23.6.41

Churchill’s speech in my opinion very good. It will not please the Left, but they forget that he has to speak to the whole world, e.g. to middle-western Americans, airmen and naval officers, disgruntled shop-keepers and farmers, and also the Russians themselves, as well as to the leftwing political parties. His hostile references to Communism were entirely right and simply emphasised the fact that this offer of help was sincere. One can imagine the squeal that will be raised over these by correspondents in the New Statesman, etc. What sort of impression do they think it would make if Stalin stood up and announced “I have always been a convinced supporter of capitalism”?

Impossible to guess what impression this move of Hitler’s will make in the U.S.A. The idea that it will promptly bring into being a strong pro-Nazi party in England is a complete error. There are no doubt wealthy people who would like to see Hitler destroy the Soviet regime, but they will be a small minority. The Catholics will certainly be among them, but will probably be too acute to show their hands until Russian resistance begins to break down. Talking to people in the Home Guard, including Blimps and quite wealthy businessmen, I find everyone completely pro-Russian, though much divided in opinion about the Russian capacity to resist. Typical conversation, recorded as well as I can remember it: -

Wholesale poulterer: “Well, I hope the Russians give them a bloody good hiding.”

Clothing manufacturer (Jewish): “They won’t. They’ll go to pieces, just like last time. You’ll see.”

Doctor (some kind of foreigner, perhaps refugee): “You’re absolutely wrong. Everyone’s underrated the strength of Russia. They’ll wipe the floor with the Nazis.”

Wholesale grocer: “Damn it, there’s two hundred bloody millions of them”.

Clothing manufacturer: “Yes, but they’re not organised”, etc., etc., etc.

All spoken in ignorance, but showing what people’s sentiments are. Three years ago the great majority of people above £1000 a year, or even about £6 a week, would have sided with the Germans as against the Russians. By this time, however, hatred of Germany has made them forget everything else.

All really depends on whether Russia and Britain are ready really to cooperate, with no arrière-pensée and no attempt to shove the brunt of the fighting on to one another. No doubt a strong pro-Nazi party exists in Russia, and I dare say Stalin is at the head of it. If Russia changes sides again and Stalin plays the part of Pétain, no doubt the Communists here will follow him and go pro-Nazi again. If the Soviet régime is simply wiped out and Stalin killed or taken prisoner, many Communists would in my opinion transfer their loyalty to Hitler. At present the British Communists have issued some kind of manifesto calling for a “People’s Government”, etc. etc. They will change their tune as soon as the hand-out from Moscow comes. If the Russians are really resisting it is not in their interest to have a weak government in Britain, or subversive influences at work here. The Communists will no doubt be super-patriotic within ten days – the slogan will probably be “All power to Churchill” – and completely disregarded. But if the alliance between the two countries is genuine, with a certain amount give-and-take, the internal political effects on both sides must be all for the best. The special circumstances which made the Russian military assistance a bad influence in Spain don’t exist here.

Everyone is remarking in anticipation what a bore the Free Russians will be. It is forecast that they will be just like the White Russians. People have visions of Stalin in a little shop in Putney, selling samovars and doing Caucasian dances, etc., etc.

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11 Responses to 23.6.41

  1. The Russians are in. Can’t wait for the Japanese. Surely then we’ll get two entries a day?

  2. jhameac says:

    This is the whole ‘why’ of my daily drop-in on these diaries. Excellent post George.

  3. Matty says:

    The pessimism about Russia’s chances of resisting Hitler were well-founded, something we forget with the benefit of hindsight. It was understandable that the Nazis thought the USSR would collapse if pushed – Stalin’s regime was so oppressive there was the possibility that the Germans would be welcomed as liberators by many of the non-Russian republics and the Red Army was, whilst large, simply not as well-trained as the Wehrmacht.

  4. andrew says:

    the germans may have thought the russians would just fall over with a good hard push – so there was the “possibility” they may have succeeded. however, the *fact* was that a good hard push to the russians did nothing but make them push back. the only thing that could have defeated them was to somehow end the endless flood of new recruits and their enormous advantage in terrain and production – i.e. if reality had been otherwise, maybe the germans could have won…

  5. Barry Larking says:

    The Germans were indeed greeted like liberators often by people speaking German. In some instances the Nazis were to find the locals had also rounded up and murdered the Jews in the district before they arrived. Had he not been so fanatically anti-Slav on top of all his other faults, Hitler might easily turned his millions of captives into an anti-Stalinist army and used many of his own soldiers elsewhere. As it was large numbers of Ukranians fought in Normandy against the allies and Kessering’s army in northern Italy at the close of the war had numerous Russians in its ranks.

    Looking back seventy years to these events requires a radical shift in ones thinking. Many of us have grown up with little more than mythologies invented post War to hold a broken world together like bandages. Necessary, but now the bandages have to come off. Later simplicities smudged over contradictory and, to our eyes, conflicting, realities (and Orwell makes no reference to the nearly uniform hostility of the U.S. press towards Britain, seemingly unaware of it). He makes fun of this confusion later in the war likening the baffling alignments and ‘marriages of convenience’ these extraordinary events brought in train to a music hall sketch where Churchill and Beaverbrook, wearing false noses’ bound about the stage ‘posing as democrats’. However, close reading of Orwell during this period show his own twists and turns, with barely if at all an acknowledgement that he is attacking views and positions he himself held only shortly before. I cannot blame him for this. Afterall, later he made such sense of it.

  6. Dave Nichols says:

    Mssr. Larking’s point is well taken. The people of Ukraine, Belarus, and eastern (Soviet-occupied) Poland had been savaged by the NKVD in the late 1930s (and, in the case of Ukraine, by the man-made famine of 1932), and would likely have joined the Nazis against Soviet Russia if Hitler was willing to discriminate among Slavs. As for the Russians themselves, there is a new book arguing that many of them fought far more voluntarily than Westerners previously believed: see http://hnn.us/articles/139883.html

  7. Pingback: París a pie (I) | Fragmentos – Diarios

  8. George~~
    Thank you for tweaking the look of the web site. Much more inviting and easier to read.

  9. jhameac says:

    Yes, the updated look and feel of the site is welcomed. The dark black and red remind me of the simple palette of a typewriter ribbon.

  10. @JamesonLewis3rd and jhameac

    Thank you – glad you like the new look! If you have any suggestions on how we can improve it further, please get in touch.

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