Democracy: The Failure of a System become Religion

What is democracy? The answer given by civics textbooks and constitutional law treatises has the merit of being simple. Democracy has its origins in the Greek demokratia, formed from demos, “people,” and kratos, “power.” It is the power of the people, the government of the people; a political system where the people are sovereign. It is close to the republic, but it is not confused with it. The word “republic” comes from the Latin res publica, which means “the public good,” “the public thing.” The republic is the political system in which power is not exercised by one person, a hereditary monarch, but by elected representatives of the people. Democracy and republic, therefore, have very similar etymological meanings, but they cover different historical realities. In theory, in a pure democracy the voting majority has unlimited power; whereas in a pure republic a set of fundamental laws, a constitution, protects the rights of all against the will of the majority. Of course, in practice, modern nation-states are neither pure republics nor pure democracies.

Lawyers and political scientists distinguish between direct democracy, where citizens meet in assemblies and exercise power directly, and representative democracy, where citizens choose representatives to exercise power on their behalf. They point out that in a democracy, rulers are chosen through free elections, based on universal suffrage and free and secret ballots. They also point out that power is exercised by the elected representatives of the majority party, who have the legitimacy to govern, but under the control of the opposition, which has the freedom to criticize the government. Finally, they agree that the system can only function when there is a separation of powers (legislative, executive and judicial, not to mention the media, which has acquired the status of a fourth power since the 20th century) and, above all, a broad social consensus around values and legal provisions, which, in the case of France, are summarized by the motto of the Republic: liberté, égalité, fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity).

Democracy as a Modern, Secular Religion

Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America (1860-1865), is said to have once declared that democracy is “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” meaning that sovereignty belongs to the people, who choose those who govern them. To this day, this principle is the theoretical foundation of Western democracies.

But to say that the people should be sovereign does not mean that they are. There is the admirable ideal and the prosaic reality. Paradoxically, the word “democracy” has become a cliché, a demagogic commonplace, a superstition, a mystification. Democracy has become over time a substitute, a surrogate, a semblance of faith, a kind of secular religion, even a religion of war. To cite only one example, that of the United States of America, the military interventions and aggressions committed by the US in the world in the name of democracy and freedom (the “democratic crusades” of the “benevolent policeman of the world” or of the “indispensable nation”), are countless.

It is not only the few cases from the turn of the 21st century, repeated in the mainstream media, nor the 400 interventions over two centuries in the whole of Hispanic America, as meticulously listed by the Argentine historian, Gregorio Selser (Cronología de las intervenciones extranjeras en América Latina, 4 vols., 2010)—the balance sheet is in fact far worse. The United States has fought or fomented government overthrows all over the world: the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, Cuba, Lebanon, Congo, Brazil, Peru, Dominican Republic, Iran, Guatemala, Ecuador, Haiti, Chile, Angola, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Sudan, Somalia, Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Kosovo), Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Indonesia. Since its inception in 1776, the U.S. has been more or less at war 80 to 90% of the time. Today, it has 175 military bases in 130 countries. By comparison, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia between them have barely 30 bases abroad. In 2019, the defense budget of the United States and its NATO allies amounted to more than $1 trillion (52% of the global defense budget), while Russia’s budget amounted to $65.1 billion.

Under the guise of good intention and the defense of democracy, Washington defends above all the interests of American companies. We all know Theodore Roosevelt’s formula: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Soft power to seduce and convince, and hard power to hit and punish! But rather than colonizing territories and peoples, US governments have made the wise choice of controlling decision-makers and gaining access to raw materials and national markets for their corporations or multinationals. The hawks in Washington are doing in Europe and around the world what they did in Central and South America—they are making sure they dominate militarily as well as economically. To do this, colonizing the elites is the most effective way. And in the end, the Empire’s allies are not simply friendly states, but rather protectorates or vassals with no real say in the matter. In the end, all have to obey. De Gaulle, who was to be a faithful, even unconditional friend of America in the most difficult moments of the Cold War, understood this well. He knew that Roosevelt hated him, that he considered him a “madman” and that he wanted to bring him down in one way or another because of his desire for sovereignty and independence.

The American myth of liberal democracy has slowly collapsed in favor of a plutocracy or corporatocracy. The values of the Founding Fathers have gradually disappeared in favor of the financial-industrial-military complex that Eisenhower warned against in 1961. And this situation was not new then. The nineteenth U.S. president, Rutherford Birchard Hayes, had already expressed concern about the evolution of such a system in his diary on March 11, 1888: “The real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few and the unscrupulous who represent or control capital. Hundreds of laws of Congress and the state legislatures are in the interest of these men and against the interests of workingmen. These need to be exposed and repealed. All laws on corporations, on taxation, on trusts, wills, descent, and the like, need examination and extensive change. This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.”

In a November 21, 1933 letter to Edward House, a former Wilson advisor, Roosevelt also made this admission: “The truth is that, as you and I know, a financial element in the great centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson.” Significantly, 15 billionaires now control the US media.

American democracy has undoubtedly turned into an oligarchy. The people still have some influence at the local level, but they no longer have much of a say at the federal level. At the top level, a tiny number of people make the decisions and reap most of the benefits. Blinded by the material comforts that the system has provided for decades, the American people have not been able or willing to see that their democracy has been progressively confiscated by their elites, that these elites have hijacked power for their own ends, and that the “deep state” has other ambitions than to help the American people, the real deep state. This lucid diagnosis is not the monopoly of dangerous radicals, anarchists, Marxists or other “anti-capitalist” revolutionaries. It is the work of a great many authors (and sometimes even presidents of the Republic) with the most diverse political sensibilities, such as Howard Zinn, John Perkins, Diana Johnstone, Michael Parenti, Eliot A. Cohen, William Blum, Noam Chomsky, Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Carroll Quigley, Christopher Lasch or Paul Gottfried, who denounce this situation of capture or perversion of the democratic system and of dangerous overextension of the Empire. Among them, the vast majority have as their essential concern the scrupulous respect of the principles of the Founding Fathers, collective security and the common good of the American people.

On this point, the “conventional” and somewhat “angelic” thesis of historian Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman (American Umpire, 2013), built around the slogans “we are exceptional,” “we have made the world a better place because of our activities abroad,” “we are not an Empire” because “we are a democratic republic,” proves to be confoundingly biased and shallow, especially when compared to the historically and geopolitically sound argument of Nikola Mirkovic’s recent book (L’Amérique Empire, 2021).

However, it is rare to hear someone declare or “denounce” himself as a “skeptic” or moderate democratic, and even less as a “non-democratic” or “anti-democratic.” Even more so, no political regime would dare to define itself in this way. Democracy has been, for more than a century, a true political messianism that pursues the realization of the ancestral myth of the perfect City, of the ideal City and of the new Man. Not so long ago, Stalin (at least that’s what Yuri Zukhov says), and all the Bolshevik socialists, such as Lenin, Trotsky, Mao or Pol Pot, wanted to be partisans of a “new democracy.” Mussolini proclaimed the rejection of the “conventional and absurd lie of political equality and collective irresponsibility,” in favor of an “organized, centralized and authoritarian democracy,” “the purest form of democracy.” Not to be outdone, the doctrinaires of National Socialist Germany condemned, like their counterparts in the Soviet Union, “formal, bourgeois democracy.” The “Fuehrer State” was supposed to be, according to them, “directly democratic in the best sense of the word.” One can always dream about intentions and deny realities.

Most Europeans and Westerners today believe that freedom goes hand-in-hand with democracy, just as the stars go with the moon. There are of course false notes in the polite speeches of the “elites,” as when the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, issued his startling warning: “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties” (Figaro, June 29, 2015). There are also scandalous manipulations of the popular will, as when in 2007, President Sarkozy had the National Assembly ratify the Lisbon Treaty on the new European Constitution, even though it had been rejected by the people in the referendum of May 29, 2005. (In the Netherlands, it was the Senate that was responsible for adopting the same treaty first rejected by the people; and in Ireland, the voters had to vote and re-vote until they finally said “yes”). As the somewhat chameleonic and communist-courting poet Bertolt Brecht wrote in the aftermath of the East German uprising (June 17, 1953): “Since the people vote against the government, the people must be dissolved.”

However, the voters whose eyes are permanently unblinded are not legion and many are disillusioned. Democracy and freedom are taken for granted (even more so when the Western media compare the situation of their countries with the rest of the world), whereas in reality both are only partially implemented and sometimes even largely forbidden. In such a political and social context, to question the value and foundations of democracy, or to express doubts about the possibilities of its practical realization, is to attract the wrath, contempt and hatred of the high priests of the cult and other opinion-makers. To be accused by the media and the champions of virtue of the capital sin of antidemocracy is to expose oneself to the danger of a condemnation to silence, to a life of a pariah. A political regime and those who serve it rarely understand that one criticizes it or that one does not accept to sing its praises. Strangely enough, modern censors and neo-inquisitors have forgotten that generations of prestigious historians, jurists, philosophers and political scientists have carried out for almost two centuries, in an honest, rigorous and disinterested way, the most implacable analysis and dissection of Western democracy.

In the 1920s, the liberal philosopher José Ortega y Gasset had already denounced “morbid democracy.” In his famous lecture “De Europa meditatio quaedam,” in 1945, he warned Berlin students that the word “has become prostituted,” because it has many meanings that coexist. The word “democracy,” he said, has become “stupid and fraudulent;” its daily use, for whatever reason, resembles the invocation of a civil religion. The philosopher of law, Hans Kelsen, also wrote as early as 1929: “Democracy is the slogan that generally dominates the minds of the 19th and 20th centuries. But that is precisely why it loses its true meaning—like any other slogan.” No less lucid, the economist Joseph Schumpeter, noted in 1942 that “residual democracy” is “an organized hypocrisy.” It is reduced, said Gonzálo Fernández de la Mora (La partitocracia, 1977), to the opportunity that the partitocratic oligarchies offer to the governed to periodically pronounce on an option, generally limited, after having carried out a great operation of informing, or marketing to, the public opinion. In Du pouvoir (1945). Bertrand de Jouvenel was no less severe: “Discussions about democracy, arguments in its favor or against it, are struck with intellectual nullity, because one does not know what one is talking about.” Significantly, many intellectual and academic personalities, with openly democratic convictions, prefer to speak of “deficient democracy,” “precarious democracy,” “democratic deficit,” “impolitic regime,” “fatigue” and “exhaustion” of the Welfare State, “end of the democratic ideal,” “twilight” or “winter of liberal democracy.” Such is the case with Guglielmo Ferrero, Giovani Sartori, Angelo Panebianco, Stephen Krasner, Gaston Bouthoul, Julien Freund, Michel Sandel, Danilo Zolo, Guy Hermet, Michel Maffesoli and many others.

The Various Meanings of the Word “Democracy”

The reality is that the concept of democracy has multiple meanings that can satisfy everyone. The word has served and serves to designate and ennoble contrary doctrines and practices. With the exception of the last disciples of traditionalist thinkers, such as Maistre or Bonald, for whom only an order inspired by God is legitimate, and even of the last positivist monarchists of the Action française, everyone today declares himself in favor of democracy. But which democracy?

Historically, democracy, or rather a form of democracy, was established in Greece in the 5th century BC. But the current forms of government that claim to be its heirs only borrow its name. In the Athens of the 5th century B.C., out of a population of 400,000 inhabitants, only 10% of the men were recognized as citizens and represented their families (less than 200,000 souls); women, metics and slaves did not participate in political life. The Greeks also considered the election as an antidemocratic and aristocratic process that gave a notorious advantage to the most educated, the richest, the most gifted and the most cunning. The drawing of lots was, according to them, the only device capable of ensuring the democratic character of government.

On the other hand, neither Plato nor Aristotle claimed to be democratic. Plato believed that it violated freedom and dignity under the guise of equality. As for Aristotle, he preferred the “mixed” regime, a subtle mixture of democracy, monarchy and aristocracy. Ancient democracy thus remained for a very long time an object of study reserved to the scholars. The medieval proto-democracy having led to a dead end, and the revolutionaries (1642, 1763 and 1789) having not given their trust to the people any more than their counter-revolutionary opponents, it was not until the first waves of democratization in the 19th century (in the United States with Andrew Jackson in 1829 and in Europe with the revolutions of 1848), and especially after the First World War that mass democracy and universal suffrage began to develop in Western Europe and the West.

Democracy can be considered from two approaches: normative or descriptive. From a normative point of view, political democracy is above all a principle of legitimacy. Thus conceived, it is both the smallest and the only common denominator of all democratic doctrines: power is legitimate when it derives from the authority of the people and is based on their consent.

Let us immediately point out a major difference here. For the realist normativist (moderate liberals or conservative-liberals, who have not ceased to multiply throughout history the procedures aimed at diminishing the influence of universal suffrage, despite the fact that it is proclaimed by them as a constitutional principle), the end cannot justify the means. On the other hand, for the idealist or utopian normativist (liberal-Jacobin, socialist-authoritarian or Marxist-totalitarian), the use of non-democratic means for ends deemed to be democratic is always ultimately justified.

The example taken from French political history is eloquent. What matters for the French utopian normativist is not that the democratic system guarantees social order and the common good, internal harmony and external security, but that it maintains above all and at any cost the humanitarian values of the revisited ideal of the Enlightenment. All those who do not accept the rules of the game are thus excluded ipso facto. The power is held by the people and the “values” are in theory a function of the will of the people; but in reality, for our “progressives,” “defenders of the Republic and of Democracy,” the people can never have the power to question the “republican and democratic values,” these being able to be altered or redefined only by the members of the self-proclaimed republican elite. The same is true of the social-democratic theorist Jürgen Habermas. In the name of “constitutional patriotism,” the German philosopher wants to be the intractable censor of historical-cultural or social-identitarian patriotism. He intends to save the possibility of a “universal consensus” of substance; and to do this he expressly excludes those who are “clearly and voluntarily” (according to his own criterion), “beyond the borders of society.”

American neoconservatives and neoliberals (Alan Bloom, Wolfowitz, Hanson, Kagan, Podhoretz, Kristol, etc.), but also many of Strauss’ disciples (with their French epigones Bernard-Henri Lévy, Jacques Attali, Alain Minc, etc.) are all on the same ideological page when they defend the right to interfere, or the right to humanitarian intervention all over the world, in the name of “equality, freedom and human rights”) and advocate the universal application manu militari of the American or Western democratic model.

The irony is that since the 19th century, the arguments of European colonialists have also generally been developed on a triple register: economic (search for markets and raw materials), political (imperatives of grandeur and power) and moral (benefits of science, reason, education, progress, civilization, the Enlightenment, human rights, secular morality and/or religion). The origins and justifications of the Western right to interfere can be found much further back, not only in the Protestant jurist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) or the economist John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), but also in the theologian and founder of the School of Salamanca, Francisco de Vitoria (1483-1546). According to the Dominican Vitoria, the following are legitimate grounds for intervention: natural law and the law of nations, the right of natural communication, the right to preach the Gospel freely, the tyranny of the indigenous rulers, the agreement or approval of the majority of the indigenous people, the alliance and the appeal for help from friendly peoples and, finally, a ground that he considers more debatable, the temporary incapacity of the indigenous people to administer themselves. One is tempted here to quote Ecclesiastes: “What was, will be; what was done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

In this case, American democratic interventionism at the turn of the 21st century, so often described as hegemonism or imperialism by its opponents, is neither new, nor original, nor modern. Strauss was fond of explaining that one should always judge political thinkers by the fruits of their ideas. But in view of the havoc wrought in the name of his ideas by his followers, one cannot help but return the argument. Relativism, historicism, non-interventionism and, more generally, the democratic realism of authors like Tocqueville, Ortega y Gasset, Buchanan, Mearsheimer or Paul Gottfried is infinitely less dangerous than the democratic humanitarianism of the Straussian warmongers or the neoliberal globalists.

From a second point of view, no longer normative but descriptive, political democracy is a system based on the competition of parties and elites, a competition arbitrated by the masses, as well as on the limitation of the power of rulers. Within this system, the majority must respect the rights of minorities. The reasoning here is centered on the concepts of electoral participation, selection of leaders, representation, opposition, control, limitation of power—but it is not at all centered on the idea of a self-governing people. However, in a democracy, the key notion is neither the number, nor the suffrage, nor the election, nor the representation—but the participation of all the citizens in public life. Everyone must play an active role as a member of the community, as part of a whole. The maximum of democracy merges with the maximum of participation.

In fact, depending on the convictions of its exegetes, democracy rests on different, if not contradictory, foundations. It can be founded either in reference to the individual without belonging—this is liberal democracy; or in reference to the masses, or to the working-class as the potential negation of other classes—this is popular democracy; or, in reference to the people conceived as a collective organism and as the privileged authors of all historical destiny—this is organic democracy. “Liberty, equality, fraternity,” proclaims the French Republican motto. Liberty is attached to liberal democracy. Equality has been exploited by popular democracies. Fraternity is at the heart of organic democracy.

Let us recall a key element that is at the heart of popular, social-Marxist democracy. At the time of its creation and development, socialists and Marxist communists castigated universal suffrage as essentially mystifying. The revolutionary minority was not to abdicate to the average opinion. “True democracy” was the one imposed and guided by the “conscious minority.” The “revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat” had to act without taking into account the refractory mass, the unconscious majority, charged with the great mission of awakening men to freedom. The exercise of universal suffrage in Western democracies could be, in this optic, only a simple propaedeutic to revolutionary action and to the seizure of power that was expected from it, at the same time as an exceptional occasion of agitation and propaganda. Lenin and all Marxists announced as the last stage of their regime the stateless and classless society; but the stage of “dictatorship of the proletariat” in charge of oppressing the bourgeois class was quickly converted into a permanent and definitive dictatorship of the minority of the Party over the whole society.

Third type of democracy: organic democracy. Here, representation takes place, partially or totally, through the municipality, the family unit, the region, the union, the professional associations or the corporations. These different forms of participation are themselves supplemented by the practice of referendums. Organic democracy is almost always held by its opponents (especially Anglo-Saxon Protestants) to be the exclusive invention of authoritarian or even totalitarian regimes (that of Franco’s or Italian Fascist doctrinaires) or of Catholicism (that of Catholic-socialist or traditionalist authors, such as Ketteler, Le Play, La Tour du Pin, Toniolo, Chesterton, Belloc, etc.). But this assertion is totally false. Social organicism has its origin in German idealism (Hegel, Fichte, Ahrens and Krause). Later, it is found in eminent liberal and socialist authors, often Freemasons, such as Renan, Carlyle, Durkheim, Duguit, de Man, Laski, Weber, Prat de la Riba, Madariaga or Besteiro. For the proponents of organicism, any political doctrine whose implementation favors the disintegration of peoples, or the erosion of popular consciousness in the sense of a consciousness of belonging to the organic entity that is the people, must be considered undemocratic.

That said, the problem of terminological confusion and the correct meaning of the word “democracy” is not reduced to the simple triad of liberal democracy, popular democracy and organic democracy. Other meanings have spread with varying degrees of success. We speak of representative or liberal democracy to describe a system based on the power of parliamentary assemblies. We evoke polyarchic democracy to emphasize the plurality of pressure groups and decision-making centers. We refer to direct democracy to name a model based on the practice of referendums. Direct or plebiscitary democracy is opposed to representative, partitocratic, pluralist or polyarchic democracy. The former, supported by the national and/or populist right, is criticized on the right and left, often with arguments reminiscent of those of the traditionalist right. Referendum democracy would be an open door to demagogy, madness, passions and irrationality. The argument is strong, but in representative democracy, the delegation, the exercise of the mandate, does not prevent the manipulation of parliamentarians by lobbies, economic arms of strong, invisible powers, nor the taking of ill-considered decisions, questionable or prejudicial to the interests of the people.

We also speak of social democracy, to define a way of life characterized by the levelling of differences in condition, or of economic democracy, to signify the will to equalize wealth. The State (Welfare State) is entrusted with the task of compensating for socio-economic inequalities through measures to protect the most disadvantaged and to redistribute wealth. Industrial democracy is also referred to as self-management or direct self-government in the workplace; or local or grassroots democracy, to avoid using the term organic democracy. Since 1997, reference has also been made to illiberal democracy, to qualify and criticize the regimes of Eastern Europe (notably Hungary and Poland) which oppose liberal globalization, without denying freedoms, and which claim control over the collective destiny and cultural integrity of their peoples. Finally, the concepts or terms of moral, populist, citizen, absolutist, prophylactic, belligerent, ballistic, strategic democracy have appeared, as well as those of market democracy, technocratic democracy, internet democracy, teledemocracy, “cyber-democracy,” “democratic governance” (a system that in reality reserves “serious” decisions for the small number of technocrats), participatory, deliberative, diversitarian, multicultural, global, globalized democracy, etc. Welcome to Orwellian newspeak!

With the latest “progressive” fads, classical democracy has been turned against itself to become a real enterprise of permanent deconstruction of Western values and institutions. Citizenship is no longer based on the equality of rights between citizens. The new social struggles claim to be articulated around identity, cultural and racial struggles. Multicultural democracy is in charge of enforcing political correctness, using coercion if necessary. It must pursue equality between groups by refusing the norm that is imposed on all. It must neutralize the majority for the benefit of the different cultural minorities. Consequently, the popular referendum must be prohibited as an instrument and expression of the tyranny of the majority. It is no longer a question of representing a pre-existing people (whose existence is denied), nor a relatively coherent collectivity, but of setting up a mechanism of representation allowing the various particular identities (homosexuals, LGBT, decolonial indigenous people, racialists and others) to assert themselves and to emancipate themselves. Democracy, writes political scientist Dalmacio Negro Pavón, “is thus reduced to political correctness defined and sanctioned by governments with the active or passive assent of the governed, previously infantilized by massive propaganda” (La loi de fer de l’oligarchie: Pourquoi le gouvernement du peuple, par le peuple, pour le peuple est un leurre [The Iron Law of Oligarchy: Why government of the people, by the people, for the people is a sham], 2019).

Aristotle, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Jefferson, etc. explained that democracy is impossible without a limited territory, an ample middle-class balancing the extremes, and a high degree of homogeneity or socio-cultural cohesion. Montesquieu taught that “political virtue,” which he identified with love of law and country, was indispensable to democracy. Generations of political scientists have insisted on the cultural (Tocqueville, Mill) or economic (Lipset) conditionality of democracy’s development. Others (such as Juan Donoso Cortès, Lord Acton, Christopher Dawson, Julien Freund, etc.) pointed out that all forms of democracy are conditional on the development of the state and have argued that all known civilizations have drawn their strength and stability from religion; that the fundamental ideas that shape Europe and the West (universalism, recognition of the value and natural dignity of the individual, distinction between religion and the State, importance of the election of assemblies since the Middle Ages) are practically all of Christian origin or have been re-elaborated or re-adapted by Christianity, and that the decline of Europe and of Western civilization has its origin in the rebellion, the abandonment or the negation of Christian roots.

Still others have emphasized the inevitable political and social consequences of the demographic suicide of the West (the famous work of P. Chaunu and G. Suffert, La peste blanche [The White Plague] now dates from almost half a century ago). But the deconstructionists and other modern utopians don’t care about that. They blithely and thoughtlessly take the exact opposite view of classical political science. In the final morbid phase of modern democracy, the totalitarian temptation is irresistible. The Orwellian newspeak is at work. Is it necessary to underline further the extent of the semantic and ideological confusion that reigns around the magic word of “democracy?”

Criticisms of the Liberal-Democratic Model

The theoretical critique, whether radical or balanced, of the liberal-democratic model has been systematized by multiple authors on the right and the left. Jusnaturalists, defenders of metaphysical natural law, have resorted to dogmatic arguments, such as the divine right of kings. Others have argued philosophically that what is true and just is independent of its recognition by the majority. German idealism (Hegel, Krause), elitist socialism (Saint-Simon, Fourier), anarchism (that of the republican Proudhon of the Solution of the Social Problem, 1848), Comtian positivism, Le Bon’s social psychology, Le Play’s empiricism, Maurras’ monarchist nationalism, Guénon’s integral traditionalism, all deny the individualistic and inorganic principle of the political representation: man is not a solitary being who constitutes the state by means of a pact, as if it were an anonymous society. He is born into a community, and his voice can only really be expressed through the intermediary bodies into which he is really inserted: family, municipality, region, professional body, etc. The jurist Carl Schmitt, for his part, has shown that there is a contradiction at the heart of the liberal-democratic regime: liberalism denies democracy (the logic of identity) and democracy denies liberalism (the logic of difference). There is an invincible opposition between the consciousness of the individual and democratic homogeneity, which presupposes the identity between rulers and ruled. In the eyes of Schmitt, liberal thought overlooks the political, because its individualism prevents it from understanding the formation of collective identities.

On the other hand, the Marxist, anarchist and syndicalist-revolutionary schools (Sorel, Labriola, Valois) have denounced in the liberal-democratic model a system of formal liberties, which become real only for the bourgeoisie. Political realist sociology (Ostrogorski, Pareto, Mosca, Michels) has demonstrated that political elites are never the product of the will of the masses, but that minorities select themselves by means of competition and self-affirmation, that political leaders are not the agents chosen by the people, but oligarchies, all the more closed in on themselves, as they belong to structured and organized parties.

All the criticisms of democracy can be grouped into two categories. Some of them concern the democratic principle itself and are generally anti-democratic. The others deplore the fact that democratic practice rarely conforms to the ideal and propose various solutions to remedy this. But often the authors adopt successively one or the other position, so that it is not easy to situate them clearly. Most of these criticisms are well known: democracy is par excellence the reign of division, instability, endemic civil war, rhetoric, the dictatorship of quantity (“the superior cannot emanate from the inferior”), disguised oligarchy, incompetence, mediocrity, corruption, influence peddling and the omnipotence of money. Democracy has no other philosophical foundation than skepticism and relativism. Until recently, many of the authors of these critiques were not so much fighting parliamentary and representative democracy in principle as the capitalist or market democracy in which it is embedded. The problems of social justice, of class struggles and of socio-economic exploitation were not then considered as accessory or subsidiary. The “social sciences” did not yet claim to have “discovered” the “real” enemy of redeemed humanity that is Western civilization dominated by the white, heterosexual, colonialist, slave-owning male, responsible for all discriminations.

Comparing “constitutional ideology” to “political reality,” many legal scholars and political scientists have criticized the abstractions, metaphors and fictions of liberal democracy.

The first example of a fiction is the principle of the division of powers (executive, legislative and judicial). In reality, the parliament regularly invades the domain of the executive when it legislates in concrete, not general, matters; the government promulgates decree-laws of general content and thus assumes the functions of the legislature; and the judges of the constitutional court exercise the supreme legislative or even constitutional function when they interpret an ambiguous, fundamental precept.

The second example of fiction: the main justification for parliament is that it streamlines discussion, ensures political transparency and expresses the national will. But the reality is quite different. Most deputies or representatives are not those whom the people consider the best, but those who belong to the class of “politicians.” Their non-imperative mandate is not enough to ensure their independence, as they are usually subject to the discipline or instructions of their party. The voter puts a ballot in the box and the parties then arrange to form a coalition government or not at their convenience. The more important the deliberations, the more secretly they are conducted by senior party officials. The same applies to the selection and nomination of candidates for election and the appointment of offices. Nor is parliament the instrument of political integration, of the submission of divergent wills to a single national will, but the means by which a political faction occupies the entire state and imposes itself on its opponents.

Third example of fiction: the liberal-democratic State intends to ensure the equality of power to all deputies and the equality of vote of all citizens. But then, why does the simple majority in the constituent assemblies undemocratically provide that qualified majorities will be needed to reform the Constitution? Why do most electoral laws establish very high electoral thresholds (5 to 10%) and majority bonuses (of 25 or 50%), so that some ballots are worth more than others? Wouldn’t the basis of the anti-democratic spirit finally be to consider that the primary goal of an election is not to allow the people to express themselves freely but to force them to elect a “stable majority” of an oligarchic nature?

To this, the realist democrat retorts that a regime based on the plurality of parties, the limitation of powers and the respect of minorities, may be execrable, but that the others are even worse. We know Churchill’s ironic or cynical phrase, “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” In Democratic Theory, the famous liberal political scientist Giovanni Sartori agrees that “anyone who wants to prove that the democratic system has a rational basis is at a dead end…. It is no accident that in the realm of rationalist philosophy one rarely encounters theories of democracy.”

The only exception to the rule is that of the rationalist Rousseau; but he is forced to resort to the fiction of the general will in order to better evade the fallible and changing will of all. In truth, it is difficult to affirm that there is more rationality among the supporters of democracy than among its opponents. The liberal Hans Kelsen, for example, readily admits that he finds it difficult to believe that the people and only the people possess the truth and the sense of the good; for this would imply a belief in a divine right of the people as inadmissible as the belief that a man is king by the grace of God. Kelsen goes even further. He admits, as do many other lucid democrats, that the cause of democracy is hopeless, if one starts from the idea that man can attain absolute truths and values. The liberal philosopher Pierre Manent also concedes that “under the guise of democracy, it is in reality an oligarchy that thrives.” He does not hesitate to add: “the minority of those who possess material and cultural capital manipulate political institutions to their benefit.”

The “democracy or dictatorship” dilemma, in which idealistic democrats seek to confine their opponents, is more seductive than it is well-founded. No political procedure is an absolute guarantee against autocracy and despotism. Even the least brilliant student of the history of political ideas knows this. Tyranny and dictatorship represent a corruption that is always possible and that also threatens, in different forms, the totality of political systems.

Real Western Democracy

Historically, the world has never known any other form of government than that of the few, of the ruling minority (the oligarchy, the establishment, nowadays the European-American-globalist “elite bloc,” i.e., all the financial, industrial and media elites, without forgetting Gramsci’s “organic intellectuals” and, of course, the so-called “experts” of the consulting firms). Moreover, every government needs the support of public opinion. Behind all known forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy—according to the classical classification; democracy and dictatorship—according to modern classification), there is always a minority that dominates the immense majority. The multiple possible variants depend on the mode of renovation of the minority and the limits and controls to which this minority submits in the exercise of power. The positions of power are never contested by the masses; they are contested by the different factions of the political class. The governed are spectators, sometimes facilitators, but rarely arbiters. When a political oligarchy is discredited, it is replaced by another in search of prestige, of legitimacy of exercise, ready if necessary to use demagogy. All political power seeks to simulate, to operate in secrecy, to control information, to manufacture consent through the mass media.

The works of Gustave Le Bon (The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, 1895), Edward Bernays (Propaganda, 1928), Lord Ponsnonby (Falsehood in War-Time, 1928), Sergei Stepanovich Chakhotin, (The Rape of the Masses. The Psychology of Totalitarian Political Propaganda, 1939), or Jacques Ellul (Propaganda, 1962) or Anne Morelli (Principes élémentaires de propagande de guerre, 2001) to name but a few, have explained in great detail how propaganda (or “communication” as we hypocritically call it today), whether “good” or “bad,” “white” (for the Good) or “black” (for the Evil), works in Western democracies. They have demonstrated that it is, paradoxically, an invention of liberal democracies and not, as is often heard, the creation and practice of totalitarian or authoritarian states alone. When today’s politically correct journalism (opinion journalism camouflaged behind the cloak of so-called news journalism) criticizes, not without corporatist ulterior motives, the “fearsome character” of the new cyber propaganda, it is the hospital that mocks the charity. In reality, the often-vaunted pluralism of the Western mainstream media is nothing but a deception, fully described by the allegory of the horse and rabbit stew.

