Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Liberal party and the Spanish civil war

Sticking to a historical theme, I notice we have just passed the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish civil war. Following the nationalist rebellion in July 1936, the main European powers pursued a policy of non-intervention that was flagrantly flouted by fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

One of the tragedies of this conflict was how lukewarm, the major democracies were about preserving democratic government in Spain (however flawed it was) and standing up to dictatorship. Most people who have any knowledge of this period will be aware of the International Brigade who fought to defend republican Spain. But what was the position of the British Liberal party? Well-meaning enough, it would seem, in calling for the spirit of non-intervention to be maintained, but hardly heroic. In his book Liberals International Relations and Appeasement, Richard Grayson writes

The Liberal Party never came to see events in Spain as an opportunity for making a stand against the dictators, as the party's main aim was to ensure that the war remained an internatl dispute. By the time it became apparent that this would never happen, it was too late. The work of Wilfrid Roberts, the Liberal MP for North Cumberland, as a political and humanitarian campaigner for the Republic was the only significant Liberal contribution to the struggle.

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