The British Commonwealth Today
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 27 Mar 1952, p. 302-314


Description
Creator:
Diefenbaker, John G., Speaker
Media Type:
Text
Item Type:
Speeches
Description:
The British Commonwealth: some words on what it means today and to members of that Commonwealth. The speaker's attendance at a British Parliamentary Conference in Australia and New Zealand, and his opportunity there to meet with many members of the Commonwealth representing various religions, colour and race, giving him a concept of the Commonwealth that he didn't have before. Some personal reminiscences. Looking at the world situation today as an optimist; recalled events of the last few years on the military, political, and economic fronts as an illustration. Evidence recently given before the United Nations regarding conditions in East Germany. Vast changes that have taken place in recent years in many Commonwealth countries, Dominions and Republics. Messages that came through at the Conference. The speaker's belief that the British Commonwealth must strengthen itself by cooperative measures. Maintaining Great Britain as the keystone of the Commonwealth. Britain facing a bone-dry austerity programme designed to avoid national bankruptcy, while at the same time keeping her in the forefront of the advance of western freedom. The time for Canadians to make a declaration of help and assistance to Great Britain. Advocating again the establishment of a Commonwealth trade conference to bring together the experts from all parts of the Commonwealth to consider the convertability of sterling and the dollar of the Dominions. Why the speaker sees this as necessary. A response to criticism against Britain for purchasing coal, grain and lumber from the U.S.S.R. An admonition for Canada and other parts of the commonwealth to do their part in supplying Britain with these needs. The traditional market of Britain for Canada. The suggestion that Canada spend some defence dollars in the United Kingdom. Canada's closed doors and antagonism towards that policy by the coloured races who want Canada to develop our natural resources. The suggestion of a National Development and Production Board to make a survey of our national resources, to develop within Canada the expansion of mineral resources and strategic resources, far and beyond what is done today, and in addition supply every part of the Commonwealth with these needs should war come. Comparing economic development in Canada and the United States. Immigration and emigration figures for Canada and what they tell us. Holding back the forces of Communism. The H-weapon that is used by Communism today is hunger. The impossibility of securing the support of people who are poverty-stricken and fearful by the promise of democratic principles. The Colombo Plan and how it is working today. Canada accepting responsibilities under NATO. The need to mobilize the things of the spirit. Some words from Anthony Eden from a speech at Columbia University in January on the Commonwealth. The speaker's belief that the greatest agency in the world to preserve freedom, in co-operation with the United States, is in strengthening the bonds of the Commonwealth.
Date of Original:
27 Mar 1952
Subject(s):
Language of Item:
English
Copyright Statement:
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Contact
Empire Club of Canada
Email
WWW address
Agency street/mail address

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
"THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH TODAY"
An Address by JOHN G. DIEFENBAKER, Q.C.
Member of Parliament for Lake Centre, Sask.
Thursday, March 27th, 1952
CHAIRMAN: The Second Vice-President, Mr. H. R. Jackman.

MR. JACKMAN: Members of the Empire Club and our Radio Audience:

We have before us today a very large gathering and we are delighted to have one of the outstanding speakers in Canada to address us shortly.

Many of us quite naturally accept the conditions which surround us and determine our way of life as something which we can just take for granted. But our civilization, our democracy, our rights as individuals are all milestones which have been passed only after long and arduous journeys. On those journeys we must have leaders and we are fortunate that each generation throws up those who can lead us on the path to a fuller and more vigorous life.

Of such is our speaker today. John Diefenbaker is one of those truly great Canadians who is devoting his brilliant energies to the public life of this country. And may I say, as one who was his colleagues for some nine years, John Diefenbaker is serving us and serving his country at very great personal sacrifice, a sacrifice which very few of us who are not in the same position can fully realize, and I might here put in a word for those who serve us in public life, that a great many of them do so at tremendous sacrifice and are therefore well deserving of any help which you can give them.

John Diefenbaker was born in Grey County, but at a very tender age his family moved to Toronto and he went to school in East Toronto, to a little old red school house which is famous for having produced four Members of the House of Commons,--Mr. Joe Harris, Mr. Bob McGregor, Mr. George Tustin, and Mr. Diefenbaker.

