Walter Arnstein / “17. The Storm Gathers Anew” / Britain Yesterday and Today / 1983 (1st ed. 1966)Posted: July 28, 2012
THE RISE OF TOTALITARIANISM. Postwar settlements give way to 1) Great Depression, 2) repudiation of liberal democracy. 1933, Hitler comes to power. Nationalism up, Germany, Italy, Japan. 1918-39, loathing of war was most powerful political force. Policy of appeasement, which then held no negative connotation and meant simply pacifism. 1935, Government of India Act, did not give dominion status, as Gandhi demanded, but made 11 provinces virtually self-governing, except for British reserve emergency powers. Hitler’s private advice to the British, on Gandhi: “Shoot Gandhi, and if that does not suffice to reduce them to submission, shoot a dozen leading members of Congress; and if that does not suffice shoot two hundred and so on until order is established. You will see how quickly they will collapse as soon as you make it clear that you mean business.” 1933, Germany withdraws from Disarmament Conference, and resigns from League of Nations. Britain makes naval agreement with Hitler, limiting Germany to 35% of British tonnage. Implicit recognition of Hitler’s right to violate the Treaty of Versailles.
THE ELECTION OF 1935. 1935, Mussolini invades sovereign Ethiopia, and widespread British pressure on League of Nations to intervene. National government wins reelection overwhelmingly, with Conservative backing. Would Britain go to war to defend Ethiopia vs. Mussolini, in addition to its economic sanctions, in accord with League of Nations? Britain does not, and Mussolini conquers Ethiopia. Sanctions pushed Mussolini into alliance with Germany. Berlin-Rome axis forms, 1936. 1937, axis becomes Berlin-Rome-Tokyo triangle.
THE ABDICATION. 1936, King George V dies. Edward VIII accedes, then abdicates, throne, because he wants to marry an American commoner.
STEPS TOWARD WAR. White Edward VIII dominates headlines, Hitler remilitarizes the Rhineland (Germany’s western frontier), violating Treaty of Versalles and Treaty of Locarno.
THE ROAD TO MUNICH. 1937, Stanley Baldwin resigns PM, Neville Chamberlain succeeds. 1938, Germany annexes Austria–> crisis for Chamberlain. Hitler demands territorial concessions from Czechoslovakia. Baldwin meets with Hitler, September 1938, signs Munich Agreement, which proposes Czech annexations and commits Hitler to peace. Churchill, with small minority, criticized agreement because he believed Hitler would renege.
THE END OF APPEASEMENT. Hitler breaks promises of September 1938 Munich Agreement, by upping war preparations. Hitler invades Poland, September 1 1939. 2 days later, Britain and France declare war versus Germany. How had appeasement happened? British people felt bad for Germany after Treaty of Versailles. Hitler exploited that feeling, and couched annexations in Liberal language of national self-determination. When appeasement failed, British people had a sort of war mandate: best efforts had failed.