IN THE eyes of Spain's "Republicans of the Left," who have been at the helm since the monarchy was driven out on April 14, 1931, and who follow the leadership of Premier Manuel Azaña, Spain is still in the revolutionary mid-channel. What has been accomplished thus far, they say, is largely preparatory for the main business lying ahead. Whither is the New Spain bound?

Or is it to be a New Spain? Will this group of republicans of extreme left tendencies, locking arms with extremer socialists and led by an intellectual like Señor Azaña, succeed in jolting Spain out of its lethargy, its excessive patiencia, its sense of fatalism, all the heritage of five centuries of Moorish domination and of five other centuries of domination by rulers who were only too glad to see the people held captive by paralyzing habits of thought? Will they succeed in substituting therefor standards of efficient effort and attainment? Will they show themselves capable of bridging a fatal gap between word as expressed in their laws and fact as the laws are actually applied? These are fundamental preliminary questions, for unless the habits of thought of the Spanish people are changed, their collective social and political structure cannot change much either.

On the more immediate practical side stands another question. Will this group of left republican and socialist elements hold their own sufficiently long to carry their cause forward against the forces of reaction on the one hand and the forces of anarchy and communism on the other? One would wish to say that there was a third alternative -- the acquisition of power by a genuinely republican force of the moderate right; but at this moment any such force is hardly discernible on the horizon. The greatest danger is offered by the first group, composed of monarchists, ex-monarchists, reactionaries and the purely and unscrupulously ambitious. It is necessary to report that this group is making headway. Although the anarchists and the communists are making a great noise, the danger from their quarter is not imminent. Their leaders admit that the "revolutionary moment" has temporarily passed for want of a "solid front."

But let us for the moment discount all these obstacles, let us assume that neither the reactionaries nor the extremists will succeed in imposing their will, let us examine the main question of whither the New Spain is bound.

Four major factors or tendencies are to be noted: social reconstruction; economic rehabilitation; decentralization; and a new foreign policy, associated with which is a new policy of national defense not exempt from the suspicion of militarism.

Under the head of social reconstruction the government has orientated itself in the direction of socialism and has paved the way for making Spain the most nearly socialistic state in Western Europe. Land reform, the development of education, the separation of church and state, the introduction of universal suffrage, the recognition of divorce -- all these actions are closely allied with the social reconstruction program. On the economic side, the Republic is seriously concerned with rehabilitating the national finances as a preliminary to economic revival; plans for public works on a large scale and for the improvement of transportation and the merchant marine come under this head. The granting of autonomy to Catalonia is the first step in the direction of decentralization; it is looked upon by many, especially by the nationalists, as opening the way for federalism. The growing importance of the Mediterranean question, the frequent conversations between the diplomatic representatives of Spain and France, the decision to fortify heavily the old Mediterranean stronghold of Minorca and dredge its strategic, land-locked harbor of Mahon, finally, the building up of a new and efficient army, are all symptoms of a new foreign policy.

The guiding spirit of this diversified movement of reconstruction has been Señor Azaña, a former governmental functionary, a former President of the intellectually aristocratic Madrid Ateneo, a former fugitive from political justice. He has been hailed as the most hopeful symbol of the revolution, the example par excellence of the Spaniard able to shake off the trammels of his race and demonstrate the value of action. He has the rare merit, rare especially for Spain, of being a man who has sought neither personal profit nor advantage from his office. "Revolution and Republic! Destruction of all the barnacles encrusted upon the living rock of Spain! Whoever does not understand it that way serves no purpose and does not understand political action!" Of such fiery metal is his republicanism. It must be reported that many of the Prime Minister's associates have often not understood it "that way." Therein, perhaps, lies the explanation for his most flagrant errors -- for which, be it said, he has not shrunk from taking full blame.


The groundwork for social reconstruction is to be found in the republican Constitution. The revolutionists made the preliminary gesture of suggesting to the most exceedingly forgotten man that the government was his and that he should participate therein. Hence it is stated in the Constitution that "Spain is a democracy of workers of all classes who organize themselves in a régime of liberty and justice." All Spaniards are declared equal before the law and there is provided an elaborate system of guarantees of individual rights.

