By Michael de la nedoyere THE dignified Observer (which, being among the company of newspapers which charge threepence, should know better) maintains a so-called news service about Spain which is little better than a joke. Its correspondent (special or Spanish) is not in Spain, and he has been proved completely wrong a dozen times. The Eaton of the venerable paper might spend a few minutes studying the record of its correspondent's periodic prophecies of disasters for Franco during the months when everyone who knows anything about Spain realises that Franco's position has become steadily stronger—thanks in part to the antics of the type of Spanish exiles for whom the Observer s man stands.
But this correspondent faithful until the end to the proverb " if at first you don't succeed ..." has outdone himself this week in his forecasting, and the Observer has given him pride of place. In addition, he writes such complete nonsense about the Vatican that any intelligent Catholic can detect the bogus nature of the whole business.
According to him all Spanish bishops have recently received instructions from the Vatican to withhold support from Franco. First of all, it would require exceptionally grave spiritual dangers (such for example as the Separation Laws in France in the early part of the ,century) for the Vatican to advise or direct political policy to the bishops of any country. Even were the correspondent's forecast of an economic collapse in Spain accurate. this would not fulfil the necessary conditions. Second. without wishing to detract in any way from the tough and obedient orthodoxy of the Spanish Bishops where spiritual and moral matters are capcerned, we imagine that they would be among the last to take kindly to political advice or direction about their own country even from the Vatican. Thirdly, are We to suppose that the Vatican knows more about the prospects of Franco than the Spanish Bishops ? Only perhaps on the general basis, adopted by the Observer's correspondent, that the further you are from Spain, the better.
Just another little detail on this. The correspondent alleges that Spain is making great efforts to mobilise Catholic opinion in Britain in favour of restoring normal diplomatic relations with Spain. We hope we are not being too presumptuous in supposing that this newspaper might be considered to he a useful channel of such a move; but the story in the Observer gives us the first news of it.
Spain and the Atlantic Pact
IN fact, the whole story simply
reflects the fear of the Spanish exiles that before long Spain will be invited to join in the Atlantic Treaty. No wonder, since there never was greater nonsense than to exclude so strategically vital a part of the defence of Europe against Communist aggression from the machinery of defence simply because Spain is the toughest opponent of Communism and therefore rejects a democratic system which in Spain might well lead to anarchy and therefore in the end to Communism.
It would, of course. be entirely natural for Portugal to demand that Spain join in with her, not only because Portugal without Spain is a weak and vulnerable island, but he
cause of " the commitments " of the Iberian bloc.
To offset these dangers, as he sees them, the Observer's correspondent spins his familiar story of Spain being at the end of its tether, of the rum imminently facing it if American help is not given, of the Vatican caution about its prospects, and of British opinion hardening against Spain.
Such truth as there is in the account of Spain's economic difficulties has been publicised by distinguished Americans who have been to Spain and seen for themselves. It would indeed be a miracle if with all Europe dependent on American help, Spain alone after her disastrous civil war and the conditions of world war could prosper without such help. Indeed, it is a miracle that Spain has been able to carry on so well and so spiritedly in the face of these unique handicaps. The moral is not that we should sit gloating over Spain's difficulties, but that, for the sake of the West, Spain should be helped to play her full role in the defence and economy of the West under leadership which has so remarkably proved value to Spain. It will be time enough when conditions become more nearly normal again for further evolution of the regime. This is the view of most Spaniards: it is also, as we know from personal conversation, the view of General Franco himself.
By an odd twist of editorial policy, the same isque of the Observer prints a very worth-while article on Spain by Franz Borkenau with which we have only one serious quarrel. namely. his conclusion that Spain has lost " all her former enthusiasm. devotion and creativeness." The
ends of these have certainly changed, but any uni:aassed visitor to Spain knows that not for centu-les has %lain shown so much enthusiasm devotion and creativeness as to-day.
MISREPRESENTATION AMOUNTING TO LIES!
AT a meeting last week of the Brook Green Deanery of ACTU, to protest against the condemnation of Cardinal Minds. zenty, some surprising references were made to the Catholic press. According to one speaker, tne press, like the public, was moving away from Cardinal Mindszenty. That speaker presumably is unaware that newspapers exist to give news, and the situation in which the Cardinal is held is such as to make news about him virtually unattainable. Nor does every newspaper necessarily believe every rumour about the Cardinal emanating from centres like Vienna. Some of them contradiet one another. Yet which paper has allowed the injustice to be forgotten ?
We should not refer to this baseless criticism, but for the fact that it seems lo be of a piece with more serious (and more mischievous) attacks from certain Catholics in the Labour Party.
