- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Dec 1952, p. 129-143
- Fleming, Donald M., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The simple matter that it now is to visit Central Europe compared with four years ago. The increasing importance of Central European affairs for every Canadian, and why. Going to Britain, Germany and France in order to feel the pulse of Western Europe. Fearing the weakening of our position in Central Europe, still the most critical area in all the world today. A look at the economic recovery of these three nations. Recalling the world four years ago. A detailed look at the economy, society, government, politics and people of each of Germany, France, and Britain. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The speaker's visit to its headquarters in Paris and an extended conference with Lord Ismay, the Secretary General, and others. Some facts in connection with the development of NATO. Progress being made by NATO. The staff of NATO. The role being fulfilled by the Canadians. The Canadian Brigade. Conduct of the troops, and stories circulating about them. The arrival of the squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The question of German Rearmament, influenced by Russian aggression. Some last words about the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Britain's leadership.
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- 11 Dec 1952
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- "THE PULSE OF WESTERN EUROPE"
An Address by DONALD M. FLEMING, Q.C., Federal Member for Toronto-Eglinton
Thursday, December 11th, 1952
(Mr. John Cowan presented a copy of "CANADA'S GOVERNORS GENERAL, 1867-1952", to the Guest Speaker.)
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. John W. Griffin.
MR. GRIFFIN: Before introducing our speaker I want to say a few words about our Year Book. The important place the Year Book holds in The Empire Club programme was illustrated just a month ago. We received a letter from one of our members, from which I quote: "I am an old man, well on in my 100th year.... Have not been able to attend meetings of the Club for years, but I do enjoy the book of addresses. . . ." Two of our guests at this table today are Mr. T. W. Best and Mr. Douglas Best, whose firm produces the book for us. Without their very generous help it would not be possible to have a Year Book at all and I am happy to have this opportunity, on behalf of our one thousand six hundred and ninety-seven members, to say 'Thank you'.
My Lord Chief Justice, Members and Guests of The Empire Club of Canada: "The duty of the Opposition is to propose nothing, oppose everything and turn out the government." This succinct, if somewhat facetious statement was made by a member of the Mother of Parliaments over a century ago. It expresses in words one of the great glories of our way of life--the existence of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition with their duty of voicing constructive criticism of and maintaining close surveillance over the actions of the government of the day. Our speaker today is one of those who fulfills his parliamentary duties in the highest traditions and can proudly recall that Pitt and Disraeli, Gladstone and Churchill have also known what it was like to sit opposite The Treasury Bench.
Donald Fleming received his early education in Galt, won the Governor-General's Gold Medal at Varsity and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1928 with two awards for his scholarship. Following political experience as School Trustee and Alderman in Toronto he was elected to Parliament in 1945 and re-elected in 1949. He is not only a Member of Parliament but a student of Parliament and was a Canadian delegate to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in London in 1948 and to the recent Conference in Ottawa. He made extensive tours of Europe in 1948 and again in October of this year.
I now call on "Dr" Fleming to feel "The Pulse of Western Europe".
MR. FLEMING: Mr. President, My Lord Chief Justice and fellow Members of The Empire Club of Canada: I must confess to you at the outset that I face this meeting with some degree of trepidation, not because you are hostile, but because of a cold and strain to my vocal cords, my voice departed over the week-end and has only been coming back by degrees.
I thank the President for his very warm welcome, and you for your reception. Coming from the shades of the Opposition at Ottawa, it is a novel, refreshing experience to be greeted in this way. It is a very great honour that has been done me in being invited to address our Club today and share with you some of the very interesting experiences of my trip this fall to England, Germany and France.
When it was my privilege to speak to this Club last, just four years ago, it was following a more extensive trip through Western Europe. At that time I spoke to you on the subject, "Where the Iron Curtain Falls", drawing principally upon my observations in Greece and Berlin. This time the trip was less extensive, but grippingly interesting. I haunted Westminster for a week, with conferences with some of the leading figures in British public life; I spent three days in Paris in conferences of a similar nature, and four days in Germany.
