BY THE RT. HON. HAROLD WILSON
THE Labour Party’s approach to overseas affairs is conditioned by our loyalty to three groupings, the Western alliance, the Commonwealth, and the United Nations. I propose to deal with the role we see for Britain in each of these environments, and then to draw conclusions both about East-West relations and about our conception of Britain’s position in the postcolonial world.
Labour rejects a neutralist role for Britain. In common with all sane men all over the world, we look forward to a day when the rule of law in international affairs will have been so firmly established that the regional security pacts permitted under Article 55 of the United Nations Charter will no longer be required. But until the dangers deriving from the present division of the world are dissipated, we insist that the Western alliance be not merely maintained but substantially strengthened, both in Europe and in the wider areas where tension remains high.
It was a Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who was one of the chief architects of NATO. Since that time we have stressed the need to make NATO a reality, particularly in the provision of adequate, and adequately equipped, conventional forces.
It is the Labour Party’s view that the deployment of our limited defense expenditure and of our limited scientific resources on what has proved to be the vain task of providing an independent means of delivery of nuclear weapons has gravely weakened our contribution to NATO’s conventional forces. We are not only below target, we are below the minimum safety level, both in the size of our contribution and, still more, in the equipment and mobility of the forces we have contributed. Short of an effective comprehensive disarmament agreement and a significant reduction of East-West tension, we are not hopeful of making any substantial reduction in the defense budget. What we do consider urgent is to alter the balance of our defense effort so as to provide more for our conventional contribution, in quantity and quality, both to NATO and to other areas essential for the interdependent Western defense effort.
Inadequate conventional forces in NATO are not only dangerous in their inability to withstand a purely conventional attack. They make it very much more probable that if a conventional attack does occur, there will be quick recourse to tactical nuclear weapons. And once tactical nuclear weapons are invoked, the danger of escalation to fullscale nuclear war is immeasurably increased.
It is our view that Britain can make its full contribution to NATO only if we come to terms with the facts of the nuclear age. To become an independent nuclear power in the modern world means to possess effective long-distance missiles, and in order to have these a nation must have the economic and scientific infrastructure capable of deployment on the research and development necessary not for one but for a dozen or more separate types. There are only two such superpowers in the world today. There are, however, great powers, among which Britain holds a unique position, which must play their full part in the Western alliance and in world affairs.
Britain staked its all on Blue Streak — and failed. After the V-bombers we shall no longer be an independent nuclear power; any effective nuclear weapons we then possess we shall have only by the grace and favor of a friendly ally.
But the Western alliance is not confined to NATO. It has an important role to play east of Suez, and here again the Labour Party feels strongly that Britain is dangerously ill-equipped to fulfill its part. Our exiguous strategic reserve is held, we are told, for the purpose both of reinforcing the British Army of the Rhine in case of a sudden crisis in Europe and of sending troops wherever they may be needed, from Brunei to British Guiana, from Kuwait to Hong Kong. A stage army capable, by rapid backstage mobility, of representing the whole of Caesar’s legions may not be out of place in a touring theatrical company; it is dangerous to rely on it where the freedom of our way of life is involved. For crises, such as Suez and Hungary, Cuba and Ladakh, have a habit of coming not in a conveniently spaced series but simultaneously.
The total force we can deploy in the bushfire areas of Asia and Africa is limited compared with that of the United States, but in many of these areas we have one advantage over our allies — we are there. Should trouble occur, it is far easier for Britain to expand its force in any given area than for the United States to enter an area previously evacuated by the West.
We fully recognize that Britain’s overseas garrisons will shrink as year succeeds year, for the one fact we have learned, the hard way, since the war is that you cannot maintain an effective military base in a country which resents your continued presence. To that extent, the need for mobility is all the greater, and the resources required for mobility cannot be provided as long as Britain clings to its existing defense posture.
So FAR I have approached the problem in terms of the military effectiveness of the Western alliance. But there is a tremendous political problem, too, the question of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
It is not necessary to stress the dangers of proliferation or the identity of the nth power. The United States has always been strongly against proliferation, and in his Ann Arbor speech of June, 1962, Secretary McNamara made no secret of his government’s view that nuclear weapons should be confined to the two existing effective nuclear powers, the United States and the U.S.S.R., until a binding world agreement outlawed nuclear weapons altogether. This was equally the view of the Labour Party, as expressed in uncompromising terms by Hugh Gaitskell. Two world statesmen, and two only, expressed their disagreement—Mr. Macmillan and President de Gaulle, President de Gaulle was later reported as saying that he had been encouraged in his nuclear ambitions by Mr. Macmillan. The U.S. government, after the strongest pressure from London, reinterpreted Mr. McNamara’s statement in such a way as not to prejudice Britain’s nuclear claims. One cannot help feeling that a great opportunity was lost by Mr. Macmillan’s desire to sweeten the French into dropping their objections to Britain’s entry into the the European Common Market; American enthusiasm for the same purpose was probably the cause of the retreat from the pure doctrine of Ann Arbor.
