José Antonio: Expiatory Victim of the Spanish Civil War

After exhuming the body of Franco on October 25, 2019 (forty-four years after his death), the Spanish extreme Left, which claims to be heirs to the Republic of the Popular Front, is still not fully satisfied. A number of its leaders, activists and sympathizers have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to carry on with the politico-cultural and religious struggle that surrounds the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen).

The Irish historian, Ian Gibson, an admitted supporter of Socialist governments, declared a few years ago that he was in favor of putting a bomb in the basilica of the Valley of the Fallen, in order to destroy the monument and its immense cross.

More recently, voices have been raised to quickly remove from its grave the body of José Antonio Primo de Rivera. But why does the young founder of the Spanish Falange, assassinated after a sham trial in November 1936, still evoke such aversion and hatred?

José Antonio Primo de Rivera – Victim of the Spanish Civil War

Last August, the Vice-President of the Socialist government, Carmen Calvo, was still trying to be conciliatory: “José Antonio was a victim,” she said. “And he can remain in this place, but somehow in a discreet way, because he is one among the more than thirty-thousand victims, from both sides, that are over there.” But her half-hearted statement failed to calm the vengeful ardor of the self-proclaimed “progressives” and even less of the radical Marxists.

One example is Alberto Garzón, member of the PCE, the Izquierda Unida, and the coalition, Unidos Podemos. Reacting to Carmen Calvo passing the buck, he wrote in a pure Chekist vein, “The fascist José Antonio Primo de Rivera was executed because he was a putschist, like Mussolini was shot and hung up in Italy. And none of these facts justifies considering them as victims, because that would put them on the same level as the democrats assassinated and repressed by the fascists.”

In reality, for Garzón and his peers, José Antonio’s deadly crime is not so much his enthusiasm for the same social approach as Mussolini (or – which we should not forget – his admiration for the British political model) – but rather for his dogged defense of those particular phobias of cultural Marxism, namely, religion, fatherland, family, and Christian civilization. It is true that during the time of these facts, the politico-cultural precursors of Garzón were in the habit of calling all their adversaries as “fascists.”

During the years 1933–1936, in the Socialist-Marxist, Communist and Anarchist press and in their propaganda, Liberals and Democrats, such as, José Ortega y Gasset, Gregorio Marañon and Ramón Perez de Ayala, men considered as Founding Fathers of the Second Republic, to say nothing of the Liberal-Catholic philosopher and friend of Benedetto Croce, the Basque Miguel de Unamuno, were all tarred with the same infamous designation. Not having any illusions about the merit of the Popular Front, these noted intellectuals of the time, significantly chose the side of the Nationals during the Civil War. Thus, giving particularly damning testimony to the totalitarian excesses of the governing coalition of the Left and the extreme Left.

Contrary to what one frequently hears, Primo de Rivera was not responsible for the uprising of July 1936. Treated in an arbitrary and abusive manner, condemned to death without proof and following an expeditious and unjust trial – he was, instead, the victim of the government of the Popular Front. The facts that demonstrate this are today well established, as follows.

The day after the first round of elections in February 1936, despite the frauds, falsifications, manipulations and considerable violence of the Popular Front, José Antonio naively put his trust in the president of the government, the Jacobin-Liberal, Manuel Azaña. He ordered his men to respect the law and to avoid all criticism and caricature, even humorous, of the government. (In a circular to provincial officials of February 21, 1936, he stated: “The Left now reinstalled into power is much more capable of realizing audacious reforms”).

But in response, on February 27, under the pretext of illegal possession of arms (which were widely owned by all the militants of political parties, especially among those of the Bolshevized Socialist Party ever since their attempted putsch of October 1934), the security forces proceeded to shut down all the headquarters of the Falange.

The days that followed were marked by the first assassinations of young Falangists – no less than half-a-dozen. In reaction, on March 12, some Falangists carried out a failed attack on the Socialist Deputy, Luis Jiménez de Asua, which resulted in the death of a bodyguard.

The government responded immediately, on March 14, by having all the members of the Falange Political Committee arrested, together with hundreds of activists. (In 1933, José Antonio’s Falange had 2,000 members; about 5,000 in February 1936; 50,000 in June; and 500,000 in October. Franco’s new Traditionalist Phalange would later have nearly 2 million affiliates, including 600,000 women).

Once incarcerated, José Antonio was subjected to an endless series of trials (a good half-dozen), the avowed purpose of which was to keep him in prison. When the Madrid Provincial Court declared the Falange to be legal, the government appealed to the Supreme Court.

But on April 30, the verdict was upheld and the Falange was declared to be in conformity with the Constitution. Censorship then banned the publication of this ruling. Finally, on June 5, the government ordered the transfer of the leader of the Falange from the Modelo Prison in Madrid to a prison in Alicante, to keep him away from the capital.

Incarcerated four months before the uprising of July 18, 1936, José Antonio was nevertheless condemned to death for conspiracy and armed rebellion and executed on November 20, 1936.

The accusation normally made against him by numerous historians of the 1930s is that he incited hatred and violence and was therefore responsible for the climate of political unrest which finally led to the Civil War. (From February 16 to July 17, there were 270 victims, the majority killed by the police. Falangists were responsible for the deaths of 60 Socialist, Communist and Anarchist militants, and suffered an equal number of deaths in their own ranks).

His rather infamous and oft-cited statements (always presented in a much-altered form) are taken from a speech given at the foundation of the Falange on October 29, 1933: “Dialectic, as a first instrument of communication, is a good. But when justice and the homeland are attacked, is there not any other dialectic but that of fists and revolvers?”

Progressive and crypto-Marxist historians who blame him, of course, forget to recall that in September 1933, the Socialist, Francisco Largo Caballero (the future, “Spanish Lenin” who a few days earlier was still a minister of the government of the Republic), and to quote him only as an example, made statements that were far more irresponsible, in the magazine, Renovación, a publication of the Young Socialists: “What is the difference between the Socialist Party and the Communist Party? Doctrinally, nothing. We profess Marxism in all its purity.” And again, “Achieving Socialism in the framework of bourgeois democracy? It is impossible!… I do not know why some people are completely horrified by the dictatorship of the proletariat, of possible violence by workers. Is not the violence by workers a thousand times more preferable than fascism?… Socialism will have to undertake maximum violence in order to displace capitalism… We are at the beginning of such action that it will lead the proletariat to social revolution.”

José Antonio publicly regretted his inflammatory speech of 1933. But such was not the case for the principal leaders of the Socialist-Marxist Left (with the rare exception of Indalecio Prieto and Julian Besteiro), as well as the extreme-left Communists and Anarchists, who only ratcheted-up such inflammatory rhetoric by October 1934.

The testimony of José Antonio, written shortly before he was shot, gives us a better idea of his personality, which is at the same time mystical, poetic, and political: “May it please God that my blood be the last Spanish blood spilled in civil discord. May it please God that the Spanish people, so rich in qualities worthy of love, may find in peace, a fatherland, bread, and justice… I forgive with all my soul all those who have sought to harm me or offend me, without any exception, and I pray that all those whom I have harmed, either greatly or in little ways, may forgive me.”

But the Christian demand for forgiveness is still being stubbornly refused him by the most intolerant and the most divisive members of the political and media world. Let us, therefore, recall the salient facts, so often misunderstood and garbled, of his political life.

José Antonio, The Great Unknown

On October 1933, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, a young aristocrat, leading light of the Spanish Bar, organized a meeting at the Teatro de la Comedia in Madrid, which would be the prelude to the creation of the Spanish Falange. Born of a desire to create a “synthesis of tradition and revolution,” this movement, rejected and fought against by both the Right and the Left, was short-lived and turbulent. Its history is largely confused with that of its founder, whose tragic destiny was one of deep loneliness.

An unsuccessful candidate in the elections of February 1936 (after having been elected to the Cortès in 1933), José Antonio was incarcerated four months – let us highlight this once again – before the uprising of July `18, 1936, when the Popular Front came to power. Hauled before a popular tribunal, during the Civil War, the leader of the Spanish Falange was condemned to death and shot, because of pressure from the Communists, on November 20, 1936, at the age of thirty-three.

Paradoxically, so many years after his execution, José Antonio, still elicits hatred or fervor, repulsion or admiration. “An appointed agent of the Italian Embassy,” says the Frenchman, Max Gallo. The American Herbert R. Southworth stated that he had “a personality of a pimp under an elegant polish.”

On the other extreme, the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, recognized him as a “privileged mind, perhaps the most promising in Europe.” And the Ambassador of the United States, Claude G. Bowers, saw in him, “a hero of romance, with cape and sword.” And as for the grand master of the Generation of ’98, Azorin, he wrote: “Cordiality emanated from José Antonio. He therefore had a good heart.”

But what manner of man is hidden behind the mask of stone that detractors and hagiographers have put on his face?

In the extensive bibliography about the Spanish Civil War, of its origins and its consequences, José Antonio occupies a central place. However, it becomes quickly apparent that the conventional image of the leader of the Falange is usually delineated by a few tirelessly repeated clichés. Alongside the hate-filled caricature of the Socialist-Marxist historians, the “recouping” of his personage by Francoist historiography likely is the second leading cause of this singular situation.

The premature disappearance of José Antonio, in the midst of the Civil War, ideologically left the field open for General Franco. In 1937, the Caudillo imposed the merger of the Falange with all parties of the Right (monarchists, traditionalists and conservative-republicans), and this created a new movement, the Traditionalist Falange.

Manuel Hedilla, secondary leader of the original Falange, was condemned to death for refusing to bend. Very quickly, the Francoist authorities understood the benefits to them of a cult of José Antonio. They extolled his example and his sacrifice, but systematically eliminated from his doctrine “revolutionary” or “socially dangerous” themes.

In the years following the dismantling of Francoism and the return of democracy, the wound is still too fresh for scholars and authors to be seized by a desire to study on a historical level the confused relations between Francoism and the original Falange. They prefer instead to draw the veil of forgetfulness, or limit themselves to a general condemnation. But such schematic interpretations are beginning to break down.

Much has been written about the Christian or traditional philosophy of the original Falange and about the conservative elements of its political doctrine. But one essential aspect is its social program.

José Antonio wanted to establish deep social justice, so that on this basis, the people might return to supremacy of the spiritual. He intended to bring about this idealist project by carrying out the nationalization of banks and public services, by giving greater value to the work of the unions, by deep agrarian reforms in agreement with the principal of “the land belongs to him who works it.” And, finally, the creation of familial, communal and union property.

We can debate the reformist or revolutionary character of this program, but we will have to affirm that it is not reactionary. Such was Conservative-Right and Liberal opinion that his press did not hesitate to treat José Antonio as a “National-Bolshevik,” while reproaching him for confusing “Franciscanism” with “fascism.”

In the Cortès, when the Rightist majority decided to lift parliamentary immunity from the leader of the Falange in order to get rid of a cumbersome opponent, José Antonio owed his safety to the aid of almost the entire Left and a handful of Rightist deputies.

In February 1936, on the eve of the elections, the Falange was careful to disassociate itself from the “National Block” – an anti-revolutionary coalition that opposed the union of Leftist parties. In the end, the Right on the whole did not have sympathy for José Antonio until after the victory of the Popular Front.

No less surprising is the Left’s relationship to the Falange. Numerous Falangist officials were drawn from the Anarchist Confederation (CNT) or the Communist Party.

Manuel Mateo, José Antonio’s right-hand man for unions, was the former secretary of the PCE in Madrid. In their memoires, the Anarchist leader, Diego Abad de Santillán and the Popular Front minister, Julián Zugazagoitia, explain how both men facilitated contacts with several officials of the CNT (notably, Ángel Pestaña), and the Iberian Anarchist Federation. As well, negotiations took place with Juan Negrín, one of the principle representatives of the minority, non-Marxist Socialist Party. José Antonio even told Indalecio Prieto that he would willingly entrust to him the direction of a future Socialist Falange.

After the Civil War, various Republican personalities, including the President of the government of the Republic in exile, Félix Gordón Ordás, acknowledged that “it would have been possible in the beginning to get José Antonio to cooperate with the Leftist Republic.”

Teodomiro Menendez, Socialist deputy and director of the UGT Union, stated that José Antonio often told him in Parliament: “Teodomiro, if there were no religious ideas, we would be close to one another in politics.” And he added, “He was right!”

Prieto, Zugazagoitia and the other moderate ministers of the Popular Front paid tribute to the leader of the Falange for trying to persuade the belligerents to negotiate early in the Civil War. His execution – demanded by the Communists – was an absurdity. Exchanged or returned to the Nationals, without a doubt, he would have tried the impossible, to achieve peace through compromise. They shot him, and no one could then stop the carnage.

Among the theses demolished, there is the so-called political agreement between Franco and José Antonio. The unique witness to the only meeting of these two men is Ramón Serrano Suñer, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and the brother-in-law of the Caudillo, told me in an interview: “José Antonio and Franco had neither sympathy nor respect for each other. They belonged to two very different worlds, in their mentalities, their sensibilities, and their ideologies. There was never any political dialogue nor an agreement between the two of them.”

That said, there is a question that automatically comes to mind. Does the discussion, or even consideration of a set of underrated facts, ignored or just pushed aside, about the political life of the founder of the Falange lead to a sort of “revisionism” of fascism (not to speak of Nazism)? I do not think so. Such an argument is propagandistic misinformation.

For the serious historian, the Falange of José Antonio Primo de Rivera cannot be separated from the context of Spanish reality of the 1930s, in which this movement arose and died. Reducing the Falange to the petty common denominator of Italian fascism, to Nazism, or the various “socialist nationalisms” of Europe at the beginning of the twenty-century is to refuse to engage seriously with the originality and fundamental significance of a movement that left its mark on much of Spanish history of the twentieth-century.

The Falange of José Antonio was neither racist nor anti-Semitic; it did not place the State or race at the center of its world-view. On the contrary, “Man, bearer of eternal values, is capable of saving himself or destroying himself.”

Of course, history is far richer and more complex than the claims of ideologues. And historical debate is neither judicial nor politico-memorial; nor a debate between yourself and the blind defense of a particular and unique representation of the past which undermines the free competition of opinions and therefore democracy itself.

Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.

This article was translated from French by N. Dass.

The image shows a portrait of Jose Antonio by the Spanish portrait painter Miguel del Pino (1890-1973). This work, which was commissioned by FET (Falange Tradicionalista de Franco – Franco’s Traditionalist Falange) after the Civil War, was painted by Del Pino in Argentina, where he lived from 1938 to 1956.

Interview: Drieu Godefridi

This is a new series we are launching – interviews with important thinkers of our time.

For our inaugural interview, we are very honored to have Dr. Drieu Godefridi. He obtained his PhD from the Sorbonne in philosophy, and he has written several important books on gender, the IPCC and environmentalism.

Dr. Godefridi’s books may be found here.

The Postil (TP): Welcome, Dr. Godefridi. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. To start, do you think the West is in crisis, where everything must be questioned so that it can be replaced by something “better?” Or, is it simply bad political management, in that we are in a period of kakistocracy?

Drieu Godefridi (DG): There is an element of risk in answering such a broad question. The West is more powerful than ever, its military might is peerless and its cultural impact is probably greater than ever. At the same time, the threats to this hegemony are evident — mass migration, economic stagnation in Europe, self-destructive totalitarian environmentalism — and a Left getting more and more extreme by the day.

TP: Why does the West still want to be “moral”, while also being aggressively atheistic (where science alone is the arbiter of truth)? Can this contradiction be easily resolved, or will it only produce chaos?

DG: I don’t see either the United States or Eastern Europe as being particularly “atheistic”. What you say is true only of Western Europe, and of the American Left. This is not “the West” as a whole; the Kulturkampf is still very much ongoing. As for the “morality” of Western Europe, for instance regarding foreign affairs, it leads nowhere, as Henry Kissinger predicted in his formidable book Diplomacy. After Brexit, I see the European Union — beyond its function as a common market — as condemned; it is now only a question of time. When Germany is unable to pour huge amounts of money into Eastern Europe anymore — which will soon come about, given the utter folly of the Energiewende, Germany’s energy transition to poverty — Eastern Europe will exit, too.

TP: The native populations of the West have constructed all kinds of myths about their own “evil” (white supremacy, colonialism, misandry, environmentalism, and now genderism). These are very powerful myths which now determine global intellectual and socio-political discourse. Where does this self-loathing come from? And how can we diminish its harmful impact?

DG: Myth and ideology are consubstantial with mankind. That aside, I see no commonality to those ideologies, for instance, you may think that colonialism was economically deleterious — as F.A. Hayek did — yet be radically opposed to the other ideologies you mention. Nevertheless, one thing they do have in common it is that they are false. To say that the West is “white supremacist” is grotesque and does not deserve serious consideration, no civilisation has taken in so many people from every race, continent, creed, religion and origin as has the West over the last 50 years. And genderism, basically the idea that sex is a cultural creation, not a biological reality, is a false theory with absurd consequences, particularly detrimental for women. As for environmentalism that is a very powerful and comprehensive ideology that is the subject of my latest essay.

TP: You have long defended Liberalism, while also refuting Libertarianism (or perhaps, “Rothbardianism”). Why is Libertarianism a failed project? And why is Liberalism still important?

DG: Capitalism is fundamental to the West and is the embodiment of freedom in economic affairs. I’m very much in favour of capitalism. Libertarianism as an apriorist theory that pretends to “derive” all rules of law and of morals from a single axiom —non-aggression— which seems to me a very simplistic contrivance. An anarchist political theory is a contradiction in terms.

TP: Is Croce correct in observing that liberalism has been replaced by “active libertarianism?” And is Croce also correct in calling “active libertarianism” a form of fascism?

