THE BRITISH CASE
In Britain, as in many other countries, a government rules as long as it enjoys the confidence of the main legislative body, in our case the House of Commons.
Therefore governments can fall and be replaced either through a decision by the majority of the House of Commons, or following the holding of general elections.
In general, the fall of a government, or its resignation, leaves almost intact the rest of the ruling body. The magistrature is untouched. The civil servants remain mostly unaffected. The leaders of the army and the police are not removed from their positions. The people shaping and controlling the economy of the country and its financial institutions are still the same as are very often the government representatives in foreign countries. It is often the case that the new government has an outlook mostly influenced by the same pool of friends and inspirational sources as was the case with the previous government.
This amalgam of people, the composition of which evolves very slowly and which enjoys a great stability, can be called ‘the establishment’.
The loyalty of the government is to his people. However, when the government is intrinsically part of the establishment, loyalty to the people is perceived by them as loyalty to the establishment. This comes naturally, and selectively.
Naturally, because, being mainly influenced by a restricted pool of people, a member of such a government comes to trust this pool, and looks to it for inspiration.
Selectively, because, otherwise, the political machinery would not have allowed a member of the government to rise to his position.
The government cannot freely voice the opinion of the establishment. Sometimes, the establishment itself cannot voice its own opinion as is the case when the establishment aims at implementing an agenda that has no public approval and which therefore, for the sake of success, has to remain unexpressed.
When the interests of the establishment conflict with those of the people, the government often finds it convenient to implement a policy favourable to the establishment while voicing opinions which contradict the policy they are implementing. Salvemini observed that in such cases the real aims of the [conservative] government are not found in their statements but are clearly expressed in the House of Lords by their peers in the establishment.
However reasonable Salvemini’s observation may be, however confirmed it may appear to be in a number of particular cases, it must be admitted that it is of limited value. His observation can be useful as a hint, as an indication of what further research is to be made. The opinions voiced in the House of Lord by the establishment are not more than circumstantial evidence, however strong.
In this respect there is a unique document, ‘The British Case’, written by a member of the establishment and expressing fascist sympathies the government, never before, dared to voice as its own. And still, these fascist sympathies are endorsed by the government in the form of an introduction by Lord Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
It is a rare case which proves that the unpalatable fascist opinions of the establishment inspired the British governments of the thirties. Considered today, the document is more in the class of ‘confessional evidence’ than of circumstantial evidence.
Such a document, with such an introduction could not have appeared except in very special circumstances, during a ‘window of opportunity’.
While the establishment expressed in many ways a sympathy for fascism, the government had to refrain from doing the same. When it comes to fascism, the government is at odds with the opposition and with the people. The government knows that it does not pay to unveil its real feelings on that matter.
Before August 23rd, 1939, the government was on the defensive accused of not pursuing vigorously enough a policy of collective security designed to stop Germany’s aggressions. It was accused of being reluctant to wind up the negotiations for a treaty of mutual assistance with the Soviet Union. At such a time, any official expression of sympathy with fascism would have added credibility to the accusations.
After May 10, 1940 a combative government was at the helm under Churchill’s leadership. The ‘phoney war’ had ended and the war against Germany was pursued in earnest. To court fascism was ‘out of place’. Moreover, Italy declared war on France and Great Britain on June 10, 1940. Tender words for fascism became betrayal.
However, between August 23, 1939 and May 10, 1940 — a period of 9 months — a peculiar situation reigned in Britain:
w The Soviet-German non-aggression treaty was a source of confusion. While many politician still blamed Chamberlain for having been cool to the prospect of an alliance with the Soviet Union — with the result that the Soviet Union ended up in the arms of Germany — a different explanation of the situation was being commonly spread. The Soviet Union, it was claimed, never intended to sign a treaty with the West. Germany had betrayed its own philosophy by allying herself with the Bolsheviks. Only Italy had remained faithful to true fascism. The correct stand of Italy did not only consist in refusing to join Germany in its war against the West but also in remaining anti-communist as it had always been. This, it is claimed, should cause no wonder considering the many good aspects of the fascist regime.
w The government was still headed by Chamberlain. Its war aims had not been defined. It was prepared to make peace with a German Government headed by a politician (Nazi or not) whose word could be trusted. Hitler, in any case, would have had to be discarded. The war was not ideological and was not directed against nazism, only against its attempt at ‘world domination’.
w On the Western front, the war was a war of words. Britain threw leaflets on Germany instead of bombs. The greatest reproach against Germany was still that her word had been unreliable and that she had gone pro-Bolshevik
In such a situation, not only did the establishment feel free to attack Hitler for his pro-bolshevism (his apostasy) but, by underlining that he had thus betrayed fascism and nazism, it put fascism in a good light. If the spirit of fascism did condemn Hitler’s action, then fascism must be good. Moreover the confusion was such that Halifax, a senior member of the Government, felt no restraint at appearing as a fascist sympathiser.
