Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. James Stuart.]
The House learned yesterday with deep satisfaction from the lips of the Prime Minister of the march of events in the various theatres of war during recent months, and I think that the House recognised in his words and in his attitude a note of calm and steady confidence. Two of his statements I would like to recall with satisfaction. The first is that the Armistice terms with Italy were fully approved of, not only by the United Kingdom and the United States, but by Russia. One regards that as an illustration of a co-operation which we hope will continue. The second statement of the Prime Minister to which I will refer was the announcement of an early meeting between the President, himself, and Mr. Stalin, and the establishment of machinery of co-operation between these three Governments. I believe that there is a sincere desire in all quarters of the House and among all sections of this country that after the war there shall be continued the closest possible relations, ever improving relations, with the Russian Republic. I would hope that the comradeship forged on the anvil of war might become the tempered steel of a new brotherhood between those nations after the war. I realise that great nations engaged in a common war for freedom must have their differences, even under the pressure of that common war, and I appreciate that when the struggle is over there are possibilities of differences arising between. those great countries. Some of them are already apparent. No matter how powerful a nation is to-day, not even if it is the greatest Empire in the world; after this war is over, it will not be able to live unto itself alone. Whatever their ideology is, the great Powers must learn to live together in a spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding and to provide that leadership of the free peoples which the smaller, less powerful nations are now so urgently demanding. They are looking to us now for that lead.I wish to confine my remarks to one aspect of the Prime Minister's speech, that part which he developed as a result of an interchange of words across the Floor of the House. On 11th September, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister, in an appeal to the Italians to join in the task of ridding Italy of the Germans, said:
Several times yesterday the Prime Minister used that same term, "The liberation of Italy". That is the language of comradeship, I hope it indicates that it is the intention of the United Nations to honour the pledges given by the free men of the world to their sons and to their sons' sons, to make liberty secure in the world; but it means more than that. We are under a very deep obligation of honour to the men, women and youth of free spirit in other lands who are to-day proving their loyalty to liberty as they have proved it over years of suffering under Nazi and Fascist devilry. I go back to the days of Mussolini, who is now a miserable, fleeting shadow, passing to a well-deserved oblivion, on whose direct orders men whom I knew and respected were either murdered or driven abroad. Some, thank God, are still alive and are as true to democratic principles as ever they were. I remember how Mussolini hamstrung every democratic movement in Italy. He destroyed the Social Democrats, the trade union movement and the co-operativ movement. He tried to quench the flame of intellectual liberty by hunting down scholars of distinction. Survivors lived, and some still live, to prove that the spirit of Garibaldi and Mazzini is still contributing to-day to the forward march of the human race. In Germany, the Social-Democratic Party organisation and its influential Press were destroyed. Doktor Ley—a good name for the so-called leader of the labour front in Germany—seized the headquarters, the organisations, the Press and the funds of the trade union movement. The cooperative movement of Germany met a similar fate. The graveyards and concentration camps in Germany were filled with men and women whose only crime was their steadfast support of democratic institutions. We take pride in the unquenchable spirit of our comrades in Poland. They have stood unflinchingly against wholesale murder, torture, exile and slavery. In Norway, humble workers, ministers of religion and teachers have, with conspicuous courage, withstood the foul and bestial onslaughts of the Nazi. This story of the heroism of the common peoples is repeated in every land now temporarily under the sway of the Nazi tyranny. From the Mediterranean to the Arctic there are people smarting and suffering under the Nazi lash: from the North Cape to Gibraltar, from France to the tip of Greece, as well as in those countries of Europe which are still neutral, there are millions of people aching for the day when the miasma of dictatorship will be blown away for ever by the breezes of a new freedom. We have watched these things happening over many years. We witnessed with little protest the absorption of Austria into the greater German Reich. We stood idly by while Czechoslovakia, with all its resources and its people imbued with the spirit of freedom, were forced into the Nazi orbit. We watched the dictators sharpening their swords in Spain for further aggressive action elsewhere among a people who were struggling to become free. We saw one, who was called—very properly as it now turns out—a sawdust Caesar, beginning, under our very noses, to rebuild the Roman Empire. We know—the Prime Minister reminded us again yesterday if we need reminding—how Mussolini struck at France, and therefore at Britain, in the dark days of June, 1940. In the minds of people bitter memories live long. Men of honest mind, whoever they may be, business men, professional men, scholars and the overwhelming mass of organised labour in Europe and elsewhere, in every country, now know Nazism for the evil thing that it is. It is true that the United Nations have not yet come to final grips with Hitler, but it is also true, I think, as the Prime Minister made very clear to me in his speech yesterday, that the blood red sun of Nazism is beginning to set. However long, however bitter, however terrible the struggle may yet be, we can reasonably look forward to ultimate success. Further territories will be occupied by the United Nations as the war proceeds, and such occupation will throw very heavy responsibilities on the liberators. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration—I wish the Foreign Secretary could find a better name for it—which represents a noble ideal but hides itself under a clumsy suit of clothes—[Interruption.]—Somebody ought to alter the name. This organisation has been set up to deal with some of the problems which are beginning now to arise very urgently. The mandate which it is proposed to give to this international United Nations organisation reads as follows, in very fine langauge, in my view:"The liberating armies of the Western world are coming to your rescue."
I say that that is the kind of work that ought to be beginning to-day. It is clear that while any territory is a theatre of war military considerations must be paramount, and nobody could make any claim for interrupting in any way major and important military operations, but as areas are cleared of the enemy—and the Prime Minister spoke with almost a lilt in his voice yesterday when he was referring to the clearance of Italy—then civilising and constructive agencies must get to work to assist the faithful who fought the good fight and who are yearning to take part in the final consummation of their liberation. It will not be possible in the early stages—or indeed until after the Armistice—to carry out the wide range of duties which the leading United Nations have undertaken to fulfil. The question of the return of exiles, for example, is not one we can easily settle until we have also cleared the areas where the exiles live. That is obviously so. It is, however, in my view vital that what can be done should be done to relieve suffering and to begin the restoration of community life. On 27th July this year, the Prime Minister told the House:"Being determined that immediately upon the liberation of any area by the Armed Forces of the United Nations, the population thereof shall receive aid and relief from their sufferings, food, clothing and shelter, aid in the prevention of pestilence, and in the recovery of the health of the people, and that preparations and arrangements shall be made for the return of prisoners and exiles to their homes, for the resumption of agricultural and industrial production and the restoration of essential services, to the end that peoples once freed may be preserved and restored to health and strength for the tasks and opportunities of building anew."
With the first part of the Prime Minister's statement I am in complete disagreement. I do not believe that the Germans "blundered" into this technique as the Prime Minister said. I believe it was thought out in cold blood. By deliberate and brutally conceived policy the gauleiter and the Gestapo follow the storm trooper. It is part of a coherent system of conquest and administration. The gauleiters with their Gestapo follow up the military occupation in order to round off the tale of terror and to secure the complete suppression of every element of democratic life by means of the Nazi jack boot. That the United Nations should ever emulate this inhuman technique of murdering human bodies and torturing human spirits, in Italy or elsewhere, is inconceivable. I agree with the Prime Minister that we should not degrade ourselves and betray the trust which statesmen all over the world have repeatedly reaffirmed, for if we did, then we should, as the Prime Minister said:"We must be careful not to get ourselves into the kind of position into which the Germans have blundered in so many countries, namely, of having to hold down and administer in detail, from day to day, by a system of gauleiters, the entire life of very large populations, thereby becoming responsible under the hard conditions of this present period for the whole of their upkeep and well-being. Such a course might well, in practice turn the sense of liberation which it may soon be in our power to bestow upon the Italian people, into a sullen discontent against us and all our works. The rescuers might soon, indeed, be regarded as tyrants: they might even be hated by the Italian people as much or almost as much as their German allies. I certainly do not wish in the case of Italy, to tread a path which might lead to execution squads and concentration camps and above all to having to carry on our shoulders a lot of people who ought to be made to carry themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1943: col. 2399: Vol. 391.]
The real reason for my speech to-day is to urge, with all the power I possess, that in the case of the United Nations "occupation" must mean "liberation," in violent contrast to the Nazi conception that "occupation" connotes subjection, slaughter, slavery and suffering. These are the things that divide us, these two conceptions of life. I believe that the great declarations which have been made during the past three years from the four quarters of the world express the hopes of the vast majority of mankind. I do not believe that mankind will allow those who have spoken with such authority to betray human hopes and aims so deeply held. At the very first moment open to us we must prove our sincerity, and "Liberation" must be enblazoned on the flags of all the nations now advancing against the enemy. Italy, in my view, will be a test case. I cannot bring myself to believe that those who have acquiesced in, and supported, Mussolini's Government can with honest minds work with us for the liberation of the Italian people, those men and women of independent spirit of all walks of life—intellectuals, professionals, workers and peasants. I appreciate that capitulation must be arranged by the United Nations with those in authority in enemy countries. That is obviously so, but I am expressing the fear that is in the minds of many of my hon. Friends and millions of people outside when I say that thereafter, when the territory falls into our possession, cooperation in the task of completely and finally destroying the Fascists and their tools, the near Fascists, seems to me to be impossible and indeed incomprehensible. We can and should, and indeed must, co-operate with those scholars and shopkeepers, public servants, workers and peasants who through an agony of years have been true to Italy's democratic history and future hopes. I would like to know from my right hon. Friend, Is this what the Prime Minister had in his mind yesterday? Will the proper influence be used from the United Nations on those who "rubber stamped" the capitulation, accepted it, to press upon them, whomever it may be, Badoglio at present, the absolute necessity of full and frank cooperation with every kind of democratic institution in Italy, those people who have suffered during a score of years, and have proved their loyalty to the cause we espouse to-day before we were brought into bloody conflict, those people who have their finger on the pulse of the Italian people, who know the Fascist vipers in every town and village that ought to be trodden down, and who know the men of influence who can be trusted and who can become in their localities or organisations leaders of the people. We have got to re-create somehow a community life again, and it is the community that ought to create it for itself. I think the Prime Minister is right in suggesting what he called an all-Italy Government. I think all men of good-will who declare themselves anti-Fascists and for the United Nations ought to be willing, until we have solved that problem, to work together. Here I am making a plea for the people for whom I have fought all my public life, the Socialists, the trade unionists, the cooperators of Italy and similarly in every other land that we rid of the Nazis. I agree with him that Fascism is denounced by the whole mass of the Italian people. I agree with him about the sufferings that still face the Italians during the coming weeks. I agree with him that they will be pillaged and terrorised. That is all the more reason why, when we have rid them of this nightmare, we should take them to our bosoms and ask them to help in the great task of democracy, both in the rescued countries and in the countries still to be rescued. I cannot forget the peasants of Southern Italy and the workers and the citizens of the towns in both Northern and Southern Italy who in these days are opposing the Nazis with great bravery and determination. They are our allies. These people are facing terrors which we have never had to face. The workers of Milan and Turin are among the heroes of the war to-day. They are the comrades with whom we should work—we the liberators, and they the liberated liberators—to help us in carrying on the common work. We have heard very little up to now of the civil agencies which will march on the heels of the victorious military forces in Italy and elsewhere to bring help and succour to the Italian people. We have learned very little about the Sicilian A.M.G.O.T. This House, our people, and the United Nations are entitled to know what our plans and arrangements are. Who are the people to be in charge of the civil organisation which follows upon military occupation? How are they to be recruited? How many of them have been recruited already or will shortly be recruited? On what scale are the United Nations conceiving this gigantic task which faces them? What preparation and training do the people who are going to take over the very responsible work and duties have to fit them for that work, and what are the relations between the U.N.R.R.A.—the thing with the bad name but good intentions—and the great voluntary organisations of the three countries, by which I mean not merely the Red Cross but the co-operative societies, the trade unions, and so on? After the last war—which I am aware is no complete parallel to this war—rehabilitation was for a year and more left to the voluntary agencies. That grave mistake we cannot repeat. The world ought to be satisfied that we are now in process of developing an effective international organisation which will follow on our victorious forces, to release, with the least delay, the sorely-stricken victims from the grip of Nazi torture, and to give them hope of a new life, of which they will share in the building. The active restoration of Italian life and health, when Italy is rid of her invaders, will declare two things to the subjected nations of the Continent, if it is well done. First, it will tell those still awaiting release that, following military victory, succour will come speedily to the bruised and punished peoples elsewhere. Secondly, if we can, whatever the difficulties—very great in war circumstances—and however clumsy the results may temporarily be, dispel any idea of a new regime of gauleiters and seek to work with those true and gallant souls who, against incredible odds, have kept alight the torch of freedom in their countries, we can then be sure that the aims of the Atlantic Charter will be fulfilled. Millions of men, women and children in Europe have suffered over years refinements of cruelty unknown at least in modern history. Nevertheless, they still nourish in their hearts the hope and certainty of future freedom. Let us not delay that hour by a moment. Let us, now that the invasion of Europe has begun, determine that wherever our armies may reach in the coming months we shall be welcomed as generous liberators. The Prime Minister yesterday said that it would never lie on his conscience that the war lasted a day longer than it need have done. I would say, Let it never rest on our consciences that we delayed by a single day or a single minute the life-giving work to people who have been under the harrow for so long. After Dunkirk—a dark time—the Prime Minister used these words:"turn the sense of liberation which it may soon be in our power to bestow upon the Italian people, into a solemn discontent against us and all our works."
It is in that spirit that I have made this contribution."Long live the forward march of the common people of all lands towards their just and true inheritance."
The Debate so far has not revealed any considerable or profound dissent from the views expressed by the Prime Minister yester- day. I think that the eloquent and interesting speech to which the House has just listened does not require me to qualify that statement. One of the things which strikes any member who has listened closely to the Debate is the absence of real disagreement at this moment between the two sides of the House. Certain elements of controversy which were very prominent only a few weeks ago have fallen away, or fallen into the background.
Not at all.
The hon. Member disagrees with that: doubtless he will interject some element of controversy into the Debate at the right time. I find it not altogether easy to take part in this Debate. But I think it true that, although there is apparently no real difference between the two sides of the House, hon. Members who belong to the Socialist Party do in certain important respects approach the present situation, as opened up by our successful invasion of Italy, from a different point of view than that which some of us take. It is with that particular aspect of the matter that I would like to deal, as briefly as I can. I hope that what I have to offer may tend to reduce the differences between the two sides of the House, though I am not very hopeful about that.I agree with very much of what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), but he has this in common with some of his friends behind him, that he desires that we should direct our appeal only to certain elements in Italy and in the other European countries which we shall liberate. I notice in his language and in that of some of his friends a concentration alone upon those elements which he describes as democratic. The right hon. Gentleman said something about democratic Government in Italy, and similar phrases were used pretty often yesterday. I cannot help thinking that the interpretation which the Socialist Party in this House place upon democracy and upon democratic government in Italy is too narrow. I do not know why they should seem to suggest that the only elements, or the strongest elements, to which we should appeal in these countries are the extreme Left-wing elements. It really is not true that it is only the extreme Left-wing elements, to which we could appeal. There are other very numerous and important elements in the populations of all these nations, including Right-wing elements, to which we could direct our appeal: but hon. Members seem not to wish us to do so.
Who are they?
I am not going to produce a long list of names, but they do exist, and they are important. I think there is a great danger that by using that argument hon. Members will antagonise, or at any rate fail to secure the support of, other important elements.
Why not tell us who they are?
I have told you.
"Right-wing elements" is so general.
Of course I can speak only in general terms.
The hon. Member has complained that we are limiting our appeal to certain elements, and he says that we ought not to be so exclusive. We have told people time after time whom we have in mind. Will he tell us whom he would have us appeal to?
I will reply to that in a general way. I do not think I should be called upon to mention the names of individuals, as hon. Members have done. I think it is a mistake to mention and discuss in this House the names and characters of individuals in foreign countries. What I think we can refer to are general elements, important in the life of the nation, whether they are political parties or riot. That, I think, is the only proper way. I do not see why I should be called upon to give particulars of individual persons. It is a mistake when hon. Members discuss the personalities and views of persons with whom they find themselves perhaps in agreement in Italy and suggest that they should be brought forward as leaders of the people.
Will the hon. Member indicate the class of people to whom we might appeal? Who are they: what class?
If the hon. Member means social classes, "No," because I should certainly say that the determination to get rid of the hated Germans and to restore the liberties of the people is not confined to any one class. It is a question of patriotism and not a question of social classes at all.
Everybody knows that the working class in Italy is opposed to Mussolini and Fascism, and everybody, therefore, will appreciate that we are right in appealing to them. There is no middle class in Italy. Mussolini has seen to that over the last 20 years. Therefore, the only other class then, are the Royalist. aristocracy or the big industrialists. These are the two bodies of people in Italy who supported Mussolini and created Fascism and maintained it in power for 20 years. Is the hon. Member suggesting that we should appeal to them?
