I ONCE had occasion to suggest a title for a book that a fellow-countryman was doing on the tragic events of 1936-40. I told him he ought to call it "The War Began in Spain," and then found myself wondering in the back of my mind where and how the war that began in Spain might finish, whether it might not finish in Spain and also whether it might not finish Spain. But now I find myself thinking that the bitter trials undergone by Spain all these years may turn out to have been a purgatory from which she will emerge a stronger and more vital nation.

Prognostications are not easy at this stage. But my confidence in the Spanish people leads me to believe that when the democracies have won their victory over international Nazi-Fascism, the Spanish horizon will be freed of the terrible phantom that for the past eight years has held our people in thrall. Thus the war, far from finishing Spain, could actually finish in Spain. For a time one doubted that the Franco régime and the Hitlerian Falange would leave Spain with any vitality; but now we see that the Spanish people are indeed alive and are in the immense majority hostile to Franco, and that his régime must go, for the reasons that it is Fascist, that it signifies submission to a foreign Power and that Spaniards do not want it. But this does not mean that its liquidation will not prove a deadly serious matter.

The most serious problem facing Spaniards is how to avoid bloodshed at the funeral after the Franco régime has died. There are various influences at work to forestall a bloody denouement or, to state it more accurately, to forestall a resumption of the civil war -- if it can be said ever to have stopped. But the possibility of a bloody liquidation is of course being exploited, both inside Spain and in foreign countries, by Franco and the Falange in order to maintain themselves in power. They are setting forth the usual claims that they alone are capable of holding down the latent revolution. And they are also doing their best to maintain that revolution in order to contain it, or rather to set forth the claim that they will contain it. In raising the anti-Communist banner which served Hitler and Mussolini so well for so many years, they have falsely proclaimed a division of Spaniards into two breeds, the good and the bad, the white and the red. The trick is an old one and should by now be transparent. What the Franco régime can really be said to maintain is a poorly dissimulated state of anarchy. On this point a Catholic conservative politician has given evidence. José Maria Gil Robles, writing last winter from his exile in Portugal to Franco's Minister of War, called on the military to throw out Franco and restore the monarchy to save the country from anarchy. And the word revolution, so effective in Franco's mouth to frighten people in and out of Spain into support of him, was there used in connection with Franco himself. In Gil Robles' eye, the Franco régime is revolutionary. What is clear and indisputable is that the heritage of Francoism will be a heavy one and that the task of liquidating it must fall to none but a government with strongly pacific intentions, one that will know how to impose on all Spaniards what is the undoubted will of the vast majority of them -- a peaceful transition. What would this government be? On what would its power be based? On the Army, with an inevitable succession of pronunciamentos in the tradition of the nineteenth century? On a restored Monarchy? On the Republic? Let us examine these three possibilities.

First the Army. No one could deny that it is the principal foundation of the present régime. By military force the faction which was victorious in the Civil War is maintained in power. The reasons for that victory we do not have to go into here, nor into the shameful and frightful conditions in which it was won and consolidated. But what one must point out is that the Franco régime remains essentially what it was when it won the Civil War in 1939 with the help and with the partnerships that everyone knows. Many, then, will find it natural to feel that once the Nazi-Fascist Axis has been defeated the Spanish military régime which is its adopted child must not be thought of as offering any guarantees of peace, whether in or out of Spain. Another military dictator, a new Caudillo in Franco's place, would offer all the drawbacks and none of the few advantages of the present incumbent, and would also excite the personal ambitions of his fellows. This would be as sure a way as any of provoking the very civil war that we are trying to avoid, because it would destroy what unity there remains within the Army, today maintained by the mere fact of continuity in power that allows no openings to ambitious rivals. A government based on military force would contain corruption within itself, would fall into divisions and would cease to be. And a civil war provoked by the rivalries of the generals would bring on the worst anarchy, which could easily give way to other varieties. So the Army alone would offer no assurance whatsoever of internal peace or even of superficial order, much less of the durable authority needed in the dangerous transition period.

