DURING the forty years prior to the Bourbon Restoration in 1874 the larger part of Spanish energies was expended in the Carlist wars. Had the Carlists succeeded, — and they failed by only a hair, — they would have brought in a régime of reaction, an ineffable union of absolutism and clericalism. It is common to speak of the Carlist struggle as a cruel misfortune to Spain. Belike it was a blessing, rather.
Had Don Carlos, the Pretender, acquiesced in Isabella’s accession to the throne in 1833, Maria Cristina, the regent mother, would have trained with the reactionary crew, and the purging of the Reaction would have been a longer affair, the outcome more dubious. As it turned out, the throne was
saved for Isabella for thirty-five years and the Carlists were debellated by a strangely assorted union of Liberals and so-called Moderates, the right wing of the latter being scarcely less reactionary than the Carlists themselves. Thus inscrutably Providence arranged that Reaction should be defeated by the division of its adherents.
Apart from the Carlist wars, the Spanish political scene during Isabella’s reign (1833-68) was a dissolving view of military mutinies, civil émeutes, pronunciamentos and dictators.
A study of Isabella’s reign is perhaps of not less value toward an understanding of the present situation than is a study of Spanish history since the Restoration. It was a wretched period, an awful mess, but not devoid of a certain genuineness; whereas Spanish politics since the Restoration has been a sham — no less a sham than the Chinese Republic.
And some of the results of Isabella’s reign were happy. Carlism may be regarded in two senses: as the assertion of the dynastic claims of a branch of the Spanish Bourbons, and as the cause of Reaction in its extreme form of Absolutism and Sacerdotalism in holy wedlock joined. By their conduct of the war the Carlists in the field made their cause to stink intolerably. But, in the larger sense of the word, Queen Isabella herself and many of her supporters were Carlists. The Queen was always as reactionary as she dared to be, and she dared more and more. Ultimately she dropped all pretense of tolerance for Liberal views and alternated between the most preposterous ecclesiastical mummery and harlotry of the most vulgar. At long last her conduct was too much for even the Spanish olfactories, and the Royal Croshabell was sent flying across the Bidassoa (1868).
So Carlism was discredited of its adherents. If permanently discredited, as I am inclined to think it is, — though it were foolish to speak with assurance concerning Homo Hispanicus,—the result was worth forty years of civil war, misgovernment in every conceivable form, camarillas, royal debauchery, treasons, massacres, pronunciamentos, and dictatorships. But the Queen and that pretty fellow, Bravo Murillo, managed to transmit a Carlist legacy which has had disastrous effects and may yet have others; namely, the Concordat of 1851 with the Vatican.
I think we may say, too, that the experience of Isabella’s reign thoroughly sickened the Spanish people of military pronunciamentos; the disgust whereof lasted for fifty years, until displaced by the moral nausea caused by the scandal of constitutional government à l’Espagne. But no doubt the disgust could easily be revived; and no doubt a sufficient recognition of that fact has duly influenced the plans of Primo de Rivera.
Of the period between the eviction of Isabella and the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in the person of Isabella’s son, Alfonso XII, in January 1875, the most important observation to make is that the two-year experiment of a republic thoroughly discredited the idea of the suitability of republican government for Spain. At least for the present and apparently for a great many years to come: so the Republican chiefs, among whom were included some of the finest personalities of Spain, ruefully admitted. Another idea — a very plausible one — was even more emphatically discredited; the idea, namely, of Federalism. It was proposed in the Constituent Cortes, assembled to frame a constitution for the Republic, that the Republic should be a federation of thirteen States corresponding to the ancient kingdoms and principalities. The rumor of that proposal had a curious effect throughout Spain.
It aroused long-suppressed desires to a positive fury of assertion. Catalonia declared her independence; but of course separatism is an old story in Catalonia. Barcelona has been in a chronic state of revolt ever since the fifteenth century. The situation is peculiar there. The people are Roussillonnais, whereas the rest of the Spaniards are predominantly Iberian or Berber (which is the same thing to the ethnologist). Even the Basques are Iberians, the purest Iberians of them all. Valencia followed Catalonia’s lead (pursuant to historical precedent), but at a little distance. She declared autonomy and proceeded to effect it. But the Catalans and Valencians cherished traditions of the local self-government of which they had been deprived in the previous century. They proceeded with a certain sanity and deliberation. It was the Andalusians and Murcians who went quite mad; mad as Malays amok, mad as Hatters or March Hares. The measure of autonomy proposed in the Cortes was not enough for them. Not Federalism but Cantonalismo was the ticket. In other words, sheer anarchy with its crudest additaments. Much against the grain of the Republican chiefs,— Pi y Margall, Salmeron, Castelar, the most humane, the most antimilitarist, the least practical of men,— the mad ‘Volunteers of Liberty’ had to be restored to their senses by the persuasion of the bullet.
