Was Yalta an act of Justice?
London, Thursday, March 15, 1945:
We know the story of the underground movement, unrivalled by any underground movement in any part of Europe. As far as I know, no Quisling has been found in the whole of that country. But let us be frank with ourselves. Poland owes its liberation to Russia.
(Hon. Members : “No.”)
Russia brought her freedom. We must be realists.
-Sir Percy Harris
-Bethnal Green (Liberal)
HOUSE OF COMMONS ON POLAND.
THE PRIME MINISTER (MR. CHURCHILL)
- ARTHUR GREENWOOD
SIR WILLIAM BEVERIDGE
CAPTAIN MCEWEN—CAPTAIN ALAN GRAHAM
COMMANDER SIR ARCHIBALD SOUTHBY
- W. J. BROWN
MAJOR LLOYD—CAPTAIN THORNEYCROFT
SIR PERCY HARRIS
MAJOR LORD WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY
- GALLACHER—MR. MANNINGHAM-BULLER
- HAROLD NICOLSON
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (MR. EDEN)
- . MCGOVERN — THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (MR. ATTLEE)
SIR GEORGE MANDER—SIR HERBERT WILLIAMS –MR. PETRICK-LAWRENCE
HOUSE OF COMMONS ON POLAND
WAS YALTA AN ACT OF JUSTICE?
“I do not regard the Polish settlement as an act of justice. It may be right or wrong, it may be wise or foolish, but at any rate it is not justice as I understand the term. It is not the sort of situation in which you get two parties to a dispute putting their case forward in front of a disinterested body and in which the strength and power of one of the parties is never allowed to weigh in the balance. —(From the speech by CAPTAIN THORNEYCROFT.)
The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
I now come to the most difficult and agitating part of the statement, which I have to make to the House—the question of Poland. For more than a year past, and since the tide of war has turned so strongly against Germany, the Polish problem has been divided into two main Issues—the frontiers of Poland and the freedom of Poland.
The House is well aware from the speeches I have made to them that the freedom, independence, integrity and sovereignty of Poland have always seemed to HIS Majesty’s Government more Important than the actual frontiers. To establish a free Polish nation with, a good home td live in, has always far outweighed, in my mind, the actual tracing of the frontier line, or whether these boundaries should be shifted on both sides of Poland further to the west. The Russian claim, first advanced at Teheran in November 1943 has always been unchanged for the Curzon Line in the East, and the Russian offer has always been that ample compensation should be gained for Poland at the expense of Germany In the north and in the west. All these matters are tolerably well known now. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary explained in detail last December the story of the Curzon Line. I have never concealed from the House, that, personally, I think the Russian claim is just and right. If I champion this frontier for Russia, It is not because I bow to force. It is because I believe it is the fairest division of territory that can in all the circumstances be made between the two countries whose history has been so chequered and intermingled.
The Curzon Line was drawn in 1919 by an expert Commission, of which one of our most distinguished foreign representatives of those days. Sir Eyre Crowe was a member. It was drawn at a time when Russia had few friends among the Allies. In fact, I may say that she was extremely unpopular. One cannot feel that either the circumstances or the personalities concerned would have given undue favor to Soviet Russia. They just tried to find out what was the right and proper line to draw. The British Government in those days approved this Line including, of course, the exclusion of Lwow from Poland. Apart from all that has happened since, I cannot conceive that we should not regard it as a well-informed and fair proposal.
There are two things to be remembered in justice to our great Ally. I can look back to August 1914, when Germany first declared war against Russia under the Tsar. In those days, the Russian frontiers on the west were far more spacious than those for which Russia is now asking after all her sufferings and victories. The Tsarist frontiers included all Finland and the whole of the vast Warsaw salient stretching to within 60 miles of Breslau. Russia is, in fact, accepting a frontier which over immense distances is 200 or 300 miles further to the east than what was Russian territory and had been Russian territory for many generations under the Tsarist regime. Marshal Stalin told me one day that Lenin objected to the Curzon Line because Bialystok and the region round it were taken from Russia. Marshal Stalin and the modern Soviet Government make no such claim and freely agree with the view taken by the Allied Commission of 1919 that the Bialystok region should go to Poland because of the Polish population predominating there.
We speak of the Curzon Line. A line is not a frontier. A frontier has to be surveyed and traced on the ground and not merely cut in on a map by a pencil and ruler. When my right hon. Friend and I were at Moscow In October Marshal Stalin made this point to me, and at that time he said that there might be deviations of 5 to 10 kilometers in either direction in order to follow the courses of streams and hills or the actual sites of particular villages. It seems to me that this was an eminently sensible way of looking at the problem. However, when we met at Yalta the Russian proposal was changed. It was made clear that all such minor alterations would be at the expense of Russia and not at the expense of Poland. In order that the Poles might have their minds set at rest once and for all and there would be no further discussion about that part of the business. We Welcomed this Soviet proposal, One must regard these 30 years or more of strife, turmoil and suffering in Europe as part of one story. I have lived through the whole story since 1911 when I was sent to the Admiralty to prepare the Fleet for an impending German war. In its main essentials it seems to me to be one story of a 30 years war, or more than a 30 years’ war, in which British, Russians, Americans and French have struggled to their utmost to resist German aggression at a cost most grievous to all of them, but to none more frightful than to the Russian people, whose country has twice been ravaged over vast areas and Whose blood has been poured out in tens of millions of lives in a common cause now reaching final accomplishment.
There is a second reason which appeals to me apart from this sense of continuity which I personally feel. But for the prodigious exertions and sacrifices of Russia, Poland was doomed to utter destruction at the hands of the Germans. Not only Poland as a State and as a nation, hut the Poles as a race were doomed by Hitler to be destroyed or reduced to a servile station. Three and a half million Polish Jews are said to have been actually slaughtered. It is certain that enormous numbers have perished in one of the most horrifying acts of cruelty, probably the most horrifying acts of cruelty, which has ever darkened the passage of man on the earth. When the Germans had clearly avowed their intention of making the Poles a subject and lower grade race under the Herrenvolk. suddenly, by a superb effort of military force and skill, the Russian Armies, in little more than three weeks, since, in fact, we spoke on these matters here, have advanced from the Vistula to the Oder, driving the Germans in ruin before them and freeing the whole of Poland from the awful cruelty and oppression under which the Poles were writhing.
In supporting the Russian claim to the Curzon Line, 1 repudiate and repulse any suggestion that we are making a questionable compromise or yielding to force or fear, and I assert with the utmost conviction the broad justice of the policy upon which, for the first time, all the three great Allies have now taken their stand. Moreover, the three Powers have now agreed that Poland shall receive substantial accessions of territory both in the north and in the west. In the north she will certainly receive, in the place of a precarious Corridor, the great city of Danzig, the greater part of East Prussia west and south of Koenigsberg and a long, wide sea front on the Baltic. In the west she will receive the important industrial province of Upper Silesia and, in addition, such other territories to the east of the Oder as it may he decided at the peace settlement to detach from Germany after the views of a broadly based Polish Government have been ascertained.
Thus, it seems to me that this talk of cutting half of Poland off is very misleading. In fact, the part which is to be east of the Curzon Line cannot in any case be measured by its size. It includes the enormous, dismal region of the Pripet Marshes, which Poland held between the two wars, and it exchanges for that the far more fruitful, and developed land in the west, from which a very large portion of the German population has already departed. We need not fear that the task of holding these new lines will be too heavy for Poland, or that it will bring about another German revenge or that it will, to use a conventional phrase, sow the seeds of future wars. We intend to take steps far more drastic and effective tint those which followed the last war, because we know much more about this business, so as to render all offensive action by Germany utterly impossible for generations to come.
Finally, under the world organization of nations great and small, victors and vanquished will be secured against aggression by indisputable law and by overwhelming international force. The published Crimea Agreement is not a ready-made plan, imposed by the great Powers on the Polish people. It sets out the agreed views of the three major Allies on the means whereby their common desire to see established a strong, free, independent Poland, may be fulfilled in co-operation with the Poles themselves, and whereby a Polish Government which all the United Nations can recognise, may he set up in Poland, This has become for the first time a possibility now that practically the whole country has been liberated by the Soviet Army. The fulfillment of the plan will depend upon the willingness of all sections of democratic Polish opinion in Poland or abroad to work together in giving tt effect. The plan should be studied as a whole, and with the main common objective always in view. The three Powers are agreed that acceptance by the Poles of the provisions on the eastern frontiers and, so far as can now be ascertained on the western frontiers, is an essential condition of the establishment and future welfare and security of a strong, independent, homogeneous Polish State.
The proposals on frontiers are in complete accordance, as the House will remember, with the views expressed by me in Parliament on behalf of His Majesty’s Government many times during the past year. I ventured to make pronouncements upon this subject at a time when a great measure of agreement was not expressed by the other important parties to the affair. The Eastern frontier must he settled now, if the new Polish administration is to be able to carry on its work in its own territory, and to de this in amity with the Russians and behind their fighting fronts. The Western frontiers, which will involve a substantial accession of German terrItory to Poland, cannot be fixed except as part of the whole German settlement until after the Allies have occupied German territory and after a fully representative Polish Government has been able to make its wishes known, It would he a great mistake to press Poland to take a larger portion of these lands than is considered by her and by her friends and Allies to be within her compass to man, to develop, and, with the aid of the Allies and the world organization, to maintain.
I have now dealt with the frontiers of Poland. I must say I think it is a case which I can outline with great confidence to the House. An impartial line traced long ago by a British commission in which Britain took a leading part; the moderation with which the Russians have strictly confined themselves to that line; the enormous sacrifices they have made and the sufferings they have undergone; the contributions they have made to our present victory; the great interest, the vital interest, which Poland has in having complete agreement with her powerful neighbour to the East—when you consider all those matters and the way they have been put forward, the temperate, patient manner in which they have been put forward and discussed, I say that I have rarely seen a case in this House which I could commend with more confidence to the good sense of Members of all sides.
But even more important than the frontiers of Poland, within the limits now disclosed, is the freedom of Poland. The home of the Poles is se-tiled. Are they to be masters in their own house? Are they to be free, as we in Britain and the United States or France are free? Is their sovereignty and their independence to be untrammelled, or are they to become a mere projection of the Soviet State, forced against their will, by an armed minority, to adopt a Communist or totalitarian system? Well, I sin putting the case in all its bluntness, It is a touchstone far more sensitive and vital than the drawing of frontier lines. Where does Poland stand? Where do we all stand on this?
Most solemn declarations have been made by Marshal Stalin and the Soviet Union that the sovereign independence of Poland is to be maintained, and this decision is now joined in both by Great Britain and the United States. Here also, the world organisation will in due course assume a measure of responsibility. The Poles will have their future in their own hands, with the single limitation that they must honestly follow, in harmony with their Allies, a policy friendly to Russia. That is surely reasonable—[interruption].
The procedure which the three Great Powers have unitedly adopted to achieve this vital aim is set forth in unmistakable terms in the Crimea declaration. The agreement provides for consultation, with a view to the establishment in Poland of a new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity, with which the three major Powers can all enter into diplomatic relations, instead of some recognising one Polish Government and the rest another, a situation which, if it had survived the Yalta Conference, would have proclaimed to the world disunity and confusion. We had to settle it, and we, settled It there. No binding restrictions have been imposed upon the scope and method of those consultations. His Majesty’s Government intend to do all in their power to ensure that they shall be as wide as possible and that representative Poles of all democratic parties are given full freedom to come and make their views known. Arrangements for this are now being made in Moscow by the CommissiOn of three, comprising M. Molotov. and Mr. Harriman and Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, representing the United States and Great Britain respectively. It will be for the Poles themselves, with such assistance as the Allies are able to give them, to agree upon the composition and constitution of the new Polish Government of National Unity. Thereafter, His Majesty’s Government, through their representative in Poland, will use all their influence to ensure that the free elections to which the new Polish Government will be pledged shall be faIrly carried out under all proper democratic safeguards.
Our two guiding principles in dealing with all these problems of the Continent and of liberated countries have been clear: While the war is on we give help to anyone who can kill a Hun; when the war is over we look to the solution of a free, unfettered, democratic election. Those are the two principles which this Coalition Government have applied, to the best of their ability, to the circumstances and situations in this entangled and infinitely varied development.
Lord Dunglass (Lanark): I am sorry to interrupt the Prime Minister, but this point is highly important. So much depends upon the interpretation of the words which the Prime Minister is now using. My only reason for interrupting him is to ask whether he can possibly develop this point a little more. For instance, is there going to he some kind of international supervision? His interpretation will make a great difference to many of us.
The Prime Minister: I should certainly like that, but we have to wait until the new Polish Government is set up and to see what are the proposals they make for the carrying out of these free, unfettered elections, to which they will be pledged and to which we are pledged by the responsibility we have assumed. But I have not finished. Perhaps some further words of comfort may come for my Noble Friend, I should be very sorry if I could not reassure him that the course we have adopted is simple, direct and trustworthy. The agreement does not affect the continued recognition by His Majesty’s Government of the Polish Government in London. This will be maintained until such time as His Majesty’s Government consider that a new Provisional Government has been properly formed in Poland, in accordance with the agreed provisions; nor does it involve the previous or immediate recognition by His Majesty’s Government of the present Provisional Government which is now functioning in Poland. We are awaiting [Interruption.] Let me remind the House and these who have undertaken what I regard as an honourable task, of being very careful that our affairs in Poland are regulated In accordance with the dignity and honour of this country—I have no quarrel with them at all, only a difference of opinion on the facts. which I hope to clear away. That is all that is between us.
Let me remind them that there would have been no Lublin Committee or Lublin Provisional Government in Poland if Lhe Polish Government in London had accepted our faithful counsel given to them a year ago. They would have entered into Poland as its active Government, with the Liberating Armies of Russia, Even in October, when the Foreign Secretary and I toiled night and day in Moscow, M. Mikolajczyk could have gone from Moscow to Lublin, with every assurance of Marshal Stalin’s friendship, and become the Prime Minister of a more broadly constructed Government, which would now be seated at Warsaw, or wherever, in view of the ruin of Warsaw, the centre of Government is placed.
But these opportunities were cast aside. Meanwhile, the expulsion of the Germans from Poland has taken place, and of course the new Government, the Lublin Government, advanced with the victorious Russian Armies, who were received with great joy in very great areas in Poland. Many great cities changing hands without a shot fired, and with none of that terrible business of underground armies being shot by both sides, and so forth, which we feared so much, having actually taken place during the great forward advance. These opportunities were cast aside. The Russians, who are executing and preparing military operations on the largest scale against the heart of Germany, have the right to have the communications of their armies protected by an orderly countryside. under a Government acting in accordance with their needs.
It was not therefore possible, so far as recognition was concerned, to procure the dissolutIon of the Lublin Government as well as of-the London Government simultaneously and start from a swept table. To do that would be to endanger the success of the Russian offensive, and conse-quently to prolong the war, with Increased loss of Russian, British and American blood. The House should read care-fully again and again. those Members who have doubts, the words and the terms of the Declaration, every word of which was the subject of the most profound and searching attent’on by the Heads of the three Governments, and by the Foreign Secretaries and all their experts;
How will this Declaration be carried out? How will phrases like “Free and unfettered elections on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot “be interpreted? Will the “new” Government be “properly” constituted, with a fair representation of the Polish people, as far as can be made practicable at the moment, and as soon as possible? Will the elections be free and unfettered? Will the candidates of all democratic parties be able to present themselves to the electors, and to conduct their campaigns? What are democratic parties? People always take different views. Even in our own country there has been from time to time an effort by one party or the other to claim that they are the true democratic party, and the rest are either Bolsheviks or Tory landlords. What are democratic parties? Obviously this is capable of being settled. Will the election be what we should say was fair and free in this country, making some allowance for the great confusion and disorder which prevails?
Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West): Will there be any caucuses?
The Prime Minister: One cannot entirely avoId some nucleus of party inspiration being formed, even in this country, and no doubt sometimes very able Members find themselves a little out of joint with the party arrangements. But there are a great number of parties In Poland. We have agreed that all those that are democratic parties—not Nazi or Fascist parties or parties of collaborators with the enemy—all these will be able to take their part.
These are questions upon which we have the clearest views, in accordance with the principles of the Declaration on liberated Europe, to which all three Governments have duly subscribed. Tt is on that basis that the Moscow Commission of three was intended to work, and it is on that basis it has already begun to work.
The impression I brought back from the Crimea, and from all my other contacts, is that Marshal Stalin and the Soviet leaders wish to live in honourable friendship and equality with the Western democracies. I feel also that their word is their bond. I know of no Government which stands to its obligations, even in its own despite, more solidly than the Russian Soviet Government. I decline absolutely to embark here on a discussion about Russian good faith. It Is quite evident that these matters touch the whole future of the world. Sombre indeed would be the fortunes of mankind if some awful schism arose bctween the Western democracies and the Russian Soviet Union, if all the future world organisation were rent asunder, and If new eataclysms of inconceivable violence destroyed all that is left of the treasures and liberties of mankind.
Finally, on this subject, His Majesty’s Government recognise that the large forces of Polish troops. soldiers, sailors and airmen, now fighting gallantly, as they have fought during the whole war, under British command, owe allegiance to the Polish Government in London. We have every confidence that once the new Government. more fully representative of the will of the Polish people than either the present Government in London or the Provisional Administration in Poland, has been established, and recognised by the Great Powers. means will be found of overcoming these formal difficulties in the wider interest of Poland. Above all. His Majesty’s Government are resolved that as many as possible of the Polish troops shall be enabled to return in due course to Poland, of their own free will and under every safegoard, to play their part in the future life of their country.
In any event, His Majesty’s Government will never forget the debt they owe to the Polish troops xvho have served them so valiantly, and for all those who have fought under our command I earnestly hope it may be possible to offer the citizenshin and freedom of the British Empire, if they so desire, I am not able to make a declaration on that subject to-day because all matters affecting citizenship reouire to be discussed between this country and the Dominions. a.nd that takes time, But so far as we are concerned, we should think it an honour to have such faithful and valiant warriors dwelling among us as if they were men of our own blood,
Mr. Arthur Greenwood Wakefield (Labour)
This section links with the following section on Poland, to which my right hon. Friend paid a good deal of attention this morning. In the previous section dealing with liberated Europe as a whole there is this sentence: “ The three Governments will consult the other United Nations and provisional authorities or other Governments in Europe when matters of direct interest to them are under consideration.”
I follow the arguments of my right hon. Friend with regard to territorial readjustment.
I agree that what is far more important is the preservation of a free, independent, sovereign Poland In the fullest sense of the term. As I have said, it is not the size of the body, it is the quality of the body that matters, and that is so in the case of Poland. I do not wish to exacerbate a situation which has already become somewhat acute, but I would point out to the House, that it is foreign to the principles of British justice that the fate of a nation should be decided in its absence and behind its back. I do not regard the territorial problem as vital, but the other problem is vital— that there should be in the, east of Europe the living beacon of Poland free and independent, as a warning note to any future aggressive Germany. I do not hold any brief for the Polish Government4 I do not think it has been too well treated by His Majesty’s Government. I think it has made mistakes4 I have told my Polish friends that it has made mistakes. I admit all that, but I say it really is a cardinal sin for three Great Powers—one of whom has an interest which we have not got—in the absence of the people whose lives are being bartered away, to determine the future of any country.
The Prime Minister:
The whole object is to create a Polish Government which can, unitedly, decide upon the future.
Mr. Greenwood, I think we all want a united Polish Government which can decide upon the future but, as regards the territorial issue, the Poles have been allowed to say very little about how their coat is to be cut. The fact is that before a decision of This kind is taken, I really de feel that the Poles—all the Poles—~might have been consulted in the matter. If I were to enter into the realms of controversy on this issue, I would say that an authority has been given to the Polish end of the Polish Government, rather than to the Government which has hitherto been recognised by this country and is still recognised. However, it is perfectly clear—and I have expressed this view to what Polish friends I have, during past months—that there must be a provisional Government, national in character, representative of all organised political movements, to prepare for the future of the Polish people. [HON. MEMBERS: : “ All? “] Yes, all reorganised political movements, and I include the Communists In that, if that is what my hon. Friends are thinking about. My Socialist friends in Belgium are not enamoured of the Communist Party, but they realise that in their country there is a strong Communist movement, and they are prepared to co-operate with it during these interim days. Then, when we get free and unfettered elections, the people can decide for themselves. It is a pity that in these Initial arrangements, both the Lublin Government and the Government here were not properly consulted.
