After exhuming the body of Franco on October 25, 2019 (forty-four years after his death), the Spanish extreme Left, which claims to be heirs to the Republic of the Popular Front, is still not fully satisfied. A number of its leaders, activists and sympathizers have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to carry on with the politico-cultural and religious struggle that surrounds the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen).
The Irish historian, Ian Gibson, an admitted supporter of Socialist governments, declared a few years ago that he was in favor of putting a bomb in the basilica of the Valley of the Fallen, in order to destroy the monument and its immense cross.
More recently, voices have been raised to quickly remove from its grave the body of José Antonio Primo de Rivera. But why does the young founder of the Spanish Falange, assassinated after a sham trial in November 1936, still evoke such aversion and hatred?
José Antonio Primo de Rivera – Victim of the Spanish Civil War
the Vice-President of the Socialist government, Carmen Calvo, was still trying
to be conciliatory: “José Antonio was a victim,” she said. “And he can remain
in this place, but somehow in a discreet way, because he is one among the more
than thirty-thousand victims, from both sides, that are over there.” But her
half-hearted statement failed to calm the vengeful ardor of the self-proclaimed
“progressives” and even less of the radical Marxists.
One example is Alberto Garzón, member of the PCE, the Izquierda Unida, and the coalition, Unidos Podemos. Reacting to Carmen Calvo passing the buck, he wrote in a pure Chekist vein, “The fascist José Antonio Primo de Rivera was executed because he was a putschist, like Mussolini was shot and hung up in Italy. And none of these facts justifies considering them as victims, because that would put them on the same level as the democrats assassinated and repressed by the fascists.”
In reality, for Garzón and his peers, José Antonio’s deadly crime is not so much his enthusiasm for the same social approach as Mussolini (or – which we should not forget – his admiration for the British political model) – but rather for his dogged defense of those particular phobias of cultural Marxism, namely, religion, fatherland, family, and Christian civilization. It is true that during the time of these facts, the politico-cultural precursors of Garzón were in the habit of calling all their adversaries as “fascists.”
During the years 1933–1936, in the Socialist-Marxist, Communist and Anarchist press and in their propaganda, Liberals and Democrats, such as, José Ortega y Gasset, Gregorio Marañon and Ramón Perez de Ayala, men considered as Founding Fathers of the Second Republic, to say nothing of the Liberal-Catholic philosopher and friend of Benedetto Croce, the Basque Miguel de Unamuno, were all tarred with the same infamous designation. Not having any illusions about the merit of the Popular Front, these noted intellectuals of the time, significantly chose the side of the Nationals during the Civil War. Thus, giving particularly damning testimony to the totalitarian excesses of the governing coalition of the Left and the extreme Left.
what one frequently hears, Primo de Rivera was not responsible for the uprising
of July 1936. Treated in an arbitrary and abusive manner, condemned to death
without proof and following an expeditious and unjust trial – he was, instead,
the victim of the government of the Popular Front. The facts that demonstrate
this are today well established, as follows.
The day after the first round of elections in February 1936, despite the frauds, falsifications, manipulations and considerable violence of the Popular Front, José Antonio naively put his trust in the president of the government, the Jacobin-Liberal, Manuel Azaña. He ordered his men to respect the law and to avoid all criticism and caricature, even humorous, of the government. (In a circular to provincial officials of February 21, 1936, he stated: “The Left now reinstalled into power is much more capable of realizing audacious reforms”).
But in response, on February 27, under the pretext of illegal possession of arms (which were widely owned by all the militants of political parties, especially among those of the Bolshevized Socialist Party ever since their attempted putsch of October 1934), the security forces proceeded to shut down all the headquarters of the Falange.
The days that followed were marked by the first assassinations of young Falangists – no less than half-a-dozen. In reaction, on March 12, some Falangists carried out a failed attack on the Socialist Deputy, Luis Jiménez de Asua, which resulted in the death of a bodyguard.
The government responded immediately, on March 14, by having all the members of the Falange Political Committee arrested, together with hundreds of activists. (In 1933, José Antonio’s Falange had 2,000 members; about 5,000 in February 1936; 50,000 in June; and 500,000 in October. Franco’s new Traditionalist Phalange would later have nearly 2 million affiliates, including 600,000 women).
Once incarcerated, José Antonio was subjected to an endless series of trials (a good half-dozen), the avowed purpose of which was to keep him in prison. When the Madrid Provincial Court declared the Falange to be legal, the government appealed to the Supreme Court.
But on April 30, the verdict was upheld and the Falange was declared to be in conformity with the Constitution. Censorship then banned the publication of this ruling. Finally, on June 5, the government ordered the transfer of the leader of the Falange from the Modelo Prison in Madrid to a prison in Alicante, to keep him away from the capital.
Incarcerated four months before the uprising of July 18, 1936, José Antonio was nevertheless condemned to death for conspiracy and armed rebellion and executed on November 20, 1936.
The accusation normally made against him by numerous historians of the 1930s is that he incited hatred and violence and was therefore responsible for the climate of political unrest which finally led to the Civil War. (From February 16 to July 17, there were 270 victims, the majority killed by the police. Falangists were responsible for the deaths of 60 Socialist, Communist and Anarchist militants, and suffered an equal number of deaths in their own ranks).
infamous and oft-cited statements (always presented in a much-altered form) are
taken from a speech given at the foundation of the Falange on October 29, 1933:
“Dialectic, as a first instrument of communication, is a good. But when justice
and the homeland are attacked, is there not any other dialectic but that of
fists and revolvers?”
Progressive and crypto-Marxist historians who blame him, of course, forget to recall that in September 1933, the Socialist, Francisco Largo Caballero (the future, “Spanish Lenin” who a few days earlier was still a minister of the government of the Republic), and to quote him only as an example, made statements that were far more irresponsible, in the magazine, Renovación, a publication of the Young Socialists: “What is the difference between the Socialist Party and the Communist Party? Doctrinally, nothing. We profess Marxism in all its purity.” And again, “Achieving Socialism in the framework of bourgeois democracy? It is impossible!… I do not know why some people are completely horrified by the dictatorship of the proletariat, of possible violence by workers. Is not the violence by workers a thousand times more preferable than fascism?… Socialism will have to undertake maximum violence in order to displace capitalism… We are at the beginning of such action that it will lead the proletariat to social revolution.”
José Antonio publicly regretted his inflammatory speech of 1933. But such was not the case for the principal leaders of the Socialist-Marxist Left (with the rare exception of Indalecio Prieto and Julian Besteiro), as well as the extreme-left Communists and Anarchists, who only ratcheted-up such inflammatory rhetoric by October 1934.
of José Antonio, written shortly before he was shot, gives us a better idea of
his personality, which is at the same time mystical, poetic, and political:
“May it please God that my blood be the last Spanish blood spilled in civil
discord. May it please God that the Spanish people, so rich in qualities worthy
of love, may find in peace, a fatherland, bread, and justice… I forgive with
all my soul all those who have sought to harm me or offend me, without any
exception, and I pray that all those whom I have harmed, either greatly or in
little ways, may forgive me.”
Christian demand for forgiveness is still being stubbornly refused him by the
most intolerant and the most divisive members of the political and media world.
Let us, therefore, recall the salient facts, so often misunderstood
and garbled, of his political life.
On October 1933, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, a young aristocrat, leading light of the Spanish Bar, organized a meeting at the Teatro de la Comedia in Madrid, which would be the prelude to the creation of the Spanish Falange. Born of a desire to create a “synthesis of tradition and revolution,” this movement, rejected and fought against by both the Right and the Left, was short-lived and turbulent. Its history is largely confused with that of its founder, whose tragic destiny was one of deep loneliness.
candidate in the elections of February 1936 (after having been elected to the Cortès
in 1933), José Antonio was incarcerated four months – let us highlight this
once again – before the uprising of July `18, 1936, when the Popular Front came
to power. Hauled before a popular tribunal, during the Civil War, the leader of
the Spanish Falange was condemned to death and shot, because of pressure from
the Communists, on November 20, 1936, at the age of thirty-three.
Paradoxically, so many years after his execution, José Antonio, still elicits hatred or fervor, repulsion or admiration. “An appointed agent of the Italian Embassy,” says the Frenchman, Max Gallo. The American Herbert R. Southworth stated that he had “a personality of a pimp under an elegant polish.”
On the other extreme, the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, recognized him as a “privileged mind, perhaps the most promising in Europe.” And the Ambassador of the United States, Claude G. Bowers, saw in him, “a hero of romance, with cape and sword.” And as for the grand master of the Generation of ’98, Azorin, he wrote: “Cordiality emanated from José Antonio. He therefore had a good heart.”
But what manner
of man is hidden behind the mask of stone that detractors and hagiographers
have put on his face?
extensive bibliography about the Spanish Civil War, of its origins and its
consequences, José Antonio occupies a central place. However, it becomes
quickly apparent that the conventional image of the leader of the Falange is
usually delineated by a few tirelessly repeated clichés. Alongside the
hate-filled caricature of the Socialist-Marxist historians, the “recouping” of
his personage by Francoist historiography likely is the second leading cause of
this singular situation.
The premature disappearance of José Antonio, in the midst of the Civil War, ideologically left the field open for General Franco. In 1937, the Caudillo imposed the merger of the Falange with all parties of the Right (monarchists, traditionalists and conservative-republicans), and this created a new movement, the Traditionalist Falange.
Manuel Hedilla, secondary leader of the original Falange, was condemned to death for refusing to bend. Very quickly, the Francoist authorities understood the benefits to them of a cult of José Antonio. They extolled his example and his sacrifice, but systematically eliminated from his doctrine “revolutionary” or “socially dangerous” themes.
In the years
following the dismantling of Francoism and the return of democracy, the wound
is still too fresh for scholars and authors to be seized by a desire to study
on a historical level the confused relations between Francoism and the original
Falange. They prefer instead to draw the veil of forgetfulness, or limit
themselves to a general condemnation. But such schematic interpretations are
beginning to break down.
Much has been written about the Christian or traditional philosophy of the original Falange and about the conservative elements of its political doctrine. But one essential aspect is its social program.
José Antonio wanted to establish deep social justice, so that on this basis, the people might return to supremacy of the spiritual. He intended to bring about this idealist project by carrying out the nationalization of banks and public services, by giving greater value to the work of the unions, by deep agrarian reforms in agreement with the principal of “the land belongs to him who works it.” And, finally, the creation of familial, communal and union property.
We can debate
the reformist or revolutionary character of this program, but we will have to
affirm that it is not reactionary. Such was Conservative-Right and Liberal opinion
that his press did not hesitate to treat José Antonio as a “National-Bolshevik,”
while reproaching him for confusing “Franciscanism” with “fascism.”
In the Cortès, when the Rightist majority decided to lift parliamentary immunity from the leader of the Falange in order to get rid of a cumbersome opponent, José Antonio owed his safety to the aid of almost the entire Left and a handful of Rightist deputies.
In February 1936, on the eve of the elections, the Falange was careful to disassociate itself from the “National Block” – an anti-revolutionary coalition that opposed the union of Leftist parties. In the end, the Right on the whole did not have sympathy for José Antonio until after the victory of the Popular Front.
No less surprising is the Left’s relationship to the Falange. Numerous Falangist officials were drawn from the Anarchist Confederation (CNT) or the Communist Party.
After the Civil War, various Republican personalities, including the President of the government of the Republic in exile, Félix Gordón Ordás, acknowledged that “it would have been possible in the beginning to get José Antonio to cooperate with the Leftist Republic.”
Teodomiro Menendez, Socialist deputy and director of the UGT Union, stated that José Antonio often told him in Parliament: “Teodomiro, if there were no religious ideas, we would be close to one another in politics.” And he added, “He was right!”
Prieto, Zugazagoitia and the other moderate ministers of the Popular Front paid tribute to the leader of the Falange for trying to persuade the belligerents to negotiate early in the Civil War. His execution – demanded by the Communists – was an absurdity. Exchanged or returned to the Nationals, without a doubt, he would have tried the impossible, to achieve peace through compromise. They shot him, and no one could then stop the carnage.
Among the theses demolished, there is the so-called political agreement between Franco and José Antonio. The unique witness to the only meeting of these two men is Ramón Serrano Suñer, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and the brother-in-law of the Caudillo, told me in an interview: “José Antonio and Franco had neither sympathy nor respect for each other. They belonged to two very different worlds, in their mentalities, their sensibilities, and their ideologies. There was never any political dialogue nor an agreement between the two of them.”
That said, there is a question that automatically comes to mind. Does the discussion, or even consideration of a set of underrated facts, ignored or just pushed aside, about the political life of the founder of the Falange lead to a sort of “revisionism” of fascism (not to speak of Nazism)? I do not think so. Such an argument is propagandistic misinformation.
For the serious historian, the Falange of José Antonio Primo de Rivera cannot be separated from the context of Spanish reality of the 1930s, in which this movement arose and died. Reducing the Falange to the petty common denominator of Italian fascism, to Nazism, or the various “socialist nationalisms” of Europe at the beginning of the twenty-century is to refuse to engage seriously with the originality and fundamental significance of a movement that left its mark on much of Spanish history of the twentieth-century.
The Falange of José Antonio was neither racist nor anti-Semitic; it did not place the State or race at the center of its world-view. On the contrary, “Man, bearer of eternal values, is capable of saving himself or destroying himself.”
Of course, history is far richer and more complex than the claims of ideologues. And historical debate is neither judicial nor politico-memorial; nor a debate between yourself and the blind defense of a particular and unique representation of the past which undermines the free competition of opinions and therefore democracy itself.
Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.
This article was translated from French by N. Dass.
The image shows a portrait of Jose Antonio by the Spanish portrait painter Miguel del Pino (1890-1973). This work, which was commissioned by FET (Falange Tradicionalista de Franco – Franco’s Traditionalist Falange) after the Civil War, was painted by Del Pino in Argentina, where he lived from 1938 to 1956.
The last will and testament
of José Antonio Primo de Rivera y Sáenz de Heredia, thirty-three years of age,
single, attorney at law, born and current resident in Madrid, son of Miguel and
Casilda (may they rest in peace), as written and attested by himself, in the
Provincial Prison of Alicante, this eighteenth day of November, nineteen
hundred and thirty-six.
Condemned yesterday to
death, I pray God that if it does not please Him to spare me, may He then grant
me to preserve my dignity to that end which I now await, and when judging my
soul, may He apply, not the measure of my merits, but His infinite mercy.
It troubles me that my
compunction to give an account of some of my actions at this time may seem like
vanity and excessive attachment to the things of this earth. But, on the other
hand, I have drawn upon the faith of so many of my comrades, far in excess of
my own worth (so well do I know this that I write this phrase with the greatest
humility and sincerity), for I have compelled so countless many of them to face
enormous risks and responsibilities, and it would be inconsiderate ingratitude
on my part to leave everyone without even an explanation.
It is not necessary to
repeat now what I have said and written so many times about what the founders
of the Spanish Falange wished us to be. It astonishes me that even after three
years the vast majority of our compatriots persist in judging us without having
begun, by any means, to understand us, nor even seeking out and accepting the
least bit of information about us. If the Falange is consolidated into an
enduring thing, I hope that all will perceive with pain that so much blood was
spilled because we could not affect a peaceful gap between the cruelty of the
one side and the antipathy of the other. May that spilled blood forgive me for
the part that I played in provoking it, and may the comrades who have gone
before in sacrifice welcome me as the last among them.
Yesterday, for the last
time, I explained to the Tribunal, which was judging me, what the Falange is.
As in so many other occasions, I reviewed and submitted the old documents
concerning our doctrine. Once again, I observed that so many faces, which were
at first hostile, lit up, first with sympathy and then with amazement. In their
features, I seemed to read this phrase: “If we had known what this was, we
would not be here!” And, certainly, we would not be here, nor I before a
People’s Tribunal, nor all those killing themselves in the fields of Spain.
However, it was no longer time to prevent this, and all I could do was pay back
the loyalty and courage of my dear comrades, by earning for them the respectful
attention of their enemies.
To this I tended, and not
to win for myself the posthumous reputation of a hero by way of some tinseled
gallantry. I did not take responsibility for everything, nor try to cast myself
in some romantic stereotype. I defended myself with the best resources of my
legal profession, which I have loved and cultivated with so much assiduity.
There may well be no lack of posthumous commentators who might condemn me for
not preferring bombast. To each his own. As for me, apart from not being the
only actor in what is now occurring, it would have been monstrous and false to
give up a life, without defense, that could still be useful, which God did not
grant me to burn in a holocaust of vanity like a fireworks display. Further, I
did not descend to using some reproachable ruse, nor compromising anyone with
my defense; and, yes, I did help to defend my brother Miguel and Margot [his
wife], who were on trial with me and threatened with very severe penalties. However,
my duty to defend urged me to not only be silent about certain things but to
make certain accusations, based on suspicions that I was isolated deliberately,
in the midst of a region that had been subdued. I declare that this suspicion
has not been proven by me, in any way, and if I sincerely nourished it in my
spirit, being greedy for explanations in my solitude, now, in the face of
death, I say that it cannot and must not be upheld.
Something else remains for me to rectify. The absolute isolation from any communication, in which I have lived since shortly after these events began, was only broken by a North American journalist who, with the permission of the authorities here, asked me for statements at the beginning of October.
Until five or six days ago,
when I came to know the indictments against me, I had not heard of the
statements being attributed to me, as I had no access to newspapers, or anything
else, which published them. Now that I read them, I must declare that among the
various paragraphs that are attributed to me, unequally faithful, which seek to
interpret my thinking, there is one that I reject completely: The one that
shames my comrades of the Falange of cooperating with “mercenaries brought in
from outside,” during the movement to insurrection.
I have never said anything
like that, and yesterday I bluntly said so before the Tribunal, although such a
declaration did me no favor. I am incapable of insulting those military forces
which have rendered heroic service to Spain, in Africa. Nor am I capable of
hurling reproaches at some comrades, from here, for I do not know if they are
now wisely or wrongly led. But surely, as always, they are endeavoring to
interpret, in best faith and despite the lack of communication that separates
us, my instructions and tenets. May God grant that their ardent integrity never
be exploited in any other way than in that of service to greater Spain, such is
the dream of the Falange.
Would mine were the last Spanish bloodshed in civil strife.
If only the Spanish people, so full of good and lovable qualities, could come
to find the fatherland, bread and justice in peace.
I think nothing else matters to me, as concerns my public
life. As for my impending death, I await it without bravado, for it is never
joyful to die at my age, but I await it without protest. May Our Lord God
accept the elements of sacrifice it contains in insufficient compensation for
what selfishness and vanity there has been in much of my life. I forgive with
all my heart all those, without exception, who may have harmed or offended
me, and I ask all those to forgive me to whom I may owe the reparation of some
wrong, be it great or small. Upon compliance thereof, I now proceed to put in
order my last will, as follows:
First. I wish to be interred conforming to the
rites of the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman religion, which I profess, in blessed
ground, and under the protection of the Holy Cross.
Second. I appoint as my
heirs my four brothers and sisters, Miguel, Carmen, Pilar and Fernando Primo de
Rivera y Sáenz de Heredia, each with equal share, with the right to distribute
said share among the survivors, if any die without offspring before me. If
there be offspring, the share that pertains to my predeceased sibling will be
equally divided, per stirpes. This deposition will reman valid though my
sibling be predeceased prior to the writing of this will.
Third. I leave no other legacy, nor impose a
legally binding burden on my siblings, but I would request that:
A) They attend, with my
estate, to the comfort and needs of our aunt, María Jesús Primo de Rivera y
Orbaneja, whose maternal self-denial and affectionate courage, in the
twenty-seven years that she has been in our care, we shall never be able to
repay with treasures of gratitude;
B) They give, in memory of me, some of my personal
effects and belongings to my colleagues, especially to Rafael Garcerán, Andrés de la Cuerda and Manuel Sarrion, so
loyal, from year-to-year, so helpful and patient, despite my incommodious
company. I thank them and everyone else, and I beg
them to remember me without undue anger;
C) They distribute my other personal effects among
my best friends, whom they know very well, and most assuredly among those who
have shared with me the joys and adversities of our Spanish Falange. They and
some other comrades now occupy a fraternal position in my heart.
D) That they reward the oldest servants of
our house, whom I thank for their loyalty, and beg their pardon for any
inconvenience I brought upon them.
Fourth. I name as my testamentary executors,
jointly and severally, for a period of three years, and with all the usual
prerogatives, my dear and lifelong friends Raimundo
Fernández Cuesta y Morelo and Ramón Serrano Suñer, whom I request especially:
A) That they review my private papers and
destroy all those of a very personal nature, as well as those that contain
merely literary works and those that are simple drafts and projects in early
stages of elaboration, or any work prohibited by the Church, or otherwise
pernicious, that may be found in my things.
B) That they collect all my speeches, articles,
circulars, prologues to books, etc., not for publication – unless they deem it
indispensable – but to use as justification when discussing this period of
Spanish politics in which my comrades and I have intervened.
they urgently find my replacement in the direction of the various professional
matters entrusted to me, with the help of Garcerán,
Sarrión and Matilla, and to collect some of the fees that are due me.
D) That, as quickly and effectively as possible, they send to the
aggrieved persons and entities, referred to in the introduction of this will,
the solemn rectifications that it contains.
For all of which I thank them cordially, from now on.