This ‘window of opportunity’ which allowed the government to get its fascist sympathies out of the closet, was short. Even then, those sympathies were not loudly and frequently expressed in official circles. At any other time Halifax would not have dared to put himself on record so openly. But, apparently, Lord Dolobran’s pamphlet was too close to his heart, and the times may have been right for a timid and first show of such open fascist sympathies. And it is thus that it was possible, at this very particular time, to have Lord Halifax give his enthusiastic imprimatur to “The British Case” by Lord Dolobran.
Halifax’s support to Dolobran’s pamphlet is both enthusiastic and without reservation. We may therefore analyse the pamphlet as representing Halifax’s opinion as well.
The British Case
In the very first sentence, the book summarises ‘the British case’. It states:
The people of the British Commonwealth are engaged today in a life and death struggle for a political principle necessary to the liberties, and therefore to the prosperity and progress, of the people of Europe. It is the principle of national independence.
One could think that the restriction of the ‘principle of national independence’ to Europe is here just an oversight. This is not the case. The author makes this specific restriction on many other occasions. This has at least the advantage of avoiding the consideration of the relevance of this principle to the nations composing the colonial British Empire.
There is no specific mention of nazism or fascism as being in any way related to the British case. Only one single item seems to be of importance: ‘national independence’.
In page 19, for instance, speaking of Hitler, the book mentions:
He wants self-determination for Germans, but self-determination for Poles he denounces as an intolerable outrage.
By this lack of principle, Germany has destroyed her own title-deeds. She will only regain them when she has a Government whose practices are compatible with the preservation of the principle of national independence.
This means that the war against Hitler’s Germany does not differ, say, from the war against Germany in 1914. The book says it explicitly (p. 31):
This war which we are fighting today is a continuation of the war of 1914-1918 and is due to the same causes
All doubts can be eliminated with the following quotations (p.41):
The dividing line in Europe is not, as has been sometimes absurdly suggested, between democratic and non-democratic states, but between those who, irrespective of their form of government, have sought to preserve the system of independent nationalities, each providing within the framework of its own institutions a full and free life for its citizens, and those Powers who have long aimed at the destruction of the independent nationalities in order to provide the necessary diversion for the helpless, impoverished and enslaved victims of their own tyrannies.
In the opinion of Dolobran, and Halifax, non-democratic institutions could be compatible with ‘a full and free life’. On this account, non-democratic regimes, some of them at least, could be quite nice.
The author says it himself (p. 37:
During the intervening years, the whole of Central and Southern Europe and Mediterranean littoral abandoned the parliamentary form of government in favour of some kind or another of authoritarian or dictatorial regime.. It is.. essential that the world should know that however decided our views as to our own institutions, we realize that freedom can be combined with order and peaceful external policies pursued by other types of regime.
Our most ancient and very faithful ally, Portugal, enjoys today greater prosperity than ever before in the modern world under the wise but authoritarian government of Senior Salazar. The government of Poland itself was definitely authoritarian. Above all, the Italian genius has developed, in the characteristic Fascist institutions, a highly authoritarian regime which, however, threatens neither religious nor economic freedom, nor the security of other European nations.
Dolobran is concerned with the security of ‘European nations’ exclusively. The conquest of Abyssinia therefore is not to be considered as a counter-example when Fascism, developed by the Italian genius, is considered no threat to other nations. But then, what about the invasion of Albania? This seems to be conveniently forgotten.
The Italian system is founded on two rocks: first, the separation of Church and State and the supremacy of the Church in matters not only of faith but of morals; second the rights of labour. The political machinery of Fascism is, indeed, built up on Trade Unionism while that of the German State is built up on the ruins of the German labour movement.
