"THE BRITISH ANSWER TO COMMUNISM"
An Address by HORACE KING, M.P., Labour Member for the Test Division of Southampton, England
Thursday, January 27th, 1955
CHAIRMAN: The President Mr. James H. Joyce.
MR. JOYCE: Our speaker today, Dr. Horace King, Ph.D., M.P., is a man of wide experience and varied interests. A Labour Member of the British Parliament for the Test Division of Southampton, and an Executive Member of the Labour Party, he was a teacher and a headmaster, he has written a good deal of light music, has directed choirs and, during the last war, conducted a "V" concert party which not only entertained the troops but also raised money for the Prisoner of War Fund.
Dr. King has specialized in the history of Parliament, its traditions and its customs. He has lectured frequently on the subject and has published a short book called "Parliament and Freedom". He has also published books of selections from Macaulay and Homer, and has edited some of the best Sherlock Holmes stories.
Born in 1901 in Yorkshire, he won his way with scholarships from the village school at Stockton-on-Tees to the University of London where he graduated with First Class Honours and was awarded a Research Exhibition.
For 17 years Dr. King was head of the English Department at Taunton's School, Southampton (founded in 1760). From 1947 to 1950 he pioneered as headmaster of one of the new secondary schools established after the passing of the Education Act of 1944.
Since 1950 he has given his full attention to Parliament and to County Council work. His wife is very active in local government and was Mayor of Southampton in the Coronation year.
DR. KING: I count it a rare privilege to be invited to address so distinguished a Club.
I have been deeply impressed and deeply touched by the kind and warm welcome that I have received in these days everywhere that I have gone in Canada. I am tremendously impressed by the vitality and the genius and the character of the Canadian people, by the vision shown in Canada's new, upsurging industries of the 20th century.
I have admired the architecture of the great cities in which I have spoken. Canada is indeed building in every way ... building economically and materially and spiritually.
If I may just say two things about Toronto ... I haven't time to speak of the magnificence of its buildings, and how impressed I am by this great hotel. I was asked to bring from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, when I spoke there some days ago, the cordial greetings of members of the Opera, Mr. Rudolph, one of its conductors, and members of the Guild, because of the fraternity that has been fostered by the annual visit of the Metropolitan Opera to Toronto.
The other thing I would say is this: I was in the House of Commons on the day when we decided, in our own small way, to associate ourselves with the people of Toronto in the great hurricane disaster and I wish I could convey to you the emotion that moved the whole of the House of Commons, on both sides, as we attempted, in a very tiny way, to repay the mountains of gratitude that you built up in the hearts of the British people for the generous help that you poured over the sea to us, year after year, during the war and after the war. Indeed, wherever I go, I try to express the gratitude the British people feel to the people of Canada for the enormous services they rendered to the cause of freedom in the Second World War.
My own City of Southampton has intimate associations with thousands and thousands of Canadian boys who have passed through our port. Southampton was badly blitzed in the war ... it was in poor shape at the end of it. We had the honour to be one of the Number One Targets chosen by Hitler. But Southampton is rebuilding, and I often think that the way in which Southampton, stricken deeply in the war years, is rebuilding itself, has refashioned its port as a great ocean terminal, has rebuilt the thousands of houses that were destroyed, has rebuilt the factories, and is playing its own part in the economic life of our country-all this is typical of the way in which Britain, after very grim post-war years is now beginning to turn the corner.
I have had the honour of visiting your Ottawa House of Parliament. Mr. Speaker invited me into his room. I met many of the members of all the political parties in the House of Commons, but the profoundest memory I shall carry away I think from Canada ... certainly from Ottawa ... is the moment that I spent in the Memorial Hall, and the moment that I spent in a Committee Room before that magnificent picture of Vimy Ridge.
Nobody in my country can ever forget what we owe to Canadian soldier boys in the two wars. The unity of purpose which bound together Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth and our great Ally, the United States, in the war years, preserved Britain and preserved West Europe for Freedom.
I sometimes think we take too lightly the wonderful heritage of freedom. I think sometimes we take too lightly the sacrifices that the lads in your country and in Britain made to keep that freedom.
