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 The old Lenino-Trotsko-Marxist manichaeism, inherited from the Enlightenment, has gradually withdrawn from the Western political and cultural scene, leaving room for deconstructionist progressivism, an immanent religion just as deleterious, a mixture of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.

The Valle de los Caídos: Place of Memory, Faith, And Polemic

The Basilica of Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos (Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen in Combat), inaugurated by Franco in 1959 and consecrated by Pope John XXIII in 1960, is regularly the subject of severe criticism by Spanish politicians and journalists. The controversies grew and reached peak intensity in 2019, following the decision by the Spanish government to proceed with the exhumation of Franco’s body.

The Vice President of the socialist government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (President from 2004 to 2011) had wanted, many years ago, to make it “a museum of the dictatorship.” The president of the Forum for Remembrance had wanted it to be converted into a museum “of the horrors of repression.” More radical still, the Irish-born socialist writer, Ian Gibson, no doubt unconsciously following the example of the Islamist demolishers of the Bamiyan Buddhas, suggested destroying the monument by dynamiting it.

It seemed the Law of Historical Memory, of December 26, 2007, had provisionally settled things: the Basilica of the Valley of the Fallen in Combat was to continue to be a place of Catholic worship, but political gatherings were prohibited there. This solution seemed reasonable, after all, because this monument, which is the most visited in Spain after the royal palace and the Escorial, is part of Spanish heritage.

But under the guise of justice, the fight against hatred and the fight against “fascism,” the so-called “good-guys,” embodied by a large part of the political caste, is now calling for reform and extension of the Law of Historical Memory and implicitly the generalized, official teaching of only their vision of history. The spirit of the Democratic Transition (spirit of reciprocal forgiveness and consultation between government and opposition), which had so beneficially dominated the years 1976 to 1982, and which the international press then unanimously praised, has now seen better days.

Most of the Spanish media seem to see this no longer as a shameless manipulation of justice and history, as an unacceptable cowardice. The nation, the family, and religion (Catholicism of course, but also Christianity more generally) have once again become privileged targets of subversive political propaganda. The coalition government of President Pedro Sánchez (a socialist at odds, like Zapatero was, with the cultural moderatism of Felipe González) and Vice President Pablo Iglesias (the leader of Podemos, a party shared between supporters of Marxism-Leninism and followers of “Bolivarian” or “Venezuelan” populism) has not ceased to rekindle the ideological battle, or even to foment social unrest with the shameful aim of maintaining power, no matter what the cost.

Over the years, the Valle de los Caídos has become one of the pillars of “progressive-leftist” mythology, and one of the main symbols of the struggle for freedom of expression and worship in Spain. Located 58 kilometers from Madrid, the imposing mausoleum of the Sierra de Guadarrama, where the remains of 33,847 nationals and republicans (including more than 21,000 identified and more than 12,000 unknown) rest alongside each other, was originally designed by Franco and the Francoists as a monument to perpetuate the memory of the “glorious Crusade.” This was, moreover, the point of view of the Church and in particular that of the Catalan cardinal and Primate of Spain, Plá y Deniel, in 1945.

The religious component had been, let us remember, decisive during the uprising of July 1936. During the Spanish Civil War, in the Popular Front area of Spain, nearly 7,000 priests and nuns were killed (not counting the thousands of lay people, eliminated because of their faith), religious worship was prohibited, and the destruction of religious buildings was systematic.

But from the end of the 1950s, on the eve of the inauguration of the monument, once spirits had partly calmed down, the architectural complex had been presented “in the name of reconciliation,” as a tribute to the combatants of the two camps of the Civil War. To this end, the decree-law of August 23, 1957 clearly ordered: “Consequently, it will be the Monument to all those killed in combat, over whose sacrifice the peaceful arms of the Cross will triumph.”

The construction of this colossal temple, sheltered by the mountain and crowned on the outside with a monumental cross, took place between 1940 and 1958. It was entrusted first to the Basque architect, Pedro Muguruza, then to Diego Mendez. The basilica, of pharaonic dimensions, has a capacity of 24,000 people. The nave measures no less than 262 meters. The maximum height at the transept is 41 meters. On the outer plaza 200,000 people can gather. The cross, designed by Muguruza, rises 150 meters, to which must be added the 1400 meters of altitude of the Risco de la Nava. Two cars can pass each other along the arms of the cross, which are each 45 meters long.

Juan de Avalos is the creator of the Valle sculptures, in particular the gigantic heads of the evangelists at the foot of the cross. Before the Civil War, he was active in the ranks of the socialist youth and held the membership card number 7 of the Socialist Party of Mérida. Another interesting detail, the figure of Christ that dominates the main altar and that rests on a cross, whose juniper wood was cut by Franco, is the work of a Basque nationalist, the sculptor Julio Beobide, disciple of the famous painter Ignacio Zuloaga.

Above the altar, the impressive mosaic-covered cupola is the work of Catalan artist, Santiago Padrós y Elías. With a diameter of over 33 meters, it contains no less than 5 million tesserae. The central figure is Christ in Majesty, surrounded by angels, saints and martyrs.

This religious building includes not only a monumental church – elevated to the rank of basilica by Pope John XXIII – but also a Benedictine abbey. Until the Democratic Transition, there was also a Center for Social Studies (Centro de estudios sociales del Valle de los Caídos), the objective of which was to study, collect and disseminate the social doctrine of the Church, so that it inspired laws, and the actions of businessmen and the unions. The ideology of the Franco regime was marked – let us not forget – by the desire to rebuild a state which was to be above all Catholic. And it was for this reason that Pope Pius XII had conferred on the Generalissimo the Supreme Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the highest distinction of the Holy See.

The actual information on the construction of the structure was rarely published in the press. The media took the opportunity to report often extravagant figures. Thus, the number of political prisoners who worked there was not 14 or 20,000 (or even 200,000), as was repeated following the rants of the socialist Léo Brincat, responsible for the draft recommendation condemning the Franco regime to the Council of Europe (November 4, 2005). In fact, the number of worker-prisoners never exceeded 800 to 1000 men, or less than half of all workers (prisoners and free employees). At the end of 1943, the Spanish press even reported a total of 600 workers.

In a book published by the architect, and director of the work, Diego Mendez, it is stated that 2000 men worked in the Valle from 1940 to 1958. One of the very few researchers, if not the only one, who took the trouble to methodically analyze the documentary evidence (“Valle de los Caídos”), in the General Archives of the Royal Palace of Madrid (General Administrations Section) is professor of history at the CEU San Pablo University, in Madrid, Alberto Bárcena Pérez, author of La redención de penas en el Valle de los Caídos (The Reduction of Sentences at Valle de los Caídos), and a 2015 book, Los presos del Valle de los Caídos (The Prisoners of the Valle de los Caídos). The archival material is housed in 69 boxes, and the thousands of documents they contain completely demolish the caricatured and fraudulent image claimed by politicians, journalists and academics in the service of power.

The archives of the former Centro de estudios sociales del Valle de los Caídos (Center for Social Studies of the Valle de los Caídos) show 2,643 workers, including a minority of political prisoners who, in principle, “had to be volunteers who freely chose the system of reduction of sentence by work;” or, first, two days of reduction of the sentence for one day of work, then, six days of reduction for one day of work.

Alberto Barcena specifies that the prisoners carried out the same work as the free workers and under identical conditions (wages, hours and food). The detainees were also employed by the companies responsible for the work. They had to submit their request through the Patronato de Nuestra Señora de la Merced or National Center for the Redemption of Sentences, which had been created for this purpose and which had its seat at the Ministry of Justice.

The main part of the salaries of the detainees (fixed according to their family responsibilities) was sent directly to the families through the “local pro-prisoners committees,” which covered most of the national territory. Another part was placed in a booklet, the full amount of which was paid back when the detainee was released. Finally, a third part was given by hand. Political prisoners did not receive 0.5 or 1 peseta a day as it has often been written, but 7, then 10 pesetas, plus bonuses for hazardous work. Their families could reside in the barracks in the Valle, provided for this purpose. The working conditions were of course very harsh and the salary more than modest but, it must be remembered that at that time the standard of living in Spain was very low and that the average salary of a university assistant at the highest was barely 300 pesetas per month.

