Labour Imperial Establishment, and Protecting British Power, and Interests in the Decolonisation Process: Bevinian Atlanticist View in A Bi-Partisan British Post WWII.

Labour Imperial Establishment, and Protecting British Power, and Interests in the Decolonisation Process: Bevinian Atlanticist View in A Bi-Partisan British Post WWII.

British thus managed to maintain her political and financial interests and prevented the Empire from a total disintegration, by establishing the Modern Commonwealth.

The Second half of Britain’s priorities now was defence. Although the members of the Commonwealth became responsible for their own defence, they still remained exposed to Communism’s influence, particularly in the face of the split between Russia and the West after the war. Moreover, Britain’s economic weakness gave her a handicap in keeping up with military, and especially atomic, weapon technology. Thus, Britain had to come into alliance with the Americans both for economic and defensive reasons. As Clement Attlee had put it in his book ‘As It Happened’: “While this fiction with Russia increased we naturally grew closer to the United States. This was helped by a change in the attitude of the Administration as they realised what the assumption of responsibility in world affairs entailed. Many Americans shed their old isolation and with it some of their long-seated prejudice against Britain as a predatory imperialist power. They were also disillusioned with Soviet Russia. The two English-speaking countries began to realise that their close co-operation was essential to world peace.”30 Thus, the decline of empire pointed to, and assisted in, a move to a closer relationship with the U.S.A., as never before seen in peace time: moreover, a movement led by a socialist government on the grounds of protecting Britain’s national interest.

To successfully influence the United States was seen as the key to the solution of most of Britain’s external problems, both in Europe and in overseas regions. In the immediate aftermath of the war, approaching the Americans seemed a formidable task indeed. Lend-lease had been cut off and Keynes and others feared that London’s request for some new form of financial assistance would meet with, if not a refusal, then stiff demands on Washington’s part. Military co-operation, through the Combined Chiefs of Staff, had also ended, although the British had proposed its continuation. Truman and Attlee knew little of each other. The “Soviet experiment”, which was being undertaken by the Labour Government, had also been subject to considerable American mistrust. On the other hand, some Americans dismissed British fears of Russian aims: Churchill’s iron curtain speech at Fulton, Missouri in 1946 was felt to be exaggerated and the call was still to be heard for the withdrawal of American troops from Germany. There were certainly causes enough to worry the British political elite for a while.

Since American aid was regarded in Britain as essential, Bevin’s main target became binding the United States more closely to defence of the West. This was done by a series of announcements and actions which were partly premeditated but partly forced upon the government by the worsening economic crisis of February-March 1947.

Extracts from Bevin’s memorandum clearly demonstrate the United Kingdom’s priorities. The document; CAB (Cabinet Records, at the Public Records Office, Kew) 129/23.

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