§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
It would be singularly inappropriate if the House were to adjourn to-day without recalling once again the tragic conditions which exist in Spain, which have occupied the attention of this House many times recently. Nine months have passed since the struggle began, and it has involved immense losses and suffering, and it has now become quite clear that what was at one time deemed to be a purely local conflict is a much larger affair and that we are directly involved in the circumstances of that struggle. For many months past we have been discussing the merits and the demerits of the scheme of non-intervention which came into existence partly under the influence of His Majesty's Government. I think they, jointly with the French Government, accept responsibility for the introduction of the Non-Intervention Pact. In that Pact no less than 27 nations have been joined in a desire to maintain a state of neutrality and a determination not to intervene in the struggle, in order that the two factions in Spain may be given an opportunity of deciding, according to the greater strength or the greater will of the one side or the other, what the future of Spain is to be.
In common with a large number of Members in this House and an increasing number of people outside, I am disappointed with the results of the Non-Intervention Pact. I do not think that disappointment is due to the intentions of 1333 the Pact or to the details of it, or to the commitments under it which have been entered into from time to time. The disappointment is due to the repeated evasions of the Pact by the signatory States themselves. I do not think that recent history can show any declaration of an international character which has been so openly and so palpably evaded as this. It has almost brought a sense of disgust. It has filled me with a kind of moral disbelief in the intentions of the signatories, and I feel sure that large numbers of Members and people in the country share that view. If this Pact is not to be observed, if it is simply a pretence, an elaborate system of camouflage to permit intervention while the pretext of non-intervention is maintained, it is a highly dangerous thing, much more dangerous to the peace of Europe and much more detrimental to the cause of Spain than if there were no such Pact.
To-day I should like to examine the working of the Pact, though not at very great length. I suffered criticism from having spoken too much on a recent occasion, and to-day I shall be as brief as possible. This conflict in Spain was never a civil war, though I agree there are the elements of civil war in it. A sidelight on that point came to my notice by accident. Towards the end of 1935 I was travelling on the Continent and met a young Spaniard, whose card I have, but whose name I shall not mention, who belonged to the parties of the Right in Spain. This young gentleman told me the purport of his visit to Spain. He had been living in England for some months, and had acquired some knowledge of English and we carried on a conversation. He told me that he was going to Madrid to withdraw his parents from that city in anticipation of an armed struggle, a coup d' éat by the parties of the Right in which the Army would join and which they hoped would be immediately successful, and that as a result they would set up a corporate State. All that was told me before the end of December, 1935.
Hon. Members can imagine the interest with which, during the succeeding months, I followed the events in Spain which resulted from the purely political desire on the part of the Right in Spain to assert their authority over the Government and to destroy the popular Consti- 1334 tution in order to set up an alternative Government. That individual spoke for a section of the Spanish people. The plan miscarried; the outbreak in Spain was delayed until July. No one will deny that when that outbreak took place there appeared immediately on the scene in Spain not merely the two disputing parties, but intervention from foreign States. From that time there has been constant intervention. Assistance has been given to one side by a certain section of people, and to the other side a supply of adherents and of volunteers who have come from various countries of Europe.
It must be said that no Government has intervened. The Governments who were signatory to the Non-Intervention Pact have not intervened, as Governments. The Governments who have taken part in intervention have been Germany, Italy and Russia. They maintain that intervention up to this date. It would be a great mistake to avoid mentioning the situation as it is, but I wish to avoid provocation to-day. The situation is exceedingly difficult, and I know that the Foreign Office of this country has a very difficult row to hoe. There is no use, however, in burking the fact that this conflict has not been allowed, from the very beginning, to be a civil war. To assume that it is a war against religion or a conflict between rival parties in Spain would be to mislead ourselves, mislead the House and mislead the people who sent us here. Events have shown, in regard to the contention that this is a war in defence of religion, that the most loyal Catholic bodies in Spain, if not in Europe, the most universal and homogeneous in matters of religion, have been pursued with all kinds of weapons of destruction, even in churches while at their devotions. They have been killed in very large numbers, not by their political antagonists in Spain but by their opponents in the armed forces from other countries.
Recent events have caused great consternation in this country. First of all, there was the food blockade. The Non-Intervention Pact would be entirely vitiated if it were unable to prevent the supply of munitions to be carried into Spanish ports, but it was never the intention of the Non-Intervention Pact to prevent food benig taken to starving people or to prevent necessary supplies 1335 being carried from this and other countries to Spain. Interference with shipping on its lawful business going into or coming out of Spanish ports was not in accordance with the Pact, and it would be wrong for the people of this country to allow it to go on. I hope that this House will never believe that the Non-Intervention Pact was designed to pre vent food and goods being carried to Spain. The Spanish Government have their rights, and those rights are curtailed only so far as the Pact of Non-Intervention bound the 27 nations. I hope the House will not be persuaded to carry what is said to be non-intervention into a sphere in which the Non-Intervention Pact never presumed to enter.
I would like to ask a question or two about this food blockade. Apparently there is now no danger that the people of Bilbao will die of starvation. That blot upon the people of Europe and the commerce and trade of the world has been removed. The danger of starvation has been obviated, and food has entered the port of Bilbao, under the protection of the British Fleet, as it should do. When the British Fleet does not accompany and protect British vessels, it will not deserve the confidence that it has had in the hearts of the people of this country. The British vessels received the protection of the British Navy, and the immediate threat of starvation has been removed from the people of Bilbao.
Now I would refer to the incident of Guernica, the ancient capital of an ancient race, of an independent race, proud of its position; a small community of proud people. There is no community in the world which has a higher claim to a recognition of its life and tradition than the Basque population. In that ancient country the foundations of our democratic system were laid long ago, the ideas of Democracy which which we have adopted in this country were carried out and the Catholic faith and ritual have been performed day after day for hundreds of years. The city was well behind the lines, and there does not appear to be any military reason for the attack which fell upon it. It has been denied that this city was attacked from the sky and that the bombers came down to low levels to do their work. It was from the air that they did that work. 1336 The city was destroyed and large numbers of civilians were pursued from their homes with bombs which dropped charges of high explosives. People were pursued in the countryside by machine gun, even through the ploughed fields. A terrible thing, of immense and overwhelming significance, happened that day.