On the evening of the re-election of French President Emmanuel Macron (April 24, 2022), an independent journalist mischievously asked in the columns of a non-conformist blog: “What is the name of the country where almost 100% of the subsidized press supports the government? What is the name of the country where all taxpayers finance, forced and coerced, media “committed” to the same side, that of the elites, the power and a huge hegemonic party that criminalizes its opponents? What is the name of the country where half of the citizens no longer trust any major media?” (G. Cluzel. BV, April 24, 2022). Of course, the almost unwavering attachment of the people of the United States of America to the First Amendment of its Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech, press and expression, makes all the difference and seems to protect them from a similar situation. But while the American citizen-voter can ignore the precepts of political correctness and say in theory just about anything he or she wants, he or she cannot do so without risking serious disadvantages in his or her professional and social life.

Politics, said the poet Paul Valery, “is the art of preventing people from meddling in what concerns them.” But public opinion is much more aware of this today. The consequence is that the oligarchy or “elite bloc”—increasingly fearful—tightens the screws that subjugate the demos. We know the hostility, contempt and fear that populist movements and popular rebellions such as the “Yellow Vests” arouse. People fear the power to which they are subjected—but power also fears the community over which it rules.

To conclude, real Western democracy is, after all, only an oligarchy elected by the people. It excludes the use of physical violence but not moral violence (unfair, fraudulent or restricted competition). Two conditions would make it possible to reform it in depth for the benefit of the people. First, the represented should be able to recover the freedom to directly control their representatives or elected officials, a freedom that has been abusively taken away from them. This would require the introduction of an electoral system with an imperative mandate; representatives would thus be obliged to respect the mandate of their respective electors. Then, for the people to be able, if not to direct and govern de facto, at least to participate durably in political life, it would be necessary for the principle of direct democracy to be widely accepted [with, of course, the referendum of popular initiative (RIP) or citizen initiative (RIC)]. A realistic ideal, which, one can well imagine, is not close to being achieved. The crux of the matter is, however, to prevent those in power from being mere transmission belts for the interests, desires and feelings of the political, social, economic and cultural oligarchy.

As the political scientist Dalmacio Negro points out, “The only effective attitude in politics is the rational criticism of reality in order to keep the spirit of collective freedom alive.” Realistic and lucid, he wisely adds that there is an essential condition for political democracy to be possible and for its corruption to become much more difficult if not impossible. It is necessary that the attitude towards the government be always distrustful, even when it is a question of friends or people for whom one has voted. Bertrand de Jouvenel said in this regard: “the government of friends is the barbaric way of governing.”


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 OECDHe 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.


Featured image: “World’s Constable.” Cartoon by Louis Dalrymple. Published in Judge, January 14, 1905.

Pío Moa: Facing the Myths and Propaganda about the Spanish Civil War—Part II

[Click for Part I]

To complete this introduction to Moa’s work, a brief historiographical perspective is necessary. History has always been, often partially and sometimes totally, under the influence of political uses or has even been instrumentalized by politics. The border between “scientific” or scholarly history and militant history is very blurred. As a result, the work of independent historians, resistant to conventionalism, is important, necessary and praiseworthy.

The Republic and the Civil War: Eight Decades of Historiography

In order to evaluate the whole historiography of the Spanish Civil War, we can say that it produced mostly militant, and a few scientific, works. In the immediate post-war period, both in Spain and abroad, authors gave in to the temptation of partisan history. For “Francoist” authors, the nation was attacked by anti-Spanish forces. The army, fractures within which they do not mention, was the guarantor of “Western civilization,” the spearhead of the anti-communist “crusade.” Exiled “republican” historians, on the other hand, saw the Civil War as a confrontation between “fascism” and “democracy,” a “classist” struggle, a fight of the poor against the rich, an aggression of the army, the Church, the banks and a handful of fascists against the Spanish people (the communist vision), or a collectivist revolution against reactionary capitalism (the anarchist vision). Others focused on the Civil War as one of national liberation, against foreign imperialism (sometimes Soviet, sometimes Italian-German), and saw it as a prelude to the Second World War. So many simplistic and reductionist theses presented in a caricatured manner.

In France, for seven decades, the works published on the subject were almost unanimously favorable to the Popular Front. Based on the testimonies, articles, books and memoirs of left-wing and far-left leaders (Prieto, Largo Caballero, Álvarez del Vayo, Azaña, etc.), they were, in a way, the counterpart of the writings of the participants or sympathizers of the Franco camp in the immediate post-war period, such as Joaquín Arrarás (a monarchist close to Acción española) or Robert Brasillach (a monarchist close to Action française, who later moved towards fascism). [The book by brothers-in-law Robert Brasillach and Maurice Bardèche, Histoire de la guerre d’Espagne (History of the Spanish Civil War), published in 1939, is a book of reportage, written “in the heat of the action” whose interest is more literary than historical.]

This is all the more explicable, given that the hold of the militants and socialo-marxist sympathizers on French cultural life was major, even exceptional, until the fall of the Berlin wall. First, that of the orthodox communists (themselves often manipulated by Soviet agents); then, that of the various post-1968 leftist trends. [See, Stephen Koch, Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Münzenberg, and the Seduction of the Intellectuals, and Bruno Riondel, L’effroyable vérité. Communisme, un siècle de tragédies et de complicités.] Marxists and crypto-Marxists occupied a dominant, if not hegemonic, position in the French university; they supervised and shut down debate. Hannah Arendt, aware of what was at stake, deplored the fact that the people most easily bribed, terrified and subjugated were the intellectuals. To make a career in the world of French letters or academia, and not be marginalized too quickly, it was necessary to give pledges to Marxist thought, or at least to carefully avoid colliding head-on with the powerful guardians of the “camp of the good.” The benevolence, indulgence, connivance and complicity of a large part of the French and Western cultural and media circles towards Marxist socialism and communist abominations are part of a tradition that goes back over a century. The polemics surrounding the names of Gide, Souvarine, Krivitsky, Kravchenko, Koestler, Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, Bourdarel, Battisti, etc., not to mention those concerning The Black Book of Communism, are a sad illustration.

Sympathy for the Popular Front has always been clearly displayed by French Hispanist academics. Exiled “republican” activists, or their descendants, have also been numerous in national education. Thus, the Society of French Hispanists, created in 1962, was born of the express will of “anti-Franco” professors, militants or sympathizers of the communist-Stalinist, Trotskyist, socialist, social-democrat, anarchist and liberal-Jacobin lefts. We must cite here the example of the communist Manuel Tuñon de Lara, appointed—or rather “appointed” without competition—professor of Spanish history and literature at the University of Pau, in 1965. Director of the Hispanic Research Center since 1970, his influence on French Hispanists has been considerable.

In the 1960s, while the vast majority of writers gave in to the temptation of partisan history, only a few historians from the Anglo-Saxon realm developed a first real effort at critical and objective synthesis. Two of their works translated into French have withstood the ravages of time. The first is Hugh Thomas’s The Spanish Civil War, which has been revised in successive editions, as the author evolved from pro-Largo Caballero socialism, to Thatcherite neo-liberalism through a marked sympathy for Jacobin liberal Azaña. The second is The Grand Camouflage, by Burnett Bolloten, a former war correspondent in the Republican zone. The publication of this book, essential for the understanding of the internal struggles in the Republican camp and very severe on the Communists, was delayed in France until 1977. It passed almost unnoticed because of the hostility of the Marxist intelligentsia and the crypto-Marxist. Moreover, none of the many authors belonging to the Anglo-Saxon historiographical tradition favorable to the Popular Front (Raymond Carr, Gabriel Jackson, Edward Malefakis, Herbert Southworth, Gordon Thomas, Max Morgan-Witts, Anthony Beevor, Paul Preston, etc.) never succeeded, really, in breaking out of the sphere of “specialists” and becoming better known among the general public.

In fact, apart from Manuel Tuñon de Lara, the only historians, for a long time quoted and accepted in the French University, were the communist Pierre Vilar (vice-president of the France-Cuba Association) and the Trotskyists Pierre Broué and Émile Temime. [On the same social-marxist side, we should mention the works of Pierre Becarud, Jacques Delperrié de Bayac, Max Gallo, Maryse Bertrand de Muñoz, Elena Ribera de la Souchère, Carlos Serrano and François Godicheau, without forgetting the memories of the communist, Jean Ortiz.]

Over the years, the majority of French socialist circles accepted the relationship with capitalism or the market economy, but the closed group of Hispanists, specializing in the Civil War, remained subject to cultural Marxism. The semi-militant or semi-scientific works of these authors, openly hostile to any dialogue with the representatives of the so-called “right-wing, reactionary or fascist” history, sank, for the most part, into repetition, conventionalism, collusion and complicity. Jealous guardians of their professional “querencia,” these historians were strangely reluctant to promote the translation of the works of their Spanish colleagues who share the same convictions. [Authors such as Santos Juliá, Francisco Espinosa, Alberto Ruiz Tapia, Enrique Moradiellos, Juan Pablo Fusi, Ángel Viñas, Javier Tusell, and many others, remain unknown in France, outside of a few restricted circles.]

During the years 1980-2010, the Spanish Civil War was the subject of several colloquia, organized or sponsored by universities, including those of Perpignan (1989), Clermont Ferrand (2005), Nantes (2006) and Paris (2006), which were organized always with the unconfessed desire to keep it within the confines of the “other” and leave it as a subject of opprobrium and shame. [The great French Hispanist, Pierre Chaunu, author of Séville et l’Atlantique (Seville and the Atlantic), 12 vols., 1955-1960, wryly made the comment, and not without lucidity, about the “lobby of French Hispanists” (Various conversations with Arnaud Imatz in 1990-1993)].

The few renowned French historians or writers who were in favor of the Popular Front, and who tried to approach objectivity with some success (without claiming total impartiality), were Guy Hermet, Bartolomé Bennassar and the “heterodox” Spain-lover Michel del Castillo. It was an unusual attitude which, of course, earned them criticism from several colleagues more inclined to militant history.

Two other historians and journalists deserve special mention for their attempts at neutrality: Jean Descola and Philippe Nourry. [On the side favorable to the national camp, we must mention more recently, Sylvain Roussillon, Christophe Dolbeau and Michel Festivi.]

It goes without saying that all the works of Spanish authors who sympathized with one or another of the tendencies of the national camp (liberal, radical, republican-agrarian, conservative, monarchist-liberal or monarchist-carlist, nationalist or phalangist) have been systematically ignored, despised or violently criticized. This has been especially true of the work of the former minister of King Juan Carlos, Ricardo de la Cierva, and the brothers Ramón and Jesús María Salas Larrazábal. In 1989 and 1993, thanks to the help and encouragement of the historian of the Institut de France, Pierre Chaunu, I was able to publish La guerre d’Espagne revisitée (The Spanish War Revisited). Much later, after no less than forty years of omerta in France, the historian Stanley Payne succeeded in publishing La guerre d’Espagne. L’histoire face à la confusion mémorielle (2010), which I had the honor of prefacing and which was undoubtedly the first important breach in the dike of “historical correctness.” A decade would have to pass before Pío Moa’s Les mythes de la guerre d’Espagne (The Myths of the Spanish Civil War) was finally published in France.

The End of the Spirit of the Democratic Transition imposed by the PSOE and the extreme Left

To finish explaining Pío Moa’s contribution to the revolt, “revolution” or “change of the historiographic paradigm” of the historians of the “Spanish Civil War” at the turn of the twenty-first century, a final perspective is necessary. Indeed, it must be emphasized that his work is above all a form of resistance to the abandonment of the spirit of the democratic transition, deliberately desired and driven by the radical tendency of the PSOE and its far-left allies.

After the death of the Caudillo in 1975 and up until 1982-1986, two principles animated the “spirit of the Democratic Transition”: mutual forgiveness and consultation between government and opposition. It was not about forgetting the past, as is often claimed today, but about overcoming it. It was not a matter of imposing silence on historians and journalists, but of letting them debate freely among themselves. In other words, all kinds of research, studies, articles and books about the Civil War could be published. But the leaders of the major parties agreed that in political life no one would use or instrumentalize all these works for partisan purposes. Spain was considered at that time the “historic,” “unique,” almost perfect example of peaceful transition from authoritarian rule to liberal democracy, the model unanimously praised by the international press. It was inconceivable that politicians of the right or the left would insult each other by calling each other “red” or “fascist.” Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge.

It should be noted that this democratic transition began shortly before Franco’s death. The facts speak for themselves: The decree-law authorizing political associations was enacted by the Caudillo in 1974. The political reform law was passed by the former “Francoist” Cortes on November 18, 1976, and ratified by popular referendum on December 15, 1976. The amnesty law was passed by the new “democratic” Cortes on October 15, 1977. It did not seek to “amnesty Franco’s crimes,” but all political crimes and terrorist acts, including those of ETA and far-left revolutionary groups. Significantly, this law, so contested today by the left, had the support of almost the entire political class (especially the leaders of the PSOE and PCE). It was overwhelmingly approved by the Congress of Deputies (a total of 296 votes in favor, 2 against, one null and 18 abstentions, those of the Popular Alliance, a conservative party further to the right than the UCD of Adolfo Suarez, then president of the government). Let us not forget either the presence in this Cortes of exiled personalities of the extreme left as representative as Santiago Carrillo, Dolores Ibarruri (the Pasionaria) or Rafael Alberti. Finally, it was this same Congress that adopted the current Constitution, ratified by referendum on December 6, 1978 (with 87% of votes in favor).

The first hardening of partisan polemics occurred in the 1990s. The socialist party’s attitude changed significantly during the 1993 election campaign. But the real break came three years later, in 1996, when the PSOE and its leader Felipe González (who had been in power for 14 years and was struggling in the polls) deliberately played the fear card, denouncing the neoliberal and conservative Popular Party (PP) as an aggressive, reactionary, threatening party, a direct descendant of Franco and fascism.

During the 1990s, a veritable cultural tidal wave of neo-socialism and post-Marxism swept the country. The many pro-People’s Front authors flooded the bookstores, occupied university chairs, monopolized mainstream media, and largely won the historiographical battle. The nation, the family, and religion once again became the preferred targets of propaganda. The Manichean history of the first years of Francoism, which was thought to be definitively buried, resurfaced in a different form and under a different guise.

Paradoxically, this situation continued under the right-wing governments of José Maria Aznar (1996-2004). Obsessed with the economy (“Spain is doing well!”), Aznar lost interest in cultural issues; better, he sought to give ideological pledges to the left. Many of his right-wing voters agreed with him, when he paid tribute to the International Brigades (although 90% of them were communists, recruited by the Comintern; and their main fighters fed the security forces and corps of the People’s Democracies, modelled on the NKVD).

[The international brigadists, who had been recruited by the PCF on Stalin’s orders, were recognized in France as veterans by the will of President Chirac (1996). But the idyllic image they enjoy in France is not the same as in Eastern Europe. In the People’s Democracies, they were among those most responsible for the repression of anti-communist opposition. In the GDR, Wilhem Zaisser, aka, “General Gomez” commander of the XIIIth International Brigade, was the first Minister of State Security (Stasi). His deputy, General Erich Mielke, an ex-brigadist and NKVD agent, headed the Stasi from 1957 to 1989. Friedrich Dickel was Minister of the Interior until the fall of the Berlin Wall. General Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, political commissar of the XIth International Brigade, was Minister of Defense. In Poland, the veterans of the XIII Dabrowski Brigade were infamous. Karol Swierczewski, aka, “General Walter” was Minister of Defense; Grzegorz Korczynski Deputy Minister of Security; Mendel Kossoj, Chief of Military Intelligence. In Hungary, Erno Gerö /Ernst Singer, known in Spain as “Pedro Rodriguez Sanz,” head of the NKVD in Catalonia, was the main person responsible for the elimination of Andreu Nin and the POUM; Laszlo Rajk, commissioner of the Rakosi Battalion of the XIII International Brigade was Minister of the Interior; András Tömpe was the founder of the Hungarian political police; Ferenc Münnich, commander of the XI International Brigade, was chief of police in Budapest and later minister. In Albania, Mehmet Shehu, was president of the Council of Ministers. In Bulgaria, Karlo Lukanov was Deputy Prime Minister, etc.]

The same people and voters approved of Aznar’s condemnation of Franco’s regime and the uprising of July 18, 1936 (even though he was the son of a Falangist and had been an avowed admirer of José Antonio in his youth; or in other words, a militant of the independent and dissident Falange opposed to Franco’s movement). The majority of the Right finally acquiesced when he praised the minister and president of the Popular Front, Manuel Azaña, a Freemason and fiercely anti-Catholic, who was one of the three main culprits in the final disaster of the Republic and the outbreak of the Civil War, together with the centrist Republican Niceto Alcalá-Zamora and the socialist Francisco Largo Caballero, the “Spanish Lenin.” Regularly accused of being the heirs of Francoism and fascism, the PP leaders, believed they could disarm their opponents by means of frequent anti-Franco professions of faith.

In 2004, after coming to power, the socialist José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, an avowed friend of the dictators Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro, significantly rekindled the ideological and cultural battle, rather than helping to erase the resentments. Breaking with the moderation of the socialist Felipe González, he chose to reopen the wounds of the past and foment social unrest. In 2006, with the help of the Maltese Labour MP Leo Brincat, he had the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Council of Europe Assembly, adopt a recommendation on “the need to condemn Francoism at the international level.” At the end of the same year, various associations “for the recovery of memory” filed complaints with the Investigating Judge of the National Court, Baltasar Garzón. They claimed to denounce a “systematic plan” of Franco to “the physical elimination of the adversary,” “deserving the legal qualification of genocide and crime against humanity.” Garzón, a judge with socialist sensibilities, declared himself competent; but he was disowned by his peers and finally sentenced to ten years of professional “disqualification” for prevarication by the Supreme Court. In view of the attitude of Garzón and his friends, the former deputy and president of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Joaquín Leguina, one of the historical figures of Spanish democratic socialism most representative of the spirit of the Transition, concluded: “The message that the judge and his hooligans have managed to stitch together is so negative for the Spanish people that it is sinister. In fact, this unfortunate case has sown the idea that in thirty years of democracy the Spanish people have been unable to overcome the past, that the Transition has been cowardice, that the civil war is a taboo subject and that a good part of the right wing continues to be Francoist. A web of lies.” [El Adanismo, Blog of Joaquín Leguina, 20 avril 2010.]

For more than thirty years, the theme of Franco’s repression has been at the center of the thinking of a good number of Spanish historians and academics. Their obsession is to show that the violence of the national camp was organized, that it obeyed a coherent political project, as opposed to a more limited republican violence from below, the result of the disintegration of the state. [Thus, Preston and Reig Tapia try to demonstrate that the war-rhetoric of the national camp explains an alleged holocaust or genocide of Popular Front militants. As the historian José Andrés-Gallego has shown, express incitements to annihilation and texts calling for respect for the life of the enemy abound in sources from both zones. In addition to the interventions in favor of peace by Azaña or Prieto (but never by Largo Caballero, Ángel Galarza, García Oliver or Juan Negrín), in the national camp we can cite those of Manuel Hedilla, Juan Yagüe, Monsignor Olaechea, Cardinal Gomá or Father Huidobro.]

The analyses of such historians always focus on the same points: the negligible violence during the Republic, the massive repression during the war and the Franco dictatorship, the essentially repressive nature of the regime, the false controversy about “Moscow gold,” the powerful Italian-German intervention, the beneficial action of the international brigades, the imposture of the story about the siege of the Alcazar, the role of the “progressive forces” in the democratization, etc. Such are the questions eternally rehashed by them for lack of a relatively balanced history of the Civil War. The only real difference, since the turn of the century, is the hardening of the historiographic divide and the polemical tone of these authors.

[Socialist historians like Viñas and Moradiellos have tried to demonstrate that the government of the Republic and Juan Negrín had no other option than to deliver the gold reserves of the Bank of Spain to Stalin and that they were not in the hands of Moscow. But this is not the opinion of the anarchist historian Francisco Olaya Morales, nor of the socialist Luis Araquistáín, nor of the historians Pablo Martín Aceña or Gerald Howson, and even less so of the historians in favor of the national camp.

The facts about the siege of the Alcázar have always been more or less disputed by historiography favorable to the Frente Popular. The first critical version was devised by the American historian Herbert Matthews. Matthews’ mystification was later taken up by many well-known historians and journalists, such as Hugh Thomas (1960), Vilanova (1963), Southworth (1963), Cabanellas (1973), Nourry (1976), or more recently Preston (1994) and Herreros (1995). In 1997, in their book El Alcázar de Toledo. Final de una polémica (Madrid, Actas), the historians Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza and Luis Eugenio Togores, gathered sufficient evidence to silence the controversies.]

But let’s come to the crux of the controversy: the figures of repression. Since the end of the conflict, the protagonists and their descendants have never stopped throwing bodies at each other. The figures on repression in both camps have not stopped oscillating over time in an inconsiderate and absurd manner. Authors in favor of the Popular Front have quoted 500,000 dead, 250,000, 192,548 (according to the alleged words of a Franco official who was never identified), 140,000, 100,000 (according to Tamames, then a communist), or “several tens of thousands” (according to Hugh Thomas). For the purposes of his case, Judge Baltasar Garzón used the figure of 114,266 disappeared Republicans. After him, other authors have raised this figure to about one hundred and thirty thousand, ninety thousand of them during the Civil War and forty thousand in the post-war period. These historians also maintain, as their predecessors did, that in the National Zone the repressive action was premeditated and took on the appearance of extermination, even though the Francoists were only victims of repression because the government of the Republic was overwhelmed by uncontrolled groups. The Francoists, on the other hand, relied on the investigations of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Causa General (a trial against the “Red Dominion” in the early 1940s, the documentation of which has never been published in its entirety and has been kept in the Archivo Histórico Nacional de España in Madrid since 1980). According to them, it was proven that the Popular Front committed 86,000 murders and the nationals between 35,000 and 40,000.

The most serious assessment of the repression on both sides, which was practically definitive, was that about 55,000 people were killed by the “nationals” and 50,000 by the “republicans.” This relative balance was only broken by the 14,000 judicial executions after the end of hostilities (nearly 30,000 death sentences were handed down by the Councils of War, but half were commuted to prison sentences when the condemned had not committed blood crimes). If one adds to this figure the number of victims of settling of scores during the three months following the end of the fighting, the total number of Popular Front victims of the national camp amounts to 70,000. [See the work of Miguel Platon. For his part, historian Carlos Fernández Santos recorded 22,641 judicial executions (political and common law) between 1939 and 1950.]

Out of a population of 25 million, about 2 million people took part in the conflict in the Popular Front camp. 10% were arrested by Franco’s authorities and about 20,000 were executed with or without trial. This sad and unbearable human toll, especially if one adds to it some 200,000 combat deaths on both sides, does not need to be exaggerated to reflect the magnitude of the disaster. But the allegedly planned extermination amounts to 1% of the opponents and is in no way comparable with the scale of the crimes attributable to the Nazi, Soviet or Maoist regimes.

There are still the continuous polemics about the victims buried in the graves of Francoism. According to socialist and extreme left-wing authors, they contain 110,000, 130,000, 150,000 or even 200,000 unidentified victims spread over 2,000 or even 2,600 graves. According to government sources, over the last 20 years more than 800 graves have been located and opened and nearly 10,000 mortal remains have been exhumed. Since the most important graves have probably been analyzed, extrapolating the figures, the total number of victims cannot exceed 25,000 to 30,000. But it is not known whether the mortal remains of the exhumed disappeared belonged only to civilian victims murdered by Franco’s regime or whether they were also those of republican fighters or nationals, or civilian victims of the Popular Front repression, or Popular Front activists who were victims of the small civil war between anarchists, socialists and communists. Obviously, the reality of the facts is much less important than the effect of the media propaganda.

One example suffices to illustrate the extent of the dangerous passions unleashed by the media on public opinion. At the end of the summer of 2003, an event caused a stir: the discovery of an ossuary in a ravine in Órgiva (Granada), during construction work for the Ministry of Public Works. There was immediate talk of a huge mass grave and of an “extermination for ideological reasons.” The daily newspaper El País even devoted a page to the event, informing that: “According to the data of the socialists, more than 500,000 people were imprisoned and 150,000 others were killed. A professor from the University of Granada described the ravine as a ‘place of crime and death’ where ‘a river of blood flowed.’” Alleged witnesses described the arrival, for days on end, of trucks loaded with “men, women and children,” who were brutally shot down, rolled into the ditch and thrown into the quicklime. This professor estimated the number of victims at 5,000, although the Association for Remembrance, a little less bloodthirsty, reduced the figure by half. The city council decided to erect a monument to the victims in the middle of a park that would be created for this purpose. But after years of unsuccessful excavations, the major newspapers informed their readers on the inside page that according to forensic experts it was a matter of “skeletal remains of animal origin”—to be more precise of goats and dogs.

Other more or less serious polemics, fueled by the works and theses of “official” historians sympathetic to the Popular Front, periodically erupt in the press. Among them, we can mention the “lost or stolen children of Francoism.” It is not a question of the 20,000 or 30,000 “Republican” children sent by their parents to the USSR or France to keep them safe from the conflict, but of the 30,000 children who, during the Civil War and in the post-war period, were “stolen” from their families (and not “adopted”) in the absence of their dead or imprisoned mothers. It is said that the Catholic hierarchy even planned forced disappearances and organized trafficking of minors until 1984 and even into the 1990s. That there were cases of illegally adopted children in Franco’s Spain, as there were in the rest of the world, is beyond doubt—but that the theft was planned on a large scale is doubtful, to say the least. Strangely enough, priests and nuns were also accused of distributing poisoned sweets to workers’ children in 1934.

But the unforeseeable was to happen in the 2000s. In the name of freedom of expression and freedom of debate and research, a large group of historians, some independent, such as Pío Moa, others academics and scholars, such as the American Stanley Payne, and a host of history and political science professors from the Universities of Madrid, Complutense, Rey Juan Carlos, CEU San Pablo, and the Autonomous Regions, protested against the Socialo-Marxist left’s claim to cultural monopoly. [In addition to Pío Moa, these include: Ricardo de la Cierva, Jesús and Ramón Salas Larrazábal, José Manuel Martínez Bande, Vicente Palacio Atard, Carlos Seco Serrano, José María Gárate Córdoba, Enrique Barco Teruel, Luis Suárez, José María García Escudero, José Manuel Cuenca Toribio, José María Marco, Manuel Álvarez Tardío, José Manuel Martínez, José María Gárate Córdoba, César Vidal, Javier Esparza, Ángel David Martín Rubio, Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza, Luis Eugenio Togores, Rafael Ibañez Hernández, Manuel Aguilera Povedano, Antonio Manuel Barragán Lancharro, Alvaro de Diego, Moisés Domínguez Núñez, Sergio Fernández Riquelme, José Lendoiro Salvador, Antonio Moral Roncal, Julius Ruiz, José Luis Orella, Fernando Paz Cristóbal, Pedro Carlos González Cuevas, Francisco Torres, Javier Paredes, Miguel Platon, Carlos FernándezSantander or Jesús Romero Samper.]

In 2007, seeing it impossible to silence the many dissenting voices of historians and journalists, the head of the socialist government, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his allies, chose, on the initiative of the communists of Izquierda Unida, to resort to a “memory” law. This “law of historical memory,” passed on December 26, 2007, is intended and justified as a “defense of democracy” against a possible return of Francoism and “ideologies of hatred.” In reality, it is a discriminatory and sectarian law that is in no way democratic. It legitimately recognizes and amplifies the rights of those who suffered persecution or violence during the Civil War and the dictatorship (laws of 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1984 have already been enacted to this effect). But, at the same time, it gives credence to a Manichean vision of history that contravenes the most elementary ethics.

The fundamental idea of this law is that Spanish democracy is the legacy of the Second Republic (1931-1936). But beyond that, it makes the Second Republic, the Popular Front and the revolutionary process (1934-1939) the founding myth of Spanish democracy, an idyllic period in which all the parties of the left were blameless. The right-wing is then solely responsible for the destruction of democracy and the Civil War. To top it all off, to question this historical lie is an express or disguised apology for fascism.

This law led to the exaltation of victims and murderers, of the innocent and the guilty when they are in the camp of the Popular Front and only because they are of the left. It confuses the dead in action of war and the victims of repression. It casts a veil of oblivion over the “republican” victims who died at the hands of their left-wing brothers. It encourages any work aimed at demonstrating that Franco deliberately and systematically carried out bloody repression during and after the Civil War. Finally, this recognizes the legitimate desire of many people to be able to locate the body of their ancestor, but implicitly denies this right to those who were in the national camp under the pretext that they would have had time to do so during the Franco era.

Theoretically, the purpose of this law is to honor the memory of all those who were victims of injustice for political or ideological reasons during and after the Civil War. But it refuses to recognize that during the Republic and the Civil War many crimes were committed in the name of socialism-Marxism, communism and anarchism, and that these monstrosities can also be qualified as crimes against humanity (for example, the massacres of Paracuellos del Jarama and of the “Chekas,” and the massacres during the persecution of Christians).

[The graves of Paracuellos del Jarama, a few kilometers from Madrid, contain the mortal remains of approximately 2,500 to 5,000 victims of the Popular Front. One of the main perpetrators of this massacre was the communist Santiago Carrillo. These executions, organized in November and December 1936, were stopped thanks to the intervention of the anarchist leader Melchor Rodríguez García. During the Civil War, the “Chekas” (named after the Russian Cheka), were torture centers, organized by the different parties of the Popular Front, in all the big cities. There were more than 200 of them in Madrid and more than 400 throughout the Peninsula (see César Alcalá, Las checas del terror, 2007). Throughout the conflict, the executions, immediate in the national camp, were frequently preceded by terrible tortures in the Republican camp.]

Since its enactment, the “law of historical memory” has been systematically interpreted in favor of representatives and sympathizers of the Republican or Front-Populist camp and their descendants alone. The return to power of the right wing, three years after the onset of the economic and financial crisis of 2008, was not likely to change this. The leader of the Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, president of the government from 2011 to 2018, did not dare to repeal or modify the law.

With the adoption of this law, the Pandora’s box is open. History becomes a suspect subject. It is replaced by “historical memory,” which is based on individual and subjective memories, which are not concerned with explaining and understanding, but with selecting, condemning and denouncing. Elected to the presidency, in June 2018, the socialist Pedro Sánchez, soon demonstrated this. To stay in power, Sánchez, who represents the radical tendency of the PSOE, has allied himself with the far left (Podemos and PC/IU) and the nationalist-independents, even though he had sworn never to do so before the elections. He appeases Brussels and Washington on the economic and financial fronts, and at the same time gives cultural and societal pledges to his most radical political associates.

As early as February 15, 2019, Sánchez’s first government pledged to proceed as quickly as possible with the exhumation of the remains of the dictator Francisco Franco, buried forty-three years earlier in the choir of the Valle de los Caídos basilica. On September 15, 2020, less than a year after carrying out the transfer of the ashes, he decided to pass, as soon as possible, a new “Draft Law of Democratic Memory,” which would repeal and strengthen the “Law of Historical Memory” of 2007. In the name of “historical justice,” the fight against “hatred,” against “Francoism” and “fascism,” a disguised way of cancelling or diverting the amnesty law, Sánchez’s socialist-Marxist coalition wants to promote moral reparation for the victims of Francoism and “guarantee the knowledge of democratic history to citizens.”