DG: I do my utmost to avoid those words. The word ‘Liberalism’ had been employed, particularly in English, in so many different and irreconcilable ways, that even Joseph Schumpeter and Hayek were sceptical of its usefulness back in their day. It’s even more true nowadays. People in favour of infanticide — postnatal abortion — and euthanasia without consent or those viewing sex as a cultural creation are not libertarian, liberal or whatever: they are merely rationally and morally wrong. 

TP: You have also written about George Soros and his efforts to construct his own “empire.” This “Sorosian” imperialism has its roots in the ideas of Karl Popper (which is Marxism without Marx, in that the desire to change the world remains valid). But Soros is also a highly successful capitalist. How can “Sorosian” imperialism (making the West into an “Open Society”) be properly critiqued, while retaining the importance of capitalism?

DG: The political philosophy of Mr. Soros is international socialism with a heavy accent on “crony-capitalism” — he is himself the ultimate insider, and has been criminally convicted as such. Mr. Soros, who has invested $35 billion not in true philanthropy but in the promotion of his political ideas, must be seen as a sui generis phenomenon. You are right regarding its origins, for his foundation was named after the “open society” of Karl Popper. But in fact Soros is no Popperian at all. Popper was in favour of democracy; Soros is funding hundreds of extreme NGOs; some of which use violence and intend to abolish democracy in the name of Gaïa, Allah or whatever. Soros is no Popperian, he’s an international socialist who fancies himself as some kind of god. Popper defined himself as a liberal in the classic sense of the word, close to the philosophy of Hayek and the Founding Fathers of the Unites States.

TP: You have just written a very important book on the dangers of environmentalism, which we had the pleasure of reviewing. Why did you write this book?

DG: My goal is to show that the end result of the green ideology will be misery and the complete abolition of freedom. If human CO2 is the problem and we have to reduce it to zero —as stated by the IPCC, the EU, the UN and the American Left— there is no room left for freedom. Freedom = CO2. Whichever perspective we choose, be that theoretical or practical, contemporary environmentalism brings us back to this truism, this obvious truth: if human CO2 is the problem, then Man’s every activity, endeavor, action, and ambition is the problem.

TP: Why has environmentalism become the West’s new religion?

DG: People in Western Europe do not believe in God anymore so were ready for a new source of “meaning”. As Ayn Rand stated, real atheism is not for the weak. Most people try to find a substitute for God. Gaïa — the “All-Living” — is exactly that to the environmentalists.

TP: Freedom is disappearing very rapidly. Theoretically, freedom is a Western virtue. But in current Western socio-political policy, freedom has become a crime. Why this contradiction, and how can we overcome the emerging oppression?

DG: By winning the Kulturkampf. Cultural submission to the Left — the European way — is no solution. We must fight for freedom and defeat these extremists within the framework of the constitutional order — which is the American way, thanks to the ultimate fighter Donald J. Trump, probably the most important political figure of our time. You do not collaborate with the enemies of freedom: you fight them, you defeat them. There is no middle ground. We will not be subordinate to “Gaïa” — which is a concept devoid of meaning — nor material “equality” — which is a natural impossibility — we are the resistance; we are freedom fighters.

TP: Lastly, what do you think is the most important issue of our time? And why?

DG: Freedom is the most important issue of all time in the West because, from ancient Greece to today, it is the value on which our civilisation rests and is, at the same time, the driving force of our society. If you abolish freedom, you abolish the West as a distinct concept.

TP: Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to share your valuable ideas with our readers.

DG: And I’d like to thank you for the recent appreciative review of my humble essay on the totalitarian essence of environmentalism.

The image shows, “Green Graveyard,” by the Brazilian artist, Benki Solal.

The Last Will And Testament Of José Antonio Primo de Rivera

The last will and testament of José Antonio Primo de Rivera y Sáenz de Heredia, thirty-three years of age, single, attorney at law, born and current resident in Madrid, son of Miguel and Casilda (may they rest in peace), as written and attested by himself, in the Provincial Prison of Alicante, this eighteenth day of November, nineteen hundred and thirty-six.

Condemned yesterday to death, I pray God that if it does not please Him to spare me, may He then grant me to preserve my dignity to that end which I now await, and when judging my soul, may He apply, not the measure of my merits, but His infinite mercy.

It troubles me that my compunction to give an account of some of my actions at this time may seem like vanity and excessive attachment to the things of this earth. But, on the other hand, I have drawn upon the faith of so many of my comrades, far in excess of my own worth (so well do I know this that I write this phrase with the greatest humility and sincerity), for I have compelled so countless many of them to face enormous risks and responsibilities, and it would be inconsiderate ingratitude on my part to leave everyone without even an explanation.

It is not necessary to repeat now what I have said and written so many times about what the founders of the Spanish Falange wished us to be. It astonishes me that even after three years the vast majority of our compatriots persist in judging us without having begun, by any means, to understand us, nor even seeking out and accepting the least bit of information about us. If the Falange is consolidated into an enduring thing, I hope that all will perceive with pain that so much blood was spilled because we could not affect a peaceful gap between the cruelty of the one side and the antipathy of the other. May that spilled blood forgive me for the part that I played in provoking it, and may the comrades who have gone before in sacrifice welcome me as the last among them.

Yesterday, for the last time, I explained to the Tribunal, which was judging me, what the Falange is. As in so many other occasions, I reviewed and submitted the old documents concerning our doctrine. Once again, I observed that so many faces, which were at first hostile, lit up, first with sympathy and then with amazement. In their features, I seemed to read this phrase: “If we had known what this was, we would not be here!” And, certainly, we would not be here, nor I before a People’s Tribunal, nor all those killing themselves in the fields of Spain. However, it was no longer time to prevent this, and all I could do was pay back the loyalty and courage of my dear comrades, by earning for them the respectful attention of their enemies.

To this I tended, and not to win for myself the posthumous reputation of a hero by way of some tinseled gallantry. I did not take responsibility for everything, nor try to cast myself in some romantic stereotype. I defended myself with the best resources of my legal profession, which I have loved and cultivated with so much assiduity. There may well be no lack of posthumous commentators who might condemn me for not preferring bombast. To each his own. As for me, apart from not being the only actor in what is now occurring, it would have been monstrous and false to give up a life, without defense, that could still be useful, which God did not grant me to burn in a holocaust of vanity like a fireworks display. Further, I did not descend to using some reproachable ruse, nor compromising anyone with my defense; and, yes, I did help to defend my brother Miguel and Margot [his wife], who were on trial with me and threatened with very severe penalties. However, my duty to defend urged me to not only be silent about certain things but to make certain accusations, based on suspicions that I was isolated deliberately, in the midst of a region that had been subdued. I declare that this suspicion has not been proven by me, in any way, and if I sincerely nourished it in my spirit, being greedy for explanations in my solitude, now, in the face of death, I say that it cannot and must not be upheld.

Something else remains for me to rectify. The absolute isolation from any communication, in which I have lived since shortly after these events began, was only broken by a North American journalist who, with the permission of the authorities here, asked me for statements at the beginning of October.

Until five or six days ago, when I came to know the indictments against me, I had not heard of the statements being attributed to me, as I had no access to newspapers, or anything else, which published them. Now that I read them, I must declare that among the various paragraphs that are attributed to me, unequally faithful, which seek to interpret my thinking, there is one that I reject completely: The one that shames my comrades of the Falange of cooperating with “mercenaries brought in from outside,” during the movement to insurrection.

I have never said anything like that, and yesterday I bluntly said so before the Tribunal, although such a declaration did me no favor. I am incapable of insulting those military forces which have rendered heroic service to Spain, in Africa. Nor am I capable of hurling reproaches at some comrades, from here, for I do not know if they are now wisely or wrongly led. But surely, as always, they are endeavoring to interpret, in best faith and despite the lack of communication that separates us, my instructions and tenets. May God grant that their ardent integrity never be exploited in any other way than in that of service to greater Spain, such is the dream of the Falange.

Would mine were the last Spanish bloodshed in civil strife. If only the Spanish people, so full of good and lovable qualities, could come to find the fatherland, bread and justice in peace.

I think nothing else matters to me, as concerns my public life. As for my impending death, I await it without bravado, for it is never joyful to die at my age, but I await it without protest. May Our Lord God accept the elements of sacrifice it contains in insufficient compensation for what selfishness and vanity there has been in much of my life. I forgive with all my heart all those, without exception, who may have harmed or offended me, and I ask all those to forgive me to whom I may owe the reparation of some wrong, be it great or small. Upon compliance thereof, I now proceed to put in order my last will, as follows:

CLAUSES –

First. I wish to be interred conforming to the rites of the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman religion, which I profess, in blessed ground, and under the protection of the Holy Cross.

Second. I appoint as my heirs my four brothers and sisters, Miguel, Carmen, Pilar and Fernando Primo de Rivera y Sáenz de Heredia, each with equal share, with the right to distribute said share among the survivors, if any die without offspring before me. If there be offspring, the share that pertains to my predeceased sibling will be equally divided, per stirpes. This deposition will reman valid though my sibling be predeceased prior to the writing of this will.

Third. I leave no other legacy, nor impose a legally binding burden on my siblings, but I would request that:

A) They attend, with my estate, to the comfort and needs of our aunt, María Jesús Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja, whose maternal self-denial and affectionate courage, in the twenty-seven years that she has been in our care, we shall never be able to repay with treasures of gratitude;

B) They give, in memory of me, some of my personal effects and belongings to my colleagues, especially to Rafael Garcerán, Andrés de la Cuerda and Manuel Sarrion, so loyal, from year-to-year, so helpful and patient, despite my incommodious company. I thank them and everyone else, and I beg them to remember me without undue anger;

C) They distribute my other personal effects among my best friends, whom they know very well, and most assuredly among those who have shared with me the joys and adversities of our Spanish Falange. They and some other comrades now occupy a fraternal position in my heart.

D) That they reward the oldest servants of our house, whom I thank for their loyalty, and beg their pardon for any inconvenience I brought upon them.

Fourth. I name as my testamentary executors, jointly and severally, for a period of three years, and with all the usual prerogatives, my dear and lifelong friends Raimundo Fernández Cuesta y Morelo and Ramón Serrano Suñer, whom I request especially:

A) That they review my private papers and destroy all those of a very personal nature, as well as those that contain merely literary works and those that are simple drafts and projects in early stages of elaboration, or any work prohibited by the Church, or otherwise pernicious, that may be found in my things.

B) That they collect all my speeches, articles, circulars, prologues to books, etc., not for publication – unless they deem it indispensable – but to use as justification when discussing this period of Spanish politics in which my comrades and I have intervened.

C)  That they urgently find my replacement in the direction of the various professional matters entrusted to me, with the help of Garcerán, Sarrión and Matilla, and to collect some of the fees that are due me.

D) That, as quickly and effectively as possible, they send to the aggrieved persons and entities, referred to in the introduction of this will, the solemn rectifications that it contains.

For all of which I thank them cordially, from now on.

And with these terms, I leave my last will and testament, on this eighteenth day of November, one thousand nine-hundred and thirty-six, at five in the afternoon, on three other pages, besides this one, all foliated, dated and signed in the margin.

José Antonio Primo de Rivera

Aftermath

The trial of José Antonio Primo de Rivera took place on November 14th and 17th, 1936. The Tribunal, or People’s Court, consisted of a President (Iglesias Portal), two other assessor judges (with votes), and fourteen members of the jury. The jury was entirely made up of members of the Popular Front, or unions of similar political affiliation. According to various testimonies, the deliberations dragged on and on, with the members of the jury nearly coming to blows. The death sentence for José Antonio was finally handed down, after four hours, because of threats from the Communist jury members.

José Antonio conducted his own defense, as well as that of his brother, Miguel, and his sister-in-law, Margarita de Larios. Miguel was sentenced to life-imprisonment, while Margarita received a six-year prison term. Two years later, in April 1938, both husband and wife were exchanged for Captain Miaja (the son of General José Miaja). José Antonio’s younger brother, Fernando, had been murdered earlier in prison, in August 1936.

Miguel was given a few minutes to say goodbye to his brother, at 6:00 AM, on November 20th. When Miguel came into his prison-cell, José Antonio, fearing that he might be overcome with emotion, whispered to him in English, so the guards would not understand, “Miguel, help me die with dignity.”

José Antonio was then taken out to the small courtyard of Alicante prison, along with two Falangists and two Requetés (Carlist, Catholic-traditionalists), who were shot with him.

José Antonio heartened his four comrades and then addressed the militiamen: “Is it really true that you want me to die? Who has told you that I am your adversary? Whoever told you had no reason to say so. My dream is of a fatherland, of bread and of justice for all Spaniards, especially those who are left out of the fatherland because they have neither bread nor justice. He who is about die does not lie. And I tell you, before you tear apart my breast with bullets from your rifles – that I was never your enemy.”

At 6:30 AM, the shots rang out. The militiamen fired several rounds at close range (just 3 yards away), without even being ordered to do so.

A few days after the execution, the British Foreign Office asked the government of the Popular Front for a death certificate of the Falangist leader. José Antonio was buried in a mass grave in the cemetery at Alicante.

His friend, Elizabeth Asquith (according to some historians, his secret love), the daughter of a former British prime minister, who was married to Prince Bibesco, the Romanian ambassador in Madrid, had used all her connections to save his life. Having failed, she demanded reliable proof of his death. An official from the British Embassy went to the cemetery, accompanied by Judge Federico Enjuto, and had the body of José Antonio unearthed. Thus began the curious journey of José Antonio’s remains.

His body was exhumed from the mass grave a second time by the government of the Popular Front, and given an individual burial within the cemetery (lot number 515). The third exhumation was carried out in 1939, just after the end of the Civil War, when the body was transferred from Alicante to the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de Escorial, near Madrid. A fourth removal followed on March 31, 1959, when his remains were transferred to the Basilica of Valle de los Caídos, also near Madrid.

José Antonio would remain in the heart of Elizabeth Asquith. Her last novel, The Romantic, published in 1940, begins with a dedication to him: “To Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera. I promised you a book before it was started. It is yours now that it is finished – Those we love die for us only when we die –”

Among the personal effects of José Antonio, left in his cell, was found a telegram, signed, “Elizabeth,” and dated, February 29, 1936. It read, “I am thinking of you. Love.”

But it would appear that José Antonio’s great love was Pilar Azlor de Aragón y Guillamas, Duchess of Luna. Pilar’s father, a fervent monarchist, had formally opposed their relationship.

Epilogue

One last anecdote is worth remembering. It is not without importance, as it shows that pardon and the spirit of reconciliation animated some Spaniards during the Civil War and under the Franco regime.

It is a fact revealed for the first time in 1968, by the filmmaker José Luis Sáenz de Heredia (first cousin of José Antonio), and again by the latter, on television, in 1981 (in the program, “The Clave”). Then, the same fact was disclosed another time, by the journalist Enrique de Aguinaga in 2016; and finally, quite recently, in the biography by Honorio Feito, Iglesias Portal, el juez que condenó a José Antonio [“Iglesias Portal, the Judge that Condemned José Antonio”], (2019).

This is the unusual, generous and touching “abrazo” (hug) given by José Antonio to his judge, Iglesias Portal, who just a few minutes earlier had handed down the verdict and the death sentence. The daughters of Iglesias Portal testified to this embrace in a letter, dated January 30, 1955, addressed to Miguel Primo de Rivera (who himself had been sentenced to life imprisonment in the same trial as José Antonio, and who was then the Spanish ambassador in London). The daughters wrote to ask Miguel to intercede to have their father, in exile in Mexico, repatriated.

Iglesias Portal had been a career magistrate since 1908. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1932 by his friend and fellow political ally, the radical-Socialist, Álvaro de Albornoz, then Minister of Justice. Iglesias Portal had also investigated the case of the assassination of Calvo Sotelo in July 1936. Also in 1936, as the president of the Special Court, he was charged with purging the justice administration (this was the executive body responsible for the repression of the Republicans, during the Civil War). Later, in 1937, he became the president of the Central Tribunal of Espionage and Treason in Barcelona (and in this capacity he led the trial against the “Trotskyist” leaders of the POUM).

The letter of the two daughters of Iglesias Portal began with these words:

Most Distinguished Sir:

Although we personally have not had the pleasure of meeting you, yet we make bold to direct this letter to you that you might attend to our plea. We are daughters of the Supreme Judge who, as Your Excellency well knows, unfortunately, was present and part of the Court in which your brother, José Antonio, was judged (may be rest in peace).

As your excellency was present at the trial, you will remember that at the end, when receiving the sentence, your brother took the stand and hugged our father and told him that he felt that the difficult times had pushed through his case, for we do not know if you are aware that our father and he were good friends…

The letter then continued to request for intercession for the repatriation of their father.

Here is the reply of Miguel Primo de Rivera:

Miss Loli Iglesias Arcos
Avda. de Felipe II, 11,
Madrid

Distinguished Miss:

I have received your letter of March 11, dated in Mexico. I am sorry that I could not answer earlier, due to the many preoccupations that weighed upon me. In replying today I want to reiterate what I wrote in my previous letter, dated February 8, stating, unequivocally that, as far as I am concerned, I do not at all oppose your father’s return to Spain and that, on the contrary, I am willing to ensure that this happens, by helping you in everything that may be deemed convenient…

I know that under normal circumstances, and acting according to the dictates of his conscience, Judge Eduardo Iglesias Portal would never have been directly responsible for a sentence issued against José Antonio, of whom he was not an enemy. Don Eduardo Iglesias had the bad fortune of seeing himself, like many others in those uncertain days, involved and participating, with due responsibility, in what was in all ways decided by the true enemies of Spain.

I want, if necessary, that this letter serve as my statement, declaring that, for my part, I have nothing to oppose the return of Mr. Eduardo Iglesias Portal to his country and to Spanish society.