And with these terms, I leave my last will and testament, on this
eighteenth day of November, one thousand nine-hundred and thirty-six, at five
in the afternoon, on three other pages, besides this one, all foliated, dated
and signed in the margin.
José Antonio Primo de Rivera
The trial of José Antonio Primo de Rivera took place on November 14th and 17th, 1936. The Tribunal, or People’s Court, consisted of a President (Iglesias Portal), two other assessor judges (with votes), and fourteen members of the jury. The jury was entirely made up of members of the Popular Front, or unions of similar political affiliation. According to various testimonies, the deliberations dragged on and on, with the members of the jury nearly coming to blows. The death sentence for José Antonio was finally handed down, after four hours, because of threats from the Communist jury members.
José Antonio conducted his own defense, as well as that of his brother, Miguel, and his sister-in-law, Margarita de Larios. Miguel was sentenced to life-imprisonment, while Margarita received a six-year prison term. Two years later, in April 1938, both husband and wife were exchanged for Captain Miaja (the son of General José Miaja). José Antonio’s younger brother, Fernando, had been murdered earlier in prison, in August 1936.
Miguel was given a few minutes to say goodbye to his brother, at 6:00 AM, on November 20th. When Miguel came into his prison-cell, José Antonio, fearing that he might be overcome with emotion, whispered to him in English, so the guards would not understand, “Miguel, help me die with dignity.”
José Antonio was then taken out to the small courtyard of Alicante prison, along with two Falangists and two Requetés (Carlist, Catholic-traditionalists), who were shot with him.
José Antonio heartened his four comrades and then addressed the militiamen: “Is it really true that you want me to die? Who has told you that I am your adversary? Whoever told you had no reason to say so. My dream is of a fatherland, of bread and of justice for all Spaniards, especially those who are left out of the fatherland because they have neither bread nor justice. He who is about die does not lie. And I tell you, before you tear apart my breast with bullets from your rifles – that I was never your enemy.”
At 6:30 AM, the shots rang out. The militiamen fired several
rounds at close range (just 3 yards away), without even being ordered to do so.
A few days after the execution, the British Foreign Office asked
the government of the Popular Front for a death certificate of the Falangist
leader. José Antonio was buried in a mass grave in the cemetery at Alicante.
His friend, Elizabeth Asquith (according to some historians, his secret love), the daughter of a former British prime minister, who was married to Prince Bibesco, the Romanian ambassador in Madrid, had used all her connections to save his life. Having failed, she demanded reliable proof of his death. An official from the British Embassy went to the cemetery, accompanied by Judge Federico Enjuto, and had the body of José Antonio unearthed. Thus began the curious journey of José Antonio’s remains.
His body was exhumed from the mass grave a second time by the government of the Popular Front, and given an individual burial within the cemetery (lot number 515). The third exhumation was carried out in 1939, just after the end of the Civil War, when the body was transferred from Alicante to the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de Escorial, near Madrid. A fourth removal followed on March 31, 1959, when his remains were transferred to the Basilica of Valle de los Caídos, also near Madrid.
José Antonio would remain in the heart of Elizabeth Asquith. Her last novel, The Romantic, published in 1940, begins with a dedication to him: “To Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera. I promised you a book before it was started. It is yours now that it is finished – Those we love die for us only when we die –”
Among the personal effects of José Antonio, left in his cell, was found
a telegram, signed, “Elizabeth,” and dated, February 29, 1936. It read, “I am
thinking of you. Love.”
But it would appear that José Antonio’s great love was Pilar Azlor de Aragón y Guillamas, Duchess of Luna. Pilar’s father, a fervent monarchist, had formally opposed their relationship.
One last anecdote is worth remembering. It is not without importance, as
it shows that pardon and the spirit of reconciliation animated some Spaniards
during the Civil War and under the Franco regime.
This is the unusual, generous and touching “abrazo”
(hug) given by José Antonio to his judge, Iglesias Portal, who just a few
minutes earlier had handed down the verdict and the death sentence. The
daughters of Iglesias Portal testified to this embrace in a letter, dated
January 30, 1955, addressed to Miguel Primo de Rivera (who himself had been sentenced
to life imprisonment in the same trial as José Antonio, and who was then the
Spanish ambassador in London). The daughters wrote to ask Miguel to intercede
to have their father, in exile in Mexico, repatriated.
Iglesias Portal had been a career magistrate since 1908. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1932 by his friend and fellow political ally, the radical-Socialist, Álvaro de Albornoz, then Minister of Justice. Iglesias Portal had also investigated the case of the assassination of Calvo Sotelo in July 1936. Also in 1936, as the president of the Special Court, he was charged with purging the justice administration (this was the executive body responsible for the repression of the Republicans, during the Civil War). Later, in 1937, he became the president of the Central Tribunal of Espionage and Treason in Barcelona (and in this capacity he led the trial against the “Trotskyist” leaders of the POUM).
The letter of the two daughters of Iglesias Portal began with these
Most Distinguished Sir:
Although we personally have not had the pleasure of meeting you, yet we
make bold to direct this letter to you that you might attend to our plea. We
are daughters of the Supreme Judge who, as Your Excellency well knows,
unfortunately, was present and part of the Court in which your brother, José
Antonio, was judged (may be rest in peace).
As your excellency was present at the trial, you will remember that at
the end, when receiving the sentence, your brother took the stand and hugged
our father and told him that he felt that the difficult times had pushed
through his case, for we do not know if you are aware that our father and he
were good friends…
The letter then continued to request for intercession for the
repatriation of their father.
Here is the reply of Miguel Primo de Rivera:
Miss Loli Iglesias Arcos Avda. de Felipe II, 11, Madrid
I have received your letter of March 11, dated in
Mexico. I am sorry that I could not answer earlier, due to the many preoccupations
that weighed upon me. In replying today I want to reiterate what I wrote in my
previous letter, dated February 8, stating, unequivocally that, as far as I am
concerned, I do not at all oppose your father’s return to Spain and that, on
the contrary, I am willing to ensure that this happens, by helping you in
everything that may be deemed convenient…
I know that under normal circumstances, and acting
according to the dictates of his conscience, Judge Eduardo Iglesias Portal
would never have been directly responsible for a sentence issued against José
Antonio, of whom he was not an enemy. Don Eduardo Iglesias had the bad fortune
of seeing himself, like many others in those uncertain days, involved and
participating, with due responsibility, in what was in all ways decided by the
true enemies of Spain.
I want, if necessary, that this letter serve as my
statement, declaring that, for my part, I have nothing to oppose the return of Mr.
Eduardo Iglesias Portal to his country and to Spanish society.
I take this opportunity to reiterate that I remain yours
Signed: The Duke of Primo de Rivera.
It would be another year before the Council of Ministers, chaired by Franco, conceded the amnesty to Magistrate Iglesias Portal, on July 27, 1956. The judge returned to Spain on March 12, 1959, after receiving a telegram from the Director General of Security, permitting him to return to Spain. Portal retired to his house in Aguilar de la Frontera (Cordoba), where he lived with his wife and children, until his death in 1969, at the age of 84.
Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.
This article was translated from the Spanish and French by N. Dass.
The photo shows José Antonio, and his brother Miguel, in Alicante prison, sometime after June, 1936.
The 2019 social movement in Hong Kong has amazed me in many ways. For one, it has evolved quickly and fluidly into a series of leader-less, internet-empowered campaigns.
Many have dubbed it, the “Be Water Movement” – for it is fluid as water, in that protesters are flexible in their response to the police in front of them. The movement is hard as ice, in that protesters have vowed to resist injustice and defend their good cause by all means. And the movement is like steam, in that it remains shrewdly elusive in order to avoid arrest by authorities, and then later re-emerge.
This strategy has allowed the protesters to stay resilient for an extended period of time. But why did these protests happen? Prior to the handover, in 1997, China offered the people of Hong Kong a new idea, which has now become a hollow promise, of “one country, two systems.” Many had doubts, some decided to leave, but more chose to stay because they loved Hong Kong and thus wanted to believe in the promise.
Since the handover, the Chinese have been aggressively asserting their influence – politically, socially, economically, demographically and ideologically. And it appears that this interference has only accelerated since President Xi took power.
In fact, the ruling elite of Hong Kong have been completely transformed by two decades of such interference. Government leaders, appointed officials and legislators readily kowtow to the commands of the Chinese, with no concern for the wishes of the local people. For example, the latest survey saw Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive, fall to merely 15 percent of public support.
But despite overwhelming public dissatisfaction, those in authority seem to care even less about the people, because they were not chosen by the people but were handpicked by the Chinese. As such, Hong Kong functions under a fundamentally flawed system of governance that is bound to fail – because it no longer reflects the will of the people.
The younger generation, in particular, feel helpless and are therefore desperate. They realize that “one country, two systems” is a big fat lie. There will be no freedom of speech. There will be no freedom of the press. There will be no freedom of assembly and association. There will be no true democratic elections. There will be no independent judiciary. The “rule of law” has quietly been replaced by the “rule by law.”
As the saying goes, bad money drives out the good. Simply put, Hong Kong will not be Hong Kong any more. It is losing its vigor; it is dying, and it is going to succumb to being a second-class Chinese city.
This protest movement is in many ways a war, a war between democracy and authoritarianism. It is a war of dignity and values. Pragmatically speaking, protesters also know that they will be defeated in the end. But they have no other option than to fight. If a woman is about to be raped does she simply beg for mercy? What option is left her? She still will cry out and resist with her last bit of dignity.
The protesters fight and resist, not because they know they will win. They fight because of their dignity. They fight because they believe in freedom and democracy. That essentially sums up their spirit.
The Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, once said, “If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg.”
So, who really stands with these “eggs,” these protesters, who now smash themselves against the Chinese wall? And, for how long will support for their cause last? As we know, it was the extradition bill that sparked the protests. This bill would force anyone in Hong Kong, who did anything politically inappropriate in the eyes of the communist regime, could be extradited to China, to face dire consequences.
Some people still choose to turn a blind eye, wishfully thinking that they are going to be safe, as long as they do not rock the boat. These people are tagged as “Blue-Ribbons” – those who side with the establishment.
However, the protests have “politically awakened” large segments of the population, who now question the system and the government. And these questions are quickly uncovering the many lies and the propaganda. They do not want to live in a “police state;” and many of these people are now coming out to express their outrage. They are tagged as “Yellow-Ribbons” – those who side with the protesters.
Typical protests now range from 1 to 2 million; and they are mostly the Yellow-Ribbons. To put this in perspective, Hong Kong has a population of 7 million.
If it were not for the young protesters fighting against all odds, the extradition bill would have easily passed. Nevertheless, the government remains adamant and continues to dismiss all legitimate and reasonable requests of its own people.
This terrorist attack, for that was what it was, was inflicted on the people to instill fear and to silence the public. None of the mafia members, of course, were caught, let alone prosecuted, despite wide-spread video evidence.
Nevertheless, Hong Kong is still freer than Mainland China, at least for the time being. It has not yet put up the so-called Chinese “Internet Great Wall,” which means that there is still free access to international, online information.
But it is hard to “fact-check” everything. Truth and judgment will inevitably be clouded, given the constant bombardment of disinformation. It is harder to trust any information at hand. This also makes it harder to trust any people. Everyone becomes wary of each other, lest they be betrayed. There is fear of retribution, since China is always watching. Freedom from fear has been the first victim of communist propaganda.
Even at this moment, as I write this article, I am fearful of what might happen, of what the consequences might be of what I am now writing. Telling the truth often demands a fearful price.
What lies ahead for Hong Kong is also fearful – which lends greater poignancy to the protesters – for all Hongkongers what comes next is Cultural Revolution 2.0.
The Chinese Communist Party has never changed. It never respected human rights, and never allowed liberty to its own people. Tibet is the perfect example of what happens when China comes in and takes control.
And the Cultural Revolution 2.0 has already begun – all protesters have been labelled as violent terrorists and subversives; Hong Kong culture is being dismantled and destroyed. This what China does to minorities who refuse to kowtow. Just look at what is being done to the Uyhgurs.
What is most disturbing is that the world itself is silent, except for rare expressions of disapproval, such as, the Human Rights and Democracy Act for Hong Kong, which seems more politics than actual, real help for Hong Kong. In fact, as China grows stronger, Hong Kong will grow weaker, despite the fact that Hong Kong is extremely important as a major financial hub for China, through which it can access unrestricted capital flow.
Because of the financial importance of Hong Kong, the more radical protesters favor a so-called “scorched earth policy.” They want to smash everything that China holds dear in Hong Kong. “If we burn, you burn with us.” This sounds desperate – but we need to ask what has made these otherwise decent young people so very desperate that they will happily destroy what makes Hong Kong great – so it does not fall into Chinese hands.
This desperation has also split apart Hong Kong society. People are hesitant about sharing news with family and friends. Everyone is more guarded and careful about what they say. Relationships are torn apart – friends have become foes, couples are breaking up, children are running away from families.
Now, everyone has to take a side – whether it be as a “Yellow-Ribbon,” or as a “Blue-Ribbon.” Even companies, consumer brands and outlets are being categorized as, “Yellow-Camps” or “Blue-Camps.” Of course, the Yellows boycott anything Blue, and vice-versa. This has transformed society into opposing “tribes” – hose that protest China and those that agree and want to go along with it. But both sides are disgusted with the Hong Kong government, for its apathy, inaction and incompetence.
All the while, there is massive emigration, both among the Yellows and the Blues. Even the “Returnees” (who emigrated overseas prior to handover and the returned) are leaving for a second time. Others, who have no overseas passport, are frantically seeking alternative ways to get out and find a better future for themselves and their children.
Actually, China is perfectly fine with emigration. It seems that China wants to take over Hong Kong, but it does not want the people that come with it (the Hongkongers).
This is because there has been an uninterrupted influx of new immigrants, the rich and the elite, from Mainland China. Within a decade, the locally-born Hongkongers will be completely outnumbered in the next decade. Exactly what happened in Tibet.
Of course, this is a deliberate strategy, which will entirely delegitimize the local population. Hongkongers understand this well. Time is against them. What is now the majority voice, protesting for democracy and liberty will soon be stifled.
There is thus a sense of great urgency, which prompted a record high 71 percent turnout in the municipal council elections, in November 2019. The usual turnout for such election is 47 percent. The results of this election were encouraging, as it saw the pro-democracy camp successfully take control of 17 (out of 18) municipal district seats.
This was, in fact, a referendum, a reflection of public opinion. But despite this election, nothing really was won. The Chief Executive still will not budge. Large-scale arrests still take place every day (to-date, over 6,000 protesters have been arrested, many brutally beaten). We have no idea how many have been sexually assaulted, how many have been “disappeared,” or how many have officially “committed suicide” for the sake of this movement. They are indeed brothers and sisters in arms. They are the “martyrs” of this movement.
And in this dark time, I also see another Hong Kong, which shines with courage and righteousness. In the past, the typical young Hong Kong person used to be focused on money and success – and nothing else.
But now I see another kind of a young Hong Kong person – one who shows solidarity, perseverance and creativity. These young people can only bring admiration for what they have accomplished. I stand in admiration of their determination to do what they believe is right and to move forward without regret. Their love for Hong Kong is unconditional and sacrificial. Suffering builds up character; sacrifice builds a new world. Through their suffering and sacrifice, a new Hongkonger is being born! And I am proud to be one of them!
So, what is the endgame? We do not know what the future holds for
Hong Kong and its native people. As a realist, the future may be doomed. The fighting spirit of Hongkongers may be crushed.
But, as a Christian, however, I remember that Jesus vouched for the oppressed, the vulnerable, the marginalized and the persecuted. I believe He will vouch for Hongkongers: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Perhaps this protest movement is a blessing in disguise. Perhaps we do not need to keep analyzing possible scenarios or calculating risks and returns. Rather exasperation, let us be proud, rejoice and move forward together as Hongkongers. We are writing history.
E. Lee is a Hong Kong-born Christian preacher, who is passionate about missions in the world, and who still loves and cares for his homeland enough to write the inconvenient truth.
Who was responsible for the assassination of Federico García Lorca, during the Spanish Civil War? Thanks to the work of a host of journalists and historians, such as, Marcelle Auclair, Ricardo de la Cierva, Ian Gibson, José Luis Vila San Juan, Luis Hernández del Pozo, Eduardo Molina Fajardo, and Manuel Titos Martínez, to name a few, the answer is well known today.
The historical truth concerning the death of the famous Spanish poet belies partisan interpretations. Despite being an icon of the gay community, Federico was not “a militant of the left,” contrary to the false catchphrase inherited from the propaganda of the Comintern. Protected by Falangist friends, he was assassinated on August 18, 1936, on the orders of Commander Valdés, with the help of deputy Ruiz Alonso (a former typographical worker, Member of Parliament in the district of Granada from 1933 to 1936), two activists of the liberal-conservative right (CEDA).
Federico García Lorca is undoubtedly the best-known poet and playwright of Spanish literature of the 20th-century. Illegally arrested on August 16, 1936, in the midst of a civil war, he was assassinated at the age of 38, on the road from Viznar to Alfarez, near Granada. The decision of Madrid judge, Baltasar Garzón (October 16, 2008), to open nineteen pits, one of which, according to various testimonies, held the poet’s remains, did not fail to rekindle the debates and controversies over the disturbing circumstances of his death. And all the more so, since this controversial decision was accompanied by continual pressure meant to weaken the express will of the Lorca family who had clearly expressed their refusal to exhume the poet’s remains and their desire to respect the eternal rest of the dead. Refusing to accede to the heirs’ request, the National Auditing Judge imposed an emergency exhumation, but “in private,” and allowing the family to be present. To date, however, attempts to exhume the body of the poet, made on the basis of various testimonies collected since 1955, have all proved unsuccessful.
So, what are the well-established facts about the crime on the Viznar road? How are they interpreted? Did Federico García Lorca die because of his sympathies for the Popular Front and his fight against fascism? Is he the symbol or the most famous victim of the intransigence of traditional Spain, or worse, of “the implacable mechanism of extermination set up by Francoist Spain?” Was he instead the play-thing of a centuries-old rivalry between two wealthy families in Andalusia? Was he, on the contrary, an unfortunate scapegoat marked for his declared homosexuality?
According to the most widespread myth, popularized over and over again by the cinema, the press, television and radio, Lorca was “an intellectual of the Popular Front assassinated by the Falange.” It is a legend that has nothing to do with reality, however. The poet’s nephew, secretary of the Foundation that bears his name, Manuel Fernández-Montesinos García-Lorca, objected sternly, “against those who seek to minimize the literary value of Federico… against the politically-motivated insistence on wanting to open the pit where his body rests… against the use of his grave for propaganda purposes.”
Historical truth denies partisan interpretations. Not only were the Falangists not the perpetrators of the crime, but among the Nationals they were the ones doing everything possible to win freedom for the poet. This barbaric crime is actually the result of a Machiavellian maneuver orchestrated by members of the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rights (CEDA), the main Conservative and Liberal party of the Second Spanish Republic, who sought to gain the sympathy of the military and to discredit the José-Antonian Falange, by demonstrating that some of the Falangist leaders were protecting and hiding “Reds” in their own homes.
Can Lorca be considered a leftist activist? Nothing is less sure. All those who really knew him have testified that politics was not his main concern. Lorca was above all a writer who was at the same time elitist, refined, baroque, avant-garde and popular. In him converged tradition and modernity, liberal secularized culture and traditional religiosity, particularism and universalism. Born into a wealthy family, his sensitivity led him to defend the poorest, the peasants and the gypsies, in the name of social justice. But he was by no means a revolutionary. He used to say, “I have more sorrow for a man who wants to access knowledge and who does not have the possibility than for any man who is hungry.”
Lorca refused, in principle, to participate in a political act, even if it had a cultural connotation. He repeatedly expressed irritation when his name was used for political gain. Asked about his political preferences, he replied that he felt “Catholic, communist, anarchist, traditionalist and monarchist.” His detachment from politics allowed him to maintain friendly relations with writers of very different convictions – Communists, like Rafael Alberti; Socialists, like Fernándo de los Rios; or Falangists, like Agustin de Foxá, Edgar Neville, or Felipe Ximenez de Sandoval.
Gabriel Celaya, Basque poet and Communist activist, attested to this. He even told the following (disputed) anecdote. At the end of February 1935, Lorca and Celaya met at the Madrid Casablanca cabaret. As soon as he arrived, Celaya was surprised to see Lorca in the company of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Falange. “Hey! Come here!” cried Lorca. “I will introduce José Antonio to you. You’ll see, he’s a very nice guy.” The three men spent the evening together over a good bottle of whiskey (see Gabriel Celaya, “Un recuerdo de Federico García Lorca”, Realidad: revista de cultura y política, Rome, April 9, 1968). Gabriel Celaya also reported a second anecdote. The following year, March 8, 1936, he found Lorca at the Biarritz Hotel in San Sebastian. He was really surprised to find Lorca this time in the company of the architect, José Maria Aizpurua, founder of the Falange of the Basque province of Guipúzcoa. This meeting came in the aftermath of the February elections, which had brought the Popular Front to power, and feelings were particularly heated. Celaya refused to shake hands with Aizpurua. But once the Falangist left the room, Lorca reproached Celaya sharply for dampening the mood. Mischievously, he confided to him, with a playful air: “Aizpurua is a good guy, who admires my poems. Besides, he’s like José Antonio. He’s another good guy. Do you know that every Friday we have dinner together?”