In 1950, nine years before the construction was completed, under the remission system, there was no longer a single political prisoner in the Valle. According to the testimonies of the doctor, chief physician, Angel Lausin, and the nurse, Luis Orejas, two proven supporters of the Popular Front, who arrived at the start of the worksite as political prisoners, and who remained there, after serving their sentence – in nineteen years of work, there were between fourteen and eighteen deaths (to which must be added more than fifty victims who died due to silicosis). Finally, the monument was not financed by the Spanish taxpayer, but by private donations and by the profits of annual lotteries.

The ultimate avatar of history: the last will of the old dictator, Francisco Franco, who died on November 20, 1975, was not respected. The Caudillo wanted to be buried in the cemetery of Pardo like other figures of the regime. But the head of the first government of the transition, Arias Navarro, and the new head of state, Juan Carlos (proclaimed King on November 22, 1975) decided otherwise. The King asked the Benedictine community, guardians of the Valle and of the Basilica, for authorization to bury the body of Francisco Franco at the foot of the altar, in front of the burial place of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, which was done with great fanfare on November 23, 1975.

Forty-three years later, on February 15, 2019, the day after his arrival at the Moncloa Palace, President Pedro Sánchez pledged to have the remains of dictator Franco exhumed as quickly as possible from the Basilica of Valle de los Caídos. This resulted in an endless legal battle. For a whole series of reasons, the Basilica is a place of worship whose inviolability is guaranteed by an international treaty on religious freedom, signed between Spain and the Holy See in 1979. The Benedictines, responsible for the monument, do not depend on the Vatican, but are under the authority of their abbot and that of the superior of their order, the abbot of the Abbey of Solesmes.

The Franco family demanded that the remains of the Caudillo be transferred to the family vault of the Cathedral of Almudena (Madrid), a proposal unacceptable to the socialist government. Finally, the improvised drafting of the royal decree-law ordering the exhumation was also to be a source of complications. Its strict application could indeed result in the immediate exhumation of 19 Benedictine monks as well as that of 172 other people who died after the end of the Civil War, and who are all buried in the Valle.

Finally, after the Supreme Court gave its approval, the political will of the government was imposed and the exhumation was carried out by the police on September 24, 2019. Since then, more or less authorized voices have been calling for the exhumation of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, who is, however, also a victim of the Civil War. But at this stage, we cannot say whether, in the near or distant future, the authorities intend to give a new meaning to the monument, to desecrate the Basilica, or even to demolish the monumental Cross. These different options are in any case openly considered in the mainstream media.

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 photo shows the Pieta of the Valle de los Caídos, sculpted between 1952 and 1959 by Juan de Avalos.

Translated from the original French by N. Dass.

Al-Andalus: A History Contaminated By Political Correctness

We are highly honored to present the English-version of a series of questions (Q) that were asked of Dr. Arnaud Imatz, about Moorish Spain, and his answers. As regular readers of The Postil know, Dr. Imatz is a corresponding member of the Spanish Royal Academy of History and author of several important studies.

Q: What historical evidence can we base our claim that the supposed happy cohabitation of al-Andalus was a myth?

Arnaud Imatz (AI): Let us first clarify what the myth of al-Andalus is – all the more so as this is, as you know, denied, contested or even concealed, not only by extremist activists and polemicists, but also by academics anxious to defend their patch. In a few words, it is the idea of “Paradise Lost,” of “the Golden Age,” or “Eden,” supported by an infinity of Arabic texts, but just as cherished by a good number of Europeans and/or Westerners.

In counterpoint, we find the notion, no less omnipresent, of the threat of the Christian world which is described as ignorant, brutal, barbarous, intolerant, militarist and… European. This idea was adopted by Arabists and a good number of 19th-century historians. According to them, the autochthonous character and the virtues of the Iberian Peninsula, necessarily acclimatized, softened and Europeanized the Islam of al-Andalus, giving it, inevitably, features distinct from the rest of the Islamic-medieval world. It is the idea of a tolerant, advanced or “progressive” Islam ahead of its time, which has been taken up by our contemporaries anxious to demonstrate the open, modernizing and tolerant character of Islam. This is the “irenist” vision of a harmonious coexistence of the three cultures, so prevalent among politicians, journalists and much of academia, that it has become almost impossible to correct. It is a kind of dogma imposed, despite all the historical research of rigorous and disinterested specialists who show just the opposite. For Al-Andalus was not an Eden, quite the contrary.

It is impossible to summarize in a few lines the mass of information, the multiple sources and historical documents (Arab-Muslim and Christian) on which Arabists, philologists and medieval historians rely to demythify and demystify the history of al-Andalus. I am tempted to say that if we want to talk about cohabitation, coexistence, even “tolerance” in the Iberian Peninsula of the Middle Ages (a tolerance whose history dates back to antiquity and not to the 18th-century as affirm the most chauvinistic ideologues, in particular the French), it is better to refer to the Christian kingdoms rather than to the Islamic part.

To be convinced of this, it suffices to recall the situation of women in al-Andalus, with the wearing of the veil, sexual slavery, female circumcision or circumcision (as a legal and social practice), stoning, or the total lack of freedom in the public space for the hurra (“free Muslim woman”), and then to compare this with the condition of much freer Christian women in medieval Spain.

We can also cite here the works of Bernard Lewis and, before him, those of one of the fathers of scientific Orientalism, the Hungarian, Ignaz Goldziher, who showed, from numerous Arabic texts of the time, that ethnic and even racial criteria were commonly used in al-Andalus: Arabs from the north against Arabs from the south, Berbers against Arabs, Arabs against Slavs (the “Europeans”), Arabs and Berbers against Muladis (converted Muslims of Hispanic origin), and finally, all against blacks… and vice versa.

The work of the Spanish linguist, historian and Arabist, Serafin Fanjul, is essential here, but we must also underline the importance of the studies of several medievalists and researchers in Ibero-Roman languages. For my part, I have contributed to making known, in French-speaking countries, the work of three of the best specialists in the area, two Spaniards and an American.

First, Serafín Fanjul, already cited, professor of Arabic literature, member of the Royal Academy of History, author of Al-Andalus contra España (2000) and La quimera de al-Andalus (2004), published in France in a single volume under the title, Al-Andalus, l’invention d’un mythe (2017).

Then, the American, Darío Fernández Morera, professor of Romanesque and Hispanic literature, and author of The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise (2015) [French title: Chrétiens, juifs et musulmans dans al-Andalus, 2018].

And, finally, Rafael Sánchez Saus, professor of medieval history, ex-dean of faculty and rector of university, member of the Royal Spanish-American Academy, author of Al-Andalus y la Cruz (2016) which was published in French as, Les chrétiens dans al-Andalus. De la soumission à l’anéantissement (2019) [Christians in al-Andalus. From Submission to Annihilation].

I cannot recommend enough the reading of these books, which have been the subject of several reissues, including the last in pocket-format (March 2019, August and September 2020). I regret and I am surprised that to date these two Spanish works have not yet been translated into English.

For my part, I wrote the introductions to the books of Serafín Fanjul and Rafael Sánchez Saus, while Rémi Brague, recognized specialist in medieval philosophy (Professor Emeritus at the Sorbonne), kindly prefaced the work of Dario Fernández-Morera, as soon as I informed him that the publication in French was imminent.

I must add that other works by Spanish historians also deserve to be translated; among them, I should mention in particular, Acerca de la conquista árabe de Hispania. Imprecisiones, equívocos y patrañas (2011) [Concerning the Arab conquest. Inaccuracies, Ambiguities and Deceptions] by Felipe Maíllo Salgado, Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Salamanca.

The books by Fanjul, Fernández-Morera and Sánchez Saus are all definitive milestones in the demythification and demystification of the history of al-Andalus. They differ in their approaches and methods, but also because of the distinct expertise of their authors. However, they also complement each other perfectly.

Serafín Fanjul carefully analyzes the idea of the paradisiacal character or the “earthly Eden” of al-Andalus and then the “Arab” or Muslim survivals that allegedly passed from al-Andalus to Spain and shaped the Spanish character.

