Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
I. THE MILITARY DIRECTORY
IN the great painted hall of the Ministry of War on September 15, 1923 -- two days after the coup d'état -- General Primo de Rivera announced that within a few weeks he expected the Spanish people to designate capable citizens to whom the duties of administration might be confided. General elections were to be held forthwith, and the electors, unfettered by allegiance to any political group, were to pronounce their will. It was not his intention to undermine the Constitution. Responsibilities in all branches of government, civil, military and judicial, were to be strictly exacted. Former ministers were to be tried. In particular, the Foreign Minister, Señor Alba, was to be arraigned for his conduct in negotiating commercial treaties with the United States, France and Great Britain which were judged criminal. These were a few of the first-hour announcements, never fulfilled. Thirty days stretched to a hundred, a hundred to a thousand, -- and general elections are as far off as ever.
Marquis de Alhucemas, outgoing Prime Minister, wrote to General Primo de Rivera that he desired his trial to take place as soon as possible. It was never begun. Within three months of the scathing denunciation of the commercial treaties and the alleged illegality of the rebates contained in them (they exceeded the 20 percent stipulated by a basic law), General Primo de Rivera had negotiated a commercial treaty with Italy which contained even greater rebates than any granted to the United States, France or Great Britain by Señor Alba. Was this mere cynicism? Rather would it seem that General Primo de Rivera by adapting his conduct to realities was rapidly acquiring the flexibility which is so necessary in the conduct of public affairs. There is an apprenticeship for dictators as in other activities of life.
The first-hour reforms in the Administration, so spectacularly undertaken, soon fizzled out. The wives of functionaries were not long in getting back the use of their husbands' official motor cars and the lobbies of the Ministries were soon as full of loafers as before. General Primo de Rivera could only build with the material to hand, which remained the same. Pronunciamentos may change the names of things but not their nature, and Spanish characteristics are tenacious.
The first efforts of the Military Directory were heroic. Every act of administration was centralized in the hands of nine generals and one admiral, the youngest 47 and the oldest 63, who in turn hardly dared breathe without consulting General Primo de Rivera. But before the year was out (December, 1923) the suppressed posts of under-secretaries at the Ministries were reestablished and the strain on the Directory relieved; also the anxiety in the departmental offices.
One of the first resounding acts of the Directory was to dissolve the 9,254 municipal corporations existing on Spanish territory, so as to bring home to the remotest villages the fact that a new broom was being wielded energetically. The Royal Decree ordered that committees of tax-payers should immediately elect new municipal authorities. They did so, with surprising results. A young lawyer, whose inattention to duties at the Ministry of Public Works where he was a clerk had made him one of the victims of the Directory, found himself installed as Mayor of Madrid, first magistrate of the capital. At Barcelona a professor of Greek was placed at the head of the city's affairs. Very soon these gentlemen had to be removed, which proved, apparently, that the judgment of tax-payers could not be trusted. Thereupon the system was reversed. The alcaldes (mayors) were chosen by the Directory and appointed without reference to the tax-payers. Beside them were set up in each district army officers, dubbed Military Delegates, deputed to act as counsellors of the mayors and inspectors of the new local life. By this measure supreme authority, centralized in the palace on the Castellana Avenue in Madrid, headquarters of the Directory, completed its own line of communications out to the smallest hamlets, quite apart from the regular administrative channel (mayor, prefect, home minister). The Military Delegates saw to it that orders from Madrid were promptly obeyed, and when municipal bodies were requested to send in their accounts, liquidated up to date, there were quite a number of suicides of Municipal Secretaries who found it impossible to comply.
It took six months for General Primo de Rivera to discover the realities of the situation and make the changes necessary to meet them. The Directory was only settling into the saddle for work when the Moroccan problem took an acute turn.
It will certainly be recognized as one of General Primo de Rivera's best qualities that whenever a difficulty arose he faced it boldly and took all the responsibility for handling it. Therefore, when it became apparent that General Aizpuru, High Commissioner in Morocco, was not equal to his task, that the famous Sheriff Raisuli was a broken reed instead of the mainstay of order in Djebala, that the Spanish Expeditionary Force was in danger of disaster, General Primo de Rivera did not hesitate to assume the command in Morocco himself. He transferred his headquarters to Tetuan in September, 1924, and the first anniversary of the Dictatorship passed in somewhat depressing circumstances. The Spanish army in the Western Zone was in full retreat. Two hundred posts were abandoned with much loss of military stores and armament and numerous casualties in killed and wounded. Raisuli, too ill with dropsy to ride and too stubborn to allow himself to be moved, remained behind in his mountain fastness at Tazrut.