And what does supremacy of the church in matters of morals means? When Mussolini states that :
War is a phenomenon accompanying the development of humanity... The fundamental virtues of man are revealed to the full light of the sun only in blood-stained struggles.
and when, in the same vein, he tells visitors that:
to remain healthy, a nation must go to war every twenty-five years
is he then displaying the supremacy of the church over morals? Dolobran ignores the invasion of Albania, the suppression of the opposition by murdering or jailing its members, the poison gassing of the Abyssinian population, the statement of Vittorio Mussolini, son of the ruler and a product of the Fascist regime, to the effect that bombing the natives was very amusing. Dolobran must have heard of the murder of Matteoti and the introduction of Anti-Semitic racial laws so as not to be left behind Hitler. He must have heard also of Italian submarine piracy during the Spanish civil war. And, finally, he ignores Italy’s challenge to the League of Nations standing there alone against all the European community.
Dolobran says (p. 39):
There is much in the non-political character of Italian Fascism which would be wholly distasteful to the English, but there is much in the Italian Labour Charter which we should and do admire
It is worth noting that this Fascist Charter forbids workers to strike.
Dolobran makes it clear that the British case against Germany is not the nazi regime. What is it then?
Dolobran is stating that as long as German expansion policies could be considered as compatible with the principle of national independence, as long as it resulted in extending the German frontiers to regions with a predominantly German population, Britain could see some justification for it. Concerning the remilitarisation by Germany of the Rhineland in 1936 Dolobran says (pp. 42-3):
She merely wished, she said.., to restore completely to German sovereignty the population of those districts which happened to abut on the Rhine. The excuse was perhaps adequate.
He then adds (p. 42)
The German attack on Austria was equally not without excuse... Once more the excuse was fairly adequate
And then, about Czechoslovakia (p. 44):
And so the sufferings of the German minority on the northern borders of Czechoslovakia provided the material for a timely crusade of rescue.
For a third time the excuse was adequate, if only just so.
The interesting question is: for what purpose were the excuses adequate? Were they adequate to convince the British government that Germany had no aggressive intentions, that Justice happened to be on Germany’s side?
With the full knowledge of Germany’s ambitions, the British government proceeded to appease Hitler. It did it so long as the excuse was adequate, even if barely so. For the British government’s purpose an excuse is adequate if it can be used by the government to justify its appeasement policy in the people’s eyes. The excuse stops being adequate when it is impossible to have it swallowed by the British people, thus forcing the British Government to stand against it. It is inadequate when it does not respect a façade of respectability.
It is then that the principle of national independence is supposed to enter into play. This principle is sanctified by its relation to Christianity (pp. 13-5 and p. 27)
..the rights of nationalities.. are not legal abstractions, nor the invention of politicians, but one of the rocks on which our Christian civilization is founded.
The European conception of freedom derives directly from Christianity..
..It was the nation-state which was, always and everywhere, the condition of this freedom and this growth..
..the principle of nationality is not one among many forms of political organization but a unique experiment necessitated by Christian freedom
Dolobran seems to think that Britain, bound by Christian morality to the integrity of the nation-states, was each time considering whether Hitler had an adequate excuse. On March 15, 1939, Hitler invaded whatever remained of Czechoslovakia. From the point of view of the principle of nation-states there was no way of justifying this action. As explained in the first sentence of the book, Britain then was ready to go to war in defence of this principle. However, the matter is not that simple. Dolobran writes (p. 16):
However deeply we might feel for a country which has suffered an injury to its prestige by losing its political independence, we should have no right to fight if the lives and happiness of the people of Europe as a whole, were, in the long run, not going to be affected. But reason and history alike prove beyond the remotest possibility of doubt, that it is precisely the lives and happiness of the people of Europe which are today in jeopardy
When a country has lost its political independence, injury is not just to its prestige. No Christian principle would justify abstaining from helping a victim on the ground that its injuries have not affected the lives and happiness of Europe as a whole. Such an understanding of European Civilisation is precisely tainted with the reproach made to ‘Centralised autocracies’ where the interest of the individuals are sacrificed for the interests of the state.
If through impotence or egotism Britain opts not to assist a victim of an aggression, there is no need to add insult to injury by exhibiting the pride of having done what is pretended to be morally compelling.
In view of the last quotation, one is to wonder what has become of the principle of nation-states for which Britain is going to war. It seems to have been replaced by the long run effect on the lives and happiness of the people of Europe as a whole. ‘Europe as a whole’ seems to have become the principle and not the ‘nation-state’.
