October 21, 1942
Inter-Allied Review, November 15, 1942.
I am very sensible of the great honour you have done me today. I appreciate this vast audience and the affectionate welcome you have given me, but more, I appreciate today the presence of the chairmanship of my old leader "L. G."
Words fail me to express my feelings on an occasion like this, but I am here today to address you on the war. The Prime Minister has led me to this; he brought me here, he created this occasion. I feel now like a sacrificial lamb being led to the slaughter, but I rely on your sympathy and support to see me through.
This is a great occasion for me, and I am deeply conscious of the exceptional honour you are doing me. In my experience it is a unique occasion. It is no small thing to be called upon to address the members of this Sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom, this Mother of Parliaments and free democratic institutions, this Senate of Kings, to use the phrase once applied to the Roman Senate.
I appreciate this honour, which I have not deserved, and which but expresses your good will and interest in me and in the country and young nation I am privileged to represent.
I know you have singled me out for this distinction largely because I happen to be the last surviving member, still active in high office, of the War Cabinet of the last war. I was the youngest and the least of that notable band, and no doubt for these good and sufficient reasons I have been spared, perhaps overlooked, by the subsequent storms and the years.
And now that I reappear on this scene after many years you are interested in this somewhat mystical figure and curiosity from the past.
I know the subject of War Cabinets is a minor matter of controversy among you, and I shall therefore avoid invidious comparisons between then and now. But you will at least allow me to refer to the two leaders in the two supreme crises of our sorely tried generation.
I am very proud to be honoured by the presence here today of my old leader, Mr. Lloyd George, but for whom who knows what might have happened in the mortal crisis of 25 years ago. Today, in this greater crisis, we gratefully remember his imperishable service and thank God for the gift and saving grace of his great historic leadership. He stands out as the supreme architect of victory in the last war.
No less have we been blessed with distinguished leadership in this vaster struggle of today. I sometimes wonder whether people in this country sufficiently realise what Winston Churchill has meant and continues to mean, not only to them but also to the Allied peoples, the United Nations, and to brave men and women everywhere in the world.
His words and foresight, his courage and energy have been an unfailing inspiration to all of us. He remains the embodiment of the spirit of eternal youth and resilience, the spirit of a great undying nation in one of the greatest moments of history. Let us recognise with gratitude that we have been nobly blessed with wonderful leadership, both in the last war and in this.
I have spoken of the two great actors, the two greatest actors, in the drama, the continuing drama of our age. I call this a continuing drama because I view this war as a continuation of the last war, and the whole as perhaps another Thirty Years' War, which began in 1914, was interrupted by an armistice in 1919, improperly called a peace, was resumed with greater ferocity in 1939, and may continue (who knows?) till 1944. The intervening armistice was a period of feverish rest or unrest and dreams and illusions.
I have referred to two great actors in this drama of our age. There is a third and greater actor to be mentioned. I refer to the British people and the spirit that animates them and the young nations around them in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
One occasionally hears idle words about the decay of this country, about the approaching break-up of the great world group we form. What folly and ignorance, what misreading of the real signs of the times! In some quarters what wishful thinking!
It is true that this greatest human experiment in political organization, this proudest political structure of time, this precedent and anticipation of what one hopes may be in store for human society in the years to come, this Commonwealth, is being tested as never before in its history.
But is it not standing the test? Is not this free and voluntary association, is not this world-wide human co-operation today holding together more successfully than ever before under the most searching test?
Knowing the dangers and temptations we have had to face, the stresses and strains imposed on us, nothing has been more remarkable to me than the cohesion of this vast structure under the hardest hammer-blows of fate. We have suffered, we are poorer,) we shall be poorer still. We have had heavy setbacks and an exceptional run of bad luck.
Is it a wonder that in the fourth year of this war there may sometimes come moments of disappointment, of fatigue, and occasionally even a sense of frustration? But still this great Commonwealth remains the heart of the defence against the most terrible onslaught ever made on human rights and liberties. It stands unshaken by the storms and setbacks.
The people of this island are the real heroes of this epic worldwide drama, and I pay my small tribute to their unbending, unbreakable spirit. I have been absent from this country for almost 10 years, and coming back now I can see for myself the vast change which the trials and sufferings and exertions of the war period' have wrought.