The main contact with the Falangist movement, for Lorca, was Luis Rosales, a young poet from Granada, who was a student of philosophy and the law, and who was also editor of the Madrid magazine, El Gallo. Rosales would play a key role in the last days of Lorca’s life.
During dinner with Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet, on 12 July 1936, Lorca declared his intention to leave Madrid to take “shelter from lightning.” The next day, he confided to his Falangist friend, Edgar Neville: “I am leaving because they want me to get into politics here, when I don’t hear anything and I don’t want to know anything. I’m everyone’s friend, and I just want everyone to be able to work and to eat.”
On July 15, the poet arrived in Granada safe-and-sound, and lived happily on the family farm, Huerta de San Vicente, with his parents, his sister Concha, his two nephews, and the nurse Angelina. The turmoil of the Civil War, however, quickly caught up with him. On July 18, 1936, when the first reports of the military uprising reached Madrid, the Far-Left published in the press a cruel caricature of Lorca. He was shown dressed for first communion, and the unsavory caption below the drawing was an unambiguous attack: “García Lorca: cute child, pride of his mother.” More seriously, on the radio, the Communist poet, Rafael Alberti, recited insulting verses about insurgent soldiers which he attributed wrongly to Lorca. The prestigious liberal writer, Ramón Pérez de Ayala, accused Alberti of knowingly trying to have his friend killed. The poet’s sister telephoned Alberti to beg him not to endanger her brother’s life any further.
The uprising reached Granada on July 20. The insurgent soldiers, commanded by young officers, and supported by several groups of civilians, activists from the right-wing parties and the Falange, won in three days. In the city, isolated and surrounded by the forces of the Popular Front, things were extremely volatile. Reports of the massacres perpetrated by left-wing militiamen in Malaga soon triggered terrible repression. All over the Peninsula, massacre was met with massacre, repression with repression.
In Granada, Commander José Valdés Guzmán assumed the power of Civil Governor. He appointed his men to key positions and constituted a department responsible for repression. Valdés was a soldier who claimed to be a Falangist, but who in fact came from the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rights (CEDA), a Liberal-Conservative party. On the eve of the February 1936 elections, he was one of those responsible for training the candidates of this party, which was the bane of the Falange. With him were the chief of police, Julio Romero Funes, the former member of the CEDA, Ramón Ruiz Alonso, a heterogeneous group of right-wing activists, and lastly another group comprised of neo-Falangists, or “New Shirts” (as opposed to activists before the outbreak of the Civil War, who were called the “Old Shirts”).
Across Spain, the Falange – over 60% of whose leaders had been murdered or detained – was literally overwhelmed by new recruits. José Antonio’s Falangist movement had no more than 30,000 to 40,000 members on the eve of the conflict. It suddenly saw its membership increase to 200,000 and then to 500,000 members. These New Shirts, under the command of ad-hoc executives, appointed in the absence of any real leadership, knew nothing about national trade unionism and were largely uninterested in social concerns.
In the city of Granada alone, the few dozen Old Shirts, or José-Antonian Falangists, were overwhelmed by more than a thousand New Shirts from right-wing parties. To lead them, Commander Valdés appointed a Captain of the Assault Guard, a sort of Republican Guard, Manuel Rojas Feijespan. Not long after, Valdés came into conflict with Patricio González de Canales, the leader of the Old Shirts, who had been appointed directly by José Antonio, and who was a true lay saint. Canales stubbornly refused to allow his men to participate in the summary detentions and executions. Anxious to get rid of him as quickly as possible, Valdés, in agreement with General Queipo de Llanos, requisitioned an airplane which, after having flown from Seville to Granada, forcibly took away the stubborn Falangist official.
As early as July 20, Lorca had learned of the arrest of his brother-in-law, Manuel Fernández Montesinos, Socialist mayor of Granada. Thereafter, the atmosphere was heavy and tense at the farm in San Vicente. On August 5, Captain Rojas, leading a group of Neo-Falangists, searched the Lorca family home. Rojas claimed to be looking for the farm manager’s brother. Blows and insults rained down. Lorca was beaten, called a “fag,” thrown down the stairs. Finally, growing tired, the militiamen left the place.
In the evening, Lorca, worried about his life, called his friend, Luis Rosales, on the phone and asked for his protection. Professor of literature at the university, Rosales was about to join the front as a Falangist volunteer. He immediately hurried to the farm in San Vicente. After a quick meeting, it was decided that Lorca would stay with his friend, in the center of the city, three hundred meters from the seat of the civil governor, where Commander Valdés resided. As soon as Lorca arrived at the Rosales’ home, Luis’s older brothers, Miguel and Pepe – two early Falangists – and their parents, welcomed the poet with open arms.
It would take Valdés and Ruíz Alonso eleven days to discover this hiding place. On August 16, Lorca’s sister Concha, whose husband was arrested on July 20, confessed, frightened into admission by the threat of having her father taken hostage. For Valdés and Ruiz Alonso, this was too good a windfall. They would also finally be able to get rid of the Rosales and the group of Old Shirts that were openly hostile to them.
The same day, Ruiz Alonso, with an arrest warrant and accompanied by two sections of CEDA militiamen, arrived at the Rosales’ home. In the absence of the three brothers and their father, he was received by Mrs. Rosales. Ruiz Alonso was reassuring. His attitude was so sweet, in fact, that the unlucky Lorca was convinced that nothing would happen to him. Cautious, Mrs. Rosales left Ruiz Alonso at the house, while she urgently went to fetch her son at the headquarters of the Falange. Miguel ran in haste to intervene, but in vain. Lorca had already been taken by force, searched and imprisoned.
That evening, Luis and Pepe Rosales, just returned from the front, decided to act, with the support of a dozen Falangists. Outraged, they all went to the main office of the civil governor, intent on having their friend released. At the entrance, Pepe jostled with the guards who blocked the way. But he got into the office of the civil governor and harshly recriminated Ruiz Alonso and Commander Valdés. The altercation grew extremely violent, and Pepe took out his revolver. But the odds being one against five, the determination of the small group of Falangists was not enough. Pepe Rosales could only obtain permission to see the prisoner.
On the 17th, Pepe again stood in front of Valdés. This time he had in his possession an order to release Lorca, which was signed by the military governor, Colonel Antonio Gómez Espinosa. But nothing helped. Valdés did not get upset, replying that he regretted that the prisoner was no longer here. It was a lie believed by Pepe Rosales, for Lorca was still there for quite a few hours more.
In the early morning of August 18, Lorca was secretly being transferred to the former children’s home at Colonia, which had recently been converted into a place of detention. But along the way, on the road to Alfaraz, he was summarily executed, along with two unfortunate companions, the schoolmaster, Dióscoro Galindo and the banderillero, Francisco Galadi, at 4.45 AM, at the foot of the olive trees of the Viznar ravine.
For years, Commander Valdés, the principal person responsible for Lorca’s death, denied any involvement in the affair. But since 1983, thanks to the research of the journalist from Granada, Eduardo Molina Fajardo, the original statement of the Rosales brothers has been found and the direct responsibility of Commander Valdés established.
The execution of Lorca was indeed ordered by Valdés, with the approval of General Queipo de Llano. In the aftermath of this barbaric crime, Luis Rosales was also imprisoned. He avoided being shot thanks to the substantial fine paid by his family and, above all, thanks to the unexpected arrival in Granada of one of the most prestigious Falangist leaders, Dr. Narciso Perales.
Among the most faithful to José Antonio, Perales clashed with Valdés the moment he arrived. He would testify much later that during their dispute, Valdés cynically confessed to him: “Listen. For me, in this whole business of National Unionism, what is National seems good to me, but what is Unionism makes me sick to my stomach.” Curiously, Valdés, who always wears the Falangist blue shirt in films and television series, never actually wore it in the photos of the time, which were published notably in the newspaper Ideal, between July 1936 and July 1937.
After the creation of the new Traditionalist Falange of Franco, born of the imposed merger of the original Falange and the various right-wing parties, as well as the death sentence given to the second national chief of the Falange, Manuel Hedilla, by the Franco authorities, in April 1937, Dr. Narciso Perales became a dissident and went underground. As for Luis Rosales, after having collaborated in numerous Falangist literary reviews, during the 1940s and 1950s, he distanced himself from the regime.
In March 1937, shortly before the disappearance of José Antonio’s Falange, two magazines expressly condemned the assassination of Lorca by way of the Falangist, Francisco de Villena of Zaragoza. A beautiful elegy, in homage to Lorca, was published by him in the daily Amanecer, then in the weekly Antorcha. Again, on March 11, 1937, Luis Hurtado Álvarez published an article in the Falangist newspaper of San Sebastian, Unidad, in which the first words were unequivocal: “The best poet in imperial Spain was murdered.” Also, in 1937, the Sevillian poet, Joaquín Romero Murube, also close to Falangist circles, dedicated his collection of poems Siete romance to Lorca. (Murube, who was director of the Alcazar in Seville, at the end of the Civil War, also hid another famous friend in the royal palace – the Communist poet and playwright, former volunteer of the Fifth Regiment, Miguel Hernández. In January 1940, during Hernández’s trial, after his arrest, Murube interceded on his behalf, with the help of a small group of Falangist writers and poets, including José María de Cossio, Dionisio Ridruejo, Rafael Sánchez Mazas, Eduardo Llosent and Laín Entralgo. They had the death penalty commuted to 30 years’ imprisonment. But Miguel Hernández died of tuberculosis in prison, in 1942). Finally, to cite just one more example, in 1939, the Falangist poet, José María Castroviejo, also dedicated a poem to Federico García Lorca, which is included in his collection, Altura.
After the war, when in Francoist Spain no one dared to officially mention the real circumstances of the poet’s assassination, Falangists who were friends of José Antonio did not hesitate to publicly affirm that “Lorca was José Antonio ‘s favorite poet.” In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the youth magazines of the Youth Front and the Women’s Section, directed by Pilar Primo de Rivera, regularly published poems by Lorca. In 1952, the traveling theaters of the Women’s Section presented the Zapatera prodigiosa.
Many years later, in 2012, collector and art critic, Juan Ramirez de Lucas, broke his long silence by talking about his homosexual relationship with Lorca. It was in 1936; he was 19 years old. (He probably received the last letter written by the Andalusian poet, dated July 18, 1936). Since this revelation, the enigmatic inspirer of the famous Sonetos de amor oscuro is finally known. Author of several books, defender of Valle de los Caidos (the work of architect, Diego Mendez), Juan Ramirez de Lucas, was the great love of Lorca. At the age of twenty-five, he joined the 3rd Battery of the Azul Division Artillery Regiment to fight Communism on the Eastern Front. Subsequently, back in Spain, he joined the editorial staff of the ABC newspaper, on the recommendation of Luis Rosales, before becoming a specialist in popular art and an expert in architectural criticism.
History, as we know, is always more subtle and more complex than ideologists suggest. Thanks to the efforts of some serious historians, the false catchphrase of Federico García Lorca as a “leftist intellectual murdered by the Falange,” which is so much used by the propagandists of the Comintern, will eventually die out and historical truth will prevail.
Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.
This article was translated from the French by N. Dass.
The photo shows a portrait of Lorca by Gregorio Prieto, painted ca. 1937.
How much of our humanity are we willing to lose? It would appear that this question is becoming most pertinent in our age. But another, more fundamental, question foregrounds this one – what is a human being? Are people bio-mass? If so, then only one idea is required to exist on this planet, namely, how best to manage populations.
If mankind is something other than bio-mass, then another idea is needed to live a happy and meaningful life, namely, how best to safeguard the value of the individual. Each answer also means that a particular type of government, or state, must come into existence – whether it be rule by an all-powerful polity before whose might, one person is worth nothing; or whether it be a limited government that does not stand in the way of the people.
As is obvious, the first question can only be answered properly within the context of either of these two ideas. The current “culture war” is, in fact, an expression of our inability to come to a definite answer for what a human being is. And in this confusion, the very notion of citizenship is fast disappearing. If a citizen is bio-mass, then his value to the state is determined purely by the state. If the citizen is not bio-mass, then his value exists beyond the reach of politics because he innately possesses individual sovereignty, or self-worth, which no court of law or government can take from him.
But the more powerful a state becomes, the less a human life is valued. Consequently, those who agree with the state are deemed “good citizens,” while those that deny the power of the state are held in contempt and labeled as, “dissidents.” Currently, in the West, both these ideas are in contention. Which idea will win out in the end, will decide what type of society comes to exist in the West.
Into this struggle intrudes technology, which has assumed the structure of the all-powerful state – because it is intrinsically about the micro-management and even control of individuals. But it is a “state” of a very peculiar type. We watch screens. The screens watch us. It really is a watcher’s world, in which the boundary between public and private life is much corroded, so that individuals must continually yield their sovereignty in order to access the various necessities now contained solely within technology.
Indeed, it is now impossible to deal with money, information and communication without the intermediacy of the screen. This means that whenever we need to enter into any sort of transactional relationship with the world around us, we need to go and interact with a screen. There really is no other choice. And this “screened” interaction means people must assume two roles – there are those who need what screens dispense; and there are those who mange this dispensation.
In other words, the watchers are watched. And those that watch, do so continually, ensuring that entire populations are under constant surveillance. In this way, technology has created an entirely new form of “politics” – one where constant surveillance both exploits and controls. It exploits by charting what we buy and then tagging us as specific types of consumers. And it controls by telling us what to think – so that screens determine our behavior. We agree to be watched so that we might reap the benefits provided by the screen.
But this is consent of a different kind, because there is no other choice. There is no alternative to the screen. This also means that there really is no consent at all, only compliance, if we want to participate in commerce, communication or banking. In this way, each of us becomes nothing more than a technological “process.”
Much has been written about the surveillance culture and the surveillance economy. But recently an interesting set of three books has been published by Cyrus Parsa, each of which explores the serious threat to humanity posed by technology. These three books were published quickly, from August to October 2019. And all three, offer troubling, if not shocking, insights as to what becomes possible when technology and the state become a seamless entity – a merging that is coming into being in the West, but which is fully entrenched in China.
The three books are meant to be read one-after-the-other, it would appear, since each develops and builds upon two themes – “bio-digital social programming” and the anti-human agenda embedded within technology. Since these books seem to be self-published, a good editor was certainly needed– but this drawback does not distract from the value of the insights and information provided by the author, for he brings to the discussion a point of view that is very little understood and therefore little discussed, namely, the vast anti-human possibilities of technology.
More importantly, Parsa also offers insights as to how we ought to answer the two questions that were raised at the very beginning: How much of our humanity will we agree to give up in order to use technology? And, how shall we define a human being, given the anti-human assumptions that are the modus operandi of high-tech?
In his first book, Raped Via Bio-Digital Social Programming, Parsa posits the idea that technology promotes a “rape-mind,” that is, a mind that is perpetually sexualized and therefore always looking to either rape or be raped. As an aside, Parsa is also creating a vocabulary to help in his analysis, because the topics that he is engaged in have been so little studied that they do not yet possess specific terminology. “Bio-digital social programming” is one such neologism, by which he means the connections made with the human body by all digital transmissions (machines, robotics, computers, smart phones, smart cities, IoT devices, facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence).
Parsa suggests that humanity now exists as a “bio-digital” entity, which learns and understands the purpose and meaning of life now only through technology. This interchange, or cross-over, means that the difference between humanity and robotics is starting to blur. If a human is merely a set of mechanical functions, then bio-digitality makes sense, where the desire of human existence to self-perpetuate is channeled off into technology.
This, then, calls into question the very purpose of sex itself – for freed from reproduction it can only become another form of self-gratification. And because of this separation of sex from procreation, the various hybrids being created become expressions of progress rather than monstrosity. This “logic” also informs the entire transgender movement, where a New Man can be created by chemical means.
Given technology’s assumption about the human body as a mechanical object that can be programmed, Parsa suggests that the most effective method of such programming is digi-sexuality, which is then managed through the various gadgets we all possess, such as, smart phones and IoT devices, and which together create a hyper-sexualized mind, or the “rape-mind.” Parsa then connects this mind with the great upsurge in human and child-trafficking, and a “pornified” youth culture, which seeks to not only imitate but outdo the sexual acts portrayed on the screens of their various devices.
Such “rape automation” offers a precise explanation of what human sexuality has been turned into by technology – wide-spread and freely-available pornography, epidemic levels of pedophilia, sex-robots as a growth industry, and the bizarre promotion by the state of transgenderism. In other words, what Parsa describes is a culture that no longer understands what it means to be human, because it has transformed sexuality into a mechanism for controlling populations, in that people become what they see on their screens.
In his second book, AI, Trump, China & the Weaponization of Robotics with 5G, Parsa delves into another neologism of his, namely, “micro-botic terrorism” (or, MBT), by which he means the weaponization of biometric data. Just as technology has weaponized sex, likewise the human body itself has been turned into an effective means to destroy the individual, so that if the metrics of the individual do not match the “ideal citizen” required by the state, then that individual becomes the enemy of the state, and is dealt with accordingly.
The state needs to know who its enemies are, and technology steps in to identify (or tag) such “undesirables,” by way data. This data is created in such a way that “enemies” can be easily recognized, marked off (tagged) and then dealt with. This data consists of facial recognition, fingerprinting, individual manner of walking and speaking, skeletal structure, eye-scans, and so on.
Our very bodies betray us to the state, in that “enemies” possess physical traits that are markedly different from those that support, comply and agree with the state. Thus, enemies of the state actually possess different faces, postures, speech, mannerisms, gait – which clearly marks them off from the “friendlies” of the state. In other words, in the process of mass surveillance of crowds, enemies can easily be identified.
Such is the grim message that Parsa meticulously lays out; and he identifies China as the foremost user of such anti-human technology. This is obvious, given the idea that China follows in its understanding of what a human being is – nothing more than bio-mass.
Aside from the well-known harvesting of organs from citizens that have been tagged as unfit to live in the “ideal China” (and the trade in such organs is brisk and highly profitable), China also has far grander ambitions. With the help of the big-tech corporations, it has gathered, or is in the process of gathering, bio-metric data of over 6 billion people on this planet.
This means that China now knows, for example, who belongs in the military, police, national security, academia, the government, as well as who belongs to which private sector. And it can also identify who are the friendlies within other nations, and which are enemies. Given the fact that humanity is bio-mass, if any mistakes get made and friendlies get killed by the state – it matters little, so long as the goals of the state continue to be achieved.
Using biometrics, Parsa also details how his own company analyzed one-thousand members of big-tech corporations and one-thousand high-profile media personalities, journalists and reporters. His conclusion was that they are all actively promoting the interests of China; they are friendlies.
If Parsa’s biometric data is correct (and if we assume that data does not lie), then his conclusions must come as a resopunding alarm bell, because those who manage how we receive information have entirely bought into the Chinese model of governance – and the Chinese understanding of humanity.
Next, Parsa details the weaponization of AI by China. This means that through the AI operating system, deep learning and machine learning, human-tracking technologies easily become human-targeting methodologies, where a mass-kill of humans can be done quickly and efficiently.
As a frightening example, Parsa details one current project of the Chinese – the tagging of “House Christians,” or those Christians who refuse to follow the party-approved “church” in which President Xi is given status equal to Christ.
These House Christians have had their biometrics recorded, and this data is then used to identity other House Christians in the general population. This means that the Chinese state recognizes as a fact that Christians look, walk, talk, and generally carry themselves differently from the larger, non-Christian population. The companies engaged in this surveillance are Huawei, Megvii Face++, Sensetime and several others, Parsa tells us.
The purpose of identifying Christians is not only to determine dissidents, but to tag them for organ harvesting – and they can be picked up anytime and rendered.
This is far more than execution. Given that in China humans are bio-mass, the state can remove, without any qualms, people deemed incompatible with, and not fit to live in, Chinese society. And those thus removed are made useful by way of their body parts. Thus, their kidneys, hearts, cornea, livers, lungs and other components are harvested and sold in the international market. Or, “medical tourists” come and receive whatever transplants that they need.
China has been doing such “harvests” for the past fifteen years, with anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 organs harvested in each of those years. Tagged Christians are treated like livestock on the hoof, in that they are kept alive until their organs are needed.
All this information has created a vast human-bio-digital network, wherein humans are connected to machines by way of the Internet and who can then be managed effectively. This means that people are tagged, classified, and their information stored for later use, as they walk about, unawares, on the street, or even as they carry on their private lives inside their own homes. Such AI reach is made possible by G5 and soon G6 technology, which China is rapidly expanding.
Again, given its understanding of humanity, it matters little if G5 and G6 pose a great health risk to people. Indeed, even now, China uses biometric data not only to gather and process individuals tagged for organ harvesting, but to construct vast concentration camps, where individuals are placed for eventual processing. Thus, China carries out the greatest amount of surveillance in its cities. And the same tagging process is being used to identify Hong Kong protesters.
China is also developing “micro-bots,” or “micro-drones,” also known as, Robo-Bees, or Slaughterbots, which are tiny, and insect-like, and which gather data by way of Lidar, facial recognition, and heat-body-motion detection.
These micro-bots have full spatial awareness and can be used for human targeting, in which case they can deliver lethal doses of poison with a quick jab. They can also be trained to swarm and carry out mass attacks on large crowds. Parsa suggests that China is actively using such technology against the United States, and that he has advised the current Trump-administration about this surveillance.
In his third book, Artificial Intelligence. Dangers to Humanity, Parsa fully engages with robotics, and issues an open challenge to the various high-tech firms that are intent on developing capabilities which will lead to profound anti-human outcomes. Taking the lead in this development is China’s robotic and cyborg program, whose sole purpose is the control of all humanity on this planet.
