Peter Petroff, Labour, April 1939
Source: Labour, April 1939, p. 15-17;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Six months have passed since Democracy was “stabbed in the back” at Munich. Six months of growing tension, terror and tragedy.
A brave, cultured people with a well-trained, well-equipped army guarding an impregnable line of defences was demoralised by an unprecedented act of betrayal by its powerful allies. Its limbs were cut off and thrown to the Nazi wolves to be devoured.
In September the Nazi regime in Germany was in a precarious position. The Nazis were given what they could have never taken by force. Hitler’s regime got a new lease of life.
But Munich was only a beginning. It opened the sluices of Nazi aggression.
The remainder of the unfortunate State that had stood out as a democratic island has been overrun by Nazi gangsterdom, occupied by show of force, annexed and enslaved.
“Have these events taken the Government completely by surprise?” asked Mr. Dalton in the House of Commons. “If they have it is a very great reflection on the efficiency of the Government Service. If, on the other hand, the Government did know beforehand it is a great reflection on them.”
Mr. Chamberlain’s first reaction in his speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday, March 15, was peculiar. He showed no indignation against Hitler’s atrocious act of aggression, no sympathy with the Czech people. He still clung to his Munich policy. “Do not let us be deflected from our course,” he stammered.
When the outraged moral sense of the British people called forth a storm that threatened to sweep away his government, the Prime Minister at last found, in his Birmingham speech, the strength to join in the rising chorus of international indignation.
Since then events in Europe have developed rapidly like a whirlwind.
The Munich policy had weakened Right and strengthened Might throughout the world. It had destroyed the confidence of the peoples in the good faith of statesmen, in signatures attached, to agreements, in bonds of friendship between nations.
Collective security seemed dead. The Franco-Soviet Pact was all but torn up. Those underhanded forces that were striving for a Pact with the Fascist States grew daily stronger. The Fascist gangster States felt confident that the “decadent Democracies” would, after some feeble protest perhaps, acquiesce in any act of sudden aggression.
Hitler’s belief in the inexhaustible patience of the Democracies was undoubtedly further strengthened by the presence in Germany of representatives of British capitalists who were drawing up agreements with the Nazi Reichsgruppe Industrie providing for the common exploitation of German slave labour to the detriment of employment in Britain. Two British Ministers – Mr. Stanley and Mr. Hudson – were about to join them in Germany at a banquet to celebrate these agreements already concluded for six industries.
But in consequence of the shock caused by Hitler’s new act of robbery this pilgrimage of British Ministers to the Nazi shrine has been “postponed.” The feast was cancelled but the agreements so far stand.
Up to the present Hitler, Mussolini, and the Black Dragon of Japan always found the magnates of international capital ready to go on arming and financing them. They had allowed them to extend their frontiers and to subjugate one peaceful people after another in three continents.
Now that Hitler’s easily gained Munich laurels have faded, economic tension, political discontent and general demoralisation have reached a new pitch in Germany. The new adventure was to supply more arms for the German army, gold for the bankrupt Exchequer, raw materials for German industry, slaves for agriculture, and jobs for Nazi supporters.
Czecho Slovakia was no longer in a position to offer resistance. Her morale was shaken. Hitler, who is well aware that his regime could not withstand the shock of a major war, felt safe in his aggression. He further hoped that the sway of his “unbloody victory” would open to him the gates of Roumania, the Balkans and the Black Sea.
Thus – Hitler set out deliberately to sow wind – now he is harvesting storm. Tremendous forces hitherto dormant in the Democracies have been awakened. Humanity is rising against barbarism. The “League of Peace-loving Nations” advocated by forlorn voices in the Labour Movement has overnight become the faith and hope of tens of millions of people. Its realisation seems a matter of days.
Governments and politicians who insisted that the League of Nations could be effective only when universal, i.e., including the Fascist States, and who objected to “ideological fronts” are now by force of circumstances compelled actively to organise the international Democratic Front against Fascist aggression.
The re-establishment of confidence between the Peace-loving countries has become the most urgent problem of the day.
The British and French governments who only yesterday proclaimed the Munich “policy of appeasement” are forced by the logic of events to take the initiative in-establishing international co-operation as a rampart against Fascist aggression
Military forces will have to be pooled, economic problems solved, financial policies co-ordinated, trade re-directed in order to stave off in every sphere the aggressive measures of Fascism striving for world domination.
Unfortunately the past is weighing heavily upon the present. The affront to the Soviet Union at Munich and the threat to isolate her by a Four-Power-Pact with the Fascists has poisoned the atmosphere and given rise to suspicions that a Nazi war against the Soviet Union might find moral and financial support in Western Europe.
The effect re-echoed in Stalin’s recent speech at the Eighteenth Party Congress, at a time when the situation radically changed. Like Ivan the Fool in Tolstoi’s story who delivered a funeral oration on meeting a wedding, Stalin sneered: “Some European and American politicians and newspapermen openly state and write that the Germans have disappointed them cruelly, that instead of marching on further east against the Soviet Union they have turned to the west and demand colonies.”
However, if civilisation is to survive, the shattered confidence has to be re-established. Common action by Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and the threatened small nations has to be taken.
Confronted with the pooled forces of all these nations the gangster States cannot dare to venture further aggression. A bold policy can bring the Fascist regime tumbling down and make world safe for Peace and Progress.