The Prime Minister: They are being consulted now. It was not possible to invite a Polish Government to Yalta, because one of the great Powers recognised one Government and the others recognised another, and it was absolutely necessary for us to adjust our views upon that great division before any Invitation could be sent and before we knew to which Government it should be sent. What is happening now Is that a Government recognised by all the Powers is being brought into being representative of the broad elements of Polish national life. That Government will settle, subject to what I have said about the election being free and unfettered, the future course of affairs in Poland and will have the recognition of all the united Governments, I trust, until such time as Its situation can be placed on unchallengeable footing by free, unfettered, universal suffrage exercised at the elections.
Mr. Greenwood: I still stick to the point I made before. I realise the right hon. Gentleman’s difficulties, with one Government recognised by one State, and another Government recognised -by two other States. But I still feel that a decision on those lines and of that character, scope, magnitude and importance to the Polish people of the future ought not to have been taken, so to speak, behind their backs. I hope I am not hurting my right hon. Friend’s feelings.
. . . One reason why there is world concern over the differences between Russia and Poland is because it is the first case, a test case, in the relationship between a Grcat Power wielding great military might, and her smaller and weaker neighbour. That is the reason why there is world concern over this matter. As far as Poland is concerned, there is no country which by reason of its opposition to tyranny has
earned a greater right to Independence. There is no country to which independence has been more specifically pledged in treaty and declaration, and there is no country which in its weakness has a greater claim upon the magnanimity of its friends. The British approach to this problem cannot rest upon sentiment, but our hearts would need to be of stone if we were not moved by these considerations. But our relations are generally specific undertakings given in treaty, both to Poland and to Russia.
This House is familiar with our obligations to Poland. What are the instruments which govern our relationships to Russia? First; there is the Atlantic Charter, which is not as ethereal as some people would have us believe. It is in The Preamble to the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1942. It is deliberately brought into this Agreement as a guide to the conduct of Great Powers towards other Powers in the world. Certain questions, therefore, ought to be pbsed and have to be answered to see whether this agreement can, In fact, come within the framework of the Atlantic Charter, What about territorial questions, and what about territorial settlements, the question of the Curzon Line, and the strict limitation of modifications in Poland’s favour. Does the treaty conform to that section of the Atlantic Charter which reads :
“The High Contracting Parties desire to see no territorial changes that do not conform with the frvely expressed wishes of the people concerned.” . .
What about the free elections about which I asked the Prime Minister, and to which I shall return? Do they give a real hope that that section will be fulfilled which reads “ that they wish to respect the rights of all people to those forms of government under which they wish to live.”
Are there arrangements to end the shootings and deportations and the outlawing of the Polish Home Army? Do they give real promises that the conditions will he fulfilled in which “all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear? “
The questions which arise at the moment are under the last two headings, but the Prime Minister is right about the territorial settlement. The Russians have never receded for one moment from the view that in this matter they alone are the judges and what they have taken they will keep. That is their attitude, and I feel rather different from some other Members about this territorial matter. I believe that if you try to force what is an act of power, within the framework of the Atlantic Charter, you will not whitewash the Act, but yoq will break the Charter. When the Prime Minister says that he accepts this as an act of justice, I must take a fundamentally opposite view. We have, dozens of times in our history, accepted this kind of arrangement as a fact of power, I accept it as a fact of power, but I cannot be asked to underwrite it as an act of Justice. This is not a quibble in words. It is not a quibbling legalistic interpretation. I believe, most profoundly, that it is an essential British interest that we should be seen to preserve our moral standards in international behaviour. When our plenipotentiaries go abroad and sign agreements for us, they go, it Is true, in command of great Imperial Power, but they also go as representatives of a great Christian people.
I am going to leave that territorial settlement on one side with that reservation, which, although I de not like it, would not prevent me from voting for the Government on this occasion, because I would never encourage the Poles to believe that they could get this territory back. I would not encourage them to believe that we can help them to de it. All we can do is to aid them to achieve a Poland as nearly as possible equal in status to what It was before the war. I turn, therefore, to . the second instrument which regulates our relations with Russia, the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1942. If I might interpret the word “ treaty “ to the Prime Minister it would be that a treaty “is a rule and not a guide.” Perhaps the House will allow me to , read Article 5 :
“ They, – the high contracting parties, agree to act according to the principles of not seeking territorial aggrandisement for themselves, and of non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.”
On that basis it was our hope—It is our hope—to build up good relations with Russia. In 1944 the Russians signed a treaty with the French which, otherwise closely parallel with our own, had no such clause. It was an ostentatious omission, and it is natural that we should ask ourselves which is the genuine edition of Russian foreign policy, the 1942 or the 1944, because the Foreign Secretary did not put this clause into the Anglo-Russian Treaty without reason. To us, it represents a fundamental conception, namely, that of a Europe of small, free, sovereign, independent States, in which we wish to be one of the family. That is the conception of Europe which we want to see, and it is not entirely selfish—not entirely governed by reasons of security. We do not measure a country’s contribution to civilisation merely by the numbers within its borders. Therefore, a Europe of small, free, independent States is a fundamental British interest, and we interpret this clause as covering the right of Poland and other sovereign States to real independence. We could never he a party to a process under which a whole range of smaller countries of Eurore was drawn, by a mixture of military pressure from without and political disruption from within, into the orbit of another and a greater Power.
I want to put before the Foreign Secretary some of the questions which were left unanswered by the Prime Minister, . .
As the White Paper is framed. and as Press reports have come to us, it looks as though the Lublin Committee is going to be the foundation of the new Government. Is that intended or is it not? It would have been cleaner to scrap both Governments and start afresh. If you want a new Government, it would have been a fairer thing to do. Is it intended that this Government should really be ne’v and that Lublin should not he its foundation? I come to the question of free election. It is imperative that these elections should be really and truly free, and a good deal depends on what is our Government’s intention with regard to the machinery to achieve it. I should have liked to see joint machinery set up between ourselves and the Russians and the Americans. with the possible addition of other nations, which would cover the case of elections not only in Poland, but in Yugoslavia, Greece. or wherevet it might be— In other words, that this should be real internotional supervision and that there should be no doubt left about it.
The third and last condition that I should have liked to see is this. Hon. Members will have noticed in the White Paper a provision in the Agreement about Yugoslavia. which says that legislative Acts passed by the Assembly of National Liberation will be subject to subsequent ratification by constituent assembly, Can the Foreign Secretary say why that was left out of the Polish Agreement? If it is put in the Yugoslav Agreement, why is it not here, and can it be added? On the answer to some of these questions. my vote is hound to depend. There are much wider issues here as I have tried to suggest—much wider than the freedom of . This is the first case—a test case. Can we go forward with confidence into a world organisation by which peace may he built up? My answer is that we can, but only if the three nations have certain common principles. and three of them at least must be there. Integrity of dealing, respect for the rights and interests of others and responsibility in the use of power.
Sir William Beveridge
With regard to the boundaries of Poland, I am thinking the eastern boundaries. There we have the choice, broadly, between the Curzon Line. which was accepted by the Supreme Council In 1919, and the 1939 boundary which ‘vas secured by the Poles under the Treaty of Riga in 1920. For three years the powers in Paris tried to get the Poles to give this up, offering one Amendment alternatively after another, including a 25-year mandate. Finally, in March. 1923, the Powers capitulated to the Poles and accepted the 1920 boundary which lasted to 1939. When this capitulation ‘vas announced in this House by the Prime Minister. Mr. Bonar Law, many questions ‘vere asked. Among them he was asked under what conditions the supreme powers had accepted the Treaty of 1920, and he said they had done it on the condition that Poland, which had been in occupation of, Eastern Galicia for three or four years, must recognise that ethnographical conditions xinde autonomy necessary in that region. I am not sure whether there has been any autonomy in that region since then or not.
As between these two lines, the Curzon tine has the moral basis of an impartial investigation, while the line of 1939. going back to 1772, rests on history and on force. We must all realise that to rest an international arrangement on history and force rather than on impartial decision, is the way to return to war. I have no hesitation in supporting the Curzon Line as a starting point in defining the eastern boundary of Poland. I would only ask those who are dealing with the drawing of the frontier in detail to remember that the Curzon Line was laid down as the minimum for Poland on the east; according to Professor Temperley’s history of the Peace Conference, the American and French delegations thought that the boundary should be more to the east. I hope that we shall be able to obtain whatever modifications to the east are justified by fair ethnographical considerations.
If we accept the Curzon Line now on the ground that it is really justice, it leaves no real ground for compensation for the Poles on the west or elsewhere. In spite of that difficulty, I, personally, would also support the proposal to make East Prussia and Danzig Polish and to remove the German population from those regions. I support that not on the ground of compensation for Poland for taking away from her something she should never have had. but on the practical ground of giving to Poland a compact territory inhabited . by Poles only, of giving her an adequate sea-board, and of making room for those Poles who find themselves beyond the eastern boundary under Soviet rule and wish to move into Poland. They ought to be able to do so on terms of ample compensation. The giving of Danzig and East Prussia to the Poles and taking them away from Germany is also an act of poetic justice. Is it not the origin and occasion of war? After all, what was the German objection to the Polish Corridor? It was the ridiculous objection that Germans could not go to another part of Germany by sea and that therefore Poland must be cut off from the sea. For a country which was claiming colonies to object that they were required to travel by sea to East Prussia, was ridiculous. I suggest that they should in future he saved from that necessity. By the cutting off of East Prussia we could make the source of this quarrel Into a monument and symbol of their defeat.
It may he said that these territorial adjustments conflict with the Alantic Charter. I do not think that they really do. The Atlantic Charter implies that no peoples should he required to live in a State in which they do not wish to live. We cannot say that the Atlantic Charter rules out the kind of territorial readjustments, with transfer of population, which is proposed here. I am afraid that I cannot accept all the arguments which the Prime Minister gave in support of his proposals as to Poland. I need not emphasize the differences except to say that the fact that Russia has liberated any part of Poland is not any reason why she should have any part of it. Nor is the fact that in Tsarist times Russia possessed Finland any reason for giving her ail she wants now. We must base our decision as to the eastern boundary of Poiand on the justice which we tried to do after the last war but which we were not strong enough to do. I do not feel happy about the suggestion that Poland should he cneourage(l to exten4 westwards into territories which are now German and which presumably will still be occupied by Germans. It is not necessary for the purpose of giving the Poles a proper homeland. The Prime Minister committed himself—I do not know whether he meant to commit the House—to certain changes in Upper Silesia. They are pot in the White Paper. The Crimea Conference decided only that these things would be settled at the peace conference. I hope that they will be left to the peace conference and that there the dominant consideration will be that of making a lasting peace.
On the Government of Poland, I can speak more shortly than I would otherwise have done because, on the whole, I agree with the hon. Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) that it is essential for us to see that the Polish Government is one chosen to please the Poles, and not one chosen to please either Soviet Russia or ourselves. We all wish that it had not been necessary to make any settlement about the Polish Government now, but if it has to be made now, it has to he made especially for a military reason : that operations are still proceeding across Poland, and Soviet Russia must have a friendly Government in Poland which she is crossing to get to Germany. If that is the reason, it makes it all the more important to be certain that the Government which succeeds is not necessarily a continuation of the Provisional Government.
We must take great care to make certain that those who, on our behalf, are concerned with the formation or advising as to the formation of the nexy Provisional Government have eyery opportunity for their work; that they are able to discover facts not only in Moscow but in Poland, that they are able to make certain that before the election takes place, all Poles, wherever they may he, have got back to Poland:
that they should make certain that all Poles, whether pro-Russian or not, can become candidates: and finally, that the election is held fairly and under international observation, which means elections held after the withdrawal of any Soviet armies and any Soviet poiice. All of us must be there on equal terms as international observers. That is essential. Our honour is pledged, if we support this Vote of Confidence, to see that Poland gets an independent Government, chosen to please the Poles and no one else. We cannot accept anything that does not allow-us to fulfil that obligation. If we are assured of that, we can go to our Polish friends and ask them to think not of 1772 but of 1945 and the future. We can ask them that they should become not British nationals but remaining Polish nationals and should help to build up a worthy Poland.
Berwick and Haddington (Conservative)
But I chiefly regret Poland. Poland, If not the reason for, was at any rate the occasion of, our declaring war in 1939, and it xvill be denied by nobody that our relations with Poland have ever since then been excellent, and moreover that the services rendered by the Poles to us and the Allied cause in every theatre of the European war have been beyond all praise. I was glad to hear from the Prime Minister that facilities, will be offered to such Poles as desire it, to adopt British nationality after the war.
The Prime Minister:
After consultation with the Dominions.
After consultation of course with the Dominions. At the same time, it was not a statement which lent any great weight to the Prime Minister’s general argument, and into that I need not go any further. But even before the recent Conference doubts were expressed in many quarters concerning what might be the result of that Conference when it was held. I have here a copy of the Memorandum given by the Polish Government to His Majesty’s Government and the American Government on January 22nd, which states that the Polish Government are confident that the Government of Great Britain will pot agree to be a party to decisions concerning the Polish Government without the consent of that Government. In thc same document the Polish Government express the hope that at the Conference of Allied Powers the British Government will give expression to their resolve not to recognise the puppet Government and say that the recognition of such a Government In Poland would be tantamount to a betrayal of the inhabitants of Poland, in defence of whom the present war was begun. That shows, at least, that these doubts were held and felt in many quarters. Nor was it any secret that His Majesty’s Government’s Ambassador in Moscow was strongly of the opinion that the Lublin Committee ought to be recognised as the sole legitimate Government of Poland at an early date. I think there ‘vas no secret about that. [Interruption.]
On the one hand, my right hon. Friends averred that it ‘vas a masterly compromise, wherein nothing was given up and all is referred to the future. On the other, the view taken by the Polish Government, and shared hy net a few in this country, that it amounts to little more or less than
– a complete acceptance of the Russian point of view. This also, let me say, is my own view, and it is one which I can assure you, Sir, is at least widely shared in Scotland.
I am dealing this afternoon with one single point. There are other points in the agreement which invite argument, but I wish to confine myself to the sole point of recognition. Arguments have been put up already, and will he put many more times in the course of this Debate, about the making of the Lublin Committee into the nucleus of the new Administration, the ignoring of the Polish Government here in the negotiations, and the apparent lack of safeguards in the mabter of carrying into effect the promised elections in Poland. However, I want to deal in the first instance with the excuse which has been put forward—What else could we have done? I do not say that has been put forward to-day, but I have heard it before. Quite apart from the unworthiness of such a reason being put forward by a great Power which has been dealing, presumably, on an equal footing with other great Powers in a conference, in my view it would have been better to say frankly that we could not, in this instance, agree. . . .
Then it is said : “ If that is the line you take, then you would have left the Poles in Poland to what you consider to be a Russianized Lublin Government and done nothing for them.” On the whole, and taking the admittedly pessimistic view of the future of the Poles under the arrangements which have been reached, which I do, I would answer : “ Yes, I do not think they would have been much worse off.” [HON.
MEMBERS : “ “Oh.” Believe me, I am not only thinking, or even mainly thinking, in this respect of Poland; I am thinking of this country. Had we refused to agree, and stuck to the Arciszewski Government, the “London Government “ as the Lublin wireless never falls pointedly to refer to it—and incidentally, why should Londoh become a derogatory term in the mourns of anybody? I would like to know where Lublin was in 1940—had we stuck to that Government I say we would at least now have no cause to be ashamed. If it is said further that had we done so we would have found ourselves in complete diplomatic isolation, why then, I can only marvel that even now, at this late hour, we have still not learned the lesson of 1940—that it is a very little thing to stand alone if we are convinced that we are standing for the right, nor, in that cause, will we ever lack friends for long. It is no use harking back into the past, but I cannot help thinking that it is a pity we did not link up this question of the independence of Poland with the 20 years’ pact of friendship with Russia when that agreement wa-s concluded. I have already said that this is a difficult matter to deal with. It may seem very simple to certain hon. Gentlemen opposite, hut, believe me, it is a very complicated one.
Therefore, without, I trust, causing any provocation, perhaps I may illustrate the situation as I see it by a simple simile. It is as If I saw someone, to whom I was bound by ties somewhat in excess of the ordinary ties of humanity, in the embrace of a bear. My expressions of concern are met by all sort of reassuring and soothing words. I am told that this bear is, in fact, a tame bear; I am reminded mat bears have many engaging qualities, that they love honey and that they occasionally Indulge in a playfulness which is almost human- as to what is happening before my eyes, I am told that I can talk as much as I like about a bear’s hug, but that is nothing more or less than prejudice and, In fact, this is merely the bear’s way of showing his affection. Well, that may be, but I cannot .help feeling that history, natural and otherwise, is in this matter on my side. What has been done In the Crimea Conference has been done, but I for one cannot join in the chorus of approval which has greeted its doing, and both for the sake of my own conscience and in the hope of lessening the possibilities of this sort of thing repeating Itself at some future stage, I feel I cannot allow it to pass without registering a definite but uncompromising protest.
Captain Alan Graham
All the enemies of Nazi Germany must rejolec at the declaration made by the three Heads of Governments at the Conference at Yalta of their “ inflexible determination to destroy German militarism and Nazism, and to ensure that Germany will never again destroy the peace of Europe.”
The system of government where the rights and development of the Individual are sacred, cannot exist peacefully side by side with another system of government, where the individual simply does not count. For the one system to live, the other must die. Therefore it was, I presume, with an equally deep conviction on the part of the three Heads of State at Yalta of the vital necessity of the rights of the individual that, in their pronouncement on the Polish question, they insisted on free and unfettered elections being held in Poland as soon as possible and based on universal suffrage and a secret ballot. Of course it would not be possible to consider Poland truly liberated unless the Poles could claim and practise such an elementary form of democracy.
This announcement was happily reinforced by the references in Paragraph 5 to Principle 3 of the Atlantic Charter, affirming the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they would live. If the three Heads of Government are sincere in attaching importance to this principle, how comes it that in discussing the future of Poland no representative of the London Polish Government was called into council? Two out of the three participating Governments have recognised its legality, and that Government has made its views quite plain in the Memorandum which it sent to the British and American Governments on January 22nd. The present legal Government of Poland was consulted neither before nor after the Conference. Nor was it even mentioned in the announcements of the decisions of the Conference. Yet this is the sole legal constitutiontal and recognised Government of our Ally Poland, This is the Government to which the Polish Arnned Forces, now numbering nearly 200,000, and the Polish Home Forces of the UndergrOund Army have sworn loyalty and allegiance as the rightful office-bearers of their nation and State. Their Prime Minister, Mr. Arciszewski, a veteran Socialist, and so representative of. the Polish people that he was the head in Poland, until last autumn, of the whole Underground movement, has simply been ignored. He has not even been received by our Prime Minister, who legally recognised the truly representative quality of this Polish Government.
On Thursday last I was visited in this House by the representatives of half a million Polish workers and underground fighters from France, mostly Socialists and miners, thoroughly good democrats. They were unanimously supporters of Mr. Arciszewski and his Government, both in opposition to the unconditional surrender of the eastern half of Poland, and to the surrender of the independent Government of Poland, into the hands of the Lublin puppets. I have here a cable from a body representing the 90,000 Poles in Argentina, which I propose to read.
“ The Crimea Conference has carried out once more the partition of Poland without the Polish people’s consent or knowledge and has put in foreign hands the true attribute of a nation’s sovereignty to create a Government. This, after six grim years of war against Germany, is an incredibly hard blow. A tragedy for all of us. To form-this new Government Mr. Molotov, assisted by two Ambassadors, has been appointed. Commissar Molotov is the one who, in 1939, signed with Hibbentrop the agreement to wipe off the Polish State, who can be held responsible for the deportation of one million and a half of Poles, who took away Polish citizenship from all Poles in the Soviet Union. In spite of this, in the Big Three’s opinion the Polish people should trust Molotov more than President Raczkiewicz or one of the venerable Polish Archbishops, as arranged in Greece. We Poles are seeking for a manly conscience that would protest against such revolting facts. Shall ‘ye find it? “On December 15th practically every speaker in the House
affirmed the utterly unrepresentative quality of the Lublin Committee, yet it seems that the opinion of this House has been flouted by the decisions of the Yalta Conference. The Lublin Committee is referred to in the pronouncement of the Conference as the “ Provisional Government now functioning in Poland,” and this body, vaguely expanded, is to be the new Provisional Government of Poland charged with the holding of free and unfettered elections in that country, We know the importance which the three Heads of Government assembled at Yalta so rightly attached to these free and unfettered elections, but what sort of chance have they? The so-called Provisional Polish Government at this moment is so controlling the country that no independent opinion, however democratic, is allowed to be published at all, all wireless receivers have .been confiscated, and broadcasts can only he heard at certain places controlled by the Provisional Government. The Lublin Minister of Education, M. Skrzesencki, has Informed the professors of Cracow University that the Rector of the university and the Deans of the Faculties will not he elected as formerly, but appointed by the Government. Professors, writers, artists and scientists are forced to sign declarations denouncing the Polish Government in London a.s traitors to the Polish cause, and especially attacking the President. M. Raczkiewlez, M. Arciszewski, and even our Prime Minister’s favourite. M. Mikolajezyk. If they refuse to do this they are arrested and imprisoned or else just murdered.