This draft law provides, among other things, for the allocation of public funds for the exhumation of the victims of Francoism buried in mass graves; the prohibition of all “institutions that incite hatred;” the annulment of the judgments handed down by Franco’s courts; the updating of school curricula to take into account true democratic memory; the expulsion of the Benedictine monks who guard the Valle de los Caidos; the exhumation and removal of the mortal remains of José Antonio Primo de Rivera; the desecration or “redesignation” of the Basilica of the Valle de los Caídos, which will be converted into a civilian cemetery and a museum of the Civil War; and fines of up to 150,000 euros to punish all violations of this law.

[Founder and leader of the Falange, the young Madrid lawyer, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, was imprisoned four months before the military uprising. Illegally detained between March 14, 1936 and July 18, 1936, he was nevertheless sentenced to death for participation in the uprising and shot under pressure from the communists, with the tacit agreement of Largo Caballero’s government, on November 20, 1936 (See Arnaud Imatz, José Antonio: entre odio y amor. Su historia como fue, 2006 and José Antonio, la Phalange Espagnole et le national-syndicalisme, 2000).]

The reality of this draft law, which claims to defend peace, pluralism, human rights and constitutional freedoms, is tragic. It is not the prohibition of the cult of Franco that divides Spain, but the definition or meaning that this new bill intends to give to “apology for Francoism.” It renews and reinforces the use of the Civil War as a political weapon. It discriminates against and stigmatizes half of the Spanish population; erases the existence of the victims of Popular Front repression; refuses to annul even the symbolic sentences handed down by the People’s Courts of the Republic; and blithely ignores the responsibility of the revolutionary left for some of the most horrific atrocities committed during the Civil War. Only the “progressive” view of the past, as defined by the current socialist-Marxist authorities, is considered democratic; the history of the “others” is to be erased, as was the case with the history manipulated in the Soviet Union. The Spanish authorities seem to seek peace only through division, agitation, provocation, resentment and hatred. Justice takes the form of resentment and revenge. Spain is slowly but inexorably sinking into a global crisis of alarming proportions.

With this grim political background in mind, let us return to Pío Moa’s present book. In 2005, a Parisian history publisher acquired the French rights to Los mitos de la Guerra Civil. A renowned translator was immediately commissioned. Specialist in Marxism and totalitarianism, the latter had been a Maoist and a member of the steering committee of Sartre’s review Les Temps modernes in his youth. A year later, in 2006, the year of the 70th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War, the book (as well as its ISBN number) was publicly announced. But without explanation the date of publication was postponed several times and then publication was canceled. A collective work was finally published: La guerre d’Espagne: l’histoire, les lendemains, la mémoire (2007): Actes du colloque Passé et actualité de la guerre d’Espagne, 17-18 novembre 2006, a book edited by Roger Bourderon (specialist on the PCF, former editor of the Marxist-inspired review, Les Cahiers d’histoire). This was preceded by the opening speech of the socialist activist, Anne Hidalgo, then deputy mayor of Paris.

After so long being a mere “Arlesian,” thanks to the open-mindedness, independence and intellectual courage of the management of Éditions de l’Artilleur /Toucan, the updated and completed version of Pío Moa’s book, Les mythes de la guerre d’Espagne, is finally available to the French-speaking reader, who can now inform himself and judge for himself, freely and above all with full knowledge of the facts.

[Click for Part I]


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 OECDHe 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.


Featured image: National poster, ca. 1938, showing a soldier sweeping away Bolshevism, corrupt politicians, social injustice, masons, separatists, and FAI (Anarchist Federation of Iberia).

Pío Moa: Facing The Myths And Propaganda About The Spanish Civil War—Part I

[Click here for Part II]

A specialist in the Second Spanish Republic, the Civil War and Francoism, Luis Pío Moa Rodriguez is undoubtedly the most controversial and hated, but also the most read and admired Spanish historian of the turn of the 21st century. Largely ignored or passed over in silence, he is, as many journalists in the Spanish Peninsula like to say, a real editorial, media or cultural phenomenon. His books have been sold in tens and then hundreds of thousands of copies. Moa has become the bête noire of the left, the extreme left and part of the right. Bartolomé Bennassar, a historian known in France for his left-of-center positions—he was an avowed supporter of the Jacobin leader of Action républicaine, Manuel Azaña—only saw him as a “provocateur.” This slip was minor in comparison with the deluge of blames, vituperations, insults and slanders that Moa was periodically subjected to in journalistic and academic circles for years before being silenced. A hysterical media lynching, relayed and supported by major media, such as the socialist newspaper El País, will undoubtedly go down in history.

[Read our fascinating interview with Pío Moa]

According to his detractors, Pío Moa “is a pseudo-historian,” “a self-proclaimed historian,” who “contradicts academic historiographic research,” “does not cite primary sources” and “ignores the most elementary rudiments of the scientific method.” A “mediocre” author, a “forger,” a “false scholar,” “lacking in insight and culture,” of “recognized intellectual indigence,” he only “repeats the essential clichés of Franco’s historiography.” Worse, behind an apparent bonhomie, he hides “a dangerous character,” “the incarnation of evil,” the “Spanish version of revisionism and historical negationism,” “a fascist,” a “camouflaged agent of the Francoist police.”

The accusation of being an “agent of Francoism who infiltrated into the Marxist movement GRAPO,” a group of which Pío Moa was a founding member in his youth and which was the armed wing of the PCE(r) (Reconstituted Communist Party of Spain), has been made by left-wing politicians and authors, especially communists (such as former PCE general secretary Santiago Carrillo), but also socialists, and even by right-wing journalists, such as Pilar Urbano. It is all the more malicious because the socialists were in charge of the Ministry of the Interior for decades and had access to the archives of the Franco era (especially those of the dreaded Political and Social Brigade) at their discretion. The socialist Minister of the Interior, José Barrionuevo, acknowledged in his memoirs that nothing was found to support the thesis of infiltration of GRAPO by Franco’s agents, nor, consequently, the allegations concerning Pío Moa. Pío Moa’s testimony about the PCE(r)-GRAPO and his personal action can be found in his memoirs De un tiempo y de un país: La izquierda violenta (1968-1978).

From 1917 to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the accusation of being a fascist agent was continuous among the Marxist-Leninists to castigate their opponents. It did not fail to have its occasional equivalent in Franco’s Spain. Thus, in the 1960s-1980s, the historian and Minister of Culture under King Juan Carlos, Ricardo de la Cierva, claimed that the professor at the University of Pau, Manuel Tuñon de Lara (a major figure among French Hispanists at the time, a member of the Communist and Socialist Youth during the Civil War, and the main representative of the Marxist school among specialists in the Spanish Civil War), was a KGB agent.

All of these supposed vices, capital flaws obviously “prevent scientific debate.” One cannot dialogue with a monster, a devil, nor mention his name and his works, without risking being banished from the corporation of “scientific historians,” expelled from the community of the right-thinking or the camp of the good. Insults, recriminations, infamous shortcuts, heard or embarrassed silences; everything is good to silence the impudent Moa who dared to formulate a vigorously argued criticism, to express an unconventional opinion that was too divergent.

In academic circles, it is fashionable to affirm solemnly (with more or less sincerity, it is true) that History is something other than the cult of memory; that it studies, reviews and revises its fields of investigation constantly; that it has no taboos; that it cannot exist without contradictory debate and free discussion. Perfect objectivity is not possible, it is said; but the honest historian must strive for rigor and impartiality; his mission is to try to get closer to the truth, to understand the reasons of both sides. However, for many, and especially for too many historians of the Spanish Civil War, all these excellent principles have their justifiable exceptions. Pío Moa is one of them. The modern neo-inquisitors, bearers of the only “legitimate word,” may well devote articles to him, sometimes even exceptionally chapters in books, but his theses are never seriously discussed. The strategy is always the same: the ad personam attack, the prevarication, the exclusion, the denigration, the disqualification. Hated and demonized, everything is done to exclude Pío Moa from public space. Woe to the iconoclast! Nothing can be excessive enough to get rid of him; not even the degrading methods of the Cheka that we thought were buried.

However, the Pío Moa question is not as simple as its many critics and contemptuous people would have us believe. See, for example, the very Manichean criticisms of the Christian Democrat Javier Tusell and those of the Social-Marxists Francisco Espinosa Maestre, Santos Julia Díaz, Enrique Moradiellos, Alberto Reig Tapia, Justo Serna, Jorge Martinez Reverte, Ángel Viñas, Carlos Rilova, Helen Graham and Paul Preston. Among the very critical or “anti-Moa” authors of the right, we should mention Jorge Vilches and Pedro González Cuevas.

Honest, courageous and determined, an excellent dialectician, a formidable polemicist trained in the Marxist school, Pío Moa does not hesitate to turn the charge of his opponents against them. His detractors, he says, deliberately ignore the sources he uses and limit themselves to a dogmatic defense of the version disseminated for ages by the Marxist Manuel Tuñon de Lara. “The label of Francoist suits my accusers much better than it does me…” he objects, because “a good part of them had a career in the Francoist civil service or belonged to families that were compromised in the regime, while I was fighting against it.” Contrary to what they usually say: “I hardly use Francoist sources, but mainly those of the left.” “These admirable researchers, on the other hand, have as a source the old propaganda of the Popular Front.” “Logic in a democracy is that the different versions are freely and openly debated. Why then do they pretend to replace such a natural right with Soviet or soviet-style censorship? Why this rejection of free debate?” While we await an increasingly unlikely answer, Moa invites interested readers to consult his writings.

From Anti-Franco Activism To Historical Research

Pío Moa is not the emblematic figure of an “ideological think tank close to the most conservative faction of the Popular Party,” as socialists-Marxist historians and activists repeatedly say. PP leaders have always ostensibly shunned, ignored and avoided him. But he is not an isolated researcher without influence. He has received the support of a minority group of the most prestigious historians. Historians and scholars who have expressed appreciation for the work of Pió Moa include Stanley Payne, José Manuel Cuenca Toribio, Carlos Seco Serrano, Jesús Salas Larrazabal, Ricardo de la Cierva, José María Marco, Manuel Alvarez Tardío, Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza, José Andrés Gallego, Hugh Thomas, David Gress, Robert Stradling, Richard Robinson, Sergio Fernández Riquelme, César Vidal and José Luis Orella.

Thus, for the great historian of contemporary Spain, Carlos Seco Serrano, Los orígenes de la guerra civil española (The Origins of the Spanish Civil War) the work that made Pío Moa known, is “a truly sensational book.” The point of view of the English historian Hugh Thomas is no less positive: “What Pío Moa says about the revolution is very interesting and I think he tells the truth. But he is not so original! He criticizes me in his book, but I said almost the same thing: it was the 1934 revolution that started the Civil War and it was the fault of the left. There is a lecture by Indalecio Prieto given in Mexico in which he says exactly that, accepting his guilt.” The most prestigious Anglo-Saxon historian of the Civil War, Stanley Payne, known in France for his book, La guerre d’Espagne. L’histoire face à la confusion mémorielle (2010), states without the slightest ambiguity in his preface to the republication of Moa’s Los orígenes de la guerra civil (2016): “This is probably the most illuminating book on the process behind the Civil War, written by one of the historians who has contributed most to the debate on a crucial period of Spanish history.” It is “the most important effort of the last two decades, made by all historians and in all languages, to reinterpret the history of the Republic and the Civil War.” And he adds elsewhere, referring to the whole of Pío Moa’s work, “The important thing is that his work is critical and innovative. It introduces a bit of fresh air in a vital area of contemporary Spanish historiography, which for too long has been locked up in narrow formal monographs, old-fashioned, stereotyped, subject to political correction. Those who disagree with Moa must confront his work seriously. They must demonstrate their disagreement through historical research and rigorous analysis, and stop denouncing his work through censorship, silence and diatribe, methods that are more characteristic of Fascist Italy and the Soviet Union than of democratic Spain.” In a few lines, everything is said.

Pío Moa’s atypical career deserves to be briefly recalled if we want to understand the heated controversies of which he was and still is the object. Born in 1948 in Vigo, Galicia, Moa was an anti-Franco activist and founding member of the terrorist movement GRAPO (Group of Anti-Fascist Resistance First October), the armed wing of the PCE(r) (reconstituted Spanish Communist Party), from 1975 to 1977. From his clandestine life and his solid Marxist training, he retained a fighting spirit, the vehemence in his words, the taste for diatribe and polemic. Renouncing the revolutionary path, at the end of the 1970s, he permanently withdrew from all political activity. From 1988 to 1990, he edited the historical magazines Tanteos and Ayeres. He was librarian of the Ateneo de Madrid for three years. Recognized as a writer and historian, in a restricted, not to say confidential, environment, he suddenly emerged from relative anonymity with the publication of Los origenes de la guerra civil española, a real media bomb, in 1999. He went straight to the bestseller list and became one of the most quoted and discussed historians in Spain.

As a resistance fighter, a fighter against Francoism, a Marxist, an unsuspected leftist and a librarian of the Ateneo de Madrid, he had access to the documentation of the Pablo Iglesias Socialist Foundation. After going through and studying the socialist archives in detail, Moa changed his mind radically. He discovered the overwhelming responsibility of the socialist party (PSOE) and the left in general for the socialist putsch of 1934, and consequently for the origins of the Civil War of 1936. Before him, left-wing authors, as diverse as Gabriel Jackson, Antonio Ramos Oliveira, Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz or Gerald Brenan had intuited the gravity of the events of 1934. Sometimes, the pithy reflection of the anti-Franco liberal Salvador de Madariaga was recalled: “With the rebellion of 1934, the Spanish left lost even the shadow of moral authority to condemn the rebellion of 1936” (España, 1944). But until then no author had made such a precise and detailed demonstration [Enrique Barco Teruel’s book, El golpe socialista: octubre 1934 (1984), published fifteen years earlier, had gone almost unnoticed]. People used to speak of the “Asturias strike” or the “Asturias revolution.” After Moa’s book, they speak of the “socialist revolution of 1934.” Many do not forgive him for this.

The history of Los orígenes de la guerra civil española is fascinating. No one, not a single publisher, wanted the manuscript. Moa was finally welcomed by an independent Catholic publishing house, Encuentro. Ironically, or rather fortuitously, the director belonged to the Oriol family, a member of which, Antonio María de Oriol y Urquijo, president of the Council of State, had been kidnapped twenty years earlier (at the end of 1976) by militants of the GRAPO (Moa’s own terrorist-anti-Franco movement). The book was first published in 1000 copies. By chance, it fell into the hands of the journalist Federico Jiménez Losantos, a former Maoist turned liberal and media star of COPE (a Catholic radio station with more than 1.5 million listeners), who gave it enthusiastic publicity. As a result, Pío Moa was thrust into the limelight.

The publication of his trilogy, Los orígenes de la Guerra Civil, Los personajes de la República vistos por ellos mismos and El derrumbe de la República y la Guerra Civil (books that sold more than 10,000 copies), aroused the concern of some “specialists” who wanted to be the heirs of the Popular Front. But the situation became more alarming with the release of Los mitos de la guerra civil. Interviewed by TVE2, the author immediately aroused the fury of journalists from the mainstream media as well as a host of official historians. Through the voice of the historian Javier Tusell (Christian Democrat activist, ex-director general of Artistic Heritage), the newspaper El País demanded censorship for the unbearable “revisionist.” The unions (UGT and CCO) protested in front of the Cortes. All kinds of threats were made and a propaganda campaign even suggested the imprisonment and re-education of the culprit. Since then, Moa has been persona non grata in state universities and public service media.

But Moa is not the type to bend over backwards, get emotional and ask for forgiveness. He is not afraid of the sulphurous image he is given and his readers are too numerous for him to be silenced. More than thirty books have followed Los orígenes de la guerra civil; and its success has not waned.

[Among the books published by Moa, we can cite: Los personajes de la República vistos por ellos mismos, 2 vols., 2000-2002; El derrumbe de la Segunda República y la Guerra Civil, 2001; Los mitos de la Guerra Civil, 2003; Crímenes de la Guerra Civil y otras polémicas, 2003; 1934: Comienza la Guerra Civil. PSOE y la Esquerra emprenden la contienda, 2004; 1936: El asalto final a la República, 2005; Franco, un balance histórico, 2005; Franco para antifranquistas, 2009; La transición de cristal. Franquismo y democracia, 2010; El derrumbe de la Segunda República, 2013; and Los mitos del franquismo, 2013].

His book Los mitos de la guerra civil (2003), which has been reprinted some twenty times, has sold more than 300,000 copies in Spain and other Hispanic countries. It was even number one in sales for more than six months. His other books have sold tens of thousands of copies, while the average print run of contemporary history books in Spain is hardly more than 1,000 copies, and the sale of 500 is considered a relative success. It is easy to imagine that the ideological hatred of his opponents was often fed by resentment and envy.

The idyllic social-Marxist or Populist Front vision of the Second Republic and the Civil War, elevated for years to the rank of official dogma, has collapsed with a bang since Moa’s work. It still remains hegemonic in the university and in secondary education; but in public debate, in the media and in public opinion, it is no longer the case. Thanks to Moa, the mythical narrative of the socialist-Marxist left, according to which the Popular Front defended democratic legality, freedom, the emancipation of the working class and the modernization of Spanish society, has been put to rest.

Moa does not take up the prejudices of the Franco regime, as the Populist Front historiography repeatedly says. He does not believe that democracy is impossible in Spain. He has been a firm believer in democracy and liberalism for forty years. He has always shown respect for and defense of the 1978 Constitution. Nor does he believe that the Civil War was caused by a communist conspiracy; nor that Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy were a desirable future for Spain. Rather, he argues that the Spanish Republic would have survived if it had truly been democratic.

Moa “is not an academic historian,” say his detractors. This perennial reproach is, after all, crassly stupid: over the centuries, have not the most interesting historical works often been written by historians who were not university professors? Moa does not hide his sympathy for Gil Robles, the leader of the CEDA (Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas), a conservative party, a mixture of liberal right-wingers and Christian Democrats ahead of its time, which marked the political life of the 1930s, But don’t social-Marxist or left-liberal historians openly show their sympathies for leaders like Manuel Azaña, Juan Negrín, Francisco Largo Caballero or Santiago Carrillo without being reproached by the guild of “academic historians” as they like to be called?

Pío Moa’s affinity for the CEDA and its leader José María Gil-Robles deserves to be highlighted for two reasons. First, to understand that the legend that presents the Civil War as the struggle of a people against its army in revolt—when both sides enjoyed powerful popular support—is an absolute untruth. Second, because the propagandist fiction of a monolithic “fascist” or “Franco” bloc fighting against republican-democrats, defenders of freedom, is a sham. Almost all historiography on the left and right takes up the fiction of a so-called “republican” camp opposed to the “nationalist” camp, as if the latter had only been integrated by monarchists or “fascists.”

In reality, the “national” camp (and not nationalist, as is wrongly repeated ad nauseam in France) opposed to the Popular Front camp included as many liberal republicans of the right and center (the Agrarian Party, the Radical Party, the Conservative Party) as monarchists (some liberal and others traditionalist-Carlists), and as many nationalists and phalangists. These different and opposite tendencies were later found throughout the Franco regime (1939-1975). It cannot be stressed enough that the uprising of July 18, 1936, the Civil War and Franco’s regime are very distinct events that, as such, can be judged and interpreted in very different ways.

Pío Moa’s thesis on the antecedents and course of the Civil War can be summarized with two points.

1st Point: The Civil War was fought between two camps, on the one hand, the nationals (“nacionales“), who defended national integrity and unity, Catholic and Christian civilization, private property and personal freedom, at the risk of sacrificing or restricting political freedoms; and, on the other hand, the Popular Front camp, which sought to destroy national unity and replace Christian culture with socialist or Soviet-Marxist culture by suppressing private property, personal freedom and political freedoms. To be more precise, there were three unequal forces in the Popular Front camp. The first, by far the most important, included the communists, the Bolshevik socialists and the anarchists, who aspired to establish a Soviet or collectivist type of regime. The second, grouped together the nationalist-separatists (Catalans, Basques, Galicians, etc.), who wanted independence for their peoples. And, finally, the third, more minority, which brought together the parties of the bourgeois-Jacobin left, which voluntarily or involuntarily played into the hands of the first. This is the essential explanation of a conflict between “totalitarians” and “authoritarians,” in which the defense of democracy played absolutely no role.

As for the argument that German-Italian aid was quantitatively (relatively) superior to that of the Soviet Union, it masks the fact that Stalin satelliteized the Spanish Popular Front, while German and Italian support did not deprive Franco’s Spain of its independence. This key point of foreign intervention, emphasized long before Moa by the republican-liberal intellectual Gregorio Marañon, had amongst other important consequences Spain’s neutrality during the World War, which benefited the Allies so much.

2nd Point: The Popular Front presented itself as the defender of the Republic, while its main parties and leaders violated the law in 1934, planning civil war throughout Spain. They then completed the Republic’s destruction in the fraudulent elections of February 1936, crushing freedom with blood and tyranny as soon as they took power. The interpretation of the Civil War as a military, reactionary or “fascist” coup d’état against democracy, with the will to exterminate the people (see the alleged project of indiscriminate repression of the national camp and the “genocidal” and “exterminationist” violence to which socialist-Marxist historians such as Reig Tapia or Paul Preston willingly refer) proceeds fundamentally from the propaganda of the Comintern and post-World War II communism. The exterminationist thesis of the Comintern’s propaganda, reproduced today by socialist historians, such as Reig Tapia or Preston, in fact goes back to the first months of the fratricidal war. In October 1936, the College of Lawyers of Madrid already denounced the terror of the factionalists: “The insurgents’ instruction… the most merciless extermination and terror.

It was the revolutionary movement and the collapse of the Republican state that led to the July 1936 uprising, not the other way around. It was not poverty, but the demagogic speculation on poverty and the poisoning of consciences by messianic parties (PSOE and PCE) whose doctrine of class struggle was pushing for civil war, that prevented a reasonable, democratic approach to the problem of reform, and that inevitably contributed to the final shock. The PSOE and the UGT (General Union of Workers) did not accept democracy as an end, but as a means, along with insurrection, to achieve socialism. On the other hand—Moa explains—the fiction of a democratic republic, admirable if not idyllic, claimed nowadays by the leaders of the PSOE and the extreme left and massively disseminated in the media and education, is the main reason why the Civil War cannot be assimilated and overcome by Spanish society.

Moa’s analysis of the antecedents and course of the Spanish War is undoubtedly open to criticism on secondary points, as is the case with any historian’s work—but the main thesis remains solid and well argued. To question it seriously, one would have to provide credible explanations to a whole series of awkward questions:

Why was the process of bolshevization of the PSOE from the end of 1933, now denied or minimized by socialist-Marxist historians and socialist leaders, deplored in its time and without ambiguity by political actors, themselves socialists, such as the “reformist” Marxists Julián Besteiro or Gabriel Mario de Coca?

Didn’t the socialist leader, Indalecio Prieto, write regretting his words and actions in October 1934: “I declare myself guilty before my conscience, before the socialist party and before all of Spain of my participation in this revolutionary movement. I declare it as a fault, as a sin, not as a glory” (Discursos en América, 1944)?

Why did the President of the Republic, Niceto Alcala-Zamora, denounce the manipulations, the day after the February 1936 elections, writing in his Diary and Memoirs (February 22 and March 8): “In most provinces there have been hidden negotiations, tricks, crimes and coactions… Almost all of Spain has done as in Coruña, that is, shameful post-election rectifications of a good number of seats.” “It has been strangely difficult to obtain the figures of this recent vote… It has taken days of effort because, from April 17 on, the manipulations and prestidigitations to resurrect or dismiss so many candidates have made the task impossible.” And again: “The Cortes has prepared two parliamentary coups. With the first, they declared themselves indissoluble for the duration of the presidential term. With the second, they dismissed me. The last obstacle was removed on the road to anarchy and all the violence of the civil war.” “From February 17, and even from the night of the 16th, the Popular Front, without waiting for the end of the counting of the votes and the proclamation of the results… unleashed the offensive of disorder in the streets: it took power by violence” (Journal de Genève, January 17, 1937)?

Why did the Frente Popular deliberately steal 50 seats from the right (claiming 240 of the 473 seats), when without this plundering—a real parliamentary coup—it would not have been able to govern alone? Doubts about this subject are no longer possible since the rigorous and meticulous work of the historians of Rey Juan Carlos University, Roberto Villa García and Manuel Alvarez Tardío: 1936. Fraude y violencia en las elecciones del Frente Popular (Fraud and Violence in the Elections of the Popular Front), 2017.

Let us pass over the Decalogue of the Socialist Youth published in Renovación on February 17, 1934, and whose point 8 said: “The only idea that the young socialist must have engraved in his mind today is that socialism can only be imposed by violence, and that any comrade who advocates the opposite, who still has democratic dreams, whether high or low, is only a traitor, consciously or unconsciously.

Let’s pass over the flood of violence, strikes and illegal occupations in the aftermath of the Popular Front’s electoral victory. Let’s not forget the panic that took place in March, April, May and June (269 dead, 1287 injured, hundreds of churches, monuments and libraries destroyed). Let’s not forget the fiery rhetoric of the official organs of the Socialist Party, Claridad and El Socialista, which tirelessly repeated: “Death to the Parliamentary Republic! ” “Class war. Let the Spaniards choose: fascism or socialism.”

Perhaps these were just the pitiful words of fanatical “parrots.” But why so much verbal violence, unconscious declarations, more or less veiled calls for murder, on the part of the main leader of the Socialist Party, the “Spanish Lenin,” Francisco Largo Caballero? A few examples are enough to give the measure of this verbal violence: “There are communists who believe that they cannot ally themselves with the socialists. I can’t explain this position… We are not different from the communists in any way, as you can see” (Bilbao, April 20, 1934). “It is not enough to say that we are socialists. Our main master, the founder of scientific socialism, had to call himself a communist in order to differentiate himself from the utopian socialists…. The essential thing, the conquest of power, cannot be done through bourgeois democracy” (Linares, January 23, 1935). “Democracy is only the first step towards the realization of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Let no one doubt that power will belong to us, and by force if necessary” (El Liberal, Bilbao, January 20, 1936). “Elections are only a stage in the conquest of power, and their result can only be accepted with the benefit of an inventory. If the Left wins, we can work with our allies within the law. But if the Right wins, we will have to go to civil war. I want a republic without class struggle. But for that to happen one of them must disappear. And this is not a threat, it is a warning. Let it not be imagined that we say things for pleasure: we do them” (Alicante, January 25, 1936). “When the Popular Front collapses, as it undoubtedly will, the triumph of the proletariat will be indisputable. Then we will establish the dictatorship of the proletariat …” (Cadiz, May 24, 1936).

Why was Congressman Calvo Sotelo, one of the main leaders of the opposition, threatened with death in Parliament by the Socialist Minister of the Interior, Angel Galarza, and then kidnapped in front of his wife and children on July 13, just before being coldly executed with a bullet in the neck by PSOE militants (aided in their crime by the forces of law and order, and then protected by the Socialist Congressmen Vidarte, Zugazagoitia, Nelken and Prieto)?

On the same day, two of the main opposition leaders, deputies to the Cortes, José Maria Gil Robles (leader of the right-wing Republican party CEDA) and Antonio Goicoechea (leader of the monarchist-liberal party Renovación Española, of which Calvo Sotelo was president of the parliamentary minority), escaped death. Fortunately, they were not at home in Madrid, one being in Biarritz and the other in Salamanca. Pro-Popular Front authors insist that the assassination of Calvo Sotelo by members of the State Police (Fernando Condés) and Socialist Party activists (Luis Cuenca) was committed in retaliation for the assassination of the Assault Guard lieutenant, José del Castillo, who was responsible for the formation of the Socialist militias. But this assassination was itself part of a chain of violence. A few days earlier, pistoleros, members of the JSU (Unified Socialist Youth), had burst into a bar and killed two young Phalangist students.

Once the Civil War started, why were the militants and sympathizers of all the other republican tendencies (Alejandro Lerroux’s Radical Party, Martinez Velasco’s and Melquiadez Alvarez’s republican parties, Gil-Robles’s CEDA) considered enemies to be extirpated along with the monarchist-liberals, the traditionalist-Carlist monarchists and the phalangists, with the exclusion of the left-wing centrists (the Republican Left and the Republican Union), throughout the territory of the People’s Front.

Why were the democratic and republican ministers of the radical party Salazar Alonso, Abad Conde or Rafael Guerra del Rio condemned to death and assassinated by the front-populists?

Why did liberals like José Ortega y Gasset, Ramón Pérez de Ayala and Gregorio Marañon, who were known as the “founding fathers of the Republic,” or the Catholic-liberal philosopher, friend of Croce and Amendola, Miguel de Unamuno, clearly choose the national camp?

Ortega y Gasset: “While in Madrid the Communists and their sympathizers were forcing, under the most serious threats, writers and professors to sign manifestos, speak on the radio, etc., some of the leading English writers, comfortably seated in their offices or clubs, were signing another manifesto, in which it was guaranteed that the Communists and their sympathizers were the defenders of freedom. A few days ago, Albert Einstein thought he has the ‘right’ to express his opinion on the Civil War and to take a stand. But Albert Einstein is radically ignorant of what happened in Spain today as well as yesterday and centuries ago. The spirit that led him to this insolent intervention has long since led to the loss of the universal prestige of the intellectual and bears responsibility for a world that is going adrift because of the absence of spiritual power” (The Revolt of the Masses. Epilogue for the English, 1985).

Ramón Perez de Ayala: “My respect and love for moral truth force me to recognize that the Spanish Republic has tragically failed. Its children are guilty of matricide, and it is no less true that there are no more republicans on either side.” (Letter of June 29, 1937, published in the daily Times. See also Marañon’s correspondence with Ortega, published by Marino Gomez-Santos, which leaves no room for doubt about his adherence to the national uprising).

Gregorio Marañon: “If we ask one hundred human beings today, whether Spanish or not, the reasons for their attitude, favorable or contrary to either of the two parties fighting in Spain, some will point to their democratic creed, others to their traditionalism, others to their militarism or antimilitarism, their Catholicism or irreligion—if not a literary and red neo-Catholicism, a very curious species of the current ideological fauna—or their horror for executions and aerial bombings; or, finally, their personal sympathy or antipathy for the respective party leaders. Few will base their position on the real reason for the struggle: ‘I defend the Reds because I am a communist,’ or ‘I sympathize with the nationals because I am an enemy of communism’…. These are the exact terms of the problem: a struggle between an antidemocratic, communist and oriental regime and another antidemocratic, anticommunist and European regime, whose exact form only the all-powerful Spanish reality will model” (Liberalismo y Comunismo, punto VII; Revue de París, 15 December 1937).

Miguel de Unamuno: “This struggle is not a struggle against the Liberal Republic. It is a struggle for civilization. As soon as the saving movement of General Franco occurred, I joined him, thinking that the most important thing was to save the Christian western civilization and with it national independence” (Statement to the correspondent of the North American agency “International News,” August 20, 1936, and interview with the Tharaud brothers, November 1936).

Why did Alejandro Lerroux, founder of the Radical Republican Party and President of the Council of Ministers (1933-1935) write: “Neither Franco nor the army broke the law, nor did they rise up against a legal, normal and normally functioning democracy. They only replaced it in the void it left when it dissolved in ‘blood, mud and tears’” (La pequeña historia de España: 1931-1936, 1945)?

Alejandro Lerroux again wrote: “This is not a pronunciamiento, but a national uprising, as sacred and legitimate as that of national independence in 1808, and even more sacred; then only political independence was defended, now moral, social and economic independence, property, culture and conscience, a whole civilization and history are defended” (Diario de la Marina, 1937).