Ford, in his incomparable Gatherings from Spain, has a charming passage on Spanish ‘ localism ‘ — what others are apt to call ‘ separatism’— and quotes Strabo’s saying about the Iberians of his day, that, ‘they never would put their shields together.’ This ‘localism’ or ‘particularismus’ was, of course, in full flourish throughout the period of Reconquest, and accounts for the length of that period. It was again whoopingly in evidence in the Napoleonic period and once more in the episode of 1820-23; but its extreme manifestation was in the brief days of the Republic, 1873-4, and there are disturbing indications that it may flame forth again with no less violence under encouraging conditions.
It is of great significance that the Andalusian peasants, the miserable wretches of the latifundia, participated in the outrages of 1873 with an enthusiasm equal to that of the town mobs. No doubt Primo de Rivera, Dictator of Spain, has a memory for Cartagéna, Malaga, the affair of Alcoy (as nasty as our own Herrin massacre); no doubt he reflects that little has been done since 1873 to satisfy the grievances of the Andalusian peasants, which indeed scream to Heaven; doubtless the indications, north, south, east, west, have not escaped his eye, of degeneration of the ‘localism’ of Strabo’s day into anarchism. Beyond doubt, consideration of these things has deeply influenced his plans for the restoration of Spain.
In January 1875, young Alfonso landed at Barcelona, coming from England and a course at Sandhurst. He mounted the throne of his fathers to universal acclamation and satisfaction. Carlism, militarism, republicanism, federalism, anarchism, and royal debauchery, had all been discredited. The type of government desired by the majority of Spaniards was thus sufficiently ‘indicated.’
Quite obviously the form of government most suitable for the Spain of 1875 was a moderate constitutional monarchy, and no less obviously, it seems to me, that is the form of government most suitable for the Spain of today: a monarchy that should be liberalized gradually, conformably to the tendencies of the age. The government established by Canovas del Castillo, the great Conservative minister who dominated the Spanish political scene from 1875 to 1897, was in form just that — a moderate constitutional monarchy; and in form it has been greatly liberalized since its institution. How comes it, then, that after fifty years of this ‘constitutional’ monarchy, so greatly liberalized withal, we now behold a successful military pronunciamento, and a military dictator laying about him with a big stick as Narvaez himself never dared to lay about; and
more amazing still — the business apparently approved by the great majority of the Spanish people and the best part of informed world opinion?
The explanation is that the so-called constitutional government was no such thing; that it was the most egregious sham ever foisted on a gullible world; more of a sham even than the American concept of Liberty; the most mendacious political bam ever perpetrated, more mendacious by far than an American party platform. Now the Spanish are a humorous people. They are aware of the necessary part Mendacity plays in the affairs of this world; especially in the sphere of politics. Spain has produced disinterested and high-minded statesmen; such as Castelar, for only one example. But the Spaniards know well enough that such are not for the necessary rough work of State. The world is what it is; a humorous devising. Let the politicians lie and juggle, for such is their nature, provided they ‘produce the goods’ in the forms of full bellies, a little Valdepeñas for the bota, and the price, now and then, of a seat at the bullfight. These things not forthcoming, explanations are in order.
These things have not been forthcoming from the civilian politicians under the constitutional system, socalled, and so the Spanish people are content that the army officers, who have their own particular grievances, should proceed by extra-legal means to the satisfaction of those grievances, provided that at the same time they take effective order, as they have promised, to satisfy the people’s grievances. No doubt the people are vaguely aware how in the days before the Restoration military dictators flouted and betrayed their interests as egregiously as have the ‘constitutional civilian Governments since. But the offense of the latter is more recent. Perhaps, think the people, the officers have had a change of heart. At any rate, they cannot do worse than the civilian crew. Let them have a trial.
