- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 12 Dec 1946, p. 131-148
- Woodside, Willson, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- What Spain looks like today, and what people there are saying. A travelogue. The curtain which has been drawn between Franco Spain and the world since the Civil War which has made Spain a land of mystery. Crossing the border into Spain made difficult by strained relations between France and Spain. Ways in which the border of Spain can be said to be a "closed" border. Conversations on a train. Impressions of Barcelona. The street cars. Comparing Barcelona to Milan. People in Barcelona struggling to carry on an existence in marginal occupations. An ancient, grinding poverty in Spain which is quite different from the new poverty to which millions of people in Central Europe have been reduced suddenly by war damage. The poor in Spain and what their life is like. The police in Barcelona. The newspapers and their contents. Movies playing. The famine of intellectual fare a serious one. The food problem much more immediate and pressing. The Civil Governor and the Military Governor above him; the Lord Mayor below him. The Bureaucracy in Spain. An overall impression of inefficiency. Foreign trade entirely in the hands of the government. An enjoyment of the Spaniards themselves. Some details of conversations. The beggared children. The greatest need of water in Spain. Madrid: a handsome city. Police control, with illustrative examples. The lack of any sign of Germans or German ownership. The leading foreign influence now British. The British Institute. Lack of signs of Civil War damage in Madrid; a general sense of horror at the thought that the Civil War might be renewed. No good words for Franco. The weakening of the Fascist Falange Party since the end of the Civil War. Some movement within the Catholic Action and among a few progressive priests for form a liberal Catholic party on the lines of the French M.R.P. The popular thought that calculations as to how the government could be changed would begin with the British, not with the Spaniards themselves. The role left to the Spanish Army. A left-wing monarchy as the new formula being discussed in Spain; drawn from the examples of the British, Dutch and Scandinavian monarchies working smoothly with Socialist governments. No easy solution to the Spanish problem. The speaker's belief that the prospects for setting up a stable and progressive democratic regime in Spain are far less favorable today then when the Republic was proclaimed in 1931.
- Date of Original
- 12 Dec 1946
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- INSIDE SPAIN TODAY"lb/> AN ADDRESS BY WILLSON WOODSIDE
Chairman: The President, Major F. L. Clouse.
Thursday, December 12, 1946
WILSON WOODSIDE: Mr. President and gentlemen!: I am happy to be back at the Empire Club, and happy to have another trip to Europe to report on. I must say at once, however, that I am no expert on Spain. On the first page of the note-book which I took into Spain last August I find a question, underlined, what do Canadians want to know about Spain? The answers I wrote underneath were: What it looks like today, and what people there are saying. That's what I am going to try to cover for you here today. For I think that a curtain of sorts has been drawn between Franco Spain and the world since the Civil War which has made it a land of mystery.
Certainly this was the feeling I had as I approached the border, along the route to Barcelona. The frontier had been sealed for months to through traffic, due to strained relations between France and Spain, so by the time our train pulled into the border station of Cerbere there were very few left aboard. Only six or seven passengers alighted at the big station which had once been so busy; and the Cook's and American Express representatives who advanced to meet them looked very woebegone.
I have always been used to making my own arrangements, and travelling in very plain style but I admit I was glad of their help in getting through the complications of crossing a "closed" border. It was closed, that is, to the passage of Frenchmen and Spaniards; and "closed" in that the trains no longer passed through the tunnel under the mountain to the big Spanish border station perhaps a mile away. For our small party the way lay over a rough mountain road. We were piled with our baggage into an old Ford truck, and ground our way up the French side of the mountain, to stop at a customs but near the summit of the pass. Here the formalities were fairly simple-if one remembered the bordercrossing custom which has become quite mandatory all through Europe today: the passing around of a package of cigarettes. I was cautioned by the French as we pulled away, not to believe everything those so-and-sos (with a thumb-jerk towards the Spanish side) tried to tell us.
Our truck had turned around, meanwhile, and now backed its way the last couple of hundred yards up the mountain road to the actual border line, stopping within a couple of inches of the barrier pole. That's how things are between the Spaniards and the French these days
there was a turning space a few feet over the border but the French weren't allowed to "enter Spain" to use it.
Here, protected from the constant wind behind a huge boulderso that I didn't notice it at first and strode past, to be sharply hailed back by an armed sentry-was the tiny shack which was now serving as border entry post on this formerly busy route of international travel. The two Spaniards inside were very gruff until all the questions had been filled out on their forms and the cigarettes passed around, but then became quite jovial, and phoned down to nearby Port Bou for a couple of taxis.