But once Britain was placed in an excepted category — quite apart from France — the problem of nuclear weapons for Germany could no longer be ignored.
The Labour Party has repeatedly made clear its opposition to any proposals which would lead to Germany’s becoming, directly or indirectly, a nuclear power. This opposition is not based on any hangover from World Wars I and II. One of the most hopeful features of the post-war international scene has been the development of deep democratic roots in Germany, and no one who contemplates a Germany with Willy Brandt as Chancellor has any fears of revenge, irredentism, or a desire, through the ownership of nuclear weapons, to revive Germany’s formidable Wehrmacht. Moreover, Herr Schroeder’s rapid and warm acceptance of the Moscow test-ban agreement shows a readiness to accept a nonnuclear position for Germany.
Our opposition to a nuclear status for Germany is twofold. First, it would mark a point of no return in the spread of nuclear weapons. We would be on the road to the nth power. And, as Russian leaders made clear to me in Moscow, the rise of Germany as a nuclear power would make it infinitely harder for Moscow to deny China’s nuclear claims. The Sino-Soviet rift owes a great deal to the flat Soviet refusal to help China with its nuclear ambitions.
The second reason why we oppose German nuclear arms is that they would end any hope of a real easement of East-West tension. President Kennedy and Dean Rusk are on record on this theme. Mr. Khrushchev expressed it in the strongest terms, and for good reasons. Russia’s age-old respect for Germany’s technical achievement, combined with its surviving memories of World War II, has created at all levels of Soviet society a positive obsession about Germany’s military recovery. We may discount it, but the Russians do not.
In Moscow last June my colleagues and I tried to draw a distinction between direct nuclear status for Germany and the NATO multilateral force which the United States was at that time strongly pressing. We urged on Mr. Khrushchev the fact that the U.S. motive in proposing the MLF was not a desire to clothe Germany with nuclear weapons; on the contrary, it was a genuine, if in our view misdirected, attempt to avert the growth of nuclear ambitions in Germany. If we were convinced that MLF was the only way to achieve this, we would, reluctantly, feel that we had to support it. But we are certainly not convinced of this.
Labour’s policy is to strengthen NATO, and we are prepared to examine any proposals for greater participation by both Britain and other NATO partners in nuclear policy, targeting, and agreement on what Mr. Finletter has called the “consensus” — the conditions in which the West, through NATO, would feel it had to have recourse to nuclear weapons. What we oppose is the creation of any machinery which could override the existing U.S. veto on the use of nuclear weapons. Equally we reject dangerous ideas that either France or Britain should have the right to start a catalytic war — the only logical reason which Britain and France have given for their national nuclear policies, for no one envisages either country using nuclear weapons against a nonnuclear nation or embarking on a go-it-alone nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
TURNING from defense cooperation in Europe, what is Labour’s policy on economic cooperation — in particular, on Britain’s entry into the Common Market?
Our position is clear. We have welcomed the creation of the European Economic Community. We began our policy statement on the Common Market issue, a statement agreed to by an overwhelming majority at the party conference in October, 1962, with these words:
The Labour Party regards the European Community as a great and imaginative conception. It believes that the coming together of the six nations which have in the past so often been torn by war and economic rivalry is, in the context of Western Europe, a step of great significance.
On the question of Britain’s entry, we have made clear that we are prepared to join if — but only if — we can secure acceptance of the five conditions we have laid down. President de Gaulle’s intervention last January has made much of the controversy over the terms for Britain’s entry academic, at any rate for the immediately foreseeable future. But our conditions remain. They were summarized by the party in these terms:
1. Strong and binding safeguards for the trade and other interests of our friends and partners in the Commonwealth.
2. Freedom, as at present, to pursue our own foreign policy.
3. Fulfillment of the government’s pledge to our associates in the European Free Trade Area.
4. The right to plan our own economy.
5. Guarantees to safeguard the position of British agriculture.
At the time of the breakdown of the Brussels talks adequate assurances had been obtained on none of the five conditions. Provisionally agreed terms and the adoption of the severely restrictive, autarkic Common Market agricultural policy, with its penal import levy on imports from the outside world, threatened a collapse in British trade with the Commonwealth. On foreign policy, we were still not being frankly told whether membership in the Community would be a step toward an integrated Western European defense and foreign policy decided in Brussels by majority rule. There had been no guarantee of adequate associated status for our EFTA partners, particularly the three neutrals— Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland. There were still grave doubts about a British government’s ability to take the measures necessary to protect full employment and our balance-of-payments position. (The measures recently announced by President Kennedy to strengthen the dollar would not have been open to Britain had we signed the Treaty of Rome.) Last, the position of British agriculture had still not been defined at the time of the breakdown.