I take this opportunity to reiterate that I remain yours sincerely,

Signed: The Duke of Primo de Rivera.

It would be another year before the Council of Ministers, chaired by Franco, conceded the amnesty to Magistrate Iglesias Portal, on July 27, 1956. The judge returned to Spain on March 12, 1959, after receiving a telegram from the Director General of Security, permitting him to return to Spain. Portal retired to his house in Aguilar de la Frontera (Cordoba), where he lived with his wife and children, until his death in 1969, at the age of 84.

Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.

This article was translated from the Spanish and French by N. Dass.

The photo shows José Antonio, and his brother Miguel, in Alicante prison, sometime after June, 1936.

I Am A Hongkonger!

The 2019 social movement in Hong Kong has amazed me in many ways. For one, it has evolved quickly and fluidly into a series of leader-less, internet-empowered campaigns.

Many have dubbed it, the “Be Water Movement” – for it is fluid as
water, in that protesters are flexible in their response to the police in front of them. The movement is hard as ice, in that protesters have vowed to resist injustice and defend their good cause by all means. And the movement is like steam, in that it remains shrewdly elusive in order to avoid arrest by authorities, and then later re-emerge.

This strategy has allowed the protesters to stay resilient for an extended period of time. But why did these protests happen? Prior to the handover, in 1997, China offered the people of Hong Kong a new idea, which has now become a hollow promise, of “one country, two systems.” Many had doubts, some decided to leave, but more chose to stay because they loved Hong Kong and thus wanted to believe in the promise.

Since the handover, the Chinese have been aggressively asserting their influence – politically, socially, economically, demographically and ideologically. And it appears that this interference has only accelerated since President Xi took power.

In fact, the ruling elite of Hong Kong have been completely transformed by two decades of such interference. Government leaders, appointed officials and legislators readily kowtow to the commands of the Chinese, with no concern for the wishes of the local people. For example, the latest survey saw Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive, fall to merely 15 percent of public support.

But despite overwhelming public dissatisfaction, those in authority seem to care even less about the people, because they were not chosen by the people but were handpicked by the Chinese. As such, Hong Kong functions under a fundamentally flawed system of governance that is bound to fail – because it no longer reflects the will of the people.

As a result, China has been piling up layers of oppressive policies, one after the other, policies which are implemented by the Hong Kong government. The purpose of these policies is restriction of freedoms and the undermining of autonomy. Thus, the education system is now pro-China; unjustified and needless infrastructures projects are hastily approved; pro-democracy legislators and candidates are disqualified; and all social activists are given overly harsh sentences.

The younger generation, in particular, feel helpless and are therefore desperate. They realize that “one country, two systems” is a big fat lie. There will be no freedom of speech. There will be no freedom of the press. There will be no freedom of assembly and association. There will be no true democratic elections. There will be no independent judiciary. The “rule of law” has quietly been replaced by the “rule by law.”

As the saying goes, bad money drives out the good. Simply put, Hong Kong
will not be Hong Kong any more
. It is losing its vigor; it is dying, and it is going to succumb to being a second-class Chinese city.

This protest movement is in many ways a war, a war between democracy
and authoritarianism
. It is a war of dignity and values. Pragmatically speaking, protesters also know that they will be defeated in the end. But they have no other option than to fight. If a woman is about to be raped does she simply beg for mercy? What option is left her? She still will cry out and resist with her last bit of dignity.

The protesters fight and resist, not because they know they will win. They fight because of their dignity. They fight because they believe in freedom and democracy. That essentially sums up their spirit.

The Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, once said, “If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg.”

So, who really stands with these “eggs,” these protesters, who now smash themselves against the Chinese wall? And, for how long will support for their cause last? As we know, it was the extradition bill that sparked the protests. This bill would force anyone in Hong Kong, who did anything politically inappropriate in the eyes of the communist regime, could be extradited to China, to face dire consequences.

Fear of such a law is legitimate, as there have already been notable cases of mysterious disappearances, forced extraditions, unlawful detainment, torture, as well as coerced confessions.

Some people still choose to turn a blind eye, wishfully thinking that they are going to be safe, as long as they do not rock the boat. These people are tagged as “Blue-Ribbons” – those who side with the establishment.

However, the protests have “politically awakened” large segments of the population, who now question the system and the government. And these questions are quickly uncovering the many lies and the propaganda. They do not want to live in a “police state;” and many of these people are now coming out to express their outrage. They are tagged as “Yellow-Ribbons” – those who side with the protesters.

Typical protests now range from 1 to 2 million; and they are mostly the Yellow-Ribbons. To put this in perspective, Hong Kong has a population of 7 million.

If it were not for the young protesters fighting against all odds, the extradition bill would have easily passed. Nevertheless, the government remains adamant and continues to dismiss all legitimate and reasonable requests of its own people.

The police also continue to mistreat protesters each and every day. Their use of excessive force is now common-place. For example, on July 21, 2019, hundreds of mafia gangsters marched on the streets of Yuen Long (a northern suburban district), chasing innocent people, beating them, and intimidating them. It is likely that they were collaborating with the police, for while the mafia was on the street, there was no police to be found anywhere. And the emergency hotlines were jammed.

This terrorist attack, for that was what it was, was inflicted on the people to instill fear and to silence the public. None of the mafia members, of course, were caught, let alone prosecuted, despite wide-spread video evidence.

Nevertheless, Hong Kong is still freer than Mainland China, at least for the time being. It has not yet put up the so-called Chinese “Internet Great Wall,” which means that there is still free access to international, online information.

However, Chinese propaganda has long penetrated all mainstream media as well as various online communities in Hong Kong. Biased reportage, fake news and malicious assaults are endemic. Protesters try their best to filter the disinformation, by “fact-checking” news and rumors received.

But it is hard to “fact-check” everything. Truth and judgment will inevitably be clouded, given the constant bombardment of disinformation. It is harder to trust any information at hand. This also makes it harder to trust any people. Everyone becomes wary of each other, lest they be betrayed. There is fear of retribution, since China is always watching. Freedom from fear has been the first victim of communist propaganda.

Even at this moment, as I write this article, I am fearful of what might happen, of what the consequences might be of what I am now writing. Telling the truth often demands a fearful price.

What lies ahead for Hong Kong is also fearful – which lends greater poignancy to the protesters – for all Hongkongers what comes next is Cultural Revolution 2.0.

The Chinese Communist Party has never changed. It never respected human rights, and never allowed liberty to its own people. Tibet is the perfect example of what happens when China comes in and takes control.

And the Cultural Revolution 2.0 has already begun – all protesters have been labelled as violent terrorists and subversives; Hong Kong culture is being dismantled and destroyed. This what China does to minorities who refuse to kowtow. Just look at what is being done to the Uyhgurs.

What is most disturbing is that the world itself is silent, except for rare expressions of disapproval, such as, the Human Rights and Democracy Act for Hong Kong, which seems more politics than actual, real help for Hong Kong. In fact, as China grows stronger, Hong Kong will grow weaker, despite the fact that Hong Kong is extremely important as a major financial hub for China, through which it can access unrestricted capital flow.

Because of the financial importance of Hong Kong, the more radical protesters favor a so-called “scorched earth policy.” They want to smash everything that China holds dear in Hong Kong. “If we burn, you burn with us.” This sounds desperate – but we need to ask what has made these otherwise decent young people so very desperate that they will happily destroy what makes Hong Kong great – so it does not fall into Chinese hands.

This desperation has also split apart Hong Kong society. People are hesitant about sharing news with family and friends. Everyone is more guarded and careful about what they say. Relationships are torn apart – friends have become foes, couples are breaking up, children are running away from families.

Now, everyone has to take a side – whether it be as a “Yellow-Ribbon,” or as a “Blue-Ribbon.” Even companies, consumer brands and outlets are being categorized as, “Yellow-Camps” or “Blue-Camps.” Of course, the Yellows boycott anything Blue, and vice-versa. This has transformed society into opposing “tribes” – hose that protest China and those that agree and want to go along with it. But both sides are disgusted with the Hong Kong government, for its apathy, inaction and incompetence.

All the while, there is massive emigration, both among the Yellows and the Blues. Even the “Returnees” (who emigrated overseas prior to handover and the returned) are leaving for a second time. Others, who have no overseas passport, are frantically seeking alternative ways to get out and find a better future for themselves and their children.

Actually, China is perfectly fine with emigration. It seems that China wants to take over Hong Kong, but it does not want the people that come with it (the Hongkongers).

This is because there has been an uninterrupted influx of new immigrants, the rich and the elite, from Mainland China. Within a decade, the locally-born Hongkongers will be completely outnumbered in the next decade. Exactly what happened in Tibet.

Of course, this is a deliberate strategy, which will entirely delegitimize the local population. Hongkongers understand this well. Time is against them. What is now the majority voice, protesting for democracy and liberty will soon be stifled.

There is thus a sense of great urgency, which prompted a record high 71 percent turnout in the municipal council elections, in November 2019. The usual turnout for such election is 47 percent. The results of this election were encouraging, as it saw the pro-democracy camp successfully take control of 17 (out of 18) municipal district seats.

This was, in fact, a referendum, a reflection of public opinion. But despite this election, nothing really was won. The Chief Executive still will not budge. Large-scale arrests still take place every day (to-date, over 6,000 protesters have been arrested, many brutally beaten). We have no idea how many have been sexually assaulted, how many have been “disappeared,” or how many have officially “committed suicide” for the sake of this movement. They are indeed brothers and sisters in arms. They are the “martyrs” of this movement.

And in this dark time, I also see another Hong Kong, which shines with courage and righteousness. In the past, the typical young Hong Kong person used to be focused on money and success – and nothing else.

But now I see another kind of a young Hong Kong person – one who shows solidarity, perseverance and creativity. These young people can only bring admiration for what they have accomplished. I stand in admiration of their determination to do what they believe is right and to move forward without regret. Their love for Hong Kong is unconditional and sacrificial. Suffering builds up character; sacrifice builds a new world. Through their suffering and sacrifice, a new Hongkonger is being born! And I am proud to be one of them!

So, what is the endgame? We do not know what the future holds for

Hong Kong and its native people. As a realist, the future may be doomed. The fighting spirit of Hongkongers may be crushed.

But, as a Christian, however, I remember that Jesus vouched for the oppressed, the vulnerable, the marginalized and the persecuted. I believe He will vouch for Hongkongers: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Perhaps this protest movement is a blessing in disguise. Perhaps we do not need to keep analyzing possible scenarios or calculating risks and returns. Rather exasperation, let us be proud, rejoice and move forward together as Hongkongers. We are writing history.

E. Lee is a Hong Kong-born Christian preacher, who is passionate about missions in the world, and who still loves and cares for his homeland enough to write the inconvenient truth.

The image is from From Tien Yu’s Facebook, 2019.

1917 And The Pope’s Peace

“I think a curse should rest upon me – because I love this war. I know it’s smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment — and yet — I can’t help it — I enjoy every second of it.”

These words, spoken by Winston Churchill to Violet Asquith on February 22, 1915, suggest a soul dislodged from the fundamental attitude proper to a member of Christian civilization. This attitude towards a war that was wrecking the vestiges of Christendom is not really surprising when we consider Churchill’s well-known membership in the Order of Freemasonry (from 1895) and his also well-known, at least to historians, initiation into the Neo-Pagan Druid Order (from 1908).

The existence and influence of such men as Winston Churchill are the only explanations for the blind inhuman ferocity with which World War I was pursued by the belligerents during the years 1914-1916. The theological, philosophical, and ideological positions of Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty and chief architect of the Gallipoli landings in 1915, simply exemplify the general loss of a Christian consciousness on the part of the leaders of the great Western Powers.

This complete lack of adherence to even the most basic principles of traditional Just War doctrine, was simply incomprehensible to Pope Benedict XV. Why would a war be tolerated which, unlike all others up until that date in European history, seriously threatened to wipe out a vast percentage of the young men on the Continent? Why would not the leaders of Britain and France, chastened and awakened after suffering the loss of 624,000 men in the Battle of the Somme alone, enthusiastically take up consideration of any proposal for a reasonable peace? Why were most of the peace initiatives during the years 1917 and 1918, treated to bemused dismissal and scarcely hidden contempt?

Pope Benedict XV, during the most critical year in contemporary history 1917, found himself confronting men who, like Churchill, appeared to have jettisoned “outdated” humane and moral concerns. That this new non-Christian understanding of conflict and war was not just to characterize the conflict of 1914-1918, is shown by Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s and President Franklin Roosevelt’s drafting and signing of a version of the Morgenthau Plan at the Second Quebec conference of 1944 in which they pledged to turn the heavily urbanized and industrial nation of Germany “into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character.”

What we can say with certainty is that July 1914 inaugurated a generation of political and military slaughtering which was often perpetrated for the sake of “Progress.” It was the dramatic end to an unparalleled era in European history, an era of civil and, on the whole, international peace. It is quite possible that the casualties of all European wars since the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte (1815) did not exceed in number the figure for a single day’s losses in any of the great battles of 1916.

War 1916: Stalemate , U-Boats, and Blockades

December 1916 marked a watershed in World War I. It was a moment when the increasing futility of the military stalemate on the Western Front, induced one side of the conflict – the Central Powers – to seriously consider a negotiated peace. Contrary to a certain simplistic understanding, a desire for a cessation of hostilities and negotiations does not necessarily originate from an experienced position of vulnerability and relative inferiority.

There was a definite long-range prudence and maturity revealed in the Central Powers’ (the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Turkish Ottoman Empire) efforts towards a negotiated peace late in 1916. Not all of it can be attributed to the accession of devote and eminently humane Karl I to the Austrian Imperial Throne and the Hungarian Royal Throne at the death of his great-uncle Franz Josef in November. This “maturity,” which I speak of, can be shown by the fact that these Powers were actually “winning” the war to an extent.

Their military position and advantage appeared for all to see with their knocking the Entente ally, Romania out of the war and conquering Bucharest itself in the beginning of December 1916. Seeking to compensate for the British attempt at a starvation blockade of food and supplies to the Reich, the German military had ordered submarine warfare. This new kind of warfare, which targeted both enemy and neutral shipping, was roundly condemned by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, the Papal Secretary of State, in the autumn of 1915, speaking of it as “appalling and immoral.”

For the Germans, both during and after the war, this conflict on the open seas was only an attempt to offset the unrestricted blockade imposed by the Entente Powers, which was, also, contrary to established international law. The Great War thus became “as much a war of competing blockades, the surface and the submarine, as of competing armies.”

The German Peace Offensive

The complete stalemate in the Western trenches plus the ruthless warfare at sea, serves as the backdrop of the German Peace Note of December 1916. From the evidence, it appears that Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany believed that everyone (i.e., the leaders of all of Great European Powers) secretly desired peace but that each belligerent was reluctant to be the first to admit it openly. The content of the German Note was simple and clear enough; some commentators called its tone “arrogant.”

Whatever the tone, the Note stated that the war was one of unprecedented fury that threatened to destroy the material and spiritual progress which the 20th century had such a right to be proud of. The Central Empires had amply demonstrated their might and would continue to fight boldly if this peace initiative was ignored. They were, however, desirous of putting an end to the bloodshed. If the Entente Powers agreed to immediate peace negotiations, the Central Powers would guarantee existence, honor, and freedom of development, and would do everything possible to restore lasting peace for the nations then engaged in conflict.

To this German Peace Note, there was no papal response. Benedict XV and Cardinal Gasparri would later, on March 7, 1917, explain, in a letter to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Cologne, that the reason for the coolness of the papal response to the peace gesture on the part of the German Kaiser was that a communication had been received from the British Government, which said that any intervention on the part of the Pope would be “ill-conceived” by Britain and France.

Benedict’s view was that if he offended the Entente Powers at that time, any future efforts would be met with outright antagonism. Moreover, since the Note lacked specific mention of a proposal for the reestablishment of independence for the Kingdom of Belgium, Benedict and Gasparri were not convinced of the usefulness of the initiative. So the Kaiser’s Peace Proposal came to naught. This German peace initiative is usually forgotten by conventional accounts of World War I.

What is also forgotten is the fact that it was only after the failure of this initiative that all restrictions on submarine warfare were lifted. German strategy in this war from the beginning was characterized by a great willingness to gamble. This appeared justified for the Germans at the time on account of the fact that the numbers, both in terms of man power and in terms of production capacity, were heavily skewed against them.

For example, the Entente enjoyed an immense economic superiority over the Central Powers with a combined national income 60% greater. The combined Allies also had 4.5 times as men as great a population as compared to the Germans, Austrians, and the Turks with 28% more men mobilized for the war effort. The policy of the Germans prior to early 1917 and the failure of their peace venture was to sink, without warning, ships believed to be carrying war supplies to Britain.

The German General Staff believed that such a gamble would bring about the defeat of Britain before the United States could make an effective military contribution to the war. This strategy was tried 3 times in 1915, when the Lusitania and Arabic were sunk. It was because of such actions that the German Empire found itself confronted with the outward, rather than just the covert, animosity of the American Republic.

The Pope’s First Moves

Even though British and French disapproval had prevented Pope Benedict XV from taking up the peace proposal made by the German Emperor in 1916 and identical pressure had persuaded him to remain officially aloof, although privately supportive, from the clandestine effort by Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria to establish a back-channel connection to France via his brothers-in-law, Prince Sixtus and Xavier of Bourbon-Parma, both Entente officers, Benedict and his Secretary of State were not inactive in pursuing what they say to be the only “solution” to the conflict, immediate peace and the restoration of the European status quo ante.

In this, they were joined by a whole menagerie of political groups and individuals who were moved by various motives, ideological principles, and, likely, simple human empathy to demand an end to the suicidal European conflict.