In Parsa’s estimation, China has roughly 1000 new tech startups each day. Some of the things these new companies are developing include robotics, cybernetics, wearable AI surveillance gear, deep fake apps that are easily weaponized, IoT, smart phones, drones, and AI weapons (in which the Chinese military is particularly active). The goal is to record the biometrics of every human being on this planet, a task that is not hard to do, as many might imagine, despite the vast numbers. In fact, AI is built for precisely such massive data.
It is this technology-theft and espionage that has led to the recent Huawei affair. Parsa states that the goal of China is to dominate and control AI and the entirety of the global digital system; and one of the programs that Huawei is implementing is a robot police force, which can effectively track down and quarantine a person who has been tagged for such treatment by the Chinese state.
Huawei is also a Chinese vanguard organization, well-established in over 170 countries, where it creates and manages digital infrastructure. This means that their technology is now being used by 3 billion people, which is a third of the planet’s population. Their network effectively tracks, spies on and controls financial networks and even entire populations. That is vast reach. In fact, Huawei is implementing China’s larger global goals – the domination of financial and political infrastructures of the entire planet, and then the transformation of these infrastructures into one seamless and massive AI digital mega-brain – all run from somewhere in China.
But it is humanoid robotics that holds a special interest for China, in which it is investing a lot of its energy. The end-game of this pursuit is the creation of autonomous weapons, a cyborg army, which can be programmed to kill certain types of humans who have been tagged for elimination. All this is for a very old dream – China wants to be the master of the world.
Then, there is China’s leading role in creating sexbots (which also gather data and transmit it to a centralized system). Such robots are becoming more and more lifelike, and their demand is increasing. Of course, this is also weaponized sexuality, for it is solitary self-gratification, which negates the very idea of love between two human beings, and rather quickly undermines human worth.
Perhaps the question that the rest of need to ask is a simple one – why has the West (which created all this technology in the first place) allow China to become so powerful? And why is a country, which is a clear threat to the West, being empowered still?
The answers to these two questions return us to the original ones asked earlier. The West is confused about how it should understand the human being. Some in power (high-tech companies, the media, Hollywood, politicians) want to follow the Chinese definition. Others are not so sure. And only a minority, it would appear, vehemently reject such classification. This is the real culture war.
And, as an active participant in this culture war, Parsa has taken another unusual step. He has commenced the largest lawsuit of this century by charging corporations, politicians, the media, and banks, under Article 3 of the Genocide Convention, for complicity in the mass murder of humanity. This is a bold step and it will be interesting to see where it leads – whether it is dismissed as frivolous by the courts, or whether it actually gains its sea-legs and proceeds further (as it rightly should).
Whatever the outcome of this lawsuit, Parsa has set a worthy example to us all. His three books are a wake-up call – and the time now has come that we take back our humanity – before we lose it to Chinese and tech tyranny.
But to do so, we must first demand that our politicians be pro-human. We must stop believing in all the anti-human ideologies that now hold sway (such as, environmentalism, transgenderism, abortion, euthanasia). Our strange love of such attitudes and outlooks can only lead to destruction.
For good or ill we are in an election year and a major one at that. All the seats in the House are up for grabs, one-third of Senate offices are in contest, and of course so is the Presidency. No sooner has one election gone, then another is in the offing. And while “blackout periods” (legal restrictions on advertising before election day) may shield our mental space for a few precious days, we are helpless otherwise.
Besides, even the murkiest of blackout periods don’t stop radio showmen, television talking-heads, or (horrors!) YouTube comments from jabbering on. Even the heartiest news hounds weary of election updates by September. Come October, the best of us look like deer at the end of the rut, scrolling away at our news feeds in a bleary daze.
Luckily, I’ve caught you before the thing gets going in earnest; when we’re spry and sprite, and when we still have mental hard-drive space to learn a thing or two.
For all the minutiae – and drama – the press serves up in great doses, it is easy to be ignorant of the actual mechanics of our electoral process. What exactly is the path from idea to execution? How does one go from mucking around a run for office, chewing it over in one’s mind and with one’s friends around the water cooler, to formally applying as a candidate, to ultimately ending up on a party’s ticket?
At this time last year, when your minds and mine were far from this election, there were over 600 registered candidates running for the Presidency. Over 600 people embarked on the preliminary steps of a process we will now explore. How those hundreds of souls are whittled down to one candidate is done through the primary process. It is a system we find ourselves in at this moment.
As we set out on this exploration, we must make a distinction early on between caucuses and primaries. For stylistic reasons, I’ve chosen to use “primary” for both actual primaries and the rarer caucuses, unless otherwise noted. Both meetings are part of the opening steps in choosing a party’s candidate for the general election. Both are inter-party elections held to choose delegates from the state parties to participate in the national conventions held the summer preceding the November election.
The name-difference, firstly, designates who is funding those meetings. Caucuses are private gatherings which are run and paid for directly by the private political parties (n.b., both the GOP and the DNC are, after all, private associations). Caucuses are altogether in-house affairs. On the other hand, primaries are organized and paid for by the states. Besides funding, the name-difference indicates a difference in voting styles.
Caucuses use open ballots, everyone knows who voted for whom. They’re closer to open meetings than anything, and they try to arrive at a consensus. Primaries use secret ballots of the sort we’re familiar with in the general November election, with the winner usually receiving all that state’s delegates in the summer.
The overall trend since the 19th-Century, and especially since the 1970s, has been towards the primary system. Various dynamics come into play behind this trend. The most outstanding argument includes the perception that primaries are more open and democratic. The merits of this supposed openness is something we’ll look at later. (Not all that glitters, is gold.) In any case the purpose of the primaries is to choose delegates, who themselves will choose their party’s national presidential candidate.
How did the primary system arise? After all, political parties were not a planned feature of our government. Indeed, during the Revolution, the subsequent six-year rule of the Articles of Confederation, and during the final system developed at the Constitutional Convention, parties (or factions, as they were called then), were gravely cautioned against.
With the heavy examples of Rome and England during their civil wars, and the persistent machinations of factions in Medieval republics – think Romeo and Juliet’s Verona – weighing on their minds, the Founding Fathers were greatly set against such combinations.
Alexander Hamilton, oddly enough, given his later support of the Federalist party, warned in a tract, “There is no political truth better established by experience nor more to be deprecated in itself, than that this most dangerous spirit [of political parties] is apt to rage with greatest violence, in governments of the popular kind, and is at once their most common and their most fatal disease.”
The most revered statement in all of American political religion is Washington’s “Farewell Address.” It was once an oration commonly memorized by America’s schoolchildren. In it the outgoing president cautioned (in the best tradition of 18th-Century run-on sentences), “[Political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
There were a number of Constitutional measures in place to squelch “partyism,” such as, the appointment of a presidential runner-up at be Vice President. Yet even the warning given at Washington’s 1796 retirement – or rather, his re-retirement, the general having first demurred further public life in 1783 at the disbanding of the Continental Army – the young nation was drifting towards a seemingly factionalism. It is a drive that seems to be irrepressible in men.
During the debates revolving around the ratification of the Constitution, two groups formed to voice their opposition to, or favor for the new national government. In after-years these groups metastasized. By the turn of the century, the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists, as the parties came to be known, were well on their way to becoming as entrenched as their Tory and Whig predecessors were during colonial days. Indeed, by the time the 19th-Century was well underway, America not only had parties in abstract, it actually had a “Whig” party!
Whatever the Framers’ thoughts on the matter, political groups were here to stay. Indeed, Washington himself threw in the oppositionist towel in 1798, saying, “You could as soon scrub the blackamoor white, as to change the principles of a professed Democrat; and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the Government of this Country.”
Even Cinncinatus became a partyist. From those early groups, the caucus system developed. How it did so and how it eventually morphed into our present primary gauntlet is something we will look at now.
With or without parties there developed a need to select and publicize candidates up for office. Washington’s decision to bow out of a third term in the 1796 election created chaotic conditions for the new nation. In those days, before the passage of the 12th Amendment, every state Elector cast two votes for the two men thought best to be president.
With something of the logic of Europe’s parliamentary system, neither of these ballots was designated over the other. The man with the most votes in this semi-blind election became President; the runner up became the Vice President.
Because of this, because a large pool of candidates lowers the percentage one needs to win (i.e., if two men run, you need 51%; if three run, 34%, and so forth), the new American parties backed any number of candidates for President, hoping to get a majority in an over-saturated field. To our modern eyes this system becomes murkier when we remember that candidates at the turn of the 18th-Century, and indeed until the eve of the Civil War, did not actually campaign themselves.
With the fumes of the Framers’ wariness of ambition still lingering well into the following century, candidates sent their supporters out on the campaign trail to kiss babies and press the flesh, but they themselves did not budge from home.
The embryo of our present system goes back to those heady days of the 1796 and 1800 elections. In 1800 both Democratic-Republicans and Federalists held their first political caucuses. In the public, official arena those messy events spurred to passage of the 12th Amendment specifying the purpose of the Electors’ two votes.
It reads in part, “The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President.”
We will move into the modern era and delineate the technical organization of the primaries. However, one last historical note ought to be mentioned. The caucus system by the mid-19th-Century would largely remain the same for the next 100 years. In the middle of that stretch, however, there occurred an electoral feature which is at once an element of our primary process today, and yet one whose historical impact likely is never to be matched. I speak of the split ticket of 1860.
In the run-up to the vote that year, the Democratic Party broke into three groups. Regionalism, slavery, tariffs, Federal power, and a host of topics, festering since before the Constitutional Convention came to a head in the 1860 election.
In this fateful contest, caucus candidates mounted their high horses. The typical bowing-out of contenders did not happen. Steven Douglas received the support of northern Democrats. John C. Breckinridge enjoyed the patronage of the southern wing of his party. More confusing still, Tennessee’s John Bell led a rump of the DNC, to work with remnants of the Whig Party, to form the Constitutional Union Party. The group was a desperate attempt to head off a war and largely represented western voters.
Whatever is to be said of the split ticketers, of their philosophical consistency and doggedness, a split ticket dooms a party to failure. This is what happened in 1860. Because the DNC was split, the insurgent Republican Party won the Presidency. With Abraham Lincoln set to come into office in March of the following year, South Carolina seceded in December 1860. The fallout from the caucuses of 1860 triggered an avalanche of events culminating in a civil war.
By the time of the primaries, with many candidates campaigning for over a year before this actual first stage of the Presidential election process, the Iowa Caucus, begins. Preference, ease, tradition, and vanity contribute to the eclectic schedule of party meetings, every fourth spring.
At present, the schedule of the major gatherings is in Iowa on February 3. Note well that while primaries dominate nowadays, like a vestigial organ, the caucus format still officially kicks off the election cycle. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina follow later that month. The far-famed “Super Tuesday” follows on March 3, with 16 states and related entities, such as American Samoa – alone in the caucus format since Iowa – and “Democrats abroad” choosing their selections.
By the close of March, over half of the primary selection events are over. Humble Connecticut, the land of steady habits indeed, prudently falls in the middle of the primary/caucus season. On April 28th, it joins five other Northeastern states for meetings, primaries all. This participatory gauntlet concludes on June 6th with the Virgin Islands holding their last primary, in this case for the Democratic Party.
Beyond the “Big Two”
Lest they be omitted, we remember that there are not two but five political parties recognized by the Federal Elections Commission, the regulatory agency which monitors national election financing. Beside the “big two” so often mentioned, in descending order based on the number of their members the other groups are the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties.
Primaries are fearfully expensive things to organize. According to the group Open Primaries, an association advocating primary reform, this stretch of the electoral cycle costs nearly half a billion dollars. This is a burden unsustainable by orders of magnitude for third parties. Thus, the Green and Constitution parties skip right over the primary season and designate their candidate at their summertime conventions. The plucky Green Party will mount a modest total of four state gatherings this year, primaries all.
For the truest of political junkies, those who cannot wait until the primaries to get their electoral “fix,” there are straw polls. These unofficial queries are conducted by any number of private associations and they often precede the actual primaries by several months.
The most revered of these queries was the Iowa Straw Poll (of happy memory). An heir in its way to the ‘70s democratic fervor which has so influenced the primaries as we know them, the Iowa poll was held by the GOP six months before the Iowa Caucus. The Poll was of mixed accuracy and intent. Over the six times it was held, it successfully chose the correct GOP nominee only three times, and that’s leaving aside the open question of whether the Poll was supposed to choose a mere winner in Iowa or the ultimate GOP nominee
Though a child of the ‘70s, the Iowa Straw Poll channeled something of a 19th-Century democratic hoedown. The Poll, whatever its inaccuracy, also served the role of part-fundraiser and part-summer barbeque. Quaint but inaccurate, the Iowa Straw Poll was discontinued in 2011. Brisket-loving politicos rallied to their state’s dear bellwether, however, and since 2015 the Iowa State Fair Straw Poll has been dishing out inaccurate electoral auguries.
Unlike the majority of preliminary meetings Iowa has chosen the keep the minority caucus system. 1916 was the last time the state held a primary. Citing costs, they went back to the caucus system the following year.
They’ve kept it that way since. In response to upheavals during the 1968 cycle, the Democratic Party decided to spread out their nominating process over a longer period of time, and this explains the early February (and some years late-January) date. In 1972 the DNC held their first winter caucus. The Republican Party followed suit four years later, pulling the opening of their process to the same early date since.
Iowa’s system is anomalous. Not only does it still maintain a caucus format (a minority amongst the 50 states), it also does so in the dead of winter (when poor weather might deter voters and the aged from venturing out). The state’s demographics are peculiar too. Iowans are not especially representative of the larger American voter pool, being overwhelmingly white and rural. And those white and rural voters are few in number. With only six votes in the Electoral College, the winter meetings are about the only time national candidates pay attention to “the corn state.”
However, elections can be tied to hallowed custom. America’s agrarian days explain the tradition of our November election placement. It was chosen as a convenient post-harvest, pre-sowing month to travel in. Religious concerns lie behind like the choice of second Tuesday election. Such a day avoided both Sunday travel in pre-automobile America and the Catholic All Saints’ holiday.
Even recent customs such as the ubiquitous “I voted” sticker, popular since its introduction in the ‘80s, are firmly kneaded into the county’s electoral customs. With the overall trend towards earlier and earlier primaries, Iowa has staked its claim on democratic ritual. They will not budge on their February date.
Tradition aside, however, the main argument for Iowa keeping their caucus and their early date is that it allows otherwise unknown contenders to elbow their way into the fray. The greatest example of this is Jimmy Carter. Taking advantage of the post-’68 McGovern reforms and liberalization of campaign finance, Carter’s team aggressively pounded the pavement to get their candidate into the media’s spotlight and onto people’s radars.
It worked; and candidates have been trying to get that same edge ever since. As of last November, Democratic candidates visited Iowa more than 800 times. Donald Trump, who developed such a taste for rallies in 2016 that he has not stopped holding them in the intervening four years, visited Iowa last June as part of a state GOP fundraiser.
Super Tuesday And The Rest
Following the Iowa and New Hampshire gatherings, the next milestone on the journey to the White House is “Super Tuesday.” On that day, in early March, upwards of one-third of Americans are represented at the party polls. This year, California joins the 2016 shift of Texas to Super Tuesday. Both states have large populations, and large Hispanic populations at that.
The justification of their moves lies in the greater racial diversity they bring to the primary season. The late relocations of the Golden and Lone Star states add even more energy to Super Tuesday. Of course, high-minded motives of diversity aside, we mustn’t pretend that old fashioned vanity is innocent from the trend of state parties towards earlier and earlier starts in their nominating processes.
When the primary season winds down this spring, what can we expect to see at the party conventions come summer? When the 3,769 Democratic delegates meet this July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and when the 2,551 Republican representatives meet this August in Charlotte, North Carolina, they will be charged not only with choosing their nominee but also their party platform. What will the parties decide on? Standing at the cusp of this election year, primaries help shape the talking points of both parties for their official codification, come the summer conventions. Let us turn now to the platforms of the major candidates.
Donald Trump will doubtless take the Republican nomination. Six states’ GOPs – Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Virginia – are confident enough in this that they have saved themselves logistical troubles and canceled their primaries altogether. While the party’s Presidential nominee is a done deal for Republicans, this year’s primaries still allow the political faithful the opportunity to develop their platform.
While the choice of the RNC’s candidate is open and shut this time around that does not mean President Trump is without challengers to his incumbency. Serving within the Republican Party, the same role that third parties do in the general election, three men are indeed running for the GOP nomination.
Former Massachusetts governor, Bill Weld, one-term “Tea Party” congressman, Joe Walsh, and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford all hope to inject various issues into platform discussions, which otherwise would go silent. Longest of long-shots all, these men will be successful, if they influence this August’s GOP convention. And like many a politician of many a stripe, defeat – even obviously and overwhelming defeat – always can prime the pump for the next run!
As for the Democratic Party, the winnowing has yet to begin in earnest. Yes, some have already dropped out, like former Montana governor, Steve Bullock, retired admiral, Joe Sestak, and California’s Attorney, General Kamala Harris; but some have also entered the race like Michael Bloomberg. There have been over 20 DNC candidates who were running at one time or another this cycle. At present there are 15 candidates, who have registered with the Federal Elections Commission on the DNC ticket.
The sheer volume of contenders this time around combines with the fact that some have been campaigning for a year already. Besides the 15, we often hear about, 270 other people are also running for the Democratic ticket. This mass promises to inject a number of new topics and positions into this campaign.
Due to the clear divide between career politicians, such as, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Michael Bloomberg, and relative neophytes, like Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang, the DNC may be challenged by a similar split, which the Republicans experienced in 2016. Back then, the old guard were pitted against the “black horse” of the Trump campaign.
This was an upset which some in the GOP have not been quick in forgetting. A number of erratic decisions in the Trump administration, such as the DACA tug-of-war and the lack of control the President exercises over his advisers, are explainable in light of this in-house disquiet.
Amongst the Democrats, the split is between careerist candidates who boast of their experience in office against populist newcomers, promising more radical policies. “Lifers” like confident Joe Biden, who claims more qualifications than Henry Kissinger (a telling comparison), go toe-to-toe with populares, like newcomer, Andrew Yang, who promise more radical policies, such as, Universal Basic Income.
At this early stage of the race it seems that domestic topics will be of decidedly more interest to American voters than foreign policy. The student debt crisis, the massive disruption to come from looming automation and digitalization, and endless saga of American health care financing, all promise to hold more attention than they did during either the Bush or Obama days. These are concerns of average Americans.
But those average Americans aside, despite charges of undue Russian election interference and corruption in the Ukraine, despite some down and out neoconservatives still wraithing about Washington since the Bush II days, there is a pronounced disinterest in the Trump administration to become intrusively involved in overseas affairs in the manner of the previous two presidents (i.e., wars and coups). Whether one calls it “America first” or “isolationism,” the incumbent administration holds a lot of sway, when it comes to deciding the pressing topics of an election. It’s the home team advantage.
The party primaries lead to the conventions. By the time they are held the summer prior to an election, most of the candidates have dropped out. Amongst those who remain, it’s usually obvious who will take the ticket. However, if they’ve the will – and the funding – some campaigns doggedly go to the bitter end.
With the horrible consequence of the 1860 split-ticket rattling around literate candidates’ heads, some candidates go to the bitter end in earnest, and more “play chicken,” backing down at the last minute. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose” split in the 1912 election, is another memorable election in this regard. Woodrow Wilson, like Lincoln before him, came to power because of disunity within the other party. Of course, countless historical ramifications stem from Wilson’s subsequent victory.
Ross Perot’s 1992 break with the GOP, which paved the way for two-termer Bill Clinton to win the day, is the most recent example of a party split. The stand, which Ron Paul’s and Bernie Sanders’ supporters have made in recent years, had some of us wondering, if we’d not see the split-ticket dynamic once again.
In any case, and ordinarily speaking, as happens informally during the primary season, and so formally at the conventions – at the close of each round of voting, losing campaigners choose which remaining candidate receives their delegates. For example, say that I win Connecticut’s primary but don’t have the steam to get the nomination. I can choose to give those 10 Connecticut GOP delegates to whatever candidate remains in the running.
The conventions come down to an equation of “delegate math,” when all is said and done. This is not dissimilar to the Electoral College set up; the delegate system operates on a state-by-state basis. Democratic delegates are doled out proportionally while Republicans follow a method truer to the College: the winner of a state primary takes all the delegation of that state.
We now come to the definition of, and distinction between, delegates and superdelegates during the election cycle. Delegates, regular pledged delegates, are sent by the state parties – the same ones who organized the spring primaries – to the summer meetings. While there, they vote according to the previous choice of their state meeting.
Strictly speaking, though, there is nothing, not even the social opprobrium of being a “faithless elector,” as in the general election, which mandates that pledged delegates must actually vote according to the previous decision at the primary. As such, there is more elbow room, more jostling, than one might imagine at the summer conventions.
Beyond – and we may say, above – these regular delegates are the much-mentioned “superdelegates.” Properly called “unpledged delegates,” superdelegates have no expectations whatsoever to vote according to state conventions. They are free agents recruited from the most loyal party members. Various office holders, such as, the President, Governors, and Speaker of the House are eligible, as are members of the parties’ national committees – the “C” in DNC, for example – are superdelegates.
