The Policy of Appeasement made by Different European Countries!
Great Britain, France and the United States had the power and resources to check the aggressive actions of Germany, Italy and Japan during the 1930s but they failed to do so on account of the policy of appeasement followed by them towards the Axis Powers.
Their policy of appeasement reflected their desire for peace, an attempt on their part to recover their bearings and to re-assert their self- respect and “exasperation with anyone who would try to probe that mass of emotional pretence and questionable reasoning.”
1. Policy of Appeasement by Great Britain:
British policy of appeasement during the inter-War period rested on five bases. The first basis was that Britain had intense fear of Communist Russia and Communism. There was a clash of interests between Britain and Russia in the Middle East, China and Europe. On account of the activities of the Comintern, there was an apprehension of Communist uprising in Britain. There existed a sort of panic among the propertied classes in Britain caused by the mere mention of Communism.
The result was that Great Britain hated the Soviet Union and was willing to assist any country which was opposed to the Soviet Union. Germany, Italy and Japan took advantage of the Russophobia in Britain and carried on their aggressive activities successfully. They covered their aggression with the thin guise of anti-Communism. The long drawn-out negotiations between Britain and the Soviet Union during 1939 can be understood only in this background.
Another aim of British policy of appeasement was to maintain the balance of power in international politics although ultimately it ended in a complete destruction of that balance. Britain expected that Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan would check and exhaust each other by their mutual conflicts and that will allow Britain to maintain her isolation.
If Germany and her partners invaded the Soviet Union and liquidated her, the danger from world revolutionary Communism would disappear. If they failed, the Fascist danger would be automatically eliminated. If there was a chance of the Soviet Union winning a victory over Germany; Britain was to help Germany with full force to avert that eventuality.
It was with this reasoning that Britain allowed Germany to re-arm herself and to infringe the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact. Britain did not put up any resistance against German aggression in Austria and Czechoslovakia and indirectly even supported Japan m occupying Manchuria.
Britain encouraged Italy to conquer and occupy Abyssmia. The tragedy of this policy was that with every concession given to the Axis Powers, Britain allowed the destruction of the balance of power. The policy of appeasement could be successful only if there was a sound balance of power without which appeasement degenerates into servility.
Another reason for British appeasement was the differences between Britain and France on the issues of collective security, reparations, disarmament and German recovery. The view of Britain was that a disarmed and weak Germany was “a vast centre of economic depression” which was not at all desirable a weak Germany would be an open invitation to Communist expansion.
A strong Germany could act as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and also counter-act the hegemony of France m Europe. The harshness of the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles created sympathy for Germany m England. The result was that Britain was in favour of relaxing the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles and making concessions on reparations. She was also willing to allow the gradual re-armament of Germany and the revision of her frontiers.
She was not in favour of stiffening the provisions of the Covenant of the League of Nations. She preferred regional security to world-wide collective security. She was not in favour of entering into military alliances or commitments in Eastern Europe. She refused to make any commitments in Eastern Europe in 1925. France differed from Britain in all these respects. From 1919 to 1933, the policies of France prevailed and that contributed to the rise of Hitler.
From 1933 onwards, British policies prevailed over those of France and that led to the War of 1939-1945. Hitler paralysed all possible opposition by playing upon the Western fear of Communism. He also exploited the differences between Britain and France. Germany tried to isolate the Soviet Union with the help of Britain and France. Likewise, she isolated France through the goodwill of Britain.
Up to one stage, Britain appeased Germany out of sympathy. In 1935, the policy of appeasement was justified on the basis of expediency. When Britain concluded the Anglo-German Naval Treaty on 18 June 1935, Paris protested. The reply of Britain was that “it was better to get Germany voluntarily to limit herself to reasonable level of armaments than to adopt a high moral attitude towards treaty violation.”
In 1936, the policy of appeasement was justified on the plea of self-determination. When Germany denounced the Locarno Pact and France protested, the reply of Britain was that German troops were marching in their own territory.
Even after 1937, Britain continued her policy of appeasement towards Germany on the pretext of gaining time for war preparations. It has rightly been said that in every case, “with delicate feelings and consciences, the appeasers threw their victims to the wolves and pleaded a higher righteousness in order to give them a beautifully eliminated safe conduct.”
Another cause of British policy of appeasement was the internal weakness of Britain after the World War I. Appeasement was “almost predetermined by the precarious state of her economy, her own indecision in policy and by sundry embarrassments within the Empire.” It was her economic condition which created the imaginary fear of Communism. The same weakness led her to emphasize the necessity of German economic recovery for her own recovery. Her economic condition forced her to follow a policy of peace which alone could give her time to put her house in order.
Another cause of British policy of appeasement was the inability of the ruling circles in England to understand correctly the character and ambitions of the Axis Powers. Chamberlain, the architect of British policy of appeasement, believed that Hitler meant business and would honour his word if the injustice done to Germany was removed.
It was only when Britain declared war on 3 September 1939 that he realised the hollowness of his belief. Addressing the nation on 3 September 1939, Chamberlain admitted, “This is a sad day for all of us and to none is it sadder than to me. Everything that I have worked for, everything that I have hoped for, everything that I have believed in during my public life has crashed into ruins.”
Appeasement towards Germany:
Since 1919, Britain was in favour of a lenient treatment. Germany was able to reduce the amount of reparations in her favour. Foreign troops were removed from the Ruhr. Britain continued to follow a policy of sympathetic treatment towards Germany even after the infringement of the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact by Hitler. On the pretext of saving Spain from the influence of Russia, Germany and Italy jointly intervened in 1936 the Civil War in Spain.