What, then, could we expect from a restoration of the Monarchy? As Gil Robles has pointed out, it would not suffice merely to place a king in residence in the great eighteenth century palace facing the Plaza de Oriente in Madrid. "The monarch," he wrote in his appeal to the generals to abandon the Caudillo, "would have to be surrounded with institutions of some sort of stability." But what elements would go into the establishment of institutions of government to buttress the Monarch? Those which collaborated in sustaining the Fascist régime? By no means, for they are too worn out and discredited to exercise any kind of effective power. Our conservative Catholic politico claims that the Army, once freed of the influence of Franco and of the Falange, would fill the bill. It must be supposed he means that it would serve as the nucleus for other institutions, since he uses the word in the plural. Thus we see that the second hypothesis, the Monarchy, cannot be considered alone but only in combination with the Army as its principal bulwark. Here, too, one is compelled to ask, with what Army and what Monarchy? It is hard to see how either could be presented as distinct from the Army and Monarchy which planned for the dictatorship, worked for it and collaborated actively with it in their separate ways. The Army's role in provoking the Civil War everyone knows. And some may remember that the late Alfonso gave his active support from exile, and that his son Don Juan, the present claimant to the throne, tried to enlist in the Franco forces. How, then, could either be thought of as distinct from the system they would be called upon to renounce? To cite an old Spanish saying, we would be getting the same dogs with different collars. A Monarchy restored on the foundation of an Army which is more or less the personal property of a group of generals in every way equivalent to the present Caudillo would embody precisely the same weaknesses and dangers as an Army dictatorship without the royal label. The dynasty which would inherit, or rather share, the military's monopoly of power could not be other than that of the Bourbons, which the Spanish people cast off in 1931. Its restoration would have only the reality of a scene enacted before a painted backdrop. It would amount to the enthronement of a corpse -- not that of the lovely Queen of the Portuguese legend who is restored to life, but an old corpse -- even though the King himself be called Juan instead of Alfonso. How could a system grow strong when it is born of nothing but the exhaustion, impotence and failure of its component parts -- Army and Bourbon King?

Of the three possibilities mentioned above there remains the Republic. But what Republic? Would it be that of 1931, with its legality reëstablished -- in other words a republican restoration that would revive the democratic constitutional régime overthrown in the Civil War? This solution would seem to me a mistake. It would seem to me to offer only the prospect of battening down the real will of the Spanish people under legalisms and juridical formulas. The people do not want the restoration of that Republic much more than they want the restoration of the Monarchy. They want something else, another Republic. But what kind? This is the crux of the matter.

The Republic of 1931 was full of good intentions and, as we also say in Spanish, the road to its inferno was paved with them. The errors of its leaders, both of Left and Right, were so very serious that it was soon placed in the situation in which its fall became possible. If we turn back to it, might we not be exposing Spain to the same dangers? Might we not be turning back onto the old road to civil war? Franco has been condemned because of his inability or unwillingness to bring true pacification to Spain. Might not the Republic, if restored, prove similarly inept? The danger would be the greater if the restoration turned out also to be a dynastic affair in the sense that it handed back authority to another faction which also was defeated in 1936.

It is commonly said that the Spanish people never knows what it wants but is very sure about what it does not want. So let it be said here and now that what the Spanish people clearly does not want is a continuation of the Franco régime which has maintained itself all these years by terror within and the support of Nazi-Fascism from without. Suppose there were an attempt to change this situation for another, essentially equivalent even though of slightly different form in externals, and otherwise subservient to foreign influences? To speak bluntly, suppose either an imperialist or a democratic England were substituted as the dominant factor for Hitlerian Germany? I can only say that this should not be, could not be, if the victory of the democracies is to be truly a victory. The Spanish people would never agree to a mere change of masters.

There can be no doubt at all that if an attempt were made to impose on Spain any change that was one more in appearance than in reality -- to saddle her with a new Caudillo, perhaps, or a different façade for dictatorship -- the Spanish people would go on fighting for its independence, as it has been doing these many years. It simply would not submit. And then the war would not finish in Spain, where it began, nor would it finish for Spain, but it might well finish Spain. This would be a tragic portent, for both Europe and America.

The Spanish people, then, will not go on suffering the humiliating rule of these past five years. Nor does it want to see this dictatorship given a new face to enable it to survive the Nazi-Fascist collapse. Nor does it want to see the heritage of Franco's years in power handed to some absolute military dictatorship which would evolve from violent change through violent change to anarchy, any more than it wants to see the result a military rule intertwined with a dynastic restoration in an attempt to hold an impossible equilibrium. The Spanish people does not want any of these solutions, for any would mean only the continuation of civil war, and of civil war they have had enough. But also, and here I repeat, the Spanish people does not place its hopes in a mere Republican restoration. With this by itself the embers of civil war would burst into flame again. To stir this bed of coals would be to send Spain into a phase of suicidal destruction and to engender a constant peril to the peace of Europe. The Spanish people wants something else.