Now what sort of person do you suppose is going to fill such a role? Lifers, that’s who; not populists, not faddists, not single-issue sorts, not an enthusiastic clique.
The present system continues to evolve following a general prejudice towards greater participation. However, for party bosses this participation opens the door to populists; that is, candidates who appeal to the “little guy,” the “average” American, and who hold themselves as champions against a ruling elite. Superdelegates are a conservative reaction, an elitist reaction, to the recent history of primaries.
The DNC was walloped in both the 1972 and 1980 elections. The leaders of the party felt that things had become uncontrollable. In the rush to democratize and open up their nominating system, after the disaster of 1968, the proper vetting process was ignored, they felt, and they subsequently lost. In those elections, the DNC nominated George McGovern, in hindsight too liberal, and Jimmy Carter, whom a more entrenched Ronald Reagan was able to paint as a babe in the woods.
These were candidates who had great appeal to the party faithful, but who did not resonate with the general American population. In response to these developments, unpledged delegates were instituted by the DNC during the 1984 cycle. (Much good it did them. They lost in that year).
Who are the superdelegates? Many have held or presently hold office. Jim Carter, a hero in our primary story, fellow Southerner Bill Clinton, Dick Durbin, and Connecticut’s Elizabeth Etsy are superdelegates. Oddly enough, so are candidates Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and Joe Biden. Superdelegates are stalwarts of the organization. In the event of a dark horse candidate, the superdelegates, proverbial old men in back smoking rooms, swing into action behind their choice.
Of the two major parties, superdelegates play a more crucial role in amongst Democrats. Indeed, the results of the 2016 election bear witness to this. In Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, both the GOP and the DNC had insurgent candidates that year. Both men were not favored by their party establishment. However, only the DNC was successful in squelching their black horse Sanders (at least for another four years). This was because of the heft of their superdelegates.
And while incumbents may call the debate topics, they don’t always call the election. Only 16 out of 43 Presidents have won a second consecutive term. Far more than being dead ritual or boilerplate, the primaries are primary.
John Coleman is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut (USA). Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.
The image shows, “Election Day,” by John Louis Krimmel, painted in 1815.
We all like to imagine ourselves as heroes. We watch movies, and we instinctively put ourselves in the place of the hero, not in the place of the villain. We read the histories of twentieth-century tyrannies, and we assume we would be the resistance fighter, not the collaborator, informer, or toady to the new archons.
Maybe we would be heroes. But probably not, if history is any guide. Czeslaw Milosz’s 1951 The Captive Mind explores, through the author’s personal experience, what motivates seemingly morally strong, thoughtful men to instead cooperate with, and often embrace, evil. Sadly, this question is as relevant today as seventy years ago, which makes this book very much worth reading for its insights into the future, as well as into the past.
Milosz, a world-famous poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980, revolves most of his core analysis around the motivations of artists, usually artists of the word, presumably because that was his own milieu during World War II and afterwards. He was living in Warsaw, working in radio and writing well-received poems, participating in the active cultural life of the time, but not in politics to any significant degree (he seems throughout his life to have been neither Left nor Right, though tilting slightly left), when the Germans and the Russians invaded.
It was the Germans who occupied Warsaw, and Milosz survived the war there, living largely underground and participating in mild subversive activities such as writing for forbidden newspapers, although he did not join the Home Army or fight in the Warsaw Uprising. But he saw firsthand all the horrors of the German occupation, and of the Uprising, and he returns to them again and again in this book, even though its main focus is the so-called people’s democracies of the immediate postwar period.
During that time, Milosz worked as a cultural attaché for the new Polish government put into power by the Russians. He never joined the Party, but was able to maintain this position because the Communists loved to tout their association with artists, and the Polish government, like the other countries captured by Stalin, had a few years in which it could pretend to not be fully under Stalin’s thumb.
But by 1951, Milosz had had enough of Communism, and fled for Paris, then the United States, where he lived until 2000, when he moved home to Poland, dying in 2004.
This book is best read not as an attempt to precisely clarify and classify the natures of those who cooperated with and advanced Communism, but as a set of insights gained from people Milosz knew as they interacted with history. (It is also profitably read in combination with Mark Lilla’s very good The Reckless Mind, which nods to this book while expanding its analysis). The Captive Mind focuses on intellectuals, specifically poets and other writers, because they were whom Milosz knew most intimately.
His book says nothing about other collaborators, such as those strictly out for personal gain, and it also says nothing about the working class, which is ignored as irrelevant, as indeed it always was under Communism.
Instead, the book shows how mental gymnastics, rather than coercion, caused writers under Communism to adhere to Communism. Thereby, indirectly, it congratulates writers who believe their minds free from such, or other, contortions. It is perhaps no wonder, therefore, that this book was popular among Western writers of all political stripes.
Milosz begins with a fable, taken from a Polish science fiction novel, about how a new Sino-Mongol Empire conquers Poland and, instead of terrorizing the bitter and unhappy population, satisfies them with “the pill of Murti-Bing,” which ensures that each person is internally happy no matter his external circumstance.
The pill makes reality, no matter how bad, bearable, even joyous. In the novel, this leads to general social satisfaction, except for some, who develop schizophrenia, unable to reconcile their inner character, their creative spark, with the false art that their chemically altered brains produce. Milosz says that under Communist domination this vision “is being fulfilled in the minutest detail.” (Presumably the schizophrenics are those who, like Milosz, ultimately reject Communism entirely).
The West incorrectly sees “might and coercion” as the reasons those in Eastern Europe submit to Communism. But, rather, unwilling to face either physical or spiritual death, many choose instead to be “reborn” through taking these metaphorical pills, because “[t]here is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.”
Intellectuals, and artists especially, do not want to be “internal exiles, irreconcilable, non-participating, eroded by hatred.” So they swallow the pills and adopt the “New Faith” (a term Milosz uses throughout the book) which offers the intellectual the certainty he is both correct and virtuous, and therefore gives him a sense of belonging, gives him a feeling of being “warm-hearted and good . . . a friend of mankind—not mankind as it is, but as it should be.”
The metaphor of Murti-Bing, forgotten for a few decades, is remembered today. Murti-Bing’s explanatory power for the behavior of modern intellectuals under modern ideological tyrannies seems universally applicable.
It has been recently cogently used, for example, to explain how very many in the intellectual class of Americans, and Europeans, have accepted and embraced the totalitarian agenda aptly and accurately known as globohomo, a toxic mutating stew of neoliberal globalist corporatism and moral degeneracy, the reward for consuming which is being forced to consume more. (I am curious if Murti-Bing also explains the behavior of twenty-first-century Chinese artists, about whom I know little or nothing, although I suppose today the Chinese tyranny is less ideological and more nationalist).
After an interesting chapter on how intellectuals in the new people’s democracies view America, Milosz returns to another concept for which he is remembered, that of Ketman. This is, we are told, a pleasurable psychological state obtained when one deceives those in power about one’s true motives and beliefs, while nonetheless strictly obeying the orders of those in power.
It is described as extremely prevalent in nineteenth-century Islam, where heretical believers practiced Ketman. As a historical matter, I don’t know how true this is (Milosz ascribes knowledge of it to Arthur Gobineau, inventor of “scientific racism,” which does not lend confidence); it may just be a description of the Shiite practice oftaqiyya. But that doesn’t matter for the metaphor.
In essence, one practicing Ketman is, to an outside observer, compliant with his rulers, yet he generally hopes for different, but similar, ends. Milosz describes several types of Ketman and suggests there are others, many and varied. For example, those practicing “national Ketman” praise Russia even though they have contempt for it; they still love Communism, though, just think it better done through their own nation.
Those practicing “aesthetic Ketman” create lifeless socialist realist art on command, because otherwise they would be left with nothing, no property and no position in society, yet in private use their position to surround themselves with real art. Those practicing the “Ketman of revolutionary purity” believe that Stalin betrayed the Revolution, yet only through him can the Revolution now be realized, so they must do as he says.
In all cases, the basic point is the same—Ketman is a form of doublethink, in which people tow the Communist line, making no waves and rocking no boats, and trying to avoid reifying the contradictions. The man practicing Ketman suffers, yet he would suffer more if Communism disappeared, since he defines himself in this way. “Internal revolt is sometimes essential to spiritual health, and can create a particular form of happiness. . . . Ketman brings comfort, fostering dreams of what might be, and even the enclosing fence affords the solace of reverie.”
On the surface, Ketman seems similar to Ernst Jünger’s concepts of the forest rebel and the anarch, someone who keeps his mind free from the rulers while largely adhering to their commands. But, in fact, the concepts are very different, for Ketman is a form of self-delusion, something that Jünger absolutely forbids.
Ketman instead sinks deep into the soul of the practitioner, making, for example, the men Milosz profiles later in the book convinced that they freely chose to adhere to Communism. They become unable to say who is their true self. Ultimately, Ketman is a poison.
What ties Murti-Bing and Ketman together is that those under the power of either are not truly unhappy or oppressed, at least subjectively. Moreover, both seem to be confined largely to intellectuals, those who care both about ideas and their position in society.
Rod Dreher, for example, has pointed out how common both are among today’s so-called conservative writers; the entire staff of National Review, to the extent it is actually conservative, is probably practicing Ketman and washing down Murti-Bing pills with vodka, in between grifting money out of elderly donors, the whole staff pretty happy on balance.
It’s not just conservative intellectuals, though. Intellectuals on the Left, faced with the dominance of globohomo, may think the frenzy for conformity to insane ideas like identity politics, intersectionality, gender fluidity and the like has gone too far, and damages their core concerns, such as those about economic inequality.
They join the chorus, yet still hope that the stupidity will burn itself out and allow their goals to again surface, meanwhile getting a frisson of pleasure from the camaraderie of joining the latest Two-Minute Hate against some Christian pizza parlor.
On the other hand, a social conservative working at a big corporation, crushed by woke capitalism and forced to wear a “Pride” pin to show his “allyship” on pain of losing his job, is just oppressed and unhappy. Since he has no ideological goal himself, he cannot practice Ketman, and he does not want to be a friend of abstract mankind, merely provide for his family and to lead a decent life, so the pills of Murti-Bing also have no effect on him.
Milosz then profiles, under pseudonyms, four men well known to him who bowed to Communism, analyzing why in each case. (He ignores those who, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, did not bow). Alpha, the Moralist. Beta, the Disappointed Lover. Gamma, the Slave of History. Delta, the Troubadour. Who these men were is easy to determine.
Originally, I thought that of no importance, and anyway I can’t pronounce Polish names, so I figured I’d go with the pseudonyms entirely. But it turns out that to some degree who they were, and their later history, matter, and Alpha is the best example of this.
Alpha was Jerzy Andrzejewski, a prose writer. In Milosz’s telling, he had a “tragic sense of the world,” drawn to Joseph Conrad’s novels, with their moral conflicts and dense storytelling. Before the war, he received laudation for short stories that featured archetypical characters, black-and-white, with a Catholic focus.
He, however, realized that he did not really deserve the laudation, since his stories were simplistic morality tales, lacking nuance—yet he was eager to be regarded as the best writer in Poland. During the war, as their friends disappeared, often shot by the Germans, Alpha became regarded as a moral authority within the Warsaw community of writers, among other things speaking out against the slaughter of the Jews, and he and Milosz lived through the Uprising together, something Milosz spends some time describing. Alpha’s morality was not that of Christ, despite his putative Catholicism, but rather a belief in a largely abstracted loyalty, generically to the Polish people.
After the Uprising, he rejected his old belief in loyalty, seeing it led to nothing but death, instead coming to believe that History had an arc and that social goals should be the focus. His new morality fit well with the new Communist regime, eager to have artists under its wing to “bridge the gap” between the tiny number of Communists in Poland and the rest of the population—and Alpha was well known for his devotion to Poland.
The Communists gave him a new moral frame, and praised him to the skies, and he published an excellent novel, though one, again, with archetypical characters divorced from real human experience, and established himself, as he desired, as a writer of the first rank.Within a few years, however, as the Communist Party tightened its grip, Alpha, like all other artists, was required to make a choice—join the Party and create tightly defined social realist art, or be cast into the outer darkness.
Alpha, without hesitation, joined the New Faith. He became a Soviet propagandist, referred to by his old friends as “the respectable prostitute.” He still had a moral frame; it was merely different. Milosz is dispassionate about this apparent end. “It is not my place to judge. I myself traveled the same road of seeming inevitability.”
Alpha is clearly drawn. But he is incomplete, because Andrzejewski stepped off the path that he was on in 1951. In 1956 he quit the party, and in the 1970s and 1980s he was a strong supporter of anti-Communist movements, dying in 1983. So, in the end, he partially redeemed himself. What this says about Milosz’s thesis we will consider later.
Next is Beta, in real life a man named Tadeusz Borowski. He was another writer, a young man with nihilist tendencies. Arrested by the Germans, he survived two years in Auschwitz, then Dachau. After the war, he wrote a book in which he celebrated his cleverness at surviving by working the system and being an accessory to various evils in the camps.
In Milosz’s analysis, Beta is not amoral; instead, he has a disappointed love of the world and of humanity. He is unable to see any nobility in humanity, even when in front of his eyes, as it was at times in the camps. Rather, he became full of hatred, and the Communists, again collecting artists, convinced him to use that hatred in their service, by convincing him the eschaton was upon us, earthly salvation from the evils Beta saw everywhere.
The price was that he could only write socialist realism, with stock Communist heroes and their evil enemies, divorced of the raw human emotions and perception of universal human degradation that had featured in his writing before.
By choice, therefore, he reduced himself to writing undistinguished and indistinguishable political propaganda rants. Perhaps, like some of the takers of the original pill of Murti-Bing, he realized the contradiction, so, in 1951, a few days after his first child was born, he killed himself, by gas, at age twenty-eight.
Third is Gamma, who long before the war was a convinced Communist. He fled to Russia during the war, and returned in the train of the conquering Red Army, in which he was a political commissar.
He was given great power over other Polish writers, and he enjoyed it. In Milosz’s analysis, “he considered himself a servant of the devil that ruled History, but did not love his master.” Yet he never wavered from his choice. “But sometimes he is haunted by the thought that the devil to whom men sell their souls owes his might to men themselves, and that the determinism of History is a creation of human brains.”
And fourth is Delta, a writer who only wanted to amuse under the eyes of the adoring multitude, and under Communism, could only do so by toeing the Communist line—just as he had always toed whatever line was in power at the moment.
These sketches are compelling and provide a lot of food for thought. They do not provide simple answers. What strikes the reader most of all, other than the applicability of the same concepts to any ideological tyranny, not just Communism, is that the feeling that pervades this book, more so than any other emotion, is resignation.
Milosz, like many other anti-Communists of the 1950s, saw the conquests of Communism as effectively permanent. He was, perhaps, less pessimistic than others, such as Whittaker Chambers, who saw future global triumph of Communism as inevitable, and believed he had joined the losing side. But Milosz did not seem to see any non-Communist future for the conquered nations of Europe.
Thus, Milosz tells us that those who say “a change must come, this can’t go on” merely hold “an amusing belief in the natural order of things.” However, Milosz implies, there is no such natural order. “The man of the East cannot take Americans seriously because they have never undergone the experiences that teach men how relative their judgments and thinking habits are. . . . Because they were born and raised in a given social order and in a given system of values, they believe that any other order must be ‘unnatural,’ and that it cannot last because it is incompatible with human nature. But even they may one day know fire, hunger, and the sword.”
This connects to a related, half-contradictory theme that that runs throughout the book: how what seems like the permanent natural order can so swiftly change for the worse.
Milosz returns again and again to the horrors the Germans wrought; it is no more natural, “if both are within the realm of one’s experience,” for a man to go about his daily life in the bustling city of Warsaw than it is for him to live underground eating rats in the destroyed city of Warsaw.
Combining these themes together suggests a deep pessimism on Milosz’s part, a view that ideology was leading history to be a one-way ratchet ending in total ideological tyranny.
But, of course, Milosz was wrong. Communism lasted only thirty-five years more—thirty-five long years, to be sure, but in retrospect the cracks were growing within early in that time. Milosz, however, could not see them, nor could nearly anyone else. He could not see that, within a few short years, Alpha would reject Communism, and perhaps Beta or Delta would have too, had they not died young. Why is that? Why do modern ideologies that gain power seem to implant defeatism in the minds of the righteous?
This has been much on my mind recently, since for post-liberals, it’s important that we evaluate how we get to “post,” and what that looks like. Most of the wealthy portions of the West are, of course, currently in the grip of a totalitarian ideology—a new religion, a combination of neoliberal, corporatist extraction economics, the erasing of the West’s culture and cultures, and ever-nastier moral degeneracy, collectively enforced with an iron hand by our ruling classes, who control all the levers of power.
It seems inevitable that this headlong flight from reality, with its fractalized manifestations, from the mendacious falsification of history in the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” to the physical and mental mutilation of children to advance insane transgender ideology, to funding mindless blinding consumerism with Chinese debt and pumping up the money supply, is going to be ultimately caught and thrashed by reality.
Yet most post-liberals, and in general most people of good faith, like Alpha, Gamma, and Delta, find themselves viscerally unable to believe in a clean future with renewed human flourishing, and either despair or conform. At most, we who see clearly adopt a waiting stance, half-bored and barely flinching at the latest outrage imposed on the righteous.
I think this is an error, or a partial error. True, direct action against globohomo is generally useless, though participating in holding actions such as electing men who throw sand in the gears is both amusing and somewhat profitable. But history always provides an axis, a point around which it turns, a point of weakness of the now-existing and then-passing order, which cannot be predicted with specificity and is often only obvious in retrospect.
Rather than simply waiting, we should be preparing to, when the opportunity presents itself, pour our fire upon that axis, at its moment of appearance and exposure. For that, three things are necessary: friends (as Bronze Age Pervert often says), resources (intellectual, monetary, and military, all preferably shielded as much as possible from attack), and will.
Milosz erred by not seeing that the end of Communism was, even in 1951, within sight. But he nonetheless lived to see it, and though what Europe got afterwards has not turned out much better, maybe the second time will be a charm, both here and across the ocean.
Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows a poster for “The Captive Mind” by Stasys Eidrigevicius, created in 1990.
This is a book that everyone must read. It is brief, to the point – and utterly frightening, for it lays out the end-game of environmentalism, which will affect us all, if we blindly keep empowering it, as we are now so gleefully doing.
People often wonder how Hitler was allowed to come to power and carry out his plan? Just look at the way you vote, the way you think about humans and this planet, why you want to go green, what you demand from politicians you elect when it comes to the environment.
If you are honest about the answers that you arrive at, you will understand how evil becomes institutionalized and therefore massively murderous. Hitler famously said that he had planted the seed and no one could now predict how and when it would grow back again.
Environmentalism is that Hitlerian seed, sprouted and flourishing, and which is now so eagerly being nurtured to maturity by people who naively believe that they are doing the right thing. And once the process of evil is locked into place, its mechanisms always follow through to their bitter end. Such is the dire warning of this timely book.
The author, Drieu Godefridi, a Belgian philosopher, writes in the grand tradition of Émile Zola’s open letter, J’Accuse!Like Zola, he has shoved before our complaisance a defiant open-letter to humanity, in which he warns against the death-cult that is environmentalism, whose adherents now inhabit the highest political, social and cultural offices and positions, and who are widely regarded as the vanguards of morality. Huge money fuels environmentalism, because it is a source of profit and therefore an industry. Thus, celebrities tout it, experts hector us with its “facts,” politicians tax us over it and legalize it – and it is now a towering Moloch, to which all must bend knee, and into whose maw we must toss our humanity.
But this is totalitarianism in the true sense of the word, not in the muddled way that this term is commonly tossed about in popular parlance. Ecologism (or environmentalism, as is more usual in English) seeks to take total control of all aspects of human life, even to the extent of determining how many people may actually live on this planet.
Such totalizing means that human life itself can no longer be possible outside the parameters established and policed by environmentalism. Thus, the various curtailments of human liberty that we now agree as acceptable – hate speech laws, rights legislation, indigenization, the green initiative, fewer births and declining populations – these are all slow entrenchments of totalitarianism, where humanity is purely defined by the logic of environmentalism. But notice that this creed is always clothed in the appearance of morality, as being the “right” thing to do. And people for the most part love such clothing, because there yet remains a deep hunger for morality, despite avowed atheism. As such, environmentalism is the new religion whose tenets Goidefridi thoroughly explores.
The English translation of the book, recently published, bears a more sinister title, The Green Reich. The question in the original has now been transformed into a cogent warning, wherein the future is hyper-Hitlerian, in which all of humanity will be held in the same contempt as the Jews in Hitlerian ideology. And Godefridi makes it very clear that the grim program of the environmentalists is far more comprehensive and thorough than anything Hitler could imagine. But the aim is similar; only the labels have shifted – to return purity to nature, to the planet, through the destruction of verminous humanity.
Two common presuppositions that undergird all aspects of environmentalism are that the planet is over-populated, and therefore, there is overconsumption of resources. This results in harmful waste, especially CO2.
These Neo-Malthusian assumptions then proceed to fashion “solutions,” which must be implanted, in order to combat the glut of humanity. Thus, the population of the planet must first be reduced. This will greatly lessen the consumption of natural resources, which will eliminate C02. Therefore, very few humans, and perhaps none, should live on this planet, in order for earth to continue to live on into the future. Nature now is far more important than humanity, because humanity is seen as inherently unnatural, entirely alien to the planet. In effect, mankind is a terrible disease, from which earth needs to be cured.