In a half-hour two ancient vehicles came wheezing up the Spanish side, with a sergeant of the Security Police in each, whereupon the men of the frontier post slung their rifles on their shoulders and conducted us over to them. One of the travellers took a tearful farewell from his French wife, still standing on her side of the border line, and we were off down the mountain. Showing our passports again to a guard at the outskirts of the town, we were driven right up onto-the platform of the big, deserted station.
Here porters trying with their efficiency to make up for the tedious complications of the bureaucracy, and an even sadder-faced representative of the ubiquitous Thomas Cook, eased us through further formalities. By the time I had filled out a long triplicate form for one official, received my ration card from another, shown my money to still another, and changed some of it into pesetas at a hole-in-the-wall branch of the Bank of Spain, I had shown my passport eight times since crossing the border, I was to show it three times more before I was settled in my hotel room in Barcelona that evening.
Now came the first meal, always an important event in any new country for a European traveller these days, as an indication of how he can expect to eat while he is there. It was a fair enough sample, a poor meal at a price of $2.60, with a string of taxes making it up to $3.80. The English couple with whom I ate, resident in Barcelona (which still has a colony of several hundred British business people) and just back from their first visit home since before the Civil War, ordered real coffee by calling for cafe, caffe! The usual thing in Europe these davs is an indescribable brew of acorns and burned wheat=you hope!-and real coffee costs up to ten times as much as such ersatz, or 30c to 40c a cup. And as for my check for $3.80, I'd have been happy to find a meal at such a bargain price in Barcelona or Madrid.
Finally the train for Barcelona was ready and I climbed into the First Class, which I had been quite rightly counselled was the "only way" to travel in Spain. But more of that later. My companions turned out to be a retired minor Spanish diplomat and a couple of army officers, a businessman and a young Jew formerly of Munich.
The talk between the diplomat, the young Jew and myself, in English, French and German, was surprisingly free, though translations in part had to be given to the others, who looked uncomfortable over this contact with someone from beyond the border. The diplomat's declaration that he would never again work in a country dominated by the military-supposedly referring to Tito's Yugoslavia-was not, however, translated to the officers. Curiously enough, the young Jew spoke the only words I heard in the entire trip favorable to the regime, adjuring me not to believe anyone who told me that the people wanted any other government, and looking around for approbation from the others. It could well have been the sort of double-talk that people living under dictatorship learn to use. But as I say, it was the only good word for the Franco Government which I heard during the fortnight's travels.
All along the way to Barcelona the number of troops which have been mobilized and concentrated in the border regions were much in evidence, loafing disconsolate in the stations or shuffling about their work in the towns. Reaching Barcelona, I thought that after all my travels I had finally lost my bags. The destitution of the crowd argued that my stuff would be worth a good sum on the black market, and morality concerning property rights has taken a terrific slump in Europe since the war. But I must say that, at the exit where I had expected the porter to take the bags I was overwhelmed with offers of help in finding them, and soon conducted to another exit on the far side of the station where my man was waiting honestly for me.
Barcelona still appears the fine city of which I had always heard. Its wide, handsome boulevards, with their florid, individual style of architecture, show no damage whatever from the Civil War. The street cars at once took my eye, because they looked like copies of the new cars here in Toronto; which recalled to my mind the fact that the Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company is in fact a Toronto firm, a subsidiary of Brazilian Traction.
At any rate, here in ruined Spain were handsome, stream-lined cars just like the ones we are proud of in Toronto, (though to be just, they are made in St. Louis). The Barcelona cars had been built in Italy, and delivered in 1943-which is a commentary on Italy's "total" production for war.
Canadian and British initiative may provide the new cars, but they are of course run by Spaniards. In fact, each car is run by four men: one as motorman, one to sell tickets, another to check the tickets periodically, and a fourth standing by the side door, ringing the bell for those who want to get off, and shouting at those who want to get on, to go to the front door. That's necessary because some of these cars, of the same design, have big signs directing people to get on the side doors! If I add that four different lines, all run by the same company, have different fares for the same stretch down one of the main streets, you will have a fair introduction to Spanish bureaucracy and inefficiency.