Many actors or sympathizers of the left and extreme left, such as George Orwell, Franz Borkenau or Arthur Koestler, testified that the Popular Front was under the sway of the Communist Party and Moscow during the Civil War. In The Invisible Writing (1954), Koestler wrote: “But as the struggle continued, they succeeded in converting the country into an obedient satellite of the Kremlin, through blackmail, terror and intrigue. All this is well known today, but we did not know it then. There is no doubt that our truth was only half known and that our struggle was a struggle in the fog.

Why are so many explicit and edifying testimonies, from major players of the Popular Front, so often passed over in silence? Didn’t Claudio Sánchez Albornoz, historian, rector, member of the Academy of History, minister and then president of the Republic in exile (1962-1971), make this astounding statement: “If we had won the war, communism would have been established in Spain…. In August ’37… Azaña told me that ‘the war is lost, but if we win it, we Republicans will have to leave Spain, if they let us, because the power will be in the hands of the Communists…. Listen, you will be shocked when you read that I did not want the victory of the Civil War. But it is true that neither did Azaña. We should have left Spain…. You will be shocked when you read that I did not want the Republican victory, but it is true” (Interview, Personas, nº74)?

Why was the largest massacre of the Civil War perpetrated for essentially religious reasons (nearly 7,000 dead, more than 20% of the clergy)? [The reference work on religious persecution (6832 victims) is that of Antonio Montero Moreno. Between 1987 and 2020, various popes have canonized and beatified 11 and 2053 martyrs of the faith respectively]. Why is it still the subject of so much procrastination when the testimonies of Popular Front ministers are explicit? In the words of the Republican minister without portfolio (1936-1938), member of the Basque Nationalist Party, Manuel de Irujo y Ollo (testimony taken from a memorandum presented to the Council of Ministers on January 7, 1937): “Outside the Basque Country, the de facto situation of the Church is as follows: All altars, images and objects of worship have been destroyed, with rare exceptions…. All the churches have been closed to worship, which has been totally suspended…. The official bodies received the bells, chalices, candlesticks and all other objects of worship which were melted down and transformed for military or civil purposes…. Buildings and goods of all kinds were burned, looted, occupied or destroyed…. Priests and nuns were arrested, imprisoned and shot without trial by the thousands…. They went so far as to prohibit the private possession of images and objects of worship. The police, who carry out searches, search and destroy with violence and determination all objects related to the cult.

The Spanish delegate to the Congress of Atheists, held in Moscow in the midst of the Civil War, could triumphantly declare: “Spain has far surpassed the work of the Soviets, because the Church has been totally annihilated.” And the communist, Jesus Hernández, Minister of Public Education in the government of Largo Caballero, did not fail to take the opportunity to send a telegram of enthusiastic support: “Your struggle against religion is also ours. We have the duty to make Spain a land of militant atheists. The struggle will be difficult, because in this country there are many reactionaries who reject the Soviet culture. But all the schools in Spain will be transformed into communist schools.

Why did the Basque nationalists prefer to negotiate their surrender with the Vatican, the Italians and their Carlist-redeemer brother-enemies (Santoña Pact, August 24, 1937) rather than continue the struggle alongside “persecuting and atheistic” revolutionaries?

Why is the account of the Popular Front and the Civil War by the President of the Republic, Manuel Azaña [one of the main perpetrators of the final tragedy, who did not hesitate to say before the socialist putsch of 1934: “Above the Constitution is the Republic, and even higher, the Revolution(El Sol, April 17, 1934)]. Was he hallucinating? “Each party, each province, each union wanted to have its army. In the columns, the battalions bickered, fought, stole food and ammunition from each other…. Each one thought of his own salvation without considering the common work…. Where was national solidarity? I did not see it anywhere…. One of the worst consequences of these events is the general dissociation, the assault on the State… the Civil War has increased the ambitions, the divergences, the rivalries, the conflicts and the indiscipline, which were bogging down the Popular Front…. Revolutionary hysteria that went from words to deeds, to robberies, to murders, ineptitude of the rulers, immorality, cowardice, barking and shooting among the unions, vanity of parvenus, disloyalty, dissimulation, palaver of failures, exploitation of the war to enrich oneself, refusal to organize an army, paralysis of operations, insolence of the separatists, small governments of caciques” (Obras Completas: Memorias políticas y de guerra and Velada en Benicarlo, 1966-1968)?

Why, finally, did the main representative of the Marxist-Reformist or “social-democratic” minority of the PSOE, Julián Besteiro (one of the very few leaders of the Popular Front who did not flee Madrid in 1939), declare before the Military Tribunal that sentenced him to life imprisonment, a sentence that was later commuted to 30 years’ imprisonment: “We have been defeated for our faults (of course, to make these faults my own is pure rhetoric). We are defeated nationally for having allowed ourselves to be dragged into the Bolshevik aberration, which is perhaps the greatest political aberration the centuries have known. Russian international politics, in the hands of Stalin, and perhaps as a reaction to his internal state of failure, has become a monstrous crime, far exceeding the macabre conceptions of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy (The Brothers Karamazov and The Power of Darkness). The reaction to this mistake of the Republic in allowing itself to be drawn into the Bolshevik line was truly represented, whatever its faults, by the nationalists, who led the great anti-Komintern crusade…. In order to build the Spanish personality of tomorrow, the victorious national Spain will have to rely on the experience of those who suffered the errors of the Bolshevik Republic, otherwise it will be in danger of going astray along the wrong paths that only lead to failure.

General Vicente Rojo, Chief of Staff of the Popular Army, is no less severe. He explains in his book, Alerta a los pueblos! (1939): “On the military level, Franco triumphed because military science and the art of war demanded it…. Politically, Franco triumphed because the Republic had not set a political goal…. During two and a half years of war, our politicians were more preoccupied with small personal and partisan issues than with the great national problems. They lacked the political abnegation to submit to a common ideal superior to that of the parties and the integrity to clean up a vitiated political atmosphere.

The left-wing Republican, Diego Martinez Barrio, a dignitary Freemason who had been vice-president of the Council of Ministers, wrote, referring to the Socialists-Communists: “All of them… attributed to us, the Republicans, the sad role of Kerenski. Our mission was limited, according to them, to smoothing the way to power for them, since the democratic revolution was an exhausted stage in the history of Spain” (Orígenes del Frente Popular Español, 1943).

More debatable, without being unreasonable, are Moa’s theses on the merits of Francoism. They are obviously unbearable for socialist and Marxist historians who, on the contrary, claim to demonstrate the essentially repressive character of Franco’s regime; its roots in organized violence, its will to destroy or subjugate the other through fear. But Pío Moa does not care. Knowing the immeasurably greater horrors of Nazi and Communist totalitarianism, he does not compromise. According to him, the mistakes that Franco could be blamed for—especially the harshness of the repression and censorship in the immediate post-war period and the will to cling to power until the end—were not fundamental. In comparison, the merits of Francoism are major. First, its economic successes are indisputable: Between 1961 and 1975, the years of the “Spanish miracle,” annual GDP growth ranged from 3.5 percent to 12.8 percent, and the country rose to ninth place among industrialized nations, a surprising achievement, considering that a regime “at the service of the Bank, the Church and the Army” should have caused misery and hunger. Second, Francoism defeated communism and allowed Spain to escape World War II. And third, Francoism defeated separatism and preserved the unity of the country.

According to Moa, Franco’s regime, authoritarian but not totalitarian, gave Spain four decades of peace, national unity, independence in international relations, prosperity and reconciliation, with limited corruption (paradoxically much less than in later years), a fundamentally liberal economy, low taxes and a small state. Francoism created and left a legacy of the middle class, which was essential for the advent and maintenance of democracy; it also re-established constitutional monarchy. Finally, it was Franco’s moderate right that took the initiative to establish democracy, while the main left-wing currents were finally intelligent enough to react and adapt, so that during the Transition they helped to consolidate the democratic system. This drastic and peremptory point of view obviously makes socialist-Marxist historians gasp, but paradoxically it is not unlike that of one of the greatest Spanish historians of the twentieth century, the anti-Franco professor Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, who wrote in España, tres milenios de historia: “During Franco’s era, Spain underwent the broadest, deepest, and most positive transformation in its history.

[Click here for Part II]


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 OECDHe 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.


Featured image: “Guzmán el Bueno” (Guzmán the Good), by Salvador Martínez Cubells; painted in 1884.

The Brutal Record Of Marxist Socialism, And The Connivance Of Fellow-Travelers And Other Useful Idiots

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, socialist-communist historiography is no longer popular. The old Lenino-Trotsko-Marxist manichaeism, inherited from the Enlightenment, has gradually withdrawn from the Western political and cultural scene, leaving room for deconstructionist progressivism, an immanent religion just as deleterious, a mixture of contradictory neo-puritan, communitarian and ethnicist beliefs, such as ultra-feminism, multiculturalism, decolonialism, indigenism, immigrationism, the celebration of sexual minorities, Islamo-leftism and the blissful worship of nature.

This new version of humanitarian morality is defended by large multinationals and powerful lobbies or NGOs, with the complacency, even the blessing, of the majority of the political-economical-media elites. The “new righteous,” modern inquisitors, guardians of political correctness, claim, as in the past, to monopolize the interpretation of the meaning of history, to embody goodness, reason, progress, science, humanitarian and democratic values.

The earlier marginalized, excluded, declared reactionary, obscurantist and obstacles to the establishment of the socialist society (in the name of the radiant future and the communist paradise), independent historians and nonconformists, opposed to the unilateral reading of history and to the utopia of the anthropological transformation, which is the prelude to the enslavement of the people, are again subjected to sectarianism, intolerance, contempt and hate. Intellectual terrorism does not vary much in its methods and arguments – in yesteryear, to criticize communism was to play into the hands of the bourgeoisie and fascism. Today, to criticize the deconstructionism of the globalist doxa is to play into the hands of populism, racism and fascism.

Nazi Crimes And Communist Crimes: Double Standards

“Those who cannot remember the past,” said George Santayana, “are condemned to repeat it” (Life and Reason, 1905). The crimes of the National Socialist regime have been quantified and unreservedly condemned, both morally and legally. But there is still a great deal of work to be done to make people aware of the crimes committed in the name of communism; to assess their number and to condemn them in the strongest terms. The terrible human toll of socialism and Marxism is said to belong to history, but it is still astonishingly underestimated, passed over in silence, or even excused or absolved.

Communist sympathizers, and their former comrades-in-arms, whether camouflaged or out in the open, are in the habit of claiming that the criminal practice of Hitler’s National Socialism stems from the perversity of his ideology, whereas that of communism would only have originated from the deviation, the denaturation, the deviation of a generous and humanist inspiration. No one denies the appalling Nazi genocide except a few small groups without influence, or deranged minds.

But on the other hand, communists and their fellow travelers can deny the exterminationist character of the Marxist theoretical-practical apparatus, can express themselves freely on major media, can be heard and even considered sincere and idealist, as long as they solemnly declare, “I do not recognize myself in the crimes of certain communist countries.” Recognized as a crime in the case of Nazism (5 to 12 million dead victims), communist negationism (50 to 100 million dead victims) is tolerated, accepted, even justified. While there should be no difference between the victims of violence, there is a macabre hierarchy for them – and despite everything.

When on September 19, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on “the importance of historical memory for the future of Europe,” condemning the crimes committed by the Nazi and Communist regimes, the Communist, and more broadly socialist-Marxist, press was indignant and denounced the “manipulation of history.” The text of the Resolution was described as “confusing,” “contradictory,” “unacceptable,” a “monument to relativism,” a “gross simplification of reality,” a “falsification” and “revisionism.”

According to these negationists, self-proclaimed “progressives,” there are good and bad victims: The amalgam between socialism-Marxism and national socialism must be censured and denounced – but the equivalence must be accepted and even recommended when it concerns Nazism and fascism. According to them, there is uniqueness in the case of fascism, but not in the case of communism. The facts do not matter. The Italian fascists caused between 600 and 700 casualties among the social-communist militants and suffered the same number of casualties in their own ranks.

The Mussolini regime executed 9 Slovenian terrorists from 1922 to 1940 and 17 more in 1943, when the civil war started. The number of political prisoners in fascist Italy never exceeded two thousand. The deadly record of Italian fascism is obviously light years different than that of Nazism. But the degree of bad faith, Manicheism, sectarianism and hatred by the communists and their socialist-Marxist fellow travelers is limitless.

Why should the obsession with leveling equality be any less morbid and mortifying than the mania for hierarchizing races? Why should class (or even religious) genocide be less condemnable when in fact it has been even more devastating and deadly than race genocide? These questions remain unanswered; and the pseudo-arguments and pretexts of the communists (“one cannot compare what is not comparable;” “one cannot put on the same level, in full equivalence, Nazism which is destructive, and communism which is regenerative;” “one cannot confuse Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, Castro, Mao and Pol Pot”) only fool those who want to be fooled.

The Cultural Hegemony Of The PCF And Its Fellow Travelers: 1945-1968

The intellectual and academic circles of Western Europe have always been more or less under the sway of politics. But there is a gap between the usual partial and fragmentary influence and the vast enterprise of nucleation and cultural quasi-domination of Marxism during the years 1945-1989. In the case of France, the hold on cultural life of orthodox communist militants and sympathizers (themselves often manipulated by Soviet agents), and then of the various post-Soviet leftists, was (and let’s not mince our words) – major if not exceptional until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Moscow communism was only brought to coexist with Maoist, Trotskyite, Castro and libertarian communisms from 1965-1968. There were of course, from the aftermath of the Second World War, brilliant anti-communist or anti-Marxist figures, such as Raymond Aron, Thierry Maulnier, Bertrand de Jouvenel or Albert Camus; but for more than forty years the pluralism of French cultural life was, to use two euphemisms, “framed and limited.”

The Marxist or crypto-Marxist inquisitors watched over and locked down the debate. Whoever wanted to make a career in the world of letters or academia had to give pledges to Marxist thought, and above all to avoid clashing head-on with the powerful guardians of the camp of the good.

Examples abound of victims of Marxist and leftist censorship, who saw their intellectual or academic careers compromised, hindered and sometimes broken – the sociologist, Jules Monnerot, for having dissected the Marxist revolution and revealed its character as a secular religion (Sociologie du communisme, 1963); the political scientist, Julien Freund, for his defense of realism in politics (L’essence du politique, 1965): the sinologist, Simon Leys, for his unmasking of Maoism (Les habits neufs du président Mao, 1971); the political scientist, Gaston Bouthoul, for his study of the recurrence of the belligerent phenomenon and his criticism of traditional pacifism, which has become the worst enemy of peace (Lettre ouverte aux pacifistes, 1972); the writer, Jean Raspail, for having prophesied the wild and mass immigration (Le camp des saints, 1973); the historian, Pierre Chaunu, and the journalist, Georges Suffert, for having denounced, very early, the right to abortion and the demographic collapse of Europe (La peste blanche. Comment éviter le suicide de l’Occident, 1976); the historian, Reynald Sécher, for having published La Vendée-Vengé. Le génocide franco-français (1986)… and many others.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, censorship and control took on other forms; but the same deleterious intellectual mores were perpetuated by one-thought and political correctness. We cannot ignore the troubles and career difficulties of a host of academics, such as, the sociologist, Paul Yonnet, for having meticulously analyzed the causes of the French malaise (Voyage au centre du malaise français. L’antiracisme et le roman national, 1993); the specialist in slavery, Olivier Petré Grenouilleau, for having revealed the extent of the Eastern and intra-African slave trade, and not only the Western one (Les Traites négrières. Essai d’histoire globale, 2004); the medievalist Sylvain Gouguenheim, for destroying the myth of a West that would never have existed without Islam (Aristote au Mont-Saint-Michel, 2008), etc. The list of pariahs, banished and marginalized, intellectuals, academics or journalists, is long, very long.

The benevolence, indulgence, connivance and complicity of a large part of the Western cultural and media circles towards Marxist socialism and communist abominations are part of a tradition that is already more than a century old. “There are none so blind as those who do not want to see.” In the 1920s, the edifying testimonies of numerous exiles were known, especially of the hundreds of cultural and scientific personalities, banished, expelled and threatened with being shot, if they returned to the USSR at Lenin’s personal instigation.

These intellectuals, many of them among the most prominent of the Russian intelligentsia, such as Sergei Bulgakov, Nikolai Berdyaev, Nikolay Lossky, Ivan Ilyin, Georges Florovsky, Semyon Frank or Pitirim Sorokin, were not hostile to the revolution as the GPU claimed, but opposed Lenin’s extreme and violent approach. In particular, they reproached Lenin, and this was especially true of the members of the Committee for Aid to the Hungry, for not taking the necessary measures to curb the terrible famine of 1921-1922. Slander, defamation, silence or oblivion were the lot of these first victims of the Leninist purges who, no doubt because of their notoriety, escaped death in the concentration and forced labor camps, created by Trotsky and Lenin, as early as June and August 1918, to lock up “kulaks, priests, White Guards and other dubious elements.”

In 1935, Boris Souvarine published his biography of Stalin (Stalin, A Critical Survey of Bolshevism), which dismantled “in the name of socialism and communism” the lies of Soviet “pseudo-communism.” In 1936, Gide denounced, in his book, Return From the USSR, the vices and defects of a system that he had defended until then. The result – les Amis de l’Union soviétique (the Friends of the Soviet Union) declared him a traitor and an agent of the Gestapo.

Then, in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), there were the instructive testimonies of former communist political commissars, such as, Arthur Koestler, or former members of POUM (anti-Stalinist Marxist Unification Workers’ Party), such as, George Orwell; (the members of the POUM were anti-Stalinist Marxists and not “Trotskyists” according to the accusation of Stalinist propaganda), who had been persecuted and murdered by the torturers of “orthodox communism,” during the Spanish war, as had been anarchist leaders. Among these official Stalinists, the political commissar, Artur London (the future author of the book, The Confession, which Costa-Gavras would bring to the screen) had shown an unquestionable zeal in the persecution of “deviationists.” Ironically, he was also accused of being an “internal enemy” and “a Trotskyite” during the Prague trial (1952).

One of the main heads of Soviet military intelligence in Western Europe, Walter G. Krivitsky, who moved to the West in October 1937, also provided a particularly valuable testimony on the democratic fiction of the various Popular Fronts, the action of the Comintern in the West and its relationship with the GPU. He was violently attacked by the American and European left in 1939, when he published two books on Stalin’s methods (In Stalin’s Secret Service and I was Stalin’s Agent, 1940), and finally was reported to have committed a suicide, in a Washington hotel in 1941 (though most likely killed by soviet agents). The testimonies of communists, who had fled to the West, and those of ex-international brigadists, who had survived the Spanish War, followed one another at a rapid pace, but the reaction of the socialist-Marxist left was always the same – insults, shrugs, skepticism and visceral hostility. As for the intellectuals of the non-communist left, they were conspicuous by their absence.

The manipulation of history by the PCF and its fellow travelers was almost total for decades. The PCF had collaborated for almost two years with the German National Socialist regime (from August 23, 1939 to June 22, 1941) under the German-Soviet Pact (of August 23, 1939), which was finally broken only by the will of Germany.

The PCF mandated Denise Ginollin and Maurice Tréand (between June and August 1940), to negotiate with the German authorities the re-publication of the newspaper, L’Humanité and the legalization of the party. The secretary general of the PCF, Maurice Thorez (head of the party from 1930 to 1964), was condemned for desertion; he was exiled to Moscow on November 8, 1939, and was not to return to France until November 27, 1944, six months after the D-Day landings, and after having been amnestied by De Gaulle. But of this dark truth, nothing was said, nothing was known. Thorez was even presented by the PCF as a proven Resistance fighter, an authentic maverick. The PCF claimed to have called for resistance as early as July 10, 1940, and proclaimed itself the party of the “75,000 shot,” when in fact only 4,500 were shot, and not all of them were communists. The same PCF praised for years ad nauseam the alleged managerial qualities of communist mayors.

The Kravchenko affair broke out at the end of the 1940s, when this Soviet diplomat, who had taken refuge in the United States, published in France, J’ai choisi la liberté (1947) – I Chose Freedom: The Personal and Political Life of a Soviet Official, a book in which he made startling revelations about the collectivization of agriculture, the size of the Soviet Gulag camps, and the exploitation of prisoners as slaves. Described as a defector and deserter, Kravchenko was immediately denounced as a spy by the USSR, by the sister communist parties and by their numerous fellow travelers. The weekly Les lettres françaises, a newspaper close to the PCF, accused him of being a disinformer and an agent of the United States. This was followed by a defamation trial in which the Communists put so-called “character witnesses” on the stand, former Resistance fighters, such as, Frédéric Joliot-Curie and Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie. Kravchenko finally won his case in 1949… but died of a bullet to the head in 1966.

Sartre And Beauvoir: Two Famous Fellow Travelers

After the Liberation, Jean-Paul Sartre, who had become a fellow traveler of the PCF and an intellectual icon of the Marxist left, managed to make people believe that he had escaped from a stalag. The reality, however, was far less glowing – he had been released, most likely through the personal intervention of Pierre Drieu la Rochelle. After his release, Sartre once again became a quiet teacher in Parisian high schools (Pasteur and then Condorcet). But neither he nor his companion, Simone de Beauvoir, were ever members of the Resistance. On the contrary, Sartre wrote at least two articles in the collaborationist magazine, Comoedia (in 1941 and 1944); and Beauvoir, who was dismissed by National Education for a sinister case of lesbianism whose victim was a young teenager, got a job at Radio-Vichy, where she delivered twelve broadcasts, in early 1944, shortly before the D-Day landings. But this secret was well kept. (See Jean-Pierre Besse and Claude Pennetier, La négociation secrète, 2006; Jean-Marc Berlière and Franck Liaigre, L’affaire Guy Môquet. Enquête sur une mystification officielle, 2009 and Liquider les traîtres. La face cachée du PCF (1941-1943), 2007; and Gilbert Joseph, Une si douce Occupation… Simone de Beauvoir et Jean-Paul Sartre (1940-1944), 1991 and Michel Onfray, Les consciences réfractaires, 2013).

At Sartre’s request, the manager of the magazine Les Temps modernes, Francis Jeanson, wrote a spiteful review of The Rebel by Albert Camus in 1952. Camus made the unforgivable mistake of attacking Marxist mythology by claiming to be a member of the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist tradition. A servile opportunist, Sartre explained at that time: “Communism must be judged on its intentions and not on its acts.” On his return from the USSR in 1954, he asserted: “The Soviet citizen has…complete freedom of criticism.” He went even further, not hesitating to say during an interview for Les Temps modernes (1965): “Every anti-communist is a dog.” Admirer of the dictatorship of Fidel Castro at the beginning of the 1960s, he deviated from the Soviet line only to endorse the Maoist cause, after May 1968.

“Last but not least,” as the English say, this friend of the “suitcase carriers” [left-wing intellectuals and artists supporting and channeling funds to the FLN activists], and agents of the Algerian FLN, was among the “progressive” Parisian intellectuals who defended pedophilia in 1970. The libertarian, Michel Onfray, one of the few honest and courageous intellectuals of his generation, has listed the most prominent members of this group. In addition to the names of Jean-Paul Sartre and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, there were Louis Althusser, Louis Aragon, Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Louis Bory, Pascal Bruckner, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Françoise Dolto, Jean-Pierre Faye, Alain Finkielkraut, André Glucksmann, Félix Guattari, Daniel Guérin, Guy Hocquenghem, Bernard Kouchner, Jack Lang, Jean-François Lyotard, Gabriel Maztneff, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Philippe Sollers, etc. (See Michel Onfray, La nef des fous. Des nouvelles du Bas-Empire, 2021).

Twenty years later (March 1990), invited to Bernard Pivot‘s program, Apostrophes, broadcast live on Antenne 2, Gabriel Matzneff presented, in front of a complaisant program director, one of his books relating his pedophile loves. The Canadian novelist Denise Bombardier was the only one to speak out on the set. She had to endure that day the sarcasm and mockery, and later the slander and conspiracy of silence of the cream of the Parisian intelligentsia. The pedophile epidemic, or fad, was then affecting the most unexpected circles on both the left and the right. The Church, which “promised eternal damnation to pedophiles,” was mocked and castigated. It had not yet made its complete aggiornamento. The “literary talent” and the “existential freedom” of “L’Ange Gabriel” (sic) (Maztneff), a worthy disciple of the Marquis de Sade and Gilles de Rais, was surprisingly appreciated and even admired by some of the principal theorists of the New Right.

Even a veiled criticism earned an impudent person the title of backward puritan, old-fashioned and frustrated. Fortunately, pedophilia was not “democratized” like drugs, but it would be no less than thirty years before the first cases of pedo-criminality, involving the French National Education system, the sports world and the Church, broke out. The Sauvé report on sexual abuse in the Church of France was not be published until October 2021. Olivier Duhamel, advisor to the presidents of the Constitutional Council, former member of the European Parliament of the PS, president of the National Foundation of Political Sciences and model hierarch of the French Republic, was only forced to resign in April 2021, after an investigation for rape and sexual assault on his minor stepson.

Sartre was accustomed to legitimizing ultra-violence – faithful in this to Vladimir Ilitch Lenin – but his companion, Simone de Beauvoir, was not to be outdone. Michel Onfray gives these few edifying words of the philosopher, in an anthology which deserve to be quoted in its entirety, these few edifying words of the philosopher: “Any revolution requires from those who undertake it the sacrifice of a generation, of a community.” And again: “One will sacrifice the men of today to those of tomorrow, because the present appears as the factor which it is necessary to transcend towards freedom.” (See Michel Onfray, Les consciences réfractaires. Contre-histoire de la philosophie t.9, 2013, p.374).

This is an era already long gone that could be considered as dead and buried, if a number of rabid and unyielding people did not still gloss over, not without explicit or implicit approval, the most vomitory remarks of the “Thénardier of philosophy.” To quote only one example, the communist, Alain Badiou, professor emeritus at the École normale supérieure, wrote not so long ago, thanks to the complacency of the newspaper, Le Monde, these words that one could believe to have come out of the pen of Fouquier-Tinville or Dzerzhinsky, but which are part of the pure Marxist rhetoric of characterization of the adversary: “And why on earth, if they are real enemies, would I be forbidden to insult them? To compare them to vultures, jackals, bitches, headless linnets, and even to rats, vipers, lecherous or not, even hyenas, typists or not?” (Le Monde, July 24, 2008).

Sartre did not fail, of course, to visit the leader of the German terrorist organization, the Red Army Faction, Andreas Baader (in 1972), nor to support the Khmer Rouge until their victory in 1975. Weakened and ill, he seemed to have finally become aware of the need to save all threatened lives, including those of his adversaries (the boat people) – but not long before he died.

Communists, Leftists And Other Useful Idiots: A Shared Hegemony

In the period following the events of May 1968, and despite the decline of the PCF, the hold of socialism-Marxism on people’s minds remained impressive. For the Catholic Church, since the early 1960s, it was no longer a question of anathema or condemnation of “real socialism” or communism, but only of dialogue and peace. The role of Pope John Paul II (and Lech Walesa’s Polish trade union Solidarnosc) was important if not decisive in the collapse of the communist system, but this should not hide the fact that a significant number of Catholic intellectuals eagerly accepted, and some even as early as 1936, the “helping hand” policy of the PCF. At the Liberation, the Resistance fighter, André Mandouze, (who later became actively involved with the Algerian FLN), called for “taking the outstretched hand of the Communists.” Emmanuel Mounier, founder of the monthly personalistic magazine Esprit, said in a July 1947 issue that he had agreed “to graft Christian hope onto the living areas of communist hope.”

A good number of Catholic fellow travelers found affinities in the humanitarianism of the PCF and the values of the Gospel. Liberation theology, which was very popular in South America, developed from 1968 onwards and withered away in the 1970s and 1980s, after the official warnings of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1984). But it has nevertheless formed or influenced many clerics and lay people in Europe, many of whom hold important positions in the Church today. From 1972 to 1989, the YCW (Young Catholic Workers) invited to its gatherings only “class” organizations (CGT and CFDT on the trade union level, PCF and PS on the political level). The membership of former YCW members in the PCF was massive. In November 1998, a former YCW activist was even elected head of the Jeunesses Communistes.

Thanks to the strong personality of John Paul II and the firm theological convictions of Benedict XVI, Rome condemned collaboration with the Communists to the end, thus giving the illusion of the Catholic Church’s capacity to resist any form of neo-paganism or immanent morality. But the degradation of Catholicism, which began in the late 1960s, has not been halted, nor has the agony of Christianity as a whole. In 2013, the pontificate of Francis most likely confirmed the marginalization of Catholicism and Christianity as a religion and most likely the end of Christianity as a civilization.

For more than 70 years, until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the testimonies about the political vices and the concentration camp universe of the communist countries did not stop accumulating. After Kravchenko, Souvarine, Koestler and Orwell, there were the clandestine notebooks of the Samizdat, Milovan Djilas with The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System (1957), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with The Gulag Archipelago (1973), and then Sakharov, Bukovsky, Kovalev, Zinoviev, Voinovich, Grossman, etc., and the criticism of totalitarianism by the French “new philosophers” (authors mostly from the Maoist left, such as, Alain Finkielkraut, André Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Pascal Bruckner, Christian Jambet, Guy Lardreau, Jean-Paul Dollé, Gilles Susong, etc.).

From 1975 onwards, the reports of Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodian and Laotian victims unreservedly denounced the terror, the crimes, the concentration camps, the forced labor and re-education camps. So many irrefutable testimonies, invariably considered suspect, worthless or false by so many pseudo “virtuous consciences,” the supposed guarantors of democracy and “human rights.” To tell the truth about the communist system was seen as playing into the hands of the right, to be an accomplice of fascism. The true or disguised fellow travelers sometimes admitted, in due lip-service, that communism had killed “tens or hundreds of thousands of people, even millions.” But this was not so serious, since it was in the name of “democratic values” and “the happiness of humanity.” After all, the inspiration was generous; and in any case, death of counter-revolutionaries or fascists was a legitimate sacrifice.

In the 1990s, after the dismantling of the USSR, the Soviet archives made available to researchers did not fail to meet serious resistance. According to the Trotskyite historian, Jean-Jacques Marie, long proclaimed “specialist on the USSR,” these Moscow archives had to be “taken with a grain of salt;” they contained only “imaginary revelations,” and could “be used for anything.” Another example is Stephen Koch’s book, Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Münzenberg, and the Seduction of the Intellectuals, published in 1993.(Its French title is, La fin de l’innocence. Les intellectuels d’Occident et la tentation stalinienne. 30 ans de guerre secrète, 1994). This book was significantly reviewed in Le Monde by the journalist Michel Tatu (“Le prétexte Münzenberg”, 20 October 1995). Koch highlighted the major role of the Soviet spy, Willi Münzenberg, and that of his illustrious recruits, in the unprecedented and formidably effective campaign of Communist manipulation that affected all Western intellectual circles until the end of the 1960s. But his book had a crippling flaw – it insisted on the degree of dependence and submission of the various Popular Fronts to Moscow, particularly in the case of the mythical Spanish Popular Front.

From 1981 to 1995, the two presidential terms of François Mitterrand were marked by various economic-financial scandals, but also by several political-cultural polemics that deserve to be recalled here because of their ideological background. The four communist ministers of Mitterrand obviously had only a symbolic place and role, but the cultural ascendancy exercised by Marxist socialism was of a completely different magnitude. A very large number of Socialist Party cadres had been trained in extreme left-wing parties (PCF, PSU or leftist movements). The lack of police zeal under the various socialist governments to put an end to Action Direct terrorism (1979-1987) cannot be explained otherwise.

