"FRANCO IS A REBEL"
—Says London Irishman
Impartial Investigation In England
GENERAL FRANCO IS CONSOLIDATING THE TERRIFIc. ADVANCES MADE DURING THE LAST FEW WEEKS. THOUGH HE HAS APPEARED TO HAVE MADE NO GEOGRAPHICAL PROGRESS DURING THE LAST WEEK EVEN THE LEFTIST PRESS DOES NOT DENY THAT COMPLETE VICTORY IS NOW IMMINENT.
Reliable reports from Spain are now in circulation as to the advances he has made and concerning the acclamation of the Nationalists in the captured territory.
How far are English Catholics as a whole in sympathy with the cause of Nationalist Spain ?
While the outcome of the war was doubtful and British public opinion as a whole strongly prejudiced by propaganda against Franco, an investigation into the question was out of place. Today it is of interest.
Few English Catholics, outside Left political extremists, appear to favour the Red side, more especially after the issue of the Spanish Hierarchy's letter, though there was considerable sympathy among intellectuals with the cause of the Basques, the " People and Freedom " Catholic bourgeois group being conspicuous. Probably a number of English Catholics are still in support of Basque autonomy because of the traditional Catholicity of the Basques and the principle of self-determination. They would equally favour Catalan autonomy.
But the biggest number of Franco's critics are to be found among Catholics who claim to be impartial as between the political issues or who believe that both sides are equally to blame. Most supporters of the Labour Party take this view, though many consciences were deeply worried by the growing evidence that the Reds were actively anti-Catholic, having committed numberless atrocities, especially against the clergy, while the Nationalists were proved to be not only actively fighting for Christianity but to have behaved progressively better as order and authority were regained.
A small group of Catholic pacifists with certain conspicuous leaders like Eric Gill and Donald Attwater, were opposed to both sides on the ground that the war was unjustifiable.
The attitude of intellectuals, sympathisers with Labour and pacifists has been throughout steadily opposed by the English Hierarchy, the Catholic Press and the great majority of English Catholic publicists. Probably five Catholics in six accepted the views put forth by these leaders of opinion.
What has been the result of the conflict of opinion now that the war is ending?
A Catholic Herald staff reporter has gone about in likely Catholic circles in London keeping his ears open and asking questions.
The majority in every milieu he finds to be enthusiastic in its support of General Franco.
From a Staff Reporter
A few Sundays ago I went to Benediction at the church which lies hidden among mean streets and menaced by high railway arches, near the Tower of London.
Afterwards-I went with most of the congregation to the dance which is held each Sunday in the local school hall. It was a small hall and there were many people.
While the four-man band was enthusiastically playing a rumba (1 only dance a rumba under certain exceptional conditions) I talked with some of the young men who stood watching those who danced, with expressions of slight derision. We damned the rumba and lauded the tango and so, of course, began talking of Spain.
They were by no means Franco enthusiasts. A young Irishman said bluntly that Franco was a rebel against a legal Governmen t.
They Sneer at Democracy
Another, said, with a pleasant attempt to please everyone, that no doubt Franco had some justification but his methods of warfare could not be defended (Barcelona bombings were much in the news then), in any case it seemed to him that Liberal Democracy was the best kind of rule for most people.
There was no criticism of his views.
When I was dancing again I tried by indirect questions to get my partner to give her opinions of Franco. Either she did not want to, or she misunderstood my blundering attempts at subtlety, for she said only, " Yes, of course." in a very small voice.
Further attempts at such conversation with other partners were equally unsuccessful. But my curiosity as to the extent to which the opinion of average Catholics was opposed to Franco had been stirred.
A Convert Aged 25 The next day 1 lunched with John Gibbs, who is a mysterious force in the insurance world, aged 25 and a convert. He thought the issue in Spain was a very muddled one " but what does emerge—or at least can be isolated from the rest of the quarrels and misunderstandings—is the basic question of democracy.
