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problems that arose in the aftermath of the First World War. Domestic
tranquillity had to be ensured and the economy needed to be repaired.
A new international order, based on the Versailles system, had to be
established. In this period, particularly after 1925, British strategic for-
eign policy was mainly concerned with arms control and disarmament.
Driven by the legacies of the First World War, successive governments
pursued a pacific policy aimed at reducing both defence expenditure
and the likelihood of war.3 Soviet Russia affected British affairs in two


1
Though they were hopeful about and ready to support any proletarian revolution; see
David R. Stone, ˜The Prospect of War? Lev Trotskii, the Soviet Army, and the German
Revolution in 1923™, IHR, 25, 4 (2003), 799“817.
2
Jon Jacobson, When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics (Berkeley and London,
1994), 15“26.
3
Dick Richardson, The Evolution of British Disarmament Policy in the 1920s (London and
New York, 1989). Defence ministers avoided Treasury control of their spending until
1924: John Robert Ferris, Men, Money, and Diplomacy. The Evolution of British Strategic
Foreign Policy, 1919“1926 (Ithaca, 1989); Ferris, ˜Treasury Control, the Ten Year Rule
and British Service Policies, 1919“1924™, HJ, 30, 4 (1987), 859“83.

43
44 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

principal areas: British domestic policy and British strategic foreign
policy both in Europe and in the empire. While these two facets of
British policy were interconnected, for ease of analysis the effect of
Soviet Russia on British domestic affairs will be considered separately.
At the end of the First World War, there was concern that the conflict
had ˜brutalized™ Britain itself.4 This anxiety combined with mass un-
employment, labour unrest, political turmoil in both Ireland and India
and a fear that the existing order was under attack by new ideologies
(such as communism) to create uncertainty about the future.5 The
British response to these perceived threats occurred on at least two
fronts: there was, first, an effort to create the myth that Britain was a
˜peaceable™ state; and, second, a determination to externalize the causes
of the unrest by arguing that its origins were ˜alien™.6 The ˜Red threat™
posed by Soviet Russia was often felt to be at the root of all these
problems.7 The murder of the Russian royal family, tales of atrocities,
the general savagery of the Bolsheviks and the violence of the post-war
communist uprisings throughout Europe and on ˜Red Clydeside™ sup-
ported arguments that communism was both anti- and thoroughly un-
British.8 The fact that a number of the Bolshevik leaders were Jews
resulted in anti-semitic fears about the supposed threat that both
Russian Jewish immigrant communities in London posed to the British
way of life and ˜international Jewry™ posed to the British Empire.9
Everywhere there was fear of domestic communist subversion.10 Even
ex-servicemen™s organizations were kept under surveillance, and soldiers
looking to participate in imperial settlement schemes were screened in

4
Jon Lawrence, ˜Forging a Peaceable Kingdom: War, Violence, and Fear of Brutalization
in Post-First World War Britain™, JMH, 75, 3 (2003), 557“89.
5
Walter Kendall, The Revolutionary Movement in Britain, 1900“1921 (London, 1969).
6
Matthew Hendley, ˜Anti-Alienism and the Primrose League: The Externalization of
the Postwar Crisis in Great Britain 1918“1932™, Albion, 33, 2 (2001), 243“69; Adrian
Gregory, ˜Peculiarities of the English? War, Violence and Politics: 1900“1939™, Journal of
Modern European History, 1, 1 (2003), 44“59.
7
Christopher Andrew, Secret Service. The Making of the British Intelligence Community
(London, 1985), 224“45, 259“338; Bernard Porter, Plots and Paranoia. A History of
Political Espionage in Britain 1790“1988 (London, 1989), 151“74.
8
Michael Hughes, Inside the Enigma. British Officials in Russia 1900“1939 (London and
Rio Grande, 1997), 117“82. British intelligence was patchy: Jennifer Siegel, ˜British
Intelligence on the Russian Revolution and Civil War “ A Breach at the Source™, INS,
10, 3 (1995), 468“85.
9
Gisela C. Lebzelter, Political Anti-Semitism in England 1918“1939 (London, 1978),
47“110; Markku Ruotsila, ˜The Antisemitism of the Eighth Duke of Northumberland™s
the Patriot, 1922“1930™, JCH, 39, 1 (2004), 71“92.
10
British intelligence services were not immune to subversion: Victor Madeira,
˜Moscow™s Inter-war Infiltrations of British Intelligence, 1919“1929™, HJ, 46, 4
(2003), 915“33.
The period of persuasion 45