I remember this smiling land, recovered and rebuilt after the last war, where a happy people dwelt securely, busy with the tasks and thoughts of peace. And now I have come back to a country over which the fury of war has swept, a country whose people, have had to face in their grimmest mood the most terrible onslaught in its history.
Many of its ancient monuments are damaged or gone forever. The blitz has passed over cities, ports, churches, temples, humble homes and palaces, Houses of Parliament and Law Courts. Irreplaceable treasures of 1,000 years of almost uninterrupted progress and culture and peaceful civilisation have disappeared for ever.
War, the horror people still call war, but in its modern scientific form something very different from what passed under that name before, war has come to this favoured land and attempted its worst. Much has gone which is lost for ever.
But one thing is not lost-one thing, the most precious of all, remains and has rather increased. For what will it profit a nation if it wins the world and loses its soul? The soul remains. Glory has not departed from this land.
I speak not of outward glory, of what your Gallic neighbor called "La Gloire" in their past revolutionary fervour. I speak rather of that inward glory, that splendour of the spirit, which has shone over this land from the soul of its people, and has been a beacon light to the oppressed and downtrodden peoples in this new martyrdom of man.
Let the enemy say, "Gott strafe England." "God bless England" has been the response from the victims of this most fiendish onslaught in history.
But for this country-the stand it made from 1939 onward, its immeasurable exertions since and up to now, its toil and sweat, its blood and tears-this world of ours might have been lost for 1,000 years, and another dark age might have settled down on the spirit of man.
This is its glory-to have stood in the breach and to have kept the way open to man's vast future. And when, after a long absence, I see to-day this flame of the spirit above the flame of the blitz, I feel that I have come to a greater, prouder, more glorious home of the free than I ever learnt to know in its palmiest days.
This is the glory of the spirit, which sees and knows no defeat or loss, but increasingly nerves, nourishes and sustains the will to final victory.
I have singled out for emphasis the spirit and service of this country because they have been the most important, indeed the crucial factors hitherto for our Allied cause. But the spirit of resolution and endurance and sacrifice is not confined to Britain.
Other Allied nations, each in its own degree, share in this spirit. When we survey the world heaving to-day in its agony we see everywhere the same spirit lighting up the sombre scene.
Think of China and its five years of suffering at the hands of the Japanese war lords, busy with their so-called "co-prosperity sphere" in Asia. Think of Russia and its unbroken spirit amid the hardest blows and most cruel sacrifices of this war.
Look at the wonderful resurgence of the brave little nations of Western Europe, whom no adversity, no defeat, dangers or chains can hold down. Think of the heroic guerrillas of Serbia and other small nations. Look at the new glory of Greece which has so effectively dimmed the tinsel grandeur of Mussolini's Rome-truly a new Hellas has arisen to fulfill the poets' great vision.
And looking farther afield, watch the young nations of the British Commonwealth at the job. Last and greatest of all, see America in her invincible might under one of the greatest of leaders, marching to the flaming ramparts of the world in East and West.
And shall we forget France, not dead, but like Lazarus only sleeping, and waiting for the dawn to shake off the torpor which has temporarily overcome her historic genius?
No, the spirit of man is neither dead nor decadent. It will never bend the knee before the new slavery.
The light of freedom which has guided our slow and faltering advance through the ages still shines in the night which has overtaken us. The glory is still with us, and we shall follow it with all our strength and devotion to the new dawn which surely awaits our race.
But a rough and terrible passage lies before us, and it will call for all our combined resources, all our concentrated will and effort, all our highest leadership to carry us to our goal. There is no place for complacency or wishful thinking.
The mortal struggle is on, and it will become more cruel and desperate as the end draws nearer. For it is indeed a struggle of life and death between the contending systems and ideologies which now divide mankind.
I, therefore, pass on to the war situation. For the first three years of the war our role had necessarily to be a defensive one.
That role was imposed on us by the intensive secret preparations of the enemy for six years before the war, by the false sense of security he had sedulously fostered among us, and by the mood of appeasement which had thus been created.
That advantage no premature offensive could possibly have overcome. We could barely maintain our self-defence against the terrible odds.
In those cases where we were in honour bound to take the offensive in support of other small peoples we have suffered reverses which still further weakened us. Let us, however, never regret the help we did our best to bring Norway, Holland and Greece in their hour of need.
