“On October 12th in Washington the Spanish Ambassador gave a Columbus Day reception to which Soviet diplomats were invited for the first time. The Ambassadors of Poland and Czecho Slovakia were also present”
— (Manchester Guardian. 12/11/57.)
One evening in 1951 our Branch-room was filled to overflowing. The London correspondent of the official Yugoslav News Agency, Tanjug, was vainly attempting to defend the proposition that Yugoslavia is a Socialist country. A Hackney comrade, known for his bluntness, asked what our visitor’s reactions would be if it ever should suit his Government to sip champagne with Franco as Molotov had done with Ribbentrop, betokening the switch from enemy to friend and the desire to inaugurate trading and to co-operate militarily. His retort was an impassioned denial of such a possibility at any time in the future and resentment at the very suggestion. Of course our comrade’s question was born of a whole history of switched alliances between the nations of the modem world. Each Nation-state represents a privileged and powerful minority who owe their position to their direct (private) or indirect (state) ownership of industry and wealth. In a world competing for export markets, supplies of the raw materials necessary for industrial production and strategically placed war bases, every participant in the world economy is a potential enemy of every other, though each will try to sink as many differences as possible with as many countries as. possible so as to present a stronger “front” in the course of the struggle against the rest. It is the interests of the capitalist class in the particular situation which basically decide who is friend and who is foe.
Sputnik Scientists in Barcelona
Six years have passed. The course of events has once again shown the correctness of the Socialist contention that it is not sentiment nor is it high principle but the desire for trade and power that motivates the ruling class of each country. Actually, latest reports from Spain go one better. There are all the signs of at least a partial “rapprochement” between Franco Spain and the Kremlin itself. Fortunately for him, our adversary of that evening six years ago does not have the responsibility of answering for the new situation. He wisely departed from the field of journalism and as far as we know has refrained from returning to his native country. How would be view this latest development? First the game of football against a Spanish team in Belgrade. Then a return match though there are still no diplomatic relations between Spain and any of the East European countries. Russian technologists freely participated in the recent Barcelona Geophysical-year Conference and already Franco can say in connection with the Sputnik, “We have to fact up to the fact that we are living under the sign of the Soviet earth satellite. The old Russia could not have launched the satellite; it could only happen in the new Russia. Great enterprises call for unity, discipline, authority . . . ” (News Chronicle, Wed. 30/10/57).
For the first time under the Franco regime Spanish newspapers reproduced the front page of the Russian “Pravda,” dealing with the satellite. “Never before” said the Guardian correspondent “had the press been allowed such freedom to play up things Russian.” Manchester Guardian, 12/11/57).
Trade goes on
We have known for some considerable time that trading between these supposedly irreconcilable enemies, the “Christian Gentlemen of Spain” and the “Atheistic Reds” had been going on. At least three years ago bananas, which are quite a luxury in Russia, were finding their way from the Spanish Canary Islands to the Soviet bloc via Switzerland. The traditional Spanish export of saffron to rice-eating China, communist or otherwise, has steadily continued. The News Chronicle article quoted above reports the recent arrival of several Russian delegations to Madrid. This has not been reported in the censored Spanish press as it will no doubt require some little time to recondition the public’s attitude to Russia. There is talk of some sort of Russo-Spanish agreement over the gold reserves which, it is claimed, were handed over to the Russian Bank by Negrin, the Prime Minister, at the fall of the Republic, for safe keeping. Russia has insisted up till now that the gold was but a partial payment for debts incurred by the Republic when buying Russian arms. Other East European countries are also involved in the development of trade with Spain. The following is reprinted by the Manchester Guardian (12/11/57): —
“Spain is negotiating S25 millions trading with East Germany. Spanish negotiators are in contact with Czechoslovak Government Government officials. There arc direct trade relations with Poland.”
Moscow also took a bold step by recently repatriating several thousand Spanish and Basque refugees, many of whom, having gone there as children as long ago as 1938, and spent almost all their lives and had their education there. Quite a lot of them returned with Russian wives (in itself quite a concession!) and almost all brought back household goods now being mass produced in the U.S.S.R. Khrushchev must have thought long before permitting so many disgruntled people to return to the West though be probably counted on Spanish working class conditions being such that the comparison between life in both countries would favour industrialised Russia, notwithstanding the flamenco singing so eagerly lapped up by the tourists on the Costa Brava.
Pumping Uncle Sam
It would seem that Franco, the most long lived dictator bar neighbouring Salazar of Portugal, “Britain’s oldest ally” is taking a leaf out of dictator Tito’s book. The U.S. Government may have been taking his alliance too much for granted. How better to prompt further economic “shots in the arm” than to play “hard to get,” with the hint that there may be others in the offing? And in case anyone says that Yugoslavia would not necessarily be a party to a Russo-Spanish “rapprochement ” who would have thought that the one-time “fascist hyena” Tito would be spending time last month hunting, fishing and shooting with Marshal Zhukov ? But then it does not seem to have done Zhukov any good, does it?