How Russia Decides to Go Nuclear
Deciphering the Way Moscow Handles Its Ultimate Weapon
LAS RESPONSABILIDADES DEL ANTIGUO REGIMEN. BY CONDE DE ROMANONES. Madrid: Renacimiento, 1924.
ALFONSO XIII UNMASKED. BY VINCENTE BLASCO IBÁÑEZ. New York: Dutton, 1925.
POR ESPAÑA Y CONTRA EL REY. BY VINCENTE BLASCO IBÁÑEZ. Paris: Editorial Excelsior, 1925.
RENDEZ-VOUS ESPAGNOLS. BY JÉRÔME AND JEAN THARAUD. Paris: Plon, 1925.
EL NOVELISTA QUE VENDIO A SU PATRIA. BY EL CABALLERO AUDAZ. Madrid: Renacimiento, 1924.
ESPAÑA ENTRE DOS LIBELLOS. BY EL CABALLERO AUDAZ. New York: Publicidad Hispanica, 1925.
On September 13, 1923, parliamentary government in Spain made way for the military Directorate of General Primo de Rivera. Since then, so far as the outside world is concerned, our sources of information have been as unsatisfactory to us as that substitute for the constitution has been to Conde de Romanones. The press is heavily censored and the daily papers appear adorned by those smudgy blanks which are a souvenir of the Continental censorship during the Great War. The British press censor was more decorous and did not allow the newspapers to expose themselves in that unbecoming disarray, but Spain follows the Continental tradition in such matters. Very naturally, there has been a burst of pamphleteering, which offers us the only alternative supply of information.
The publications listed above are a typical selection. The only one which aims at a solid and reasoned presentation of facts is Conde de Romanones' weighty volume, "The Responsibilities of the Old Régime," and it, characteristically enough, has a title obviously aimed to catch the curiosity of the moment, which its contents do not. In order to illustrate this piece of ingenuity, I have translated the title literally. Actually, however, the book is not an indictment, as the word "responsibilities" would suggest, but an apologia, in which that word occurs in the sense of a rendering of accounts. "The Stewardship of the Old Regime," or "What the Old Régime Accomplished" would more truthfully describe the author's material and his object, which is to clear the rulers of Spain of the charges of corruption and gross incompetence which have been freely brought against them, and to which confirmation is added by the drastic abandonment of constitutional government. As a law-abiding, liberal, and patriotic Spanish statesman, Conde de Romanones feels that both the arguments used to justify the dictatorship and the accusations of its opponents are a serious and unwarranted reflection upon the governments which were entrusted with the welfare of their country for the fifty years from the Restoration in 1875 to the coup d'état of 1923.
The author's method of combating the belief that constitutionalism is bankrupt in Spain is to make a survey of what has been accomplished since the Bourbons, in the person of Alfonso XII, were restored to the throne of Spain in 1875. This survey is statistical in the extreme, and apologetic where figures fail. Ten chapters are devoted to the following topics: The Foreign Policy of Spain, The Army, The Naval Power of Spain, The Judiciary, The Social Problem in Spain, Education, Central and Local Government, The Development of Economic Life, Public Finance. Needless to say, the statistics under all of these heads indicate increases in every department of Spanish life. If the increase in the number of ships entered and cleared, the number of schoolhouses built, the minerals mined, the kilometers of railway constructed, the street cars running, the passengers travelling -- if these tables could bring the blush of shame to the unconstitutional cheeks of the Directorate, and awe Catalan separatists into loyal acquiescence, then the future would be bright.
Unfortunately, all is not gold that increases, or rather it is gold that no longer glitters. The Spanish-American War cost Spain 1,969 million pesetas, and ten years in Morocco has cost 2,204 million. The total for military expenditure between 1875 and 1923 reaches nine thousand one hundred and eighty-five million, eight hundred and ninety-one thousand pesetas (9,185,891,000), a sum which drives Conde de Romanones to the use of capitals. And even then he tells us to add supplementary credits for the years 1909-1923 amounting to two hundred and eighty-eight million, one hundred and twenty-three thousand (288,123,000) pesetas. The return upon this investment, he points out, is the loss of Cuba, Porto Rico and the Philippines, the disaster of Melilla in 1921, and a generally disadvantageous position in Morocco. As the only figures, among a great many, which are set in large type and are further emphasized by large capitals are those relating to the army, one may conclude that Conde de Romanones wishes to insinuate that military gentlemen are not supremely gifted for the tasks of wise and frugal administration.