And in the years which followed the war, the same generous economic help from this side of the Atlantic preserved Western Europe, preserved Britain from economic disaster, and economic disaster might well have been followed by political disaster. And I would say that today that same unity of purpose, that ever strengthening of the bonds which bind together the free countries of the world, are about the most precious thing in the world, are the only hope of guaranteeing mankind against the disappearance of the life of free men from country after country. For if in one corner of the free world the lamp of freedom is extinguished, then sooner or later the lamps will go out in other parts.
Now, we differ in details of policy. As free people we will always differ. If the Soviet Foreign Secretary speaks at the United Nations and is followed by the Polish Foreign Secretary and the Czechoslovakian Foreign Secretary, their declarations are remarkably similar, not only in principle but even down to words and almost to punctuation marks. We don't want the unanimity of the graveyard. We want the right of free people freely to differ among each other. But let us express those differences wisely, temperately, loyally, remembering always that what binds us together are deep, common heritages, so infinitely greater than the details which divide us. Let us remember too, that over the garden wall at all times is an enemy who will exploit at any time differences between the free peoples, who will talk anti-American in Great Britain, will talk anti-British in America, and talk anti-both of us in France, and in Germany. I think that the significance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is not only military. I believe that circumstances are driving the free peoples of the world, not only into military defence, but into closer political economic and spiritual union.
Now, I don't apologize for saying that I am a Christian and that I believe that the cementing bonds of that great union is the Christian faith.
It is against that background that I would address a few remarks to you on the subject of my lecture. I hope I shan't speak too long. I always look for the Chairman's gavel.
You may know the story of the Chairman who got impatient when a speaker droned on at length, took a swipe at him and missed him. The poor fellow accidently struck another man on the platform and he dropped to the ground. As they stooped over him to render first aid, he said, "Hit me again ... I can still hear him."
Dr. Sowby has just reminded me of the clergyman who said to his restive congregation, "I don't mind the congregation looking at their watches ... I do object to them putting them to their ears and shaking them."
Gentlemen, I don't believe it is enough merely to abuse Communism, to say rude things about Communism. I don't believe it is enough to label everything that you don't like as being Communist. I sometimes think that the best way to appreciate what has happened in the Soviet Union is to glance back at the French Revolution which began with an upsurge against social injustice and then proceeded, in the words of one of its illustrious leaders, to "devour its own children."
It was followed by a time in which Napoleon trampled over the countries of Western Europe and, ironically, as he built up a French Empire, he did so under the slogan, "Liberte, Egalite et Fraternite". Peoples in the countries which he conquered at first thought that that they were being invaded by friendly, tiberatino armies. They were to be grimly disillusioned.
Well, something not dissimilar to that has happened inside the Soviet Union. One by one the original members of the Politbureau disappeared, were eliminated, a dictatorship took control of the destinies of the Russian people ... a dictatorship stronger than the Czarist regime which it had supplanted, and it seems almost as though the old Russian policies, the old Russian Imperialist policies have been absorbed into the new Communist State.
At any rate, Russia has pursued policies in no way indistinguishable from those of old Imperialist Russia. The record is what matters, and if the slogans are still the slogan of "Workers of the World, Unite" and "Peace and the Brotherhood of Man", the simple fact remains that Russia is the one country in the years which followed the war which added millions and millions of acres of land and millions and millions of people to its territory.
While pursuing a nationalist imperialist policy, it has in every free country of the world Communists who will unconsciously or deliberately in those free countries support the ultimate aims of the Soviet Union.
I often distinguish in my own mind between the two kinds of Communists ... the innocent Communist, the stooge, the simple working class chap who is "against the government", who is against some grievance, who won't believe facts which militate against his faith in the Soviet Union, and on the other hand the cynical exploiters of those people, who really know what they are doing, who work on grievances which undoubtedly exist, who undermine in the trade union movement, who drive wedges in the natural gaps between master and man, who seek to prevent the compromise between social forces inside free peoples, which is the only rational solution of difficulties--and all this not because they are interested in eliminating grievances ... very often they would not want grievances to be remedied ... they would rather that they remained as a perpetual irritant. For the Communist seeks to shake the faith of free people in free institutions.
If that is so, then I believe it is our duty in dealing with Communism to make what I consider to be a positive approach-not merely to label every grievance as a Communist grievance, but to use the weapons, the instruments of political democracy to remove the sources of irritation that exist in any community, to use the instruments which have come down to us to lead society away from the injustices that exist and nearer toward perfection. I don't believe we shall ever get perfection.
