Chapter 2: The Role of Germany and Italy

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

It is generally known that not only were Italy and Germany informed in every detail of the planned Fascist uprising in Spain, but that they furthered it by every means at their disposal, so as to create constantly greater difficulties for England and France. General Sanjurjo, the soul of the Fascist conspiracy, who at the very outset fell a victim to his own treacherous behavior, just before the occurrences in Spain, had paid a visit to both Hitler and Mussolini, and it was clear that the conversations in Berlin and in Rome had not been about a projected picnic.

If it had not been for German and Italian Fascism the rebellion of the Spanish generals would have caused the English government no headaches. A military dictatorship and an eventual return to monarchy would even have been welcome to the clever politicians on the Thames after it had been proved that the weak republican regime in Spain, afflicted, as it was, by constant convulsions, would not be able permanently to provide the necessary political security for the interests of British capital. In London they had long been accustomed to believe that no changes worth mentioning in the internal policies of Spain and Portugal were possible without calling the English government into council. Both countries had long ago lost their political and economic independence and no longer played any part in the politics of the great European powers. They would, therefore, without doubt have put the necessary means at Franco's disposal to bring the Spanish people to their knees and in general to lay down the law for them, so as to provide the necessary guaranties for British interests.

But today things were different. Behind Franco are the political demands of Hitler and Mussolini, who insist on their rights to the mineral resources of Spain and to strategic points for the domination of the Mediterranean. For, to the painful surprise of British diplomats, Mussolini has openly declared that the Mediterranean is an Italian sea. They don't easily forget a thing like that in England. Under these circumstances a victory for Franco would not only be a serious threat to British monopoly in Spain; it might even, given the right conditions, develop into a grave danger to the British world empire.

They know in London very well that the statement which is being made again and again with ever increasing emphasis that Franco has promised Mussolini the Balearic Isles and is ready to turn over certain strategic points in Spanish Morocco to Germany and Italy in compensation for the assistance he has received, is not just idle rumor. And they are also very well aware in England, who it is that is using all his skill in stirring up the anti-British tendencies of Arabian nationalism in Egypt and Palestine to make more trouble for England in the Near East.

And that Franco and his fellow conspirators stand much closer to Germany and Italy than to England and France is also a matter about which they have no illusions in London. The Spanish military camarilla planned their revolt in collusion with Hitler and Mussolini and have carried it out with their assistance. Besides, they were intellectually and emotionally much more closely allied to the two Fascist powers because of intrinsic kinship with their reactionary purposes and with the brutal barbarism of their methods. Backed by Italy and Germany, Franco could lead his trumps against England and France and at the same time permit himself the use of language which had never before been heard in Spain addressed to a great European power.

The English government could, therefore, not for an instant mistake the seriousness of the situation. If they had been certain in London that the defeat of Franco would lead merely to the firm establishment of the bourgeois republic, they would in all probability have taken a different attitude from the beginning. They would not in that case, by excessive readiness to yield, have made Hitler and Mussolini ever more shameless in their pretensions and have encouraged them in a course on which there is, for a dictatorial government, no turning back, because its prestige is linked with the personal success of the dictator.

But the Fascist revolt in Spain led to a release of the social-revolutionary forces of the people, which had been bottled up for many years and which now burst forth suddenly, and before their time. Spain was ripe for the revolution. However, the inner corruption of the old monarchist regime, which had been inaccessible to reason and which resisted even the slightest reform, had entailed that the revolution must today take on a much more comprehensive and more profoundly social character.