November 4, 1920. United Wards Club Luncheon, Cannon Street Hotel, London
I am accustomed at the present time rather to judge world events and world tendencies from the point of view of whether they are Bolshevist or anti-Bolshevist, and I saw in the vote of the American nation in the Presidential election a great repulsion by both the great parties in the United States of the doctrine of world-wide revolution as preached and practised by Lenin and Trotsky. I think we say what sentiment repeated in the municipal elections here. Indeed, the truth of the words which I uttered at the beginning of the year, that the Labour Party -or the Socialist Party, which is a better name in its present state of development was unfit to govern the country [cheers] have not been diminished by what has since taken place.
All these strikes and rumours of strikes and threats of strikes and loss and suffering caused by them; all this talk of revolution and “direct action” have deeply offended most of the British people. [Cheers.] There is a growing feeling that a considerable section of organized Labour is trying to tyrannize over the whole public and to bully them into submission, not by argument, not by recognized political measures, but by brute force.
I think that the trade unions will have to review their position very carefully in the next few years if they are to preserve the great and, on the whole, beneficent influence which they have exercised for so long in British public and industrial life. There is an active and very voluble minority which is always trying to grab the control of the organization, and this minority has a perfectly definite and avowed intention of trying to wreck the whole system of society, and to wreck it by any means, however violent and however wicked, that may be within their reach.
The responsible leaders of trade unions have very great difficulty in standing up to these hotheads. We must make all allowance for the difficult position in which leaders of the Labour movement are placed in these circumstances, but at the same time, when assertions are made which deserve to be criticized, I do not see why they should not be criticised, even if they are made by Labour leaders. [Cheers.] Mr. J. H. Thomas, a man who plays a very good part on many occasions, and not quite so good a part on some others, but still a responsible reputable leader of British Labour, thought it right to say, when the councils of action were set up: “We regard them as a definite challenge to the constitution of the country.” That was a very remarkable and improper statement. The fact that so many of the Labour or Socialist Party said they were challenging the constitution was in itself an admission, not only that they had not got. but that they had no immediate expectation of getting, the majority of their fellow-countrymen on their side. [Cheers.]
It is quite true that the doctrines which have been given credit among those violent circles boldly affirm that there is no need to obtain majorities. They want to have the power to rule, whether they have a majority or not, whether the people wish it or not. As Lenin put it the other day, “Fifteen per cent, ought to be enough to dominate Great Britain, provided they are all out-and-out Communists.” [Laughter.] All the other 85 per cent, have got to be disfranchised somehow or other in order that this 15 per cent, of out-and-out Communists may be able to confer their blessings on mankind. [Laughter.]
A new witness has just come from Russia whose words always command attention—Mr. H. G. Wells. Nothing can exceed the appalling character of the conditions which Mr. Wells has described. According to him, the whole apparatus of civilization has collapsed. Cities are dying, and dying fast: railways are breaking up: manufactures and commerce of all kinds are at a standstill. Mr. Wells said:
“I find an irreparable breakdown of the great monarchy that was here in 1914. The administrative, social, financial, commercial systems connected with it have fallen down under the strain of war. and are smashed utterly. Never has there been so great a debacle before.”
Of course Mr. Wells has to vindicate his theories. He suggests that this irreparable catastrophe is not the fault of the Bolshevists. But I submit as a most unchallengable conviction that those disasters in Russia are solely due to the Bolshevists, and are solely due to a very few men. to a revolutionary and terrible sect of fanatics, whose devastating doctrines have laid Russia low. and will lay every nation low in which they obtain ascendancy.
Mr. Wells attributes Russia’s downfall to the inherent rottenness of Capitalism, Imperialism, and the war. What arrant nonsense! The Bolshevists did it. and they alone to the utmost generation of mankind will feel this fearful responsibility. No doubt the war struck Russia a heavy blow, but none from which she could not have survived. It was a deadly and paralysing sect that destroyed Russia and plunged it deep into unspeakable misery. We must never cease proclaiming this fact as a warning to other nations in the world, and for the preservation of our own country. The Bolshevists are responsible for the catastrophe.
For Russia we can do little. The fearful series of events must run their course. One can only hope that some day in our own time deliverance will come to the Russian people and that they will stand again on their own feet and be masters in their own house.
But if we can do little for Russia, we can do much for Britain. We do not want any of these experiments here. [Cheers.] Any such experiments in this country would be followed by the destruction of the great majority of the persons dwelling in these islands. We can at any rate make sure that in our life and time the deadly disease which has struck down Russia should not be allowed to spring up here and poison us as it is poisoning them.
In every city there are small bands of eager men and women, watching with hungry eyes any chance to make a general overturn in the hopes of profiting themselves in the confusion, and these miscreants are fed by Bolshevist money. [Cheers.] They are ceaselessly endeavouring by propagating the doctrines of communism, by preaching violent revolution, by inflaming discontent, to infect us with their disease. If there is no danger it is only because we have an enlightened, active political life in Britain, because we have a considered, instructed, organized public opinion, and because we have a free Constitution which we are determined to make an instrument of continuous and progressive reform. In order that that condition shall be maintained, ceaseless political exertion must be made in all parts of the country by citizens in every class, each using to the full his political rights.
The danger at the present time does not exist only, or even mainly, in these islands. What of India, Egypt, and Ireland? Do you not think it possible that there is some connection between all the revolutionary and subversive elements by which we are now being assailed? When we see all these movements from so many different quarters springing up simultaneously, does it not look as though there is a dead set being made against the British Empire? Why, for instance, should the Egyptian extremists give money to the Daily Herald?’ [Cheers.] Why does Lenin send them money, too? Why does he also send money to Sinn Fein? We know that intense efforts are being made to disturb India, and that similar efforts are being made to cause a great breakdown of trade and industry at home in the hopes of creating unemployment and consequently suffering and discontent.
It is becoming increasingly clear that all these factions are in touch with one another, and that they are acting in concert. In fact there is developing a world-wide conspiracy against our country, designed to deprive us of our place in the world and to rob us of the fruits of victory. [Cheers.] They will not succeed. They will fail. We must be ready: we must be on our guard to recognize every symptom of danger, and to act with strong conviction against it. Having beaten the most powerful military empire in the world, having emerged triumphantly from the fearful ordeal of Armageddon, we will not allow ourselves to be pulled down and have our Empire disrupted by a malevolent and subversive force, the rascals and rapscallions of mankind who are now on the move against us. [Loud cheers.]
Whether it is the Irish murder gang or the Egyptian vengeance society, or the seditious extremists in India, or the arch-traitors we have at home, they will feel the weight of the British arm. It was strong enough to break the Hindenburg Line, it will be strong enough to defend the main interests of the British people, to carry us through these stormy times into calmer and brighter days. [Cheers.]