Mr. Diefenbaker served Overseas in World War I, and on returning completed his education, and was called to the Bar at the University of Saskatchewan. Later he became a Queen's Counsel.

He was elected to the House of Commons in 1941, and his growth and development in that great body has been really outstanding. I know of no one who has grown as fast in usefulness and in the estimation of his colleagues in the House as has John Diefenbaker. It is he who has battled for the freedom of the individual against the State, battled in a way in which no one else can compare. He has been the one who has put forward the Charter of Human Rights, and not only in one session but has continued to do it in each subsequent session, until a charter of human rights is adopted. His incisive criticism has done much to keep the government on as good a track as it has been kept during these long years.

Mr. Diefenbaker and I have not always seen eye to eye on all questions, but I know today when he addresses us on the British Commonwealth that we certainly will be pulling together as we have so often done in the past.

Mr. Diefenbaker is a great Canadian, a selfless citizen and a good friend.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mr. John G. Diefenbaker!

MR. DIEFENBAKER: Mr. Chairman and Members of the Empire Club: First I want to thank Harry Jackman for his very kind words of introduction. Harry was kind enough to say that we do not always agree on things: as a matter of fact, he is an economist, and politicians, as the Rt. Hon. Mr. Meighen will agree, seldom follow the doctrines of economists. And over the years I have endeavoured to find a reason to explain why it is economists on occasion can be wrong, and I was very much impressed the other day in reading that the American Association of Economists, 2000 strong, met in the City of Boston for the purpose of discussing the subject "INFLATION, ITS RESULTS AND ITS CURE". When they arrived there they found that the fee for this year had been raised from $2 to $5 for membership in their own organization.

On this occasion I am going to speak on a subject that has been spoken on on many occasions, namely THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH, something of what it means today and to members of that Commonwealth. My reason for doing so is that within the last year or so I have had the opportunity of attending a British Parliamentary Conference that was held, in Australia and New Zealand, at which there were in attendance Members of the Commonwealth from every part of this Commonwealth, representatives of all religions, Christians, Jews, Brahmans, Buddhists, Mohammedons, Taoists representatives of every colour and race, from the United Kingdom and the Dominions, from Malaya and Singapore, from India, from the Gold Coast and from the West Indies and everywhere, and it gave me a concept of this Commonwealth that I never had before.

Making due allowance for the fact that there are many here of Scottish origin, I can say that I shall always remember one occasion on the North Island of New Zealand when we were met there by a representative of the Maori race. He welcomed us according to the traditions and in the manner of his great and ancient race, and in the Maori language he said how happy he was that W. S. Morrison, the present Speaker of the British House, was with us, the greatest authority in Britain on Gaelic and Gaelic culture. He said, "Some of you may not realize it but I have Scottish blood in my veins too." Everybody was slightly disturbed, but that was cleared away in a few moments when he said, "My grandfather ate the two first Highland Scotch missionaries that came here."

I think of the gathering on that occasion of these representatives from every part of this Commonwealth. Then I think of the events of recent years, 1945 when we believed the world saved--the hopes of 1945 dissipated by frustration and fear. The U.S.S.R. giving vocal support to International Union, while practising the culture of confusion, and a condition of semi-warfare everywhere in the world.

As one looks at the world situation today, one has to be an optimist not to believe 25 or possibly 50 years will pass by before the world once more will have a realization that in peace will come prosperity.

Only yesterday I read Lenin's speech, one of the first speeches he ever made, in 1921, when he said, "in order to achieve our aim, we must at all times engage in the most determined and ruthless war, a persistent struggle, bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative, against the forces and traditions of the old society."

The events of the last few years bear that out.

On the military front the freedom-loving nations are threatened by coercion and terror;

On the political front, the U.S.S.R. endeavours to arouse cleavages between nations and even within nations. Its working capital is insecurity--its chief stock in trade is hatred.

On the economic front, the U.S.S.R. endeavouring to undermine belief in the British Commonwealth, and everything for which this Commonwealth stands, and to build up the belief that Communism will raise the standards of down-trodden peoples and end discrimination, and end economic difficulties.

