3 MARCH 1939, Page 4


THE best advice to anyone who still doubts whether the British Government should have recognised General Franco's administration in Spain is to read first Mr. Eden's speech on the subject in the House of Commons last Tuesday, and then the arguments against recognition adduced by Mr. Attlee and other Labour speakers in the course of the same discussion. No one is better qualified than Mr. Eden to speak on the Spanish situation. He was Foreign Secretary when the non-intervention policy was inaugurated at the instance of France in the first month of the Spanish Civil War, and he gave it at that time his unqualified support. He felt growing concern at the continued violations of the Non-Intervention Agreement by Germany and Italy, and one of the principal causes of his resignation just a year ago was his disapproval of the initiation of Anglo- Italian negotiations before Italy had abandoned her intervention in Spain. In spite of that Mr. Eden holds that General Franco must now be recognised, and his reasons are convincing. They are very simple. One of the chief aims of British policy throughout has been to maintain the independence of Spain ; that purpose would certainly not be furthered by the absence from Burgos of fully-accredited British and French repre- sentatives, combined with the continued presence of German and Italian representatives there ; while refusal of recognition would only be an encouragement to the Republican leaders to continue a bloody and now hope- less struggle.

Those considerations are decisive, and they do not stand alone. Not merely is General Franco master of three-quarters of Spain, but his subjection of the fourth part, through either the defeat or the surrender of its defenders, is as certain. as anything in human affairs can be. Senor Azafia, the President of the Spanish Republic, has recognised that and resigned his office. The Prime Minister, Seiior Negrin, with a courage for which even those who hold it misplaced must feel unreserved admiration, has declared his intention to fight on, but some even of his principal military advisers differ from him, and he himself must know that for his supporters prolongation of the conflict can only mean further loss of human life and the profitless destruction of Madrid. For that decision the Republican leaders must take responsibility ; but if foreign Governments have neither the right nor power to dissuade Senor Negrin from useless resistance, they can at least avoid taking any step—such as the refusal of recognition to General Franco—calculated to encourage such resist- ance. It would undoubtedly be far more satisfactory if in return for recognition General Franco had consented to give binding assurances regarding an amnesty to his opponents and the withdrawal of German and Italian troops, but he has not so consented—and there is not the smallest reason to believe that to delay recognition would have any effect except to alienate him from Governments which withhold what many precedents en- title him to regard as his due.

Not that this is a question that should be determined by precedent. In the matter of recognition we are warranted in giving consideration for our own interests a large place. And our interest plainly is that an independent and normal Spain should re-emerge as soon as possible. We should prefer that it was a democratic Spain, but the form of the Spanish Government can be determined by no one but Spaniards If it be con- tended that it is in fact being determined by force— much of it non-Spanish force—not by votes, and that a constitutional government has been ousted by a military junta, it is pertinent to recall that at the last general election, in February 1936, the parties of the Right polled virtually the same vote as the Left (accord- ing to some calculations an actually higher vote), though the latter secured more seats and so took office by due constitutional process. That may have small bearing on the situation today, but at least it disposes of the charge that an armed minority has imposed its will by force on political opponents forming a substantial majority of the people of Spain. General Franco— unfortunately, as every democrat must feel—intends to organise Spain for the present on authoritarian lines. No foreign Government can alter that, but there is no reason why our relations with an authoritarian Spain should be less friendly or mutually profitable than they were during Primo de Rivera's dictatorship. It is to our interest, and Spain's interest, to maintain that relationship.

But for that certain conditions must be fulfilled. We desire, as has been said, to see a normal and in- dependent Spain. A normal Spain does not, un- fortunately, mean a settled Spain. Whether Franco or Negrin is in control, the problem of the landowner and the peasants, the Church and the Socialists remains, and he knows little of the history of Spain (as an article by Wing-Commander James on a later page recalls) who imagines the political pendulum has now ended its eternal swing. But recognition of General Franco's Spain has been given on the clear assumption that what we are recognising is an independent Spain. He has assured us that it is, but he will need all the moral support he can get from countries like Britain and France and the United States if he is to resist the Governments at Rome and Berlin, whose first interest it is to keep him dependent on them. His own inclinations are not in doubt. No Spaniard ever lived who would readily accept the smallest encroachment on his independence. And it is imperative for General Franco to set forthwith about the economic reconstruction of Spain. In that Germany and Italy cannot help him. We and the United States and to some extent France can. There is no question of buying General Franco's friendship. Against that Mr. Eden has sounded a timely, though it may be hoped an unnecessary, warning. But there are perfectly legitimate uses to which our economic power may be put. We want trade with Spain ; Franco Spain wants trade with us. We desire to see the old trade-level not only restored but raised, and there is no reason why it should not be, and with it our old traditional friend- ship with Spain. The only condition for that is that Spain shall be completely and genuinely free from the influence of foreign Powers which might seek to mobilise her openly or secretly against us.

If that could have been secured by bargaining before- hand about recognition—that and an unequivocal declaration that there would be no reprisals against defeated opponents—it would be a crime not to have secured it. But there is not a scrap of evidence that it could ; the evidence is all the other way. That being so, it is far better to accord recognition without condi- tions, to appoint the ablest Ambassador to the new Spain who can be found, and to do everything possible to help General Franco to make his country what it cannot be doubted that he desires to make it, indepen- dent in reality as well as in name. In all that we are merely recognising facts ; whether they are welcome or unwelcome facts is irrelevant. France takes the same view, and recognition by the United States is not likely to be long delayed. What our policy should be is clear. What success it will achieve is beyond pre- diction. The first test of that may be General Franco's decision regarding adhesion to the Anti-Comintern Pact or resignation from the League of Nations. Meanwhile it is well to remember that important as friendship with Spain is to us, friendship with France and Britain is on every ground at least as important to General Franco.