Darío Fernández-Morera examines the concrete cultural practices of Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities under Islamic hegemony, comparing them with other Mediterranean cultures, more particularly those of the Greco-Roman or Byzantine Christian Empire.

Finally, Rafael Sánchez Saus studies the fate of Christians in North Africa and Spain: the irruption of Islam and the constitution of the Arab Empire, the conquest and the birth of al-Andalus, the first reactions of Christians, the oppressive regime of the dhimma, submission, collaboration, orientalization and Arabization, the martyrs-movement, resistance, revolt, persecution and the final eradication of the Christians of al -Andalus.

These three authors presented their respective works, along with two of the best French specialists, Marie-Thérèse and Dominique Urvoy, during the colloquium, “Al-Andalus, from Myth to History,” held in Paris, on October 6, 2019, and sponsored by l’Association pour l’histoire (Association for History).

Q: Is there not, all the same, an intellectual contribution, with figures like Averroes, along with considerable artistic, scientific and architectural developments, compared to an archaic period, which we owe specifically to Muslim Spain?

AI: It is not a question here of denying the most admirable and most famous cultural and artistic elements of al-Andalus, of sinking into a kind of reverse caricature, of indulging in the apology of the Christian world and of the Reconquista without the slightest restriction; in other words, to recreate exactly what one is justifiably reproaching the promoters of the myth for. It is only a question of dismantling the pillars of legend, the alleged marvelous interfaith harmony (between Jews, Christians and Muslims), the exaggerated valuation of cultural and scientific achievements, and the widespread idealization of the social and political successes of al-Andalus.

It cannot be stressed enough that the ideological interpretations and partisan culling that can be made of the work of Fanjul, Morera and Sánchez Saus lie beyond actual work of these scholars. These three researchers and historians only want to compare the usual view that we have of this part of the history of the Iberian Peninsula with proven and verified facts. And the facts speak for themselves. Now it is up to the reader to judge.

Having said that, I don’t really understand what you mean by “archaic period.” Should we understand that, despite ups and downs, even some violence, which would be, as we say, “inevitable in a medieval society,” Muslim Hispania is the only true example of tolerance, thanks to the Muslim conquerors who imposed themselves on a barbaric, ignorant and intolerant Romano-Visigothic culture?

Does this also mean that this remarkable Muslim civilization was then destroyed by barbarian Christians, who seized the Peninsula again and imposed an even more intolerant regime than what existed before the arrival of the Berbers and Arab Muslims, and this was a real setback for Western progress? We can always dream!

The reality is that the culture of Visigothic Hispania was based on the heritage of Roman civilization and on the development of Isidorian thought. Even though this would have concerned only the elites, it was radically different from that of the Berbers and Arab conquerors, who for the most part could neither read nor write. The culture of the Visigothic kingdom had assimilated the “Greco-Roman Christian Empire.” Spania (far south of present-day Spain) had been a province of the Byzantine Empire. I am aware of the contempt of some academics for the culture of the largely Romanized Visigoth “barbarians.” But following them, we quickly forget the place and the role played by such prestigious figures as Eugenius II of Toledo, Leander of Seville, Isidore of Seville, or Theodulf of Orleans, to name but a few examples.

You mention the famous philosopher, Averroes (Ibn Rushdi). Dario Fernández-Morera devotes many enlightening pages to him. He nuances his portrait and recalls the lesser known side of the character. Averroes was a Malikite jurist who belonged to one of the most rigorous schools of Qur’anic exegesis, which was in the majority in al-Andalus. He was adviser to a ruthless Almohad caliph, a judge responsible for monitoring the application of Sharia law, author of Bidayat al-Mujtahid, a treatise containing the most edifying guidelines for use by Muslim judges (comments on the holy war, jihad, jizya, stoning, etc.).

In reality, when it comes to mutual “great debts” between the various cultures, one must be extremely careful. These are always relative and partial. Two examples, among many others, may suffice to show this.

Let us first take the title of the journal of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, Qantara (“bridge” in Arabic). The Spanish also know, as a noun and toponym, the word Alcantára, Alcanadre, and some other derivatives from Arabic. But it should be added that the Arabic word qantara comes from the Syriac qenterun, which itself comes from the Greek kentro, or even from the Latin centrum (This point is explained and documented in the Diccionario de arabismos y voces Afines en iberorromance by philologist, Federico Corriente Córdoba).

Another, infinitely more striking example is that of the Koran. Philologists have shown that the sacred text of Islam, for Muslims, contains a lexicon of relatively abundant Latin and Greek origin (about 170 foreign terms). But would it not, for all that, be absurd, unreasonable, even impious, to claim that the Koran has a “great debt” to Rome and Greece?

A superficial analysis or vision of al-Andalus – like those of foreign travelers to Spain in the 19th-century, or those of the many current polemicists and ideologists – may lead to only a few particularly striking visual elements, such as, the Alhambra, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, or the Giralda of Seville. But, as Serafín Fanjul says, these are just beautiful stones and nothing else. Rather, we should look for the living and active elements that have survived in society after 1492 or 1609 (the date of the expulsion of the last Moors). And here we have a veritable little breviary of received ideas which it is beneficial to deconstruct.

One of the most oft-used arguments to support Islamic influence in Spain is the lexicon of Arabic origin that the Spanish or Castilian language has retained. Professor Fanjul has shown that it is in fact a total of three thousand words (with about two thousand more being minor toponyms), which come from the 13th-century (the period during which the Arabic lexicon is most present in Castilian literature); that barely 0.5% of the total (and 0.6% in the work of Cervantes in the 16th-century). Proportionally, it is very little, and even less so, as it is a vocabulary relating to medieval techniques (agriculture, weapons, construction, medicine) which have since largely fallen into disuse. There is also no Arabic lexicon with spiritual or abstract significance, which is very revealing. Finally, Arab-Muslim influences in the fields of food, clothing, popular festivals or music are just as limited – whereas in these same areas, Latin-Germanic and Christian filiations are predominant, even overwhelming.

Q: So where does this myth of al-Andalus come from? Why and how did it develop and what keeps it going today?

AI: It’s very interesting to ask why the myth persists and why it is still developing today. The myth is spread by three categories of people. First, by politicians and journalists who, sometimes in good faith, are ignorant (like, for example, Obama, Blair or Macron) but often opportunists (they fear the censorship of “political correctness”). Second, by fanatics or extremist Islamophiles. And thirdly, by conformist academics, who defend tooth and nail their corporate interests. It is especially from the last two categories that the most virulent polemicists are recruited against the works of Fanjul, Fernandez- Morera, Sanchez Saus, and more generally against all the critics of the myth.

The most enthusiastic are usually supporters of the fanciful thesis that Arab Muslims never invaded Spain militarily. This thesis indirectly seeks to show that Catholicism is a religion foreign to Spain. It would have been, they say, repudiated by the inhabitants of “Hispania,” and would have triumphed only some time, before the Muslim presence, by force and violence. This thesis was developed at the end of the 1960s by the Basque paleontologist, Ignacio Olagüe (who had been a member of the JONS – Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista – in his youth, the national-trade union political movement of Ramiro Ledesma Ramos). Today, it is taken up by Andalusian nationalists and in particular by the neo-Marxist philologist, professor of the University of Seville, Emilio González Ferrín.

In the same exalted circle, we can cite the works of the orientalist and theorist of Unitarian Universalism, Sigrid Hunke, who worked in his youth for the SS (Ahnenerbe Research Institute). Partisan of National Socialist neo-paganism, apologist of Islam, “a virile religion against the Christian religion of effeminate slaves,” she considered that the Arab-Muslim heritage of the West was more direct or even more important than the Greco-Roman. All these theses, or rather all these rantings, have as much credibility as those which make aliens the builders of the pyramids.

