29 NOVEMBER 1940, Page 18

Understanding Spain

The Spanish Dilemma. By E. Allison Peers. (Methuen. 59.)

THE Englishman's great mistake in relation to Spain, says Pro- fessor Allison Peers in his preface, is in assuming that a Spaniard will in all circumstances act like an Englishman ; the first step towards understanding Spain is to get clear on the differences between Britons and Spaniards, both in bent of mind and in political practice. The first reminder of that is the first sentence of the book: "The curse of Spain is the pendulum." There is no doubt about that. Rotativism (to which Professor Peers does not refer explicitly), under which by an unwritten convention one party (in the days of the Cortes) used to succeed the other in office regardless of the views of the electorate, made the nominally Parliamentary system completely unreal. Since 1923 Spain has had Primo de Rivera's distatorship, the Second Republic and the eclipse of monarchy, the left-wing victory of 1936, followed by the Civil War, and the dictatorship of General Franco. Where and when will the pendulum swing now? Professor Peers finds in the fact that it has not swung visibly at all since the end of the civil war in April, 1939, some evidence of an unwonted attainment of stability. He may be right, but an equally rational explanation would be Spain's utter exhaustion—physical, mental, financial and economic—after a conflict in which a million of the population were killed or gravely injured, and another half million have gone into voluntary exile, or, alternatively, the effectiveness of the new Government's iron hand.

More important to English observers of Spain than the country's internal stability is the question of its intentions in relation to the European war, though no doubt the two to seine extent hang together. Professor Peers, examining the situation objectively, finds several reasons for believing that Nationalist Spain will cling to neutrality—which is none the less neutrality for being styled non-belligerence. The first is that Spain, almost prostrate after her own civil war, is in no position to plunge into external conflict. The second is that if she did Like the plunge, the Republicans would immediately seize the oppor- tunity to start a new civil war. The third is that, despite common totalitarianism, Spanish and Nazi ideology are radical!' opposed, the one being at least professedly religious, the other frankly pagan. Imperialist ambitions, Professor Peers admits, might provide temptations, particularly in the matter of Tangier and Gibraltar, and after recalling very usefully that Great Britain

holds Gibraltar today not by right of conquest but by the terms of a treaty made under no duress, he observes very sensibly that in a Europe of the future, living as a family in which each member could trust any other, either the demilitarisation of Gibraltar under certain conditions, or internationalisation of control of the Straits, should be quite possible.

That Europe, unfortunately, has still to come to birth. There can obviously be no voluntary surrender of Gibraltar while the war continues.

Though Professor Peers holds that for Spain victory at the side of Hitler is equivalent to defeat, and believes that Spain will realise that and act accordingly, he is conscious that under the influence of an intense and mendacious Nazi propaganda General Franco may decide on intervention, and is too wise to commit himself to confident prediction. But at least his book provides material for reasoned judgements on Spain's policy as it unfolds. He writes with a welcome detachment from extremists of either wing, and though some of his views—as, for example, regarding the political colour of the Government of 1936—may provoke challenge in some quarters, his book as a whole gives a markedly sober and unbiased picture of a Spain we have to learn to