Apart from his statistics, the author is not so definite. Usually he ends his chapters with less conclusiveness. He asks the reader, very reasonably, to admit that some progress has been made, and then concedes that things might have been better, but, after all, it is human to err. For example, this is his summing up in the chapter on improvements in the administration of the law: "After all that has been set forth, can it be said that, so far as the matters related in this chapter are concerned, the Spanish people has remained stationary since the Restoration and untouched by any notion of progress? I have no hesitation in saying that such a statement would be notoriously unfair. But it is none the less certain that, in spite of the efforts to improve the administration of justice, the latter is not what it ought to be, for reasons which are not due exclusively to politics, but are rooted in the conditions of the social environment from which those charged with the administration come and where they must exercise their functions." In another place Conde de Romanones traces the history of the Spanish navy and concludes: "It must be admitted that fate has been against our navy, and it is impossible to struggle against fate." In his chapter on the finances of Spain he shows "a progressive and uninterrupted increase in the expenditure and an almost permanent deficit, but at the same time a continuous increase of revenue." From this contrast he concludes that "the economic evolution of the country is satisfactory," but there is "defective management," which "is not at all surprising in view of the political vicissitudes through which Spain has passed in this interval." In other words, one turns to this book for some clue to the vicissitudes of Spanish politics and one finds that everything is progressing beautifully except for the vicissitudes aforesaid.
"It is impossible to struggle against fate," and the fatality which dogs Spain, according to Conde de Romanones, as well as lesser commentators, is nothing more or less than the Spanish people! The governments and the political parties must not be blamed. Their good faith and patriotism were beyond question, whatever the advocates of dictatorship may say, but what could they do in the face of the much vaunted docility of the Spanish people? "This collective docility is not a matter of temperament, but a state of mind; it is the political reflection of spiritual inertia and paralysis of the will; above all, it is the domination of egotistical impulses." He complains that there is no national ideal, and no public opinion. "Nations without a public opinion have inefficient governments. And this is one of the most obvious and far-reaching errors of the authorities, their obstinacy in crushing public opinion, in preventing its free expression."
To the vacillating indifference of the general public Conde de Romanones attributes the failure of Spain to side with the Allies during the late war, and he recounts his efforts, both in office and out, to keep Spain by the side of the Powers with which her interests in Morocco were involved. Spanish foreign policy was, he felt, dictated by the agreements with England and France in regard to Morocco, so much so that, as he reports, the German Ambassador at Madrid offered to guarantee Spain additional territory in Morocco, in return for her cooperation with the Central Powers. But the Spaniards were not interested in the Moroccan adventure, a policy of no entanglements was adopted, with the result that, when the Germans were on the point of surrendering, fifteen days before the Armistice, the Spanish authorities were still unwilling to challenge what they deemed a powerful opponent. Spain was isolated when peace came, and "for the first time since the Peace of Westphalia . . . a general peace was about to be concluded and a repartition made of the map of Europe without the cooperation and the more or less effective intervention of Spain."
Conde de Romanones went to Paris in the hope of doing something to counteract the effects of Spanish neutrality, which had been "to diminish the international personality of Spain, making it possible for Europe and the United States to settle problems which, nevertheless, concerned her." The state of the national mind, he asserts, was duly reflected in the attitude of the various governments, irrespective of party, and "to charge Parliament and the politicians with what was due to lack of nation idealism is to confuse cause and effect." The reasons for that state of mind are complex, but "it is very easy and possibly effective to trace them to a few men in politics, as has been done ever since September 13." Conde de Romanones does not see in this evasion of the difficulties any solution to Spain's problem. "Militarist régimes and dictatorships conflict with the spirit of the times, which is increasingly inclined towards self-government, within constitutional and parliamentary limits. Even Turkey, which closes the Eastern end of the Mediterranean as Spain opens its Western end, has chosen this road. To take another is to make a serious mistake, which contravenes our constitution and prevents Spain from taking her part in the work that is hers, in the concert of world Powers."