Thus the Directory entered upon its second year with few or none of its early promises fulfilled. At home, its chief administrative achievement had been to promulgate on paper a new Municipal Law which it had not had the courage to bring into force. Across the Straits the problem of the Protectorate had become more embarrassing than ever.
During the first year, nevertheless, two things had become apparent. In the first place, the Directory would have to remain in office far beyond General Primo de Rivera's first previsions. Second, no serious opposition to the Directory was to be feared. No party relished the responsibilities of the Moroccan situation. Secretly the enemies of the Directory hoped that Morocco would prove to be the rope with which the Dictator would hang himself.
In assuming command at Tetuan without relinquishing leadership of the Government, General Primo de Rivera followed the precedent created by General O'Donnell in 1860. After an interval of more than half a century the same causes were producing the same effects and a mere Moorish chief was challenging once more the high destiny of Castille. Like O'Donnell, Primo de Rivera was to vanquish the Moor, but, as will be described later, he was also bent on a final solution of the Moroccan problem as it affects Spain. His determination on this point is one of the main guiding principles of his policy.
During the second year of the Dictatorship, General Primo de Rivera remained almost constantly at Tetuan. Abandoning Sheshauen, he extricated the columns from the hills of Djebala and brought them back behind a strongly fortified line named the Primo de Rivera line, stretching from the French Zone near Alcazar round to the mouth of the Rio Martin on the Mediterranean. This line was essential to cover the territory of the International Zone of Tangier. Behind it the Spanish Army could await events.
This prudent policy undoubtedly caused the eventual undoing of Abd-el-Krim, for after several prolonged attempts to break the Primo de Rivera line, which held even when a rebellion of the Anjera Tribe threatened it from the rear, the Riffi leader gave up the struggle. Finding his plans for capturing Tetuan and Tangier frustrated, but desirous of maintaining the initiative in attack, the importance of which he seems to have recognized, Abd-el-Krim sought a new front and committed the fatal mistake of attacking the French posts on the northern heights of the Ouergha valley. Owing to its initial success Abd-el-Krim's attack on the French accomplished what statesmen and their treaties had failed to bring about, namely a practical agreement for cooperation in the mission common to both countries in Morocco. But before the Madrid Conference in June, 1924, laid the foundations for the Franco-Spanish military entente some perilous moments were to be passed and many obstacles overcome.
While the fighting was proceeding on the Primo de Rivera line the Tangier International Statute was being negotiated at that town within sound of the guns. Failing to get Tangier included in the Spanish Zone, General Primo de Rivera endeavored to obtain compensation in the form of an extension of the sovereign territories round Ceuta and Tetuan, from the original narrow limits out to a radius of six miles. In this also he failed, though he secured from the Sultan (France) facilities for water supplies for Ceuta and Tetuan from inland springs. Finally the Spanish delegates signed the Tangier Statute at Paris early in February, 1924. An official note explained that the Spanish Government only acceded at the last extremity. The efforts at present being made by the Spanish Government to reopen the Tangier question demonstrate that General Primo de Rivera is tenacious and that when he gave way in 1924 he was but stepping back to get a run to jump further at the next opportunity.
At the beginning of 1925 the tussle between the Directory and the intellectuals came to a head with the attacks of Blasco de Ibañez on King Alfonso. From the first the strict censorship over newspapers and political meetings was greatly resented by the Liberal intelligentsia. Don Miguel de Unamuno, ex-Rector of the University of Salamanca, made himself the champion of free speech. His political speeches and writing became so objectionable and even libellous that he was exiled to the island of Fuenteventura in the Canaries at twenty-four hours' notice. The "Ateneo," a debating and literary club in Madrid, was closed down, except for its library which was left open to the public. These measures echoed abroad. Gabriele d'Annunzio sent out a ringing message to Liberal Youth in which he said that "the entrails of the horses disembowelled in the bull-ring seem less sinister than the sanguinary brains of Spain's imbecile leaders." It was an attempt to raise another légende noire about Spain, such as was created over the Ferrer case in 1909. It failed completely owing to the bloodless character of General Primo de Rivera's "tyranny." Señor Blasco de Ibañez' aeroplanes appearing over Spanish towns strewed his pamphlets in vain. If the foreign campaign achieved anything it was to stir up the patriotic feelings of the Spaniards.