The socialistic tendencies of the government are best understood in the light of the alliance between the Azaña group and the Spanish Socialist Party, which is numerically strongest in the Cortes (where one of its own sits as President) and which has three members in the Cabinet. The party controls the important workers' organization known as the Union General de Trabajo, and has the ambitious plan of bringing into that body all the workers of Spain, thus eliminating the rival labor organization known as the Confederación Nacional de Trabajo, composed of the Syndicatos Unicos and controlled by the anarchists.

The Socialist Party aims at installing a fairly complete régime of socialism and of making the workers the masters. Thus their impress on the Constitution: All the country's wealth, whosoever its owner, is subordinated to the interests of the national economy; every class of property may be expropriated for reasons of public utility; all property "may be socialized." Moreover: "The public services and exploitations which affect the common interests may be nationalized where necessary." Also: "The state is empowered to intervene in the exploitation and coördination of industries and enterprises when such action is demanded by the interests of the national economy." Article 46 guarantees "the participation of the workers in the direction, administration and benefits of enterprises and all that may affect the defense of the workers." There is now before the Cortes a bill intended to give force to the latter clause; but Señor Azaña, who has sought to reassure the country by denying that the Republic pursues a socialist policy, has not seen fit to sponsor it.

The Constitution has made provision for a Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees which is intended to offer safeguards for abuses. The law giving effect to this provision was voted only last June and the Tribunal has not yet been set up. It is to be composed of twenty-six members, including a member chosen by each of fifteen Spanish regions, and it may sit either in plenary session, as a court of justice, or as a tribunal of protection. The Plenary Tribunal is empowered to try the President of the Republic, the Prime Ministers and the Ministers, the President of the Supreme Court and the Attorney-General. It passes on general questions of constitutionality and on conflicts between the state and the autonomous regions. The Court of Justice and the Tribunal of Protection are each composed of five members. The first has jurisdiction over conflicts between two autonomous regions or between the Tribunal of Accounts (a supreme and independent auditing body having the final word over budgetary expenditures) and any other organism, whether of the state or of an autonomous region; it may examine the powers of presidential electors; and it may intervene in the election or dismissal of the President. The Tribunal of Protection hears appeals for the defense of individual guarantees.

The Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees would at first glance appear to be an excellently devised medium for safeguarding the Constitution from abusive application. Yet there are several disconcerting features about the law. The first is the obvious political character the Tribunal is likely to assume by virtue of its dominantly political composition. The man just elected its President, don Alvaro de Albornoz, is an outstanding Jacobin. The provision of the law debarring the Tribunal from reviewing past acts of the Republican régime does not inspire confidence. Neither do the provisions imposing severe penalties upon citizens who, having appealed to the Tribunal, lose their appeal. In any event, the Tribunal does not yet function.

The land reform act, which was finally passed in September 1932, but which is still inoperative, is considered the government's most important step in the direction of social reconstruction. It provides for the breaking up of large land holdings and for starting the peasant on the way to greater independence. This fact, together with proposed extensive cultivation and irrigation, has economic significance in that the country's agricultural wealth ought to be greatly increased. However, the land reform bill is still inoperative, and the peasant is still land-hungry, so that in many parts of Spain he is rapidly being converted to extremism. The government pleads that agrarian reform is complicated and needs most careful preparation. Two supplementary laws are still wanting to make the law operative; but the Minister of Agriculture has announced that if they are not passed by autumn he will incorporate their essentials in a ministerial decree and apply the reform without further delay.

In the field of education the government aims to wipe out Spain's blight of illiteracy. Hence it has embarked upon a five-year plan of establishing not less than 27,000 schools to supplement the 35,716 left by the monarchy. More than 7,000 have already been set up. It is the thought of Señor Azaña that the schools should be modernized and brought closer to reality. A special problem is created by the closing of religious schools. The Catholics say that 600,000 children are now being taught by the religious orders, while the ministry of education puts the number at 300,000. To find schools for all these is a great task.