Both Italy and Germany sent their technicians, aircraft and pilots and divisions of regular ground forces. In support of their action in Spain, Germany and Italy declared that their chief aim was to liberate Spain from the influence of Communist Russia. Under the spell of her Russophobia, Britain believed in the pretext of Germany and Italy. The Spanish Government appealed to the League of Nations.
The first appeal in November 1936 was sidetracked at the instance of Britain and France. The second appeal in May 1937 was lost. The third appeal in August 1937 led to the Nyon Conference in September 1937 where an agreement was reached that naval patrols should be organised in the Mediterranean to stop piracy, but the resolution sponsored in the Assembly of the League of Nations was lost.
The Committee of Non-intervention was set up in London in September 1936 under British Chairmanship to preserve peace in Europe and ensure neutrality. The Non-intervention Committee created a lot of confusion.It merely prevented the Spanish Government from getting the required arms from foreign countries. Under the name of non-intervention, General Franco got the whole army corps in the disguise of volunteers.
The Non-intervention Committee was reduced to a farce. The Soviet Union suggested the withdrawal of all foreign volunteers from Spain but the proposal was not supported by Britain. The British Government concluded the Anglo-Italian Agreement on 16 April 1938 by which the Italian forces were to remain in Spain until the end of the Civil War.
In 1938 Hitler decided to occupy Austria and Czechoslovakia. On 13 January 1938, President Roosevelt proposed a conference of neutral states to prepare a set of principles that should govern international relations and achieve an equitable distribution of raw materials.
The acceptance of this proposal would have revived, with American participation, collective security against Germany and Italy and halted Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement but the proposal was opposed by Chamberlam. About this matter, Sir Winston Churchill writes, “Mr. Chamberlain with his limited outlook and inexperience of the European scene should have possessed the self-sufficiency to wave away the preferred hand stretched out across the Atlantic, leaves one, even at this date, breathless with amazement”.
On 4 February 1938, Ribbentrop who was against Britain was appointed his Foreign Minister by Hitler. On 20 February 193 8, Anthony Eden who was against the Axis Powers, was made to resign as Foreign Minister. This was done to appease the Axis Powers. On 3 March 1938, Henderson had an interview with Hitler in which he discussed the prospects of disarmament, the question of Austria and the German demand for colonies.
Schuschnigg, the Chancellor of Austria, appealed for help to Britain against Germany. The reply of Britain was that she could not take any “responsibility of advising the Chancellor to take any course of action which might expose his country to dangers against which His Majesty’s Government are unable to guarantee protection.”
In the words of Amery, the Austrian crisis “found our Government straddled between the abandoned policy of collective security and an unachieved settlement with Italy. All that Chamberlain could do was to make a show of virtuous indignation and to submit to an insolent rejoinder that this was an internal affair of the German people and no concern of his.” On 16 April 1938, the Anglo-Italian Agreement was signed between Italy and Britain.
As regards Czechoslovakia, she had an alliance of mutual assistance with France and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union proposed to call a conference of the Western states against Hitler but Chamberlain did not agree. His policy was to put pressure on Germany to moderate the Sudeten German demands so that the Government of Czechoslovakia could accept them.
He put pressure on Czechoslovakia not to be recalcitrant and accept the Sudeten demand so that Germany may not attack Czechoslovakia. He put pressure on France to agree to his policy so that Czechoslovakia may not be tempted to offer any resistance. France wanted to adopt a stiffer attitude towards Germany but Chamberlain made it clear to Daladier and Bonnet that England was not prepared for war.
In July 1938, Chamberlain sent Lord Runciman to mediate between the Czechs and the Sudetens. On 13 September 1938, Daladier suggested to Chamberlain that they should meet Hitler together but Chamberlain rejected the suggestion and decided to meet Hitler alone. On 15 September 1938, Chamberlain went to Munich and had a meeting with Hitler who proposed self-determination for the Sudetens Chamberlain returned to London where Daladier and Bonnet meet him on 18 September 1938 Chamberlain insisted that self-determination for the Sudetens was the only way to avoid war.
France had to yield to the pressure of Britain. It was agreed that after the session of the Sudetenland to Germany, the rest of Czechoslovakia would be given an international guarantee. However, it is pointed out that the idea of such a guarantee was fantastic after stripping Czechoslovakia of her strategic frontier and powerful fortifications. Czechoslovakia refused to accept the plan.
However, when she was warned by Britain and France that if she did not accept the plan and Germany attacked her, they would not help her, Czechoslovakia surrendered. When the plan was put before Hitler, he refused to give international guarantee for the rest of Czechoslovakia. Hitler also made further demands which were rejected by Czechoslovakia.
There was mobilization in Czechoslovakia. It was declared that if Czechoslovakia was invaded, France would honour the obligations of an alliance and Britain and Russia would support France. Chamberlain agreed to mobilization of the British fleet. When Hitler gave an ultimatum that Czechoslovakia must accept his terms by 1 October 1938 or face the consequences, the British Government requested Mussolini to persuade Hitler to accept the idea of a conference.
The Conference was held on 29 September and the Munich Pact was signed on 30 September 1938. Chamberlain surrendered to Hitler on the ground that Czechoslovia could not be defended even with the help of the Soviet Union as both Poland and Rumania had refused to allow Soviet troops to pass through their territories. Public opinion was opposed to war and the Munich Settlement averted the war.
The offer of the Soviet Union for collective resistance to Hitler was refused on the ground that the Russian army was inefficient and was disintegrating. That was not correct. Amery writes, “Only sheer infatuation with appeasement at almost any price can explain the cold shouldering of Russian offers of help when things were already on the eve of war, even if that help had amounted to no more than sending aeroplanes to help the Czechs and holding back the Poles.”
