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Column 967The meeting in Malta between the President of the United States and the President of the Soviet Union is of momentous importance and the opportunity must not be lost by either of them. It is not my most important point, but I hope that the President of the United States will take advantage of this opportunity to have a word with Mr. Gorbachev about Mr. Mengi stu in Ethiopia. Surely the time has come for the Soviet Union to draw the curtain on that little thing. In Malta, the two presidents will have to face the fact that political developments in central Europe have now begun to outrun the pace of disarmament talks that are taking place in Vienna and nuclear disarmament talks. I do not want to engage in a debate with the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney about short-range nuclear weapons, but he made an important point that will have to be considered by the Government and others. There is no doubt that, above all else, the situation requires a substantial and continuing reduction in the huge conventional forces that the Soviet Union has stationed in eastern Europe. The West must make it possible for the Soviet Union to reduce the size of those forces. President Buch must be prepared to concede concessions, perhaps in principle only in Malta, but the details must follow soon as they can be completed. The political imperatives of Europe now require the leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States to show some urgency and to go further than they may have seriously contemplated earlier in the year. If the momentum of the political developments outruns the ability of the military alliances to cope with those changes there will be an immensely destabilising force in Europe, which would be in no one's interest.
These are exhilarating times. The prospect of change and development is bound to engender great enthusiasm in us all. Today in Rome the leader of the Soviet Union meets the Pope. The Pope's first language, in common with our former colleague Stefan Terlezki, is Ukrainian. We hope that that meeting will result in freedom for the Ukrainian church and that it might ease some of the nationality problems presently encountered in the Soviet Union.
There is absolutely no doubt that it behoves our Government and the Governments of western Europe, the United States and the East to rise to the challenges of the momentous events.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : The hon. Member for Corby (Mr. Powell) was modest when he congratulated other hon. Members on their speeches as he made an effective contribution. If this debate had not been taking place on a Friday I am sure that far more hon. Members would be here. Although I welcome this debate, it shows a rather mistaken order of priorities among the Government's business managers for them to put it on a Friday rather than on another weekday.
Column 968I go along with those who have already praised the Minister for the way in which he opened the debate. His speech was thoughtful, positive and demonstrated his sense of history as well as the fact that he has a great deal of political sensitivity.
What we are witnessing, as many hon. Members have already said, is a monumental change and the fulfilment of many dreams. Last Sunday I stood at the Berlin wall with a German friend and watched people chipping bits out of it just underneath the Reichstag. I chipped a wee bit out myself. It was an extraordinary experience to be there and it put a song in one's heart-- that is the only way in which to describe it. The political climate has changed fundamentally, but the arguments, which are about peace, freedom, political pluralism and economic development and co-operation in Europe, are the same. Our capacity to advance those things, however, has changed in a miraculous way.
Some hon. Members will not see it that way. The hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond) gave aid, comfort and praise to the thugs of the Honecker regime and he cannot have welcomed the scenes in Leipzig. Others will be suspicious and negative. Many people in politics require something either to hate or to fear in order to feel safe in a funny sort of way. It is destabilising to have that hatred or fear removed. The hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) demonstrated that when we had our debate on the Community when he said :
"More potential damage has been done to the western Alliance by the knocking down of the Berlin wall than Russia's massive armaments programme ever achieved. If the intention was to create uncertainty these recent changes could be the most effective offensive Russia has so far launched."- -[ Official Report, 15 November 1989 ; Vol. 160, c. 410.]
I do not go along with that sort of thinking, but between the extremes I know that there is much good will, but a certain amount of hesitation.
On behalf of my party I welcome, without equivocation, what has happened. In common with the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) I pay particular tribute to Mr. Gorbachev who has been the engine driving the whole thing forward. It is difficult to imagine the enormous pressures that must be on him. I do not know how he does it.
How do we respond to the new situation? I do not particularly want to be brief, but rules are rules and I shall make four points only. First, I agree with the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), that the most immediate, absolute imperative in Poland in particular, but elsewhere as the need may arise, is that there is enough food this winter. Credit must go to Delors, but the Government should be active in this matter. Secondly, in the medium term, the assistance provided to the emerging democracies must concentrate on improving managerial capacity, infrastructure and the technological base of their industries. A substantial review of the COCOM structure is required. How does the Government's response measure up? They have done certain of the right things and I welcome the doubling of the know-how programme to Poland.
Column 969funds should go towards financing community newspapers in Poland as that would strengthen that fledgling democracy?