We should be false to the best interests of our own country, and of our people in the world, if we allowed the incident of Guernica to pass unnoticed in this House. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says: "German frightfulness." It was somebody's frightfulness. It was an act of frightfulness. It is said that the Germans are very sensitive, that they protest against the allegations that those aeroplanes were German aeroplanes. The allegation goes further and says that they were German pilots who flew those aeroplanes. Bombs were dropped; that cannot be disputed. The nationality of the pilots is a question to be decided by further evidence. In face of these denials and repudiations, and the counter-allegation that it was a journalist who conceived this dastardly act and that no such thing happened—the denial has taken that form—and that there was no air raid on that day, although the damage was done and it stands to be witnessed by anybody who cares to go there, I would ask the Foreign Secretary whether there is any reason why this peculiar example of the frightfulness of modern military minds should not be impartially investigated. Is there any obstacle or difficulty about the despatch of persons representing neutral States, the League of Nations, or both sides in this dispute, and their coming together and going to examine the evidence on the spot, and the testimony?
I would like to know whether the Foreign Office are prepared to press in this matter for an impartial investigation which would remove all these allegations of partiality. It is said that this is propaganda by the Germans. There is too much propaganda at the present time, although I do not argue that it is all on one side. I saw a letter during the last few days describing the conditions on General Franco's side. If I were to tell the House what has been reported to me about the conditions in which the civil population are living on General Franco's side, hon. Members would be very much incensed 1337 indeed. On the other side of the House much propaganda has been carried on against the Spanish Government, and it has taken the most subtle form of appealing to the religious sentiments of the people. That is absolutely unfair, and I know it to be false. I would hesitate very much against adding by any word of mine to the responsibility which I feel Germany already has, but I would like all these charges of intervention and of frightfulness to be fully examined on the spot, including the destruction of Guernica. This is an occasion upon which this country is entitled to have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and there is no way of arriving at that happy result except by impartial inquiry.
I want to say a word about the Government's position in face of the overcrowding in Bilbao and in other cities. A large number of people have left their homes, as would happen in this country if we were engaged in a similar conflict, and as has happened elsewhere. Millions of people were in the same position all over Europe during the last War. Bilbao has an enormous number of women and children for whom no suitable living conditions can be provided. There is a proposition that a large number of children should be brought into this country. That is not confined to the people of one faith. Among the Catholic community of this country there is very warm sympathy indeed with their co-religionists in Bilbao and the Basque provinces. There are many homes in this country the doors of which will be open to receive the children from the city of Bilbao, if the Government will give the same protection to the vessels which bring them as they have done for vessels taking food to Bilbao. I hope we shall get a statement from the Foreign Minister on that point.
I would like to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied with the working of the control system? It is said—and one wonders why this kind of thing is possible and why a protest among the signatories of the Non-Intervention Pact is not more decisive and more audible than it is—that an Italian vessel has lately been joined to the Italian naval forces as an auxiliary. The vessel is called the "Liguria," and that vessel has even in the last week been employed with the Italian Navy and has carried troops and 1338 material to Spain. It has escaped the supervision and control which was brought into operation about a fortnight ago, because it is now deemed to be an Italian war vessel. I would like to know what the Foreign Secretary thinks of the condition of things when a Government signatory of the Non-Intervention Pact can, by adding to its naval register a vessel not of a naval character, exempt that vessel from inspection and supervision and permit that Government auxiliary vessel to carry on intervention under Government auspices while it still pretends that it is a party to the Non-Intervention Pact. In such conditions I think that Pact becomes a farce. If that kind of thing has been carried on in the past week I think the non-intervention arrangement is working so badly as to merit the contempt of everybody.
Another point. I have heard this for weeks now from fairly authentic sources. Aeroplanes are said to have gone from Germany to Italy, to have flown the next day from Italy to Spain with the full knowledge of the authorities in Germany, the authorities in Italy, and of General Franco. It is also said that large numbers of planes have flown at a great height over France right away from Germany into Spain. What is the use of a Boundary Commission and of a system of supervision that is confined merely to ground level, on land and sea, if planes are allowed to fly at a height of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 or even 10,000 feet up and evade all supervision? I hope that the Foreign Secretary will enlighten the House and take the House into his full confidence. This country has been deeply moved by the occurrences in Spain in recent days. He will not dispel the feeling of disquiet in the minds of large numbers of our people unless he can tell our people frankly what obstacle there is to the fulfilment of the pledge of nonintervention, and what steps will be taken to remedy the defects in that system.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr
I am certain that the House has been deeply impressed by the moderate way in which the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) has introduced this subject. It is not a topic we can easily settle in the heat of debate. We have, above all, to reach a conclusion on one point; whether a policy of neutrality or a policy of intervention will 1339 serve the interests of European peace, and, secondly, will serve our own interests. Let me first deal with the case for intervention. I think it is a fact that the Fascists hope that a Fascist Government in Spain, which owes its position to their support, would be subservient to their policy. If such were the case, in the unhappy event of war, we should have to face the fact that a possibly hostile Spain would gravely menace our interests. For there are few people in this country who do not realise to-day the importance to us of the Mediterranean. It is our main line of communication to the East. In the event of war in the Far East not only the transports carrying troops to Singapore, but the cruisers escorting them and the Battle Fleet, would have to pass along the 2,000 miles of narrow waters which lie between Gibraltar and Port Said. Likewise we bring along that line of communication many valuable raw materials from Australasia and from our Eastern possessions which our industry requires —rubber, tin, wool and oil. And since our battle fleet now uses exclusively oil and the greater part of our mercantile marine uses oil, the Haifa pipe line has become all the more important. In the Mediterranean likewise we see every day ships passing second only in number to those passing daily on the Atlantic.
