Britain Divided: The Effect of the Spanish Civil War on British Political Opinion

By K. W. Watkins | Go to book overview

5
The British Left

What is the relevance of socialist principles -- which call for nothing less than equality of opportunity for human development everywhere -- to the day-to-day problems of foreign policy? On no subject is there greater confusion within the Labour movement. It is as if in the crowded, shifting events of the last generation, the bearings had been lost. What was certain in socialist thought in the past seems irrelevant in the present; and what is relevant in the present has little to do with what seemed so true in the past. Is it because our former beliefs are out of date? Or is it that in the dark by-ways of the international power struggle, socialism can indeed offer no guiding light?

Socialism and Foreign Policy1

'It is true, too, that Labour was wavering and contradictory over the Spanish Civil War.'2 This was the retrospective judgment of Labour's own political thinkers, and is indeed indisputable. The question is, why was this so?

The attitude of the British Left to the Spanish Civil War was complicated ab initio by the concept of 'what is the relevance of socialist principles to foreign policy?' This complication was doubly complicated since both Right and Left 3 within the Labour Movement held irreconcilable views both as to the principles and, hence, as to their application.

Thus, as with the British Right, in the preceding chapter, it is only when attention is focused on the division within the British Left that the contradictions can be resolved.

The overwhelming majority of the British Left professed complete support for the Spanish Republic. Excluded were those Catholics for whom the official voice of the Church was more compelling than any political or other factor and those pacifists to whom violence, even in the noblest cause, was abhorrent. In practice, however, there was an enormous variation in the lengths to which the Right and Left within the Labour Movement were prepared to go in transforming their words into deeds. The division arose not from the Spanish Civil War but

____________________
1
Socialist Union ( London, 1953), pp. 11 and 12.
2
Ibid., p. 20.
3
In this chapter the words Right and Left are used to denote the Right and Left in the Labour Movement.

-141-

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Britain Divided: The Effect of the Spanish Civil War on British Political Opinion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • I - British Interests and the Spanish Civil War 1
  • 2 - Image and Reality 13
  • 3 - Non-Intervention 71
  • 4 - The British Right 83
  • 5 - The British Left 141
  • 6 - Spain and the Second World War 196
  • 7 - 'Conflicts -- Resolved and Unresolved' 202
  • Conclusion 234
  • Postscript 237
  • Appendix A 239
  • Appendix B 245
  • Appendix C 246
  • Appendix D 248
  • Appendix E 249
  • Appendix F 252
  • Bibliography 255
  • Index 262
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