For those on the Left, this war was simply proving to be a capitalist enterprise in which the “military-industrial complex” was benefitting and capitalist nations were attempting to ruthlessly expand their markets. For the traditionalist Right, the war was proving to be just what many had, all along, feared it would be, the catalyst of European social, economic, and political breakdown. This rightist analysis seemed to be conclusively demonstrated by the February Revolution in Russia in 1917 in which the ancient Monarchy was toppled and a provisional parliamentary government put in its place.

It would be this unhistorical, rootless Russian parliamentary regime that the Communist coup d’état would topple in the famous October Revolution in that same year. We can perhaps see the mental make-up of the man when we realize that Woodrow Wilson became ecstatic when he heard the news of the fall of the Russian Imperial Dynasty and then naively stated that, “Now Russia is fit for a league of honor.” The US president, of course, meant that now Russia, having shed its age-old Monarchy, would continue the War as one of the “enlightened” Democratic Powers.

He, also, revealed, in this outburst, that his campaign theme of 1916 “He Kept Us Out of War,” was not to be taken as final. Within a month, the United States, also, would be in this enlightened and “liberating” League. Here, contrary to the implicit beliefs of the Democratists, it was the democratic republican government of Russia in 1917 that wanted to continue fighting the war against the Germans and Austrians. It was the Emperor Nicholas II who was of the view that peace must be concluded quickly for the survival of Russia.

It was for precisely this reason that Lloyd George, the war-enthusiast “Methodist Machiavelli,” who refused to accept the Russian Imperial Family into exile in Britain since the Prime Minister viewed Nicholas as a traitor to the Entente cause. Remember, the Russian general’s phone which ought be “smashed” in order not to receive from the Emperor any order contrary to the provocative mobilization ordered by Minister of War, Sukhomlinov and General Yanushkevitch in August 1914.

What was the immediate cause of a new and final papal effort to halt the slaughter was the efforts of a man who was well-known to the Vatican. The leader of the German Catholic Center Party, Matthias Erzberger was the primary agent of the Imperial Government in its efforts of 1915 to keep Germany’s former ally Italy out of the war.

In this mission, Erzberger had worked closely with the Vatican and had meetings with Pope Benedict himself. Now, Erzberger, in the summer of 1917 after the US declaration of war against Germany but before significant involvement in the European theater of American troops, had been “converted” to a non-annexationist position, that is one which held that Germany should conclude a peace based upon the pre-war borders.

Benedict XV believed that Germany was the key to a successful peace process. Unlike the Entente Powers, Germany and Austria were in control of large areas of occupied territory, most especially Belgium, whose restitution was for the Entente the sine qua non of any settlement.

Benedict began with the premise that only the indication of willingness on Germany’s part to evacuate occupied territory would persuade the Entente to come to the negotiating table. Benedict and Cardinal Gasparri made careful preparations, in the winter and spring of 1917, for what would become their historic peace initiative. In May, in anticipation of the Peace Note, the Pope made personal contact with Blessed Emperor Karl and Empress Zita of Austria.

The Pacelli Factor

If the Germans were the key to peace, Benedict would need a trusted and skilled envoy who could fashion, in conjunction with the Germans, a plausible proposal for peace to present before the Western Allied Powers. That young cleric was Eugenio Pacelli, the priest who would occupy the Papal Throne during the 20th century’s next conflagration – a conflagration, by the way, which was almost the direct result of the failure of the Allies to accept the peace carefully crafted by Archbishop Pacelli. Msgr. Eugenio Pacelli was not a unknown factor at the Vatican in 1917. The Pacelli family had long been involved in Vatican affairs.

The two-year old Eugenio had been brought to the death bed of Blessed Pius IX who is reported to have said, “Teach this little son well so that one day he will serve the Holy See.” He had attended the elite Instituto Capranica, the seminary attended by Benedict himself, and Pacelli, like Benedict, had become a protégé of Cardinal Rampolla during the Cardinal’s years as Secretary of State under Leo XIII.

For those who understand the importance of the Fatima message, it cannot be without significance that Eugenio Pacelli was consecrated as a bishop, and then given the honor of the pallium, on May 13, 1917 (the first day of the Fatima apparitions in Portugal) in a ceremony in the Sistine Chapel by Pope Benedict XV himself. The Pope wanted to give Msgr. Pacelli as much prestige as would be necessary in the royal courts of Germany for this most important peace venture.

If it were not for the eventual contemptuous dismissal of the Pope’s Peace, Archbishop Pacelli’s mission to Germany in this critical year of the war would have been a complete success. After arriving at the royal court of Bavaria (there very much used to be such!), Archbishop Pacelli found the opportunity of making a personal overture, in the name of Benedict XV, to Kaiser Wilhelm himself.

For a man who had been trained to display a complete self-control and dignified comportment, it was indicative of the Emperor’s frustration and emotion when he, with quivering lips, angrily responded to the papal letter which asked him to redouble his efforts to hasten the advent of peace even though it should be at the expense of some of the German objectives.

Wilhelm said that he could not conceal his annoyance at the fact that his own peace efforts of December 1916 had been “snubbed by Benedict XV in so unheard of a manner as not to have merited the courtesy of some reply.” While maintaining complete composure, Archbishop Pacelli stated that certain actions of Germany, for example the deportation of Belgian workers, did not give the Pope reason to attach much confidence to the peace overtures.

According to Walter H. Peters, “The Emperor seems to have taken this argument in good part. He admitted that although the action looked bad at first sight, it had not been against international law. He could not be forced to run the security risk of allowing civilians to remain behind German lines.” Despite the friction and voiced complaints, the meeting with Nuncio Pacelli seems to have made a very positive impression on the Kaiser.

In his autobiography published in 1922, after his abdication and during his exile in Holland, Wilhelm II described his impression of the young Archbishop Pacelli at this critical meeting — critical for what would become Pope Benedict XV’s most important intervention in the World War. The Kaiser describes Pacelli as having, “an aristocratic, likeable, and distinguished appearance, with great intelligence and impeccable manners, the perfect model of a high prelate of the Catholic Church.”

This favorable impression, and the potential within the papal appeal, led the Kaiser, within two weeks, to follow up on the issues discussed at this meeting. On July 12th, the Kaiser arranged a dinner meeting at which the German Chancellor was to present the final draft of a peace resolution which was to go to the German parliament, the Reichstag.

Wilhelm was pleased with the draft since it repeated the statement that the Emperor himself had made in his Address from the Throne of August 4, 1914, in which he stated, “We are not animated by any desire for conquest.” It, also, repeated the statement that Germany had taken up arms only to preserve her independence and to keep intact her possessions.

This was the basic text passed by the Reichstag, with some slight alterations made due to the increasing influence of Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff. On July 14, 1917, the revised peace resolution was laid before the Kaiser, along with a reply that was to be sent to the letter presented by Archbishop Pacelli.

The Kaiser, seeing that the letter was dated August 13 – meaning the Chancellor had intended to significantly delay the German response to the Pope’s letter – said, “Vier Wochen, das ist unhöflich gegen den alten Pontifex!” (“Four weeks, that is discourteous towards the aged Pontiff!). Archbishop Pacelli was delighted with the German response to the Pope’s proposals.

After meeting for two days with the German Chancellor, he returned to Rome on July 25th, with an understanding that the German government was now ready to accept papal peace proposals. Pope Benedict then used this occasion to present his very specific peace proposal to the British representative at the Vatican, Count de Salis.

The Holy Father gave him several sealed envelopes. Each contained a copy of the historical Papal Peace Note of 1917. The British Government was asked to forward the note to France, Italy, and the United States whose governments were not represented at the Vatican. The die was cast.

The Papal Peace Note of August 1917

The Papal Peace Note was very straight forward and apparently non-controversial. It does not seem possible that it could have received such a negative response from several of the warring parties. In the introductory paragraph, the Pope enumerated appeals he had previously made in general terms. He said that the time had come to propose concrete and practical propositions. The task of adjusting them and completing them he would leave to the nations themselves.

The specific proposals were seven in number: 1) Substitution of Moral Force of Right for Law of Material Force; 2) A Simultaneous and Reciprocal Decrease of Armaments; 3) The Establishment of International Courts of Arbitration to Adjudicate Conflicts between Nations; 4) True Freedom and Community of the Seas; 5) Reciprocal Renunciation of War Indemnities; 6) Evacuation and Restoration of All Territories Occupied During the War; 7) Examination in a Conciliatory Spirit of Rival Territorial Claims [e.g., the question of Alsace and Lorraine].

The National Responses to the Papal Peace Proposals were as follows:

Germany: “For a long time His Majesty [Wilhelm II] with profound respect and sincere gratitude had followed the efforts of His Holiness to assuage the sufferings of war…and to hasten the end of the hostilities. The emperor sees in this most recent step of His Holiness a new proof of the noble and humanitarian sentiments, he entertains the lively hope that…success may come to the papal appeal.”

Austria-Hungary: Blessed Emperor Karl I gave an enthusiastic endorsement to the Papal Peace Note.

Bulgaria (one of the Central Powers): King Ferdinand replied to the Peace Note on September 26, 1917, in terms of reverence and loyalty.

Ottoman Empire: The Sultan of the Turkish Moslem Empire, Mehmed V, in an autographed letter on September 30, said that he was “deeply touched by the lofty thoughts of His Holiness.”

France: No direct response to the Pope’s Note. Merely a sharply worded statement issued by Foreign Minister Ribot to the British Government indicating that they (the French) did not intend to have an official statement in writing communicated to the Holy See. The British Government was asked to, “discourage any further attempt on the part of the Papal Secretary of State in the direction of an official intervention between the belligerents.”

Italy: In an address to the Italian Senate, Baron Sydney Sonnino, Italian Foreign Minister, stated that the Note was nothing but the work of Germany and that the proposals were utterly impracticable.

Britain: Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Minister (famous for the Balfour Declaration), responded in a very non-committal way: “His Majesty’s Government, not having as yet been able to take the opinion of their Allies, cannot say whether it would serve any useful purpose to offer a reply or, if so, what form such a reply should take. Although the Central Powers have admitted their guilt in regard to Belgium, they have never definitely intimated that they intend either to restore her to her former state or entire independence or to make good the damage she has suffered at their hands.”

Papal Peace Meets American Democratic Messianism

Wilson’s Intervention “What does he want to butt in for?” Here we have the unique first response from President Woodrow Wilson upon the presentation of the Pope’s Peace Note to him at the White House in August of 1917. The relations between the Roman Pontiff and the Presbyterian minister’s son from the Shenandoah Valley who sat in the White House had always been a bit tense. Contrary to pacific statements and neutralist campaign slogans, at the Vatican it was always understood that the United States, under its Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, was not actually a neutral and impartial player in the Great European Conflict.

The United States was clearly helping the Entente and for what the Vatican believed were selfish reasons. It was held that the US was committed to France and Britain because of economic ties. Benedict XV, in particular, deplored the United States’ arms trade with France and Britain, especially when it was carried on the passenger vessels, thus providing a causa belli against Germany. In light of this, it was as early as April of 1915, a full two years before official US involvement in the war, that Benedict called upon the United States to enforce an arms embargo against both sides.

This, of course, was never done. Included in this analysis of the American attitude towards the war, must have been a recognition that the tragedy of the sinking of the British liner RMS Lusitania, had been engineered to ease the United States’ entry into the war. This joint British-American operation had been executed at the expense of 1,198 human lives. Among the dead were 128 Americans.

On April 22, 1915, a week and a half before the liner departed, an announcement was issued by the German Embassy in Washington which warned passengers that Germany was in a state of war with Great Britain and, therefore, all ships sailing under her or her allies’ flag were subject to attack and that passengers were, therefore, traveling at their own risk. For some unknown reason, newspapers did not publish the warning until the day of departure. Some 8 miles off the coast of Ireland, a German U-20 submarine fired one torpedo at the liner. After the torpedo hit there was a second explosion. Within 18 minutes the ship sank, with the passengers in general panic.

As the Germans insisted at the time, and a 1960 investigation by an American John Light confirmed, the ship had been filled to the gills with contraband munitions making it a legitimate target according to international law. Included in this stock, were some 4,200,000 rounds of Remington .303 rifle cartridges.

This was also confirmed by later British documents that came to light along with the ship’s manifest, which had been given to Woodrow Wilson and was only released at the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Allen Welsh Dulles, brother of the future Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, knew well of the engineering of the tragedy.

It would still be some 2 years until the United States officially entered the conflict. Perhaps, this was to get past the presidential election of 1916 in which Wilson barely, due to a narrow margin in the State of California, beat his Republican opponent Charles Evans Hughes, on a platform of neutralism and peace, “He Kept US Out of War!” It was immediately after the election that Wilson momentarily acted as the neutral observer of the horror of the European conflict.

On December 20, 1916, when the peace efforts of the Central Powers were well underway, the United States issued an appeal that included the statement, “The President is not proposing peace; he is not even offering mediation. He is merely proposing that soundings be taken in order that we may learn, the neutral nations [here he apparently includes the United States] with belligerents, how near the haven of peace may be for which all mankind longs with an intense and increasing longing.”

When, only 4 months after the “peace appeal,” Wilson broke off relations with the German Empire, clearly in preparation for a declaration of war, the Holy See attempted to heal the breach — seemingly due to the impression at the Vatican that the United States was merely reacting to individual acts of the German military and political authorities. Therefore, we can understand the shock experienced by the Pope when he heard the news of the United States’ declaration of war against the Central Powers in April of 1917.

This was understood by Pope Benedict XV to be an unmitigated disaster. His Holiness understood, with utmost clarity, that American intervention would extend the time of the conflict since there would be absolutely no reason for the Entente Powers to consider a cease-fire or armistice.

Even though it is difficult get into the mind of another man, particularly if that man is the Vicar of Christ, it appears that the Pope did not fully appreciate the extent to which the Presbyterian President viewed the war in Europe as a “crusade” for equality and democracy.

This is the only explanation for the blind-siding of the Pope in this case and in Wilson’s final and conclusive rejection of Benedict’s great peace initiative of August 1, 1917. Wilson believed that this war was one of the “enlightened” Powers of parliamentary and democratic regimes, recently stripped of the “embarrassment” of Nicholas II, against the dark “holdovers.”

Wilson’s throwing of America’s sword onto the scale of the Entente Powers, changed the conflict from a fratricidal conflict over Alsace-Lorraine and Flanders, to a global crusade against Monarchy and, what would show itself after the war, against Papal influence in the political affairs of the world. In other words, against historical Christendom.

It would not be stretching it to say that with the rejection of Pope Benedict’s Peace Note of August 1917, Woodrow Wilson became the grave-digger of Christendom. What might not have happened had not the war continued to its tragic end – the downfall of the Russian, Austrian, and Prussia monarchies? Can we venture Communist Russia, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine, Korea, Red China, Vietnam, the Social Revolution of the 1960s, and perhaps, Vatican II?

What we can be certain of is that these things would not have happened as they did if Wilson had not, “butted in.” It is only with this anti-monarchical and anti-papal attitude in mind that we can understand the patronizing and cool response of Woodrow Wilson, through his Secretary of State Robert Lansing, to the Papal Peace Note.

Robert Lansing prepared the world for Wilson’s fatal response by his own articulation of the fundamental principle of American foreign policy, both then and now: “No people can desire war, particularly an aggressive war. If the people can exercise their will, they will remain at peace. If a nation possesses democratic institutions, the popular will will be executed. Consequently, if the principle of democracy prevails in a nation, it can be counted upon to preserve peace and oppose wars…If this view is correct, then the effort should be made to make democracy universal.”

In a letter dated August 27, 1917, Robert Lansing, speaking for President Wilson, responded to the Pope’s Peace Note by stating the following, “No part of this program can be carried out. The object of this war is to deliver the free peoples of the world from the menace and the actual power of a vast military establishment controlled by an irresponsible government which having planned secretly to dominate the world, proceeded to carry the plan out. This power is not the German people. It is the ruthless master of the German people. It is no business of ours how that great people came under its control. But it is out business to see that the history of the rest of the world is no longer left to its handling…. They desire no reprisal upon the German people who have themselves suffered all things in this war which they did not choose. They believe that peace should rest upon the rights of the people, not the rights of governments….The word of an ambitious and intriguing government on the one hand and a group of free peoples on the other….We cannot take the word of the present rulers of Germany as a guaranty of anything that is to endure, unless explicitly supported by such conclusive evidence of the will and purpose of the German people themselves.”

Pope Benedict’s attempt to stop the war which would kill 9.4 million and open the Age of Totalitarianism ended with this rejection. The Entente Powers allowed Wilson to speak for them. As the great biographer of Pope Benedict XV, Walter Peters, states, “Wilson could not endorse Benedict’s plan because the prime premises of the two men differed so radically. Wilson was motivated by an urge to punish. In Wilson’s opinion, it was absolutely necessary that the ruling dynasties of Germany and Austria be forced to abdicate.”

Pope Benedict XV told one of his friends that it was the bitterest moment of his life when he heard of the rejection of the Note by Woodrow Wilson.

1918: Why The War Ended

When considering the failure of the peace initiatives of the Holy Father and others, we can understand why the war did not end. But why did it end? Did the Germans lose? Yes and No. According to the most recent historians of the period, it was the collapse of German morale on the Western Front, which brought about the defeat of Germany and Austria in the Great War.

Even after the failure of Ludendorff’s famous Michael Offensive in the Spring of 1918, the Germans and Austrians were still killing the Allies at a faster rate than they themselves were getting killed by the British and French (Note, the US Army was on the Western Front in substantial number only in the Autumn of 1918).

In the last 3 months of the fighting, for example, 63,500 British soldiers were killed, while 28,000 Germans were killed. It was not the Germans who elected to continue fighting who brought about the collapse of the Central Powers, it was those Germans who elected to surrender – or desert, shirk or strike – who ended the war.