I entirely disagree with the hon. Member's classification of the Italian people. The middle class may have been wiped out in Germany, and that is one of the most dreadful results of the Nazi system in Germany. It has not been wiped out in Italy. It still performs a very important function both in the social and economic life of Italy. There are other classes in Italy to whom we can and should appeal. There is the aristocracy, which I cannot expect the hon. Member to support, but by far the greatest part of that can be appealed to by us. There is the peasantry, and not only that, but a very large part of the artisan class too, in the towns of Northern Italy—not by any means all of whom belong to the extreme Left-wing parties with which members of the Opposition find themselves in close sympathy. It really is a great delusion to suppose that all the artisan class—if one is to talk in terms of class: I do not very much like the word—that all the artisan elements in the towns of Northern Italy belong to this extreme Left wing in whom hon. Members of the Opposition are interested. That is not so. They are to be found in certain towns, such as Turin and Genoa, but I should like to call the attention of the House to a remarkable thing. Yesterday the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) mentioned three parties as having some prominence—the Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the Christian Democrats. He stated that these were the dominating forces inside Italy since the fall of Fascism. I profoundly disagree with that statement, which is very much in line with the interruptions which have just been made to the remarks I am making.What has happened within the last few weeks, since the fall of Mussolini? There were not only these three parties, but some others—about half a dozen altogether—and I have a note of their description. There is the party called the Action Party, there are the Christian Democrats, there is the Liberal Re-construction Party, the Democratic Labour Party, the Proletarian Socialists and the Communists, and, joined together they threatened in unison a general strike unless there was immediate cessation of hostilities, and if the King did not abdicate. But events proved that they were quite unable to make good their threat. Neither of these things happened. The King did not abdicate. At the end of August they had withdrawn their opposition and their demands. They represent certain political elements in certain towns and regions of Northern Italy, but they enjoy no widespread popular support. The basis of the people of Italy to-day remains the peasantry: by far the greatest single element among the whole Italian people is the peasantry. It is certainly not the ideas to which I am referring and of which we hear so much here and in some parts of the English Press, which are popular among the peasantry of Italy. As for the people who live in towns in Italy, I would remind hon. Members that, although there are a good number of towns in Italy, there are not nearly as many large towns as there are in this country. There are something like double the number of towns in this country that have over 100,000 inhabitants compared with what there are in Italy. The interesting thing about Italy is that a great many of the townspeople among whom these ideas might be expected to take root live in small towns and not in the great manufacturing towns: they are towns that we should rather regard as provincial, small towns with fairly small populations. Their inhabitants are to this day very close to the soil and are not engaged in manufacture on a large scale. Many of these towns have a very ancient and interesting history, going far back to the Middle Ages, in which their people played an important part in the story of their country and of Italian civilisation. What are the interests of the inhabitants of these towns? They are not politics. For the most part the inhabitants of these towns—it may be a defect in the Italian character, and this is going to create many difficulties—are not interested in politics. These people love their country. They are proud of the long history of their country, and proud of the civilisation that Italy has given to the world, but the greater part of them are quite inaccessible—I am sure of that—to the political arguments of which we have heard a great deal in this Debate and of which we heard even more a few weeks ago.
Does my hon. Friend mean to say—and this is really an important point—that it is utterly impossible to explain to the urban democracy of this country, whether Tory or Socialist, that not only in Italy, but in the whole of Europe, there is a peasant world or democracy which has nothing in common with the ordinary urban dweller of this country?
I entirely agree with the Noble Lord, and I am very much obliged to him for his interruption. He has clarified an argument which I fear I was not making altogether clear to certain Members of the Opposition.
Would not the hon. Member agree that the vital force in Italy in the events which led up to the present situation was that of the industrial workers?
No, Sir, I profoundly disagree. Really one must join issue here. The industrial workers in the cities as a whole have developed in the course of years a hostility to Fascism, but that sentiment was certainly not confined to industrial workers. It is a profound mistake to base any argument relating to this question on that opinion.
Personally, I would agree to the description that the hon. Member has given about the attitude of the peasant. If we exclude the industrial workers, what other class is there in Italy to which to appeal? To Badoglio or the King?
This has gone far beyond a question. It would be just as well to have one speech at a time, and might I suggest to the hon. Member, that he should address the Chair?
I am sorry, Sir.
I am sorry if I was at all responsible for straying from the straight path. I was attempting in a purely debating speech to meet a certain issue which had been raised not in a very specific form but is implicit in the argument much used in a Debate a few weeks ago and in this Debate. As to the remark just made by the hon. Member, I dissent from him when he suggests that the industrial workers were responsible for the fall of Mussolini. It is not so. The opposition to Mussolini in recent years was not confined to industrial workers. It was widespread throughout the Italian nation. It was widespread among the bourgeoisie and certainly among the aristocracy, and the, King, when he deposed Mussolini, was faithfully interpreting the wishes of the whole of the people. The answer to the hon. Member is not that I propose to exclude those other elements, but I would not confine my appeal solely to them. That is my point. We must not exaggerate their importance in European countries, which is what Members of the Socialist Party have done. The thing we are apt to do from our own experience of British life is to exaggerate the importance of certain extreme Left-wing elements which flourish almost solely in large manufacturing centres.It is the neglect of this principle that leads to the mischievous argument that I am criticising. We are not concerned primarily with the nature of a foreign Government: what we are concerned with is its policy. What primarily concerns foreign Governments is not the political character but the policy of another Government. That is the right principle, and the contrary principle opens the way to a very dangerous argument. Some few weeks ago some very unpleasant things were being said about the King of Italy, the House of Savoy, and Marshal Badoglio, as the present head of the Italian Government. I very strongly support the attitude pursued by the Prime Minister yesterday upon this question. The Badoglio Government is the legal and constitutional Government of Italy. It is the only Government with which we have to deal and deserves and requires our support on that ground.
I hesitate to intervene again, but—
The hon. Member may have his chance later.
I only wanted to ask a question. I was wondering what was the Constitution which made Badoglio's Government the constitutional Government of Italy?
Marshal Badoglio is the man to whom the King of Italy has entrusted the task of administering the affairs of the nation. No one will venture to suggest that the present Government of Italy is not the constitutional Government of that country.
Of course, it is not.
What does the hon. Member mean by saying it is not?
I mean this: When you have had 20 years of Fascism, when all political forms and discussions have been abolished, when people have been held down by the power of tyranny, it is impossible, when that tyranny has been swept away and a King has been called a near-Fascist, to maintain some kind of law and order and say that that is the constitutional Government of Italy.
That is absolutely no argument at all. In fact, the hon. Member has refuted himself, because he has pointed out that many institutions have been formally and legally abolished. The old Italian Parliament was abolished by law.
No, by force.
It was abolished by law: that is the historical truth.
The historical truth is that Mussolini marched on Rome.
I must ask hon. Members to let one speech go on at a time.
I repeat that the King of Italy is the head of the State and that the men to whom he has entrusted the powers of administering the affairs of the nation do constitute the constitutional Government of Italy. To-day the House of Savoy, for recent historical reasons, may have lost some of the support it once had among the Italian people, but the plain and simple truth remains that the House of Savoy is not merely the symbol but is the very essence of the unity of Italy. We are a homogeneous people, both in a social and political sense. Remember what the history of Italy has been: how she became a united nation only in 1861. What were the ruling political inflences in the North? They were German influences, the Hapsburg influences. The country was divided. We speak here as a people which has had 700 years' Parliamentary experience. We take these things for granted. When we use any expression relating to democracy we speak against the background of Parliamentary institutions. The idea of democracy is immediately connected in our minds with Parliamentary institutions, but in Italy the word "democracy" has no such affiliations: it suggests no such long-established record of successful democratic practice. On the contrary, it suggests a Parliamentary system which was established quite recently: and a system under which Parliament never gained undisputed strength and authority. In the critical years 1920–, immediately preceding the establishment of Fascism, disorder was spreading throughout Italy: there were great strikes, involving loss of life: the disorder was gradually degenerating into anarchy, and the Italian Parliament showed itself unable to make or maintain a series of stable or effective Governments.
Is the hon. Member arguing that you cannot have democracy in Italy?
Democracy to the Italians has a very different meaning from what it has to the English. I do not say that you cannot have democracy, but you must define the term very carefully and must understand what you mean by it. The argument drawn from English Parliamentary experience has for Latin people no comparable meaning or relevance. We shall antagonise many elements among the Italian people if we continue to talk to them of democracy in the way that English Left-Wing politicians do.Hon. Members in their discussions on this question are confusing Fascism with patriotism. Many of the things which they criticise in the present situation are not due to Fascism in Italy to-day or to any support by us of Fascism. They are due to patriotism. They are due to qualities which, in similar circumstances, every Englishman would wish every other Englishman to exihibit. They are the qualities of firmness, calmness, discipline—
How dare the hon. Member introduce a remark like that into this discussion? I am using a serious argument.
I think my reference to poison gas was entirely relevant. May I ask whether it was patriotism that led Badoglio to employ poison gas in Abyssinia?
I was describing the kind of qualities which a people, in the. appalling situation the Italian people are in, must exhibit. I was attempting to describe some of the qualities which constitute patriotism, and the hon. Member made an offensive interruption which has no relation to the subject whatsoever. I hold no brief for Marshal Badoglio, and I do not intend to defend every episode in his career, but the fact is that he has been entrusted by the King of Italy with the task of government and we cannot go behind that fact. Let us not confuse Fascism with patriotism. Let us make an effort of imagination and intelligence. The Italian people are among the most intelligent peoples in the world. I do not claim high military qualities for the Italian people as a whole, although it is true, as the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Thomas) said in his courageous speech yesterday, that some Italian units have fought well in this war. However, the Italian people as a whole have not the military qualities of the British or Germans. But among their qualities is that of high, keen intelligence. Let us at this time show our own intelligence, which is no mean one. Let us put ourselves in the place of the Italians and understand what qualities are demanded from patriotic Italians. Remember that if we were in their place, we should make exactly the same kind of appeal that is being made by the present Italian Government to its people. Let us not caricature those qualities by talking as though they had anything to do with Fascism: or condemn, by applying to it that easily-used epithet of abuse, Fascist, a government which in circumstances of appalling difficulty, is attempting to do its duty.
I, unlike other speakers in many debates that I have heard, shall have pleasure in following the hon. Member who has just spoken. He has made, quite obviously, a perfectly honest speech from the Conservative point of view. He has covered up nothing, he has tried to delude no one, and he has made his position quite clear, and it is about time that we had speeches of that kind showing exactly where the Conservative Party stand. I do not think for a moment that he understands what Fascism is. I do not think he understands what is happening in the war. He does not understand the conflict that is going on all the time between the people on the one hand and property on the other. I will try to make clear to him what the war is really about. In 1922 there was a good deal of industrial upheaval in Italy. That was coincident with an economic crisis. When the employment situation and the trade situation were difficult and the relationship between capital and labour got very difficult property or capital, call it what you like, enforced its rule by adopting a Fascist policy for the enslavement of the people of Italy. The same thing happened in Germany in 1933, which coincided with another economic depression. Every time there is an industrial crisis there is always a tendency for the people who are employers, the people who own capital, those representative of the banking industry and so on, to try by whatever means they can, and as a last resort, Fascism, to enslave the people and make them work for the general good, as they regard it.I should like to try to make quite clear why there is this fundamental difference between the hon. Member and us. I think he is quite clearly in favour of the recognition of Badoglio's Government. There was an ominous reference by the Prime Minister that either he or the Foreign Secretary would make some statement towards the end of the week. I want to know if they are going to make the statement that His Majesty's Government are going to recognise the Badoglio Government, because that will show the true nature of the way in which the war is being carried on. This is not a war between this country and Italy or between this country and Germany at all. To use an old cliché, it is a class war. It was only when Fascism got dangerous to British commercial interests that many people ceased to praise it. From 1922 onwards people on the Right were praising Mussolini for doing a great number of things. Lots of publicists, politicians and other people of the Right have seen fit.to praise the actions of Mussolini during the last 21 years. They went through the actions of opposing him, but, nevertheless, they supported his war of aggression against the Abyssinians. It is a question whether the people the hon. Member represents are going to dominate this world or whether the people are, and that is what the war is about.
That is the hon. Member's interpretation of the war.
Certainly. The Prime Minister's speeches never contain any social encouragement to the people of the world. It is true that he has talked about cherishing Italian liberty for the last 20 years, but I do not understand what that means, because I do not think there has been any Italian liberty, unless it is liberty from anarchy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) said there were two things that we had to look after. One was to see the people fed, and the other was to prevent anarchy. Anarchy, in his sense, is an uprising of the people to throw over their masters, to try to get free, and it is obvious, as the situation from the military point of view gets better, that those who are anxious to enslave other people are getting stronger and stronger, and that is where the issue lies between my friends on these benches and the other parties in the Coalition Government.
This raises a very important issue indeed. To listen to the hon. Member one would think that Germany had nothing to do with the war. Does he ignore the historical origin of the war? He is substituting the war of his own political imagination for the real war, responsibility for which rests on Germany alone.
May I remind the hon. Member of something of the history of the relations between the Conservative Party and Mr. Hitler? It is well that these things should be remembered. You financed Hitler.
I did not.
The Government that the hon. Member supported in 1935 allowed Hitler to build up the German Navy. Even within three months of the outbreak of the war the Government were on the verge of granting Hitler a very large loan. It was a question of praising or appeasing Mussolini when he was fighting in Abyssinia or in Spain, and the same thing happened, as far as the Chamberlain Government were concerned, in trying to appease Mussolini and Hitler. There was never a word of condemnation of the way they treated their people. The hon. Member said we were not concerned with the kind of Government other countries had or the way they treated their people but only with the policy they pursued.
I said that other nations were primarily concerned, not with the nature of a government but with its policy.
I have always believed that the foreign policy of a Government reflects its home policy and that the nature of a Government is reflected in its policy. The whole trouble is that a Fascist Government has to be aggressive in foreign affairs. It has to expand, to get spheres of influence, colonies and so on. The hon. Member's whole speech has disclosed what I am convinced is the true Conservative mentality, and that mentality is a most frightening thing. I do not think that any Tory is capable of winning this war from a political point of view. That is the real issue, and that is why we are concerned to join in these Debates on the war situation. I am not in a position to criticise its military conduct, but I can test what is going on according to my fundamental principles, and I am very much alarmed at the way things are being handled. I fear most definitely that there will be an announcement this week of the recognition of the next Quisling Government, namely, Badoglio. We have had this happening before. These things are symptomatic of the political outlook of the majority in the Government. I am not speaking purely for myself. I think I am speaking for my friends, and I know that I am speaking for a large number of people in this country who are not at all happy as to the way things are going. Some are beginning to say that politically we are losing the war fast. If you are going to have an instrument like A.M.G.O.T. refusing permission for any political parties to be formed in Sicily at all, it is a complete negation of what we are supposed to be fighting for. Are we going into Italy as liberators? Are we going to restore the freedom that has been taken away from them, or are we going to establish something in its place which may have a different name, which may not be called the Fascist Party, but which is in essence the same thing? That is the issue that we have to face. I have no doubt that hon. Members opposite will come down on one side of the fence, and we shall come down on the other, and although it was for a long time probably desirable, from the point of view of production and the military effort, that we should have this semblance of national unity, it has been a most uneasy arrangement reached between the party mainly represented on this side and the Conservative Party.We have known all the time since 1922 what Fascism meant. There has not been a single Member on these benches who.has said a word of praise for Mussolini. By our nature we could not. I am sorry that until Mussolini became a menace, until it was popular to refer to him as a jackal, many Members opposite saw no bad fault in his behaviour towards his own people or the people of Spain or Abyssinia. We knew from the beginning what Fascism meant for the working classes, and so did hon. Members opposite, but they did not dislike it very much. The Prime Minister in one speech said they had shown us the method by which we could rid the world of Leninism and the Bolshevist poison. For 20 years the world has been safe for the landed gentry and the capitalist class. It has, nevertheless, resulted in war, but the war is about the same thing all the time. The right hon. Gentleman opposite smiles. He is largely responsible tor administering pensions to the dependants and widows of those who have lost their lives in the struggle which his political policy has brought upon the world, and I still say he is doing it very ungenerously. I see no reason for smiling at what I hope is a modest analysis of the present situation. We knew perfectly well that the liberties that have been won by the Tolpuddle martyrs, at Peterloo and by the Chartists in this land could very well be lost abroad. They could be lost in Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. Hon. Members on the other side of the House were not frightened of Fascism until they thought that their commercial interests were being impinged upon and threatened. Then in May, 1940, we came to this uneasy agreement to work hand in hand because we were fighting for the preservation of the liberties of this country and of the peoples of the world and hon. Members apposite were fighting for the preservation of their Empire and their Colonial interests. Now when the war from the military point of view is getting better we see the cleavage growing clearer day by day. It is not only the people who are workers but those who take a keen political interest in what is really happening in the war at the present time who are most disturbed. I find fhat what men in responsible positions ale really concerned about is what will happen after the war. Have the Government made a single proposal for post-war reconstruction? The only thing I have come across is the White Paper on Education. The Minister of Agriculture is forbidden by the War Cabinet to make any statement about post-war agriculture. The Minister without Portfolio is no doubt working hard but he has produced nothing except a promise of two White Papers. There is no drive in the direction we would like. There is no planning. There is nothing, and I believe that the Members of the Conservative Party are hoping to get back to what they regard as the good old world as soon as the war is over. We on this side, on the other hand, are hoping that out of this terrible slaughter, this terrible mess, this world revolution as it really is, something decent' may come for the general body of mankind. If you stand in the way of the real urge of the people and prevent it by your Press, by your B.B.C., by your political lying at elections in order to ensure your own safety and the safety of what you stand for, you will have misled the people and will be completely unworthy of the sufferings which the men and women of this country have gone through not only in the Forces but in the factories. I say with all the sincerity I possess that it is surely possible sometime for right hon. and hon. Members on the other side to see the light of civilisation and to change the views they have held. If they cannot do that they can surely get out and make room for people whose only interest is the welfare of the people of this country and of the world. If they are only interested in vested interests and the continued enslavement of the people of this country and of the world, they are unworthy of the people who have laid down their lives for their country.
I do not propose to follow the last two hon. Members in their political arguments. I want to deal with what to me is the most important phase of the Prime Minister's speech, namely, the devastation which is being caused in Germany by our bombing. He told us that the almost total systematic destruction of many of the war industries was indescribable. We have seen many of the photographs and have been given information, and what he said is perfectly true. The devastation that has taken place in Hamburg, which has been laid flat, in Essen and in other towns in the Ruhr means that about one-third of Germany's industrial production has been destroyed. What we want to know is, Why cannot we go on and finish the job? Why cannot we go on bombing the rest of Germany, that great belt of Germany which is still producing munitions of war and giving Germany the means to carry on the war? It seems to me that something must have happened. Our bombers and the American bombers have done remarkable work, but what has happened to them? Every time somebody else wants bombers they are taken away and sent here and there. We would be far better engaged in bombing Germany than in bombing Italy or attacking the Balkans. It is no use trying to kill a tree by cutting off its branches one by one: we must get down to the roots. Air bombers that are on operations are doing marvellous work. I understand that we have some planes in one place and do not know what to do with them. Why are they not brought to England for the use of Bomber Command? We have been relying on getting a number of planes from America, but why are they not coming here instead of being sent elsewhere? I see from the paper to-day that 500 pilot crews are coming over. What a pity they do not bring planes with them.Give us the bombers, and we can bomb Germany out of existence and finish the war in a few months. If we do not do it Germany's air power will get stronger. We shall miss the opportunity if we do not take it now when we can. I cannot be- lieve that the Germans cannot find an answer to our bombers as we found answers to their U-boats. Of course they can, and we shall probably be faced with an attack in this country. We want the Government to see that planes are not deflected but that they are brought here to this country and turned over to Bomber Command, which has done such wonderful work, and to the American Air Force here, so that they can get on with the job of bombing Germany. If we do not do that, although we shall win the war in the end, it will take much longer. One has only to talk to the men associated with this arm, and they will tell you the same thing. The Prime Minister referred to saturating the German defences. If we get a stronger Air Force, we will saturate them with a much smaller loss than if we have to invade by military arms and a much smaller loss than we had in Sicily. The losses from bombing Germany are microscopical compared with the results obtained. I urge the Government to review their strategy in this connection and to give the Air Force all the bombers they want, so that we can attack the root of the trouble, which is Germany, and do it quickly and much more cheaply in human lives than by any other means.