If one compared Barcelona to Milan, which seemed apt, it is in some ways a handsomer city. But as the main industrial centre of Spain it hasn't anything like the vitality of the Italian industrial capital, which I had visited only a fortnight before. And though Spain's war had been over for seven years, and Italy's only for a year and a half, there was no comparison in the range of goods to be had in the stores of the two cities. It appeared to me that the Spaniards stood a long way behind the Italians in technical ability and inventiveness.
There was an air of stagnation about Barcelona, which all too obviously could never have been built, and could not be supported, by today's business. The city's great days of expansion were in the 1920's, when the country was stable and foreign capital came in readily.
The thing which strikes one at first sight of the street crowds of Barcelona is the number of people struggling to carry on an existence in marginal occupations, such as shoe-shining, selling lottery tickets or single cigarettes, carrying sandwich boards or peddling odd articles from cafe to cafe.
You see an ancient, grinding poverty in Spain which is quite different from the new poverty to which millions of people in Central Europe have been reduced suddenly by war damage. The poor in Spain are more like the ragged, dirty poor in Dickens' novels. And they are many: sometimes I thought that one person in twenty in the cities was engaged in trying to sell tickets on the national fortnightly lottery to the other nineteen.
The Sunday morning crowd on the famous Ramblas was one of the most unsmiling I have ever seen in a Latin country. But as in all Latin countries the children were dressed with a special effort for Sunday. And that night I found a street fair going on, over an area of perhaps 10 square blocks, with each little street decorated differently, in competition with the others, and many dancing platforms and small refreshment booths set up. The fair opened each night at midnight, and ran for a week. They told me it was a centuries-old custom.
Another feature of the Barcelona boulevards was the police. There were smart, white-coated traffic police; Guardia Civil, walking in pairs and wearing the quaint three-cornered hat; and Security Police, in half military uniform, carrying sidearms by day and stationed with rifles at night on every corner of every main street and often on the four corners of an intersection. I took these at first to be the S.S. of the Franco regime, but that is not an accurate comparison. They are not a political force like Hitler's Elite Guards. They are a Government police force, not a crack militia of the Falange Party. The Falange is a long way from having control of the government in Spain, as the Fascist Party had in Italy, and the Nazi Party in Germany. As if this were not security enough, small squads of troops also patrolled the Barcelona streets at night. Franco has not forgotten that this was one of the two main centres of resistance to him.
I met people who claimed that all this policing was necessary to combat banditry, and insisted that a great many people appreciated the complete security of the streets when going home late at night. It was claimed that an unattended woman could, if she had occasion, walk alone and unmolested through the streets of Barcelona or Madrid at two in the morning. I must say, in honesty, that the police never bothered me. I never had the feeling of being followed, and never suspected that my baggages or papers were searched in my room. But I lust don't feel comfortable in a police station and instinctively hate them, whether they are supposed to be Fascist "New Order" or Communist "New Democracy."
Among the street crowds were many soldiers on leave from the frontier districts, young conscripts mostly, dejected-looking in their dirty, unpressed uniforms-and not surprising when you learned that they receive the munificent pay of half a peseta a day to "squander." Its buying power would be about 1 1/2 c. But as is the custom of such regimes, Franco looks after his army officers well.
Trying to buy my first newspaper, I had a curious experience. The first three dealers said they didn't have change for the small note, I think 5 pesetas, which I tendered. I gained the impression that, having only the Falangist paper left, they didn't want a newly-arrived foreigner to get his ideas of Spain from this. Other days, when I came earlier, they always handed me the Vanguardia, which I found to be surprisingly good paper. It was by no stretch oppositionist, but as "unfascist" as possible under the conditions of press control. It always sold out quickly, and I was not surprised to hear that it was considered the best paper in the country.
I mention this because just the other day I received a very intelligent letter by air mail from Barcelona, apparently uncensored, discussing excerpts from my articles in Saturday Night on my Spanish visit. It seems they were reprinted in Vanguardia, though I can only 'try to imagine, from the comment of this correspondent, the parts of my account which must have been omitted.
As a writer I naturally have a particular interest in seeing what people are allowed to read in totalitarian countries, and here as with the Vanguardia, I had a pleasant surprise. I noted in the kiosks along the streets reprints of Winston Churchill's books; Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig, both anti-Nazi; Walter Scott, Charlotte Bronte, Joseph Conrad and G. K. Chesterton; and Sinclair Lewis, Jerome K. Jerome and P. G. Wodehouse. There was a new biography of Peron, not too prominently displayed, but also one of Alfonso XIII, the king deposed in 1931.