These being the facts, we can well imagine one of those strategists in foreign war offices, who delight in playing imaginary war games, bringing the following facts to the attention of his colleagues. Gibraltar lies between the two Spanish naval bases of Cadiz and Cartagena. The port of Ceuta, in Spanish Morocco, lies only 14 miles from Gibraltar across the narrow straits; the rocky inlets of the coast of Andalusia offer ideal harbourages for submarines. Further to the North our line of communication between England and Africa passes close to the port of Ferrol. The same facts apply equally to France, for the main line of communication between Marseilles and Algeria passes close to Minorca. Now France looks to her northern and equatorial African possessions as a vast reservoir from which she obtains not only the Senegalese troops and the North African troops which form her colonial forces, but the valuable products, such as grain, which her population 1340 needs in time of war. These facts, in the opinion of certain foreign governments, would form a bargaining factor to obtain concessions from the democratic countries either in the centre and east of Europe or in the colonial sphere.
But these calculations, so admirable on paper, break down on one essential fact: they do not take into account the Spanish character. The Spanish people are passionately proud and nationalistic people, and throughout the course of their long history they have only rallied together from their separate regions on two occasions. And on those two occasions they rallied for the defeat of foreign enemies, first of all the Moors, and secondly Napoleon. The whole policy of this country has been based on the fact that the Spanish people in the long run resent interference. After the Napoleonic war this country resisted the demand of the Tsar Alexander I to muster the countries of the Grand Alliance and interfere in Spain. Subsequently Canning made it abundantly clear that we should not tolerate any interference by foreign Powers in Spanish Colonies overseas—a declaration which, in fact, was responsible for the Monroe doctrine in America. We interfered in Spain only on one occasion —during the Napoleonic Wars, when there came a united demand from a depressed people to throw out the foreign invader. Any of us who have studied history will know that that Spanish war was the beginning of the downfall of Napoleon. As his armies, which had been victorious on every European battlefield, struggled backwards across the high uplands of Spain they were faced by countless ambuscades, their baggage trains were waylaid, and every man, woman and child who could muster a knife or a musket turned against them.
To-day we have not even the united demand we had in the Napoleonic Wars to intervene. The geographical features of Spain, which through centuries have divided her people, still operate to-day. The Catalan is different from the Andalusian. The Basque is different from the Valencian, the Northerner from the Southerner. As we have seen from history, a united demand will only come from Spain when a foreign invader must be thrown out. That is why I am persuaded that a policy of neutrality will 1341 serve not only our interests best but will serve the cause of European peace. When the combatants become exhausted, when passions have begun to cool, then I am certain that the leaders of both sides will turn to the countries which have tried to pursue a policy of neutrality and ask them to become mediators. Only then, after a long period of patient waiting, and after severe provocation, the policy of neutrality which His Majesty's Government are now pursuing will amply have justified itself.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
My hon. Friend has dealt with the situation in a very interesting, but, I think, rather optimistic way. If it were true that the Spaniards, when the civil war is over, would immediately throw aside all their helpers, no doubt the situation would be very satisfactory, but I think experience is showing that it is very difficult for people to resist and rebel against those who possess all the power. Furthermore, the policy of nonintervention has never worked, and is not working now, and therefore arguments which imply that that is so really do not seem to me to apply to the situation existing to-day, and which has existed during the last few months. We have all been very much moved, whatever view we may take about this matter, by the terrible events of the last few days. I know there are some people who say that in modern warfare you cannot help this sort of thing, that it is inevitable that towns, with the women and children, should be attacked and bombed. No doubt there is a great deal of truth in that; you cannot make war into a gentleman's game, you cannot make it into a decent thing that can be played according to strict rules. It is a horrible, disgusting thing, and you can never make it into anything else. At the same time, there is an opportunity presented now from the humanitarian point of view by which possibly we may be able to lessen some of its horrors, and what the events of the last few days have done really is to dramatise in a very striking form the horror of what has been going on ever since last July throughout the length and breadth of Spain.
There is no doubt, I should have thought, that there has been a systematic bombing of Guernica. Let anybody try to read objectively the accounts given in 1342 the "Times" by its correspondents on both sides, finishing up with the one this morning from Bilbao by a highly accomplished journalist, who has no reason to report anything but the facts as he sees them. The conclusion that I, at any rate, reached is that systematic bombing has taken place by German aeroplanes. I see no evidence anywhere to suggest that it is a case of mass suicide by the Basque people. If there is any doubt about the matter, certainly let us have an inquiry into what has been going on—an inquiry on both sides—and if the Government are trying to arrange for that, I wish them every possible success. I understand the French Government are already, through their agents on the spot, conducting an inquiry of some kind: perhaps we can have some information about that. I should have thought that the Government might, in association with the French Government, or through their own agents on the spot, be able to get important information on the subject. I should have thought that the best method of all would be to bring in the machinery of the League of Nations—it has been left out of the picture far too long—and that, if it is the wish of the Spanish Government, an inquiry of neutrals wholly disinterested in the conflict should go and find out on behalf of that organisation what has been happening on both sides. The mere fact that an inquiry was taking place would, I feel sure, do a very great deal to prevent such incidents as have occurred, and to lessen the horror of anything that might take place in the future. I hope that that subject is going to be dealt with at the Council of the League of Nations on 24th May. That is the appropriate moment and the appropriate place for it to be brought up, and I hope there will be no endeavour on any side to brush it off the agenda, or to prevent it from reaching the agenda if it is not already there.