So the people — feeling rather than thinking, or perhaps indifferent as yet.
But suppose that the military chiefs should fail to make good on their promises, whether through weakness or willfulness?
Going back to first causes, the grievances of army and people are referable to the utterly false theory of government evolved by Canovas del Castillo, head of the Conservatives, acquiesced in and in due time accepted by Sagasta, chief of the Liberals, and transmitted by them to their political heirs and assigns; and to the execrable machinery by which practical effect was given to the theory. The ‘big idea’ of Canovas was that the two great dynastic parties, Conservative and Liberal, should alternate in possession of the Government, the times and ostensible causes of transfer to be arranged by the party chiefs. When the time arrived for a transfer, a straw measure would be set up by the Government and its cohorts would rally to it ferociously. Then the Opposition, joined by a sufficient number of traitors, would attack with the fury of Alva’s infantry. Down would go the straw bill, the Cabinet would resign, and there you were. The Ins were Outs, and the Outs were Ins, and so on forever and forever. ‘Rotativist is the pretty name applied to this pretty system.
The new Cabinet would, of course, require a Chamber of like flavor and bouquet. Here was where the infamous machinery, above alluded to, for controlling elections, came in. The name of this institution is El Caciquismo — as who should say: the Perfect Flower of Bossism. There was a hierarchy of caciques from the Home Secretary down. The local caciques controlled the municipal councils (so degraded now from their mediæval pride) which managed the local elections. Enough said: when Boss Tweed found it convenient to go overseas, he naturally betook himself to Spain.
It is obvious how from so grand a Sham nought but shammish could proceed; how a Mendacium so stupendous would breed an infinity of Mendaciuncula. Such a system, of course, would be especially obnoxious to criticism. To silence that, bribery was ‘ indicated’; or legislation damaging to the common weal but favorable to particular interests — for example, high tariffs to placate Barcelona; or the tempestive wink. The generous youth entering politics must be corrupted. Places must be found, the civil and pension lists swelled. What more natural than that the Ins should line their pockets against the lean days of Out-ness? A little rake-off, say, on a contract for supply of the army; or a little stock-jobbing; or another sinecure. It would not do, of course, to discover to the lieges the application of the public funds; therefore the Budget must lie — which it always did. When Gamazo, in 1892, brought in an honest budget for once, he almost caused a revolution. Inevitably it became the custom to consolidate the yearly deficit with the Interior Debt.
Still, the public debt, though far too large, is not now of a size to justify alarm. It is about the equivalent of $2,400,000,000, having increased by only about $600,000,000 since 1898.
The chief grievances in the matter of public finance have been the high expenditure, the consequent heavy taxation, the almost mediæval method of assessment whereby the burden has been made to fall mostly on the poor, and the dishonesty and inefficiency in the methods of collection, whence it was that less than two thirds of the amounts assessed reached the Treasury. From time to time able and honest finance ministers, like Camacho and Villaverde, emerged, with proposals of reform and retrenchment, but only a minor part of these proposals were enacted against the opposition of the placemen, the grafters, the vested interests, the pensioners, all the servants of the Grand Sham.
It is since 1914 that the infamy of the fiscal system has come out into boldest relief. Spain profited tremendously by the war; to the tune, it is said, of $1,600,000,000. That is, the Spanish capitalists profited; not the producers, whose wages were not raised nor living conditions improved; not the fisc, which did not tax the monstrous profits. To the contrary, public expenditure immensely increased, and the consequent taxes were paid by the old crowd, the humble pecheros; for pechero (taxpayer) is the significant name applied of old to folk of low degree. But, thanks to increasing Socialist and Communist propaganda, the people, the pecheros, have become increasingly aware of the vast inequality in the distribution of wealth, of the unjust discrimination of the fisc in favor of the old privileged classes and the ‘new rich,’ and suspicious of relations of graft between the latter and the official class. This is perhaps the most outstanding grievance of the Spanish masses — the economic, fiscal, and financial grievance.
It is undoubtedly true that with elimination of graft and with ‘ indicated’ fiscal reforms (I have omitted to speak of the absurd tariffs due to cowardly yielding to Catalan pressure), public expenditure could be reduced to a tolerable level, the budget balanced, and the public debt put in course of liquidation. These things Primo de Rivera, Spanish Dictator, has promised.