What prospects of restoring constitutional government are offered by other commentators? Blasco Ibáñez needs no introduction as a powerful publicist, but the indifference with which his pamphlet "Alfonso XIII Unmasked" has been received is the measure of the futility of the opposition to the Directorate. In "Por España y contra el Rey" that brochure and two others, as yet untranslated into English, have been collected. As a sentimental republican of long standing he is assuredly entitled to seize this opportunity of outlining the Spanish republic of his earliest dreams without being accused of mere opportunism. Blasco Ibáñez had such visions long before he beheld the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But his activities on behalf of his ideal are so largely submerged in laborious efforts to prove that Alfonso XIII was pro-German and that Primo de Rivera is fond of wine, women and song, that it is permitted to wonder what he is really after. Since neither of these charges will damage the gentlemen in question with their subjects, willing or unwilling, it was inevitable that he should be accused of "selling his country," to quote El Caballero Audaz. The latter is a journalist second only to Blasco Ibáñez in newspaper fame, and like him the author of novels more vigorous than artistic, and his pamphlets merely turn the tables by proving irrelevantly that the Blasco Ibáñez pot is calling the Primo de Rivera kettle black.
The one illuminating piece of journalism which throws a presumably impartial light upon Spanish conditions is "Rendez-vous Espagnols," by Jérôme and Jean Tharaud, the distinguished French novelists who have made literature of their descriptive journalism in the Near East and in Eastern Europe. As the authors of "Le Chemin de Damas," "Rabat, ou les Heures Marocaines," and "Marrakech, ou les Seigneurs de l' Atlas," the brothers Tharaud were naturally interested in what was happening to France's neighbor in Morocco, so in the spring of 1925, having spent the winter in Fez, they proceeded to investigate the situation in Spain. Their brief and vivid little book is a record of what they saw and heard. Minus the statistics, it really tells in eighty pages what is essential in the three hundred and sixty of Conde de Romanones.
Having outlined the tragic disaster of Melilla as the prelude to the coup d'état, and explained how the Directorate was welcomed as the only alternative to anarchy, so long as it lasted only the three months provided in such emergencies by the Spanish constitution, they put their first question: how did the King come to acquiesce in the violation of a constitution which he had sworn to uphold? "How did this descendant of Charles V and Louis XIV, who found it difficult, by all accounts, to submit to the restraints that a parliament puts upon the royal initiative, learn to tolerate the tutelage of a Primo de Rivera, which ought apparently to be very much more irritating than that of an elected assembly?" And they report the answer of His Majesty in terms which have something of the inconsequential gravity of Conde de Romanones uttering his apologetic epilogues: "You are surprised, I suppose, that we have been living for twenty-two months in defiance of all the rules of constitutional government. Frankly, however, did you notice, when travelling in Spain, that we were living in a state of siege, under a military tyranny? In foreign papers I read that our Directorate is shooting and imprisoning people, that police terrorism prevails everywhere. Is that your impression? Life here is going on as usual, and I do not mind saying that I know few countries where the police are less troublesome than here. You can stop calmly in the middle of the street to chat with your friends, without being ordered immediately to move on by a polite but firm policeman. After midnight you can have as many drinks as you like in the cafés -- which is more than you can do in New York or London, those strongholds of liberty. In Madrid you can shout, yell and sing until five in the morning, if you want to."
The authors declare that, after this demonstration of liberty, the King displayed none of that bitterness visible in the eyes, at least, of the politicians when they contemplate life without a constitution. His Majesty further declared that bandits and strikers were extinct, and that as soon as the political parties showed signs of regeneration the destinies of the people would once more be entrusted to them. "But up to the present the party leaders show no disposition to renounce their old prejudices, personal quarrels, and parish-pump politics, and to rally to the ideal for which the Directorate stands." To this ingenuous demand the Tharauds replied that they could not see "how Spain will ever free itself of a dictator." Whereupon the King, in the approved manner, retorted that the Spaniards are not like other people. "In this country we do not yet possess that sense of public life so familiar to the French and English. Strictly speaking, we have no public opinion." Primo de Rivera, he added, was engaged in creating one. The absence of a public opinion, which Conde de Romanones described as the difficulty in the way of enlightened government, is claimed by the Directorate as a positive proof of its wisdom. "Is not this peaceful acquiescence, this perfect calm which you have observed everywhere, a plebiscite which tacitly gives its daily vote to the Directorate?"