In the second category, that of conformist academics, not to say rigid pen-pushers, we find a good number of Arabists, anthropologists and a few medievalists. This is the case with the anti-Zionist anthropologist, José Antonio González Alcantud, who does not fear ridicule when he asserts that “the deniers of the Andalusian link employ methods similar to those of the deniers of the Holocaust” (see his book, Al Ándalus y lo Andaluz, 2017). We can also cite, as an archetypal example, although he is a complete stranger outside Spain, the historian at the University of Huelva, Alejandro García Sanjuán, who has three obsessions and phobias: Christianity, the Church and the nation.

Among the militant “historians,” we can also cite the American of Cuban origin, María Rosa Menocal, or, in France, Alain de Libera, Jean Pruvost, Abderrahim Bouzelmate, and the geographer, lecturer, willing libellist in style, Emmanuelle Tixier du Mesnil (see, L’Histoire, no. 457, March 2019).

A more moderate Arabist in the diatribe is arguably Spain’s Maribel Fierro (see, Revista de Libros), but she nonetheless reproduces in soft-mode some of the most hackneyed clichés. According to her, Arabist specialists have long known everything for a long time – that there would have been violence, but which was perfectly normal in a medieval society; that “there was a legal framework,” and “the dhimma also had its advantages.” In short, the myth exists only in the minds of those who claim it exists, who keep stressing it – now, move along, there’s nothing to see here!

A last important factor explains the charges or indictments of these writers of history against Fanjul, Fernandez-Morera and Sánchez Saus – their resentment of the very positive reception, even admiring, by a good part of the big press, and their incontestably successful print-runs. Three months after the publication of Fanjul’s book, it had already sold more than 15,000 copies. A record for a history book which has subsequently been the subject of several reissues in paperback and in pocket size. The books by both Fernández- Morera and Sánchez Saus’ have also been notable successes.

But these mythologists of al-Andalus did not sit idly by. The bitterest and the most Manichean minds among them, those who knew they were condemned to having only a few hundred readers, used the entire panoply of conventional weapons and stratagems, and desperately tried to fight back – with slander, insults, innuendos, attacks against religious beliefs or supposed political options, accusations of Islamophobia, nationalism, fascism, or even wanting to foment the clash of civilizations, without forgetting, of course , the terrorist use of the supposedly “scientific” argument and the call for repression or exclusion from the academic community. The trouble is that the arguments of Fanjul, Fernández-Morera and Sánchez Saus are solid, rigorous, balanced, and their sources are indisputable.

Q: Did the jizya have a real impact on the conversion of certain non-Muslims to Islam? Were the conversions, in this context, sincere? And what were the treatments reserved respectively for new converts and those who remained outside of Islam?

AI: The Christian dhimmi had to pay a higher tax than the Muslim, and regardless of his fortune, because he was a Christian. He had to humiliate himself in front of the authorities when paying them. But the discrimination did not end there; and they weren’t just fiscal. Some example, the Muslim traveled on horseback and the Christian with a donkey; a Christian who killed a Muslim, even in self-defense, was inevitably condemned to death, although this rule did not apply in the reverse case; the testimony of a Christian against a Muslim was not admissible in court; a Christian had to get up when a Muslim entered, and he could only pass him on the left side, considered cursed; a Christian could not have Muslim servants or a house higher than that of a Muslim, without having to demolish it; a church, when it was not razed, had to be lower than a mosque; the fines imposed for the same offenses were less than half for Muslims; mixed marriages between members of submissive and Islamized populations and Arab women were almost impossible and absolutely prohibited between Muslims and pagans (musrikies). These were some of the so-called “benefits” of the dhimma.

We are told like a mantra that if tolerance in al-Andalus was not of course as it has been conceived since the 18th-century “that does not mean that there has not been coexistence more often than not, and a peaceful one at that.” But the truth is, intransigence towards other religions was untenable. Under the Umayyads, the slightest resistance or serious rebellion of Christians was drowned in blood. Only collaboration and submission were possible. We know the brutalities of Abd al-Rahman III with his sex slaves, as his biographer Ibn Hayyan tells it; we know his pedophilic passion for the young Christian Pelagius whom he finally killed because he resisted him.

The Umayyads were the most determined defenders of Islam and the greatest head-cutters or “beheaders” in the history of al-Andalus. The situation of Christians and Jews was such that over the centuries they did not stop migrating to the Christian kingdoms of the Spanish Peninsula. After the triumph of the Almohads, the Christian and Jewish communities had no other possible alternative but conversion to Islam, or deportation to Africa. By the 12th-century, the Christian community of al-Andalus had ceased to exist.

Q: Do the various initiatives in Spain, aimed at asking forgiveness from the Muslim community for the consequences of the Reconquista, seem to you to be historically founded, and why?

AI: It’s totally absurd, but you can always dream. I do not doubt for a moment that in the logic of Muslims or Islamists this request is justified. Dar al-Kufr (the “domain of the infidels” or “domain of unbelief,” or the “domain of blasphemy”) is the expression they use to designate the territories where Sharia law was once applied, but no longer applies.

And this is precisely the case with Spain; or rather, a good part of Spain since the Reconquista (the border line was located for a long time in the center of the Peninsula, where the Central System that separates the current autonomous communities of Castile and Leon and Castilla-La Mancha). But after all, in their logic, why would they not be also justified in asking the same forgiveness for the consequences of the reconquest in that part of France conquered as far as Poitiers? That being said, as far as I know, we are not forced to accept this propaganda, or we have to forget that not only Spain but also North Africa were both Christian long before they were Muslim.

The image shows the “Martyrdom of Pelagius,” by the Master of Becerril, painted ca. 1520.

Translated from the French by N. Dass.

Charles de Gaulle, Mythologized, Yet Betrayed, Part III

The President Of The Fifth Republic – Gaullian Thought

With his followers, de Gaulle created, in 1947, the Rassemblement du Peuple Français (RPF), a movement which initially had a good number of members elected to the Assembly, but which then declined until its dissolution in 1953. During these years, the General was wary, in particular, of the influence of the PCF, the Communists and their leaders, of whom he regularly said that they were in the service of the USSR, that they had a project of domination of Europe, and that their aim, unspoken and underhanded, was to submit the country to foreign domination.

In 1951, de Gaulle rejected the supranational character of the European Coal and Steel Community (CECA) and opposed in the name of national sovereignty, a project of the European Defense Community (EDC). On the other hand, he rallied to the idea of European integration and approved the entry of France into the European Economic Community (EEC), following the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Being a man of letters since his youth, he took advantage of the political lull that followed to write the three volumes of his Memoirs which he published in 1954, 1956 and 1959.

De Gaulle, An Exceptional President Of The Republic

At the beginning of 1958, events in Algeria began to escalate. Fear and anger gripped the French in Algeria, as well as chiefs of staff of the army, as rumors circulated about negotiations between the government and the FLN separatists. On May 13, a big demonstration was planned in Algiers. To calm the crowd, General Massu, a lifelong Gaullist, chaired a committee of public safety and demanded that in France a government of public safety be formed, chaired by General de Gaulle.

On the 15th, General Salan harangued the crowd and exclaimed, “Vive de Gaulle!” On May 16, in Paris, at the Palais Bourbon, the socialist leader, Guy Mollet, rallied to de Gaulle’s solution. After being received on May 29 by the President of the Republic, René Coty, who entrusted him with the task of constituting the government, de Gaulle appeared before the National Assembly on June 1st to receive the investiture of President of the Council, along with extended powers, with a view to preparing new institutions (329 votes for, and 224 votes against).

In June 1958, de Gaulle made a trip to Algeria, where he uttered those unhappy words: “I understand you” (speech from Algiers, June 4, 1958) and “Vive l’Algérie française” (speech from Mostaganem, June 6, 1958). He falsely gave the impression of committing to French Algeria and assimilation. The French of Algeria, and many senior officers, never forgave him for fostering the misunderstanding in this way. In fact, de Gaulle understood that France no longer had the energy necessary for an imperial destiny. He anticipated the danger of an invasion of the metropolis by large African populations, with a conquering Islamic religion. He also knew that the world had changed and that France and Europe would have to establish new relationships with the peoples of the former colonies, based on interdependence and respect for differences.

