Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams and others to the Editor of The Times

Letter No.: 
August 18 [1936]

Until only the other day it was almost universally held that the noblest contribution of the British to European civilization has been our theory and still more our practice of political liberty and Parliamentary democracy. For centuries we have been proud of the fact that we have been pre-eminently a free people, and of the English institutions which have established our freedom in the face of every attempt to put in its place some form of irresponsible, militarist, or autocratic government. It has taken over 300 years of our history to establish and consolidate this characteristically British freedom, and we have had to defend it at one time or another against our own kings, aristocracy, army leaders, and also against Spanish, French, and German monarchs, dictators, or conquerors.
Today in most of the States of Europe our ideal of individual liberty has been repudiated and all the institutions of political freedom destroyed. At the present moment in Spain a constitutional Government, elected by the people, is being attacked by a junta of generals, who, with the aid of Moorish troops, have declared their intention of destroying Parliamentary democracy in that country and of setting up in its place an authoritarian, military Government on the Fascist model. The Government which is being attacked is a Liberal democratic Government; it contains no Socialist or Communist. That is has been able to withstand this military coup and the invasion of Spain by an African army for so many weeks has been due to the fact that it has behind it the great majority of the Spanish people of all political and religious creeds.
At any other time during the last 150 years of our history the sympathies of practically all classes in this country and of our Government would have been with the Spanish people and its Government in such a struggly of democracy against military despotism, and of freedom against Fascism. It is, therefore, a matter of grave concern to find that in many quarters, particularly in the popular Press, a persistent attempt is being made to mis-represent the nature of the struggle, and to enlist the sympathies of the British for the military rebels, on the ground that the Government is Bolshevist or Communist. The Spanish Government is, we repeat, a democratic Government, elected by the people, and, like our own, responsible to the people; it is fighting against a military despotism and Fascism for liberty and for what in our country we have for more than a century considered to be the bare minimum of political civilization. We who sign this letter belong to various political parties, or to no party, but we agree in retaining belief in the British ideals of political freedom and democracy, and we therefore desire publicly to express our sympathy with the Spanish Government and people and our hope that our own Government will take every legitimate opportunity of pursuing towards such a foreign Government the traditional British policy of sympathetic benevolence.
Yours faithfully,
Lascelles Abercrombie, Norman Angell, Ernest Barker, P.M.S. Blackett, A.M. Carr Saunders, F.M. Cornford, C. Day Lewis, C. DeLisle Burns, E.M. Forster, Margery Fry, G.T. Garratt, G.P. Gooch, Charlotte Haldane, J.B.S. Haldane, Hastings, W. Horsfall Carter, Julian S. Huxley, Hewlett Johnson, David Low, F.L. Lucas, G.E. Moore, Gilbert Murray, Henry W. Nevinson, Rhondda, Shena D. Simon, R.H. Tawney, H.G. Wells, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf.


General notes: 

Printed in The Times, Wednesday, August 19, 1936.

The Times (no. 47457), Wednesday August 19, 1936, p. 6