Showing posts from March, 2019

Eighty years ago, Franco's fakers field fifth columnists, felines and food

The last bastion of Republican Spain, the historic capital Madrid, fell to Franco’s forces with minimal resistance after a siege of two years. In a neat exercise in transforming propaganda into history, the credit was given to the Nationalist “Fifth Column” in the city. Two years previously General Mola had advanced on Madrid in four columns and boasted that he had a fifth within the city already. It did not exist then and it did not exist in 1939. Naturally existing Franco supporters and opportunistic adherents to his cause came out to fill the vacuum left by the Republic’s total military exhaustion, exacerbated by internal political collapse. They claimed that they had overthrown the Republic but in reality the end of the siege was purely a military victory. The phrase "fifth column" became even more useful as a short-hand for the enemy within. The collapse of democracy across Europe in the face of Fascism in the eighteen months that followed seemed to many to be cle

Eighty years ago, unknowingly Hitler makes his last (peacetime) territorial seizure

The horrified reaction to his feeble initial response to the Nazi occupation of Bohemia persuaded prime minister Neville Chamberlain that he needed to do something rather more resolute. The British ambassador was recalled from Berlin and Chamberlain took the opportunity of a long-planned speech to the Birmingham Conservatives to take a far tougher line with Hitler. The speech was broadcast in Britain and the US as well as into Germany, in translation. He asked the rhetorical question whether tearing up the Munich Agreement betokened a move to dominate the world by force. Britain, the Commonwealth and France were united to meet a challenge. He also brought himself to mention the plight of the Jews, which had previously been a taboo topic.  The speech was well received but the excursion into the more practical world of diplomacy that Chamberlain made next failed to translate the apparent new-found resolve into an effective means of facing down Hitler. He proposed a four power

Eighty years ago, Chamberlain's policy of appeasement falls into a black hole just as Einstein declares black holes to be impossible

On Monday 9 th March the Parliamentary Lobby correspondents of Britain’s major newspapers attended an off-the-record briefing   by the Prime Minister; that is the way that they work then as now. He set out an optimistic vision of Europe’s diplomatic outlook. The end of the civil war in Spain would remove the issue that had bedevilled relations between France and Italy. Rome’s claims to large chunks of southern France could be ignored. The true state of relations between Britain and Germany was far better than might be supposed from the rantings of Dr. Goebbels. Upcoming contacts between industrialists and a visit to Berlin by British trade ministers showed the underlying true state of harmony between the countries. Europe could soon look forward to disarmament. Obediently the newspapers published stories embodying these views in near-identical terms the following day. The very same day the Czech government took violent measures to suppress agitation for autonomy for the S