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


No. 792

Ref: Paris Embtel 2805, June 10; Deptel 2841 (to Paris), June 16; London’s Despatch 2589, May 261

Subject: United States Policy Toward Spain

Recent activities (as covered by the above references) of Spanish exiles are reason, I feel, for reiteration of some views previously expressed in Embassy despatches with regard to the importance or lack of importance, viewed from within Spain, of some of the more prominent Spanish exiles.

I’ve met Felix Vejarano and in my estimation he is little more than a sponger of the first water. He operates as a lieutenant of Gil Robles, yet a Spanish friend of mine, who is a very staunch Roblista and once a prominent Cortes member of C.E.D.A., never heard of him. Robles does not represent the Monarchists as such, although C.E.D.A. believed in monarchy. The Monarchists inside Spain are so multi-divided, except on the person of Don Juan, that no one inside or outside Spain can honestly claim to represent them all. Perhaps if it were abundantly clear that a given moment were opportune they might all, like sheep, follow some individual leader, but they are going to be sure there is plenty of butter for their bread—and they’ll have bread whether the poor worker has some or not.

Prieto has, with certainty, a substantial degree of acceptance as an exiled leader of the Left. Trifon Gomez, as Prieto’s lieutenant, probably has fairly wide acceptance. However, that acceptance may come largely from the fact that they are able, by reason of exile, to carry the torch, and anything except the Franco Régime would be preferable. But whether they would be ultimately accepted as leaders, returned to Spain, is not too clear. It must not be forgotten that the rank and file of Loyalist troops and supporters were, and many remain, bitter against their former leaders for having abandoned them, skipping out with the wealth of Spain. It is those who were left behind who have gone through the trials and tears of the post-Civil War years. I am not at all sure that any of these exiled former leaders would be accepted back as leaders or, if so, how long they would last. If change is to come it must come through internal development—either evolution, revolution or military coup d’état.

[Page 1564]

It is now six months since Judge Kee’s statement in the House2 and the Secretary’s letter to Senator Connally, both of which set forth American concept of relations with Spain and call upon Spain to walk in a path in closer proximity to the path followed by the Western Community of Nations. In those six months Spain has taken no steps in the desired direction, and there is presently no indication of intention so to do. Yet it is not only in Spain’s interest but in ours that she be oriented into the West, certainly economically and strategically. To that end I feel we might well re-evaluate our policy toward Spain with a view to presenting something more than the broad generalities contained in our public declarations.

In so doing we must take into consideration the government and the people of Spain, who and what they are. We must also from the outset realize that we should not try to, and cannot, make Spain in our own democratic image and that evolution toward our western concept of economic and political freedom will of necessity be extremely slow.

Spain is run today by men of second-rate ability, men whose vision is obscured by Spain’s glorious past. These men, in their thoughts and concepts, are as isolated from world thought as they are walled in physically by mountains and seas. Men of liberal thought and ability do not want to associate themselves with the Régime.

Men of ability and training in statesmanship, journalism, law—the things that make for government—are rapidly disappearing hi Spain. Ten years of dictatorship, plus three years of civil war, have laid a heavy toll on the development of men in the field of government and leadership.

There are two major tragedies in Spain. One is the backward, bigoted Church, whose concepts look to the building of Church treasures of gold and jewels and not to the social uplift and well-being of the people. The other tragedy is the utter failure of the Franco Régime to evolve in the direction of some democratic concept and toward a government which does not rest solely on the power and life expectancy of one man.

Franco is a Gallegan. This is in a sense a synonym for stubbornness. He certainly holds the whip hand in Spain today. He thinks he knows better than anyone else what is best for Spain and the Spaniards today. He listens to what he wants to hear, shuts his mind and ear to all other.

Fear and uneasiness characterize the Spaniard today. Economically he is in bad shape, so much so that he is more concerned over the [Page 1565] pure necessities of living than he is over existing political disabilities. There is greater criticism of the Franco Régime today than ever before. It is a criticism personified in Franco but not of necessity directed in toto against him personally.

The downward trend of Spanish economy is the excuse for greater economic regulation and control, and there is no end in sight, unless it be complete breakdown and some sort of surge which would carry to destruction the existing economic and probably political machine. Anything Spanish is explosive.

Spanish authorities have told me that political and economic evolution and liberalization can come only after economic improvement or rehabilitation, and that that can come only as a result of outside aid.

I make no suggestion of concession on our part to the frailties of the Spanish régime and the Spanish people. Those frailties cannot, however, be ignored. They must be considered in the overall concepts of our policy toward Spain. I am not, as I have written before, sure that we should allow Franco to do a Samson and pull the temple down not only on himself but on the Spanish people. The means by which such a development could be avoided are not easily found, nor, if found, certain. I do however think we should seek to find those means through the specific rather than the general.

