Hopeful Than Portugal's?
By Michael de la Bedoyere
APART from Fatima and the
tourist interest-and neither of these should be underrated. different as the first may be from the second-my visit to Portugal had the grea1 advantage of providing me with a contrast to Spain.
The .difference between the two countries strikes one very forcibly within an hour or two of landing at the Lisbon airport-an airport which prides itself on being the nearest in the world to the centre of a capital city.
There is an air of gaiety and geniality, neither of which are conspietious in Spain. People seem to take an active and sincere interest in tine, whereas the Spaniard treats the foreigner very much as the Englishman does. He leaves him to find his own feet and only takes him to heart once a real personal relationship has been set up.
On one's first drive through Lisbon one notices the many and large bookshops in which foreign titles and advertisements can be detected. Above all, one notices the little shops with mammoth displays of foreign papers all around the door. There is nothing of this in Spain where foreign books and foreign papers are practically unobtainable. (This is attributed to foreign exchange difficulties rather than politics, but one feels that if there were a will, a way would be found to encourage more cultural contact with the outside world.) Lastly,the sea air of Portugal seems easier to breathe than the ascetic dryness of ancient Castile.
These first impressions are quickly confirmed, The Portuguese are indeed a charming, easy-going, negatively fatalistic people, and they live in a land as lovely, though very different from, Southern England. One feels at home in Lisbon, as one feels at home in Paris or Florence, but as-1 must admit it-one does not feel at home in Madrid or Seville.
The consequences of these favourable impressions are not. however. necessarily to the moral credit of Portugal. since they inevitably make one feel that there is something wrong ,and unnaturat about the regime.
Whereas in Spain no fair-minded person can really feel that a people is being oppressed by a dictatorship -since the whole picture is so integrated I at least had the sense that the Hgitne in Portugal was an oppression. It was like the idea of a dictatorship in France
This is not to say that the present regime-on paper at least more constitutional than in Spain since the Prime Minister can be dismissed by the President, who is nominally elected-is unnecessary; still less that it has not achieved extraordinary results. The fact is that the Portuguese have the defects of their q.ualities. Theirs, of course, is a very great tradition, religious and historical, and their country is studded with magnificent monuments to that past (much more English in character, by the way. than are the Spanish counterparts). One likes particularly the refusal of the Portuguese monarchs to wear the crown, since with it Our Lady has been crowned Queen of Portugal. But after the Reformation they seem to have come down with a bump. The 19th and early 20th centuries in particular • were very bad for both Church and State whose relations were in fact administered in terms of a strange Concordat which put the Church very much in the power of a badly-run State.
It was an easy-going, but rapid running-down, it seems, rather than a case of positive evil everywhere dominant. And the job of Church and State in contemporary Portugal has been to climb slowly. methodically and arduously the long slope upwards. Progress under Salazar has been tremendous, and to-day under a new Concordat of great interest in. that it closely links a secular State with the Church in a nominally Catholic country. Church and State are in excellent condition.
However, the spiritual progress at least MUM not be exaggerated. While the Church is universally respected to-day, the number of practising Catholics is very intich lower than in Spain. Fifty per cent. was the optimistic view of a sanguine priest. Ten per cent. was the perhaps unduly severe judgment of another.
It was this latter priest, who has had much experience of the confessional, who told me that the Sixth Commandment remains the spiritual stumbling-block of the country. 11 is not so much a, matter of getting
people to observe the law, but to persuade them that there is any law to be obeyed.
Spectacular Progress The progress of the Stele has been much more spectacular. Seem
zar, armed with more or lees aheo lute powere. has applied to his country the plans over which he has pondered in the seclusion of his study (from which he seems rarely to emerge) in their " blueprint
stage. Portugal's prosperity causes the prosperity of the much harder
hit Spain to recede into something very like a question mark. In Portugal there seems to be everything. Immense housing schemes to suit all pockets; great arterial roads;
the projected mammoth bridge over the Tagus', the finest stadium in the
world; good wages (my critical in formant admitted this); reasonable prices (much cheaper than Spain); and a country absorbing foreign imports at what seems a fantastic rate. Again. one asks can it go on But one gets no answer.
