The Spanish Tragedy

Spain, the Gentle Anarchy

by Benjamin Welles
Praeger, 373 pp., $7.95

The Siege of the Alcazar

by Cecil D. Eby
Random House, 239 pp., $4.95

The experienced reader might mistakenly drop Mr. Welles’s book after savoring a few sentences; as an enthusiast for Spain he often affects the picturesque writing which has become the stock-in-trade of the afiçionado. “Yet there is also a Spain of noise, of rhythm, song, hand clapping, heels drumming hard on wooden floors: the Spain of flamenco.” Seville (oh God, not again!) where “hot blood and holy austerity wrestle for supremacy.” But the sentence skimmer would be wrong. In spite of minor innaccuracies and overpowering enthusiasms, this is a useful and interesting book on a subject in which useful and interesting books do not abound. It achieves its aim: to provide a badly needed guide to the politics of modern Spain. The writer spent six years as New York Times correspondent in Madrid; it is very much a journalist’s book.

Mr. Welles understands the essential paradox: opposition increases until it permeates the whole society, yet General Franco goes on unperturbed. The old pillars of the regime—the Church, the Army, the Falange—do not stand as firm as they did; they knock each other about and seem to be subject to internal fissure. The Falange despised the respectable—usually monarchist—right; it has never got on well with the generals or the bishops. Franco has refused to “institutionalize” José Antonio’s rather battered descendants who originally provided the regime with its ideological clothing. They are divided between those who want to establish effective unionism or a return to the strenuous nationalistic radicalism of the founder, José Antonio; and those who cling to acquired advantage. The church does not like government interference with its workers’ syndicates; it senses the disquiet of young Basque and Catalan priests. Jesuits dislike Opus Dei and its implications for a genuine opening to the left. Yet as a whole, the church still prefers, like the Falange, to enjoy the advantages of collusion rather than to speculate in futures. Mr. Welles correctly estimates its present dilemma; as he puts it “the steps are still slightly unsteady and the speech slightly slurred.” Even the Army is not quite the monolith it was.

The regime is, as they say, “not so bad as it was” in the bad old times of Censor Arias Salgado—according to the author an electric light bulb salesman in his pre-Nationalist days. One cannot conceive how any nation could have lived with the Spanish press of the Forties. Its dreariness, as much as its censorship, offended the meanest intelligence. The self-proclaimed “liberalizing” policies of Señor Fraga Iribarne, professor and Minister of Information and Tourism, may not yet have changed much in Spain—least of all by his reform of the censorship. Mr. Welles sees in him a symbol of a new look: in his phrase Fraga is the “wheeler dealer” of a class of technocrats, professionals, and business men who in the ebullient post-1960 boom will take no political risks and believe Spain unprepared for democracy. Car owners in developing economies make bad revolutionaries.

The regime survives not so much because…

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