I rise to address the House for the first time with a sense of great respect, and I beg hon. Members to forgive any errors I may commit. Our attention during the Debate has been directed to the Mediterranean and Italy, but there are other theatres of operations. The Nazis control a huge coastline from the North Cape to the South of Bordeaux, extending over thousands of miles. Goebbels refers to it as the Western wall, and it is defended and garrisoned by some 100 divisions. It has rarely been assaulted. A few attacks have been made upon it, such as those at Vaagso, St. Nazaire and Dieppe. All have been successful and have taught us many lessons which have been applied in North Africa, Sicily and Salerno. This wall has hem built by the enemy in comparative peace, and he uses the hinterland for rest camps for his divisions. Goebbels in his propaganda which is always erroneous would lead us to believe that Germany's legions are invincible and that this wall is impregnable. I had the good fortune to inspect a portion of this wall. It is strong, but in my view it can be assaulted and breached by a determined, well-organised attack. I lived for a week with an SS division and watched their training. They are pleased to exhibit themselves. I was a well-known figure in their exercises. They are hard, ruthless men trained in war and practised continually in the use of their arms. In my opinion they are not as good as seasoned British troops. The efficiency of the German armies depends on two factors,.great experience of war and an, unlimited amount of ammunition to expend in practice.Here in this country we have thousands of men who are straining at the leash to make an assault and are impatient to get to grips with the enemy. When we make our assault on this Western wall we will require all our skill and all our experience. Let us get that skill by seeking out the enemy, by hammering him incessantly, by assaulting him in every direction and playing on his nerves, not only by words but by deeds. The Nazi has very bad nerves. During our assault on St. Nazaire a French officer who lives in that town told me that hundreds of Nazis were giving themselves up to the French in the interior of Brittany. In this officer's opinion 10,000 men could have broken through and pinched out the Brest Peninsula. When I was walking through France I was continually asked questions by working men and women who aided me at the risk not only of their own lives but the lives of their families as well. I was asked, "When is your Prime Minister going to speak to us again? His words hearten us and give us strength to endure." I was asked also, "What do you in Great Britain think of France now? When are you coming to help us?" It may be that I view the war with jaundiced eyes. I have seen many horrors in France. I have spoken to a man whose eyes were put out by the Gestapo because he would not talk and give away his friends. I conversed with an Alsatian who was conscripted into the German Army and sent to Russia in the campaign of 1940–41. He served in the military police. There in Russia he saw young women with babies murdered by the Gestapo. He saw 7,000 Jews lined up in front of a trench and mowed down, the dead and dying were thrown into the ditch, which was then filled up and used as a road. I have seen men who were arrested and put in prison in cells where they could neither lie nor stand and were practically in perpetual darkness. I saw food queues of men and women in France lined up to try to get some sustenance which was not available but which could only be bought in the Black Market. Who controls the Black Market but the Nazis? A man in Paris said he purchased three tons of sugar in the Black Market and it was delivered to him in a German Army wagon. Children tottered about the streets starving and emaciated. Thousands of our prisoners would have died but for the Red Cross parcels. Many criticisms have been unjustly levelled at the Red Cross, but I can assure hon. Members that they have saved many thousands of lives. I have seen all those things in France, and it was difficult for me to draw the subtle line at where the Nazi stops and the German begins. Here in this country we tend to become complacent. We are fairly secure and comfortable, thanks to the British sailor. We are apt to forget that a few hours' flight away from our coasts are people who are tortured, starved and suffering, people who are crying out to us for help. The heart of France still beats, and it beats stronger every day. The French have been defeated but have never been vanquished. They are still ready and willing to take up the fight. They are crying out to us for help. Are we going to turn a deaf ear to their plea? If the Government will give us the assault forces the faster we will give you the victories.
The House will, I am sure, join with me in congratulating the hon. and gallant Member for Aston (Commander Prior) on a very successful and eloquent maiden speech, all the more impressive because it brings into our inevitably rather remote political discussions a breath of the reality of the war outside. I am sure the House will agree that we shall all look forward with great interest and lively expectations to the hon. and gallant Member's further contributions to our Debates. He will appreciate that it is no discourtesy to him if I do not follow him in those few parts of his speech that are capable of controversy, but that is no lack of respect to his argument or opinions but is the limitation imposed upon the speaker who follows a maiden speech. There can be little doubt, listening to the Prime Minis- ter's speech yesterday, that however short or long the time may yet be before the end of the war Hitler has lost the war as irrevocably as Mussolini has lost it. The doubt that is in many of our minds is whether Fascism has lost the war. All over Europe, in countries occupied by the enemy and in countries that have been held down by Fascist tyranny for many years, there are millions of humble folk who have lived through all those years in the hope that some day, somehow, such a day as this would dawn. For a great part of that 20 years the prospect of such a day must have seemed remote indeed. During all the years between 1923 and 1939, when our country, our Government, was lending all the support it could to the Governments that were holding these nations down I wonder how many of those people thought with any optimism that the day would come, and come so soon, when the end of that evil thing was in sight. Very few. When the day came when Mussolini fell and the chance seemed miraculously in their hands to reconstruct civilisation, it was a very great surprise to all of us to see how much was left of Italian civilisation, how much had survived after 20 years of that tyranny.When the opposition to Fascism no longer had to be underground, when its opponents came out in thousands on the streets of the great cities of northern Italy, what would be the thought uppermost in their minds? They would be waiting to hear some message of encouragement and welcome from the leaders of the United Nations, some invitation to them to come in at long last and take their rightful place by our side in the struggle for the civilisation of the world. What did they get? They got a speech from the Prime Minister of this country which must have belied all their hopes. What was there in that speech to lend any encouragement to all those people who for 20 years had resisted Mussolini while we were supporting him? The only policy he had to offer was "Let them stew in their own juice and let us heat up the fires." That is still his mood-in his long elaborate explanation yesterday of the negotiations with Badoglio. What was he afraid of? What are they still afraid of? What has become the fashionable key word to explain Allied policy in Europe in the process of liberation? The key word is "We must preserve them from anarchy." It is a strange comment on the Prime Minister's speech yesterday about preserving Italy from anarchy to read in the papers this morning of what has just happened in Naples. Are we really relieving Italy from anarchy? War is anarchy. Our appeal to all the countries in Europe still held down by the enemy is to rise and revolt. Our appeal to the guerilla bands in Greece and Yugoslavia is an appeal for sabotage. Is all that in the interests of law and order? It is not anarchy that they fear. Anarchy has become the fashionable description of it, because they are afraid to say "Communism" in case Russia is offended.
Does the hon. Member really think this country wants Communism in Europe, or here in England?
The Noble Lady will forgive me for thinking that the people of Europe may prefer to decide for themselves, and if they decide to have something which the people of this country, even if the Noble Lady were right, would rather they should not have they would still be entitled to have it.
It remains true, whether the Noble Lady likes it or not, that in Europe to-day the only forces that either desire to resist Fascism or are capable of it are the forces of social revolution. That must plainly be so. What other force is there to oppose to Fascism in. Italy? Is it Badoglio? My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) asked in a speech that the Foreign Secretary did not hear whether the announcement to be made towards the end of the week would be that the Government of this country or the Governments of the United Nations propose to recognise the Badoglio Government as the legitimate Government de jure of Italy. I hope the Foreign Secretary will give us a clear assurance that that is not the intention of the Government. Until it is realised that this war is what my hon. Friend described it as, a world-wide civil war in which the issue is whether the people or property shall win, they will not understand the war and they will not be able to win it.
And they would not fight it if they did.
The Noble Lady was never prepared to fight Fascism.
Was I not? And Communism too. They are exactly the same as far as the freedom of the people is concerned, to our democratic way of thinking.
The Noble Lady is entitled to her view, and I hope she will take an opportunity of expressing it. The only point I desire to make is to call attention to that part of the Prime Minister's speech yesterday in which he seemed to throw over any attempt to maintain national unity. His line was perfectly clear. He was no': going to have anarchy in Italy. He was not going to appeal to the only forces which some of us believe could assist in the overthrow of Fascism in Italy and the recreation of civilised Italian society. He recognised that not everybody in the country, not everybody in the House, and perhaps not everybody in his Government, share his view, and he said that that did not matter. He said:
It may well be that rule by majority is the democratic way, provided that you have first taken care to see that you really have a majority for the views you represent, the policy you adopt and the action you propose to take. Although majorities may determine democratic action they ought not to determine the actions of coalitions. If the Government are determined to act by majorities, the case for coalition disappears. They have a House of Commons in which they hold some 400 seats and that gives them a majority for their views. The House of Commons was elected in 1935 in different times, on different issues and in different circumstances. The National Government were formed in order to maintain national unity. When the Government were pressed time after time to formulate their peace aims, the Prime Minister's reply always was that they could not do that "because we are not completely agreed about them, and we must maintain national unity." Now, when they think that they are out of the wood, the claims of national unity disappear. The Prime Minister falls back on his reactionary compact majority of people, who, for the last eight years—or at any rate for the first four of them—did all they could to maintain Fascism in Europe. This is of a pattern with the Government's home policy. They no more intend to lead this country to a new way of life internally than they intend to lead the world along the paths of progress which alone would ensure the cessation of our troubles. I would like to ask my Friends who are in the Government whether the time has not come when they should accept the Prime Minister's challenge before it is too late, before they are irretrievably tarred and compromised by this Government, before they are so implicated. in the Government's anti-social tendencies and refusal to recognise the signs or the needs of the times as to be incapable of leading the people along new paths. It is clear from the Prime Minister's recent speeches that his acceptance two years ago of the leadership of the Tory party was not an accidental or temporary mental aberration or a momentary lack of judgment, but really did reveal his mind, and that he deliberately decided, when he might have led the world, that he would lead the Tory party instead—lead them back into the old ways and the old policies, the outworn social, economic and political forms, the very attempt to maintain which made world war inevitable. We have done our share as a party. We have made our contribution to military victory. [Interrwption.] Let nobody deny it. Does the Noble Lady deny that the Labour Party in this House and in the country have made their contribution to military victory?"We propose to do that and we are not going to be put off that action by any fear that perhaps we should not have complete unanimity on the subject. Parliament does not rest on unanimity, democratic assemblies do not act on unanimity. They act by majorities. That is the way they act, and I have not the slightest hesitation or doubt as to what will be the view of the House and what will be the view of the country in respect of the policy which I am announcing and which we are determined to carry through with the utmost vigour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st September, 1943; col. 95, Vol. 392.]
Of course not, but the Labour Party are not talking in the country in the way that the hon. Member is talking in this House. The Labour Party are not fighting for Communism. Make no mistake about that.
I thought the Noble Lady was denying the statement I had made. If she was not, I am not interested in the rest of her intervention.
If the Labour Party had been composed of people thinking the way the hon. Gentleman does, they probably would never have come into the Government. I am certain that the hon. Gentleman does not represent the Labour Party. He does not represent anybody but a very small number, a very few chosen people.
The Noble Lady is quite mistaken as to the facts, as she normally is. On the occasion when the Labour Party at the Annual Conference in Bournemouth, in 1940, had to determine whether it would go into the Government or not, I spoke and voted in favour of the Labour Party going into the Government. It seemed to me that we had no option and that it would be quite wrong for the Labour Party in those conditions to sit back and criticise the others in the dangers and difficulties which then confronted us. It seemed that we had to go in and take our share of responsibility at the moment when defeat was on our very doorstep..1 think we were right to do that and we have done it. I think we have made our contribution, I put it no higher than that, to the resurgence of strength in this country and to the military victory that is now inevitable. It is true that I thought the Labour Pary ought to have made conditions. If you are a party of 150 or 160 going into coalition with 350 because you agree with them on one point, it would be wise to make terms and conditions about domestic policies on which you do not agree with your partners; but it may well have been that the times were then too desperate and that we could not have got round a table to argue about the terms and conditions on which to take our share of responsibility.The condition of coalition was that the policy of the Government would not be determined by majorities but that the Government would seek at all points, irrespective of majorities and minorities in the House, and when we could not have a General Election, to preserve unity. I am entitled to say, and I think it is a reasonable argument to address to the House, that if the Prime Minister says that the maintenance of national unity is no longer the policy of the Government which is now to be determined by majorities, by which be must mean majorities in this House, then the essential condition on which we agreed to go into Coalition with the Tories has been broken and we ought to come out. [Laughter.] The Noble Lady has a sense of humour which I find myself unable to follow. Fortunately she has not to determine the questions to which I am addressing myself. I say that the time has come when, by the declarations of the Prime Minister, it has become exceedingly doubtful whether the Tory Party and the Labour Party are fighting in the same war at all, and that if we are to go by majorities then let the minority be represented on these benches by their own leaders. Let the views which we represent in the country find their natural expression in the elected leaders from these benches. There is no reason in the world now why they should be silent inside a coalition Government who are no longer going to maintain national unity but are going to use them merely as hostages and are seeking to pursue a policy of dictating by the majorities they use in this House. No one doubts two things, one of which is that unless military victory is secure there is no hope for the future of civilisation in this part of the world. The second is that there is little hope for the future unless, when victory is won, some attempt is made to remove from our ways of living those forces that make war and poverty endemic. I quite understand in one sense the Government's policy of unconditional surrender, which, however, is not an answer to problems but is the beginning of them. Rather, it is the refusal to answer them, or the decision only to postpone them. It cannot be a policy. Unconditional surrender of the Fascists, yes, but when you have the unconditional surrender, the problems will be there. The problems will still have to be solved. We want them solved in a new way, on the basis of a realisation of their true nature. It is not the fault of some of us that we find ourselves on the threshold of victory with no peace aims or peace plans. We, a small group, have for two years begged the Government not to be caught napping in this way, not to be left, at the very moment when decisions have to be taken and plans put into operation, with no decisions taken and no plans made, so that all that you can do is to cloak the, lack of policy by the parrot like repetition of the words "unconditional surrender." Unconditional surrender of the Fascists, the armies and the armed forces of every kind, yes, and unconditional surrender of all those who stand in the way of human progress in order that proper plans may be made and proper plans developed; but do not go on repeating the words in order to postpone for ever the solution of questions that may involve differences. If you do, the very force of inertia will lead you to make the wrong decisions, and the common people of the world, by whom and for whom this war has been won, will be as badly betrayed as they were in 1918.
I have listened to this Debate, or the greater part of it, with considerable interest, because it illustrates the attitude of mind of certain Members in this House which causes me some concern. We are engaged in a very great war. We are by no means at the end of that war. We have a very stiff passage ahead of us, and yet I listen to hon. Members who tell me that this is a class war, that it is a war in which we are engaged in a class contest, presumably, I do not know with whom; but that we must think of nothing now except reconstructing tae world on a basis which they do not explain. Sometimes I feel that this unreality is almost dangerous. It is leading people to suggest that this Government, for instance, which represents all the parties in the House, is a Fascist concern, or is interested in preserving the Nazis or is not interested in the future welfare of the people of this country.We in this House are entrusted by the people of this country with their destiny, and we are responsible for the conduct of this war, and we are united behind the Government, which represents us all. And yet I hear hon. Gentleman opposite suggesting that the time has come when the Labour Party should break away from the rest of us and presumably run its own course. A very good example of this is provided by the collapse of Mussolini in Italy. We are told that that has been brought about by underground forces of a progressive nature that have not submitted to Fascism. Everyone knows that it was brought about by the King. The people could not bring about the fall of Mussolini. It was done by what we should call, if we were discussing the history of Russia before the revolution, a Palace revolution. The King and the Army leaders turned out Mussolini and that was the result of no great effort of the populace.
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman a question?
There is nothing I have said that is not perfectly true and I do not know what the hon. Member wants to ask his question about. We are told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that this country must not recognise the present Government in Italy under Marshal Badoglio. We are not to recognise it because it does not represent the people. Who says that? My impression of Italy certainly just before the war was that the Monarchy was really the solid background of the regime. The King was the person whom the bulk of the Italian people regarded as their leader, and although Mussolini was a tremendous power in Italy he could never get rid of the King whereas the King has got rid of Mussolini. [An HOY, MEMBER: "And the British Army."] And the British Army. We are now in Italy. We have invaded the country and we have yet got to turn the Germans out of it. During that period when an army is advancing through a country, whether it is a so-called enemy country or a country we have come to liberate, during tint period when the fighting is going on it is absolutely essential to have some form of Government, civil Government, helping the army. That is why this body has been formed called A.M.G.O.T. My only complaint against it is its name. When it gets to Germany A.M.G.O.T. may sound rather a curious name. But when anyone has any knowledge whatsoever of the way in which British military men run the civilian population in an occupied country they realise that that is by far the best form of government that can be adopted by this country in the days that are to come.It may not be exactly the same position when we get into allied countries which are occupied by the enemy. It may be best in such countries to establish as soon as possible the governments which are now in this country. Presumably the Allied military leaders will arrange with the various governments what form of civil government will be best to set up as soon as the actual fighting is over. We are not concerned, in any way, with what particular government any country may choose to adopt. We have always been far too much inclined to meddle in the affairs of other countries. What has been pointed out by some speakers in the Debate is true, that we have often formed entirely wrong judgments on Parliamentary affairs in other countries because we entirely based them an our own ideas in this country. We have had long years of political Parliamentary experience. We have grown up with our Parliamentary institutions. It is a mistake to think that Parliamentary government must be as successful in other countries as it is with us. You would not have had Fascism or Nazism if Parliamentary government had been successful on the Continent. We must be very careful, when this war does come to an end, not to try and persuade everybody else to be democratic. If other nations prefer different fowls of government to ours, that is their affair; if they decide to set up a form of government which resembles our own, so much the better for them. If they do not, if they decide to have some other system, whatever we may think of it, it is not for us to interfere. What we have to do is to see that there shall be no repetition of this war. The Germans should not again have the chance of attacking. That is not to be achieved merely by telling them that they are to have a republic and to get rid of Hitler. We have a heavy task ahead of us, a tremendous task, and the best way it can be embarked upon is not to quarrel among ourselves now, not to suggest as some hon. Gentlemen do on the other side of the House that we on this side of the House are entirely opposed to democratic liberty or to the social improvement of the people. Such an assertion is not true; it is merely what is called politics and it is unworthy of Members of this House at a time like this. Let us do all we can to support the armies in the field and remember that the war has still to be won. Let us hold together at this period and not suspect each other of every imaginable crime against society. If we have anything to be ashamed of in this war it is not the fact that such and such men held such and such views before the war but that we have not always and at all times put our full energy into the war when it once began. That is what we have to remember. We must not let the people of this country suspect for one moment that the danger is over. We must all put our whole minds to winning the war and never cease from working for that.
