Non Intervention

The French Socialist government of Leon Blum instinctively supported the Republic. There was, however, street fighting between fascist and communist groups in France in this politically charged time, and though not comparable to that suffered in Spain, still made many army officers restless. Blum's attempts to sell arms to the Republic earned the wrath of the right wing French press, forcing Blum to back down.

The alternative way to help the Republic was to prevent foreign support from reaching Franco. The British Foreign Office was afraid of the conflict escalating, and warned the French government that intervention would only encourage Hitler and Mussolini to help the Nationalists. This sort of reasoning encouraged the French to believe that non intervention was better for the Republic.

The British however in this period had a greater fear of communism than of fascism, and the policy of appeasement, rooted in fear of Bolshevism, was well entrenched. Non intervention quickly became a sham, as the British refused to acknowledge that the Nationalists were being armed by the Axis, no matter what evidence the Republic provided to prove the contrary. The actions of the Royal Navy were astonishing for a non interventionist power. Not only were communication facilities provided for Franco in Gibraltar, but in the early days of the rising the battleship Queen Elizabeth was moved in front of Algeciras bay to prevent the Republican navy from shelling the Nationalist port. Meanwhile the Axis were eager to get involved, Hitler because he wanted to test out new German weapons and tactics, and Mussolini because he was looking forward to another Mediterranean fascist state, especially one indebted to him.

Shunned by the democratic powers and the international business community, the Republic could only count on the support of Mexico and the USSR. As a result, the Nationalist warnings of an international communist conspiracy carried some weight, though in truth even Soviet intervention was reluctant. Stalin was purging the Red Army and did not want to provoke the Axis at a time of Soviet weakness. But the exiled Trotsky made use of initial Soviet reluctance to accuse Stalin of betraying the Spanish revolution and aiding the fascists, and Stalin realised that Russian communism would lose all credibility, and probably the loyalty of the European Communist parties if nothing was done to help the Republic. Stalin, therefore, decided to send aid to the Republic, but never enough for the Republic to win. By doing this, he would neither frighten the British, provoke the Germans, nor be seen to betray the cause of the proletariat.

And so the Nationalists became inundated with German 'advisers' and Italian 'volunteers', while Russian commissars advised the Republic on matters of internal security and morale, while the British turned a blind eye and the French, at British insistence, reluctantly agreed not to intervene.

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