order to prevent the spread of Bolshevism.11 There was also particular
concern about labour.12 The visit of British trade unionists and members
of the Labour Party to Soviet Russia, threats by the Trades Union Con-
gress that any British action in the Russo-Polish War of 1920“1 would be
resisted by organized labour and the growth of a British Communist Party
all combined to create a ˜Red scare™ in Britain.13 This threat was exagger-
ated by many in the intelligence community due to both their own dislike
of Bolshevism and the utility of this fear for obtaining funding.14 Despite
this, there was ample information, emanating from signals intelligence
and operatives in places such as Reval (modern Tallinn) and Moscow, on
Soviet Russia™s real threat to British domestic security.15 The linkage
between communists and other subversive groups, such as the Irish
Republican Army, accentuated these concerns.16
These fears spawned a plethora of anti-Soviet, ˜patriotic™ organiza-
tions, including the National Party, the British Commonwealth Union
and the Comrades of the Great War.17 These, and the more established
and respectable Primrose League, whose leaders included Conservative
Party luminaries such as Lord Curzon, Stanley Baldwin and William
Joynson-Hicks, helped spread an antipathy towards and fear of Soviet

11
Stephen R. Ward, ˜Intelligence Surveillance of British Ex-Servicemen, 1918“1920™,
HJ, 16, 1 (1973), 179“88; David Englander and James Osborne, ˜Jack, Tommy and
Henry Dubb: The Armed Forces and the Working Class™, HJ, 21, 3 (1978), 593“621,
and Englander, ˜The National Union of Ex-Servicemen and the Labour Movement,
1918“1920™, History, 76, 246 (1991), 24“42; Keith Jeffery, ˜The British Army and
Internal Security 1919“1939™, HJ, 24, 2 (1984), 377“97; Kent Fedorowich, Unfit for
Heroes. Reconstruction and Soldier Settlement in the Empire Between the Wars (Manchester,
1995), 36“7.
12
Porter, Plots and Paranoia, 142“4, 147“8 and 151“74.
13
Stephen White, ˜British Labour in Soviet Russia, 1920™, EHR, 119, 432 (1994),
621“40; White, ˜Labour™s Council of Action 1920™, JCH, 9, 4 (1974), 99“122; White,
˜British Labour and the Russian Revolution: The Labour Delegation to Russia, 1920™,
in John Hiden and Aleksander Loit, eds., Contact or Isolation? Soviet“Western Relations in
the Interwar Period (Stockholm, 1991), 231“48; L. J. Macfarlane, ˜Hands off Russia:
British Labour and the Russo-Polish War, 1920™, PP, 38 (1968), 126“52; and Andrew
Thorpe, ˜The Membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1920“1945™, HJ,
43, 3 (2000), 777“800.
14
Victor Madeira, ˜ “No Wishful Thinking Allowed”: Secret Service Committee and
Intelligence Reform in Great Britain, 1919“1923™, INS, 18, 1 (2003), 1“20.
15
P. Tomaselli, ˜C™s Moscow Station “ The Anglo-Russian Trade Mission as Cover for
SIS in the Early 1920s™, INS, 17, 3 (2002), 173“80; C. G. McKay, ˜Our Man in Reval™,
INS, 9, 1 (1994), 88“111; Victor Madeira, ˜ “Because I Don™t Trust Him, We are
Friends”: Signals Intelligence and the Reluctant Anglo-Soviet Embrace, 1917“1924™,
INS, 19, 1 (2004), 29“51.
16
Emmet O Connor, ˜Communists, Russia, and the IRA, 1920“1923™, HJ, 46, 1 (2003),
115“31.
17
Thomas Linehan, British Fascism 1918“1939. Parties, Ideology and Culture (Manchester
and New York, 2000), 38“60; Ruotsila, ˜Antisemitism™.
46 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