That something else is another Republic with the accent on another -- the third Republic. This should be possible. The world climate following the victory will be propitious. As for Spain herself, her recent experience of civil war serves as a lesson. What she wants is a strong provisional government that will bring together the widest possible representation of Spaniards of differing creeds and awaken throughout the nation a new confidence and will to unity. It should be created from organisms taking shape inside the country in the struggle against the Franco variety of Nazi-Fascism. Call it or not a Junta Suprema (the word Junta has a long and glorious association with all the great crises of government in Spanish history). Whatever it is called, it could undertake the political direction of the country immediately with a program of national reconstruction. Such a government would not have to rush, as is usually done, to affirm its legality with paper declarations. Let there come together in this truly national effort all Spaniards, without regard to their religious or political beliefs. A most useful contribution on a personal basis could be made by many of the people who now belong to the different Republican groups and parties, especially if they return to Spain with no other title than that of men exiled and persecuted by Nazi-Fascism, both inside the country and out. These are the only legitimate titles there are. Let the Spanish people itself inspect and revalidate them. We do not doubt, further, that just as among the Republicans, there are also to be found among the Monarchists and Catholics, and among the Socialists and Communists, Spaniards with capacities for the task of constituting a strong national government. In the common effort their feeling for their country should keep them in harmony.

Only such a government could undertake the task of pacification with sufficient authority to carry it out fairly and without any taint of individual vengeance. Only such a government could undertake the essential transformations in the daily life of the country. It would have the power to check decomposition within the Army or within the Catholic clergy, in Spain long corrupted by the ignorance and egoism of its heads. It could create a strong provisional mechanism of state, without making concessions to any belligerent faction, nor to anarchy either. The creation of an apparatus of government out of the ruins might seem to superficial observers a most difficult task; I think, on the contrary, it should prove fairly easy. What is essential is that the historic genius of the Spanish people be allowed to express itself. This is what the great majority of Spaniards want, a policy wholly and truly Spanish, to be carried out provisionally by a government of national union which would have eventually to answer for its trusteeship before a general constituent assembly.

The creation of this third Republic would coincide, in European time and space, with analogous efforts in France and Italy. The reconstruction of these two countries should coincide in all respects with that of Spain. All three are wrecked. A natural, fraternal and unbreakable alliance should emerge -- France, Italy, Spain -- under the aegis of liberty and devoted to the peace of Europe and of the world. Efforts on the part of any nation to subjugate or in any way diminish Spain would be most unwise. Her personality will be born anew, as it was in the great days of the past, not a sterile imperialism but an imperishable part of civilization, alongside France and Italy, and united to them. This personality will assert itself regardless of opposition, and it will know how to obstruct an unjust peace.

To keep Spain in the peace, Spain must be at peace with herself. For this, the good will of the majority of Spaniards must be relied upon and not, as has been attempted in the recent past, the bad faith of some among them. In other words, the Spaniards who must be counted upon are those who desire a just peace, within and without their country, one that answers their vital needs and affords them the freedom to become, outside of their own borders, what Spaniards once were during the glorious and generous centuries of their history. It will not do either to exasperate Spain, forcing her outside herself, or to attempt to insulate her, for then, locked within herself, she will turn her back on Europe, will disinterest herself from the general good and withdraw into a proud, egotistical and, in the long run, suicidal isolation. Spain will have her voice in the coming concert of the nations; but it must not be the one that has rasped on our ears during the years Nazi-Fascism has ruled on our Spanish soil. Nor should it be the voice of any other of the factions inside her atomized and sometimes fratricidal self. Rather it must be a new voice expressing her personality entire and true, and, while new, also expressing her permanent historic values.

The Spanish democracy can be allowed to follow its natural channels, or, as Unamuno said, its "rastro y reguero" (thinking of well-worn forest trails and the watercourses that establish a land's real character). Our friend Jacques Maritain has written that the peace to come should see an end to Machiavellism. To try to isolate Spain from the new life of Europe on pretexts of one kind or another, even in the name of her own supposed free will, would be to revive the Machiavellism of the past, but in a poorer, less efficacious way. It would be wrong and also dangerous, for it would create inside Spain a deep and permanent discontent which would be the seed of future trouble in Europe. On the other hand, if Spain is enabled to recover her own personality in close relationship with France and Italy, she will help guarantee, not a false international equilibrium of the sort which has always led to war, but a fruitful coöperation towards the establishment of a human community that will be more free, more happy and thus more peaceful.

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  • JOSÉ BERGAMÍN, now living in Mexico, former Editor of Cruz y Raya, a review published in Madrid by Catholic intellectuals; author of "Disparadero Español" and other works
  • More By José Bergamín