Stark choices always construct the most powerful narratives, because they demand totalizing solutions. Thus, the deeply ingrained Christian habit of the Western world, of trying to be moral in action and thought, is weaponized against humanity, by making morality an efficient tool to achieve the goals of environmentalism. Humanity has gravely sinned against the planet and now must sacrifice itself in order to give an afterlife to mother earth. Here is the devastating consequence of Western Godlessness – sublimating redemption into self-annihilation. Thus, humanicide is the cardinal virtue of environmentalism. Since humanity is the greatest threat to the planet, humanity itself must find ways to limit its own potential to do harm. And the best limitation is self-elimination.
The book opens with a rather
chilling dialogue, set in a stark future, between a father and son, after the “Great
Stop” (i.e., the world, as we know it, has been stopped). It is a zero-carbon dystopia,
where humanity proudly wears the badge of “Accursed Parasite,” and therefore the
human population is slowly but surely being wound down. A nation of sixty-million
now has 24 million – and counting.
Each human is allowed monthly CO2 rations, which means there is no travel, you must eat what is allowed, and live in prescribed accommodations. There are no schools or labor of any kind – what would be the point, since there is no world to build, let alone a future generation to prepare to inhabit it. Rather, the world is only there to be unbuilt. And the earth is worshipped as the goddess, Gaia, the all-wise mother, in whose praise the impieties of historical “Terracide” are remembered as piety, from a time when humanity was barbaric and given to robbing the earth of its wealth. Such is the new “holy” wisdom. Each human properly belongs to the “Official Altruistic Death Program” that encourages people to voluntarily “humusate” themselves (that is, made into humus, which is so very useful to Gaia). When the last human is thus composted, the planet finally will be able to recover from the destructive human presence and rejuvenate itself. Gaia utterly cleansed of humanity is the highest virtue.
The points in this dialogue are based on actual studies put out by environmentalist “scientists;” none of it is fantasy; only the conceit of the dialogue is imagined. In effect, environmentalism is an anti-human death-cult. To that end, The Green Reichmakes some very disturbing connections, which should really make people question the kinds of politics that they are advocating when they hand power over to ideologues who say they want to “save the planet.”
Godefridi points out that the environmentalists’ only talking point is the vilification of CO2. Few people (voters) understand what is at stake here. Humanity is carbon, as is all of life – the very act of breathing is the constant emission of CO2. All life needs carbon; earth is dead without it. So, phrases like “carbon-neutral,” “decarbonization” and “carbon-free” become code-words for a human-neutral, dehumanized, human-free planet.
Once these code-phrases become
part of everyday thinking, humanicide itself becomes that much easier to implement,
because people will actually want to have a future that will have zero CO2 emissions
– that is, a future without human beings.
The first stage of this program involves the end to all fossil fuels, the burning of which is held to be the greatest crime, or catastrophe. Here “local” takes on a drastic meaning, for you will only be able to travel as far as your own two feet can take you, the combustion engine having been outlawed. Thus, no cars, ships, planes or trains. And once herded into state-designated locales, humans will be that much easier to cull. Do you see how much more efficient this is over Hitler’s ghettoization of the Jews? For example, there are some environmentalists who object to relief aid for famine-stricken areas – because they see famine as a boon to the life of the planet. The more humans that can be wiped out, the better.
A localized humanity will also have to eat differently, because animals raised for food emit far too much CO2. This means that entire industries and livelihoods will be dismantled and eliminated, and a vague sort of veganism will be mandated. Food will serve no purpose, because life will no longer have intrinsic worth, which means that it will become harder and harder to justify human life as a good in itself.
Next, given the elimination of entire
food groups, human health will undergo a drastic shift for the worse, as nutrition
and medicine will become pointless – the end-game being depopulation. Keeping a
human alive for years on end will serve no purpose whatsoever, especially since
said human needs and sheds CO2 constantly. But the dystopia is not over just
As already stated, the fundamental premise of environmentalism is its anti-human agenda. Thus, the direst disaster that human beings bring upon this planet is to give birth to more human beings. Babies are the greatest enemies of environmentalists, as these little, new humans produce too much CO2, and besides are guarantors of the CO2 cycle grinding on well into the future. Therefore, births must be reduced, if not eliminated, where child-bearing will be a moral and legal crime. Ultimately, environmentalism is a purified form of antinatalism, purified because human life is seen as harmful in its very essence, not simply because of its actions, or its outcomes. It is no longer about too many humans – the very fact that human life itself exists is bad – because humanity is a parasite upon the earth.
Godefridi describes the environmentalist ethic as “physisist,” where the being of the planet is more valuable than human beings. This down-grading of humanity as the least desirable type of life-form means that nature is the preferred value which supersedes any and all value that humans have given to themselves. It is now the job of environmentalist “thinkers” to brainwash humans into disavowing their own value. The planet cannot be saved with humans on it.
Such self-loathing is delivered for consumption via the education-media-culture conglomerate, where “norm criticism” (that pusillanimous mental exercise that sees every form of Western thinking to be inherently evil and fit only for eradication) is the ideology de rigueur. Thus, a habit of self-loathing is now the proper way to “think,” which makes environmentalist propaganda a breeze to disseminate. Hatred now is the most valuable cultural currency.
There are also various offshoots of antinatalism that derive their moral justification from environmentalism, such as, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement and the Church of Euthanasia, both of which, as is obvious, work to rid the planet of humans, though Godefridi does not get into these. Such movements may seem laughable and loony – but notice that they are offered no real opposition. People simply accept the lie that there should not be to many people living on this planet. And it really is an elaborate lie.
No one questions this assumption, let alone seeks to destroy it. No one in power disputes it – because such politicians are put into office by voters who have already accepted the Malthusian presuppositions of environmentalism. So, who will truly have the last laugh?
It would have given Godefridi’s argument fullness if he had spent some time examining the deep connections that environmentalism has with antinatalism. However, his book is more of a philosophical essay rather than a history of those ideas that are now preparing us for mass extinction.
And, as such, Godefridi has written a stirring and urgent call to action for all humanity. We need to abandon the differences that always play so prominent a role in how we manage this world. Instead, we need to unite and confront the true enemy at the gates – the death-cult that is far too quickly gathering momentum and adding devout and powerful believers into its folds. If we do not come together and defeat this pernicious ideology, we may not survive the looming Holocaust that environmentalism is now preparing for us. This is Godefridi’s urgent message.
Indeed, environmentalism has had great successes. It has convinced the majority of the public that what it claims is scientific truth. It has convinced governments to implement anti-carbon policies, which are anti-human policies. It has convinced people not to have children. It has convinced people to panic whenever the environment is mentioned (eco-anxiety) – high emotions are the best way to bring about quick change. It has convinced people to work against their own humanity, not only their own interests.
Only time will now tell how willingly people will allow themselves to be humusated, for humanity has largely accepted the Great Myth that it is the source of all problems that are said to face the planet – because it is the “Accursed Parasite.”
Perhaps it is for this reason that Godefridi chose a more ominous title for the English version of his book, wherein the “logic” of Hitlerism concerning Jews is now extended to include all of humanity. In the emerging Green Reich, we are all indeed Jews. And for us, who constitute the Accursed Parasite, there is only the Final Solution, the ultimate Holocaust, so that the noble planet may at last be purified of its most pernicious disease. It would seem that most humans have now been conditioned to agree, because they accept everything that environmentalism preaches as the gospel-truth. Therefore, most have already decided that people really do need to disappear.
All hail the Green Reich!
The photo shows, “Doomsday Abstraction,” by Zdzislaw Beksinski.
Rather than trying to quell the rancor, the
resentment and all the old hatreds, the leadership of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) chose
instead, in 2004, to revive the culture war and foment social unrest. The
lamentable message repeated ad nauseam by the official media made it
clear that since Spaniards were unable to overcome the past, the Transition
and the spirit of reconciliation
were only cowardice. This meant that the Spanish
Civil War could not be discussed outside the presuppositions of those who
regard themselves as being on the side of the good.
These suppositions are that the Right
remained Francoist, if not outright fascist; that the Law of Amnesty
of 1977 (the foundational act of the new democracy) was nothing other than a
convenient way to protect the Francoists (despite the fact that this law was
passed in the Legislature by a vote of 296 in favor, 2 opposed and 18
abstentions – in other words, with the support of the entire political class,
including the PSOE and the Communist
Party of Spain (PCE), with the exception of a handful of
Liberal-Conservatives and Francoists.
The purpose of this law was to eliminate punishment for the actions of
anti-Francoist terrorists, such as, PCE(r)-GRAPO
All these suppositions are nothing more than
a tissue of false-assumptions, lies, and radically erroneous premises – all
meant to foster a veritable fiction, with no connection to reality.
On December 26, 2007, PSOE got Parliament to
pass a “Historical
Memory Law,” which originated in a proposal introduced by the Communist
Unida). It rightly recognized and expanded the rights of those who suffered
persecution or violence during the Civil War and during the dictatorship.
But at the same time, it promoted a Manichean vision of history. Strangely, it
was adopted because of the indifference, and consent for the most part, of the
political class of the EU – even though this law undermines the most basic
right of freedom of expression.
One of the fundamental ideas of the
Historical Memory Law is that Spanish democracy is a heritage of the Second Republic.
This a highly questionable point of view, given the fact that the process of
Transition was conducted in accordance with the mechanisms provided by the Franco-regime
and was managed by a King, who was appointed by the generalissimo, and by his
prime minister, a former General Secretary of the Movimiento – as
well as the nearly unanimous consent of the Francoist political class. According
to the subjective reasoning of this law, the Second Republic (the foundational
myth of Spanish democracy, as per the Socialist Left and the extremists) –
should have been a nearly perfect regime in which all the Leftist parties would
act beyond reproach.
This law also offers a questionable amalgam
of military uprising, the Civil War, and the dictatorship of Franco, even
though all three are distinct facts, with their own relevant interpretations
and varying judgments. In effect, this law exalts the victims and the
murderers, the innocent and the guilty because they all belonged to the Popular Front
and because they are of the Left. Thus, this law confuses those who died
fighting in the war with the victims of the repression. Further, this law
promotes and justifies any and all effort that seeks to demonstrate that Franco
planned and systematically carried out a bloody repression during and after the
Civil War – all the while implying that the government of the Republic, and the
parties that supported it, had no repressive projects of their own. Finally,
this law recognizes and legitimizes the desire of many people to be able to
locate the bodies of their family members – but it also implicitly refuses this
right to those who were with the Nationalists, under the doubtful pretext that
such people had plenty of time to locate their dead ones during the Francoist
We may recall the “Garzón
Affair,” or the “Graves of Francoism,” which particularly exacerbated
tensions in 2006, given that the repression during the Civil War was equally
ferocious and widespread in both the Republican and the Nationalist camps.
Judge Baltasar Garzón
(friend of the socialists) claimed to undertake a sort of general inquisition,
curiously reminiscent of the Causa
General (General Cause), carried out by Franco’s Public Ministry,
between 1940 and 1943, and which the Democratic Constitution of 1978 formally
Spain is still a nation of laws, with many
men of the law who did not appreciate this behavior of the Chekists. The result was an
endless judicial battle, which was finally decided by the political will of the
Socialist government, on October 25 of this year (by way of a royal ordinance).
The Basilica, in effect, is a religious place, whose inviolability is
guaranteed by an international treaty signed between Spain and the Holy See in
1979. The Benedictines, who look after the monument, are not directly dependent
on the Vatican, but on the authority of their abbot and the superior of their
order, who is the abbot of Solesmes Abby.
But the improvised and sloppy drafting of
this royal ordinance, adopted by the Sánchez government, was the source of
other complications. No doubt given the notoriety of the name, Franco (a
military man, a statesman and a polemical dictator), the national and
international press omitted to mention that the application to the letter of this
ordinance will also require the immediate exhumation of 19 Benedictine monks
likewise interred in the Valley of the Fallen, along with 172 other persons who
died after the end of the Civil War. As well, we do not know the fate of the
body of José
Antonio Primo de Rivera, imprisoned for three months before the uprising,
but who was still condemned
to death by a “People’s Court” for participating in the uprising. And we do
not know what will happen to the thousands of bodies, from both sides, buried
in the crypt, which are the object of so much controversy.
This judicial imbroglio was finally resolved
by an authoritarian political measure, and by the use of the forces of law and
order, just like totalitarian dictators and banana republics.
The study of the evolution of the concept of
reconciliation in Spain, from 1939 to our own time, does merit a thesis. The
irony is that the government of the socialist Sánchez defends to this day the
exhumation of Franco, in the name of “justice and reconciliation,” and in a
spirit that, after all, is not unlike that of the Caudillo
(Franco) who expressed it in a decree of August 23, 1957, by which he
established the Foundation of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen, at
least if we put in parentheses the references pertaining to Christianity… “The
Great Cross that presides over and inspires the monument, also gives it a
profoundly Christian character… Thus, the sacred obligation of honoring our
heroes and our martyrs must also carry with it the feeling of forgiveness,
imposed by the Gospel message… It must be the monument of all the dead in
battle, over whose sacrifice triumph the peaceful arms of the Cross.”
To this, on May 23, 1958, Alonso Vega, the
Minister of the Interior, in a directive to civil governors, added that “this
is to give a place of burial to all those were sacrificed for God and for
Spain, with no distinction of the two sides that fought each other, like the
spirit of pardon that the creation of this monument has now imposed.”
But there is this substantial difference –
through the magic of the inevitable words of political propaganda, the good and
the evil have changed sides. And it is precisely this moral hemiplegia which
the Founding Fathers of the Transition and of Spanish democracy rejected in its
A few year ago, Ian Gibson, an Irish
“historian,” with strong socialist convictions, declared that he was in favor
of placing a bomb in the Valle de los Caídos and destroying the monument.
Such European fanatics, whose concepts of justice and reconciliation are
certainly worthy of the Afghan Taliban who destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan,
are unfortunately not rare. They would certainly make us despair for humanity,
were it not for strong personalities, in their own circles, who keep them in
their place. One of the players of the Transition, the socialist Felipe Gonzáles,
declared in 1985, when he was Prime Minister: “We must accept our history…I am
personally able to face the history of Spain… Franco… is in it… Never would I
get the idea of toppling one statue of Franco. Never! I think it’s stupid going
about pulling down statues of Franco… Franco now belongs to the History of
Spain. We cannot erase History… I have always thought that if anyone believes
that it is meritorious to knock Franco from his horse, then he should have done
that when the man was alive” (Juan Luis Cebrian, “Interview
with Felipe González,” El Pais, Madrid, November 17, 1985).
This is to say that a socialist government
deciding to move the body of a Catholic, monarchist, conservative, anti-Marxist
and anti-Communist dictator may perhaps be explained, but it cannot be
understood. As we know, peace around the graves of revolutionaries and
dictators is extremely rare. Unless I am mistaken, to this day, there are only
two or three great exceptions (admirable for their serenity and their respect
for the dead), which refute this immutable rule: In Russia, the mausoleum of Lenin
in Red Square, and the Kremlin Wall
Necropolis, where Stalin is buried; and in France, the tomb
of Napoleon I in the Invalides.
But behind this desire to exhume the ashes of
Franco and to officially condemn his actions and his regime, there hides an
important question, which is very thorny and very embarrassing for the powers
that be – namely, the interpretation of the origins of the Civil War, which
only highlights the considerable responsibility of the PSOE. Therefore, let us
recall some well-established facts.
Both on the Right and the Left, the
proclamation of the Spanish Republic, in 1931, was greeted with hope. But
disillusionment quickly set in. In bringing about democracy and “progress,”
Spain fell into disorder and anarchy. In October 1934, the PSOE, whose
leadership had been entirely Bolshevized since 1933, deliberately triggered a
general strike in all of Spain, which the police managed to contain, with the
exception of Catalonia and especially the Asturias. In February 1936, the
fragile victory of the Popular Front put an end to the chaos. In June 1936, in a
speech to the Legislature (which was immediately declared to be a “catastrophe”
by opponents), José
Maria Gil Robles, leading light of the moderate Right, tallied in four
months 353 attacks, 269 political murders, and the destruction of 160 churches.
According to Communist historiography,
popularized by the Komintern,
which is now regarded as canonical, or at least “politically correct,” this
terrible tragedy was the direct result of a military coup d’état against
a perfectly democratic and progressive regime. Then the army, backed by a
handful of fascists, rose against the people who were defenseless, but who
resisted courageously and drove back the rebels. Finally, it is said, Franco
could not have won had it not been for the help of Germany and fascist Italy.
this one single fact will suffice to refute, or at least lend nuance to, the
premise of the military uprising against democracy: The great intellectuals of
the time, the Founding Fathers of the Republic, Ortega y Gasset, Marañon and
Ayala, and let us not forget Unamuno –
they all unreservedly voted for the National side, and against the Communist,
Socialist-Marxist and anarchist extremism of the Popular Front.
the numerous myths that could be mentioned here, for lack of space, I shall make
note of only two, which were recently deconstructed. First, the victory of the
Popular Front in the elections of February 1936, and the reasons and conditions
for the assassination of José
question of whether the elections of February 1936 were regular or irregular,
legitimate or illegitimate, legal or illegal, democratic or anti-democratic
never ceases to foment debate. But in 2017, a crucial piece was added as
evidence. It is the work of two historians at King Juan Carlos University,
Fraude y violencía en las elecciones del Frente popular (1936: Fraud
and Violence in the Elections of the Popular Front) by Roberto Villa García
and Manuel Álvarez Tardío.
After a long and careful study, these two
researchers have shown, in a manner both rigorous and incontestable, that the
frauds, falsifications, manipulations and violence of the Frente Popular
(the Popular Front) were of a considerable magnitude. In the aftermath of the
voting, the Frente Popular claimed 240 seats (out of 473), but
deliberately stole 50 from the right-wing opposition. Without this plundering –
a veritable parliamentary coup d’état – it could never have governed
alone. The institutions of the Republic were deliberately violated; and it is
perfectly right to question the legitimacy of the government of the Spanish
The assassination of Calvo Sotelo, which was
the prelude to the Civil war, is in itself another good illustration of the
reality of facts. José
Calvo Sotelo, at 43 years of age, was one of the most eminent figures in
the Spanish conservative right. He was a member of the monarchist party (the Renovación
Española), contributor to the intellectual revue, Accíon Española,
and a former minister of the economy and finance. A courageous and eloquent
parliamentarian, he attracted all the hate of the Popular Front. His speeches
had a profound impact on public opinion, so much so that Santiago Cesares
Quiroga, head of government and minister of defense, did not hesitate to
openly threaten him in the full sitting of the Legislature on June 16, 1936.
The response of the future victim is now
legendary: “Mr. Cesares Quiroga, I have broad shoulders. You are a man quick to
challenge and threaten… I take full note of your warning… I will answer you as Saint-Dominique de Silos
did to the King of Castille, ‘Lord, all you can do is take my life and nothing
more.’ Better to die with honor than to live without dignity.”
On June 23, 1936, Calvo Sotelo was again
threatened in the columns of the Madrid newspaper, El Socialista. Then, in the
evening of July 12, the Lieutenant of the Assault Guard, José
del Castillo, instructor of the militias of the Young Socialists, was assassinated, in
reprisal for the murders of José Luis Llaguno, a Carlist student and Andrés
Saenz de Heredia, who was the cousin of José Antonio Primo de Rivera. The
Assault Guard was a special police force that was highly politicized. At their
barracks in Pontejos, the comrades of Lieutenant del Castillo shouted for
revenge. These were men, for the most part, who were also close confidantes of
the government. Chief among them were Major Ricardo Burillo Stholle,
Lieutenant Maximo Moreno, and Captain of the Civil Guard, Fenando Condès.
The last two had already actively participated in the attempted socialist
uprising against the Republic in October of 1934.
On July 13, 1936, around two o’clock in the
morning, vehicle No. 17 of the Assault Guards left the barracks at Pontejos. Sitting
inside it were eight Assault Guards, and four hired men of the Socialist Party,
under the command of Captain Fernando Condès. They were all in civilian
A few minutes later, a second commando unit
rolled out into the night whose job it was to eliminate the other great leader
of the right, Gil-Robles,
who was head of CEDA (a
coalition of the conservative-right, liberals and Christian-democrats).
Luckily, he was in Biarritz at the time, and so, miraculously, he escaped
Vehicle No. 17 went on its way towards
Vélasquez Street, where the house of Calvo Sotelo was located. It stopped in
front of number 89. Captain Condès and several of his men got out. They summoned
the night watchman to open the door to the building, and he did so. The Guards
went up the stairs, rang at the door of the Monarchist Deputy and demanded
entry, under the pretext of a search. Awakened by the noise, Calvo Sotelo
opened the door.
Quickly the Guards rushed into the apartment
and cut the telephone. Captain Condès asked the politician to come with him to
Directorate. Calvo Sotelo was wary. A deputy could not be arrested, unless
caught red-handed actually committing a crime. It would be necessary to call
the Directorate General of Security, but the telephone did not work. His wife
tried to go out to get help. The Guards stopped her. The resistance of the
leader of the National Bloc was mollified by the assurances given on the
Captain’s honor. Calvo Sotelo got dressed, then kissed his children in their
beds and his wife to whom he promised that he would telephone as soon as
possible, “unless these gentlemen are taking me away to put four bullets into
He got into the bus. He sat down on the third
seat, flanked by two Assault Guards. Behind him stood Luís Cuenca Estevas,
a known bodyguard of the Socialist leader, Indalecio Prieto.