At this moment members of the former Home or Underground Army, particularly officers, are being arrested, deported, and even shot. The private soldiers of the Underground Army are mostly being rounded up, and forcibly enlisted under the command of General Zymirski, the Lublin Commander-in-Chief. He, incidentally, served five years’ imprisonment in pre-war Poland for having, when in the Quarter-Master-General’s Department. embezzled money allotted to the purchase of gas-masks for the Army. I presume that the Big Three do not expect General Anders and the honourable officers of the Polish Army still fighting by our side to accept the leadership of such a Commander-in-Chief! Finally, since 1939, more than 2,000,000 Poles have been forcibly deported to Russia and Siberia. Such are the auspices under which these three unhappy gentlemen, Messrs. Molotov, Harriman and Sir Archibald Clerk-Kerr, are expected to supervise the reorganisation of the present Provisional Government, and enable free and unfettered elections to take place. What optimism, what heroic faith in the demoetatic behaviour of the actual rulers of present-day Poland, the Russian secret police!
I will now pass to two questions which I wish to put, in regard to the Yalta decision on the Curzon Line, although in the eyes of all Poles frontier questions, important as they are, come second in importance to national independence. . . .
Why, in a matter affecting the sovereignty and territorial inviolability of Poland, did the Big Three, who expressly reaffirm in paragraph 5 their determination “ to build a world-order under law,” not accept the offer contained in the present constitutional Polish Government Memorandum of January 22nd to “ agree to any method provided for by international law for a just and equitable settlement of the dispute with the participation of both sides “?
The other question is : How can the Prime Minister reconcile the honour of this country with his ignoring of the explicit understanding at the time of the signing of the Anglo-Polish Treaty of Mutual Assistance that, if this country were to enter into any new undertakings with a third State, their execution should at no time prejudice either the sovereignty or territorial inviolability of Poland, and vice versa? If the right hon. Gentleman felt that, in spite of that explicit undertaking, he had, none the less, to make some arrangement which would violate the territorial inviolability of Poland, the least he could do was to take into consultation the other party to this Treaty, which is the legal constitutional Government of Poland sitting in London. It is, indeed, a mournful reflecion that this Empire, which stood alone in 1940, except for Poland, against the might of triumphant Nazi Germany, cannot now, when she has mighty Allies by her side, stand up for juster treatment of her first and most martyred Ally of this war. But if, indeed, it be so, let us at least comport ourselves with dignity and honour. Do not let us pretend that something which is unjust is in reality right. Do not turn away from our own shores those who have given their lifeblood for the protection of our homes .
If we must consent to the fact of our Polish Allies being robbed of their homes, let us find them a new home in our Empire or elsewhere. Let us grant them the pensions that our own soldiers and wounded men receive, and, at least, the right to work here, and if, after this treatment, they still care to receive it, – British citizenship. To send them hack to a Sovietised Poland. or to hand over Poland to the Government of the Lublin Committee, with the power that lies behind it. would be nothing less than the betrayal of Innocent blood. We can only conscientiously consider the decision of the Yalta Conference in regard to Poland If the Government can insure that contingents of Allied troops shall be present in the country to supervise, not merely the elections, but the general conditions of life itself in Poland. Otherwise, we cannot avoid that most severe of all condemnations which lies upon those who betray innocent blood.
Penryn and Falmouth (Conservative)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question to add :
“ but, remembering that Great Britain took up arms in a war of which the immediate cause was the defence of Poland against German aggression and in which the overriding motive was the prevention of the domination by a strong nation of its weaker neighbours, regrets the decision to transfer to another Power the tenitory of an ally country contrary to treaty and to Article 2 of the Atlantic Charter and furthermore regrets the failure to ensure to those nations which have been liberated from German oppression the full right to choose their own government free from the Influence of any other Power.”
In moving the Amendment which stands in my name and to which names of a number of my hon. Friends are also attached—and to which other hon. Members have added their names since it was put on the paper-—I hope that the House will sympathize with me in the very difficult task that I have set myself to-day. The Amendment is the result of no idle putsch. Nor has it been hastily conceived. Those hon. Friends of mine who feel very deeply on this matter have had long and various consultations. We have considered every possible course of action, but we have come to the very reluctant conclusion that we must put upon the Order Paper of the House of Commons an Amendment which would express our views.
The Amendment eontains a direct criticism of the policy of the Government, and the decisions which were arrived at, as a result of the Yalta Conference. It contains, therefore, a criticism of the Prime Minister as head of His Majesty’s Government. . . .
The great matter on which we disagree, and which has caused us to put down the Amendment is the case of Poland, Let it not be thought that those of us who take this view very strongly are more Polish than the Poles. We have immense sympathy for that very valorous, brave Ally, who fought the Bache for five years inside and outside their own country, a country which has always maintained its national consciousness through four partitions.
We are looking at this matter through British eyes. We know that the Poles feel their national entity strongly and that Is partly why we sympathize with them so much in this case. We feel also strong views in the matter from a British point of view. We feel that we are British, through and through and out the other side. and it is particularly for that reason that we regret anything which might be done or is done which will have the effect of casting British honour into doubt. The only difference between the cases of Esthonia, Latvia, Lithuania- and Poland in this matter is that Poland was the country for which Great Britain took up arms in 1939. It was a casus bclli, as we know. There was the greater over-riding motives of preventing the domination of Europe by sheer force of arms. I certainly should not wish to repeat everything that I and others said in presenting the case on. December 15th, hut I would say that as a result of this Yalta Agreement, if It goes through, Poland is to lose nearly half her territory, a third of her population, 85 per cent, of her oil and natural gas, half her timber and peat, half her chemical industry, nearly half her grain, hemp and flax, and nearly 40 per cent, of her water power, potassium mines and phosphates and the ancient Lion City of Lw6w which stood up for centuries against attacks from North and South and from the East.
Poland is not all Pripet marshes. It has stood for countless generations against invader after invader, coming from different parts of Europe and the East. I have told the House what Is happening; can all that be made good by a post-dated cheque, by the cession of territory now belonging to Germany and containing we know not what? That is all in complete defiance of four treaties, particularly those entered into between Poland and Russia, It is contrary to the Atlantic Charter, about which I would like to have something to say before I sit down. It is also contrary to the Anglo-Polish Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 1939. I am referring to the Treaty and the secret Protocol attached to it of the 15th December, This is what was said in sub-section (3), Article 6 of the Treaty :
“ Any new undertaking which the Contracting Parties may enter into in future shall neither limit their obligations under the present Agreement nor indirectly create new obligations between the Contracting Party not participating in these undertakings and the third State concerned . “
As I understond it. that means that if Great Britain and Poland both made a new agreement \vith another country, that new agreement should not prejudice either partner to the Treaty.
This is what the secret Protocol says. In Clause 3, the relevant part reads :
“ The undertakings mentioned in Article 6 of the Agreement, should they be entered into by one of the Contracting, Parties with a third State, would of necessity he so framed that their execution should at no time prejudice either the sovereignty or territorial inviolability of the other Contracting Party.”
I do not over-estimate the importance of that secret Protocol because it seems to me that the passages in that Treaty have a direct connection with my next question—how about the Atlantic Charter? In the Yalta Agreement, the Atlantic Charter is, I think, rather ingenuously and certainly unctuously mentioned on more than one occasion. I have always felt and I am sure it is right that when our country is engaged in xvar, it is in the highest degree unwise at any time to mention war aims or peace aims of any kind whatever, no matter how innocuous they may appear to be. It is all the more dangerous, if anything specific is laid down, because it is bound to come back like a haunting ghost out of the past, rattling its chains at us.
This Atlantic Charter was brought out with ali the pontifical “ bally-hoo “ of the Thirty-nine Articles. the Ten Commandments, President Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the Beveridge Report, rolled into one. I should say perhaps the Berwick Report. Article 2 of the Atlantic Charter was the one which worried me most at the time because I feared that it applied to Germany, and I did not wish to apply Article 2 to Germany. What has happened since? About two years later, the Prime Minister was obliged to say—and I was most grateful to him—that Article 2 did not in fact apply to that country. But I did at least think that it applied to our Mlies. What does it apply to now? It is only a guide and no longer a rule, I suppose the Atlantic Charter with that Clause in it applies only to those countries who are so strong as to be able to protect themselves or so remote as to be out of. danger.
I have heard it said that the Poles are a difficult people. Perhaps they are. So would we be, if our country were to he given away to somebody else. The Poles have no monopoly of being difficult in the world to-day. But the Poles have not been conquered. They are still fighting. They are fighting with us and they are fighting in the underground movement. This is not a case of vae victis . We know perfectly well that when a country has been defeated, she must bear the consequences. She may have to bear the most dreadful horrible consequences, but that is because she lost the war. In this case Poland has not lost the war, she is our Ally, she is our continuing Ally and she is still fighting by our side.
May I now come to the terrible situation with which we are now faced as a result of Yalta. This is the fifth partition of Poland, although it is only the first in which this country has taken part. In the last 200 years this is the fifth time in which Poland has been cut up by adjoining Powers. Hon. Members have said in the course of this Debate that they look upon the second part of our Amendment, xvhich refers to the question of a free and independent Poland, as being paramount, and that the question of territory does not matter so much. I do believe very strongly in a free and independent Poland, and I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is to second the Motion will deal more particularly with this. But do not let us think that this question of territory does not matter at all. You tan argue perfectly well about the ethnological lay-out on the east of the Curzon line. We have been given some figures which show that there are two-fifths Poles, two-fifths Ukrainians and one-fifth Ruthenians and Jews. That is not the point. The point at issue, it seems to me, is not a question of the rearrangement of boundaries. I think it was Pitt who said “ Roll up the map of Europe.” The map of Europe has been roiled and unrolled a good many times since then—hut in this case this territory of Poland was guaranteed by treaty, freely entered into between Russia and Poland and three times re-affirmed by implication and by the whole tenor of succeeding treaties. So much for the question of boundaries. I believe you will get no peace in Europe unless the sanctity of treaties which confirm boundaries as a result of discussions freely entered into in recognized and honoured, There will be no peace in Europe for 100 years unless we return once more to that principle.
I would like to say a little now about the question of Lublin Government, and the Provisional Government which is proposed as a result of Yalta. It is to be chosen, we understand, by three eminent men—a brace of Ambassadors and a Foreign Secretary. I wonder if we would like that very much and if we would show much confidence in a Government so chosen for us. Would any country in the whole wide world accept such a Government? Surely one Of the principles of the Atlantic Charter is the right of every people to choose its own form of Government, But this Government is being chosen for the Poles. There is one more point I should like t make on this. There are in part of the Yalta communique dealing with Poland, some sinister references to the suggestion, or the fact, that only anti-Nazis will be allowed to vote and take part in these elections. What does that mean? Does it mean that anybody who is declared by the Provisional Government—or it may be by the Lublin Government for all I know—to be a Nazi is not to be allowed to vote? If this is the case, there can he no possible free elections in Poland, because it has only to he declared that a man is a Nazi—and he may be the leader of the Socialist party for all we know—and he will not he entitled to vote, I would ask the Foreign Secretary when he replies to deal with that point, and to tell us why that peculiar expression “anti-Nazi “ was put in that document. I suggest it is clearly dragged in. for this reason. There are no Nazis in Poland. and there never have been—they have no Lavals, no Darlans, no Quislings, no collaborationists. Why then ‘vas this expression introduced into that part of the document? I am sure the House would be glad to know.
I am now coming rapidly to my conclusion. I do believe most fervently not only that we should continue to work with Russia, hut tha.t we can continue to work with Russia. But co-operation is not a one-way street. There must be give-and-take in all these matters, We have not heard Russia’s case at all. . The Prime Minister yesterday did hot deal with Russia. We have beeh waiting for the Russian case to be stated in this Debate, but we have not yet heard it. There must be a case, because it must be strong enough to override four treaties and the Atlantic Charter, all of which the Russian Government have signed. Let us then hear from the Foreign Secretary what Russia’s real case is. –
The Prime Minister referred yesterday to Sir Eyre Crowe and Lord Curzon, who, in considering the Curzon Line, said that it was a fair agreement at the time. Neither of them, however, is here to give evidence, nor so tar as I know does that evidence appear in any of the documents or the telegrams of the time. What did appear was the fact, the perfectly plain and established fact, that the Curzon Line was an armistice line, on which both armies, then contending, were invited to stand, and there was a specific reference back to the decision of the Allied Supreme Council, made in Paris, I think in 1919, which laid down the territory in which the Polish Government would he formed, but specifically reserved the question of the frontiers of Poland, which were then classed as purely provisional.
Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing) :
If I may put a perfectly friendly point to the hon. Member, would point out that this was accepted by this House. I think this has some hearing on the subject which is being discussed at the moment, and I would emphasise the Curzon Line was accepted by this House.
Mr. Petherick :
It was accepted as an armistice line. t had hoped to have the approval of the Noble Lord in this matter in full and flowing tide, hut all I can descry is a backward eddy.
I am afraid the Russian case is a sad one in this matter. If the Prime Minister had come back to the House and said, “ Well, t have done my best to argue with them. t cannot admit that they are right, and all t can admit is that they are in occupation in the country. They are our strong Allies on whom we are going to depend for the future. Therefore I have done ray best.” If he had said that t should not now feel so critical. But what the Prime Minister did say was something different. He regarded it as a fair and just settlement. In spite of this, as t think, shocking decision, I do not believe that all that has happened in this war has been lost, and that the lives which have been given up in 50 many differcnt territories and climes have been surrendered in vain, One great thing at least will come out of this war, and that is the complete and utter crushing of Germany as a military Power. Then we arc asking what comes after that? Is there to be another Power acting in similar fashion growing up in the world? I refuse to believe it. I believe that if Russia can be persuaded that her interest lies in dealing with her neighbours on fair, just and honour-able terms, there is real hope of peace. and lasting peace, in Europe, and all the efforts of His Majesty’s Government should be devoted—if t may respectfully point that out, as they seem sometimes not to be——firmly, honestly and determinedly, to show to the Russians where their own self-interest lies. [An Hon. MEMBER : “ They know.”] t am sorry to hear that interruption from my hon. Friend. T had hoped that the Russians might think once again in this matter, because, after all, countries do things in the heat and excitement of war, and in the flush of victory, which they regret afterwards.
I believe that when some of us tried to state the case on December 15th in this House, we stated what was true. Speaker after speaker said that they believed—and we had an idea this was going to happen—that the proposed treatment of Poland was wrong. Speaker after speaker got lip and, shrugging their shoulders, accepted it, as it were, as a fait accompli. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and the Prime Minister, who are such very good judges of the temper of this House, must have known, in the course of that Debate, that the House was profoundly uneasy and anxious, For all the good it did, so far as the Yalta Conference which succeeded it was concerned, we might as well have done absolutely nothing and spent the day . in bed, because the views of the Commons House of Parliament were completely and utterly ignored.
We did not want this Vote of Confidence, We did everything we could to avoid it being made a Vote of Confidence, We tried as hard us we could, by conversations and every other means we could reasonably think of to have it put down and discussed on an ordinary Motion which would not entail a Motion of Confidence. We felt ourselves obliged to put down this Amendment, which, broadly speaking, expresses our views. We did so with sorrow but with no misgiving at all, because this is no small moment in history. The Yalta Conference, it seems to me, is a curtain-raiser to the Peace Treaties that are to come, and on those Peace Treaties will depend the whole future of Europe and the world. Is this curtain-raiser to be a grim, grisly Grand Guignol piece, followed perhaps by a happier and a more joyous cavalcade, or is it to be the forerunner of – another grim and hideous tragedy? We have put down this Amendment, confident in the righteousness of the motives which caused us to do so, and in the knowledge that divisions do not destroy decency, nor do Votes of Confidence over-ride justice.
Commander Sir Archibald Southby
I beg to second the Amendment.
My hon. Friend moved it with a charm and with a skill which t cannot hope to emulate, and t rise with very much the same feelings as those which t experienced on the day when I first had the honour to address this House. I do not mind confessing that this is, for me, the most difficult speech T have ever made, or probably shall ever make. It seems to me That so momentous are the issues involved by the Yalta Agreement, that where an hon. Member is dissatisfied or apprehensive he must, before casting a Vote or abstaining from voting to-morrow, either speak in the Debate, if that is possible, in order to justify his actions, or alternatively, put his name to some Amendment on the Order Paper, which would indicate the point of view he holds. That ts why my name is on this Amendment. I do not have to remind the House that this Debate is, perhaps, the most important which has occurred in our time. . . .
Criticism of the Yalta Agreement then is not an attack upon Russia; it is an expresion of a British point of view fully recognise that Russian aims, methods and outlook may quite rightly differ from our, but although they may be right and suitable for that great country, they are not necessarily right or desirable for us. t hold that it is absurd to suggest that there arc only two courses open to us, one to accede to everything that Russia desires, and the other to oppose Russia so violently that war becomes inevitable. Surely, we can put our point of view to our Ally, Russia, as plainly and as forcibly, and t hope as courteously, as to any other nation with whom we were dealing. But if it is argued that so great is the strength of Russia in Europe that she must inevitably in the end obtain what she wants by force, then although we might not be able to influence that fact, there can be no reason why we should now deliberately underwrite any action which we believe to be morally wrong. To be pro-British is not to be anti-Russian, but even if it were, we, as the representatives of the British people, can neither evade nor ignore our plain duty or our responsibilities.
The Yalta Agreement is the basis upon which the whole post-war set-up is to be erected. If we acquiesce in oil that is now proposed, it will be too late afterwards for us to make any effective protest. . .
In the words of the Agreement we all want to meet “ the political and economic problems of liberated Europe in accordance with democratic principles” and those great men who signed the Report declare their intention of enabling the liberated peoples of Europe and “ to create democratic institutions of their own choice, to build in cooperation with other peace-loving nations a world order under law, dedicated to peace, security, freedom and the general well being of all man-kind.”
But one is bound to ask, Is that the case regarding Poland? For make no mistake about it, our treatment of Poland is the touchstone by which our post-war relationships will be measured. T have, on past occasions, tried to plead the just cause of Poland and the Baltic States. I have no desire to go over old ground, but I cannot see, either in the contents of the White Paper, or in what the Prime Minister has said, anything which shakes my belief that no solution of the Polish problem has yet been reached to which my assent could honourably be given. Incidentally, it is signficant that nowhere in those portions of the White Paper dealing with liberated Europe and Poland do the words “justice “ or “ honour “ occur.
I want to ask the Foreign Secretary—I am sony he is not on the Front Bench at the moment—if, when he replies, he will be good enough to answer specifically two questions which I now wish to put. Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the late Prime Minister, has been bitterly criticised because he failed to come to an agreement with Russia in 1939—the suggestion being that had he done so this war would not have taken place. Is it or is it not a fact that we could have had a treaty with Russia in 19S9 had we been prepared to agree to a demand by Russia that she should have Eastern Poland up to the so-called Curzon Line, the three Baltic republics, and certain bases in Finnish territory, and that because we, to the lasting honour of the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain, refused an agreement based on such an arrangement, Russia then entered into the Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement with Germany, by which she did in fact secure just those things?
From that arises my second question. When in 1941 we concluded our Treaty with Russia did we or did we not make it clear that we could not agree to what I suggest we had refused to agree to in 1939? Did we stipulate that the integrity of our Ally Poland and of the neutral Baltic republics should be preserved? If we did, is there any secret annexe to that Treaty, observing what has now taken place and the fact that part of the 5th Article of that Treaty reads as follows : “ and they will act in accordance with the two principles of not seeking territorial aggrandisement for themselves and of non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.”
Perhaps it is as well to recall again Article 3 of our Agreement with Poland, of 1989, as follows :
“Should a European power attempt to undermine the independence of one of the contracting parties by process of economic penetration or any other way, the contracting parties will support each other in resistance to such attempts.”