This positive approach demands, I think, good leadership on the part of the trade union movement. It is for that reason in Britain men like Arthur Deakin are the chief objects of attack by the Communist Party ... the moderate trade unionist leader is always the victim of attacks by the Communist Party. It demands active trade union membership. It demands responsibility from those with whom the trade unions negotiate. It demands good local and national government.
We believe, certainly in Britain, that the most important social task of Democracy today is to prevent the recurrence of anything like the mass unemployment and poverty which seeped through the free world in the pre-war years. For poverty, unemployment, and the misery that comes with them, are a ripe field for the Communist exploiter to work on.
It demands education. A scientist, since I left Britain, speaking in London, has said "the alternatives are mass instruction or mass destruction."
We must explain patiently to our people just what Communism stands for. We must also explain to ourselves, we must explain to our young people, just how precious are the things that we take for granted, just how remarkable it is that I may say freely what I like as a free Briton, and to you as free Canadians, without looking over my shoulder to see whether I have said something which is dangerous, as in a police state.
As a matter of fact, if I may joke for a moment, the only time I was in a police state in Canada was when I spoke to Rotarians and because they knew my grandson liked Canadian Mounties, I found twelve toy Canadian Mounties on the table in front of me-a present for my grandson.
It demands too, an ever increasing realization that Democracy is the hardest form of government. Democracy doesn't mean sending a bunch of men to Parliament, sending a bunch of men to City Council, and then allowing them to deliver a new Jerusalem to citizens who think they have done their duty by voting once every two years, or once every four years. In passing, this is one of the features of your life in Canada that has impressed me greatly ... the activity of Club after Club to which I have spoken ... different kinds of clubs, voluntarily giving themselves to active Democracy, to active understanding of the problems which confront every responsible citizen in a free democracy.
Mr. President, if what I have said so far is true about the domestic scene, then it becomes infinitely more true when we turn to the depressed areas of the world, to the millions of people between the free world and the totalitarian world, for whose soul we are battling at the moment ... the peoples of India, of Africa, of Southeast Asia, who are scratching a living from the surface of the earth, unable to accumulate capital resources which they might put into machinery and into modern agriculture, into discovering their raw materials, into industrializing their countries ... parts of the world where the death rate among children is five, six, seven, eight times that among our own children.
I am one of those simple people who believe we shall never have built the kind of world God would want to see until all children all over the world have the same opportunity of surviving childhood, of building up healthy and happy bodies and developing whatever talents God gave them. I believe it is our Christian duty to reach out a helping hand to the under-developed peoples of the world. But even if it weren't a matter of righteousness, if we leave the middle world in its poverty and its hunger, how easily can people like that in their ignorance ... ignorance is the breeding ground of Communism ... how easy can these people be told that the cause of all their misery is the old conquering white races. "All you need is a revolution and everything in the garden will be lovely," says the Communist.
So the battle for the under-developed part of the world is hart of the battle for the extension of the free world. With that in mind, it is worth remembering that that is just what the United Nations has been doing. We are sometimes inclined to think of the great failures of the United Nations. But we ought to remember the positive achievements of the United Nations ... the great special agencies set up such as the Colombo Plan ... which is possibly one of the key plans for winning this planet, in the long run, for freedom.
In my own country we were a great colonial power. The postwar history of Britain has been the history of a nation not only reaching the hand out to the subject races formerly under its control, but recognizing the legitimate national aspirations of all people in the world. We need today to think internationally, probably more than ever before ... yet at this moment in world history, more than ever before the poorest people in the world, the longest subjugated peoples of the world are saying, Persia for the Persians, Egypt for the Egyptians, India for the Indians, and Pakistan for the Pakistani. That cry sounds strangely familiar to those of us who believe in Britain for the Britons and Canada for the Canadians.
I sometimes think that when history comes to be written ... it is difficult to speak of history and judge it when you are living in it ... when the long-term history of this part of the century comes to be written, possibly the most significant action of Britain in post-war years was the recognizing of India's right, and Pakistan's right, the right of the people of Ceylon, the right of the people of Burma, to independence. It may be that India and Pakistan are destined to play a great part in bridging the gap between Asia and the European and American races.