On March 20, 1925, a new Provincial Statute was promulgated. Because it maintained the division of Spain into forty-nine provinces it was a great blow to Catalonia; it was the formal repudiation of the promises General Primo de Rivera had made when seeking support for his coup d'état. On September 13, 1923, General Primo de Rivera took with him to Madrid the sympathies of the Regionalists who in Catalonia represented the mass of the population. The Separatist Catalans are really very few, but they are noisy and active. The early measures of the Directory confounded Separatism with Regionalism, and prohibition of the Catalan language in churches, as well as of traditional songs and dances, created great resentment. Former Governments had granted to the four Catalan provinces the faculty of associating their forces for the purposes of local government (schools, roads, etc.). The organization resulting from the amalgamation, called the Mancomunidad, had flourished exceedingly. Its university in Barcelona rivalled that of the State and it maintained technical schools and laboratories. When the Provincial Statute was promulgated the Mancomunidad was abolished and the labor of ten years of "Regionalismo," as distinct from "Separatismo," all but destroyed. The professors from the Mancomunidad institutions went to swell the ranks of the disgruntled intellectuals.
While striking with might and main at what he considered pernicious manifestations of Separatism, General Primo de Rivera never ceased to proclaim his sympathies for Catalonia and its laborious population. His vigorous rule kept labor agitators quiet and after a few summary executions of criminals caught red-handed the notorious Barcelona pistolmen vanished.
While seeing to it that peace reigned in labor circles, General Primo de Rivera was careful to keep up the high tariff protection that Catalan industry needs. He thus kept on excellent terms with a section of Catalan opinion. The wealthy manufacturers of Catalonia, with the help of funds voted by the Municipality, built and offered a new palace to King Alfonso. Pedralbes, a villa in the Italian style, was inaugurated with great pomp early in June, 1925, by the royal family. A special train had been provided to bring the diplomatic corps as well as the Court to Barcelona. It was therefore unfortunate for General Primo de Rivera's assumption that all was right in Catalonia when an elaborate plot was discovered to blow up the Government and royal train in a tunnel. The persons incriminated were not common criminals. Although the trial was kept secret, enough evidence leaked out to show that the crime contemplated was prompted by political motives, and that Catalan nationalist fanaticism was at the bottom of it. General Primo de Rivera, however, did not flinch; he continued to visit Barcelona and on one of these visits a second attempt to assassinate him was made by a fanatic. While this is being written he is again at Barcelona, and the King holds court at Pedralbes.
The summer of 1925 kept General Primo de Rivera busy in Morocco. By June, Abd-el-Krim's march on Fez had been checked and the French military authorities had the situation in hand. The lost territories and prestige had to be recovered, however, and for that purpose Spain's coöperation was precious, not to say imperative. A certain section of opinion in Spain had seen the French reverses, if not with pleasure at least without distaste, thus corresponding to the attitude of a part of French opinion when the Spaniards were in difficulties. Luckily more generous and statesmanlike views prevailed in high quarters.
When the Franco-Spanish Conference met at Madrid in June, 1925, the task before the delegates was delicate; but it was approached in a spirit of friendly collaboration. "We are called upon to lay the foundations for a Franco-Spanish entente," said General Gomez Jordana, a member of the Directory, elected chairman of the Conference. Coördination of military effort, solidarity in the presence of the enemy, a loyal union covering common interests, were the principles that governed the Conference and enabled a solid basis for the military entente to be laid. On July 26, the agreement was signed that proved Abd-el-Krim's doom. The next day Marshal Pétain and General Primo de Rivera met at Ceuta and the latter took the hero of Verdun to his Headquarters at Tetuan where, at the foot of the frowning hills of Beni Hozmar, the military coöperation of France and Spain was sealed. At the same hour a French naval division steamed into Santander Bay and saluted the royal standard flying over the Magdalena Palace.