Franco is the kind of Spaniard who likes to get into the movie without buying a ticket. He has certainly given no evidence of willingness to pay any price for admission to the West. In this he has had some encouragement in recent months from visiting congressional groups and other Americans who have rather glibly announced that Spain should be given economic aid, should be in ERP, MAP, et cetera, as well as more recent speeches and developments in the American Congress. As a result, Franco leans back with complacency and anticipates the world will come to him on his terms. Franco’s vision stops at the borders of Spain. Were he given a specific picture of what could and would be done for Spain were he to liberalize and modify his Government, the vista might be such that he would drop his complacency and pay the price of admission.

The difficulty is to define the price. We know, and Franco knows, that for some elements in Europe the price would be for him to cut his throat. Also, to outline exact changes and modifications within a foreign country runs head on with the question of interfering in internal affairs and might easily boomerang. Nevertheless, I suggest that such a procedure merits consideration.

Spain as a people and Spain as a geographic entity should be a part of the Western Community. If we were to accept her as she is today, she would be a political handicap of the first order and, as [Page 1566] such, probably would outweigh any geographic or strategic advantages. However, I understand that our defense authorities place real importance on the value of Spain.

Spain is, and has been since 1936, an emotional question. Our policies toward Spain, and those of France, Britain and other Western powers, cannot stand the scrutiny of comparison with our policies toward other dictatorial governments. I recognize that this is true in large measure because of public influences, and I also recognize that being no greater sinner than some other guy does not get one into the Kingdom of Heaven. Nevertheless I cannot see that world security is improving any and if Spain has any value in that security, I think we and the other powers of the West should get away from emotionalism and study the Spanish problem from a practical, even selfish, point of view.

Policies based on the elimination of Franco are not presently realistic, nor are policies based on early and effective steps requiring sweeping political liberalization. Hopes for change based on possible economic collapse or near collapse are built on a non-solid foundation. Spain has known economic hardship for centuries. As a peasant told me last winter: “Yes, we are hungry, but we’ve always been hungry”. To ostracize Spain is to run smack up against Spanish character. They’ll whistle throughout the dark night before giving in to external pressure.

Franco is a chess player, playing with the conflicting forces that are Spain today. He is not a man of world vision but he is honest and sincere in thinking that he knows best the interests of Spain. Many oppose him, many hate his guts, but he is the only Spaniard now available who can hold Spain together. Franco has support from many elements of Spain. That support can be just as negative as it is positive in some quarters but, either negative or positive, there is fear of the risk of the uncertainties of change. To the world Franco personifies the Régime. Not completely so in Spain. A great percentage of present opposition to the Régime would disappear if Franco had the vision to replace his present Minister of Industry and Commerce by a man of liberal economic policies in whom the Spaniard has confidence. Spain today, that is the business world of Spain, has no confidence in the conduct of the economy of Spain. That lack of confidence is because of the Minister, Sr. Juan Antonio Suanzes, and not directly because of Franco.

I repeat, our policy based on the elimination of Franco is not presently realistic. Our policy remains based on that concept so long as we maintain the position of amending the United Nations Resolution of 1946 and not its abolition. The entire preamble to that Resolution [Page 1567] is based on the “Franco Régime” and that so long as the Franco Régime exists, so and so cannot happen. Our proposals (Circular Airgram, June 3, 19503) with regard to action at the next UNGA with regard to Spain eliminate the operative provisions of the 1946 Resolution and leave the Preamble suspended in mid-air. I suppose it is not politically possible for us to support a resolution completely rescinding the 1946 Resolution. The Preamble still represents a United Nations condemnation of Franco and leaves a stumbling block to what I think is a possible solution here in Spain.

Any abrupt change in Spain carries revolutionary risks. The safe solution is evolution. So long as we spit in the eye of the guy who has it in his power to bring about evolution, we can expect little progress.

I hold little brief for Franco and less for the existing Régime. I doubt, however, if either is more objectionable than are to be found [in] some of the so-called republics in South America. I do not propose compromise, but if you are “simpatico” you can accomplish much in Spain. Such an approach to Franco could pay dividends in our own interest.

Paul T. Culbertson

  1. None printed; they reported on the activities of various Spanish exile leaders in London during the Foreign Ministers meeting and on subsequent approaches to the French Foreign Office and the United States Embassy in Paris (London Embassy Files: Lot 59 F 59: 350 Spain).
  2. For the text of Kee’s statement in the House of Representatives on January 9 advocating the renewal of full diplomatic relations with Spain, see Congressional Record, vol. 96, pt. 2, pp. 240 ff.
  3. Not printed; it asked 35 posts to ascertain the views of the governments to which they were accredited on amending the 1946 resolution on Spain to allow the return of Ambassadors to Madrid and allow Spain to join the specialized agencies (320/6–350).