The Spanish fascists benefited hugely from the sham non-interventionist policy of the ruling circles of the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, who hoped to eventually egg on the German Nazis and Italian fascists to attack the Soviet Union. In fact, 27 countries including Germany and Italy signed a phony non-intervention agreement in September 1936, even as Germany and Italy continued to provide military aid to Franco in the form of men, planes, tanks, trucks, and other materials. On April 26, 1937, the German Luftwaffe's Condor Legion infamously bombed the peaceful town of Guernica, one of the first air raids on a defenceless civilian population, a war crime commemorated in Picasso's famous mural-sized painting. The U.S. declared "neutrality" during the war but U.S. corporations such as Texaco, General Motors and Ford supplied Franco's forces with fuel and equipment. Britain and France officially recognized the Franco administration in February 1939, which Germany and Italy had already recognized in November 1936.
Only the Soviet Union provided material assistance to the courageous Republican forces. This included 1,000 aircraft, 900 tanks, 1,500 artillery pieces, 300 armoured cars, 15,000 machine-guns, 30,000 automatic firearms, 30,000 mortars, 500,000 rifles and 30,000 tons of ammunition. The Soviet Union had signed the September 1936 non-intervention treaty but on October 26 the Soviet Ambassador to Spain declared in a note to the British representative Minister Lord Plymouth that it could no longer be bound by the agreement due to German and Italian intervention. The note stated that the Soviet Union had supported non-intervention to restrict the supply of arms, reduce casualties, and shorten the war. However, it was now clear that "the agreement has been systematically violated by a number of participants" and that "the supply of arms to the rebels [Franco's forces] goes on unpunished." Meanwhile the "legitimate government of Spain has turned out to be, in fact, under boycott, deprived of facilities to purchase arms outside Spain for the defence of the Spanish people."
The people's forces fought heroically against big odds. One day after the fascist generals' revolt began, Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri coined the famous slogan, "no pasaran!" (They shall not pass!) which inspired the anti-fascist resistance in Spain and around the world. One of the most memorable series of battles involved Franco's Siege of Madrid, which began November 8, 1936 but lasted until March 28, 1939 due to the stout defence of the city. Soon after the siege began, a new Republican government was installed which armed the trade unionists with rifles (unfortunately a number were not in good working order). After Franco initially failed to take Madrid his forces and Italian forces encircled the city, during which time the heavily outnumbered Republican forces scored victories at the battles of Jarama and Guadalajara in Feburary and March 1937. The Republican forces also captured large quantities of badly-needed materials and equipment. As the siege continued, the main problem for the people's forces within the city was that they had no aircraft to defend against air attacks. Both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supplied Franco with air cover and armoured units for his assault on Madrid, while the Condor Legion of the Luftwaffe attacked under direct Nazi command.
Germany and Italy totally refused to abide by the neutrality agreement they had signed and actively fought on the side of Franco. Julio Alvarez del Vayo, Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republican government during most of the civil war, summed up "... the whole saga of non-intervention": "It was the finest example of the art of handing victims over to the aggressor States, while preserving the perfect manners of a gentleman and at the same time giving the impression that peace is the one objective and consideration."
One of the main groups in Canada pushing for the "neutrality" which actually supported Franco was the Canadian industrialists who had financial interests in Spain. One example was the Barcelona Traction Light and Power Company (BTLP), incorporated by CPR magnate William Mackenzie and his engineer, Frederick Pearson, along with Belgian capitalists. In 1938, Franco's multimillionaire backer Juan March maneuvered himself into control of BTLP. The other main pro-Franco force in Canada was the reactionary hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The Church was a major landowner in Spain and closely allied with Franco. The Mackenzie King Liberal government, which ruled on behalf of the monopolies, was also kowtowing to its old masters in Britain and its new masters in the United States, both of whom had also pushed through "neutrality" legislation in the interests of their own industrialists who had investments in Spain. In 1953, the U.S. government signed a pact providing substantial aid to the Franco regime in exchange for the establishment of U.S. bases in Spain.
