311. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Head of Spanish Republican Government-in-Exile Calls at the Department


  • Senor Don Felix Gordon Ordas, President of the Council of Ministers of the Spanish Republican Government-in-Exile, Paris, France
  • Senor Don Jose Asensio, Delegate of the Spanish Republican Government-in-Exile in the United States, New York, New York
  • Mr. Raymond A. Valliere, WE
  • Mr. Frederick H. Sacksteder, Jr., WE

Sr. Gordon Ordas came to Washington and called on the Spanish Desk to give his views on the current situation in Spain and on the plans of the Spanish Republican Government for the post-Franco period. Sr. Gordon Ordas is completing a six and a half months’ tour of the Spanish communities in South and Central America and will return to France next week. The appointment was made by telephone from New York by Sr. Asensio on the basis of prior informal visits to the Desk by Sr. Gordon Ordas and other exiles.

During a meeting of nearly two hours’ duration, the Prime Minister of the Spanish Republican Government expounded his views on the current situation in Spain and on the Republican Government’s position with regard to a succession to General Franco. In Sr. Gordon Ordas’ opinion, the collapse of the Franco regime is imminent. United States assistance cannot prevent the fall of Franco’s house of cards as opposition to Franco and disgust with his regime are universal in Spain. Therefore, the Spanish Republican Government-in-Exile is busy preparing for the moment when Franco disappears. Sr. Gordon Ordas said that active efforts were being made to bring together the various opposition Republican parties in a broad political coalition supporting a minimum program. This program will include the formation of a provisional government representing all non-Communist anti-Franco forces. This coalition would agree to assume power and then call elections to determine whether the Spanish people desire a republic or a monarchy. Franco’s 1947 referendum on the restoration of the monarchy is considered invalid by the exiles because it presumes to restore a monarchy by divine right rather than by the explicit consent of the people. Sr. Gordon Ordas said that he, himself, would remain an opponent of the monarchy. He believes that the vast majority of the Spanish people will vote for a republic, that this is known to the Monarchists and that for this reason the Monarchists reject free elections.

Sr. Gordon Ordas said that the Franco regime was being kept in power by two things: First, the fear of many Spaniards that any change will be accompanied by violence because of the pent-up hatreds of the Spanish people resulting from the brutalities of Franco’s police state; and second, the fear of the conservative forces and the profiteers of the Franco era that they will be held to account for their actions during the past two decades. However, Sr. Gordon Ordas said, these people need have no fear for the Exile Government was motivated by a spirit of conciliation and forgiveness, not by one of vengeance and retribution. He said that the Republican Government would not establish peoples’ courts or military tribunals. The enemies of the Republic would be tried by duly constituted courts under civil law and would be accorded all the [Page 725] guarantees of the constitution. Sr. Gordon Ordas said that the President of the Republic in Exile, Sr. Martinez Barrios and the members of the government all abhorred violence and wished to avoid bloodshed. He said they were all convinced that Franco could be deposed without a shot being fired. Such was his unpopularity today. Although Sr. Gordon Ordas did not so state, it was clear that he believes a third factor keeping Franco in power is the United States’ interest in bases in Spain and its economic aid to Spain. In this connection, he said that, although he did not seem to realize it, the Republican Government was a truer friend of the United States than was Franco. He remarked that Franco, like the Soviets, was a dictator and a tyrant and that these two had more in common than did Franco and American democracy. Sr. Gordon Ordas said that, in his opinion, Spain was not threatened by Communism. The Spanish Communist Party was an insignificant group which had had a limited recent appeal to young people who were tired of Franco and wanted to see a change. Many of these young people, he said, had been attracted by Communism because of the following reasoning: “I hate Franco; the United States helps Franco; the Communists hate the United States so I help the Communists.” The danger of the Communists, according to Sr. Gordon Ordas, lay in the fact that they alone had unlimited means at their disposal and that only their message of hatred for Franco and for the West was getting through to the Spanish people. Their apparent ability to do things was likely to appeal to the young.

When asked how soon he thought the opposition forces could unify, Gordon Ordas replied that there was still much to do. So far, he said, only the exile Republicans, the exile Socialists, headed by Llopis at Toulouse, and the non-anarchist faction of the CNT (National Confederation of Labor) had agreed to the program. However, he was confident that in a few months general unanimity could be obtained. He tended to dismiss all other opposition groups as inconsequential.

Gordon Ordas said that it would be in the interests of the Western democracies to support the opposition cause. In so doing, they could redeem their past error of having recognized Franco’s totalitarian regime. Gordon Ordas said that the Spanish Monarchists had forfeited their rights as a result of the 1931 municipal elections, which led to the abdication of the Bourbons, and the Republic was the only legitimate government of the Spanish people. It had not been defeated in a civil war, he stated, but only temporarily overthrown by a military revolt which succeeded solely because of the massive support of the German and Italian armies. For this reason, the Republican Government could not recognize the 1947 referendum and demanded a proper election before a monarchy could be restored.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 752.00/5–759. Confidential. Drafted by Sacksteder.