It is quite obvious that in order to safeguard her lines of communication while occupying Germany, Russia must continue to occupy part of Poland. No one will deny that. But the information from Poland to-day makes it clear that under the Lublin Government the internal economy of Poland is now being irrevocably organised on Communist lines. In addition, officers and men of the Polish Army and underground forces are being confined in concentration camps.
Mr. S. 0. Davies
(Merthyr Tydfill) :
What exactly does the hon. and gallant Member mean by his statement that the economy of Poland is being organized on Communist lines?
Sir A. Southby:
I mean, on the lines which would be accepted by the Communist Government of Russia : the expropriation of the owners of businesses and small farms and so on, and the destruction of the soft of economic system which we enjoy. The Foreign Secretary will not, I think, deny that in September, 1944. he was officially acquainted with the fact that since the occupation of part of Poland by Russia, from one district alone near Lublin 21,000 officers and men of the home army bad been placed under arrest. It is clear that there must be safeguards much more definite than anything which appears in the White Paper, if Poland is to be able to hold really free and unfettered elections in order to choose her own Government. Apart from the fact that the legal Government of Poland is here in London, how can a Poiish Provisional Government, as envisaged in the White Paper, be in fact established when the entire Press in Poland is under the control of the Moscow-sponsored Lublin Government, when people have no means of listening to free and indepondent broadcasts, and when no Pole in Poland is free to express a view except in one direction?
The White Paper says that only democratic and antiNazi parties may take part in the election and put forward candidates. What is the exact meanihg of a qualification like that when, for example, General Bor and members of the Polish underground forces, whose heroic struggle against the Germans in Warsaw will live for all time, are now accused of being pro-Nazi for no other reason than that they do not share the political views of those Poles and others who constitute the Lublin Government. I appreciate the grave complexity of the Polish problem, but I suggest that, instead of setting up a Provisional Government of National Unity as envisaged in the White Paper, it would be far better that both the legitimate Government here in London and the Lublin Government in Poland should surrender all their functions and authority to an international commission which should govern Poland until and during the elections, by which the Polish people would choose a Government for themselves.
This would constitute a definite guarantee that the elections would be free and unfettered.
But whether that course were followed or whether our Government insists upon the exceedingly doubtful procedure outlined in the White Paper, other Members of this House besides myself believe that the following seven requirements are essential if Poland is to receive from the Allies the just . treatment which is her right. Firstly, that all deportations from the whole territory of Poland should now cease, that all Polish subjects who have either been deported from or who have left any part of Poland should be entitled to return as soon as possible, and that those who are in concentration camps should be released. Secondly, that any decree or such like which could prevent the free exercise of political rights should be rescinded, and that as a token of good faith there should be no exercise of influence by either Russian troops or civilians, and that the N.K.V.D. should be withdrawn. Thirdly, that if the elections are to mean anything, then, subject, of course, to the military censorship necessary to preserve security until Germany is defeated, freedom of speech and of the Press and the right to hold meetings and to broadcast on the wireless should be restored at once. Fourthly, that only persons of Polish nationality—that is to say, people who were Polish subjects before September, 1939. or those who would have been entitled to political rights had the war not taken place—should be entitled to be candidates or to vote, Flfthly, that it is essential that the elections should be conducted under the supervision of a neutral, or alternatively an inter-Allied, Commission, which should be established at once, and that from the time of such establishment order should be maintained by mixed, garrisons of inter-Allied troops. Sixthiy, that all members of the armed forces of the Polish Republic serving outside Poland should be entitled to vote in the same way as our own British Forces will be entitled to vote in our own elections, either directly if that is possible, or alternatively by postal ballot. Lastly, that foreign Press correspondents should be admitted into Poland without delay, and without the imposition of any political restrictions. Those, I believe, are the minimum requirements if the Polish elections as envisaged in the Crimea Report are not to be a mockery.
Mr. W. 3. Brown
The problem of Poland is not merely a political problem, but a problem of conscience for this country. And so far from regretting that this Amendment appears on the Order Paper, I welcome its presence. Whenever any serious body of opinion in Britain is sincerely moved in its conscience by a given issue, that issue ought to come here to be threshed out. Therefore, as I say, I do not regret that this Amendment is on the Paper or that we are having this debate . . .
We do not make agreements in a “ political vacuum. And looking at either the military or the political set-up in which the Yalta Conference had to take place. can one fall to realise that most of the cards were in Stalin’s hands, and not in the hands of our Prime Minister? It was not the British Army that liberated Warsaw: It was not the American Army that liberated Poland. It was the Russian Army. Suppose that the Prime Minister, because he feared that Stalin had too many cards, had come away with no agreement at all I wonder what the effect of that would have been in Poland? I imagine that the effect of no agreement there would have been infinitely worse than the worst that could happen under this document, and the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the Amendment to-day would before long have been making this House ring with what was happening In Poland, because there was no agreement of any kind,
Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley) :
The hon. Member has made an analogy of trade union agreements, but where do the Poles come in this? Is any agreement regulating the conditions of the Civil Service made between the Ministry of Labour and the workers’ association without consulting the latter association?
I should regard that as being blasphemy of the worst order. I should do my best to denounce it and undo it. But I submit that there is no analogy between the two eases, If it is agreed, first, that something had to be done about Poland, secondly, that it should be done by agreement between the Powers, and thirdly, that there had to be some sort of polish Government to work out the further stages of this document, I cannot see any escape whatever from what the Prime Minister did at Yalta. We have had a complaint today that the London Government was not consulted, which we are told is the only legal Government of the Poles. But I would point out that history has unpleasant habits. One of its unpleasant habits is that it does not stop short at constitutional legal points. It is a dynamic process, and not a static one. Is not the real difficulty about consulting the London Poles that whereas they regard themselves as representatives of the Polish people, very large sections of the Polish people do not? If the Lublin Committee regard themselves as representative, there are many Poles who do not.
In those circumstances, what better practical line of approach could have been advanced than that of trying somehow to bring those tw6 elements together, and to get some sort of Government of national unity? I am not a passionate advocate of Coalitions, I regard Coalitions, generally speaking, as possessing the vices of both parties—with knobs on. But Poland has to have a Government and a representative one. With the seven things that the seconder of this Amendment wants done—the ending of deportations, the return of deportees, the removal of restrictions on the exercise of political rights, the freedom of the Press, the elimination of the veto on holding meetings, and so on, I agree. But I do not know of a word in the White Paper which makes any One of them impossible. Hon. Members are entitled to say that the White Paper does not aver positively that they shall do this, hut T am entitled to say that there is not a single word in the White Paper which prevents any one of those Issues being raised by the Polish Government. Supposing one wanted to argue those issues now, who is to argue? Is it the Lublin Government, or the Government in London? Either or both? If it is either, one would not get a settlement; if it is both one would get chaos. But there is nothing whatever to prevent the proposed provisional Government raising every one of those seven points and possibly getting some satisfaction on them.
The Prime Minister is entitled to have from mc the same judgment as I would pass on myself. I give this judgment, an honest judgment, the best that T can give. It is that the Yalta document, having regard to the historical, political and military realities of the situation, represents the maximum that could be expected. That being so, I must, as an honest man, support the Prime Minister on that particular issue.
Renfrew, Eastern (Conservative)
I am among those who have the honour, of which I am proud, to put my name to this Amendment. I believe that those of us who have signod that Amendment and have the opportunity of speaking on it to-clay, represent an enormous number of ordinary folks in this country who are deeply disquieted at the particular references in the Yalta Agreement to Poland. In spite of a spate of propaganda, which I suppose has never been exceeded in our history, and in spite of our diplomatic correspondents and special correspondents. who seem to have been able to get very much the same handout from the Public Relations Officers of the Departments concerned, they cannot concur with that portion of the agreement which refers to Poland. I look upon the intentions of the Yalta Agreement as downright annexation of a large portion of Poland’s territory without the consent of her Government and, in fact, without the consent of her people. I believe myself that it is a very definite breach of the Anglo-Russian Treaty, the wording of which has been referred to already in this Debate. I believe that it is a very definite moral breach of the Anglo-Polish Treaty, and I am quite certain that we have once and for, all departed, with our eyes wide open, from even the guidance of the Atlantic Charter, which has now been whittled down to a mere meaningless symbol.
I see no reason whatever why the subject of the boundaries of Eastern Poland could not have been left over until the peace treaty. I would like to he allowed the privilege of reading to the House a statement I discovered the other day which was issued by the Ministry of Information on 17th september, 1939. the day after the Russian armies took that portion of Poland which-is now on the east side of the Curzon Line. This is what the British Government, through its Prime Minister. unanimously authorized the Ministry of Information to issue to the world : – “ The British Government have considered the situation created by the attack upon Poland. . . . This attack made upon Great Britain’s ally at a moment when she is prostrate in face of overwhelming forces brought against her by Germany cannot in the view of His Majesty’s Government be justified . . . the full implication of these events is not yet apparent”— and I would ask the House to listen to this solemn statement issued by His Majesty’s Government to the world— “ but His Majesty’s Government take the opportunity of stating that nothing that has occurred can make any difference to the determination of His Majesty’s Government, with the full support of the country, to fulfil their obligations to Poland and to prosecute the war with all energy until their objectives have been achieved.”
There is a solemn pledge to the nation and to the world which is to-day being deliberately broken and ignored. There is not any shadow of doubt about the truth of that.
Now I want to come to the question of the supersession —for it is supersession—of the legal Government of Poland, which we have recognised all these long years, by a prefabricated Government to be hand-picked by three estimable gentlemen. It is In future to be recognised by all the three Great Powers concerned, and will supersede the legitimate Government of Poland which commands the Armed Forces of the Polish Republic. They have done splendidly throughout the war, and I firmly believe, still retain the overwhelming loyalty of the majority of the Polish people. This prefabricated, Lublinised Government is to be the future Government of Poland. I leave it at that. It is adding insult to injury not only to break our pledges to Poland but to compel the Polish people to accept a prefabricated Government of this type. –
I come to the all-important question of free elections. T agree with everything that has been said. Although I feel strongly on the boundary question, although T think it is unjustified and unwarrantable, something of which we should in fact be ashamed, something that Is contrary to all our obligations and treaties, I still realise that it is of no importance really compared with the fundamental issue of whether Poland is to be truly free, truly democratic, and truly independent. So this matter of free elections is vital. Are they to he held, as one presumes they will he, with the Red Army in occupation? What is far more important, are they to be held when the whole of every village and town in Poland is completely under the control and in the iron grip of the secret police? If they are, they can never be free,
After all, who are the people who are to be classified, apparently, as “ Anti-Nazis “ and ruled out? . The Lublin Government, and those who think with them, appear to be willing and anxious to do their best to extirpate them, The House may not have heard of a radio appeal—If I can call it that—put out by the Prime Minister of the Government ot Lublin the other day, in which he said that it was necessary to extirpate the traitors, bandits, incorrigible malefactors and brawlers of that Home Army, and also all the followers of the London Government. No doubt those who so heroically defended Warsaw, and the followers of the London Government—and they number hundreds of thousands, Including more than 90 per cent, of the Polish Armed Forces—will be called malefactors and brawlers, and treated accordingly. Unfortunately, there is all too good, reason to believe that many of these unfortunate people have already suffered greatly and gravely, and that some, indeed, have lost their lives,
The whole question resolves itself into whether it is the obvious intention to impose upon Poland a policy that can be checked by this new prefabricated Government. If it was possible for me to believe that this artificially appointed Government would over-rule the intense desire of the secret police to communize Poland, and the intense desire of the Lublin Government to communise Poland, I would not feel so strongly as I do to-day.
I rise to support the Government in resisting this Amendment, and T hope the arguments T put forward will not be too embarrassing to the Government. I believe that the decisions which were arrived at at the Crimea Conference and, in particular, the decision relating to Poland. were wise decisions which were taken in circumstances of very considerable difficulty. As my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) has said—and, if T may say so. I think few of us have ever heard him make a better speech—although the Amendment refers to Poland this is not a Polish issue. . . .
Let me say at once to those Members who support this Amendment that although I disagree with them in their conclusions, I respect them because theft motives are entirely honourable and proper—and in saying that I do not want to appear to be pompous. They are not actuated, as the hon. Member for North Isiington (Dr. Guest) suggested, by some hatred of Russia, or anything of that kind. Their desire is that these issues of foreign policy should be faced, and faced now. In that they represent a very widespread feeling in this country, and I share their view. If we are to enter into another period in which the facts of a certain situation in foreign affairs are to be tortured to fit into some international document to which we have affixed our signature we shall enter upon a course which must eventually lead us to another war, a war tn which we shall have very few friends, and a process which will be detrimental to British honour.
As I have said, I differ from my hon. Friends in their conclusions. I do not believe that this Crimea Conference is the first milestone in the downward path. I do not believe that this Polish settlement is a betrayal of Poland or of British honour. Polish and British interests are to a large extent the same. We each have an interest to see that no one Power should dominate the whole of Europe. But the first British interest that we have is to finish this war at the earliest possible date. . . .
Sympathy with Poland extends far beyond those who happen to call themselves friends of Poland. or even members of the Scottish Catholic Hierarchy. Sympathy with that country is based on the recognition of one gallant people for another. We havo both made sacrifices in this war; we have common interests. I believe the settlement we have reached with regard to Poland is the best settlement we could have got. It is worth while remembering that in statesmanship and politics what counts is not the art of getting what is best, but the art of getting what is possible. I concede at once—and this may be embarrassing for the Government— that I do not regard the Polish settlement as an act of justice. It may be right or wrong, it may he wise or foolish, but at any rate it is not justice as I understand the term. It is not the sort of situation in which you get two parties to a dispute putting their case forward in front of a disinterested body and in which the strength and power of one of the parties is never allowed to weigh in the balance. The sooner we recognize that we are a long way from that sort of thing happening the better.
The Government had two choices only. They could have postponed this issue. The hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and Haddington (Captain MeEwen) suggested that that was the course that they ought to take. They could have said, “ No, we want this submitted to arbitration. We cannot de anything without the consent of the London Polish Government.” No one knows what would happen in those circumstances, but one can safely say that it is unlikely that there would in any circumstances be a free, independent and democratic Poland. The Red Army is in occupation of that country and the Lublin Committee is in control. The policy which was advocated by the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and HaddingtOn and others to-day is a policy of inactivity and no more. The Poles could get nothing from it, For these reasons. I believe the Government were right in rejecting that course.
The second course that they could adopt was to make the best settlement they could and impose it deliberately on the Poles. They have (lone that. They have bargained the Eastern frontier for the chance of a free Government of Poland within the new frontier. I could not quite follow my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth when he criticized the appointment of a provisional Government by the Council of the three Ambassadors. It seems to me that seine provisional Government is essential. Europe is not in a situatiou where it can hold free democratic elections. Europe is on the brink of revolution. You will have to have some provisional Government in order to attain the very points outlined by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member-for Epsom (Sir A. Southby). It seems to me that our policy in the past was mistaken. Up to date what we have done is this, We have encouraged the London Polish Government to negotiate, and have criticized them because they did not negotiate very well. We have told them they must make concessions, and then we have blamed them because they did not make concessions. I do not regard that as a sensible or an honourable course. I do not believe you can ask a Pole to decide to hand over a half of his country. I do not think it is a fair thing to ask any Pole to do. If they agree to de that, they would divide Poland for a generation. perhaps for all time, into those who thought they were patriots and those who thought they were traitors. That is to perpetuate civil war. Nor could you ask the Poles as an act of policy to take a large slice of their powerful neighbouring State. It is a big decision to take from Germany the whole of East Prussia or the land up to the Oder. It is like taking Wales from England. That is a decision which must be taken by more powerful States. I de not believe that you save your honour in this matter by imposing on others the obligation of making a decision which you ought to make yourself.
I believe the real difficulty in which my hon. Friends find themselves is not so much Poland at all. I believe it is in the apparent conflict between documents like the Atlantic Charter, and the facts of the European situation. We talk to two different people in two different languages. In the East we are talking to the Russians, The Russians are nothing if not realists. I believe Marshal Stalin’s motives are entirely honourable. I believe that the Russian Foreign Office is perhaps more in tune with the advice which would be given to the Tsars than to the potentates of the twentieth century. In such circumstances we talk in language not far removed from power politics. In the West we are faced by the Americans, ‘They are nothing if not idealists. To them we talk in the polite language of the Atlantic Cheater. Somehow or other we have to marry those two schools of thought. If I could persuade the Americans, particularly in the Middle West, to have something of the Russian realism in international relations, and persuade the Russians to have the idealism that exists on the East coast of America, we might get somewhere, but let us face the fact that the process will be a. long and painful one. You do not move suddenly from a world in which there are international rivalries, into a world where there is international cooperation. It is the world that we are in that the Prime Minister has to deal with, We could not come back from Yalta with a blue-print for a new Utopia. The fundamental error into which my hen. Friends have fallen is this. The rights of small nations are not safeguarded by signing documents like the Atlantic Charter. and quarrelling with anyone who does not agree with your interpretation of them. The rights of small nations are safeguarded by a mixture of diplomacy and military power and, in using those things, you are liable to come into conflict with your friends.
In the last two months we have had two cases, In the case of Greece one body in the ceuntry was seeking, with arms in its hands, to take power. Our Government took action in that matter which, as I believe, safeguarded it and gave Greece the opportunity for a free and democratic existence, On that occasion, the Government were criticize(l by a small number of Members of the party opposite. [An Hon. MEMBER : “ Not a small number.”] A small number voted and the rest could not make up their minds, To-day it is Poland. The Government are trying to obtain a free, independent and democratic Poland when the country is occupied by a foreign, though a friendly army belonging to a country which has not quite the same interpretation of what is free, independent and democratic as ourselves. In those circumstances—-and they are difficult circumstances— the Government are attacked by a small group of Members of my own party. There is nothing in common between Members who attack the Government to-day and those who attacked it over Greece,
But throughout this process the Government have pursued a consistent course. They have sought by every means in their power to obtain from the wreck of Europe two independent and free States. To the Poles I would say that I believe this settlement gives them an opportunity of playing a part in the future of their country which they can never de from London. They should take that opportunity. To the Russians I would say that this is regarded as a test case, The proof of this pudding is in the eating. Russia has many friends in this country.. On the decision and action that she takes in the coming weeks with regard to Poland will depend not only whether she keeps those friends but the whole future of co-operation between our two countries. As regards ourselves, I would say that this document provides what may be the basis of future peace. It will only be that, if we are prepared to face up to the sacrifices and the efforts which it involves are to recognize that those sacrifices and efforts are, indeed, worth while.
Sir Percy Harris
Bethnal Green (Liberal)
I have no quarrel with the hon. Member for moving his Amendment—it is right that he should move it if it expresses his sentiments—and I hope the House will have an opportunity to vote on it, In his eloquent plea for the Polish people I am satisfied that he has the whole House behind him. I cannot forget the tragic month in September when Poland was invaded, in spite of our protests and all the efforts of our Government to prevent the war. We pledged ourselves to go to war if Poland was invaded., and Poland has been subject to untold suffering. The Prime Minister referred to the massacre of 3,500,000 Jews. The Polish Jews have been wiped out. There is no Jewish question in Poland : they have been simply liquidated. It was cold-blooded murder of the most appalling kind. But millions of Poles also have been persecuted, and subjected to every kind of cruelty. We know the story of the underground movement, unrivalled by any underground movement in any part of Europe. As far as I know, no Quisling has been found in the whole of that country. But let us be frank with ourselves. Poland owes its liberation to Russia. (Hon. Members : “No.”) Russia brought her freedom. We must be realists.
Commander Agnew (Camborne) :
It Is true that Russia has done valiant feats of arms in freeing Poland and Eastern Europe, but is it not true to say that she would not have been able to do that hut for the British convoys of munitions which went all the way round to Russia?
Sir P. Harris:
I am the last person to suggest that there have not been indirect contributions from this country and the United States.
Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington. South) :
Is not the right hon. Baronet also aware of the immensely important part played by the underground movement in Poland in defeating the Germans?