While vigorously attacking the French, Abd-el-Krim engaged the Spaniards with peace talk. He found General Primo de Rivera quite willing to envisage peace seriously, but former sad experiences with Raisuli's duplicity placed the Spaniards on their guard, and they required guarantees. While the Madrid Conference was sitting, Señor Echevarrieta, a Bilbao mine-owner who had been the intermediary for the ransom of the prisoners of Annual, proceeded to Alhucemas Bay in his yacht and had an interview with Abd-el-Krim in the gorgeous-hued tent taken from Raisuli. The Moorish chieftain proved unbending; his terms were preposterous. Evidently there was nothing for it but the sword.
At the end of August, Marshal Pétain and General Primo de Rivera met again at Algeciras, and a Spanish disembarkation at Alhucemas Bay was discussed. General Primo de Rivera had made every preparation for this operation; transports were ready, operation orders had been worked out in detail. The capture of Abd-el-Krim's headquarters at Ajdir, where he had inflicted untold indignities on Spanish prisoners within sight of the Spanish flag on Alhucemas Island, had been from the Spanish standpoint one of the main objects of five years' campaign since the Annual disaster. Marshal Pétain urged that the landing should take place before the autumn equinox, and promised French cooperation, but the Spanish General Staff reported unfavorably and the chief of that body was no less than Captain-General Valeriano Weyler, holding the highest military rank after the King.
The landing was undoubtedly in the nature of a great adventure owing to the treacherous nature of the coast, the Levanter winds, the prowess of the enemy and the difficulties inherent to all disembarkations on a coast defended by trenches and cannon. The Primo de Rivera lines were strong. It was proved that the enemy could be held at bay indefinitely. Why, then, vary a policy that was giving satisfactory results? But General Primo de Rivera was bent on a final not a temporary solution of the Moroccan problem. He went to San Sebastian to inform the King of his resolution to attempt the landing and returned to Morocco to carry it out. He sailed from Spain at the head of over a hundred vessels, of which 32 were Spanish warships and 18 French, placed under his command, a proof of confidence and an honor he greatly prized. On September 8, 5,000 men were landed with only 50 casualties at Cebadilla Cove outside the western horn of Alhucemas Bay. When the Riffis rallied there was some stiff fighting, but on October 1, Ajdir was in flames. The beginning of the end had come for Abd-el-Krim.
During General Primo de Rivera's year at Tetuan his colleagues of the Military Directory had become restive, and now pressed upon him the advisability of forming a civilian cabinet, representing that the first step for a transition back towards constitutional rule was long overdue. On December 3 the change took place. But the President of the Military Directory on becoming Prime Minister of a civilian cabinet remained no less a dictator than before. Instead of a military, a civilian and economic dictatorship was in office. In one respect, however, there was a great difference between the new cabinet and the Military Directory; whereas the Generals took decisions in common and only had one channel of communication with the King on one hand and the administrative departments on the other, each new minister was responsible for his department and submitted all necessary Royal Orders for signature directly to the King.
In choosing collaborators General Primo de Rivera searched for new blood for the departments where the administration had to be lifted out of secular routine -- Finance, Public Works, Foreign Affairs and Labor. He placed tried officers at the War and Navy offices. Justice and Education were given to nominees of the Patriotic Union, the Party which he had created and upon which so much was to depend under the new régime. An important innovation was the appointment of a Vice-Premier, in the person of General Martinez Anido, the staunchest supporter of the Directory, who was also made Home Minister. (It is important to remember that the Home Office has under it the Civil Guard, a horse and foot constabulary distributed all over Spain.)
The change-over took place quite smoothly. When the Military Directory was dissolved, a Royal Decree publicly thanked all ranks of the Army for the support given to the military régime but warned them that they must abstain from all participation in politics in the future. The new press censor ( the same Lieutenant-Colonel as before, but in mufti) loosened his grip for a couple of days. Immediately the press began to murmur. "What forward step is this," the Madrid Sol asked, "in which Ministers replace Generals without any essential modification of the dictatorial régime?" The hand came down again.