On 11 January 1939, Chamberlain went to Rome and met Mussolini. He discussed with him the question of disarmament. On 10 March 1939, Chamberlain stated that the international outlook was improving. On 15 March 1939, the German troops occupied Czechoslovakia. On 31 March 1939, Britain gave a guarantee to Poland. Italy occupied Albania on 7 April 1939. On 13 April 1939, a British guarantee was given to Greece and Rumania. Negotiations were started with Turkey.
On 26 April 1939, Chamberlain announced compulsory training for six months. Negotiations were continued with the Soviet Union but on account of prejudices, miscalculations and suspicions on both sides, nothing came out of them. The view of the British Government was that Poland was a better ally than the Soviet Union and the price which the Soviet Union demanded for a pact with Britain was too high. The refusal of the Soviet Union to endorse the British guarantees to Poland, Greece and Rumania indicated that the Soviet Union had designs on those states.
It is pointed out that as Chamberlain did not make any serious effort to come to an understanding with the Soviet Union, Germany concluded on 24 August 1939 a Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union. L.B. Namier writes, “It had been a mistake on the part of the British Government, so quick, unstinting and easy about terms when handing out guarantees to second and third rate powers, to have treated Soviet Russia like a suppliant, and to have started off with suggestions which were both ludicrous and humiliating; it was a further mistake to have gone on haggling about every concession which rendered it ungracious and unconvincing; it was a third mistake to have sent a junior official to negotiate with Russia and later on servicemen of less standing than were sent, for instance, to Poland or Turkey.
Behind it all was a deep, inseparable aversion to Bolshevist Russia such as was not shown in dealings with Hitler or Mussolini; and whether it was justified or not, it certainly was not conducive to success in the very difficult negotiations”.
As late as July 1939, Chamberlain tried to enter into a defensive alliance with Germany for 25 years. He also offered a large loan to Germany. He also offered to return the German colonies in case Hitler undertook not to invade Poland.
However, all that failed. The policy of appeasement followed by Chamberlain ultimately failed. The very object, for which the policy of appeasement was advocated, was defeated, Instead of peace. Chamberlain had to face a war. Being unfit to carry on war he had to resign in 1940 in disgust.
British Appeasement towards Italy:
British policy towards Italy was not consistent. It varied from time to time. On the whole, it aimed at cooperation with Italy against Germany. When Mussolini came to power in Italy in 1922, business circles in Britain welcomed it as a bulwark against the growth of leftism in the country and also as a powerful counter-force to the menace of Communism.
Although the existence of a dictatorship in Italy did not fit in with the principles of democracy and constitutionalism as practised in Britain, the two countries did not quarrel with each other After the Peace Conference of 1919, Italy demanded rewards in accordance with the terms of the secret Treaty of London of 1915 and Britain tried to honour the moral commitment whenever possible. The imperialistic tone of foreign policy was also a cementing factor.
As the conquest of Abyssinia by Italy would have threatened Britain economically, strategically and diplomatically, the British Government followed a muddle-headed policy of appeasement. Britain took a firm stand against Italy in January 1935. Sir Anthony Eden, the British delegate in the League of Nations denounced the action of Italy in harsh terms and managed to influence the Council of the League with the decision of imposing sanctions against Italy.
One may say that such an action amounted to the abandonment of the policy of appeasement, but later developments showed that as France was reluctant to implement the decision of sanctions against Italy, Britain also decided to do likewise. The decision of the Council regarding sanctions was not earned out. The Hoare-Laval Deal of December 1935 showed that both Britain and France were not willing to take action against Italy.
They were determined not to apply sanctions against Italy on account of the fear that those may not result in the defeat of Mussolini. There was a fear that his defeat may result in a revolution m Italy which was likely to have incalculable repercussions on the social order throughout Central Europe and might have started insurrections in the whole of the colonial world.
On 2 January 1937, Britain signed a “Gentleman’s Agreement” with Italy whereby both agreed that “freedom of entry into, exit from, and transit through the Mediterranean is a vital interest both to the different parts of the British Empire and to Italy, and that those interests are m no way inconsistent with each other.” By this agreement, both Italy and Britain disclaimed “any desire to modify, or so far they are concerned, to see modified the status quo as regards national sovereignty of territories in the Mediterranean area.” Mussolini was forced to strengthen Italian relations with Britain after Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938. It strengthened the position of Germany to a great extent. In order to counteract it, Italy signed a new Agreement with Britain on 16 April 1938 which went beyond the vague terms of the Agreement of 1937. In January 1939, Chamberlain and Lord Halifax went to Rome to win over Mussolini.
When both Germany and Italy interfered in the Civil War in Spain, Britain did not help the legitimate Government of Madrid or denounce the role of General Franco, Mussolini and Hitler. As a matter of fact, Chamberlain adopted a policy of non-intervention in Spain.
The role of the Nonintervention Committee formed in London under the Chairmanship of Lord Plymouth indirectly strengthened the hands of Mussolini and Hitler. Chamberlain did nothing to stop the rise of Fascism in Spain inspite of the fact that he admitted that “a considerable number of regular Italian troops had been in Spain since the early days of the war.”
It has to be admitted that the British policy of appeasement towards Italy did not bring about the desired result. As a matter of fact, instead of appeasing Italy, it aroused her suspicion and pushed her more and more into the arms of Germany. Italy might have remained attached to the anti-German camp if Britain and France had not proposed any action against Italy in the League of Nations.
