Replies have now been received both from the Barcelona Government and from General Franco as to the Non-Intervention Committee's plan for the evacuation of foreign volunteers in Spain.
Both sides have accepted the plan in principle," but equally, both seek to emend the procedure of evacuation.
According to the Osservatore Romano the plan has been. torpedoed by the Barcelona Government's counter-proposals. As regards the evacuation of foreigners, for instance, the Barcelona Government, assuming that there arc more foreigners fighting for Franco than for themselves, state that each day the number leaving Spain from both sides should be proportional to the total number of foreigners there are fighting on either side.
They propose that 1,000 should leave Barcelona each day for ten days, while 10,000 each day for a similar period should be evacuated from Burgos.
The Osservatore claims that this proposition is biassed and its application is impossible.
" Barcelona's aim is to torpedo the plan," concludes the Osservatore Romano.
Another view of the situation is taken by Mr. Kevin Hayes, who in a letter to the CATHOLIC HERALD states the opinion that the failure of the plan is a disappointment to the Barcelona Government, who hoped that it would be the prelude to a truce.
Mr. Hayes writes: Fountain Court, S.W.I.
August 22, 1938.
Si,—General Franco's Note in reply to the proposals for the return of volunteers is described by The Times as a " veiled refusal." The Republican Government's reply is distinguished, with baffling subtlety, as an acceptance on conditions.
This is therefore a suitable time to tell the truth about the Plan, which is, quite simply, that it cannot be worked, and that all the Powers concerned know that it cannot be worked. The friends of Barcelona, however, hoped that the Plan, if swallowed by the combatants, would lead to an early truce, and believed that they could then use their influence to prevent the sword
being taken up anew. French politicians were remarkably frank in this respect, and openly anticipated the end of hostilities and a compromise peace. Newspapers were even emboldened to suggest that Senor Negrin, in view of his tolerant (sic) spirit, would be the ideal leader of a reunited Spain.
Impossible to Suspend Hostilities The essential part of the Nationalist Note is therefore contained in the words: " It is not possible to suspend hostilities for a single moment in order to perform these counting operations." To Barcelona and her allies this came as a knell of doom the dashing of their last hope. This abcacrounts for the blind fury of the Press of the Left which drives it even to forget its former humanitarianism, and to ignore the Nationalist proposal to discuss the definition dmofenTilitary objectives in aerial born
Everything else in the Note is of less importance because, if the possibility of a truce has disappeared, it immediately becomes the interest of Barcelona's allies to sabotage the negotiations, in order to destroy the Anglo-Italian pact.
None the less, there are points in the Note which deserve careful study: 1. The Nationalists continue to maintain that belligerent rights flow from the fact of belligerency, and therefore cannot legally be " granted " or " withheld." In this attitude they have the support of the best English and American legal opinion. 2. They insist that., when their belligerent rights are recognised, they will be entitled, in accordance with International Law, to publish their own list of contraband — including oil—and that the brief list prepared by Mr. Hemming is of no interest whatever.
3. Recollecting that the S.S. Stancroft (Messrs. J. A. Billmeir and Company) was proved to be carrying aeroplane engines and shell cases between Barcelona and Valencia, they insist that they shall be entitled to search for contraband all ships, whether carrying an observer or not.
4. The offer to allow two safety ports for the entry of foodstuffs after their belligerent rights have been recognised is of unprecedented generosity. It is as if in 1917 we had announced that we would not interfere with shipments of food to Germany.
5. With a dignity essentially Spanish, and wholly wanting in their opponents, they express their distaste for the presence of Commissions of foreign observers which " would usurp in a humiliating manner the sovereign rights of Spain."
6. Finally they give the Non-Intervention Committee a categoric declaration that National Spain will " never consent to the slightest mortgage on its soil or on its economic life," or on that of its colonies— a declaration which would be impossible for the Barcelona Government, in view of its offer, made on February 9, 1937, to surrender Spanish Morocco to England and France, in exchange for military and diplomatic assistance.
The complete impracticability of the scheme for counting volunteers is exposed simply and clearly, and altogether General Franco is to be congratulated on the production of what is at once the most honest and the most valuable diplomatic document of the war.
Vatican View Commenting on the Burgos reply to the Non-Intervention Committee's plan for Spain, reported above, the Osservatore Romano, semi-official Vatican organ, states that the reply " contains such radical reservations that it annuls the worth of its acoeptation in principle."
But. it adds, while Barcelona rejects one portion of the plan—the granting of belligerent rights to Franco, the Burgos reply does not go so far. Burgos only asks that the recognition of belligerence should come first.