The immediate danger with which Spain is faced at the present moment is the arrival of large numbers of aeroplanes from certain States. There is no control over that, and it is very difficult to have any control in regard to the arrival of aircraft, but I do not think it is unfair to assume that there is some truth in the statements that by night aeroplanes in considerable numbers have been arriving. They may not necessarily be military aeroplanes, because civil aircraft can be 1343 very easily converted on arrival, and it has been suggested that the occasion will be taken of Coronation week, when our attention is otherwise occupied, to carry out a raid, similar to that which took place on Guernica, on the population of Bilbao, and then on the population of Madrid. I venture to hope that the mere fact that this suggestion is being openly debated to-day and condemned universally in this House, as I am sure it will be, will be enough to prevent the danger of any such additional horror taking place.
The question is, how can a danger of that kind be dealt with? The situation is very much more difficult than it was some months ago. At the beginning the Spanish Government was saved, and the position of the Western democracies was saved, by the timely aid that was given by the Russian Government in October of last year. It seemed to me to be a proper thing to take place. Due notice was given of it, and it was only a counterweight to what had been taking place on the other side. We were saved by that operation. That, however, cannot happen now, because it is very difficult for aeroplanes to arrive from a long distance. I venture to suggest that the best course for the Government to take to prevent any gross breach of the neutrality regulations, as this would be, would be to make it clear to the world, firmly and directly, that we should regard anything of that kind as a complete breach of the Non-Intervention Arrangement, which would endanger it, and, indeed, bring the whole system to the ground at once, and that we should feel free to give to the other non-intervention countries complete liberty to do what they liked in the way of supplying counter-aircraft if they cared to do so, or of providing facilities for the landing in transit of aircraft going to Spain.
I do not see how a danger of this kind can really be dealt with—if it be a danger, and I am assuming that it is for the purposes of argument—except by some resolute and clear declaration of that kind. No meetings of the Non-Intervention Committee, or arguments round a table, are going to have any effect upon it. Of course I hope that there is nothing in what I am saying, but I do not think, in view of recent experience and of the 1344 information that is coming forward, that it would be fair to assume anything of the kind. I hope, too, that the Government will also make it clear, quite apart from the aerial side, that, if the nonintervention scheme which is in operation round the coasts of Spain, and which is regarded with such hostility by the Spanish Government, does operate unfairly, if it is not carried out by the parties to it, we will not hesitate to take an early opportunity of saying that we cannot go on with this pretence, but must bring it to an end. Surely it ought to be a genuine thing, or we ought not to be parties to it at all.
I want to make a few remarks with regard to intervention, not overseas, but at home. I understand that the policy of the Government is that no person should come to this country on either side from Spain in order to carry out propaganda or incite to activity on one side or the other; but I understand that that does not apply to Spanish citizens who are resident in this country. We have had one very interesting example of the activities that are being followed by certain friends of General Franco in this country, but from the Government's point of view the kind of activities to which I am going to refer would appear to be equally improper on either side if nonintervention is to be insisted upon. I refer to a notorious letter written by a gentleman whom I have no reason to suppose to be anything but a very distinguished person in his own country and in this country, the Marquis del Moral —a letter which he addressed to a certain Noble Lord, whom I do not wish to bring in at all. I will not read the whole letter, unless I am pressed to do so, because it is rather long, but it begins:I have been following with grave concern the debates on the blockade of Bilbao. In the main debate it was arranged that the Government alone should face the Opposition Vote of Censure.That meant that the Government should do all the talking, and none of the sympathisers of General Franco should butt in. It may be that that has been reconsidered, and that the ranks of the Franco sympathisers are going to be thrown into the fray to-day and on future occasions.
§ Mr. Mander
I do not know whether it was a private letter or not, but it must have been published widely throughout the Press, and it is certainly public now. If it were private, I should not, of course, pursue it, but everybody knows all about it.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case that the letter has now been published in the "Morning Post" as the letter of a Member of this House?
§ Mr. Mander
I do not know; it may be so. It goes on to say:At first, I was as much inclined to approve as anyone; but before I read the report in the morning's papers I was forced to change my mind.Here is another passage of interest:They"—that is, the Opposition—are hammering away at the same point more and more violently; and that astute politician, L.G., who always has his ear to the ground, is now joining in with all the old junk of the war legends… Only one thing can save them "—that is, the Government—If the rank and file join in on our side"—is that going to happen? That is what we all want to see—and even organise a counter-attack to the Socialists, they will at once see where the hulk of popular opinion lies. Can you help by supporting our case for even more neutrality?…Don't you think I am right? Unless our friends rally to the counterattack, I am sure we shall have to face a crisis. There is plenty of material for a counter-attack, and I shall be only too happy to supply you with shot and shell.We shall await with interest the shot and shell.
§ Mr. Mander
This is from the "Daily Worker." There is no reason to suppose that it is not a perfectly true reproduction of the letter. I merely bring it forward to show the activities of Spaniards resident in this country, and I should have thought that, if there were a case on the other side where an attempt was being made by Spanish residents in this country to supply the Opposition—I am not aware of any, though I have inquired —with information for a Parliamentary Debate, it would be most strongly 1346 objected to by hon. Members opposite. I want the House to consider whether we really cannot manage our own affairs here without interference from Spaniards on either side.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir Mervyn ManninghamBuller
Is the hon. Member aware that many Members of this House receive, without asking for it, a great deal of propaganda from the Spanish Embassy in this country?
§ Mr. Mander
I am referring to the activities of Spaniards on either side resident in this country. The hon. and gallant Member can develop that point later. I am referring to private letters. Of course, printed documents are in a rather different category.
