The Chargé in Spain (Butterworth) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 16—9:53 a.m.]
301. Moscow’s 328, February 4 , 11 a.m. [3 p.m.]. The able and detailed analysis of Russian Communist desiderata in Spain, repeated to Madrid, has been informative and helpful to this Embassy. Not only does the explicit question posed in the last two paragraphs require answer but the telegram as a whole, touching as it does obliquely or directly the more essential questions of the Spanish problem, calls for comment at this important moment in Spain.[Page 1039]
On the specific question of potential Communist strength in a Spain wrecked by another civil war, recent history cautions against too quick a presumption that it could not become predominant. Present Communist forces in Spain, distrusted and shunned by Republicans and hunted and persecuted by Franco regime, are certainly small numerically. They were also small in 1936–39, but nonetheless succeeded in winning a position within Loyalist ranks vastly out of proportion to their numbers. Communism as such conflicts harshly with the Spanish national character, with its marked anarchistic tendencies and rugged individualism. But it is that same intense individualism which cripples most open political parties, thereby leaving Communist discipline and organization a wide open political field in any time of violent crisis.
On the general question, the more important considerations at this time are the following:
- To amend Marx’s dictum slightly, a specter is haunting Spain. But it is the specter not so much of Communism as of civil war; in the Spanish mind the latter is definitely the more immediate issue and the more frightening reality. Although the average Spaniard who professes to little familiarity with Marxian dialectics or even the Russian brand of Communism, does have a profound aversion to “Communism” arising out of its role in the Spanish civil war, his fear thereof is more than anything else fear of violence and bloodshed. Hence the top question on Spain’s political agenda is not whether Communism would triumph after another civil war, but whether another internal conflict must occur putting that question to the test. As the Embassy has repeatedly stressed in its despatches, it is the will of almost all categories of Spaniards to avoid more bloodshed; and [no?] single fact plays more directly into the hands of Gen. Franco than the argument that precipitate change means another 1936. Therefore, to the very extent that Extremist elements on the Left, especially among the exiles, suggest their willingness to engage in a trial of force and to win their political objectives by conquest, to that same extent do they fortify Franco’s position and the status quo.
- The fact that the Potsdam decision is considered, according to Moscow’s telegram, as “a distinct success for Russia” is noteworthy. It is especially so because this is precisely the way in which not only the Falange and Franco but a wide section of Spanish opinion interpreted the declaration. The point to be emphasized, as was stressed in the Embassy’s despatch 996 October 8, 194522 is that, for Spain, a vast gulf lies between the effect of an indictment of the present regime for its character and practices and of an indictment of the Nationalists as [Page 1040]the victors in ’39 of the civil war. While the first line of attack assists and impels to action moderate forces working for peaceful change, the second course drives them back into their ’39 roles as mere allies of the victorious Franco. Obviously, it is the second approach which Communist policy hopes the western powers will take for two reasons: (a) because by pushing Moderates closer to Franco and to the extreme Eight, this automatically means that the center of political gravity among Franco’s opposition will move steadily leftwards, with the prospect of eventual Communist predominance; and (b), this same course multiplies the possibilities of violent strife, at which time the discipline and organization of Communist ranks can display themselves to best advantage, with the consequent claim to right of leadership of “democratic” forces.