“Mussolini bitter at Britain’s treachery, fearful of the consequences of his action, triumphant m his victory and contemptuous of the fifty nations led by one whom he had successfully defied-Mussolini could never again be content in friendship with the West, and his eyes had now been turned towards the road that was to end in a public square in Milan.”
Appeasement towards Japan:
Britain also followed a policy of appeasement towards Japan. There was a belief in Britain that Soviet influence and dominance would be strengthened in Inner Mongolia, Manchuria and China if Japan was weak, Japan would concentrate her attention on South-East Asia if China put up resistance to the advance of Japan and that would adversely affect British interests. The cooperation of Japan was considered necessary for the preservation of the interests of foreign nationals in China where the nationalist movement had been growing steadily.
There was a feeling in Britain that she would suffer a great loss in the Far East if any kind of military action was taken against Japan. To quote Bruce, “The task of checking by force a Great Power like Japan at the other side of the world, was an experiment and a risk that Britain would, very properly have hesitated to undertake, even if she had been at the height of her military and economic security.”
On account of these factors, Britain did not take any action to stop Japanese aggression in Manchuria in 1931. This was so in-spite of the fact that the Lytton Committee appointed by the League of Nations to investigate the matter by going to Manchuria declared Japan as an aggressor and the League Assembly without dissent indicted Japan of aggression. Ultimately, Britain recognised the conquest of Manchuria by Japan.
An official mission under the leadership of Sir Fredrick Lieth-Ross was sent to Tokyo to conciliate Japan. A mission of the Federation of British Industries was also sent to Japan. The business circles appreciated the role of Sir John Simon in the League Assembly whose “wise and moderate” affirmations ruled out the possibility of putting an embargo on shipment of arms to Japan as that would have amounted to interference with British industry. L.S. Amery wrote, “It would be no concern of ours to prevent Japanese expansion in Eastern Siberia.”
The Morning Post of 30 January 1932 observed, “Japan, broadly speaking, is the only element making for order and good Government in the Far East.” The Daily Mail wrote on 5 November 1931 that the presence of Japan in Manchuria “has been a benefit to the world.” The same newspaper wrote on 10 December 1932 that Japan was “rendering good service to the civilisation by restoring law and order in Manchuria”.
The rulers of Japan took full advantage of the weakness of the British Government and the Japanese invasion of China continued although British subjects and traders were humiliated in China. In August 1937, the Japanese inflicted physical injuries on the person of Sir Hughe Montgomery Knatchbull-Hughesson, the British Ambassador but the British Government did not take any action. The invasion of the Yangtse Valley extinguished British trade hegemony in that region but still Britain did nothing.
After the surrender at Munich in 1938, Japan’s army overran the Canton Delta and her navy seized the Spratly Islands off French Indo-China, but Britain took no action. Gross insults were inflicted on Europeans by the Japanese occupation forces in Tientsin, Amoy and Shanghai. The official motor car of the Ambassador was machine-gunned near Nanking but still Britain took no action.
In 1934, Japan warned all European powers to keep their hands off from China. Britain merely enacted the drama of the Conference at Brussels in November 1937 where it was decided to ask the Soviet Union to stop Japanese aggression in China. However, Stalin refused to oblige.
It was wrong on the part of Britain to assume that Japan would act as her watch-dog in the Far East and amicably settle the division of China with her. Britain openly backed Japan “as the champion against the Soviet Union and even against the United States.”
2. Policy of Appeasement by France:
From 1920 to 1924, France followed the policy of vindictive fulfillment of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. From 1924 to 1932, she attempted conciliation with Germany From 1933 to 1936 she pursued the policy of appeasement on “principle.”
This helped Germany to repudiate the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Locarno. From 1936 to 1938, she followed the policy of appeasement based on “necessity” and abdicated French leadership to Britain. From 1938 onwards, she ceased to be a major force in European diplomacy and merely followed Britain.
It is true that France was victorious in the World War I, but even then her statesmen were terribly afraid of Germany which lay prostrate and exhausted. The question which dominated France at the Paris Peace Conference was how the settlement could serve the permanent interests of French security. The programme pursued was “restitution, reparation, and guarantee”.
Restitution implied the recovery of Alsace and Lorraine. Reparation implied that Germany should compensate for the losses and damages done to France and contribute, to the reconstruction of the French areas destroyed during the war. Guarantee implied that Germany should fulfill her obligations and the Allies should give guarantees for French security. The Peace Settlement did not satisfy the French. The Rhineland was not separated from Germany. Only the left bank of the Rhine along with a zone about 30 miles East of the Rhine was demilitarised.
The military occupation of the Rhineland was to last for only 15 years. Instead of an indefinite occupation of German territory, France was given a joint Anglo-American guarantee against unprovoked German aggression. However, this guarantee also remained merely on paper. Germany was to pay reparations only for the damage done to the civilians and their property and not the entire cost of the war. The coal mines of the Saar were given to France only for 15 years at the end of which a plebiscite was to be held and when it was actually held, the Saar went to Germany. France suffered from a sense of insecurity.
In the matter of population, France did not find herself in a position to match with Germany. In 1919, France had a population of about 40 millions while Germany had a population of 70 millions. The birth rate in France was falling and that was a cause of worry for French statesmen.
In order to strengthen her position against Germany, France entered into a large number of alliances In September 1920, France and Belgium entered into a military alliance against Germany. In February 1921 was signed the Franco-Polish Treaty of Alliance. Thus, in the event of an attack from Germany, France could count upon help from Poland in the East and Belgium in the West. In 1924, a Treaty of Alliance was made between France and Czechoslovakia.