In addition, on various occasions, the British Government let it publicly known that the small and weak nations could not rely on the League for protection against strong nations, and that Britain should not be expected to be involved in conflicts in regions where her interests are not vital. The region of vital interests were specified. They excluded all of Central and Eastern Europe.
If the policy of appeasement could have neglected for so long the principle of national independence, it would have been difficult to motivate the English people on the basis of such a cause. However, since the war was ‘phoney’ a ‘phoney’ cause could do.
The Historic Perspective Of National Independence
Dolobran states (p. 13):
..we are not properly equipped to sustain this war, or to think out the terms of a lasting peace, unless we understand the historical basis of the rights of nationalities.
The peace that followed the first World War obviously was not a lasting one. Was there then a lack of understanding of the historical basis of the right of nationalities. Dolobran denies it and, nevertheless, does not notice the inevitable conclusion: either the historical basis had not been understood, or the understanding does not ensure a lasting peace. To look therefore for a lasting peace in the direction of the understanding of the historical basis of the rights of nationalities does not bode well for the future.
Let us, nevertheless, look into Dolobran’s understanding of the historical basis of the rights of nationalities. This basis, according to him is the rock of Christianity (p. 14):
The European conception of freedom derives directly from Christianity.. Ours is the first free civilization, and it became free because Christ asserted not the dignity of some men, but of all and the capacity and duty of all to win salvation. Man redeemed by Christ could never again be enslaved to man. He must, to fulfil the purpose for which he had now learnt to be the very core of his being, be a free moral agent.
Apparently, there is an European conception of freedom deriving from Christianity, and non-European concepts. This is worth being mentioned here because, as we shall see, Dolobran is as full of contempt for non-European civilisations as he is of praise for the European example.
Christianity dominated Europe for more than a thousand years before the people would have its rights recognised. Why did it take so much time? Dolobran explains (p. 14):
Freedom spread slowly downward. At first was only the freedom of governments to fashion the destinies of their people. Then the freedom of the nobles to share in the government: then the freedom of the yeoman and trading classes: finally, the freedom of the people themselves.. But it was the nation-state which was always and everywhere, the condition of this freedom and this growth
This trickling down of freedom, from top to bottom, was also evident in the Roman empire where the Roman citizen enjoyed definite freedoms. On the other hand, there are example of Christian autocracies were the freedom and rights of the people were severely restricted. In Britain, this trickling of rights from top to bottom was no more a Christian effect than it was a gravity effect. Rights had to be fought for against very Christian authorities. Likewise, the formation of nation-states was not due to Christianity. Some national rights could not be properly secured till today as is witnessed by the Welshs and the Scotts whose national freedoms have not been encouraged. Christianity, as indicated by the meaning of Catholicism, tends to universality in spirit and does not, by itself, foster national boundaries or national independence.
If, however, we believe Dolobran, we now know that freedom is a Christian concept and that it spreads slowly from top to bottom thanks to the existence of a nation-state. The British cause, however, and that of everlasting peace is still obscure. Dolobran continues with what is presented as an explanation (p.15)
And for this reason.
The need that all men have to be governed is only compatible with freedom within a community small and homogeneous enough to realize its common interests, to desire and to need the same type of institution, and to be able to enjoy the benefits of efficient administration without sacrificing popular control. There must be a common language or languages. There must be a realized community of interest, based on historical association over a long period. A vast expanse of territory, even if peopled by men of one race or religion, will never fulfil the conditions.
What is the point being made? Is Dolobran trying to prove that an enlarged Germany, by its mere size, could not secure the rights and freedoms of its citizens? This attempt would seem quite preposterous. Germany had invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland against the will of its citizens. Even before expanding, the Nazi regime deprived the German people of its freedoms and liberties. What is the need for proving that the size of Germany is THE threat to freedoms and rights — notion quite controversial — when there is no doubt in the mind of anybody that Hitler’s Germany is the threat. Incidentally, Dolobran has forgotten that the United States is an example of ‘a vast expanse of territory’ and, by a long shot, cannot be described as ensuring less the rights of its citizen than Britain herself does. This contradiction is eliminated by ignoring the existence of the United States.