The Spanish Civil War was not just a war within Spain, it was one of the first opening battles of the Second World War. The two main European Axis powers, Germany and Italy, fought in the war on the side of the fascist rebels for their own aims, which included access to Spain's resources as well as menacing France with a new hostile frontier and gaining better access to the Mediterranean. Coming shortly after the Italian annexation of Ethiopia in 1936, the Spanish Civil War was soon followed by further aggressions by the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan in Manchuria, the Rhineland, Czechoslovakia and Albania. But it was in Spain that the battle against fascism was first fought with the greatest intensity and where there still existed a chance to stop Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and their collaborators in their tracks. Instead, the victory of Franco in Spain, facilitated by the deliberate non-action of the United Kingdom, France and the U.S., encouraged the Nazis and fascists to escalate their aggression and initiate a bloody world war. The tragic defeat of the heroic anti-fascist forces in Spain was the real beginning of the Nazi invasion and occupation of Europe and the six year Second World War which slaughtered millions.
Long Live the Memory of
Canada's Foreign Enlistment Act made the anti-fascist workers' volunteering to fight against fascism in Spain into a criminal act. To this day no one has been convicted under the Foreign Enlistment Act but it was used as the pretext for the criminalization and denial of Canadian volunteers who attempted to return from Spain. But Canadian communists and other progressives openly defied the reactionary government by organizing anti-fascist volunteers and by the summer of 1937 some 1,300 Canadians were fighting overseas for the liberation of Spain. Except for Cuba and France, no country gave a greater proportion of its population. Canada's volunteers included Dr. Norman Bethune, who set up mobile blood transfusion units on the battlefield, saving thousands of lives, and died helping the wounded in 1939 near the end of the Anti-Japanese Anti-Fascist War led by the Communist Party of China. Canadians fought bravely in some of the most significant battles of the Spanish Civil War, contributing to the victory at Jarama between February and June 1937, fighting at Brunete in July 1937, at the Battle of Teruel from December 1937 to March 1938, defending against the "Aragon Offensive" of the fascists from March to April 1938 and finally at the Battle of the Ebro, July to September 1938.
Only 646 Canadian volunteers returned. Upon their return, their passports were confiscated and the RCMP opposed their re-entry into Canada. Far from acclaiming these true working class heroes for resisting fascism, the Canadian government demonized their political motivations and beliefs. Canadians who died in the Spanish Civil War are still not included in the Books of Remembrance in the Peace Tower or commemorated on federal war memorials or in Remembrance Day services. Survivors do not receive veterans' benefits.
On the 80th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War and the heroic anti-fascist resistance of the Spanish and world's peoples, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) salutes the memory and work of the Canadian volunteers of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, a great number of whom gave their lives for the historic task of containing fascism on a world scale. Canada's contribution to the anti-fascist resistance in Spain remains a peerless example of the internationalism of the Canadian working class and people, who hail from all lands and whose battles to defend rights form a wealth of experience in solving problems today.
The following speech was broadcast by Spanish Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri, also known as La Pasionaria, in Madrid one day after the revolt of fascist generals took place throughout Spain on July 18, 1936. The fascist generals turned the Spanish army against the people and La Pasionaria gave the call to the workers of Spain to take up arms themselves in defence of the Republic.
Workers, anti-fascists, and labouring people!
Rise as one man! Prepare to defend the Republic, national freedom and the democratic liberties won by the people!
Everybody now knows from the communications of the government and of the Popular Front how serious the situation is. The workers, together with the troops which have remained loyal to the Republic, are manfully and enthusiastically carrying on the struggle in Morocco and the Canary Islands.
Under the slogan, "Fascism shall not pass, the October butchers shall not pass!" communists, socialists, anarchists and republicans, soldiers and all the forces loyal to the will of the people, are routing the traitorous rebels, who have trampled in the mud and betrayed their vaunted military honour.