Frankly there is something a little inhuman about it all, and one is not at all surprised' to learn that there is a strong opposition to this feat of super-human planning. It is too much for poor mortals. Rut the opposition is always met by the insistent question: Who can replace
Salazar and what practical alternative can there he to this tour-de-force ? More pressing is the question: What
indeed will happen when Salazar is no longer available ? And to this question also there is no answer.
Is there perhaps a catch in it all? One of the differences between Spain and Portugal is that the former. from rich to poor, from' north to south, strikes one as very much of one piece. In Portugal, on the other hand, time in many places has stood still. I had not the chance to visit
the south, hut i am told that much
of it might just as well be across the Straits of Gibraltar, so African is it.
And even in the parts I visited, never further than 100 miles from Lisbon.. one meets an amazing variety of types and extraordinary instances of the enduring Moorish influence. All this is charming, but not very easy to reconcile with the streamline facade of Selazar's new Portugal.
111 Portugal the possibility of the restoration of the monarchy la good paper solution at any late to many problems) seems muca more remote than in Spain, though the Portuguese monarchists still represent the best type in the country-a thing that could hardly be said of the Spanish monarchists.
All in all, I did not get the impression in prosperous Portugal of a country feeling its way along the difficult road leading towards the unknown future, as 1 did in Spain. The position seemed more artificial, more static, more brittle. Where the Spaniards were all seriously intent on the problem of to-marrow, the Portuguese were shrugging their ehoulders, content to look to the demi-god or to indulge the sport of imagining what would happen without him. Where the Catholics of Spain were deadly serious in their determination to tackle the problem of the Church in the modern world, the Catholics of Portugal seemed to rely on the miracle of Fatima. Our Lady, Queen of Portugal, could be relied upon to do the work for them 1 What of To-morrow ?
I trust that this is not an unfair summary, though 1 realise that it IS based on appearances and on very much less serious information than I took the trouble to obtain in Spain. But in so far as it is correct, it is important, since the importance of Spain and Portugal in world affairs, as well as in Christian affairs, is a question of to-morrow, rather than to-day or yesterday.
We in this country. as well as in America, cannot doubt the truth that there can he no healthy future, no real peace ahead, without liberty. And even if this were not a moral conviction in itself, it becomes today all-important as a tactic since in fact the world is up against an enemy which in addition to its intransic wrongness of purpose relies absolutely on the total denial of liberty in order to achieve its aim.
To say this is not to say that the introduction of what we should call free institutione into Spain and Portugal must he immediate; it is not even to say that sooner or later the Anglo-Saxon type of democracy must once again he applied in these countries. But it does surety mean that Church and State in Spain and Portugal should be actively studying ways and means of guaranteeing within the special traditions and conditions of those countries the fundamental liberties of man,
the four freedoms enunciated by Roosevelt. It does mean that even now there should he sense of cooperation towards this end between leaders and people. It does mean that there must he some readiness to take risks to achieve this purpose, for without some act of faith ;eal progress will never be made.
While to the outsider it seemed that Spain Was Slbw in making tip its mind to take such risks and ttn sic resti Ill it tett the ir ini porta nee, them appeared to be no doubt at all that it understood the importance of the problem. State, Church and people are active. alive, responding to the stimulations of the present world environment, and they are 'respond ing constructively. One may criticise to one's heart's content, and they are ready to discuss such criticism so long as it is truly relevant to their aims and conditions. 'This is why it is such a tragedy that the Anglo-Saxon world, and-even France to some extent, turns its face against .Spain, though impartial observers may well take the view that it is not Spain which suffers the greater loss in this misunderstanding.
I cannot say, possibly because I did not look.deeply enough, that I sensed the same organic vitality in Portugal. and for this reason asked myself whether Mere Wid.S much to he said for the meater toleration with which the Portuguese regime is viewed by the Powers, So long as Salazar remains to carry the tremendous responsibility of ruling and guiding his country along his ingenious lints and so long as he can keep disgruntled people at baywhich he probably can for so long as he cares to-all may be well. But no single man holds the keys to the greatest of enigmas, the future. The secrets to come can only be dis covered ambulando. Spain is on the move. Is Portugal ?