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George Bernard Shaw and the Nazi-Soviet Pact

So here is the FULL text of Shaw's article in praise of the Nazi-Soviet Pact and urging the British Government to make peace with Hitler as Stalin had so wisely done. Emphasis and Notes are mine.

New Statesman and Nation, 7 October 1939

The war in Poland is over. Every person in the country capable of seeing three moves ahead in the game of military chess has known this from the time the first Russian soldier stepped across the Polish frontier. Poland surrendered and laid herself at Herr Hitler’s feet. He was able to say that as Poland’s cause is lost we have no further excuse for continuing the war. Whereupon we threw off the mask of knight erranty and avowed flatly that we did not care two hoots about Poland and were out, on our old balance of power lines, to disable Germany, which we now called abolishing Hitlerism.

This left the Fuhrer in a very dangerous position. The Axis had broken in his hands from the very beginning, Italy and Spain having promptly deserted him. The anti-Comintern Pact had become a danger to him. Turkey was definitely against him: Rumania and the Balkans generally were mortally afraid of him. American neutrality was pro-British just as our non-intervention policy in the Spanish war was pro-Franco. 1918 had proved that Germany although unconquerable and even victorious here and there on the field could be starved into complete demoralisation and defeat by the Allies. The situation was not pleasant even for a leader drunk with success. The encirclement was fairly complete.

Except on one side, where Russia stood with an army of six million men eating their heads off. Those of us who were intelligent and knowedgeable enough to see that the balance of power was in the hands of Stalin had forced our Government to make overtures to Russia and Mr. Duff Cooper, [1] a very favourable specimen of our reighning oligarchy, loosened his old school tie so far as to plead in the Evening Standard that Stalin, though of course a blood-thirsty scoundrel, was perhaps not quite so villanous as Hitler. Herr Hitler, having the tremendous advantage over Mr. Duff Cooper of being a proletarian and knowing something about the world he was living in, courted Russia more sensibly.

Stalin, five hundred per cent or so abler and quicker at the uptake than all of the dictators, including the Westminster Cabiner rolled into one, had nothing to consider except which of them he should take by the scruff of the neck. Before deciding, he sent a handful of his six millions to take possesion of White Russia, the Ukraine and a substantial bit of Poland. Herr Hitler at once capitulated unconditionally and was duly taked by the scruff of the neck; for Stalin could use Herr Hitler to keep Duff Cooperism out of the rest of Poland. He informed us in effect that since we could not even be civil to Russia, we should not make Poland a gun emplacement for the obvious ultimate aim of our rulers (as far as they are capable of aims) of restoring the Romanoff Tsardom and once more dining happily with the Benkendorffs [2] in Chester Square. And so the diplomatic situation stands. Nothing has happened except that the French, whether after consultation with us or not, I do not know, have most inopportunely started perecuting their Communists [3] …….. [4]

Meanwhile we are enduring all the vagaries, from mere discomfort to financial ruin and the breaking up of our homes, of the ineptist Military Communism. Powers which no Plantagenent king or fascist dictator have been granted to any unqualified person who offered to assume them, including an enterprising burglar. [5] Whatever our work in life may be, we have been ordered to stop doing it and stand by. Whereever our wives and children are, they have been transported to somewhere else, with or without the mothers. Our theatres and cinemas have been closed; and our schools, colleges and public libraries confiscated by the military bureauracy. We have been bundled out of our hotels into the streets neck and crop, and our own houses simultaneously made into nests of billeted little evacuees, often unofficially described as little hooligans. Our bungalows bought by us after a careful calculation of our ability to pay the mortgage interest and get to our place of business in a Baby Austin, have been put quite beyond our means by an appalling budget, and by a rationing of petrol, that aims at our complete immobilisation just as the blacking-out aims at our being completely blindfolded from sunset to sunrise. When the bungalows and suburbs raise a bitter cry that they cannot pay the new taxes, Sir John Simon [6] replies frankly that if they do not the Government will be forced to resort to inflation, thus reminding us that in Germany, when we forced the Reich to resort to it, a twopenny-halfpenny postage stamp cost £12,000 and the postman’s wage rose to a king’s ransom on which he could barely live, while annuities and insurances, on which unmarried elderly daughters and retired folk used to live in decency and comfort, became worthless. Our incomes depreciated from week to week through the rise in prices which the Government is pledged to prevent and cannot.

Such (and much more) is Military Communism in inexperienced hands, often the hands of fools who come to the top in wartime by their self-satisfied folly though nobody would trust them to walk a puppy in peacetime. When we complain we are told that we must all make sacrifices, and that we had better buy white overcoats, carry our gas masks everywhere, and take wildly impractical precautions against high explosive blast and poison gas.

Naturally we cry “Sacrifice”! Yes but what for?” You tell us to be resolute and determined; but we cannot be resolute and determined in the air about nothing. What are we suffering for? Upon what are we resolved? What have we determined? What in the devil’s name is it all about now that we have let Poland go?

