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The Focus Group
The Focus for the Defence of Freedom and Peace, but known as The Focus Group and originally the British Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi Council to Champion Human Rights, was a propaganda lobby group in the United Kingdom, founded in 1935 in response to a call by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as part of an attempt to undermine National Socialism and turn people against Germany. It continued to exist until the late 1950s. They published a journal named simply Focus.
The organisation was similar to a group in the United States known as the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League, associated with Samuel Untermyer of Judea Declares War on Germany fame. The group included various politicians who were hostile to Germany for various reasons, either ideological for Labour Party members, liberal factions within the Conservative Party who were opposed to the Chamberlain-Baldwin anti-war government, and Winston Churchill returning from his time in "the wilderness".
The funding for the group came from Jewish sources; particularly Robert Waley Cohen, former Director of Royal Dutch Shell and Vice-Chairman of University College, London, described by his biographer as the "veritable dynamic force of Focus". However the movers and shakers in the group were largely not Jewish (maybe just useful idiots to them). The first president of the organisation was Walter Citrine, President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. It also included Labour Party MP and Nobel Prize-winner Norman Angell, the very hard-line communist Sylvia Pankhurst (founder of the The Communist Party - British Section of the Third International), the anti-semitic editor of The Times newspaper, Henry Wickham Steed, the liberal Conservative Party MP Harold Macmillan, Duncan Sandys (an odd inclusion here), the ultra-liberal Violet Bonham Carter, socialist Herbert Morrison (grandfather of Peter Mandelson), and the far-left Eleanor Rathbone a long-term campaigner for "women's rights".
As a secret pressure group, Focus started giving slush money to Churchill in the 1930s. Churchill was the center of this group. The group was mostly dissident politicians, people who were out of office and wanted to get back in and willing to go to any lengths to do it, including overthrowing the government and putting Churchill in their place. Before 1936, he had largely ignored Germany. However from 1936 onwards he began beating the anti-German drum when there was at that time a lot of pro-German sentiment in England. King Edward VIII was pro-German and pro-peace but was forced to abdicate over an affair with a divorcee.
The war bankrupted Britain. Hitler kept asking Britain for peace, and whilst these offers were placed before the Cabinet only half the Cabinet wanted to accept them - Churchill's casting vote kept Britain in the war.
- Spier, Eugen, A Footnote to the History of the Thirties, published by Oswald Wolff London, 1963.
- Tansill, Charles Callan, Back Door to War - Roosevelt's Foreign Policy 1933-1941, USA, 1952 (1971 reprint).
- The Earl of Halifax, Fullness of Days, New York, 1957.