Page 10, 16th March 1962

16th March 1962
Page 10
Page 10, 16th March 1962 — Wind of change comes to Spain

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Organisations: British Labour Party
Locations: Malaga, Madrid


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Wind of change comes to Spain


A WIND of change is blowing through Spain. New forces are gathering to liberalise a dictatorial regime. The much abused labour syndicates have a part to play in this. But if Spain is to move forward, Franco must tell his people now what is to follow him when he dies.

These forthright views were

expressed to the CATHOLIC Edwards. former Labour PostHERALD, in an exclusive intermaster General, on his return view this week. by Mr. Ness from Madrid.

By Hugh Kay

AMORE moderate view of the much criticised Spanish syndicate system, substitute for a trade union movement in Spain, comes this week from Mr. Ness Edwards, former Postmaster General, who has just returned from Madrid, where he attended the syndicates' congress with four other British Labour M.P.s.

Member for Caerphilly and a Nonconformist, Mr. Edwards told me on his return that the Svndicato could, in his view, open up a more progressive industrial future for Spain, and he was much impressed by what it has already achieved. It can move forward to fill what would otherwise be a social vacuum.

"It has at least succeeded". he said, "in uniting the workers of Spain in one movement for the first time. It is ironic that it toa a dictatorship to bring this about".

Trade unions as such are forbidden in Spain. Industrial negotiation takes place within the syndicate framework to which employers and workers both belong.


"The Spanish concept of liberty and democracy is not ours," said Mr. Edwards. "Spain's experience in the 20th century has been a chequered one, and those who remember 1936 fear that looser forms of government may plunge the country back into anarchy.

"Nevertheless, within Spain's social superstructure, new forces are developing which will make for a much more liberal state of affairs.

"Students are reacting against the feudal tradition and seek to throw off the shackles that limit the range of things they want to enquire about. But no one Wants civil war. The keynote is progress without violence; those who try to hold up progress are the most likely prior cause of a violent solution."

Referring to the more progressive younger clergy and outstanding bishops like Mgr. Herrera of Malaga, Mr. Edwards argued that the Church has been losing her appeal among the men for failure to produce a concrete social programme on the lines of the Sermon on the Mount. Protests against injustice are not enough. "There is a tendency," Mr. Edwards continued, "for some people to criticise the forwardlooking ideas of some Syndicate leaders and brand them as Marxist and dangerous. when in fact they are more in line with the thinking of the right-to-centre groupings of the British Labour Party.

"I think the advocates of specifically Catholic syndicates are wrong, and I do not believe that Catholics in the British Labour movement would support them. Syndicate leaders tend to be Fabian. There may be some anticlericalism among them, but this is not the same thing as antagonism to the Church and to religion.

"It is, for instance, a tragedy that one of the most progressive thinkers, Jimenez Torres, has lost his job as secretary-general of the Syndicato. His ideas as outlined in a recent pamphlet are squarely based on Catholic social teaching.

"Moves for moderate state intervention to raise the standard of living often fall victim to the Spanish art of the smear. The best incentive to civil war is to refuse to give what civilised people elsewhere would expect to receive."

Quoting the old saving-"one Spaniard; one party; two Spaniards, three parties"-Mr. Edwards argued that a more democratic system in government and industry would be possible if Spain were not such a backward country industrially, and if her current vast programme for attracting foreign investment could move more swiftly.


The man in the peasant cooperative thinks very differently from the industrialist. Lack of co-ordination in political thinking is inevitable where the life of the country is all bits and pieces.

For instance, it is very difficult to secure national wage agreements. The result is that agreements with large firms are used to make smaller firms conform.

"And yet", said Mr. Edwards, "the syndicates are effective. The miners' agreement is as good as can be expected, and the miners' president is vice-president of the syndicate."

Describing the wind of change blowing through Spain, Mr. 'Edwards told me: "The most interesting psychological feature is that soccer is ousting the bull ring. The passion for blood is giving way to more civilised conduct in which the referee's whistle has significance."

Mr. Edwards urged that the syndicate system could be tolerated if it could work to secure a larger slice of the cake for the working people-a higher standard of living, improved housing, and the break-up of the large estates in the south.

The other great need is for executives-men who will act decisively and overcome the national weakness for manana. There are more students than ever, and if there is one thing that spells death to dictatorship, it is education.

Mr. Edwards' final plea was this.

"If Spain is to move forward, the first requirement is to announce Franco's successor before Franco dies. Hesitancy about this gives rise to many speculations and much uneasiness."

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