Chapter 5: Under the Lash of Foreign Powers

In this game of chess in Spain the English diplomats have been doing everything possible to avert the danger of a European war, which just at this time cannot be desirable for England. They have calmly put up with all Hitler's and Mussolini's brazen effrontery, a thing which must seem incomprehensible to many; but they have never for one second lost sight of their goal. They were ready to purchase peace "at almost any price," as the English foreign minister, Eden, expressed it; but they were also very clear in their own minds as to just how far they would go in this dangerous game. Chamberlain's speech before his constituents in Birmingham on July 3rd and Eden's speech in Coughlan on the same day abolished the last doubt as to this.

Both speeches were directed at the addresses of Hitler and Mussolini and left nothing to be desired in clarity. Eden stated that England had no interest of any kind in Spain's form of government; but he promptly added: "That does not mean, however, that we shall not be interested if British interests within the land or maritime borders of Spain and in ccommercial lines of communication along the Spanish coast are brought into question." The British foreign minister left, therefore, no doubt that England is unwilling to concede to any European power a dominant position in the Mediterranean, since this would of necessity imperil British hegemony in the Near East, nor that his government is determined in case of need to turn to war as a last resort to protect the vitally important interests of the British world empire.

It is no secret that England has hitherto left no means untried and has brought the strongest kind of pressure to bear upon the Spanish government to bring about an understanding with Franco at the proper time. This was the only way by which Franco could be induced to withdraw from the influence of Italy and Germany and accept the conditions of peace proposed by England and France. For this purpose Anglo-French diplomacy maintained connections with both sides, and foreign agents swarmed over Spain to create the necessary sentiment for an agreement. When the fall of Madrid seemed inevitable they even got in touch with General Miaja in an attempt to win him to a military dictatorship, for which he seemed to the outside diplomats to be the fitting person. Miaja rejected the proposal for reasons best known to himself.

All these maneuvers did not remain hidden from the Spanish revolutionaries. The daily C.N.T. press and other organs of the anti-Fascist front carried almost every week a new exposure of the underground activity of the foreign diplomats and their henchmen in Spain. And the big bourgeois dailies abroad took all possible pains to make an understanding with Fascism seem plausible to the vacillating elements in Spain. Thus the great conservative paper "Le Temps" in Paris wrote very significantly during the recent crisis in the Valencia government:

"It is by no means out of the question that certain elements of the anti-Fascist front would lend a willing ear to conciliatory counsel from beyond the Pyrenees. The fall of Madrid and the resulting political disturbances could but be favorable to the formation of a coalition government of Left Republicans and Socialists of Prieto's type. Such a government would be more receptive to the proposal for a reciprocal understanding and would serve republican Spain better shall would a hopeless war."

The ousting of the Caballero cabinet and the talking over of the government by the bourgeois-Communist Negrin cabinet, which occurred just afterwards, shows how exceedingly well informed the editors of "Le Temps" were. Without doubt the statesmen in London and Paris believed that their time had come and that the Negrin government would furnish them the basis for bringing their plans to realization. It is known that England had made use of the Basque government to enter into negotiations with Franco. It was thought that by this means it wold be possible to prevent the fall of Bilbao, where England's immediate economic interests were most seriously threatened. If these negotiations led to no result it was because Hitler and Mussolini were also intensely interested in the possession of the Basque iron fields, as in them they would get into their hands a strong card against England. The fact that Italian troops and German fiiers played the decisive role in the battle over Bilbao shows how important the conquest of that city was to Germany and Italy. It was not Franco, but the German General Faubel who captured Bilbao. Contrary to the wishes of France and England, the end of the war was thereby once more indefinitely postponed.
It was and is the goal of the Anglo-French statesmen to terminate the war at the first favorable opportunity, and through an understanding between the conservative Loyalist circles and Franco to force upon Spain a form of government that will respect the ancient privileges of England and will be strong enough to protect foreign capital against the attacks of the "extremists." The extremists, however, are in this instance the great masses of the Spanish workers and peasants, and above all, of the C.N.T.-F.A.I., which had proclaimed the slogan that the war could only be carried to a victorious conclusion if it was waged in the spirit of social revolution and brought to the people a complete transformation of the social conditions under which they live. It was the danger of this which caused the conservative government of England its greatest anxiety and which, in the efforts of the workers and peasants at socialization, had taken on a tangible form. To eliminate this danger was and is her most important task. What means to this end the English Tories have in view Winston Churchill set forth undisguisedly in his proposals for the solution of the Spanish question, when he spoke of the necessity of a five-year "neutral dictatorship" to "tranquilize" the country. Later they could "perhaps look for a revival of parliamentary institutions."

The Spanish workers and peasants know from experience what such a "tranquilizing" would be like. The gruesome suppression of the revolt in Asturias in October, 1934, and the horrible massacres by the Fascist incendiaries in Seville, Zaragoza, Badajoz, Málaga, and many other places, to which tens of thousands of men, women, and children fell victims, speak a language that is too clear ever to be forgotten. They know in Spain what "neutral dictatorship" means.

The whole horror of the much-praised capitalist order lies just in this: Without pity and devoid of all humanity it strides across the corpses of whole peoples to safeguard the brutal right of exploitation, and sacrifices the welfare of millions to the selfish interests of tiny minorities. Spain is today the victim of imperialistic foreign powers which are fighting out their differences on the backs of the Spanish people and, without a trace of moral consideration, plunging into ruin an entire country, in which, in right and conscience, they have nothing to look for. Without the interference of foreign powers the revolt of the Fascist brigands would have been disposed of in a few weeks, as it had the enormous majority of the Spanish people against it.

Foreign tyrants like Hitler and Mussolini, who have transformed their own countries into wildernesses of intellectual barbarism and graveyards of freedom, provided the Fascist hangmen of Spain with the means of forcing war on the country and throttling their own people. But the "great democracies" of Europe have tied the hands of the Spanish people and exposed millions of human beings to all the horrors of mass murder, so that, at the chosen hour, they may convert to the advancement of their own purposes the results of a resistance whose heroism is unexampled in history. And Stalin's government renders willing henchman service to these objectives of imperialist powers and makes itself the defender of the counter-revolution against the great masses of the Spanish workers and peasants.

This is the third time that foreign powers have interfered with the armed hand in the struggle of the Spanish people for its human rights and have supported the cause of the counter-revolution against the liberation of the people. In 1823 the invasion of a French army crushed Spanish liberalism and brought Riego to the gallows, delivering the country over to the damnable tyranny of one of the bloodiest despots that ever defiled a throne. In 1874 English and Prussian warships helped General Pavia to strangle the first Spanish republic. Today the same drama is being re-enacted on a larger scale.