25 SEPTEMBER 1942, Page 8



THOUGH the recent dismissal of Senor Serrano Stiller and two of his Cabinet colleagues is due entirely to internal causes, it may at any time be followed by fresh changes in Spain which will have far-reaching repercussions abroad. For once the Germans told the truth when they described it as the most important event in Spanish politics since the end of the Civil War.

While attention has been chiefly fixed upon the fall of General Franco's brother-in-law, whom many Spaniards have regarded as Falange's evil genius, it has been recognised that, in his simul- taneous dismissal from office of General Varela, the most nearly Traditionalist member of a predominantly Phalangist Cabinet and one whose name is being increasingly associated" with militant monarchism, the Caudillo has staged a notable display of imparti- ality towards the two antagonistic parties, nominally fused into one five and a half years ago, but never in reality united. He has intervened in the nursery quarrel, for all the world as Papa Primo might have done; and, after removing the ringleaders on either side, has departed, with a meaning glance and an admonition as to good behaviour in the future. His assumption of the chairmanship of the Junta Politica of the Falange, previously held by his brother- in-law, was presumably intended to be an indication of strength.

But, for my own part, I see less of strength in this move than of astuteness; and it will surely have come as a great surprise to those who in the past have written down General Franco as an able soldier but no statesman, and have credited Senor Serrano Sailer with whatever statesmanship the regime may have exhibited. It looks like a bold attempt of the Caudillo's to avert one of three dangers, all of which he must be fearing : (t) a Traditionalist coup d'etat, overthrowing Falange and re-orienting the regime on the lines of the 1923 Dictatorship—which General Franco would depre- cate, since he clearly desires social reform, and the social-reform Party in his State is Falange; (2) an attempt to restore the Monarchy —this, he once bluntly declared, he would not countenance until Spain was at peace with herself, and she is far from that as yet; (3) a complete revolution, establishing a Third Republic, or perhaps something more radical still. The removal from office of both

Phalangist and Traditionalist protagonists, and the assumption of direct control of the " Cabinet " of the Party, suggests that the Caudillo hopes to moderate political passions and so to maintain the country in a state of order. Whether he has acted with quiet confidence or in sheer desperation no one can say, but the under- current of deep anxiety running through hia three August speeches at Vigo, Lugo and Corunna suggests something approaching the latter.

To say that, under the mask of apparent calm displayed in its daily Press, Spain is scarred with enmities and furrowed with conflicts is no mere propagandist generalisation. There are known to be numerous dissensions in the recently " purged " Falange, some due to its dominant personalities, some to its policies, both domestic and international. Even more overt-is the conflict between Phalan. gists and Traditionalists (in particular, at the moment, Monarchists),

indications of which, such as university riots and the bomb outrage at Bilbao, have been reported in the foreign Press. The unknown quantity is the strength of a third source of possible future strife —the desire in the country for a return to democracy. That such a desire exists, and is widespread, can hardly be doubted. The fact can be deduced not merely from travellers' tales (though some of these are highly significant), but from the crudity with which the conquerors' regime imposed itself on the conquered, from its failure to achieve moral reconstruction, from the wretched material con- ditions of life in Spain, sure breeder of discontent, from Spanish psychology, too full cf independence and individualism to tolerate a permanent dictatorship, and from Spanish history, which reveals a people, for a long time past, at the me-xy of the political pendu- lum. It is interesting, by the way, to observe that in a few weeks' time General Franco's dictatorship (if we reckon it from the out- break of the Civil War) will have lasted exactly as long as General Primo de Rivera's.

Had not Hitler's troops for so long been stationed at that front door of Spain which opens upon Europe, it is highly probable that some form of political change would have come already. That it will come immediately Hitler is defeated we cannot doubt. I am inclined to believe that, unless the war ends very suddenly and unexpectedly, it will come sooner: perhaps, as soon as his troops are engaged on a large scale in Western Europe. I do not by any means despair of seeing Spain aligned on our side in the last phase of the struggle for freedom.

When the fundamental change comes, which will Spain choose: a reconstituted Dictatorship, a Republic or a Monarchy? To a great extent that depends on the ideology of the Army—another unknown quantity. It was the fact that the Army, to all appear- ances, turned Republican overnight that brought in the Second Republic without bloodshed in April, 1931. As late as the night of the famous elections of April 12th—only forty-eight hours before King Alfonso left the country—few, if any, would have ventured publicly to predict such a turnover. Today, all that can be asserted with any confidence is that the Army is anti-Falange. The excessive protestations of General Franco in his Corunna speech alone indi- cate that; and in the same speech there are dark references to un- specified insidious movements against the regime and the attempts being made by means of foreign gold to buy the people's con- sciences. Whether or not the Army would follow General Franco td if he proposed to re-orient his regime is another matter. Personally, I am inclined to think it would, but no one can be sure—not even General Franco.

If he decided to attempt re-orientation, would he declare for the restoration of a Monarchy with limited powers, as he recently de- clared for that of a Cortes with limited powers? His past pro- nouncements on the subject fully justify the description given above of a Restoration in a still unpacified Spain as (from his point of view) a danger. But much has changed since he last spoke about this. If he now thinks that a Restoration would arrest a Republican reaction, he might consider it the lesser of two evils and give it a chance. Don Juan, with' an English mother as well as an Italian consort, is as genuine a 'neutral as was King Alfonso with his Hapsburg mother and his English consort in 1914-IS: he might be welcome, from that point of view (as General Franco, after all sa his pro-Axis speeches, can never be), in a Spain freed once and for 'en all from the menace of Hitler. But would Don Juan come? Not, probably, without a clear indication, in the shape of a genuine plebiscite, that the nation desired his return. And what unex-


pected results might a genuine plebiscite not yield? After all, the Second Republic came in on the partial results of municipal ty elections. It is dangerous to make a direct appeal to a people in it a state of reaction . you may get something so different from your desire. On the whole, whatever we may predict for the distant s future, it seems unlikely that the Monarchists will surmount all the obstacles in their way just yet.