Page 4, 25th November 1938

25th November 1938
Page 4
Page 4, 25th November 1938 — Portuguese Problem

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Portuguese Problem

Progression Or Retrogression Under Salazar ?

Revolutionary Portugal (1910-1936). By V. de Braganca-Cunha. (James Clarke, 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by AUBREY F. G. BELL

SENIIOR BRAGANCA-CUNHA'S book is divided into seven chapters. It really consists of three parts, a survey of Portugal's

earlier history, a detailed description of the years of chaos from the proclama tion of the Republic in 1910 to 1926, and two chapters on the New State (1926-1936).

The book is very unequal. In the first part the author, while paying tribute to the good work of the Jesuits in Portugal and in the East and denouncing " the merciless stupid tyranny" of Pombal, shows a complete failure to understand the character of Philip 11 of Spain and the nature of the Inquisition.

In the second part the reader will find much to interest him in the elaborate account of the forty ministries of the Republic, although he may be bewildered by the long procession of names of men who were never of any importance and might now well be left to the oblivion they deserved. The leaders, Alfonso Costa, the " senile visionary" Bernardino Machado and others are legitimately pilloried; and the author quotes a Jewish Rabbi's description of the Law of Separation as " a crude piece of work which offends common sense, decency, reason and tradition," and describes the spirited opposition of the Portuguese Bishops to this iniquitous law.

* * * * More interesting than a history of the rise and fall of ministries would have been an explanation of the initial failure of the Republic. From its very nature it could not succeed. It was the creation of the Freemasons, the work of a small minority in a nation indifferent to politics. It was once aptly described as "a lodge in a gatden of cucumbers."

Its ruthlessness sprang from its consciousness of weakness. In this, as in its persecution of the Church and its contempt for the illiterate peasantry outside the political machine (they were described by the victorious Republicans as cattle, savages, barbarians-page 101-although in true education, as opposed to book learning, they were superior to their new rulers) it closely resembled the Spanish Republic of 1931. It had the same international origin and was as little genuinely Portuguese as the Spanish Republic was genuinely Spanish. Cruelty is the child of weakness, and the barbarous atrocities committed in Portugal in the years 1910-1925 and in Spain in 1931-1936 were, like those perpetrated by the Spanish and Portuguese Conquistadores, the work of a small group in hostile territory. The Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government (1911) declared that " We shall make all essential liberties respected and shall hunt out all monks and nuns in accordance with our free secular laws."

* * * * Senhor Braganca-Cunha has a satirical pen; almost the only persons who come out of his inquisition with flying colours

are St. Francis Xavier and Queen Amdlie. But after reading the indictment of the cruel welter imposed by incompetence and fanaticism on the long-suffering people during the first fifteen years of the Republic it is all the more surprising to find that the author has not a good word to say for the men of the New State who put an end to the ignominious conditions under which the Portuguese people had suffered more than will ever be known in this world. He has nothing but sneers for Senhor Salazar. The late King Manuel described Senhor Salazar as a true statesman; to Senhor BragancaCunha he seems to be a figure of fun. He is " an imperial crusader in a frock coat and straw hat"; he is narrow and intolerant, drunk with power and showing a ruthlessness which "is almost too much even for Machiavelli."

It is imposse to take these ridiculous misstatements, and indeed this whole section of the book, seriously. Yet fantastic travesties of the kind may do infinite harm among the ignorant. Anyone who has lived in Portugal during the last quarter of a century can only bear witness to the vast improvement in the condition of the country and of the people since 1926. If there have been mistakes, if individual interests and persons have suffered, one, must surely remember that an omelette has never been made without breaking the eggs.

The author draws attention to the misery and poverty of the people. But why is attention being drawn to this especially now when the lot of the people is being slowly improved? It would seem that there is a body of politicians or humanitarians who are willing to sink to any depth of misrepresentation, intrigue and conspiracy rather than see their country begin to flourish without their co-operation.

Again we may point to the pertinent parallel of Spain before 1931, which under the Church and the Monarchy was making greater progress than it had made since the sixteenth century. But surely it ill becomes a writer of culture and insight to give any countenance to underground machinations which, under cover of a wish for the welfare of the people. would plunge it bacic into the inferno of the early years of the Republic.

In another ten years of internal order Senhor Salazar's work will stand out clear for judgment; precipitate criticism or action could only result in another period of chaos.

Characters of the Reformation, by Hilaire Belloc. Catholic Book of the Month Club. Choice this time is Belloc's famous historical portraiture book of people who made or unmade the English Reformation.

The Spirit of India. by W. J. Grant (Batsford, 10s. 6d.). Mr. Grant, one-time editor of the Rangoon Times, knows his subject intimately, and the illustrations are high Batsford standard. It suggests itself as a gift book to all "home on leave."

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