Just for a moment I am going to refer to certain evidence that was given recently before the United Nations regarding conditions in East Germany. East Germany today may be taken as the test-tube as to the manner in which Communism will operate if given the opportunity.

At the recent meeting of the United Nations in Paris, Herr von Brentano, a leader in the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Mayor of Berlin, Herr Reuther, presented a summary of conditions in East Germany. While elections were held and the population was forced to vote, there was only one list of candidates.

Tyranny stalks through the land. The Security Service has been built up with 150 officers and 50,000 spies, who can make arrests without warrant and who arrest and bring prisoners before judges who are politically fit. The legal profession was wiped out--93% of the lawyers belong to the Communist Party, and of the 3,000 practising in 1945, only 941 are still practising.

40,800 persons are under arrest as political prisoners, 185,000 have been interned in concentration camps, 96,000 have died. 25,000 women forced to work in the uranium mines.

Yet in the face of the experience in that test tube, there are still some in our midst who will say that "Communism has its advantages."

I am not going to deal with the United Nations today. Certainly the hopes of 1945 have been frustrated, but I have not lost faith. But I am going to talk of another organization, I think of the opportunity that the British Commonwealth has today for an appointment with destiny greater than all of that in its long history, and I saw something again the other day in the House of Commons of what this Commonwealth means when, on the death of the Prime Minister of Ceylon, the Prime Minister of Canada moved and Mr. Drew seconded, a motion of condolence to that Prime Minister's family, the House of Commons stood in silent memoriam to the memory of a man thousands of miles away of the Buddhist faith, and another race--the epitome of everything for which this Commonwealth stands.

I think too of another example, some three years ago when the Prime Minister of Canada, 190 years after the Battle on the Plains of Abraham, welcomed as the Prime Minister of another land within this Commonwealth, Prime Minister Nehru of India, 190 years after the Battle of Plassey.

Those are the things that give to one a realization of the genius of the British people in evolving this system without organization. General Smuts once said, it was the greatest human experiment in political organization, but it has no organization--as did another great Commonwealth statesman in the person of Right Hon. Arthur Meighen, who honours us in being here this afternoon.

Smuts said, "This human experiment in political organization," yet did you ever realize the fact that it has no organization?

Another time he said, "It is the proudest political structure of all time", yet it has no recognizable structure.

An American recently stated that it is "An unprecedented political system", yet it has no political system or structure. Yet it has one of abiding quality, spread in all parts of the world, representative of every race and creed.

While the United Nations and its predecessor, the League of Nations, have not proven to be outstanding successes in world organization, and have not worked, the British Commonwealth system, without organization, without an organized structure, has worked. That is the abiding thing about this organization.

I think one of the finest answers to what it is was given in 1938, when Von Ribbentrop was Ambassador in London and he was at a dinner on one occasion, and he was speaking about the British Empire, and he said, "If another war comes along, your Empire would collapse, for after all it is held together only by moonbeams." Over and over again he repeated that. Finally, a woman said, "Well, Herr Ribbentrop a chain is something you would understand. If you cut a chain it is finished, but I would remind you that if you cut a moonbeam the moonbeam will continue." That is indicative of the attitude of the Commonwealth today.

One of the things that impressed me at the Conference, these men and women, representative of every colour and race, changing, changing weekly, changing monthly, vast changes have taken place in recent years. On the one hand, Dominions, on the other hand Republics, that recognize the Crown only as a symbol of unity but not of authority, yet in nurturing freedom and developing freedom the Commonwealth has become stronger.

There are many who feel that we would destroy the forces of freedom, it has developed freedom everywhere. One of the finest messages of that Conference came from a Hindoo, when he said, "When you speak of a Commonwealth and it no longer exists, and when you say that the British Commonwealth no longer will be a force in world affairs, we represent the cause of freedom which it upheld. It still occupies one-fifth of the territory of the world, has 22% of the world's population and does 36% of the world's trade as compared with 9% by the U.S.S.R. and all its satellites.

And I would sum up the opinion of a Member of Parliament coming from Canada and having met with these representatives to the Commonwealth Conference, I would say that what the events of the last few years have proven is that the strength of freedom is the grant of freedom, and that the Commonwealth is built on sentiment, on service, on self-interest, and what some people do not always realize in these days when the lights of liberty are being extinguished in so many countries, selfpreservation as well.