The beginning of the 1990s was marked by two political-judicial cases – that of the communist Georges Bourdarel and that of the leftist Cesare Battisti. During the Indochina War, Bourdarel had joined the ranks of Ho Chi Minh’s Vietminh and had become a political commissar in Prison Camp No. 113.

According to the numerous testimonies of survivors of this concentration camp reserved for soldiers, he was guilty of torturing French soldiers. The historian Bruno Riondel, recalls in an edifying work, L’effroyable vérité. Communisme, un siècle de tragédies et de complicités (2020), that 278 of the 320 prisoners in the camp, that this French communist directed, died as a result of the treatment they were subjected to.

Bourdarel lived in the USSR and finally returned to France in 1966, under General de Gaulle’s amnesty law of June 18, 1966. Bourdarel was appointed assistant professor at the University of Paris VII, then promoted to senior lecturer and researcher at the CNRS. Several of his former victims (including a former Secretary of State for Veterans) recognized Bourdarel and filed a complaint in court. This was followed by a media-political campaign in his favor, with the support of some forty academics. Not surprisingly, the complaint against him was rejected, including by the European Court of Justice, because of the amnesty law. The Court of Appeals also ruled that the concept of crimes against humanity, as defined by the International Tribunal of Nuremberg, can only be applied to the events of the Second World War.

At the same time (under Mitterrand and Chirac), Cesare Battisti, ex-member of the group, “Prolétaires armés pour le communisme” (“Armed Proletarians for Communism”), and about 300 other Italian far-left terrorists, were given protection by the French government. Battisti was wanted by the Italian judiciary for committing several assassinations, but extradition was periodically denied, despite the fact that Italy is an EU country. Battisti was complacently portrayed by the mainstream media as a “man of letters,” and was supported, among others, personally by Mrs. Mitterrand, who did not hide her fondness for Fidel Castro’s dictatorship.

This wide political and journalistic network asked for Cesare Battisti “the indulgence due to the purity of his cause.” Thus, for fourteen years (1990-2004), he was able to enjoy, for ideological reasons, the protection of the authorities. His escape to Mexico was even facilitated by the French secret services. Protected in Brazil by President Lula, he was extradited to Italy after Bolsonaro came to power. On March 25, 2019, after admitting his responsibility in four assassinations, he declared before the Italian justice “to have deceived the intellectuals and politicians of the left who supported him.” No comment!

Another highly significant fact: under the impetus of two right-wing men, the president of the Republic Jacques Chirac and the president of the National Assembly Philippe Séguin, on December 5, 1996, on the occasion of the vote for an amendment to a finance law, the French deputies voted unanimously, minus one abstention, for an amendment granting “combatant status” to “Frenchmen who took an effective part in fighting alongside the Spanish Republican Army between July 17, 1936 and February 27, 1939.” One detail does not seem to have troubled them: the International Brigades, to which these Frenchmen belonged, had been created on Stalin’s express orders. The so-called “volunteers of freedom” or “of democracy” were in fact a real army of Stalin in Spain. The vast majority were members of the Communist Party, and the minority were “fellow travelers” belonging to left-wing parties.

From 1994, the new masters of the daily, Le Monde, a “progressive” newspaper called “the leading newspaper,” were Alain Minc, Jean-Marie Colombani and Edwy Plenel. Minc had the reputation of being an opportunist, a businessman and a globalist (he supported, in turn, Mitterrand, Balladur, Jospin, Bayrou, Sarkozy, Juppé and Macron). Jean-Marie Colombani, a socialist, supported Lionel Jospin and Ségolène Royale in the presidential elections. As for Plenel, former editor of the Trotskyite militant magazine Rouge, who became a journalist at Le Monde, he was known and well-regarded for his investigations and his methods similar to those used by a police informant. This journalist “with deep Trotskyist roots” (according to Colombani), was editorial director of Le Monde from 1996 to 2004.

In 2003, the accusations made by Pierre Péan and Philippe Cohen in their book La face cachée du Monde: du contrepouvoir aux abus de pouvoir (2003), led to a crisis for the daily newspaper and the end of this Troika. At the turn of the 21st century, the drift of the French left finally led to a real ideological fracture. In the years 2005-2010, the Islamo-leftism of Plenel and his friends – a strange combination of anti-capitalist radicalism, rejection of traditional secularism, praise for the dominant-dominated/exploited logic, hatred of French identity, Islamophilia and anti-Semitism (anti-Zionism being here only its cover) – constituted the main bridge between the Trotskyists and the political supporters of Islam.

The Polemics Around The Black Book Of Communism

In 1997, nine years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and three years after the new editorial board of Le Monde, Le livre noire du communisme. Crimes, terreur, repression (The Black Book of Communism) was published. This book, brought out by a group of academics, most of them from the extreme left, intended to take stock of the crimes of communism.

In his introduction, the author, Stéphane Courtois, gives a figure approaching 100 million deaths; and, in a direct attack on all conventionalism, makes a “polemical” comparison between the macabre counts of communism and Nazism.

The press of the left and the extreme left was indignant and protested. The Quinzaine littéraire of the former Trotskyite, Maurice Nadeau, L’Humanité of the PCF and Rouge of the Trotskyite theoretician, Daniel Bensaïd, were at the forefront. But they were also backed up by Le Monde and its subsidiary Le Monde diplomatique, where the pen of the communist, Gilles Perrault, was furious.

The historians who went to war against Le livre noir were all Marxist militants or ex-militants, such as, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, ex-member of the PSU, Annette Wieviorka, ex-Maoist, Annie Lacroix Riz, Jean-Jacques Becker, as well as, Madeleine Rebérioux, Marxist-Leninists, Jean-Jacques Marie, Pierre Broué, Alain Brossat, Denis Berger, Trotskyists or Trotskytizers, along with the American, Arch Getty, a pro-Stalinist revisionist (an avowed admirer of the works of the advocate of restalinization, Iuri Zhuykov, who is in the tradition of Western apologists for Stalin, such as, E. H. Carr, Joseph E. Davies, Grover Furr, Domenico Losurdo, Michael Parenti or Paul Robeson). The abnormal reactions of these negationist authors have been faithfully and usefully reproduced by Pierre Rigoulot and Ilios Yannakakis in their book, Un pavé dans l’Histoire. Le débat français dur Le livre noir du communisme (1998).

Unusually, Lionel Jospin, then Mitterrand’s socialist prime minister, with a well-known Trotskyist past, felt obliged to intervene personally in this debate in the National Assembly, thus flying to the aid of the communists, attacked by the right. On November 12, 1997, Jospin did not hesitate to proclaim “the” official version of history: “For me, communism is part of the Cartel of the Left, of the Popular Front, of the struggles of the Resistance… It has never infringed on freedoms… It is represented in my government and I am proud of it.”

Jospin was thus quick to bury the debate. The fault was to be found exclusively with Stalin, nor with Marxist socialism, nor with communism, and certainly not with French communists. It doesn’t matter what the reality is, what the objective facts are. The negationist reflex is always the same – to discredit the adversary; one can then blather on about intentions to make people dream.

Pierre Daix, a member of the Resistance, who was deported to Mauthausen, former editor-in-chief of Les lettres françaises and former deputy director of the Communist daily Ce soir, showed uncommon honesty and courage in his preface, written for the French-speaking public in 1963, to Solzhenitsyn’s book A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch. “Let me say it right away,” he wrote, “there is no difference in nature for me between the camp of Ivan Denisovich and an average Nazi camp…” Horror is horror!

Taking the measure of the hostility evoked by Le livre noir, frozen and stunned by the virulence of the polemics, nearly half of the authors tried to distance themselves more or less from the main author of the work, Stéphane Courtois. One of them, Nicolas Werth, declared in Le Monde in 2000: “The more one compares communism and Nazism, the more the differences jump out.” Rather, let us paraphrase him: the more we compare them, the more obvious their analogies become.

But despite the socialist-Marxist fury and slander, the success of Le livre noir has not waned. It was enormous, having been translated into twenty-six languages and sold more than a million copies. The communists and their fellow travelers tried in vain to light counterfires, successively publishing two improvised works, the first of which was a botched job, Le livre noir du capitalisme (1998) and Le siècle des communismes (2000). The sales of both books were marginal, if not negligible, compared to those of Le livre noir. Finally, in 2002, a new collective work, entitled, Du Passé, faisons table rase! Histoire et mémoire du communisme en Europe (Let’s Wipe the Slate Clean: History and Memory of Communism in Europe), published under the direction of Stéphane Courtois, completed and extended the analyses of Le livre noir. In the preface to this book, Stéphane Courtois recalled the controversies that arose when Le livre noir was published and responded at length to its detractors.

Revolutionary Europe At The Beginning Of The 20th Century

The twentieth century is undoubtedly the time of the bloodiest international wars in modern history. An era of world wars, but also, for Europe, of the greatest internal or intrastate conflict; that of an overwhelming series of revolutions, riots, insurrections and civil wars. (See, Stanley Payne, Civil War in Europe (1905-1949), 2011). This succession of dramatic events began, between 1905 and 1911, with the Russian revolution of 1905, the Romanian peasant revolution of 1907, the Greek military coup of 1909 (a sort of counterpart to the Young Turks’ revolution of 1908), the Portuguese revolution of 1910, and the two Mexican and Chinese revolutions (from 1910 to 1911).

Many other insurrections or revolutionary civil wars occurred afterwards – in Russia in 1917 and in Finland in 1918; but also in many other countries, such as, Hungary (1919), Poland (1919-1921), Latvia (1917), Portugal (1919), Estonia (with a coup attempt led by the Comintern, in 1924), and Germany, where communist and revolutionary socialist riots and insurrections broke out from 1918 to 1923, and were severely repressed by Friedrich Ebert, a moderate social democrat, Chancellor and later President of the Weimar Republic. Again, Mexico (in 1922) and China (in 1927) must be mentioned, and of course Spain (with the socialist insurrection of 1934 and the military coup of 1936 followed by three years of civil war).

During World War II and immediately after the end of the conflict, three other countries experienced bloody civil wars: Yugoslavia (with the struggle between Tito’s Partisans and Mihailovic’s Chetniks, from 1941 to 1944), Italy (1943-1945) and Greece (1944-1949). Adopting a broader perspective, authors as diverse as Eric Hobsbawn, François Furet, Ernst Nolte and Enzo Traverso have come to use the concept of European civil war to refer to the entire 1914-1945 era.

Finally, during the Cold War (1945-1989), insurrections broke out in many Third World countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique, Biafra, Uganda, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen, Chad, etc. Of all these “developing” countries, Castro’s revolution and dictatorship were among the least bloody, with approximately 10,000 victims for a population of 7 million (although this is only true if we exclude the number of deaths during military interventions in Africa and the number of exiles and refugees who disappeared at sea, which, according to the specialist Rudolph J. Rummel, could be over 77,000).

In Europe, the deadliest civil wars of the first half of the 20th century were in Finland and Greece, at least in proportion to the population. The Finnish socialists were the first socialists in Europe to launch a revolutionary insurrection against a democratically elected government, in 1918. The Spanish socialists were the second to do so, in 1934. In Finland, a country of 3.7 million people with a parliamentary and democratic regime, 36,000 people died in three and a half months of civil war (9,700 leftists were executed and 13,400 died in prison camps). In Greece, a country of 7.5 million inhabitants, in five years of civil war (1946-1949) 120,000 people died. In Spain, a country of 25 million inhabitants, in three years of civil war, there were approximately 300,000 deaths (150,000 died in combat or were murdered in the rear guard, in each of the two camps), to which must be added approximately 20,000 judicial and extrajudicial executions of left-wing militants between 1939 and 1942 (Socialist-Marxist historians put the number of executions carried out by Franco’s regime at 114,000 to 130,000, while their opponents estimate the figure at 25,000 to 33,000.

According to the most recent rigorous study by Miguel Platón, between 1939 and 1960, there were 24,949 death sentences, of which 12,851 were commuted and 12,100 were executed, a figure from which it is necessary to subtract the executions of common criminals and add the extrajudicial executions of the spring and summer of 1939, for a total of approximately 14,000. This frightening figure does not need to be exaggerated to reflect the scale of the repression that followed the victory of the national camp. Nevertheless, it remains light years away from the massacres committed by the National Socialist and Socialist-Marxist regimes).

The Soviet “Model” And Its Grim Record

Of all these revolutions and civil wars, the case of Russia remains the most emblematic. The bibliography on the events of 1917 is immense, but it is much more limited on the civil war. Two of the best works on the subject are those of Vladimir Brovkin, Behind the Front Lines of the Civil War: Political Parties and Social Movements in Russia (1918-1922), published in 1994, and Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924. We should also mention the book by the American Stanley Payne, Civil War in Europe (2010), and the works of four other historians: the socialist Marc Ferro (October 1917: A Social History of the Russian Revolution), the liberal, ex-communist Alain Besançon (Les Origines intellectuelles du léninisme, 1977), the conservative Richard Pipes (The Russian Revolution, 1905-1917), and the European nationalist, Dominique Venner (Les Blancs et les Rouges, Histoire de la guerre civile russe 1917-1921, 1997).

In 1917, the Russian autocracy was a dying regime even before it was attacked. The terrible mistakes of the Tsarina and Tsar Nicholas II, the sulphureous reputation of Rasputin, the dithering of the ministers, the incompetence of the various governments, the deterioration of the social and economic situation, the crisis of supplies and the terrible losses of the army (2,500,000 dead in two and a half years of war against Germany) were all skillfully exploited by the reformist and revolutionary opposition. On the eve of the revolution, everyone conspired against the regime – the revolutionary movements, of course, the Social Revolutionary Party (S.R.), advocating the populist and peasant uprising, and the Social Democratic Party, representing the Marxist tendency; but, also, the liberal monarchists, the republicans and the moderate socialists. As for the army, it was singularly divided.

The February Revolution of 1917 was a military uprising, grafted onto proletarian movements of limited importance, but skillfully exploited by the revolutionary minority. The day after the abdication of the Tsar, on March 15, 1917, the liberals and moderate socialists formed a provisional government, most of whose members were Freemasons. These men had no idea of the tide that was about to sweep them away. At their head, the revolutionary socialist, Alexander Kerensky, played a pitiful role. The majority of the army cadres welcomed the abdication of the Tsar, if not favorably, at least passively, as if it were a weight off their shoulders. Almost all the future leaders of the white armies, Kornilov, Alexeiev, Denikin, Kolchak, Kaledin, etc. were hostile to monarchic restoration. Totally discredited by the last years of the reign of Nicholas II, the monarchy had no really determined and unreserved defender.

The Bolsheviks (the majority and extremist faction of the social-democratic party), were able to set up an efficient and well-branched-out clandestine organization in the army and in the main industrial centers. In February 1917, they had only 24,000 members; but between April and October 1917, they recruited a considerable number of militants (300,000) and became masters of the country. However, this figure is only relatively significant when compared to the 170 million inhabitants. In fact, it is even proportionally smaller than that of the Spanish CP in July 1936 and that of many other communist parties in later periods.

On October 25, 1917, Lenin, Trotsky and their supporters launched a putsch or armed uprising in Petrograd against Kerensky’s provisional government, which they officially declared dissolved the next day. In the November 1917 elections, which had been planned before the October coup and which Lenin did not dare to suspend, the Bolsheviks obtained only 24% of the votes and were largely defeated. Lenin then decided to dissolve the democratically elected Assembly. On January 19, the Red Guards expelled the deputies manu militari and forbade them to enter the building.

The Bolshevik coup d’état and war-communism, whose foundations were laid by Lenin in the spring of 1918, were the two direct causes of the Russian civil war. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed in March 1918, between Germany and revolutionary Russia, was by far the most decisive “foreign intervention” insofar as it gave a second wind to the Bolshevik regime, enabling it to mobilize troops for the civil war. Unlike the Reds, the Whites had no political unity. They included all the opponents of Bolshevism, from the extreme monarchist right, which was in a very small minority, to the socialist-revolutionaries, as well as the republican conservatives, the Great Russian nationalists and the Cossack autonomists.

Unlike the Bolsheviks, the Whites had no worldview, no system of ideas, no powerful project, no mobilizing myth. They are very divided about the future of Russia. Two examples. First, the agrarian problem; while it conditioned the support of the peasantry (85% of the population), the Whites did not provide any solution. They should have supported the mass of small farmers to the detriment of the big landowners; but they do not do so. Second, the Whites should have supported nationalisms. But, blind, they sank into the reactionary defense of “Great Russia, one and indivisible.” Facing them, Trotsky and Stalin, undoubtedly the most important Bolshevik leaders, knew how to mobilize and put military specialists at the service of the revolution, and especially in much greater numbers than the counter-revolutionaries.

The human cost of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia is known today. Scientific estimates of the death toll caused by the dictatorship of the Communist Party since 1917, excluding the enormous losses of the Second World War, leave no room for doubt. The death toll from the first phase of collectivism alone, implemented by Lenin, assisted by Trotsky, from September to October 2018, is 10-15,000. In two months, the Cheka and the Bolsheviks executed three to four times as many people as the Spanish Inquisition did in three and a half centuries (2,500 to 5,000 deaths between 1478 and 1834), and two to three times as many as the Tsarist regime did in ninety-two years (four to six thousand deaths between 1825 and 1917). For the pre-Stalin period alone (1917-1921), the death toll is between 500,000 to 3,000,000.

The Communists and their fellow travelers maintain that there were at most one to three million deaths and only under Stalin. But according to the Soviet demographer Maksudov, the regime-change in Russia led to 27.5 million victims from 1918 to 1958.

In light of the archives of the former USSR, the Russian historian Volkogonov gives a total death toll of 35 million. Robert Conquest speaks of 40 million; Zbigniev Brzezinski of 50 million; Rudolph Rummel of 62 million. The demographer Kouganov and the president of the Commission for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, Alexander Yakovlev, put forward an even more terrifying overall figure: 66 million dead. According to the most modest estimate, used by most Western historians, there were no less than 15 to 20 million deaths, a figure far exceeded by Mao’s China (40 to 68 million deaths according to Jean-Louis Margolin).

The World Balance-Sheet Of Socialism-Marxism

Stéphane Courtois summarizes the voluminous work that is Le livre noir in a particularly striking introductory chapter. He gives a first result which is nothing more than “a minimal approximation.” The death toll of communism is staggering: USSR 20 million, China 65 million, Vietnam 1 million, North Korea 2 million, Cambodia 2 million, Eastern Europe 1 million, Latin America 150,000, Africa 1.7 million, Afghanistan 1.5 million; the total approaches 100 million.

We knew almost everything about communism or Marxist socialism from the beginning, since the October Revolution of 1917, everything about the crimes, repression and horrors unleashed by the socialist-Marxist ideology. We knew that the criminal practices, that the “class genocide” was the consequence of the perversity of its ideology, of the morbidity of its leveling obsession. It was known that the Soviet concentration camps were an invention of Trotsky’s, and it was known that Stalin, and later Mao, had only taken up and continued the work where Lenin had left it. It was known that the essence of “real socialism,” of Marxist socialism, was cold terror, applied in a meticulous, almost scientific way. It was known, in short, that crime was at the heart of the theory and practice of “scientific socialism.”

But there still remains a need to be informed and to admit the horror. The most terrible criminal enterprise in history was aided and abetted to the end by a large part of the Western political and cultural elite. The responsibility and guilt of the latter are undeniable.

Unsurprisingly, the European people most immune to the socialist-Marxist ideology and system are those who have suffered from it for so many years, such as Hungary, Poland, the Baltic States, etc. But their leaders are, after all, no more critical than Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the Plenary Session of the 18th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club (22.10.2021), Putin said unambiguously:

“The advocates of so-called ‘social progress’ believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones – all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs. This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices, which we, fortunately, have left, I hope, in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shakespeare – are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what colour or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.”

We would like to hear sometime a Western leader express himself in this way on this subject.

Such cruelty, inhumanity and sectarian blindness – despite a century of irrefutable testimony and the atrocious record of historical research – is truly appalling. It is said that there are places of memory. But there are also privileged places of lies, manipulation and hate. “What serves the revolution is moral,” Lenin used to say. The historian, journalist and former trade union leader at the CFDT, Jacques Julliard, once declared: “To see the last Marxists in this country taking refuge in a morality of intention will remain, for those who like to laugh, one of the jokes of this end of the century.”

For my part, in the face of the denials of the communists, their social-marxist fellow travelers and other “useful idiots,” and in the face of their offenses against the memory of so many millions of victims, I am reminded of two funny lines from the film, Shawshank Redemption. Banker Andy Dufresne, sentenced to twenty years in prison for murder, meets his future friend Red for the first time in the yard of Shawshank prison. When Red asks him, “Why did you do it? Andy replies, “I didn’t do it, if you must know,” and Red jokingly replies, “You’ll like it here, everyone is innocent.”


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 OECDHe 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 is translated from the French by N. Dass.


The featured image shows the Khmer Rouge killing babies at the infamous “killing tree.” A painting by Vann Nath, ca. 1990s.

Liberalism Yes – No? But Which Liberalism?

“If we exclude the minority of those who do not want to be liberal, everyone declares himself to be liberal or is liberal without knowing it,” many liberals like to say. Others, on the other hand, less optimistic or more demanding, see our era as one of triumphant statism. In France, isn’t there always more regulation and more government? Doesn’t public spending in France represent more than 57% of GDP? So, what is liberalism then?

Heir to the Enlightenment, liberalism is defined as the doctrine that advocates the defense of individual rights. A doctrine that has prevailed in the West for nearly four centuries, although the word is much more recent; neither Montesquieu nor Locke, to name but two, ever called themselves “liberals.” The term liberales (liberals) seems to have first appeared in Spain, in the years 1810-1811. In the Cortes of Cadiz, when the 1812 Constitution was adopted, there were three tendencies: the traditionalists, the Spanish-American deputies, and the liberals. One third of the members of this constituent assembly belonged to the clergy, an active minority of whom were liberals.

But for the majority of French authors, it is indeed the Revolution of 1789, which, daughter of the Enlightenment, is fundamentally liberal (it is only marginally socialist with Gracchus Babeuf). The Revolution is the (or a) decisive moment of rupture in the history of France. It marks the beginning of the period of offensive liberalism. Liberalism was then a left-wing doctrine, which was rejected on the right only after the birth and expansion of socialism. In the aftermath of the great national event, in the tradition of Chateaubriand and Tocqueville, Christian liberals developed the thesis that modern European and Western political history could not be the product of a struggle against Christianity; there was no break with the Revolution – but, on the contrary, continuity and adaptation, a sort of “secularization” of evangelical values. The classic work of Pierre Manent, Histoire intellectuelle du libéralisme. Dix leçons (1987), on the philosophical foundations of liberal thought, is part and parcel of this tradition.

Finally, on the other hand, many other authors, especially foreign ones, insist on the fact that the democratic-liberal history is that of a long and slow evolution, marked by numerous stages, well before the French Revolution. They enumerate in very board strokes, the Cortes of Leon (1188), the Catalan Cortes (1192), the English Magna Carta (1215), the Hungarian Golden Bull (1222), the Swiss Federal Charter (1291), the Swedish General Code of Magnus Erikson (ca. 1350), the Union of Utrecht (1579), the Petition for Rights (England, 1628), the Mayflower Compact of the American Pilgrim Fathers (1620), the Bill of Rights (England, 1689), the Swedish Constitution (1720), the Declaration of Independence (1776), the United States Constitution (1789), etc.

Beyond the differences, according to the times, of countries and leanings (notably with those who grant more to civil society or more to the state), liberalism possesses a fundamental unity which makes it possible to characterize it on the political and economic level. It is the doctrinal foundation, on the one hand, of parliamentary or representative democracy, and, on the other, of the market economy or capitalism. The philosophical conception in which it is rooted makes the individual reason the measure and judge of truth. It is an individualistic rationalism, which, at the origin and in France, is mostly anti-Catholic, anti-clerical and even anti-Christian (which is not the case in the rest of Europe, neither in the Catholic South, in Italy, Austria or Spain, nor in the Protestant countries).

The glorious claims, asserted by the majority of liberals up to the 1980s, allow us to define the liberal system of thought. These claims are numerous and imposing – philosophical eclecticism; individual freedom and freedom from everything beyond the individual; freedom of conscience; freedom of the press; habeas corpus; distinction between civil society and the state; free trade; laissez-faire; religion of the market; defense of private property; distrust of the state; limited government; separation of political and religious powers; taste for savings; respect for balanced budgets; sympathy for representative assemblies and parties of notables; defense of political and associative pluralism; bourgeois relativist morality based on the exaltation of work; contractual freedom; politics of the lesser evil; search for the middle way; compromise as a rule of government; respect for legality; equality before the law; social rights guaranteed by the state (not all liberals agree on this point, of course); the right of citizens to choose and periodically elect their political representatives; and finally, the power of elected officials of wealth and knowledge, if not of true intelligence.

Criticism of liberalism developed very early, from the beginning of the 19th century. The first indictments were drawn up by a host of traditionalist Catholic authors, four of the best known being the Frenchmen Joseph de Maistre and Louis de Bonald, and the Spaniard Jaime Balmes and the former liberal Juan Donoso Cortes. All of them denounced the disease of individualism and economism. As early as the end of the 1840s, Donoso Cortés affirmed that every great political and human question presupposes and envelops a great theological question, that a society sooner or later loses its culture when it loses its religion, that liberal individualism has its natural counterpart in socialist collectivism. There was no severer critic of economism and the great mortar of world revolution than the Marquis de Valdegamas (see the anthology of works by Donoso Cortés, who was secretary to Queen Isabel II, deputy and minister plenipotentiary, Théologie de l’histoire et crise de civilisation (Theology of History and the Crisis of Civilization).

The founding fathers of anti-capitalism were not only the non-Marxist socialists (before Marx and the Marxists), but also, and rather, the counter-revolutionary thinkers, who were succeeded by the social-legitimists. Nowadays, the radical critique of liberalism remains largely indebted to the thinkers of the 19th century, and to the legions of later authors, socialists, socialist-nationalists, nationalist-republicans, monarchist-legitimists, conservative-revolutionaries (such as, Carl Schmitt), non-conformist personalists of the 1930s, fascists, revolutionary syndicalists, anarchists, and Marxist socialists.

Nearly forty years ago, two Sorbonne academics, Raymond Polin and his son Claude Polin, opposed and debated each other in a suggestive essay: Le libéralisme oui, non. Espoir ou peril? (Liberalism, Yes or No? Hope or Peril?). The recent criticisms of Christopher Lasch, Michel Onfray, Jean-Claude Michéa, Alain de Benoist, even the communist Michel Clouscard, or the economist and supporter of the Woke movement, Thomas Piketty, to name but a few, are only recent echoes of an already old controversy. Pleas and accusations hardly vary; only the number of followers of one camp or the other fluctuates.

Liberalism is reproached above all for being the carrier of the disease of individualism. It is said to have the defect of seeing the world as a market; its logic, purely economic, is that of profit. It enslaves the producing classes, strengthens the power of finance, tramples traditional values, dissolves societies, foments ethnic and religious divisions in the name of multiculturalism.

Besides individualism, the most solid accusation against liberalism is twofold. First, is its ideological link with the capitalist economic system (freedom of exchange must allow the substitution of the bad politics of men by the natural and beneficial circulation of goods). Second, is its negation of politics, or its unpolitical character, which follows directly from its defense of individualism. The negation of the “permanent imperatives of politics,” which results from any consequent individualism, leads to a political practice of distrust, to a negative attitude towards any political power and any form of state. From a philosophical-political point of view, there is no liberal politics of a general character – but only a liberal critique of politics.

Anti-liberals thus claim that liberalism always tends to underestimate the state and the political, and that it is always associated with capitalism, whatever its form, private or public, agrarian, industrial, entrepreneurial, managerial or financial. But is this always the case? “No,” resolutely answers the Italian sociologist, Carlo Gambescia, professor at the Scuola di Liberalismo of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi (Rome). His thesis, debatable but solidly argued, is expounded in an essential work that was published in Italy under the title, Liberalismo triste. Un percorso de Burke a Berlin (Sad Liberalism. From Burke to Berlin). It was then translated and prefaced in Spain by the political scientist, Jerónimo Molina Cano, a recognized specialist in the works of Raymond Aron, Julien Freund and Gaston Bouthoul. One can only deplore the absence of a French version of this work, which has no equivalent in France.

Let us summarize and comment on the main arguments of this innovative work. Gambescia distinguishes four liberalisms; to do so, he uses in each case the suffix -archic (which corresponds to a notion of command, power, regime or political theory). There is, he says, micro-archic, an-archic, macro-archic and archic liberalism. The reader will now forgive me for having to quote a whole series of thinkers, but Gambescia’s classification cannot be understood otherwise.

The first liberalism, micro-archic, is a current of thought going back to David Hume, Adam Smith and the Scottish precursors of the 18th century. It continued in the 19th and 20th centuries with Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, the early first Robert Nozick and even Ayn Rand. One could also compare it to the authors of the Chicago School of Economics (with Nobel Prize winners, Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Gary Stanley Becker, Ronald Coase and Robert E. Lucas). It is a legal-economic liberalism, based on the idea of a “minimum state,” of a power with reduced dimensions, and thus, “micro-archic,” This liberalism pursues individual interest, guided by the invisible hand of the market. It dislikes the state and taxes, without calling for their abolition. The state fulfills here only a residual function, as the legitimate holder of force for its internal and external use.

The second liberalism is an-archic. It is libertarianism; or, to better translate the American expression, “libertarianism,” which has many points in common with the Austrian School. It is represented in the twentieth century by thinkers, such as, Murray N. Rothbard, Hans Hermann Hope and Walter Block. These an-archic or libertarian thinkers reject the very idea of a minimum or residual state, which they replace with the utopia of the absolute free exercise of individual rights, in particular life, liberty and property. For them, the state, whether democratic or dictatorial, is always the worst aggressor of the persons and properties of the citizens.

The third, macro-archical liberalism, was born with the English utilitarian, Jeremy Bentham, in the 18th-19th centuries and developed with John Stuart Mill in the 19th century. In the twentieth century, this third filiation led to the early John Rawls, to Rolf Dahrendorf and John Dewey. We can also link it to John Locke (17th century), Emmanuel Kant (18th century) and John Maynard Keynes (20th century). What is important here is the prevalence of the idea of a specific form of common good. The state is not content to be the guarantor of laws and law; it must be interventionist. It must impose upon itself the task of fostering equal starting conditions for all citizens.

These thinkers allow and justify an increasingly invasive power, in particular through fiscalism. The aim is to artificially level the interests of individuals, which, in experience, does not really generate a more just society, but rather a public bureaucracy that is more invasive and suffocating every day. This macro-archical liberalism is contractualist (supporter of the social contract of Hobbes and Locke). It is very close to social liberalism and redistributive social democracy. It is perhaps worth recalling here that, paradoxically, not only did Roosevelt’s and Truman’s economists admire Keynes, but also Hitler’s economists, such as Dr. Schacht. The Keynesians, for their part, admired Hitler’s economic policies (see Keynes’ preface to the German edition of the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936).

Finally, there is a fourth liberalism, archaic, realist, possibilist, without illusions; or, as Pierre Manent puts it, “melancholic,” which does not trust the market, and which wants to serve the individual, while defending the importance of political science. The pages that Carlo Gambescia dedicates to this liberalism are among the most original and substantial. Archaic liberalism, he explains, admits reality, and recognizes the existence of power as an inescapable component of social and political life. Politics is for him the sociological articulation of polemos, the theater of conflicts and recurring struggles. He is conscious of the imperfect nature of man and society, of the fragility and the precariousness of the human conquests, and of the possible corruption of all the institutions. For this liberalism, the conjunction of individual interests does not always lead spontaneously and artificially to the general interest.