We are now come to the occasion (though not t he ‘ first cause,’ which was the Grand Sham) of the Spanish coup of September 13, 1923: namely, the indignation of the army over the Government’s manner of dealing with the Moroccan Question.
It is with difficulty that I resist the temptation briefly to outline here the romantic story of the relations between Spain and Morocco from early historical times to the consummation of the Christian Reconquest of Spain, in 1492. Immediately on the fall of Granada the idea presented itself to the great Cardinal Ximenes, of continuing the crusade by an invasion of Africa, and of consolidating the African conquests and extending Spain to the Atlas range. A beginning was made toward a realization of that idea by the capture of sundry towns and strategic points and islands along the Mediterranean coast of Africa, but attention was soon diverted from that quarter to the Americas.
The African conquests of the great Ferdinand fell away one by one until in 1791 only Melilla, some neighbor islands, and an insignificant littoral, were left. Ceuta, however, fell in with the annexation of Portugal, and its possession by Spain was confirmed by the Treaty of Lisbon in 1688. It was on these possessions, and her immemorial ‘interests,’ however shadowy grown, in those parts, that Spain, in proposing to resume the project of the great Cardinal, based her Moroccan claims.
That Spain never forgot Morocco, but cherished a very lively sense of her claims there, was seen in the African plans of Charles III and Floridablanca, and more emphatically in the business of 1859. In 1859 detachments of the garrison of Melilla were sent out into the neighboring country to gather firewood. The Berbers resented such trespassing, as they called it, and retaliated by harassments and destruction of some of the Spanish outworks. O’Donnell, then in power in Madrid, was much in need of popularity. He decided that a punitive expedition against the Sultan of Morocco would do the trick. He was right. The crusading spirit was aroused to a pitch that recalled the blessed time of Isabella. The expedition was stupidly mismanaged, but was successful because of the heroism of the troops fired by crusading zeal. The Sultan was in a mood to make heavy territorial concessions, but England intervened to forbid such terms. The episode, however, demonstrated that, given a cause which could arouse and focus the latent passion of loyalty of the Spaniard to Church or King (’t is all one), Spanish troops would fight as bravely as in the days of Garcilaso de la Vega.
No doubt Primo de Rivera has well perpended this episode, and not impossibly he has laid his Moroccan plans accordingly. We have no precise information as to the reasons for the recent visit of their Catholic Majesties and Primo de Rivera to the Vatican. Can it be that the main object was to enlist the coöperation of the Vatican with a view to giving to a fresh push in Morocco the character of a crusade? The reaction of a successful crusade would immensely enhance the prestige of the Church. The concessions glanced at would be compensated many-fold. The Vatican can make or mar.
It seems to me that the Revolution opens out a magnificent opportunity for a satisfactory adjustment of the relations of Church and State in Spain, an adjustment which should immensely enhance the legitimate opportunities of the Church, which should cordially recognize that Spain is in fact a Catholic country, and yet should end the tradition of Clerical obstruction to a liberal evolution of Government and to a sufficiently generous educational system. An ultramontane Government, as we have seen, will not be tolerated in Spain; but ultramontane opposition will defeat any other sort of Government, short of bloody revolution, years of revolution, Old Spain turned upside down. One should like to have overheard the conversations between the Spanish Dictator, their Catholic Majesties, and His Holiness.
But to return to our muttons, or the Morocco Question.
It was natural that, the chapter of the Americas closed in 1898, Spain should turn her eyes to Morocco. But she was weary and impoverished. A terrible lassitude fell upon her; pessimism, disillusionment. She was fain to postpone that project for a while. But that was not permitted.
In 1909, workmen engaged in building a railway from Melilla to mines in the hills held by Spanish concessionaires, were attacked by Rif tribesmen. A punitive expedition of 50,000 was therefore sent to Melilla, and after a terrible campaign the Rifeños submitted. But this time there was no slightest sign of a crusading spirit. To the contrary, the proposal to call out the Catalan reserves led to a general strike in Barcelona; bloody riots; martial law throughout Spain; a three months’ military reign of terror; the first awesome demonstration of the new Syndicalism, an allotropic and incredibly hideous form of the Anarchism hitherto noted.