It is a simple matter now to visit Central Europe compared with four years ago. Instead of flying into Berlin, as I did in 1948 with the RAF airlift, one flew this time on a commercial plane to Dusseldorf, and drove from Dusseldorf to Bonn and Cologne over Hitler's autobahn. I had a visit in Bonn and Cologne, then a drive of 200 miles through the pleasant German countryside up to Hanover, where I spent a very interesting evening with Brigadier Walsh, discussing the experiences of the Canadian 27th Infantry Brigade.
The following morning I saw something of the Brigade, and from there proceeded by plane to Berlin; had a couple of days in Berlin, and came out via Frankfort and Paris. I was exceedingly fortunate not only with appointments but also with the weather. After the unhappy experience of Canadian aviation in the weather of recent days, you will be surprised to know that during all my experience in Europe every plane I used left on time and arrived either on time or ahead of time.
Central European affairs are a matter of increasing importance for every Canadian. There is no escape from that fact, and to an increasing degree those who are called upon to hold positions in public life will have to be prepared to devote time and study to external affairs. It is particularly important for those who sit in Parliament because year after year External affairs are occupying a more important place in debates in the Canadian House of Commons. In visiting Western Europe then I was going in search of first-hand information, and I think I added considerably to the impressions that I had formed beforehand.
To feel the pulse of Western Europe, it seems to me today one must go to Britain, Germany and France. It may be that in feeling the pulse of any particular quarter of the globe that pulse will shift. I think in recent years it has taken a decided shift toward Germany. In any event, what I have to offer you today is based upon a feeling of the pulse of what is still the most critical sector in the world. We attach a great deal of importance, of course, to what has been going on in Korea and SouthEast Asia, but much of our concern there is attributable to the fact that we fear the weakening of our position in Central Europe, for that is, after all, still the most critical area in all the world today.
In sharing with you these experiences I may not be able to cover all the ground, but I would like to say something of such subjects as economic recovery, the risk of war, the future of NATO, the strength of Communism, the political future of Western Europe, and perhaps some of its probable influence on our own country.
The economic recovery of these three leading nations of Western Europe is impressive to anyone who recalls conditions of four years earlier. In all three production today exceeds pre-war production. That is particularly striking in Germany, when we recall that the production of Western Germany exceeds the entire production of prewar Germany. The cities are brighter, the people have a more cheerful outlook. Food in Germany appears to be ample, food in France is plentiful; food in Britain has improved very considerably in four years, although the Old Country still is very short of meat, butter, cooking fats and other things.
There is no unemployment in these countries today except in certain pockets, of which perhaps Berlin is the most conspicuous. The shops are on the whole well stocked, but there are yet many serious problems on the economic as well as on the political front. In measuring this heartening progress' let us never forget the part that has been played in it by aid from the United States. I was there four years ago, and it was possible to see the beginnings of the working of Marshall Aid in the economic life of these countries. The United States has played an important role in this return of economic strength to these countries.
Now may I tell you something of Germany. I well remember as an undergraduate of the University of Toronto in 1921 hearing a very interesting lecture by Professor Hodder Williams entitled, "The Return of the Turk". He opened his address with these dramatic words, "The Turk has returned." It would be equally true today to say that the German has returned. No one can visit Germany today without being very deeply impressed with the evidence of recovery in Germany, and without the very profound conviction that Germany is going to be an influential factor in shaping the events of the world. The people are hard at work. There are no labour troubles in Germany. After the first World War United States capital contributed much toward German recovery; now it is largely due to the efforts of the Germans themselves, that they are enjoying a return of economic strength. This has been an achievement of hard work on the part of the people. They are working long hours. They have known that hard work is the only way in which they can achieve their economic salvation. The production in the Ruhr exceeds the pre-war production of that part of Germany, and along the autobahn they are bearing their products to the world. In the fields one sees the German families at work gathering in the harvest of potatoes and turnips. Dusseldorf is becoming the financial centre of Germany, and has enjoyed a measure of repair of the great war damage done.