As history shows, it is sometimes necessary to resort to iron and fire. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the names of the arch liberals are Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville, Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, Max Weber, Guglielmo Ferrero, Robert Michels, Benedetto Croce, Simone Weil, Bertrand de Jouvenel, Jules Monnerot, José Ortega y Gasset, Wilhelm Röpke (and all the proponents of the social market economy), Raymond Aron, Gaston Bouthoul, Julien Freund, Jules Monnerot, Maurice Allais, Harold Laski, Giovanni Sartori, Eric Voegelin, Isaiah Berlin, and nowadays Dalmacio Negro Pavón, Pierre Manent, Chantal Delsol, etc.

Archaic liberalism abhors utopian unrealism. Four works, chosen from among those Gambescia cites, exemplify and measure this. In Socialist Systems (1902-1903), Pareto writes: “Every society, if it is to survive, must sooner or later adopt measures to prevent acts that would endanger its very existence. There are only two ways to proceed. One can take away the freedom of men to perform these acts, and thus prevent the dreaded evil; or, on the contrary, one can leave men free and repress harmful acts, directly or indirectly, leaving men to bear the consequences of their acts. Freedom has, as its complement and correction, responsibility – the two are inseparable. If one does not want to have recourse to the second of the means indicated [one can liberate men by making them bear the consequences], one must necessarily have recourse to the first [suppressing liberty to prevent], unless one wants the ruin of society.”

In History as Thought and as Action (1938), the famous Italian anti-fascist thinker, Benedetto Croce, takes the opposite view from Fukuyama and the American democrats and neo-conservatives who advocate the export and establishment of democracy in the world (a doctrine that we know today is in reality a screen for American imperialism). Croce, well known for rejecting the possibility of a strong identity between a contingent economic system (liberism) and an immanent principle (liberalism), writes these words: “The liberal conception, as a religion of development and history, excludes and condemns, under the name of ‘utopia,’ the idea of a definitive and perfect state, or a state of rest, in whatever form it has been proposed or may be proposed, from the Edenic forms of earthly paradise, from those of the golden ages and the lost paradise of Jauja, to the variously political ones of ‘one flock and one shepherd,’ of a humanity enlightened by reason or calculation, of a totally communist and egalitarian society, without external or internal struggles; from those conceived by the naive popular spirit, to those reasoned by philosophers like Immanuel Kant.”

Gambescia drives the point home with a timely reference to the sad experience of “exporting Western democracy” to Afghanistan, a “pride of reason” that has led to a disregard for the country’s traditions and cultural substratum. He recalls the role played by President Hamid Karzai, the man from the United States, later accused of having received CIA funding. These few premonitory pages would deserve to be updated because we know since then that the opium trade has been increasingly flourishing under Karzai’s mandates (2001-2014), that he was dropped by the Americans when he got closer to Iran and Pakistan, that he was then an advisor to the government in Kabul, and that he finally negotiated with the Taliban in August 2021 (the Taliban suddenly became “moderate” through the magic of words and propaganda), as part of a “national reconciliation process” and a “peaceful transfer of power.”

The third characteristic text of realist liberalism, which we shall quote, is that of Wilhelm Röpke. The German ordo-liberal writes in The Social Crisis of Our Time (1942): “… a free market and performance competition do not just occur—as the laissez-faire philosophers of historical liberalism have asserted—because the state remains completely passive; they are by no means the surprisingly positive product of a negative economic policy. They are, rather, extremely fragile artificial products which depend on many other circumstances and pre- suppose not only a high degree of business ethics but also a state constantly concerned to maintain the freedom of the market and of competition in its legislation, administration, law courts, financial policy and spiritual and moral leadership, by creating the necessary framework of laws and institutions, by laying down the rules for competition and watching over their observance with relentless but just severity.”

Finally, the fourth example is that of the French sociologist and professor at the University of Strasbourg, Julien Freund. The author of The Essence of Politics (1965), said evocatively: “Politics passes, politics remains.” According to Freund, the political constitutes an essence for two reasons: on the one hand, it is one of the constant, fundamental, impossible to remove categories of human nature and existence; and, on the other hand, it is a reality that remains identical to itself, in spite of variations in power, regimes and changes in borders.” Man “is capable of transforming society like a demiurge, but only within the limits of the presuppositions of politics. In other words, society allows itself to be disciplined, to be formed, to be deformed…. The demiurge is the master of the forms, not of the essences.” He added without wavering: when a political unit ceases to fight it ceases to exist.

For the archaic liberal or realist thinker, without a political decision and a public force to defend it, the right to property has no chance of enduring. The political force pre-exists the right. This means that the conjunction of interests always has a political nature in the sense of polemos. Law without a sword to guarantee and defend it can easily be trampled and violated. No written constitution can last, if there is no solid executive, no coherent oligarchy able to defend it. There can be no serious international policy without knowing and admitting the place, and determining role of, force and reason of state.

The archaic liberal respects the constants of politics or meta-politics that are the distinction between the governors and the governed, the Iron Law of the oligarchy (subject of Dalmacio Negro Pavón’s book, 2015); the alternation of phases of progress and decadence, of order and disorder; and finally, it recognizes or never excludes the distinction between friend and foe, fundamental and recurrent in the political sphere.

The explanatory model of liberalism that Gambescia proposes has many merits, but it is obviously not perfect. Thomas Hobbes and Montesquieu, who belong to the history of liberalism, are absent from his classification. “They are,” he says, “two problematic thinkers, difficult to classify in my schema.” Hobbes, a progressive individualist, who trusts the role of the state, could be brought closer to the macro-archical liberals, while Montesquieu, who believes in the spirit of laws and gentle commerce, could be a fellow traveler of micro-archical liberals.

On the other hand, Gambescia’s judgment of Rousseau remains partial and uncertain. He takes up the thesis of the Israeli historian, Yaakov Talmon, on the totalitarian democracy of Rousseau (Robespierre’s teacher) and on the similarities between Jacobinism and Stalinism. Indeed, in the thought of the author of the Social Contract, the citizen is subjected to a higher law that Rousseau is compelled to admit as yje citizen’s own ignored will. And this is enough, according to the Italian sociologist, to exclude him definitively and without other form of trial, from the liberal tradition. But the reality is perhaps more complex and more subtle. Without the triple influence of Rousseau (the anti-Christian democrat-republican), Voltaire (the anti-Christian monarchist absolutist) and Montesquieu (the liberal-conservative monarchist who does not confuse the Christian religion with the forms it may have taken in political society), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen becomes difficult to understand.

Usually, one associates Rousseau correctly with the democratic-republican tradition opposed to the liberal tradition. But Rousseau’s critique is carried out in the name of the demands of liberalism, within liberalism and not outside it. Rousseau appropriates the promises of liberalism. He admits the premises but denounces the consequences. He is a thinker of freedom; he is attached to individual freedom and to the right of property, even though he criticizes the absolute right or the unlimited enjoyment of it, which moreover makes him join here paradoxically Christian traditionalism [Liberalism establishes solidly the right of property and makes of it a strictly individual right, whereas the Christian tradition, regarded it as a natural but social right, limited by the law and the social duties of the owner].

Like all the philosophers of the Enlightenment and liberal thinkers, Rousseau seeks to answer the question of how to be free while obeying laws. Like them, he recognizes the need for a regulating criterion of freedom to counterbalance the individualist conception. Like them, he looks for it but does not manage to find it. His answer is ultimately a sophism – one is free when one obeys the general will. In Sovereignty: An Inquiry into the Political Good (1955), Bertrand de Jouvenel writes on this subject: “Insofar as progress develops hedonism and moral relativism, and individual freedom is conceived as the right to obey appetites, society can only be maintained by means of a very strong power.” Rousseau had undoubtedly the taste of the paradox and the contradiction, but nevertheless the majority of the French republican democrats followed him or were influenced by him. This was the case of Pierre Leroux, Ledru-Rollin, Proudhon (even if he criticizes him), Georges Sand, Napoleon III, etc. and this is not nothing.

Another questionable point in Gambescia’s book is the lightness with which he treats the question of the enemies of liberalism. There is, he says, a so-called “holy alliance between reactionaries, traditionalists and revolutionaries.” Behind the criticism of liberalism lies hidden the radical criticism of modernity, the hatred of the present, common to reactionary traditionalists and revolutionaries. At both extremes, there is the same gnostic rejection of man, marked, for some, by pessimism (the evil in Louis de Bonald or Christopher Lasch); and, for others, by optimism (the good in Karl Marx or Slavoj Zizek). Revolutionary Gnosticism, the main enemy of liberalism, is a sort of vein inspiring the different movements that are traditionalism, positivism, Marxism, anarchism, psychoanalysis, fascism, national socialism, ecologism, progressivism, etc. According to Gambescia, they are all based on the conviction that it is possible to eliminate evil from the world, thanks to the knowledge (gnosis) of the right method to change the course of history. Anti-capitalist and anti-liberal gnosticism implies a real disdain for the real man and facts.

Carlo Gambescia, a rigorous and honest sociologist, slips up here and gives way to being a fiery pamphleteer: “In short, why don’t intellectuals like liberalism?” The answer he gives is confoundingly simple: “To put it bluntly, it’s because they are mental lazybones, who aspire at the same time to social recognition, a distinction that in the marketplace of ideas is within the reach of all those who propose a false but useful idea.”

After having, not without reason, criticized the amalgams and the summary Manichaeism of Zeev Sternhell in The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition, Gambescia falls into the same trap. He claims to support his demonstration by relying on Bonald’s thought. Michel Toda, who to my knowledge is the only French specialist in the thought of the Viscount, is in a better position to give an opinion.

However, in order to take the measure of Gambescia’s misguidance on this point, it is enough to recall here the importance of the dogma of original sin for Donoso Cortès: human nature is neither good nor perverse, but only fallen. “The disruptive heresy, which, on the one hand, denies original sin, while affirming, on the other hand, that man does not need divine guidance – this heresy leads first to affirm the sovereignty of the mind, then to affirm the sovereignty of the will, and finally to affirm the sovereignty of the passions – three disruptive sovereignties. Donoso Cortès also explains: “This is my whole doctrine: the natural triumph of evil over good and the supernatural triumph of God over evil. Therein lies the condemnation of all progressive systems, by means of which modern philosophers, deceivers by profession, lull the people to sleep, those children who never leave childhood.”

It remains to be seen whether, as Gambescia seems to think, liberalism is an inescapable basis of the history of ideas from which variations are possible but only if they are minor. And even more, if the realist liberalism that he rightly defends in his brilliant and enlightening book is still a bearer of future and hope when it has been marginalized and murdered by the other liberalisms?


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


The featured image shows, “A Dirge,” by John Byam Liston Shaw; painyed in 1899.

To Rearm Minds: Some Reflections On Opposition

I read with great attention and interest the essay on opposition, by Ryszard Legutko, the testimony of a man who lived and suffered for decades the horrible “communist paradise.” Obviously, I share his analyses and concerns. I would only like to add a few comments based on my personal experience in France, as an academic, then as an international civil servant, and as an entrepreneur, before enjoying an independent and peaceful semi-retirement.

Not without some naivety, Professor Legutko confesses “… it never occurred to me that the Western world may produce a society and a state of mind where the opposition as a permanent constituent of political and social life may disappear or become unwelcome.” It is probably this sentence that touched and saddened me the most.

In my childhood and during my student life, I knew the French Fourth Republic and then the Fifth Republic. Under De Gaulle, there was a presidential majority (a mixture of non-Marxist, liberal and nationalist lefts and rights) and a mostly socialist-communist opposition; but also an Atlanticist right (both moderate and radical). The communist unions were omnipresent and omnipotent at that time, whereas today they play only a marginal or residual role. The Catholic Church was still dynamic and powerful, the faithful were relatively numerous, whereas nowadays only 2% of the population is still practicing and 51% of the French do not believe in God. A society that loses its religion, sooner or later loses its culture, said Donoso Cortés almost two centuries ago.

In the years 1960-1980, the French university and the world of culture were infiltrated and even dominated by Marxism (those of the militants or sympathizers of the pro-Soviet PCF – but even more so, those of the leftists, Maoists, Castroists, Trotskyists and libertarians/anarchists). Since the end of World War II, French culture had been largely dominated by the extreme left (it was the time of Sartre and Beauvoir, who had been former collaborators under Vichy; later that of the Franco-German leftist Cohn-Bendit, defender of pedophilia, etc.).

At the end of the 1940s, the PCF represented 25% of the electorate; and from the beginning of the 1960s (a decade marked by Vatican II and May ’68) Marxist leftism was rampant in the university and the mainstream media. There were some brilliant anti-communist figures such as Raymond Aron, Thierry Maulnier or Bertrand de Jouvenel, but the political and cultural pluralism was still very relative.

The Marxist or crypto-Marxist neo-inquisitors watched over and locked down the debate for the most part. Anyone who wanted to make a career in the intellectual or academic world had to give guarantees and, above all, not to confront opponents openly. Examples abound of academics and intellectuals who were victims of official Marxist and leftist-Marxist censorship – the historian Pierre Chaunu, for denouncing abortion and the demographic collapse of Europe; sociologist Jules Monnerot, for dissecting the Marxist Revolution; writer Jean Raspail, for prophesying savage or mass immigration; political scientist Julien Freund, for his defense of realism in politics; sinologist Simon Leys, for denouncing Maoism; later, the sociologist Paul Yonnet, for analyzing the causes of the French malaise; the specialist of slavery, Olivier Petré Grenouilleau, for revealing the extent of the Eastern and intra-African slave trade and not only the Western one; the medievalist historian Sylvain Gouguenheim, for having destroyed the myth of a West that would never have existed without Islam, etc.

The complete list of pariahs and outcasts would be long, very long. One should not be fooled either – censorship existed well before the 1990s, well before the beginning of the grip of political correctness.

Censorship has even always existed, in all places and at all times under religious, moral, social or political forms (Tocqueville evoked it, largely in the case of American conformism). The problem is that in the liberal “representative or pluralist” democracies of Europe and America of the 21st century, the relative political-social consensus has completely exploded.

Censorship, which used to be exercised by the state (whether aristocratic, monarchical or republican, dictatorial or democratic), is now practiced by private entities, by large multinational companies, and by NGOs specialized in the defense of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities and the protection of illegal immigrants. These private entities benefit from the tacit or express support of the majority of the political-economical-media oligarchy, which, in order to preserve its privileges, has chosen to allow large private companies and NGOs to replace the state more and more openly in the doctrinal and arbitrary limitation of freedom of expression.

Moreover, liberal-libertarian and social-liberal self-righteousness has imposed itself in the journalistic and academic world because of a way of being, a general disposition, a habitus in both professions. Added to this is the weight of self-censorship and mutual surveillance, and the pusillanimity of journalists and academics who are concerned about securing their professional future and promotion. As a result, only a third of citizens believe that the media provide credible information. Hannah Arendt knew and said that the virtue of courage is not very widespread among intellectuals.

Professor Legutko denounces in severe terms the danger of homogeneity that threatens Europe and America. We can only agree with him. In France, more and more intellectuals are echoing him. They are still a minority, but their number is growing and continues to grow over the years. A good part of the citizens finally feels represented on the cultural level. In his work, Théorie de la dictature (Theory of Dictatorship, 2019), the Proudhonian, Gaullian, materialist and atheist philosopher, Michel Onfray echoes Mr. Legutko and completes his diagnosis. Onfray identifies seven main stages in the establishment of the new type of totalitarianism that threatens to stifle us and against which he invites us to react – destroying freedom; impoverishing language; abolishing truth; erasing nature; propagating hatred; aspiring to the Maastrichtian Empire; and, of course, instrumentalizing, erasing, denying and suppressing history. It is a shocking fact!

Actually, all history refutes the “progressive” optimism based on the postulate that “our Western civilization is indefinitely perfectible.” The truth is precisely the opposite – a civilization, that is to say, a great politico-cultural unit built by a group of peoples more or less close to each other, cannot avoid reaching a certain degree of exhaustion at which it begins to deteriorate or decompose. A nation (or the people who compose it) rests both on its history and on its will to maintain its being, to develop and to regenerate itself. This is why one cannot believe in the value and richness of the diversity of peoples and nations without fighting globalization, or political-cultural homogenization.

Professor Legutko concludes: “The crucial question that one has to ask oneself today is whether this Goliath can be stopped and some kind of plurality returns, particularly whether Western conservatism will revive to the degree that it can prevent the Left’s march to a brave new world.” I will put the question in more radical terms: Is the depression, the decline, the fatigue, the sleep, the anesthesia, the decomposition, the dormitio, or, to put it bluntly, the decadence of Europe and the West still reversible or inevitable and fatal?

To remain optimistic, let us reread these words from Toynbee’s A Study of History (1972):

“Breakdowns are not inevitable and not irretrievable; but, if the process of disintegration is allowed to continued, I find that it seems to follow a common pattern in most instances. The masses become estranged from their leaders, who then try to cling to their position by using force as substitute for their lost power of attraction. I trace the fragmentation of society into a dominant minority, an internal proletariat, and external proletariat consisting of the barbarians on its fringes; and I sketch the social reactions of these diverse groups to the ordeal of disintegration. I also find a corresponding psychological schism in the souls of people who happen to have been born into this unhappy age. Discordant psychic tendencies which are perhaps always latent in human nature now find free play. People lose their bearings, and rush down blind alleys, seeking escape. Greater souls detach themselves from life; still greater souls try to transfigure life into something higher than mere life as we know it on Earth, and sow the seeds of a fresh spiritual advance.”

God willing, Toynbee is right. But since ideological war has been declared, it is high time to take up the challenge, to organize resistance, to rearm minds. The task is immense and the forces of the adversary considerable, not only in Poland or in Eastern Europe, but in all of Western Europe and in the entire West. Only future generations will be likely be able carry out this struggle. But the struggle can mitigate the catastrophe, and the struggle is above all a duty for us.


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 OECDHe 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.


The featured image shows, “Portrait of a Knight,” by Vittore Carpaccio; painted in 1505.

Fascism: History And Chimeric Reality

Everything about fascism and its opposite has been said for almost a century. Innumerable are the authors of studies, articles, books and documentaries, more or less serious or fanciful, devoted to the history of the fascist phenomenon and its historical significance. Singularly fewer, on the other hand, are interested in the controversies over the meaning of the word, “fascism” and its opposite, “anti-fascism,” and over the proper use of it. The immense merit of American political scientist Paul Gottfried is that he is one of the very few, if not the only one, to deal with all of these aspects. In this lies the interest and the importance of the vast and fascinating synthesis which he has published in Fascisme, histoire d’un concept (2021), a French translation of Fascism, The Career of a Concept (2017) , a study which the author has recently brought to completion with Antifascism. The Course of a Crusade (2021)]. In his Introduction to the French version, American historian Stanley Payne, a great scholar on the subject, aptly writes: “No other book in the recent scholarly literature treats these problems so comprehensively.” To take the measure of this glowing review, a brief perspective is here useful.

To hear what many politicians, writers and journalists have been telling us for decades, fascism should be a perpetually present, lurking danger, a monster, a hydra which can constantly rise from its ashes, despite all efforts to remove it. In the politico-media vocabulary, the term “fascist” is used constantly to denounce, abuse, denigrate, stigmatize the adversary, whose ideas or person we are supposed to hate. “Fascist” is synonymous with violent, fanatic, intolerant, perverse, macho, homophobic, reactionary, colonialist and racist. Fascism is always assimilated or amalgamated with Nazism; it therefore embodies absolute evil, the figure of the devil, the demon of the Bible in a sort of modernist or updated version. The word fascist has become an “empty signifier,” a truncated, trivialized portmanteau word; but nevertheless, because of its pejorative connotation and negative charge, there is not a single disparaging adjective that can compete with it. No leading or secondary political figure can escape the charge of fascism. Over the years, the most diverse regimes, social categories, cultural and religious communities, political parties and trade unions have all or almost all been denounced as fascists. The most contradictory philosophies and ideas have all, or nearly all, been similarly pilloried.

Fascists are therefore, or would have been, according to modern master-censors, jealous guardians of political correctness: Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Charlemagne, Dante, Isabella the Catholic, Philip II, Hegel, Nietzsche, Roosevelt, Churchill, Franco, Gandhi, Mao, Trotsky, Stalin, Tito, Solzhenitsyn, Erdogan, Netanyahu, Putin, Obama, Trump, Biden, Merkel, Orban, Kim-Jong-un, Xi Jinping. Or, to stick to France alone, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Pétain, de Gaulle, Mitterrand, Chirac, Sarkozy, Macron, Mélenchon, Le Pen, Zemmour, Onfray, Houellebecq and many others. Fascist would be, or would have been, Germany and Italy of course, but also Spain, Portugal, Cuba, the USSR, China, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, France, Chile, South Africa, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc. Fascists would also be businessmen, bourgeois, bobos, workers, Catholics, priests, Jews, anti-Semites, Zionists, Islamophobes, Islamophiles, Islamo-leftists, sovereignists, populists, nationalists, globalists, feminists, chauvinists, homosexuals, pederasts, puritans, “pornocrats,” police officers. And I’ll pass over the rest and the best. Ultimately, we should all be, to varying degrees, hopelessly fascists! Tutti fascisti! Fascists All! That was the caustic title of the short political essay published long ago by Italian film critic, Claudio Quarantotto. Fascism has never been so topical. The great vanquished of the political-military history of the twentieth century, fascism seems to have become the absolute and omnipotent winner of Western political-cultural life at the turn of the twenty-first century.

More seriously or more rigorously, since the “march on Rome” of the Mussolini fascists in 1922 (at least, if one accepts to put aside the recent ideological drifts of American and European universities), academic circles have never ceased to try to formulate explanatory theories of the phenomenon. To this day, and despite the incongruous assertions of Roger Griffin and his followers, the debate remains open because there is no consensus. On the contrary, a whole series of interpretations, for the most part initially advanced in the 1920s and 1930s, occupy the field. Some combine and overlap; others, for the most part, contradict and exclude each other.

According to the tastes and convictions of exegetes, fascism is sometimes perceived as the violent and dictatorial instrument of bourgeois capitalism, the “armed wing of capital,” as the Comintern affirmed, in the year 1923. Sometimes, fascism is seen as the effect of irrational, extremist and violent nihilism, a consequence of the moral crisis and the corruption of morals. Sometimes, fascism is regarded as the deleterious result of capitalism and sexual repression, the outgrowth of an authoritarian and repressive society, with its inevitable neurotic and pathological impulses, as the ideologists of the Frankfurt School claimed in the 1930s.

The list of analyses, interpretations and explanations of the phenomenon does not stop there. About twenty specialists, internationally recognized as such, whose tedious enumeration I will spare the reader, identify other factors or characteristics which they deem more essential. The fascist phenomenon is, according to them, the product of the advent of the masses on the political scene; or, the expression of the exclusive radicalism of the middle classes; or, the response to a situation of distress in the face of a movement of social destruction, producing aversion to chaos among the most homogeneous social actors; or, the contemporary form of Bonapartism, independent of a specific class domination; or, the outlet for homosexuality; or, the product of late and atypical development processes; or, resistance to modernization; or, the prototype of the “developmentalist” and modernizing revolution; or, a form of populist and revolutionary ultra-nationalism; or, again, a “political religion,” the typical manifestation of 20th century totalitarianism, a collectivist and police-system specific to modernity, embodying the triumph of violence and terror, with the archetypal models of the Soviet-Communist and Nazi tyrannies, which have more in common with each other than with any other authoritarian form of government.

Let me stress, for the sake of being more complete, but without being exhaustive, that specialists also oppose the right, left or “right and left” nature of the phenomenon – some see fascism as the product of a revisionism of the left, socialist, statist, secularist, anti-traditional and anti-Christian. Others see it as a right-wing revolution, neither reactionary nor opportunist, based on the myth of renewal and regeneration. Still others see it as a revolutionary movement “neither on the right nor on the left;” or simultaneously on the right and the left, born from the synthesis of “revisionist” socialism, revolutionary syndicalism and a new community nationalism, organic and social.

However, fascism as a sociopolitical model of a general and transnational character (or if one prefers the categorization of “generic fascism”) raises more questions than it answers. How can one define fascism without sinking into interpretation-schematization or the reductionist cliché? Historians respond that defining “fascism” is above all about writing history, with the national characteristics linked to political, economic, social and cultural events of countries under consideration. There is not, according to these historians, a model of “one-size-fits-all fascism,” nor a universally valid definition. But on the other hand, one can note the existence of a basic minimal conception, common to the political movements and regimes which appeared in Europe at the beginning of the last century, in the midst of a cultural, economic and social crisis. A point of view a priori convincing but one which raises many questions.

The imperfect similarities which these historians point out constitute indeed a veritable jumble of ideas, values and principles; and there is of course no agreement on their comparative importance, frequency and significance. According to the convictions of the authors, there should be, at the heart of loose fascism, a mystical conception of life and politics; an irrational and voluntarist or idealistic or even spiritualist way of thinking; a cyclical view of history or a palingenesic view of history; the rejection of Marxist materialism; contempt for individualism, parliamentary democracy and the bourgeoisie, in the name of the organic, structured and hierarchical community; racism, anti-Semitism and hatred of others; the cult of the providential and charismatic leader; the call for a new elite, based on the virtue of example; the aspiration to a more mobile society; the desire to create a new ruling class from the middle classes and the working class; the exaltation of youth; the mobilization and integration of the masses through propaganda and the one party; realistic politics (Realpolitik) opposed to utopian politics (Phantasiepolitik); political-cultural imperialism; the heroic justification for war; the desire to reconcile technical modernity and the triumph of traditional values; the fusion of ideals common to traditionalism, nationalism, elitist liberalism, revolutionary socialism and anarcho-syndicalism; the assertion of the primacy of political sovereignty at the expense of any form of economism; the defense of the private economy but nevertheless the extension of public initiative; finally, and in order not to lengthen this list excessively, the will to transform society and the individual in a direction that has never yet been experienced or realized. In the end, a real intellectual patchwork that leaves one speechless.

In the face of these disagreements, many writers have come to deny that one can define a “generic fascist” phenomenon. Others take a less radical position, but nonetheless express the greatest doubt about its usefulness (see in particular: Gregor, Bracher, Allardyce, Muñoz Alonso, Fernández de la Mora, Arendt and De Felice, to name a few).

In reality, specialists of fascism fail to overcome the obstacle represented by the profound differences that exist between supposedly “fascist” movements or regimes, not only between fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany, but also between these two models and the other “nationalist-socialisms” that appeared in the years 1920-1940. To stick to the “state totalitarianism” of Italian fascism, and the “racial totalitarianism” of German National Socialism (and not to mention the “class totalitarianism” of the anticlerical and anti-religious Soviet-Communists), there is an immeasurable difference in the horror (the thesis of Emilio Gentile on “the Italian way of totalitarianism” has moreover been severely criticized by the disciples of Renzo de Felice). Before coming to power, between 1919 and 1922, the Italian fascists inflicted between 600 and 700 casualties among left and far-left activists, but also suffered roughly the same number of deaths in their own ranks. From 1922 to 1940, the Mussolini regime executed nine people (the majority of them Slovenian terrorists), and seventeen others in 1943 (date of the start of the civil war which claimed 50,000 victims, according to Claudio Pavone).

The number of political prisoners in fascist Italy never exceeded 2000. Italian fascism never had the intention or the possibility of developing a genuinely totalitarian system, based on the control of all state institutions and society, nor a fortiori a concentration camp system like those of National Socialist Germany and the USSR. The number of crimes, murders and executions, committed in the name of the “salvation” of Aryan humanity by National Socialist Germany or of the “happiness” of the proletariat, even of all humanity by the USSR and the other communist countries remains a subject of debate among historians; but in any case it is without comparison with that of the victims of fascist Italy (According to the methods, the criteria and the sources, the estimates vary by twice as much: They are from 8 to 15 million for National Socialist Germany, from 20 to 40 million for the USSR and from 60 to 120 million for all the Communist countries). Thus, with Italian fascism there is a difference, not only of degree but of nature.

All of these questions about the similarities and dissimilarities of the Nazi-German and Fascist-Italian models and many more are asked, examined and judiciously discussed by the author of Fascisme, histoire d’une concept (Fascism, History of a Concept). Free and independent of spirit, Paul Gottfried takes seriously the academic tradition of rigor and probity. In this he honors his profession, when a good number of his peers now wallow in ideology and intolerance. Gottfried is not one of those who claim to have the exclusive right to rational or “scientific” arguments, nor to have a monopoly on legitimate speech. He respects his opponents; presents their theses honestly; discusses their content, and presents his conclusions, always avoiding admonishment. If he accepts the categorization of “generic fascism,” he emphasizes, as other authors have done before him (such as Nolte, Arendt, Sternhell, de Felice, Payne, Del Noce or Gregor, to name but a few) that there are fundamental differences between German National Socialism on the one hand and Italian fascism and other “fascisms” on the other.

More seriously or more rigorously, since the “march on Rome” of the Mussolini fascists in 1922 (at least, if one accepts to put aside the recent ideological drifts of American and European universities), academic circles have never ceased to try to formulate explanatory theories of the phenomenon. To this day, and despite the incongruous assertions of Roger Griffin and his followers, the debate remains open because there is no consensus. On the contrary, a whole series of interpretations, for the most part initially advanced in the 1920s and 1930s, occupy the field. Some combine and overlap; others, for the most part, contradict and exclude each other.

According to the tastes and convictions of exegetes, fascism is sometimes perceived as the violent and dictatorial instrument of bourgeois capitalism, the “armed wing of capital,” as the Comintern affirmed, in the year 1923. Sometimes, fascism is seen as the effect of irrational, extremist and violent nihilism, a consequence of the moral crisis and the corruption of morals. Sometimes, fascism is regarded as the deleterious result of capitalism and sexual repression, the outgrowth of an authoritarian and repressive society, with its inevitable neurotic and pathological impulses, as the ideologists of the Frankfurt School claimed in the 1930s. The array of analyses, interpretations and explanations of the phenomenon does not stop there, however. About twenty specialists, internationally recognized as such, whose tedious enumeration I will spare the reader, identify other factors or characteristics which they deem more essential. The fascist phenomenon is, according to them, the product of the advent of the masses on the political scene; or, the expression of the exclusive radicalism of the middle classes; or, the response to a situation of distress in the face of a movement of social destruction, producing aversion to chaos among the most homogeneous social actors; or, the contemporary form of Bonapartism, independent of a specific class domination; or, the outlet for homosexuality; or, the product of late and atypical development processes; or, resistance to modernization; or, the prototype of the “developmentalist” and modernizing revolution; or, a form of populist and revolutionary ultra-nationalism; or, again, a “political religion,” the typical manifestation of 20th century totalitarianism, a collectivist and police-system specific to modernity, embodying the triumph of violence and terror, with the archetypal models of the Soviet-Communist and Nazi tyrannies, which have more in common with each other than with any other authoritarian form of government.

Let me stress, for the sake of being more complete, but without being exhaustive, that specialists also oppose the right, left or “right and left” nature of the phenomenon – some see fascism as the product of a revisionism of the left, socialist, statist, secularist, anti-traditional and anti-Christian. Others see it as a right-wing revolution, neither reactionary nor opportunist, based on the myth of renewal and regeneration. Still others see it as a revolutionary movement “neither on the right nor on the left;” or simultaneously on the right and the left, born from the synthesis of “revisionist” socialism, revolutionary syndicalism and a new community nationalism, organic and social.

