"The sharpest battle of the intellectual war occurred in 1937, when Nancy Cunard and a group of other Left-wing writers in Paris (including the young British poets W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender) sent out a questionnaire to 200 writers in Europe, with this provocative content: “Are you for, or against, the legal government and people of Republican Spain? Are you for, or against, Franco and Fascism? For it is impossible any longer to take no side.” The confrontational questionnaire elicited 147 answers, the overwhelming majority of which–126–supported the Republic. Five writers explicitly responded in favor of Franco (among them the novelist Evelyn Waugh and the WWI poet Edmund Blunden). Among sixteen responses that Cunard, in her eventually published compendium, grouped under the skeptical heading “Neutral?” were those of some of the most famous writers of the age: H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Ezra Pound (even at this time deeply involved in the Italian Fascist party), and the Anglo-American poet T. S. Eliot. Since the mid-1930s was not an era where attempts at neutrality would be tolerated, these writers were taken either as morally weak and equivocal or as mere closet Fascists trying to protect their reputations. In fact, several of them were either equivocal or Fascist or both. Not so with T. S. Eliot.
Eliot’s actual response, in fact, is a distillation of a much broader and more penetrating agenda, which he spent the last half of his life pursuing. He wrote this response to Cunard: “While I am naturally sympathetic, I still feel convinced that it is best that at least a few men of letters remain silent.” Rather than a deft side-stepping of the issue, what Eliot offers here is the credo that he had been developing since his conversion to Christianity and entrance into the Anglican Church in 1927: a socio-political version of the Anglican theological tenet know as via media."