- It is also significant that the large political objectives of Russian Communism in Spain, as set forth in Moscow’s telegram under reference, could scarcely be said to coincide with the interests of the western powers. One Russian objective, the use of Spain to flank France and Italy and to establish Russia as a potent Mediterranean force, runs head on into primary British interest in Spain, as well as against our own desire to save western Europe from becoming a turbulent area of conflict with bitter economic and political struggles for power. A second Russian objective—penetration of South America through a Communist dominated Spain—is certainly difficult to interpret as a companion-piece to our own Pan American policies. These divergences, if not conflicts, of long range national interest are not suggested here for their own sake but because they are pertinent to the immediate Spanish problem. If we recognize that the national interests in Spain of Britain and ourselves and Russia are distinct and unsimilar, it will follow that our respective views on appropriate solutions for the internal Spanish problems must logically possess differences. These differences should be marked:
- The essential difference, I believe, lies in the fact that whereas civil strife in Spain may admirably serve Communist interests, it can serve neither our interests, or those of Great Britain or Spain. As for the Communists, it is entirely possible, in fact likely, that their only road to political success runs thru a Spain in violent and bloody upheaval. It is natural and reasonable that they should welcome such a course. It is equally natural and reasonable that we should not. Our rightful interests can be projected on two scales: (one) a stable, representative regime in Spain governing a country at peace with itself and the world; the other is the larger picture of a European continent where all our efforts are dedicated to reestablishing or assisting the reestablishment of the processes of orderly govt and economic progress. [Page 1041]Thus defined in either Iberian or European terms, upheaval on this peninsula, at a moment when equilibrium in neighboring countries seems little more than a perilous balance of contending forces, means jeopardizing both our immediate and long range interests.
- Another vital difference distinguishing our interests from those of Russia in Spain is the fact that a Communist state is inexorably compelled by ideology to wage open war on Moderates or Conservatives (as defined by Communists). This is not an exigency binding on a Democratic power. With regard to Spain specifically, it is necessary to recall that throughout the elections during the 5 years of the Spanish Republic both Right and Left were so evenly matched as to alternate in power. Hence there is no more reason to suppose that a “Leftist” Spain would be more united than a “Rightist” Spain. It is, of course, true that the term “Moderate” or “Conservative” (particularly in Latin countries) may be exploited by intransigent reactionaries (at heart anti-Democratic) just as it is true that “Liberal” or “Leftist” (particularly in Latin countries) may be merely the political alias of ungovernable revolutionaries (at heart anti-Democratic).
- So long as peaceful evolution toward a united and liberalized Spain continues to be our objective, we must be realistic enough to accept the fact that successive and partial steps are not only necessary but an integral part of a process of peaceful change; certainly not the first and perhaps not even the first half dozen steps will bring what we would consider ideally healthy political conditions and the victors of a bitter and hard fought civil war will certainly not in one fell swoop renounce political power, which in the given circumstances is their security, to those who were vanquished. Furthermore, there is no more likelihood of obtaining in Spain by sudden means “a representative and democratic govt” such as was indicated to Ambassador Cárdenas as one of our immediate desiderata (Dept’s 259 December 20, repeated London 10981, Paris 597823) than there is of wiping out by fiat the bitterness engendered by 3 years of civil war. To pay the price of peaceful evolution in terms of time (during which no doubt there will be pressure group agitation in the US) is nevertheless the only means of fostering here an effective sense of political responsibility. If another republic should be precipitated into power in a set of conditions where order could not be maintained and good govt thrive, it would destroy the possibilities for democratic rule in this country for decades.
- Furthermore, the strong forces at work making for change need not be underestimated. Franco not unlike other wartime heads of state is now being held responsible, without the benefit of wartime [Page 1042]excuses, for conditions in this country. Not only is he under pressure of critical world opinion taking concrete form in Spain’s exclusion from the UNO, Bretton Woods and other internal organizations of the postwar world, but he is faced with the hostility of the majority of the Spanish people and with economic and financial problems of grave dimensions. These are powerful corrosive forces that are at work.
- In these circumstances I believe that it would be shortsighted and imprudent to make any public statement now as to our ultimate political desiderata for Spain such as mentioned in London’s 806, January 23.24 Any such statement necessarily would deal with long range ideals or objectives. Having once made such statement, we would be compelled to use it as the inflexible yardstick on which we would have to measure the worth of any evolutionary or transitional regimes arising in Spain. Yet we know beforehand that, measured on such a yardstick, any such regimes are certain to fall short of our proclaimed standards. By indulging in a public statement today, we will only bind our own hands tomorrow and find ourselves unable freely or helpfully to deal on an ad hoc basis with the situations most likely to confront us.
Repeated Lisbon 19, Paris 94, London 96 and Tangier as 11. Paris please relay to Moscow.