The Democracies struggle with their separate problems as the dictatorships bomb with impunity

Image result for ethnic split of czechoslovakia 1938


Hot on the heels of the Japanese terror bombing of Hankow, Franco’s Nationalists and their German and Italian allies began to bomb towns in Catalonia and other Republican enclaves. The goal was to break civilian morale. The recent Italian agreement to withdraw its “volunteers” from Spain in exchange for British recognition of the conquest of Ethiopia was quietly ignored. Some hundreds of people were killed in the town of Granollers. Britain reacted with its customary flurry of outraged and ineffectual protest. The demonstration of ruthless use of air power by Fascists countries helped reinforce fears in Britain of what shape a broader war might take.

The complexity of the problems facing the Czechoslovakian state were all too apparent in the manoeuvres to produce a new nationalities statute. By far the largest internal issue that President Hodza faced was winning the Slovaks round to any change. The notion that there was any such things as a Czechoslovakian nation was essentially a fiction. The two groups were comparable in size and before any attempt could be made to accommodate the German speaking Sudeten minority (a little more than a fifth of the total population) they would have to be in agreement. Slovak autonomists were in a minority, albeit a vocal one. The presence of significant Hungarian and Polish minorities further complicated the problem. German support for the Sudetens had gone quiet for a bit but the challenge remained.

Cordell Hull, the US Secretary of State, delivered a powerfully worded speech against US isolationism in Nashville. In the face of international anarchy and lawlessness, the influence of the US was a vital force for stability. Predictably he stopped well short of any firm commitments or specific proposals. He also showcased the need to avoid “entangling alliances” and advanced the case for general disarmament. In reality the speech gave a better idea of the challenges President Roosevelt would face if he wanted to involve the US in international diplomacy, rather than giving any cause for hope that he would.

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