Military holds out an olive branch

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Spain's Socialists have had perhaps their greatest and most surprising acceptance within the armed forces and police, at least on a superficial level. The Socialists and the military seem to be trying to outdo each other in bestowing praise and burying mutual distrust.

On Jan. 6, the patron saint's day of the armed forces, Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez visited the crack armored Brunete division, which was deeply implicated in the coup attempt of 1981.

The first prime minister of democratic Spain to visit the division, Mr. Gonzalez even laid a wreath of flowers on a monument for the civil war dead.

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A Socialist veteran of the bitter 1936-39 civil war claimed on national radio that no one gave any ''importance to the inscription on the tomb that was in honor of the fallen from only one side, Franco's side. If Felipe put the flowers there, then it's for the dead of both sides.

''With the Socialists now in power, we have to heal the civil war wounds for good.''

For a year before last October's elections, coup rumors abounded. A serious plot to seize power the day before elections was discovered only in the nick of time. Now, all is quiet as general after general avows loyalty.

Some still-paranoid Spanish journalists wonder if all is perhaps too quiet, but tension seems to have eased with the Socialist demonstrations of patriotism, emotional claims for Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar, and toughness with terrorism.

Interior Minister Jose Barrionuevo shocked his own party majority in Parliament after police gunned down an armed terrorist in Barcelona streets. Mr. Barrionuevo praised the police action. He received a standing ovation from the conservative opposition. There was a confused silence among his Socialist colleagues.

Both defense and interior ministers have promised better living conditions to their civil servants in addition to ''professional perfection'' courses. The Interior Ministry has added professors to the police academies and introduced a continued education course to help bring police officers up to a university level with more prestige and salary.

The enlarged program for police was described by Mr. Barrionuevo as ''the firm proposition of the government that the police obtain a maximum (civil servant) level.''

Terrorist bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings continue under the Socialists, but a negotiated peace plan among all the political parties in the troubled Basque region may offer a ray of hope. Although ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) terrorists insist in communiques that the Socialists ''are just as much our enemies as other governments,'' the already limited popular support for the separatist cause in the Basque area seems to be waning.

The Socialists, meanwhile, unabashedly praise the courage of heroic civil guards. Civil guards who helped rescue a kidnapped businessman beamed as grateful Socialist ministers called them heroes. It was members of the paramilitary civil guard who led the assault on Parliament in the 1981 coup attempt.

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