In 1926, a Treaty of Friendship was signed between France and Rumania. A similar treaty was made in 1927 between France and Yugoslavia. With Britain, no success could be achieved and there was no formal agreement between France, and Britain under which either party was to help the other. France pursued the policy of supporting the League of Nations and making it a strong international organisation so that it could serve as a regulator of German power in Europe.
From 1924 to 1932, France attempted reconciliation with Germany. The Ruhr was evacuated. The Treaties of Locarno were signed in 1925. Germany entered the League of Nations. The Allied military control of Germany was ended. The Rhineland was evacuated in 1930, five years m advance.
At the instance of the French Foreign Minister, the Pact of Paris was signed. The questions of reparations and inter-Allied debts were settled. However, the economic depression of 1930 led to the development of aggressive forces which destroyed French confidence and prepared the ground for a policy of appeasement which was followed by France after 1932.
The economic depression wiped out reparations. Even the truncated payments from Germany stopped. Political developments at home in the form of cabinet crises added to the weakness of France. There was a gradual disintegration of her security After Hitler came to power in 1933, the French leaders found themselves helpless.
In the international sphere, the power of the League of Nations was seriously weakened by the resignation of Japan and the prospective withdrawal of Germany. Under these conditions, a new and disastrous epoch was inaugurated in French diplomacy which has been described as the “physiology of paralysis” by Prof F.L. Schuman.
To quote him, “As German truculence increased and German military power grew. French willingness to resort to force to maintain the status quo diminished. French opinion was so firmly attached to peace that it would no longer approve recourse to preventive violence to meet the menace of the new militarism now dominant in the Reich. The great issue before the Republic was no longer that of keeping a weak Germany in subjection but that of preserving the remnants of security and checkmating a strong, re-armed and defiant Reich.”
Political developments at home also weakened France. On 9 October 1934, French Foreign Minister Barthou and King Alexander of Yugoslavia were murdered at Marseilles. The result was that France lost a very capable Foreign Minister and also a reliable friend in the Balkans. Laval was the successor of Barthou and he proved himself to be a misfit. Peter II was the successor of Alexander and he was just a boy who had no strong position in the Balkans.
On 22 November 1934, Philippe Berthelot who had served as the Secretary-General of the Quai d’ Orsay for a long time’ died. In him, France lost an able diplomat. Inspired by the wave of Fascism in Italy, a section of the French politicians staged riots in the country on 6 February 1934 and that weakened the socialist and Communist forces in the country. The liberals and the radical socialists became anti-Fascists.
A Popular Front came into existence. It swept the polls of April-May 1936. The result was that Blum became the Prime Minister and Laval the Foreign Minister. The Blum Government did not take strong action to face the challenge posed by Fascism at home and abroad. A Treaty of Friendship had already been signed with the Soviet Union in 1935.
The new Government looked forward to Poland for the same purpose. In August 1936, General Gamelin, Chief of the French General Staff, visited Poland. In return, General Edward Rydz-Smigly visited Paris. The fear of Germany brought France and Poland together. In 1936, German troops occupied the Rhineland. France merely protested although the German action was a clear violation of the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact.
The morale of the French army was not high. The material at the disposal of the French soldiers was insufficient. The productive capacity of French factories in the 1930’s was about a third of the capacity of the German factories. Between 1934 and 1938, Germany spent four times as much as France on national defence. France did not keep her armed forces fully prepared for war She Ignored tanks and aviation.
The French generals were suffering from outmoded military theories. The French people were suffering from a sort of schism. Political parties were not united. Social classes were opposed to each other. Fascism was gaining popularity in France. The number of fifth columnists had increased to such an extent that they were endangering the security of the country.
French democracy and French political institutions had thoroughly degenerated. The French Parliament reflected a gulf between a Liberal and democratic France and France of the Restoration and the Empire. There was acute ministerial instability. Between 1929 and 1936, there were as many as 20 ministerial crises. Between 1920 and 1940, 80% of the ministerial crises were due to the differences between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate on financial matters. Big business dominated the Third Republic.
Another phenomenon which developed in France at this time was the horror of war among the French. France had lost more men, in the World War I than any other country. A horror of war was created by the sad and disabled fathers or miserable widowed mothers. The new psychology which developed among the Frenchmen was that “the worst international agreement was better than the best of wars.”
France had a diminishing and ageing population. The memory of the bloodshed of World War I was still fresh. The French had failed to secure themselves against Germany. There was a confession of military inferiority vis-a-vis Germany among the French. The French opinion was so firmly attached to peace that it was not prepared to fight a war to stop aggression by Germany Italy or Japan.
Another cause of the policy of appeasement was the tremendous fear of Communism and the Soviet Union. Both Daladier and Bonnet wanted to save France from Bolshevism. To quote Bonnet “It IS the struggle against Bolshevism which is essentially at the basis of the common German and Italian political conception.”
On account of their dread of Communism, Frenchmen were prepared to appease both Germany and Italy to divert them against the Soviet Union and save their own privileges. This effort continued even after the Second World War had begun after the invasion of Poland by Germany.
Another source of French appeasement was the French desire to have Kalian friendship at any cost. After the coming to power of Hitler in Germany in 1933, Mussolini proposed the Italo-Anglo- Franco-German Combine. Daladier agreed to it and by doing so, France lost Poland. In January 1935 the Franco-Italian Agreement was signed.
That gave Mussolini a free hand in Abyssinia. France tried to humour Mussolini against. Germany in the Civil War in Spain. The result was that by one the bases of French security were destroyed by 1936. The Little Entente was in ruins. The German menace was growing. The United States was keeping aloof. France disintegrated under the Popular Front Ministry.
