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Showing posts from March, 2018

In their different ways Britain and France fail to match German autarky

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Leon Blum’s second and final Front Populaire government was embattled from the start. Gentle proposals to intervene in the Spanish civil war were emphatically rejected by the parties of the right and just as loudly trumpeted by the Communists. Blum remained committed to rearmament and finally took the plunge that he had avoided during his first government: announcing the introduction   of exchange controls so as to cope with the inflationary pressures of a debt-financed weapons programme. The Senate rejected Blum’s finance bill and withheld powers to government by decree. Mass strikes in the engineering industry added to his woes. The Anschlu ß had pushed Britain too in the direction of accelerating rearmament. But even though the government enjoyed a solid and dependable majority coupled with an ineffectual and divided opposition, it was not going to go to the lengths of sacrificing conservative financial policy. A sound, market economy was considered to be the fourth ar

Eighty years ago: the British government flounders to defend its performance on air rearmament whilst Mussolini provides a grim example of what air power could do

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The government’s opponents, most notably Winston Churchill, made a successful start of their criticism of the pace of air rearmament in a House of commons debate. The government was hamstrung by the promise by the previous Prime Minister to establish “parity” with Germany. It was a concept that was impossible to define in any meaningful way given the host of technical, operational and industrial considerations. At one extreme lay a crude hankering to have the same number of warplanes as Germany but the government and the Air Staff understood full well the playing a simplistic numbers game was militarily senseless. The complexity of the underlying problem meant that progress would inevitably fall short of targets. Accusations by a Welsh and presumably temperance influenced MP that the RAF suffered from excessively heavy drinking in officers’ messes provided modest comic relief. As Franco’s Nationalist army continued its drive into Catalonia, his ally Mussolini decided apparen

Eighty years ago Austria joins the Reich, Leon Blum attempts the impossible (again) and Spanish Republicans demonstrate their particular version of solidarity

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Hitler’s response to the decision by the Austrian government to hold a referendum on its policy of maintain Austrian independence. He threatened military invasion and the Austrians crumbled. Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg was replaced by Seyss-Inquart, the Nazi nominee. Schuschnigg was imprisoned and President Miklas detained for having hesitated to appoint Seyss-Inquart. Hitler drove to Vienna, receiving a rapturous welcome from what appears to have been the majority of Austrians. Austria was immediately integrated into the German Reich: the Anschlu ß . Germany’s anti-Jewish legislation was applied in the new province and the local population gave Jews an unofficial foretaste of their new destiny in spontaneous acts of criminal violence. The union of Germany and Austria had been forbidden by the Versailles treaty but so many of its clauses had been broken by Hitler with impunity that there was no appetite internationally to protest in any serious fashion. What faint prospect t