Bonn before the war was a quiet University town. It sustained terrific damage from air bombardment, and it was now chosen as the seat of government because there was a supply of available buildings. Government missions have been exceedingly cramped, with one exception, and that is the Mission of the United States which has built some buildings, around which one may drive with awe and wonderment. The civilian staff of the American Mission at Bonn totals 4,000. 1 saw the Bundestag and Bundesrat. As you know, the German Parliament is a bicameral Legislature; the Upper House contains representatives from the various States. The new Germany is organized on a Federal basis, and West Berlin is included as one of the States in the Bundesrat.
Berlin itself in the division of responsibility among the victorious Allies became an island in the sea of the Russian occupied zone of Germany. You will remember, apart from the substantial areas of Eastern Germany which were assigned to Poland, about 19 million Germans remained in the zone occupied by Russia, and about 49 or 50 million in the zones occupied by the Western Powers, but Berlin itself is an island in the Russian zone. It is approximately 130 miles from the British zone.
I looked forward with more anticipation to my visit to Berlin than any of the other cities, because I can never efface from my mind the memory of Berlin in 1948 at the height of the air lift. If Britain and the United States had not stood firm at that time in the face of that open challenge from the Communists, the course of history might have been entirely different, and we may thank those in office who had the courage, both at Washington and London, in those fateful days to stand up to the Russians and say they would not be forced out of Berlin, for the fact that we have today NATO and the position of growing strength in Western Europe.
These, Gentlemen, are the impressions I formed of Western Berlin. First, there has been tremendous progress since 1948. Goods in the shops are plentiful. Food is reasonably sufficient. There is an infinitely greater supply of fuel than there was then, and there has been substantial progress with rebuilding. I told you when I addressed you four years ago that I went into one Ladies' Dress Shop in Berlin, and found there were two women's dresses in the shop. I told you of a boot and shoe store where a supply of boots had just arrived and people were lined up in a queue. I told you of a chauffeur who told me his sister had had a pair of boots on order for 11h years. The stores now are well stocked, the goods are of excellent quality, and the prices are the lowest I encountered anywhere, and might be the envy of any one of us at this time of Christmas shopping. And the shops are bright--they are lighted. Four years ago there were no lights, and they put candles in the windows of the shops at dusk and tried to carry on with them.
The Kurfurstendam, Berlin's Fifth Avenue, at night is ablaze with lights. You don't realize that the lights come from shops that occupy the first floor of the buildings, and in place of the upper floors are the skeleton walls standing. The ruin to be seen in all parts of Berlin is still appalling, even in the face of reconstruction. A greater number of bombs were dropped on Berlin than on all the British Isles, and the unhappy evidence is still there.
The people are calm and vigorous. They look happier than four years ago. They are well clothed, and look reasonably well fed. Air transport has improved very much. The national air lines of almost every country in Europe are operating into Tempelhof Airport in Berlin. There are, of course, no German air lines as yet.
Unemployment is a very serious problem in West Berlin. There are 300,000 unemployed out of a total population of 2 1/4 million. This, of course, is the fruit of Russian policy. The recovery of Western Berlin has been slowed by the Russians who control all means of land access into Berlin, and they allow only 19 trains a day to go in. I looked over the railway tracks in Berlin and was amazed to see two shining tracks, but the rest of the tracks are rusty. The explanation is that the Russians allow 19 trains a day and no more. All other cargo must come in by costly air operation.
Building materials are scarce. Much of the rebuilding that has been done is the result of the use of brick from damaged buildings, which has been covered up by a brown stucco. The Germans seem fond of this brown stucco on buildings.
I can assure you the horrors of the Russian occupation, after the Russians took possession in the spring of 1945, have not been forgotten by the Berlin people, and I doubt if they will ever forget the record of burnings, rapings, and shootings that went on.
The paradoxes still remain in Berlin. The original Russian War Memorial stands within the British Sector. Every day Russian troops march to it through the Brandenburg Gate to post and relieve the sentry on it. In 1948 the French Tricolour flew from the top of the Franco-Prussian War Memorial. In 1952 it was missing. I was struck by that and asked the reason, and I was told the French. as a generous gesture, pulled down the Tricolour on the last day of the airlift.