" Many of our leading Catholics today sneer at the effete doctrine of demooracy, but that does not alter one whit the fact that, even though it may be at the present day unattainable. we should strive to reach it as the most civilised—the most Christian form of government."
He held that Franco was a military dictator who had usurped the leadership of Spain. But he sympathised with the men of Navarre. When I suggested that it was not in accord with democratic ideals for the province of Navarre to be governed by a muddling bunch of middle-class Madrid bureaucrats intent only on their interests he agreed. He thought that Navarre and Catalonia and Euzcadi should all be autonomous.
In Poplar one afternoon more recently I
was introduced, by the parish priest, to a baker's assistant.
He was a man of about thirty, an excellent Catholic, very cheerful, and on that afternoon;deeply interested in the Russian trial. He had the peculiar view that all the accused were really as black as Stalin painted them, and quoted as support the Daily Worker.
I was not excessively surprised to hear him condemn General Franco as a Fascist and a ruthless killer of women and children.
Two young journalists whom I see on occasion are in general against Franco. One, the younger, a police-court reporter, expresses scepticism at the stories of the atrocities committed by the " Reds," and believes Franco's rule to be very far from the ideal form of government; but at the same time he is contemptuous of the other side as being ineffectual and anarchic.
The other works for the Press Association, and adopts an attitude very similar to that of News Chronicle editorials.
As I continued with my unofficial and spasmodic investigation into the degree with which ordinary Catholics supported General Franco, I became more and more surprised, not at the number of people who were against him, but at all those who were
I had pessimistically thought that after two years of wearying war, and an intensive and almost universal, anti-Franco press campaign, the great majority of English Catholics would be, at the most, not fiercely opposed to Franco. For all I know that may be the case for the country as a whole, my investigations though representative were necessarily limited.
Troubled by Bloodshed
True, in addition to the anti-Francos described already, there were many like the civil servant who called the war a " dog fight " and the young man from the Stock Exchange who thought there was a lot to be said for both sides."
There were many also who, though scorning such easy unreasoned neutrality, were troubled by a sincere conflict of opinions, like the school-teacher whom I met one evening in an empty church at Chiswick. He thought that in essentials Franco was for Christianity but he was deeply horrified by the brutality of the whole war, and he wondered if it were really possible to restore Christianity to Spain by bombs and machine-guns.
An Engineer and Bombing
Then there was the engineering employee who was greatly disturbed by the bombardmeats of Barcelona and asked: " Why don't Catholic Bishops appeal to all the nations of the world to outlaw aerial bombardment?" (This was before the Pope's protest against the Barcelona bombing had been published.) Yet he believed that Franco's cause was the right one.
So also did the elderly Irish lady who
(Continued in column 6) (Continued front column 2).
has for long dabbled in politics and sat upon committees, but she too was troubled by the ruthless war which has been necessary in order to impose the rule of General Franco.
Of course these somewhat unfavourable opinions of General Franco are not the whole story. They are the views of the minority of those Catholics with whom I have discussed the Spanish war.
The majority were enthusiasts for National Spain. They were of every age and position, students, unemployed, schoolteachers, office workers, factory workers. .. Generally their views were that Franco had to win this war in order to save Spain from Communism. Their ideas are what one would expect from any reasonably intelligent Catholic, and as such are not news.
7 to 1 Propaganda
But the opposite ideas from Catholics do seem to be news.
Are they the result, as a university student suggested, " of seven or eight secular papers versus one or two Catholic papers each week?"
I think in most cases the anti-Franco Catholic can be explained by the fact that intensive antiaFranco propaganda is put before him seven days of the week, and the once-a-week news of the Catholic paper —if he troubles to read it. and usually he does if he takes any intelligent interest in such issues as the Spanish war—is not sufficient to counteract it.
But even so there are some cases where objections to Franco by Catholics which cannot possibly be explained as anything other than the sincere conviction of consciettm,