I shall venture for a short time to bring the House back to the Debate initiated by the Prime Minister, and the great victories—I emphasise that —the great victories of our Armies in Sicily and on the Italian toe. If anything, the Prime Minister was too modest in his statement. If the Germans had achieved a victory of such importance, Berlin would have been befiagged. If the Russians had achieved a victory of such strategic importance, there would have been volleys of guns, rightly and properly, in Moscow, and I say that this is an occasion when we should pay tribute to our generals and our soldiers, our airmen and our Navy. We are inclined—perhaps it is a good quality—to depreciate our victories when we do win a battle. Instead of praising our generals and leaders, we make little of our enemy. Take North Africa. We are liable, in our jeers and sneers at the Italian enemy, to forget quite entirely that the Italians were within a hair's breadth of getting into Egypt. I remember there were many who thought that the occupation of Egypt was inevitable. It was the skill of our generals and the bravery, pluck and courage of our soldiers that drove them across the difficult terrain of North Africa and finally achieved the occupation of Sicily.I have heard people say, "After all, it is only a little island." I heard one man in the streeet saying that it was like occupying the Isle of Wight. Sicily is not only of strategic importance; it is a territory about the size of and very much similar in character to, Wales, full of difficulties, presenting many difficult problems of organisation and of movement, and I think we ought on this occasion to pay tribute. General Eisenhower, General Alexander and General Montgomery, and above all that amateur Army composed of men 99 per cent. of whom three years ago were in civilian life with no ambition to become fighters, have shown themselves not only superior to the much despised Italians but have defeated some of the most skilful professional soldiers in the world, the German General Staff, the most highly organised and efficient military machine in the world. So far as I am concerned, I would have liked to see a Resolution of this House thanking our brave men for what they have done. That particularly applies to the Navy. I think our Russian Allies, not being a sea Power on any large scale, fail to appreciate the big part we have played as an island State. The Navy remains the silent Service. It does little boasting and has little publicity. But it is a remarkable achievement that, with all the landings it made, we have been able to keep open far-distant territories, in Africa and in Sicily. I think our Russian allies fail to realise the difficulty that a narrow strip of Channel makes when it is a matter of not only landing a large Army but of maintaining its supplies. I want to pay a special tribute to the Prime Minister for his journey to the United States. There are many critics who do not like to see the head of the State being absent for seven weeks from this country at the most serious period of the war. I have some sympathy with them. Everybody says that the Prime Minister is indispensable, but somehow in his absence the country carries on. I think that if we are going to have many more of these journeys—and I am in favour of them—the responsibility of carrying on the war must be more clearly defined. I have not a word to say against the Deputy Prime Minister, but there was a Question only to-day about a decision on an important home affair. I think that the time the Prime Minister spent in America was well spent. The more contact there is between the United States and ourselves, and, above all, the more personal contact there is between the President and our Prime Minister, the better it will be not only for our war effort but for the future of the world. I recently had an opportunity to visit the United States. The influence of the Prime Minister there is greater even than it is in this country. The President has his enemies, and he has difficulties far larger than those of our Prime Minister. He has to encounter personal antipathies and political differences owing to the Constitution of the United States and the fact that there cannot be a national Government. The Prime Minister is a great influence with the President, and probably the President is the only man who can speak to our Prime Minister as an equal in discussing war problems. The more often these two great war personalities meet together and exchange opinions and views, the better for our civilisation. There is always, between Allies, especially when important problems of strategy have to be worked out, a danger of misunderstanding. There have undoubtedly been misunderstandings between the American Executive and our own, and they have sometimes been at cross-purposes. When the Prime Minister and the President are together, those misunderstandings are short-circuited. I want, in conclusion, to refer to two other matters. The first is the position of France. The French have been going through three appalling years. I do not think that we appreciate the humiliation of the French people when their country is being occupied by Germany. It has been said above the Gangway that the breaking of the chains will come only by a revolutionary movement. Believe me, go per cent. of the common people of France are waiting for the day, and they are growing in strength. That is my information, and the hon. and gallant Member opposite, who made such an interesting maiden speech, was of the same opinion. I think it is most important that the Provisional Committee should get every encouragement. They have quite a considerable Army, but I am informed that they have been short of equipment. It was a great piece of news to every Frenchman that the occupation of Corsica was to be carried through by a French Army. Quite rightly, the French Committee cannot have the status of a Government: unfortunately, Frenchmen are inclined to quarrel on policies; but it is most important that, through the French Committee, the French people should be encouraged to feel that we are determined that in any reconstitution of Europe France again will be a great nation and a power in affairs. I was glad that the Prime Minister was able to state that France would be represented on the Mediterranean Committee. That will do much to hearten the French people in these appalling months of trial when they are waiting for the army of liberation. Finally, there is the difficult question of the form of government in Italy. The hon. Gentleman above the Gangway, in his interesting speech, was very scathing about the negotiations with Marshal Badoglio and the Italian King. For the life of me, I cannot understand what other organised forces the British Government could negotiate with. Seventy-five per cent. of Italian territory is occupied by the Germans, and is likely to be for some time. I think the Government would have been guilty of mad folly if, when there were responsible people prepared to risk their lives and throw over a dictator, they had not done their best to encourage them, by opening up negotiations, to lay down their arms. When Italy is free—I am afraid that will not be for some time yet—by all means insist that Italians who are exiled shall be allowed to return to their native land—such as Count Sforza and other Italian patriots who have been exiled by Mussolini. But in the middle of a great war like this how can we ascertain the feelings of the Italian people? We cannot have even a general election in this country. [Interruption]. It may be, but we have not done it yet, and there was no great protest against the renewal of the life of Parliament. How can we expect that, with the greater part of Italy in the hands of Germany, we should have negotiations only with a Government representing the Italian people. I believe that when the test comes there will be, after 21 years' experience of Fascism, a great uprising of the people, and that they will return to the great liberal traditions of the past. [Interruption.] The liberal traditions, I mean, which existed until Mussolini suppressed them. I say that some of these criticisms are unreal. Our business is to get an undertaking from the Government that those of the left who are prepared to go back to Italy to help on the cause of liberation shall be permited to do so. We have had such an undertaking from the Prime Minister—I hope that is a fair interpretation of his statement. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will make that point clear.
Facilities have been refused.
I did not understand that that was so. I think the phrase which was used was that both people of liberal opinion and people of the Left would be encouraged to go, provided that they were prepared to help in the war for liberation. I am not ashamed to congratulate the Government on the great achievements of our Forces, both in Sicily and in the toe of Italy.
I have been told by one or two people that the atmosphere in which the Prime Minister spoke yesterday and that which prevails to-day is not conducive to any extended criticism of the Government's position. I confess that there is a great deal of force in that contention. The Prime Minister had a tale to tell of uninterrupted success; and to the extent that the Government have such a story to unfold, their critics must necessarily work very much in an atmosphere less conducive to popular esteem. All I can say is that I hope the Government will always be in that position. I would much prefer to suffer under that disability. It is an extremely agreeable situation to find that whatever criticism it may be our duty to offer is a criticism on matters which do not imperil our fundamental position. But there are Members who say that when things are going very badly we ought not to criticise because it would rock the boat to do so, and that when things are going well we ought not to criticise because there is nothing to criticise.
Such an attitude, carried to its logical conclusion, would mean the disbanding of Parliament, and an entire absence of scrutiny by the Government's critics. If that happened, my hon. Friend' would not have an opportunity to carve out the successful career on which he has already embarked. Perhaps I should have his gratitude in preserving the robustness of Parliamentary criticism. We are entitled to congratulate ourselves as a whole and not only the Government upon an improvement of one aspect of our administration which is extremely remarkable. The amphibian operations which have been carried out in the Mediterranean recently have shown that a very marked improvement indeed has taken place in our tactical use of the modern methods of war. It is a very long way from the humiliation of Singapore to the Tunisian campaign and the conquest of Pantellaria and Sicily and the attack on the mainland. I do not for a moment under-estimate the complexity, dangers and difficulties of these amphibian operations. The Prime Minister had no opportunity of telling us but such information as I have been able to obtain, very largely from American Service papers—because we are very much more diffident on this side of the Atlantic than they are there—shows how extremely complex and massive these amphibian undertakings are.I understand that the shipment of a United States armoured division abroad and putting it into action calls for shipping accommodation for about 3,700 tactical support planes, about 200 anti-tank guns, about 100 pieces of artillery, 80 mortars, 2,600 machine-guns, 1,803 tractors, 477 trailers, 10 locomotives, 250 railway waggons, 400 tanks, Loco feet of pontoon bridge, 200 motor-cycles, 925 combat cars, 133 field kitchens and many tons of food, 750 tons of ammunition, 275 tons of miscellaneous appliances, telephone and radio equipment, 15,000 combat troops, plus 1,300 men for ambulances, repair shops and so forth. That is a very formidable division to move about. The House should take advantage of this opportunity of complimenting both the American and British officers who have carried out these operations with such skill. I understand that it requires about 25 or 35 ships, on an American calculation, and about 7,000 tons of shipping, on our calculation, to carry one infantry division. Therefore, the materials that we have to set aside and the shipping space we have to provide for these amphibian operations are very considerable indeed, largely because they call into operation all the services—the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. They call for technical co-operation on the highest military level. Therefore I do not—and I wish hon. Members in all parts of the House to appreciate this fact—for a moment under-estimate the complexities, the dangers or the difficulties of undertaking operations of this kind. I say this because I resent one or two things the Prime Minister said. He thinks that some of us always think of throwing men ashore. If we had two hours in which to speak, we also could put in all the qualifying phrases and could begin our speeches with all the urbanities and generous tributes which fall so easily and, characteristically from my right hon. Friend the member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). There seems to have been a sort of time pulse in the planning of these campaigns in the Mediterranean. They seem, all of them, to take about five months. The plans for the invasion of North-West Africa were laid in June, 1942, at the Anglo-American Staff Conference in Washington and the invasion took place five months later, in November. The conquest of Tunisia was planned at Casablanca in January, 1943, and the Axis Army surrendered in May, five months later. Al the same time we also decided the assault on Sicily, and that, I suppose, is the explanation of the Prime Minister's nine months' hint. Finally, the conquest of Italy was planned in Washington in May of this year, again five months later, to begin on 15th September. That is how the time schedules have worked out so far. It would appear that the planning of these operations and the assembly of the material to carry them out fall within that sort of period of military gestation. It is precisely to that narrow point that I want to address most of what I have to say. I want to examine the Prime Minister's time-table, and I want to do it in no spirit of hyper-criticism but to try and show to the House that our approach to Italy might form the pattern of our approach to other countries in Europe. I would also ask the House to bear in mind that everywhere we go in Europe we are likely to find much the same set of domestic conditions as exist in Italy. We are not going to approach unfriendly territories but territories occupied very largely by populations sympathetic to ourselves. I want, therefore, to examine how far our plans were affected by what might be described as the subjective parts of the Italian population. We have at our disposal, so the Germans say—in these matters we have to depend for information upon American and German sources —the Eighth Army, the Fifth Army and the Seventh Army, which between them make up a total of something like 24 Allied divisions, excluding any French troops that may be in the area. Our attack upon Pantellaria occupied rather less time than we expected it would take. Many people in this country drew the conclusion that the fall of Pantellaria was due equally or rather more to the efficacy of our bombing than to the unreadiness of the Italian garrison to resist us. So the first piece of evidence as to the attitude of the Italian population was ignored. The first red signal, the first important indication of the sort of reception that our troops might get on their approach to Sicily or the Italian mainland was not sufficiently taken notice of and we went on trying out our plans. Then came the invasion of Sicily. The shores held by the Italians were neither passively nor positively defended. The Italian troops and units surrendered without firing a shot and the Government's estimates of the number of prisoners are a perfect example of hyperbole. The Italians could not be regarded in any sense as captured prisoners of war. They were already appearing as Allies. The populations provided a ready welcome. All this happened during the first ten days of the second period which had been scheduled to precede the landing on the mainland. That is the second red light. Pantellaria and then Sicily are warning signals already given of a momentous and pregnant character to our military leaders and to those in charge of the advanced strategy of the attitude of the Italian population, but, nevertheless, we proceeded as if nothing at all had happened. Two events took place of very great importance. One was military. Our fight on Sicily shows, what we shall experience over and over again, that a few well-trained assault troops in a terrain like that surrounding Catania were very much more effective than heavy shell fire, bombing or batteries. We lost a good many troops in main assaults, whereas a few highly organised attack units, well-trained and used to the country, were able to take positions which did not yield to heavy shell fire or bombardment. The first lesson, therefore, we ought to derive is that, in static warfare, fire-power is of the utmost importance but that in mobile warfare fire-power is less important than highly trained mobility. I do not want to make that a major point, but it is one of some significance. We shall, unless we are very careful, fail to take advantage of some opportunities that are going to offer if we attach more importance to the assembly of heavy fire-power than to taking advantage of the local situation by troops trained for the purpose. But in the political sphere the signs were even more significant, and the lessons were very much more important. The workers of Milan and Turin struck, revolted and drove Mussolini from power. One hon. Gentleman who spoke from the opposite benches talked complete nonsense when he said that King Victor Emanuel dismissed Mussolini. The fact was that Mussolini's administration had lost all sanctions among the Italian people.
Why had they lost them?
No one would suggest for a moment that the revolt of the Italian people was a spontaneous affair which had nothing to do with the war. The Italian people recognised in the British and American troops approaching them their Allies. We ought, therefore, to see Allies in the Italian people. But we shall see how much we saw them as Allies. Let the hon. Member contain himself. It was, I think, on 25th July that Mussolini was removed. There were seven weeks to go. Apparently, from the Prime Minister's own speech yesterday, the significance of the risings in Milan and Turin was entirely lost upon the British Government. As a matter of fact, according to the Prime Minister's speech, he did not understand what was happening in Italy. The Government did not know the nature of the Badoglio régime. Political myopia could not be greater. Three weeks after the fall of Mussolini the Badoglio Government, according to the Prime Minister, were surrounded, inter-penetrated and overlaid by the Germans. This was the excuse for the Badoglio Government in the later stages not being able to implement the terms of the Armistice. But three weeks before the Italian workers in Milan and Turin, although overlaid by the Germans, struck, armed themselves and occupied all the towns. Three weeks afterwards, two days before the envoy reached us at Madrid from Rome, we bombed Milan. We bombed Milan on three separate occasions after the fall of Mussolini. Why? We on this side of the House want to know why, when already overtures had been made by the Badoglio Government, when it was known that the Governor of Milan, although appointed by Badoglio, was already arming the Italian workers, we bombed Milan and Turin. This is a very serious matter, and I warn the Foreign Secretary that there are men in the Air Force who will not be used for that dirty work. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."] We must have an explanation.
Who are "we"?
Parliament must have an explanation. I want the House to keep its mind on the dates, because they are extremely important. Why was it necessary after Mussolini had been driven from power by the revolt of the Italian people to bomb the centres of Italian revolution three weeks afterwards? [Interruption.] Hon. Members must not behave with such frivolity in this matter, because the country is watching this very carefully. Speakinr, very earnestly and very seriously, I say that it would be a very sad thing indeed if men recruited into the Fighting Services ever got it into their heads fiat they were being used for any other purpose than—
Who is putting it there?
You could find all over Great Britain at the time of the bombing of Milan, in every club, "pub" and household—
We do not go to "pubs."