As the foregoing rough summary shows, the Civilian Cabinet took over a situation well in hand. The Generals had accomplished no great reforms but they certainly had paved the way for their successors and handed over an administrative machine that had not suffered in their care. Much useful work had been done -- roads had been mended, Municipal Councils had been encouraged to improve their cities and towns and given the wherewithal to do so, a new railway statute had been passed enabling the companies to obtain State financial aid, conditions of land tenure had been improved and a system of agricultural credit organized. The Generals of the Directory got into touch with the remotest districts in Spain and took the King to visit regions where royalty had never trod, such as the Val d'Aran, a strip of Spanish territory on the north side of the Pyrenees which had no means of communication with the mother country during the winter months. In the course of the general revision of laws the Directory found that 300,000 Spaniards living in America were exiles, having emigrated from Spain before fulfilling their military service: a pardon was granted to them. Few aspects of public life escaped the attention of the Directory.
II. THE CIVILIAN DICTATORSHIP
General Primo de Rivera is surrounded by collaborators in whose initiative he trusts.
The High Commissioner in Morocco, General Sanjurjo (created Marquis Malmusi), carried on the campaign in Morocco in close liaison with the French, brought the operations against Abd-el-Krim to a successful conclusion, and subsequently patrolled the Spanish Protectorate from end to end.
Señor Calvo Sotelo, Finance Minister, has the heavy task of preparing a Budget not only securing new revenue to meet the chronic deficit but also resources to provide for the huge expenditure required by vast plans of economic development. The Military Directory reduced the deficit to 567 million pesetas in 1924-1925 and renewed some 2,000 million pesetas worth of short-term floating debt for five year terms instead of one or two year terms. But the definitive funding of this large sum, besides finding the new revenue necessary, presents a serious problem. The Minister recognizes that it is necessary to shift the incidence of taxation. According to figures compiled in his Department, income from land estimated at a gross 10,000 million pesetas only yields the State 180 million pesetas. Taxation weighs far too heavily on the working section of the community. For new revenue the Cabinet counts largely upon the expenditure on public works proving remunerative and increasing the revenue-bearing power of the country by at least 25 percent in five years. Protection of national industries is very generous; those already established enjoy a tariff protection which is almost prohibitive to foreign imports, while new industries receive loans at a low rate of interest and in some cases are even guaranteed interest on their capital and given exemption from taxation.
Count Guadalhorce, Minister of Public Works, is putting into execution plans conceived on a grand scale. His program, covering an initial period of six years, is based on the ultimate capitalization of the annual expenditure grants to his Department should funds not otherwise be forthcoming. A sum of 300 million pesetas are estimated for the re-making of 4,000 miles of roads so that they may be fit for heavy motor traffic. For the railways, an expenditure of 2,500 million pesetas is expected to suffice to complete the present system by building 3,176 kilometers of national railways, besides 4,089 kilometers of regional and 1,877 kilometers of local lines. The plans also include the laying of double tracks where necessary and the electrification of traction over the steepest gradients and where traffic is most intense. Count Guadalhorce's plans are on the grandest scale in regard to hydraulic power. He is endeavoring to organize water resources by grouping them according to river basins. A conspicuously successful beginning has been made with the formation of the Ebro Hydraulic Confederation, in whose hands are concentrated all irrigation works, dams, power-stations and concessions concerning water on one-seventh of the soil of Spain. The Ebro scheme would ultimately irrigate 5 million acres and produce 1,725,000 h. p. instead of the 300,000 h. p. produced by the Ebro and its tributaries at present.
These great plans for economic development greatly benefit Spanish labor. They also offer extraordinary opportunities, not only to Spanish but to foreign groups, on the condition that the companies formed be Spanish. An American group, constituted into the Compañia Nacional de Teléfonos, secured from the Military Directory two years ago a monopoly to take over, rebuild and exploit the whole telephone system in Spain. The venture, much criticized at the time, has so far proved eminently successful, the telephone service having been vastly improved and extended. Foreseeing extensive electrical developments, German firms are forming national Spanish companies; a famous British firm of locomotive manufacturers has already done so. General Primo de Rivera may claim that he has already effected a wonderful change in the Spanish industrial outlook.
The Cabinet's optimistic economic policy may strike many rocks. The prolonged drought this summer has ruined the maize crop in north-west Spain, made the olive crop a poor one, and impaired the wine crop. This means that maize will have to be imported from South America, and that there will be reduced sales of olive oil and wine. The bumper harvests of the last two years contributed to the improvement in the exchange value of the peseta, and procured more revenue for taxation. Now comes a lean year to mar a rosy picture. Nor is it certain that the administrative machine will prove equal to the burden placed on it. Great Government contracts running into many millions of pesetas require an iron administration to avoid abuses.