The King finally points out that the problem goes far beyond Spain. "The great question to-day is whether parliamentarianism is capable of defending the existing order against sovietism. Italy was the first to see that it was not. In her turn Spain has found the same thing. Who knows if to-morrow other nations will not also be compelled to set themselves above the law for a time?" Whereat one can picture Conde de Romanones quoting his figures on industrial movements and showing statistically that the menace of Bolshevism in Spain is illusory. The Tharauds merely conclude that a king who does not like to be controlled by parliament will not object to being controlled by a soldier in an army of which he is commander-in-chief, if he believes that it is for the good of his people. In polite language this is the gist of whatever is serious in the fulminations of Blasco Ibáñez.
When the authors come to that soldier, so violently denounced by the novelist, they forgive him his weaknesses of the flesh with Gallic tolerance, and view him as a gambler with destiny no less than with cards and horses. So far as he is concerned, things are working out splendidly. He has solved the Morocco question by retreating and refusing to hold the Spanish Zone in the Riff, and the fact that this attitude coincides with the general public indifference to the Moroccan adventure and redounds to his popularity is of more importance to the General than the complications which have ensued for France. To the Tharauds, naturally, the situation seems different, and they regret that neither Alfonso XIII nor his dictator seems to be aware that Spain has compelled France "to hold a line of 400 kilometers in order to protect ourselves against tribes which Spain, according to the treaties, should police." They do not argue, however, with Primo de Rivera, but listen politely to his account of how Catalonia has been calmed, how communism has been stamped out, and the nation showered with the blessings of good government. They are a trifle sceptical, in spite of the apparently submissive attitude of the people, but they do not doubt the General's faith in himself. "His optimism is not assumed. It is the optimism of the gambler who has good nerves and believes in his luck."
In Conde de Romanones they find a supporter for their view of the Morocco situation, and the Count's prognostications concerning Abd-el-Krim have proved sounder than those of the military expert, who was certain that the Riff would be quiet. This is their picture of the Liberal leader: "A small, lame man, with a dislocated hip, . . . a huge, crooked nose, on which are several warts, and a toothless mouth, he looks like a picture by Goya. Add to all that an amazingly brilliant mind, full of kindness and malice, and you have Conde de Romanones, former Prime Minister, and leader of the Liberal Party in Spain. Further, he is an important business man and the largest taxpayer in Madrid." He is devoted to the monarchy, but thinks the King is too intelligent, and that he tries to exercise that intelligence instead of "peacefully remaining a constitutional monarch." Granted the deceptive docility of the Spanish people, the dictatorship follows, but "if we have no public opinion, irresistible currents sweep our people along," and it is as unsafe to assume that liberty to stay on the streets until five in the morning will satisfy Spain indefinitely, as to deduce long life for the Soviets from the analogous docility of the Russian moujik.
"We could not help thinking," the Tharauds conclude, "of the immense gap between this very modern mind and the mass of the Spanish people, which he himself described as crude and backward, with the instinctive qualities of those races which are still untouched by modern civilization. What does that world of Spanish rustics, who have the mentality of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, care about the loss of those liberties at which this Liberal grieves?" These people adore the King with medieval fervor, and "the monarchy alone has created and still maintains the unity of the country." Conde de Romanones and his friends imagine in all good faith that "there is no salvation for their country outside parliamentarianism. But this may be an illusion." And as they accompany him to an exhibition of Spanish national costumes, marvelling at the color and diversity of local taste, they realize what a constitutional Liberal means to Spain. "He simply added another costume to the collection: the top hat and frock-coat of the British Member of Parliament."
Although not elsewhere expressed with that humor, the same idea runs through all of this literature, except the ideal republic of Blasco Ibáñez, which consists merely of that type of political argument where whatever is not shall be, because voting will make it so. Internationally, as Conde de Romanones admits, Spain was losing ground and prestige through causes which the present régime accentuates. In domestic affairs the conditions upon which the Directorate relies for its continued existence are, again on the admission of its opponents, the conditions which made the coup d'état possible. Alfonso XIII, Primo de Rivera, and Conde de Romanones reiterate -- and outside witnesses like the Tharauds agree -- that there is no coordinated and articulate public opinion, therefore a dictatorship provokes little resistance, and that little, by the very terms of a dictatorship, can carry even less weight than in normal times.
The English-speaking world looks with an almost religious respect at the institution of representative government, and we are inclined to shake our heads over those who are unworthy to bear that honorable burden. The fact, however, remains that, on their own showing, Italy and Spain, the two chief Mediterranean Powers, have had to dispense with the blessings of constitutionalism for reasons which, however distorted in controversy, are fundamentally the same in all versions of the situation. So we must fall back on our own dictum: a nation gets the government it deserves.