Page 2, 25th November 1938

25th November 1938
Page 2
Page 2, 25th November 1938 — CATHOLICS AND WORLD AFFAIRS XI

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For Barcelona's enefit



DOUGLAS JERROLD FORTUNATELY, English Catholic opinion is already well informed on Spain, and particularly on the origins of the disastrous conflict which still continues. It is, however, interesting to sec how the Catholic standpoint on this issue is being more generally, if quite unwittingly adopted.

Only last Monday Mr. Anthony Eden, hitherto not remarkable as a champion of Catholic liberties, proclaimed as an unassailable principle that what mattered to Englishmen about foreign governments was not their form but their conduct. Mr. Eden means, if he means anything, that we are no longer ready to accept the Barcelona Government as

the legitimate government of Spain • • merely because it is, formally, the heir of the Government of 1936, but that he will require to be satisfied that by its conduct it has not forfeited such rights as it possesses by its behaviour.

Many of our leaders do not share Mr. Eden's opinions of Mr. Eden, but none of them will be so sceptical of his intelligence as to suggest that, once conduct is made a test of the authority of governments, the Barcelona Government will get past Mr. Eden's critical eye. The only question, therefore, is whether Mr. Eden means what he says. May we, in other words. take it that the Left Wing, like the Right 'Wing, is now ready to listen to reason on the Spanish issue?

If so, that would be one of the few hopeful signs in Europe today. Unfortunately, the matter is still much in doubt, We have made a disastrous error in morals and in politics in our Spanish policy to date. We have neither advanced our material interests nor enhanced our moral authority. The political heirs of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 made themselves look silly before the whole world by their hypocritical indignation over the act of Rebellion, and continental opinion was not reassured when the United States—whose very existence, and not merely their constitution, derived from a Rebellion—followed our example.

So far from being reassured, the world laughed at the conveniently belated champions of the divine right of legally constituted governments. Unhappily the comedy, so amusing to the spectators, so painful to the unwilling actors, is now likely to be prolonged, as the consequence of the recent events in Germany.


The military situation in Spain today is simple.

Alike in Valencia, Madrid, and Barcelona, there is a shortage of food, of supplies and of foreign exchange. There are thus no materials for conducting a successful offensive anywhere. There is no chance of prolonging indefinitely the defence of Madrid and Valencia. The Government have lost the command of the sea. and have failed so completely in the elementary tasks of internal administration that, although they control nearly a quarter of the agricultural land of Spain, they cannot even feed the inhabitants of the few cities that remain to them.

And this despite the fact that the Government began the war with the whole gold reserves of Spain, and with the whole machinery of administration at their command.

Ignorant people are talking of a cruel blockade. As far as Barcelona is con erned, there is no blockade: the frontier is open; no Power is stopping, or proposes to stop, the passage of food from France to Government Spain. As far as Madrid is concerned, there is a partial and very ineffective blockade by sea, since General Franco's offer to provide a free port for the importation of food supplies for civilians and children has been rejected.

The responsibility for the rejection lies at the door of Barcelona, not of Burgos. Even so, a good deal of food is coming in, the shortage is largely due to financial causes, and in any case, the large agricultural provinces to the south-east of Madrid should, and could, amply suffice to feed the small population left at the Government's mei cy.

The food shortage means that no one is willing to supply the Barcelona Government with food unless it can show itself capable of recapturing the wide and fertile areas of National Spain on which Spanish credit must in the long run be based. Equally, the Barcelona Government itself realises that the plight of Madrid is hopeless unless land communications can be re-established. Hence the gallant and prolonged effort to turn the strategic flank of General Franco's position by striking at him across the Ebro. Success would have meant, we must presume, more credits and supplies from France, or at least, through France, and the capacity to employ these credits and supplies for the reinforcement and provisioning of Madrid.