Captain Condès took a seat behind the driver. The others went and sat at the
back. The vehicle headed off and went only as far as about 200 meters, when at
the top of the intersection of Ayala and Vélasquez streets, Luis Cuenca took
out a pistol, pointed it at the back of Calvo Sotelo’s neck and fired twice,
killing him instantly. (According to other sources, the killer was Maximo
Moreno, the Lieutenant of the Assault Guard). The body of the victim collapsed
between the seats.
Unperturbed, the driver went down the road.
At the crossroads of Vélasquez and Alcalá streets, a truck full of Assault
Guards entered the flow of traffic. But for vehicle No. 17, the way was open.
With their murderous mission accomplished, and having returned to the barracks
at Pontejos, the assassins reported to their leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Sanchez
Plaza. Downstairs, Guard Tomas Pérez removed bloodstains from inside the
The wife of Calvo Sotelo had not sat idle.
She immediately got in touch with her family and her loved ones. To all of
their demands, the Directorate General of Security and the Minister of the
Interior invariably replied: “Nothing has happened… There is nothing at any
On the morning of July 13, the identification
of a body dumped at the Eastern Cemetery
roused disbelief and outrage. While the Socialist, Indalecio Prieto, demanded
that arms be distributed to all “workers” organizations, funeral arrangements
were made for the following day to be held before an enormous crowd.
The judicial investigation was hurriedly
buried. The Civil War put a stop to any remaining pretense of legality.
On July 25, 1936, at 12:45 PM, in broad
daylight, a dozen members of the militia of the Popular Front, entered the
buildings of the Ministry
of the Interior, led by a man in civilian clothing. Inside the office of
the judge charged with investigating the case, they seized by force all the
records and files pertaining to the assassination, and took everything away. Thus
disappeared all documents relating to the inquiry, including the scientific
evidence of the medical examiners, and the reports of the interrogation of the
Most of those involved with the murder were
rewarded after the uprising. For a good number of historians, the elimination
of Calvo Sotelo is nothing more than revenge for the assassination of José del
Castillo. But this explanation, partial and inadequate, has now been thoroughly
questioned (in 2018) by the former Secretary General of
the PSOE of Galicia, namely, Francisco
Vázquez Vázquez, the Deputy, Senator and Mayor of A Coruña (see, “Memoria
histórica de Calvo Sotelo,” ABC, April 9, 2018). Indeed, the shock
produced in public opinion by the news of the elimination of a leader of the
political opposition is completely incommensurate with any emotions stirred up
by the murder of a Lieutenant-Instructor of the Assault Guard.
Vázquez, a well-known and respected
politician, provided the original report – never before published because it
had been lost – of a declaration made before a judge by one of who was directly
involved with the assassination. This is the statement of Blas
Estebarán Llorente, the driver of the ambulance-van that was responsible
for transporting the body to the Eastern Cemetery. We learn in this crucial
testimony that the militias of the Socialist Party, then under the direction of
all the principal leaders of the movement, had planned the assassinations of
Calvo Sotelo, José Maria Gil Robles,
and the monarchist, Antonio
Goicoechea at least three months earlier. Also implicated in the plot were Jésus
the Communist leader and future Minister of Education during the Civil War, and
a certain Antonio López. Then, Blas
Estebarán went on to state that, as ordered by the Security Directorate, he met
the vehicle at the top of Manuel Becerra Place, and that he followed it, before
parking and taking charge of the corpse, which he took to the Eastern Cemetery.
The assassination of Calvo
Sotelo became the detonator of the national insurrection of July 18, 1936.
Conspirators had already been at work well before this terrible political
crime, and the uprising would likely have taken place regardless of this
assassination. But the shock of this event made a decisive contribution towards
smoothing out the difficulties and dissipating the doubts of the conspirators.
It accelerated the preparations and imposed a definite day and hour. It
considerably increased popular sympathy for, and participation in, the plans of
the military. Because of this crime, hatched and covered up by the State, it is
clear that all the adversaries of the Popular Front felt themselves in danger
of being killed. As Gil Robles said in Parliament, “Half of Spain will not
agree to being killed.”
One of the major observers of
the time, Julián
Zugazagoitia, a minister of the Popular Front, told one of his visitors,
“This attack is war.”
We cannot repeat this enough –
it is not the military uprising of July 1936 that is origin of the destruction
of democracy, as the leaders of the PSOE nowadays claim. On the contrary, it
was because democratic legality was destroyed by the Popular Front that the
uprising began. In 1936, no one, neither Left nor Right, believed in liberal
democracy as it exists today. The revolutionary myth believed by the entire
Left is that of an armed struggle. The anarchists and the Communist Party did
not believe in democracy. The vast majority of socialists and most notably
their leader, the very prominent, Largo
Caballero (the “Spanish Lenin), who advocated the dictatorship of the
proletariat and rapprochement with the Communists, also did not believe in
From this, we can conclude that the army of 1936, like Spanish society itself, was very divided, while both sides (the Left and the Right) enjoyed powerful popular support. If the legend fabricated by Spanish and Soviet propagandists of the Frente Popular is indeed correct, then there would have been no civil war because the army, entirely unified, would have risen up and the Nationals (not “nationalists” as they are always and erroneously called in France) would have had victory within 48 hours. And if the people all had been on one side, then the Frente Popular and its allies would have easily won. But it was not so.
Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.
This article was translated from French by N. Dass.
The photo shows a portrait of José Calvo Sotelo at the Bank of Spain.
Few Americans know much about Francisco Franco, leader of the winning side in the Spanish Civil War and subsequently dictator of Spain. Yet from 1936 until 1975, he was a famous world figure. Now he is forgotten—but not by all. Franco is, and has been for decades, a cause célèbre among the global Left, seen as the devil incarnate for his successful war against Communist domination of Spain.
To successfully delay, or worse, block, any Left attempt to establish their permanent rule, thereby revealing that history lacks a progressive direction, is the unforgivable sin. Naturally, therefore, my own impression of Franco was generally favorable. But after reading up on him, my impression of him has changed. Now it is positively glowing.
It is very difficult to grasp the controversial figures of the past century. By “controversial,” I mean right-wing, since no prominent left-wing figure is ever deemed, in the common imagination formed by the left-wing dominance of academia and media, to be “controversial.” Instead, such people are “bold” or “courageous.”
The only way to get at the truth about a right-wing figure is to absorb a great many facts about him. It doesn’t matter much if the facts are slanted, or are disputed, or even if lies are told, as they always are about any right-wing figure. Reading enough detail allows the truth to come into focus, which mostly means ferreting out where the Left is lying or where one’s impression has been formed by propaganda or half-truths.
Even though facts matter most, the first thing to do when reading a book about any right-wing figure, or any event or happening important to the Left, is to check the political angle of the author, to know the likely slant. Somewhat surprisingly, most recent popular English-language general histories of the Spanish Civil War are only modestly tilted Left.
The best-known is that by Hugh Thomas (recently deceased and a fantastic writer, mostly on Spain’s earlier history), which I’ve read; Antony Beevor, specialist in popularized histories of twentieth-century war, also wrote one, which I have skimmed. Several others exist, and voluminous Spanish-language literature, as well, about which I know essentially nothing other than as cited in English-language texts.
Reading biographies of Franco, rather than histories of the Civil War, pulls back the lens to see Spain across the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, not just in the years between 1936 and 1939. Any history revolving around Franco in that period is necessarily both a history of Spain and the history of Left-Right conflict.
This is useful because my purpose is not just to understand Franco, although that’s interesting enough, but what Franco and his times say for our times. While my initial intention was just to read one biography, it quickly became clear that more detail would allow more clarity. I deemed this amount of effort important because I think the Spanish experience in the twentieth century has a lot to say to us.
Therefore, I selected three biographies. The first was Franco: A Personal and Political Biography, published in 2014, by Stanley Payne, a professor at the University of Wisconsin. Payne has spent his entire long career writing many books on this era of Spain’s history, and he is also apparently regarded as one of the, if not the, leading experts on the typology of European fascism. Payne’s treatment of Franco is straight up the middle, neither pro nor con, and betrays neither a Left nor Right bias—although, to be sure, a straightforward portrait contradicts the Left narrative, and thus can be seen as effectively tilted Right, whatever the author’s actual intentions.
The second was Spanish historian Enrique Moradiellos’s 2018 Franco: Anatomy of a Dictator, a shorter treatment generally somewhat negative with respect to Franco.
The third, Franco: A Biography, was by Paul Preston, a professor at the London School of Economics, who like Payne is an expert in twentieth-century Spain. Unlike Payne, or Moradiellos, he is an avowed political partisan, of the Left, and his 1993 biography of Franco is vituperative, but it was also the first major English-language study of Franco, and is regarded as a landmark achievement offering enormous detail, even if it is superseded in some ways by later scholarship.
Preston also published, in 2012, the dubiously named, The Spanish Holocaust, analyzing through a hard-Left lens the killings of the Civil War, which I have read in part and to which I will also refer.
In addition, I have consulted a variety of other books, including Julius Ruiz’s recent work on the Red Terror in Madrid, and repeatedly viewed the five-hour 1983 series The Spanish Civil War, produced in the United Kingdom and narrated by Frank Finlay, available on YouTube, which while it has a clear left-wing bias, offers interviews with many actual participants in the war.
Unlike my usual technique, which is to review individual books and use them as springboards for thought, I am trying something new. I am writing a three-part evaluation of twentieth-century Spain, through a political lens, in which I intend to sequentially, but separately, focus on three different time periods.
First, the run-up to the Civil War. Second, the war itself, mainly with respect to its political, not military, aspects, and its immediate aftermath. Third, Franco’s nearly forty years as dictator, and the years directly after.
Using multiple books from multiple political angles will highlight areas of contradiction or dispute, and allow tighter focus on them. True, I have not read any actually pro-Franco books—I would, but, as Payne notes, there are no such English-language books, though he mentions several in Spanish.
The American (and English) Right has always been very reticent about any endorsement of Franco. Part of this is the result of ignorance combined with the successful decades-long propaganda campaign of the Left. If you’re ill-informed, it’s easy to lump Franco in with Hitler, or if you’re feeling charitable, Mussolini, and who wants to associate himself with them?
Part of it is the inculcated taste for being a beautiful loser, on sharp display for some reason among modern English conservatives, not only Peter Hitchens in his book The Abolition of Britain but also Roger Scruton in How To Be A Conservative. But a bigger part, I think, is distaste for the savagery of civil wars, combined with the feeling that Christians should not kill their enemies, except perhaps in open battle in a just war.
On the surface, this seeming pacifism appears to be a standard thread of Christian thought. But examined more closely, it is actually a new claim, since the contested dividing line has always been if and under what circumstances killing in self-defense is permitted. Whether the killing occurs in the heat of battle is a mere happenstance, now incorrectly elevated by some on the Right to the core matter, probably as a backdoor way of limiting killing by the state. The effect, though, is to repudiate killing in self-defense outside of battle, even by the authorities, ignoring the admonition of Saint Paul, that the ruler “beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
Competently illustrating this weak-kneed and incoherent line of thought among the modern Right, Peter Hitchens wrote a recent piece in First Things about Franco. Hitchens was, in fact, also reviewing Moradellios’s book, and his review exquisitely demonstrates this intellectual confusion and theological incoherence.
He goes on at great length about the evils of the Republicans and how their victory would have been disastrous for Spain. But then he goes on at greater length telling us that Christians cannot look to Franco, because he committed “crimes,” none of which are specified in the review (or, for that matter, in the book being reviewed), probably because to specify them would make them seem not very crime-like.
We must therefore reject Franco, Hitchens tells us, for an unspecified alternative that was most definitely not on offer in 1936, and is probably not going to be on offer if, in the future, we are faced with similar circumstances.
This is foolishness. (It is not helped by Hitchens’s self-focus and his repeated attempts to establish his own personal intellectual superiority, sniffing, for example, that Franco watched television and “had no personal library,” though if Hitchens had read Payne, he would know that was because the Republicans destroyed it in 1936). And Hitchens whines that Franco “hardly ever said or wrote anything interesting in his life,” which is false (and if true would be irrelevant), though in part explained by Franco’s oft-repeated dictum that “One is a slave to what one says but the owner of one’s silence.”
Hitchens squirms a bit, though, when he (at least being intellectually honest) quotes Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s ringing endorsement of Franco. “I saw that Franco had made a heroic and colossal attempt to save his country from disintegration. With this understanding there also came amazement: there had been destruction all around, but with firm tactics Franco had managed to have Spain sidestep the Second World War without involving itself, and for twenty, thirty, thirty-five years, had kept Spain Christian against all history’s laws of decline! But then in the thirty-seventh year of his rule he died, dying to a chorus of nasty jeers from the European socialists, radicals, and liberals.”
Hitchens, for no stated reason, seems to think that Moradiellos’s book proves Solzhenitsyn wrong, when the exact opposite is the case. Hitchens even ascribes Solzhenitsyn’s praise to “infatuation on the rebound,” whatever that means, though the quote is from the late 1970s (from the recently released autobiography, Between Two Millstones), long after Solzhenitsyn’s experiences in the Gulag.
Probably realizing how weak his argument is, Hitchens then switches gears without acknowledging it, dropping the “crimes” line and claiming that since Franco’s work was all undone rapidly after his death, Franco was bad. Which is even more intellectually sieve-like.
The lack of mental rigor in this line of thought can be seen if we switch the focus from Franco to any one of scores of Christian heroes of the past. Once you leave Saint Francis of Assisi behind, any Christian military hero plucked at random from the pages of history did far worse things to his enemies, and often to his friends, than Franco.
Try Charlemagne. Or Saint Louis IX. Or Richard II Lionheart. Or El Cid. Or Don Juan of Austria. All wars fought to decide ultimate questions are unpleasant and involve acts that endanger the souls of men. It is merely the proximity of Franco to us in time, combined with the lack of steel that has affected many Christians for decades now, that makes Hitchens shrink from endorsing Franco and his deeds, all his deeds.
In two hundred years if, God willing, the Left and its Enlightenment principles are nothing but a faded memory and a cautionary tale, Hitchens’s complaints will seem utterly bizarre, like a belief that the Amazons were real. Would I care to stand in Franco’s shoes before the judgment seat of Christ? Not particularly. But I am far from certain that it would be an uncomfortable position.
In astronomy, there is the concept of “standard candles.” These are stars of a known luminosity, whose distance can be accurately calculated, and against which other celestial objects can then be measured. I think of events that regularly recur in histories as standard candles: happenings about which certain facts are not in dispute, but which different authors approach differently, either by emphasizing or omitting certain facts.
By examining each author’s variations, we can measure him against the standard candles, determining, to some degree, whether his history is objective, or a polemic, in which latter case its reliability becomes suspect.
For many Americans, the thought of historical Spain conjures up images of ships carrying gold across the ocean, or for the literary and somewhat confused, Don Quixote riding with his lance across a dusty plain. But in 1892, Spain was a country with no gold and no knights, though plenty of farmers. Franco was born in that year into a naval family, when the Spanish military, and particularly the navy, had also fallen far from its former glory (in part the result of recent defeat by America in the Spanish-American War).
Not a promising physical specimen, he enrolled as an infantry cadet at fourteen. He asked to be posted to Spanish Morocco, the only place Spain had any fighting military, and went there at nineteen, quickly establishing himself as a courageous, unflappable leader of men, as well as a disciplinarian and martinet.
Franco asked for the most dangerous assignments (of the forty-two officers assigned to the “shock” troops in 1912, only seven were alive by 1915), and his mostly Muslim soldiers were in superstitious awe of his luck. His luck wasn’t perfect—he was gut shot by a machine gun, and only survived because the bullet happened to miss all his organs, a most unlikely event. But even that contributed to Franco’s reputation, and to his own later belief in his providential mission.
All this brought much attention from the prominent, including the King, Alfonso XIII (Spain was a parliamentary monarchy at the time), and rapid promotion. Although Spain was politically in turmoil during these years, Franco (like most officers in the Spanish military) was strictly non-political. He married in 1923 (and unlike most men of power, was unfailingly faithful to his wife his entire life). Continuing his service in Morocco, he was promoted to general in 1926, at thirty-three the youngest general in Europe—though by European standards, he had little modern war experience.
He never commanded more than a brigade, and experienced only relatively primitive warfare with relatively primitive weapons, since the Spanish military was never well-equipped. After being promoted, he “retired” from combat, becoming director of Spain’s main military academy, until 1931.
It was toward the end of this period that politics became impossible for Franco to ignore. In 1930, the Spanish left-wing parties all managed to ally under the Pact of San Sebastián, collectively adopting the label “Republican” to denote their left-wing goals, a nomenclature that stuck, and agreeing to overthrow the monarchy by any means necessary.
This is the origin of the term Republican as denoting one side in the Civil War; it means both revolutionary leftist and necessarily exclusionary of any non-left parties, rather than being derived from “republican,” meaning devoted to representative government. (For this reason, Payne uses the terms “Republican” and “revolutionary” interchangeably in his book.) Even among this group of Leftists, there was a range of opinion (ignoring the outlier viewpoint of the Catalan separatists, who were also involved).
The key principle, as with all such groupings, was that there could be no enemies to the Left, and no compromise with the Right; total power to the Left and the disenfranchisement of the Right was the permanent goal.
After the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera, which lasted from 1923 to 1930, was succeeded by the even softer dictatorship of Dámaso Berenguer, the Republicans quickly initiated their first political violence, a small military revolt, the “Jaca revolt.” The revolt was put down quickly, but not before the Republican rebels had killed several other soldiers who refused to join them. (One of the Republicans involved, though not in the killing, was Franco’s brother Ramón, a political radical who fled Spain as a result, but who returned later to fight for Franco, and died in the war).
As Payne notes, “These totally unprovoked killings opened the steadily accelerating cycle of leftist violence in Spain that would eventually bring civil war.” That was the goal, naturally—one theme of Payne is that the Left wanted civil war, figuring they would win and that would cement their power permanently, since, as Moradiellos points out, Spain was not only sharply divided, but without any group having notably more power than the others, such that the result was political deadlock without some deus ex machina.
The Jaca revolt is revealing, and usable as a standard candle, because as the earliest such event, it begins to show the pattern of ideological distortion found in different histories. At least in the mainstream, English-language works I have read, there is little dispute as to facts.
But what you find is that the left-leaning authors, Preston in particular, solve the problem of inconvenient facts by simply omitting them. So, here, Preston never mentions that the rebels killed anyone; they were unjustly executed as “mutineers,” and their subsequent adulation as Republican martyrs is portrayed as entirely reasonable.
In 1931, the monarchy ended and the Second Republic was declared. This wasn’t the result of any democratic process, but the result of the total collapse of support for the monarchy from its traditional supporters at the same time the Republicans had prepared to seize power, combined with the King’s unwillingness to risk civil war. In practice, the first government of the Second Republic was merely the self-named “revolutionary committee” of the Republicans.
But despite these unpromising beginnings, and the open participation of many anti-democratic, revolutionary elements, the Second Republic managed, at the beginning, to be actually republican, more liberal than leftist, though there were plenty of leftist actions taken, most prominently open violence against the Church and extensive anti-religious legal measures, along with open persecution of the religious.
Preston ignores all this, referring instead to the “hysteria” (one of his favorite words) of anyone opposed to leftist hegemony. Still, as Payne notes, the first Republican government, under the “left Republican” Prime Minister Manuel Azaña, “held that the Republic must be a completely leftist regime under which no conservative party or coalition could be accepted as a legitimate government, even in the remote possibility that one were democratically elected. . . . Such an attitude made the development of a genuinely liberal democratic regime almost impossible.”
To anyone paying attention, this is merely the usual tactic of the Left—the ratchet must only go one way. It can go Left, but however far Left it goes, it can never go any less Left, no matter how many democratic votes the Right gets. If the Right threatens to disturb the ratchet, violence is the acceptable solution to keep Left dominance.
Until recently, this was a purely Continental phenomenon; its most recent manifestations have shown up in France (with the National Rally, what was the Front National) and in Sweden (with the Sweden Democrats). Since 2017, it has shown up in the United States, as a reaction to Donald Trump daring to actually try to govern in a conservative fashion, something no Republican had tried to do since Calvin Coolidge.
The same beginning low-level violence led by the Left against the Right is already in evidence here, as well, unfortunately (as well as occasional higher-level political violence, such as James Hodgkinson’s attempted assassination of the Republican Congressional leadership, which has been memory-holed by the Left using its control of the media—one difference between then and now, as I discuss below, is that the Left now controls far more of the levers of power).
Political violence was the new norm in 1930s Spain. Payne estimates that nearly 2,500 lives were lost to political violence from 1931 until the beginning of the Civil War in 1936. Most of those people were killed by the Left, but not all, and both sides tended to dehumanize the other side, though again the Left led here—as Payne notes, early on one of the favorite Republican words was “extermination.”
Here again, we see this type of language rising on the mainstream American Left—last month Democratic freshman Representative Ilhan Omar, the bigoted new flower child of American progressives, publicly referred to Donald Trump as “not human,” and prominent Democrat Paul Begala publicly called Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner “cockroaches” and “a different kind of species,” in both cases without any apology or consequences.