Sir Russell Johnston : That is a constructive remark and I agree that we need to strengthen the structure of democracy. It has already been said that those funds are not large and if the Government do not propose to do anything more bilaterally I hope that they will encourage more to be done through the Community in a collective sense.
I am told that no money from the know-how fund for Hungary will be spent until the next financial year, although the Prime Minister referred in Question Time last week to our helping Poland and Hungary. I hope that the Minister will tell us later whether we will help Hungary this year rather than next year.
Thirdly, I should like to quote from Chancellor Kohl who spoke in the Bundestag on Tuesday. I recommend his speech to hon. Members as he succinctly put his finger on a number of points. The best way in which I can make those points is to quote Chancellor Kohl who said : "the surmounting of the separation of Europe and the division of Germany demands far-reaching and speedy steps pertaining to disarmament and arms control. Disarmament and arms control must keep step with political developments and, therefore, might have to be accelerated.
This is particularly true of the negotiations in Vienna for the dismantling of conventional armed forces in Europe and for the agreement upon measures to establish trust, such as the worldwide ban of chemical weapons. This also demands that the nuclear potential of world powers be reduced to a stragetic minimal level. The up coming meeting between President Bush and General Secretary Gorbachev offers a good opportunity to add new impetus to current negotiations. We are trying via bilateral discussions with the countries of the Warsaw pact, including the GDR to support this process."
Are our Government doing that as well? I agree with the hon. Member for Corby that it is important to catch this tide. As a Liberal I am proud of the role of Hans-Dietrich Genscher in this process. I support his opposition to short-range nuclear modernisation in NATO at this time. I do not believe that that is necessary and I agree with what the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney said about that.
Fourthly, it is wrong to argue as quite a number are arguing--even the Minister seemed to imply this during his speech--that in this new position, one of our first responses should be to slow down the integration of the European Community. People are saying that we should wait. It is noticeable that the people saying that would say so even if the new events in eastern Europe had not taken place. The idea that if the Community moves--as I would wish--towards ever more effective, economic, political and federal union, that will represent a sort of blocking off of the opportunities to the eastern countries, is a fundamental mistake. It does not do that. On the contrary, it will enable us to respond more effectively and coherently to change there, including the possibility of German reunification if the Germans take that choice and phasing from association to membership of the fledgling democracies in time. Apart from wondering what we are to do about it, Members should simply be glad that these events have taken place and salute the brave people such as Dubcek who, during the years, have kept the flag flying and remained brave. As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said, this is a wonderful time to be alive.
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Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South) : I agree with the final remarks of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), particularly when he saluted the individuals who have been responsible for giving leadership in these exhilarating times in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. When considering the causes of these great developments, there is no doubt that they are principally internal both in the Soviet Union and the eastern European countries. But we should not ignore the part that we have played in NATO and the European Community.
For two years between 1981 and 1983 I was the Minister responsible for conducting the campaign for multilateral disarmament and deterrence. I found myself debating with CND and members of the Labour party all over the country. I was constantly accused of being a warmonger and worse and asked, "If the arms race continues, where is it all going to end?" The implication of the question was that it would all end in war. My response was quite different. I said that it was clear that the 16 per cent. of GDP spent on military purposes in the Soviet Union was an enormous burden which could not be kept up for ever. I thought that it was perfectly clear that the Soviet Union could not improve its defence capacity as fast as we could in the West, and if it came to a challenge--as it was then--between the two sides, the Soviet Union might in due course realise that the game was up, abandon its ambitions to expand its power throughout the world and, in the interests of its economy, make a radical change. I could not tell how long it would take, but I thought that it might take a decade or two. I was absolutely right, although I overestimated the time required.
We should consider not only the contribution that our unity and strength in NATO has made to these developments by showing that the Soviet Union could not achieve its external objectives, but the damage which would have been done if the unilateral disarmers had won. I am sure that the subsequent scene would have been different because the Soviet Union's leaders, seeing disunity in NATO, would have been gravely tempted to continue their old ways.