From August 24, 1958, de Gaulle began, in Brazzaville, the process of the decolonization of black Africa, by suggesting that a community of autonomous Franco-African States would succeed the colonial empire. This “French Union” would be the crucible for the independence of the states of French-speaking black Africa two years later. Fourteen French-speaking African states thus achieved independence. September 16, 1959 was a turning point in Algerian politics. In a speech de Gaulle proposed “the right of Algerians to self-determination.”

On January 8, 1961, the French approved, by referendum, the principle of self-determination, and thus the independence of Algeria. In response, the French in Algeria revolted; in Algiers it became known as “barricade week” (January 24 – February 2). But on April 8, 1962, 90% of the French approved, by referendum, the Evian agreements, providing for the independence of Algeria.

On April 22, 1961, an attempted military coup broke out in Algiers; it failed after four days, because the army mostly remained loyal to de Gaulle. Many Gaullists, resistance fighters from the start, such as the ethnologist, ex-minister, Jacques Soustelle, or the sociologist, Jules Monnerot, author of Sociologie du communisme (a classic of 20th-century thought, published in 1949 and expanded in 1963) were now moving away from de Gaulle. Others, such as the minister and future prime minister Michel Debré, who had initially been a supporter of French Algeria, or the political scientist, Julien Freund, author of the most important French political work of the twentieth-century, L’essence du politique, remained inextricably linked to Gaullism.

It appeared that de Gaulle’s position was dictated by the need to protect France from being conquered by Islam, as Malraux had described to him. In March 1959, two months after his installation at the Élysée Palace, de Gaulle gave his intimate thoughts to Alain Peyrefitte, concerning the reasons which led him to offer independence to Algeria: “It’s very good that there are yellow French, black French, brown French. They show that France is open to all races and that it has a universal calling. But only on the condition that they remain a small minority. Otherwise France will no longer be France. We are nevertheless above all a European people of the white race, of Greek and Latin culture, and of the Christian religion… Let’s not tell each other stories! Muslims, have you seen them, with their turbans and djellabas? You can see that they are not French! Those who advocate integration have the brains of hummingbirds (he then thinks of his ex-friend, Soustelle), even if they are very learned… Integration is a trick to allow Muslims, who are in the majority in Algeria ten to one, to find themselves in the minority in the French Republic one to five. It’s a childish sleight of hand! We imagine that we can handle the Algerians with such jackass tomfoolery. Can’t you see that the Arabs will multiply by five and then by ten, while the French population will remain almost stationary? Then will there be two hundred, then four hundred Arab deputies in Paris? Do you see an Arab president at the Élysée?… We will perhaps realize that the greatest of all the services that I have been able to render to the country was to detach Algeria from France; and that, of all, it was this very service which hurt me the most. With hindsight, we will understand that this cancer was going to do away with us. We will recognize that the ‘integration,’ the faculty given to ten million Arabs, who would become 20, then forty [they are now more than 42 million, NDLA], to settle in France as at home – it will be the end of France.”

In May 1963, in the Council of Ministers, he insisted again: “I draw your attention to a problem which could become serious. There were 40,000 immigrants from Algeria in April. This is almost equal to the number of babies born in France during the same month. I would like more babies to be born in France and less immigrants to come. Let’s not overdo this! It is urgent to put it in order!” No politician today would dare to open such a debate with the arguments used previously by de Gaulle, without risking a humiliating defeat at the hands of censors and inquisitors, modern guardians of mono-thought – worse, without immediately suffering the wrath of the law.

Be that it may, the French were indebted to the General for the end of the Algerian war. He alone had managed to resolve the terrible conflict that had torn France apart for years. But the conditions under which he did so and the methods he employed remain debatable and debated. De Gaulle would say at the end of his life about Franco, “All things considered, the results of his action are positive for his country. But, God, he had a heavy hand.” It is probably no exaggeration to repeat his harsh words here when we consider the tragedy experienced by the Harki and the French in Algeria.

On October 28, 1962, after a political crisis of exceptional violence, which brought together supporters of a referendum and opposition parliamentarians demanding the revision of the Constitution via the majority of Congress, the National Assembly was dissolved. De Gaulle finally won and a popular referendum was organized on the election of the President of the Republic by universal suffrage. The project was approved by the people with 62.25% of the votes in favor. De Gaulle always wanted to exclude the middlemen of the political caste, who were too indifferent to the concerns of the people. It is therefore not surprising that he saw “all the cripples of contemporary history” rise up against him – a vast and heterogeneous coalition of professional politicians, ranging from radical and traditional right-wingers, to Liberals and Christian Democrats. Socialists and Communists.

Nevertheless, Gaullism did have the advantage of bringing together politicians whose origins and convictions were numerous: Jacobins, Conservative administrators, reformist Liberals, radicals, social democrats, left-wing republicans, even far-left, independent intellectuals, technocrats, Maurrassians and nationalist disciples of Péguy or Barres. Sociological Gaullism went far beyond the moderate Right electorate (liberal-conservative and Christian-democratic) and the radical Right. It rallied a large fraction of the Left electorate, seduced by the charisma of the General and by his desire to reconcile order and progress.

At that time, pamphlets, published by prestigious publishing houses, were successfully circulated against de Gaulle. At the end of the Second World War, in 1945, Henri de Kérillis, a Giraudist residing in the United States, published, in Montreal, De Gaulle, dictateur (De Gaulle, Dictator).

In 1964, it was the right-wing anarchist, Jacques Laurent, who published, Mauriac sous de Gaulle (Mauriac under de Gaulle), a libelous work in which he blamed “the Chief who exercises absolute power,” and even claimed that France “lives under a form of tyranny.” The partisans of French Algeria did not forgive him for having had Colonel Bastien Thierry, leader of the conspirators, shot after the attempted assassination at Petit-Clamart, on March 11, 1963. Parliamentarians and former ministers, like the now old Paul Reynaud (right-wing Centrist), Gaston Monnerville (Democratic Left), or François Mitterrand (UDSR – Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance) were not the least virulent.

Paul Reynaud declared that President de Gaulle had violated the Constitution and insulted Parliament. In 1964, Mitterrand published his pamphlet, Le coup d’État permanent (The Permanent Coup d’etat), in which he denounced the practice of “personal power” and the weakness of the marginalized parliament. He called for voting “No” in the referendum on the Constitution of the Fifth Republic (1958) and “No” in the referendum on election by universal suffrage (1962).

François Mitterrand was then known for the attack at the Observatory, a false attack carried out against himself in 1959 [the “Observatory Affair”]. Being then a minister of the Fourth Republic, which was then in decline, Mitterrand had ordered this attack as an attempt to regain some public confidence. De Gaulle, who sometimes was ferocious, gave him various unflattering nicknames, such as, “Rastignac de la Nièvre,” (a social-climber of Nièvre ), “the Arsouille” (thug), or “the Prince of political dogs.” Indicted for “contempt of court,” Mitterrand took advantage of an amnesty law passed by the Pompidou government (the 1962 law; brought into force in 1966), which stopped the legal proceedings against him in 1966.

The reference to the coup d’État to censor the arrival and exercise of power by de Gaulle was a leitmotif of his opponents. We know that European Liberal and Socialist traditions have been marked by numerous recourses to putsches, coups d’état and other pronunciamientos (the first in the 19th-century, and the second at the turn of the 20th-century).

But the fact remains – after the Second World War, in the name of representative democracy, the representatives of these two tendencies sought to sanctify the democratic legitimacy of power (at the expense of the legitimacy of its exercise). De Gaulle, who did not allow himself to be fooled by their legal quibbles, said in this regard: “A good number of political professionals… refuse to see the people exercising sovereignty over the role of these professionals as intermediaries.” But paradoxically, history has shown that de Gaulle was much more democratic than his successors. It was with dignity, and without making the slightest comment, that he left office in 1969, after a referendum on Senate reform and regionalization was rejected by 52.41% of the vote.

Conversely, in 1986, when the legislative elections brought to power a right-wing majority, the socialist François Mitterrand, however critical of the institutions of the Fifth Republic, remained in his post and brought in Jacques Chirac as prime minister, which made for both unnatural and sterile marriage. In 1997, in the wake of the unfortunate dissolution of the Assembly, Chirac also remained at the Élysée, bringing in the Socialist Lionel Jospin as prime minister. In 2005, again, after losing the referendum on the draft European constitution, Chirac was careful not to head to the exit door.