To go into the eastern sector of Berlin is a fascinating experience for anyone. There is no trouble about entering the eastern sector. I saw no barricades. The problem, of course, is in leaving that sector. I may say I drove through the Russian sector of Berlin in a car from the Canadian Military Commission, and those magic letter, "C.D." (Diplomatic Corps) give one entry into the sector. The first thing one encounters is a sign reading, "You are now entering the democratic sector of Berlin", and the last sign which one sees on leaving reads, "End of the democratic sector of Berlin." Of course we are not unfamiliar with the way those beautiful words, "Democracy" and "Peace" have been prostituted by the Russians to serve evil ends.
The next thing which one encounters is the profusion of flags and bunting. The Russians do not put up just one; they simply plaster the whole front of a building with red bunting and red flags, of course, with the hammer and sickle. Pictures of Stalin confront one on every street, and, of course, there are others of the top ranking leaders--I saw Gottwald of Czechoslvakia, Mao Tse Tung of China and others.
Communist shops have been introduced into the eastern sector of Berlin-what is known as the Handelsorganization or "H.O." Shops, where those who hold cards of the Communist party are permitted to shop and purchase at low prices. The Russian grip is everywhere to be seen in Eastern Berlin, and the picture is a much less impressive one than in Western Berlin. In the midst of this slower progress in Eastern Berlin, however, they have set up one showpiece on a street quaintly named "STALINSTRASSE", one of the largest housing projects in all the world. It will cover blocks upon blocks of that street. It is in various stages of construction, from completed sections down to blocks still littered with rubble. And this is going to be used by the Communists in their propoganda in Europe, and no doubt Canada also, as a showpiece. I can only say it is far from representative of conditions in Eastern Berlin. However, this is quite an imposing looking building project, and, of course, I asked who will be the fortunate persons who will enjoy places in apartments, and I was told they would go to Party workers and Activists-activists being those who do more. than their assigned output on the Assembly lines.
How are these buildings built? Of course there is a certain amount of labour there all the time. I was told artisans also are "invited" to work on this big building by formal invitation. What happens is a pat on the shoulder and an invitation to contribute his next Sunday or holiday to work on this housing enterprise on Stalinstrasse, and if there is any hesitation there is always the reminder, "What will the Government think of you?" "Thou art not Caesar's friend" has been a compelling form of coercion from the days of Pontius Pilate.
The Imperial Palace has been demolished and has given way to a parade ground in the Russian sector.
I saw something of the famous East Berlin police. I saw them on traffic duty and I saw a truckload of them passing. One can't help but be struck by the youth of the East Berlin police. They take lads into the force at sixteen years of age, and it is not to be wondered at that there are shooting incidents. There are many escapes even from these police over to the Western sector of Berlin every day, as well as many other escapes. You will appreciate there is no way for these people to leave Berlin by land: the only way they can leave Berlin is by air.
Now what of France? There is no rationing in France. There are goods aplenty, but there is probably some of the most acute inflation in the world today. Production is greater than in pre-war days, but this does not mean that everybody is working hard, because I am told they are not. France is still suffering heavily from the effects of two wars-loss of nearly 11/a million men in the First World War and 600,000 in the Second. She is still suffering from the effects of the German invasion. The fear of war in France is very, very great: they know the horrors of German occupation, having so recently experienced it, and they have a great fear of what they know to be the inevitable Russian occupation should a war come soon. People still dislike paying taxes, but on the other hand, there are men of high character in the French government. Unlike the situation before the War, there are a number of men who are practising and professing Christians. I am told that Ministerial corruption has disappeared at the higher levels. France has always leaned to the development of the mind rather than to the cultivation of the highest spiritual qualities.
France is being bled by the war in Indo-China, which has been a staggering drain on France's limited supply of men and resources. Half of the French Army is in IndoChina today, and it is the better half. Those divisions in Indo-China are seriously needed to strengthen the French Army in metropolitan France. Casualties have been heavy among French officers. France had a great deal of financial assistance through the Marshall Aid, but is is worth recalling that Mr. Acheson, in giving testimony before a Congressional Committee a year ago, did say the expenditure of France on the war in Indo-China has exceeded the help that France has received in Marshall Aid.