Though it encourages home industries, Spain's new policy is affecting old-established relations with other nations. Great Britain, who purchases from Spain nearly double as much as she sells her, is hit by the Spanish restrictions on coal and steel importations. The dumping of French products is prevented by depreciated exchange coefficients. The trade of the United States with Spain, which greatly increased in recent years, is threatened by the imposition of higher duties on motor cars and by the extension of cotton growing.
General Primo de Rivera has handled Spain's foreign policy as energetically as her home affairs. His first venture was to take King Alfonso and the Queen to Rome. Several beaux gestes were made there. King Alfonso was the first Spanish sovereign to visit Rome since the Risorgimento. Facing the Quirinal, he stood proudly in the presence of the Pope and offered to lead a crusade. General Primo de Rivera fraternized with Mussolini. This voyage had some practical results. Although His Holiness disregarded certain privileges which King Alfonso claimed for Spain -- and even for South American prelates -- and although Italo-Spanish commercial coöperation has not proved feasible, nevertheless the visit of the Dictator resulted in a treaty being signed in Madrid last August which quietly created a new situation in the Mediterranean. This treaty, known as the Pact of Madrid, provides for arbitration in case of a dispute, and stipulates that either party shall remain neutral in case the other is the victim of unprovoked aggression. Both Rome and Madrid state that the Pact of Madrid does not interfere with the obligations of Spain and Italy in connection with the League Covenant. (Since signing the Pact, Spain has withdrawn from the League.)
But Morocco is the focus of interest in the understanding between the two Dictators. General Primo de Rivera seems determined to obtain Tangier for Spain or to seek some means of relinquishing the Protectorate. In a public statement made a few weeks ago he said:
"My only diplomacy is sincerity. . . . It is an injustice and an error to exclude Tangier from the Spanish Protectorate. It shows a lack of confidence in Spain's capacity to administer it or in her loyalty to keep it neutral in an eventual contingency. After seventeen years' effort in Morocco, after passing the test of a difficult neutrality during the Great War, after having sacrificed thousands of lives and millions of pesetas, Spain is not asking too much of the nations concerned to agree to the inclusion of Tangier in the Spanish Protectorate and to entrust its administration and the maintenance of its neutrality to Spain. If we do not succeed in this it will be a question whether, seeing that the honor of our arms has now been brilliantly vindicated, it is worth our while to continue expending treasure to contribute to maintain in international Tangier a focus of intrigue and a base for the re-armament of the tribes. . . . Those who do not see the problem in this light are blind and will weep for their error, for it will not be long before Tangier gives rise to grave international difficulties."
There can be no doubt that General Primo de Rivera is in dead earnest when he uses such language. His foreboding -- it can hardly be called a threat -- is in some respects strange, for it may be asked what can Spain do but merely retire? The Franco-Spanish Treaty of 1912 provides what shall happen if Spain relinquishes the Protectorate; her rights are not alienable; they devolve on France. The integrity of the Shereefian Empire is guaranteed. The point is, however, that for Spain to retire would alter the territorial status quo in the Mediterranean, which would give Mussolini the opportunity he seeks.
What would best suit Spain's interests in every way would be the realization of General Primo de Rivera's contention formulated as early as 1917: "Ceuta for Gibraltar, and to Hell with the rest of the Spanish Protectorate." Doubtless the Dictator (who, as Military Governor of Cadiz, was punished severely for making the speech containing this proposal) has not changed his mind. Unfortunately, the British Admiralty objects to the exchange. Although Italy cannot help in the removal of Gibraltar nor take over the Spanish Protectorate Zone, it must be remembered that Ceuta, Melilla and the Peñones (Alhucemas and Gomera) are sovereign territories. Should Spain abandon the Protectorate what use would these establishments across the Straits be to her any longer? In abandoning the Protectorate she would be cutting her losses and ceasing to throw good money after bad. Could she retrieve some of the treasure sunk in Morocco by the sale of her remaining rights on the inhospitable coast she would be doing a stroke of good business. What price Melilla and Ceuta? It is a question that might well be asked by Spain. Would there be offers? Would not Italy first have to break the agreement regarding Lybia before she could make one?