What is the likely course of the east European revolution? Nobody could be more exhilarated by it than I. I played a part in the second world war, as did other right hon. and hon. Members in the Chamber. We particularly welcome what is going on because we can remember the horrors of those days and the dismay we felt when we saw east European countries subjected, one by one, to Soviet rule. While there is certainly a reduction in the risk of war due to the events now taking place, we must recognise that there will be a great deal of turmoil in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. We have not yet seized the dimensions of what is likely to happen. We have seen only the beginning of the turmoil. These countries have no experience of elections, even to a parish council, let alone to a district council or national Parliament. They do not have a clue about how it is done. They have no experience of running even a free enterprise whelk stall. Until recently, even the whelk stalls were in the public sector. I am told that they are generally in the private sector now. I checked the position with Lech Walesa yesterday. They do not have the experience of running car factories or anything bigger than a whelk stall. They need enormous
Column 971help from us and will certainly make great mistakes. It is well known that the shelves in the shops in these countries are emptier now than before the revolution began.
There is a difference between eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The eastern Europeans have nationalism and the excitement of liberalisation from Soviet control to keep them united and continue the momentum. They will need to rely on those factors. In the Soviet Union, nationalism is not a favourable factor to keep them going but an extremely dangerous one. In the Soviet Union, the Baltic republics, the Georgians, the Uzbeks, the Azerbaijanis, the Armenians and others will feel the need more and more to be independent of Russian domination. That is why Mr. Gorbachev insists that there should be only one party, the Communist party, in the Soviet Union, in contrast to the eastern European countries where it is accepted that there can be a multi-party system. The only thing keeping the Soviet Union together now is the Communist party.
So we should expect that there will be a great deal of turmoil, particularly in the Soviet Union. We do not know what the Russian generals think, but we should remember the point made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that Sir John Hackett, in his book of fiction, "The Third World War", set the scene for the beginning of that third world war in the break-up of the Soviet Union. I am not predicting that there will be war, but he had a point about the dangers of turmoil.
What should we do? We should help in every way we can the favourable trend in eastern European countries and the Soviet Union. When he replies, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will deal with the urgent need for food aid in Poland. When I spoke to Lech Walesa yesterday and asked if Poland needed food aid, he said yes, but he did not insist that that was the principal need. He said that Poland is one of the richest agricultural countries in the world, but we have to get the Polish farmers to release that food. The food is in the barns because of the financial position and some means must be found to get it out. There may well be a great need for food aid this winter and I understand that we are providing £15 million worth of food aid, but I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend would clarify the situation.
What I find particularly exciting is the know-how fund. In the next 12 months the BBC external services will be training 40 broadcasters from Poland to run a free broadcasting system. They have absolutely no idea about how to do it. They are trying to do it at the moment and they are making enormous mistakes. We shall be training parliamentarians from Poland and Hungary on how to run a free Parliament. We are also training local government officers. Mr. Walesa stressed to me that he wants British business men to invest in Poland to help sort out Polish industry. He said that many German business men are going to Poland. In a short time, Germany would buy up a large part of Polish industry if it could, but the Polish people do not want that to happen in a big way because of history and their feelings about Germany. They would like British business men to visit Poland and British banks to be set up there. He said that if a British bank is set up the Polish people will bring out from under their floorboards and mattresses the large sums of money that they will not
Column 972put into the Communist bank. They will put their money into a British bank because they could get it out if they needed it. In that way more funds from Poland will be available to invest in Polish industry.
We should not weaken our defences prematurely. We should proceed with disarmament by negotiation with the Soviet Union in the forums which already exist. We should certainly be forthcoming about what we are prepared to do. By our policies we have helped to create the prospect of a Europe transformed for the better. Helping that process to continue and helping to manage change so that it is for the better and not for the worse will be a task as complex as anything in the past 40 years, but equally worthwhile.
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby) : I found the Minister's speech extremely interesting. It certainly did not sound like the usual Foreign Office brief, nor did it sound like a speech which could possibly have had the support of the Prime Minister, because it departed from the cold war rhetoric which still seems to be part and parcel of the right hon. Lady's speeches, as we heard the other day when she spoke in Washington. The Minister made a civilised speech, although I did not agree with all of it. I have only two criticisms of what he said.
First, there was a slight element of triumphalism in the Minister's speech. It is not true that people in eastern Europe are anxious for the unrestrained capitalism that the Minister considers is so beneficial for people in Britain. I remind the Minister that two thirds of the human race suffer in poverty. The overwhelming majority of those people live in countries which embrace the market system, and an unfair market system at that.
Mr. Wareing : The hon. Gentleman shouts, "Where?". Perhaps he has never been to Chile, El Salvador, India or Indonesia. I do not know what he knows about the system he supports, but it has been abused in many parts of the world.
