By a C.11. Reporter Queen's Hall was packed with people eager to declare for friendship and solidarity between England and the New Spain.
The Marquis Merry Del Val, former Spanish Ambassador in London, Arnold Lunn, Douglas Jerrold and Sir Alfred Knox, were among the speakers at this meeting called by the Friends of Spain (formerly Friends of National Spain) to mark the triumphant conclusion of the Spanish war.
Archbishop Amigo, Bishop of Southwark, was on the platform, but he did not speak.
Lord Phillimore was in the chair.
The Daily Worker had for two days previous to the meeting appealed for a mass protest rally outside Queen's Hall.
The rallying was to be at seven-thirty, they said, but that part of the planning apparently fizzled out because the only thing which might possibly be mistaken for a mass rally between seven-thirty and eight (the time the Spain meeting began) was a small silent crowd who stood on the steps of All Souls, Langham Place.
Hall, but there were also Fascists and Cath olic Worker sellers. Some disillusioned members of the International Brigade were shouting that they had the truth about Negin's Spain that wag. Small groups of Communists approached menacingly, shouting " Renegades "; but the police prevented any disturbance.
The Communists kept their big noise for the end of the meeting. In Portland Place a young man yelled through an amplifier that Catholics were being deceived. " The priests who were in that hall," he said, " are playing the same game as the priests who yielded to Hitler. The Fascists will persecute Catholics here, just as they are persecuting them in Germany . . . . The Queen's Hall has been filled with enemies of the working class . . . . The Marquis Merry de Val should be hounded out of the country; he is a murderer," I was unwise enough to yell " Liar." A young woman in a fur coat began shouting at me. " They're finished, all your crowd, Marquis Merry del Val, they're finished . . . . finished."
Someone began yelling "Fascist " at me. The whole crowd took up the cry. Someone kicked me in the shins, someone ease seized my arm. The note book I carried was crumpled up.
(It seemed hardly the time to explain that I had for a week past been the object of violent dislike among Fascists because of a report of a Mosley meeting at St. Pancras.)
I was pushed down the steps. The woman in a fur coat came gallantly to my rescue, shouting that I was all right, we were only arguing a little. But her voice was lost in the din; indeed, she became as much an object of dislike as myself. Above the shouts " Scum of the earth " and " Fascist " I heard someone saying " get out of here," and in that direction, by some tactful pushing (it was hard to maintain the tactful part of it with so many people clutching my arm, pushing me back) I got near some policemen for safety.
The Marquis's Speech
Apparently the speech of the Marquis Merry del Val most incensed the Communist crowd.
He gave details of the anarchy that preceded the Franco uprising.
" From 1931 to 1936 there were," he said, " 414 newspapers suppressed, 9,000 strikes, 2,500 political murders committed without hindrance. Not a week passed without the burning of a sacred building . , He made it clear that he spoke as a private individual.
"I have no official status, but I represent the opinion of the people of Spain in what I say to-night. We said two years ago that Franco was no mere general at the head of a military coup. We said he would win Spain. We have been justified up to the hilt."
He repudiated the idea of any terrorist reprisals by the victorious Franco forces.
" General Franco has already set free 200,000 of his 431,000 prisoners of war.
He ended his speech with the call " Viva el Cristo Rey ! " and " Arriba
Espana !" and sat down amidst a tumult of enthusiasm.
Hilaire Belloc, Sir Henry Page Croft and Sir Francis Lindley, who were to have spoken, had all succumbed to 'flu, so their places were taken by Arnold Lunn and Douglas Jerrold.
Arnold Lunn quoted a verse by Belloc at the beginning of his speech : " Pale Ebenezer Thought it wrong to fight, Roaring Bill who, killed him, Thought it right?'
It was because we had had Ebenezers In Government for the past twenty years that there was a ,Roaring Bill in Europe now, he said.