It is a laboratory of political experiment that has reconciled liberty with varying degrees of independence. It is a paradox that it is composed of individual nations that act collectively without compulsion when danger threatens the freedom of the Commonwealth.

And having said those things, I come now to what I believe all of us must face--that is believing these things, what are we going to do?

I believe that the British Commonwealth must strengthen itself by cooperative measures. We must maintain Great Britain as the keystone of this Commonwealth. Today she faces a bone-dry austerity programme designed to avoid national bankruptcy, while at the same time keeping her in the forefront of the advance of western freedom.

In the past five months she has cut her imports by 1,350 billion dollars. As banker for the sterling nations in the summer of 1951 she had 3,800 billion dollars to her credit, and this was down to 2,335 billion at the end of the year. The United States is giving Britain grants of 300 million dollars to support the British defence programme.

South Africa's Finance Minister, Hayenga, has appealed to the Parliament of South Africa to let him draw substantially on South Africa's gold reserves to save the sterling area from bankruptcy.

I think the time has come for Canadians to make a declaration of help and assistance to Great Britain, and make an all-out contribution of food to help the people of Britain in their hour of travail. They live on poorer rations than they did in the days of the war. We have within our country an abundance of food far and beyond today that we require and far and beyond that trade today will permit us to dispose of.

Then I advocate once more that representatives from all sides of the House . . . for the establishment of a Commonwealth trade conference to bring together the experts from all parts of the Commonwealth to consider the convertability of sterling and the dollar of the Dominions, because the situation is such with South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India, all of these countries in the Commonwealth reducing their imports from Canada, we in this country will have lower exports to those countries by 100 million dollars in the next year.

What about Britain's position? I hear criticism on occasion of the fact she purchased coal, grain and lumber from the U.S.S.R. She can't purchase them here. In return she delivers machinery, metals, rubber and precision tools. Canada and other parts of the commonwealth should do their part in supplying Britain with these needs.

Britain has been our traditional market for apples, salmon, bacon and other agricultural products. She can't buy them today. We are spending millions on defence. Our blue print showing expenditures that can not be made in Canada, and many things we are purchasing from the United States, I have suggested on numerous occasions that we might well spend some dollars in the United Kingdom as part of our defence programme, making available to them in turn those monies to purchase some of their needs in Canada. 100 million dollars used in that way would do more today economically, more today to bind together the various parts of this Commonwealth than anything else that could be done. Yet when one suggests it, the answer invariably is that the matter is being considered.

Then I come to another problem. You see these various representatives of the Commonwealth, they know something of our wealth in Canada, and they ask us the extent to which we are developing the resources that are ours.

Today, in the world today, five out of every six of the people within this Commonwealth belong to the coloured races who are antagonistic because of our closed doors to them. Their request, their demand, their appeal is we build within our country to the extent of our development, the resources that we have, thereby rendering ourselves in a position to extend to those people some of the things that they would want.

And in the development of such a Natural Resources programme I would like to see convened within this country a National Development and Production Board, to make a survey of our national resources, to develop within this country now the expansion of mineral resources, and strategic resources, far and beyond what is done today, and in addition supply every part of the Commonwealth with these needs should war come; we would also be doing something in Canada to keep the tens of thousands denied here the opportunities which they believe the economic development of the United States permits. You say I overstate it. The records show since 1945, 540,000 people have come into Canada under our Immigration scheme, and in the same period of time 480,000 Canadians have left Canada. What we need today is a great concept of what this country can develop. I remember in one of the great speeches by the Rt. Honourable gentleman on this platform in 1920, a speech that is reported in his volume "Unrevised and Unrepented," showing some the potential development of Canada, something of what could be and should be done, something of what must be done if we are to preserve intact every part of this great Commonwealth and for the preservation of freedom.

And having said that, I now come to one other matter, not Charity, Business not Charity, but common sense. Those coloured races one after the other asked us to go back to our countries and ask Canadians to do our part in the mobilization of a great economic assistance plan to hold back the forces of Communism. You say there is no danger. A year ago India said there is no danger; the other day in elections it was found out that 30 Communists were elected to the New Parliament. Communism is on the march in India, and if India falls to Communism Asia falls to Communism.