The Religious Congregations Law, finally passed last June, "nationalizes" church property without actually confiscating it or diverting it from church uses. The churches and religious orders must render to the state accountings of their finances, properties and business transactions; in fact all of their records, ordinarily private, are subject to official inspection. Further, they must notify to the state the appointment of prelates and other high ecclesiastics and superiors, the implication being that the state's placet is necessary to make the appointments effective. The law further deprives the religious orders of the privilege of teaching or engaging in industry, commerce or agriculture. These provisions are the consequence of a widely spread reaction against the Catholic Church in Spain, no doubt due in large part to many of the Church's own errors, as seems to be partly confessed in the recent pastoral of the Primate. But that this reaction extends to the majority of Spaniards would hardly seem true. Catholic action, indeed, seems to have been rendered more definite and vigorous under the Republic. Many practising Catholics who are at the same time genuine republicans are disturbed. They would welcome a clean-cut separation of church and state, but they do not like what seems to them persecution of the Church.

The granting of votes to women, the recognition of divorce, and the removal of the taint of illegitimacy from children, may be expected to affect profoundly the future relations between man and woman, and the Spanish woman herself. In other words, it will probably change the character of the Spanish family. In a land where to this day the woman has had almost no rights, and where the attitude of man toward woman has been one of oriental domination and possession, these grants of the law may be expected to transform her social status.


Señor Azaña has expressed the republican viewpoint on finance and economy in the following terms: "The government must attend to the economic reconstruction of Spain and the establishment of its economy to the ultimate limit. There must be no increase in present taxes, but a tax on investment revenue must be imposed. . . . We are disposed to address ourselves to the reconstruction of the country but with a rhythm in keeping with our finances and credit. . . . We must spend money on things that will give us returns."

Spain's current budgetary expenditures are estimated at 4,724,000,000 pesetas, ostensibly an increase of 1,037,000,000 pesetas over the 1931 budget, the last formulated by the monarchy, and of 186,000,000 pesetas over the budget of 1932. The current budget shows on its face a deficit of 600,000,000 pesetas. If it be considered that a bond issue of about 600,000,000 pesetas is in it as an item of ordinary revenue, it will be seen that the actual deficit, based on the figures cited by the budget itself, is really 1,200,000,000 pesetas, or at current exchange rates about $125,000,000. When it is further considered that the liquidation of the 1931 budget showed a deficit of about 600,000,000 pesetas, that the revenues for 1932 showed a considerable falling-off under the estimates (although an increase as against previous years), and that there is every likelihood of a further falling-off, we see that the Republic faces a formidable deficit for these three years.

Government organs seek to counteract unfavorable comments on the foregoing matters by pointing out that the budget is, first of all, an honest one, since there is no juggling of figures or recourse to extraordinary budgets, as there was in the past. They further point out that, as against a general falling-off in the revenues of other countries, Spain's revenues are actually increasing. The capacity of the country's wealth to produce a greater revenue is a hopeful factor. Likewise hopeful is the fact that certain budgetary items are intended to fulfill definite needs of the country, such as education, public works, the rehabilitation of the railroads, the building-up of the merchant marine, and other public improvements. It is further argued that the currency is on a solid basis despite the decline in the peseta. A recent statement of the Bank of Spain showed on hand 2,258,677,885 gold pesetas as against a currency circulation of 4,847,319,425. Thus inflation is almost nil and the decline of the peseta must be explained by other factors, such as high tariffs against Spanish goods and diminishing foreign markets. The government is now taking steps to correct this situation by the negotiation of treaties with a number of countries.

The important fact to be noted from the foregoing is that Spain has an excellent point of departure for consolidating her financial position. But if her financial situation is basically good, it is susceptible of being thrown out of balance by a number of factors. Among the things which might have a disastrous effect would be a political upheaval; a continuance of the high tariff policy, which is already responsible for partial embargoes against Spanish goods by France, England and Germany; unwise interference in foreign exchange operations; or a failure to make a real improvement in the market at home.


The provisions of the Constitution which permit the granting of autonomy to the various regions, together with the actual granting of that autonomy to Catalonia, are a step toward decentralization, even though federalism may not for the moment be implied. The Constitution pronounces against federalism. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister, in opening the battle for the Catalan statute in May 1932, reminded the Cortes that the Spanish state was originally constituted by "the union of peninsular states in which the only thing in common was the crown" -- that is to say, on a basis in which the potentialities for federalism were already strong. The historic regions, which have not lost their sense of race or tradition despite the absorbing activities of the monarchies, now dream of a rebirth of this "union of peninsular states," under a federal regime. The Basque country, Galicia, Valencia, old Aragon, Andalucía, the Balearic Islands, are all announced candidates for autonomy. In this fallow soil federalism is a seed which has already sent forth its sprouts.