What of the strength of Communism in France? Four years ago the Communists were making their greatest open challenge. Bloody riots and strikes were aplenty. The situation is, I am happy to say, very different today. Communism has greatly waned in strength in the past four years. There are many evidences of this. In the first place, the French are still completely individualists; they reject all thoughts of regimentation. How else could you explain how they drive in Paris? In the second place, it is still the ambition of every Frenchman to own land. He has seen so much of inflation, that he looks upon land as the greatest-hedge to inflation.
Politically,--while Communist candidates polled 26% at the general elections in 1951, we should not assume that 26% of the electorate is Communist, because many in so voting just took a chance. Notwithstanding the fact that Communist candidates polled 26% of the vote, the numbers elected dropped from 180 to 100 in that election.
The Communist influence in French Labour has also been reduced. Four years ago the principal French Labour organization, La Confederation General du Travail was completely under Communist domination. Since then that great French labour leader, Leon Jouhaux, who has done so much to wrest French Labour from Communist influence, led the non-Communists out of La Confederation.
In the next place, there are internal divisions amongst the Communists in France. And next-and this is a factor of striking importance,-outside of a handful of able and popular leaders, the Communists have no men of outstanding ability in the French Assembly.
Here is one striking fact: the circulation of L'Humanite, the Communist daily, which at one time exceeded 500,000 copies, now has dropped to 200,000.
In face of these facts Moscow has instructed the French Communists to make common causes rather than fight everybody.
What about General DeGaulle? We can never forget the debt we owe that brave, if arrogant man, for the way he led the French forces of freedom at a time when there were few enough Frenchmen ready to continue the fight against Hitler. Those who followed him in postwar elections were something of a conglomeration. I am told many of those who were his most ardent followers were very anxious to redeem themselves in public life. Nevertheless, his political influence has been definitely weakening. The fact that he has been unwilling to cooperate with any other parties in the French Assembly has closed every door to Ministerial office to his followers. As a matter of fact in a stormy session of General De Gaulle's followers the story is told, General De Gaulle was berating one of his followers, saying to him, "Without me, Monsieur le depute, what would you have been?" The reply was "A Minister."
The North Atlantic Treaty, of course, is little more than two years old. I visited its headquarters in Paris, and there had an opportunity of an extended conference with Lord Ismay, the Secretary General. The following day I had the good fortune to meet the other outstanding figure in NATO, General Ridgeway, its Commander-in-Chief. The temporary quarters of NATO are a temporary building, erected in 1951. As we sat there conversing in Lord Ismay's office, showers of dust came down on us, as the wind blew the insulating material through the walls.
These facts may be of interest in connection with the development of NATO. Lord Ismay did not want to go to NATO, but he yielded to Mr. Churchill's persuasion. He went there because he felt NATO was the only way to peace. There is close co-operation between Lord Ismay and General Ridgeway. After General Eisenhower retired, General Ridgeway was appointed field commander only. The Council answers for the government and for all civil governmental relations. The Commander-inChief has no problems of that nature on his shoulders. The United States would have wished Lord Ismay to have been appointed as Director General instead of Secretary General, but he thinks this would have been fatal.
NATO is making progress. It is gathering momentum, and as Lord Ismay said, "Just let it grow." "The trouble is everybody, every day, is trying to stir up the seed and pour in more water, just to see if it is germinating." There is a great need of public support.
You will be interested to know that the staff of NATO numbers 250. The Canadian Delegation staff numbers 22, headed by Mr. Arnold Heeney, enjoying Ambassadorial rank. The delegation of the United States numbers 1,100, including three ambassadors.
I was greatly privileged to visit the Canadian 27th Infantry Brigade. In the light of what we are reading in the papers, I wonder if it would be amiss to recall some simple facts. The first is that the role being fulfilled by that Canadian formation is a role unparalleled in Canadian history. Never before has a Canadian Military force in time of peace been sent into another country in a role other than an occupying role, and it was hard for the Germans to understand that the Canadian forces were not coming as occupying forces for Britain and America. This meant that Brigadier Walsh had an unprecedented role to play. Relations with the Germans have been made more difficult by the initial failure of the Germans to understand that the Canadians were simply coming there to strengthen the forces of defense in case of an aggressive attack by the Russians; but nevertheless relations have steadily improved. It is perhaps unfortunate that the Canadians were put down with the Germans in the section they were, for the Hanoverian's are the most dour of all the Germans, and also that they came to Germany around Christmas. The result was much homesickness. The Canadian Brigade is just 45 miles from the boundary of the Russian Zone; it is just 45 miles straight down Hitler's autobahn.