§ Mr. Mander
I pass to another subject. I was talking a day or two ago to a friend of mine who has recently paid a visit to nearly every capital of the smaller States in Europe, and has talked with leaders of public opinion, members of Governments, journalists and others, and he tells me that he finds exactly the same state of mind in every case. There is a welcome for British rearmament, but everywhere there is a tendency to wait, a hand-to-mouth policy, and always the question is asked: "When your rearmament is complete, what are you going to do with it? How are you going to use it?" That is the question that the whole world is asking at the present time. There are two possible answers. One is, and there are many supporters for the view in the House, that we should use it for the purpose of national protection, of isolation, of keeping out of any and every possible conflict in any part of the world, regardless of the consequences that might happen. If that be the position, then these small States throughout Europe are undoubtedly going to make terms with any potential aggressors who may be living near them, and the League system is going to come entirely to an end. If, however, the answer is, as I hope it is, that we are going to use it collectively in harmony with the forces of other countries against any aggressor, and that it will be known beforehand as a certainty that we shall do it in accordance with our obligations under the Covenant, it is still not 1347 too late for this great country to save the world from the pit of destruction which it is now so rapidly approaching.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Donner
I do not often find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), and I must confess that on this occasion I do not find myself in agreement with him either, but I was a little puzzled by his statement that hon. Members on this side of the House should not rally to the support of the Government. It would appear to be the natural function of Members on this side to support the Government.
§ Mr. Donner
I am not aware that it is the same thing, but in any case I cannot understand why Members on this side who sympathise with General Franco should on that account be less entitled than the hon. Member and his friends to put forward their point of view. My object in rising is to draw attention to certain facts and to put forward a few arguments in the hope that these will prove some small contribution to to-day's Debate. I do so because, having visited Spain during the last 11 years nearly a dozen times, I believe I am not wholly ignorant of the history, circumstances, conditions and traditions of the Spanish people. Perhaps it is the very complexity of the facts before us, and perhaps also the complexity of the Spanish character, that leads me wholly to dissent from the interpretation of the facts as applied by the parties opposite. Indeed, I think the harsh and unsympathetic criticisms of General Franco to which we have listened, not so much perhaps to-day as on previous occasions, may prove to be of very poor service to this country and the Empire because, if General Franco wins, as I believe he will, those who disagree with the opinions that I hold will have done all they could have done to make the new Spain hostile to this country.
I confess I am not at all impressed by the arguments, too often assertions, which have been addressed to us by hon. Members opposite. Indeed the Socialist party appear to me to be strangely affected by this civil war, because they have espoused 1348 the cause particularly of the Basques, and yet the Basques, if they are anything at all, are agriculturists and manufacturers of armaments. I have always understood that the party opposite object to the private manufacture of arms and believe in its abolition and have always called for cheap food for the benefit of the masses at the expense of our farmers. The hon. Member who opened the Debate said that the only Governments which have officially intervened are the German, Italian, and Portuguese. I think he was consistent in saying that but, at the same time, he cannot expect us to agree with him because we on this side of the House have never recognised any difference between the Government of Moscow and the Third International, and no one can deny the intervention in Spain of the Third International for a great many years. I think the mistakes which, in my opinion, the party opposite have made in considering this question are due to the fact that they are apt to judge the Spanish situation in the light of an English background, in the light of English and not of Spanish ideas. Indeed, those Members who have visited Spain have, perhaps, only visited one side, and not both, and perhaps also, in spite of themselves, they went there to collect evidence in support of their own preconceived opinions. They held these ideas before they left this country, and they certainly held them when they returned.
The issue in Spain is not, as many people would have us believe, people fighting for democracy on one side and for Fascism on the other. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastern Surrey (Mr. Emmott) in what appeared to be a brilliant exposition of the case during the Easter Adjournment Debate on 25th March observed that the cause of General Franco is one deserving of the sympathies of those who care for the cause of constitutional government. Last June, before the revolution broke out, I had occasion to visit Gibraltar and made my way into Spain from there, and even then Gibraltar was flooded with refugees who were there because life and property were no longer safe in Spain. The hotels were full of them. They were there because the so-called constitutional Government had failed to protect the lives of its citizens, and even half a mile outside the British frontier people were molested by bands of armed Communists in lorries. 1349 No one can dispute that. Scores of British subjects there will testify to the truth of this statement and these facts were reported daily in the Gibraltar newspapers. I, therefore, wish to emphasise the fact, which most Members even on the other side will probably admit in their hearts, that the men and women who are supporting General Franco are not people who wish to establish a corporate State. They are not all Fascists though some of them may be. Their underlying motive, the mainspring of their creed is the desire to ensure restoration of law and order and the unification of Spain.
§ Mr. Mander
Does the hon. Member realise that in General Franco's recent statement occur these words:The system of political parties with all that flows from them, representation by conflicting parties, and Parliament of the well known type will be implacably abolished.
§ Mr. Donner
I do not in the least deny that there may well be a military dictatorship temporarily established, but I emphatically deny that the mainspring and motive of the people who are supporting General Franco is to establish a corporate state or a permanent dictatorship. I ask the hon. Member to consider and remember the circumstances and conditions in which the Spanish people have lived for so many months. Harsh things have been said about the Nationalist cause in Spain by people who are genuinely anxious for our Imperial communications and the route to the Far East. They believe that, if Germany and Italy are successful in helping General Franco to win, they will gain a vice-like grip on that country. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr) said the Spanish people have always been proud. The Spaniards are a very proud people. Surely, there is no evidence lacking already to show that, when this conflict is over, the last people who will be popular in Spain will be foreigners, whoever they may be, and they are certain to ensure that they are expelled before very long. The only foreigners who are likely to be tolerated when this civil war is over are those who are likely to be able to help General Franco to rebuild Spain, and the only people who will be economically in a position to do that will be neither the Germans nor Italians but the Americans and ourselves. If it is only the Americans who will finally rebuild Spain and 1350 not ourselves it will be due to the Radical propaganda in this country which will have alienated the new Spain from us.
