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

By Louise Grace Shaw | Go to book overview

8

United in Opposition

Throughout March-August 1939, the anti-appeasers remained supportive of Anglo-Soviet collaboration. Indeed, their support strengthened, as those who were previously ambiguous about what type of agreement they supported specifically demanded an Anglo-French-Soviet alliance by May. The guarantee of Poland was accepted, but not accepted as an excuse to reject Soviet proposals. As Hitler's aggressive intentions became increasingly obvious, the need to overlook personal prejudices towards the Soviet Union and accept Moscow's proposals became, in the minds of the anti-appeasers, even more urgent. This was exemplified in their willingness to continue supporting an alliance, despite Molotov's insistence upon a clause of indirect aggression.

Following Hitler's takeover of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, the anti-appeasers learnt of the government's intention to guarantee Poland. Before we can examine their attitudes towards Anglo-Soviet collaboration during this year, it is important to analyse their response to what historians, and politicians at the time, deemed to be such a crucial development. When the guarantee to Poland was announced in the House of Commons on 3 April 1939, nearly all of the politicians examined in this chapter supported the guarantee and congratulated the Prime Minister on his decision. 1 It was seen as an effective deterrent to Hitler. 2

Yet, all who supported the guarantee also maintained their demand for collaboration with the Soviets. Their initial congratulatory attitude towards the guarantee in no way indicated that it replaced the importance of securing the Soviet Union as an ally. On the night before the guarantee was concluded, for example, Greenwood accompanied Hugh Dalton to see Chamberlain in the Cabinet room. Referring to the Prime Minister's decision to guarantee Poland the next day (31 March), Dalton warned that 'he would never get away with it…unless he brought in the Russians'. 3 On 3 April, Dalton told the House of Commons that it was:

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Series Editor's Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Cabinet and Communism 5
  • 2 - Building Bridges 31
  • 3 - The Foreign Office and the Soviet Union, 1937-38 51
  • 4 - The Anti-Appeasers 75
  • 5 - Poland or the Soviet Union? 101
  • 6 - The Loss of an Ally 117
  • 7 - Germany and the Soviet Union: Allies or Enemies? 149
  • 8 - United in Opposition 169
  • Conclusion 185
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 206
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