No, that is why the Noble Lady is so ignorant. She need not worry; Plymouth will deal with her all right. The fact is that this is not something which evilly disposed politicians put into the heads of innocent people. This is a question which workers have been asking all over the country. Many of us, including myself, thought at the time of making a great public protest about this, but we were restrained by this thought—that perhaps it was necessary to do this to force Badoglio to make up his mind. Some of my hon. Friends and I were very disturbed by this situation, but we said, "Let us be quiet, because we do not know everything that is happening. Leave it alone, because Badoglio may be hanging fire." Now we know the opposite. We know that the Armistice was being kept back to fit in with other plans. General Eisenhower said so; he said that the arrangements with the Badoglio Government were being held up at that time. Look at the Prime Minister's speech, and you will see that overtures had been received from Italy before the envoy reached Rome so that during the time of the bombing of Milan indications had been received by the British Government that the Italian Government were anxious to discuss peace terms. The Prime Minister said yesterday in precise terms that they were not particularly anxious to expedite the Armistice because it •had to fit in with our time schedule [An HON. MEMBER: "You have it wrong."] Well, the Foreign Secretary will have an opportunity of righting it. The Prime Minister said yesterday that it was not right to say that our military plans were influenced by political considerations. On the contrary, our military plans were, in fact, fixed. The Armistice had to be fitted into them. But there was this modification, a modification which reads seriously on examination. The Prime Minister sent a telegram to General Alexander on 18th August. That is to say, on 15th August the envoy was received from Rome. On 25th July Mussolini had fallen. So we had to wait from 25th July to 18th August before the political significance of what was happening in Rome had been realised.The situation in Sicily had already revealed the disposition of the Italian people. General Alexander put forward the date of the invasion of the Italian mainland by one week, from the 15th to the 8th. Putting forward the date by one week was a very remarkable achievement. No one will under-estimate that, but if at that time General Alexander could put the date of the invasion forward by one week, what could not he have done seven weeks before if our military plans had begun to adapt themselves to a realistic appreciation of the political situation inside Italy? In other words, I suggest that all along our military plans have been inelastic, and as a reply to the Prime Minister's taunt that he will not sacrifice British lives for political considerations may I say that British lives are now being sacrificed in Italy through the failure on the part of the British and American Governments to appreciate the revolutionary nature of the Italian rising? At the time of our attack in Sicily there were 10 German divisions right throughout the Italian mainland and in Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia. Now I suppose there are nearer 20. If we had immediately recognised the situation on the Italian mainland and expedited our affairs as they should have been earlier, we should have been on the Italian mainland long ago, and many British lives would have been saved. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tut, tut."] It is no good the hon. Member saying, "Tut, tut"; he will find that this is a point of view held in the highest military quarters. I think the figures and dates go to show that the approach to Europe, prepared in accordance with every condition of approach to enemy territory, has failed to adapt itself to the political circumstances which we are likely to find. I am not trying to put this on a hypercritical level, but a serious objective examination of these dates shows that our approach reveals too little resilience and ought to take much more account of the assistance we are likely to have of sympathetic native populations when we are approaching Europe. Furthermore, I believe, also, that in our approach to Italy our position has been largely influenced by an unreadiness on the part of the Conservative mind to stir up local conditions too much. I may as well say these things here and now, because they are felt throughout the country. There is a tendency, which has been reinforced in speeches in this House, to *lake sure that we must approach and occupy Europe with the least disturbance of its political and social structure. If we had desired to stir up things in Italy, we could have done it far more effectively than by sending bombers to Milan and Turin. There were Italian anti-Fascists in America and London who were offering their services. Now I come to another question that I want to ask the Foreign Secretary. Will he inform the House what information was collected by the Foreign Office, long before the attack on Pantellaria, about the situation in Italy? Is it not true to say that there was in the possession of the Foreign Office detailed information of the political situation inside Italy? Was that information passed on, and, if so, what was done with it? My information is that the Foreign Office was kept fully informed of the possibilities of the, Italian situation long before the Sicilian campaign, and, if our military plans had been based on a proper sympathetic estimate of the situation inside Italy, our plans would have been entirely altered, and Italy might now have been occupied with very little loss of life. If the Foreign Secretary is unable to give the information, it would be as well if the House made the inquiry why it was that the information was not sent forward, or, if it was, what use was made of it. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to win cheers from docile and well-trained Members, but he has not only to carry the House of Commons with him. He has to carry the country, and, as we are approaching Europe more and more, there is growing in the country a suspicion that the political preoccupations of hon. Members opposite are beginning to overlay our military operations, to use the Prime Minister's own words. Yesterday the Prime Minister said, in connection with this approach to Europe, that the Government had made up their mind to co-operate every time with all the elements that would come together for the purpose of assisting our troops. He was going to economise British lives by co-operating with whatever elements would co-operate with us. I suggest quite seriously that we ought not to try to justify our military operations just now in the West, or in the Mediterranean, solely on the ground that they are saving lives. It is a nice demagogic argument, but it sounds nasty in Russian ears. You can easily save lives and stop the war. If a military or political operation is going to be justified merely on the ground that it saves lives, the best way of saving life is to stop the war at once. The Russians do not like that sort of argument. If you read some of the literature that is circulating inside the Soviet Union, you will see what sort of reaction that argument is having on Russian psychology at present. I have never suggested that a second front in Europe should be based on any other than military considerations, and I deplore rushing the Government into precipitate military action by political agitation. But neither should the possibility of effective military action in the West be inhibited by political considerations on that side of the House, and the suspicion is growing that that is the case. We are reaching a very serious stage of the war. The Prime Minister indicated that yesterday. As a matter of fact, his speech was an entire departure from any speech that he has made before. He said that from now on the Government were going to consider ruling by majority. That, after all, is a proper democratic principle. In a democratic community it is not unanimity that is sought but majority decisions, and the Government must rest their authority upon the majority they are able to obtain. I will ask the Prime Minister to consider the implications of that statement. Up till now the Government have been governing the country by a very large degree of unanimity and co-operation of all political parties. The Prime Minister must not convey the impression to the nation that, now that the possibility of German military victory is receding, he is more careless of national unity and is ready to rest his authority more and more upon the majority of Tory Members, because, when that happens, if he begins to get his authority in the Division Lobby from Tory majorities, the political truce is dead. We are not going to go to the constituencies to recruit Members to vote against us. Hon. Members must realise that they do not represent the country. The country is not behind them and has not been behind them since the war. You have only to look at the by-elections. Do not make any mistake about that. Hon. Members opposite are retaining scats by the grace of this side. Over and over again even Independents have sometimes stood against the combined authority of all the party leaders in the Government and on a bad register, and the Government have only been able to maintain their majority in some cases by very insignificant numbers. I say, therefore, to hon. Members, "Do not push matters too far," and I say to the Prime Minister that he must not exaggerate his authority, because at the moment, although these great successes are received with rejoicings throughout the country, the Government's authority has not gone up with them. If he believes it has, let him go to the mining areas or the industrial districts. It is necessary that the House should listen to these unpleasant things and that Members should see their significance. The country believes at present that the policy of the Government is beginning to veer away from what it was when we entered the Government in 1941. It believes that the Government are becoming irresponsible as the possibility of German victory recedes. It believes that the reactionary policies believed in by hon. Members opposite are obtaining ascendancy in the counsels of the Government, and, when that happens, British national unity comes to an end. I therefore warn the Govern- ment and urge them, in the interests of the nation, to watch their course very carefully. The nation is watching, and the nation will have its revenge unless the Government adapt their policy to the wishes of the nation.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) was critical of the speed of our operations in the Mediterranean. I am no expert on naval affairs, but surely the common-sense answer is that the average speed of a convoy is seven to nine knots, and the lack of storage space makes not one but several journeys necessary. Very different is the problem of the land commander. The moment that his aircraft and intelligence report that his enemies have landed, he can rush his tanks and mechanised divisions 24 hours of the day and night to the danger spot. That is surely why the evidence of the past has always shown how vitally important it is that during the first few critical days of a landing we should have ample supplies and above all air support. Hence the apparent delay in our preparations in the Mediterranean. The hon. Member also criticised our bombing of Milan during the progress of the Armistice negotiations. Surely common sense says that, so long as the enemy is still in arms against you, it is essential to strike at his sources of power, and remember that all the time German divisions are in occupation of the Valley of the Po those workers in Milan and Turin, though unwilling, may be made to work against us just as those in the Renault works in Paris were.
All the evidence shows that the workers were already in possession of those works and were arming themselves, and in many cases they had expelled the German garrisons.
However well intentioned, and although armed, they cannot stand against 10 or 12 mechanised divisions which will occupy their works and use the guns and rifles to kill our own men landing on the beaches of Italy. Some hon. Members opposite have likewise been critical of the fact that the Government negotiated with General Badoglio, but surely General Eisenhower's problem is a twin problem. He has to deal a damaging blow at Germany and at the same time to divert as many divisions as possible from the Russian front. When he considers this problem he must consider 3 factors, the speed with which he can carry out his operations, the strength of the armies at his disposal, and the amount of casualties that he is likely to incur. Had the Italian envoy gone back from Madrid and informed Marshal Badoglio that General Eisenhower would on no account be willing to treat with his Government, it is very likely that Marshal Badoglio and the King would have said, "Our enemies do not wish to destroy Fascism. They wish to destroy Italy and, whether we wish it or not, we must struggle on in partnership with our hated German ally."On the other hand, the immediate result of the Armistice is that Germany is now compelled to replace some 60 Italian divisions which have gone out of the war, the Italian fleet has sailed into Malta, the Italian airfields will be at our disposal, and throughout the Balkans, Dalmatia, Italy and Central Europe the German position is materially weaker. I believe that General Eisenhower was amply justified in treating with the King and Marshal Badoglio. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made the point that it does not sound nice in Russian ears that we do not wish to incur casualties, but surely the situation is that the attack on Italy was an essential preliminary to the main attack upon Europe. The position of the Italian airfields will allow American Fortresses and Liberators by day, and Stirlings, Lancasters and Halifaxes by night, to batter the remaining sources of German power, as they have already battered the Ruhr and Hamburg. When the time comes that Silesia, the Skoda munition works at Pilsen and the oil refineries at Ploesti are as shattered as the Ruhr is now, then will be the moment to attack Europe, when the Germans cannot rely on sufficient aircraft and artillery. In Spain, I believe, those who follow the bull fight divide the contest into three phases, the first, Levontado, when the bull canters into the arena and carries all before him. The second, Podado, when the bull is already wounded and begins to take stock of his enemies. The third, Applomado, when his body feels as heavy as lead and the arena begins to dance in front of his eyes. It is that final stage that I would liken to our second front in Europe with German industry, already shattered by air bombardment, unable to sustain the ground forces defending the coasts. I am certain at the present moment that the German High Command hopes to fight a holding war on three defensive lines—on the Channel, on the River Po and on the River Dnieper, and they hope that, they will inflict upon us a second Passchendaele and bleed us white so that through war weariness or despair or division among ourselves we may be inclined to contemplate an armistice with them. I am concerned about the future, and of one thing I am certain. It is that the German Government never will forget the classic doctrine of Bismarck, namely, to divide the East from the West, and Russia from her Allies. While Germany is still fighting, therefore, it is possible that she may make various diplomatic moves to try and split the Allies. The first possible move is when the German Ambassador to Turkey walks into the Turkish Foreign Office and asks Turkish diplomats to transfer a message to Russia to the effect that Germany will be willing to evacuate the territories she has occupied and seek a separate peace with Russia. This obviously in the eyes of the German General Staff would relieve 100 divisions or more to go West to face the Anglo-American Forces in Europe. There is a second possibility which might take place in Madrid. The Spanish Foreign Minister will go to our representative and say that the German High Command realise that the war is lost and that they will open the coasts of Europe to Britain and America while maintaining their armed forces in the East. They would invite the Anglo-American Forces to hold their country while they held off Russia. There is third alternative that they might fight on to the end. In that case we may have to agree with Russia on where the dividing line between our own and Russian influence is to be. Therefore, I was particularly pleased that the Prime Minister announced that a conference is shortly to take place between representatives of Russia, ourselves and the United States. It is not a moment too soon to try to judge and assess some of the problems that lie before us. What sort of Europe do we want to see after the war? It seems to me that there are two alternatives. The first is spheres of influence—a Russian sphere of influence in the East and an English sphere of influence in the West. I am against such a solution. I believe that it would tend to rivalry and that Germany with her acute diplomacy would seek to set one against the other. I would much rather, if it were possible, see an agreed policy between ourselves and Russia upon the future of Europe, a policy based upon the independence and freedom of the small nations. I am one of those who firmly believe that the future peace of Europe lies in co-operation with the Soviet Union. But I feel that many people in this country have a wrong conception of co-operation with the Soviet Union. The great and powerful Soviet Union is a realist Power and it seeks as its allies other Powers equally strong. If we are to retain the respect and the partnership of Russia we must remain strong after the war. We shall win the respect of Russia if we keep our military service and keep our armed forces at a level sufficient to police the distracted portions of the world. I believe that, given that, we shall work well with Russia. On the other hand, Russia as she has every right to do considers first of all her security and the first thing which would tempt her to go over her own frontiers would be the weakness and desolation of Europe. That can only be avoided by a strong British policy in Europe. I hope that we shall see British and American leadership in many parts of Europe. Events seem to be moving fast at the present moment and who can tell when the end of the war will come? Whenever that time may come it is time now to be considering these problems with our Allies so that should peace come unexpectedly, as it did in the last war, we shall not be as unprepared for it as we were for war.
I was rather interested to hear the line of argument that was being put before the House by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Kerr), because I believe that, apart from the military activity of the war at the moment, there never was a time when political activity was going on in the background as it is just now. There are all the possibilities in this situation of some tremendous and dramatic changes taking place in the war. I would not lay it down in any dogmatic manner, but have attempted to assess the situation and have searched almost all the newspapers avail- able and made all the contacts possible with regard to the critical political development. We see Germany surrendering not small portions of territory, but great amounts of territory, and I have wondered whether, as the hon. Member mentioned, the Germans may have the idea that they might be prepared to surrender the whole of their Russian territory and attempt to make a separate peace with Russia. On the other hand, there is undoubtedly a great amount of public opinion in this country, whether real or not, which believes that America and this country for political reasons have allowed Russia to bear the great burden of the struggle in the East. They say that it is undoubtedly true that if Russia had not been in the war, Great Britain and America would have required to do a great deal more in the military field than they have done up to the moment.
They would have been destroyed.
The feeling, at any rate, is that this country would have been defeated. All these political antagonisms are there, and we must not close our eyes or our ears in the world of to-day to the developments that are going on. It is an uneasy partnership between Russia and America and Great Britain. In the call for a second front that front is always stressed as being in France. This call is made by the Communists and you cannot divorce the Communists from Russia for they are only the spokesmen of Russian desires. I cannot see why there should be this insistence of a second front in France. Would not a second front in Italy be a desirable thing if it were broad enough and had tremendous power and force behind it? One is driven to the conclusion that Russia wants a second front in France because she does not want Britain and America going into the Balkans and probably making their way into either Germany or Central Europe because they would attempt to stabilise their sphere of influence there in the way they are doing to-day in Italy by A.M.G.O.T. A.M.G.O.T. after all is a peculiar name for the bankers' and bondholders' battalion which is being sent in behind the military in order to make the world safe for capitalism. Never mind the opinions one has with regard to capitalism; I am attempting to analyse the position to show the difficulties that exist.One sees the desire of America and Great Britain to consolidate their positions in every occupied country that they free. Free from what? When the Prime Minister talks about liberating Italy, what does he mean they are being liberated from? Are they being liberated from Mussolini to be handed over to Badoglio and King Victor Emanuel? Does the Prime Minister think us so simple as to believe that that will free Italy from Fascism? I would advise the Prime Minister and some of his supporters to read the speech made by the Secretary of State for Scotland last Saturday, when he referred to Badoglio as one of the greatest bloody scoundrels the world has ever known. They will see how the Secretary of State is stabbing the Prime Minister in the back by making a speech of this kind about the Prime Minister's nominee. Badoglio was guilty of using poison gas in Abyssinia, and he is one of the greatest criminals in the Fascist world. If the Prime Minister is prepared to march along with Badoglio and negotiate with him, is he prepared to negotiate with Goering? What is the difference? Why did he not negotiate with Hess? He is no better or worse than Badoglio. This bankers' and bondholders' battalion is going to consolidate its position in every country that they enter and make it secure. We have seen the trouble that is taking place in London. Take the Polish situation to begin with. We know that in Blackpool a Polish officer went into a shop and said, "If you do not take that photo of Stalin out of the window, I will kick in your window." Stalin has set up in Russia a Polish Committee for the purpose of handing over Poland to it. He is training them as a Government. He has troops fighting alongside the Soviet battalions, and he is sovietising all the troops and all those who are going into that part of the world. In Russia attacks are continually being made on the gang of runaway generals and capitalists who are sitting in London, this cowardly gang who ran away and, left the workers to their fate. Russia is not expecting that this bunch will go back to Poland to run Poland on behalf of the old feudal barons and capitalists. The struggle between Russia and this country goes on behind the scenes continually. In the other direction we see demands in this country that Russia shall be invited to Quebec, to Casablanca and to the various conferences that are being held, but we are told that Roosevelt and the Prime Minister do not want them there. But that is not a complete picture of the truth. Stalin does not want to be at those conferences because the discussions will deal in part with Japan, and Joe Stalin is at peace with Japan. His Ambassador is sitting in Tokio, and the Japanese Ambassador is sitting in Kuibishev, and it would be an unfriendly act if he were to be in the room when political discussions were taking place concerning Japan. The Secretary of State for Air could probably tell us more of this, but about a week ago the Press stated that the bombing crew of an American Liberator had landed on Soviet territory after having bombed some islands belonging to Japan, and the Soviet promptly interned the American crew. What a farce; what a commentary! And there was a demand from Russia that we should declare war on Rumania, on Hungary and on Finland, and it was done much against the will of a large and powerful section of the Tory Party of this country. We declared war to please Joe, but Joe does not declare war on Japan to please Winston. This struggle goes on continually behind the scenes, and the man in the street or the Member of this House who believes that there is a real identity of interests between all these sections is living in a fool's paradise. If that is the state of things now, what will it be after the war? I see the possibility—I put it no higher—of the Prussians and the Nazis attempting a try-out, because Stalin has said that he wants only to liberate Russian territory. If the Nazis retreat gradually out of Russia and attempt to make peace with the Russians in the way they attempted to get this country involved into giving them permission to wage war on Russia—if that peace should take place, what position would America and Great Britain be in? When I analyse the situation, I do it by asking what should be the position of a cold-blooded revolutionary anxious to produce a world revolution. If I were a Russian and were concerned only with producing a revolutionary upheaval throughout the world and ending the capitalist system—which might produce anarchy and disorder—I should say "Just as we made a compact with the Nazis in order to allow France and Bel- gium and Holland and the Balkans to be overrun in the hope of producing world upheaval, let us, now that the Gentians are becoming weaker, make peace with Germany, and let us throw America and Britain, as being the dominating capitalist countries in this war—too strong and too powerful for Russia at the moment—into an inevitable world struggle, long and protracted, with Germany, in which Germany would get certain advantages and which might give Russia a free hand in Poland and in parts of the Balkans." That is not just the picture of an imbecile. It is the picture of one who believes that a cold-blooded analysis can be made by some men of how to produce the maximum amount of warfare in the world with the idea of eliminating the capitalist system by brute force. We do not believe in that. We believe in ushering in a new order by reason, because we believe that a change in the mental processes of mankind is more powerful for good in the end than letting loose the forces of evil and disorder in the world. I have seen statements made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I know he cannot mean it, but he speaks in amazement about the bombing of Turin and about the attempt to consolidate the capitalist: and the Monarchical position in Italy by using brute force. What is there amazing in that? Have not the forces of property and finance always been prepared to use the maximum amount of brute force, if necessary, in order to ensure the continuation of this system of plunder? In a miners' lock-out they said "Starve the miners into subjection." If it was the railway men, they proposed to starve them into subjection. If there were to be a revolt in this country or France or anywhere else, they would use the maximum amount of force, regretfully but remorselessly, against the people in order to ensure the continuation of this system of private property and finance. When we find the Tory party, which is the overwhelming party in this House, prepared to use brute force for the continuation of its order, what is there amazing about that? I as a Socialist never believed any other position could arise. I believed from the beginning that the war was a struggle betwen rival sections of gangsters in order to ensure the continuation of property, finance and Colonial plunder. When the system was menaced they resorted to arms, though using. all the fine phrases that the people in the Labour movement, the trade unions and the co-operative societies believe in. The man in the street hates brute force, hates war and the idea of dictatorship and concentration camps, and therefore he is told these stories. The Ministry of Information puts them over. We get them from the pulpit, the cinema, the Press and the public platform. It is done to rouse the mass of the people to indignation. against this thing that is called Fascism and Nazism. Fascism and Nazism are the extreme expressions of capitalist private ownership. That is all. The Prime Minister spent two hours yesterday in giving us a superficial picture. He could spend ten hours if he would tell us all that is going on behind the scenes, because there never was a time when there was more double-crossing among the nations than there is to-day. There is not one of them which is not engaged in it. We are told that we are out to liberate Italy from Fascism.,To-day I met in the Lobby a man who is an Italian refugee. He left Italy when Fascism came into power, and he thought that all he had to do now would be to apply to the Home Secretary and he would be given permission to go to Sicily to help to build up the Socialist order there. All the answer he got was a letter from the Home Office to say how sorry they were that they could not allow him to go back to Sicily. That is the attitude. They will use the Italian working class, as they use the Labour Party, to keep the men in possession in power. They could not be the men in possession to-day if the Labour Party were active and went to the country. Mr. Curtin refused a National Government in Australia, refused to sink the identity of his party, and he swept Australia. A large number of people who supported the war because it was a war for freedom are now beginning to discover that it is a war waged for the same old reason as the last war. The same old "dope" is being put across the public by paid "hacks" on the platforms of the Ministry of Information and by bogus refugees, men who were too cowardly to remain behind to fight the Nazis but ran away when they was danger.