The whole country is shocked by the actions of these villains. They want with fire and sword to turn democratic Spain, the Spain of the people, into a hell of terrorism and torture. But they shall not pass!
All Spain has risen to the struggle. In Madrid the people have come out into the streets, lending strength to the government by their determination and fighting spirit, so that it may utterly exterminate the reactionary fascist rebels.
Young men and women, sound the alarm! Rise and join the battle!
Women, heroic women of the people! Remember the heroism of the Asturian women! And you, too, fight side by side with your menfolk, together with them defend the bread and tranquility of your children whose lives are in danger! Soldiers, sons of the people! Stand steadfastly as one man on the side of the government, on the side of the working people, on the side of the Popular Front, on the side of your fathers, brothers and comrades! March with them to victory! Fight for the Spain of February 16!
Working people of all political trends! The government has placed valuable means of defence into our hands in order that we may perform our duty with honour, in order that we may save Spain from the disgrace that would be brought upon her by a victory of the bloodthirsty October butchers. Not one of you must hesitate for a single moment, and tomorrow we shall be able to celebrate our victory. Be prepared for action! Every worker, every anti-fascist, must regard himself as a mobilized soldier!
People of Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia, and all Spaniards! Rise in the defence of the democratic republic, rise to consolidate the victory won by the people on February 16! The Communist Party calls upon all of you to join the struggle. It calls upon all working people to take their place in the struggle in order [to completely] smash the enemies of the republic and of the freedom of the people.
Long Live the Popular Front! Long Live
of All Anti-Fascists!
Long Live the People's Republic!
1. In October, 1934 reactionary forces united as the "Confederation of Autonomous Rights" maneuvered to join the Spanish government, leading the working people to launch a general strike. In Asturias, the Basque provinces, Catalonia and Madrid this developed into armed struggle. The struggle was sharpest in Asturias, where the government dispatched the Foreign Legion and Moroccan units of the Spanish army who unleashed brutal repression against the people. This repression was itself led by Franco, who was already preparing his plot against the Republic. The necessity to defend the people against such attacks created the conditions for the formation of the Popular Front which took place in January 1936.
2. February 16, 1936 saw the working people elect Popular Front representatives in 268 of the 480 seats in the Parliament, which took immediate steps to fulfill the people's democratic aspirations, including releasing the large number of political prisoners in Spanish jails.
(La Pasionaria, Speeches and Articles. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1938)
2. Aggravation of the International Political Situation.
Collapse of the Post-War System of Peace Treaties. Beginning of a New Imperialist War.
Here is a list of the most important events during the period under review which mark the beginning of the new imperialist war. In 1935 Italy attacked and seized Abyssinia. In the summer of 1936 Germany and Italy organized military intervention in Spain, Germany entrenching herself in the north of Spain and in Spanish Morocco, and Italy in the south of Spain and in the Balearic Islands. Having seized Manchuria, Japan in 1937 invaded North and Central China, occupied Peking, Tientsin and Shanghai and began to oust her foreign competitors from the occupied zone. In the beginning of 1938 Germany seized Austria, and in the autumn of 1938 the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia. At the end of 1938 Japan seized Canton, and at the beginning of 1939 the Island of Hainan.
Thus the war, which has stolen so imperceptibly upon the nations, has drawn over five hundred million people into its orbit and has extended its sphere of action over a vast territory, stretching from Tientsin, Shanghai and Canton, through Abyssinia, to Gibraltar.
After the first imperialist war the victor states, primarily Britain, France and the United States, had set up a new regime in the relations between countries, the post-war regime of peace. The main props of this regime were the Nine-Power Pact in the Far East, and the Versailles Treaty and a number of other treaties in Europe. The League of Nations was set up to regulate relations between countries within the framework of this regime, on the basis of a united front of states, of collective defence of the security of states. However, three aggressive states, and the new imperialist war launched by them, have upset the entire system of this post-war peace regime.