The complications suggested by the very definite manner in which General Primo de Rivera has posed the problem of Tangier in relation with the Spanish Protectorate are many, for it seems almost inevitable that Spain will refuse to be satisfied with any concessions France and Spain alone can grant. Should the impending tripartite conversations between France, Spain and Great Britain fail, a conference of the signatories of the Treaty of Algeciras (which regulates the present position in Morocco) would be unavoidable. And how could thirteen Powers meet without issues other than Tangier being raised?
In some quarters the suggestion has been heard that Spain be granted a mandate over Tangier under the League. Such a course would once more introduce Germany -- now a League member -- to the Moroccan scene. This would be a violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Tangier still has wonderful possibilities as a political hornets' nest.
Spain's withdrawal from the League appeared inevitable from the moment her claim for a permanent seat was stated crudely and definitely. The League Council could not give way; Spain would not. From the first Spain was in dead earnest and had deliberately determined to withdraw rather than surrender. The manifest inexperience of the young Foreign Minister at Geneva may have impressed other nations unfavorably, but the determination to go through with Spain's claim was made over his head. It was a spectacular if somewhat clumsy manifestation to the world that Spain had cut all leading-strings. It was executed chiefly with a view to impressing Ibero-America and demonstrating that the mother-land could be as independent as any of her daughters.
It seems probable that having made her little scene and shown the Powers that she can do what she likes, Spain will graciously take the next opportunity of re-entering the League; this may arise before she has really left, seeing that the formalities of withdrawal are wisely spread over two years. Spain, indeed, owes a great debt to the League, because her early coöperation (which was sincere and effective while it lasted) has been the ladder up which she climbed out of a long period of international isolation. Moreover, there is in the country a section of public opinion, inarticulate at present owing to the censorship, but of considerable proportions, which disapproves very strongly of the withdrawal and bitterly criticizes Señor Yanguas, General Primo de Rivera and the King.
By the closing of the Cortes the King's voice in questions of foreign politics has gained in weight. Being Dictator as well as Prime Minister, General Primo de Rivera has no Foreign Affairs Committee or debate in the House to give him a cue or counsel or support. It must all be done "off his own bat," and it is known that King Alfonso and the Dictator settle such matters between them, though General Primo de Rivera must constitutionally take all the responsibility. If things turn out well this will be all right, but should the Dictatorship fail a question of Responsibilidades would arise beside which the 1923 question (which figured so largely in the causes of the coup d'état) would be child's play. So much of the Constitution has gone overboard that it may be difficult to fix a dividing line between the responsibility of the Prime Minister-Dictator and that of the King.
The Spanish monarchy is a co-sovereignty exercised by the King and the nation. The nation's organ of expression is the Cortes (Chamber of Deputies and Senate) and to the King the Constitution confided the "obligation" of seeing that a Cortes should always be in existence with a maximum interval of three months. King Alfonso has disregarded this injunction of the Constitution, though he was solemnly reminded of it by the ex-Speakers of the Cortes. By violating his oath to guard the Constitution he is therefore directly responsible towards the nation.
Such is the constitutional question. Liberal and Liberal-Conservative opinion in Spain never rallied to the Military Directory and still refuses to coöperate with the civilian Dictatorship owing to the position taken by General Primo de Rivera and the King in this matter of the Constitution. The General seems to be seeking a path out of the impasse. When the artillery revolted and he felt acutely the necessity of having the nation's unanimous support, he hastily promised to convoke a national assembly of three hundred representatives. The peril passed. The convocation of the assembly became less pressing. Constitutionalists are inclined to see in the plan an indication that the Dictatorship intends to reform the Constitution before restoring it. What the Liberals fear is that General Primo de Rivera and the King are feeling their way back towards an absolute monarchy.