In these common sufferings which we shared with them the United Nations were born. But these efforts were indeed beyond our resources at that time, and we suffered discouraging reverses. Only in Africa could we successfully assume the offensive, but modesty prevents me from dwelling on that theme.
Then came the most deadly catastrophe of all when France fell. It was an awful moment in history. The sudden fall of a great nation and world Power is a phenomenon almost unknown in history, and this particular blow was as unexpected as it was deadly.
The enemy looked upon it as also for us the end, and this infatuation of his providentially saved us. Instead of immediately turning on London he persevered on his planned course to Paris, and gave us the opportunity to recover our breath and prepare for the blitz against London. And what a defense it was!
Surely never in history did the future hang on so slender a thread, and was the outcome so painfully and prayerfully watched by so many millions over the whole world! Providence saved us there, and let us admit that the Devil helped him. Such is always the ultimate function of evil in this world.
The defeat of the Luftwaffe in that supreme crisis saved not only London and Britain but, I firmly believe, the whole Allied cause and the future of the world.
The fall of France was followed by two other events, both of the greatest importance for the subsequent course of the war. The first was another fatal mistake of Hitler.
Baulked in his air attack on London, he saw that it was unsafe to attempt an invasion of Britain before first clearing his rear in Russia. The magnitude and duration of Russian resistance have surprised not only Hitler but probably everybody else.
Probably no such losses on both sides have ever been suffered in the history of war. If the Russian losses must be terrible it is equally true that the German army is bleeding to death in Russia.
The appalling blood-letting which is necessary for Hitler's ultimate defeat is being administered by the Russians, and they alone can do it. In spite of their losses in men and material and territory, the Russians show not the least sign of giving in, and the bitter defence will go on to the bitter end.
This impression is confirmed by all the best inside information. Hitler has done his best to avoid Napoleon's example, but history may yet record that the course he actually adopted was even more fatal than was Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.
The course for the Allies to follow is clear. Whatever help in whatever form we can give to Russia to sustain her in her colossal effort should be given in the fullest measure and with the utmost speed. She is bearing more than her share of the common burden.
The second result of the fall of France was the almost total loss of the entire Allied positions in the Far East. Vichy opened the door to Japan in Indo-China, and through that unexpected opening the flood poured into Siam, Malaya and Burma.
Indo-China was the back-door to Singapore, a back-door which we had never dreamt would be opened by our ally against us an event for which the defences of Singapore made no adequate provision and which made its fall inevitable.
And when Singapore fell the whole Dutch Indies and the other island groups in the Far East were doomed, and it has only been possible to stop the flood at the very shores of Australia and New Zealand.
People who have not followed or understood the inevitable, the terrible logic of events have blamed the Allies for these tremendous setbacks and the ill-disposed have taken the loss of Singapore as a proof of decadence, and a sign of the approaching downfall of the Commonwealth.
As a matter of fact it was merely a consequence of the downfall of France, and no more.
We mourn these our losses; we mourn especially the temporary loss to Holland of her great Empire in the Far East, which has been a model of colonial government; we deplore our diminished opportunities at the moment of helping China in her stout defence.
But these things will pass. For Japan just as surely as for Hitler's Germany the writing is on the wall. All that will remain of this spectacular Japanese success will be "Japan for the Japanese."
For Japan has infallibly sealed her own doom. Pearl Harbour was at once a challenge to America, to western civilisation and to the principles of good faith on which it is basically founded. In the long run Japan will not be good enough as an associate even for Germany. There are degrees in infamy.
Not that I deplore Pearl Harbour! From our point of view it was a heavy price, but well worth paying for the immense gains that have accrued. It was what the chemists call a catalyser.
It suddenly crystallised, precipitated and solidified American opinion as nothing else in the world could have done. At one sudden leap America was in the war.
These are the steps that have marked our climb out of the abyss into which the fall of France had all but plunged us:
FIRST, the defeat of the German Luftwaffe over London.
SECOND, the treacherous attack of Germany on Russia, in spite of the peace treaty between them.
THIRD, Pearl Harbour and its sudden and timely effect in carrying America 100 per cent into the war while Adm. Nomura and Mr. Cordell Hull were talking peace at the conference table.
