Peter Petroff, Labour, July 1939
Source: Labour, July 1939, p. 20-23;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
That the peace of Europe can be safeguarded only through a new system of collective security based on an alliance of mutual assistance between Britain, France and the Soviet Union has by now become a well-worn truism.
All eyes and all hopes are therefore focused on the final stage of the Anglo-Soviet negotiations.
The success of these negotiations is of vital importance to the peoples on either side. For without an understanding with Soviet-Russia, the Anglo-Turkish agreement would hang in the air; nor could the Franco-Soviet Pact survive a definite breakdown of the Anglo-Russian negotiations.
Without a free passage through the Dardanelles for the Anglo-French navies, no effective direct assistance could be rendered by Western Democracies to Roumania or Poland, but without Russian consent, Turkey, under the Montreux Convention, could not open the Dardanelles to Western warships.
The Soviet Union, threatened by Japan in the East and by Nazi Germany and its “anti-Comintern” allies in the West, has nothing to lose and everything to gain from Britain’s guarantees to the smaller nations and is interested in the effectiveness of these guarantees and in their extension further north.
The Baltic States – Latvia, Estonia and Finland – are for Russia of the same importance as Holland, Belgium and Switzerland are for Britain and France. During the critical years in Russian history, 1918-1921, these small States which had established themselves astride Russia’s communications with North and West Europe, under German directions, touched her wounds with such harsh hands, inflicting so much pain on the Russian people, that the Soviet Union cannot be expected to permit them any repetition of that sordid game under Nazi auspices.
The Russian Revolution, which successfully wielded the iron broom at home, unfortunately had not time enough in those areas, before they seceded from Russia, to sweep away the handful of German barons and to liberate the local Lettish and Estonian peasantry from that scourge. Now these barons have found a powerful ally in Hitler.
It is a curious sign of the shortsightedness of dictators that the Stalin Government is carrying on its foreign policy in secret conclave, keeping the people in ignorance of what is going on. For there is no doubt that the wholehearted sympathies of the Russian people and of the Red Army are with the Western Democracies in their efforts to prevent Fascist aggression. The exclusion of public activity from the sphere of foreign policy therefore does not add to the strength of the regime but merely saps the strength of the country.
The Russian people have not forgotten those days when the German hordes were raging and robbing on Russian soil, even after the conclusion of the dictated peace of Brest-Litovsk. Had Germany not been beaten by the Allies, the Russian Revolution might have been in jeopardy.
Thus it would be a disaster for both sides – as indeed for all Europe – if the Anglo-Soviet negotiations could not be brought to a successful issue.
Yet in spite of this identity of interests of the people concerned, the building-up of the anti-aggression front encounters tremendous obstacles in its way springing from a lack of confidence.
At a critical moment of the Anglo-Russian negotiations Lord Halifax’s declaration in the House of Lords, on June 8, “we are eagerly anxious for an understanding with Germany that would place the two countries on a footing of mutual confidence” and “any of Germany’s claims are open to consideration round the table” must have caused amazement in Russia and dismay among supporters of the anti-aggression front.
All over Europe and in the United States the question was raised – does this imply a reversion to the policy of “appeasement"?
The policy of “appeasement” has proved a dismal failure in every respect.
It has resulted in the rape of Abyssinia; in the destruction of the democratic Republic of Czecho Slovakia and the enslavement of 15,000,000 of its citizens; in the suppression of Spanish democracy and the subjugation of the Spanish people to Franco’s desperadoes and the Jesuits; in the occupation of Albania, and the theft of Memel.
It has brought about a general state of insecurity, a terrific increase of expenditure on armaments, and the growing militarisation of Europe.
Yet this dismal policy seems to be endowed with seven lives – however often it has been killed by public consent, we always find it reappearing in a new shape like Pau-Puk-Keewis hunted by Hiawatha.
This continual resurrection has become possible because the architects of “appeasement,” the heroes of Munich still continue to hold the reins of government both in Britain and in France.
The persistence with which this insane policy is maintained springs from a variety of sources.
The international armament ring fears that any weakening of the gangster states would be the end of the armament race, and of their fabulous profits.
The magnates of international capital are afraid that the breakdown of Fascism would initiate an era of real democracy and Socialist reconstruction in Europe.
The Vatican, anxious to safeguard the property of the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany and to keep the peoples of Europe in a sufficient degree of darkness, is ready to play the part of the by-no-means-disinterested broker.
The prevailing ignorance as to the character of the Fascist regime leads well-meaning people, anxious for peace, to identify the interests of the totalitarian states with those of the peoples under their iron heel. Such kindly souls fail to see that any concessions made to the Fascist rulers are being used by them to increase oppression at home and aggression abroad.
The Nazi State, that absorbs half of the national income and spends more than a quarter of the national income on armaments, has deprived the German people of their hitherto adequate “living space.”
In 1914, the Tsarist Government tried to lure the land-hungry Russian peasants into the world war by promising them land in East Prussia. The peasants after all, preferred to take the land nearer home by overthrowing the landlords.
In the same manner the suffocating German and Italian peoples will regain their living space in their own countries by overthrowing the gangsters suppressing them at home.
The German working class are therefore perfectly right in regarding any concession made to their oppressors as an unfriendly act against themselves.
The Nazis whom Lord Halifax desires “to meet upon the common basis of humanity” are scared by the prospect of a European Peace Front that would prevent the realisation of their aggressive designs. Real peace means death to their regime. They have therefore raised the hypocritical cry of “encirclement.”
But what is encirclement?
A defensive alliance to prevent the Axis Powers from further acts of aggression, violence and robbery!
It is a case of thieves complaining against citizens locking their doors
Unfortunately there is not an ounce of truth in this encirclement story. The governments responsible for the anti-aggression front have not got the guts to “encircle” the gangsters, to “block their aspirations” or even to demand that Germany should disgorge Czecho Slovakia, and Italy – Abyssinia and Albania.
They are ready to condone the murdering of their seamen, the damaging of their property, infringements on their diplomatic rights, the activities of Fascist “fifth columns,” violations of solemn agreements, and to permit Nazi gangsters to claim stolen Czech gold from the vaults of the Bank of England.
The myth that the “encirclement” propaganda makes the German people rally round their Nazi oppressors is skilfully spread by the apostles of “appeasement.”
But it is a myth.