Looking over the movies I found that they were playing many of our best films of recent years, such as Rebecca, How Green Is My Valley, All This and Heaven Too, Suspicion, Paderewski in Moonlight Sonata, Shirley Temple, Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, and The Song of Bernadette. I was a bit surprised to find them showing, in "Lady Hamilton", the victor of Trafalgar. All were dubbed in Spanish language, and no films are played even in Madrid in the original English with printed sub-titles any more, as is common in other European capitals.
Though the famine of intellectual fare is a serious one through most of Europe today, the food problem is of course more immediate and pressing. I found the food situation bad in Spain, and was told that it had been getting slowly worse for several years through a succession of poor harvests and the country's stagnant foreign trade. The basic ration today is a half-pound of bread a clay, with small quantities of other things such as sugar, potatoes, beans or meal of some kind. Everything else has to be bought on the black market, at five to fifteen times the normal price.
There had been no meat at all for five months during the winter, and during. this time eggs went up to 25c apiece-and this in a country, mark you, whose war was ever seven years ago. The limit seemed to have been reached when the olive oil ration was reduced, just before my arrival, to 2 ozs. per fortnight. Oil is -a basic commodity in Spain, and this produced the quip, "In what way is Franco a magician?" The answer: "Because he can fry 27 million people in 2 ozs. of oil!"
Another story with an angle on the Spanish character, which I picked up in Barcelona, was about a group of British residents who went to the Civil Governor and suggested that a branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should be formed in the city. The Governor was agreeable, and the discussion turned to how to finance it. "But, of course," the Governor exclaimed, "we must stage a bull fight!"
Speaking of the Civil Governor, there is a Military Governor above him, and a Lord Mayor below him. The Spaniards never miss anything when it comes to bureaucracy. Many people thought that it was a definite policy to draw as many as possible into government employ, to give them a vested interest in maintaining the regime, as they could expect to go out with its overthrow. It is mainly these people who make the "spontaneous demonstrations"-such few as there are in Spain these days.
This bureaucracy is a deadweight on the country. Wretchedly ill-paid, many of the civil servants take "squeeze" in one way or another. A typical story, of many which I heard, was of a radio store in Barcelona. It had a radio stolen, but why bother reporting it? The police would only keep it, if they recovered it. Then a second radio was stolen. This was getting serious. The store--owner sought out one of the police detectives privately. The detective's price was 500 pesetas--nominally $100--to find the set. This he promptly did, and offered his "protection" to the store owner at a flat rate of 200 pesetas a month. He said he had many satisfied clients!
In the same way, you give a hotel porter 100 pesetas to split with the railway ticket official, if you want a berth. Though I must admit that there were exceptions, and once or twice tips which I proffered were refused and I was served with the greatest courtesy for nothing. I should say, too, that time and again I met with an ingenious efficiency in private Spaniards, who had apparently had to acquire it to circumvent the restrictions and delays of the bureaucracy.
The overall impression, however, was of one of the most inefficient peoples I have ever met, with an incredibly inefficient system of government. I noticed, for example, the number of unfinished projects such as highway bridges, in my travels across the country, and was told in all seriousness that each new regime in Spain feels it a matter of honor not to complete the projects started by the previous regime.
As another example, foreign trade is entirely in the hands of the government, permits have to be obtained for everything a firm may want to import, and take months to obtain. For the necessary lobbying with the government firms from all over Spain maintain offices or agents in Madrid. With everything so difficult to obtain, the tendency is to grab almost any kind of imported machinery you can get hold of, in the hope of swapping it for what you want.
Thus a firm near Barcelona which had been trying to get a Diesel power plant was recently alloted one of six which the government had secured from Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester. It was the wrong voltage for their system, and very expensive--over $100,000--but they took it in the hope of swapping it inside the country, as they knew it was the only one they would get. The whole country, my informant said, was run in this way. He couldn't imagine why any foreign firm would put money into Spain these days. Those that were there were taking a bad beating.
But I must say that many of these people whom I met, particularly British, liked the Spaniards personally and liked living in the country in spite of the government. For my part, I found it a real pleasure to talk with Spaniards, with their quick intelligence and their friendly attitude towards Anglo-Saxons, and was surprised constantly to find how much they understood of what was going on in the world outside. This doesn't go, of course, for the mass of the people, living in abysmal ignorance and grinding poverty, their comprehension barely extending to the frontier.
