General Franco's 'campaign has reached a point at which the question of recognising him as head of the Spanish State has become a crucial issue of European diplomacy. We should like to be able to think that it was going to be decided by all the Governments as a question of principle.
There are plenty of lesser issues on which the decision could be sidetracked. There is, for example, the future of Spanish Morocco. Before the Great War Moroccan questions more than once seemed about to bring on the Great War several years earlier. Even now the settlement laboriously and perilously reached could only be upset at the risk of bringing all the perils back again; and the grant of autonomy to the Moors of the Spanish zone, or of special privileges to Italy or Germany within that zone, would certainly be regarded by the other powers as upsetting the settlement. Rumours of such grants have already set chanceries moving, and it is all too likely that General Franco's final attitude on these and similar issues is likely to have more weight than any question of principle in determining the attitude of some of the powers towards him. This is particularly true of the British Government whose diplomatic record gives the impression that it would do a deal with a government of devils, or turn its back upon a government of angels, if the City wanted to lend money to the former or the Admiralty objected to the allies of the latter.
Moreover it is unfortunately true that even if the decision were brought to the test of principle, it would probably not be carried further than the political argument over Fascism. And belief in the absolute value and universal pplicability of parliamentary institutions is so deep rooted in this country that many will decide against General Franco on this issue who, if they carried the matter further, would decide in his favour. (We know very well that General Franco is not Fascist but he has been labelled Fascist and that is enough ;for most people).
But the matter ought to be carried further. For even those who most dislike Fascism as a political philosophy or dictatorship as a political method must admit that neither is an ultimate evil. If either of them were necessarily totalitarian in the proper sense of that word the matter would stand differently, but neither Fascists nor dictators are necessarily committed to deifying the State and claiming absolute authority over the souls of its citizens. Incidentally, the Spanish people who might . readily accept a dictator would be the last to go totalitarian.
A dictatorship, then, Fascist or otherwise, may properly be accepted even by those who dislike it as a barrier against a greater evil, and the circumstances under which General Franco has come to power cause the issue of parliament versus dictatorship to sink into insignificance compared with the issue of religious liberty versus State atheism. Here is a cause to which the stoutest believer in parliamentary government should be willing to subordinate his political preferences. After all, other supporters of parliamentary democracy have been willing enough to subordinate their preference for it to the cause of State atheism.
Besides, the case of General Franco is not nearly as hard for Catholic democrats as the case of Hitler, and the renewed reports of further negotiations between the German hierarchy and Hitler show that the leaders of German Catholicism, with all their experience of Nazi rule, still hope to find common ground with Hitler in a campaign against Bolshevism. And Hitler makes no pretence of opposing Bolshevism on religious grounds. He proclaims an opposition of cultures, but some of his own lieutenants preach a culture that is openly pagan and there are moments when one wonders what there is to prevent Hitler himself from proclaiming State paganism. Nevertheless the men on the spot, including the redoubtable Cardinal Faulhaber, seem to think that if the comparative freedom of religion still enjoyed in Germany could be secured against further breaches of the Concordat, it would be right to support Hitler against Bolshevism. So long as they keep open the possibility of such an alliance it is not for Catholics at a distance to try and close it.
This attitude follows in essentials the example set by the Holy Father in respect of Italy since the advent of Mussolini. If his example can be followed in the extreme case of Hitler, a fortiori it can be followed in the case of Franco, a professed and practising Catholic whose campaign has evoked the ardour of a religious Crusade from the most freedom-loving of his Catholic fellowcountrymen.
To many of our readers these things will seem so obvious as scarcely to he worth saying. But there are others who accuse us of turning reactionary. We would ask them to take a longer view and to estimate the essentials of freedom and the means of securing it less by the standards of nineteenth century England and the wars of the ballotbox and more by the standards of Christendom and its situation to-day.