We talk about "H" bombs and weapons. The great Hweapon that is used by Communism today is hunger. Only the other day Mr. Paul Hoffman, the great American business man turned world-philanthropist, made this statement: Communism would never have over-run China if the United States had gone into China with a rural reconstruction programme, and had spent one billion dollars in 1945. Action then would have saved thousands of lives and billions of treasure.

In other words, you can not, and you never can secure the support of people who are poverty-stricken and fearful by the promise of any democratic principle.

That is what the Colombo Plan is doing today, giving them a new opportunity in India and in Ceylon, Pakistan, Malaya and British North Borneo, planned on great proportions, as the years go by and the days pass and Communism marches over Asia, we become more apathetic, Communism, masquerading as nationalism, is on the march in Asia, in India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma. A raised standard of living is one of the answers. These countries require facilities to extend their food production--they need machinery and farm implements. Russia realizes that something must be done along this line is contributing 300 million dollars to China in order to raise the economic situation in China.

Those are but a few practical suggestions today in order to bolster the Commonwealth today in all parts of the world to meet the onrush of Communism everywhere in the world.

I am not going into the Pacific Defence Pact, but I do believe this, we in Canada with our international horizons lifted, must realize that when any part of this Commonwealth is in danger, we are in danger, and when Australia and New Zealand today stand in the line of Communist advance, nothing we can do would give them greater powers of resistance than to tell them we stand with them. You say that is far away and we should not take responsibility there. Well within the last three or four months we have accepted responsibilities under NATO.

Finally, members of this Club, I believe that if the Commonwealth is to be preserved, we must mobilize the things of the spirit. It is because I believe that, that I have been a constant advocate for a Bill of Rights in order to assure within our own country, under law, the freedoms that are ours, and above everything else we must end discrimination, which is the most powerful mobilizing influence which Communism has.

Discrimination anywhere within the British Commonwealth on the basis of color, can only be a prelude to the extension of Communism. Those people don't fear tyranny today, they have always had it. On the other hand, they do in the nationalistic march of today, above everything else, condemn anything which denies to them equality, denies to them the opportunity and privilege in equality to stand on their own feet, undenied with that opportunity by color or any other consideration. Anthony Eden summed it up in his speech at Columbia University on January 11th, when he said these words:

"We have unshaken confidence in ourselves and in our free institutions. We take pride in the Empire and in the production--they need machinery and farm implements. Russia realizes that something must be done along this line is contributing 300 million dollars to China in order to raise the economic situation in China.

Those are but a few practical suggestions today in order to bolster the Commonwealth today in all parts of the world to meet the onrush of Communism everywhere in the world.

I am not going into the Pacific Defence Pact, but I do believe this, we in Canada with our international horizons lifted, must realize that when any part of this Commonwealth is in danger, we are in danger, and when Australia and New Zealand today stand in the line of Communist advance, nothing we can do would give them greater powers of resistance than to tell them we stand with them. You say that is far away and we should not take responsibility there. Well within the last three or four months we have accepted responsibilities under NATO.

Finally, members of this Club, I believe that if the Commonwealth is to be preserved, we must mobilize the things of the spirit. It is because I believe that, that I have been a constant advocate for a Bill of Rights in order to assure within our own country, under law, the freedoms that are ours, and above everything else we must end discrimination, which is the most powerful mobilizing influence which Communism has.

Discrimination anywhere within the British Commonwealth on the basis of color, can only be a prelude to the extension of Communism. Those people don't fear tyranny today, they have always had it. On the other hand, they do in the nationalistic march of today, above everything else, condemn anything which denies to them equality, denies to them the opportunity and privilege in equality to stand on their own feet, undenied with that opportunity by color or any other consideration. Anthony Eden summed it up in his speech at Columbia University on January 11th, when he said these words:

"We have unshaken confidence in ourselves and in our free institutions. We take pride in the Empire and in the Commonwealth, where independent nations in whose fortunes the British have played a major part choose of their own free will to be linked with their Commonwealth partners.