Let me detail just one of these conversations. It was with the waiters in an excellent little restaurant--I shan't even say what city it was in. I was the only customer left. The head waiter, with a fine, strong, sad face--very Spanish--opened by asking me whether there was sympathy among the English people for the government or the people of Spain? I assured him that our sympathy was with the people.
He had noticed my press card from the Paris Peace Conference when I pulled it out with my ration ticket. How was Paris? He had heard that you could eat wonderfully there. He was keenly interested in my brief comparison of conditions in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy, and relayed the main points to his two companions standing nearby.
Then we came back to Spain. The people here were not pleased, he said, with the actions of the English. They thought the English had supported the government and not the people of Spain. They had thought that when the war was over, we would force the Franco Government to go. They wanted a democratic country, where a man could speak his mind without so many police-with an eloquent glance over his shoulder (obviously, however, he trusted his three fellow-waiters).
He knew that it wouldn't be easy to set up democracy in Spain. There couldn't be immediate universal franchise, as the people just weren't educated or trained for it. I said that what we hoped for was an evolution to freer government in Spain, without a renewed civil war. No, No! he cried, no more civil war; and the others nodded vigorously. Then he said that the Spanish people did not want Communism. It was just the same as Fascism. It was Fascism of the left.
So I asked, what about a monarchy? He replied that there was not much feeling for the monarchy, outside of the traditional classes, and very little among the youth. He himself, however, thought that monarchy was the best system for Spain--if you had a good monarchy like the English or the Dutch. I went on to ask him if he really believed that the Spanish people could run a stable democracy, like the British, with their House of Commons? Ah, well, he answered, the British were unique in the world as a moderate, solid people. He was specially impressed by the fact--which he already knew--that in Britain the rich and poor received the same rations. And I may say that that single point has given Britain great prestige all through blackmarket-ridden Europe.
From there we got on to Spanish rations, and he gave me the exact figures for them, adding that very often these are not honored. Concluding, he said that in general little business in Spain was in very bad shape, while big business was rushing to put its money into solid things--by which he explained the many new bank and insurance buildings I had noticed going up. This is only one of many examples I encountered of extremely literate Spaniards living a shadow existence in a police state.
On the train to Madrid, I had a long talk with a chemical engineer. He said that one only vegetated in Spain: one ate, slept and worked, and that was all. He wanted to get away to America. Things had been getting steadily worse for the past three or four years. As fellow engineers, we discussed the state of Spanish technology. It was very far behind the times, he declared, and the authorities were only just beginning to urge young men to study it. Yet he did point out that the train we were on was Spanish built, the coaches made in Barcelona and the locomotives in Saragossa. We were then approaching the latter city, some hours late on a clear summer day.
This railway line is the most important in Spain, running between the country's two largest cities. Yet there was only a train three times a week. It took 16 hours to travel some 400 miles, almost always running hours behind schedule. Even the first class was crowded and dirty, the aisles packed with people sitting on their suitcases. The diner was without question the dirtiest I have ever seen. The Spanish travellers wouldn't eat in it, or pay its prices. Never before had I seen people in the first class pulling sandwiches, wine and sausage out of their bags and eating lunch--offering me some too.
At all the main stops beggars swarmed through the carriages, little ragged children looking just like the bez przorni or homeless waifs I had seen in Russia before the war, and mothers holding dirty, scrawny little babies. I soon had to admit that it was a hopeless task to relieve the poverty of Spain singlehanded. Looking out at the countryside you could see why Spain was poor. We passed through hundreds of miles of arid wasteland, with old, eroded hills and not a stick of timber. A couple of irrigated valleys, their green so kind to the eyes, only pointed up the contrast. Here on tiny allotments the Spaniards showed that with the magic of a little water they could work well, wasting not the space for a single plant.
Certainly, of all Spain's needs, water is the greatest. Water and good government. And they go together, because only good government can give Spain the irrigation schemes she needs so desperately. How well this is realized is shown by a long feature article which I noticed in a Madrid paper a few days later, describing how the British had made India "the best-watered country in the world." The fatalism of a people who have known so little good government in centuries is shown, however, in a story which tells of all the good things which God gave Spain. He gave her sun and wine, mountains and sea. Why, it is asked, didn't he give her good government? If he did that, all the angels would leave Heaven!