This becomes clear, even by looking at the basic casualty count for the entire war 1914-1918: 9.4 million total casualties, 4 million dead from the Central Powers and 5.4 million dead from the Entente.

Most of the surrendering occurred at the end of the war, from August 1918 when General Ludendorff first started asking for an armistice and the second week of November when Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and went into exile in Holland. Probably the greatest chance Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had of winning the struggle, was if Emperor Nicholas II had accepted, as early as 1915, a separate peace offer from the Germans and Austrians.

The Central Monarchies might well have won the war early and Russia would almost certainly have avoided Communism. When the Russians spurned these advances, the Germans went on to inflict total defeat on them, making the triumph of Communism possible. In 1919, the Versailles Conference met without the attendance of a representative of the Holy See.

Just as the Versailles Treaty was the first one since the early years of Christendom not to invoke the Holy Trinity, the Father of Christendom would have no place at the table which would profoundly rearrange the map of Europe. As Emperor Franz Josef stated at the end of his life, “Europe is dead.” It was the tragic fate of Pope Benedict XV, the man who loved Europe most, to weep at her tomb.

Peter Chojnowski is a professor, writer and currently teaches at Immaculate Conception Academy in Post Falls, Idaho.

The image shows, “Kaiser’s Got The Blues,” cover or sheet music from 1918.

The Assassination of Federico García Lorca: Propaganda And History

Who was responsible for the assassination of Federico García Lorca, during the Spanish Civil War? Thanks to the work of a host of journalists and historians, such as, Marcelle Auclair, Ricardo de la Cierva, Ian Gibson, José Luis Vila San Juan, Luis Hernández del Pozo, Eduardo Molina Fajardo, and Manuel Titos Martínez, to name a few, the answer is well known today.
The historical truth concerning the death of the famous Spanish poet belies partisan interpretations. Despite being an icon of the gay community, Federico was not “a militant of the left,” contrary to the false catchphrase inherited from the propaganda of the Comintern. Protected by Falangist friends, he was assassinated on August 18, 1936, on the orders of Commander Valdés, with the help of deputy Ruiz Alonso (a former typographical worker, Member of Parliament in the district of Granada from 1933 to 1936), two activists of the liberal-conservative right (CEDA).

Federico García Lorca is undoubtedly the best-known poet and playwright of Spanish literature of the 20th-century. Illegally arrested on August 16, 1936, in the midst of a civil war, he was assassinated at the age of 38, on the road from Viznar to Alfarez, near Granada. The decision of Madrid judge, Baltasar Garzón (October 16, 2008), to open nineteen pits, one of which, according to various testimonies, held the poet’s remains, did not fail to rekindle the debates and controversies over the disturbing circumstances of his death. And all the more so, since this controversial decision was accompanied by continual pressure meant to weaken the express will of the Lorca family who had clearly expressed their refusal to exhume the poet’s remains and their desire to respect the eternal rest of the dead. Refusing to accede to the heirs’ request, the National Auditing Judge imposed an emergency exhumation, but “in private,” and allowing the family to be present. To date, however, attempts to exhume the body of the poet, made on the basis of various testimonies collected since 1955, have all proved unsuccessful.

So, what are the well-established facts about the crime on the Viznar road? How are they interpreted? Did Federico García Lorca die because of his sympathies for the Popular Front and his fight against fascism? Is he the symbol or the most famous victim of the intransigence of traditional Spain, or worse, of “the implacable mechanism of extermination set up by Francoist Spain?” Was he instead the play-thing of a centuries-old rivalry between two wealthy families in Andalusia? Was he, on the contrary, an unfortunate scapegoat marked for his declared homosexuality?

According to the most widespread myth, popularized over and over again by the cinema, the press, television and radio, Lorca was “an intellectual of the Popular Front assassinated by the Falange.” It is a legend that has nothing to do with reality, however. The poet’s nephew, secretary of the Foundation that bears his name, Manuel Fernández-Montesinos García-Lorca, objected sternly, “against those who seek to minimize the literary value of Federico… against the politically-motivated insistence on wanting to open the pit where his body rests… against the use of his grave for propaganda purposes.”

Historical truth denies partisan interpretations. Not only were the Falangists not the perpetrators of the crime, but among the Nationals they were the ones doing everything possible to win freedom for the poet. This barbaric crime is actually the result of a Machiavellian maneuver orchestrated by members of the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rights (CEDA), the main Conservative and Liberal party of the Second Spanish Republic, who sought to gain the sympathy of the military and to discredit the José-Antonian Falange, by demonstrating that some of the Falangist leaders were protecting and hiding “Reds” in their own homes.

Can Lorca be considered a leftist activist? Nothing is less sure. All those who really knew him have testified that politics was not his main concern. Lorca was above all a writer who was at the same time elitist, refined, baroque, avant-garde and popular. In him converged tradition and modernity, liberal secularized culture and traditional religiosity, particularism and universalism. Born into a wealthy family, his sensitivity led him to defend the poorest, the peasants and the gypsies, in the name of social justice. But he was by no means a revolutionary. He used to say, “I have more sorrow for a man who wants to access knowledge and who does not have the possibility than for any man who is hungry.”

Lorca refused, in principle, to participate in a political act, even if it had a cultural connotation. He repeatedly expressed irritation when his name was used for political gain. Asked about his political preferences, he replied that he felt “Catholic, communist, anarchist, traditionalist and monarchist.” His detachment from politics allowed him to maintain friendly relations with writers of very different convictions – Communists, like Rafael Alberti; Socialists, like Fernándo de los Rios; or Falangists, like Agustin de Foxá, Edgar Neville, or Felipe Ximenez de Sandoval.

Gabriel Celaya, Basque poet and Communist activist, attested to this. He even told the following (disputed) anecdote. At the end of February 1935, Lorca and Celaya met at the Madrid Casablanca cabaret. As soon as he arrived, Celaya was surprised to see Lorca in the company of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Falange. “Hey! Come here!” cried Lorca. “I will introduce José Antonio to you. You’ll see, he’s a very nice guy.” The three men spent the evening together over a good bottle of whiskey (see Gabriel Celaya, “Un recuerdo de Federico García Lorca”, Realidad: revista de cultura y política, Rome, April 9, 1968). Gabriel Celaya also reported a second anecdote. The following year, March 8, 1936, he found Lorca at the Biarritz Hotel in San Sebastian. He was really surprised to find Lorca this time in the company of the architect, José Maria Aizpurua, founder of the Falange of the Basque province of Guipúzcoa. This meeting came in the aftermath of the February elections, which had brought the Popular Front to power, and feelings were particularly heated. Celaya refused to shake hands with Aizpurua. But once the Falangist left the room, Lorca reproached Celaya sharply for dampening the mood. Mischievously, he confided to him, with a playful air: “Aizpurua is a good guy, who admires my poems. Besides, he’s like José Antonio. He’s another good guy. Do you know that every Friday we have dinner together?”

The main contact with the Falangist movement, for Lorca, was Luis Rosales, a young poet from Granada, who was a student of philosophy and the law, and who was also editor of the Madrid magazine, El Gallo. Rosales would play a key role in the last days of Lorca’s life.

During dinner with Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet, on 12 July 1936, Lorca declared his intention to leave Madrid to take “shelter from lightning.” The next day, he confided to his Falangist friend, Edgar Neville: “I am leaving because they want me to get into politics here, when I don’t hear anything and I don’t want to know anything. I’m everyone’s friend, and I just want everyone to be able to work and to eat.”

On July 15, the poet arrived in Granada safe-and-sound, and lived happily on the family farm, Huerta de San Vicente, with his parents, his sister Concha, his two nephews, and the nurse Angelina. The turmoil of the Civil War, however, quickly caught up with him. On July 18, 1936, when the first reports of the military uprising reached Madrid, the Far-Left published in the press a cruel caricature of Lorca. He was shown dressed for first communion, and the unsavory caption below the drawing was an unambiguous attack: “García Lorca: cute child, pride of his mother.” More seriously, on the radio, the Communist poet, Rafael Alberti, recited insulting verses about insurgent soldiers which he attributed wrongly to Lorca. The prestigious liberal writer, Ramón Pérez de Ayala, accused Alberti of knowingly trying to have his friend killed. The poet’s sister telephoned Alberti to beg him not to endanger her brother’s life any further.

The uprising reached Granada on July 20. The insurgent soldiers, commanded by young officers, and supported by several groups of civilians, activists from the right-wing parties and the Falange, won in three days. In the city, isolated and surrounded by the forces of the Popular Front, things were extremely volatile. Reports of the massacres perpetrated by left-wing militiamen in Malaga soon triggered terrible repression. All over the Peninsula, massacre was met with massacre, repression with repression.

In Granada, Commander José Valdés Guzmán assumed the power of Civil Governor. He appointed his men to key positions and constituted a department responsible for repression. Valdés was a soldier who claimed to be a Falangist, but who in fact came from the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rights (CEDA), a Liberal-Conservative party. On the eve of the February 1936 elections, he was one of those responsible for training the candidates of this party, which was the bane of the Falange. With him were the chief of police, Julio Romero Funes, the former member of the CEDA, Ramón Ruiz Alonso, a heterogeneous group of right-wing activists, and lastly another group comprised of neo-Falangists, or “New Shirts” (as opposed to activists before the outbreak of the Civil War, who were called the “Old Shirts”).

Across Spain, the Falange – over 60% of whose leaders had been murdered or detained – was literally overwhelmed by new recruits. José Antonio’s Falangist movement had no more than 30,000 to 40,000 members on the eve of the conflict. It suddenly saw its membership increase to 200,000 and then to 500,000 members. These New Shirts, under the command of ad-hoc executives, appointed in the absence of any real leadership, knew nothing about national trade unionism and were largely uninterested in social concerns.

In the city of Granada alone, the few dozen Old Shirts, or José-Antonian Falangists, were overwhelmed by more than a thousand New Shirts from right-wing parties. To lead them, Commander Valdés appointed a Captain of the Assault Guard, a sort of Republican Guard, Manuel Rojas Feijespan. Not long after, Valdés came into conflict with Patricio González de Canales, the leader of the Old Shirts, who had been appointed directly by José Antonio, and who was a true lay saint. Canales stubbornly refused to allow his men to participate in the summary detentions and executions. Anxious to get rid of him as quickly as possible, Valdés, in agreement with General Queipo de Llanos, requisitioned an airplane which, after having flown from Seville to Granada, forcibly took away the stubborn Falangist official.

As early as July 20, Lorca had learned of the arrest of his brother-in-law, Manuel Fernández Montesinos, Socialist mayor of Granada. Thereafter, the atmosphere was heavy and tense at the farm in San Vicente. On August 5, Captain Rojas, leading a group of Neo-Falangists, searched the Lorca family home. Rojas claimed to be looking for the farm manager’s brother. Blows and insults rained down. Lorca was beaten, called a “fag,” thrown down the stairs. Finally, growing tired, the militiamen left the place.

In the evening, Lorca, worried about his life, called his friend, Luis Rosales, on the phone and asked for his protection. Professor of literature at the university, Rosales was about to join the front as a Falangist volunteer. He immediately hurried to the farm in San Vicente. After a quick meeting, it was decided that Lorca would stay with his friend, in the center of the city, three hundred meters from the seat of the civil governor, where Commander Valdés resided. As soon as Lorca arrived at the Rosales’ home, Luis’s older brothers, Miguel and Pepe – two early Falangists – and their parents, welcomed the poet with open arms.

It would take Valdés and Ruíz Alonso eleven days to discover this hiding place. On August 16, Lorca’s sister Concha, whose husband was arrested on July 20, confessed, frightened into admission by the threat of having her father taken hostage. For Valdés and Ruiz Alonso, this was too good a windfall. They would also finally be able to get rid of the Rosales and the group of Old Shirts that were openly hostile to them.

The same day, Ruiz Alonso, with an arrest warrant and accompanied by two sections of CEDA militiamen, arrived at the Rosales’ home. In the absence of the three brothers and their father, he was received by Mrs. Rosales. Ruiz Alonso was reassuring. His attitude was so sweet, in fact, that the unlucky Lorca was convinced that nothing would happen to him. Cautious, Mrs. Rosales left Ruiz Alonso at the house, while she urgently went to fetch her son at the headquarters of the Falange. Miguel ran in haste to intervene, but in vain. Lorca had already been taken by force, searched and imprisoned.

That evening, Luis and Pepe Rosales, just returned from the front, decided to act, with the support of a dozen Falangists. Outraged, they all went to the main office of the civil governor, intent on having their friend released. At the entrance, Pepe jostled with the guards who blocked the way. But he got into the office of the civil governor and harshly recriminated Ruiz Alonso and Commander Valdés. The altercation grew extremely violent, and Pepe took out his revolver. But the odds being one against five, the determination of the small group of Falangists was not enough. Pepe Rosales could only obtain permission to see the prisoner.

On the 17th, Pepe again stood in front of Valdés. This time he had in his possession an order to release Lorca, which was signed by the military governor, Colonel Antonio Gómez Espinosa. But nothing helped. Valdés did not get upset, replying that he regretted that the prisoner was no longer here. It was a lie believed by Pepe Rosales, for Lorca was still there for quite a few hours more.

In the early morning of August 18, Lorca was secretly being transferred to the former children’s home at Colonia, which had recently been converted into a place of detention. But along the way, on the road to Alfaraz, he was summarily executed, along with two unfortunate companions, the schoolmaster, Dióscoro Galindo and the banderillero, Francisco Galadi, at 4.45 AM, at the foot of the olive trees of the Viznar ravine.

For years, Commander Valdés, the principal person responsible for Lorca’s death, denied any involvement in the affair. But since 1983, thanks to the research of the journalist from Granada, Eduardo Molina Fajardo, the original statement of the Rosales brothers has been found and the direct responsibility of Commander Valdés established.

The execution of Lorca was indeed ordered by Valdés, with the approval of General Queipo de Llano. In the aftermath of this barbaric crime, Luis Rosales was also imprisoned. He avoided being shot thanks to the substantial fine paid by his family and, above all, thanks to the unexpected arrival in Granada of one of the most prestigious Falangist leaders, Dr. Narciso Perales.

Among the most faithful to José Antonio, Perales clashed with Valdés the moment he arrived. He would testify much later that during their dispute, Valdés cynically confessed to him: “Listen. For me, in this whole business of National Unionism, what is National seems good to me, but what is Unionism makes me sick to my stomach.” Curiously, Valdés, who always wears the Falangist blue shirt in films and television series, never actually wore it in the photos of the time, which were published notably in the newspaper Ideal, between July 1936 and July 1937.

After the creation of the new Traditionalist Falange of Franco, born of the imposed merger of the original Falange and the various right-wing parties, as well as the death sentence given to the second national chief of the Falange, Manuel Hedilla, by the Franco authorities, in April 1937, Dr. Narciso Perales became a dissident and went underground. As for Luis Rosales, after having collaborated in numerous Falangist literary reviews, during the 1940s and 1950s, he distanced himself from the regime.

In March 1937, shortly before the disappearance of José Antonio’s Falange, two magazines expressly condemned the assassination of Lorca by way of the Falangist, Francisco de Villena of Zaragoza. A beautiful elegy, in homage to Lorca, was published by him in the daily Amanecer, then in the weekly Antorcha. Again, on March 11, 1937, Luis Hurtado Álvarez published an article in the Falangist newspaper of San Sebastian, Unidad, in which the first words were unequivocal: “The best poet in imperial Spain was murdered.” Also, in 1937, the Sevillian poet, Joaquín Romero Murube, also close to Falangist circles, dedicated his collection of poems Siete romance to Lorca. (Murube, who was director of the Alcazar in Seville, at the end of the Civil War, also hid another famous friend in the royal palace – the Communist poet and playwright, former volunteer of the Fifth Regiment, Miguel Hernández. In January 1940, during Hernández’s trial, after his arrest, Murube interceded on his behalf, with the help of a small group of Falangist writers and poets, including José María de Cossio, Dionisio Ridruejo, Rafael Sánchez Mazas, Eduardo Llosent and Laín Entralgo. They had the death penalty commuted to 30 years’ imprisonment. But Miguel Hernández died of tuberculosis in prison, in 1942). Finally, to cite just one more example, in 1939, the Falangist poet, José María Castroviejo, also dedicated a poem to Federico García Lorca, which is included in his collection, Altura.

After the war, when in Francoist Spain no one dared to officially mention the real circumstances of the poet’s assassination, Falangists who were friends of José Antonio did not hesitate to publicly affirm that “Lorca was José Antonio ‘s favorite poet.” In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the youth magazines of the Youth Front and the Women’s Section, directed by Pilar Primo de Rivera, regularly published poems by Lorca. In 1952, the traveling theaters of the Women’s Section presented the Zapatera prodigiosa.

Many years later, in 2012, collector and art critic, Juan Ramirez de Lucas, broke his long silence by talking about his homosexual relationship with Lorca. It was in 1936; he was 19 years old. (He probably received the last letter written by the Andalusian poet, dated July 18, 1936). Since this revelation, the enigmatic inspirer of the famous Sonetos de amor oscuro is finally known. Author of several books, defender of Valle de los Caidos (the work of architect, Diego Mendez), Juan Ramirez de Lucas, was the great love of Lorca. At the age of twenty-five, he joined the 3rd Battery of the Azul Division Artillery Regiment to fight Communism on the Eastern Front. Subsequently, back in Spain, he joined the editorial staff of the ABC newspaper, on the recommendation of Luis Rosales, before becoming a specialist in popular art and an expert in architectural criticism.

History, as we know, is always more subtle and more complex than ideologists suggest. Thanks to the efforts of some serious historians, the false catchphrase of Federico García Lorca as a “leftist intellectual murdered by the Falange,” which is so much used by the propagandists of the Comintern, will eventually die out and historical truth will prevail.

Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.

This article was translated from the French by N. Dass.

The photo shows a portrait of Lorca by Gregorio Prieto, painted ca. 1937.

The Crisis In Modernity

The ideas that constitute “modernity” center around life as management. Modernity assumes that life can be managed, and that human beings are well-suited for the job. Its greatest successes have come in the careful application of technology towards various problems with a resulting rise in wealth. The well-being that comes with that wealth is limited to the things that money can buy. Non-tangibles remain as elusive as ever.

Modernity prefers problems that can be solved. As such, the short history of the modern world is the story of a civilization that staggers from one crisis to another. It derives its sense of self-worth and meaning from the problems it solves. It is existentially desperate for such problems.

No one historical event or idea created the modern world. It is an “accidental” philosophy, made up of disparate elements assembled in the wake of the collapse of the Medieval world (generally called the “Reformation”). The times that gave rise to modernity were revolutionary and radical (or were perceived to be). It’s heady stuff to be reforming the world. It’s also exhausting.

I have often thought that people generally have narrow interests. We want to work, to play, to love our family, to live in peace with some modest level of comfort. Of course, a consumer economy cannot operate in a world of satisfaction. Modern consumption with an ever-expanding economy requires that our dissatisfaction remain somewhat steady.

The same is true of the political world. For people to vote, they must be motivated (like shopping). Problems need to be advertised so that people will vote for their solutions. As such, our society has moved from crisis to crisis, slogan to slogan, with a faithfulness that can only be described as religious in nature.

Though America invented the notion of the “separation of Church and State,” nothing is more political than American religion, nor is anything more religious than American politics. Modernity is a religious project. (Christianity in its modernized forms is also driven by crisis and slogan. As such, it often resembles the politics of the world it inhabits).

Religion, per se, needs no gods or temples. It requires purpose and direction and a narrative for the direction of life. Human beings are not constructed in a manner in which we live devoid of religion. The term itself is instructive. “Religio” is a Latin word that refers to “binding” (“ligaments” has the same root). “Religion” is “that which binds us,” or “holds us together.”

Modernity, as a set of ideas, has been the dominant religion of Western culture for well over 200 years. What Christianity that continues to exist within it generally exists as a Christianized version of modernity. Modernity is the set of ideas, therefore, that answers the question, “What would Jesus do if He was going to fix the world?”

Ecumenism tends to flourish in such a setting because the “religious” differences between denominations are insignificant. What matters is the State and the culture as State. (The State is that arm of society in charge of “doing.” If Modernity as religion is about managing the world, then the State will always be its primary expression).

Modernity has been marked by a series of quasi-religious projects. The “New World” itself largely began as a religious project. The problem was not escaping persecution (an American myth). Rather, it was the dream of building a new world according to the radical ideas of English Puritanism (at least in New England).

The “rights of man” exploded as a religious campaign in France, sweeping away the old order as well as not a few heads. Again, it is a mistake to think of such fervor as “political” in nature. Politics is about governing – revolutions are always religious in nature – people “believe” in them.

America’s Westward drive can only be understood as a religious campaign. Notions such as “manifest destiny” married the American project to the book of Judges and the conquering of the land of Israel. Bob Dylan observed, “You don’t count the dead when God’s on your side.”

The single greatest act of idiocy of the modern project was the “War to End All Wars” (World War I). The mass carnage of an entire generation brought nothing of significance as a result. Again, mere governance is incapable of such madness. Only the blindness of a false belief can create such nightmares.

Following the Second World War (which was utterly conceived in religious terms) the struggle with Communism became the great religious impulse of the post-war period.3 Towards its end, Reagan declared the Soviet Union to be the “Evil Empire,” capturing the religious mood of an era.

Billy Graham’s preaching in the 50’s was as much about anti-Communism as it was about sin and redemption. Presidents loved him. It is worth noting that in its 220 years of history, the United States has only known 17 years of peace. To a large extent, the modern state exists as war (a religious war).

The collapse of the Soviet Union created something of an existential/religious crisis in the West. Historian, Francis Fukuyama, declared it to be the “end of history.” Without the religion of anti-communism, capitalism itself felt empty. Did we spend all of that treasure and energy resisting Communism just so we could have Walmarts?

Indeed, the spiritual emptiness of the West was apparent to almost everyone (except the West). Solzhenitsyn shocked American pundits when he described the vacuity of its spiritual life in his Harvard Address (1978).
I live in Oak Ridge, TN. I moved here shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This city (the home of the Manhattan Project that built the first atom bomb) went into a bit of a tailspin in the 90s as the Cold War came to an end. It was a microcosm of the whole military-industrial complex (in which is located in some dark corner, the Vatican of modernity’s religion).

The decades since have been marked by a fevered search for a religious substitute. This has partly been found through the propaganda-driven recreation of the Cold War by the demonization of post-Soviet Russia. Both political parties today channel a hatred and fear of Russia that eclipses anything ever expressed about the Soviet Union.

The single most successful current religious movement surrounds the issues of climate change. I am not suggesting that the climate is not changing nor that human activity is not a contributor. Rather, I am suggesting that it has gained a religious basis that serves the larger purposes of modernity and its religious needs. If fingers were snapped and tomorrow the climate suddenly stabilized and returned to 1960 standards, the emotional loss for many would rival the death of God.

When the pronouncements of religious leaders agree with the headlines of the New York Times, we do well to ask which religion is being espoused. Regardless of actions taken and not taken, we will not “save the planet” nor lose it. However, the concept of saving the planet serves well the unifying cohesion of modernity’s religious needs. (Communism itself was a religious project. Its wholesale destruction of the Orthodox Church was an effort to eliminate a threat to its own religious claims).

The religious character of the current “crisis” is not to be found in a concern for the environment. Rather it is in the concern for a crisis. How desperate things are has little or nothing to do with the matters at hand and everything to do with modernity’s desperate need for purpose and meaning. The very people who wring their hands about future suffering justify present suffering (such as the wholesale slaughter of the unborn) in that its presence helps pay for the uninterrupted lifestyle of consumer capitalism.

The concerns of modernity’s religious demands often contain an element of truth. That same truth is ultimately swallowed up by the unattended destruction that provides for its way of life. Fulfilling those present demands is no more a solution to the problems of the world than any of its previous wars, genocides, and head-chopping revolutions. Filled with good intentions, they are the demands of a religion of insanity.

Christian theology has a concern for all things: “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” As such, it is possible to construct a “theological” account that supports the various projects of modernity. However, the Church does not exist to serve the demands of a false narrative. Coming to understand who we are and why we are is essential to Orthodox existence. Its endangerment may be the only true crisis of our time.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The image shows, “The Song of Life,” by Giorgio de Chirico, painted in 1914.

Humans First!

How much of our humanity are we willing to lose? It would appear that this question is becoming most pertinent in our age. But another, more fundamental, question foregrounds this one – what is a human being? Are people bio-mass? If so, then only one idea is required to exist on this planet, namely, how best to manage populations.

If mankind is something other than bio-mass, then another idea is needed to live a happy and meaningful life, namely, how best to safeguard the value of the individual. Each answer also means that a particular type of government, or state, must come into existence – whether it be rule by an all-powerful polity before whose might, one person is worth nothing; or whether it be a limited government that does not stand in the way of the people.

As is obvious, the first question can only be answered properly within the context of either of these two ideas. The current “culture war” is, in fact, an expression of our inability to come to a definite answer for what a human being is. And in this confusion, the very notion of citizenship is fast disappearing. If a citizen is bio-mass, then his value to the state is determined purely by the state. If the citizen is not bio-mass, then his value exists beyond the reach of politics because he innately possesses individual sovereignty, or self-worth, which no court of law or government can take from him.

But the more powerful a state becomes, the less a human life is valued. Consequently, those who agree with the state are deemed “good citizens,” while those that deny the power of the state are held in contempt and labeled as, “dissidents.” Currently, in the West, both these ideas are in contention. Which idea will win out in the end, will decide what type of society comes to exist in the West.

Into this struggle intrudes technology, which has assumed the structure of the all-powerful state – because it is intrinsically about the micro-management and even control of individuals. But it is a “state” of a very peculiar type. We watch screens. The screens watch us. It really is a watcher’s world, in which the boundary between public and private life is much corroded, so that individuals must continually yield their sovereignty in order to access the various necessities now contained solely within technology.

Indeed, it is now impossible to deal with money, information and communication without the intermediacy of the screen. This means that whenever we need to enter into any sort of transactional relationship with the world around us, we need to go and interact with a screen. There really is no other choice. And this “screened” interaction means people must assume two roles – there are those who need what screens dispense; and there are those who mange this dispensation.

In other words, the watchers are watched. And those that watch, do so continually, ensuring that entire populations are under constant surveillance. In this way, technology has created an entirely new form of “politics” – one where constant surveillance both exploits and controls. It exploits by charting what we buy and then tagging us as specific types of consumers. And it controls by telling us what to think – so that screens determine our behavior. We agree to be watched so that we might reap the benefits provided by the screen.

But this is consent of a different kind, because there is no other choice. There is no alternative to the screen. This also means that there really is no consent at all, only compliance, if we want to participate in commerce, communication or banking. In this way, each of us becomes nothing more than a technological “process.”

Much has been written about the surveillance culture and the surveillance economy. But recently an interesting set of three books has been published by Cyrus Parsa, each of which explores the serious threat to humanity posed by technology. These three books were published quickly, from August to October 2019. And all three, offer troubling, if not shocking, insights as to what becomes possible when technology and the state become a seamless entity – a merging that is coming into being in the West, but which is fully entrenched in China.

The three books are meant to be read one-after-the-other, it would appear, since each develops and builds upon two themes – “bio-digital social programming” and the anti-human agenda embedded within technology. Since these books seem to be self-published, a good editor was certainly needed– but this drawback does not distract from the value of the insights and information provided by the author, for he brings to the discussion a point of view that is very little understood and therefore little discussed, namely, the vast anti-human possibilities of technology.

More importantly, Parsa also offers insights as to how we ought to answer the two questions that were raised at the very beginning: How much of our humanity will we agree to give up in order to use technology? And, how shall we define a human being, given the anti-human assumptions that are the modus operandi of high-tech?

In his first book, Raped Via Bio-Digital Social Programming, Parsa posits the idea that technology promotes a “rape-mind,” that is, a mind that is perpetually sexualized and therefore always looking to either rape or be raped. As an aside, Parsa is also creating a vocabulary to help in his analysis, because the topics that he is engaged in have been so little studied that they do not yet possess specific terminology. “Bio-digital social programming” is one such neologism, by which he means the connections made with the human body by all digital transmissions (machines, robotics, computers, smart phones, smart cities, IoT devices, facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence).

Parsa suggests that humanity now exists as a “bio-digital” entity, which learns and understands the purpose and meaning of life now only through technology. This interchange, or cross-over, means that the difference between humanity and robotics is starting to blur. If a human is merely a set of mechanical functions, then bio-digitality makes sense, where the desire of human existence to self-perpetuate is channeled off into technology.

This, then, calls into question the very purpose of sex itself – for freed from reproduction it can only become another form of self-gratification. And because of this separation of sex from procreation, the various hybrids being created become expressions of progress rather than monstrosity. This “logic” also informs the entire transgender movement, where a New Man can be created by chemical means.

Given technology’s assumption about the human body as a mechanical object that can be programmed, Parsa suggests that the most effective method of such programming is digi-sexuality, which is then managed through the various gadgets we all possess, such as, smart phones and IoT devices, and which together create a hyper-sexualized mind, or the “rape-mind.” Parsa then connects this mind with the great upsurge in human and child-trafficking, and a “pornified” youth culture, which seeks to not only imitate but outdo the sexual acts portrayed on the screens of their various devices.

Such “rape automation” offers a precise explanation of what human sexuality has been turned into by technology – wide-spread and freely-available pornography, epidemic levels of pedophilia, sex-robots as a growth industry, and the bizarre promotion by the state of transgenderism. In other words, what Parsa describes is a culture that no longer understands what it means to be human, because it has transformed sexuality into a mechanism for controlling populations, in that people become what they see on their screens.

In his second book, AI, Trump, China & the Weaponization of Robotics with 5G, Parsa delves into another neologism of his, namely, “micro-botic terrorism” (or, MBT), by which he means the weaponization of biometric data. Just as technology has weaponized sex, likewise the human body itself has been turned into an effective means to destroy the individual, so that if the metrics of the individual do not match the “ideal citizen” required by the state, then that individual becomes the enemy of the state, and is dealt with accordingly.

The state needs to know who its enemies are, and technology steps in to identify (or tag) such “undesirables,” by way data. This data is created in such a way that “enemies” can be easily recognized, marked off (tagged) and then dealt with. This data consists of facial recognition, fingerprinting, individual manner of walking and speaking, skeletal structure, eye-scans, and so on.

Our very bodies betray us to the state, in that “enemies” possess physical traits that are markedly different from those that support, comply and agree with the state. Thus, enemies of the state actually possess different faces, postures, speech, mannerisms, gait – which clearly marks them off from the “friendlies” of the state. In other words, in the process of mass surveillance of crowds, enemies can easily be identified.

Such is the grim message that Parsa meticulously lays out; and he identifies China as the foremost user of such anti-human technology. This is obvious, given the idea that China follows in its understanding of what a human being is – nothing more than bio-mass.

Aside from the well-known harvesting of organs from citizens that have been tagged as unfit to live in the “ideal China” (and the trade in such organs is brisk and highly profitable), China also has far grander ambitions. With the help of the big-tech corporations, it has gathered, or is in the process of gathering, bio-metric data of over 6 billion people on this planet.

This means that China now knows, for example, who belongs in the military, police, national security, academia, the government, as well as who belongs to which private sector. And it can also identify who are the friendlies within other nations, and which are enemies. Given the fact that humanity is bio-mass, if any mistakes get made and friendlies get killed by the state – it matters little, so long as the goals of the state continue to be achieved.

Using biometrics, Parsa also details how his own company analyzed one-thousand members of big-tech corporations and one-thousand high-profile media personalities, journalists and reporters. His conclusion was that they are all actively promoting the interests of China; they are friendlies.

If Parsa’s biometric data is correct (and if we assume that data does not lie), then his conclusions must come as a resopunding alarm bell, because those who manage how we receive information have entirely bought into the Chinese model of governance – and the Chinese understanding of humanity.

Next, Parsa details the weaponization of AI by China. This means that through the AI operating system, deep learning and machine learning, human-tracking technologies easily become human-targeting methodologies, where a mass-kill of humans can be done quickly and efficiently.

As a frightening example, Parsa details one current project of the Chinese – the tagging of “House Christians,” or those Christians who refuse to follow the party-approved “church” in which President Xi is given status equal to Christ.

These House Christians have had their biometrics recorded, and this data is then used to identity other House Christians in the general population. This means that the Chinese state recognizes as a fact that Christians look, walk, talk, and generally carry themselves differently from the larger, non-Christian population. The companies engaged in this surveillance are Huawei, Megvii Face++, Sensetime and several others, Parsa tells us.

The purpose of identifying Christians is not only to determine dissidents, but to tag them for organ harvesting – and they can be picked up anytime and rendered.

This is far more than execution. Given that in China humans are bio-mass, the state can remove, without any qualms, people deemed incompatible with, and not fit to live in, Chinese society. And those thus removed are made useful by way of their body parts. Thus, their kidneys, hearts, cornea, livers, lungs and other components are harvested and sold in the international market. Or, “medical tourists” come and receive whatever transplants that they need.

China has been doing such “harvests” for the past fifteen years, with anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 organs harvested in each of those years. Tagged Christians are treated like livestock on the hoof, in that they are kept alive until their organs are needed.

Parsa’s research further shows that there are about 500 Chinese and 600 western AI and tech companies engaged in such collection and categorizing of biometric data, which is gathered by way of smart phones, IoT, automated vehicles, virtual reality, mixed reality, augmented reality, holograms, surveillance grids, and smart cities.

All this information has created a vast human-bio-digital network, wherein humans are connected to machines by way of the Internet and who can then be managed effectively. This means that people are tagged, classified, and their information stored for later use, as they walk about, unawares, on the street, or even as they carry on their private lives inside their own homes. Such AI reach is made possible by G5 and soon G6 technology, which China is rapidly expanding.

Again, given its understanding of humanity, it matters little if G5 and G6 pose a great health risk to people. Indeed, even now, China uses biometric data not only to gather and process individuals tagged for organ harvesting, but to construct vast concentration camps, where individuals are placed for eventual processing. Thus, China carries out the greatest amount of surveillance in its cities. And the same tagging process is being used to identify Hong Kong protesters.

China is also developing “micro-bots,” or “micro-drones,” also known as, Robo-Bees, or Slaughterbots, which are tiny, and insect-like, and which gather data by way of Lidar, facial recognition, and heat-body-motion detection.

These micro-bots have full spatial awareness and can be used for human targeting, in which case they can deliver lethal doses of poison with a quick jab. They can also be trained to swarm and carry out mass attacks on large crowds. Parsa suggests that China is actively using such technology against the United States, and that he has advised the current Trump-administration about this surveillance.

In his third book, Artificial Intelligence. Dangers to Humanity, Parsa fully engages with robotics, and issues an open challenge to the various high-tech firms that are intent on developing capabilities which will lead to profound anti-human outcomes. Taking the lead in this development is China’s robotic and cyborg program, whose sole purpose is the control of all humanity on this planet.

Parsa rightly points out that China has only been able to advance so much in technology because of outright theft (it has sophisticated methods of stealing the latest innovations), tech espionage, forced tech transfers, open-source sharing, and outright collaboration with western companies.