Here then is another of those considerations which must have lent an impulse to Primo de Rivera’s coup, and must have strongly colored his plans; the consideration of the menace of Syndicalism, which has its headquarters at Barcelona but has spread to other industrial centres and since 1909 has thriven mightily. One hears it said that, failing a revolution from the Right, one would have seen by this a revolution from the Left. It may be so. Primo de Rivera has gone about sturdily to scotch that serpent. Can he kill it?‘
The Rifeños given a stomachful for the nonce, a treaty was patched up with the Sultan of Morocco, and all signs pointed to an indefinite postponement of aggressive action in Morocco. But it was not permitted. The French push in Morocco compelled aggressive assertion of the Spanish claims if they were not to be abandoned. A very limited recognition of the Spanish claims was conceded by the Convention of the Powders in 1912 which defined the French Protectorate of Morocco, the Spanish Zone of Morocco, and, very vaguely, the international status of Tangier. But already, in 1911, the Spanish Government had begun, in face of disapproving popular demonstrations, to push forward in Morocco. The project of the Great Cardinal was to be resumed, though on a greatly reduced scale. The tract of country it was proposed to conquer and Hispanicize is a rough rectangle extending east and west about two hundred miles from Larache to the mouth of the Muluya, and about seventy miles inward from the Mediterranean; enclosing within it the little internationalized ‘zone’ of Tangier.
The Spanish Zone is divided into three districts: the eastern, with headquarters at Melilla; the central, with headquarters at Tetuan; the western, with headquarters at Larache. There has never been much difficulty in the Larache district; the Tetuan district, now that El Raisuli has ceased from troubling, may be accounted fairly pacified; the grand difficulties have been and are in the Rif district. Perhaps the most important military problem has been to effect communication by land between the Tetuan and Rif districts. Such communication achieved, the general military problem in the Rif would be greatly simplified. It has not been achieved.
But in the ten years from 1911 to 1921 progress, important though slow, was being compassed in the Rif; apparently satisfactory enough to the Spanish authorities. A line of blockhouses had been established some fifty miles westward from Melilla. A light railway had been pushed out about half this distance. Thence to the blockhouses communication was by rough roads with difficulty negotiated by motor vehicles. Along these roads were chains of posts. Direct communication between the blockhouses was meagre and precarious, owing to the mountainous character of the country. The service of the rear was wretchedly organized, there were no supplementary lines of defense, coördination in retreat would be impossible. But apparently very few entertained apprehensions of disaster.
In July 1921, there were about 15,000 Spanish troops in the Rif district; practically all at the front. On July 18 hordes of wild tribesmen issued from the recesses of the hills and swooped on the Spanish positions. It would seem that in few instances did the Spaniards make a stand; rather, they turned and fled, abandoning artillery, transport, stores, everything. Within four days the entire Spanish forces had practically been wiped out and the Rifis were bombarding Melilla with captured Spanish guns. It was one of the most horrible episodes in military history, and an unspeakable disgrace to Spanish arms. One hesitates to impute cravenness, but must impute incapacity, with few exceptions, to the officers. A notable exception was General Navarro, who assembled some 3000 fugitives, organized and heartened them, and with them fell back on Monte Arruit and there dug in; in vain, for, fighting desperately, they were overwhelmed. Their retreat was covered by a small body of cavalry under Colonel Primo de Rivera, presumably a relative of the Dictator, whose conduct was worthy of the knights of the Paso Honroso or even of Hernando del Pulgar himself.
To what, then, is the disaster to be attributed? To sheer cowardice? No, the individual Spaniard, to-day as of old, is one of the bravest of men. The little remnant with Navarro defended themselves desperately and died heroically. Evidently a sufficient number of officers with this remnant were efficient as well as brave. The wild stampede from the positions is attributable in chief to utter lack of collective morale, the latter being chargeable to lack of discipline, lack of training, general lack of confidence of the men in their officers. Somehow one fails to conceive confidence in a Government conducted by Spanish officers: but perhaps Primo de Rivera has been careful to assign to the tasks of government only the Navarros and the (Colonel) Primo de Riveras.
It behoves to probe deep for the causes of the Rif disaster; for, unless those causes are ascertained and discovered to be remediable, there is no hope of vindication of Spanish arms, no hope, indeed, at all for Spain.
