halt the Government's present policy of unilaterally disarming, not at this stage by an increase but by stopping the decrease in our defence structure?
The right hon. Gentleman is right when he says that I had not the good fortune to hear his speech, though I have attended nearly all the debate, but I think I am right in saying that he made a number of rather more detailed demands apart from that general request. I must set them aside. I cannot accept the suggestion that the Government have been pursuing a policy of unilateral disarmament. There is no nation of our size and resources which is at present carrying as many responsibilities in the world as we are.
As regards some of the responsibilities furthest from this country, I could not accept the proposition that what has happened in recent events requires a reconsideration of the policies announced for the Middle East and Far East. It was inevitable, in view of the whole march of history, that we could not in this century go on occupying the peculiar position of tutelage which we occupied in the Persian Gulf and the exceptional military responsibilities so far afield. That is a conclusion to which this Government were bound to come and to which right hon. and hon. Members opposite, if they were to succeed us, would have to come as well.
The events happening as they are now in Europe tend to justify the argument that, if we are to use our defence resources to the best advantage, we must not attempt to do too many different things at once. We must, in particular, have a concentration towards Europe. That is exactly what we have done, and that is why we have been able to make an increased pledge of support towards N.A.T.O., a pledge which was welcome to our allies at the recent Reykjavik conference.
That brings me to the question of N.A.T.O. In the context of our defence, this is the heart of the matter, and I understood why the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked me several questions about it. The effectiveness of N.A.T.O. depends not only on the amount of military power of which its members dispose but on the certainty that they would act together if attacked. It is that which we have repeatedly made clear. It is that which it may be necessary—indeed, it is necessary—to restate plainly at the present time. The whole House has accepted, whether it liked it or not, that neither our powers nor our responsibilities extended to military action in Eastern Europe. But it must be clear to everyone in the world that the members of N.A.T.O. regard an attack on any one of them as an attack on all, and they would go—what was the right hon. Gentleman's expression?—to the full length of their mutual defence.
That is why, although the present situation resembles 1938 in some respects, it does not, fortunately, resemble it in one important respect. In 1938 we all knew, I think, that the feet of Europe were set irretraceably on the road to war; the only question was when the disaster would come, and it might be immediately upon us. That is not the situation we face now. We face, as I shall show, in some ways a more complex, more difficult situation but not one with that terrible imminence, and the reason we do not face it is because N.A.T.O. exists.
There are a number of detailed military matters to which N.A.T.O. should pay attention. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Berlin contingency plan and several other matters. I assure him that these things are already the subject of close consultation with our allies. Our permanent representative to N.A.T.O., Sir Bernard Burrows, went back from leave to his place at Brussels as soon as the crisis broke. All these matters will be the subject of proper examination and I do not think that it follows—and here again I must ask the House to accept that this is something on which I must reserve judgment in the light of what may occur for good or ill in the near future—that the case is made out for a meeting of a political summit of N.A.T.O. I was impressed, as were many hon. Members, by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper, who put the N.A.T.O. aspect of this matter in its proper proportion.
Now I turn to the complex question of the many different kinds of contacts we have with the Soviet Union. There are, as I say, many kinds of contacts and it is not surprising that several hon. Members have been in two minds about this. First, I think that it is generally agreed that attempts to break ordinary trade between us and Eastern Europe are not relevant, would not be useful and are not the proper line of policy at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman argued against a trade ban. His first argument was that trade is one of the ways in which we keep the Russians informed of what life in the West is like, and this would apply also against a wholesale ban of cultural activities.
I do not believe that there should be a complete breakdown in these but I am bound to say that it will be extremely difficult to make the impressive steps forward in this field that we had hoped to make before this disaster fell upon Europe. For example we cannot go ahead with the Anglo-Soviet Historical Exhibition in Moscow. That was to depict Anglo-Soviet relations since the Middle Ages. [Laughter.] I am sorry, I should have said, Anglo-Russian relations. But unless we can put into that exhibition a special section dealing with Anglo-Soviet relations in the last five days, I do not think that it would be appropriate to hold it.
I also think that we should avoid contacts which have clear political overtones and are of such a nature that the very fact that one has such a contact could be quoted as evidence that Britain really did not mind what had happened. I have, therefore, cancelled my own projected visits to Hungary and Bulgaria. Nor will for the present other Ministerial visits take place. I think also that for the present it would not be appropriate for hon. Members of this House to visit the countries which have taken part in the invasion. It would be totally wrong for the Red Army Choir to come to this country and this has been made clear to the impresario concerned.
The whole question of contacts will, of course, be a matter not only for Governmental, but for voluntary action. I note that the T.U.C. has withdrawn the invitation it sent to Mr. Shelepin. It is as well that there should be voluntary acts as well, because, in our country, opinion is not something manufactured by the Government alone and presented as a line to follow to the rest of the nation. When the nation feels as one, it should express itself in many voices both public and private.
I do not believe that it would be right to break off diplomatic contacts with countries of Eastern Europe. The Government which we recognise in Czechoslovakia is the present lawful Government of Czechoslovakia, and there we are.
I was asked about information. The B.B.C. has extended the number of its broadcasts, it is employing a much greater number of transmitters in an effort to defeat jamming and it is making the content of the broadcasts more factual news at the expense of items of a more general or timeless character.
The House has already been told that we are taking all steps necessary for the welfare of Czechoslovak students and others who find themselves in this country and are unable or unwilling to return.
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I have only a few minutes more and I must deal with the question of the future of what is calleddétente.
May I pick up two remarks which were made about that and which set the problem very well? The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said thatdétente. is an illusion. He could not be more wrong. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) said that it takes two to make adétente.—and that is true. If we pretended that adétente. could be made by one side alone, it would be an illusion. We have never suffered from that illusion. But let us not write off the attempt to get understanding with Eastern Europe as an illusion.
I was present when the right hon. Gentleman spoke and I listened carefully to his speech. I thought the right hon. Gentleman more contemptuous ofdétente. than apparently he is. If that is so, well and good.
We must persist with the policy of seeking understanding if it can be got without surrender of territory, persons or principles. We can make it clear, I think, to the Russians thatdétente. is the way of safety for them and for all mankind.
The House has, I think, achieved the purposes which it set itself in this debate. There is no doubt of our condemnation of the invasion by Russia and her allies. We have also urged that if there is yet time for better counsel, they should undo this act and withdraw the troops. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire said that there are the beginnings of a public opinion in Russia. I believe that he is right. I wish that the beginnings had gone a little further. But, in so far as there is anything that could be called a public opinion, I hope that it will realise that the Russians can still undo the damage that has been done if they will withdraw the troops and if they will make it clear that they accept the principles of international law.
We have condemned the invasion. We have urged a right policy. For the long term, although our policy—and I do not dissent from the right hon. Gentleman's description of it as firmness and conciliation—has to be painted in rather plainer and starker terms than before, and although the prospect of achieving understanding is inevitably pushed further into the future, the main essentials of the policy must remain, because mankind is destroyed if we do not get understanding and liberty would be destroyed if we were the victims of illusion and thought that understanding could be purchased at any price.
Liberty could be thrown away if we neglected our defences. I have dealt with the fact that we are not doing that, and the Government can readily meet any further discussion of that matter which the House may in future require. Liberty could be lost if we neglected our defences. Peace could be wantonly thrown away if we were now swept off by these events into counsels of despair. We shall make neither of these errors. Difficult as it is, we shall persist in the policy, which we believe to be right and which we believe to carry with it the hopes of mankind.