From Our Diplomatic Correspondent History—if any history survives our chaotic times—will surely study the reactions of the Powers to the Sp_nish conflict with amazement.
Throughout, two principles have been invoked : intervention for private purposes; non-intervention for public purposes. To put it in other words: private exploitation and a public fear lest the war should spread. These contradictory policies have been supported throughout by campaigns of lies and propaganda thot put to shame the best efforts of the Great War.
In order to prevent war from spreading, nations have always recognised certain rights to combatants as against neutrals whereby they may control the importation of war material from neutral countries by their enemies. When civil wars have for all practical purposes assumed the character of a war between two sovereign States, the same belligerent rights have been recognised.
A New Idea In the case of the Spanish war an exception was made because it was thought better to try to isolate a war of ideologies, i.e., a war between partisans of a Left regime and partisans of a Right regime through an agreement among the nations, many of whom were deeply interested in the success of one side or the other, by a joint international effort to isolate the conflict. The alternative, it was thought, would have been the pouring into Spain of so many foreign volunteers as inevitably to cause the conflict to spread across Europe.
The result was that all nations did their best to help the side they favoured either in a secret way or to the extent they thought safe, but the arrangement did, in fact, succeed in preventing the war from spreading.
In the course of time the course of the conflict crystallised itself. The " rebel " side established its rule over three-quarters of the country; the " legal " side, having been unable to maintain its authority, yet possessing all the establishment, wealth and cities of the country. was driven into the position of a beleaguered island. Both sides had been freely reinforced by volunteers, technicians, arms, tanks, aeroplane; from abroad.
By this time there was no longer any
danger of the war spreading, both combatants were finding it politic to reduce the number of foreign volunteers, and other countries which had hoped to exploit the war were realising that little could be obtained in exchange for the cost of support.
The position, in other words, had entirely changed.
The Spanish war was now reduced to the ordinary proportions of a normal civil war between two sovereign States. This fact was acknowledged by the ft.,..1 that more than twenty foreign countries recognised the sovereign status of the hitherto " rebels" either de jure or de facto. Measures were taken on both sides to withdraw their foreign volunteers by degrees.
To date, according to the British Government, the Nationalists have withdrawn 10,000, and the Republican Government 2,500.
This method of non-intervention was far from satisfying one of the belligerent parties, the winning one, for two reasons: (1) it held the command of the sea; (2) its enemies, reduced to the position of an island, could only hold on so long as its ports were open to neutral commerce. The Nationalists, therefore, constantly claimed belligerent rights, as every other combatant in their position had done before.
These rights were refused on the sole ground that, so long as there was a danger of the war spreading, the policy of nonintervention was best calculated to keep the conflict in check.
But by the admission of all responsible governments not only has the war ceased to be a danger to Europe, but the Nationalists have withdrawn foreign volunteers in the proportion of nearly five to one of the volunteers helping the enemy. Moreover, the sole danger of the war still spreading abroad comes today from the efforts of neutral sympathisers with Barcelona keeping the war alive by continuing to provide the means of resistance to the beleaguered side.
In other words, not only hale the conditions imposed for the granting of belligerency been fulfilled, but a new
situation has arisen in which the granting of belligerency has become the best present means of yet further isolating the conflict.
The British Government realises all this, and wishes to grant belligerent rights for the good of Europe. Other governments are growing tired of the antics of the NonIntervention Committee (this week Belgium and Sweden are withdrawing). The British Courts of Law have recognised the Nationalists as a sovereign State for legal purposes. Yet the decision is delayed.
It is delayed because of the fear of a public opinion. built up on propaganda and lies about the whole nature and course of the Spanish conflict and led by men whose sole concern is, self-confessedly, to make the side they favour win.
Belligerent rights, for which there is every precedent and right, are therefore being refused solely because of the intervention of a section of public opinion in Britain, France and America.
The whole public aim of the Powers, and especially Britain, in regard to the Spanish war is being set at nought by this delay in the granting of belligerency. The private aim of as much intervention as possible and as much party exploitation of the Spanish conflict as possible is today triumphant. And all this is done ostensibly on behalf of peace and to save Spanish babies from starvation.