Nat. Govt. Foreign

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  • The National Government - Foreign Affairs, 1935-1939
    • Public opinion
      • Marked reluctance of the public to regard war as a legitimate step in national policy - originated from the profound terror of military conflict after WW1
      • British audiences had been shocked by films showing the devastation caused by the Axis powers' (Germany and Italy) bombing of civilian targets in Spain and by Japanese attacks on the cities of China in the Sino (China)-Japanese war
      • None of the political parties felt free to advocate a re-armament programme
        • Baldwin, HoC, November 1932: 'I think it is well also for the man on the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through.'
          • Baldwin, HoC, Nov. 1932: He puts it with 'appalling frankness' that if he had suggested re-armament then he could not 'think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain.'
      • The 'King and Country' debate, 1933
        • In February 1933, the Oxford Union voted by a large majority in favour of the resolution 'That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country' - evidence of the powerful pacifist feelings of the public
      • The Peace Ballot, 1934-1935
        • A 9-month, house-to-house poll was organised by the League of Nations Union - this involved 11.5 million people answering a series of questions regarding their views on disarmament
          • Most responded strongly in favour of Britain's remaining a member of the LoN, and backed the notion of an 'all-round reduction of armaments'
            • However, 7 million said that they would support international armed resistance against an aggressor, 2 million said no to this, and another 2 million abstained
              • Therefore, the public were in favour of disarmament while at the same time believing in the legitimacy of international armed resistance to aggression - a contradiction
                • In 1935, Clement Attlee said in the HoC that the Labour Party's approach was 'collective security' whilst also saying 'our policy is not one of seeking security through re-armament, but through disarmament'
                  • This was contradictory and illogical. For collective security to be workable, force had to be used, even if internationally organised and employed only as a last resort
    • The Spanish Civil War, 1936-39
      • In 1936 General Franco led his Nationalist forces, representing Catholic conservative Spain, in rebellion against the Republican govt., which had the support of anarchists, regional separatists and Communists
        • Italy and Germany, eager to test their new weapons and military tactics in a real war, aided Franco's armies, while Stalin's USSR backed the Republicans
          • Nat. Govt. remained officially neutral - joined with the French govt. in formally declaring a policy of non-intervention
            • The Republicans in Spain appealed for help to the French and British people, not the govts of France/Britain - provided a rallying call for those angered by the successes of fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany and the apparent indifference of their govts. to all this
              • The war came at the right time for the Left (Libs/Marxists/trade unionists/idealists). A.J.P. Taylor said the war 'transcended politics' in that it provided 'the emotional experience of their lifetime' for the public
                • Seeing Spain as a struggle of democracy vs. fascism, they responded eagerly to the Republican appeal and thousands enlisted in the International Brigades (Pro-Republican forces made up of foreign volunteers)
                  • Republican supporters had been duped into becoming pawns of the USSR. Stalin supported the Republicans at a high price - he took the whole of Spain's gold reserves and claimed the right to direct the war strategy - Soviet Union was cynically exploitative of the situation in Spain, as was Nazi Germany
                    • The Left's approach to foreign affairs was based on the principles of collective security and disarmament, yet they pressed for British intervention in Spain and attacked the Nat. Govt. for its failure to rearm against the growing threat of Germany - contradictory, its moral ground was weakened.
      • Eventually won by the Nationalists, but clearly showed the unwillingness of the Nat. Govt. to take risks in foreign affairs - no matter how passionate the public were about the conflict, Britain stood diplomatically and militarily aloof
        • Same reluctance to be involved prevented it from dealing with the mounting threat of Nazi expansionism in Europe
    • Chamberlain and appeasement, 1937-39
      • Represented how govt. policy was in tune with the wishes of the people
      • German expansion under Hitler:
        • 1933: Germany withdrew from both the disarmament talks at Geneva and the LoN
        • 1935: Hitler re-introduced conscription and began to build up Germany's armed services in direct defiance of the 1919 ToV restrictions.
        • 1936: German troops re-occupied the Rhineland
        • 1938: The 'Anschluss' incorporated Austria into the German state, a move expressly forbidden by the ToV
        • 1938: Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia occupied by Germany
        • 1939: Remainder of Czechoslovakia seized
        • 1939: Germany invaded Poland
      • The Czech Crisis, 1938
        • Under the ToV, the Sudetenland had been incorporated into the newly created state of Czechoslovakia
          • Sudetenland overwhelmingly German in population. Hitler demanded that the 3 million Sudeten Germans adopt 'self-determination'; the right to be reincorporated into Germany. He subjected the Czech govt. to a set of impossible demands, threatening war if they were not accepted
            • To avoid war, Chamberlain engaged in 'summit diplomacy' with Hitler - a series of meetings which led to the 1938 Munich Agreement, signed by the European powers.
              • Britain, France and Italy acknowledged Germany's claims and the Czechs were forced to accept the loss of the Sudetenland.
                • In a radio broadcast, Chamberlain justified his sacrifice of the Czechs: 'How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.' (Reported in The Times, 28th Sept. 1938)
      • 'out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety'
        • 'peace in our time'
          • Praised as a saviour of world peace by the public
            • But...
              • Appeasement was Chamberlain's manipulation of public opinion. He wanted to impress the British people and keep them on his side. This was why he was careful to make sure his departure and return were major press occasions, covered by the cameras. He knew that the newsreels would be shown to the millions of the nation's cinema-goers.
              • Although his summit diplomacy was a failure, it was hugely popular initially. He carried the people with him.
              • Britain gave Poland guarantees of protection = failure, just a gesture. Chamberlain's capitulation to German demands over Czechoslovakia had convinced Hitler that Britain would not be willing or able to fight over Poland. He was right.
          • foolish and inept
            • But... appeasement had expressed the will of the great majority of the British people. In seeking by all means to avoid war, Chamberlain was pursuing a policy that matched the public mood
        • Praised as a saviour of world peace by the public
          • But...
            • Appeasement was Chamberlain's manipulation of public opinion. He wanted to impress the British people and keep them on his side. This was why he was careful to make sure his departure and return were major press occasions, covered by the cameras. He knew that the newsreels would be shown to the millions of the nation's cinema-goers.
            • Although his summit diplomacy was a failure, it was hugely popular initially. He carried the people with him.
            • Britain gave Poland guarantees of protection = failure, just a gesture. Chamberlain's capitulation to German demands over Czechoslovakia had convinced Hitler that Britain would not be willing or able to fight over Poland. He was right.
        • foolish and inept
          • But... appeasement had expressed the will of the great majority of the British people. In seeking by all means to avoid war, Chamberlain was pursuing a policy that matched the public mood
      • Sympathy for Germany
        • Harshness of the Versailles settlement towards Germany
        • Churchill was one of the most outspoken critics of German re-armament in the 1930s, yet even he acknowledged that the events regarding the Rhineland, Anschluss and Sudetenland were all in keeping with the principle of self-determination which the Allies had made the basis of the 1919 ToV.
      • Fear of Soviet Communism since 1917
        • Britain welcomed the growth of a strong, anti-Communist Germany as it was a barrier to the spread of Bolshevism westward
        • USSR became an ally of Britain following the German invasion of Russia in June 1941 - fear of Soviet Communism lifted

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