Secondly, I did not like the Minister continually referring to "the other side". We are entering a new era and we must have the vision and imagination that the Prime Minister lacks. Unfortunately, the Minister reflected that in his constant references to "the other side". I like to think of the working people of Europe struggling for a better existence and a better life, instead of the rhetoric that we hear so often from those who continue to believe and often have a vested interest in keeping Europe ideologically divided, backed up by two armed camps.
I welcome the great changes which have taken place in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. I particularly welcome the changes in Czechoslovakia as I was there enjoying the Prague spring, lapping up the air of freedom. I applaud the fact that Alexander Dubcek is now seen on the streets of Prague, freely moving about and expressing his opinions. I hope that he will play a part in the new Czechoslovakia. I warn the other side--in this context, Conservative Members--that Alexander Dubcek is not talking about embracing free market capitalism. If Conservative Members want to refer to what he believes in, they should look at a copy of The Guardian, which published an article of his in early January 1988. He expressed his views about
Column 973Socialism with a human face, under which there would be a strong element of planning to deal with the problems of the environment and of the maldistribution of wealth. He remains a Socialist, and many of the people who are struggling for a better life in eastern Europe are struggling for democratic Socialism.
The most significant change, because of its impact on the rest of Europe, is that taking place in East Germany, about which I shall make most of my remarks. Some people are saying that there is a danger of a fourth Reich, and the other day Conor Cruise O'Brien made a foolish statement about that.
I am aware of the problems of people who lived in countries under Nazi occupation. I was a child at the time, but I remember living through the blitz on Liverpool. The West German generation of today is different. It was born and nurtured in a democratic political culture and is entirely different from the past. It has been lucky enough to live through a period when the economy has been mostly in boom, and it has not had the problems of the generation of the Weimar republic.
Today West Germany enshrines many human rights. It is not perfect by a long way, but it has far more human rights that we currently have in Britain. Its workers may not be all that Labour Members should want, but at least they have Mitbestimmung and the rights that are being developed under the social charter, which are scorned by the Prime Minister and many on the extreme Right wing of the Conservative party. The Germans have a good reputation for dealing with refugees, such as the Kurds, the Chileans and many others who have been persecuted by dictatorships throughout the world. I do not think that we should or could stand in the way of German reunification. What would we say if there were an artificial barrier from the Wash to the Severn? We have a divide created by the Government between poverty in one part of the country and prosperity in another, but I am talking about barriers such as the Berlin wall, the barbed wire, and the minefields through Germany.
Some people argue that there would be an upsurge of German nationalism and extreme Right-wing political movements in a united Germany. I believe that the danger of that is greater in a divided Germany. Although the NPD and Republikaner parties are still small parties, they feed on prejudices against immigrants--against the Gastarbeiter, the Turkish worker and workers from other Mediterranean countries. Although currently much sympathy is being shown in West Germany for its brethren from the East, this is the honeymoon period and there is a danger that a continuing flood from the East would result in an upsurge of extremism in certain parts of the country as expressed through parties such as the Republikaner party. We must express our gratitude for what West Germans are doing for East Germans. I have visited West Germany several times over the past few months. The other week I was able to see the bu"rgermeister of Bremen offer hospitality to its twin town of Rostock, and its people came in hundreds of thousands to enjoy the freedom of travel. We must remember that Bremen has 15 per cent. unemployment and that it has housing problems. However the immigrants have been dealt with generously by the Germans.
I understand that Bremen expects 18,000 people from the GDR to settle there in 1990. That is in addition to the
Column 9746,000 ethnic Germans from Poland and 2,000 from the Soviet Union who have already been accommodated by the city.
I hope that the Government will consider some of the premises that we could make available. For example, there are military barracks which could be used by the people coming from the East. We should help the Germans with the housing problem.
Reunification of Germany would certainly reduce the numbers coming from the East. However, Ba"rbel Bohley of the East German New Forum said :
"Without moves towards confederation the exodus from East to West will get worse, but financial help is the main concern."
I appeal for assistance to be given to the East Germans so that they can be fully wedded into a unified Germany. I want to see a Europe, including Germany, which is socialist and democratic and not oppressed by Stalinism or ruled by hard-handed Thatcherite philosophy. 12.1 pm
"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks."
I cannot remember any time in my life when I thought that we were closer to that ideal than when I took part in that service last month. Many people share that feeling as they look around and see that Communism is disintegrating and even dissolving itself everywhere, as the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) said, and the shackles of totalitarianism are bursting open and freedom is blossoming out.