I know it is difficult to see this at the moment, when Nehru sits sometimes so much on the spikes on top of the Iron Curtain that when we hope that he will look both west and east, his eyes seem to be mostly Asiaticward. But we have got to remember that India is a free people. Every nation in the British Commonwealth makes its own policy. The policy of each individual member of the Commonwealth takes its own slant, takes its own inclination from the kind of neighbours with which it is surrounded. India has to the north of her six hundred million Chinese people as neighbours with whom she must come to be on living terms.
I have time, Mr. President, to say only one word about defence. Just before I left Southampton I chaired a meeting for the American Consul, who in 1945 was a young assistant at San Francisco.
Wordsworth said of the French Revolution: "Bliss was it in that morning to be alive, but to be very young was very heaven." And those at San Francisco and all the wartime Allies said at San Francisco, "The United States, the Soviet Union, the members of the British Commonwealth, have underwritten world peace for our time, and indeed for all time."
It is a matter of cold fact that had the United States and the Soviet Union really underwritten peace, then world peace today would be certain and would be lasting. Russia has thrown away oceans and mountains of good will in the years which have followed. We demobilized ... you demobilized ... the United States demobilized. I can remember Sir Winston in the House of Commons, in Opposition (and as terrible in opposition as in power!) attacking us for not demobilizing quickly enough. But Russia, maintaining her armed strength, increasing her armed strength, pursued intransigent policies, in every point of difference between us, using the veto, again and again and again. Then came the rape of Czechoslovakia, the Berlin air-lift, and aggression in Korea. And the free nations of the world, who wanted to do anything but rearm, who realize the waste of rearmament, who realize the jobs that the labour and the skill of man have waiting for them when we can get rid of the threat of war, were driven to rearm in self-defence, to build up their military power, and to integrate that military power in the North Atlantic Treaty Organizaion.
Of that I would only say this: we build that strength against nobody. We have no desire to wage aggressive war against the Soviet Union or anybody else. We build our strength to defend ourselves, to defend the free way of living, because we realize that only from a position of power is it possible to talk to the powers on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
It may be that the historic duty of our generation is to hold world peace. A tremendous responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the Foreign Secretaries of the world today. I watched Ernie Bevan die daily in the House of Commons, as he wore out his life in quest of peace.
I watched Sir Anthony Eden two years ago, and it seemed that he was going the same way. It is one of the happiest things, and all British people feel thankful, not only for the miraculous return to health of Sir Anthony Eden, but for the remarkable contribution that he is making in these days in the international councils of the world.
And I would say that Foreign Secretary Dulles, and your Secretary of External Affairs, Mr. Pearson, and Sir Anthony Eden, and indeed the foreign representatives of all the free peoples of the world ... and indeed the foreign representatives of the countries across the Iron Curtain demand the prayers of every good thinking person on this planet. On our own freely chosen, freely elected diplomatic representatives, speaking for free people, pursuing a very difficult and dangerous and highly trying task, which demands the patience and the wisdom almost of angels, watching danger spots flare up, and danger spots recede ... on these men is a responsibility almost beyond description. And the duty of democrats everywhere is to try to understand the issues and to accept our responsibilities as individual citizens of free communities.
It is in that spirit that I think ultimately we shall conquer. I am not a prophet ... there is no prophet in the world that can look fifty years ahead ... but I have a deep abiding faith in the inheritance of the free world, and I believe that if it can be wise and temperate without appeasement, resolutely saying No step further, but equally resolutely looking for the first signs of reason from the other side of the Iron Curtain, if we can only do that long enough, all will be well for mankind. If we can prevent the shooting war from breaking out for long enough ... and everybody in Britain and indeed everybody who thinks at all in any country of the world realizes that the Third World War would be third world tragedy beyond description ... it may be that our duty is just to hold on ... if we can only hold on long enough I believe that dictatorships contain the seed of their own destruction and that some day the people of the Soviet Union and the people of China, the people of Poland, the people of Czechoslovakia, and the people of Bulgaria and Hungary will themselves reach forward to the free way and live freely with their brothers on our side of the Iron Curtain.
Gentlemen, it has been a great honour to be here today and I am very, very proud to have been asked, not only to speak here, but to speak before representatives of almost every walk of life in Canada. I count this last two weeks among the most precious of my life.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Dr. C. C. Goldring, the Second Vice-President of the Club.