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|From: Irish Foreign Affairs: Editorials|
|Date: July, 2011|
The Nazi/Soviet Pact/War
|This is the 70th anniversary of the German attack on Russia in the World War launched by Britain on the pretext of defending the independence of Poland.
The Irish Examiner (formerly Cork Examiner) commemorated the event with an article by Geoffrey Roberts, formerly a member of the former Communist Party of Great Britain on its patriotic wing and now a Professor at Cork University. Roberts is an 'anti-revisionist' in England and a 'revisionist' in Ireland—he holds a pretty standard English view of things and brought it to Ireland with him—and condemns Irish neutrality. He explains the World War as follows:
"Operation Barbarossa… was the climax of Hitler's bid to establish Germany as the dominant world power. That bid had begun with the invasion of Poland in September 1939, followed by the German conquest of France in June 1940. By 1941 the German war machine had conquered most of Europe as country after country was invaded or forced to join Hitler's Axis alliance. In the West, only Britain, protected by the English Channel and the strength of the Royal Navy and Air Force, remained defiant and undefeated. In the east, the Soviet Union was the last remaining obstacle to German domination of Europe…"
Hitler's bid for world dominance is one of the mesmeric myths by which Britain sought to dominate the mind of the world and divert it from consideration of its own irresponsible warmongering. There is no evidence that Hitler aimed at anything more than "Lebensraum" in a corner of Eastern Europe and, but for Britain, he would have had little hope of making a serious attempt to get that.
Germany had been starved by the British Blockade during the Great War and for six months after it ended and Hitler aimed to get control of oil and corn resources in Eastern Europe so that Germany could not again be reduced to starvation level by the Royal Navy.
But how was he to go about getting to those resources? Britain and France had disarmed Germany and had set up a line of new states to the east of it by destroying the Hapsburg Empire. Those states had defence arrangements with France, which had the strongest land army on the Continent, and in the world. And Britain, which ruled the waves, and had a vast Empire spread around the world, was the guarantor of that Post-Great War order of things.
Was Hitler a fantasist who in disarmed Germany devised a plan of world conquest? And, if he was, how did he come close to achieving it only eight years after becoming Chancellor?
When one looks at Europe as it was in 1933, it is evident that Hitler could not have got where he was six years later without active support from Britain and France. By June 1940 he was at war with Britain and France, which had both declared war on him, and he had defeated their armies. This could not have happened without their support of him after he came to power. It was they who enabled him to resist them when they decided to crush him.
This becomes plainly evident as soon as one frees oneself from the mesmerism of the Churchillist myth—and indeed it is evident enough in Churchill's own history of the War, if it is not read under the spell cast by his worshippers.
The Versailles order of Europe would have made a revival of "German militarism" completely impossible, if it had not been subverted. The subversion was done chiefly by Britain. It was not happy that France, which had borne the main cost of the 1914 war on Germany, was then restored to a position of dominance in Europe by the defeat of Germany. On the balance-of-power principle, which had determined its European policy for a couple of centuries, it could not resist supporting Germany against France. It did this in small ways during the period of the Weimar democracy, and in large ways after Hitler took power.
Britain established a moral ascendancy over France in the 1920s, disabling its foreign policy. France responded by becoming a seconder of British policy. By the time Hitler came to power, the Soviet State had not only survived, but had secured the main threat to its social base through collectivisation, made itself an industrial power, and was approaching the status of a Great Power.
The active British support for Nazi Germany is only comprehensible as a counter to Soviet development.
Initial British support for Hitler was on the basis that he was saving Germany from Bolshevism. But Germany was soon saved. Bolshevism melted away during the first year of Nazi power. That was when the really serious British support for Nazism began.
The word "appeasement", as applied to the British attitude towards Germany in 1934-1938, is a complete misnomer. It carries the suggestion that Germany was a powerful bullying state which was conciliated in the hope of getting it to behave better. But in 1934 Germany was still a very weak state, effectively disarmed, with armed states to the east and west of it.
Hitler, from a position of great weakness, set about breaking all the Versailles conditions on Germany. Britain either pretended not to notice or collaborated with him (Naval Agreement of 1934). Military conscription was introduced. The German Army, such as it was, was put into the demilitarised Rhineland. Fascist Austria merged with Nazi Germany—a thing which democratic Austria had been prevented from doing with democratic Germany.
Italy had been a strong supporter of Austrian independence against Germany. But Mussolini, seeing how Britain itself was subverting the Versailles restrictions on Germany, began to reorientate himself.
By the Summer of 1938 Germany was very much stronger than it had been in 1934, but was still very far from being a military power of the first order. The decisive change of quality came with the acquisition of the Sudetenland, the falling apart of the rest of Czechoslovakia, and the transfer to Germany of the advanced Czech arms industry. And that was a gift from Britain to Hitler.