The quality of the Canadian Brigade is best attested by the fact that everyone of the British Divisions in Germany, including the flower of the British armoured forces asked that the Canadian Brigade be attached to it. The co-operation between the Canadians and British has been excellent. The appearance of these Canadian troops would make any Canadian proud. They look fit and smart.
Now a word about the conduct of the troops. I may say to you at once that the stories that have been circulated in this country concerning the conduct of the troops are very much resented by all ranks of the Canadian Forces in the 27th Infantry Brigade. There have been a few incidents, of course, but these have been much magnified. If the Canadians go about their duties, and no incidents and misconduct of any kind occur that does not make news. But if there is the odd incident, that does make news, and often headlines.
The Canadian troops are fed on British rations, but they have been given twice as much meat as the British forces. They are young: 80% of these Canadian troops have had no service in either of the Great Wars.
I have not time to go into the subject of recreation, except to say that Brig. Walsh initiated a programme of education of the troops, because so many of them have not had a full Public School education, and ten hours a week have been prescribed as public school education for those troops who have not had a full public school education. In some companies as many as 70% have not had that much education. This education has been carried on by instructions of subalterns.
One word about the arrival of the squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force. On October llth, 67 Sabres arrived at Metz in perfect formation, and were given an enthusiastic reception by the press, the authorities and officers of NATO. I just missed seeing them.
When we are accustomed to seeing Canadians given a great reception everywhere, I think I should say this to you. The wife of the Canadian Ambassador in Paris spoke to her cook, an intelligent woman, telling her of the arrival of the squadrons of the Canadian Air Force expecting that woman to react enthusiastically. Instead of that, the woman said nothing and her eyes filled with tears. Such is the fear of war in France today.
German Rearmament is one of the most important questions before all the world today. We would have every reason to be afraid of German rearmament if we were not so directly confronted by the common Russian menace. No one would have thought of sponsoring German rearmament had it not been for the way Russian aggression has proceeded. Germany possesses the greatest available pool of manpower in the West. The burden of defense borne by the British has been very heavy indeed, and they look at Germany and say, "Why should not the Germans take a big share of this burden we are bearing at such heavy cost today?" The Germans have not been unaware of the strength of their bargaining position, and they are exacting advantage. We have been seeing steps taken for ratification in the Bundestag of the rearmament contract.
Now, Gentlemen, I have less time to say a word about the United Kingdom than I should wish. There are those who say that Britain's best days are past. There are those who have forgotten the sacrifices that that noble country made in bearing the heaviest share of the burden of war among all the nations that were involved in the Second World War. They have forgotten while others were expanding their plant, Britain's civilian industrial plant was becoming daily more obsolete, and they have forgotten too the weight of the load Britain has had to carry in defense of the world, the defense of many parts of Asia in the years since the war; they have forgotten that Britain has lost nearly all its overseas investments. I am here to express to you, my friends, my belief that the best days of Britain are not past, that the best days of Britain lie before her! She is faced with huge problems, some of which we hope may have some ray of light shed on them at this conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers that is, proceeding in London today, which simply must succeed. We must not under-estimate these problems, but remembering that no nation has been called upon by destiny to fulfill the beneficient role for all mankind that has been thrown upon the shoulders of Britain, no one can think for one minute that the role of such a nation lies in the past. If I thought that for one minute, I would despair of the future of the world. Without British leadership the future would be black indeed. She is going through great difficulties, she has immense problems, but I think she is going to surmount them with the same spirit of resolution and courage, that has enabled her to triumph over so many trials in the past.
Emerson truly said, "the British always see most clearly in a fog."
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. D. R. Michener.