In Parsa’s estimation, China has roughly 1000 new tech startups each day. Some of the things these new companies are developing include robotics, cybernetics, wearable AI surveillance gear, deep fake apps that are easily weaponized, IoT, smart phones, drones, and AI weapons (in which the Chinese military is particularly active). The goal is to record the biometrics of every human being on this planet, a task that is not hard to do, as many might imagine, despite the vast numbers. In fact, AI is built for precisely such massive data.

It is this technology-theft and espionage that has led to the recent Huawei affair. Parsa states that the goal of China is to dominate and control AI and the entirety of the global digital system; and one of the programs that Huawei is implementing is a robot police force, which can effectively track down and quarantine a person who has been tagged for such treatment by the Chinese state.

Huawei is also a Chinese vanguard organization, well-established in over 170 countries, where it creates and manages digital infrastructure. This means that their technology is now being used by 3 billion people, which is a third of the planet’s population. Their network effectively tracks, spies on and controls financial networks and even entire populations. That is vast reach. In fact, Huawei is implementing China’s larger global goals – the domination of financial and political infrastructures of the entire planet, and then the transformation of these infrastructures into one seamless and massive AI digital mega-brain – all run from somewhere in China.

But it is humanoid robotics that holds a special interest for China, in which it is investing a lot of its energy. The end-game of this pursuit is the creation of autonomous weapons, a cyborg army, which can be programmed to kill certain types of humans who have been tagged for elimination. All this is for a very old dream – China wants to be the master of the world.

Then, there is China’s leading role in creating sexbots (which also gather data and transmit it to a centralized system). Such robots are becoming more and more lifelike, and their demand is increasing. Of course, this is also weaponized sexuality, for it is solitary self-gratification, which negates the very idea of love between two human beings, and rather quickly undermines human worth.

Perhaps the question that the rest of need to ask is a simple one – why has the West (which created all this technology in the first place) allow China to become so powerful? And why is a country, which is a clear threat to the West, being empowered still?

The answers to these two questions return us to the original ones asked earlier. The West is confused about how it should understand the human being. Some in power (high-tech companies, the media, Hollywood, politicians) want to follow the Chinese definition. Others are not so sure. And only a minority, it would appear, vehemently reject such classification. This is the real culture war.

And, as an active participant in this culture war, Parsa has taken another unusual step. He has commenced the largest lawsuit of this century by charging corporations, politicians, the media, and banks, under Article 3 of the Genocide Convention, for complicity in the mass murder of humanity. This is a bold step and it will be interesting to see where it leads – whether it is dismissed as frivolous by the courts, or whether it actually gains its sea-legs and proceeds further (as it rightly should).

Whatever the outcome of this lawsuit, Parsa has set a worthy example to us all. His three books are a wake-up call – and the time now has come that we take back our humanity – before we lose it to Chinese and tech tyranny.

But to do so, we must first demand that our politicians be pro-human. We must stop believing in all the anti-human ideologies that now hold sway (such as, environmentalism, transgenderism, abortion, euthanasia). Our strange love of such attitudes and outlooks can only lead to destruction.

We must reject the madness that is environmentalism, because it is simply Neo-Malthusian eugenics. We must demand that a “China Divestment Policy” be implemented, whereby each nation is freed from reliance on cheap Chinese labor (for the Chinese state has enslaved its own population). And most important of all, we must stop being so darned agreeable and compliant when it comes to our own future. The boldness shown by Parsa is much-needed. Let us get behind a cause that really matters – humanity first! A good place to start is the Lethal Autonomous Weapons Pledge.

The image shows a poster for the film, Metropolis, from 1927.

All About Presidential Primaries

For good or ill we are in an election year and a major one at that. All the seats in the House are up for grabs, one-third of Senate offices are in contest, and of course so is the Presidency. No sooner has one election gone, then another is in the offing. And while “blackout periods” (legal restrictions on advertising before election day) may shield our mental space for a few precious days, we are helpless otherwise.

Besides, even the murkiest of blackout periods don’t stop radio showmen, television talking-heads, or (horrors!) YouTube comments from jabbering on. Even the heartiest news hounds weary of election updates by September. Come October, the best of us look like deer at the end of the rut, scrolling away at our news feeds in a bleary daze.

Luckily, I’ve caught you before the thing gets going in earnest; when we’re spry and sprite, and when we still have mental hard-drive space to learn a thing or two.

For all the minutiae – and drama – the press serves up in great doses, it is easy to be ignorant of the actual mechanics of our electoral process. What exactly is the path from idea to execution? How does one go from mucking around a run for office, chewing it over in one’s mind and with one’s friends around the water cooler, to formally applying as a candidate, to ultimately ending up on a party’s ticket?

Definitions

At this time last year, when your minds and mine were far from this election, there were over 600 registered candidates running for the Presidency. Over 600 people embarked on the preliminary steps of a process we will now explore. How those hundreds of souls are whittled down to one candidate is done through the primary process. It is a system we find ourselves in at this moment.

As we set out on this exploration, we must make a distinction early on between caucuses and primaries. For stylistic reasons, I’ve chosen to use “primary” for both actual primaries and the rarer caucuses, unless otherwise noted. Both meetings are part of the opening steps in choosing a party’s candidate for the general election. Both are inter-party elections held to choose delegates from the state parties to participate in the national conventions held the summer preceding the November election.

The name-difference, firstly, designates who is funding those meetings. Caucuses are private gatherings which are run and paid for directly by the private political parties (n.b., both the GOP and the DNC are, after all, private associations). Caucuses are altogether in-house affairs. On the other hand, primaries are organized and paid for by the states. Besides funding, the name-difference indicates a difference in voting styles.

Caucuses use open ballots, everyone knows who voted for whom. They’re closer to open meetings than anything, and they try to arrive at a consensus. Primaries use secret ballots of the sort we’re familiar with in the general November election, with the winner usually receiving all that state’s delegates in the summer.

The overall trend since the 19th-Century, and especially since the 1970s, has been towards the primary system. Various dynamics come into play behind this trend. The most outstanding argument includes the perception that primaries are more open and democratic. The merits of this supposed openness is something we’ll look at later. (Not all that glitters, is gold.) In any case the purpose of the primaries is to choose delegates, who themselves will choose their party’s national presidential candidate.

Early History

How did the primary system arise? After all, political parties were not a planned feature of our government. Indeed, during the Revolution, the subsequent six-year rule of the Articles of Confederation, and during the final system developed at the Constitutional Convention, parties (or factions, as they were called then), were gravely cautioned against.

With the heavy examples of Rome and England during their civil wars, and the persistent machinations of factions in Medieval republics – think Romeo and Juliet’s Verona – weighing on their minds, the Founding Fathers were greatly set against such combinations.

Alexander Hamilton, oddly enough, given his later support of the Federalist party, warned in a tract, “There is no political truth better established by experience nor more to be deprecated in itself, than that this most dangerous spirit [of political parties] is apt to rage with greatest violence, in governments of the popular kind, and is at once their most common and their most fatal disease.”

The most revered statement in all of American political religion is Washington’s “Farewell Address.” It was once an oration commonly memorized by America’s schoolchildren. In it the outgoing president cautioned (in the best tradition of 18th-Century run-on sentences), “[Political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

There were a number of Constitutional measures in place to squelch “partyism,” such as, the appointment of a presidential runner-up at be Vice President. Yet even the warning given at Washington’s 1796 retirement – or rather, his re-retirement, the general having first demurred further public life in 1783 at the disbanding of the Continental Army – the young nation was drifting towards a seemingly factionalism. It is a drive that seems to be irrepressible in men.

During the debates revolving around the ratification of the Constitution, two groups formed to voice their opposition to, or favor for the new national government. In after-years these groups metastasized. By the turn of the century, the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists, as the parties came to be known, were well on their way to becoming as entrenched as their Tory and Whig predecessors were during colonial days. Indeed, by the time the 19th-Century was well underway, America not only had parties in abstract, it actually had a “Whig” party!

Later History

Whatever the Framers’ thoughts on the matter, political groups were here to stay. Indeed, Washington himself threw in the oppositionist towel in 1798, saying, “You could as soon scrub the blackamoor white, as to change the principles of a professed Democrat; and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the Government of this Country.”

Even Cinncinatus became a partyist. From those early groups, the caucus system developed. How it did so and how it eventually morphed into our present primary gauntlet is something we will look at now.

With or without parties there developed a need to select and publicize candidates up for office. Washington’s decision to bow out of a third term in the 1796 election created chaotic conditions for the new nation. In those days, before the passage of the 12th Amendment, every state Elector cast two votes for the two men thought best to be president.

With something of the logic of Europe’s parliamentary system, neither of these ballots was designated over the other. The man with the most votes in this semi-blind election became President; the runner up became the Vice President.

Because of this, because a large pool of candidates lowers the percentage one needs to win (i.e., if two men run, you need 51%; if three run, 34%, and so forth), the new American parties backed any number of candidates for President, hoping to get a majority in an over-saturated field. To our modern eyes this system becomes murkier when we remember that candidates at the turn of the 18th-Century, and indeed until the eve of the Civil War, did not actually campaign themselves.

With the fumes of the Framers’ wariness of ambition still lingering well into the following century, candidates sent their supporters out on the campaign trail to kiss babies and press the flesh, but they themselves did not budge from home.

The embryo of our present system goes back to those heady days of the 1796 and 1800 elections. In 1800 both Democratic-Republicans and Federalists held their first political caucuses. In the public, official arena those messy events spurred to passage of the 12th Amendment specifying the purpose of the Electors’ two votes.

It reads in part, “The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President.”

We will move into the modern era and delineate the technical organization of the primaries. However, one last historical note ought to be mentioned. The caucus system by the mid-19th-Century would largely remain the same for the next 100 years. In the middle of that stretch, however, there occurred an electoral feature which is at once an element of our primary process today, and yet one whose historical impact likely is never to be matched. I speak of the split ticket of 1860.

In the run-up to the vote that year, the Democratic Party broke into three groups. Regionalism, slavery, tariffs, Federal power, and a host of topics, festering since before the Constitutional Convention came to a head in the 1860 election.

In this fateful contest, caucus candidates mounted their high horses. The typical bowing-out of contenders did not happen. Steven Douglas received the support of northern Democrats. John C. Breckinridge enjoyed the patronage of the southern wing of his party. More confusing still, Tennessee’s John Bell led a rump of the DNC, to work with remnants of the Whig Party, to form the Constitutional Union Party. The group was a desperate attempt to head off a war and largely represented western voters.

Whatever is to be said of the split ticketers, of their philosophical consistency and doggedness, a split ticket dooms a party to failure. This is what happened in 1860. Because the DNC was split, the insurgent Republican Party won the Presidency. With Abraham Lincoln set to come into office in March of the following year, South Carolina seceded in December 1860. The fallout from the caucuses of 1860 triggered an avalanche of events culminating in a civil war.

Schedule

By the time of the primaries, with many candidates campaigning for over a year before this actual first stage of the Presidential election process, the Iowa Caucus, begins. Preference, ease, tradition, and vanity contribute to the eclectic schedule of party meetings, every fourth spring.

At present, the schedule of the major gatherings is in Iowa on February 3. Note well that while primaries dominate nowadays, like a vestigial organ, the caucus format still officially kicks off the election cycle. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina follow later that month. The far-famed “Super Tuesday” follows on March 3, with 16 states and related entities, such as American Samoa – alone in the caucus format since Iowa – and “Democrats abroad” choosing their selections.

By the close of March, over half of the primary selection events are over. Humble Connecticut, the land of steady habits indeed, prudently falls in the middle of the primary/caucus season. On April 28th, it joins five other Northeastern states for meetings, primaries all. This participatory gauntlet concludes on June 6th with the Virgin Islands holding their last primary, in this case for the Democratic Party.

Beyond the “Big Two”

Lest they be omitted, we remember that there are not two but five political parties recognized by the Federal Elections Commission, the regulatory agency which monitors national election financing. Beside the “big two” so often mentioned, in descending order based on the number of their members the other groups are the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties.

Primaries are fearfully expensive things to organize. According to the group Open Primaries, an association advocating primary reform, this stretch of the electoral cycle costs nearly half a billion dollars. This is a burden unsustainable by orders of magnitude for third parties. Thus, the Green and Constitution parties skip right over the primary season and designate their candidate at their summertime conventions. The plucky Green Party will mount a modest total of four state gatherings this year, primaries all.

Straw Polls

For the truest of political junkies, those who cannot wait until the primaries to get their electoral “fix,” there are straw polls. These unofficial queries are conducted by any number of private associations and they often precede the actual primaries by several months.

The most revered of these queries was the Iowa Straw Poll (of happy memory). An heir in its way to the ‘70s democratic fervor which has so influenced the primaries as we know them, the Iowa poll was held by the GOP six months before the Iowa Caucus. The Poll was of mixed accuracy and intent. Over the six times it was held, it successfully chose the correct GOP nominee only three times, and that’s leaving aside the open question of whether the Poll was supposed to choose a mere winner in Iowa or the ultimate GOP nominee

Though a child of the ‘70s, the Iowa Straw Poll channeled something of a 19th-Century democratic hoedown. The Poll, whatever its inaccuracy, also served the role of part-fundraiser and part-summer barbeque. Quaint but inaccurate, the Iowa Straw Poll was discontinued in 2011. Brisket-loving politicos rallied to their state’s dear bellwether, however, and since 2015 the Iowa State Fair Straw Poll has been dishing out inaccurate electoral auguries.

Iowa

Unlike the majority of preliminary meetings Iowa has chosen the keep the minority caucus system. 1916 was the last time the state held a primary. Citing costs, they went back to the caucus system the following year.

They’ve kept it that way since. In response to upheavals during the 1968 cycle, the Democratic Party decided to spread out their nominating process over a longer period of time, and this explains the early February (and some years late-January) date. In 1972 the DNC held their first winter caucus. The Republican Party followed suit four years later, pulling the opening of their process to the same early date since.

Iowa’s system is anomalous. Not only does it still maintain a caucus format (a minority amongst the 50 states), it also does so in the dead of winter (when poor weather might deter voters and the aged from venturing out). The state’s demographics are peculiar too. Iowans are not especially representative of the larger American voter pool, being overwhelmingly white and rural. And those white and rural voters are few in number. With only six votes in the Electoral College, the winter meetings are about the only time national candidates pay attention to “the corn state.”

However, elections can be tied to hallowed custom. America’s agrarian days explain the tradition of our November election placement. It was chosen as a convenient post-harvest, pre-sowing month to travel in. Religious concerns lie behind like the choice of second Tuesday election. Such a day avoided both Sunday travel in pre-automobile America and the Catholic All Saints’ holiday.

Even recent customs such as the ubiquitous “I voted” sticker, popular since its introduction in the ‘80s, are firmly kneaded into the county’s electoral customs. With the overall trend towards earlier and earlier primaries, Iowa has staked its claim on democratic ritual. They will not budge on their February date.

Tradition aside, however, the main argument for Iowa keeping their caucus and their early date is that it allows otherwise unknown contenders to elbow their way into the fray. The greatest example of this is Jimmy Carter. Taking advantage of the post-’68 McGovern reforms and liberalization of campaign finance, Carter’s team aggressively pounded the pavement to get their candidate into the media’s spotlight and onto people’s radars.

It worked; and candidates have been trying to get that same edge ever since. As of last November, Democratic candidates visited Iowa more than 800 times. Donald Trump, who developed such a taste for rallies in 2016 that he has not stopped holding them in the intervening four years, visited Iowa last June as part of a state GOP fundraiser.

Super Tuesday And The Rest

Following the Iowa and New Hampshire gatherings, the next milestone on the journey to the White House is “Super Tuesday.” On that day, in early March, upwards of one-third of Americans are represented at the party polls. This year, California joins the 2016 shift of Texas to Super Tuesday. Both states have large populations, and large Hispanic populations at that.

The justification of their moves lies in the greater racial diversity they bring to the primary season. The late relocations of the Golden and Lone Star states add even more energy to Super Tuesday. Of course, high-minded motives of diversity aside, we mustn’t pretend that old fashioned vanity is innocent from the trend of state parties towards earlier and earlier starts in their nominating processes.

Platforms

When the primary season winds down this spring, what can we expect to see at the party conventions come summer? When the 3,769 Democratic delegates meet this July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and when the 2,551 Republican representatives meet this August in Charlotte, North Carolina, they will be charged not only with choosing their nominee but also their party platform. What will the parties decide on? Standing at the cusp of this election year, primaries help shape the talking points of both parties for their official codification, come the summer conventions. Let us turn now to the platforms of the major candidates.

Donald Trump will doubtless take the Republican nomination. Six states’ GOPs – Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Virginia – are confident enough in this that they have saved themselves logistical troubles and canceled their primaries altogether. While the party’s Presidential nominee is a done deal for Republicans, this year’s primaries still allow the political faithful the opportunity to develop their platform.

While the choice of the RNC’s candidate is open and shut this time around that does not mean President Trump is without challengers to his incumbency. Serving within the Republican Party, the same role that third parties do in the general election, three men are indeed running for the GOP nomination.

Former Massachusetts governor, Bill Weld, one-term “Tea Party” congressman, Joe Walsh, and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford all hope to inject various issues into platform discussions, which otherwise would go silent. Longest of long-shots all, these men will be successful, if they influence this August’s GOP convention. And like many a politician of many a stripe, defeat – even obviously and overwhelming defeat – always can prime the pump for the next run!

As for the Democratic Party, the winnowing has yet to begin in earnest. Yes, some have already dropped out, like former Montana governor, Steve Bullock, retired admiral, Joe Sestak, and California’s Attorney, General Kamala Harris; but some have also entered the race like Michael Bloomberg. There have been over 20 DNC candidates who were running at one time or another this cycle. At present there are 15 candidates, who have registered with the Federal Elections Commission on the DNC ticket.