When Daladier signed the Munich Pact on 30 September 1938, he alienated the Soviet Union and made the invasion of Poland by Germany a certainty. On 6 December 1938, Bonnet signed with Ribbentrop the Franco-German Declaration of Friendship. In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland. In 1940, Germany and Italy invaded France.
The result of all this was that France became more and more dependent on Britain and merely followed her lead. French Governments abdicated their leadership to the British Government. France did whatever was decided by Chamberlain. When Britain gave guarantees to Poland France followed When Britain declared war against Germany on 3 September 1939, France did likewise although much against her wish. When Germany invaded France in 1940, France collapsed like a house of cards and her leaders joined hands with Hitler.
At the time of the Abyssinian crisis, France followed a policy of appeasement towards Italy. When the matter was taken up by the League of Nations, the conservative statement of Britain preferred the survival of a Fascist system in Italy as they were afraid of the consequences arising out of the failure of Mussolini.
Under the circumstances, Britain decided to apply limited economic sanctions against Italy. Outwardly, Sir Samuel Hoare took up a bold stand m the Assembly of the League of Nations but secretly he entered into negotiations with Laval of France to prepare a plan to appease the dictator of Italy.
That plan showed the willingness of Britain and France to give approximately two-thirds Abyssinia to Italy. This was so at a time when Italy had been indicted as aggressor by the League of Nations and she was being subjected to economic sanctions. On 25 June 1939 Laval stated that economic sanctions were imposed because “we did not want to break with Britain and the League of Nations and they were implemented in moderation because we did not want to annoy Italy.”
The role of France in the Abyssinian crisis shows that she was following a policy of appeasement of choice. It was the first important occasion when her statesmen could have stuck to the right side of the problem. They could have helped the Emperor of Abyssinia and thereby proved that they were the defenders of the peace of the world. What actually happened was that while Sir Samuel Hoare resigned after the publicity of the plan regarding Abyssinia, Laval continued to remain m office.
That convinced Mussolini that in no case France would stand in his way in Abyssinia. Mussolini rightly came to the conclusion that if French interests “were no bar to his plans, Ethiopian interests were not a matter in which France would be greatly concerned.”
France played a similar role during the Civil War in Spain. When Mussolini and Hitler interfered in Spain in a big way, France did not help the democratic Government of Spam against General Franco Along with Britain France followed a policy of non-intervention in Spain. A Non-intervention Committee was set up in London with 27 states and an embargo was put on the export of arms to Spain. That was positively helpful to General Franco who with the help of Hitler and Mussolini went ahead confidently in the face of appeasement shown by France and Britain.
On 6 September 1936, Blum observed, “But should we undertake a competition of armaments on Spanish soil? If certain powers furnish arms and planes to the rebels, should France furnish them to the Popular Front? No.” At Geneva, the Spanish delegate was dissuaded from making specific accusations against Italy and Germany because France wanted to shield the guilt of Mussolini and Britain wanted to shield the guilt of Hitler. France and Britain got their policy of non-intervention approved, by the Council of the League of Nations.
The guilt of defending an aggressor at the expense of an aggrieved party was shared by both France and Britain. The French policy resulted in frustration abroad. There was a feeling of moral guilt that France had let down Spain and helped the dictators. That “broke Blum’s heart and the heart of the Front Populaire, hastening its end and leaving the Republic more divided and poisoned by hatred than it had been.”
The role of the French Government in the Civil War in Spain showed that in the steadily deteriorating international situation, France “made it the first axiom of its foreign policy not to become separated from Britain.” By failing to stress that France was as important to Britain as Britain was to France, France tended to surrender to an unnecessary degree the guidance of her policy into British hands.
While dealing with Germany under Hitler after 1936, the policy of appeasement was a matter of compulsion for France. When Mussolini supported Hitler on the question of Austria, France had no option. In 1933-34, France had opposed the move of Hitler to annex Austria as on that occasion Mussolini also opposed Hitler on that issue. In 1938, Mussolini sided with Hitler on the question of the annexation of Austria and France acted like a silent and horrified spectator.
There was an obsession in France for maintaining friendship with Italy. On 13 March 1938, German troops marched into Austria and Blum did nothing to oppose it. He resigned on 8 April 1938 and Daladier, his successor, also did nothing in the matter. Graham H. Stuart writes, “The culmination of Anglo-French impotence seemed to have been reached on March 13, 1938 when Chancellor Hitler marched his Nazi troops into Austria and consummated the Anschluss, while neither democracy dared more than protest verbally.”
It is true that after the annexation of Austria by Hitler in March 1938, France took a very serious view of the real designs of Hitler, but she was helpless because she was firmly tied to the apron- strings of Britain. The policy of appeasement became a matter of compulsion for her. In the talks in London on 28-29 April 1938, Prime Minister Daladier and his Foreign Minister Bonnet emphasized that the real design of Hitler was not to gain concessions for the Sudeten Germans but “to use their grievances as a pretext to destroy Czechoslovakia and eventually to secure a domination of the Continent in comparison with which the ambitions of Napoleon were feeble.” Daladier is said to have observed, “Today it is the turn of Czechoslovakia. Tomorrow it will be the turn of Poland and Rumania. When Germany has obtained the oil and wheat, she will turn on the West. Certainly we must multiply our efforts to avoid war.