Japan tore up the Nine-Power Pact, and Germany and Italy the Versailles Treaty. In order to have their hands free, these three states withdrew from the League of Nations.
The new imperialist war became a fact.
It is not so easy in our day to suddenly break loose and plunge straight into war without regard for treaties of any kind or for public opinion. Bourgeois politicians know this very well. So do the fascist rulers. That is why the fascist rulers decided, before plunging into war, to frame public opinion to suit their ends, that is, to mislead it, to deceive it.
A military bloc of Germany and Italy against the interests of England and France in Europe? Bless us, do you call that a bloc? "We" have no military bloc.
All "we" have is an innocuous "Berlin-Rome axis"; that is, just a geometrical equation for an axis. [Laughter]
A military bloc of Germany, Italy and Japan against the interests of the United States, Great Britain and France in the Far East? Nothing of the kind.
"We" have no military bloc. All "we" have is an innocuous "Berlin-Rome-Tokyo triangle"; that is, a slight penchant for geometry. [General laughter]
A war against the interests of England, France, the United States? Nonsense! "We" are waging war on the Comintern, not on these states. If you don't believe it, read the "anti-Comintern pact" concluded between Italy, Germany and Japan.
That is how Messieurs the aggressors thought of framing public opinion, although it was not hard to see how preposterous this whole clumsy game of camouflage was; for it is ridiculous to look for Comintern "hotbeds" in the deserts of Mongolia, in the mountains of Abyssinia, or in the wilds of Spanish Morocco. [Laughter]
But war is inexorable. It cannot be hidden under any guise. For no "axes," "triangles" or "anti-Comintern pacts" can hide the fact that in this period Japan has seized a vast stretch of territory in China, that Italy has seized Abyssinia, that Germany has seized Austria and the Sudeten region, that Germany and Italy together have seized Spain -- and all this in defiance of the interests of the non-aggressive states.
The war remains a war; the military bloc of aggressors remains a military bloc; and the aggressors remain aggressors.
It is a distinguishing feature of the new imperialist war that it has not yet become universal, a world war. The war is being waged by aggressor states, who in every way infringe upon the interests of the non-aggressive states, primarily England, France and the U.S.A., while the latter draw back and retreat, making concession after concession to the aggressors.
Thus we are witnessing an open redivision of the world and spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aggressive states, without the least attempt at resistance, and even with a certain amount of connivance, on the part of the latter.
Incredible, but true.
To what are we to attribute this one-sided and strange character of the new imperialist war?
How is it that the non-aggressive countries, which possess such vast opportunities, have so easily, and without any resistance, abandoned their positions and their obligations to please the aggressors?
Is it to be attributed to the weakness of the nonaggressive states? Of course not. Combined, the nonaggressive, democratic states are unquestionably stronger than the fascist states, both economically and in the military sense.
To what then are we to attribute the systematic concessions made by these states to the aggressors?
It might be attributed, for example, to the fear that a revolution might break out if the non-aggressive states were to go to war and the war were to assume world-wide proportions. The bourgeois politicians know, of course, that the first imperialist world war led to the victory of the revolution in one of the largest countries. They are afraid that the second imperialist world war may also lead to the victory of the revolution in one or several countries.
But at present this is not the sole or even the chief reason. The chief reason is that the majority of the non-aggressive countries, particularly England and France, have rejected the policy of collective security, the policy of collective resistance to the aggressors, and have taken up a position of nonintervention, a position of "neutrality."
Formally speaking, the policy of non-intervention might be defined as follows: "Let each country defend itself from the aggressors as it likes and as best it can. That is not our affair. We shall trade both with the aggressors and with their victims." But actually speaking, the policy of non-intervention means conniving at aggression, giving free rein to war, and, consequently, transforming the war into a world war. The policy of non-intervention reveals an eagerness, a desire, not to hinder the aggressors in their nefarious work: not to hinder Japan, say, from embroiling herself in a war with China, or, better still, with the Soviet Union: to allow all the belligerents to sink deeply into the mire of war, to encourage them surreptitiously in this, to allow them to weaken and exhaust one another; and then, when they have become weak enough, to appear on the scene with fresh strength, to appear, of course, "in the interests of peace," and to dictate conditions to the enfeebled belligerents.