The sheer volume of contenders this time around combines with the fact that some have been campaigning for a year already. Besides the 15, we often hear about, 270 other people are also running for the Democratic ticket. This mass promises to inject a number of new topics and positions into this campaign.

Due to the clear divide between career politicians, such as, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Michael Bloomberg, and relative neophytes, like Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang, the DNC may be challenged by a similar split, which the Republicans experienced in 2016. Back then, the old guard were pitted against the “black horse” of the Trump campaign.

This was an upset which some in the GOP have not been quick in forgetting. A number of erratic decisions in the Trump administration, such as the DACA tug-of-war and the lack of control the President exercises over his advisers, are explainable in light of this in-house disquiet.

Amongst the Democrats, the split is between careerist candidates who boast of their experience in office against populist newcomers, promising more radical policies. “Lifers” like confident Joe Biden, who claims more qualifications than Henry Kissinger (a telling comparison), go toe-to-toe with populares, like newcomer, Andrew Yang, who promise more radical policies, such as, Universal Basic Income.

At this early stage of the race it seems that domestic topics will be of decidedly more interest to American voters than foreign policy. The student debt crisis, the massive disruption to come from looming automation and digitalization, and endless saga of American health care financing, all promise to hold more attention than they did during either the Bush or Obama days. These are concerns of average Americans.

But those average Americans aside, despite charges of undue Russian election interference and corruption in the Ukraine, despite some down and out neoconservatives still wraithing about Washington since the Bush II days, there is a pronounced disinterest in the Trump administration to become intrusively involved in overseas affairs in the manner of the previous two presidents (i.e., wars and coups). Whether one calls it “America first” or “isolationism,” the incumbent administration holds a lot of sway, when it comes to deciding the pressing topics of an election. It’s the home team advantage.

Conventions

The party primaries lead to the conventions. By the time they are held the summer prior to an election, most of the candidates have dropped out. Amongst those who remain, it’s usually obvious who will take the ticket. However, if they’ve the will – and the funding – some campaigns doggedly go to the bitter end.

With the horrible consequence of the 1860 split-ticket rattling around literate candidates’ heads, some candidates go to the bitter end in earnest, and more “play chicken,” backing down at the last minute. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose” split in the 1912 election, is another memorable election in this regard. Woodrow Wilson, like Lincoln before him, came to power because of disunity within the other party. Of course, countless historical ramifications stem from Wilson’s subsequent victory.

Ross Perot’s 1992 break with the GOP, which paved the way for two-termer Bill Clinton to win the day, is the most recent example of a party split. The stand, which Ron Paul’s and Bernie Sanders’ supporters have made in recent years, had some of us wondering, if we’d not see the split-ticket dynamic once again.

In any case, and ordinarily speaking, as happens informally during the primary season, and so formally at the conventions – at the close of each round of voting, losing campaigners choose which remaining candidate receives their delegates. For example, say that I win Connecticut’s primary but don’t have the steam to get the nomination. I can choose to give those 10 Connecticut GOP delegates to whatever candidate remains in the running.

The conventions come down to an equation of “delegate math,” when all is said and done. This is not dissimilar to the Electoral College set up; the delegate system operates on a state-by-state basis. Democratic delegates are doled out proportionally while Republicans follow a method truer to the College: the winner of a state primary takes all the delegation of that state.

Superdelegates

We now come to the definition of, and distinction between, delegates and superdelegates during the election cycle. Delegates, regular pledged delegates, are sent by the state parties – the same ones who organized the spring primaries – to the summer meetings. While there, they vote according to the previous choice of their state meeting.

Strictly speaking, though, there is nothing, not even the social opprobrium of being a “faithless elector,” as in the general election, which mandates that pledged delegates must actually vote according to the previous decision at the primary. As such, there is more elbow room, more jostling, than one might imagine at the summer conventions.

Beyond – and we may say, above – these regular delegates are the much-mentioned “superdelegates.” Properly called “unpledged delegates,” superdelegates have no expectations whatsoever to vote according to state conventions. They are free agents recruited from the most loyal party members. Various office holders, such as, the President, Governors, and Speaker of the House are eligible, as are members of the parties’ national committees – the “C” in DNC, for example – are superdelegates.

Now what sort of person do you suppose is going to fill such a role? Lifers, that’s who; not populists, not faddists, not single-issue sorts, not an enthusiastic clique.

The present system continues to evolve following a general prejudice towards greater participation. However, for party bosses this participation opens the door to populists; that is, candidates who appeal to the “little guy,” the “average” American, and who hold themselves as champions against a ruling elite. Superdelegates are a conservative reaction, an elitist reaction, to the recent history of primaries.

The DNC was walloped in both the 1972 and 1980 elections. The leaders of the party felt that things had become uncontrollable. In the rush to democratize and open up their nominating system, after the disaster of 1968, the proper vetting process was ignored, they felt, and they subsequently lost. In those elections, the DNC nominated George McGovern, in hindsight too liberal, and Jimmy Carter, whom a more entrenched Ronald Reagan was able to paint as a babe in the woods.

These were candidates who had great appeal to the party faithful, but who did not resonate with the general American population. In response to these developments, unpledged delegates were instituted by the DNC during the 1984 cycle. (Much good it did them. They lost in that year).

Who are the superdelegates? Many have held or presently hold office. Jim Carter, a hero in our primary story, fellow Southerner Bill Clinton, Dick Durbin, and Connecticut’s Elizabeth Etsy are superdelegates. Oddly enough, so are candidates Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and Joe Biden. Superdelegates are stalwarts of the organization. In the event of a dark horse candidate, the superdelegates, proverbial old men in back smoking rooms, swing into action behind their choice.

Of the two major parties, superdelegates play a more crucial role in amongst Democrats. Indeed, the results of the 2016 election bear witness to this. In Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, both the GOP and the DNC had insurgent candidates that year. Both men were not favored by their party establishment. However, only the DNC was successful in squelching their black horse Sanders (at least for another four years). This was because of the heft of their superdelegates.

And while incumbents may call the debate topics, they don’t always call the election. Only 16 out of 43 Presidents have won a second consecutive term. Far more than being dead ritual or boilerplate, the primaries are primary.

John Coleman is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut (USA). Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, “Election Day,” by John Louis Krimmel, painted in 1815.

The Chaco War

Paraguay, it turns out, owes much to Russia. Thanks largely to a few dozen Russian officers, the country emerged victorious in an almost unwinnable war, and doubled its territory in the process.

The Chaco War (1932-1935) between Bolivia and Paraguay was the bloodiest conflict in Latin America, in which well-over 100,000 lives were lost. It was also the first air-war fought in South America. It is a war little remembered now. A key role in the hostilities was played by Russian and German émigré officers on the two warring sides. It was, in effect, a continuation of WWI on another continent.

For decades, Paraguay and Bolivia had bickered over the vast region of Gran Chaco. Both considered it as its own, yet neither risked an open confrontation. That was until 1928, when geologists claimed that this sparsely populated, impassable territory could be a source of oil.

Asuncion and La Paz (the administrative capital of Bolivia) were soon at each other’s throats. And oil companies added literal fuel to the metaphorical fire. The sworn enemies Standard Oil (a U.S. company supporting Bolivia) and Royal-Dutch Shell (an Anglo-Dutch company backing Paraguay) saw great prospects in Gran Chaco.

The first clash occurred between a Paraguayan cavalry detachment and Bolivian police in August 1928. All-out war was prevented only through the intervention of the League of Nations. Four years later, however, the organization was powerless to do anything. On June 15, 1932, the Bolivian army launched a surprise attack on Paraguayan outposts in the disputed territory.

Tiny Paraguay seemed to have little hope against the far mightier Bolivia. Not only was the latter’s manpower 3.5 times larger, but just 60 years previously Paraguay had endured a brutal war against Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, which claimed the lives of up to 70% of its male population.

Moreover, the Bolivian armed forces had three times as much air power and an overwhelming advantage in terms of armored vehicles. The Paraguayans could not field a single armored vehicle against the Vickers Mk E light tanks and Carden Lloyd VI tankettes of Bolivia. Only in respect of artillery guns was a certain parity maintained.

In this dire situation, only a miracle could save the country, and one duly arrived in the form of several dozen Russian officers who had left their homeland after the Russian Civil War and found a new home across the ocean.

One of the émigré officers, Lieutenant General Nikolai Stogov, wrote: “There seems not to be a single area of military affairs that our Russian émigré officers in Paraguay have not contributed to in terms of know-how and experience.”

Even before the conflict began, realizing the invaluable experience of the Russian officers, Paraguay’s leadership actively engaged them in modernizing both the armed forces and the country as a whole. “Russian émigrés were a boon to Paraguay, which needed to restore its shaky economy. Bridges, roads, administrative buildings, barracks, etc. all started to be built. The country gradually came to life thanks to the help of Russian technical personnel,” said Russian architect Georges Benois, who visited Asuncion in the 1920s.

It was Russian advisers who insisted on adopting the Danish Madsen machine gun, which the Tsarist cavalry had used in WWI. It was far more effective and reliable than the Chauchat machine gun, which the French military mission gave the Paraguayans.

Thanks to the Russians, in 1932, Paraguay created its first cavalry division. In this regard, it outpaced Bolivia, where such a formation appeared only two years later. The Paraguayan cavalry was trained to carry out blitz raids on the enemy rear, and Major Nikolai Korsakov even translated Russian cavalry songs into Spanish to instill military spirit.

Meanwhile, 120 German officers had settled in Bolivia and were now serving in the national army, which had been remodeled along German lines and dressed in the uniform of the Reichswehr. WWI veteran officer Hans Kundt was appointed commander-in-chief, arrogantly asserting that he would easily deal with the Russians (meaning the Paraguayan army).

At that time, 86 Russian émigrés were serving in the ranks of the Paraguayan armed forces. Despite their small number, most were officers with invaluable combat experience, and almost all proved their considerable worth in their respective area of expertise.

Having completed 13 reconnaissance trips to Gran Chaco, General Ivan Belyaev had vast experience as both a cartographer of the region and an artilleryman. And as the head of the cartographic unit of the General Staff and adviser to the Paraguayan president, he was heavily involved in planning the offensive and defensive operations of the Paraguayan army.

Thanks to the deciphering of the Bolivian military codes at the very start of the war by the head of Paraguay’s military intelligence, Nikolai Ern, and Captain Sergei Kern, the Paraguayan military secured an invaluable advantage. They often knew about the enemy’s intentions before the Bolivian troops had even received their orders.

A major role in the organization of the Paraguayan air defenses was played by aviator Captain Sergei Schetinin. Through his efforts, Bolivian aviation became far more potent. On his advice, the Paraguayans created dummy artillery, which the Bolivian planes wastefully bombarded.

The culmination of the Bolivian-Paraguayan (as well as Russian-German) Chaco War was the second battle of Nanawa (a suburb of Asuncion) in July 1933. In this operation, Kundt concentrated 6,000 of his Bolivian men against 3,600 Paraguayans.

Under the cover of German-crewed tanks, led by a detachment of flamethrowers, the Bolivians advanced on the Paraguayan army’s positions. Thanks to the solid defenses set up by the Russian military experts (fortified areas equipped with mortars and machine guns, surrounded by minefields and barbed wire), eight enemy attacks were repelled, followed by a successful counterattack. The Bolivian army lost several tanks and around 2,000 men, against Paraguayan losses of just 448. Shortly after the failed operation, Kundt was removed from his post.

The following year, after several major victories, Paraguay finally gained the strategic upper hand. When its armed forces entered Bolivia, the latter turned to the League of Nations for assistance in concluding a peace.
Under the 1935 peace treaty, Paraguay received most of Gran Chaco, which almost doubled its territory. In an evil twist of irony, oil was discovered in the valley only 77 years later, in 2012.

The Paraguayans praised the Russian officers for their vital role in the Chaco War. The future president of Paraguay, Alfredo Stroessner, who had served under General Stepan Vysokolyan, had deep respect for both his commander and the entire Russian officer corps, calling them “people of honor.”

After the war, many of these Russian émigrés received all kinds of awards, were proclaimed national heroes, and occupied high positions in the country. To this day, six streets in Asuncion are named after the six Russian officers who were killed in the Chaco War.

How Ivan Belyaev Became Juan Belaieff (1875–1957)

Belyaev lost everything in his homeland after the Bolshevik revolution, so he moved to Latin America, chasing his childhood dreams – and became Juan Belaieff, Paraguay’s national hero.

Imagine your country just had a terrible civil war and the side you fought for lost. Your land is occupied by communists who killed your friends; you have nothing and are forced out to foreign lands. What would you do?

That’s the question all the officers and soldiers of the anti-Bolshevik White Army had to answer in the 1920s, after losing in the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. Some settled down in Europe or the U.S., becoming successful bourgeois. Those less successful had to work as butlers or taxi drivers; some succumbed to alcoholism or committed suicide.

But General Ivan Timofeevich Belyaev (better known as Juan Belaieff), a hero of World War I and old-school Russian imperial officer, had a far more impressive and adventurous fate than any other emigre. He moved to Paraguay and tried to build a second home for Russian émigrés there, at the same time studying the South American Indians and becoming their hero. How so?

“My fate was decided by a completely minor event,” Belyaev wrote in his autobiography, Notes of a Russian Exile. “As a child, having a stroll with my aunt in St. Petersburg, I noticed a small book at a book market, with a picture of an Indian, named The Last of the Mohicans.”

After reading that adventure novel and many other, far more serious, stories, touching upon customs and civilization of American Indians, little Belyaev completely fell in love with this theme, becoming interested in Indians for the rest of his life. “Each night I was praying for my Indians,” he recalled of his childhood. Yet, it would take several decades and Russia’s national disaster to make Belyaev actually meet Indians.
He had another career ahead of him – born to a family where all men were in military service, Belyaev became an artillerist and devotedly served Russia.

By the time World War I began in 1914, Belyaev held a rank of colonel. When hearing the news that Russia had declared war on Austro-Hungary and Germany, he reacted simply: “Long live Russia, death to her enemies!” and headed to the front to fight.

“Artillery is a mother of a child who got sick,” he used to say. “We are to watch our infantry close, listen to its pulse, being always ready to help it.” Loved by his soldiers, Belyaev was a classic Russian officer of his time, conservative and brave.

At war, the colonel survived many dangers, but once – only by chance. A bullet came through his chest but didn’t reach his spine or guts. Wounded Belyaev was transferred to a hospital near Petrograd, where he met Empress Alexandra Fedorovna and was promoted to general. After recovery, Belyaev headed back to the front-line.

In his memoirs, Belyaev admitted that despite the bravery and efforts of the Russian army, by 1917, Russia was too exhausted with the war, losing its best sons. “The last of the decent drowned in a sea of blood, the last impulse to fight burned out,” he wrote. The chaos of revolutions made Russian people turn their weapons against each other – at first Belyaev refused to fight against Russians but then his monarchist views prevail.

The White Army lost the war. In the 1920s, Belyaev, as well as many other soldiers and officers, sailed away from the shores of Russia. Along with his family, he moved to Europe, but didn’t stay there either. He decided to find a new home in Latin America.

In the 1920s, Russian émigrés in Paris could find a strange Russian-language newspaper called Paraguay, published in France by Belyaev. Each issue read on the front page: “Europe failed the Russian hope. Paraguay is a country to build a future in.” The general called on his compatriots to go to Paraguay and help him to, basically, build a new small Russia there. As for him, he had already been living in Paraguay since 1924, and was known as, Juan Belaieff.

Why Paraguay? Even by Latin America’s standards, that poor and underpopulated country was hardly a popular destination – but that’s why the local authorities welcomed immigration. Ever since losing the Paraguayan War of 1864-1870 to the alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, Paraguay remained weak and lacked military force – and inviting some Russian officers was a good option for the government.

Belaieff, along with 12 other White Army officers, entered Paraguayan military service in 1924, joining the General Staff. His interests, however, lied beyond just military – in Paraguay he became a scientist.

Belaieff led 13 expeditions to the Gran Chaco, a vast area in West Paraguay populated by indigenous Maká people. “They spoke their own languages and hardly communicated with the other Paraguayans,” historian Boris Martynov, author of Russian Paraguay, notes. Belaieff, fascinated by Indians since his childhood, immediately established close ties with them, helping with supplies and clothes, studying their ancient culture, opening schools and even theaters.

Paradoxically, the Russian officer became a bridge uniting the Maká with their more-Westernized compatriots. The Indians adored Belaieff, calling him the ‘White Father’.

Even though he enjoyed his communication with the Maká, Belaieff had bigger plans. “I’d like to find a corner where everything sacred that created eternal holy Russia could be preserved, as Noah’s Ark did during the flood until better times,” he recalled. With his help, several Russian settlements were founded in Paraguay, but Russian migration to the country didn’t become widespread, and internal conflicts condemned the idea of some kind of “new Russia” in Latin America.

Though disappointed, Belaieff considered Paraguay his second home and, along with many Russian officers, gladly supported it in the Chaco war of 1932-1935, when neighboring Bolivia attacked Paraguay. Wounded and infected with malaria, Belaieff could have died a dozen times – but he survived and his side, though outnumbered, prevailed, with the help of the Maká, who were loyal to Belaieff.

He never returned to Russia, living out the rest of his long life in Paraguay. When he died, the Maká transported his body to their area and kept it in a mausoleum, worshipping the spirit of the White Father as a deity. A fellow Russian émigré officer in Paraguay said to a friend about Belaieff: “We, perhaps, will be forgotten after we die, but not him.”

Boris Egorov and Oleg Yegorov write for Russia Beyond.

The image shows a colored drawing of a military telephone depot, by Juan Belaieff, dated 1935.