But that will not be obtained unless Great Britain and France stick together, intervening in Prague Great Britain and France stick together, intervening in Prague for new concessions but declaring at the same time that they will safeguard the independence of Czechoslovakia. If, on the contrary, the Western powers capitulated again, they will only precipitate the war they wish to avoid.” In-spite of these warning, British statesmen stuck to the policy of appeasing Hitler in the hope that ultimately he would collide with the Soviet Union without moving his face to the West.
The reaction of the British Government was made clear by Lord Halifax, the Foreign Minister of Britain. He stated that Britain had given the most serious warnings to Germany but it would be highly dangerous if the French Government read more into those warnings than was justified by their terms. Britain will always honour her pledge to come to the help of France if, she was attacked by Germany.
However, if the French Government assumed that Britain would at once take joint military action to preserve Czechoslovakia against German aggression, our statements did not warrant any such assumption. The view of the British Government was that the military situation was such that France and England, even with the help of the Soviet Union, were not in a position to prevent Germany overrunning Czechoslovakia.
The only result would be a European war the outcome of which was doubtful. In the face of this attitude of the British Government, France had to yield before Hitler. It is rightly said that at Munich, Daladier supplied the knife with which Chamberlain butchered the lamb of Czechoslovakia. Daladier threatened Czechoslovakia that if she did not accept the decision of France and Britain with Hitler, the consequences would be the most serious.
To quote Daladier, “France in agreement with England has set forth the only procedure which it judges m the actual circumstances can prevent the Germans from marching into Czechoslovakia. In rejecting the Franco-British proposal, the Czech Government assumes the responsibility for Germany resorting to force. It thus ruptures the Franco-British solidarity which has just been established and by doing so it removes any practical effectiveness of assistance from France. Czechoslovakia thus assumes the risk which we believe to have been removed. She must herself understand the conclusions which France has the right to draw if the Czechoslovakia Government does not accept immediately the Franco-British proposal.”
It has rightly been said that Munich represented the climax of the policy of appeasement. Bonnet publicly pledged support to Czechoslovakia but “privately worked for an Entente with Hitler at Prague’s expense.” Schumann writes that both Daladier and Bonnet “were destined to bring France and the Republic to destruction. Munich was the symbol of their folly. They made the Quai d’ Orsay completely subservient to Chamberlain’s designs.”
As the Munich decision was taken without consulting the Soviet Union, she was alienated. The stand taken by Daladier was that the Munich decision was taken to save the country from Bolshevism. On 6 December 1938, Bonnet signed with Ribbentrop a declaration of pacific and good neighborly relations.
He supported his action m these words “It is the struggle against Bolshevism which is essentially at the basis of the common German and Italian political conception and without saying so formally, Ribbentrop perhaps wished to give us to understand that there is no other objective to be attributed to it.”
When Germany attacked Poland on 1 September 1939, the French Foreign Minister tried to make an effort to satisfy the hunger of Hitler by arranging another Munich on the Polish question. He accepted the Italian proposal for peace through a conference with German troops remaining where they were on the Polish soil. He was so particular about his move that he did not join Lord Halifax in issuing a common warning to Hitler.
When Lord Halifax said that there could be no conference with Hitler without the withdrawal of German troops from Poland, the French Foreign Minister insisted upon a separate course of action. Daladier also vacillated but he told the Parliament on 2 September 1939 that France would not abandon Britain.
It was only then that the French Foreign Minister accepted it, although with reluctance. It was at this stage that the French policy of appeasement towards Germany ended and France entered into the war against Germany on 3 September 1939. That shows that the policy of appeasement ultimately failed. “France and Britain had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war.”
3. Policy of Appeasement by the United States:
When the World War I ended in November 1918, the United States emerged virtually as the dominant leader of the world. She played a dominant role in the deliberations of the Peace Conference at Paris However, the American Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and hence the United States did not become a member of the League of Nations. A separate peace was signed with Germany by the United States in August 1921.
The United States joined the other Allies in their efforts to interfere in Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and refused to recognise the Soviet Government until 1934 As regards Europe; the United States continued to take interest in disarmament, reparations and inter-Allied debts. She also took part in the conferences and committees.
She sponsored the Pact of Paris in 1928. However, her main area of interest was the Pacific. She called a Conference at Washington in 1921 to strike a balance of power in the Far East. From these beginnings, the United States followed the policy of appeasement till she joined the Second World War in December 1941.
There were many reasons why the United States followed a policy of appeasement. There was a similarity between the economic systems of the United States and the Fascist states. Their main object was to protect their own capitalists and industrialists against the competition of foreign states. Such a policy was opposed to the economic policy of the Soviet Union.
Hence there could be no cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States had sympathy for the Fascist states and did not hesitate to utilise them against the Soviet Union. The Roman Catholic Church in the United States also helped in following the policy of appeasement. That Church was opposed to all progressive reforms in the internal sphere.
As regards external affairs, it was opposed to Communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular. A very large number of Americans are the followers of the Roman Catholic Church and they play an important role in the politics of their country. Hence, the sympathy of the United States towards the Fascist States could be presumed.
Another reason why the United States followed a policy of appeasement was that the industrialists of that country were terribly afraid of Communism and were willing to support Hitler and Mussolini so that the progress of Communism could be checked in the world. The American Government considered the progress of Russia and Communism as a threat to the prevailing social and economic systems of the United States. It was for this reason that after 1922, the United States continued to support the Fascist Governments of Japan, Italy and Germany.
Even before the Manchurian crisis of 1931, the United States encouraged Japan to occupy the Russian outposts in Siberia from 1917 to 1920. It is true that President Wilson opposed Japanese ambitions at the peace Conference at Paris but that was due to the fact that Japan threatened the American commercial interests in the Far East. The United States put pressure upon Britain to abandon the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902. This was done not due to American aversion to Japan but to deprive Japan of the naval help from Britain. Apart from that, the United States continued to support Japan directly or indirectly in every adventure of Japan.