Since it appears that Germany, Britain and America are all fighting for exactly the same thing, which is the survival of the private enterprise system, why do they not get together now? What are we fighting for? The hon. Member is attributing to capitalists a singular lack of acumen if he says they are insisting on destroying one another.
I can only say that the same question is asked about the Churches and why they do not all get together. They are all working for the same end, but they run separate shows. It is the same with political parties. If all of us here stood for the benefit of the great mass of the people, then one political party would do. When there are interests in rubber or in oil, or in tin, the bond-holding interests naturally get into the Carlton Club and the Tory Party and expect the Tory Party to maintain their rule. If the German bond-holding interests do not get a share of the swag, they behave as the gangsters do in New York, they fight over the question of who is to exploit these natural resources. There might come a day when you had Germany and Britain and American together in the struggle. That is a possibility. You could get to the state when there was international capitalism and the complete slave State with its paid army. The Germans were the nearest approach to it. A time comes when the competition between rival gangsters is so acute that they cannot agree to share their interests, and they go to war.In Italy we have demanded that there should be unconditional surrender. The Italians were prepared to throw down their arms end to come out of the war, and they would have had peace if Britain and America had given a guarantee that their territory would not be a jumping-off ground for making war on other countries. It was possible to take Italy out of the war.
But the Germans had their divisions there.
It would have been no interest of the Germans in that case to have divisions there.
Does the hon. Member suppose that Germany would have stopped making war on us from Italy?
With her divisions.
Italy could have been at peace at this moment and would not have been used as the battleground for other nations. Italy is discovering that it was one thing to get into the war and another thing to get out of it, and that she is getting the worst of two worlds. Italy would have been well advised to have remained in the war on the side of Germany, because the position would have been Less acute. You would not have had Mussolini appealing to one section and Badoglio appealing to another, while great masses of the people did not know which side would have the most power and were afraid to support either in the internal struggle which is now going on. In the Northern towns there is a proletariat which is able to form a better opinion, but the people with whom the Government are making peace were the active supporters of Mussolini. Those supporters were not the great mass of the working class but the bankers, landowners and capitalists, who were behind King Victor Emmanuel, who was behind Mussolini.A few days previous to the war I made a speech here, when I came back from Italy. I said that the Italian people had a tremendous contempt for Mussolini and his method of life and that I was convinced that Mussolini would take Italy into the war but somebody else would take Italy out of the war. I said that in every place I went to I sought expressions of opinion and that there was a tremendous indignation about Mussolini that did not exist in Germany towards Hitler, because the two personalities were quite different in their private lives. There has never been an attempt to get the common people in the occupied territories and the enemy countries to revolt against their rulers. One of the most disgraceful episodes, which was the key to a whole policy, was to recognise Darlan. After the people of the world had been encouraged to sabotage, a young man came out and shot Darlan. Instead of being given the George Cross, he was led out to a firing squad, and his body was buried in quicklime. No information was given about him, just as there was no information about Hess. All the information one got was when some Ministers from this House got into foreign countries and, probably after a very good dinner, began to tell us over their brandy and cigars why Hess came here and why this was done and why that was done. When Darlan was selected as the representative of Eisenhower and Roosevelt, and Badoglio was selected in Italy, and when Prince Paul was flown to the millionaire's castle in Africa, and his wife, the Princess Olga, came here with the head of the Fleet, Lord Louis Mountbatten in London and moved about in society circles while the patriots in her country were fighting on the hills, one can understand the feeling that there must have been among the people of Yugoslavia and among the people of liberal opinions at all those developments. They must have been asking themselves what kind of war of liberation this was. The greatest cheer during the Prime Minister's speech came when he said that the Italian Empire was irretrievably lost. One could almost hear in that cheer the enthusiasm of people who saw new fields of investment. Is Great Britain I o take over the running of this irretrievably lost' Empire? Are the slaves in the Colonial territories always to be used as pawns in the game of the bondholders in every country? Is South Africa being consulted about the Mediterranean commitments? Is there to be a real liberation committee? Why are not the people of Italy being consulted? Why are King Victor Emanuel, who was Mussolini's Man Friday, and other people, being consulted about running the country? It is because the Tory Party here are determined to use the masses of the people for their war. There are two wars going on, one in the minds of the working class of the world that this is a war to destroy Fascism, and the other in the minds of the Tory Party, the bankers and the bondholders, that this is a war to liberate them from the yoke of foreign competitors and to give them fields of exploitation hitherto denied to them. It is beginning to dawn on the minds of some members of the Labour Party that the war is changing its character. Without being antagonistic or insulting to them, I would say that it is the same old war as before. Modern economic wars are not for the liberation of subject peoples and slaves and to destroy evil powers, but are to change the masters, to change the rule from one side to the other. We are entering into a period of struggle to-day when the ideologies of the various countries are becoming more open than they were in bygone days. All the menace is there of Russia and Germany making a separate peace and throwing the rest of the world into a tremendous struggle of war and brutality. I cannot look upon that possibility with any feelings of glee. We look upon this as a tragedy that is gradually and remorselessly working its way out, and in which brute force is being used in an increasing degree. Bombing planes are now going over, with no excuse or defence that they are going to bomb military objectives. It is stated that they are dropping 50 tons of bombs on houses, and we are told that even schools and almshouses are eliminated. We are eliminating towns and making terror on the peoples because, we cannot win the military struggle on the battlefields. The Allies are bound to get the mastery, and they say they must get it by any means in their power. I say that the Hamburg doctor and Belgian engineer have more in common with me than I have with Roosevelt and Churchill. I recognise that they are at one with me and mine in their class point of view. They may be held down in tyranny in Germany. They should have worked their way out of it, but they were led by false leaders as in this country. I say to the Government: Go on with your war. If you should win in the end, after the tremendous, bloody struggle that the Prime Minister talks of, you will discover that the troubles of your war period will have been as nothing to the troubles of the peace. The accumulated antagonisms will mean civil war, in which you will be compelled to use against the rising multitudes of conscious people throughout the world the very weapons that you have used against your commercial enemies. The only solution is not to be found through the Darlans, the Eisenhowers, the Badoglios and the King. Victor Emmanuels, but through the large mass of the people at the bottom, when they make their mind and will known and rise and sweep away the evil things that are the cause of war—rent, interest and profit.
I was under the impression that this was to be a Debate on the conduct of the war, but the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has rather disabused me of that idea. None the less, I propose, for whatever time remains to me, to make a few remarks concerning the strategy of the war and the conduct of the war generally. To do so intelligently, it is necessary to have information as to the available forces, resources and morale both of the Allies and of the enemy, and also as to the general disposition of their forces. As to some of these matters, we may surmise what they are, and as to some there have been Press reports, but surmise and Press reports are no substitutes for definite knowledge, and still less' are wishful thinking or personal opinions such as we have heard, I venture to say, in this Debate. It is, I think, regrettable that many people, in the Press and in public and in private life, and I would add in this honourable Douse, criticise and urge courses of action without having the knowledge to qualify them to do so and endowed with no other qualification than the pen of a ready writer or the tongue of a ready talker, in the case of some hon. Members of this House.But some things we do know about, and the things we know about do give us something, some peg, on which to hang intelligent criticism. We do know that immense damage has been done to Germany by our bombing; we do know that our shipping position is much improved; we do know that in North-West Europe—this is a point of great importance, I would say—only a few weeks' more good weather, remain before us whether for landing operations or for a war of rapid movement, which is what I think we should aim at as our object if we are to finish this war in a not very long time. There are circumstantial reports also to which we may give some credence. One is that, due to lessened confidence in the Nazi system and in the Nazi leaders, and due also to the effects of the Allied bombing, the German morale at home has been shaken and is being further shaken daily. There are also reports that recent German drafts in certain cases have been of inferior quality and training, and immature. I only say reports. I have tried to differentiate particularly between what we may say we know and what we may surmise or what is currently reported. It makes a very great difference if one wishes to make any intelligent criticism on strategy. I do believe that a new expeditionary force to a nearby part of North-West Europe is very desirable indeed, and I cannot help feeling it was that class of course that the Prime Minister was referring to when he said there would be a second front when the time was judged to be right. I think we must content ourselves with that statement, which I personally welcome, but I believe that it is—and I repeat it—most desirable that we should have a new expeditionary force, I will not put it more particularly than in North-West Europe, where air cover from home-based fighters is possible, and where the sea communications are short, and also a part of the world whence we can most quickly and most effectively strike at Germany. But for such an expedition adequate forces, equipment and shipping are absolutely essential. No small force is sufficient. There must be one which can operate on a broad front and look after is own flanks in these days of rapid movement and mechanised warfare. Only the Government can say whether such forces and whether the Necessary shipping are available. I do not know, I do not pretend to know; I can do no more than many others do—surmise on the subject. It must not be forgotten that landings on a hostile coast are always hazardous operations. I think that is very often forgotten in this country. People talk glibly and freely about moving large forces by sea without considering the means of doing it or the risks that are undoubtedly run. They are hazardous, and all the more so if the weather is doubtful, as the weather is likely to be in the not far distant future. In Sicily we had the advantage of surprise and lukewarm opposition at best on the part of the Italians, and not least of all a certain measure of good luck, and I believe that good luck is an important element in military operations. Salerno, on the other hand, is an equally good example of what I have been endeavouring to say, that these landing operations are very hazardous, and at Salerno, when there was no surprise, and there was a strong and vigilant enemy, I think we ran a very close thing, for failure, possibly, certainly for a very qualified success. There are too many in this House and out of it who talk glibly of second fronts as if we had no other fronts and who think that landings on a hostile coast are as simple perhaps as a peace-time trip from Dover to Calais. Perhaps it is natural that Russia, which is a great land Power, and which thinks in terms of land power and land frontiers and land communications, should not realise or appreciate the difficulties and the hazards of these amphibious operations by a much smaller Power confined by the sea on every side, but I do think it is shocking that so many Britons, and there are many, do not realise both the risks and the enormous amount of shipping involved in any such operation. Nor do they realise, I think, the organisation which is necessary and the number of men, over and above the actual fighting troops, who will be required at the bases, at the aerodromes, on the beaches, and for manning the ships, and who are absolutely essential if a landing operation on a big scale is to be carried out successfully. The Prime Minister told us yesterday that some 2,700 ships were used for the Sicilian landing. Possibly—again I do not know—that was to carry something like 12 divisions. How many ships would be necessary to carry double or treble that number of divisions, and how many men would be necessary at the bases, the beaches and so forth? The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), in his remarkable speech on strategy, talked, among other things, of the number of ships and the tonnage required to carry troops. Possibly he did not realise that the tonnage required depends very largely on the distances that those ships have to go. If they have to carry troops and equipment and all that is required a long distance, the tonnage must be greater than if the distance is short. Once or twice I wondered, when I was listening to the hon. Member, whether he was under the impression that as it was a short distance to the fronts which he was envisaging, the surplus men might swim. Some people in this country surely contemplate that when they talk about shipping these great expeditions overseas. For these reasons—the time required, the preparation and assembly of shipping, and the meticulous arrangements which are necessary for loading, unloading, convoying and air cover—all the arguments which we have heard in this Debate to the effect that there was undue delay in the landing at Salerno, fall to the ground. I cannot see that in his long dissertation on that subject the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale put up any case to be answered. It would have been criminal as well as foolish to undertake such an expedition without the fullest preparation and the most meticulous arrangements. As regards the future of the Italian campaign, we ought to remember that the German communications are very long, and that if the Italians refuse to work the railways and the essential services, and, better still, if the Italians carry out sabotage and active or passive opposition against the Germans, many German troops will have to be engaged on lines-of-communication work and various jobs of keeping down the Italian population, and this may make a substantial difference in the number of their fighting troops. The German plan may be to fall back northward, fighting rearguard actions it may be, but at the same time shortening their lengthy communications and concentrating their forces. The criticisms we have heard about allowing the escape of Mussolini are so ridiculous that they hardly need answering. I wonder why some hon. Members have not criticised the Government for not arresting Hitler. That is not much more ridiculous than the idea that we could arrest Mussolini in his own country before we had any footing in that country, let alone any authority to carry out arrests. I think that the criticism of our dealings with the Badoglio Government rests on no sounder foundation either. These are military operations, and from a military point of view it is essential that there should be a Government which can be recognised and which can function in the country, and with which the military commander can deal. It does not matter, from the military point of view, what the colour of the Government is, or what their opinions are, provided that they can exercise the necesesary authority and function as a Government. It is when peace comes that the Italian people, and we hope many other peoples, will have the opportunity of choosing their own Government and saying what form of Government they wish to have. Similarly, A.M.G.O.T. is essential, especially for the carrying out of local government in occupied territories. We may compare it to the military government of the Rhineland which we found it necessary to set up after the Armistice following the last war, and which relieved the military commander, as A.M.G.O.T. will relieve military commanders, from the responsibility of dealing with civil affairs, of preserving law and order and preventing crime, and generally keeping the population in a quiet and, as far as possible, peaceful state. Have we in this war no controls in this country which, for military reasons, interfere with the liberty of the subject to do as he likes? Of course we have. Still more are such controls necessary in an occupied country where war is still actually going on. I propose to say only two things about the Far East. Do not let us under-estimate the Japanese, and do not let us under-estimate the difficulties, the distances and the shipping requirements which will be necessary to deal with them. Let me return to the war in Europe for one moment. In order to gain complete victory, we —that is the Allies—must, in the first place, defeat the German armies, east and west, and, secondly, we must break the will to resist and the morale of the German people. To this end, they must be continuously attacked both in the East and in the West, and the air bombing of Germany must be intensified. As I have said, I hope we shall attack in North-West Europe as wall as in Italy, but if the Government do not do that I am sure they will have good reasons, based on facts of which they are in possession and we are not. None the less, I am emboldened to think that some operation of the kind will develop, from the words used by the Prime Minister yesterday. I hope that that second front which the Prime Minister said would be opened when the time is judged to.be ripe, will come before the winter weather, which would handicap both the landing and the operations very seriously indeed. I hope also that we shall not make the mistake of attacking in too many parts of the world at once and perhaps not be strong enough in any one of these parts. The Germans are said to have some 50 Divisions in North-West Europe. These must be very widely scattered. There can be no question that some probably are tied to coast defence and some probably to keep down subject peoples and any considerable number of them would take a long time to concentrate. We know that the Continental railways, which were in none too good order even at the beginning of the war, have been strained to the utmost, and seriously damaged, in certain parts at any rate, by some of our air attacks. With these conditions, it would take a very long time to concentrate any considerable number of German Divisions in the West. On the other hand, we must bear in mind that a very large part of the Luftwaffe, which the Prime Minister told us—and we were very glad to hear it confirmed—has been weakening as compared with our Air Force and is definitely weaker now, can be concentrated very quickly indeed. In these circumstances which I have tried to outline—defeats in East and West and the air bombing at home, not forgetting the hardships of winter, which can be very severe indeed in Germany, the lowered morale both of the civilians and of the Forces, and certainly the shortage of some materials, possibly of oil and even of equipment—all these factors taken together might yet bring about a German collapse even before the end of the winter. Personally, I would not bank or count on it, but I cannot help thinking that there is an outside chance of it. I will not put it higher than that. I hope that this may be so, but, anyhow, I take a view in contradistinction to the hon. Member for Shettleston and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that the Government, and especially the Prime Minister, are very much to be congratulated on the results of the past year's conduct of the war.
And the critics.
They are very much to be congratulated. It is human to make mistakes. I dare say mistakes have been made but I do not think they have been very evident mistakes to most of us. I would remind the House that Napoleon, who was no mean judge, said that the most successful commander was he who made the fewest mistakes. Certainly, I think that a few mistakes have been made in the last 12 months in very complicated operations involving the co-operation of Allies who however cordial are bound to have, in some respects, different points of view and different ideas. Besides the Government, the leaders and all ranks ashore, afloat, and in the air have done the most magnificent work and are very much entitled to the thanks and the gratitude of this House and of the nation.