Sir P. Harris:
I have already paid trihute to the valiant efforts of the Polish people in throwing off their chains, but their direct liberation—let us be blunt about it—is due to Russian arms. Poland would still be in the bands of the Germans if it were not for the valiant work of the Russian soldiers, Let us he quite clear that Poland has a claim for freedom and self-government, and that this country has a special obligation to see that they are ensured. The suggestion is made that the Prime Minister and the President of the United States have been out-manmuvred, and that they were innocent lambs bullied by the Russian bear. That is a new kind of role for our Prime Minister to assume, This Amendment raises the question of the capacity, not only of the Prime Minister, hut also of the President, and it amounts to a censure, because, if it were carried, there would be no alternative but for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to resign. The Prime Minister divided this problem into frontiers and freedom. I think that he made his case for the frontiers anti that it does not need to he further argued. The Curzon Line was not only approved by the Government of the day, but it was adequately discussed for two days in this House, It was the subject of the closest examinatiOn at the time when there were very few friends of Russia in this country. Lord Curzon could not be suspected of being pro-Russian, Apart from the difficult problem of race, the fact that this line was arrived at by an impartial tribunal gives it great moral authority.
On the question of giving complete self-government and freedom to Poland, I submit that all that the Crimea Agreement does is to set up machinery. It lays down two principles with which we can all agree—first, that a strong, free independent and democratic Poiand should be set up, and second, that the new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity should command recognition from the three Powers, The commission, I understand, is to be composed of M. Molotov, the Russian Foreign Secretary; Mr. Harriman, the American representative: and Sir A. Clark Kerr. the British representative. I think it is reasonable to assume that they will see that Poland gets reasonable treatment and that the Polish Government in this country will be allowed to state its ease. If, in due course, this House is not satisfied that the results of the work of the commission are fair, we shall be justified in examining the results again. Obviously, the Government which will be set up will only be provisional. The same kind of thing is happening in Greece. The British Government are pledged to have free elections on the basis of universal suffrage and a secret ballot. That is not the simple thing it sounds. When we were discussing the same provisions for Greece I pointed out what a complex thing it was to provide electoral machinery. It has been known that Ministers of the Interior have made elections.
There is a strong case for some form of international control to see that the Polish people have a fair deal. There is also an overwhelming case for allowing the deportees to return to Poland. I have heard of vast numbers of Poles being deported to Siberia. We do not know the exact facts
and figures, and perhaps they are exaggerated. The commission should demand as proof of the genuineness of the general election that the deportees should be allowed to return before the election, and should be enabled to take an active part in it. There is, too, a strong case for the Servicemen. We have spent many days discussing the right of our Servicemen to vote. Would it be unreasonable for the Government to demand that the quarter of a million men, who have fought so magnificently in the war on our side and proved themselves such splendid fighters, should have the same opportunity to vote in the election which is to take place in Poland as our Servicemen are to have in our election? . I recognize that Poland has not the same political traditions as we have in this country, but that is not an unreasonable thing to try and achieve. I suggest, therefore, that when the commission is set up and arrangements are made for the election, which we are assured is to be a genuine one, not only are the deportees allowed to return, but Servicemen shall have some say in the future form of Government to which they are to be subjected. I attach great importance to that.
Let us make it clear that we demand for Poland the kind of democracy that we have in this country, and that there shall be genuine free elections, freedom of the Press, and freedom of propaganda. If we get that we can have a feeling that we have given Poland a fair deal. The White Paper, which contains the agreement, not only mentions democracy a good deal, but there is constant reiteration of the phrase “ joint action.” Joint action, as I understand it, means that unilateral intervention in the liberated countries should cease. I regretted that Greece was subject to that unilateral action. I would have liked to see Russia and America associated with the liberation of that country. We have a right to claim that not only in Poland, but in ail the liberated countries, neither ourselves nor the United States nor Russia should have the sole responsibility, but that there should be a real joint association and joint policy of all three Powers.
Major Lord Willoughby de Eresby
Rutland and Stamford (Conservative)
When you told the men they were fighting for freedom and democracy, it meant something rather different to each one of them. I am afraid I have to admit that, to the more cynical and less political-minded amongst us, it meant precisely nothing at all. But there was one thIng about which we were all quite clear and all agreed, which was that we were fighting for Poland. When I say “Poland,” I do not mean, and we did not mean, Poland as decreed by Soviet Russia or underwrittea to-day by the British Government, Or Poland as imagined by the late Lord Curson, but a Poland with similar frontiers to those we guaranteed. and over which we went to war at such very great cost in life and suffering, frontiers extended possibly at the expense of a defeated Germany. I cannot help regretting that I shall be asked soon to approve of an agreement whereby the boundaries of Poland are to be radically altered from those which we pledged ourselves to preserve, an agreement embodying a settlement which we know is distasteful to those many heroic and gallant fellows who have fought for us on land, on sea and in the air during the past five years.
I must admit that I was very much relieved to hear the Prime Minister say that he was ready to see whether it was possible to have those Poles who fought for us, admitted into the British Empire. I would ask whoever is to reply to the Debate to give us a more definite assurance, We should make a gesture at this moment, and without any question of duty, offer safe asylum, either within our shores or within the British Empire, to those Poles who do not wish to go back to a dismembered and, to my mind, Sovietized Poland. I am reminded of a remark made by a Canadian soldier in France, During an engagement, one of the first tanks to go forward was hit by an 88 mm. gun, and then the next was hit, Eventually the officer came along and asked this fellow what he was doing and why he was hanging back, The Canadian replied . There doesn’t seem to be much future in it to me.” I cannot help feeling that if many of these Poles who declared themselves, quite openly, in my presence, and that of many other people, as being more anti-Russian than anti-German, might have a better future within the British Empire than within this new Free State that we are now setting up.
I frankly admit that I am violently prejudiced on this question. I happen to have lived and trained during the past five years with the Polish Army. I have had Polish officers attached to my regiment, and I have often fought alongside the Polish Armoured Division. I can assure the House that a more friendly, charming and co-operative body of men one could not find anywhere, or a more determined and courageous body among whom to fight. I have seen and heard only one side of the case. I realize as well as anyone the immense difficulties and the vital considerations which have had to be taken into account by the Prime Minister when arriving at the Agreement, and I am prepared to bow to the superior wisdom of my elders and betters. But I do find it hard, indeed impossible, to wed this Agreement with the Atlantic Charter. Painstakingly, though possibly erroneously, I have tried to explain the matter to the men who were under my command. I tried to show earlier in my speech that the words “ freedom “ and “ democracy “ mean something slightly different to almost everyone. We know that the Prime Minister said in his speech yesterday that diversity of view between thin side and that side of-the House on this question existed, as applied to economic or political science, but I doubt whether any two Members in this House would give exactly the same definition of those words. I am afraid it is obvious that those two words have a very different meaning in Eastern Europe to what they have in Western Europe. The word “democracy,” either as an adjec. tive or a noun, appears more frequently than any other word in this part of the Conference Report, in so far as it deals with liberated Europe and Poland. It talks of : “ democratic principles … democratic means . . . democratic elements . . . broader democratic basis . . . free and unfettered elections,” and so on.
It would be disappointing, and to my mind disastrous, after the long journeys which the Prime Minister undertook to get to the Crimea and all the hard work that was done, if we found that he, the President of the United States and Marshal Stalin were not all speaking exactly the same language. In fact, a slightly different definition was given to this word by all three of them. . .
Fife, West (Communist)
I am not a new convert to the demand for independence and freedom for Poland. Thirty-five years ago I was speaking in this country, at great mass demonstrations, in support of the demand for freedom and independence for Poland. Where were the Hon. Members then? [Interruption.] It may be that I am going too far back. All right. Ten years ago I was speaking at mass meetings, supporting the demand for free elections in Poland, Was any of those Hon. Members supporting it? Had any of thcse new converts to the idea of a free and in(lependent Poland a word to say about democratic elections or freedom in Poland, or the right of every party to take patt in elections and use the radio before the war? I would not hesitate to join with what has teen said in tribute to the Polish soldiers and to the Polish people—a great people, a people with a history of terrible hardship and suffering, who have endured it all, and who deserve, if ever any people deserved, to have freedom and independence, But while I pay that tribute to the Polish soldiers and the Polish people, neither I nor anyone else can pay tribute to the wisdom of the Polish gentry; and it is the Polish gentry who are represented by the other side. What determines the attitude of these Members? Not love for Poland, but hatred for the Soviet Union. These Members have never at any time before been apostles of democracy or freedom. Where were they when the Spanish war was waged?
General Anders issued a statement that “ This is the hour of Polish tragedy.”’ He is wrong; it is the hour of Polish rebirth. Out of the fury and fires of devastating war a New Poland is being born. If there is a tragedy it Is a personal tragedy for General Anders, not a Polish tragedy—although “tragedy “ is too dignified a word to use for General Anders. Everyone understands that the actual operating force for the liberation of Poland was, and could only be, the Red Army. Not that Russia did the job for herself; the British and American Armies, fighting on the various fronts, contributed to this great task. But the actual operation of fighting on the Eastern Front and liberating Poland could be done by no other power than the Red Army. General Anders left Russia, with a great Polish Army, because of his hatred of the Soviet Union. He refused to march with the Red Army for the liberation of his own country. Is that not the truth? Did he not withdraw his army from Russia?
Captain Alan Graham:
The withdrawal of the Polish Army was concerted between Marshal Stalin and General Sikorski.
It was agreed to by the Russian Government, because it was agreed that the Poles could fight better elsewhere, as the Russian Government could not clothe and equip them.
Mr. Gallacher: The Russian Government did clothe and equip them. It was because General Anders would not fight with the Red Army. General Anders took the Polish Army out of Russia. If General Anders, instead of being a reactionary obscurantist had been a man of vision, he would have marched at the head of the Polish Axmy into liberated Warsaw. He was incapable of that heroic task. That is what is behind this Amendment I . That is what is behind all the trouble—hatred of the Soviet Union.
It is said that this country went to war to guarantee the frontiers of Poland, Nobody would ever suggest that we should retain the frontiers of Poland, I have s4id that here before, and I have asked Members opposite to deal with the point. Keep the frontiers of Poland where they are, and it Is impossible for Poland to be free and Independent. Before she can be free and independent, she must have a free outlet to the sea; otherwise, she is hemmed in and encircled. The, Polish Corridor has no solution. Would any supporter of the Amendment suggest that the frontiers should be retained as they were? The most sensible solution to the question of Polish freedom and independence was made by the Soviet Union. They would do away with the partition in the Ukraine and White Russia. If the Eire Army had come to the assistance of this country, and in the process had wiped out partition in Northern Ireland, would hon. Members. suggest that they would have to go back behind the partition line again before this country would have anything to do with them? The partition from the Ukraine and White Russia has been wiped out, and we do not want them restored, we don’t want any more partition. The Soviet Army has wiped out the partition, and the Soviet Government has put forward the proposal that Poland to be free and independent must have an open seaboard and an open outlet to other countries. That is the position we have to face. . . .
This is the first occasion on which I have intervened in a Debate on foreign affairs, and I do so with some degree of nervousness. One of the reasons is that it was my misfortune not to have been able to be present yesterday, but- I have remedied that to the best of my ability, hy reading through the whole of yesterday’s Hansard. I have also been Influenced by the fact that my views on this matter differ from those of many of my hon. Friends, whose sincerity I would be the last to question, and whose judgment I completely respect. T confidently believe that, although our views may differ, our objects are entirely the same. I am with the-rn in their admiration of the Polish forces, of the way they have fought for the last five years. I am with them in their sympathy with the Polish people through all they have suffered during that time, and like them I wish to see “ a free and independent “ Poland, a Poland in which “all men of all lands may live in freedom from fear,” In which the “rights of all people to choose the form of government under which they wish to live,” are respected. Wherein lies the diffcrence between me and myhon. Friends who moved the Amendment? Raving listened to them I think it lies In this : that they regard the Yalta Agreement as putting an end to those hopes for that sort of Poland, I take the contrary view. I believe that the Yalta Agreement is a real step forward towards the attainment of that end. The future will prove which of us is right, and I would not express these views without having thought them over as carefully as I can.
When one looked through Hansard of yesterday one found no criticism at all of the Declaration in the White Paper on Liberated Europe. That Declaration was agreed to by the three signatories. T do not propose to take up the time of the House reading out, in full, paragraph 5 but it begins :
“To foster conditions under which the liberated peoples may exercise their rights.”
Those signatories are bound to those obligations. The part about Poland must, in my view, be read In the light of that Deciaraton; the whole document must be construed together. I do, however, regret as a lawyer—because as a lawyer I do not like anything that is unconstitutional—that the Polish Government in London were not a party to the Agreement. Who could doubt the width of the gulf between that Government and the Government of Russia? Is that position to be allowed to go on? What hope of a new Poland is there if it goes on, with Russia and a puppet Government exercising authority over a Poland behind the Russian lines, and the Polish Government in London only exercising authority over those outside Poland? What hope is there is there if it goes on, with Russia and a puppet Government you will be able to secure something better for Poland than has been obtained now? I. personally, doubt if that hope is very great. I de not think it is worth while taking a chance of getting more in the Peace Treaty than has been obtained now, bearing in mind that, during the intervening period liberated Poland would be governed by the Lublin Committee. It is now but if the Yalta Agreement is carried out the Lublin Committee will merge into the background.
What about this new Provisional Government? Hard words have been said about it. It has been referred to as a prefabricated government, and terms of that sort have been applied to it. What is clear friom this document, if any importance is to be attached to it at all, is that the Provisional Government is to include democratic . leaders from the Poles abroad, We know who these Poles abroad are. If the Provisional Government is to satisfy the terms of the White Paper, it follows that it must contain a number of people whom we know to be democratic leaders of Poland. If that Agreement is to be Implemented, that, it seems to me that must follow. This Government will contain these leaders; it is to act as a Government pledged to free and unfettered elections, If any bar is put in the way of free and unfettered elections, surely the democratic leaders among the Poles now abroad will let us know. Why should we assume the contrary, that there will be no free and unfettered elections? One criticism cf the Provisional Government is that it is based upon the Lublin Committee. I, personally, do not like the Luhlin Committee at all, but it seems to me that there is something to be said in favour of having the new Government or the organisation which is now seeking to exercise some sort of authority. When the full organisation is set up, the Lublin Committee should disappear into the background ; I hope it will.
With regard to the territorial changes I want to say one word. If we are to have a Polish Government over the Poles, and the Russians in Germany, surely we must have some boundary drawn between the Poles and the Russians. If there is to he an independent Polish Government, there must be a frontier—I cannot and I do not feel that I am competent to express an opinion on where it should be—but it seems to me to follow, quite clearly, that there must be agreement on a frontier now.
If the Yalta Agreement is carried out in the letter and in the spirit, can It possibly be said that the Poles will have any real cause for complaint? On the other hand, are not my hon. Friends rather jumping to conclusions? Is not their Amendment really based upon the assumption that the Yalta Agreement will not be carried out? As I said before, the answer to that question lies in the future, but I myself am not prepared to say that the signature of Marshal Stalin is not worth the paper it is written on. I see no satisfactory evidence to justify that conclusion.
One thing that does astonish me is the number of reports that we receive in this country which are accepted, apparently, without any reservations. I am surprised both by the contents of these reports, and also by the speed with which they appear in this country. I was in Moscow on February 2nd, and I was told then of the news of the capture of Lodz, and of the fact that the machinery in the factories in Lodz were undamaged by the Germans when they retreated, I have seen what the Germans did at Stalino, and I know what such destruction means. I was back in this country on the 15th February, but the news had already got here, not only of the machinery heing recaptured Intact, hut, apparently, that it was already being taken away by the Russians. It may be true; I do not know, but I am surprised at the swiftness with which this news travels. The reports are all contradictory. I agree that not much importance can be attached to any report of diplomatic or other correspondents which appears in “The Times.” On 23rd February I read this in “The Times “ from their Moscow correspondent :
“ I witnessed on more than one occasion the enthusiastic welcome accorded the Red Army in Eastern Poland. and this, from all accounts, was but a shadow of that received in the Western regions.”
Frankly, I do not know whether that is true or false, The gentleman said he witnessed it himself, but it may be that it is as inaccurate as reports from Greece. Again, I do not know, but I do suggest, that we ought to treat all these contradictory reports with a great deal of reserve. I am sorry that we have not got true information from that area of Poland, and I think that Russia has herself to blame for some of the things that have been said about her hard treatment of Poland. I should like to see observers sent to that country, admitted and allowed by the Russians to travel wherever they like, and not merely conducted touts by foreign correspondents from Moscow. Then we should know whether the fears expressed in some quarters are justified, and, if they are not justified, no harm could flow from the visits of such observers. I hope that will be possible soon, and, indeed, once there is a Provisional Government exercising authority over that area, I do “not see why they could not admit such observers to see that the elections are, in fact, free and unfettered.
To conclude, I see no reliable evidence which would justify me in treating the Agreement as of no value whatever. T see nothing to justify treating the signatures to it as valueless. There has been a long history of hostility between Russians and Poles, We must not ignore the fact that there may he some Poles in this country whose hatred of Russia is -such that they are prepared to go to any steps in opposition to Russia. I would like to say this : I talked to people of all classes, university students, factory workers, factory directors, soldiers, sailors and others, and I was impressed, wherever I travelled, by the real desire for friendship for this country, by the real desire to have the good regard of this country. It is for those reasons that I believe this Agreement will be honoured. I am not prepared to pass sentence in advance in respect of a crime which has not been committed and which I trust never’will be committed. I am prepared, rather, to believe that those who desire our friendship and our regard, and who must realise that, if this Agreement is not implemented in the spirit and in the letter. they will forfeit not only our friendship but our respect, will carry out this Agreement In the way which we desire.
Mr. Harold Nicolson
Leicester, West (National Labour)
I am very glad indeed that the Amendment appears on the Order Paper. It does express a very general regret, felt, I think, in every part of this House, that the circumstances of war and the tremendous alterations that have taken place in the proportions of power have rendered it absolutely impossible that Poland should be restored to the exact geographical and political position which she enjoyed in 1938. That regret is very wide and very deep. I am glad also that the Amendment has led to a Debate which has been eharacterised by two of the best speeches T have ever -heard In this house—those by the Mover of the Amendment and by the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Captain Thorneycroft) who opposed it. I am glad also because it has given an opportunity for hon. Members in all parts of the House not merely – to express their sympathy with and admiration for the Polish Army, but also to indicate the shock to British opinion of all classes and complexions who know of the deportations and actual ill-treatment meted out to Poles by the Russian authorities. The Mover of the Amendment raised again this question of the permanence of International agreements, and thereby made it quite clear to the Soviet Government that those concessions which my right hon. Friend made in the Crimea were not such easy concessions to make, and, in making them they were really paying a considerable price, in terms of feeling In this country, in return for showing how anxious, in every way, we were to establish and maintain close relations with the Soviet Union.
But I would not, for one minute, vote for such an Amendment. As the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) was honest enough to say, it is, in fact, a criticism of what has been done at Yalta, and I regard what has been done at Yalta as without question the most important political agreement -that we have gained in this war. Far from little having been achieved, it is amasing that so much xvas done, Let us consider what alternatives there were, I have heard the argument “ What else could the Prime Minister have done? “ That is an absurd argument :
The Prime Minister is not the man to follow the line of least resistance. On the – contrary, “ he has throughout his life sought out the pricks, and kicked them hard. The Foreign Secretary, too, is a man who, I think, often disguises under his charming manner the fact that he is a “tough.’” He is moreover not a man who is deficient in diplomatic ingenuity. There are three main policies that might have been followed. One was to oppose the Russian conception of the Polish settlement, and to oppose it by force. That was what Lord Castlereagh and Talleyrand did in 1914, by making a secret agreement to declare war. That secret treaty was never called into operation, but imagine what, in fact, would have happened if it had been effected. We should never have had the Battle of Waterloo; Napoleon – would have been reestablished upon his throne, and England and Europe would have been denied the 100 years of prosperity and repose which the Congress of Vienna gave them. I do not think any sane man could say that we could have defended the Polish Treaty and position by force.
The other line which might have been adopted and one which t regret to see “ reflected in the Amendment before the House, is the – Pontius Pilate line ; to send for water to wash our hands; and then to say, “Holier than thou, I will have nothing to do with you.” That would be, in truth, unworthy of a great country which in this war has increased its prestige and repute and risen to heights which were never equalled even in the Napoleonic war. To say “ I do not like this but I cannot do anything about it “— and that is what is implicit in the Amendment—Would be just as disgraceful as if we tad said to lussia, “Do what you like to Poland. I disapprove, but T am not going to do anything about it.” If that had been done I would not dare to look a Pole in the face again. That would have been contrary to all our tradition. Then there is the third line, namely, an attempt to save something by negotiation. That means giving something up, which means admitting things which, in some ways, are unjust. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford that it is unjust. We have to give up something, hut the point is did we give up too much.