Although I believe both Germans and Italians will leave Spain before long, Spain will not as easily or as quickly rid herself of Communism. That is a poison that has got into the very blood of Spain, and that poison was imported from outside, from Russia. It has been a long process, furtive, relentless and mortal. In a book "L'experience Rouge" written as far back as 1933, by the then Foreign Secretary of France, attention is drawn to his visit to the Red Museum in Moscow in which he saw photographs of the men who had been chosen by the Government of Moscow to start the revolution in Spain. He gave his experience of what he personally saw in Moscow. There is an old saying in Madrid that the wind of Madrid is not strong enough to blow out a candle, but is powerful enough to kill a man. That is the nature of Communism and that has been its effect in Spain. That is the real Russian intervention, and it dates as far back as 1917. There is controversy in and outside the House as to the exact date when Italian and German aeroplanes first made their appearance in Spain and whether they arrived in that country before the Russian tanks. It does not really matter whether one lot came a few weeks before the other. The real intervention of Russia is not so much her tanks, though I believe her military intervention has been on a far greater scale than most of us know, but her insidious and vile propaganda. That is the essential difference between the Russian intervention and the German and Italian. All three have sent tanks, aeroplanes and other arms, but several years before this happened Russia introduced this propaganda. The German and Italian effort has been a subsequent effort to combat the effects of that Russian propaganda.
§ Mr. MacLaren
Is it not quite clear to students of the Spanish situation that the success of the Russian propaganda was due to the fact that there was so much poverty and misery among the Spanish people?
§ Mr. Donner
That does not alter the fact of intervention. The intention was there from 1917. It was stated publicly at the time of the Russian revolution. If you 1351 had a Communist Russia at one end of Europe and a Communist Spain at the other, the rest of Europe would become like a nut in a nut-cracker. You may agree, or disagree, but that was the plan. I deplore the innuendo that has been made in certain quarters that there is some form of conflict of interest in Spain as between Italy and ourselves. Since the gentleman's agreement between us and Italy has been signed, it is plain that there is room in the Mediterranean for both Italy and ourselves and that this position has been recognised by both. It is suggested that Mussolini is fortifying certain ports in the Red Sea in the belief that the keys to the Mediterranean lie in the Red Sea. Lord Lloyd has pointed out that the keys of the Mediterranean have never lain in the Red Sea and do not lie there now. The key to the Mediterranean lies in Portsmouth Harbour. Few will deny that Mussolini is a realist. Remembering the geographical position of Italy and its long undefended coast line he is surely the last statesman in the world to challenge the life-line of the British Empire, our communications with the Far East. If in more peaceful times hon. Members went to Spain and saw a bull fight, they will remember that the moment when the matador plunged his sword into the heart of the bull and killed it, that moment in the language of Spain is known as the moment of truth. The moment of truth is the moment of death. We see civil war raging in Spain to-day, which is indeed the moment of truth, where every man and woman faces it. I have noticed that, whenever the Foreign Secretary refers to civilians in Spain, he refers to them as being distinct from purely military forces. Civilians, so-called, have not been referred to with that distinction by many hon. Members. We have read in certain newspapers of aeroplanes machine-gunning civilians running away from the city of Guernica and escaping in the fields. But this is a civil war, and in a civil war no uniforms are worn and there are no neutrals. Every man, woman and child supports either one side or the other. If it is true that aeroplanes bombed civilians, I should be the last to deny that it is horrible. If it is true that they bombed people running away in fields, how can you or I or anybody tell whether these people were, in fact, civilians, or whether they were not 1352 armed, or, in fact, taking part in the defence of Guernica? It is quite impossible to tell, and that is the tragedy and the horror of civil war, because there are no civilians and there are no neutrals. Families are divided, brother fignts against brother, and no one knows who is friend and who is enemy. That is the horror of civil war. Those of us who sit on this side of the House and speak with such depth of feeling with regard to the people who fight and work for Communism do so because we know that the ultimate and final result must be the misery and suffering of the people. It is for that reason that we oppose the vile doctrine of Communism with all our strength.
The bombing of Guernica, if it is true—and I say "if," because there is contradictory and unreliable evidence—everybody will agree, is a most lamentable and horrible thing. But is it true? As I came into this House this afternoon, I was given, not by some agent of General Franco, as the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) might say, but by a colleague in this House, a document, which contains the findings of the foreign journalists' investigation. It states that they were taken by officers of General Mola's headquarters staff to Guernica, and thatThey were able to verify the fact that none of the panels of the walls still standing bore any traces of bombing, while all the windows were encircled with traces of flames.They were able to show that the burning of the town had been a voluntary act. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite may disagree with my opinions, but it is futile to say that these things are not stated here.The attention of the journalists was likewise invited to the fact that places, where the fire did not take hold, especially in houses built of reinforced concrete, had been soused with spirit; and they were able to see, inside houses still intact, traces of flames which must have been caused by petrol, as the smoke had deposited a very thick soot on the walls.
§ Mr. Donner
If the hon. Member will produce his evidence on the Floor of this 1353 House later in the afternoon, no doubt we will listen to him. I suggest that, as far as we know, there are factories—and I have a letter here which suggests that one is in the town, but I have no confirmation of the fact—which manufacture small arms in or around Guernica, and that it is not therefore an open town. [Interruption.] If hon. Members will look at an atlas they will immediately understand the strategic importance of this town. I believe that, if they try to regard the matter impartially, they must reach the conclusion that it is a legitimate military objective.
