Labour Moves Away from Pacifism

Friday 9th October 1936

The Labour Party started to back away from its initial unqualified support for the embargo on arms supplies to either side in the Spanish Civil War. The delegates at the party congress unanimously approved a statement accusing the Fascist powers of having broken their pledges to respect the embargo, although this was tempered by a call to investigate the question and – only if the accusation were proved – allowing the Spanish government to procure arms. The international committee supposedly overseeing the embargo was rapidly descending into a dispiriting political arena in which the Fascist power fought a verbal battle with the Soviet government with the democracies as impotent spectators. An eight hour meeting to discuss claims of embargo breaking led nowhere.

The author of the motion was Clem Attlee and the move away from unilateralist pacifism certainly bore his stamp. In another sign of a shift towards diplomatic activism, Hugh Dalton was elected Chairman of the party for the next year. Dalton, however, did not bother disguise his contempt for Attlee, who had beaten him for the party leadership.


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