Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Director of the Office of European Affairs (Hickerson)

Participants: Dr. Salvador de Madariaga1
Mr. John D. Hickerson, Acting Director, EUR
Mr. Paul T. Culbertson, Acting Deputy Director, EUR
Mr. Samuel Reber, Acting Chief, WE
Mr. Outerbridge Horsey, Division of Western European Affairs

At the suggestion of Mr. Francis B. Sayre,2 Mr. Hickerson received Dr. de Madariaga. Mr. Hickerson said that Mr. Acheson3 had expressed great interest in knowing Dr. de Madariaga’s views but regretted that pressure of work, particularly on the Greek situation, made it impossible for him to see him. Mr. Hickerson invited Dr. de Madariaga to outline his views on the political situation in Spain.

Dr. de Madariaga thought that, from the point of view of the Spanish people only, the longer Franco continued in power, the better. The Spanish people had so often resorted to civil war during the past century that they ought to learn the hard way the evils of that practice. However, from the point of view of the Western powers, particularly vis-à-vis the USSR, the continuation of Franco in power was a disaster. This situation prevented the completion of an Atlantic system of security; it continued the economic stagnation in Spain since the US was prevented from extending economic aid to the Franco regime; and in addition, there was the propaganda advantage to the USSR of placing the Western powers on the defensive by picturing them as defenders of fascism and reaction. The last thing the USSR wanted was the replacement of Franco by a moderate regime. Dr. de Madariaga thought that what was strengthening Franco was not the fact of the USSR attacking, but the fact that the US and UK hung back and were obviously opposed to international pressure on Franco. This enabled Franco to say to the generals, on whose support he must rely, that the Anglo-Saxons did not really want to get rid of his regime.

As to the means of getting rid of Franco, the first and most important step was a determination on our part that Franco must go, and that all the means necessary to accomplish that end would be employed, [Page 1063] including the use of force if necessary. For example, an embargo on petroleum and cotton exports to Spain would, he thought, be immediately effective. But before taking coercive action, we should send a secret emissary of international standing, such as Winston Churchill, who would speak for the UK and the US, and who would communicate to Franco the decision that he must go. At the same time, the Army chiefs would be told of our decision and of our intention to use all necessary means. We should not, however, lay down the details of what kind of Government should follow Franco. That would be resented by the Spanish people. We should confine ourselves to a statement of certain general principles which, if followed by the new government, would enable us to support it economically and politically. For example, we should specify that the government should rest on the consent of the governed and that it should guarantee fundamental freedoms. We should not, however, enter into details on the forms, as for example, whether suffrage should be universal or direct, etc. To do this would be to create resentment. Success depended on not arousing political passions in Spain as the activities of other political exiles were constantly doing. The initial approach to Franco should be secret and should include arrangements for his own personal safety. If the secret approach failed to produce results, the pressure would become public and would be continued until the objective had been achieved.

As to the form of the new government, Dr. de Madariaga favored the restoration of the Monarchy under Don Juan. Since it was the Generals who would hold effective power upon Franco’s departure and since they were opposed to the idea of a republic and favored a monarchy, the latter was the logical form to expect. He had talked with Don Juan and believed that he would be a sound constitutional ruler. Moreover, Dr. de Madariaga thought that the sooner Don Juan came in, the better. He thought that, without the stabilizing influence of the Monarchy, there was the risk that the period of preparation for elections would degenerate into chaos. He thought that an interim group of mixed Republicans, Monarchists and Generals, all acting, as it were, in their personal capacities [would?] have great difficulty in commanding allegiance and maintaining order. Moreover he thought that it would be hard for such a group to accomplish the delicate task of bringing back political exiles and reintegrating them into Spanish life. He thought the superior authority of the Monarchy was important for this purpose. He thought that, in the elections, the Monarchy would meet with the approval of the majority of the people. Under the Republic, the popular following of the Right and Left had alternated on a 40%–60%, 60%–40%, 40%–60% basis and he thought that [Page 1064] the pendulum had now swung in favor of the Eight so that the Monarchy would probably get 60% or 70% of the vote. Dr. de Madariaga thought that many Republicans would be willing to support the restoration of the Monarchy. The CGT [ UGT?] and CNT (labor federations under the Republic, now outlawed, but maintaining clandestine organizations) had both agreed to suspend strikes for the duration of the interim period until elections had been held and were apparently not averse to having the Monarchy in power during this interim period provided there was to be opportunity for a free choice between the Republic and the Monarchy in the elections.

Instead of an interim government representative of all political complexions, Dr. de Madariaga favored interim rule by two or perhaps three persons. The “two” would be a Republican and a Monarchist and the “three” would include a supporter of Franco. This latter scheme, if suggested to Franco, would put him “on the spot”, for he affects to have popular approval. Moreover, it would have the result of dividing the vote of the Right between Franco and the Monarchy, thus favoring the Republic in the eventual elections. However, Dr. de Madariaga recognized that neither the Spanish Left nor opinion abroad would look with much favor on the inclusion of Franco on the ballot.

Economic and political support of the interim regime by the Governments of the US and UK would be an important element in its success.

Mr. Hickerson said that, although in England there was a general attachment to the Monarchical principle, that was not the case in the United States, as Dr. de Madariaga well knew. Accordingly, public opinion here would not be predisposed in favor of the immediate return of the Monarchy. We would take no action influencing the choice of the Spanish people. A Monarchy could look for active economic and political aid from us, only after it had received approval in public elections.

As to the strength of the Communist Party in Spain, Dr. de Madariaga was not sure how it was now. In any case it was useless to fight that type of totalitarianism with Franco’s type of totalitarianism. Our interests required the development of healthy political conditions in Spain.

Concluding the talk, Mr. Hickerson thanked Dr. de Madariaga for a most valuable exchange of views and assured him that they would be brought to the attention of Mr. Acheson.

  1. Salvador de Madariaga, Spanish historian and diplomat; Ambassador to the United States in 1931, and to France in 1932–1934.
  2. Formerly Assistant Secretary of State; on February 28, 1947, he was sworn in as United States Representative on the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations.
  3. Dean Acheson, Under Secretary of State.