§ Mr. Donner
Let me finish my argument and I will then answer the hon. Member. A letter appeared in the "Times" only a couple of days ago which referred to the bombing of Birmingham during the War, and stated that owing to the fact that armament works existed outside Birmingham we made no protest because apparently we did not regard the city as an open town. The protest I would like to express, and then I will give way to the hon. Member, is the partial selection of facts by hon. Members opposite. While we all share the sense of horror at what has taken place at Guernica, assuming the stories are true, why should nothing be said of the fact that three open towns were bombed and bombarded by the forces of the Madrid Government, not only in the same week, but, I believe, on the very same day. These towns included Motril and two others. I believe that only yesterday Saragossa was bombed. I admit straightaway that I have never been to Saragossa and I have no knowledge of it and cannot say whether it is an open town or not. But I know that on 8th April Valladolid was bombed by an aeroplane disguised and camouflaged as a Nationalist aeroplane, and that a great many women and children were killed. If it was horrible to bomb Guernica, burn the city and machine-gun the inhabitants as they ran across the fields, was it not equally horrible, despicable and vile to bombard and to bomb Motril and two other towns on the same day, or at any rate in the same week. If hon. Members opposite wish to carry conviction, they must agree that equally terrible deeds occurred at the same time, and that the very things of which they complain are being done by the forces of the Government of Madrid.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
Will the hon. Gentleman explain which argument he is using? Was Guernica burned by the Basques, or was it bombed because of the munition factories that were in it? He cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. Donner
My case is perfectly consistent and logical. The difficulty is that we do not know the facts. We have no reliable information of what happened at Guernica, but if German aeroplanes or aeroplanes belonging to General Franco did, in fact, bomb Guernica, we should not without an investigation immediately jump to the conclusion that it is an open town; and, in any case, we should not pass over in complete silence the things which happened the very same week and which deeds were committed by the forces of the Government of Senor Caballero. Much has been said also in the Press of the bombing of churches in Guernica. During the Great War churches were bombed, not only by the Germans and the French, but by ourselves, because church towers were used always as observation posts. These are the horrible things which take place in war, and it is ludicrous to suggest that it is particularly pernicious of General Franco alone to do these things. I believe that the reason why these things have been given so much publicity is, that the forces of the Madrid Government, and, in fact, the Government of Senor Caballero believe it necessary to produce propaganda and spread it throughout the whole world to counteract the effect of the appalling crimes which they have committed. This propaganda is put forward to make people forget what has taken place. It is to make people forget. To give a single instance, the broadcast which took place from Moscow on 19th August last, which instructed the Government of Senor Caballero and the Madrid Government to "kill all priests."
§ Mr. Donner
If the only Communist Member in this House thinks that that is justifiable, then that alone explains why he has no colleagues beside him.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member should not make an accusation of that kind against another hon. Member.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Member stated that a great deal of talk came over the air from Moscow instructing the Spanish Government to kill all priests. If I used the wrong language in addressing the hon. Member, I wish to say that I would stake my life on stating that there never was such a message.
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope that the hon. Member, at any rate, will withdraw his accusation against the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner) of a deliberate lie.
§ Mr. Maxton
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. You and your predecessors in the Chair have ruled that it is not in order to say that any Member of this House is telling a lie. I understand that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is not making that statement. He is making the statement that this repeated story is a lie, and I put it to you that he is in order in so doing.
§ Mr. Speaker
What I asked the hon. Member was that, if he accused the hon. Member of a deliberate lie, he should withdraw it.
§ Mr. Gallacher
This sort of story, and especially this story, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) says, has been pedalled time and time again. I say that that story is a deliberate and a calculated lie, and I could give the sources of that lie if it were necessary.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am assuming that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) does not accuse the hon. Member of a deliberate lie.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner) has referred to the actions of a friendly Power in a defamatory manner, and may I ask you whether that is in order in this House?
§ Mr. Donner
However much we may differ with regard to our opinions, there can be no object in denying the facts. The broadcast from Moscow on 19th August was not only heard by millions of people, but it was published in the Press of the world.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I have explained to the House that I could give the source of that story. That story is a lie, and if the hon. Member persists in repeating it, I shall have to adopt a certain attitude.
§ Mr. Donner
If the hon. Member has any evidence to show that millions did not listen to the particular broadcast he had better place it at the disposal of the House in the course of the Debate.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I ask the hon. Member whether he can produce any of these millions who listened to that broadcast from Moscow instructing the Spanish Government to kill all priests?
§ Mr. Donner
I have not the newspapers of the time with me, but if the hon. Member wants evidence, I would draw his attention to the book called "Spanish Journey," by Tennant, in which it is specifically mentioned.
§ Mr. Donner
If my memory does not fail me, protests were made in several countries. I hope that hon. Members, whatever views they may hold, will not persist in propaganda against the Nationalist cause which can be called unfair. I believe that General Franco will win, and there is a danger that the future good relations between this country and Spain will be jeopardised. I believe that General Franco's victory will take place very much earlier than a great many people think, if only because behind the lines of Senor Caballero's militiamen there must be growing distress and growing discontent with the mob rule which exists. Take the position in Catalonia and Barcelona. People have said: "General Franco may win in the rest of Spain, but when you come to Catalonia 1357 and Barcelona it will be quite a different story." On the contrary, the people of Barcelona are sick of the present misrule, and are sick and tired of a position where, if people are not killing or fighting each other they are sitting in the cinema and refusing to work. They may well accept with relief administration by a Government with which even they are out of sympathy.
I would ask the Foreign Secretary whether he could make a statement to the House concerning the question of the extent of Spanish territorial waters. I believe that during the American Civil War belligerent rights were extended to both sides, and I think I am right in saying, although I am not sure, that we also agreed to the request to etxend the three-mile limit to 10 or 12 miles at that time. If we insist upon the maintenance of the three-mile limit, we are insisting upon a limit which is not only old but which is archaic, since the range of modern guns has very much increased. We have only to look at certain newspapers in other countries to-day to find that we are accused of a lack of good faith. We are accused of being blockade-breakers, because they say that while we are, quite rightly, escorting and convoying our own ships on the high seas up to the three-mile limit, we are escorting those ships within range of the guns of Bilbao. Therefore, would it be possible for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement as to the position which exists, and could he say whether or not it would be possible to extend the three-mile limit, or, alternatively, to extend belligerent rights to both sides, as I believe the Government may yet have to do some day? In conclusion, while supporting the policy of non-intervention, may I, without impertinence, express my sympathy with the Foreign Secretary in his very difficult task, which has at no time been made more easy for him by His Majesty's Opposition.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am glad that the hon. Member has made such a speech. I suppose that we can regard that speech as the Fascist case, the case for Franco put in this House. If the supporters of Fascism and of Franco are proud of that curious collection of contradictions, and of, utterly fantastic statements, and if that is the best that General Franco's friends can do, they are welcome to it.