Thus at the same meeting Mr. Bernard Sullivan, who recently made certain charges in our columns against the attitude of " Catholic editors and pamphleteers," took the opportunity of the same meeting (about Cardinal Mindszenty) to talk about " deliberate misrepresentation amounting to lies." This may have been in reference to our editorial note to his letter. We have already referred back our readers to Mr. Sullivan's letter and the note which was printed under it. If we had intended to " misrepresent and tell lies." this would have been a very foolish thing to do. Actually, it has since been pointed out to us that in that note the word "by" was changed to " for " in the reference to
Mr. Sullivan's words: " houseownership by the few." This was entirely inadvertent, and solely due to a hurried misunierstanding of Mr. Sullivan's ambiguous English. To call such things " deliberate misrepresentation amounting to lies " ig smite absurd. But it does fit in with the gist of Mr. Sullivan's letter. as well as his own view in the speech at the meeting where he virtvally blamed the Catholics of Eastern Europe for the tragedy of the Cardinal.
This is no better than cheap rhetoric basing itself on the obvious truth that if all Catholics had been better Catholics the world would be very different from what it is to-day. But the gospels alone show that, human nature being what it is, this is not to be expected. In this particular instance, Hungary would probably have been seized by the Communist guile, no matter what the record of Catholics had been. Nor should Mr. Sullivan assume that the liveliest and most orthodox social consciousness on the part of Hungarian Catholics, or any others, would inevitably coincide with Mr.
Sullivan's own views about the social question.
In point of fact with very much of Mr. Sullivan's social views we are in substantial agreement—which makes his attack all the odder—but we reserve the right to dissent from him and to affirm the dangers of even British socialism without being condemned as had Catholics. We are quite satisfied with one Pope, even in these social questions.
COMMUNISM RECEDING ON THE CONTINENT
ALL the signs from the European Continent are that Communism is proving unable to stand up to the reorganisation of Europe and the defence of the West.
In Italy, where so much is in favour at the Communists—the disarmament of the country, the loss at colonies, the large unemployment, the still very unsatistactory division of wealth—the major hope of the people clearly lies with the Christian spine well mobilised by a quasi militant Catholic Action (interest ingly reported in this week's Time) and with Anglo-American leadership. But we shall do well not to underestimate the potential strength of grievances, exploited by the Communists, and to help Itaty imaginatively and constructively to resume her place in the comity of great Powers.
The French local elections will be misread if we attach too much importance to the drastic loss of seats by the Communists, for this is largely due to the electoral system. Far more important is the ma.ntenance of strength by the Centre group in which France's real hope lies. These Centre parties have shown sensible leadership and considerable political and economic skill. The moment Frenchmen reafise generally that they can be safely supported, these parties will surely obtain the electoral force and mandate they need, and both extreme Left and extreme Right will fall back. In this development lies France's best hope.
We are now realising the extreme importance of the Moscow Tito split which has now proved in strumental in what honks like the decisive salvation of Greece from Communist and Russian aggression, But it is too early to judge about the future of Yugoslavia and its neighbouring States.
All in all, it is heartening to see that Communism can be checked
when its appeasement ceases. While it would be fatal to underrate the reality of the social grievances on
which it feeds, there is danger also in exaggerating, as a paper like the New Statesman still does, its mystical strength.
ROAST BEEF OF OLD ENGLAND THERE is no getting away from • the fact that the tangfishman attaches an imniense importance to the meat he eats. Dieticians and vegetarians may he right in supposing that tablets ano nuts are a peitect substitute, but the love of meat in this country is a deeply embedded emotional thing, as well as a very reasonable taste and culinary convenience. And if it is true that what we like best does us the most good, then this further lowering of the small meat ration .(with threats of still worse to come) will prove to be a serious matter. It is not made any better by stories of the abundance of meat in other countiies. People do not remember that it in European countries meat were distributed as well as it is here, and sold at a comparable price, then there would be little Sifference in the amounts available.
At the same time it is true that the snags of bulk purchasing are only now beginning to come home to us. Everything done on a large scale, and particularly where the prestige of nations is concerned, Lends to make good bargaining under awkward circumstances more difficult. Where the private individual can afford to go back on his firmest declarations, the national buyer. with the whole world watching, cannot. And so one gets the absurd situation of two nations preferring to cut off their noses to spite their faces rather than honestly face the realities of the pos:tion. , But a way out must be friend It does not follow that a prolonged discipline in doing with very little meat will cause our people to accept tamely a situation in which meat is practically unavailable in the home kitchen. Public money is not so carefully spent nowadays as to justify the depriving of the Englishman of what at least reminds him of what he once called roast beef.