Finally, in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy had the National Assembly ratify the Treaty of Lisbon on the new European Constitution, with the help of the Centrists and the Socialists, while it was rejected by the people in the referendum of May 29, 2005. No referendum has ever been held since. The concept of democracy held by the heads of state who succeeded de Gaulle is, to say the least, of a variable geometry.

In addition to the institutions of the Fifth Republic, a heritage on which the French still live, one must add to de Gaulle’s successes national independence (with the nuclear deterrent force, the withdrawal from NATO’s integrated command, and the return to major economic and financial balances), Franco-German reconciliation (Franco-German friendship treaty of January 22, 1963), and the ordinances on employee profit-sharing and ownership (January 7, 1959 and August 17, 1967). These reforms allowed “collective participation in the running of the company or establishment… participation in the capital or in self-financing operations… [and] participation in the increase of productivity.”

In de Gaulle’s eyes, participation was to crown his social work. But it would come up against the joint hostility of the employers, who feared the arrival of Soviets in the company, and of the unions, who saw all co-management as a phenomenon of class collaboration.

Finally, it should be noted that after the direct intervention of his wife, Yvonne, de Gaulle, agreed to support Deputy Lucien Neuwirth’s law authorizing the use of the contraceptive pill. At the Council of Ministers of June 7, 1967, de Gaulle, hesitant and even reluctant, still said, according to Alain Peyrefitte, “Morals are changing, we can do next to nothing.” But “we must not make social security pay for the pills. These are not remedies! The French want greater freedom of morals. We’re not going to reimburse them for this trifle!” The law authorizing the sale of the contraceptive pill would finally be adopted in December 1967. And it was in 1974, under the presidency of the liberal-conservative, Giscard d’Estaing, that the Minister of Health, Simone Veil, allowed social security to reimburse the pill.

On December 19, 1965, de Gaulle was re-elected President of the Republic, defeating François Mitterrand by 54.5% of the vote. This second term would be marked by three virulent controversies, which have remained famous, and which go far beyond France itself. After the end of the Algerian war, de Gaulle could fully denounce any form of colonization, and he did not hold back in this denunciation by supporting policies of independence, balance, peace and non-alignment, while defending the principle of territorial integrity.

While the United States was fighting in Viet Nam, in a speech in Phnom Penh on September 1, 1966, de Gaulle criticized American intervention and asserted the right of peoples to self-determination. On July 24, 1967, in a speech in Montreal, he supported the interests of the “French in Canada” and the sovereignty of Quebec (“Vive le Québec libre!”) – which did not fail to shock English-speaking Canadians (Time called him a “senile dictator”), but also a large part of the political and media establishment of France who showed their strong disapproval. (This was particularly the case with Le Monde, Le Figaro and anti-Gaullist politicians, such Pleven and Lecanuet, but also Gaullists, such as, Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, who considered the remarks excessive).

However, it was undoubtedly the press conference of November 27, 1967, five months after the Six Day War (June 5 to 10, 1967), during which de Gaulle called the Jewish people “an elite people, self-assured and domineering,” and condemned Israel for attacking Arab countries, which aroused the most passions.

De Gaulle took a position against most political leaders and the mainstream media, which led to a deluge of venomous criticism. (Such as the directors of Le Monde [Hubert Beuve-Mery], of the Nouvel Observateur [Jean Daniel], and of l’Express [Jean-Jacques Servan Schreiber], but also the editors of Populaire of the SFIO, of l’Aurore, and of Figaro). Raymond Aron even went so far as to criticize him for “rehabilitating anti-Semitism,” a hysterical accusation vigorously refuted by David Ben-Gurion.

In fact, de Gaulle regarded the creation of Israel as “a historical necessity,” and “a fait accompli.” He added, “We would not want Israel to be destroyed.” And later said, “France will help you tomorrow, as she helped you yesterday, to maintain you, no matter what. But it is unwilling to provide you with the means to conquer new territory. You have achieved a feat. Now don’t overdo it.” De Gaulle refused the conquest of territories by force and affirmed the need for dialogue with the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and the right to self-determination of the Palestinians.

But nothing suggested that less than six months later he would be facing riots, initiated by leftist, libertarian and Marxist students, and which would then be taken up by the entire left-wing opposition. This was the time when the philosopher, and Maoist sympathizer, Jean-Paul Sartre, complacently interviewed the libertarian (future liberal-libertarian) Daniel Cohn-Bendit in the columns of the Nouvel Observateur (May 20, 1968).

Sartre, defender of the dictatorships of the East, of the USSR or of Mao’s China and even a declared supporter of the Soviet concentration camps, wanted to be revolutionary. He was not an inspirer of the ’68 revolt, but it was echoed widely in the streets, on the stands and in the newspapers. Crowned with his past as a resistance fighter, an escapee from a Stalag and a defender of leftist causes, Sartre was the icon of the intelligentsia and much of the French university.

De Gaulle respected the “philosopher,” although the author of Les mains sales kept calling him a “fascist,” “pimp,” “piece of shit,” “moron,” “bastard” and “pig.” It would take almost thirty years for the veil to be finally lifted on Sartre’s baseness and villainy. We eventually learned that the legend of the model couple Sartre-Beauvoir did not correspond to reality.

Sartre had never been a resistance fighter; he had twice refused to attempt to escape Germany; he had most likely been released thanks to the intervention of collaborationist, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle. Sartre had signed the two Vichy forms by which he certified that he was neither a Jew nor a Freemason; he had been appointed to the Lycée Condorcet to the post once occupied by a Jewish teacher prohibited from teaching by Vichy laws. Finally, Sartre had written in the collaborationist review Comoedia and his play, Les Mouches (1943) – so-called resistance – had not given him any serious problem with German censorship.

As for his partner, Simone de Beauvoir, she had worked for Radio-Vichy and was not been expelled from the National Education Department by the Vichy government for an act of resistance, but following a complaint of corrupting a minor by Nathalie Sarraute’s mother (See the edifying account of their lives and their pitiful relationships given by Michel Onfray in Les consciousness réfractaires). All in all, they were a couple of mediocre, cowardly, opportunist, careerist, scheming and ambitious “bastards,” to use the pleasant term Sartre and Beauvoir used for their opponents.

“Reform yes, a shambles, no” de Gaulle would say in private, in 1968. In truth, he never forgave himself for letting these events take him by surprise. According to his son, Philippe, he confessed: “I failed. I failed because it is characteristic of someone who governs according to plan. And there, I didn’t see anything, I didn’t plan anything. Of course, I was not the only one in this case… But that’s no excuse.”

On May 27, 1968, a few hours after taking part in the meeting at the Charléty stadium (organized, among others, by the UNEF, the PSU and the CFDT), François Mitterrand proposed the formation of a “provisional management government” headed by Mendès France. But the old lion woke up and finally came to his senses.

De Gaulle, assured of the support of the armed forces of the Republic, after his impromptu visit to General Massu on May 29, 1968, returned to Paris and called for civic resistance. The next day, a gigantic demonstration of nearly a million people gathered on the Champs Élysée to defend the institutions. On June 30, parliamentary elections marked the opposition’s failure. The Gaullists and their allies then won the absolute majority of seats in the Assembly: 358 out of 485.

But this victory would be marred a year later by the success of “No” in the referendum on regionalization, immediately followed by the resignation of the first President of the Fifth Republic. From April to September 1970, de Gaulle published a collection of speeches and messages, followed by his Memoirs of Hope. He died at La Boisserie on November 9, 1970 at 7:30 p.m.

On September 10, 1966, aboard the cruiser, De Grasse, Charles de Gaulle had confided to his minister, future memorialist, Alain Peyrefitte, these few words, which define the essence of Gaullism: “We have tried to invent a new regime, a third way, between oligarchy and democrappy.”

