HE acceptance on Tuesday by the 26 nations on the NonIntervention Committee of the British Plan for withdrawing foreign combatants from Spain brings the world belatedly to the point which has been consistently demanded since the beginning of the war by sympathisers with the Nationalists.
The Nationalists have always held that the war was largely due in the first instance to foreign, and especially Russian, stimulus and that its continuance has only been made possible by constant foreign aid in men and munitions. It is mere history now that time and again the Republican cause has been saved by the International Brigades, by far the best fighters on that side. On the other hand Italian and German aid for the Nationalists has been given solely to compensate for this unfair foreign intervention which threatened not merely Spain but the whole Western world with communism and anarchy. Though Italian and German aviation may in the long run have proved a decisive factor in the Nationalist victory this was only due to the realisation of Russia and France that Spain was not after all proving worth-while. Thus the more or less open intervention necessary for the sending of heavy munitions and aircraft was diminished and in its stead there was a dribble of more easily despatchable arms, sufficient to prolong the war but not sufficient to counter the Franco offensives. But, even though foreign aircraft may have been one of the decisive factors, no one pretends now to deny that the brunt of the fighting on the Nationalist side has been done by Spaniards, whether regulars, colonial auxiliaries or the magnificent volunteers, the most conspicuous of whom were the Navarrese.
The Nationalists have always asked to be left alone to fight their Spanish enemies, while the Republicans have throughout openly invoked the help of the Liberals, Socialists and the Communists in the name of an ideal which they themselves admitted to be international. Hence the Agreement on Spain is a triumph for the Nationalists and their supporters. Furthermore there is every reason to believe that the Italians and Germans ask for nothing better than to be allowed to withdraw so long as they are assured that the battle between Communism and Spain is to be fought out among Spaniards alone and not between Spaniards and half the world.
The only question now is whether it will be possible to distinguish between the Spaniards and their allies on the Red side. The latter, many of whom are refugees owning allegiance only to international subversive movements, have been so closely incorporated with the Spanish Government side that there is a real danger lest effective withdrawal will prove impossible. The Nationalists are well aware of this and they have a right. to raise the question before agreeing to the Plan. Our own view however is that, so long as there is some measure of guarantee that effective volunteers will really be withdrawn from Red Spain, General Franco will be ready to fall in with the international scheme. By proposing to guarantee a port in Red territory open to certain kinds of shipping and goods, he has already made a notable gesture for easing the international situation at the expense of his cause, for, whatever the nations may say about belligerent rights and whatever out-of-date international legislation may decree, Franco possesses the moral right, claimed by all belligerents since the world began, to blockade his enemy. Between the besieging of a town in days when armaments made so local a siege alone possible and the besieging of a country, now made possible by the wider range of armaments, the greater size of armies and the possession of aviation, there can be no essential distinction.
So long as the scales are not too unfairly weighted against him by the Powers, Franco will do all he can to isolate the Spanish conflict, for he, best of all, knows that when it conies to a question of Spain alone the victory of true Spain is assured.