3 MARCH 1939, Page 16

Cwilmmiwealth and Foreign



BEFORE July, 1936, few people in England took any interest in Spanish affairs. Today all Europe is wondering what position Spain is going to assume, and what part she is going to play, in the line-up of rival interests and ideologies. The probabilities can best be assessed by an examination of Spanish history and by an objective survey of the course of the war now drawing to a close.

Contrary to the widely held belief among the British public that Spain was a conservative monarchy down to 1931, the fact is that the political pendulum swung frequently, far, and violently throughout the nineteenth century. The Leftists had numerous fair chances to rule, all of which they abused and frittered away. In 182o, 1841, 1854, 1868, and 1873 especially the pendulum was far to the Left, the first three of these swings being accompanied by army pronunciamentos- for the Left, be it noted—the latter two by the abdication of the monarch. That of King Amadeo in 1873 was followed by the first Republic, which collapsed in 1875 with the popular restoration of the Liberal monarchy of Alfonso XII.

The course of the first Republic was strangely like that of the second Republic of 1931-1939. It was a period of flowery promise and poor performance ; of decaying authority, political corruption, of growing tension. Five Presidents held office in little over two years. Attacks upon the Church and Church property have always been a feature of Left Government in Spain, and have as invariably provoked violent reaction. The Carlist Wars shook Spain from 1833-39, and from 1872-76. What Captain Henningson, an English volunteer who fought with them in the first Carlist War, wrote of the Navarrese in his book published in 1836, might as truthfully have been written in 1936 to explain the attitude of their descendants, the first adherents to, and subsequent backbone of General Franco's army. " Accustomed, from their ancient mode of government, to a great degree of liberty under a despotic form, they look with suspicion on the modern innovations which the Liberals, in their march of new ideas, wish to introduce. Experience has perhaps given them an exaggerated horror of that revolutionary fever which has for the last half- century agitated Europe, and of which designing men have taken advantage. . . ." In their line-up, their conduct, their reactions in Europe, the two Carlist Wars afford so many and such striking parallels to the Civil War of 1936-9 as to merit a study of the descriptions of contemporary writers. The constantly recurring lessons running through the years 1812 to 1936 are the bravery, endurance, and intense individualism of the Spanish people, their utter inability to compromise, their constant resorts to arms in domestic disputes, their pride, their intense dislike of foreign intervention, so often experi- enced, above all the feeble appeal and results of Parliamentary democracy in effective goyernment as opposed to flamboyant oratory. The broad division of political opinion has never been merely horizontal through Spanish society. The Catholic country peasantry have been the backbone of the Right, the urban proletariat of the Left. The Church and the aristo- cracy—the latter never powerful or very influential since the fifteenth century—favoured the former ; the middle-class and the intellectuals, the latter. This generalisation should be compared with the territorial division between the two sides in early 1937.

Because in July, 1936, Europe was racked by the conflict- ing ideologies and propaganda of Fascism, Communism and Democracy, the pronunciamento that was the usual climax to a period of acute tension in Spain was seen out of focus in all the other countries. The distorting-glass of deliberate or unconscious propaganda through which it was viewed magni- fied the illusions that they conjured up. Instead of being merely a sort of bloodstained super General Election, a third Carlist war, it became " The Army versus the People," " Fascism v. Communism," " Democracy v. Nazism," or whatever suited the journalist's clientele in the democracies, or the Propaganda Minister in the authoritarian states.

In parenthesis, Spain affords a striking illustration of how even the educated public in the democracies can succumb to

the very propaganda that they condemn in dictator-states, if garnished for their palate as free criticism and news. Four main factors have predominated in the case of Spain to ensure the British public misreading the course of the war. Firstly, they have regarded it too exclusively against the European background, thus giving rein to justifiable but grossly ex- aggerated fears. Secondly, all news and reports came through at least 48 hours sooner from the Republicans than from the Nationalists, because the telephone and cable centres were behind the Republican lines Thirdly, the Republicans, in possession of nearly all the gold reserves of the Bank of Spain, spent lavishly upon propaganda. They received powerful and practised help in this effort. Not all newspapers are as un- venal as the greater British dailies. Fourthly, beyond their mechanical and financial disadvantages, the Nationalists were incredibly unwise in their treatment of news and of news- men alike. Their censorship was as absurd as it was damaging to their own cause.

In regard to the fighting a few points that are often ob- scured may be stressed. The number of serving officers and soldiers of the standing army who at the outset supported the General's pronunciamento was small, for the army itself was small. The reservists of military age among the civil population outnumbered the revolting soldiery by about to to r. The " People's army " is a propagandist myth. Two People's armies gradually emerged. Both the extent and the effect of foreign intervention have been misunderstood because, propaganda apart, allowance has not been made for the relative efficiency with which the two sides profited from it. Political difficulties, even faction-fighting, having to combine a social revolution with the conduct of a war, and gross over- confidence have been prime factors in the Republican defeat. These led also to a waste of resources, imported and indigenous alike. By contrast, their financial poverty and unified direction forced upon the Nationalists economy and efficiency. General Franco had been the leading training expert in the Spanish Army, as well as the most successful and popular general of the Riff wars. Artillery, aviation and officers' schools and courses, promptly started, later enabled full use to be made of the assistance in material obtained from abroad and of the great quantities captured from time to time. This, and not foreign personnel or material itself, was the secret of the superiority that the Nationalists progressively achieved.

Both sides received from abroad all the material that their organisation and training rendered it possible for them to utilise. In foreign man-power, too, numbers must be related to fighting value. It is safe to assert that if ever the true figures are published the British public will learn with surprise that in " front-line fighters," to use the useful German defini- tion, the International Brigades of the Republicans were at least as numerous as the Italians—probably more numerous. Their individual value was certainly far higher, their effect in battle much greater. It is fair to add that the Italian rank and file were very far from their best regulars.

Rather strangely, the ruthlessness and horrors of war seem to affect Spaniards less than one would have expected, a factor to be borne in mind in considering the war's after- math. The Duchess of Atholl has suffered more emotional disturbance than many Spanish women who have had horrible experiences. The ordinary citizen values order, security, daily bread the more in their absence, and this has been a strong factor in facilitating Nationalist consolidation of captured territory. The intense and widespread nationalistic, revivalist and progressive spirit, coupled with an unprecedented urge for social service that is apparent to any traveller or visitor to the fronts, is going to place a heavy burden of obligation upon the new rulers of Spain. Great as will be the difficulties of reconstruction and deep as are the divisions upon the winning side, no one who has become an observer of the recent Spanish scene with an open mind, and sought information and impressions without predilections, can feel pessimistic about the future of Spain or her position in Europe.