§ Mr. Donner
The hon. Lady is at liberty to say what she likes about my speech, but I may tell her that I am so little a Fascist that I am being attacked by Fascists in my own constituency.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am not responsible for what the English Fascists do, but I am assuming that that sort of case which the hon. Member has made is the sort of case which no presumably reasonable and fair-minded men could possibly expect us to accept. There is one remark of the hon. Member with which I agree. He said that this is not only a Fascist and Communist fight in Spain, but that we have to remember the condition of the people of Spain for the last too years. That is true, and it is also tremendously true, as he said, that in Spain the point of death is the point of truth. To tens of thousands of oppressed workers and peasants in Spain this civil war is just that. It is the point of truth. The grandees and the big landlords of Spain have been known for long as being the rottenest set of landlords there are in Europe. They are absentee landlords, men who have wasted their substance in the bars and casinos of Biarritz and Monte Carlo. They leave their land to be farmed out by caciques, and we know what that means. If ever there was a day of reckoning at the point of death it is the reckoning that the grandees of Spain have deserved, and it is happening now. General Franco knows that, and he knows that though he holds those districts of Spain that are in his hands to-day he cannot keep them unless he shoots practically every able-bodied man behind the lines, except those who are willing to join his army.
§ Mr. Donner
Does the hon. Member suggest that the human failings of individual persons justify murder?
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am not talking of individual failings. I am talking of the deliberate military policy of General Franco. I can refer the hon. Member not to something that the "Daily Worker" says, but to an article written by a Conservative, which appeared in a rather pro-Fascist journal, the "Evening Standard," in which he pointed out that:It was a mistake to say that 15,000 working men had been shot at Corunna; General Franco had admitted that only 10,000 workmen had been shot there.1359 That has been the deliberate military policy, and it is to-day the deliberate military policy of Franco, because he knows that he is really fighting the people of Spain. The question about the priests and so on falls into insignificance compared with such a slaughter as that. The Spanish people are really at the point of truth, and they are determined to sweep away the results of centuries after centuries of tyranny.
It was an awful humiliation for the deputation that went to Spain to have to realise the changed attitude in Spain to this country. Britain had been looked upon as the leader, almost the prototype, of democracy. The Spanish people realised that when we had sent volunteers to Spain we had sent them on the side of the people almost exactly 100 years ago. What they could not understand was not the idea of non-intervention, but that non-intervention should be used by this country in such a way as to form the most effective weapon that General Franco had. [HON. MEMBERS: "General Franco has also objected!"] I have not noticed that General Franco has asked for anything except more of the kind of thing that he is getting. The letter that has been read from the Marquis del Moral shows that he had applied for more neutrality on the same lines. This non-intervention has given aid to General Franco. If non-intervention were worked as non-intervention we would not object to it, but the Foreign Secretary knows perfectly well that this non-intervention has worked on the side of General Franco.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
§ Miss Wilkinson
Let me put a few points to the right hon. Gentleman. Franco got the Army, or most of it, but one advantage which the Spanish Government had, although it was bereft of the means of obtaining order, was that as the legal Government of Spain it had control of the finances of the country. It was expected that Franco was going to get control of Spain in 48 hours. In that he failed. Then Germany and Italy promised to supply him with everything he wanted until December. Almost the next day France and Britain came forward with the declaration of non-inter- 1360 vention. By that declaration they cut through and made nugatory the one advantage that the Government of Spain possessed, namely, that they had control of the national finances, and therefore had the power and in international law the right to buy arms. The Non-Intervention Committee neutralised that one advantage. That is why I say that this country came to the aid of General Franco. I have been among the soldiers and the young officers. [Interruption.] Really, the sense of humour in this House becomes almost indecent. It is offensive.
§ Miss Wilkinson
These people whom you call murderers had built up their army from among the workers. Then came the Russian tanks and the Russian aeroplanes. That was making all the difference to them. It means such a lot when you can see aeroplanes on your own side, when you are being bombed from the other side. Therefore, they were very grateful to the Russians. They had built up their army almost from the ground, and one big advantage was the Russian aeroplane. It gave them the one way of protecting their women and children from the awful air raids that had been taking place before the Russian aeroplanes came. Almost immediately came the second act of the Non-Intervention Committee, when again the Non-Intervention Committee came to the aid of Franco. The Foreign Secretary knows that I am not accusing him in any personal sense. What I am trying to put is how it seems to the men who are doing the fighting. The Germans and the Italians are within a night's flight of Spain. Thirty-six Junker aeroplanes arrived three days before our deputation got there, and they went to the north. The Russian aeroplanes have to come in by sea. Let us be perfectly frank about it. It is ridiculous to deny facts. The Russian aeroplanes had previously been able to use Czechoslovakia as a half way house. That is not possible now for the Russian aeroplanes. Whereas the aeroplanes from Italy and Germany can fly into Spain, the aeroplanes from other countries have to go by sea, and they 1361 have to pass through the German and Italian ships that are there in the name of the control scheme.
By what logic we can justify putting German and Italian ships. which have overwhelmingly intervened on the side of Franco throughout, in control of the Government coast of Spain I have never been able to understand. The case as has been put to us on behalf of the Nonintervention Committee is that they have no power to stop ships but only power to observe. But all the English ships have been withdrawn from the Spanish East Coast. German and Italian warships on which there is no observer can bring in what they like and are also in a position, if they observe any neutral ship, to signal to the rebel fleet and thus put an absolute blockade on the Government coast. That is how it works, and how it was put to me by the gentleman in charge of the defences on the East Coast of Spain. If the Foreign Secretary can reassure the Spanish Government on that point, well and good. German and Italian warships are openly on the side of Franco and they will work the nonintervention scheme so that he will continue to get all he wants, while on the North Coast this country will be perfectly correct in its interpretation of the Non-Intervention Agreement.