Showing posts from April, 2018

Eighty years ago the Sudetenland emerges as the next flashpoint for a European crisis, Neville Chamberlain returns some lost property and the airship era comes to an end

Konrad Henlein, the leader of the “Sudeten” German-speaking population of Czechoslovakia issued an extensive list of demands to the Czech government. It was immediately endorsed by Nazi Germany. The next flashpoint for a serious crisis in Europe was now abundantly clear. The presence of 3.5m German speakers in Czechoslovakia was an anomaly of the Versailles Treaty and few would have argued against the justice of improving their rights as a majority, but Henlein wanted full autonomy. More sinister, he wanted a right to “profess German nationality.” The Sudetenland had never been a political entity, it had always been part of Bohemian crown lands. The notion that Sudetens could be German citizens led logically to the incorporation of Sudetenland into Germany. Britain too was in process of tidying up one aspect of the greater mess of the legacy of 1914-1918 with the signature of a treaty with Eire. Britain was to give up control of the three naval bases in southern Ireland w

Eighty years ago: Hollow diplomacy, rearmament phony and real, and an impostor eco-warrior with a real campaign

Neville Chamberlain’s policy of constructive dialogue with the dictators (a.k.a. appeasement) produced its first demonstrable result when a series of agreements known as the Easter accords were signed.   with Fascist Italy was signed after months of negotiation. They amounted to little more than an agreement to maintain the status quo in the Mediterranean and the Near East. Italy committed itself to withdrawing its “volunteers” from Spain with very little by way of specific detail. The accords would not come into force until the volunteers had been withdrawn. There was no mention of the great prize for Italy: British recognition of its conquest of Ethiopia. The accords were trumpeted as the start of a new era in Anglo-Italian amity but they fell well short of detaching Mussolini from friendship with Hitler, the goal that lay behind Chamberlain’s policy. Italy had already accepted without protest the Anschlu ß of Austria to Germany which had occurred during the negotiations.

Eighty years ago: chickens trump an eagle, a bull with unusual horns and an officer caste with no backbone

In a magnificently staged demonstration of popular support crowds of ordinary Mexicans turned up to make donations to pay the debts of the foreign oil companies that President Cardenas had just expropriated. Chief amongst them was Mexican Eagle, hitherto a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell. The donations ranged from jewellery to chickens; many of the demonstrators were women. L é on Blum’s gamble to rearm France from the left failed. The Senate denied him the powers to impose a far reaching programme of debt-financed military spending backed up by exchange controls. It was light years away from anything the first incarnation of the Front Populaire could have imagined. Blum resign to be replaced by Edouard Daladier of the right-wing Radicals. He was promptly voted almost the same powers denied to Blum. Daladier broadcast a tough, resolute imagine, but many knew better and to insiders he was the “bull with the horns of snail”.  Perversely enough the final proof that the Ger