All this while the United States remained intensely preoccupied with its own vehement internal affairs and economic problems. Europe and far-off Japan watched with steady gaze the rise of German warlike power…. Deep anxiety ruled in France, where a large amount of Hitler’s activities and of German preparations had come to hand. There was, I was told, a catalogue of breaches of the treaties of immense and formidable gravity, but when I asked my French friends why this matter was not raised in the League of Nations, and Germany invited, or even ultimately summoned, to explain her action and state precisely what she was doing, I was answered that the British Government would depricate such an alarming step…. This was one of those awful periods which recur in our history, when the noble British nation seems to fall from its high estate, loses all trace of sense or purpose, and appears to cower from the menace of foreign peril, frothing pious platitudes while foemen forge their arms.
In this dark time the basest sentiments received acceptance or passed unchallenged by the responsible leaders of the political parties. In 1933 the students of the Oxford Union, under the inspiration of a Mr. Joad, passed their ever-shameful resolution, “That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country.” It was easy to laugh off such an episode in England, but in Germany, in Russia, in Italy, in Japan, the idea of a decadent, degenerate Britain took deep root and swayed many calculations. Little did the foolish boys who passed the resolution dream that they were destined quite soon to conquer or fall gloriously in the ensuing war, and prove themselves the finest generation ever bred in Britain. Less excuse can be found for their elders, who had no chance of self-redemption in action.