We can all be forgiven for feeling euphoria and joy as we see Dubcek addressing the crowds, President Gorbachev welcomed wherever he goes, Solidarity leaders taking power in Poland, democracy emerging in Hungary, the people forcing the Czech regime to surrender its supreme power, and there are even stirrings in Bulgaria. But, we must not let the euphoria go to our heads. Many questions are being asked for which it is too early to give answers. We cannot look too far into the futue with any great certainty.
Let us suppose that President Gorbachev fails--we have to contemplate that possibility. Right hon. and hon. Members on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who visited eastern Europe last year and who maintain contacts with people in both eastern and western Europe, appreciate that the domestic achievements of the Gorbachev regime are not substantial. The regime is not securely anchored. There are alarming food shortages, caused mainly by the food distribution system. There are doubts everywhere in eastern Europe about President Gorbachev's survival.
When I was in Moscow at this time last year, I was appalled by the apathy of the people and by their lack of vital enthusiasm for the reforms. Let us suppose that President Gorbachev were deposed and that the reforms he has introduced were brought to a standstill. Most of the people we have met who are in positions of power and influence in Europe believe that the advances that have been made would be halted and then reversed.
At times like these, the only safe approach is to keep cool heads, and to consider carefully what we can do to ensure that the processes of freedom continue.
Column 975My hon. Friend the Minister spoke of the immense amount of encouragement and support that we are prepared to give the reformers in the short term to show that the world is behind them. The immediate economic aid is welcome, as is the free food for Poland for the winter, the know-how fund for Poland and Hungary, economic reconstruction assistance, agricultural advice, manpower training advice and abolition of trade restrictions with those countries. Then there is the debt relief which I hope the IMF is considering, the European Investment Bank's permission for lending and financial activities and, above all, the encouragement of private industrial investment, perhaps most practically through joint ventures. Our moral support--and even debates such as this-- are important, as are the continuation and extension of unofficial exchanges in literature, culture and music. Even the kind of guidance that we may be able to give, although not all of it would be to follow our example, about how to run a democratic process.
There are, however, deeper considerations that we need to accept, perhaps reluctantly. First, we must do nothing to stir up Mr. Gorbachev's enemies in the Soviet Union. He must be sustained in power because all of this is his achievement and the process will continue only if he remains in power. We must therefore do nothing to destabilise Europe and frighten his enemies.
In military defence, it is crucial that there should be a steady reduction in NATO's forces in response to Soviet reductions, but there must not be a dramatic pulling out of troops. We must also bear in mind the fact that, if things go wrong, we will need a strong military presence in Europe. That is a vital consideration. We must go easy when talking about the reunification of Germany. Nothing is more likely to make things difficult for Gorbachev than for fears to grow that the Warsaw pact is about to dissolve, as it must be dissolved if West and East Germany are to reunify. My colleagues and I on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee have just come back from Bonn. I was relieved to discover that, although there is much talk of reunification--only this week Chancellor Kohl reaffirmed West Germany's commitment to reunification--it is only an aspiration at this stage. Reunification is part of their constitution. West German politicians have always to remember in their speeches that it is an aim, but they do not consider it possible in the foreseeable future. We should not do anything to precipitate fears in the Soviet Union that reunification, and all that it implies for the Warsaw pact, is likely to hapen in the near future.
We must not be quite so pressing in regard to economic and political activity. In this, I take a different view from many others who have spoken this morning. At a time of turmoil in the world we do not want any turmoil in the European Community, which will be the strongest source of assistance, in terms of economic and political power, to eastern European countries. This is not the time for our partners to try to force Britain against our wishes into central banks, common monetary policy, a common currency and a social charter. Doing that would cause disruption at a time when the real force and power of encouragement for eastern Europe will come from its neighbours in the West.
Column 976We will be of greatest service to eastern Europe when we in the European Community are strong and are not divided among ourselves. That means that those who are pressing for this revolutionary change in our relationship with the European Community should, in the interests of the reform of the East, lay off for the time being. If we keep our heads in these explosive times and do all we can to help the reformers and not be unhelpful to Mr. Gorbachev, we will help to ensure that these great reforms and momentous changes continue. If we do things that are disruptive, we will only precipitate what many of us fear is possible ; we may find that the reforms are not deeply enough embedded to be irreversible. The one great achievement--which has not been mentioned, or perhaps I was not concentrating when it was--about which we must marvel and be thankful is that most of these reforms have taken place without bloodshed. It would have been so easy for the people to rise up, and to have been shot down. It would have been easy for the events at Tiananmen square to have been repeated in Wenceslas square and the other great squares of the capitals of those eastern European countries. We must keep uppermost in our minds the fact that at all costs we must not provoke anybody to react to these reformist movements by bloodshed. Keeping our heads and acting in a measured way are more likely than anything else to achieve the peaceful continuance of those reforms.