The Labour Party believes that we should be prepared to reopen negotiations on these five conditions, but only on them.
At all times during the discussions, we had stressed the need to negotiate from strength. Britain’s position had been immeasurably weakened by the fact that, having for years rejected the idea of entering Europe, the government decided to apply for entry at a moment of grave economic crisis. Europe was given the idea that there was no solution to Britain’s problem except by entry into the Common Market, and inevitably the Six stiffened their terms. Moreover, Mr. Macmillan’s need to sell the European idea to a party which, particularly at the grass roots, was still largely imperialist forced him and his ministers into a series of pronouncements on the theme that Britain was nothing without Europe. This, too, can only have made the Six more intransigent.
We, for our part, in addition to pressing for tough internal measures to strengthen our economic position, insisted that the government should have in reserve a viable alternative, both to strengthen our hand in the negotiations and to provide a tolerable fallback position if the negotiations failed. We stressed the alternative policy of an Atlantic economic partnership on the lines of the ClaytonHerter report to the Joint Committee of Congress, together with active measures to promote Commonwealth trade.
The breakdown of the negotiations left the government high and dry. It fell to us to propose a comprehensive series of foreign and economic policies— in the Commonwealth, in EFTA, in the Atlantic Community, in GATT, in the United Nations — and, through OEEC, to take all possible measures to prevent a further division of Europe.
This is still our policy, for we regard an Atlantic partnership — indeed, a wider-than-Atlantic grouping, covering the Commonwealth and Latin America— as the objective. We felt that membership in EEC would have been worthwhile as a steppingstone to this wider free world unity. But we have become more and more worried about the development of autarkic policies in the Community, particularly in the sphere of agriculture, and it is now obvious that a growing number of U.S. leaders share our anxieties.
ONE of Labour’s greatest anxieties about entry into Europe on the terms proposed was that it would have meant turning our backs on the Commonwealth. This fear was expressed last October in Hugh Gaitskell’s memorable Common Market speech, in which he made clear that if we were faced with a choice between Europe and the Commonwealth, we would choose the Commonwealth. Britain has always had a window on the world through the Commonwealth, and we believe that not only Britain’s interests but the cause of world peace would be immeasurably impoverished if we were corralled in Western Europe, forced to look at the world through European eyes.
For the postcolonial Commonwealth is the greatest multiracial association in the world, and Britain has a unique contribution to make through the Commonwealth in an age when race relations and the emergence to nationhood of the peoples of Asia and Africa are of central importance. It was the Labour government which began the process of decolonialization, with the creation of free and independent nations in India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon. It was we who in Britain fought for sanity at the time of Suez hysteria — Britain’s last attempt to re-create the days of gunboat diplomacy.
Had Britain shown, by entry into Europe on the wrong terms, that we were willing to destroy not only the economic cohesion but the political unity of the Commonwealth, we should have lost the unique influence which we still possess, and can possess in growing measure, in world affairs.
There are today two powerful defense blocs, headed by the United States and the U.S.S.R. But even the most powerful cannot rely on military strength alone. More and more it is becoming realized that a nation’s influence depends increasingly on the extent to which it can make its attitudes and policies acceptable to the hundred-odd members of the United Nations, in which Asian and African countries, recently emancipated from their colonial status, are playing a growing part. This fact has been well recognized by the U.S. Administration; Britain’s Conservatives, still driven by a nostalgia for a bygone age, are incapable of realizing it.
Hence, we have had ceaseless political battles at Westminster over Britain’s role in Africa — over the imposition of an unwanted federation on the peoples of Nyasaland and Northern and Southern Rhodesia, on the question of white supremacy in Southern Rhodesia and, for many years, in Kenya. The same issue arose in the UN crisis over Katanga, where the Conservative government stood almost alone in its desire to placate Sir Roy Welensky and the shade of the long-dead Cecil Rhodes, against the vast majority of the UN members. It was the same issue which was at stake in our attack on Lord Home’s backward-looking strictures on the United Nations during the Katanga crisis. It is the same issue which led to the sharp battle between Conservatives and Labour over the question of banning arms shipments to South Africa, an argument which has now been transferred to the United Nations.