No one will deny either the tactical skill shown in the Ebro offensive or the gallantry of the troops—many of them foreign —who were employed. The fact remains that the offensive has failed. Despite assistance from France on a scale far greater than ever before—so great that Dr. Negrin in the middle of April, after experiencing the greatest single disaster of the war, was able to say that he had more munitions of all kinds than before General Franco's offensive began—the Barcelona Government has proved itself unable to recapture even a yard of territory. By their obstinate gallantry, the Government troops have inflicted several losses on General Franca: but they have sustained losses equally severe themselves (for counter attack has been matched to attack, and so the losses have been even).

The result is to increase very severely the preponderance of General Franco's strength and to make it clear to France that nothing but direct intervention by at least four army corps can save the day for Barcelona.

What is the reaction of France to these facts? We know that during the recent crisis, when even the most reckless politicians were brought face to face with realities, France did not hesitate. She realised that the cause of Barcelona was far too precarious to support, where France herself was in danger, and undertook to close her frontiers. On this understanding, General Franco made his timely, important, and most ill-recognised, declaration of neutrality to the British Foreign Office. Today, France is torn with dissension; the national unity, evoked by the international crisis, is past, and there is a danger that M. Daladier's Government may be tempted to continue its friendly gestures to Barcelona in an effort to get left wing support for its necessarily unpopular policies at home.

In England, too, reaction is setting in, and there is a danger lest, with typical British illogicality, politicians may be tempted to show their hatred of the German persecutions by acquiescing in the continued supply of arms and ammunition by France to Barcelona.

There is an even greater likelihood of an immense campaign of sympathy for the starving population of Madrid and Barcelona, a campaign which would lead to an Orgy of misrepresentation.

None of these possibilities will affect in any way the military result. General Franco will win. in a military sense, he has already won. Any prolongation of the war which results from AngloFrench help of this kind to Barcelona will only add to the sufferings of Spain, but cannot affect the ultimate result: no help sufficient for this end could possibly be given without provoking a general European war.

THE QUESTION OF MEDIATION Opposing Chiefs Would Have to Leave Spain

Should we then urge mediation? The answer to that question is best supplied by another: About what are the two sides in Spain fighting?

They are fighting over a quite simple issue. Both sides stand for a united Spain. One side wishes united Spain to be a Catholic state governed according to the principles of the Leonine Encyclicals; the other side wishes Spain to be a secular state governed according to the principles of the revolution.

Mediation in such circumstances means inevitably imposing a third solution: the government of Spain by some third party equally distasteful to both sides.

Such a solution can only be imposed by force, so that mediation means, in fact, intervention. Most wars can be and are

ended by mediation because they are usually fought for territory, which is susceptible of division. People who are fighting for a loaf may reasonably be asked to accept two-thirds of a loaf. A war fought for the right to govern a country according to certain principles cannot be adjudicated in this easy fashion.

In crude fact, mediation means the retirement from Spain of Dr. Negrin, who enjoys the confidence of perhaps five million Spaniards, and General Franco, who enjoys the confidence of at least twelve million Spaniards, in favour of Senor de Madariaga, who admittedly holds the confidence of no-one on either side of the line in Spain.

Might he not, it will be asked, he given a temporary mandate by both sides to preside over a new constitution? (I ask this question because it will inevitably be Pitt by perhaps a majority of people in this country. We must be prepared to answer it frankly.) The answer is that Spain has suffered under liberal politicians for two generations and that no-one either in Barcelona or Burgos wants to see them back. The fundamental error which British people make about Spain is the assumption that the government of 1931 and those which followed it constituted a new chapter in Spanish history. On the contrary, they were " old gang " governments, inheritors of the ideas, not of 1917 but of 1848.

There was not one rebellion against the government of 1936, there were two: a rebellion of the Left and a counter-rebellion of the Right. There were partisans of the extreme Left in the Popular Front Government, just as might happen in this country, and if Senor Gil Robles had been allowed to form a government in 1933 he might have included partisans of the extreme Right, but the contact rested at the Centre, and it was under the men of the Centre, Alcala Zamorra, Anita and Lerroux. that Spain descended from a relatively stable and orderly State under the monarchy to the shameful and bloodstained anarchy of the summer of 1936. And when we are told that these men of the Centre are getting back into power behind the scenes at Barcelona, they are telling us what may well be true, but what is the very worst omen for the prospects of any settlement other than by a military victory.

