My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK, Tuesday—There was a letter to one of our newspapers yesterday that disturbed me considerably. It gave as an urgent reason for our returning an Ambassador to Spain the fact that it would be well to have someone there act as a sort of super FBI agent, primarily to see that Spain was not becoming communistic. Of course, an Ambassador also would be better able to encourage business between Spain and ourselves, which would be of benefit to the Spanish people and to us.

Both reasons sound a bit selfish, but the first reason is particularly disturbing. There is very little to choose between a communistic Spain and a fascist Spain.

I know the argument that Generalissimo Franco didn't permit the German and Italian armies to take Gibraltar and did remain neutral through World War II. I do not think, however, that that means Franco was on the side of the Allies. It means that he never felt himself quite strong enough to come out openly with the two other dictators because he was a little afraid that eventually the Allies might win. He played safe. The things he said at the time, however, left no doubt in anyone's mind where his sympathies lay.

As I understand the Administration's present policy, it is based on the fact that when the United Nations passed the resolution in 1946 that asked that Ambassadors be withdrawn or not returned to Spain, the feeling was running high against anyone who had fought on the side of or sympathized with the two dictators whom we had just conquered after much loss of Allied blood. It may well be that such a resolution was not wise, since the people of every nation are free to choose their own form of government, and we should respect their decision.

In any case, our intention was to allow the people of Spain the freedom to establish any government they desired. They have retained Franco in power. It may be that it is the police state that makes it hard for people to act freely. It may be that, being a proud people, the Spaniards resented interference. We, none of us, do not know. But our hope that a free election would establish a democratic form of government in Spain was not realized.

The whole question has been complicated by the fact that Spain is a Roman Catholic country, and the Church is influential in the government. In this country, at least, much feeling has been generated that has made it appear that opposition to Franco was opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.

This, of course, I do not think is true. But it may well be that the desire to remove any question of this kind from the public mind is a factor in the situation.

Much has been said also of the absolute necessity for Franco to receive a loan in order that the people of Spain will not starve in the coming year. One cannot help but wonder whether the loan will serve primarily to bolster Franco's power or will really be used in a constructive way to make the economic situation of the Spanish people more secure in the future.

There is no question that the American people would not want the Spanish people to starve. Relief had gone to enemy countries from this nation and will certainly go, if the need arises, to a people that have not been classed as an enemy.

I hardly think, however, that the return of Ambassadors to Spain can be based on the fact that we wish to prevent Spain from turning from one dictatorship to another. It seems to me what we really want is to convince Spain that the ways of freedom and democracy are synonymous and, therefore, we leave her free to choose her own way.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, NHyP