As to foreign policy and national defense, the Republic is beginning to stress the point that it must be prepared to defend itself. Although it began by tearing down the old army, it is building up a new and ostensibly efficient one. Let note be taken of certain items in the last budget: 423,000,000 pesetas for war, 158,800,000 for military action in Morocco, 260,650,000 for the marine, of which it is announced that two-thirds are to be devoted to the merchant marine, 868,900,000 for public works, including fortifications, naval dredging and other military enterprises.

We shall not go far wrong if we assume that Spain has adopted a Mediterranean policy. The dredging of the Mahon harbor, for example, and the fortifications of the island of Minorca, have a peculiar importance. Minorca commands the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Malta. In the eighteenth century it was variously fought for and captured by Spain, England and France. England's occupation of it gave her control of Mediterranean commerce. There came a time when possession of Minorca no longer seemed important, and England relinquished it in favor of Spain (1803). But with the revival of the Mediterranean question, with the growing rivalry between France and Italy in that quarter, with England's increasing anxiety about safeguarding her routes to India and the east, the strategic position of Minorca once more assumes an importance. And the repeated conversations between the representatives of Spain and France take on real significance.


This outline picture of the Republic which Señor Azaña and the republicans of the left have set themselves the task of constructing would not be complete without reference to the question of public order. In the past Spain has had the most centralized police system in the world. This system, of which the principal components were the state police, the civil guard and the army, ruled by a ruthless application of the mailed fist. "Hay de pegar" -- "it is necessary to strike" -- has been the traditional Spanish formula for governing, both at home and abroad. The effects of applying this formula have been Spain's loss of almost all her colonies and, for the monarchy, the government's loss of the sympathy of a great body of the people. The question now is whether the Republic will adopt a new policy. The probable transfer of certain police powers to the autonomous regions (in Catalonia this has already been done) will be a step away from centralization. But the main question persists: Shall the government rule by suavity, by showing a certain indulgence and sympathetic comprehension in cases where people in their ignorance do not take kindly to the law, or shall it apply the mailed fist blindly as in the past?

By way of illustration consider a recent incident, one of many similar ones. On May 25 last, in the town of Zarza de Granadilla, in the province of Cáceres, the people were having a fiesta and had decided on a capea or local bullfight. The Civil Guards told the people they could not have their bullfight since they had obtained no permission. But the people would have their bullfight. There was rioting. An official version says that someone in the crowd fired on the Civil Guard. That is the stereotyped official statement in cases of this kind -- and official versions in Spain must be taken, not only with a grain, but with a whole bagful, of salt. But there is no doubting that the Civil Guard fired on the people -- on the men, women and children. Their bullets even struck the women in the church. The casualty list next day showed seven persons killed, eight others gravely wounded (of whom a number have probably since died), and numerous others wounded less gravely. Additionally, a guard was killed.

This is the kind of savagery on the part of the armed forces that has been occurring with as great frequency in Spain under the Republic as under the monarchy. The authorities consider the act justified since it was accomplished in the course of enforcing the law. Yet it would seem that a little indulgence, a little tact, would not only have prevented this affair, but have won the good will of the people, thereby, in the last analysis, upholding effectively the dignity of the law.

It would be difficult to say what has really been accomplished in the direction of abolishing militarism in Spain, beyond those spectacular orders of early Republican days which stripped the army of many officers, discontinued certain military jurisdictions such as Captaincies General, and abolished Tribunals of Honor. Nothing has been done to prevent the new army from being as militaristic as the old one. The coercion of officers into joining a "solid front," where questions of military "honor" or "prestige" or support of governmental authorities (whether right or wrong) are concerned, are still practised as in the days of the juntas and the Tribunals of Honor. Among the officers a spirit of military absolutism is rampant and growing. A good illustration of this was the recent case of five American citizens, including a woman, who were held forty-six days in a military prison in Palma, Majorca, for what seems to foreigners to have been a trivial "military offense." It was only after a peremptory assertion of governmental authority that the military judge consented to budge and permit the release of the five under a heavy bond. The Constitution (Article 95) says that "military penal jurisdiction shall be limited to military offenses. . . ." Yet as late as August 27, 1932, there was signed by the President of the Republic a law whereunder civilians could be held in military prisons and brought before military courts for any act tending to undermine the prestige of the armed forces, whether mild criticisms, verbal attacks, disrespect, or actual acts of disobedience or aggression, all of which were placed under the head of "military offenses." The trial of civilians by military courts is practised almost daily. Thus Spain presents the strange spectacle of a democracy wherein the civilian citizen is still under the thumb of the military authorities.