I wish to refer to two points. The first of them is A.M.G.O.T. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) made most interesting observations on the difficulty of occupying territories and the difficulties involved in getting municipal services to run again, the hard task of the Army and how important it was that they should advance quickly. I agree with that. I agree entirely that military considerations must come first. In territories that are just being occupied and are immediately behind the front line, by all means let A.M.G.O.T. rapidly improvise an organisation, but what' about the territories further behind? No one could say, as the hon. Member suggested, that it is possible to hold a general election in Naples. Nobody wants to hold a general election in Naples, but it is possible for some degree of normal life to start again now in Sicily, and it will be possible, no doubt, within a comparatively short time for it to start in Sardinia. If the advance in Italy goes along with some speed, it may be possible to start normal life further on there behind the lines. But some of us are afraid that military expediency may be used for keeping on this kind of rule long after it is necessary.I would like to ask a few questions about the method of the training of the people who have joined A.M.G.O.T. Are they taught anything of the Italian language? I understand that a large number of them are altogether ignorant of it. Are they taught Italian history, particularly that of the democratic movements that existed in Italy? Are they told anything about Garibaldi? I do not know; I hope they are. At one course which took place not long ago one of the students asked what should be their attitude to the organisation called Ovra? Were they to be friendly with Ovra, what were they to do? Considering that Ovra is comparable to the Gestapo it would be well if these men were given some knowledge of how to deal with it. I hope that they are getting that knowledge. The anxieties that I have had about A.M.G.O.T. are of no importance whatever but anxieties when voiced by the Russian Government are of considerable importance. The paper called "Moscow Review of War and Working Classes" stated that
We have been told that the Russians are to participate in the new Mediterranean conference or set-up that has been envisaged by the Prime Minister. Will the Russians be allowed to send officers to take part in the organisation of A.M.G.O.T.? Will Russian officers work side by side with our officers in A.M.G.O.T. in the occupied territories in the Mediterranean? Will they be part of the organisation? I hope they will. I would like to ask another question which is of some importance. A statement was made emanating I think from Quebec that A.M.G.O.T. rule only applied to ex-enemy territory. I understand that the teaching given to people who are going out to work for A.M.G.O.T. provides for instruction on how to run other territories such as France, Belgium and Holland. If in fact A.M.G.O.T. is only going to run ex-enemy territories is its teaching of how to run Allied territories to be continued? I pass to the other point I want to raise. It is one which has been raised by many other people before and it is a point of supreme importance in this Debate. It is the Prime Minister's statement about the British and American Governments' attitude towards the King of Italy and Badoglio. The Prime Minister gave us to understand that he was so concerned that the King of Italy and Badoglio should, I understand, be given some form of recognition, that he was willing to depart even from the principle which he himself has always encouraged us to follow, namely, the principle of unanimity in this House. He said:"The theory and practice of A.M.G.O.T. are liable to lead to apprehension among all who understand the political significance of the task of destroying Fascism in the liberated countries. The work of restoration is for the people themselves."
We all know the sorry story of Darlan. We were only saved from Darlan by the bravery of a very great man. That man suffered an ignominious death, and there may not be such another man to arise in Italy to save us from the King of Italy and Badoglio. After the treatment which was meted out to the man who saved us from Darlan it is hardly likely that another man will arise to do the same in Italy." We propose to do that, and we are not going to be put off that action by any fear that perhaps we should not have complete unanimity on the subject."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st September, 1943; col. 95, Vol. 392.]
Is the hon. Member justifying the doctrine of political assassination?
I think it is very much better to kill the men responsible for the war than to kill innocent men, women and children who have been dragged into the war by them. If anybody assassinated Hitler to-morrow I should be surprised if the hon. Member who has just interrupted me did not show some signs of rejoicing.
I regard assassination as such a detestable crime that I would regard the assassin of Hitler as a detestable person. If the hon. Member has a little time to spare, he might like to prosecute his inquiries into a little book called "Killing No Murder."
I do not propose to pursue this interesting controversy any further except to say once again that it is worse to kill innocent victims of a war than to kill the men who started it. However, that is a matter of opinion, and the hon. Member is entitled to his. Some people are only too ready to recognise Badoglio and the King of Italy. I noticed that the hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle. (Lieut.-Colonel Headlam) called the King of Italy "the greatest solid plank" on which Italy rested. I do not know if that is the view of the party opposite, but if the Tory party rests on planks like that it will come to grief. In the speech of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), with much of which I was in very strong disagreement, there was one remark which did appeal to me. He said, "If Badoglio, why not Goering in Germany?" An eminent journalist once said to me, when I asked him what kind of a man Goering was," Oh he is the good swashbuckling type like Sir Francis Drake or Sir Walter Raleigh." That man is working for one of the leading Conservative newspapers, a paper which has a circulation about as large as that of the "Daily Herald" and which never at any time has claimed to have views other than Conservative. I want to know why it is the policy of this Government to encourage one after another in each country recognition of those people who have done their utmost to bring about war and attack democracy.? This policy if it is pursued cannot possibly do anything but harm. The Prime Minister made out that for the sake of the troops, in order to save lives, he was willing to buy certain people, Badoglio, the King of Italy, Darlan or anybody else. He made out that the people who did not agree with that kind of policy would sacrifice the lives of troops and that it was not for us to talk about sacrificing their lives. I agree that none of us has the right to send other people to their deaths unless we are willing to go ourselves, but those who are fighting in Italy to-day will agree with me when I say that it is time we realised that we can buy people and even victory at much too dear a price if, in buying them, we sacrifice the cause for which our men are giving their lives.
The last speaker from this side of the House spoke of his intention of bringing the Debate back to the conduct of the war and seemed, I thought, to make a distinction between that topic and the topic of international relations. I find it difficult myself to believe that such a distinction is valid and the more I have listened to this Debate—and I have listened to nearly all of it—the more I have become convinced of a doctrine which may be unwelcome to the Government Front Bench and unwelcome to many of my own friends, namely, that we are overdue in this House for Debates upon foreign policy. I am a very bad historian; I am a professional historian and I think that makes one worse at it in some respects. If one is an amateur historian one knows the bits one knows, or one thinks one knows them, and they are at the top of one's head all the time, so that one is always able to pull them out readily. I am never quite sure of even such simple things as dates. But exactly too years ago—and I know this date because I saw it in "'The Times' 100 Years Ago" paragraph—Disraeli spoke in this House and was extremely cross with the Government Front Bench because of the long interval which, he said, had elapsed since there had been any full discussion of foreign policy. The length of the interval of which he complained was seven months. I do not really remember exactly what the world was like in 1843, and I have not had time to look it up, but I think it will be agreed that that was a generation after Waterloo and rather a long half-generation before the Crimea; so that compared with anything that my lifetime has seen, that may be called a time of settled peace. If in those times of comparative tranquillity Mr. Disraeli thought it a scandalous charge against the Government that they should have allowed seven months to elapse without instructing the country about foreign policy by Debates in this House, I ask hon. Members to think how long it is since we have debated foreign policy?I do not know, but it is a very long time, and I am more and more coming to the conclusion that disagreeable as it may be to the Government and to many of my own political friends and much as I should myself resent many of the things which would be said if there were frequent Debates on international relations, there ought to be more frequent Debates on international relations, and the participation in them should be much more widely shared than it is at present. Incidentally, not that I wish to make any complaint about the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)—his speeches are always doubly enjoyable; parts of them are generally amusing, and parts very solemn, and parts of them are both. To-day he was pretty well up to form but he was a little unjust to me when I ventured upon a timid interruption—hardly that, in fact not more than thinking aloud; but he insisted upon calling me to my feet and then rebuked me for incontinence. As one who inserts himself so frequently in our Debates, and generally at precisely the point at which I should have wished to enter, he really was rather like King Solomon recommending self-control to the Queen of Sheba's eunuch. I was saying that I think there should be much more frequent and much wider debating of foreign affairs. One reason is that it is very much too widely assumed in the House, and if the world judges our country by this House, as we should all wish the world to do, it must be beginning to be assumed in the world, that almost everyone in this country regards the war as a great opportunity for using force to impose upon the world those politics which we desired in the days when we used to say we would not again fight for our King and country. It may be true that that is what most of the people of this country think; I do not believe it, and I am quite certain it is not in the interests of this country or of Europe that that should be believed; at any rate there cannot really be any doubt about the undesirability of such an assumption. There is another assumption about whose undesirability as an assumption I think no doubt can be felt: that is, that on the whale Europe looks to this country for a push or a nudge at the convenient moment towards the Left: that may be true; again, I do not believe it is true. I do not believe it is true upon a consideration of antecedent probabilities and upon a consideration of what Europe thought and felt after each of the last great upheavals which it has suffered—after Waterloo, for instance, after the great dynastic and territorial wars of the mid 18th century, after the Thirty Years War, after the Hundred Years War, Europe after those times did not think that what was wanted, having had 30 years or whatever it might be of bloody war, was 30 years of bloody revolution. That is not how things happened, and on the balance of previous knowledge and antecedent probabilities, which hon. Members opposite may dismiss as mere prejudice, we should do well to question the assumption that what Europe is looking to this country for is a push or a nudge to the Left here and there, and a kick somewhere else, where there may be a recalcitrant country with its heart still on the Right. It may be true, but it is extremely foolish to assume it to be true; if you wish it to be acted upon as a fact, you must first demonstrate it. There is another reason for thinking so, the reason of what little we can know about what is happening in Europe now. This is one of those mysterious matters: the song that the sirens sang and the name that Achilles bore when he hid among the women—these things indeed are not beyond the possibilities of conjecture. I forget what it was which in that connection was beyond the possibility of conjecture; but one of the things which, strictly speaking, are beyond the possibility of conjecture is, what is happening inside people's heads in Europe at the moment; and therefore it is one of the main subjects which are most frequently expounded from the other side of the House, and hardly ever from this side. But lest one good custom should corrupt the world, I venture, from this side for once, to explain it to the House. Just before we broke up for the summer holiday I remember that one of the prin- cipal things recommended to us was that whatever we did we must not think of accepting any kind of help or co-operation from the Carabinieri: that would be too awful, it would bust the whole show. We have recently read the warmest encomiums of the Carabinieri from the people who have had to do the work and have been responsible for the soldiers' lives, and that emboldens me to think that my explanation of Europe may not be more obviously explosible immediately after than those explanations to which we have been accustomed: But of course it is very difficult to get very much evidence of what Europe thinks. I have always wished to make things easy for hon. Members opposite, especially for those whose particular pleasure is in not very articulate derision, so I will put it in the plainest and most blimpish terms: I conceive that what Europe wants of us is that we should play with a straight bat. [Interruption.] I am rather disappointed at those encouraging cheers from my hon. Friends; I had hoped to get cat calls from hon. Members opposite. Perhaps the wrong ones happen to be in at the moment. If I had had the cat calls, I should have proceeded as follows, and I now will. I should have recommended to those more intellectual members of the party opposite who generally instruct their trade union friends about foreign affairs to read the reports of the Trades Union Congress of the last three or four years. I do not know if they remember that very moving appeal in which the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Walker) painted a picture of the horrors that would come to our country if we were defeated in war, our homes laid flat, our factories burned, our fields infertile, our children sold into slavery, and the swastika flying over the pavilion at Lords. Something like that, and anyway that was his climax. On a similar occasion later Mr. Wolstoncroft made the speech about the Prime Minister coming in when the wickets were falling fast; so that if the people of Europe are inclined to look to us for a straight bat, and have the sort of feeling about us that we are the chaps who do the traditional thing and play the game by the rules, it is not necessarily because the people of Europe are as blimpish as I am. It may be that that is because the people of Europe have the same opinion about our country as those two Presidents of the Trades Union Congress had. Anyone who looks at the papers of Europe will find this borne out. It is very difficult now to see many foreign newspapers, but I have one or two quotations which seem to me impressive. This is on 10th September, in the Swiss "National Zeitung":
They go on to say how this has been much enhanced by our treatment of Eire, and add:"England's prestige and credit in the world depend largely on her respect for accepted rules."
That was apropos of the business of trying war criminals to which I will return in a minute. Then, on 8th September, a Turkish newspaper said:"It would be grotesque if it were from England that the neutrals were reproached for their support of the existing international law which contains the generally accepted rules of neutrality."
This is from a Portuguese newspaper on 12th September:"If international law approves of asylum for war criminals and the Allies try to make the neutrals adopt an attitude contrary to international law, this is in contradiction of the principles for which the Allies are fighting. The Allied note put all friendly neutral countries in a difficult position."
There was a moment when the whole world thought we had lost all but honour, and it will be one of the great tragedies of history if when we have won everything we should not have won, or should not have appeared to have won honour as well. The best chance of anything like agreement and tranquillity in Europe that any of us can foresee is that all European States should look to this country as having a higher standard in respect to its pledged word and its continuing intentions than any other country in Europe. It may be late for me to put this to the House of Commons; I would have put it any time within the last three years if I had had the chance, but I have never had the chance before: I beg that there should be consideration of the wisdom of what is called the trial of war criminals. I beg the House to believe me that it is not from any tenderness for any war criminals that I take that line. Hon. Members who are old enough to remember and young enough riot to have forgotten the last war may remember that it was in the first months of the war and it was from the Left, from the "Daily News", the "Daily Chronicle" and the "New Statesman" that these inventions were made of "Hang the Kaiser", "Germany must be made to pay heavily", and "The war to end war". [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have the dates and the whole thing docketed. There is not the least doubt that those slogans were invented at the beginning of the last war from the Left. What happened when the war was over? The same people who had swung fastest and furthest in that direction at the beginning of the war, were the people who after the war swung fastest and furthest the other way, and told us that these were mere inventions of the Tories and bond holders and all that curious medieval superstition which even contemporary Marxists have dropped—but the dropping has not yet reached Glasgow. These were the people who spent the 1920's and most of the 1930's in persuading the world that we were not ever going to fight for our country again, and so we had another war. I have one other thing to say. This is a thing which perhaps ought not to be said here; I am riot quite sure, but on the whole I think it ought to be said. We have had a fair amount of talk to-day and yesterday about our relations with Russia. If I thought international relations ought to be dictated by matters of personal likes and dislikes, which I am far from thinking, I should be as pro-Russian as any man; but if I thought, as I do think, that my country's affairs should be directed upon the basis that everything which is of vital interest to my country should be fought for, that nothing else should be fought for, that we should have no commitments for which we have not calculated the forces to defend, that among such forces are alliances that can be trusted with other powerful States—if that be the true basis of foreign policy, as I think it is, then no man in this House or anywhere else is more anxious than I am for cooperation with Russia. I have never been in the least bit anti-Russian from first to last. Let me draw the attention of the House to one or two things that have been said in the House. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said that we must not use the argument about saving British lives because the Russians do not like it. The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale) said that he and the Russians welcome Russian participation of A.M.G.O.T. in the Mediterranean. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) referred to our local Communists as the spokesmen of Russian desires. All these three things are possibly true, and I would add them up with this reflection. The first is that we have as much right to be interested in the Baltic as the Russians have in the Mediterranean. Another reflection I would make is this. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) had something to say about Russia and said that you cannot have co-operation without confidence. That is true; it is rather unfortunate that it is what the stranger in the Strand always says to you just after his pal drops the pearl necklace; but apart from that context, the generalisation is in the main acceptable. What is the difficulty about co-operation between this country and Russia. In my judgment there is no vital interest which clashes between the two. I do not believe that any intelligent Russian statesman need think that there is anything of vital interest to his country where this country cuts athwart him, and so from our end. That is not the difficulty. I think the greatest difficulty is if Debates in this House, articles in the Press, and other demonstrations give any considerable opinion in the world the impression that one of Russia's sources of strength is support for Russia's policy even against British policy on the part of any considerable section of British people. If any considerable number of people were persuaded to believe that nonsense, as sure as day follows night there would be the greatest possible difficulty in co-operation between this country and Russia."England entered this war only to fulfil a pledge. … Even so it might have been said that all was lost save honour. England's honour and trustworthiness will become vitally important when the war ends."