Russia.18 Throughout the 1920s, Red Russia was the stuff of British
adventure fiction, a sinister state poised to threaten Britain and the
empire.19 Film was similar: the ˜new™ Russia was depicted as an empire
every bit as evil as its tsarist predecessor and, later, its post-1945 succes-
sor.20 Conversely, for the political left “ although not for the Labour
Party “ Soviet Russia became the beau ideal.21 The ˜mental maps™ of
Soviet Russia were rapidly established in the aftermath of the Bolshevik
revolution.
Ideological dislike did not mean that Soviet Russia was excluded when
British strategic foreign policy was formulated. As premier, Lloyd
George saw Soviet Russia as essential both to the reconstruction of
Europe and to Britain™s economic revival.22 Despite the vociferous
anti-Bolshevism of his secretary of state for war, Winston Churchill,
and the concerns about the Bolshevik threat to the empire of his foreign
secretary, Lord Curzon, Lloyd George signed the Anglo-Russian Trade
Agreement, with only its clauses forbidding Bolshevik propaganda rep-
resenting Curzon™s insistence on a quid pro quo.23 Lloyd George hoped to

18
Hendley, ˜Anti-Alienism™, 253“7.
19
Keith Neilson, ˜Tsars and Commissars: W. Somerset Maugham, Ashenden and Images
of Russia in British Adventure Fiction, 1890“1930™, CJH, 27, 3 (1992), 487“500; Eric
Homberger, ˜English Spy Thrillers in the Age of Appeasement™, INS, 5, 4 (1990),
80“92.
20
Tony Shaw, ˜Early Warnings of the Red Peril: A Pre-History of Cold War British
Cinema, 1917“1939™, Film History, 14 (2002), 354“68.
21
F. S. Northedge and Audrey Wells, Britain and Soviet Communism. The Impact of a
Revolution (London, 1982), 181“209; Andrew J. Williams, Labour and Russia. The
Attitude of the Labour Party to the USSR, 1924“1934 (Manchester, 1989); Daniel F.
Calhoun, The United Front. The TUC and the Russians 1923“1928 (Cambridge, 1976);
and Stephen White, Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution. A Study in the Politics of
Diplomacy (London and Basingstoke, 1979), 27“55, 204“33.
22
G. H. Bennett, British Foreign Policy During the Curzon Period, 1919“1924 (London,
1995), 60“75; Keith Neilson, ˜“That elusive entity British policy in Russia”: The
Impact of Russia on British Policy at the Paris Peace Conference™, in Michael Dockrill
and John Fisher, eds., The Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Peace Without Victory? (Basing-
stoke and New York, 2001), 67“101; Richard K. Debo, ˜Lloyd George and the
Copenhagen Conference of 1919“1920: The Initiation of Anglo-Soviet Negotiations™,
HJ, 24, 2 (1981), 429“41; Debo, ˜Prelude to Negotiations: The Problem of British
Prisoners in Soviet Russia November 1918“July 1919™, SEER, 58, 1 (1980),
58“75; Thomas S. Martin, ˜The Urquhart Concession and Anglo-Soviet Relations,
1921“1922™, JbfGOE, 20, 4 (1972), 551“70; Andrew Williams, ˜The Genoa Confer-
ence of 1922: Lloyd George and the Politics of Recognition™, in Carole Fink, Axel
¨
Frohn and Jurgen Heideking, eds., Genoa, Rapallo, and European Reconstruction in 1922
(Washington and Cambridge, 1991), 29“48; Anne Orde, British Policy and European
Reconstruction After the First World War (Cambridge, 1990), 160“3; and Stephanie C.
Salzmann, Great Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union. Rapallo and After, 1922“1934
(Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2003), 7“18.
23
M. V. Glenny, ˜The Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement, March 1921™, JCH, 5, 2 (1970),
63“82.
The period of persuasion 47