Should free elections to the National assembly be permitted the Liberals would get a chance of raising an opposition voice openly instead of being obliged, as at present, to resort to clandestine propaganda. But if the deputies were merely nominees of the Dictatorship, appointed from among the members of the Patriotic Union, the situation would be unchanged. The Patriotic Union Party at present occupies somewhat the same position as that formerly occupied by the Caciques, or bosses. The Union's organ, La Nacion, is the mouthpiece of the government. Its nominees work hand in glove with the Mayors, not one of whom has as yet been freely elected as provided by the Municipal Statute, promulgated by the Military Directory more than two years ago. Other provisions of the Statute are in force, but not those granting political liberties. Under these conditions it was easy for the Patriotic Union, when organizing the so-called plebiscite on the third anniversary of the coup d'état, to gather in six million names; they were not votes, still less signatures. Nevertheless the result represented the undeniable fact that General Primo de Rivera is popular with the majority of his countrymen, most of whom prefer to be governed than to have the trouble of themselves taking even an indirect part in public affairs. In fact, they really are not prepared for it, seeing that nearly 50 percent of the nation are still illiterate. The provincial districts, which contributed most heavily to the plebiscite, are precisely those where the percentage of illiterates is highest.
The main problem is not so much "to rouse the nation" as to rally to the support of the reforms as many of the best brains as possible, and to make them collaborators in educating the rest. The Dictator's great misfortune seems to be that he has thrown into opposition against himself personally many of the most valuable elements of Spanish society.
Vis à vis the army, contradictions are also observable in General Primo de Rivera's position. He is popular and unpopular. He undeniably has increased the efficiency of the army and raised its prestige abroad. Comandante Franco's flight to the Argentina and the Madrid-Manila flight carried this message round the world. Rank and file acknowledge that in the field he saw to it that his troops were well found in everything that money could procure. His strategy in Morocco was well conceived and his plans carried out firmly and thoroughly. But it was his determination to do justice to those who distinguished themselves in the campaign, by instituting promotion by merit, which led to the recent artillery revolt.
The Artillery Officers' Corps represented a survival in the Spanish army of privileges elsewhere long suppressed. Recruited mostly among the aristocracy, the artillery officer was a representative of caste. Years ago, as a protest against favoritism the artillery officers resolved to accept promotion solely by seniority, and an oath of fidelity to this rule was imposed on every cadet at the Segovia Academy. In consequence an artillery officer rarely reached a high command, for advancement by seniority is slow in an army where the officer cadres are overcrowded. General O'Donnell, Duke of Tetuan, the Minister of War, thought he could alter this state of affairs by a stroke of the pen. But a privilege in Spain dies hard. The royal decree to which he obtained King Alfonso's signature last June was immediately opposed. The artillery officers alleged that their oath engaged their honor. All through the summer the revolt smouldered, to leap into flame finally when the Dictator determinedly supported the Minister of War. The Dictator proposed that the Crown dissolve the Artillery Corps; but the King hesitated to give his signature to a measure that might rouse hostility in other arms. Perhaps this hesitation emboldened the artillery officers, for they became openly insubordinate. General Primo de Rivera then acted rapidly. He telephoned from Madrid to the King that the Artillery Corps must be disbanded, and begged His Majesty to return immediately to Madrid from San Sebastian to sign the decree. When Don Alfonso arrived the dissolution of the Artillery Corps was already under way. Everywhere barracks were surrendered without resistance to staff officers accompanied by infantry pickets.
There are officers in high positions who do not hide their enmity for General Primo de Rivera, whom they accuse of disorganizing and destroying the army. General Weyler, whose exalted rank of Captain-General, corresponding to Marshal, keeps him on the active list until his death, is an awkward adversary. He was implicated in a conspiracy last June and fined heavily, and his accomplice, General Aguilera, was arrested. But a Knight of the Golden Fleece would figure badly on a prison list, so General Weyler remains at liberty, though closely watched.
Should the army en masse respond to a call from the Liberals, the Dictatorship would be doomed. But of that there seems little probability. Some think that if General Primo de Rivera were merely kidnapped the end would come. Some fear that a brusque overturn of the Dictatorship now would throw Spain into chaos. More probably the country would remain as imperturbable as it did on the advent of the Military Directory.
General Primo de Rivera is ageing visibly under the strain of his task, though he bears it cheerfully and gallantly. He does not spare himself. His hair is white, but he has a constitution of iron and a capacity for work that is enormous. King Alfonso, the Dictator's junior by fifteen years, is in full possession of his maturity. He is just forty. As long as these two collaborate the present system seems fairly secure. The Dictator would nevertheless be well advised to broaden as soon as possible the basis on which it rests.