The British Political Elite and the Soviet Union, 1937-1939

By Louise Grace Shaw | Go to book overview

4

The Anti-appeasers

Throughout 1938, the British government's policy was one of deliberately excluding the Soviet Union from international affairs. This reflected primarily an unwillingness of certain ministers to put aside their anti-Soviet prejudices. Further evidence to support this contention can be found in a detailed examination of the attitudes of those collectively referred to elsewhere as the anti-appeasers. 1 The 'anti-appeasers' were associated with various political factions and groups: for example, the 'Old Guard', which included Winston Churchill and four or five of his loyal supporters including Robert Boothby, and the 'Glamour Boys', headed by Anthony Eden. This group totalled approximately 30 members by the time of Munich, including Harold Macmillan, Leopold Amery, Harold Nicolson and General Spears. 2 The membership of each group was fluid and, in some cases, individuals appear to have been considered a member of both. 3 Indeed, though two distinct groups existed, members from each maintained regular contact and on several occasions collaborated with regard to protesting against government foreign policy, especially concerning the Soviet Union. In this sense, they were a cohesive body of politicians.

Attitudes towards the Soviet Union among these politicians did vary. In addition, certain politicians were more willing than others to speak out in favour of collaboration with Moscow. Of those that did speak out, there were differences in the form of collaboration they supported. Indeed, a close analysis of the anti-appeasers highlights the complexity of attitudes that existed towards the Soviet Union and Anglo-Soviet relations. It reveals the difficulties politicians faced when deciding their position on foreign policy. Despite their negative perceptions of the Soviet Union, however, these politicians opposed the government's policy towards Moscow. Through such opposition they not only stressed the necessity of putting aside anti-

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