follow this up with a more comprehensive agreement with the Soviets at
Genoa the following year. However, on 17 April 1922, Berlin and
Moscow announced instead the signing of the Treaty of Rapallo, which
ushered in a period of Soviet“German co-operation and brought an end
to Lloyd George™s Russian schemes.24
The new Conservative government that came into power in 1922 was
not as interested in improving relations with Soviet Russia as its prede-
cessor had been. Without Lloyd George to restrain him, Curzon turned
steadily towards a more confrontational approach.25 Utilizing decrypted
telegrams, Curzon pieced together a picture of Soviet subversion against
British interests and, on 8 May 1923, issued the ˜Curzon ultimatum™,
which called upon Moscow to cease and desist its revolutionary activities
or risk termination of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement. This had the
desired result. Despite this, it was clear that there was little chance for
good relations between the two states as long as the Conservatives
remained in power.
The life of the Conservative government was short. When Labour
came to power in January 1924, the possibility of improved Anglo-Soviet
relations increased. The new government, strongly influenced in its
foreign policy by former Radical Liberals (who now favoured recogniz-
ing Soviet Russia as much as they had wished to break relations with
tsarist Russia) and by the need to alleviate unemployment through
foreign trade, recognized the country™s new government.26 There was
not an abundance of ideological overlap between Labour and commun-
ism; on the contrary, the Labour hierarchy, and particularly Prime
Minister J. Ramsay MacDonald, disavowed both the aims and the
methods of the Soviet government. In fact, during his tenure as premier,
MacDonald became aware of the reality of the ˜Red menace™.27


24
Stephen White, The Origins of Detente. The Genoa Conference and Soviet“Western Rela-
¨
tions, 1921“1922 (Cambridge, 1985), 147“65, Peter Kurger, ˜A Rainy Day, April 16,
1922: The Rapallo Treaty and the Cloudy Perspective for German Foreign Policy™,
in Fink, Frohn and Heideking, Genoa, Rapallo, 49“64, and Orde, British Policy and
European Reconstruction, 183“207; see J. David Cameron, ˜Carl Graap and the Forma-
tion of Weimar Foreign Policy Toward Soviet Russia from 1919 Until Rapallo™, D&S,
13, 4 (2002), 75“95.
25
Jacobson, When the Soviet Union, 111“13; White, Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution,
141“72.
26
White, Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution, 204“33, and Gabriel Gorodetsky, The
Precarious Truce. Anglo-Soviet Relations 1924“1927 (Cambridge, 1977), 7“12.
27
Christopher Andrew, ˜The British Secret Service and Anglo-Soviet Relations in the
1920s, Part I: From the Trade Negotiations to the Zinoviev Letter™, HJ 20, 3 (1977),
673“706; Trevor Barnes, ˜Special Branch and the First Labour Government™, HJ, 22, 4
(1979), 941“51.
48 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

The focus of Labour™s policy towards Moscow was to improve eco-
nomic relations.28 An Anglo-Soviet conference was held in London from
14 April to 7 August 1924. These talks were bedevilled by issues that
were to remain at the centre of all Anglo-Soviet trade talks. The Soviets
wanted a British loan guaranteed by the government; the British wanted
compensation both for lapsed tsarist bonds and for property in Russia
seized by the Bolsheviks. London desired to deal with the issue of the
money borrowed from Britain by the tsarist government during the First
World War and the related matter of the fate of the unspent portion of
these loans now held by Barings (the so-called Baring balances).29 By
the beginning of July, there was an impasse.30 The Soviet offers of
compensation were ˜utterly vague™ and dependent on new loans being
granted in London. This created little incentive for the latter. ˜Why
should new bondholders lend on next to no security™, a senior official
at the Treasury pointed out, ˜in order to pay old bondholders a
mere fraction of their claims?™ The British wanted to cancel war debts,
but only in the context of a general settlement with the other Allies,
particularly the United States.
Despite these difficulties, negotiations went forward for political
reasons. Arthur Ponsonby, Labour™s parliamentary undersecretary for
foreign affairs, noted that a breakdown in the negotiations would be a

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