Mr. Chamberlain in a reply states our aim in a peroration. Mr. Winston Churchill echoes it in a broadcast with a certain sense of its absurdity which the microphone betrays. Our aim is first to deliver Europe from the threat and fear of war. And our remedy is to promise it three years more war! Next to abolish Hitlerism root and branch. Well what about beginning by abolishing Churchillism, a proposition not less nonsensical and more easily within our reach? But we are told, if we do not send Hitler to St. Helena, he will proceed to annex Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Africa and finally the entire universe and Stalin will help him. I must reply that men who talk like this are frightened out of their wits. Stalin will see to it that nobody, not even our noble selves will do anything of the sort; and Franklin Rooseveld will be surprised to find himself of Stalin’s opinion in this matter. Had we not better wait until Hitler tries to do it, and then stop him with Stalin and Roosevelt at our back?

The Archbishop of York, in the next broadcast, rose finally to the occasion as became a great Christian prelate. Unfortunately he began not as a Christian prelate but as a righteously angry hotheaded Englishman by giving his blessing to our troops as “dedicated” to the supreme immediate duty of lynching Herr Hitler and his associates. Now I cannot go into the question of whether Herr Hitler deserves to be lynched without raising awkward analogies about his case and those of Signor Mussolini, General Franco, Stalin and his associates, and raking up events in India and in Ireland which unfriendly pens have represented as somwhat dictatorial on our part. I simply remind the Archbishop that although we can easily kill a hundred thousand quite innocent Germans, man woman and child, in our determination to get at Herr Hitler, we should not finally succeed in lynching him; and the killing of the Germans and our own losses in the process, would produce a state of mind on both sides which would operate as a complete black-out of Christianity and make the Archbishop’s sane final solution impossible. If we won, it would be Versailles [7] all over again, only worse and another war even less than 20 years off. And if, as is desperately possible, we drove Russia and Germany into a combination against us to avert that catastrophe, which is just what our Stalinophobe Old School Ties and Trade Unionists are recklessly trying to do, then we shall indeed need God’s help and not desserve it.

No: it will not do, however thickly we buttter it about bunk and balderdash about Liberty, Democracy and everything we have just abolished at home. As the Archbishop nobly confesses, we made all the mischief, we and the French when we were drunk with victory at Versailles; and if that mischief had not been there for him to undo, Adolf Hitler would have now been a struggling artist of no political account. He actually owes his eminence to us; so let us now cease railing at our own creation and recognise the ability with which he has undone our wicked work and the debt the German nation owes him for it. Our business now is to make peace with him and with all the world instead of making more mischief and ruining our people in the process.

I write without responsibility, because I represent nobody but myself and a handful of despised politically powerless intellectuals capable of taking a catholic view of the situation. One of these unhappy outcasts is my friend H. G. Wells. He has written a vitally important letter to the Times, of which nobody has taken the slightest notice. I disagree with him on one point and would fain comfort him on it. He warns us that we are risking not just military defeat, but the existence of civilisation and even of the human race. Dear H.G. let us not flatter ourselves. The utmost we can do is to kill, say twenty-five millions of one another, and make the ruins of all our great cities, show places for Maori tourists.

Well, let us. In a few months we shall matter no more than last summer’s flies. As two of the flies we naturally depreciate such an event.; but the world will get on without us; and the world will have an immense gratification of the primitive instinct that is at thr bottom of this mischief and that we never mention: to wit pugnacity, sheer pugnacity for its own sake, that much admired quality of which an example has just been so strikingly set for us by the Irish Republican Army. [8]

[1] Alfred Duff Cooper (born 1890) was a Conservative politician and Cabinet Minister. He was a decorated hero of the First World War in which most of his closest friends were killed – including John Manners whose sister, Lady Diana Manners he then married. He became a friend of Winston Churchill in the 1920s and a prominent opponent of Appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s. After the Munich Agreeement in 1938 he resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty in protest. He then worked with Churchill to secure Chamberlain’s resignation and the latter’s replacement by Churchill (1940).

[2] Benkendorffs – a prominent Russian family of German origin. Count Benkendorff was Russian Ambassador to Great Britain up to 1917.

[3] After the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in August 1939, the French Communist Party opposed the “imperialist war” with Germany and were banned. Rather than face conscription into the army, its leader Maurice Thorez went to live in Moscow.

[4] Part of Shaw’s original article seems to have been cut by the editors here.

[5] Shaw seems to be referring to Air Raid Wardens and the enforcement of blackout regulations!

[6] Sir John Simon was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Chamberlain government.

[7] The Treaty of Versailles (1919) after the First World War laid heavy penalties on Germany and is sometimes blamed for facilitating the rise of the Nazis to power.

[8] In January 1939, the IRA Army Council declared war against Britain, and a bombing and sabotage campaign began a few days later.