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : Many of us have thought for a long time that, sooner or later, there would be a political revolution in the Soviet Union. Many Members and others argued, certainly during the Stalinist regime, that the extension of the Soviet system to various eastern European countries on the points of Russian bayonets after the second world war was the establishment of Socialism in those countries.
Many of us who are, I hope, genuine Socialists, have never believed that what has existed in the Soviet Union is a Socialist society. However, I am not certain what that society really is. Some of my friends say that it is state capitalism. Others say that it is a kind of deformed workers' state. Others argue that it is bureaucratic collectivism. I do not know what it is. All I know is what it is not. It is not a Socialist society. Hon. Members and others--including political pundits who are now writing at great length in various learned journals and newspapers--say that we are seeing the collapse of Socialism, but that is not the position. Socialism could only collapse in those countries if it had been brought into existence. There was a successful workers' revolution which had a form of democracy for a short period but, once Stalin was in clear control, it did not last five minutes. We know exactly what happened. I have long been a Rosa Luxemburgist. By that I mean that I support the views that Rosa Luxemburg put forward. She was a Socialist who, incidentally, was murdered by Right-wing--
Column 977I should like the House to know what Rosa Luxemburg said in an interesting little pamphlet about the Russian revolution which she wrote in 1921 and which was published in 1922. She said : "Freedom of the press, the rights of association and assembly all have been outlawed for all opponents of the Soviet regime on the other hand, it is a well-known and indisputable fact that without a free and untrammelled press, without the unlimited right of association and assembly, the role of the broad mass of the people is entirely unthinkable Freedom only for the supporters of the Government, only for the members of one party--however numerous they may be--is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of justice but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on that essential characteristic ; and its effectiveness vanishes when freedom' becomes a special privilege."
That sums up for me the view of a genuine, democratic Socialist and that is what Socialism means. Socialism means the development of the human spirit, the right of free association and the right to organise independent trade unions. Socialism means that one has more than one political party, free elections, free debate and free discussion. I can say without hesitation, as a democratic Socialist, that the Soviet Union and eastern Europe are not Socialist. I must make it clear that I believe in revolutionary change. I want a new kind of society in this world, but it must be a free society in which there is a free human spirit because without that, it cannot possibly be a Socialist society.
I have been waiting for this day for a long time. I remember having a fight just after the war with two building workers who supported the Communist party.
Mr. Heffer : Yes, I trained as a joiner. I supported the East Berlin workers who refused to accept the changes in their normal working and went on strike. The two young Communists said that it was disgraceful for there to be an unofficial strike. I was amazed by their arguments and the dispute almost came to physical violence. Many great upsurges developed after the war. There was the wonderful Polish Spring when we thought that this was it. There was the Hungarian revolution followed by the Soviet intervention and suppression. Again, I was on the side of the Hungarian revolution. There was the Prague Spring and its suppression. If one was a genuine democratic Socialist, one could not be other than on the side of the Czech people. It was marvellous to see Dubcek--who is actually my age--standing in Prague, not calling for bringing in capitalism, but for bringing in Socialism with a human face. He was suppressed earlier for expressing that view, and had he been in some other countries earlier, he would have been killed as so many were. Terrible purges took place in Stalin's Russia and after the war at Stalin's instigation. So many people were murdered because they stood up against Stalinism.
Unfortunately, Tito did not introduce the type of Socialism that I should have liked. It was not extended into the political field although greater democracy was created in the workshops. It was not the Socialism in which some of us passionately believe.
How wonderful it was to see Mr. Dubcek speaking again arguing for the things that he had fought for before his regime was overthrown by Russian tanks. Happily, Mr. Gorbachev has made it clear that the Russians will not
Column 978intervene to suppress the movement in eastern European countries, so there is a great chance that they will come through.
Let us be clear that in the Soviet Union we are seeing a difference in the bureaucratic regime. Mr. Gorbachev has made a tremendous difference and I agree that the role of the individual should never be underestimated. Some of my hon. Friends were wrong when they said that it does not matter who is Prime Minister. I think that it does matter and the sooner that we get rid of her the better. However, that is a political point which has nothing to do with the arguments. The role of the individual is important. Certainly Mr. Gorbachev's role is important, but he reflects the view of one part of the bureaucratic structure. We must understand that another part of the structure is opposed to changes of any kind.