I was myself a pessimist in considering the future of Poland, I realized that Russia, outraged as she was by the horrible attack made upon her by the Germans—triumphant as she was rendered by her amazing recovery and the onward march of her quite unexpected armies—dazzled as she might have\been by the fact that it was she, once again, who had reached the Oder, and conquered the enemy of the world; might be determined, as I thought she would be, that whatever came out of this war, one thing was certain that Russia would be restored to her old Tsarist frontiers. It would have been a very natural thing for Russia to take a rapacious view. But no, they have not done so. They have agreed in a very important way to modify the Tsarist frontier. They have agreed at Yalta to make a concession to Poland, I cannot see anyone who has studied at all the continuity of Tsarist and Communist policy, who understands what it means to Russia to remember the humiliation to which the Bolshevik system \vas exposed in the early years of its existence—I do not think, unless you realize how sensitive they are on that point, you can understand how great a temptation it must have been for them to say, “ XVe do not care what the Western nations say, we will come out of the war with the whole map of Europe what it was in 1912, with our frontiers stretching where the Tsari.st frontiers stretched.” That they have not done that is a matter of immense relief. When I read the Yaita communique I thought “ how could they have bought that off? This is really splendid .
The Prime Minister has simplified the matter and clarified our minds very much by dividing the problem into its two main compartments of frontiers and liberty. On the frontiers, I do not wish to repeat what people have said so far about the Curzon Line, or what the Prime Minister has said. I was there at the time and can remember exactly what -we were all thinking when the Curzon Line was drawn up. It was used as an Armistice line, but T do not see that that indicates anything very derogatory. It was a scientific line. The point was there came a stage in Paris when we had fixed the western frontiers of Poland against Germany, Austria and Czechoslpvakia, and when we felt we simply must know what the Eastern frontiers were to he. As has been said so often in this Debate—but it is very important—that examination was truly objective. It was a scientific medical analysis. If the slightest element of subjectivity came into it, that element would be entirely against the Russians and entirely in favour of the Poles. But actually it was a solid, scientific examination of the question put to the people who did the job. That question was : “What ought the frontier of Poland to be? “ They said, after three weeks very hard study, it ought to be this : the Curzon Line. I do not want to say one word against Poland at this moment but I must confess that when their arguments were received I felt and we all felt—and you can read it in the history of the Paris Peace Conference that if Poland should go beyond those frontiers she would be something very foolish indeed, We were enraged and indignant when, later on, Poland took Vilna; and I can remember speaking in this House in terms of severe reprobation of the Polish attitude towards Czechoslovakia.
When Czechoslovakia lay bleeding on the ground They got these areas by force; they must lose them by force, As regards the Lw6w area, I agree that T would not like to see Lwow taken from the Poles. I would like to feel that there was some hope that the Soviet , realising the sentimental and cultural value that Lwow has in Polish hearts, would make a concession on that point. I am sure that if they did, everybody in this House would realize that this settlement is really a fair settlement, and that as far as it could be rendered fair it was so,
In conclusion, I must say a word about the other aspect of the agreement—the aspect of freedom. What is written in the Yalta communique could not be more precise, definite and absolutely compulsory; no written words could better express the obligation to see that the independence, freedom and integrity of Poland of the future ate preserved. What we are discussing is therefore a matter of some impertinence; namely, whether you can trust Russia. That is really what we are diseusbing. We are discussing a perfectly imaginary contingency. But is it so imaginary? In the course of this war, Marshal Stalin has made many promises, public and private, to his Allies : and as far as my knowledge goes every one of those has been kept, not only in their letter and according to time-table and programme, but in their spirit as well..,. I say this to hon. Members who cast doubts upon the scheme for a Provisional Government : I do not see what else could have been done. You cannot hold elections without some sort of Government, you cannot hold elections under the London Government or under the Lublin Committee; the obvious thing is to get fusion. It is very painful for everybody concerned, but once you have that fusion, supervised, engineered and helped on by the Ambassadors’ Commission in Moscow, you have the beginnings of a working system whereby you can proceed to elections, and, I hope and pray, release people from internment camps and so on.
What is the test which will convince Members, which would convince myself, that things are really being carried out on the basis of the Yalta Agreement? The test will come much sooner than hon. Members think. It will be the day when I read that Mikolajczyk and Romer have been invited to Moscow. Then I shall know the thing is going through. Once a fusion is made, and the Government of national unity is created, then I really think that some of the terrible sufferings and injustices which have been going on will be removed.
Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities) :
Will it be enough if Mikolajczyk and Romer to go to Moscow if they are not assured a reasonable proportion in the new Government for their powers? Last October they were offered one-fourth and the Communist Pnrty were to have three-fourths.
T wish the hon. Lady had not referred to last summer, because if it had not been for the haggling last summer there would not have been so much unhappiness and uncertainty. If the Poles are encouraged to go on haggling, as they did last summer, and to say, “ We must have a few seats more,”’ then we shall again get into a mess. In more direct reply to the hon. Lady’s question, I feel that Mikolajczyk and Romer and let us say Sapieha with the help they will certainly get from M. Molotov and the Commission will exercise an immense influence, to put it mildly,- on those difficult problems. I look forward to this National United Government being formed, and carrying out elections which will be as good as elections in that part of the world ever are, and creating something which, though not perhaps as powerful, not perhaps as completely free to flirt once with one side and once with another (as my right hon. Friend’s friend, Colonel Beck used to do), will none the less have a certain continuity of foreign policy, and will still be the centre of Polish life, culture, language and history.
Let rue make the position of the party on these benches unmistakably clear. We seek as much as any hon. Member on the other side a free and independent Poland, a Poland not at variance with its neighbours. but a Poland that has reached an understanding with them within the policy that was adumbrated at the Yalta Conference, and that implies the early restoration of Europe. Moreover, and this is highly important as I see it, it implies the maintenance of unity among the three great Powers. What is more important from the standpoint of the Polish people? Is there to be a dispute. temporary or permanent, on the subject of frontiers, or as to whether this or that Government should prevail in Poland, or reaching an understanding with her great and powerful neighbour xvhich, in the long run, can provide that security, military and otherwise, without which a free and independent Poland is impossible.
I want to say to hon. Members opposite who have sponsored this Amendment, that if they seek to maintain this agitation, to pretend to the Poles that by continuing these controversies they can in the long run extract from Soviet Russia greater advantage, they are doing an ill-service to the Poles. I do not want in this Debate to exacerbate feelings, but am bound to say that when I looked at the Order Paper, and studied the names of Members who are sponsoring the Amendment, it was reminiscent of the Chamberlain era, of the Anglo-German Fellowship era, and the Friends of France era. and many other questionable episodes that have occurred in the past. However, I do not want to impute motives to those who are sponsoring the Amendment; I am willing to accept their professions of sincerity; I am willing to believe that they really believe in their cause; but I must say that having regard to [heir public record—there is nothing secret about it—it appears to me that they are much more concerned about hostility towards Soviet Russia than they are about promoting the best interests of Poland.
There has been a great deal of talk in this Debate about free elections, democratically conducted, in Poland, First of all, I would observe that the date of those elections is very remote; we may be a long way from them. Even if the war ends in the next few months, even if a provisional Government. satisfactory to all concerned, is established in Poland, there is no reason to assume that immediately afterwards there will be free and democratic elections. It depends on the situation. After all, that provisional Government, when it is created, must consider economic and industrial restoration, and that is a formidable task. But let us assume that tree elections take place in Poland, and also assume—and this is an assumption which is not ill-founded
that the people of Poland democratically decide to set up a Government of the Left, or, if you like, a Communist Government. Are we to understand that the Members who are sponsoring this Amendment are quite willing to support that Government. and lend it their support.
Commander Bower (Cleveland) :
Certainly, always provided that the elections take place tinder secret conditions.
Mr. Shinwell: I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for what he has said. Let it be emphasized, and put on record, that provided there is a democratic election in Poland. and it produces a Government of the Left, ready to distrihute the land of Poland among the peasants, ready to nationalize industry and finance and the like, hon. Members opposite will accept it, and render every service.
Commander Rower: Certainly.
T am delighted to hear the hon and gallant Gentleman say so, but why ‘vas it that in Spahh. when a free and democratic election produced a democratic Government, hon. Memhers opposite were not so willing to give it their support?
I can give the hon. Gentleman an immediate answer. We were all for non-intervention in Spain. and we are also for non-intervention in Poland. It is right that the people should choose their own Government, without influence from outside.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, but it seems to me that while he and others who have spoken in support of the Amendment paid lip service to the right of the Poles to choose their own Government. They themselves would prefer to choose that Government.
Mr. Petherick: Nobody said that.
If the hon. Member is in favour of non-intervention, it seems to me that the speech he made to-day was a contradiction of that principle. He certainly had a great deal to say as to bow the affairs of the Polish people ought to be conducted. I am all for non-intervention, but it must be non-intervention on both sides, and certainly non-intervention by the people who have not rendered any service to those concerned. What is the situation as regards Poland and her relations with Russia? Let me ask hon. Members opposite this question : Suppose there had been a victorious Germany and Poland had been crushed—indeed, she was crushed for a time—-defeated overwhelmingly and overrun, and her people put on the rack and tortured—: HON. MEMBERS : “ Russia was also overrun.” Let us deal with one thing at a time; let us not be in too much of a hurry. Suppose Germany had defeated Poland. and ‘vas triumphant. and there had been a Conference at Yalta or elsewhere to determine the fate of
Poland, what would have been the situation of that unhappy country and people? –
Captain A. Graham:
The Ribbentrop-Molotov partition.
What Is the argument that is advanced by hon. Members opposite in support of Poland? What positive alternatives have they presented? There has not been one. If hon. Members come to the House and criticize the Government—as I sometimes do myself—the responsibility lies heavily on their shoulders to put forward constructive proposals, but to-day there has not been one —Sir A. Southby: I do not think the hon. Member was here when I made my speech, or he would have observed the constructive points—at any rate, I hope they were—which I put -forward, and which I said would help to make the elections a reality.
Mr. Shinwell: I will tell the House what the constructive proposals were, because I took note of them. Let me take the hon. and galiant Gentleman the memher for Berwick and Haddington (Captain McEwen), who is the chairman of the Conservative Committee and speaks with authority. This was his constructive proposal, that we should have rejected the Soviet proposals out of hand. Is that a constructive proposal? What would have been its effect? Would it have changed by a single inch the territorial adjustments? Of course not. Would it have led to free elections? Would it have promoted unity amongst the Allies? No. Would it have represented an advance in the direction of a durable peace? The advice of the noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) was that we should set up a new Government, neither Lublin nor London. How do you set up a new Government, and who is to set it up? There was a suggestion from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) that there should be an international commission which should appoint the Government. That is intervention with a vengeance.
Sir A. Southby: The hon. Member misinterprets me. T did not say anything of the sort. I said there should be an international Commission to govern Poland until and (luring the free elections.
Mr. Shinwell: That is not government at all and, if an international commission is set up. what is to happen in the meantime to the London Government? Arc they to he disbanded? Are they no longer to rely on the monetary assistance that they receive from His Majesty’s Government. or are they to go out of action? If they receive no Government assistance they will go out of action unless hon. Members opposite come to their assistance. We shall wait and see, What about the Lublin Government? Does anyone suggest that it will go out of action simply because an international commission is set up? . . .
I want to deal also with the question of the Lublin Government. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said it was no Government at all. Anyway, it was a Government that was unsatisfactory, and be made all sorts of allegations about t4 One thing can be said about the Lublin Committee. It has made a real attempt to distribUte the land within its supervision among the peasants. I can understand Tory landlords objecting to that. It is very natural.
Major Lloyd: Other things can be said about the Lublin Government. It deported thousands and shot many.
Mr. Shinwell: I am Government any more of the Government in purpose. We seek a vexatious one—and no condemning Lublin or
not here to (hefend the Provisional than I want to condemn the policy London. That is not part of our solution of the problem—a very solution can he brought about by London. Surely the ptoper course is to try to bring both parties together to form this truly Provisional Government. under which to fashion a free election, and a democratic and economic Poland. which offers some hope to the people of that country, instead ef adopting this mischievous and misguided device of trying to pretend to the Polish Government in London that by keeping up this agitation there is some hope of better terms being achieved,
Essex. South-East (Gonservative) .
. . . The real issue on this Amendment is far wider than Poland. It is the issue of the good name of Britain among the nations of the world. Are we. in the attitude we are adopting at the present ttme. encouraging, as the result of the Yalta Agreement. the nations of Europe to say, as they have often said in -the past, that Britain is the friend and hope of the weak? That is the touchstone and test, and on that
touchstone T propose to speak. The territorial issue of Poland and the independence of Poland are both matters which are interwoven with British honour. Much has been said upon the territorial boundaries. and T do not propose to deal with the question at any length. The Prime Minister, with a great flourish, assured the House yesterday that, after all, Poland would have been utterly destroyed if it had not been for Russia. I think his tone has been rather that of a man who regards Poland as a defeated country which has to get the best it cah after defeat. Did the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, after a Polish guarantee had been given and when in August, 1939, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement had been made, turn to Poland and say, “ We are sorry, but in view of the fact that Germany and Russia have come together, total destruction is all you can hope for if you stand
up to Germany, whatever the democracies may do”? We know quite well that that was not the line and that that was not in their hearts at the time, It was in the heart and mind of every ordinary citizen tn 1939-40 that, though Poland might fall, Poland would rise again, and we believed it long before Russia ever came into the picture. It is a rather unjust argument to hurl at Poland now, after the days of 1939, that she would) have been completely destroyed by the Germans and that, therefore, she ought to be grateful for what she can get to-day.
I come to the next point where I am rather shaken over Yalta, Whatever may have been the advantage or disadvantage of the territorial settlement, i.t seems astounding that, having as we had a legitimate Polish Government. in London, precisely recognised by the Foreign Secretary in a speech in December last year, that Government should not have had even one word of consultation, whether its advice were taken or not. I think I am right in saying that after the fall of Mr.. Mikolajczyk whose fall was deplored by the -Prime Minister—be made that very plain in December— neither Mr. Arciszewski, the Prime Minister, nor the Foreign Secretary of the new Government, have been permitted one word with either the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary of England). It seems to me that their treatment was a little ungenerous. It is a little hard that the legitimate Government should, as it were, have been put in cold storage while
Yalta settleti the fate of the Poles, I do not want to labour that point, but I thought it ought to be made.
So far as frontiers are concerned, say what you will, the Atiantic Charter ‘vas finally repudiated at Yalta. It started as a principle; it afterwards became a guide; to-morrow it will leave off becoming a guide and will become what Mr. Ramsay MacDonald would have called a “ gesture.” We shall want something more than a gesture if a new Europe and a new world are to be built on the basis of civilisation and justice. Thc Prime Minister said that the curzon Line was a just line. The hon. Member for West Leicester said it was a just line, Apparently, however, they were dealing with two different lines, The line at Yalta was a line West of Lwow, and the line which the hon. Member for West Leicester was referring to was, -apparently a line which, included LwOw,
When the Prime ‘Minister said that it was the old Curzon Line over again, as he did yesterday, I think he might a.t any rate have reminded the House that Eastern Galicia now goes to Russia, a province that has never been Russian at any time and was never contemplated in 1919. 1920 or 1.921 as likely to become Russian.
– The greatest danger in this new territorial settlement is
——not that the old basis was of necessity a perfect settlement. as T think the Polish line did go too far to the East— that the line should have been settled in flat contradiction to treaties which have been made. The Treaty of Riga, in 1921, was reaffirmed in 1932 and I think in 1934, and of course was again reaffirmed in the Sikorski-Stalin agreement, after Russia had come into the xvar, I hope the Prime Minister will forgive me if I try to deal with the points in his speech seriatim, I am going to be bold enough. as I have a right to do, to deal with the speech point by point. He said that after 20 years during which British, Russians, Americans and French had struggled against Germany, all the three great Allies had agreed what Poland should receive, If that is to mean throughout the world that any treaty made in Europe between 1914 and 1944 can come to an end because there has been war in between, I tremble for the future of Europe and of the world,
I do not want to go on farther, in regard to the Curzon Line. except to put one point to the Prime Minister which I have longed to put to him for some time. In speech after speech since Teheran, the Prime Minister has said that he regarded the Curzon Line as necessary for Russian security. He has said it with firmness and vigour, and I am sure
that he believes it. What did he say yesterday? He said that the new Poland moving further West would have no great fear of danger from Germany because drastic steps would be taken to preve’it any offensive action by Germany for many years to come. If that is so, what have 180.000,000 Russians to fear from 80,000,000 broken and disunited Germans. As regards Poland, it is therefore quite unnecessary for the Russians, except by friendly negotiation, to extend their land and to seek for “Naboth’s vineyard” at the expense of a smaller neighbour.
T now turn to the question of independence. T agree that it is of more importance even than boundaries, unless the boundaries are so shrunk that they hamper independence. T think everyone realises that the most significant thing proposed in regard to the future provisional Government of Poland is that they are to have what ap-pears to be an extension of the “ present Government of Poland, with no reference to the London Government at all. If that means anything, it surely means that the new Government of Poland will be based upon Lublin, That is the view of Lublin4 T venture to quote from the Lublin radio of February 15. After the Yalta proposals had come through, they welcomed them, and said that the fact that the provisional Polish Government of national unity was to be based upon the present provisional Polish Government showed confidence, in its present authority in Poland, since the London emigre Government had not even been men-tioned. That was the reaction of Lublin. What was the reaction of Moscow? The European service of “Red Star “
——and, as we know, what any paper says in Moscow is the view of the Moscow Government more than what any paper says in London is the view of our own Government—said, on February 16, through its commentator : –
“Roosevelt’s personal representative stressed the democratic Government of Warsaw as the only Government of Poland, and on its basis the Provisional Polish Government of national unity will be formed, which will be recognised immediately by the Allied Powers.”
We may be told by the Foreign Secretary, as I hope we shall be, that he does not propose to base the new Government upon Lublin, but I venture to suggest that there must have been misunderstanding at Yalta, if the LublIn Press and the Soviet Press have come to an eroncous conclusion that the basi.s of the new Government of Poland is to be Lublin. The Prime Minister went further. He made one astounding statement. He said that the Poles in London should have been wise and taken the advice of the British Government a year ago, in which case there would have heen no Lublin. What does that mean? It means, as the Prime Minister knows and we all know, that Lublin is a fake and nothing more. Yet that fake, so far as we can read from Yalta although there may be some safeguards—is supposed by both Lublin and Moscow to be the foundation of the new Government.
Let us consider for a few moments one or two further things in regard to the independence of the Poles. First. what sort of Poland will be able, even under the Ambassadors” Conference, to take part in the new Government? We have not been told, of course, what proportion the Lublin or any other Poles will have. The Foreign Secretary denied, in reply to the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), that at Moscow the suggestion was 75 per cent, to Lublin and 25 per cent. to Mikolajczyk I wonder whether we can, at last, hear to-day what proportion was offered either by Lublin or Moscow to Mikolajczyk, and why we have never been told. One thing we know is that the terms offered now will not be better then the terms which were offered at Moscow in August.
Reference has been made to the decree which was pronounced by M. Bierut on January 17 outlawing the Polish Home Army and denouncing not only the Prime Minister of the Polish Government in London and General Bor-Komorowskt as criminal adventurers, but dealing in a very rough-handed manner with M. Mikolajezyk. I should have thought that if at Yalta it was desired to get the support and the friendship of Poles both in this country and serving abroad. if there was one way in which that could have been assisted it would have been by the rescinding of that decree. Are we to hear that perhaps it will be rescinded? T am sure the Foreign Secretary wishes it to be, But why has it not been rescinded? That is not all. Not only have these criticisms been passed in the Russian Press, but even since this Conference M. Mikolajczyk himself has been held up to ridicule. T do not want to give too many quotations, but T think T
ought to make one or two. There was a despatch from Lublin on January 3rd this year—this was before Yalta—from Henry Shapiro, a war correspondent. He said that there could be no question of compromise between the two Governments, and that feeling was particularly bitter against ex-Premier Mikolajozyk, to whonl the Lublin Poles were so anxious to offer the Premiership only three months ago. He was now considered to be a public enemy in the same class as General Sosnkowski. Premier Morawski said recent documents proving Mikolajczyk to have been responsible for cases of terrorism in liberated areas had been seized by the Lublin Government. Not a . very pleasant sort of party to join, even with a safeguard from the British Government to see that you get there. That is not all. At the beginning of this year there was a Soviet cemmunique dealing with the so-called Peasants’ Congress in occupied—Western-poland. I quote only the final passage :
“ At the end of the session the Congress demanded the expulsion of the leaders of the emigre Goverhment—Arciszowski, Mikolajczyk and others from Polish citizen-ship as traitors to the Polish nation.”’
