Francisco France is trying very hard to work his country into the brand-new North Atlantic alliance. This is not particularly surprising, for Spain, which so far has received no ERP help, is in worse economic shape than any country in Europe. Franco must receive U. S. aid if his government is to survive; he needs an estimated $700,000,000 to keep the Spanish economy from going bust. His industry is near-bankrupt, railway system wrecked, food-production cut to a starvation level. Thirty-one percent of the total national revenue supports his armed forces. And a lot of people in this country have been anxious to help him out.
James A. Farley and Eric Johnston have been steadily asking for government loans and direct ERP relief to Spain since the beginning of last year. In October, 1948, Senator Chan Gurney, head of the Senate Armed Services-Committee, demanded a military alliance with Franco. At the same time Secretary Marshall stated that we would be willing to allow Spain to join the UN. The State Department has been quictly but steadily permitting private banks to loan Franco money.
The reasons that have turned up in support of these pro-Franco suggestions have been wonderfully varied. Farley and Johnston think that Spain would eventually make a fine market for U.S. goods; they maintain that "Spain has always paid its debts." Marshall wanted to keep Spain from going Communist, a noble motive. But the most frequent argument, and the one which Franco himself is now pushing, is that Spain could be a valuable military "bulwark" in case of war with Russia. It is no better an argument than the others.
England, which had trouble in Spain during the Peninsular Wars and never seems to have forgotten it, has been strongly suggesting the country as a made-to-order bridgehead and military base on the continent, "secure behind the Pyreness." Many military men disagree. Air and naval installations on the Iberian Peninsula would be under constant short-range bombing attack and exceptionally tough to supply; the Pyrenees are a poor barrier against airborne invasion, and nowhere near as impregnable as the Spanish like to think. Spain is fundamentally an unattractive place from which to flight a European war. There is no military justification for supporting Franco.
The political case is harder to argue. It is true that U.S. aid will unquestionably keep Spain safely anti-Communist. But the threat of Communism in Spain is pretty weak. For Spain remains, despite the blurbs of Franco, Farley, and "Life" magazine, a complete military dictatorship. Whether this dictatorship is more or less strict than it was ten years ago is not the issue. Franco's army of 400,000 men keeps "order," and the General is supported by a single recognized political party. Serious opposition is promptly and inevitably imprisoned or liquidated. All of which adds up to Fascism.
American aid to such a government would be incredibly short-sighted. It would alienate France, which feels strongly that it would rather fight on the Rhine, not the Pyrenees. It would intrench a Fascist government just when we are trying so hard to encourage democracy in western Europe. It would give Russia a fine propaganda point; one which the Communists have already used effectively. The refusal of U.S. help may make things temporarily more tough for the Spanish people, but ERP or ECA or recognition or alliance will serve very nicely to indeterminately prolong their suffering.