In the end there may be violence in the Soviet Union. There could be an attempt to overthrow what Mr. Gorbachev is doing. If he were removed some people might resort to arms to fight for him. The military itself might break into disarray. We must give every assistance that we can, and as a Socialist I shall do so. However, the aim will not be to bring in a capitalist system but to fight for democratic socialism as I have always done.
Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham) : I welcome the debate. It is clear that Europe is heading for a period of political turmoil, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) outlined. It is also clear that we in this House must have a major rethink. That would not be best done along the party political lines advocated by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson).
Since 1945 our defence and foreign policies have been formed on the basis of certainty of a divided Europe with each half comfortably embodied within the aegis of a super-power, with our half framed by NATO and the EEC. Within the past few weeks all those certainties have crumbled along with the Berlin wall. The events in Berlin heralded a new and uncertain future. A principal fear for the future is the fear of the pressure for reunification which has been reawakened in Germany. Although after 45 years old habits of self-effacement still exist, unification of the two German republics is probably inevitable in the medium term. If the will is there, the German people will overcome the problems of currency, law and so on. Although we may fear the result--a great power of some 80 million people in central Europe--we cannot deny their right to
self-determination. Therefore, we must exert ourselves to keep Germany wthin the ambit of western Europe and welcome Chancellor Kohl's repeated commitment to NATO and the West.
Of far greater importance, we must lift up our eyes to eastern Europe, the Europe that stretches to the Urals. Not only the satellite nations of eastern Europe are showing signs of casting off the yoke of Socialist domination ; far more deeply subjugated nations are striving for national autonomy : in the Baltic states, the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and, above all, in the Soveit Muslim lands with all the instability that they can bring with Islamic fundamentalism being so rife.
We are witnessing the final disintegration of the last of the great European multinational empires. The Soviet Union is the inheritor of the Romanov empire and it has
Column 979held it by force. Whereas the other empires in 1918 broke up into nation states, the Russian empire has been maintained and extended under the Communists. It has taken more than 70 years for the intellectual and economic bankruptcy of Socialism to bring that empire to breaking point.
President Gorbachev has been struggling in a race against time to save his regime through perestroika. Its partner, glasnost, has allowed the Soviet peoples to see the extent of the failure of Socialism, which may yet bring down the whole rotten edifice. The key question is whether the Red Army will allow that to happen. Will it allow the empire to disintegrate, or will it break out in a series of Tiananmen squares? Indeed, could it do so if it so wished, with an army that is half muslim?
Even if all these states were to go democratic, would it last? Economic failure would bring with it disillusionment and successor military regimes, such as Franco's Spain, Galtieri's Argentina or the dictatorships in eastern Europe before the second world war. All that gives us the stark warning that we must maintain our defences and state of preparedness.
If the break-up of the Soviet empire occurs, we shall have a destabilised Europe. We would have the scenario of a unified Germany and a minimised military threat from the Soviet Union. Our forces in Germany would cease to be perceived as protectors and would be identified as occupiers ; gone would be the United States forces in Europe ; gone the pretext for stationing British and French troops in Germany and no doubt with it our troops. In Europe, we would see a powerful Germany, beyond which would be a multiplicity of nation states squabbling as a result of the legacy of Yalta and Potsdam. The key question for Europe will be its boundaries. Does the Germany of today accept its boundaries? What is the German opinion today about its former lands--East Prussia in the Soviet Union, Silesia and Pomerania in Poland, and the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia?
Perhaps the most dramatic is the question of Silesia. Poland has effectively desecrated it, with its heavy industry creating massive pollution. Whereas we thought that the Germans had been pushed out of the province in 1945, Chancellor Kohl's recent visit showed us that he whom we thought to be Jan Krapowsky of Wroclaw has turned out to be Johann Krapmann of Breslau. There are reputed to be 250,000 people in Silesia today who consider themselves to be Germans.
The German silence on this key issue of boundaries is most ominous. Their repetition of the formula that the Federal Republic has no writ to accept borders is no comfort to us and no encouragement for the future of Europe.