Some Reflections On Gaullian Thought

At the center of Gaullian thought is the desire to reconcile idea of national identity with social justice. De Gaulle knew that one cannot ensure freedom, social justice and the public good without simultaneously defending national sovereignty and independence (political, economic and cultural).

The strength of Gaullism lies in its passion for the greatness of the nation; its aspiration for national unity; its praise of the heritage of Christian Europe; its demand for Europe, from Brest to Vladivostok; its resistance against any foreign domination (American or Soviet); its non-alignment on the international level; its direct democracy (universal suffrage and the popular referendum); its anti-parliamentarianism; its ideal of the third way, neither capitalist nor collectivist; its indicative planning, its “ordoliberalism;” its capital-labor association or participation; and its selective immigration and national preference.

The many links that de Gaulle forged during the 1930s, with various politico-intellectual circles, contributed to the formation of Gaullist Tercerism. From his family roots, de Gaulle very early on received the imprint of double social Catholicism (that of traditionalists, such as, Armand de Melun, Albert de Mun, René de la Tour du Pin, and that of liberals, such as, Ozanam and Lammenais). He also read Maurras in the 1910s, like many officers of his generation; his father was also a supporter of Action Française.

But while he recognized the primacy of foreign policy, and the traditional view of the struggle of states, with an indifference to ideologies that pass away while nations remain, along with anti-parliamentarianism, the strong state and the exaltation of national independence, proclaimed by the “master of Martigues,” de Gaulle also rejected full nationalism and, in particular, state anti-Semitism, preferring instead the philosophy of Bergson, the mystique of the republican idea of Péguy and the nationalism of Barrès ( the author of The Faith of France). Like Barrès, de Gaulle defended the idea of a unitary national history that included the Ancien Régime and the Revolution of 1789, and in which the Republic was a given. Being a subscriber to the Cahiers de la Quinzaine, before the First World War, de Gaulle expressly claimed Péguy as one of his masters. Let us also not forget one of his favorite authors, François-René de Chateaubriand, whom he read and reread his entire life.

In the 1930s, de Gaulle attended the literary salon of Daniel Halévy, historian and essayist, a great connoisseur of Proudhon (anarchist), Sorel (syndicalist-revolutionary) and Péguy (Catholic nationalist). He also participated in the meetings of the circle of an old retired soldier, a Dreyfusard and nonconformist, Colonel Émile Mayer. Close to the socialist left, Mayer made him meet, in addition to his future friend, the lawyer Jean Auburtin, several politicians, such as, Paul Reynaud, Joseph Paul-Boncour, Marcel Déat, Édouard Frédéric-Dupont, Camille Chautemps, Alexandre Millerand and Léon Blum. It was thanks to Colonel Mayer that he came into contact with Daniel-Rops (Henry Petiot). All this new knowledge allowed him to give more resonance to his military writings.

De Gaulle also took part in meetings and conferences of the Ligue de la Jeune République, an organization for political resurgence, after its condemnation by Pius IX, in favor of the Sillon, the progressive Catholic movement of Marc Sangnier. In 1933, de Gaulle contributed to the debates organized by L’Aube, a newspaper close to the CFTC (Christian Trade Unionism in France), which was later chaired by Georges Bidault.

In 1934, de Gaulle subscribed to the review Sept, created by the Dominicans; then, in 1937, to its successor, the weekly, Temps Présent, while he also belonged to the association, Amis de Temps Présent (Friends of Temps Présent). Openly Catholic, these two reviews and their circle, were politically in the center-left. Finally, and above all, a decisive factor in the formation of de Gaulle, undoubtedly much more important than his contacts with representatives of the Christian Democrats, Charles de Gaulle spent time with members of the Ordre Nouveau (O.N.). He regularly attended O.N. meetings, a personalist think tank which, along with the Jeune Droite, and Esprit magazine, was one of the three main streams of “non-conformists of the 1930s.”

Created by Alexandre Marc-Lipiansky, Arnaud Dandieu and Robert Aron, the Ordre Nouveau published, from May 1933 to September 1938, an eponymous review, which claimed to be a third social path, and which wanted to be anti-individualist and anti-collectivist, anti-capitalist and anti-communist, anti-parliamentary and anti-fascist, anti-warmonger and anti-pacifist, patriot but not nationalist, traditionalist but not conservative, realist but not opportunist, socialist but not materialist, personalist but not anarchist, and well, human but not humanitarian. In the area of economics, it was a question of subordinating production to consumption. The economy, as it was conceived by the editors of the journal Ordre Nouveau, must include both a free sector and a sector subject to planning. “Work is not an end in itself.” The “neither Right nor Left” approach of the journal and the group gave itself the objective of placing institutions at the service of the person, of subordinating to man a strong and limited state, modern and technical.

We find in this “non-conformism of the thirties,” as in Christian social thought, three fundamental themes that were dear to de Gaulle: the primacy of man, the refusal of standardization, and the concern for respect of the individuality within community; which implies, of course, an important place given to the principle of subsidiarity. In an interesting article in Figaro, “De Gaulle à la lumière de l’Histoire ,” [“De Gaulle in the light of History”], (September 4-5, 1982), the Gaullist and Protestant historian, Pierre Chaunu, drew my attention, for the first time, to the similarities and convergences which exist between the thought of General de Gaulle and those at the same time of the French non-conformist personalists, of the Spanish national-trade unionist, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, and of various authors of the conservative German Revolution. This striking parallelism is also found in the case of the thought of Eamon de Valera, the founder of the Irish Democratic Republic, and leader of Fianna Fáil. But it still takes a minimum of openness to admit this, without sinking into caricature and propaganda.

In fact, these political aspirations, which have as a backdrop the themes of “civilization of the masses” and “technical society” (dealt with in particular by Ortega y Gasset) are found among a great many European intellectuals of the 1930s who are not reactionaries, but who seek a synthesis, a reconciliation in the form of dialectical transcendence: “To be on the left or to be on the right is to choose one of the innumerable ways available to man to be an imbecile; both, in fact, are forms of moral hemiplegia,” wrote José Ortega y Gasset in his Preface for French readers of La Révolte des masses (1937).

Like all these thinkers, de Gaulle was in no way a reactionary conservative. He admitted to the civilization of the masses and to technology; there was no pastoral nostalgia with him. Gaullism and the personalism of the nonconformists of the 1930s only really diverged in the conception of the nation: the Gaullian defense of the unity, independence and sovereignty of the nation is opposed to the European federalism of the personalists. The fact remained that de Gaulle would always seek to defend a political doctrine that went in the same direction as that of the personalists, marked by the desire to go beyond the Right and the Left.

Throughout his life, de Gaulle sought to find a new system, a “third way” between capitalism and communism. In 1966, when he seemed interested in Walter Eucken and Wilhelm Röpke’s ordo-liberalism, he wrote to Marcel Loichot: “Perhaps you know that for a long time I have been looking, or groping about, for practical way of determining change, not in the standard of living, but in the condition of the worker. In our industrial society, it must be the beginning of everything again, as access to property was in our old agricultural society.” All his life he always refused to position himself on the Right-Left axis. For him, the Right or the Left were only political references that were completely foreign to him. “To be a Gaullist,” he said in 1965, “is to be neither on the Left nor on the Right. It is to rise above. It is to be for France.” And, again, “France is all at the same time. It is all French people. France is not the Left! France is not the Right!… Now, as always, I am not on one side, I am not on the other, I am for France” (12/15/1965).

In the 1930s, de Gaulle did not consider the social question to be primordial. A senior officer needed to focus first and foremost on the implementation of the best means for the independence of the nation. In a letter of November 13, 1937 to his friend Jean Auburtin, he explained: “For me, I’m in tanks up to my neck.” In this immediate pre-war period, for him everything seemed to boil down to psychological phenomena of jealousy and envy on the one hand, and pride and selfishness on the other.

