A sensational article appeared in the Daily Herald of January 8. it was entitled " Republic's Fight for Life." Inset was a photograph of Sr. Gil Robles, under which were the words, " Gil Robles, would-be dictator of Spain, poses as a democrat."
Sr. Gil Robles was represented as another Mussolini or Hitler, paying lipservice to democracy solely in order to win the election and harbouring the dark design, power once obtained by constitutional procedure, of 'imposing a regime of Fascism on the nation.
To anybody who knows Spanish politics and has followed the career of Sr. Gil Robles the charge ' is nothing short of ludricrous. There is, among the others, a Fascist party in Spain, led by. Sr. Primo de Rivera, a son of the late dictator in the days of the monarchy and a member of the recently dissolved Cortes, and Sr. Gil Robles has disavowed all sympathy with its aims.
This awkward fact, which could not be (ignored by the writer in the Daily Herald, is discounted and explained as an example of the duplicity of Sr. Gil Robles. whose '.sheep's clothing," it is said, " is well designed and ably worn."
"Daily Herald" Refuses a Reply
The present writer, who lived for many years in Spain and was there when the republic was established and during almost the whole of its career, and who has always taken a keen interest in Spanish politics, sought but was denied the opportunity of refuting the allegations in the paper in which they were made. A brief sketch of the important part played by Sr. Gil Robles in the tragic 'history of the republic will refresh the minds of readers of the Catholic Herald..
Sr. Gil Robles, a young lawyer of Salamanca, entered the political arena with the advent of the republic. He was elected a deputy to the first parliament, the Constituent Assembly, Whose primary purpose was to frame a constitution.
The elections which produced this chamber were a caricature of free elections. Held under the auspices ot the res olutionary government, still uncertain of its survival, they were marked by intimidation, coercion, and every kind of abuse wherever such practices were possible.
Election Confirmed In a few districts they were not. For one of these Sr. Gil Robles was elected. His election, among others, was challenged and it was the Cortes itself that. as its first busi+ss, had to hear and decide such cases. The first speech delivered by Sr. Oil Robles in parliament was in defence of the validity of his election, and his eloquence prevailed in that hostile assembly, which by a majority ratified the election.
Under the premiership of Sr. Azafia, leader of the radical-socialists, who combined with the socialists to form the government, there followed two years of atrocious tyranny, marked by persesution of the Church, the dissolution of the Society of Jesus and the confiscation of its property, expropriation without compensation of the estates of those members of the aristocracy who possessed the title of grande, suppression of newspapers hostile to the government, imprisonment without trial of political opponents, and the deportation of many in circumstances f barbarous cruelty tO an inhospitable settle ment in Morocco.
Swift Rise to Eminence
In parliament and out Sr. Gil Robles waged an able and unrelenting struggle against the government in defence of civil and religious liberty, rising by his qualities of character and intellect to the highest eminence in the political world and contributing powerfully to the downfall of the government.
In the general election of 1933 the radical-socialist and socialist bloc was practically destroyed. There was a notable swing to the Right, the combined parties of which counted 220 deputies out of a total of 473, which contained 135 Moderates, the Left numbering no more than 90. Sr. Lerroux, a Moderate, formed a government with the support but without any participation of the Right. Later on there was a reconstruction or the cabinet, when three members of the party of Sr. Gil Robles were appointed ministers.
The Daily Herald writer says that this led to a general strike, a revolt, and bloody repression. What really happened was a deliberate attempt by elements of the Left to overthrow the government and establish a dictatorship.
Pillage, Arson, Murder The movement was careful, planned. Pillage, arson, and murder were perpetrated wholesale in Catalonia and Asturias. Military operations on a big scale were necessary to put down the rebellion, a result achieved only after weeks of warfare and hailed with enthusiastic approval by the vast majority of the people.
A new reconstruction of the cabinet then took place. Sr. Gil Robles, who, though he had asked portfolios for three of his followers, had not hitherto sought office himself, now insisted as the price of his continued support of the Lerroux government that he should be appointed Minister of War.
It was rumoured that the president of the republic, Sr. Alcala Zamora, who was a leader of the revolution and prime minister of the provisional government which followed, but who resigned that office because of his disapproval of the anticlerical policy of the majority of his colleagues (being himself a practising Catholic), was averse from giving this ministry to Sr. Gil Robles, preferring that he should take some other post in the cabinet. Sr. Gil Robles, however, insisted and got his way.
" Coup d'Etat " Alleged
His enemies of the Left accused him of plotting a coup d'etat. In a speech delivered at Valencia soon after his appointment he referred to this allegation. Why. he asked, should he contemplate any such violation of the constitution when he knew that he had the nation behind him and would be placed in power by its vote at the next general election?
The decision of the nation will be known in a few weeks.
Will Sr. Gil Robles so increase his following that "Popular Action" will cornmand a clear majority in the new Cortes, in which case (however the president of the republic may feel about it) Sr. Gil Robles must become prime minister? His popularity has grown steadily and rapidly since the day when he made his maiden speech in parliament defending his election.
But he has many enemies, both of the Left and the Right.
By the socialists, communists, and all anti-clerical and subversive elements of the nation he is hated. He is their archenemy. On the opposite side the monarchists dislike him for throwing in his lot with and declaring his allegiance to the republic; they regard him as a sort of traitor.
His outspoken utterances.on the right of the agricultural and the industrial workers to fair wages and working conditions have given offence to some landowners and proprietors of big businesses.
Fear of Fascism The cry "All power to the Chief." shouted with enthusiasm at every meeting which Sr. Gil Robles addresses is quoted
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