Great Britain and Non-Intervention
Repository: Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C., USA
Repository: George Grantham Bain Collection
Extent: 1 item
For the Conservative cabinet led by Stanley Baldwin, in the photograph, the failure of the military coup in Spain, the beginning of the Civil War, and in the unleashing of a revolutionary period in the Republican zone represented a danger for the policy of appeasement of the fascist powers as well as a threat to the stability of the continent. As a result, from the first moment, Baldwin decided not to help the Spanish Republic, even though it was a state with which Great Britain had normal diplomatic relations. His goal was to avoid the possibility of Spain becoming the site of a clash with Germany and Italy, expansionist powers with which he had been struggling to find a compromise. He sought to avoid a new war in Europe that the majority of the British population, immersed in an economic crisis and still affected by the consequences of the Great War, opposed. But it was not only this. Baldwin’s cabinet deeply distrusted a Spanish Republic that it considered to be in the hands of revolutionary leftist forces. It saw the shadow of the Soviet Union and communism looming over the Iberian Peninsula, endangering its large economic interests there as well as its colony-military base of Gibraltar.
Led by Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, the British convinced the government of France led by Socialist Léon Blum to abandon its initial decision to respond affirmatively to Madrid's requests for arms and supplies. On August 1, they also supported the French initiative to sponsor the signing of a Non-Intervention Agreement that would prohibit the shipment of arms and ammunition to the two opposing sides in Spain. This would also serve for a time to curb criticism from the Labour Party, which reproached Baldwin for not helping the Republic.
The Non-Intervention Committee was established in London under British presidency. It did not depend on the League of Nations but was an agreement of twenty-seven European states - all except Switzerland - to stop the extension and development from the war. The reality, however, was very different. It was a farce from the beginning, as the countries that were already participating directly or indirectly in the war: Germany, Italy, and Portugal, continued to do so. The Soviet Union would copy them soon afterwards.
The failure of the policy of Non-Intervention contributed directly to the defeat of the Spanish Republic and did not serve to prevent the outbreak of a new war in Europe. In 1938 and 1939, and with a new Conservative Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain in office, there were the Munich and Czechoslovakia Crises, respectively. And on September 1, 1939, just five months after the end of the Spanish Civil War, World War II began. The Conservative Party and appeasement had failed.