Before being a social thinker, General de Gaulle was always a philosopher of sovereignty, independence and freedom. But his social thought would emerge in London, during the war years, after the long silence of the twenties and thirties. His first speech, in which the social question appeared, was given in Albert Hall, on November 15, 1941, a month and a half after the Labor Code brought in by the Vichy regime on October 4, 1941. The speech at Oxford, on November 25, 1941, is also essential in understanding the thought of de Gaulle, because it evokes the role of the machine, the advent of the masses and the collective conformism which undermines individual freedoms. The economy is certainly important, but it is only a means to the service of higher ends. Therefore, any system where the economy is an end in itself, whether it be savage capitalism or totalitarian collectivism, is sidelined. Gaullism postulates the primacy of man over economics, technology and any doctrinaire system.

While he agreed to parties, unions and notables, and conceded to them the day-to-day management of politics, de Gaulle denied anyone the right to question the major options of his national and international policy. Contemptuous of “the chattering, maliciously gossiping, and babbling class,” severe critic of the inconsistency, ineffectiveness and carelessness of the Left, de Gaulle pitilessly denounced the stupidity and immobility of the Right.

But his most acerbic criticisms were addressed to the privileged classes, to the money and knowledge bourgeoisie, that were all too often considered jaded, unhealthy and gangrenous, and to its spokespersons from the journalistic fauna. “The people have healthy reflexes. The people feel or are have the interest of the country. They are not often wrong. In reality, there are two bourgeoisies. The money bourgeoisie, those who read Le Figaro, and the intellectual bourgeoisie, who read Le Monde. The two make quite the pair. They get along to share power. I don’t care that your journalists are against me. It would actually annoy me if they weren’t. I would be sorry. Do you hear me! The day when Le Figaro and L’Immonde [the foul – a play on the name of the French daily, Le Monde. Trans.] supported me, I would consider it a national disaster.”

Firmly attached to the Colbertist tradition, for him, nothing important could be done in France, if not by the state which must take the initiative. The state has the means, it must be used. “The aim is not to dry up the sources of foreign capital,” declared de Gaulle, “but to prevent French industry from falling into foreign hands. We must prevent foreign management from taking over our industries. We can’t rely on the selflessness or patriotism of the CEOs and their families, can we? It is too convenient for foreign capital to buy them, to pay sons and sons-in-law in good dollars… I don’t care about BP, Shell and the Anglo-Saxons and their multinationals!… This is just one of the many cases where the power of the so-called multinationals, which are in reality huge Anglo-Saxon machines, has crushed us, the French in particular, and the Europeans in general… If the state does not take matters into its own hands, we get screwed.”

In the twentieth-century, the state had the duty to stimulate a shared economy and to establish the participation of workers in the life of the company. To avoid the situation of permanent antagonism between bosses and workers, capital-labor association and participation (a theme particularly dear to de Gaulle) needed to be implemented at three levels. First and foremost, profit-sharing in the company. Second, participation in capital appreciation to make workers co-owners.

Finally, the associative management of companies by both executives and all staff. Wage earning, in other words, the employment of one man by another, “should not be the definitive basis of the French economy, or of French society,” said de Gaulle, “and for two reasons: first of all, human reasons, that is, reasons of social justice; then for economic reasons, since the system no longer makes it possible to give those who produce the passion and the will to produce and create.”

It is quite obvious that this type of relationship cannot fit into either liberalism or Marxism. Thus, it clearly appears that the Gaullian position, since it repudiates on the one hand, collectivist totalitarianism, and on the other hand, laissez-faire and the law of the jungle, can only be based on the principles of the shared economy.

De Gaulle was not anti-European, as his adversaries, who are subservient to the United States and NATO, say he was. He wanted Europe, but not just any Europe. He even had the deepest awareness of what it represents: the historical link between peoples, beyond their discords, their conflicts; the extraordinary contributions that each of them has made to the world heritage of thought, science and art. In his Memoirs, he does not hesitate to emphasize “the Christian origin” and the exceptional character of the heritage of Europeans.

His idea of Europe and nation-states was radically different from that of his social-democratic or Christian-democratic opponents, such as Alcide De Gasperi, Paul-Henri Spaak, Robert Schuman or Jean Monnet. While they dreamt of a federation, he wished for a confederation. While their perspective was the absorption of Europe into a larger community, into the Atlantic community, de Gaulle wanted a continental, independent and sovereign whole: “Each people is different from the others, incomparable, unalterable,” he stated. “They must remain themselves, as their history and their culture have made them, with their memories, their beliefs, their legends, their faith, their will to build their future. If you want nations to unite, don’t try to integrate them like how you integrate chestnuts into chestnut puree. You have to respect personality. We have to bring them together, teach them to live together, bring their legitimate rulers together, and one day, to confederate, that is to say, to pool certain skills, while remaining independent for everything else. This is how we will make Europe. We will not do it otherwise.”

The idea of a “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals,” of a Europe liberated from the American-Soviet condominium, of a “new European order,” of real independence for all of Europe from the outside world, is fundamental in the Gaullian vision of the future multipolar world.

Without the obsession for emancipating Europe from its position as a satellite of the United States, one cannot understand de Gaulle’s foreign policy, nor his exit from the NATO system, (“a simple instrument of American command”), neither his hostility to the “exorbitant privilege” of the dollar playing the role of international reserve, nor his repeated refusal to admit the candidature of Great Britain in the Common Market, nor his obstinate fight for the common external tariff and the preference community. “If Westerners of the Old World remain subordinate to the New,” said de Gaulle, “Europe will never be European and neither will it be able to bring together its two halves.”

“Our policy,” he confided to his minister and spokesperson, Alain Peyrefitte, “I ask you to make it clear: it is to achieve the union of Europe. If I wanted to reconcile France and Germany, it is for a very practical reason, it is because reconciliation is the foundation of all European policy. But which Europe? It must be truly European. If it is not the Europe of the peoples, if it is entrusted to a few more or less integrated technocratic organizations, it will be a story for professionals, limited and without a future. And it is the Americans who will take advantage of this to impose their hegemony. Europe must be independent.”

For de Gaulle, it was clear that Western Europe must have strong allies to face the dangers of communism. But in his eyes, there was also a second threat, just as formidable – American hegemonism.

The construction of Europe therefore needed to be done without breaking with the Americans, but independently of them. Further clarifying his thinking, de Gaulle added “You can only build Europe if there is a European ambition, if Europeans want to exist for themselves. Likewise, a nation, in order to exist as a nation, must first be aware of what differentiates it from others and must be able to assume its destiny. National feeling has always been affirmed in the face of other nations: a European national feeling can only be affirmed in the face of the Russians and the Americans.”

What he criticized the Anglo-Saxons for is wanting to build a Europe without borders, a Europe of multinationals, placed under the final tutelage of America, a Europe where each country loses its soul. Realistically, he continued: “America, like it or not, has today become a business of global hegemony… The expansion of the Americans since WWII has become irresistible. This is precisely why we must resist it.” And again: “The Europeans will not have regained their dignity as long as they continue to rush to Washington to take their orders. We can live like a satellite, like an instrument, like an extension of America. There is a school that dreams only of that. It would simplify things a lot. That would free from national responsibilities those who are not able to carry them… It’s a design. It’s not mine. It is not that of France… We need to pursue a policy which is that of France… Our duty is not to disappear. It has happened that we have been momentarily erased; we never resigned ourselves to it… The policies of the Soviet Union and that of the United States will both end in failure. The European world, mediocre though it has been, is not ready to accept Soviet occupation indefinitely on the one hand and American hegemony on the other. It can’t go on forever. The future is the reappearance of nations.”

Firmly attached to the French nation, whatever its components, de Gaulle would have been indignant against those who today do not give preference to the French. “It is in the preamble to the 1958 Constitution,” he recalled. “The French people solemnly proclaim their attachment to human rights and the principle of national sovereignty… Article 1: equality before the law is guaranteed to all citizens. We don’t talk about others. So, there is primacy of the citizen whatever the source.” And again: “Was it not up to us, former colonists, who allowed the former colonized to give preference to the population, to demand today that preference be given to the French in their own country? Refusing causes racism.”

Love de Gaulle or hate him, but in terms of the General himself, we can only feel disgust and contempt for his successor-impostors who have mythologized him the better to betray him.

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 a mural of Charles de Gaulle before the Saint Mandé tow-hall, by Bernard Romain.

Translated from the French by N. Dass.