We have much to be thankful for, but not least for the colossal mistakes of our enemies. Will a fourth blunder be committed? Will Japan, in spite of her peace treaty with Russia, launch a treacherous attack against her also in Siberia? Time alone will show.
We have now reached the fourth year of this war, and the defence phase has now ended. The stage is set for the last, the offensive phase. Let me set your minds at rest at once; I am not going to discuss the future offensive strategy of the war.
The amateur strategists can do that with greater freedom and less responsibility in the Press. I only wish to emphasize that one phase has ended and another must now begin.
The final alignments both of the Allies and our enemies have been made. Resources have been developed and mobilised on a very large scale, ours still on the increase, those of the enemy on the decline.
Our man-power is still growing, that of the enemy is getting depleted, while he makes even heavier drafts on his suffering vassal peoples. The spectre of want, hunger and starvation is beginning to stalk through the subject countries, the spirit of unrest is heaving and rising.
The explosive limits of endurance are nearing. We are approaching the point when both on the war fronts and on the home fronts in enemy countries the situation is ripening for far-reaching developments.
So far, time has been in our favour, and has, on the whole, been kind to us. In spite of heavy setbacks and many disappointments, we have had the necessary time to prepare to parry deadly blows, and to assemble and consolidate the forces and resources on which we rely for the Allied victory.
Once the time has come to take the offensive and to strike while the iron is hot it would be folly to delay, to over-prepare, and perhaps miss our opportunity. Nor are we likely to do so-of that I feel satisfied.
On this point it would be unwise for me to say more and thus to set going unnecessary and perhaps harmful speculations.
I would only point out to you that today is Trafalgar Day. It reminds us of that dark hour, the darkest in the Napoleonic War, when your great national hero, the embodiment of the heroic offensive spirit of this people, sought out the superior naval forces of the enemy and dealt them that fatal blow which not only saved England from invasion, but turned the whole tide of war, and finally saved Europe from being overwhelmed by the insensate domination of one man.
This anniversary is not only a reminder, but an inspiration to us to go forward and do likewise. I am sure it will not be lost on us and our gallant allies. For us, too, the great offensive moment is ripening.
I now pass on to another point and wish to emphasize the deeper significance of the struggle on which we are engaged. It is no ordinary political issues that are at stake, and the outcome of this war will not be immaterial to the future character and trend of our civilisation. In spite of the specious promises of a New Order and the alluring appeals to the idealism of youth, actual events have in the last three years revealed the true nature of the Nazi ideology. We know beyond all doubt what Hitler's New Order means.
Persecution, domination, suppression, enslavement of the free spirit of man, aye, extermination-those are the dominant features of the new creed as practiced in the occupied countries. It is written in the blood and tears and nameless suffering of vast numbers of innocent men and women of all ages and conditions.
It is in contrast to this that I have emphasised the heroic spirit of the suffering Allied peoples now under Hitler's heel, because I feel that this is the heart of the matter. This at bottom is a war of the spirit, of man's soul.
Hitler has tried to kill this spirit and to substitute for it some ersatz thing-something which is really its negation. He has instilled into German youth a new racial fanaticism.
He has sought strength in the ancient discarded forest gods of the Teuton. His faith is a reversion to the pagan past and a denial of the spiritual forces which have carried us forward in the Christian advance which constitutes the essence of European civilisation.
He has trampled under foot the great faith which has nourished the West and proved the greatest dynamic of all human history and made Western civilisation the proudest achievement of man.
He has trampled on the Cross and substituted for it the Crooked Cross, fit symbol for the new Devil worship which he has tried to impose on his country and the world. Nietzsche's Superman is substituted for the Man of Nazareth as the new leader of the human race and the human advance.
He has stamped on the human virtues which we had learnt to cultivate under the symbol of the Cross. Decency, sympathy, mercy are not words found in his new code.
He has trampled on the spirit of liberty which has become the accepted political creed of the modern world. He has started a new era of martyrdom for the human spirit, an era of persecution such as mankind has not known since its emergence from the Dark Age.
The suffering he has inflicted on Jews and Christians alike, the tide of horrors launched under his Gestapo regime over the fair West, constitute the darkest page of modern history. He has outraged and insulted and challenged the very spirit of humanity and tried to found a new barbarism.