It was, I thought, most revealing that so many Spaniards of all sorts with whom I spoke--and I don't claim that I got to the peasantry or the factory workers--spoke of the government of Primo di Rivera in the '20's as "the good old days." Under his light-handed, "white" dictatorship Spain had enjoyed a time of prosperity and stability. Though it wasn't entirely appreciated at the time, these were the best days Spain had known for generations. This brings up a story of Primo which I had from a very intelligent French journalist before I left Paris. Going to Spain in 1928, he had been asked by his editor to get an interview with Primo, which he had managed. The upshot was that Primo asked the Frenchman to come to see him again, after looking over the country.
In the second conversation, the dictator asked my informant what he had thought of the condition of Spain. My friend replied with the usual comment that the fine new motor roads were very impressive and the train service far better than on his last trip--and so on. "Yes, yes," Primo said, "they always tell me that. But will you answer me this question? How does one end a dictatorship p I have studied history backward and forward, and can, find no answer. Consider- my situation: if I increase the pressure on the people, there will be an explosion; but if I relax it, the King will have to go and I don't know what will become of Spain." There, surely, was an unusual dictator, asking how one could end a dictatorship.
But we must get on to Madrid. Here I met the police control which impressed me the most sharply. I should have said before that on every train plainclothesmen go through the compartments asking to see passports end the triplicate police registration forms which each person must obtain before leaving his own town, and must turn in at once to the police in the town to which he is going. The same check is made of travellers on the highways. A Spaniard has to present a satisfactory reason for travelling, and all his movements are on the police files. Former adherents of the Republican side in the Civil War are mostly kept in their home districts by this system, though I met a few who had been permitted recently to come to Madrid to work, and also heard that quite a number who had been serving long prison sentences were being released.
The particular police control of which I was going to speak was this. On arrival in Madrid I hurried out to get a taxi. Climbing in, I gave the taximan my hotel address. The taximan stopped by a policeman guarding the station exit and repeated it to him. I hadn't been in Madrid five minutes before the police had a check on me!
Madrid is a handsome city. It is much finer than King Carol's pre-war Bucharest. But it gave me much the same feeling of a capital drawing the cream off the whole country. It has no industry, is in no way selfsupporting like London or Paris. Holding mainly the government bureaus, the offices which industry and commerce must maintain there to deal with the government, and the town houses of the big landowners, it is a deadweight on the country.
The hours which the capital "works" were as incredible to me during the difficult summer of 1946 as they were to Sir Samuel Hoare when he went there in the critical summer of 1940. Then as now, General Franco, his government aides, and high society had packed off for the cooler climate of San Sebastian, with the whole diplomatic world following perforce. The lower ranks left in the ministries worked from nine until two. If you phoned a business person at eleven in the morning he would like as not suggest that you come to see him at six or six-thirty in the evening. Lunch time was two to three in the afternoon, with people lingering over the tables in the garden restaurants till after four. Afternoon tea?--well, I saw a shop advertising "5 o'clock tea at Seven"!
Throughout the afternoon there would be absolutely nobody on the main downtown streets. Of course, it was hot, but the Spaniards were making the most of the excuse. Between six-thirty and seven the streets would fill up as by magic; by eight or half-past the people would be streaming out of office and shop; and by nine-thirty or ten you could find dinner. The men were the best-dressed I had seen on the Continent this trip, and the women the most beautiful since Budapest in 1939. But all along the streets wretched people would be trying to peddle single cigarettes, or lottery tickets, and ragged boys running to hold the doors of taxicabs.
I am not much used to the "Palace" hotels of Europe, but found I had been well-advised to stay at the "Palace" in Madrid. It was excellently run, perhaps the best-run hotel I stayed in Europe last summer. It may have been for this reason that it was the favorite German headquarters during the war. Hoare tells in his book (Ambassador on. Special Mission) how it swarmed with spies, agents and "tourists" of various kinds in those days, and how these people strutted about, talking loudly in the streets. There may still be some Germans left in Spain-there were several large business colonies there before the war-but if so they have quite gone to ground, fearing deportation. You never hear a word of German or see a German movie being shown, and most German-owned cinemas and restaurants have changed their names from Rheingold, Valkyrie and so on to the Spanish equivalent.