However, fascism as a sociopolitical model of a general and transnational character (or if one prefers the categorization of “generic fascism”) raises more questions than it answers. How can one define fascism without sinking into interpretation-schematization or the reductionist cliché? Historians respond that defining “fascism” is above all about writing history, with the national characteristics linked to political, economic, social and cultural events of countries under consideration. There is not, according to these historians, a model of “one-size-fits-all fascism,” nor a universally valid definition. But on the other hand, one can note the existence of a basic minimal conception, common to the political movements and regimes which appeared in Europe at the beginning of the last century, in the midst of a cultural, economic and social crisis. A point of view a priori convincing, but one which raises many questions.

The imperfect similarities which these historians point out constitute indeed a veritable jumble of ideas, values and principles; and there is of course no agreement on their comparative importance, frequency and significance. According to the convictions of the authors, there should be, at the heart of loose fascism, a mystical conception of life and politics; an irrational and voluntarist or idealistic or even spiritualist way of thinking; a cyclical view of history or a palingenesic view of history; the rejection of Marxist materialism; contempt for individualism, parliamentary democracy and the bourgeoisie, in the name of the organic, structured and hierarchical community; racism, anti-Semitism and hatred of others; the cult of the providential and charismatic leader; the call for a new elite, based on the virtue of example; the aspiration to a more mobile society; the desire to create a new ruling class from the middle classes and the working class; the exaltation of youth; the mobilization and integration of the masses through propaganda and the one party; realistic politics (Realpolitik) opposed to utopian politics (Phantasiepolitik); political-cultural imperialism; the heroic justification for war; the desire to reconcile technical modernity and the triumph of traditional values; the fusion of ideals common to traditionalism, nationalism, elitist liberalism, revolutionary socialism and anarcho-syndicalism; the assertion of the primacy of political sovereignty at the expense of any form of economism; the defense of the private economy but nevertheless the extension of public initiative; finally, and in order not to lengthen this list excessively, the will to transform society and the individual in a direction that has never yet been experienced or realized. In the end, a real intellectual patchwork that leaves one speechless.

In the face of these disagreements, many writers have come to deny that one can define a “generic fascist” phenomenon. Others take a less radical position, but nonetheless express the greatest doubt about its usefulness (see in particular: Gregor, Bracher, Allardyce, Muñoz Alonso, Fernández de la Mora, Arendt and De Felice, to name a few).

In reality, specialists of fascism fail to overcome the obstacle represented by the profound differences that exist between supposedly “fascist” movements or regimes, not only between fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany, but also between these two models and the other “nationalist-socialisms” that appeared in the years 1920-1940. To stick to the “state totalitarianism” of Italian fascism, and the “racial totalitarianism” of German National Socialism (and not to mention the “class totalitarianism” of the anticlerical and anti-religious Soviet-Communists), there is an immeasurable difference in the horror (the thesis of Emilio Gentile on “the Italian way of totalitarianism” has moreover been severely criticized by the disciples of Renzo de Felice). Before coming to power, between 1919 and 1922, the Italian fascists inflicted between 600 and 700 casualties among left and far-left activists, but also suffered roughly the same number of deaths in their own ranks. From 1922 to 1940, the Mussolini regime executed nine people (the majority of them Slovenian terrorists), and seventeen others in 1943 (date of the start of the civil war which claimed 50,000 victims, according to Claudio Pavone).

The number of political prisoners in fascist Italy never exceeded 2000. Italian fascism never had the intention or the possibility of developing a genuinely totalitarian system, based on the control of all state institutions and society, nor a fortiori a concentration camp system like those of National Socialist Germany and the USSR. The number of crimes, murders and executions, committed in the name of the “salvation” of Aryan humanity by National Socialist Germany or of the “happiness” of the proletariat, even of all humanity by the USSR and the other communist countries remains a subject of debate among historians; but in any case it is without comparison with that of the victims of fascist Italy (According to the methods, the criteria and the sources, the estimates vary by twice as much: They are from 8 to 15 million for National Socialist Germany, from 20 to 40 million for the USSR and from 60 to 120 million for all the Communist countries). Thus, with Italian fascism there is a difference, not only of degree but of nature.

All of these questions about the similarities and dissimilarities of the Nazi-German and Fascist-Italian models and many more are asked, examined and judiciously discussed by the author of Fascisme, histoire d’une concept (Fascism, History of a Concept). Free and independent of spirit, Paul Gottfried takes seriously the academic tradition of rigor and probity. In this he honors his profession, when a good number of his peers now wallow in ideology and intolerance. Gottfried is not one of those who claim to have the exclusive right to rational or “scientific” arguments, nor to have a monopoly on legitimate speech. He respects his opponents; presents their theses honestly; discusses their content, and presents his conclusions, always avoiding admonishment. If he accepts the categorization of “generic fascism,” he emphasizes, as other authors have done before him (such as Nolte, Arendt, Sternhell, de Felice, Payne, Del Noce or Gregor, to name but a few) that there are fundamental differences between German National Socialism on the one hand and Italian fascism and other “fascisms” on the other.

That said, Gottfried prefers to reserve the term “fascism” for movements other than Nazism (which was a “borderline case,” marked by the totalizing and exterminating character of its dictatorship, and significantly opposed to any form of organic democracy) – and in the framework of “generic fascism” he distinguishes between and “Latin fascism” of Catholic countries from “North European fascism” of Protestant countries. He also agrees that the fascist phenomenon is revolutionary in nature and historically linked to interwar Europe. Furthermore, he also agrees that the traditional, nationalist and conservative rights of the authoritarian governments of Franco, Salazar or Dollfuss cannot be amalgamated with the only true model of “generic fascism” that is Italian fascism. On the other hand, considering that the dividing line between right and left rests on the principles of egalitarianism and hierarchy and on the acceptance or rejection of the myth of progress, Gottfried resolutely classifies fascism on the right, and opposes thus frontally authors who, like in his Preface to the French translation, Stanley Payne, believe that fascism constitutes, on the contrary, the only type of revolutionism beyond the classic forms of the left and the right.

One can however doubt that the categorization of “Latin fascism,” used by Paul Gottfried, is really of a nature to shed more light on the rather muddled question of “generic fascism.” For my part, I believe I know the life and political thought of José Antonio Primo de Rivera quite well, as well as the entire bibliography of his movement, the Spanish Phalange. The majority of specialists see in José Antonio the model of “Spanish fascism.” Defined as fascist, José Antonio is therefore necessarily anti-democratic, putschist, ultranationalist, imperialist, a warmonger, totalitarian, apologist of violence and dictatorship. The problem is that these opinions, accusations and value judgments are all questionable and easily overturned by the facts, life and writings of José Antonio. Let us pass over the annoyance and the legitimate sarcasm that the severity and the injustice of these judgments do not fail to arouse in Hispanic countries, when such judgments come from foreign authors who make sure to be much more careful, balanced and measured when the time comes to assess the immeasurably greater violence committed in the name of so-called peaceful democracy inside or outside the borders of their own countries.

But let us underline two points, often overlooked by those who approach the study of so-called “Spanish fascism.” It should first be remembered that over the past two centuries, both the Right and the Left have for the most part embraced their own forms of anti-democracy, authoritarianism, nationalism, imperialism, violence, warmongering, elitism, hierarchy, identity politics or particularism. It should then be noted that the José-Antonian Phalangist movement (1933-1936) has only very distant links with the Traditionalist Phalange movement, born of the merger of all the right-wing parties under the aegis of Franco, in 1937, and all the more so with the Caudillo regime from 1937 to 1975.

For the comparison with “Latin fascism,” let us stick here only with the Phalange of José Antonio. In reality, beyond the “revolutionary” or very reformist character of the economic and social program of the Spanish Phalange of the JONS, the elements which differentiate the José-Antonian ideal from fascism(s) are numerous: the conception of the subordinate state to moral principles and to the transcendent end of man, the sense of human dignity, consideration for the individual and social life, respect for freedom, the affirmation of man’s eternal value, and the Catholic inspiration of political philosophy and the structure of society. And this is not nothing. Anti-capitalist and anti-socialist-Marxist, José Antonio undoubtedly was. But was he anti-democratic? It is debatable: “The aspiration for a free and peaceful democratic life will always be the goal of political science beyond all fashions,” he said. Violence was not a postulate of its ideal, nor a condition of its objective, but a pragmatic necessity to avoid being annihilated (the José-Antonian Phalange suffered about fifteen fatal attacks the day after its foundation; after eight months of waiting, it launched into reprisals, leaving some sixty victims among its adversaries, a figure roughly equal to the total of its own losses. But throughout the duration of the Second Spanish Republic and until the outbreak of the Civil War there were nearly 2,500 dead).

José Antonio wanted to be a patriot much more than a nationalist. “We are not nationalists,” he said, “because being a nationalist is nonsense; it is to base the deepest springs of the nation on a physical factor, on a simple physical circumstance. We are not nationalists because nationalism is the individualism of peoples.” We do not find the slightest territorial claim in his Complete Works either. According to him, the Spanish Empire in the 20th century could only be spiritual and cultural in nature. One would look in vain for anti-Semitic or racist overtones in his remarks. No doubt he clumsily used the term totalitarian or totalitarian state five times, but he did so clearly to signify his desire to create a “state for all,” “without divisions,” “integrating all Spaniards,” and “An instrument at the service of national unity.” Equally surprising is his point of view on fascism expressed in his 1936 declaration: “Fascism is fundamentally wrong: it is right in sensing that it is a religious phenomenon, but it wants to replace religion with idolatry;” and “it leads to the absorption of the individual into the collective.” As for his Catholic convictions, they cannot be questioned. We find the ultimate and clear manifestation of this in the will he wrote on November 18, 1936, the day after a parody of a trial, two days before his execution: “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.”

One can of course think that there exists between the agnostic Mussolini, the secularist Giovanni Gentile (official philosopher of fascism), the neo-pagan Julius Evola, the Romanian orthodox, very anti-Semitic, Codreanu, and the Catholic, national-syndicalist, José Antonio, a kind of lowest common denominator. But the link that would constitute “Latin fascism” is at the very least tenuous and questionable. The comparison of the young leader of the Phalange with the non-conformists or French personalists of the 1930s, or with the founder of Fianna Fail, President of the Irish Republic, Éamon de Valera, however seems much more convincing. It is telling that, somewhat embarrassed by the José Antonio case, most historians resort to a series of euphemisms. Joséantonian fascism would be, they say, “intellectual,” “rational,” “moderate,” “civilized.” “idealist,” “naïve,” or “poetic”. Perhaps! But these attributes are not among the commonly accepted characteristics of fascism.

With this reservation on “Latin fascism” made, I cannot say enough how much Gottfried’s book deserves to be read. Having appreciated the English version in its time, I was fortunate to be associated with the French edition project. In his beautiful Introduction for the French-speaking public, Stanley Payne writes: “Paul Gottfried’s book is the best and most comprehensive interpretive study of fascism that has emerged in the last decade of this century.” Allow me to correct just a few words to say in a way that I believe is even more precise: “which has been in existence for a quarter of a century.”

Note: A word on the Franco-French polemics around the “French origins” of fascism. According to the thesis developed over more than forty years ago, by the Israeli historian, Zeev Sternhell (who was a Zionist-socialist in his youth and then a social-democratic activist influenced by Habermas), France was the laboratory of proto-fascism and of fascism at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. It then had a real “fascist impregnation” in the 1930s, which finally led to the Vichy regime, the perfect realization of fascism. Obsessed with a view of the history of binary ideas pitting the heirs of the Enlightenment against their opponents, Sternhell exaggeratedly magnified the influence of a few political-cultural movements and a handful of famous intellectual figures. Contrary to what he suggests, there is a considerable difference between nationalist and authoritarian movements, which advocate state reform in the sense of strengthening the executive, and a fascist organization which pursues its revolutionary overthrow, or which aspires to a profound upheaval of social structures. Raymond Aron, Michel Winock, Serge Berstein and many other historians and political scientists, have demonstrated the amalgamations and the Manichean character of Sternhell’s work, which, despite very stimulating early intuitions, is more of a form of anti-fascist activism than a rigorous history of ideas.


Arnaud Imatz is a French historian and political scientist, and a great connoisseur of Spain. His notable publications include José Antonio et la Phalange espagnole and La Guerre d’Espagne revisitée. His lates book is Droite/gauche, pour sortir de l’équivoque.

This article appears through the kind courtesy of La Nef. Translated from the French by N. Dass.

The featured image shows a poster for the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI), by Gino Boccasile, ca. 1944.

The Man Who Saved The Spanish Empire

Everyone knows about the unfortunate fate of the “Invincible Armada” of Philip II of Spain (1588), a defeat inflicted by the English, which was aided by circumstance – and in a determining way – by the anger of the sea. However, it is less known that the name “Invincible Armada,” of English origin, was given in derision to the Spanish “Grande y Felicísima Armada” (“the Grand and Most Fortuitous Armada”). In fact, during the Battle of Gravelines (August 8, 1588), no Spanish ship was sunk by the English. Rather, the very bad weather conditions, a few hours later, led to the sinking of several Spanish ships, forcing them to give up their plan to destroy the enemy naval forces. However, 87 ships out of 122, three quarters of the Spanish fleet, returned to Spain.

It is also not widely known that a year later, Queen Elizabeth I of England, in turn, sent an invading fleet against the Spanish king, and that this naval intervention also resulted in bitter failure. Commanded by Francis Drake and John Norreys, this “English Armada” had the triple mission of destroying the Spanish fleet on the Cantabrian coast, disembarking in Lisbon to stir up the population, and seize an island in the Azores. The operation, which took place from April 15 to July 10, 1589, ended in the rout of the Anglo-Dutch forces, which lost 40 ships out of 150, and 70% of their strength (nearly 13,000 men).

Of all the important events, which marked the war between the Spanish Empire and the Kingdom of England, it is however the epic of the Basque-Spanish admiral, Blas de Lezo, which has been forgotten the longest. This savior of the Spanish Empire, in Cartagena in 1741, has been paradoxically ignored by almost all historians for nearly two and a half centuries. It was only from the 2000s that we really started to take an interest in him and his brilliant tactics and innovation in weaponry.

From Young Officer To Severely Disabled

Blas de Lezo y Olavarrieta was born on February 3, 1687, in Pasaia (Pasajes in Spanish) a port which, a few kilometers from San Sebastián, has the safest harbor of the Basque coast. It is from there that La Fayette set sail for America aboard La Victoire, on April 26, 1777, three years before the adventure of the Hermione, “frigate of freedom,” which brought the Marquis to join the American insurgents in the struggle for their independence.

Blas de Lezo’s career began very early. Barely a teenager, he became a sailor, like his ancestors and like so many of his compatriots from Gipúzkoa. At that time, Spain was plunged into a war of succession, which lasted from 1701 to 1713, and which saw the partisans of Archduke Charles III, from the House of Austria, clash with those of Philip V of Bourbon, the grandson of Louis XIV. During this war, dynastic solidarity led to the ranks and military charges of the army and navy of the Spanish Bourbons to be merged without distinction with those of the Bourbons in France.

Barely seventeen years old, Blas de Lezo was thus enlisted in the French squadron of the Count of Toulouse, Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon. While serving on the flagship, he took part in the important naval battle of Malaga (1704), which brought together the Franco-Spanish and Anglo-Dutch squadrons. During the fight, the young Blas was severely wounded in the left leg, which then had to be amputated below the knee. Reports from the time indicate that he remained stoic, impassive, during an operation which was then performed without anesthesia.

Brought back to health, he now had a peg-leg, and was soon given permission to set sail again, and we can follow him in Peñiscola, Valencia, Palermo and Genoa, then along the entire Mediterranean coast, and soon on the Atlantic coast.

Promoted to the rank of lieutenant in July 1707, he was assigned to the defense of the fortress of Saint Catherine of Toulon, where he fought against the forces of Prince Eugene of Savoy. But fate was cruel yet again – struck in the face by one of the countless shards of wood that a cannonball sent across the bridge, he lost his left eye. He was not a man to be discouraged and he now served as a lieutenant in the coast guard at the port of Rochefort. At twenty-five, he was promoted to captain of a frigate.

When the War of the Spanish Succession ended in 1714, he commanded the Nuestra Señora de Begoña, one of the main ships in charge of securing the blockade of Barcelona. At the forefront of the fight, urging on his men, he received a musket ball on the right forearm. At 27, Blas de Lezo was one-eyed, one-armed and one-legged. His men and fellow combatants nickname him with affectionate irony, “Patapalo” (in Basque “Anka Mot,” wooden leg) or “mediohombre” (half-man).

Blas de Lezo then took command of the galleon Lanfranco, a ship that was part of the Franco-Spanish squadron tasked with fighting against the corsairs and pirates raging in the southern seas (off Peru). For twelve years, from 1716 to 1728, he was Commander-in-Chief of the South Seas Armada. Married in 1725 to Josefa Pacheco, a Peruvian Creole, he went on to have seven children. In recognition of his services, the king made him a member of the Order of the Holy Spirit and of the Golden Fleece, the two most prestigious chivalrous orders of the French and Spanish monarchies.

As leader of the Spanish Mediterranean squadron, in 1731, he supported the Infante Don Carlos (later Charles III) in his campaign to recover the Duchies of Parma and Piacenza. He then went to the port of Genoa to demand payment of a debt to Spain, before taking part in the Spanish expedition to retake Oran. In 1736 he was Commanding General of the galleons responsible for the Atlantic trade. A year later, he was appointed Commander General of Cartagena de Indias on the coast of present-day Colombia. This is where he carried out his toughest mission and achieved his greatest feat of arms.

Defending Spanish America Against England

In the 18th century, Cartagena de Indias was a thriving and prosperous city of 20,000 inhabitants. It is a port in a sheltered bay, where all the riches of the viceroyalties of America flowed. It was also a strategic point particularly coveted by the enemies of Spain. In London, complaints from shipowners and traders were mounting. The action of the Spanish Coast Guard, tasked with combating smuggling, was considered to be intolerable. Tensions mounted between the two crowns.

Taking advantage of a minor incident, the British tried to seize Cartagena and destabilize the Spanish Empire. The incident was the seizure, in 1731, of a British merchant ship commanded by Captain Robert Jenkins. Called to testify in parliament, Jenkins said that the Spanish captain, Juan de Leon Fandiño not only confiscated his cargo, but cut off his ear with a saber while threatening him: “Go and tell your king that if he dares to do what you did, I will do the same to him.” The incident was soon regarded as an offense to the crown and to national honor. In October 1739, the “Jenkins Ear War” was declared on Spain.

To “avenge the affront,” England began arming the largest fleet ever assembled. Placed under the orders of Admiral Edward Vernon, it included 186 ships, equipped with more than 2,000 guns and carrying 25,000 men, which was soon reinforced by 4,000 American militiamen, commanded by Lawrence Washington, the half-brother of George Washington, the future President of the United States.

Opposing them, Blas de Lezo’s forces seemed paltry, with only a very limited number of troops – less than 3,000 troops, some 600 Indian auxiliaries and members of the crews and infantry troops of 6 ships. But Admiral “Patapalo” had two strengths, however: his good knowledge of the terrain and the tropical, humid and very rainy climate. From May, swarms of mosquitoes dangerously increased the risk of an epidemic.

Entering the bay of Cartagena, by sea, is only possible through two narrow straits: the Bocachica (small-mouth) and the Bocagrande (large-mouth). The first was defended by the forts of San Luis and San José, and the second by the forts of San Sebastian, Santa Cruz, San Juan de Manzanillo, Santiago and the Castillo of San Felipe. To ensure the defense of the city, Blas de Lezo had chains stretched across the Bocachica and deployed the six ships he had at the two mouths. Orders were given to scuttle them before they fell into enemy hands, with the hope that the wrecks would delay their advance.

Before attacking, Vernon wasted precious time. He did not want to divide his forces and feared being taken from the rear by the French squadron of the Marquis and Vice-Admiral d’Antin. He seemed unaware that this squadron, usually stationed at the harbor of Saint-Domingue, had only twenty-two warships. When he learned that the French, weakened by tropical diseases and without sufficient supplies, had been forced to return to France, he hurried to take advantage.

One Against Ten

On March 15, 1741, the English fleet deployed in front of Cartagena. The disproportion of force was enormous: there was one defender for every ten attackers. The bombardment of the Spanish forts began immediately. Blas de Lezo, responded from his flagship, El Galicia. He did this by using cannonballs that he had chained two-by-two to maximize damage to enemy ships.

After an intense cannonade, Admiral Vernon landed a small part of his troops. The Spaniards fell back and abandoned two forts, that of San José and Santa Cruz. At the mouths, Blas de Lezo sank his ships and ordered a retreat. Two of these ships were also set on fire, but in vain, because the English managed to tow one of them, thus freeing the passage and opening access to the bay. The Spaniards had no other option but to entrench themselves in their last three forts.

The English flagship entered the bay, with its flags fully displayed. Convinced that the battle was over, Vernon began to celebrate his triumph. A frigate was immediately dispatched to England to announce the victory. In London, the news was received with joy and parties were organized to celebrate the hero. A commemorative medal was engraved read; it read: “Spanish pride humiliated by Vernon,” and it showed Blas de Lezo on his knees, handing his sword to the English admiral.

But in Cartagena, events took an unexpected turn. To put an end to the Spanish resistance, Vernon decided to attack the castle of San Felipe. Rather than suffering heavy losses by engaging in frontal combat, he preferred approaching the rear. His men were therefore forced to go through the jungle, which was not without risks. The operation turned out to be more difficult than expected and resulted in the illness and death of many men. But once his troops got behind the fortress, Vernon could finally give the order to assault.

Two times, the English attacked the 600 Spaniards. The first attack resulted in the death of 1,500 English deaths. Before the second attempt, Vernon had scaling ladders made. Then, on April 19, British forces attacked again, but a surprise awaited them. The ladders turned out to be too short to reach the top of the walls. Warned at the last minute by a spy, “Patapalo” had the idea to dig a pit around the walls to increase their height. After a bloody struggle, the attackers were once again pushed back. This episode was crucial to the morale of the defenders. The British made many more attempts, but all proved unsuccessful. The city was bombarded by cannons for long days, but without success.

After two months, on May 20, 1741, Admiral Vernon was forced to lift the siege and return to England. A yellow fever epidemic and food shortage had significantly weakened his troops and undermined their morale. The toll was heavy: the English lost nearly 8,000 men, and 26 of their ships were set on fire, sunk or seriously damaged.

In London, the truth about the Cartagena de Indias affair would long remain unknown. The English authorities banned publication of any news relating to the lost battle. Paradoxically, Blas de Lezo, the main protagonist of the siege, was never to be rewarded by the Spanish.

Ingratitude Of The Spanish

Blas de Lezo ‘s relations with the viceroy of New Granada, Sebastian de Eslava y Lagaza, a fifty-six-year-old Navarrese, commander of the region, had been poor throughout the siege. They become execrable after the departure of the English. Blas de Lezo was a strong supporter of taking the offense, at least when possible. Eslava, instead, advocated caution and favored the defensive. Less than ten days after the victory, the viceroy sent Madrid an extremely negative report on Lezo’s attitude, demanding that he be immediately relieved of his duties and recalled to Spain.

Admiral de Lezo, who was wounded during the siege, was deteriorating rapidly. Abandoned by everyone except his family and a few friends, he passed away on September 7 at the age of 52 and it is not known where he is buried. Ironically, a month and a half later, on October 21, his dismissal and the order to return to Spain were approved by King Charles III. Conversely, Viceroy Eslava returned to Spain, where he was covered with honors and glory. Promoted to Captain General of the Armies, then Director General of the Infantry, he was subsequently appointed Minister of War in 1754, a position he held until his death in 1759.

The eldest son of Blas de Lezo finally did obtain the full rehabilitation of his father, but only in 1760, a year after the death of Minister Eslava y Lagaza. The defender of Cartagena then received, posthumously, the title of Marquis d’Ovieco for himself and his descendants. Only the Royal Spanish Navy continued to honor the memory of Admiral Blas de Lezo in the centuries that followed, always naming a ship after him.

But it was not until 2014 that the memory of the admiral, victorious over the English, was publicly honored. Two monuments were erected, one in Cadiz, the other in Madrid, on Piazza Columbus, and today there are Blas de Lezo streets in a dozen cities in Spain (Valencia, Malaga, Alicante, Las Palmas, San Sebastián, Cadiz, Huelva, Fuengirola, Renteria, Irún, Pasaia and Madrid).

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.

The image shows, “Admiral Blas de Lezo,” by an unknown painter, daited 1735.

End Of The Myth Of The French Revolution

Celebrated with great pomp at the end of the last century, the bicentenary of the French Revolution (1789-1989) did not fail to rekindle debates and controversies over the interpretation of the event. Many French intellectuals and academics were still dreaming of the “blessed” era when Clemenceau invited them to take the “Revolution as a bloc.” After all, it was justifiable or excusable for them to pass over in silence the Terror, the Vendée “genocide,” the terrible treatments inflicted by the Republic and its leaders on “monsters,” “sub-humans,” the “execrable race,” that it was appropriate to “exterminate” or “purge” the nation.

Under blows from foreign authors, in particular English-speaking ones, it had to be admitted that the “heroes” of the revolutionary gesture could not escape historical research. The corruption of Danton, the intrigues of Mirabeau, the paranoid delirium of Robespierre, the fanaticism of Saint-Just, the violence of Marat, the deceit of Hébert, the villainy of Barras were very troublesome. These men hardly corresponded to the idealized image that Republican education (primary and secondary school) had long given of this period to legitimize the foundations of a regime that had become uncertain. How many already seemed old and outdated, such as, the Robespierrolatry of a Laponneraye (1842), or the hagiographies of Danton by Quinet (1865), of Saint-Just by Hamel (1859) or of Hébert by Tridon (1864). But on the whole, the myth of the Revolution as a veritable monolithic bloc still held firm. No one imagined the magnitude of the earthquake that a group of researchers and academic historians would cause in the late 1980s.

For nearly two centuries, the theories of interpretation of the Revolution have opposed each other and clashed. But justification, advocacy, and respect for the vulgate remained the rule of research and higher education – a strict, imperative prescription that no reasonable researcher could break without risking his career.

Diverse and contradictory, the theses and interpretative theories of the French Revolution can be grouped into three categories. Of course, the historiography of the subject cannot be reduced to these three antagonistic schools, but this classification at least has the merit of clarity and convenience.

The first school of thought sees the Revolution as a mythical phenomenon, as a revelation of absolute values pushed onto the stage of history under the pressure of Justice, Liberty and the People. Suddenly enlightened and responding to the call of revolutionary divinities, the People spontaneously revolted against tyranny. The archetype of this dogmatic literature is the Histoire de la Révolution française by Jules Michelet, published from 1847 to 1853. It is perpetuated, to varying degrees, in the spirit of primary and secondary education textbooks and in cultural news delivered by the mainstream media. We find it sometimes in the liberal-Jacobin form, sometimes in the socialist form, the latter mainly deriving from L’histoire socialiste de la Révolution française, by Jean Jaurès (1901-1904).

A second school, to which most academics are closely or remotely attached, sees the Revolution as a mechanism, a social phenomenon. This positivist, sociological interpretation inspired classic Marxist historians from Georges Lefebvre to Albert Soboul (and later Michel Vovelle), but also historians of socialist (Blanc), radical (Mathiez), radical-socialist (Aulard), Jacobin- republican (Reinhard, Godechot), liberal-conservative (Mignet, Thiers, Guizot, Tocqueville) and nationalist-republican (Edgar Quinet) alliance.

One of the main representatives of this interpretation, Hippolyte Taine, who published from 1875 to 1894 Les origines de la France contemporaine, saw the Revolution as a process of degeneration and dissolution. His thesis was then systematized by Augustin Cochin (La Mécanique de la Révolution, 1926) who gave a remarkable description of the fundamental role of the Societies of thought (Sociétés de pensée) in the genesis and development of the Revolution. His teaching would later be taken up in terms of the reconstruction of facts and events, by Pierre Gaxotte in his Révolution française (1928).

Finally, a third school, that of the “traditionalist” or “counter-revolutionary” current (Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, Louis de Bonald) considered the Terror as the fruit of the principles of 1789 and, more generally, that revolutionary logic inevitably leads to terror. One part of this approach, the supporters of a conspiracy theory, refers primarily to the works of the Jesuits Augustin Barruel and Nicolas Deschamps, or to those of Crétineau-Joly and Monseigneur Delassus. According to them, the French Revolution was the fruit of a triple conspiracy hatched by Jansenism, Masonry and other sects such as the Illuminati of Bavaria. This conspiracy theory has been the subject of fierce criticism from pro-revolutionary historiography, deeming it fanciful and untrustworthy. However, it received an unexpected reinforcement from Marxist or socialist historians, like Albert Mathiez, and Freemasons, like Albert Lantoine and Louis Blanc, who, without using the term “conspiracy,” insisted heavily on the “project” and on the “plan” of the Jacobin group and of the Masons, which could not be fully realized, solely because of the lack of maturity of the masses and their ignorance.

The proponents of this third school of thought point out that for the most conscious protagonists of the Revolution, the revolutionary movement was imagined and executed against Christianity, against the Church and in the last analysis against God. This is the thesis set out in the works of Louis Daménie, La Révolution (1970), and Jean Dumont, La Révolution française, ou, Les prodiges du sacrilège (1984), for whom the Revolution was persecuting and oppressive of the Church and the people, of God, because it was anti-Christian, capitalist and bourgeois.

Since the 19th century the various currents dominating French political life have not ceased to oppose and tear each other apart on the subject. On the right, for the Orleanists, the Bonapartists and soon the nationalists, 1789 is sacred, 1793 is hated. For legitimists and traditionalists, the distinction is not appropriate: 1789 announces 1793. With them, Maurras’s Action Française placed a heavy responsibility on an Old regime that had been contaminated for too long. On the left, they chose 1793. The left said, “No” to so-called human rights that it stigmatizes as individual, formal and bourgeois rights. The fascists of the 20th century followed suit. Drieu la Rochelle explained that Hitlerites and Mussolinians wanted to break with the legacy of 1789, which was liberal, but not with that of 1793, which was Jacobin and totalitarian.

For more than a century and a half, the battles of the Revolution, like its internal struggles, were an inexhaustible fuel for the political battles and ideological quarrels of the time. Under Louis Philippe (1830-1848), after the adventures of the Revolution and the Empire, French liberalism drew lessons from the double experience. It refocused on the right. The golden mean, eclecticism, compromise, seeking the middle ground were now the watchwords. A moderate historiography was forged by Thiers (Histoire de la Révolution, 1827) and Lamartine (Histoire des Girondins, 1847). But gradually the official discourse was radicalized on the left.

At the turn of the 20th century, outside of the usual minority, the “Revolution” was taboo. Its protests were sometimes seen as unpleasant, but it was also seen as the necessary step in achieving universal equality, freedom and prosperity. The basis of the consensus rested on a few words: “Let us forget, and do not question what is achieved.”

The first specialized chair in the history of the Revolution was created at the Sorbonne in 1866, on the initiative of the Council of Paris. It was occupied by Alphonse Aulard. The act was clearly political. Aulard until then taught only literature and philology. On the other hand, he was an ardent republican, appreciated by the authorities and by Clemenceau. Radical and aggressive, he was soon overtaken on his leftism by his pupil and rival, Albert Mathiez. The master was radical and anticlerical, the disciple was radical-socialist and Robespierrist. The two antagonists imposed their truth on the Sorbonney.