It seems to me that they will be bold men who, until some safeguards are produced, will be prepared to go out to Poland, They will, indeed, unless certain safeguards are proposed and certain decrees arc rescinded, be men who could almost he accused of wishful thinking. But this is no matter for jest.
The reason for this Amendment is that certain hon. Members of this House, of whom I am one, believe profoundly that even though Great Britain might not be able at this stage to do much for Poland, we could do something more than underwrite a charter for Poland which, without proper safeguards, must be the end of Poland, The Prime Minister said in his speech that of course all parties will have free elections, except pro-Nazi and anti-democratic parties. I challenge him now : Can he name one pro-Nazi party in Poland? If there is one country which, under suffering and misery, has kept its soul, it Is Poland. We know so well that the Russian. and indeed the Lublin. definitions of “ democracy “ and “ pro-Nazi “ are rather different from ours. Everybody with whom you disagree in Russia is a pro-Nazi or an anti-democrat. In view of the fact that the new Polish Government, however it is created, will be formed after consultations between the two Ambassadors and Mr. Molotov at Moscow, and will be formed with the background of this continued abuse of every known Polish leader and every great political party, whether It be the National Party or the Socialist Party, it seems rather unlikely that the old parties, and the supporters of these old parties, who have supported the underground movement, wilt be recognized as being either anti-Nazi or democratic. We have even had General for himself, the hero of Warsaw, described as a capitulating traitor in the pay of Berlin.
I do not think that the Prime Minister, whose greatness I appreciate as much as any man in this House, or any of the other members of the Government, can feel surprised if. under these circumstances, we are inclined to say, “ Would it not have been better not to have come to any agreement upon the final Eastern frontiers until the war was over, and the thing could have been settled at the Peace Conference ? Would it not have been better, instead of forming a Government which is bound to be formed, as Press cuttings alone show, in an atmosphere of fear and terrorism. to have had some inter-Allied Commission to carry on until the war was over, and the parties themselves could be properly supervised, and given an opportunity of free elections, under inter-Allied control, on the basis of the Saar plebiscite. The only really fair international plebiscite we have seen for many years?”
That is our case. ‘the last time I opposed the Government on what was made a Vote of Confidence, I followed the Prime Minister himself into the Lobby—in 1935. I did it because I. believed he was right. Because I differ from him to-day, I do it, not because I am anti- the Prime Minister—I have stood by him in days when he was far less popular than be is to-day—but because I believe that for all his greatness, to-day, insignificant as T am, I speak with the voice of my country.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
. . . I must make it absolutely clear to the House that at every stage of this anxious Polish business, lasting as it has now done over almost the whole of the war period—and
indeed starting long before that—at any rate, so long as this Government have handled it—all the decisions have been taken by the War Cabinet; and the responsibility is the responsibility of the War Cabinet. We have worked together in all we have done, and my right hon. Friends in the War Cabinet want me to say that we have worked, in the Crimea and other occasions, as a united War Cabinet, and, be cur treatment of this subject right or wrong, it is the treatment of a united Government, who took all their decisions with a knowledge of the facts put before them.
– My hon. Friend also spoke of our relations with the Polish Government, and asked, was it true that I have not had direct contacts with the Polish Prime Minister or members of his Government? It is true that we have not had personal contacts with them, but it is also true that T have frequently seen the Ambassador who represents That Government. I have seen him, naturally, since I returned from the Crimea. Perhaps I ought to add, as a matter of historical accuracy,
– that I had arranged an interview with the Polish Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary just before we went to the Crimea, but an incident occurred, which will be fresh in the mind of the House—that we had a sudden and unexpected Greek debate; and I, therefore, asked my Permanent UnderSecretary, Sir Alexander Cadogan, to see them instead. I think the House wilt accept It that there has not been any discourtesy on the part of His Majesty’s Government. T cannot, however, pretend that we have the same cordial relations with the present Polish Government as we had with the Government which preceded them, and which included, as, unhappily, this Government do not, all the main Polish parties represented in London.
I want to deal with this question, taking two main issues
-first, and the more briefly of the two, the question of the frontiers, and, second, the question of whether under the arrangement which we have devised in the Crimea there can be and will be a free and independent Poland. A word about the frontier itself. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) and others, including the mover of the Amendment, who raised this issue, always begin at the Treaty of Riga; but it is really completely unrealistic to begin this discussion at the Treaty of Riga. I admit that it is true—-there is no question of it—that the Soviet Government ultimately accepted the Treaty of Riga, but nobody with a knowledge of the history of those parts is going to contend that Russia. was content with that solution, or, indeed, that we were content with that solution, As the House knows, and as I have stated before, we more than once urged the Polish Government at the time not to
extend their frontiers East beyond the Curzon Line, and for . two years after the Treaty of Riga withheld our recognition
of that arrangement. In 1923, when the Conference of Ambassadors (lid eventually recognize the Treaty, that Conference made it plain, on cur initiative, that the responsibility for the Line rested with the two Governments concerned, and not with us.
More than that, the Conference made it clear that in their recognition of the Riga frontier, two years after the Treaty had been signed. there was called for—put it this way—the setting-up of an autonomous regime in Eastern Galicia for ethnographical reasons, – In point of fact, that autonomous regime was never set up. What happened was that, after fighting between the Poles and Ukrainians, the Polish armies were victorious and obtained control of the country. I hope the House is not going to assume that, on account of that, what happened at that time was accepted by the population as a whole. It ‘vas not. Although the area was placed under the Minority Treaty, because of the disputes and the anxieties about it, the provisions of that Minority Treaty were never fully carried out, and disturbances, as the House will see if they look up the records, were unhappily frequent. What happened was this. It is not in any way surprising or a criticism of anybody. As the Eastern Galicia area—-which is the one, I think, in most dispute—was an area of mixed population, with Poles in the minority, the Poles sought to increase their own population in that area by bringing other Poles in, with the result that that, in its turn, led to friction. Further, there was the issue which, the House must bear in mind, underlies the whole of this frontier problem :
the religious issue between the Roman Catholic elements and the Orthodox Church. The religious difference in that area is far older than the national issue, and it is religion which lies at the root of much of the feeling on this issue.
I have explained before, and I am not going over it again, the basis on which the Curzon Line was delimited, but this at lea-st can he accepted by everybody, whatever else we dispute—that east of the Curzon Line there are no areas where the Poles are in the – majority except the two cities of
Vilna and Lw6w, which, in their turn, are surrounded by large non-Polish areas. On that particular aspect of the question there is no dispute betxveen us at all. I, therefore, say that when the Soviet Government say that they will accept the Curzon Line, with certain adjustments, minor adjustments, but all in favour of Poland—the importance of which I must emphasize, for the Curzon Line, it is true, is not a frontier but a line drawn on the map, and it is of importance to the Polish Government that all adjustments, and there must be many, shall favour them—I cannot stand at this Box and say that I regard tha.t as a gross injustice to Poland. It is
-the position which successive Governments in this country have consistently taken. I would put this to my hon. Friends. Are they absolutely convinced that the structure of the Polish State is strengthened by the inclusion of large, or considerable, non-Polish elements in it? I wonder.
Mr. A,- Bevan (Ebbw Vale) : On the West. too?
Mr. Eden: The assumption in regard to the West is that the populations shall be removed. That is the whole basis. In most cases, I can tell the hon. Gentleman, they have gone already. But let me deal with this matter—I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has put me off my stroke—about the minorities in the Polish State. I should have said that there were two weaknesses in the Polish State, as it existed before the war. One was these very considerable minority elements, who came frequently and made their complaints before the International Tribunal at Geneva, and the other was the Corridor. T am amazed that in the speeches which the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment and neither of them
—I listened carefully—made even the slightest reference to the significance to Poland of the fact that this Corridor problem would cease to exist. If my hon. Friend’s concern is solely for Poland, surely they must take some account of that ?
May I ask them this? Which Poland would be stronger-—the Poland with Vilna and with the Corridor as it was, or a Poland without Vilna and without the Corridor? I have not the slightest doubt, nor, T believe, has any student of international affairs the slightest doubt, which Poland would be the stronger. I am going to say a word or two about this Corridor business, I made one reference to it before, but. if the House wxviii allow me. T am going into it a little deeper, because I had to handle this myself year after year at Geneva, when the unfortunate British representative on the Council was Rapporteur for Danzig. I promise the House that T never chose the job; T inherited it, and it was the most thankless task that ever fell to the lot of man, because, at every single meeting, we were faced wxvith these issues, demands, charges and counter-charges between Poles and Germans. I think the only other person who had this experience to the same extent is the present Lord Chancellor. We were never able to obtain a solution of real value, because no solution was possible as long as the Corridor existed,
I remember one occasion—it will probably be fresh in the minds of many hon. Members—when the German representative had behaved in a particularly insulting manner to the Council. After be had withdrawn. I thought it my duty to say to the Council, in private, of course, the Press having withdrawn, that in view of his behaviour , we ought to knowxv whether the Polish Government would take action in the event of a German infraction by violence of the Free City, for which we were responsible. I put that question, and the Polish answer was “ Yes.”’ T mention that only to show that it would be a cardinal sin on our part to perpetuate that state of affairs. T have been engaged in these last years in this Polish-Russian dispute, and, for what my own judgment is worth, T have come to the decision that there are two alternatives, Either you must deprive Poland of all outlet to the sea, or East Prussia must cease to be German and the Corridor must go. Of these two alternatives, I unhesitatingly command the second to the House: but de not let anybody say that that is not something of importance for the Poland of the future, and do not let people merely say “ “ You are taking half Poland away’” without putting into the balance what this means.
T turn to another aspect. It is not only the question of what the elimination of the Corridor means. The House must also put into the balance the position of Oppeln Sliesia, which we are all agreed should go to Poland. and which is a territory of great value industrially. Poland tried hard to get it after the last peace settlement, but her claim wns rejected. That must be put into the balance. too. I believe that, when a settlement is finally reached—and here let me say again that what wxve have expressed is our view of what a settlement should be with our Ally, a settlement which we would wish to discuss with the new Polish Government when
it is created—I believe it may still he found—and T say this with respect to some of my hon. Friends—that the new Poland when so constituted, will be as strong as, or stronger than, the Poland that existed in 1939. That depends, of course, on how the agreement is carried out.
Therefore, I turn to that, and to the setting up of the new Government. I was asked by my Noble Friend the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) yesterday, and T have been asked to-day by both the mover and the seconder of the Amendment, why it was that, when we approached this problem in the Crimea, we did not make an end of the Lublin Government, as it were, “do-recognize” the Lublin Government and “ “de-recognize” “ the Government here, and start entirely afresh. Of course, that is an attractive suggestion, and it was, in fact, the point from which we started our examination of the matter, but this is the difficulty with which we were faced. The Russians said to us, and it is inescapable, that they must have some authority on their lines of communication through Poland. Whether we like or dislike the Lublin Committee—and personally I say I dislike it—for the moment it is the authority which is functioning there in fulfilling the requirements of the Russian military authorities. What they said to us was “We de not know how long it wxviIi take to form a new Polish Government; it may take weeks, it may take months.” T do not know, either; it takes quite a long time to form a British Government. Nobody can say. During tint time there could not be a vacuum in Poland, and so it is that we agreed. eventually, that pending the creation of the new Government—and T beg the House to note that the phrase “ new Government “occurs twice in the Declaration—the Soviet Government Will continue to recognize the Lublin Government and we and the United States will continue to recognize the Government here. T hope I have been able to remove the doubts expressed by my hon. Friends to-day.
The right. hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) yesterday complained that we had taken our decision, or come to our agreement behind the back, T think his phrase was, of the Polish Government. As T understand his argument, it was that we ought to have summoned the Polish Government to our councils in Yalta when we reached a certain point in our discussions and talked matters over with them. Of course we thought of it. Let me therefore ask the right hon. gentleman which Polish Government were we to summon ? Were we to summon the Lublin Government, for both we and the United States Government hold that that Government is not fully representative of the Polish people? Or were we to summon the Government here in London, which the Soviet Government hold is not representative of the Polish people? Or were we to summon both Governments? Apart from certain physical difficulties, this last arrangement would not have been satisfactory. Moreover in my belief, probably, those Polish statesmen who have most following in Poland—and all this is a matter of one’s own conjecture—are Poles in Poland and Poles in London, who are members neither of the Lublin Government nor of the London Government. What did we do? We could not bring them all to Yalta: if we had done. no doubt we should still be there. It was impossible to do that, and so we decided to appoint this Commission to carry through the task for us, , . .
. . . . Let me now try to answer some of the questions that have been put. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and Haddington, and indeed, the lion. Gentleman who has just spoken, really put what was the only alternative course, They said that better than what we have done, would have been to have let it alone. T cannot accept that view. That really is an absolute policy of despair. What would that have meant? It would have meant that the Lublin Government xvould have continued to operate with the support of the Soviet Government. We do not know what the conditions are there at the present time. and T am not by any means sure all the information that hon. Friends get about the state of opinion in Poland is aecurate. I am not even sure that the politicians who have been five years out of the country know exactly what their country feels, There have been revolutions in thought as well as in spirit in Poland in these last years. There was an account the other day—one has to be very careful from which newspapers one quotes—in the ““Manchester Guardian”—whose foreign correspondents T have always found very reliable, so far—which gave an account of some American officers who came out from Poland, They said they saw the first Russian forces drive on, the Poles, delirious with delight, cheering both the Russians and their Western Allies. I do not know whether it is true or whether it is not. T should think that very likely
it was so. Maybe it was only so at the beginning and it may be so now, but one cannot tell, as one cannot be sure. But I beg of hon. Members not to accept every report that comes and is suddenly thrust upon us in the House of Commons by our friends.
Mr. Petherick: Would not a perfectly simple solution be for the Russian Government to accept British war correspondents and British correspondents to look after the interests bf civil affairs in Poland?
Mr. Eden: That is going a little ahead of what I was going to say. I would like first to answer two questions asked by my Noble Friend yesterday about our desires in connection with this Polish situation. He asked for two specific answers to his questions. First, is it our desire that Poland should be really and truly free? Yes, certainly, most certainly it
. is. In examining that Government, if and when it is brought together, it will be for us and our Allies to decide whether that Government is really and truly, as far as we can judge, representative of the Polish people. Our recognition must depend upon that. We would not recognize a Government which we did not think representative. ‘Ihe addition of one or two Ministers would not meet our views. It must be, or as tar as it can be made, representative of the Polish parties as they are known, and include representative national Polish figures. That is what we mean. There is only one consideration—I do not think we could call it more than that— that we would ask of the new Polish Government; that is that they would enter into a treaty of friendship and alliance with Russia. I do not think that anybody would think that unreasonable, because at the same time that Government would have treaties of friendship and alliance with us and the French Government.
The second question was, Do we favour the establishment of machinery for Allied supervision of elections? That was
– a question which was also discussed. The Greek Government have asked for such supervision, and we have invited, or shall invite when the time comes, our Russian and American Allies to join In it. It may be, if and when this flew Polish Government is formed, they will also ask for international supervision. I hope so, If they do then we shall certainly be prepared to join in it, We could not agree to any inter-Allied supervision to which we were not parties in view of our treaty relations wxvith Poland. I think the House will agree that the final decision-on that cannot be taken until the moment comes, if and when this new Polish Government is formed, because that new Government must have a say as to their supervision and, if they desire it, as to its nature and the conditions. But T will make plain our own position, as It is made plain to our Allies that, it there. should be such supcrvision, we shall be glad to take part in it ourselves. There is one more question which my Noble Friend asked. He said that, in the arrangement for Yugoslavia, we Included a provision that the acts of the Yugoslav Committee should be ratified by the new Parliament, and he asked why we did not include a similar provision in the Polish Agreement. But to be honest with my hon. Friend, we did not think of it. We did not think we had got to a stage far enough for that to be operative. but I see no reason wxvhatever why that proposal should not
. he made. In view of the fact that it was at once accepted by our Allies in relation to Yugoslavia, I have no reason to think that it will not be accepted in relation to Poland, and I think it is a good thing that that proposal should be put forward. It would be an additional safeguard.
Let me turn to the question of information from inside Poland. We should certainly like people from this country to have an opportunity of seeing for themselves conditions inside Poland. There have beep newspaper correspondents, hut apart from them we would like other opportunities, and I have every reason to believe that our Russian Allies would certainly not object to it. Indeed, I am inclined to think from something I have had to-day that they would probably welcome it, but I would rather not go further at the moment than to say that we are in correspondence with our Russian Allies about making arrangements so that people from this country can go to Poland to see what is going on. We shall do all we can to bring these arrangements to early fruition. I feel that nothing would give more reassurance to this House than a sense that there would be an opportunity to see what was going on in Poland.
I come on to the other questions. My hon. and gallant FrIend the Member for Berwick and Haddington said, “ Why when you are signing the Anglo-Soviet Treaty do not you consider this Polish matter and did not you put special provisions into your agreement about it ? “ There was a similar question asked in another form by my hon. and gallant Friend
the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby). The answer is that at the time the Anglo-Soviet Treaty was made fortunately Soviet Russia and the Polish Government here . were in reiations. It was one of the few comparatively calm and encouraging periods of Soviet-Polish relations, and they were in reiation very largely as the outcome of the efforts of His Majesty’s Government to bring about the agreement of 1941, Of course, the Soviet Government are aware of our engagement towards Poland on which I propose to say a word. – I must repeat and make plain—I am not sure that it is plain to some hon. Members—exactly the position about recognition. I hold the House out no pledge. No one can be certain how it is going to work out but we hope that the discussions in Moscow will be attended by representative Poles from inside Poland and from outside Poland and that as a result of those. conversations a thoroughly representative Polish Government will come into being. If it does and if it is in the words of the Coinmunique, ““properly constituted “ then we and our Allies will recognise that government as the provisional government of Poland—provisional until the elections take place. If it does not come into being then we remain as we are to-day, we and the United States recognizing the Government in London and the Soviet Government recognizing, I presume, the Government in Lublin. That, may I add, would not be a very happy state of affairs either for Poland or for unity between our allies.
Now may T say a wxvord or two about the Amendment which we are now discussing? The Amendment suggests that the recommendations which the three Great Powers have made for the solution of the Polish problem are contrary to treaty. That is not so. We have at no time guaranteed Poland’s pre-war frontier . Nor, let me add, can I accept that to agree to recommend the line which was worked out at the time as giving as near as might be an ethnographical boundary is to run directly counter to the terms of the Atlantic Charter. As to the last part of my hon. Friend’s Amendment, I must say that I am frankly puzzled as to how that can be regarded as a criticism of the policy which we are now advocating. If my hon. Friends will read the wording, it seems to me to be a precise description of what we are seeking to do in Poland, We are seeking to ensure to Poland the full right to choose her own Government tree from the influence of any other power, or any other powers let me add. So that in that respect I do not understand where we are open to criticism. As I have said, whether we shall succeed or not I cannot pronounce upon now, but 1 have not the least doubt, and I hope the House has not the teast doubt, that it is not only our right but our duty to make this attempt.
T come to a criticism made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick who maintained that in the course which we have jointly agreed, we have in some wxvay violated the Anglo-Polish Agreement of 1939. and he referred to a secret Protocol in this connection. I can assure my hon. Friend that his fears are entirely unfounded. – There is nothing in the Anglo-Polish Treaty, or in any other document, which guarantees the frontiers of Poland, ‘The Government of 1939 gave the House, of course, full information about the Treaty hut, quite rightly. they went further than this and made clear the effect of the secret Protocol from which my hon. Friend quoted. I must read to the House the reply given by my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Education who was then Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. –
Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw) : Has the Protocol been published ?
Mr. Eden: No, Sir.
Mr. Bellen ger: Will the right hon. Gentleman de that?
Mr. Eden: T will now have to consider that. Naturally T had it in mind as my hon. Friend has raised the question
—I do not make any complaint about that. T am now going to read the answer which was given to Parliament at the time. I was not a Member of the Government myself. This is what he said in reply to a Parliamentary Question on the 19th October, 1939, asking whether tie references to aggression by a European Power in the AngloPolish Agreement were intended to cover the case of aggression by Powers other than Germany inclualng Russia. and my right hon. Friend replied : –
. “No. Sir. During the negotiations which led up to the signature of the Agreement, it xvas understood between the Polish Government and His Majesty’s Government that the Agreement should only eover the case of aggression by Germany, and the Polish Government confirm that this is so.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, October 19th, 1945, Vol. 352, c. 1032.1
lish peace for 25 years or 50 years or—who can say? But unless we can bold it there will be no peace for anything like that period of time.
