The Grand Camouflage: The Communist Conspiracy in the Spanish Civil War

By Burnett Bolloten | Go to book overview

II
Wooing Britain and France

T HAT Soviet leaders saw great advantages in the continued recognition of the Spanish Government as the legally constituted authority is indubitable. They knew that as long as it was recognized as such by Britain and France, it would not only be in a position to bring the question of Italo-German intervention before the League of Nations, but could demand that, in accordance with the rules of international law applicable to cases of insurrection against a legitimate government, it be permitted to purchase arms freely in the markets of the world.1 They knew, moreover, that if Britain and France were to abandon their policy of neutrality, the Civil War in Spain might ultimately develop into a large-scale conflict, a conflict from which they could remain virtually aloof until the warring parties had fought to the point of mutual exhaustion and from which the Soviet Union would emerge master of the European continent.2

But before many months had passed, it became clear that except for occasional lapses of French neutrality, both Britain and France, in spite of the risks involved to themselves of a Spain under bondage to Italy and Germany,3 were not to be diverted from the policy of non-

____________________
1
Juridically there was no possible defence for Non-Intervention, writes Alvarez del Vayo ( Freedom's Battle, p. 44). "To refuse a legitimate Government, with whom the United Kingdom and France were maintaining normal diplomatic relations, their indisputable right to acquire the material necessary to subdue the revolt of a few rebel generals was the very extreme of arbitrary conduct."
2
In 1925 Stalin had declared in a speech at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party: "...if war begins, we shall hardly have to sit with folded arms. We shall have to come out, but we ought to be the last to come out. And we should come out in order to throw the decisive weight on the scales, the weight that should tilt the scales." -- J. Stalin, Sochineniia, VII, pp. 13-14, as quoted by Deutscher, Stalin, p. 411.
3
It is worth recording that by mediation, Britain, though sceptical of the possibility of putting it into practice, hoped that she might be able to avoid the entrenchment of Italy and Germany in Spain and an extension of the conflict to Western Europe. -- See the proposal for mediation made to Germany in December, 1936, by Anthony Eden, British Foreign Secretary, as outlined in a communication from Joachim von Ribbentrop, Germany Ambassador in Great Britain, to the Wilhelmstrasse ( Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945. III. Germany and the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, pp. 158-9).

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