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), who has just made a speech which has those rare qualities of being as illuminating as it was witty, wound up with some observations about Russia, and I propose towards the end of my remarks also to address myself to our relations with that country, because I think that on the eve of my departure on a mission where I meet' Russian representatives it is right that I should tell the House what is in my mind about those relations. My hon. Friend also said that he would like more foreign affairs Debates. I do not want to quarrel with that, but, of course, the question is, "What is a foreign affairs Debate?" The day before the House adjourned we had a Debate on the general course of the war in which he and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) both made speeches which were almost exclusively upon foreign affairs, and throughout to-day the speeches have been mainly or largely concerned with foreign affairs. The truth is that' in wartime military and foreign affairs are so intermingled that it is difficult to deal with the one without including the other. But if there is a feeling on the part of my hon. Friend or anybody else that there should be more, opportunity for these discussions I shall be only too happy to do what I can about it when the House comes back.I have one or two comments to make, and perhaps it will facilitate business if I deal with the Debate from the point since the Prime Minister sat down. A certain number of questions have been asked about the state of occupied Europe and the possibility of relief, and I propose to deal with them first. Then I should like to speak for a few minutes about the military position in Sicily and A.M.G.O.T. and deal with some questions about that. Then I wish to deal with our relations with Italy itself and the criticisms of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and one or two others, and finally to make some observations on the work I have to do in Russia. If that programme commends itself to the House I will embark upon it by starting with the question of relief to occupied Europe. The right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) said that he had received representations, as other hon. Members no doubt have received representations, about the state of nutrition among our friends in occupied Europe. He asked, without wishing to press it unduly, whether the Government have examined this matter and whether there was anything they could do to alleviate the suffering in the coming winter. The Government have looked into the matter and tried to see whether we could not send some small measures of relief to try to allay this suffering to some extent, if only in some countries, but I frankly tell the House that the truth is that when you embark on anything of this kind, you cannot find the point at which you can stop. If you start to supply one country you are certain of a similar demand from other countries who are suffering and who say their conditions are the same or worse. Once you start with one category, you are certain to be pressed to go on to another category, and before you know where you are your whole system of blockade crumbles. We should find ourselves charged with burdens we simply could not carry if we are to continue our military operations for the freeing of occupied Europe. We should find ourselves relieving the Germans of what is their obligation as the Power in occupation of those territories. I should like the House to believe that this matter has been looked at by the War Cabinet many times. We have tried to find schemes if they could be found. Reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that the only thing that can be done is to speed the final victory, freeing them in that way instead of giving little bits of help here and there which would not be of real assistance unless they were a help to the enemy as well. I come to the military situation and in particular to the work which has been done by the Allied Military Government in Sicily. As I listened to this Debate I thought some hon. Members did not seem to have a very clear picture of what this organisation is and what its officers have to do. Their charge in the first instance is not in the main a political one but a practical one. They come into cities utterly devastated, cities which have been subjected to aerial bombardment, which are probably without either light or water, with the dead lying about the streets and without food, probably, even for the next day. Their task is to try to restore something in the nature of normal life to those cities, to try to get transport going again—and when two armies have passed through a town there is not very much transport left—to try to get food in from neighbouring countries, to try to prevent the outbreak of epidemics of typhus and other diseases. It is an immensely difficult task of organisation. Those have been the main tasks upon which this military government has concentrated. I have watched its work with great care. I have had sent to me at the Foreign Office the reports of the work of this organisation, and I can tell the House that they have done very fine work there. Now I come to one of the criticisms that have been made. First it is said that we have created this organisation to maintain Fascist officials in office. That is not so. Let me give Sicily as an example, and here let me say that in Sicily Fascism has never been a really popular creed. Fascism has been imported into Sicily; most of the senior officials in Sicily were imports from the North. Its senior officials have almost without exception been removed from the moment of our possession of the territory. Sicily is divided into nine areas, what the French would call prefectures, under prefects. All of these were under Fascists, all of whom have been got rid of. They either fled or were removed after we arrived—most of them fled. In more than 50 per cent. of them the local mayors, the podesti, have also been changed from the moment of our arrival; the organisation has done what it could to choose a mayor who had a certain amount of popular backing and who was generally acceptable—not of course by the process of holding an election, but by a sounding of the population —to take the place of the Fascist official. A number of Fascists have, of course, been arrested. I have not the exact figures, but the latest report is that about 1,000 prominent Fascists in Sicily remained behind and are at present interned. I come to another criticism, that of those who have asked, Why use the Carabinieri? The House knows that they are not an organisation of exclusively Fascist traditions. On the contrary, they existed in Italy a very long time before the Fascist régime. The bad organisation, the organisation which we may call sinister in its influence, that corresponds to the Gestapo is Ovra, the secret police that Mussolini and the Fascists used to employ. That organisation has been completely broken up and destroyed in Italy, and the Fascist Party organisation with it, and all the members of Ovra and all the Fascist political officials in Sicily have been arrested, though many of them fled before they could be arrested. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that we had not used the Carabinieri. What should we have had to do? We should have had to employ at least 10,000 British troops to do their job—not so well—and that would have taken men from the fighting forces. We discussed all this before we went into Sicily and I am absolutely certain that our system is right. I come to the next criticism—Why do you put a ban on political activities? That is a perfectly fair question. It would have been very much more popular, I have no doubt, with many in Sicily if from the moment of our landing and before the island was clear we had had a bit of "free for all" political strife of the kind we enjoy in this country. We just felt that we could not enjoy that luxury at this stage. I am coming to the time-table in a moment. Many hon. Members probably know Sicily much better than I do. If they do, they know that it is an island of intensely active rival political factions. Perhaps the strongest party of all in Sicily is the party that stands for separation from the Italian mainland altogether. Then there is the clerical party and there is the party of the extreme Left, all in violent divergence. [Interruption.] I think I am talking sense. These matters have been studied with some little care.
Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me to say this? It is agreed, I think, among Italians that there is no separatist movement in Sicily. There is a desire for regional freedom but no desire for separation, and I am afraid that if the right hon. Gentleman says that the strongest party in Sicily is the separatist party, it will encourage the idea that Great Britain intends to annex the island.
My hon. Friend should not dive too deep in attributing motives to everything that is said. We have not the least intention of annexing the island, nor should we, at any time. The report I have from our officers on the spot is that the Sicily independence movement is extremely strong. There is nothing in the least new in that. Really, the hon. Gentleman is not the only person who knows something about this matter. It is a perfectly well-known movement. What shade of independence it requires, whether it be a form of home rule, as the agitation used to be here, or for complete separation, is another matter; but there is a movement—if you like to call it a home rule movement you can, but it is a matter of common knowledge—for separa- tion. I do not want to take up time on this point, which does not affect my argument, which is simply that there are these parties in Sicily, violently antagonistic. Some want one thing and some want another. My hon. Friend may think I have described the position wrongly, but I am sure that he will not disagree with my statement that these parties disagree with one another with very great vehemence. In the existing military situation, and while we were using this island for the preparation of the advance upon Naples, it was impossible to allow free rein to these various political parties. The hon. Gentleman can well ask—[An HON. MEMBER: "Is there freedom of political discussion?"] Of course there is. These regulations are not at all tightly applied. There is a great deal of political discussion. There is freedom of the Press to say what they like about each other, and even about A.M.G.O.T. I am informed, that after 20 years of Fascist rule, the Press are not in the least happy at being told that they can say what they like. They have been so used to having a directive that they do not quite like it when they do not get it. [Interruption.] It is so. After 20 years of not being allowed to express your opinions and of having to say exactly what the Government tell you, a week after you are released you are liable to be a bit puzzled. I have no doubt that they will very soon discover it and that we shall very soon have criticisms of the work we are doing, just as we have it in this House.I want to deal with one other point of this kind. It has been said that the exchange rate was very unfairly fixed by this organisation. In fairness to the organisation and to the officers concerned, I wish to make it quite plain that they had no responsibility in this matter. The fixing of the rate was done on the responsibility of the two Governments principally concerned and not by this organisation. Whether the decision was right or wrong, it was not the fault of that organisation. Let me deal with the point whether the organisation shall continue. It is not, of course, intended to be permanent. It is bound up with the future of Italy herself, about which I am going to say something in a moment. We do not want to have these burdens of administration on our hands. The sooner we can find an Italian administration that can take these burdens off our hands the better we shall be pleased. We do not want to re-enter Italy, or even Europe, on the basis that we are going to be the people who will administer and run the countries. We want, as soon as we can, that the people shall run the country for themselves.
On what lines?
On the lines that they wish to. Now I come to the cognate question about which I have been asked, and I am obliged to the hon. Member who raised this matter. What is our policy in respect of friendly countries? There we do not propose to apply the same principles, of course; we have never intended to do so. We have already entered into conversations with the various Governments concerned.
It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question, put:
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. James Stuart.]
It is our intention from the earliest possible moment after the landing when the military position allows that the administration shall be turned over to the friendly Government, the liberated Government with whom we are in relation, or to some authority representing that country. That applies to all of them, and we are in discussion as to how to do it. Even at the very beginning, when the Commander in Chief must have full powers, when the battle is in progress, we want to use native officials of the friendly liberated countries and not apply a system of military government as we have done in Sicily. This matter is being cleared up. It is one of the subjects we shall discuss when we have the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries so that the matter may be cleared beyond any shadow of doubt.
Does that apply to France?
Certainly, at the earliest moment, though it is more complicated in the case of France, as the hon. Member will realise. The French people shall express their own view, but we shall do what we can to use French officials and French people.
Will you use the National Committee?
Of course we shall. We are in relation with the Committee, it is they who have sent the troops to Ajaccio, where they are fighting. It is an instance of what is going to happen. It is an experiment. We shall see how it works. I should like to offer my congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member for Aston (Commander Prior) for the very remarkable account he gave of his experiences in occupied Europe.Having dealt with that, I want to come to the criticism we have had, and in particular to the speeches of the hon. Members for Ebbw Vale and Nelson and Come (Mr. Silverman). Both appeared to suggest that the policy the Government were now pursuing was one upon which we were not even as a Government united. I should like to tell the House that every phase of these negotiations in these complicated weeks has been decided in the Cabinet with complete unanimity. There is no question at all, so far as I can recollect, at any time of any serious difference between us as to how to handle these things. When the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne talks about our being near final victory, I think, if I may say so, he is quite wrong. [interruption.] The expression the hon. Member used, if I remember aright, was that we are at the threshold of victory.
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misinterpret me. I said that the impression we had all derived from the Prime Minister's speech was that, however short or long the fight may be, Hitler had lost the war.
I am sorry: I maintain that the impression which the hon. Gentleman gave me is such as I have described to the House. However that may be, I do not accept it as the position that we are on the threshold of victory. There is still a long, hard struggle. I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman should suggest to his hon. Friends on those benches that co-operation with the National Government should cease. It would be impertinent for me to suggest what the Labour party should do or should not do, but I do say that we have ahead of us in these next months as difficult and exacting a period as we have ever known. If there was any reason to form a National Government in 1940, there is as strong a reason to hold that Government together to-day.Let me deal with actual criticisms which have been made. We were told by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that our military plans had been inelastic, and that we ought to have been able to speed them up more. In particular, he said to me, "Have you any information at the Foreign Office "—pointing his finger extremely threateningly—" and if you have any information, what do you do with that information?" I began to be extremely uncomfortable, because I had not the least idea what was worrying him. Of course we had information day by day. All the information which comes in to the Foreign Office is given to the military authorities for their help and guidance. In addition, there is in constant session a Committee, composed of staff officers of all three Services and presided over by an extremely efficient official of the Foreign Office. The Committee receive information and coordinate it, and on the basis of it they give us advice and appreciations as to conditions in enemy countries and other such matters. I submit that our information on these matters has been extremely accurate, as is shown by what happened. Suppose we had misjudged the state of Italian resistance when we attacked Sicily. It all looks quite easy and simple now, but one of the matters which was long debated by us in the Foreign Office and was difficult to weigh, was this. We knew how the Italians had fought in North Africa, but who could be sure that when an enemy landed on their own territory, whatever their own feelings, they would not turn and fight? All that had to be weighed and taken into estimation.
You were wrong.
Does the hon. Member not understand that if the Italians had fought hard in Sicily—
Did not the information you had convey that to you?
I say that we had the information, and we had to judge it; and we judged it right. We judged that the Italians would not fight, and our judgment was right. It was not an easy judg- ment to make. It is quite different now. I myself had grave doubts whether the Italians, unwarlike as they are, would not fight when we approached their own country.
They did not.
Perhaps I may be allowed to answer the next criticism by the hon. Member. In connection with the attack on Salerno, he said, "Could you not appreciate what the position of the Italians was?" Of course we appreciated it. We knew, owing to the state of our Armistice negotiations, that it was possible to advance that date, possible to take that risk. The danger at Salerno at a later phase was not the Italians, but the Germans. The German forces were there, and remain there, and we had to be in a position to land with a sufficient force to be able to defeat the German forces on our landing.
The right hon. Gentleman refers to Salerno. My argument was addressed to the fact that Mussolini was overthrown on 25th July and that the Prime Minister's letter to General Alexander was dated 18th August. I mentioned that after that General Alexander had advanced his date by one week. Why was it not possible for the Prime Minister to have adapted himself to the situation which had been revealed by 25th July? Why the delay?
There was no delay. The problem was to muster a sufficient force in Sicily to deal with the Germans at Salerno. That was the problem at that stage, to deal with the Germans who were there. We could, of course, have gone at an earlier date but had we gone at an earlier date we should have gone at a greater risk, and, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, the risk was as fine-run as it could be.I have another criticism with which to deal. The hon. Member said some very taunting things about the attitude of the Government, particularly in respect of the bombing of Northern Italy. One of the accusations made was, Why, when you had begun your armistice negotiations and when there was any chance of Italy surrendering, did you go on bombing northern cities? And the suggestion was, as far as I understand it, one of pure political prejudice. What is the position? The hon. Gentleman's facts are all wrong. He shakes his head. I will give him the dates. I wish this to be cleared up. The first Italian Envoy arrived in Madrid on 15th August. We first received a telegram about it on 16th August. He arrived in Lisbon on 17th August. Our negotiations began on 18th and 19th August. The 18th and 19th August were the days on which negotiations began—the first day that we knew there were people who at any rate had some credentials to negotiate with us. The last occasion on which we bombed Milan was the night of the 15–16th and the last occasion we bombed Turin was the night of the 16–17th. In other words, from the very first moment that we knew there was, at least a chance, that there would be an armistice we laid off that bombing. I want to explain this to the House because I have been in this business and the hon. Gentleman has not. We discussed these matters round the Cabinet table. We applied our minds to what was the earliest moment we could stop. Does he think that I, or anyone of us, likes dropping bombs on towns any where?
Look at the facts.
We stopped bombing these northern cities as soon as we saw a chance.
You did not know.
I have given the dates. Let the House judge. I want to turn to our policy towards Italy and towards the new Italian Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) asked me a question which I would like to answer because I think it would meet many of the anxieties hon. Members have at this time. He asked me, Did we understand the necessity for full and frank co-operation—I think I got it down right—with all the democratic organisations in Italy, or, I would add, outside it? What sort of Government do we want to see in Italy? The kind of Government we want to see is one as broadly based as possible and including all parties that are anti-Fascist in character. We shall do our best to bring that about bit by bit. Count Sforza's name was mentioned—and he might be one—and anyone who will help in that work or assist us in the battle with Hitler, will be welcome. Harsh words have been said about Marshal Badoglio and the King and so on. The delivery of the Fleet—and I think this must be said in fairness—was honestly, and even courageously, carried out. There are boats and ships coming from the Italian Navy, and merchant ships, not only to ports in the Mediterranean but all over the world in the last few hours. At this moment in Corsica, French troops and Italians are fighting together, and successfully, against the Germans.Before I close, if the House will bear with me, I want to turn to a rather different note, less controversial perhaps. I want to say something about Russia and our policy with Russia. I have listened to this Debate and I have heard many speeches on the subject of Russia. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield and some others have urged upon us that we should seek the closest collaboration with the Soviet Government. I agree absolutely and entirely. That is our policy and we shall persist in it, in the letter of the Anglo-Soviet Treaty which we signed last year. But when the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)—I am sorry he is not here—said that there can be no co-operation if it is not based on confidence, I agree but I must remind him and the House that confidence cannot be created by one side alone. Each side has to make its contribution. I have surveyed as honestly and as impartially as I can the work which we have sought to do with the Soviet Government since the Treaty was signed last year and I can fairly say that we do not feel that we have anything to reproach ourselves with in our efforts to give effect to that Treaty. We have constant consultation and, if there has not been as much personal exchange between the leading persons of the two Governments as we would have liked, it is fair to say that we have made more than our share of efforts to travel to meet our Allies. That applies to all our Allies. It is in that spirit that we shall approach our problems in the future. If we are to understand one another, we must be frank with one another. There has been too much past history of misundertsanding, and, let it be admitted, too much suspicion, of pretending that differences of interpretation do not exist if they, in fact, do exist. Sometimes my Russian friends say to me that we do not understand their point of view. On those occasions they express themselves clearly, even forcibly. I make no complaint about that, but there are occasions, also, when we feel that they do not understand our point of view, and I believe it to be in the ultimate interests of our good relations that we should speak about it on these occasions. I am going to give the House an example of what I mean. An article appeared in a Soviet paper, which has been already mentioned, called "War and the Working Class," as recently as 19th September last. It dealt with the Trades Union Congress meeting and it should be said that these publications do not appear in Soviet Russia if they run strongly counter to the views of the Government. That article I want to quote from because I think it right and fair that these things should be said here in public. This is what was said:
When I read that, there came to my mind the very familiar story of the Duke of Wellington, how somebody came up to him in Birdcage Walk one day, took off his hat and said, "Mr. Smith I believe?" to which the Duke turned round and said, "Sir, if you believe that you will believe anything." Those were my sentiments when I read that article. It does not represent or understand the spirit there was in this country at the time of the Battle of Britain and in 1940 and it is fair and right that I should say so in this British House of Commons. It does not capture anything of the spirit there was in this country. It was only true of that small section of this country represented by the Communist Party. There can be no bigger mistake than to try to give that, the importance it does not deserve. I have always believed, and believed intensely, indeed, in the closest and intimate relations between this country and Russia. I believe them to be essential to the defeat of the enemy and essential to a lasting peace when this struggle is over. It is in that spirit that I want to make these concluding observations. We shall have our differing points of view, but, broadly, the interests of this country, of the British Commonwealth, of the United States, of the U.S.S.R. and of China are the same, for the reason that my hon. Friend gave earlier in his speech, because, broadly, our interests do not clash and all our interests are in peace. We want to build up a peace system which will endure, a peace system backed by the necessary authority to prevent a recurrence of these scourging wars from which we stiffer. In a very few weeks now I shall, I hope, be going to meet my opposite numbers. I shall go with a determination to do everything I can to reach a generous measure of understanding of all the problems that confront us, so that we can prepare the way for a greater event—the meeting of President Stalin, President Roosevelt and our own Prime Minister. If we approach the meeting in that spirt of understanding for each other's point of view and with the candour which I have used to-day, I believe we shall thus best prepare for a final understanding. Now and again it happens that, as the pages of history unfold, there come opportunities in man's progress through the world. I believe that in the next few months there is such an opportunity for us, for Russia and for the United States to reach a lasting under- standing. If we can do that, even the horrors of this war will not have been in vain. It is to that work that we have to set our hand."Even in the first stage of the present world war, in 1939 and 1940, before the character of the war was definitely established, wide masses of English workmen maintained a more or less critical waiting attitude towards the war and defended in the factories only their immediate interests. But after Hitler had extended his ruffianly aggression to the U.S.S.R., and the Anglo-Soviet military alliance had been concluded, English workmen began to support the English war effort, placing in the foreground the interests of the war against Fascist Germany and its accomplices."
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain this? According to the statement that I made, the last bombing of Milan was on 13th August. The right hon. Gentleman has made the situation much worse by saying that the last bombing was on 15th and 16th August. According to the Prime Minister's statement yesterday, the envoy was met on the 15th. Does the right hon. Gentleman adhere to the statement that we bombed Milan on 15th and 16th August, when the envoy was met on the 15th, despite the fact that, by the Prime Minister's own statement, unofficial representations had already been made for weeks before? In order that there may be no misunderstanding, can we have the dates right?
There is no misunderstanding at all. The envoy arrived in Madrid on the 15th. We received a telegram from the Ambassador on the 16th. The first meeting at which his credentials could be checked, and were checked, was in Lisbon on the 18th if I remember rightly. From the very moment that we were convinced that there was a chance of negotiations which would lead to an Armistice, we called off the bombing of the north of Italy.
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.