6 NOVEMBER 1936, Page 30

The Spanish Republic

who seek for light on Cosas de Espana, which have _for_reallY generations been almost completely obscured from our view because of the diametrically different outlook on life which has divided the two nations. A European who crossed the Pyrenees found himself in another world socially,- politically, ideologically. It was quite impossible to apply the satne criteria to Spain as to other countries Of Western Europe. Parliamentary majorities there were for years past -so split up that the only certain thing about Governments that could

be relied on was their instability. It was this rather than any original sin in Spaniards of any

class or any profession that led up to the coup d'etai of General Primo de Rivera, with which Professor Peers book opens. Professor Peers rightly attributes its amazingly easy triumph—there was no real opposition—to the fact that the country was weary to death of political instability and social unrest, and that the professional politicians were thoroughly discredited. More than that, the finances were in great disorder, the Army had suffered a disastrous defeat in Morocco, And many elementary social reforms were long -overdue. Had

it been possible for Primo de Rivera to return to a better form of constitutional Government after accomplishing, as he did, many much-needed reforms, there is little doubt, according to the author, that a really stable Government might have been established with the approval of all. But the common fate of dictators is that, once in the saddle, they can never leave it with comfort ; they are by force of circumstances compelled to outstay their welcome. And so Spain by a new revolution returned to Parliamentary Government „and those fateful Municipal Elections of the spring of 1931, which culminated

in the overthrow of the Monarchy months before the elections for the Cortes which were expected to give the decisive vote of the people on the subject of Monareby.or Republic. But as the two greatest cities; Madrid and Barcelona, in these elections declared etimbatienll)-- for~Repiiblicaui candidates, this seemed enough, for as Mr. Peers says : " Spain was dot likely to wait for the rural constituencies to turn Republican before she threw over the Monarchy."

In other words, the Republic was declared by the cities before the country districts had been able to pronounce their views. These rough-and-ready electorial methods strike the reader all through the book as typical of Spain.

In the chapter- entitled " The Republican Constitution "

the reader begins to understand the rifts in the RepubliOan

lute when the new Constitution came to be discussed. Ho'iv- eVer, these were as nothing Compared with the situation when the first AdMinistration of the Left under the RepublicAn regime attempted to govern. This is how the situation is described by Professor Peers : ' " Of the Parties belonging to the extreme Left only the Socialists were loyal to a Government in which they themselves were strongly represented. . . . But their rivals, the Syndicalists, did their utmost to stir up strife and, with them, knit in a strange alliance destined to persist to an extent beyond belief, were Anarchists and Communists."

The Alliance led not unnaturally to revolutionary strikes with violence all over the country :

" aimed now avowedly, however remotely, at substituting for the newly constituted regime which they stigmatised as boUr- geois ' another of more advanced tendencies. We have got our Republic ' was their nation-wide slogan, now let us have our Revolution.'

"Since Anarchists, Communists and Syndicalists have quite distinct and even incompatible ideals it may seem surprising that they should have united in this way, for had they succeeded there and then in destroying the second Republic they would indubitably have fallen out over the next step and the result would have been immediate chaos."

The fact is that if anyone in Spain hoped for greater stability in administration as the result of the introduction of the Republic he must have been sadly disappointed, for there were no fewer than twenty-six governments in the first four years.

The years that followed must be studied in ProfeSsor Peefrs' book in order- to get a true picture of the. Spanish scene, which is admirably drawn in the chapter entitled " Chat*" A more temperate Ministry had been indeed returned as-, result of a reaction after the first enthusiasm over the radical- anarchorsyndicalist-commimist triumph of 1931. Under the Administration, however, which succeeded it, of which the present • Government of Senor Amnia is the direct successor, Professor Peers tells us :

" Churches and convents formed the most natural and con. spicuous targets for incendiarism: Day after day papers were filled with reports of strikes, shootings,_ casualties, violent scenes at funerals, riot, arson, destruction. Unhappy Spain was rapidly moving towards a condition of complete chaos. The Prime Minister could not deny that in four months 170 churches, 69 clubs, the offiees of IU newspapers had been set on' fire and that attempts had been made to burn 284 other buildings."

The majority of the Right Wing groups were, however, content, says the author, " to abide by the consequences of the electorate's decision (of last spring).- and-ito -go into opposition until their turn came at last for power. - But the Fascists were not. . . . They had seen what two 'years of Left Wing rule had been like and the next period they thought would be far worse since Syndicalism, Anarchism and Com- munism were all .much stronger." Besides the Fascist opposition there was also a strong body of feeling throughout the country which was exasperated by the attacks on the Religious Orders, especially those that looked after hospitals and poor houses. The stage was thus naturally set for another struggle. This time, it is to be feared, .it will be a

life and death one between a .Red Dictatorship or a White one. After reading The Spanish Tragedy one rises feeling

that there is, alas, in our time no half-way helm' e. - This is not a case, as Lord Elton has wittily described the view taken by our Liberal and Radical Intellectuals of the Spanish Civil War, of a sort of British Lib-Lab. Govern- ment assailed by a posse of fiery Colonel Blimps. If there are any who still believe this, Professor Peers' book ought to clear their vision.