The leading foreign influence is now British. With great satisfaction Walter Starkie--the former director of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and author of travel books on Spain and Italy--tells of how people thought he was crazy when he came to open up the British Institute in the fall of 1940, just when the Battle of Britain was on. This certainly impressed the Spaniards, however. They reasoned that if the British were opening up a new cultural institute at such a time they must be confident of winning. Some Spaniards showed themselves bravely at the British Institute from the beginning, at a time when German intimidation and the disfavor of the authorities made this a dangerous thing to do. Gradually more and more came, and today the Institute has 2000 students in Madrid, and thousands more at branches in four other cities, learning English, or taking lectures in British literature, industry, government, etc. Perhaps an even greater achievement of the Institute has been in securing a place for English on the Spanish school curriculum, equal to that of French and ahead of Italian and German. It is Starkie's view that the British and the Spaniards "just naturally get along together", regardless of politics. They each have the habit of trusting a person's word. You can go to a restaurant where you are only slightly known, I was told, and if you have forgotten your money or spent more during the evening than you expected, you can not only tell the waiter that you will send the money to him next day, but probably borrow a hundred pesetas from him as well!
Except in the University quarter Madrid shows scarcely any sign of Civil War damage to its buildings. Yet every street has its walking mementos, one-legged and one-armed men, as many as I saw even in Germany and the ragged and stunted orphaned children, picking up a living Heaven knows how. All dates in conversation are referred to the Civil War: before, during, or after. Its memory is burned deep in everyone's consciousness. There is a general horror at the thought that it should be renewed.
That is basic to the talk of how the Government can be changed, talk which goes on endlessly. As is said, I never heard a good word f or Franco. He is considered a little man, cruel and unbelievably complacent, but cunning in holding a balance. He is a master of the old Spanish technique of doing as little as possible, in the confidence that others will make enough mistakes to save you. There seems no doubt but that he has been helped considerably by attacks from outside the country, particularly from the Soviets and their sympathizers in every land. Many observers insisted to me that, just when Franco was at his weakest last January, the strong attack by Bidault and the closing of the French border saved him.
As the situation appears, from my all-too-brief investigation, the Fascist Falange Party has been much weakened since the end of the Civil War. Its uniformed militia are rarely seen any more, and are detested as hoodlums even by Church leaders who favor an authoritarian regime. As to the Church, there is not much sign that it has learned a great deal-or that anyone else has, for that matter. Yet I was told that there has been some movement within the Catholic Action and among a few progressive priests to form a liberal Catholic party on the lines of the French M.R.P. No new government, it was emphasized, could hope to last without the support of the Army and at least the tolerance of the Church.
All calculations as to how the government could be changed begin with the British, not with themselves. The British, .so the formula goes, must put on pressure which would induce the Army to withdraw its support from Franco, as a losing proposition. This was widely expected in Spain after V-E Day. I pointed out that the British were fairly busy at that time with urgent matters at home and abroad; yet it is clear that we did miss then our best opportunity for forcing Franco out. The Army, the argument continues, would withdraw its support from Franco, presumably with our agreement to let go into exile in the Argentine(if Peron would care to have such a symbol of failure about). But the Army would never call in the government-in-exile, waiting in Paris, made up of its enemies of the Civil War. Probably the support of British or American troops would be needed to plant this regime in Madrid, and in that case, as more than one of these illogical and traditionally zenophobic people admitted to me, they would fight us!
The best that the Spanish Army could be expected to do is to take as its leader the moderately liberal and highly-respected General Aranda, call the pretender Don Juan to the throne and support a new government of conservatives, liberals and, just possibly, the Socialist leader Prieto. I met Prieto during the San Francisco Conference and had a long talk with him, so I was interested to find that, due to his reputation for honesty and the fact that he had remained out of the government-in-exile in Paris and would have nothing to do with the Communists, he was by far the most popular of the exiled politicians.
To sum up, a left-wing monarchy is the new formula being discussed in Spain. It is obviously drawn from the examples of the British, Dutch and Scandinavian monarchies working smoothly with Socialist governments. Just as obviously, this is much too sensible and moderate a solution to be carried out by this impractical, passionate, poverty-stricken people, uneducated in its broad mass with no tradition of popular government and no successful experience in it. . They aren't going to change their character and leap from the 18th century straight into the 20th at the shout of the magic word "democracia."
There is no easy solution to the Spanish problem--so persistently before the United Nations these days--and I am inclined to think that the prospects for setting up a stable and progressive democratic regime in Spain are far less favorable today than when the Republic was proclaimed in 1931.