The plan of action had been settled well in advance. I had had my “briefing” in Paris and there had been discussions about the programme and the route. With guides from the Republican underground to lead me, I was to slip across the Pyrenees without arousing the suspicions of the frontier guards. As soon as I was safely inside Spain. I was to contact the chief of one of the clandestine organizations, and, with his help, travel across the country to the three main centres of political activity—Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid. In these cities I would meet the representatives and leaders of all the different democratic groups and parties, the heads of resistance movements, and the committees which they had set up to co-ordinate the work of all the active opponents of the Franco régime.
My journey and my identity while I was in the country were closely guarded secrets. Until I had left, only five men—three in Spain and two abroad—knew who and where I was. When, after my arrival back in France, the story broke, the Spanish Government was taken completely by surprise. A bribe of 200,000 pesetas (about £4,500) was offered to anyone who would give information about how I had crossed the frontier. It was never claimed.
THE survival of General Franco’s Government in Spain two years after the end of the world war against dictatorship and fascism, is a paradox which neither his friends nor his enemies expected while that war was being fought. Certainly he did not expect it himself. For six years Allied leaders had assured the peoples of the world that they were fighting not merely in self-defence, not simply against the armies of Germany, Italy and Japan, but against the system of government which those nations represented. The destruction of all traces of the fascist way of life was to be one of their chief peace aims. It was for this reason that, after the war was won, the defeated enemy nations were not only disarmed and subjected to military occupations, but their former political institutions were ruthlessly and methodically destroyed.
Today only Spain survives: the last fascist state in Europe. Her régime, modelled on Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, and brought to power by the efforts of these two dictators, is still free to practice an ideology which the rest of the Continent overthrew in 1945. Its declared loyalty to the fallen dictators, the help it gave them, the troops it sent to fight with Hitler’s army—all these things have gone unpunished.
The dictatorship in Spain is not simply a Spanish problem for two substantial reasons. First: it was installed not by the people of Spain themselves, but by the armed intervention of the Axis Powers. The Spanish war was an integral part of the dictators’ onslaught against the democracies of Europe. The Spaniards resisted until they were overwhelmed. In their defeat they rightly saw the first Axis victory in an international conflict which started long before the invasion of Poland in 1939. Second: from 1939, until the final defeat of the dictators became certain, the Spanish Government formally ranged its self at their side, and committed a series of openly hostile acts against the democracies, at moments when such acts were most likely to contribute to their defeat.
No 5. Extracts from a confidential report on Spain submitted to a group of Members of Parliament.
1. I entered Spain on the night of August . . . and recrossed the French frontier shortly after dawn on August . . . During the interval, I visited Bilbao, San Sebastian, Madrid and Barcelona, passing through several small towns (including Burgos and Saragossa) on the way. I completed the arranged programme without incident.
2. The object of my journey was to talk to the leaders (or their representatives, where the leaders were in prison) of the various democratic opposition groups in Spain. I therefore did not see either monarchists or communists. I was careful throughout to make it clear that my mission was exclusively personal and informative, and that no member of the Government had any knowledge of my presence in Spain.
3. Almost all the representatives I met emphatically stressed the necessity of avoiding further bloodshed in Spain. They affirmed that, even were it a feasible proposition (which, owing to the strength of the army and police, it was not), they would still rule out any action that might precipitate a second civil war… .
9. It is my impression that unco-ordinated British contact with Republican groups and with royalist and military elements (sometimes by official or semi-official persons, sometimes by unofficial British citizens in Spain) has, in the past, sown mutual distrust among them. It has confused and hindered their attempts to reach agreement. I could find no evidence of any British “plan” to bring these people together.
10. On the other hand, recent British statements and actions have done much to stop the disintegration of the various elements now supporting the régime. There are potential quislings in the Government, the administration, the police, and even the Falange, as well as in the army. British policy since March 1946 has helped to unite rather than divide them.
11. For example: in my view, it was not primarily the closing of the French frontier which “solidified” the generals last spring, but their belief that the western allies had decided not to express their dislike of Franco in anything stronger than words. All those whose loyalty to the régime had wavered at the time of the allied victory and of the result of the British elections, now became convinced that there was no need, after all, for them to find a way of detaching themselves from the dictator.
12. British diplomatic intervention against police terrorism seems to have been very ineffective. During my own journey, 1 was personally (though indirectly) affected by a case where the police so tortured a member of one of the Republican organizations, that his removal to Madrid from San Sebastian gaol (which had been ordered by the Security Department “for further interrogation”) could not be carried out. This was not an isolated occasion. My impression is that police brutality is if anything getting worse, although our Embassy and Consulates ought now to be able to use their influence to protect Franco’s political opponents, at least from those “security measures” which even contravene present Spanish law.
13. These two practical complaints (i) that Britain is hindering rather than helping the achievement of unity against Franco, and (ii) that British protests against the police terror are weak and ineffective), together with a number of specific political disappointments, have resulted in increasing bitterness and disillusionment among Spanish democrats of all parties. British prestige has fallen very low. Though as yet Communist influence is extremely weak, there is a growing current of pro-Russian feeling, inspired by the (misguided) belief that Russia is the only great power actively friendly to the Republic.
14. Great harm has been done by two British arguments (used in various forms by His Majesty’s Government) which have been enormously exploited by Spanish Government propaganda: (i) That it is “for the Spaniards to solve their own internal problem”; (ii) that “economic sanctions would hurt the Spanish workers”. Almost every person I met protested hotly against both.
15. Without some outside advice, encouragement and help, the Spanish people cannot overthrow Franco’s police terror, any more than the Germans and Italians unaided could overthrow Hitler or Mussolini once they were firmly in the saddle. His Majesty’s Government, the Republicans believe, cannot be unaware of this elementary and obvious reality.
16. As for economic sanctions, I am personally convinced that the great majority of Spanish working people would gladly endure still further privations if they were the prelude to their liberation from the dictatorship… .
18. The 1946 Spanish harvest is the best for many years. Owing to the way in which food is distributed in Spain, however, there will probably not be much improvement in the diet of the working family. The black market—largely supplied from army sources-sells at prices well above their reach, and official rations cover only a small proportion of their weekly needs. Conditions in the Madrid slums reminded me of Greece just after the occupation.
19. I am at a loss to explain recent reports of Franco’s increasing popularity in the provinces. At San Sebastian l was able to observe at close quarters the fantastic security precautions taken to ensure his personal safety, and I can vouch for the utter inaccuracy of Spanish newspaper stories of his “enthusiastic reception by the population”… .
21. I have tried to confine this report to comments on what I saw during my visit. I left Spain even more anxious about British policy than when I arrived. I believe that if we took an initiative now, we could help to produce the necessary degree of unity among the elements of opposition and potential opposition to Franco to make possible, without bloodshed, a transition to democratic government. But if the present hesitation continues, His Majesty’s Government will not only lose whatever remains of its prestige among non-fascist Spaniards, but also make inevitable an eventual extremist solution, with all the dangers to the Spanish people and Great Britain which that implies.
Bé, ja sabem que no es va fer res.