"We see in this family of nations the same instinct for variety in unity for common action without constitutional forms, which has inspired our own political life at home. For us it is the source of faith and the mainspring of endeavour."

What shall we do?

He said,

"First, to build up sufficient strength to deter aggression and to prevent the intimidation of free and democratic peoples.

"Secondly, not to overstrain ourselves and our economics so that we give victory to Communism through the back door.

"Thirdly, as we grow strong, and when we are strong, to remember and make plain to all the strictly defensive and protective purpose of our armed strength.

"And finally, to seek, by negotiation from strength, settlements of disputes and lasting peace.

"We believe that this is the way out. We believe that our gathering strength can and must be used for peace."

I think the situation is dark. I think there is an urgency for action now among all the countries of the British Commonwealth with the United States. We realize today in this country we can no longer live under the delusion that what is happening in other parts of the world cannot happen here. We need faith, we need a mobilization of faith, courageous leadership, the willingness to sacrifice. Above everything else we need some concept of what this Commonwealth can do with its free nations dedicated to the principles of equality of nations without regard to race Above everything else, the Ark of the Covenant, freedom not only within their own nations.

Pericles said, the secret of liberty is courage. The British Commonwealth showed that courage in the past. It must show it in the future not only in faith but in deeds.

The United Nations greatest achievement, the League of Nations with a record on the credit side too of achievement, they had their failures. The British Commonwealth alone, having stood for freedom, today in all parts of the world is mobilizing again, not for offence but to preserve freedom. It is in that spirit today I have spoken to you, Mr. Chairman. I believe that the greatest agency in the world, in co-operation with the United States, to preserve freedom is in strengthening the bonds of this Commonwealth and not of weakening them.

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. H. R. Jackman, Second Vice-President of The Empire Club of Canada.

Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit




My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.










The British Commonwealth Today


The British Commonwealth: some words on what it means today and to members of that Commonwealth. The speaker's attendance at a British Parliamentary Conference in Australia and New Zealand, and his opportunity there to meet with many members of the Commonwealth representing various religions, colour and race, giving him a concept of the Commonwealth that he didn't have before. Some personal reminiscences. Looking at the world situation today as an optimist; recalled events of the last few years on the military, political, and economic fronts as an illustration. Evidence recently given before the United Nations regarding conditions in East Germany. Vast changes that have taken place in recent years in many Commonwealth countries, Dominions and Republics. Messages that came through at the Conference. The speaker's belief that the British Commonwealth must strengthen itself by cooperative measures. Maintaining Great Britain as the keystone of the Commonwealth. Britain facing a bone-dry austerity programme designed to avoid national bankruptcy, while at the same time keeping her in the forefront of the advance of western freedom. The time for Canadians to make a declaration of help and assistance to Great Britain. Advocating again the establishment of a Commonwealth trade conference to bring together the experts from all parts of the Commonwealth to consider the convertability of sterling and the dollar of the Dominions. Why the speaker sees this as necessary. A response to criticism against Britain for purchasing coal, grain and lumber from the U.S.S.R. An admonition for Canada and other parts of the commonwealth to do their part in supplying Britain with these needs. The traditional market of Britain for Canada. The suggestion that Canada spend some defence dollars in the United Kingdom. Canada's closed doors and antagonism towards that policy by the coloured races who want Canada to develop our natural resources. The suggestion of a National Development and Production Board to make a survey of our national resources, to develop within Canada the expansion of mineral resources and strategic resources, far and beyond what is done today, and in addition supply every part of the Commonwealth with these needs should war come. Comparing economic development in Canada and the United States. Immigration and emigration figures for Canada and what they tell us. Holding back the forces of Communism. The H-weapon that is used by Communism today is hunger. The impossibility of securing the support of people who are poverty-stricken and fearful by the promise of democratic principles. The Colombo Plan and how it is working today. Canada accepting responsibilities under NATO. The need to mobilize the things of the spirit. Some words from Anthony Eden from a speech at Columbia University in January on the Commonwealth. The speaker's belief that the greatest agency in the world to preserve freedom, in co-operation with the United States, is in strengthening the bonds of the Commonwealth.