I said that the disaster was not due to cowardice. That statement must be qualified. Starvation will abate the bravest spirits; and accounts agree that the Spanish soldiers were wretchedly underfed. It is not fair to pass judgment on the native quality of underfed troops.
The blockhouse system was the right one, but, as I have remarked, the communications, lateral and to the rear, were wretchedly inadequate. Considering that the front line had been advanced only fifty miles in ten years, there had been ample time to perfect communications. But for this labor battalions were needed rather than soldiers; and very considerable apparatus and supplies for constructing railroads, military highways, trails, and so forth. The military people say that they made the proper requisitions, but that the appropriations for these purposes, sufficiently skimpy, were mostly dissipated in graft; they add that large part of the moneys appropriated for food, hospitals, equipment, and supplies of every sort, lodged in the pockets of contractors, civil servants, members of the Government itself. Therefore, assert the military, the Rif disaster is attributable quite as much to the Government as to themselves. Moreover, they cry out, it is an old story; merely the Rif episode is its culminating and most disgraceful chapter. The army in Cuba was, by their account, the victim of similar treatment; 100,000 lives uselessly sacrificed there through inadequacy of transport, of food, of necessaries in general — all chargeable to Government inefficiency and to graft.
As to the grievances of the rank and file of the army and those of the people in re/Morocco, they are readily inferable from the above. The Cuban wars had been hateful; the flower of Spanish youth vainly sacrificed. But the Rif disaster was a crowning horror. Too true is still the ancient saying: ' Here is Castile. She makes men and wastes them.’
Naturally, all Spain was stirred to the depths. The army of course could not object to investigation, and did not, but demanded that the civilian share of responsibility be determined. A committee headed by General Picasso was appointed to investigate, and is understood to have made a thorough and impartial job of it. But its report never got beyond committee in the Cortes; one suspects because its publication would have compromised too many important persons. Significantly, debate on the Rif question in the Cortes became languid. Civilian responsibility, so it seemed, was not to be fixed.
Meantime, what was being done toward rectification of the situation in the Rif district, recovery of the ground lost, vindication of Spanish arms? Not a great deal, apparently. Troops were poured into Melilla in numbers more than sufficient — had they been of the right quality — to put the Rifeños quite out of business. But they were mere lads, undernourished, almost devoid of military training. Precise authentic information is lacking, but it is probably correct to say that no very great progress was being made toward recovery of the positions held in July 1921, when of a sudden, if you please, an entirely new policy was announced. The Rifeños were to be conciliated, not conquered. A civilian commissioner replaced the military commissioner of the Spanish Zone; and a ‘Spanish Protectorate of Morocco ‘ was proclaimed, a pacific millennial affair. And this at the very time when Abdul Krim, chief of the Berbers, was proclaiming a Rif Republic, sending missions to London, Paris, Rome, to ask recognition thereof, telling the world that the Spaniards must clear out of his country, that he would admit no compromise. Indignation over the failure of the Government to bring to book the civilians in part responsible for the Rif disaster, and over the failure of the Government to vindicate Spanish military honor, was the immediate cause of the coup of September 13, 1923.
It should have been the aim of a genuine constitutional monarchy with a liberal objective: to subordinate the military and religious powers to the civil power; to promote the education of the electorate; to do away the mediæval injustices of the latifundia; to adjust the absurdly conflicting industrial and agricultural interests; to expunge the unfair remnants of ancient privilege; within discreet limits (remembering the lesson of 1873) to restore the municipal councils after the pattern of the mediæval concejos; to revive agriculture, profiting by Roman and Moorish lessons; to deal boldly with the Catalan question, if necessary destroying the Catalan monopoly, which has not always existed, witness the now extinct but once greatly flourishing woollen industry of Toledo, the silk and leather industries of Andalusia; to give to the judiciary a prestige and independence recalling the Aragonian tradition of the Justicia; to create, out of the splendid material available, a truly national army such as Gonsalvo de Cordova himself might be proud to command; to deal with the problems of economics and finance in the enlightened spirit of a Campomanes or a Villaverde; to open the spiritual passes closed by Philip II. For all that is needed to the restoration of Spain there is abundant ensample and tradition in Spanish history.