Acts such as these, and the frequent suspension of newspapers for indulging in criticism thereof, would at this writing seem to have lost to the government that large degree of public confidence it enjoyed upon coming into power and which it had such unusual opportunities of consolidating. In the partial municipal elections of the early spring, the governmental forces, although they controlled the election machinery, came out a poor third; and the government has not dared since then to go before the country in partial elections where some 130 parliamentary vacancies were to be filled. One cannot help speculating on what a great opportunity the Republic missed by its failure to abandon resolutely at the outset the old Spanish custom of governing by régimes of exception rather than by applying the law strictly and equitably for all. The confidence that would have been created at home and abroad would have been of incalculable value.


The dissatisfaction now evident in Spain may be summed up as follows. Those opposed to republican ideology suffer from a profound sense of persecution. A great body of Catholics are angered by the religious laws. Peasants still without land distrust the government. The government's frequent non-observance of its own laws and its harsh police measures have alienated large blocs of the common people. On the other hand, absolutists and the military minded are complaining that the government's repressive measures are not sufficiently harsh. Economic and financial elements are discontented and in some cases have been in open revolt, as when the directing board of the Mercantile Association of Madrid permitted itself to be taken to prison recently rather than obey the new laws governing working hours and pay for employees. Landed proprietors and the more important agriculturalists complain that the land market has been wrecked and agriculture disrupted by the continuing uncertainty about the application of the agrarian laws. The economic pinch is further being felt as a consequence of diminished foreign markets.

These varied forces of discontent account for the dramatic governmental crisis of June. President Alcala Zamora's withdrawal of confidence from the ministry was a manœuvre on his part to set up a government of the right. No one now denies that he had an understanding with the republican opposition, particularly with the Radical Party of Alejandro Lerroux. Señor Lerroux was expected, if he assumed power, either to force the passage of the Constitutional Guarantees Law before the expiration of the time limit for the signing of the Religious Law, or to recall the Religious Law and modify it. If the Guarantees Law could have been signed before the Religious Law, the way would have been cleared for reviewing the latter on constitutional grounds. The manœuvre failed. The socialists, mortal enemies of Lerroux and his party, said that he should not enter the cabinet; they are reputed even to have threatened a general strike of the socialist workers if he did. And so in the end Señor Azaña returned to form a new cabinet. The country was made to understand that in the present Cortes only a government of the extreme left could govern. On its face, the Azaña ministry not only was victorious but was strengthened.

In reality the government was not strengthened. This began to appear as soon as the country awakened to the fact that the true victory had been with the socialists, who had demonstrated that without their consent no ministry, not even an Azaña ministry, could continue in power. There has since been an uneasy feeling in the country at large that the government was doing little more than mark time and that it was becoming debilitated. The fact is that prior to the crisis Señor Azaña, having found himself daily the object of more criticism and having encountered opposition among his own supporters, had had to clamp the socialists to his bosom with hoops of steel as his firmest allies. But: "The Republic, for the socialists, is not an end but a bridge. And their collaborations . . . are simple expedients, pure instruments and friendships of passage toward other realities of much greater importance and substance to them."[i] In fine, the Azaña government has gone as far as it can with the socialists without surrender to them; the Prime Minister has apparently exhausted his capacity to act as motivating force in the present political combination. The forming of a more ample government in which some of the present opposition shall be included, but from which the socialists shall have departed, or an appeal to the country, seem to be the only alternatives open to Señor Azaña. The former is impossible without a surrender of "left" principles. The latter is feared, for at present it would mean the almost certain defeat of the government and the return of a parliament dominated by mixed reactionary elements. Such a parliament might be expected to set about undoing much that has already been done. New oppositions and antagonisms would be created and, of course, nothing would be solved.

