The Chargé in Spain (Culbertson) to the Secretary of State


No. 330

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Embassy’s despatch no. 262 of May 23, 1949, in which I sought some clarification of just how we presently stand in our policy toward Spain. In the possibility that a restatement of policy is under consideration I submit the following [Page 751] comments for such interest, if any, as they may have to the Department.

I recognize that realism and consistency in the formulation and conduct of foreign policy are not easy of complete realization. Political reasons, domestic or foreign, emotional considerations and many other factors contribute to the state of affairs. Another factor I recognize is that anyone discussing policy toward Spain in any other light than that of damning Franco is subject to attack by some elements at home as condoning or supporting all the practices and forms of the present Spanish régime, many of which stink to high heaven and are repugnant to our own democratic concepts. However, I am not a supporter of the idea that we should base policy on the concept of molding the rest of the world in our own democratic image. It would be fine if the nations of the world could thus be molded, but peoples the world over are not the same and won’t mold the same. Certainly not the Spanish.

Stable democracy in Spain is a possibility only in the indefinite future. Past efforts at democracy have produced instability and chaos. These people, high or low, do not know the difference between liberty and license. In probably no other country is individualism more pronounced than in Spain. Anarchism has had its greatest success in Spain because of this. It is, and has been, the characteristic of all Spaniards to object to or criticize whatever government is in control at any given time. They have always had pretty sound reasons and they now have sound reasons, but historically the present Spanish régime is no worse than its predecessors, and with them I include the last Republic with its chaos, disorder and repression.

Internal Spanish objections to the Franco régime are however quite different, in most respects, than our objections. For instance, our objection to the Régime because it was helped to power by our recent enemies—Germany and Italy—plays no part in Spanish objection. On the other hand, Soviet assistance to the Republic is an element supporting Franco. We do not like Franco himself but here in Spain Franco as an individual has less opposition than the Régime. As an example: Spain’s economic difficulties are laid at the doorstep of the Minister of Industry and Commerce1 and not on Franco’s. Monarchists object to Franco not so much because he is a dictator but because they feel Franco did not keep faith with them, they having fought with and supported Franco during the Civil War because they thought they were fighting for the restoration of the Monarchy. Another factor, and an important one, with regard to Franco is that while there is opposition and objection to him, there is no majority desire to see [Page 752] him thrown out on his neck because there is no visible alternative that could assure internal security.

We find religious intolerance in Spain repugnant to our democratic concepts. It is repugnant but when attacks are directed against that intolerance, they should be directed against the Spanish people and not against the Franco régime. The Homer Bigarts and others who keep this question stirred up at home do not draw that distinction. Franco is not to blame for all the things that are wrong here in Spain and, while he himself is a devout Catholic, there is no indication that he or his régime members support that old inquisition spirit found in the Spanish Catholic Church and among the people. From the standpoint of religion the Spanish church and people are bigoted and backward. Franco may be a dictator but he would never get by with any crusade on behalf of Protestants. So, on religion I think we should give the devil his due.

Political repression and persecution in any form or degree go against the grain of American ideas and we therefore object to that side of the Spanish régime. We are more conscious of and impressed by this repression and persecution because of the Fascist origins and trappings of the Regime. Spain is a police state and, as one prominent Spaniard remarked the other day, it “is a country occupied by its own Army”. However, the vast majority of the Spanish people are little, if at all, affected by repression and persecution as practiced today. The peasant, the laborer, the clerk and on up the line are more concerned today with the actual problem of living than they are with the establishment of political liberties such as we know them. It is the economic situation in Spain and its economic inequalities that are of greatest importance today to the individual Spaniard and, I suppose, our basic interest lies more in the welfare and wellbeing of the people of Spain than in the individual who happens to be at the head of the State at any given time. The refusal of material aid to Spain punishes the Spanish people, not Franco and his cohorts or the rich. There are lots of very hungry folk in Spain today, and there are going to be more before the end of the year.

I assume that our broad policy toward Spain continues to rest on our desire to see Spain integrated economically, politically and militarily into the Western community of nations. To that end we expect Spain to take steps, more or less undefined, which would make her eligible for membership. In this connection we should frankly recognize that liberalizing measures adopted by Franco which might satisfy the United States would not, because of that fact, of necessity satisfy France and Great Britain. Probably would not, in fact, but even so are we in a position to indicate what conditions must be met by Spain? [Page 753] Habeas corpus and trial by jury were indicated by the Secretary in his statement to the press on May 11. Neither of these conditions takes into consideration Spanish legal history or practice. Conditions not equally applicable to all nations are not easily defended. And I do not mean by that that just because Franco may be a bit less of a sinner than someone else he gains entrance into the Kingdom. As the Department knows, I have talked liberalization to these people but without success. The tragedy of Spain is that Franco takes no measures of an evolutionary character, and without evolution revolution is possible, and, in the event of Franco’s death, I think probable. One would think that Franco, if he is honest and I think he is, would see that. However, he is stubborn and provincial, and so long as the nations of the world continue openly to condemn him he may do a Samson and pull the temple down on himself. There is probably no problem any more difficult than one involving a desire to help a people who won’t help themselves.

In so far as our position in the United Nations on Spain is concerned I think we should either fish or cut bait and that the decision reached should be based on our own interests. As I have said before, when someone can answer how come France and Great Britain can do as they please with Spain bilaterally without political difficulties at home but are unable to do anything multilaterally, especially when it involves the United States, I will be inclined to take more seriously their efforts to influence our United Nations position on Spain. It is my hope that the position adopted prior to the abstention decision, based as it was on sound and not emotional reason, will be readopted and that when the Spanish question comes before the UNGA it can be finally done away with as a question before that body.

Respectfully yours,

Paul T. Culbertson
  1. Juan Antonio Suances Fernández.