Allied to communism in 1917, Mathiez presented himself and imposed himself for succession to Aulard in 1926. To his posterity belonged primarily Georges Lefebvre, Albert Soboul, Michel Vovelle and Claude Mazauric – and later, in the 2000s, the pure Jacobins, Jean-Pierre Jessenne and Michel Briard. All were or had been militants, sympathizers or “fellow travelers” of the Communist Party. They reigned almost unchallenged over the French University for more than forty years. “The Revolution,” historian Pierre Chaunu would say, “was the privileged place of ideological manipulation padlocked by a Sorbonicole nomenklatura from Mathiez to Soboul… Masters who knew the way, ensured the scholastic self-functioning in a vacuum closed by the monopoly of recruitment.” They have thus built “one of the most beautiful monuments of institutionalized stupidity” (Le Figaro, December 17, 1984).

After the Second World War, the ideological and cultural hegemony of Marxism oriented and directed official historiography. In the 1960s, Albert Soboul still appeared as “the great specialist whose work is essential.” Intellectual terrorism marginalized or condemned to silence the independent, non-conformist researcher. The revolutionary catechism mechanically identified revolutionaries with the capitalist bourgeoisie.

This catechism made 1789 the first step in a process of which 1917 and the Russian Revolution was the final step. This thereby legitimized the Jacobin=Bolshevik equation.

But times and fashions change. The 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s were marked by a major break. English-speaking historians, little suspecting of espousing the quarrels of French academics, were the first to open the breach. Let us take two titles among others. The first, The Debate on the French Revolution, 1789–1800 by Alfred Cobban, was published in 1950 and translated into French in 1984, after the author’s death. This incisive book helped shake the commonplaces and conventionalisms of the Marxist vulgate, destroying the simplistic thesis of a bourgeois and capitalist revolution which would have replaced an old feudal regime.

Not everything is memorable in Cobban’s work. Thus, he is wrong when he insists on the population explosion. Pierre Chaunu demonstrated, with Jacques Dupâquier and Jean-Pierre Bardet, that France was the country in Europe where the population had increased the least (from 22 to 28 million in a century), and whose demographic dynamism was broken, everywhere, twenty years before 1789. But we must nevertheless salute in Cobban the first truly operative iconoclastic approach.

A second English, quite remarkable, should be cited – The French Revolution and the Poor by Alan Forrest, 1981 (translated into French in 1986), in which the author masterfully dismantles the mechanism of the evils of revolutionary ideology, the deadly refusal of realities on the part of revolutionary leaders.

François Furet and Denis Richet took up where these two English-world authors left off. In La Révolution française (1965), they tackled the already old thesis of the slippage from a first liberal revolution of the elites to a second Jacobin revolution. From a position that was still on the left, since they refused to take the plunge and to think that 1793 could have been contained to a certain extent in 1789; or, in other words, they refuse to think that the logic of the revolution carried massacre, extermination and genocide within it. Nevertheless, they did undermine Marxist dogmas.

A former communist (1947-1959), François Furet did not yet distinguish clearly enough between Jacobin liberalism (Latin, essentially egalitarian), from English liberalism (essentially elitist or even aristocratic). But in 1978, in Penser la Révolution, he rehabilitated the forgotten and proscribed analyses of Tocqueville, of Taine, even of Augustin Cochin. Notably absent in his book is Edmund Burke, the brilliant Irishman who differentiated 1793 from 1790. Furet’s work was later continued by Patrice Gueniffey (see, La politique de la Terreur: essai sur la violence révolutionnaire, 1789-1794). But it may also be useful to recall the words that Pierre Chaunu confided to me: “When Furet and I discuss in private the origins, causes and consequences of the Revolution, know that we are 90% in agreement.”

An important point must be stressed – the reflection initiated by French academic historians on revolutionary terror comes at the very moment when Marxist ideology is experiencing its first major cultural setbacks. At the top of the state (François Mitterrand was then president), reactions were quick to come. Max Gallo, spokesman for the socialist government, was sounding the alarm bells.

Gallo, historian, novelist and essayist, a former Communist who joined the PS in 1981, then reacted as the guardian of the temple. He left the Socialist Party and supported Sarkozy’s UMP in 2007, but in the 1980s, he was at the forefront of the political and cultural struggle of the Mitterrandist left. Censoring the new Muscadins in an Open Letter to Maximilien Robespierre, he churned out articles and virulent statements against them in the media. The politically condemned academics were accused of nothing less than Vichyism, even Nazi nostalgia. They were “guilty,” he said, of spreading a “right-wing” vision of the Great Revolution. Behind him were the ex-fellow travelers of the communist organizers, responsible for more than 100 million deaths around the world. All shamelessly set themselves up as masters of republican morality. Ridicule is not fatal!

It did not matter to Gallo and his political friends at the time that non-university historians, such as Jean-François Chiappe or Jean Dumont, published anti-revolutionary works. What was unbearable and unacceptable to them was “the betrayal of the University.”

One of the main targets of the socialist authorities was Pierre Chaunu, professor at the Sorbonne, member of the Institut de France (of the l’Académie des sciences morales et politiques). The prestige of this Protestant historian was considerable. Renowned Hispanist (author with his wife Huguette Chaunu of Séville et l’Atlantique, 1504-1650, in 11 volumes), specialist in classical European civilization (La civilisation de l’Europe classique), and enlightenment civilization in Europe (La civilisation de l’Europe des Lumières), founder of “quantitative history,” he was one of the outstanding figures of French academia.

But Pierre Chaunu was not the only intellectual blacklisted. There was no shortage of targets for government hostility. In the disorder let us mention Frédéric Bluche for Septembre 1792: Logiques d’un massacre; Jean Baechler, for his Preface to the reissue of L’esprit du jacobinisme by A. Cochin; Jean-Joël Brégeon for Carrier et la terreur nantaise, and co-editor with Sécher of La Guerre de Vendée and the depopulation system of Gracchus Baboeuf; and finally, Reynald Sécher for La Vendée-vengé. Le génocide franco-français ,and Du génocide au mémoricide, supplemented in 2017 by the work of Jacques Villemain, Vendée 1793-1794. The latter cited documents that leave no room for doubt – the Committee of Public Safety wanted to exterminate the entire Vendée population.

The genocide thesis was supported by Reynald Sécher first in 1986 and 25 years later in Du génocide au mémoricide. The Robespierrist point of view, denying the genocide, is still developed in particular by Jean-Clément Martin. The losses are estimated at a minimum of 100,000 souls from a total population of 800,000 inhabitants.

To this incomplete list of “reprobate authors,” we must add the names of Jean Tulard, co-author of Histoire et dictionnaire de la Révolution française and responsible for the university edition of La Révolution française by Pierre Gaxotte; Émile Poulat for Liberté, laïcité: la guerre des deux France et le principe de la modernité; Stéphane Rials for Révolution et contre-révolution au XIXème siècle; Florin Aftalion for L’Économie et la Révolution française; Jean-François Fayard for La Justice révolutionnaire; René Sédillot for Le coût de la Révolution; François Crouzet for De la supériorité de l’Angleterre sur la France; Jean de Viguerie for Christianisme et révolution and Histoire du citoyen; Xavier Martin for Naissance du sous-homme au cœur des Lumières and Régénérer l’espèce humaine; and finally a whole host of young academics who, at the turn of the 21st century, are at the dawn of their careers. Among them Philippe Pichot Bravard, author of a quite remarkable overview, La Révolution française (2014), has to be mentioned.

Clearly, the death of Lenin-Soviet eschatology has done immense damage to the Marxist and crypto-Marxist historiography of the French Revolution. The simplistic idea, popularized by vulgar Marxism, that the French Revolution is a bourgeois revolution which destroyed feudalism and replaced it with a new, essentially capitalist regime, is totally questioned. The objections are significant.

Professor Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie, himself a former Communist, sums them up in these terms: “The first is that the bourgeoisie which made the revolution is not a capitalist class of financiers, traders or industrialists, who were then ‘apolitical’ or ‘aristocrats.’” The bourgeoisie was thus juridical; it was composed of officers, civil servants, lawyers, doctors, intellectuals, whose role and action could not consist in giving birth to an industrial revolution. Second objection, the example of England shows that in a rural society, like 18th century France, the evolution towards agricultural capitalism passed through the great seigniorial domain. On the contrary, the Revolution tended towards the fragmentation of farms and further retarded their technological progress. Finally, the third objection, “it put a definite halt to big capitalism, that is to say, colonial capitalism, foreign trade and big industries.” Foreign trade did not regain its high level of 1789 until 1825. The Revolution “represented in a sense the triumph of the landed strata of society, conservatives, large and small, including many former nobles… a landed bourgeoisie… and finally small peasant owners” (Le Figaro, December 17, 1984).

The revolutionary explosion of the summer of 1789 appears to be the culmination of the contradictions of the Ancien Régime, which was unable to reform in time. At the origin of the Revolution there was the financial crisis – the debt had become too heavy a burden for the finances of the kingdom. The expenses of the American War were too great. After forty years of economic expansion and prosperity, the situation deteriorated in the 1780s. A succession of bad harvests, the great drought of 1785, and a particularly harsh winter increased the difficulties.

At the same time, an “aristocratic reaction” from the traditional nobility and the nobility of the robe challenged absolute monarchy and demanded parliamentary control, which would allow it to better retain its privileges and prerogatives in the face of the rise of a bourgeoisie that desired its share of power. To this can be added the evolution of ideas, the social critiques of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the encyclopedists, the determining role of “Sociétés de pensée.” Finally, we must also take into account the errors of Louis XVI, who was undoubtedly a good man, but who was not on top of things.

Scientific history has shown that the Revolution ruined France; that it broke its economic momentum; and that it downgraded it. This is the conclusion of the most serious studies. Le livre noir de la Révolution française, published in 2008, leaves little room for doubt. But while academic research has shed all kinds of light on the horrific gray areas of the French Revolution, its results still needed to be accessible to the general public. Pierre Chaunu achieved this objective, thanks to a comprehensive, rigorous and attractive work, Le grand déclassement (1989), about which it is appropriate to say a few words.

Republican, Protestant and Gaullist, hardly suspected of sympathy for the “complex of counterrevolutionary sensibilities,” Pierre Chaunu (1923-2009) has undermined the sacrosanct myth of the two revolutions, one liberal, the other authoritarian, centralizing, liberticide – striking head-on one of the pillars of official historiography. And he got it right.

Let us sum up his argument. In 1789, France was roughly fifth in size, in Europe; but in power, it commanded nearly a third of available resources. Overall, she was pretty much the first. An example – the literacy rate was higher in England, Scotland and a few provinces of Prussia, but France had many more literate people than England, Scotland, Prussia and practically as many as the rest of Europe. Between 1710 and 1780, the number of those who reached the stage of independent reading and fluent writing tripled and quadrupled. After the great ebb that the Revolution brought about in this area, in which progress did not resume until 1830.

In 1789, France had at least 28 million inhabitants. Its population growth rate of 0.5% per year was one of the lowest, if not the lowest, in Europe. 16% of the population was urban. The distribution of the population was relatively more equitable than in the rest of Europe. Two million households owned 40% of the land (with some 5% of communal property). The rest of the land belonged to the nobility (25%). Finally, 10% was Church property, and 25% bourgeois property. The Third Estate therefore owned 65% of the land and the so-called “clergy” were, in large part, social assets, that supplied schools and hospitals. Peasant property was encumbered with seigneurial rights, but they were more irritating and vexatious than limiting. Common land was more expensive on average than noble land.

Overall, seigneurial rights were less heavy in France than anywhere else on the continent, except in England. Nowhere else was peasant ownership so widespread.

England broke the record in the West for the concentration of land in a few hands. But in France, the Revolution would not change anything. Since taxes were generally heavier afterwards, the levy on the peasant mass was roughly the same in 1815 as in 1789. Social upheavals affected only one tenth of the population at most. The Revolution only distributed a tenth or a fifth in value of a good part of the land, and therefore brought wealth and prestige to just a minority of its apparatchiks and associates. It was all really restricted to a few permutations at the top.

In 1758, the tax burden per capita was double in England, being around 190 in 1789, while France was at 100. At equal wealth, from the second half of the 18th century, the English paid at least one and a half times as much as the French. France, a tax haven, would nevertheless engage in a rotating strike. Almost 15% of the GNP and 3.5% of the population were in the service of the state. The King of France had 10 times fewer men on hand to control his capital than the King of Prussia, or the British Parliament.

The entire 18th century was driven by the halt that the Parliaments, recklessly reestablished in their prerogatives by Louis XVI, brought to the ministerial reform initiative. Here was the drama of the monarchy. From 1774 to 1789, the Parliaments, where only the privileged strata of society were to be found, were the winners across the board. The Ancien Régime was paralyzed by the encroachment of the law. Parliaments do not represent society, either in their composition or in their thoughts. The court was never less costly, yet its usefulness never less evident. The system was jammed, unable to match its resources to its needs; it was considered tyrannical when it was only powerless.

In 1789, most French people were Catholics and most were devout – 97 to 98% of the French people believed in God, more than 80% were attached to their Church. On the intellectual and moral quality of the clergy and on their generosity, which redistributed a good half to the poor and a share to hospital and school assistance, there was no real criticism, no bad marks. Better, the almost unanimous claim of the register of grievances is that the priests, who were well-loved and whose worth was widely felt, should be give more.

Finally, no one died had of hunger since 1709. It was not until 1794-1795 and run-away inflation that the specter of famine loomed again and that people died from it as before. In the 1780s, faced with a population growing at a rate of 0.5% annually (a growth rate lower than the English rate), production increased at a rate of 1.9%.

Paradoxically, in general, it is prosperity, not misery, that carries the risk of revolution. French society remained sufficiently open. France lived, changed, evolved. The state was jammed, motionless, paralyzed. Between the two, tensions continued to grow.

The Revolution began with a plunder, the easiest – that of the property of the Church. Monastic France was soon sold. The finest jewels of Romanesque and Gothic art were broken. They were removed, disassembled, sawed apart, broken, looted. The artistic rampage was immense. No modern war has destroyed so much wealth.

The Revolution was not the mass phenomenon that they want us to believe. There were 50,000 Parisian sans-culottes, 80,000 profiteers of national property and 200,000 onlookers. The number of angry, hateful and guillotinous dechristianizers hardly exceeded 40,000. But you only win and lose if you convince the small active number.

When, on July 12, 1790, the civil constitution of the clergy was adopted, only 4 bishops out of 136 agreed to swear to the constitution. 44% (40% after withdrawals) of the clergy swore. This is not much, because not to swear meant the loss of employment, of all resources, misery, the threat to freedom and life, banishment from the community. Since dozens of episcopal seats had to be filled all at once, Talleyrand, “a pile of shit in a woolen stocking” as Napoleon called, devoted himself to the task. He was the only one of four bishops who accepted to carry out coronations. All those poor jurat priests, some of whom claimed to have rediscovered the simplicity and rigor of the primitive Church, would know by the end of the winter of 1791 what the words of the constituent deputies were worth – a reprieve for the guillotine.

Thanks to the assignat, famine and the ruin of the economy, people died as much and more than from the guillotine during the winter of 1794-1795. The famous paper money assignat was criminal folly. To pay off its promises, fuel its fantasies and finance the war of aggression against a peaceful Europe, the Revolution had only one means – inflation, the most unjust tax.

The mortal sin of the Revolution was, after religious persecution, gratuitous war. The war allowed murder to be legalized, any internal opponent being equated with foreign enemies.

For the period 1792 to 1797, losses amounted to at least 500,000 men. Disease killed more than bullets (3 to 4 times more). If we add the civilian losses, men, women, children (mainly in Vendée), the losses of the revolutionary period came to cost nearly 1 million human lives. The Empire would add a second million to the first. In total, 4.5 to 5 million dead, in a Europe of less than 150 million souls. The responsibility, all the responsibility for the outbreak of war rests with the revolutionary power. It deliberately chose war; it provoked, attacked, invaded.

The war broke France’s growth; it slowed it down everywhere else, even in Great Britain, but in which case the slowdown only affected consumption. In the France-England equality ratio, we go to a gap of 10 to 6. France had, per capita, caught up with England in 1789; it was in the ratio of 100 to 60-65 in 1799. Ten years of assignats and the great massacres definitively downgraded France. The gap would no longer be made up.

Let Pierre Chaunu conclude in a concise manner: “While all the work of history released from the myth establishes that the chaotic process which created the revolutionary vortex was the effect of chance – September (1792), Fouquier Tinville (public accuser of the Revolutionary Tribunal), ruin by the assignat, and the war, the destruction of the artistic, moral and religious cultural heritage, the depopulation and the devastation of the demographic impetus, the genocide-populicide of the Vendée and the populicides of Lyon, Toulon and elsewhere – all this follows implacably from the most implacable revolutionary logic. Once the Revolution is born, it kills. Death is its profession, annihilation its end.”

Product of chance, execution of a deliberate project, direct or indirect consequence of one or more social factors, the debate on the interpretation of the Revolution is not about to end. But one point is clear – for rigorous and serious history, the Revolution led France to a terrible moral, social, economic and political collapse.

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.

The image shows, “The Zenith of French Glory: The Pinnacle of Liberty. Religion, Justice, Loyalty & all the Bugbears of Unenlightend Minds, Farewell!”. A satire of the radicalism of the French Revolution. A picture by James Gillray. February 1793.

Translated from the French by N. Dass.

History Is Not Manichean: A Conversation With Arnaud Imatz

This month we are so very pleased to publish the English version of an interview with Dr. Arnaud Imatz, the renowned French historian, who has published over a dozen books and numerous articles in both European and American journals and magazines. Dr. Imatz has contributed several times to the Postil. Here, Dr. Imtaz is in conversation with La Tribuna del Pais Vasco in regards to his new book, Vascos y Navarros (Basques and Navarrese).

La Tribuna (LT): How did the idea of writing the book, Vascos y Navarros, come about?

Arnaud Imatz (AI): I started by writing a chronological article in French and was surprised to see it published in a tourist guide in which they did not even mention my name. As a result, I decided to considerably revise and expand that article. More than anything, it is a small tribute to my ancestors. They were Basques, Navarrese and Béarnais. They were fishermen, bakers, vintners, public works contractors, military men, carpenters, tobacco growers, booksellers, restaurant owners and hoteliers, located for the most part in Hendaye.

I was born in Bayonne, but after a few months of life I was already going with my mother to the beach at Hendaye, La Pointe, right by Fuenterrabía. A beautiful place, now gone, having been replaced by the beautiful but conventional marina, the marina of Sokoburu. With my wife, my son and my two daughters, I first in Paris and then for twenty years in Madrid. I have unforgettable memories of Madrid and close friends (even a true “spiritual son”). But I spent most of my time – more than forty years – in the Basque Country, an exceptional place in the world.

Of course, my Galician, Breton, Andalusian or Corsican friends may disagree. This is normal. My children and grandchildren, who live further north, and my wife, born in the Ile-de-France (although of partly Biscayan descent), sometimes make fun of my excessive attachment to the land. But what difference does it make! I also had my doubts and reacted with skepticism when in the distant 1980s a Basque friend, a professor of Law, who had been a member of the tribunal that examined my doctoral thesis, answered my questions: “How about La Reunion? La Martinique?” etc.: “Well, well, but you know that when you see Biriatu ….” He didn’t even bother to finish his sentence. Now I know he was right.

LT: So your family has deep roots in the Basque Country?

AI: Yes, indeed. My surname, Imatz or Imaz, meaning “wicker,” “of wicker,” “pasture,” or “reed,” is found, above all, in the Basque Autonomous Community, but it is also present, although less frequently, in Navarre and the French Basque Country. On my mother’s side of the family, there are a good number of Basque surnames. Most were born and lived in Hendaye. Some moved away, went to work in different cities in France or Spain (Madrid, Palencia or Andalusia), even in America. But sooner or later almost all of them returned to their native town in the French Basque Country.

My maternal grandfather was Basque, Carlist and of course Catholic. He kept a beret his whole life which was given to his family by Don Carlos. He worked in hotels in Guayaquil and London and later in the María Cristina de San Sebastián, when it opened in 1912. During the First World War, he was a gunner in the Battle of Verdun. Once demobilized, he returned to Hendaye to take over his parents’ hotel. He spoke Basque and French, but also Spanish, like most of the members of my family at that time; and by the way, they were very closely connected with Spain and the Spanish.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, my great-grandfather had a brother, who was parish priest in Biriatu. He was dedicated to his priesthood, but he also liked to play pelota. Yes! And always wearing his cassock. He became very involved in the defense and safeguarding of the Basque language and culture. Such were the famous French-Basque priests of yesteryear.

My great-aunt used to play the piano and she taught me, among other things, the Oriamendi and the Hymn of San Marcial. From her house, located on the banks of the Bidasoa, she could see the Alarde de Irún and at night hear, although very rarely, the whispers of the smugglers. My great-aunt and great-grandmother (a strong widow who had been the director of the Hendaye Casino in the 1920s) told me many memories of our border family.

LT: Can you tell us about some of these memories?

AI: Some anecdotes. A few months before he died, my Carlist grandfather, naturally in favor of the national side, negotiated with Commander Julián Troncoso, a friend of his, for the exchange of a friend from the Republican side, Pepita Arrocena. As a result of the attempted Socialist Revolution, in 1934, Pepita had crossed the border with her driver and with the socialist leader, Indalecio Prieto, hidden in the trunk of her car.

Also, French friends of my grandfather participated in the unsuccessful assault on the Republican submarine C2, which was anchored in the port of Brest. I must say that during the Civil War, many foreign correspondents used to stay at my grandparents’ hotel.

At the end of the war, my grandmother, now a widow, was close friends with the wife of Marshal Pétain, French ambassador to Spain. But two years later, being in the so-called “forbidden” area, in the middle of the Nazi occupation, and despite her friendship with Annie Pétain, the “Marshal,” my grandmother sympathized with the Gaullists and participated in anti-German Resistance. She was in contact with the ORA (Organization de Résistance de l’Armée) of the Basque Country, along with her friend, Dr. Alberto Anguera Angles, from Irune, who was in charge of routing messages of those escaping from France.

The other branch of my family, the paternal one, was Béarnaise, from Pau and Orthez. My paternal grandfather was a Catholic Republican, a non-commissioned officer who was one of the most decorated soldiers of the First World War. Handicapped by the war, he settled in Hendaye in 1919, with his wife and four children as a tobacconist and bookseller. His son, my father, was born in Hendaye six months later.

My father was a great athlete, who was four times French pelota champion in the 1930s and 1940s, with the long bat (pala larga) and in the plaza libre (court). My paternal family was then divided between the stalwarts of Marshal Pétain (my grandfather), and the supporters of Charles de Gaulle (his four sons, among whom were my father and my godfather). The oldest of my grandfather’s sons was seriously injured at Dunkirk.

All these family memories made me understand very early that history is not Manichean, that it is always made of light and dark, that there are no absolute good and bad, that there are no so-called historical or democratic justices as peddled by the traffickers of hatred and resentment, who are miserable political puppets who live to play with fire.

LT: In your opinion, do more things unite or separate Basques and the Navarrese?

AI: To answer in detail it would be necessary to refer to the long history of the medieval Basque counties, the kingdom of Navarre, Spain, the Hispanic Empire and the French nation-state. These are topics that I address, albeit briefly, in the historical summary given in my book. I would of course be unable to summarize all these substantial issues in a few words. I concede that personally, despite my nationality, and due to my Spanish-French culture, I sympathize much more with the Hispanic Catholic Empire of Charles V and Philip II than with the Gallican-Catholic French nation-state of Richelieu, Louis XIII, Louis XIV and the Revolutionaries of 1789 and 1792. We already know that the “reason of state” of these French politicians was greatly influenced by Machiavelli and indirectly by the writings and attitude of the Protestants. That said, five, ten or fifteen centuries of common history cannot just be erased, manipulated, or misrepresented.

Now, if in your question you refer essentially to our own time, I will tell you that, paradoxically, there are more and more things that unite the Basques and Navarrese and less that separate them. But, beware! This does not mean that I fall into those independence or separatist dreams. What I think is happening is that both these peoples are losing their specificities and are gradually uniting – but unfortunately into nothingness, in the great meat-grinder of globalism.

Let me explain. At this point, we are all victims of globalization, consumerism, commercialism, demographic decline, multicultural individualism, the decline of religion and the Church and Christianity – all these many plagues that have shown themselves, in the long run, to be much more corrosive and deadly for both the Basques and the Navarrese (and also in general for all the peoples of Europe) than the “forty years of Franco’s dictatorship,” or the “Bourbon centralism of the 19th century,” or “French Jacobin centralism.”

It is true, thank God, that our lands (which have sometimes been marked by savage violence unworthy of human beings) have not endured the horrors of Nazism, or worse still (because of the sheer number of deaths) the monstrosities of Marxist-communist totalitarianism. In this, the radical nationalists are completely blind and are totally wrong as to who the enemy is. Torn apart by the hodgepodge of Marxist internationalism and what Americans call “cultural Marxism,” the radical, Abertzale left has become the perfect ally of hypercapitalism or globalist turbocapitalism. The two, globalists and nationalist-separatists, are tearing apart the best of the Navarrese and Basque values, the deepest roots of both peoples. In the background are two grips of the same vise.

LT: In your opinion, what does Euskara mean for the reality of Basques and Navarrese?

AI: It is an important factor, but not enough to define the entirety of Basque identity and reality. Just as important are ethnicity, demographics, culture, and history. There are Euskaldunak Basques, because they speak the Basque language. There are Euskotarrak Basques because they are ethnically defined as Basques, even though they express themselves in French or Spanish. And there are Basques who are Basque citizens because they reside in the Basque Country and love the Basque Country. In the Autonomous Community of Navarra, which is founded on a long and brilliant history of its own, it is another story: there are Basques who feel Basque and many Navarrese who are not and do not feel Basque.

What the Basque Government does to defend the Basque language seems to me to be quite successful, despite all the cartoonish and meaningless actions that have been taken against the Castilian language or – better said – Spanish, which is one of the two or three most widely spoken languages in the world. We already know that language is not enough. In addition to this, it should not be hidden, the results of the policies in favor of the Basque language are rather negligent. The reality is that there is no nation or country possible without a historical legacy, combined with consent and a will to exist on the part of the people. Nicolas Berdiaev and other famous European authors such as Ortega y Gasset spoke of unity or community of historical destiny. Well, without the harmonious combination of the historical-cultural foundation and the voluntarist or consensual factor, without these two factors, there can be no nation. And that is why there is no longer a true Spanish nation today, as there are no true nationalities or small nations within Spain today.

The same can be said of the rest of Western Europe, whose power is in clear decline, if we compare it to the current great powers. In France, it is very significant that a professional politician like Manuel Valls, who always believes he has an ace up his sleeve, has recently admitted that “French society is gangrenous, fractured by Islamism.” For this very reason, the Catalan authorities and Catalanists, who emphatically declare or hypocritically imply that they prefer North African immigration that does not speak Spanish, considering it more prone to learning Catalan, than a Catholic and Spanish-speaking Spanish-American immigration, are ignorant and incoherent. With them the days of fet Catala are numbered. At least, and for the moment, the immigrationist nonsense of the Catalanists does not seem to prevail so strongly among the radical Basque nationalist militants.

LT: How would you define the Navarrese feeling of identity?

AI: I think I have already answered in part. For me, Navarrismo is in the past; its hallmarks were Catholicism and traditionalism. It was the same as the Requetés, the red berets that my maternal grandfather admired so much and that today only exist in homeopathic doses. I would say the same about the figure of the noble, catholic, deep-rooted, hard-working and honest Basque of yesteryear.

It seems that the “elites,” the Basque and Navarrese oligarchy or political caste have chosen, I do not know if definitively or not, the path of harmonization and alignment with the values and presuppositions of globalism or alter-globalism (which does not matter), or of the so-called progressive transnationalism. They pretend to believe that the Basque and the Navarrese are defined only administratively or legally from a document or an identity card. It seems that they are eager to populate the future Basque and Navarrese territories with the homo economicus, asexual, stateless and phantasmagoric, so criticized in the past by the Basque-Spanish Unamuno, and by the most important figures of Basque nationalism.

If to this we add the ravages of the terrible demographic crisis, undoubtedly the worst in all of Spain and possibly in all of Western Europe, the prospects are not very encouraging. And, all the while, young Basques listen to Anglo-Saxon music, play “Basque rock,” eat hamburgers, consume drugs (young Abertzales more than anyone else), demand the opening of borders, immigration without limits, aggressive secularism, gender theory, transhumanism, hatred of the state and the history of the Spanish nation, and all the bullshit imported from American campuses. I could just say in French or English: “Grand bien leur fasse /Best of luck to them.” But I have the intimate and terrible conviction that if there is not a quick reaction against them, they will bring us a bleak, raw and bloody future in which our descendants will suffer.

LT: What do you think of Stanley Payne’s statement in the Prologue to your book, pointing out that “The Basque Country is the most unique region in Spain?” What are your feelings towards the Basque Country and towards Navarre?

AI: Stanley Payne belongs to that tradition of Anglo-Saxon historians who almost never lose their cool, or they say things with a certain degree of caution and balanced composure. He is a researcher and historian; but he is also a man and not a robot. That is why he opines, judges and interprets, although always with a certain sobriety and consideration. In the Prologue, he refers to the uniqueness of the Basque language, institutions and history (ignoring ethnicity). Now, he is American. I am not. And if I say that I agree with him when he says that “the Basque Country is the most unique region in Spain” many will say that this is due to my personal preference. Precisely as a result of that Prologue by Payne, a friend of mine, not without a sense of humor, wrote me: “This is very good, although I think that Galicians are more particular than Basques.”

In the book Vascos y Navarros I have tried to be as rigorous, honest and disinterested as possible. I have always thought that true objectivity does not lie so much in a hostile withdrawal, as in a kind of well-intentioned will that is capable of understanding and explaining the ideas of others without giving up one’s own reasons. That said, let me say and repeat here that, despite recent evolutions or regressions and the shortcomings of the pseudo or self-proclaimed Basque-Navarrese political “elites,” the Basque Country and Navarre are my favorite lands.

LT: How do you see the recent history of the Basque Country and Spain from the point-of-view of the French Basque Country?

AI: Partisanship, ignorance or disinterest, not only of the majority of the French but also of the majority of French politicians and journalists, for the history and politics of the Basque Country and Navarre, and more generally for Spain in its entirety – is abysmal, unfathomable. The trend is slightly different in the French Basque Country due to the proximity of the border and the presence of a weak but not insignificant Basque nationalist electorate, representing 10% to 12% of the general electorate. Generally, many feel Basque, but as in the rest of France, most are disinterested in the history and politics of the peninsula, unless a momentous event occurs. As for the small Basque nationalist minority in the north, they tirelessly recycle Hispanophobic clichés, although they sometimes fear being swallowed up by their powerful brothers to the south.

In my case, I have not surrendered. With the help of a handful of young and veteran French historians and courageous editorials, I continue and will continue to explain, denounce and refute black legends, misconceptions, censored data, instrumentalized facts and Hispanophobic nonsense, spread by the ignorant, the wicked and, unfortunately, by a good part of the Basque, Navarrese and Spanish political caste.

The image shows, “Landscape Of The Basque Country,” by Charles Lacoste, painted in 1925.

The Spanish version of this appeared in La Tribuna del Pais Vasco. Translation by N. Dass.