If Hitler had attempted to take the Sudetenland by force, he would possibly have been removed by a coup and, if not, would probably have been defeated. The Czech frontier was physically strong, and Treaties would have brought the French Army and possibly the Russian into the conflict. It was possibly to ward off the latter that Britain threatened the Czechs into peacefully giving Hitler what he was asking for.
The following year Britain encouraged the Poles to refuse a moderate proposal made by Hitler to resolve the German/Polish border dispute. Democratic Germany had refused to accept the border made by Versailles. Hitler was willing to accept it, on the condition of having an extra-territorial road across the Polish Corridor, to connect the two parts of the German state, and the German city of Danzig being transferred to adjacent East Prussia. When that proposal was being made, Britain suddenly gave a military Guarantee to Poland, and France followed suit.
Apparently backed by the two greatest military Powers in Europe, the Poles refused to negotiate. They accepted the Guarantee and set about formalising it into a Treaty. Hitler took this to negate the Treaty he had made with Pilsudsky in 1934 (Pilsudsky was now dead) and an attempt to establish a powerful military encirclement of Germany. Observing that Britain and France were not making active preparations for war, he broke the encirclement by striking at Poland on 1st September 1939. The RAF bombarded Germany with leaflets, but otherwise the Western Allies of the Poles did not interfere in the German-Polish War. Britain declared war on Germany, but proceeded with it at a leisurely pace as a World War that was no bit of use to the Poles.
The Polish military position collapsed in a few weeks. The Soviet Union then took possession of an area that Poland had taken from it in the war of 1920. This was done by prior arrangement with Germany covering the contingency of a Polish collapse. The Royal Navy stopped German trade by sea, as in 1914, but this time Russia was neutral and continued trading with Germany beyond the reach of the Royal Navy. French and British Armies were placed along the German frontier, but only fired an occasional shot.
The Soviet Union, to make Leningrad more defensible against whoever might attack, proposed transfers of territory to the Finns, which were rejected. The Red Army moved into Finland and was resisted. Britain and France got the League of Nations to expel the Soviets, and began to make active preparations to get involved in war against the Soviet Union in alliance with the Finns. But the Finns made a settlement, conceding territory in the Baltic in exchange for territory further North.
Britain then started planning to invade Norwegian neutrality in order to obstruct the sale of Swedish iron ore to Germany.
Germany, discovering this, launched a hasty operation towards Norway and got in just before the British. While the British were retreating from Norway, the Germans responded to the Anglo-French declarations of war, which had lain on the table all this time, and won a quick victory in a novel campaign which might easily have ended in disaster.
France, being occupied as a consequence of defeat in its third war with Germany in 70 years (two of which had been launched by itself) had no choice but to make a settlement. The Franco/German settlement of 1940 was temporary, pending a settlement with Britain. Britain refused to settle. Hitler had ordered his tanks to halt, which enabled about a third of the British Army to be evacuated from Dunkirk.
With the Royal Navy still ruling the waves, Britain refused to settle. Secret Intelligence from the Enigma machine confirmed that it was itself safe from invasion. It denounced France for settling, charged it with moral degeneracy, and made war on it, attacking its Navy in North Africa.
During the following years the British strategy was to spread the war, launching pin-pricks here and there and drawing the Germans in. The Soviet object in that year was to stabilise the situation. It launched a great propaganda campaign against Britain's 'Spread The War' policy, knowing that the great prize for Britain was a German/Soviet War.
Britain, while being either unable or unwilling to prosecute its declaration of war with any reasonable hope of winning, was able to keep Europe in a condition of war with its refusal to settle and its pin-pricks. Its purpose was to prevent the world which it had shaken up from settling down. Historically it had shown great skill at fishing in troubled waters.
In those circumstances the Soviet Union and Germany had to contemplate the possibility of war with each other. Quite independently of ideological concerns, Germany had an interest in removing the Soviet Union from the scene. If it defeated Russia, Britain, with no further hope of winning, was virtually certain to settle. And any German attempt to bring about a British settlement by invasion—the alternative course—would be a risky venture with the Red Army poised on the eastern frontier.
At this point, something like world conquest was on the cards for Germany. But Germany had not arrived at that point through the systematic implementation of a plan—or fantasy—of world conquest conceived by Hitler before he had an army to speak of. One might almost say that he had been lured and nudged towards that position by the combination of deviousness and bungling that was the foreign policy of the British Empire during the generation after 1918 when it was cock of the walk.
Russia, on the other hand, was committed in principle to a kind of world conquest.
Professor Roberts concludes:
"As the old saying goes, the British gave time, the Americans gave money, and the Russians gave their blood…"
"Britain gave time". How modest! What an extravagant piece of English understatement! What Britain gave the world was that War.