However, to state the problem in terms of size has for some a definite advantage. It, somewhat, absolves nazism and, by stressing the nefarious aspect of size, implicates Russia, and that is what matters. Dolobran states (p. 16):
The vast areas of Russia and China, where hundreds of races enjoying every variety of climate and speaking literally hundreds of different languages, but subject throughout the course of history to a single government, have stood outside the course of progress throughout modern history. Alike in population and in natural resource Russia and China are immeasurably stronger than the whole of Western Europe. Yet it is the nation states of Western Europe, and their traditions and principles, which have been for ten centuries solely responsible for the progress of civilization.
Had Dolobran mused over ‘The Outline of History’ of his contemporary H.G. Wells, he would not have written in this vein. He would have learned that it is a false and outrageous statement to affirm that, for ten centuries, the nation-states of Western Europe were ‘solely’ responsible for the progress of civilisation.
Each generation develops its culture and civilisation on the base of that of the previous generations in all the world. The European civilisation would not have been possible without the important contributions of the Arabs and the peoples of Asia, much of which was developed during those ten centuries.
Dolobran deals with the British case against Germany by reminding us that Russia is the source of all evil (p. 36):
During the first decade after the post-war treaties the main responsibility for European unrest lay with Russia. Subversive revolutions were attempted, and for a time succeeded , in Finland, Estonia, Bulgaria and Hungary. Poland was almost conquered. A little later again, Italy was on the verge of red revolution. By 1929 Germany itself was in disorder. A little later again, Spain dissolved in anarchy. Russia agents and Russia money were busy all over Europe
While the war, phoney or not, had been declared against Germany, to Dolobran, as will become clear, the main enemy still seems to be Russia and communism. A pamphlet explicitly aimed at stating the cause of Britain against Germany, is more of a pamphlet for fascism and against Russia and communism. The principle of national independence is dealt by Dolobran in a distorted historical and present perspective, so as to be more of a tool against Russia than against Germany.
Against Russia, Dolobran is using Hitler’s language. He adds that Russia is responsible for the existence of the fascist and nazi regimes. Speaking of the tortures inflicted by Russia he says (p.36):
..those who had the misfortune to suffer these events at close quarters, developed a tolerance for any party or person who, at whatever sacrifice of liberty, offered them security from murder, sacrilege and rape.
Fascism and nazism, Dolobran shows, had their merits. Russia’s responsibility does not stop at that. According to Dolobran, while fascism had a lot to be admired (p. 38):
It is far otherwise in Central Europe. There the Communist threat was much closer and the reaction correspondingly more extreme. In reply to the internationalism of Moscow, racialism became the political fashion
The racist theories of Nazism, according to Dolobran, were the result of the communist threat.
Finally, Dolobran becomes more specific (p.48):
Within a week of the entry into Prague.. Herr Hitler announced his “terms” to Poland.. It was a gesture of insolent defiance to the Christian tradition of Europe. Poland is the natural bastion of the European defence against Oriental incursions.. The Bolshevik armies reached the gates of Warsaw in 1920, and were broken by the Polish army. Once again, Germany, and Europe, was saved by Poland.
The threat first offered by Herr Hitler to the integrity of Poland.. was thus not only an outrage against the public law of Europe but an affront to every Christian conscience.
To brake the Russian armies is equated to stopping an Oriental incursion. To make this point, Dolobran does not shy from distorting history. It is well known that in the Polish-Russian conflict he mentions, Poland and not Russia was the aggressor.
It is only in the last six of the 61 pages pamphlet that Dolobran formulates clearly the British case against Germany (p. 54):
For all the other acts of brutality at home and aggression without, Herr Hitler had been able to offer an excuse, inadequate indeed, but not fantastic. The need for order and discipline in Europe, for strength at the centre to withstand the incessant infiltration of false and revolutionary ideas — this is certainly no more than the conventional excuse offered by every military dictator who has ever suppressed the liberties of his own people or advanced the conquest of his neighbours. Nevertheless, so long as it could be believed that the excuse was offered with sincerity, and in Hitler’s case the appearance of sincerity were not lacking over a period of years, the world’s judgement of the man remained more favourable than its judgement of his actions. The faint possibility of an ultimate settlement with Herr Hitler still, in these circumstances, remained, however abominable his methods, however deceitful his diplomacy, however intolerant he might show himself of the rights of other European peoples, he still claimed to stand ultimately for something which was a common European interest, and which therefore could conceivably provide some day a basis for understanding with other nations equally determined not to sacrifice their traditional institutions and habits on the bloodstained altars of the World Revolution.
