With Fascist forces but eighteen miles from Madrid, any lingering doubt concerning their eventual victory must be dismissed. Undoubtedly it is significant in a military sense, but to thoughtful Americans it is little more, for the problems in regard to land tenure, the Church, political rights and similar matters have not been, and now cannot be settled by reasonable compromise.
Some months ago the Spanish people were told that they must choose either horn of the dilemma, Communism or Fascism. To none could the choice have been more odious than to the founders of the Spanish Republic, the opponents of monarchial government, and the writers of the liberal constitution. For these men knew that either horn was going to gore them-and the Spanish people-very badly.
These are the men with whom Americans can sympathize; theirs was the real tragedy. They were of the liberal-intellectual group who believed that political and social problems must be examined by the clear rays of reason, who thought that enduring reform came only from an enlightened sports of peaceable compromise and free discussion. But their instrument of government was captured by Leftists and used for their own purposes, thus playing into the hands of another political group with a similar all-exclusive ideology, that of Fascism. In the background lay the stark facts that society was composed of the very rich and the very poor, that the original government rested upon a very small base of the middle-class.
The word "Spanish" has lost its meaning. Either a citizen is a Fascist, or a Communist, and whoever wears the opposing label must be exterminated. The Fascist supporters, who certainly do not constitute more than half the population, seem assured of "victory", but after the victory comes the attempted and perhaps impossible "liquidation" and subjection of one large section of the population by another, the accounting of the irreparable sacrifice of men and resources, the academic disputes as to whether Spain was set back three decades or six.
Despite various "alarums and excursions" in the field of diplomatic relations, the world's stability no longer seems to rest entirely upon the ebb and flow of Spain's political fortunes. The dramatic threats of the Soviet and the deep-throated growls of dictatorships alike reecho but are dissipated on the rock of Anglo-French determination to preserve peace. But one country or another may overplay its hand in this game of bluff, with dire consequences for the world. Then Britain, France, and even the not-so-isolated United States will have to decide whether to play the role of the Spanish liberals and succomb, or whether steadfastly to deny the word "choose" and reassert "the middle way".