But all these needed reforms have been negatived by the Grand Sham; to the effect that after fifty years of the form without the substance of constitutional monarchy, a military dictatorship more rigid than any hitherto known in Spain has established itself to the general approval.
What, precisely, is the programme of Primo de Rivera?
That part of it which has been disclosed may be summarized as follows : —
1.Deracination of Communism, Anarchism and the like, and of Separatism.
2. Purification of administration in all grades, with drastic retrenchments and financial reforms.
3. ‘Placing the problem of Morocco on a firm basis, in such a manner that it cannot be ruinous to Spain.’ [The Dictator’s own words.]
4. Bringing to trial of the civilians held by the military to be largely responsible for the Moroccan disasters.
5. Independence of the judiciary. What has been done pursuant to the above programme? ‘
1. A National Directorate has been established consisting of nine generals (representing the nine military regiones of Spain) and the Admiral of the Navy. This Directorate governs by decree. The King sits in at the Directorate meetings and signs the decrees.
2. The Cortes have been dissolved.
3. Certain constitution rights have been suspended, including trial by jury, and the rights of free assembly, free speech, and a free press.
4. A decree directs organization of a national militia, to be on the model of the Italian Fascista organization and to consist of 450,000 men (50,000 for each of the nine military regiones). It does not appear what has been accomplished pursuant to this important decree. The Spanish national militia of bygone days has bequeathed an unsavory memory.
5. The ministries have been suppressed, except those of War and the Navy, the departments thus decapitated being administered by their senior permanent officials.
6. The provincial civil administrations have been abolished (governors and provincial deputations sent packing), and in lieu of them a committee has been set up for each of the nine regiones, consisting of a general of artillery, a general of infantry, and one of cavalry.
7. The old municipal councils have been dissolved and new councils elected, under supervision of military officers to prevent interference by the local caciques.
8. A perfect horde of unnecessary placemen have been dismissed.
9. Drastic action, including many arrests, has been taken looking to suppression of Communism, Syndicalism and allied isms.
10. Promise has been given of free election of a new Cortes, and restitution of the Constitutional machinery. In due course, that is; when the process of purification is complete; when the Grand Sham, Rotativism, and El Caciquismo have been done to death.
11. The pacifist arrangements for Morocco have been cancelled and General Aizpuru has been sent to Melilla as generalissimo.
But the Dictator’s intentions with respect to Morocco are not at all clear. This at least, however, is certain: that he intends completely to vindicate the honor of Spanish arms by pushing beyond the most advanced positions hitherto attained in the Rif. Some say that he proposes thereupon to chuck the Moroccan adventure completely; others think that he would withdraw in the Rif sector to the coast, retaining only a shallow littoral. Yet others believe he would retain and consolidate his conquest.
It may be remarked that the hare must be caught before it can be skinned, that the very able youth, Abdul Krim, may produce a Roland for Primo de Rivera’s Oliver. Be that as it may, for reasons I cannot spread out here (including the supremely important considerations of national pride and self-confidence), I believe the lastnamed course to be the statesmanlike one. Permanent conquest of the Rif country should be achievable without very great difficulty, by a determined and ably directed effort of 100,000 men following careful preparation. Of course I presuppose thorough reform of the army; to which (though the dispatches are silent thereanent) it seems proper to assume that Primo de Rivera has vigorously addressed himself. A further presupposition is necessary: namely, that Primo de Rivera should find a way to commend further prosecution of the Moroccan adventure to a people sickened thereof. One presupposes, that is, that Primo de Rivera is a very big man and that there are other big men competent to take up his task should he die or break down. For he is seventy years old.
No doubt the Rif business is the most important of the Dictator’s problems. Disaster in that quarter would ruin him. But I take it that he will not court disaster by an immediate push. Meantime, there are the home problems. The Dictator has disclosed his programme only in part. He has been silent on some of the more important items of an adequate programme: as education, the relations with the Church, agrarian policy. A certain dispatch is ‘indicated.’ Convocation of a new Cortes, restoration of the constitutional machinery, must not be delayed overlong.
I lack the boldness to hazard a forecast as to the final outcome of Primo de Rivera’s superb emprise. I recall how John Hay’s estimate of the situation in Spain in 1870 was very largely falsified by the event. Oh yes! Primo de Rivera has a fighting chance; I would not say more. And should he fail?
Ay! de mi España!