The conclusion of the German-Soviet pact removed even this faint possibility of an honourable peace.
The principle of national independence is now forgotten. Dolobran, with the support of Halifax, is prepared to forgive Hitler years of brutality and aggression, years of abominable methods and deceitful diplomacy, on the faint hope that, ultimately, he will take a stand against Soviet Union. The faint possibility was removed not by Hitler’s aggression against Poland but by the German Soviet pact. This then is, in Dolobran-Halifax view, the British case against Germany.
It is an astounding confession. Hitler was treated as a spoiled child. His tantrums were tolerated and the realisation of his wishes were facilitated, even at the expense of small nationally-independent countries. All that was asked was that he take the pain of having ‘an adequate excuse’ even if weak. Even after the swallowing of all of Czechoslovakia by Germany, England expressed her readiness to bring back appeasement on track. Poland too could have been dealt with. But a German agreement with Russia removed any possibility of understanding. Dolobran wrote a few page earlier about the German Soviet pact — which he incorrectly calls ‘alliance’ — (p. 53 and 56):
This was Herr Hitler’s final apostasy. It was the betrayal of Europe
..It is in the light of this cynical apostasy that we must judge of the sincerity of the subsequent professions made by Germany of her concern for the future of European civilization
Dolobran starts with national independence as a Christian virtue. It is not a coincidence that, against all historical evidence to the contrary, the virtue has been chosen to be Christian. Communism has been constantly described as being anti-Christian so that the mere mention of national independence as a Christian virtue puts it in antagonism with communism.
And then, Dolobran, arbitrarily, states that national independence cannot be sustained in ‘vast expanses of territory’. This also puts Soviet Union in antagonism with national independence — with some regretful side-effects for the U.S.
To complete the picture, Russia is associated to Asiatic, Oriental countries, and therefore pushed outside of Europe. This allows Dolobran to speak of Civilisation as mainly European (in the ten last centuries) with no Russian contribution. The defence of Europe against Oriental incursions is then associated with Poland saving Europe by stopping the Russian army at Warsaw.
That is how Dolobran gradually builds the British case against Germany! It is not as illogical as it sounds. It reflects Dolobran’s opinion that nothing has real importance except standing against Russia. Toward the end, Dolobran states (p. 58):
The issue we see, and shall continue to see, is the issue of European freedom.
we now know what he means. That explains the phoney war. The issue is still the defence of Europe against communism.
Let us now revert to Halifax’s introduction. He says :
Those who wish to understand the real causes of the war will do well to read Lord Lloyd’s pamphlet on “The British Case”
..The British Blue Book, which was published soon after the outbreak of the war, gave the diplomatic history of the preceding months.. Lord Lloyd has penetrated deeper...
As we see, the support is without any reservation. To leave us in no doubt, Halifax summarises some of the main points of Dolobran’s pamphlet:
The background of the present conflict is a conflict much more profound between forces that support our civilisation and forces that are in revolt against it.. It has been built upon, and moulded by, Christian ideals..
The Christian conceptions of freedom has found political expression by successive stages. It has developed in Europe through nation-states...
The domination of Europe by one super-national state would destroy that freedom reducing men to a dull uniformity...
We have underlined before that the notion of nation-state has a specific use in the anti-communist ideology. The pre-eminent role given to this notion is therefore out of place in a document specifically written against Germany. It is hoped that the following quote will convince the reader that we did not exaggerate the importance of ‘nation-state’ as a concept directed against Soviet Union. The German chargé d’Affaires in London reports to his superiors :
I told Sir Horace [Wilson] that..[Czechoslovakia] ties with Soviet Russia and France must cease.. Here British policy had an opportunity of taking really constructive action towards European peace.. He replied that a policy of this nature could quite well be discussed with Great Britain. It was only necessary that this policy should not be rendered impossible by the sudden use of force by us. He completely agreed with my remarks on the present unnatural and absurd position of Czechoslovakia. If there was a possibility here of settling the question by peaceful political means, the British government were prepared to enter into serious negotiations. He asked me if the Fuhrer was prepared to regard such a solution of the Czechoslovakian problem as the beginning of further negotiations on a large scale. The Fuhrer had used the simile to an Englishman (He thought that it was Halifax), that Europe culture rested on two pillars which must be linked by a powerful arch: Great Britain and Germany. Great Britain & Germany were in fact the two countries in which the greatest order reigned and which were the best governed. Both were built up on the national principle, which had been designed by nature itself as the only working principle of human relationship. The reverse of this, Bolshevism, meant anarchy and barbarism. It would be the heght of folly if the two leading white races were to exterminate each other in war. Bolshevism would be the only gainer thereby
It is remarkable that, in the introduction to a pamphlet stating the British Case for being at war, presumably with Germany, the words ‘Germany’, ‘Hitler’ and ‘Nazism’ do not appear a single time. The introduction summarises Dolobran’s views in a way that makes the British Case more of one against Russia than against Germany. In his short introduction, Halifax cannot be as specific as Dolobran. The meaning, however, of the defence of civilisation, of Europe, of nation-states, have been specified by Dolobran, with Halifax’s approval. These words have been used by Halifax himself with the same meaning, the anti-communist meaning.