Finally, may I say this word, again to my hon. Friends? Make no mistake. The moment this fighting ceases, Germany will be out on the old theme of propaganda again. She will again try to play –as off against Russia, and Russia against America and ourselves. She will play on all their pity, which she knows so well how to do. The whole orchestra of German self-pity will work up again te fortissimo. Let us be very careful that we do not fall victims to that,
What is my conclusion? T say that, while we must be watchful, active and vigorous and do all in our power to secure the real freedom and Independence of our Polish Allies—while that is our right and our duty, do not let us at the same time fall victims too easily to suspicion of another Ally. I think we have to be on our guard. I assure the House that the Government will do all that lies in their power to see that the objectives the Prime Minister and T described are carried out. We are in the midst of this business, We are not through it, We have many difficult stages to fulfil. Neither my right hon. Friend nor T can give any undertaking wxvhat our measure of success may he, but unless hon. Members feel that we should not try—and T cannot believe that they do—I would ask them to give us the encouragement to go forward, T would ask them to give it with a really strong and definite voice, otherwise we are going to confuse the mind of the world and the minds of our Polish friends for. after all. this cannot be solved at all unless the elements which renresent Poland can he brought together. I would ask the House td consider again and give us full support for the work we are doing and, in the light of the assurances that I have glvnn to the House, to say -that in what we have done we have their confidence, and in what we are going to do we shall have their confidence. provided we fulfil the engagements that we have given, T in tin-n will tell them that we will report ourselves faithfully to this House.
Mr. “ McGovern
Glasgow, Shettleston (Independent Labour Party)
. . , There is the further question of Poland, wxvhich was debated yesterday. One Member sai(l that we are not going to return to it today, but I will say a few words about it. We are told that we must not, on any occasion, doubt the word of Marshal Stalin. or the word of the Prime Minister or the word of the President of the United States. This is not, however, a mutual admiration society: we are not collected hero to pass compliments to one another. Memhers of the House can talk as glibly as they like on the Floor or in the Press, hut the great hulk of opinion in this country does not believe that the Polish plan will be carried out in a decent and democratic manner. I would he enthusiastic if there were a coming together of Russia, Poland, Germany and France, and if they were prepared to wxvork with one another in a decent atmosphere, but, with the deportation of millions of Poles, and the putting to death of a large number of Polish politicians and trade union leaders. and of every individual who does not subscribe to the totalitarian ideas of Marshal Stalin, I have grave doubts about the carrying 3ut of this democratic plebiscite. I have seen these democratic plebiscites carried out before. T have also seen attemnts made from time to time to Involve people in a iecislon which is made to appear as if unity prevails. A plan is decided unon before you get to the meeting, and everybody has to he black-balled into submission or dubbed as traitors or dishonest.
. . . I see these changes taking place, Now they want to woo you. It is a- change of tactics, just as Stalin’s approach to the Polish issue is a change of tactics. The Prime Minister and the President of the United States would not admit that they were comnelled to accent the decision because :heir pride would not let them do otherwise. The fact is, however, tha.t they found an accomplished fact In Poland, Marshall Stalin bad created the Lublin Committee, and he backs it every inch of the way, because it is his Committee and his Government. He created it and he is determined that it will operate. There will be further deportations and murders until he carries his way In the plebiscite, T wish .t wxvere otherwise, but T cannot see it as anything ether than that. Members tn’k of the great foundation that has been aid in the great unity of the three Allies which is to operate for 25 years. They are not realists in talking in that way.
They are only “kidding” “ themselves, but they are not “kidding “ thinking men and women, who know that the Great Powers are all, preparing to get the mastery of each other economically and military for the time when it arrives.
The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
– . . It is natural that we should have devoted a great deal of attention to the Polish question. That is a subject that arouses very much sympathy, venj much pity. I do not want to add much to what has been said but I would like to say a word because T have very many close friends among the Poles. T visited the Polish troops, both in their training camps and in the line in Italy; and I have personal friends in various parties, and indeed among members, who think as T do on most subjects, of the London Polish Government. T am not unacquainted with the history of Poland, and I have a great admiration for the qualities of the Polish people, hut T cannot say that political wisdom is an outstanding quality among them. I have pleaded very often with my friends on these matters, and T have, to my sorrow, seen chance after chance lost. I hare seen the position gettfng Worse and worse. T have begged my friends to remember their place in the world as neighbours of the Russians; and we have to take into account our neighbours in this world, Some I have seen take a realistic view; others, T think, take an ultra-romantic view.
T recall very well receiving a card this Christmas from one of my Polish friends. It was rather characteristic. It consisted of a map of Poland in the 17th century. It is this tragic harking hack by so many peoples of Central and SouthEastern Europe into the past, instead of looking” to the future, that makes the establishment of permanent peace so difficult. T noticed in the Debate yesterday, and indeed in all Debates on frontiers, that Members tend to he so historical, and everyone has his particular year from which he likes to start the argument. I want to see this Polish question in the general picture of Yalta, because we have to think of
– what the statesmen gathered there had to do. They had two preoccupations; one with the present, the winning of the war, and the second with the future, the winning of the peace. These two things are much more important than the past. . .
Vice-Admiral Taylor: Could my right hon. Friend explain what right the Lublin Committee had to decide anything as regards Poland?
Mr. Attlee: The Lublin Committee does not enter into it at all. We have not recognised the Lublin Committee. I was not dealing with the Lublin Committee. T was dealing with certain points of the past. We have to look at these things from the point of view of the future of the peoples of Europe. Over all these countries the storms of the past have gone. You have to try to unravel a tangle that has grown up through the 18th century. We ought to appreciate the magnitude of the storm that has now passed over Europe, killing millions of people, wrecking the lives of people; with 5,500,000 Jews or more done to death; Poles killed: many people, workers of various States, carried off from their homes: homes wrecked by war: Germans deported by their own Government from some places; Germans driven out by Russian armies. There have been unprecedented movements of population, The same thing has occurred in other places in Europe.
. . . T hope that the San Francisco Conference will result in the establishment of a system of security, under which the nations of Europe may at long last settle down and live together. It is necessary to get the section dealing with Poland into its right perspective in the White Paper. It is one of the many problems which we must deal with if we are to have an established peace. –
T say the same on the question of settling on an interim Polish Government. Some people seem to think It is very easy to get interim Governments, fully representative of all people, although those countries have been swept by war and occupation. Believe me, it is extremely difficult. Even the technical constitutionality of the existing Government does not always carry you through. Governments in exile change their membership. They become more or less representative as time goes on. T claim that it can be shown, in the dealings of this Goyernment, that in every influence we have been able to bring to bear we have steadily striyem to get the Governments with whom we are in contact, the Governments in exile, more and more broadly based. It Is Dot so very easy. .
That is the exact position of the Agreement. There was no question whatever of any engagement having been made about the Eastern frontiers at that time or at any other time ?
Mr. Petherick: May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? He is referring only to the main Treaty of mutual assistance. I asked about a Protocol of which I read out an extract and it was perfectly plain. I will do it again if he likes. Clause S of the secret Protocol says :
“The undertakings mentioned in Article 6 of the Agreement, should they be entered into by one of the
– -contracting parties with a third State “__ shall we say Russia or some other State?— “ would cf necessity be so framed that their execution
should at no time prejudice either the sovereignty or terrttorial inviolability of the other contracting parties.’”
Mr. Eden-: I do not know that my hon. Friend has got the complete document. In fact, t do not know what he has got. I must frankly say, if he has got the complete document, he will see that that refers to an earlier Article, and the earlier Article makes it quite plain—FAn HON. MEMBER t “ What are these?”] My hon. Friend did not tell me he was going to read our from a secret document, but, naturally, as he did so, I have looked it up. and I have seen exactly what the position is. I can assure my hon. Friend, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will confirm it, that the answer I have just given was precisely intended to cover that secret Protocol. I can assure him there is no catch about the matter at all, and that what that Clause refers to, if he will look back, is to Article 3 of the Agreement, which refers to certain undertakings that might in the future be made— Mr. Petherick: I am extremely sorry, but Clause S says
“ undertakings mentioned in Article 6.” Nothing could be more specific.
Mr. Eden: I beg the hon. Gentleman’s pardon, but I have taken the trouble to look up this matter since he raised it. t was not even a member of the Government then, but I eon-suited those who were, and I think my right hon. Friend will bear me out that they spared no pains to tell the House exactly what the positien was, and it would have been wrong if the Government had not (lone so. What they made absolutely plain was that these measures only applied to aggression by Germany, and it does not in the least surprise me, If I may say so. I am now going to look into these documents and lay them on the Table. T do not ask my hon. Friend how he obtained this secret Protocol.
Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale) t Is it not rather disquieting, during this period when there was so very much interest in foreign affairs, that His Majesty’s Government should he making secret commitments with other Powers?
Mr. Eden: I really do not think so. We must not let a wrong impression go out. I have consulted my legal advisers, and in their judgment, and in the judgment of those concerne(l at the time, the effect of this secret Protocol was to limit—-precisely to limit—the obligations put before the House. not to increase them.
. . . Let me now come back to some of the points which have been raised, because I want to carry the House with me in the remaining arguments I have to make. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom asked what were the reasons why we failed to conclude a treaty with Russia in 1939. Here, again. I am dealing with matters which I did not handle, but I think the correct answer is something like this : Russia said at that time that if she was to conclude a treaty, she must have the right to move her troops across Poland or across the Baltic States, in the event of war xvith Germany. The Polish Government at that time were consulted on this point, and would not agree to the Russian demand. Although I do not pretend to be a historian, I think that that was, approximately, the main cause of the breakdown of those negotiations.
Sir A. Southby: Do I understand my right hon. friend to mean that our failure to come to agreement in 1939 was due to Russia’s demand for those portions of territory which t mentioned in the question I asked him in my speech?
Mr. Eden: Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will put down a Question about it on the Order Paper; it is a- little difficult for me to give a detailed answer at short notice, But I have consulted those who were concerned, and I think the answer I gave was the main cause of the breakdown.
Now I come to the main issue. Some of my hon. Friends have said, with warmth. that the decisions we arrived at at Yalta have become a matter of world anxiety. I really cannot accept that that Is true, So far as t know, the deepest
anxiety of all was caused to Goebbels. If the House will read some of the stuff put out by Goebbels, after the Yalta Agreement, they would see in that the measure of the success of that Agreement. But not only that. If the House would look at reviews of the American Press and, still more so, of the Swedish Press—Sweden has had a long traditional friendship with Poland—and of the Turkish Press, they would find in them a general and wide endorsement of what we set out to achieve at Yalta, It really is a wild exaggeration to say that the work we did there was a cause of anxiety. I cannot tell how these matters will work out in their later stages. t know how infinitely difficult the problems will be. It may be that we shall not succeed, but I think some of my hon. Friends would have been wiser had they reserved judgment until a later stage. There is no such thing as a perfect solution of this problem, but surely it is a step forward that the three Great Powers have agreed upon a method of handling it.
Since the Polish-Soviet Agreement of 1941 was unhappily broken by an incident which is fresh in the minds of the Hoose, I have been faced with two main anxieties in dealing with the problem. First, what would be the effect of failing to restore relations of Poland with Russia and, second, what would be the effect on the three great countries joined together in the prosecution of the war? Those are the problems we have to confront, If we are to restore Poland as a true, independent State she will need the help of each one of the three Great Powers to restore her devastated frontier. She cannot do that unless there is agreement between them. Some of my hon. Friends have said that a policy of continuing to recognize the Government here while the Lublin Government is recognized by Russia is of no assistance to Poland, although it may give us a great moral position. t am surprised at my hon. Friends using that argument. My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes), w-ho has just spoken, chided me once, I remember, for being an Idealist. I am not so sure that he would do that to-day, because he himself once said: –
“ As has been so often proved, those who are prepared for the sake of ideals to (disregard the realistic facts of the present situation, may indeed, as has been the case in the past, cause more unnecessary suffering than perhaps any other people.”
Mr. Raikes : Perhaps I have gained a little idealism while my right hon. Friend has lost a bit of it.
Mr. Eden : It seems then that we must be near agreement at last. Let me put the issue broadly. I share the feeling which my right lion. Friend expressed yesterday. It is difficult at times not to be oppressed by the weight of problems which lie upon Europe. They are infinitely greater than they were after the last war, There have been six years of war on an unparalleled scale t there has beea the devastation of air bombardment, which there ‘vas not last time, and the dislocation caused by the movement of millions of workers to slavery in Germany. If any life Is to be restored to Europe, if it is to be saved from anarchy and chaos, it can only be done by the three Powers working together. The right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke yesterday of the difficulties of maintaining unity in peace. Of course. he is right, but after what we have endured there is no duty more encumbent upon statesmanship than to try and strengthen that unity.
– and to try to find together in good faith a full solution of the problems which confront us all. . . .
. . . As I listened to some of the speeches I could not help feeling that some of my hon. Friends, in talking about Poland, had not only Poland in mind, but the fear that Russia, flushed with the magnificent triumphs of her Armies, was also dreaming dreams of European domination. This, of course, is the constant theme of German propaganda. It is poured out day by day and night after night and comes to us in all sorts of unexpected forms and guises. It was their theme before the war. It was then the Bolshevik bogy. and how well Hitler used it. How often visitors to Nurenberg were told by the Germans they met of the fear of Russia. I have had plenty of it ehueked at me at interviews with Hitler myself. Can anyone doubt that that theme, before the war, was an element in making it difficult for us to establish an understanding with Soviet Russia? Can anyone doubt that if we had had in 1939. the unity between Russ”a, this country and the United States that we cemented at Tauta. there would not have been the present war? T go further. Can anyone doubt that, so long as we hold that unity, there will not be another war? We do not say that we can establish conditions in which there will never be war again, but T believe If we can hold this unity we can estab
Sir Geoffrey Mander
Wolverhampton, East (Liberal)
. . , I hope that the Poles, whether in- the Polish Government in this country, whether outside the Government or in Poland, however bitter and disappointed they may be feeling, will take the opportunity that now presents itself to try to get something done. I urge them not to reject it out of hand by a precipitate refusal to play any part in the negotiations. It is their duty in the interests of their country to make the best of the situation which presents itself and try to obtain a reasonably representative Polish Government in Poland. We ought not to allow emotional sympathy for ideal solutions of particular problems to blind us to the overriding consideration that the three Great Powers are the people on whom we must rely ,for peace in the world for a considerable time to come. .
Sir Herbert Williams
Croydon South (Conservative)
. . . Many of us have been Informed that the wife of the Polish Prime Minister in London, together with a number of other ladies working for the Red Cross in Poland. has been arrested. This seems to me, in the light of this Debate and of the Crimea Conferevee, a very grave issue indeed, and, before this Debate ends, we ought to learn from the Foreign Secretary whether it is true or not, and if it is true, we ought to know what steps His Majesty’s Government are taking to safeguard the rights and liberties of these people against the actions of the Lublin Committee. . . .
. Edinburgh, East (Labour)
. . . I appreciate the chagrin of my Polish friends at having a decision about the future of their country taken in their absence; I appreciate their feeling of intense regret that their Eastern frontier, in particular, has been decided against their wishes; I appreciate their anxiety With regard to the future. But I would beg them not to carry their lament over these “ might have beens “ “ to the extent of failing to grasp the opportunities which are still in front of them. If I have learned one thing in life, I have learned this : . that when a thing has happened, and has happened irrevocably, then so far as possible it must be put on one side, and one must turn one’s mind to the future. Whatever may have been the theoretical ease before the division took place yesterday, It must be perfectly clear that Yalta is now the settle(l policy and that its decisions cannot be undone. I -would appeal to those who sponsored tIne cause of Poland yesterday to face that fact, They may regret—we all regret—that Poland has not been able to reach by consent a settlement with Russia in which hoth sides would feel they have a satisfactory solution, We may regret the proposed frontier, we may regret all kinds of tinings. but what is absolutely essential is that such advantages as Poland does get cut of the Yalta settlement shall be implemented and seized to the full.
I said I thought that the Debate yesterday was on a very high level, and that the case for Poland was put with cogency and sincerity. But I do think this : That if a good deal more time had been spent, not in criticism of the Government, but in trying to discover exactly what opportunities now remain, it is possible that the fruits of that debate might have been even more valuahle than they were, We have had the promise of the three Great Powers that there shall be a free and independent Po1and, that there shall be a fair transitional
– Government. and that there shall be. in future, elections of a free kind. To that the three Powers have put their hands and, in particular, the Prime Minister of this country has put his hand. The prestige and honour of this country are. therefore, bound up in that decision. and it is my advice to my Polish friends, and to those who so valiantly advocated their cause yesterday, that we should seek to develop, that promise, and make sure that It is carried out in the snirit as well as in the letter. I recognise that this may be hard advice, but I believe that it Is in the true interests of friends to give advice which is founded upon judgement. nnd not merely upon emotion. Therefore, I venture to give tha,t advice, believing it to be in the best interests of the Polish nation. and those whn have the interest of Poland at heart. . . .
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
. . The hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-underLyme (Mr. Mack) asked a question which I should like to answer because it helps once again to clarify a point about which there seems to be some doubt. He asked whether facilities are now to be given to the representatives of the Lublin Government to have contact with Polish seamen here, just as the representatives of the London Government have contact with them. The answer is, “ No.” We have in no sense recognised the Lublin Committee, and, may I add, we have no intention of recognising the Lflhlin Committee. We do not regard it as – representative of Poland at all. When my right hon. Friend and I met the representatives of this Committee in Moscow, I must say that they did not make a favourable impression upon us. There is no question, and the House need not be anxious that there .is any question, of our affording recognition to them-—not at all. I hoped that I had made that clear yesterday. but from some of the comments in the Debate, I am not sure that I did. It does not surprise me to hear, for instance, as I ‘vas told in this Debate, that the Lublin Radio Is pouring out streams of contentious stuff. I have no doubt what the Committee wants. Their purpose is to maintain the position they already hold; but that is not what we want, nor is It what the Yalta Conference decided upon. The Foreign Secretary of Soviet Russia and the Ambassadors are now beginning discussions in Moscow, and we shall see whether a broadly representative Polish Government can be created. If it can be created, and if we are satisfied that it is representative, then and only then will we and the United States Government recognise it. If it cannot be created, we shall stay as we are. If it can be, then that is a satisfactory solution. I hope that on this point there is now no further misunderstanding,
Mr. Mack: Is it the intention of my right hon. Friend, if he is not satisfied that tine Lublin Committee is representative of Poland to continue to recognise the present Government in London?
Mr. Eden. We have recognized the government which has gone through many changes. We witi continue to recognize it until a new Government Is created—If It Is created—as a result of the conversations in Moscow, and provided it can be regarded as broadly representative of the Polish peonle. T received a message a short while ago, to which T understand the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) referred, of the reported arrest of the wife of the nresent Polish Prime Minister in London and a certain number of people working with her in the Red Cross. [Interruption] She is reported to have been arrested in Poland. I have had no report about that except a message just before I came to the House. from the Polish Ambassador in London, Of course. we shall take that matter up, not with the Lublin Committee. which we do not recognise, but with the Soviet Government, at the same time Informing our American friends of the message we have received. I will then, in due course, when we have made our inquiries. report to the House the outcome of those inquiries, and of those representations. –
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University a-nd otlndrs who have been a little critical again to-day-and T must reply to them—really have not told us what alternative course we ought to pursue. What they have said is, “We do not think you ought to have got into this position.” Let me assure the House that we did not want to get into this position. It was because we did not wish to arrive at Ibis position that. a long time ago, my right hon. Friend and I began 6ur efforts—the moment when Polish-Russian relations were broken off—to try to restore them. T repeat what the Prime Minister said, that If little more than a year ago the Polish Government had felt able to come to a decision about the frontier position in the East. I a.m quite certain it would have been possible for us to make arrangements with our Allies whereby that Government would now he in Warsaw with Mr. Mikolajczyk as Its Prime Minister. It is just because we feared this present situation was going to arise that we made those efforts. . .
The foregoing is a selection of the speeches made during the Parlamenary Debates of 27th, March 1945 (Volume 408, No. 39-41.) for Polish Ministry of Stratton House, Stratton by Clamcnts Press. Portugal, London w C 2