The Labour Party’s policy on world affairs, therefore, is based on working closely through the Commonwealth for economic and political cooperation in the United Nations and for much more positive measures to further the war against poverty and hunger in the Commonwealth and in the wider areas of the underdeveloped world.
For this, economic strength is essential, both in Britain and in the Western world of developed nations. Britain cannot put forth its full strength with a limping economy whose record in industrial production has for ten years past left it at the bottom of the league of advanced industrial nations. It is for this reason that in our domestic policies we have given priority to the measures needed to get Britain moving steadily forward, firing on all six cylinders, developing its basic industries, particularly those which can make a major contribution to our export drive.
But measures are also needed to strengthen the economic unity of the non-Soviet world. All of us wish to see urgent action taken on the lines of the Trade Expansion Act, to reduce and remove tariffs and other impediments to freer trade. But if we are successful in this, we shall only hasten the day when the whole economy of the free-trading world slows down through a shortage of monetary liquidity. In the past quarter century world trade has increased fourfold; monetary reserves have barely doubled. Thus, whenever Britain or the United States seeks to expand industrial production, one or the other — or both — runs into serious balanceof-payments problems. The internal expansion of credit by which British and American bankers financed the phenomenal increase in domestic production in our two countries in the nineteenth century has no counterpart in the international trading system of the twentieth century. We are still tied to gold.
This is why so many of us, in both countries, have called for new machinery and new measures to ensure that international credit facilities increase pari passu with the growth of world trade. In a speech to the National Press Club in Washington in April, and in more detailed studies since, I have proposed that the International Monetary Fund be granted credit-creating powers to provide lor the automatic expansion of monetary liquidity to meet the increased requirements of world trade. Tied to this, there should be a provision which enables the appropriate world development authority to certify to I.M.F. particular projects in underdeveloped countries, which could be financed by I.M.F, overdraft facilities, encashable in advanced countries where unemployment or undercapacity working is present. This would enable Brazil or India, for example, to build a steel mill or power station with equipment provided in the United States or United Kingdom with no adverse reactions on the overseas-payments position of either the undeveloped or developed countries concerned.
I NOW turn to relations between East and West, and Britain’s role therein.
First, we stress that all initiatives for peace should be made within the context of the Western alliance. In many cases, Britain will be able to take initiatives, perhaps more than in the past, because of Britain’s fruitful trading contacts with the Eastern world. But such initiatives would always be within the four corners of agreed Western policy.
Moving forward from the test ban — the main lines of which we had discussed with Mr. Khrushchev before the tripartite negotiations — a Labour government in Britain would press for further action to bridge the gap between the U.S. and Russian disarmament drafts, and for a worldwide antiproliferation agreement. It is our policy, too, to press for a measure of disengagement in areas of high tension, for the creation of nuclear-free zones in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central Europe. We would support discussions on the Rapacki Plan, as a basis for negotiations, as part of a wider agreement on measures to prevent surprise attack, but with the strict proviso that any agreement resulting would not disturb the existing balance of military strength in Central Europe.
There are, of course, issues where there is a clear difference of view between the Labour Party and the U.S. Administration. One is the question of recognition of Communist China and its admission to the United Nations. This problem will become more acute as the need to bring China within the scope of a test-ban and a general disarmament agreement becomes more pressing. AngloAmerican discussions on this matter — and argument within the United Nations — are inevitable.
Another issue, and one on which both major parties in Britain are in agreement, is that of trade with the Soviet bloc. The American view is still based on a hope of containing Soviet economic growth by refusing to trade, especially in plant and equipment which incorporate Western know-how. The British view is that Soviet technological progress is continuing at a rapid rate, that refusal to supply equipment is followed by Soviet expansion of strategic industries, and that, provided there is no shipment of goods of direct military value, a reasonable flow of trade can help to improve contacts and reduce tension.
For the rest, however, the election of a Labour government in Britain should lead to a closer and more intimate contact with the United States through our insistence on all the measures necessary to make the Western alliance a reality, through our closer identity of view on nuclear policy and the prevention of proliferation, and through our common approach to colonialism and the problems of newly emerging countries and the Afro-Asian questions which will increasingly dominate exchanges at the United Nations.
It is this identity of view and interest that lies at the heart of the Anglo-American relationship.