After what has happened since 1939 in the Occupied Countries and elsewhere, both in peace and war, there is no more doubt about the meaning of it all. The real issue has now been made clear. There is a challenge to all we have learnt to value, and to prize even above life itself.
Behind all the issues of this war lies the deeper question now posed to the world: which do you choose-the free spirit of man and the moral idealism which has shaped the values and ideas of our civilisation, or this horrid substitute, this foul obsession now resuscitated from the under-world of the past?
This in the last analysis is what this war is about. At bottom, therefore, this war is a new Crusade, a new fight to the death for man's rights and liberties, and for the personal ideals of man's ethical and spiritual life.
To the Nazi fanaticism we oppose this crusading spirit, which will not sheath the sword till Nazidom and all its works have been purged from this fair world. And in that spirit the United Nations will march forward to victory and to the world which will follow that victory.
I therefore come to the question: What is the sort of world which we envisage as our objective after the war? What sort of social and international order are we aiming at? These are very important questions, deserving of our most careful attention if we mean not only to win the war but also the peace.
Our ideas on these matters 22 years ago were much too vague and crude, and at the same time much too ambitious, with the result that when they came to be tested by hard experience they proved wanting, and their failure helped to contribute to the present conflict. With that experience before us we ought this time to hammer out something more clear, definite and practical.
A great deal of thought is no doubt already being given to these matters, and one may hope that we shall approach the peace much better informed and equipped than we were last time.
Certain points of great importance have already merged. Thus we have accepted the name of "the United Nations." This is a new conception much in advance of the old concept of a League of Nations.
We do not want a mere League, but something more definite and organic, even if to begin with more limited and less ambitious than the League. "The United Nations" is itself a fruitful conception, and on the basis of that conception practical machinery for the functioning of an international order could be explored.
Then again we have the Atlantic Charter, in which certain large principles of international policy in the social and economic sphere have been accepted. That too marks a great step forward which only requires more careful definition and elaboration to become a real Magna Carta of the nations.
Again, we have agreed on certain large principles of social policy, involving social security for the citizen in matters which have lain at the roots of much social unrest and suffering in the past.
We cannot hope to establish a new heaven and a new earth in the bleak world which will follow after this most destructive conflict of history. But certain patent social and economic evils could be tackled on modest practical lines on an international scale almost at once.
Then, again, we have accepted the principle of international help underlying the Mutual Aid Agreement. The helping hand in international life is thus already a matter of practical politics, and could be suitably extended after the war. This, too, is a far-reaching innovation, pointing the way to fruitful developments in future.
All these are already indications of considerable advances to a better world and a richer life for mankind. To these we may add much of the social and economic work of the League of Nations, which remains of permanent value.
Much of the League organisation could thus continue to function for the future well-being of mankind. In sober resolution, in modest hope and strong faith, we move forward to the unknown future.
There is no reason why we should not hopefully and sincerely attempt to carry out for the world the task which now confronts us as never before in the history of our race. An American statesman has called this the century of the plain man, the common people.
I feel that in this vast suffering through which our race is passing we are being carried to a deeper sense of social realities. We are passing beyond the ordinary politics and political shibboleths.
It is no longer a case of Socialism or Communism or any of the other isms of the market place, but of achieving common justice and fair play for all. People are searching their own souls for the causes which have brought us to this pass.
May it be our privilege to see that this suffering, this travail and search of man's spirit shall not be in vain.
Without feeding on illusions, without nursing the impossible, there is yet much in the common life of the people which can be remedied, much unnecessary inequality and privilege to be leveled away, much commonsense opportunity to be erected as the common birthright and public atmosphere-for all to enjoy as of right.
Health, housing, education, decent social amenities, provision against avoidable insecurities-all these simple goods and much more can be provided for all, and thus a common higher level of life be achieved for all.
As between the nations, a new spirit of human solidarity can be cultivated, and economic conditions can be built up which will strike at the root causes of war, and thus lay deeper foundations for world peace.
With honesty and sincerity on our part it is possible to make basic reforms both for national and international life which will give mankind a new chance of survival and of progress.
Let this programme, by no means too ambitious, be our task, and let us now already, even in the midst of war, begin to prepare for it.
And may Heaven's Blessing rest on our work in War and in Peace.