The Germans are not alone. Some Solidarity deputies from Poland have recently told us that the Ukraine and Lithuania have designs on some of its border areas, and it has not forgotten its ancient city of Lwow, now in the Soviet Union. Romania has not forgotten Moldavia, nor the Hungarians their compatriots in Romanian Transylvania. Yugoslavia itself shows the potential for nationalist explosions. Within this potential for instability our own European Community stands as a beacon. Its economic success is an attraction to the peoples of the East. We must use that
Column 980attraction and any economic aid as a bargaining counter to insist on stability, democracy and the acceptance of the boundaries of Europe. We could even go so far as to say that any boundary changes must depend on local plebiscites conducted by the European Community with the support of the Governments concerned.
One of the most serious legacies of Socialism in eastern Europe has been the deficiencies in managerial cadres. The inefficient state monopolies have been run by party functionaries who have managed by political direction, not by enterprise management. We must contribute to the new democracies with management training as well as capital--and, this winter, with emergency food aid.
East Europeans have asked how they can privatise economies in which about 90 per cent. of production is nationalised, in which there is no private capital and, above all, in which there are no buyers for the inefficient, backward and ill-equipped industries. We have much to contribute to the regeneration of these industries and their markets, from the bottom up. The price that we must exact in return is to bind these countries into an expanded European Community. We argue in this place over some Euro- fanatics' determination to create a centralist, bureaucratic Europe. These empire builders of the new Euro-elite will find themselves irrelevant as the challenge of the real Europe descends on us. The European Community should now give its energies to creating a new tier of associated states which will benefit from the advantages of free trade, travel and property rights, in exchange for forgoing all the turmoil of nationalist agitation. We must hold out the prospect of full membership of a European community of nation states after this transitional stage. One of the greatest achievements of the European Community has been to make the possibility of war between its members unthinkable. We must extend that achievement to the new, emerging nation states of Europe.
We stand on the brink of uncertainty in Europe, when all the accepted foundations of our defence and foreign policies are about to be swept away. Britain and Europe have the challenge of creating a continent-wide community of European states living in peace and with a free market. The price of failure for us would be a continent of squabbling nations indulging in a moving pattern of alliances, with a Germany hegemony and ourselves relegated to the periphery. We in this House and this country must give a lead.
Mr. Pat Wall (Bradford, North) : I am the third of four Labour Members with Liverpool accents to speak in this debate. If my accent has been modified by 25 years away from the city, it has been exaggerated by having a head cold. Merseyside has a long tradition of Left-wing radical Socialism, untainted by Stalinism.
Nineteen eighty-nine has been a remarkable year. We have witnessed the events in China and the horrors of Tiananmen square, perhaps marking the beginning of the end of Stalinism in China. There have been marvellous events in South Africa, where the people continue on the move. The Israeli Government have been unable for yet another year to put down the intifada in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Most important of all has been the break-up of the cold war and the great movements towards a political revolution in Russia and eastern Europe.
Column 981For all who are cynical about politics, these events mark a reaffirmation of the enormous capacity of human beings to try again and again to better their conditions, extend their freedoms and build a better society. I offer as an example the people of Hungary. After the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of the first world war, Bela Kun was elected to govern with the first elected Marxist Government in the world. Within a few months that Government were bloodily overthrown by armies of intervention. The Hungarian people then lived without democracy under the regime of Admiral Horthy, and then under the dicatatorship of the Nazis. After the second world war, they lived under the horrors of Stalin and the Stalinist regime in Hungary. In 1956 in a most marvellous movement the people rose up in the space of a few short weeks. They destroyed the state machine which had oppressed them. They launched two general strikes and two insurrections in four or five weeks. Children as young as 13, 14 and 15 fought Russian tanks with Molotov cocktails and people fought them with hunting guns which they had stolen from shops. That shows the enormous capacity of people who had lived for generations under a dictatorial regime to rise up and try to change their situation.
This is not a time for much personal indulgence because the events in eastern Europe are very important. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) I see the events as a vindication of the 40 years that I have spent in this movement opposing Stalinism. I marched against Chile and South Africa. During my national service I marched in Germany against the events in Hungary in 1956. I marched in London in 1968 when Russian tanks were sent into Prague. I have also fought Stalinism inside my own movement. I fought those who supported it, condoned or excused it. That is why I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Walton, will never support any restrictions on thought, or any witch hunting or expulsions inside my movement. Those things also involve the suppression of free speech and are another aspect--albeit much less serious--of Stalinism. The Minister wanted to know about the regime in Russia. Stalinist states are non-capitalist states with one-party, authoritarian dictatorial rule. It arose in Russia from what I consider to be the most marvellous experience of mankind, namely the Russian revolution of 1917 when working people wrested power into their own hands for the first time.