Cheap and easy!
Take Japan, for instance. It is characteristic that before Japan invaded North China all the influential French and British newspapers shouted about China's weakness and her inability to offer resistance, and declared that Japan with her army could subjugate China in two or three months. Then the European and American politicians began to watch and wait. And then, when Japan started military operations, they let her have Shanghai, the vital centre of foreign capital in China; they let her have Canton, a centre of Britain's monopoly influence in South China; they let her have Hainan, and they allowed her to surround Hongkong. Does not this look very much like encouraging the aggressor? It is as though they were saying:
"Embroil yourself deeper in war; then we shall see."
Or take Germany, for instance. They let her have Austria, despite the undertaking to defend her independence; they let her have the Sudeten region; they abandoned Czechoslovakia to her fate, thereby violating all their obligations; and then began to lie vociferously in the press about "the weakness of the Russian army," "the demoralization of the Russian air force," and "riots" in the Soviet Union, egging the Germans on to march farther east, promising them easy pickings, and prompting them: "Just start war on the Bolsheviks, and everything will be all right." It must be admitted that this too looks very much like egging on and encouraging the aggressor.
The hullabaloo raised by the British, French and American press over the Soviet Ukraine is characteristic.
The gentlemen of the press there shouted until they were hoarse that the Germans were marching on Soviet Ukraine, that they now had what is called the Carpathian Ukraine, with a population of some seven hundred thousand, and that not later than this spring the Germans would annex the Soviet Ukraine, which has a population of over thirty million, to this so-called Carpathian Ukraine. It looks as if the object of this suspicious hullabaloo was to incense the Soviet Union against Germany, to poison the atmosphere and to provoke a conflict with Germany without any visible grounds.
It is quite possible, of course, that there are madmen in Germany who dream of annexing the elephant, that is, the Soviet Ukraine, to the gnat, namely, the so-called Carpathian Ukraine. If there really are such lunatics in Germany, rest assured that we shall find enough straitjackets for them in our country. [Thunderous applause] But if we ignore the madmen and turn to normal people, is it not clearly absurd and foolish to seriously talk of annexing the Soviet Ukraine to this so-called Carpathian Ukraine? Imagine: The gnat comes to the elephant and says perkily: "Ah, brother, how sorry I am for you ... Here you are without any landlords, without any capitalists, with no national oppression, without any fascist bosses. Is that a way to live? ... As I look at you I can't help thinking that there is no hope for you unless you annex yourself to me ... [General laughter] Well, so be it:
"I allow you to annex your tiny domain to my vast territories ..." [General laughter and applause.]
Even more characteristic is the fact that certain European and American politicians and pressmen, having lost patience waiting for "the march on the Soviet Ukraine," are themselves beginning to disclose what is really behind the policy of non-intervention. They are saying quite openly, putting it down in black on white, that the Germans have cruelly "disappointed" them, for instead of marching farther east, against the Soviet Union, they have turned, you see, to the west and are demanding colonies. One might think that the districts of Czechoslovakia were yielded to Germany as the price of an undertaking to launch war on the Soviet Union, but that now the Germans are refusing to meet their bills and are sending them to Hades.
Far be it from me to moralize on the policy of non-intervention, to talk of treason, treachery and so on. It would be naive to preach morals to people who recognize no human morality. Politics is politics, as the old, case-hardened bourgeois diplomats say.
It must be remarked, however, that the big and dangerous political game started by the supporters of the policy of non-intervention may end in a serious fiasco for them.
Such is the true face of the prevailing policy of non-intervention.
Such is the political situation in the capitalist countries.
(March 10, 1939)
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