1930-36 IS A CLOSED CHAPTER Real Spaniards Will See To It

Whatever Spain will or will not tolerate, she will never tolerate a return to the shameful conditions of anarchy, sacrilege, civil disorder and political corruption which she experienced between 1930 and 1936. In Spain there is a Catholic peasantry, a syndicalist working-class in the towns, a Catholic and Conservative bourgeoisie, a revolutionary and atheistic section of the intelligentsia, and strong Separatist elements around Bilbao and in Ci talonia.

Superimposed on this is a large class of professional politicians and agitators, many of them with foreign affiliations. and an officer corps, patriotic, Catholic and Nationalist. but anything but Conservative in its political affiliations.

The army in Spain is not aristocratic but middle-class. It has never reflected the aims nor served the ambitions of the Spanish aristocracy, which, like our own, has given distinguished leaders to all the political parties.

The tragedy of Spain has been the exploitation of genuine economic and social grievance, and of a sincere if not very intelligent separatism in certain districts, by a succession of middle-class politicians who represented nobody but themselves. The Spanish temperament is inveterately and innately hostile to that kind of regulated State Capitalism to which all parties in England incline. For Spain, and being Spaniards, they are right. Such a system could never work there. The taste of the Spanish army officers for issuing " pronunciamentos " and forming " juntas" shows that the curious mixture of anarchism and syndicalism which is so strong in the Spanish workers (outside the peasantry) is equally strong in the middle classes.

Some form of regionalised Corporative State is thus the only possible solvent of Spain's political problem, and it is because General Franco offers a solution along these lines that he has the people behind him. The frank recognition of this fact by the discredited leaders at Barcelona is the only possible alternative to a purely military decision.

THE CONDITIONS OF PEACE Recognition of Truth

Until the realities of the position are frankly recognised, there can be no peace in Spain, and until there is peace in Spain, there will be no peace in Europe. It is also, unfortunately, arguable that until there is peace in Europe there will be no peace in Spain. Everyone in Government Spain will be waiting for " something to turn up."

To resolve this dilemma is the immediate task which Mr. Chamberlain has set himself. Let us hope he will not be induced by the exigencies of French internal politics to abandon it.

Three short words—no more arms— spoken to Barcelona by England and France together, would bring peace both to Spain and to Europe. A friendly and grateful Spain would, in that case, help to consolidate our newly restored friendship with Italy.

In that case Germany can choose for herself between a five-Power pact in Western Europe, based on a common conception of the obligations of civilisation, and a position of isolation.

The Scottish Neutrality League

From Our Scottish Correspondent Recent events, and the narrow escape from being dragged into another European war through the militant zeal of Left Wing politicians, has led to the formation of a Scottish Neutrality League, which has drawn up a manifesto for the 20th anniversary of Armistice Day.

The League welcomes men and women of all political parties and creeds who are prepared to resist to their utmost every scheme, voluntary or compulsory, designed to organise Scotland for war.

" We stand for pence and neutrality, no matter what the pretext or the apparent cause of hostilities," and in the conviction that war can in no way benefit the Scottish people, even if it may be necessary for the defence of England and the British Empire, the members pledge themselves to support neutrality for the people of Scotland.

Meanwhile the Scottish M.P.s are pressing the Government to allocate a share of armament contracts in Scotland, and appeals are being made for the opening up of ordnance factories on Clydeside. So what would be the result if war broke out? Could Scotland remain neutral if enemy aeroplanes chose to drop bombs on these munition works and the neighbouring towns? In such an event what would be the policy of the Neutrality League? Presumably to stop the export of all munitions to a belligerent neighbour! Then the factories would have to close down and thousands would be out of a job. The problem is a difficult onel

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