When Japan attacked Manchuria in 1931, the United States refused to cooperate with the Western countries to resist Japan. She also refused to use her naval power against Japan as she was more interested in preserving her trade and commerce with both Japan and China. Charles Dawes, the American Special representative at Geneva, was friendly towards Japan and was strongly opposed to any action being taken against Japan.
On the question of sanctions to be applied against Japan, the stand of the United States was that both the Pact of Paris and the Nine Power Treaty were based on the sanction of public opinion only. By this attitude, the United States killed all possibility of an active resistance to Japanese aggression.
The year 1932 was a Presidential election year in the United States and hence the American administration was not in a mood to adopt a stiffer course of action against Japan that might result in the deepening of the economic crisis. After making a show of participating in the proceedings of the League of Nations, the United States ultimately refused to take any concrete step against Japan.
In the following years, the American appeasement towards Japan was consistently expressed in the Neutrality Legislation of 1935. Under that legislation, the American Government ordered all her citizens to leave China.
In the Brussels Conference of November 1937, President Roosevelt and his Secretary Hull refused to give any promise of an effective action against Japan who had started a fresh offensive in China in July 1937 as a result of the Marco Polo Bridge incident. The Conference ended in a fiasco.
From 1937 onwards, both the United States and Britain did not move against Japan although the Japanese hurled insults and losses on the United States and Britain and bombed the American oil tankers and gunboats on the Yangtse River. It is true that in July 1939 Hull denounced the American-Japanese Commerce Treaty of 1911, but the Japanese were allowed to purchase 70% of their imported oil, 65% of Lorries, 75% of their aircraft and 90% of their steel, iron and copper from the United States. It was only when Japan attacked the Pearl Harbour in December 1941 that the United States was awakened to the danger and declared war on Japan.
When Italy invaded Abyssinia, the Neutrality Legislation of 1935 was enacted to prohibit the sale of war materials and banning of loans to the warring States. By that law, the United States treated both the aggressor and the aggrieved on the same footing. The Neutrality Legislation of 1935 was amended in 1937. The old law was replaced by a permanent Neutrality Act under which the ban on the shipment of munitions and loans was retained.
The cash and carry provision required that the non-embargoed goods purchased in the United States by belligerent nations had to be fully paid for before leaving the country and could not be transported in American ships. The United States gave up its claim to respect natural shipping and to a right of travel for neutral citizens.
In the case of Italian aggression in Abyssinia, the American President declared that a state of war existed between Italy and Abyssinia and the export of American arms and ammunitions to both Italy and Abyssinia was illegal and the Americans would in future travel on belligerent ships at their own risk. The arms embargo turned out to be beneficial to Italy.
The American traders started exporting to Italy all commodities other than arms. Between 1934 and 1936, the crude oil export to Italy went up. “Mussolini floated to victory on a sea of oil, much of which came from the United States.” In July 1935, the Emperor of Abyssinia appealed to President Roosevelt for help, but the American President expressed the pious hope that the dispute would be settled amicably.
A similar policy was followed in Spain. There was a Civil War in that country. General Franco raised the standard of revolt against the legitimate Government of Spain. He was helped by Hitler and Mussolini with war materials and soldiers. President Roosevelt did not help the Republican Government of Spain and followed a policy of non-intervention like that of Britain and France.
He got the Neutrality Legislation amended and applied the same to civil strifes also. One reason why the United States followed a policy of appeasement towards General Franco was that the Republican Government of Spain was supposed to be in sympathy with Communism. The Roman Catholics of the United States were inclined towards General Franco who was also a Roman Catholic.
Roosevelt was not willing to alienate the Catholic votes in the United States for the democratic candidates in the Congressional elections of 1938. The Americans also did not want the enlargement of the Civil War in Spain into a general war in Europe.
The United States had the power to stop further aggression by Hitler but it decided to follow a policy of neutrality. Hull, the Secretary of State of the United States, circulated his famous “Eight Pillars of peace”. The result was quite the opposite. Hitler and Mussolini came to the conclusion that the United States would continue her policy of non-intervention in European affairs.
A few days before the signing of the Munich Pact in September 1938, President Roosevelt advised the Governments of Germany, Czechoslovakia, Britain and France to resolve the European problem by peaceful means. He reminded them of their responsibility under the Pact of Paris. He separately sent to Hider and Mussolini an appeal for peace.
The only reply of Hitler was that he occupied Prague and Memel in March 1939. Although war seemed to be imminent, President Roosevelt proposed to Hitler and Mussolini disarmament and a trade conference with a view to reduce international tension. However, his suggestion was rejected. When the Non-Aggression Pact was signed between the Soviet Union and Germany, President Roosevelt requested Hitler to make a settlement with Poland. Poland accepted the proposal but the same was rejected by Hitler.
On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. On 3 September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. The same day Roosevelt declared America’s neutrality in the European war. To quote Roosevelt, “This nation will remain a neutral nation, but I cannot ask every American to remain neutral in thought as well. I hope the United
States will keep out of this war. I believe that it will. And I give you assurance and re-assurance that every effort of your Government will be directed towards that end. As long as it remains within my power to prevent it, there will be no black-out of peace in the United States.” However, gradually but steadily, the United States was pushed in the World War II in defence of democracy against the Axis Powers. The policy of appeasement failed and the autocratic Governments of Germany, Italy and Japan continued their aggressive activities.