This book, designed to “explain” Spain, succeeds only in thoroughly confusing the reader with a maze of Marxist mumbo-jumbo and rambling, self-sufficient logic. The author, born in Barcelona of French and Spanish antecedents, studied law and political science prior to the Civil War, and served the exiled Republican government in London during World War II. A confirmed socialist, she offers her own interpretation of Spain tras los siglos, bowling over the opposition in a flurry of scattered facts and half-truths, and in a violent polemic against Franco, the Falange, the Church, the landowners, the industrialists, the army, and anyone who sympathizes with these “bulwarks of dictatorship.”
Her background section on Spain is written from the Catalan’s viewpoint, virtually ignoring the rest of the country, particularly Andalucía. She hates conservatism: “Conservatism not only created prerevolutionary social conditions: but it also stimulated dangerous psychological reactions by strengthening the conviction shared by peasants and workers alike that the State and Parliament, by their very nature as instruments of the oligarchies, were unable to remedy the evils which plagued labor.” Whew!
Nothing new is presented in dealing with the causes of Franco’s overthrow of the Republic. In her interpretation the significance of the Civil War pales when compared to Hugh Thomas’ The Spanish Civil War (N. Y., 1961). With the same Republican bias exhibited in Salvador de Madariaga’s History of Spain, she concentrates on the excesses of the Fascists, minimizing the execution of almost seven thousand priests by the Communists. Although delighting in recounting abuses, real and imagined, in Franco’s Spain, she explains away the shortcomings of the Republic with airy phrases. Land expropriation is considered a “moderate” measure; lowered economic production is dismissed as irrelevant.
In bringing her story up to 1963, the author explores the Franco dictatorship and the reasons for its longevity, which may be boiled down into “the least of the evils.” Exile has weakened her analysis of present conditions in Spain. She mentions the Opus Dei but fails to analyze its importance. Socialists are all right, but supporters of Franco are considered either fanatical or ambitious or both. We read that 500,000 Spaniards were “forced” to cheer Franco. Completely intolerant of any democratic reforms which do not feature socialistic trends, she regards Spain as an intolerable totalitarian state. Fascism is the absence of class conflict, we find, and Spain fits the picture. Wage increases, welfare programs, industrialization and other reforms of the past twenty-five years are depreciated by comparing Spain to Western Europe and by implying that without Franco, things would have been better. She even states ingenuously that without a Civil War, Spain would be better off today!
Spain’s role in the defense of the West has been explored in a much more reliable way by Arthur P. Whitaker. American aid, according to Sta. de la Souchère, has made Spain a satellite of the United States. Franco’s European, African, and Hispanidad policies have been filled with failure, she continues, echoing the familiar Communist party line that American military bases in Spain will create of Madrid the “Hiroshima of Europe.”
There are so many errors of fact (for example, she says that prostitution is wide open and legal in “certain” quarters), that it would require another book to list them. But the book should not be taken as serious fact. There is little reference to published materials other than quotations from a few government reports (taken out of context), newspapers, and other socialist diatribes. The very force of her propaganda, however, is nullified by her own contradictions. On the one hand, she claims that Spain is a classic Fascist dictatorship ruled in a totalitarian way. Then she cites example after example to show how the workers, the army, the Church, the Western Allies, and everyone else have been able to force a “democratization” of the country. How this is possible in a truly totalitarian state is left to the reader to comprehend. Perhaps that is the secret to understanding Spain, after all: it has never conformed to a preconceived pattern established on its ancient institutions from without, but like Quixote and Sancho Panza it continues to mystify the world by its apparent contradictions.