It is a misfortune of the Republic that real elements of the liberal right, truly and authentically republican, do not yet exist. The so-called republican parties of the right, the Radicals, the Conservative Republicans, the Agrarians, are too much linked with tradition as parties or by virtue of their component parts to be satisfactory to those who, while demanding that the Republic prevail, also demand that it abandon the highway that leads leftward. Perhaps in two years' time this needed delimitation can be brought about. But can the country afford to wait that long? Will the people have the patience to do so?


Some conclusions may now be set down.

Any government of the extreme left would be too impervious to realities and too incompatible with a great variety of Spanish interests to offer hope of long life. Thus a swing toward the moderate right would seem to be desirable. That accomplished, the groundwork already laid might remain, but we might expect the harsh features of the Constitution and the laws to be modified by amendment, or in practical application. Such a government might identify itself more with Spain's economic interests and evolve into a government of the middle-class with tendencies only mildly left. There is small present promise of such a solution.

There is the alternative that the present left Republic might save itself, as such, either by a more equitable and liberal spirit in the application of the laws, or by summary methods, involving a resort to force. The moment holds small promise of the former. The government is not sufficiently sure of the armed forces to attempt the latter. The army is almost wildly against the present government, and many of its officers have recently been quite free in speaking of their plans to make an end of it. Although the Civil Guard protests that it supports the government, putting it to a test might prove dangerous, even fatal.

Again, the socialists might set up the socialist state by a combination of political and revolutionary actions. They would have to count upon the opposition of the army and the Civil Guard and depend upon an armed movement of the proletariat. The anarchists and the communists might, for their own ends, make common cause. The situation has its possibilities.

The military might support the reactionary elements in a coup de force having issue in a more or less disguised régime of republican fascism or dictatorship, but hardly in a restoration of monarchy. Such a movement has undoubtedly been preparing for some time. As this is written, the government is actually making extensive arrests connected with a supposed plot of this nature. Whether it has been or can be circumvented is the question. The proletariat feels that such a coup would, in the end, play into their own hands and prove merely the forerunner for a future workers' revolution.

There might eventually come the counter-revolution of the masses. If it came as an aftermath to a reactionary régime, however, it would almost certainly be distinct from the socialist movement referred to above.

The situation might be temporarily altered by new national elections, with the prospect that the extreme right forces would have the victory. Perhaps this is the most likely outcome. But, given the constituent elements of such a government, we can deduce that it would not solve anything for long. The situation in the end would be much as it was in the beginning.

A word about the monarchists is here in order. While there is much monarchist sentiment, and while one monarchist party, the Traditionalist, is active whenever its centers are not closed or its meetings prohibited, the truth is that monarchism as a political force has about spent itself. Traditionalism may for long years be a monarchist rallying symbol, but its activities will probably be little more than a romantic gesture. The Catholic Church has carefully refrained from identifying itself with any monarchist movement. It is now canalizing Catholic political action through the organism of Acción Catolica, which, the new Primate has just declared, all Catholics must in duty support. It is a quasi-party, organized avowedly for the defense of church rights, but non-commital as to the form of government it is prepared to support. The clergy in the main would undoubtedly incline to swing it toward monarchism at a propitious moment; but it is extremely questionable whether the rank and file could be so swung.

But whatever political solution may be found, it is difficult to see how Spain can take its place in the ranks of modern nations until it shakes off habits of mind that to a foreigner seem weirdly mediæval. Thus Republican Spain is still suffering from a king complex, by which I mean that every autoridad, from petty to important, is a kind of miniature royal personage, sacred and untouchable, to "injure" whom by criticism is a form of lese majesty, punishable under the law. Neither the public official nor the petty public functionary, even to the telegraphic employé or the railway conductor, has yet any notion of standing in a relationship of service to the people. An inordinate and neurasthenic pride; a propensity for inaction coupled with much verbal noise and promise; conceptions of what is real, what is a fact, which cause the modern western mind simply to gasp; all these are other Spanish maladies militating against progress. Perhaps only some great shock (the shock of war has been suggested) can jolt Spain out of these and kindred habits of mind. Perhaps radical methods in educating the younger generation will do the trick. But more likely than not, Spain will simply adjust itself to some form of government quite compatible with its own mental ways. In such case, even a socialist or an anarchistic Spain would always have a mediæval, even an oriental, tinge.

[i] Gaziel, in La Vanguardia, July 13, 1933.

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