There were good reasons for Halifax not to mention Germany. In this respect, it is interesting to quote from a debate at the House of Commons on November 28, 1939, in which Chamberlain said
When I spoke on this subject on Sunday, I said that the conditions in which peace aims could be achieved could not at present be foreseen. I did not say that they were remote. I did not know. I said that they could not be foreseen, and I say now that none of us knows how long this war will last, none of us knows in what directions it will develop, none of us knows, when it is ended, who will be standing by our side and who will be against us; and in those circumstances, it would be absolutely futile — indeed, it would be worse than futile, it would be mischievous — if we were to attempt to lay down to-day the conditions in which the new world is to be created.
According to Chamberlain, the war aims cannot be defined because we do not know who, at the end of the war will be with us and who will be against us . It was commonly believed at the time that the ‘unknown quantities’ were Italy, the Soviet Union and the United States. From the point of view of the future stand of Soviet Union and the United States there are no difficulties in defining anti-nazi and anti-fascist war aims. The United States, neutral or involved, would, without doubt oppose fascism and nazism. This was clear from numerous stands by President Roosevelt. They would, without doubt, defend a clearly stated aim for democracy.
Would the Soviet Union become involved in the war on the side of Germany, pro-democratic war aims would be no impediment for Britain. If involved against Germany, then, there are enough Soviet traditions of condemning fascism and nazism (and verbal support for democracy, albeit of the Soviet type) that this eventuality cannot be jeopardised by the adoption of democratic anti-fascist aims.
The only difficulty is related with Germany and Italy: in what side will they end up? According to Chamberlain nobody knows. For war aims it should not make a difference where the United States and Soviet Union will end. This was made clear when, later, Soviet Union endorsed the Atlantic Charter.
If Chamberlain intended to leave the door open for Germany to end up on the side of the allies, then, against whom would the war have been conducted? Remains the possibility that Chamberlain wanted to deal tactfully with Italy. To proclaim anti-nazi democratic aims may result in throwing Italy on the side of Germany.
The British people could not be galvanised in a life and death struggle against Germany without clear aims close to the people’s heart. It would be criminal to neglect the moral mobilisation of the British people for the sake of restraining Italy.
Chamberlain did even more than just abstaining from mentioning democracy as an aim. He explicitly excluded it from war aims. On November 26, 1939, he said in a broadcast about post-war Europe :
In such a Europe each country would have the unfettered right to chose its own form of internal government, so long as that government did not pursue an external policy injurious to his neighbours.
Chamberlain does not exclude nazism from post-war Europe ‘so long as...’
We cannot assert, just from those Chamberlain quotes, that he hoped the war would end up in a coalition with Germany against Soviet Union. The quotes are however quite compatible with such an interpretation, and in line with the free hand he did give Germany against the Soviet Union. It would explain why, in an introduction to The British Case, Germany, Hitler and Nazism were not mentioned.
To give Hitler a free hand against the Soviet Union is a grave thing, but to join Hitler in a war against the Soviet Union is a different thing. It was the fear that Britain and France would do just that which seems to have prevented Czechoslovakia, at Munich time, from requesting and accepting Soviet help when it became clear that France would betray her treaty with Czechoslovakia. If such a scenario, that seemed likely to Czechoslovakia, was still being considered, Chamberlain had good reasons to worry about who, at the end of the war, would be a British ally, and who a British enemy.