We see the word appeasement being used in dealings of British government with Nazi Germany, and we are told that this was a ‘mistake’ which helped Nazis to eventually do what they did.
When we look into the actual chronology of events, actual statements, dealings in between countries and resulting geopolitical changes, the picture is starkly different.
We find Britain using Germany as a pawn against the emerging USSR to contain the ‘dangerous’ rise of social movements in the west, in accordance with the ongoing ‘anti-Red’ hysteria that plagued Europe in 1930s.
Angloamerican literature of the time, and rehashes of the viewpoints of that time excuse and explain the dangerous and treacherous foreign politics game the Tory government of Britain was playing at that time by supporting Fascist movements across Europe to prevent the ‘rise of the reds’. So that social movements in Britain would not proliferate with their demands of fair wages, better working conditions, social justice and whatnot. British industrialists saw these as heresy, and it was unthinkable that common man wouldn’t know his place and be demanding stuff.
Biggest threat was Soviet Union – a workers’ state, giving social justice, fair wages, sane work hours, weekends, paid vacations, retirement, healthcare, childcare and whatnot. It was a new phenomenon which was just starting – spotty and shaky but enough to scare the living daylights out of the industrialist class – all these demands for social programs and higher wages would cut into their profits and curb their ‘freedom’ in ‘free’ market.
The very existence of USSR as a state was motivating such movements, leftists, labour leaders, activists, even influencing mainstream politicians to start adopting various social justice talking points. If USSR crumbled, became a failure, was destroyed in any means, it would be easier to counter such movements. Naturally, newspapers of the day were regularly publishing news/editorials/opinion pieces which were telling how USSR’s fall was imminent because of this or that reason. Not much unlike how corporate press is announcing China’s downfall every few months, though not as rabid and radically.
British industrialists weren’t alone – fascist sympathies were rife in Western world, here, Henry Ford receiving the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Nazi officials circa 1938. Actually there are quite familiar names among them. With quite a few of the familiar mega corporations doing business in Germany before and during the war. They didn’t even relent after FDR cracked on them, and even fined Rockefeller Corp. for trading with the enemy after a prosecution. Numerous corporations went on to keep doing business in Germany even as US fought Germany itself, to the point of transferring financing, raw materials and technology to Nazi Germany. FDR needed all these personas and their massive corporations for the war effort, so he overlooked most of what they did.
Edwin Black writes: “IBM was in some ways bigger than the war.” Both sides could not afford to proceed without the company’s all-important technology. “Hitler needed IBM. So did the Allies.” (Black, 333, and 348) Uncle Sam briefly wagged a finger at Standard Oil and IBM, but most owners and managers of corporations who did business with Hitler were never bothered at all. The connections of ITT’s Sosthenes Behn with Nazi Germany, for example, were a public secret in Washington, but he never experienced any difficulties as a result of them.
Surely, it greatly helped that the catchphrase of Nazis was “destroying communists” since day one – everything they did, was for ‘fighting/destroying communism’ in Europe – annexing here, annexing there, Nazi diplomacy and propaganda was selling it as ‘destroying communists’. And they did too, actually – the fate of communists, socialists in German occupied areas was ugly.
Thus, due to this mutual interest, Tory government of Chamberlain, entire British establishment played Nazis against Soviets, rearing them until they became powerful. Like in Munich Treaty, in which Britain guaranteed Germany that they wouldn’t make any noise if they took over Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia had a massive arms industry, which almost doubled German arms industry -without it there is a possibility that Germany may not have been ready for war circa 1939. Even one of their top tanks, Panzer 38(t), was Czechoslovakian design and it was manufactured there until 1942.
“Soft”, “Incompetent”, “Cowardly”, “Appeasing” are keywords which angloamerican literature uses to excuse the well-planned, cold-blooded, carefully executed, almost sociopathic foreign policy of British government in rearing Germany as a pawn to use against Soviets – today. Then it was different – so much different that even right before Battle of Britain, op-eds would appear in prominent British papers, talking about how Britain shouldn’t be fighting Germany but it should be fighting against USSR together with Germany. There are no means to explain this environment and what British government of the time did today, other than using adjectives which attribute these to stupidity than adequately explain them by malice.
This also is the reason for the very weird, inexplicable “Phoney War” – an eight month period in which France or Britain did nothing against Germans in Western front, even as Germany moped up remaining Polish resistance, hauled their divisions to the West, and then reorganized them to attack France. Oh – they also had the time to invade Denmark and Norway in the meantime!
French and British armies were facing Ruhr, industrial heartland of Germany, and with a collective push they could run through this very critical area by undoing the existing, reduced German defense in the area – since majority of German army was employed in Poland at that point, or being hauled back or tied up in invasions of Denmark and Norway.
Instead, nothing was done. It looks ‘crazy’ and ‘incompetent’.
It was expected that Germany would attack Soviet Union. That was the sentiment and expectation in the western establishment, which was not at all hidden in newspapers of the day.
But when the chickens came to roost at home during Battle of France and immediately in Battle of Britain, the supposed war in between Germany and USSR not happening, everything changed. The rabidly anti-left Tory government of Britain had had roosted a massive danger which was intent on engulfing Britain as well – far from being a foreign policy tool to ‘use against the reds’. This caused the fall of Tory government in disgrace.
Acclaimed US historian Michael Parenti summarizes this entire story in two short 15 minute talks, in which he gives names, dates and places. You will see that ‘softness’ was not among the adjectives which could be used to describe the government of Britain at that time.
Real causes of World War II Part I
Real causes of World War II Part II
Thus, as can be seen, British government was not soft, stupid, incompetent at all – they knew what they were doing and they went about it very well.