One might object, if one were a Leftist offended by the truth, that there is also right-wing political violence in America today, adducing, say, Dylann Roof killing black church parishioners in 2015, or, stretching abroad, last month’s killing of mosque worshippers in New Zealand. You have to draw a pretty big circle to claim those killers are “right-wing,” but it’s not totally implausible. They certainly weren’t left-wing, in any reasonable read of their confused politics.
Still, the “political” angle, and tie to concrete politics, of Hodgkinson was far more evident. But the key difference, that makes right-wing high-profile attacks different, is that Hodgkinson was part of the ecosystem of the Left, and the right-wing killers were not part of the ecosystem of the Right.
Such killers being part of the Left ecosystem is a necessary consequence of the mandatory Left principle that there are no enemies to the Left; you cannot plausibly maintain both that principle and that you are not responsible for fringe actions, and Hodgkinson was merely following the very many open calls for violence after Trump’s election by progressive leaders, none of whom even thought once about apologizing or trying to dial back their violent rhetoric afterwards. (In the Spanish context there was even less ambiguity—all Left violence was an acknowledged part of the Left program; the question was only whether any particular act was prudent).
On today’s American Right, which aggressively polices its borders (probably too aggressively), there is no legitimate claim that the Right in general is responsible for fringe actions. Which is not to say that, with the Internet and the persecution of conservatives, that such fringe actions will not occur more often, as sociopaths seek meaning and transcendence through violence.
Naturally, the Leftist media inverts this reality, without any claim to logic or reason, in order to attack the Right and wholly excuse the Left. In the fevered imaginations of the Left, or so they claim, murderous white supremacists, for example, are key and important components of the American Right.
But the true reality is inevitable and inescapable. Just as inescapable is leftist propaganda and lies, for exaggerating right-wing violence and demanding a response from the Right is both a successful way to ask a “have you stopped beating your wife?” question and a way to avoid talking about the evils of the Left. They offer not reasoning or argument, but shrieks that the Right must abase itself and surrender for no apparent reason other than that it is desired by the Left. The correct response is simply to refuse to engage in such discussions, and instead demand the Left clean its own stables.
However, this entire analysis is somewhat beside the point, because it
ignores that high-profile political violence, whether of Hodgkinson or Roof, is
not the core of political violence today. Such violence may be, as it became in
Spain, the main event. But today the core of political violence is rather the
daily violence visited exclusively today by the American Left on the Right, on
the streets, in restaurants, and in schools. And that core is what will, and
should, cause a justified reaction on the Right, at which point violence will
likely become part of the ecosystem of both Left and Right, though the fault
will lie primarily with the Left, as always.
Anyway, back in Spain and eighty years ago, the Azaña government also immediately implemented another inexorable feature of leftist rule, the legal prosecution of their political opponents—in this case, those who served under the monarchy during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, and those involved in prosecuting the “Jaca martyrs.”
The euphemism for this was the “responsibilities program.” (Yet again, we see this occurring in the United States, with the witch hunt against Trump and his associates, and when the Democrats regain executive power, we will doubtless see an enormous explosion of such prosecutions, as well as a growing number of state-level attacks, both of which grew lushly under Obama).
Some military men fell before these attacks, but Franco, although he was prominent, was well known to never engage in politics, so he was not attacked. Still, he was demoted and ostracized by the new government, which (correctly) saw that his basic orientation was conservative.
Franco took no part whatsoever, however, in the failed 1932 revolt led by General José Sanjurjo, subsequent to which the Republicans arrested thousands of conservatives and closed hundreds of newspapers, and continued their policy of blocking conservative political meetings and generally obstructing Right political action, though Sanjurjo himself escaped, to play a part in the Civil War. (Such activity has its modern parallel in the shutting down of conservative speeches across the nation, by violence with government complicity, and the massive and expanding coordinated deplatforming of conservatives from the public utilities that are the main method of communication in America today).
Seen, therefore, as generally reliable, Franco was appointed commander of the strategic Balearic Islands, where, in his leisure time, he began to become more politicized, though not visibly. The main targets of his ire were a perceived conspiracy among Freemasons, big business, and finance capital, which, if you leave out the Freemasons, makes him not dissimilar to Tucker Carlson. (Anti-Semitism was not part of this; Franco was not, then or later, in the least anti-Semitic as an ideological position, and probably no more personally anti-Semitic than, say, Franklin Roosevelt).
A new center-right party, the CEDA, gained political ground. In the 1933 elections, in a trial run for 1936, violence was used to suppress the CEDA vote, and when the CEDA got the most votes and was the largest party in parliament, the Republicans attempted to simply cancel the results. While the president, Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, a Leftist somewhat more moderate than most Republicans, though an active participant in the Pact of San Sebastián, declined to comply with his fellow Leftists’ demands (there was always a spectrum on the Spanish Left), he ensured that the CEDA was barred from any participation in the government and denied any share of political power. (Preston delicately refers to this as the Left resisting “electoral disunity”).
By 1934, though, this became untenable, so some minor ministerial offices were granted the CEDA. The response of the harder left side of the Republicans, led by the Socialists, was to launch a widespread revolt (often today euphemistically called a “general strike,” but called at the time by the Socialists a “revolutionary strike,” with the avowed aim of “overthrowing the government and taking power”), passively supported by the rest of the Republican parties.
Only in the Asturias mining regions did this succeed, for a time, with the Republican revolutionaries killing around a hundred of their local political opponents out of hand, burning churches and stealing millions from local banks.
The revolting miners, as Hugh Thomas points out, were very well paid; “[t]heir action was politically, rather than economically, inspired.” The Asturias rebellion was put down by Franco, using Moroccan troops; Payne says “the army units also committed atrocities, and there may have been as many as a hundred summary executions, though only one victim was ever identified, despite the vociferous leftist propaganda campaign that followed for months and years.”
It is worth spending some more time on the Asturias rebellion, for a few reasons. For one, it was the first time Franco came to be seen as an enemy of the Left, and his successful defeat of the Left meant that he became a permanent target of the Left’s hatred.
The Asturias rebellion is also an example of the propaganda machine of the Left, which for nearly a century has used this as the supposed inception of the Civil War, conveniently ignoring not only that it was a Left revolt to overthrow an already leftist government, for the sin of allowing a center-right party to participate in the government at all, and that violence had been a stock tactic of the Spanish Left, by 1934, for several years.
Finally, and related to the second reason, the Asturias rebellion is a good way to gauge how susceptible an author is, himself, to propaganda; it is a standard candle.
Payne, as I say, offers specifics—maybe a hundred dead leftists in summary executions—but he offers a footnote, “Within only a few months leftist spokesmen were permitted to present charges of atrocities before a military tribunal. The resulting inquiry produced concrete evidence of only one killing, though probably there were more. The most extensive study on this point is [a 2006 Spanish-language monograph].”
Hugh Thomas gives the figure as about 200 killed “in the repression,” though he offers no support for his figure. Overtly Left mouthpieces commonly talk of “thousands” killed. Preston offers no figures, he merely complains for pages about “savagery,” “brutality,” “howling for vengeance” and such like, while making racist statements about Franco’s Moroccan troops.
This pattern continues in almost all high-profile events in the Civil War—all of which are high profile because they were specifically chosen by the Left at the time as the most susceptible to use for their global propaganda campaign.
This was all run-up to the fatal elections of February, 1936, in which the CEDA contested against a “Popular Front” of rigidly leftist parties. The election was called by the President, Alcalá-Zamora, specifically to prevent the CEDA leader, José María Gil-Robles, from becoming Prime Minister.
The result was probably an extremely narrow victory for the Popular Front, marred by extensive pre-election violence (almost exclusively by the Left, as Payne notes) and leftist mobs in numerous areas “intefer[ing] with either the balloting or the registration of votes, augmenting the leftist tally or invalidating rightist pluralities or majorities.”
Rather than wait for the normal processes for handover of power, the Left immediately seized power wherever it had the ability, releasing their compatriots from jail, and illegally and forcibly “unilaterally register[ing] its own victory at the polls.”
The Left’s behavior with respect to the CEDA is similar to the electoral behavior of the American Left today. It is not quite as dramatic here, because in the American structure the tools are lacking to actually deny power to a party that wins seats.
The American system is more cut-and-dried in that way. Therefore, when conservatives threaten to gain any actual power, other actions are instead taken. The first line of defense is to allow neutered conservatives “in the government,” like John McCain or Mitt Romney, on the condition they never, ever, attempt to actually deny any victory to the Left.
The second line of defense, against those who are not, like McCain and Romney, quislings deep in their souls, is to use the press, dominated by the Left and able to wholly determine what is considered news, to open propaganda campaigns to delegitimize conservatives who threaten to actually exercise power.
The third line of defense is legal attacks by either civil suits or the organs of the state. And the fourth line of defense, the trump card (no pun intended) is to use the courts, in particular but not limited to the Supreme Court, to simply, much as in the old Spanish Republican way, to illegally deny the exercise of power to conservatives.
This last strategy is wholly successful in only a few areas, related to claimed emancipatory autonomy (notably abortion and sexual license), because the Left does not control every aspect of the Supreme Court as it so dearly desires.
The Left’s response to not being able to completely control the Supreme Court has been, when this fourth level of tactic is needed, to drag every conservative attempt to exercise power through legal molasses, by suborning low-level federal judges into issuing ludicrous and unlawful decisions based purely on the desire to advance Left goals, and imposing nationwide injunctions mandating the desired result.
After many months or years, if the Supreme Court has time to add such a case to its docket, the lawless decision is reversed, with no consequence or sanction to the original judge (quite the contrary), but the Left goal has usually been mostly or totally accomplished.
This system is intolerable—conservatives should find a good issue and declare a refusal to adhere to such an injunction, and such lawless judges should be severely punished. But that is a discussion for some other time.
Back to February, 1936. Whether the election was truly won by the Left is unclear. Hugh Thomas thinks it was, though by a slim margin. Payne is less sure, and emphasizes that vote totals can’t tell the whole story when votes were suppressed by leftist violence and fraud.
Payne notes that “There were runoff elections in several provinces in March, but in the face of mounting violence the right withdrew, adding more seats to the leftist majority. Late in March, when the new parliamentary electoral commission convened, the leftist majority arbitrarily reassigned thirty-two seats from the right to the left, augmenting that majority further.”
Elections in conservative provinces were declared invalid; and in the re-runs, conservatives were violently prevented from running.
Payne’s conclusion is that “In a four-step process, electoral results originally almost evenly divided between left and right were rigged and manipulated over a period of three months until the Popular Front commanded a majority of two-thirds of the seats, which would soon give it the power to amend the constitution as it pleased. In the process, democratic elections ceased to exist.”
But both Payne and Thomas agree that after the initial vote, the Left manipulated the system to try to expand a dubious majority. The details of this episode are glossed over by Moradiellos, who prefers to simply claim that the Popular Front won a “slight” victory and move on, and simply ignored by Preston, who says the victory was “narrow” but resulted in “a massive triumph in terms of seats in the Cortes,” without any explanation of how that could be.
(It is about here in reading Preston’s book that one realizes that his normal tactic is to lie by omission, while burying the reader in mounds of irrelevant detail, making his account seem complete.) At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, since the Left’s goal was the permanent seizure of power, and this was the handy trigger. If it hadn’t been this, some other pretext would have been used to violently cement power and permanently, or so they thought, destroy the Right.
The Republicans immediately unleashed a nationwide assault against the Right. Payne asks, “How bad was the situation by July 1936? The frequent overt violations of the law, assaults on property, and political violence were without precedent for a modern European country not undergoing total revolution.”
These included looting, arson, massive theft, “virtual impunity for criminal action by members of Popular Front parties, manipulation and politicization of justice, . . . and a substantial growth in political violence, resulting in more than three hundred deaths.”
The military began to actively plot overthrow of the government, though Franco was not initially actively involved and hedged his bets (his calculating, and some thought cold, manner of approaching such decisions was not pleasing to his Army compatriots).
But on the night of July 12, 1936, José Calvo Sotelo, the charismatic chief Monarchist in parliament, was brazenly assassinated by the government’s Assault Guards (indirectly assisted by the Republican Minister of the Interior), in revenge for the murder of an Assault Guard prominent in anti-Right violence, José Castillo, by the Falange, the small Spanish fascist party.
The Republican government’s reaction was to arrest nobody but two hundred rightists and to continue its campaign of repression. (Preston characterizes this as “immediately beginning a thorough investigation” and then does not return to the matter).
For many or most on the Left, most prominently the Socialist leader Largo Caballero, a military revolt was desired, since they believed the Republicans could crush it and thereby permanently seize power without further pushback.
And regardless of desirability, most on the Left now believed in the “necessity” of civil war. “Thus, in the final days neither the government nor the leftist parties did anything to avoid the conflict, but, in a perverse way, welcomed military revolt, which they mistakenly thought would clear the air.” (Their mistake, actually, was not that it did not clear the air, but that the fresh air was not to their liking).
Logically enough, Payne pegs this as the point at which the generals, and Franco, realized that it was more dangerous not to revolt than to revolt, so the war was on. The generals (not yet under Franco’s leadership) launched their revolt; the government handed out weapons to the Left. And the war came.
The Civil War
All Franco biographers cover the war in detail. It lasted three years. Soon Franco was granted supreme military and political control by the other counter-revolutionary generals, in part because he had the best troops, in part because he managed to be the conduit for equipment from Mussolini, and in part because of his dominant personality and the near-universal admiration in which he was held among the military.
The Republicans held several of the major cities; the Nationalists others and the countryside, where they had broad-based support, especially among poor peasants. The Nationalists, in the areas they controlled, deliberately implemented a counter-revolution to end leftist and liberal domination; they “embraced a cultural and spiritual neotraditionalism without precedent in recent European history.”
In their political theory, following Joseph de Maistre, arch-opponent of the French Revolution, a counter-revolution was not the opposite of a revolution, which would make it Burkean, but an opposing revolution. The Spanish Civil War showed that Burkeanism has very definite limits, after all; appeals by American conservatives to him and to Russell Kirk, past a certain point in the polity, which we have not reached yet, are only of any relevance or use once the smoke clears and the bodies are buried, and serve before then only to hamstring conservatives in their reaction to those who would destroy them.
Despite their far superior organization (though the Republicans improved theirs over time), the Nationalists were inferior to the Republicans in domestic propaganda, and far inferior in international propaganda. In part this was because the people in charge on the Nationalist side were military men, both disinterested in and contemptuous of propaganda.
Their idea of propaganda was to broadcast choleric and threatening radio addresses into towns they were attacking. In part it was because the Left has always been master of propaganda, a fact on display both inside Spain, where morale was kept up by inspirational posters and mass rallies (though the Nationalists used posters too), and even more so outside of Spain, where the international Left eagerly created a distorted perception of the Nationalists and the war.
The Falange, the Spanish fascists, are rarely a significant focus of discussions about the Civil War, except in propagandistic discussions. This is because they were not notably powerful; they were merely one part of the mix of Nationalist politics, which included many military men not aligned with a party, monarchists (in two brands), and Catholics (who opposed the Falange generally, and violently opposed modernist foreign right-wing political movements, especially National Socialism).
The Falange, in any case, lost most of their independent power when Franco forcibly took over the party as the vehicle for his “National Movement,” cramming, in theory, everyone into his personal party and blurring the lines between himself and the Falange. During the war and immediately after, Franco identified himself publicly with the Falange.
He was happy to accept their support, and encourage the cult of their leader, executed early in the war by the Republicans, José Antonio Primo de Rivera (son of the dictator)—as many have pointed out, it was convenient for Franco to only have to compete with a dead man. After the war, with his typical cold calculation, Franco suppressed what power the Falangists still retained, seeing them as adding no value to his neotraditionalist Movement, and being far too interested in radical modernism.
Nobody who is serious contends that Franco was fascist in any meaningful way—that is, under any actual definition of fascism, rather than under its use as a flexible term of abuse. (Moradiellos offers a detailed analysis of the use of the term in modern Spanish scholarship.) Nomenclature can be misleading if transposed without thought into today.
To take another example, Franco regularly used the term “totalitarian” as a positive, something inconceivable to us after seeing the results of totalitarian regimes in the twentieth century.
But when Franco described the Movement as totalitarian, he meant not that it would attempt to control every aspect of life, even people’s thoughts, which is the meaning we imbibe from Communism and from works like Orwell’s 1984. Nor did he mean that politics would continuously invade and dominate all areas of life; Mussolini’s famous definition of fascism as “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Rather, he meant a system “that would dominate the public sphere but otherwise permit a limited traditional semi-pluralism.”
By way of example Franco offered fifteenth-century Catholic monarchs. Moreover, the Movement was meant explicitly to advance a flexible plan, not a program. “It will not be rigid or static, but subject, in every case, to the work of revision and improvement that reality may counsel.” Franco looked backward, not forward to ideological rightism.
The same distorted nomenclature is true of “dictator,” originally a Roman term used not as a term of opprobrium, but of description, and until the modern era, seen as simply another possible method of political organization, useful in certain circumstances but, like all political organization, subject to abuse.
Franco was a sovereign dictator—but that does not imply that his rule was arbitrary or despotic, the meaning we typically take from the modern use of the term. Franco had very definite and very simple core principles. But beyond those, he was politically flexible—not, for example, wedded to a monarchy after his death, and when he decided that was the best course, not quick to decide which monarchical line should ascend the throne (left vacant after 1931). And Spain under Franco was very much a country of the rule of law.
There is no need here to rehash the details of the war. In short, Franco gradually rolled up the Republicans, after trying and failing to quickly capture Madrid and end the war. It is fairly evident that Franco did not mind a longer war; as Moradiellos emphasizes, this enabled him to permanently repress the Left by killing his opponents and scaring the rest into final submission (shades of Sherman’s March to the Sea). Both the Axis and Stalin supplied the Nationalists and Republicans respectively, but that almost certainly did not change the end result of the war. By 1939, it was over.
Immediately upon the beginning of the Civil War, both sides began systematic executions of their political opponents in areas they controlled. Contrary to myth, this was organized on both sides, though as with all things better organized by the Nationalists.
It was not some kind of excusable spontaneous excess on the part of the Left, as they have often tried to pretend during and since, the line that Preston uniformly takes as well. Other than being factually wrong, such a claim is laughable on its face when viewed hindsight from the twenty-first century, since in, without exception, every other Left accession to power, organized mass killing of opponents in order to create the “new world” has been an absolutely essential and central part of the plan, invariably carried through if and to the extent power is gained.
As with many other Left actions and claims, from denying the evil of Lenin to the guilt of Alger Hiss to who was responsible for Katyn, they may have been plausible once, but current belief brands one as either a liar or a fool. In fact, such violence had openly been part of the Left’s plan in Spain for years.
True, on both sides the organization of killing outside of battle was mostly locally organized, not centrally organized. Payne says “It is now generally agreed that the number of executions by the [Republicans] totaled about fifty-five thousand, while those by the Nationalists were more numerous, with estimates ranging from sixty thousand to one hundred thousand or more.
The higher figures appear to be a demographic impossibility, so that the low estimate appears more likely. In the long run, the Nationalist repression became more concerted, was the more effective of the two, and claimed the most lives, particularly with the extensive round of executions after the end of the Civil War.” Preston agrees with these numbers, though his estimate is on the higher end, which suggests, at least, rough agreement across the historical spectrum.
Of course, this is comparing apples to oranges, because it ignores two critical elements. First, the Left killed fewer because since they conquered little territory, killings were mostly confined to the cities they held when the war began, and therefore could not accomplish their goal of wiping out all those on the Right, merely those unfortunate enough to be trapped with the Republicans (including a high percentage of the country’s Army officers). (And, as famously narrated by Orwell in Homage to Catalonia, soon enough the Communists turned to stamping out former allies on the Left).
Second, it ignores the certainty that the Republicans would, like all Communists coming to power, have slaughtered enormous numbers of people after the war for many years, so including post-war executions in a comparison is a distortion.
It would be far more realistic to assume that the Republicans would have executed some double-digit multiple of those the Nationalists executed; it would have been like the Jacobins in the Vendée. And, critically, unlike Left regimes, which are always focused on killing by class and status in order to achieve utopia, not the punishment of specific crimes, Franco’s repression quickly became less radical, not more radical.
As Payne notes, “Once the major actors and criminals of the Spanish revolution had been prosecuted, there was no need to repeat the process.” That would not have been true if the Republicans had won.
Thus, such killings by the Nationalists during the war had nothing in common with the ideological killings of the twentieth century, whether by Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, or many others. Rather, they were conducted under a semblance (sometimes dubious or even specious) of the rule of law, through military tribunals, directed either at those known to have committed significant crimes (as the Republicans had in every area they controlled) or, a smaller number, those who were leaders of the revolutionary opposition.
I find the latter hard to morally justify, sitting comfortably in my twenty-first-century seat of luxury and security, but in context, I do not find them hard to understand (and I understand the Republicans’ killing of political opponents as well); nor do I find the “victims” in any way blameless (although there must have been mistakes and excessive severity in many cases, as is always the case in wartime situations).
Regardless, this was not the type of class- or race-based killing common in the twentieth century, sweeping up without specific accusations and guilt men, women, and children. It was political and executive judgment on actual enemies working to destroy their countrymen, and that’s what happens in civil wars.
Preston, in 2012’s The Spanish Holocaust, addresses killings during the war. But unlike his magnum opus, his biography of Franco, this later book is a work of unhinged propaganda, designed to whitewash and excuse all Republican killing, and to magnify the horror of all Nationalist killing. Words such as “savage” and “vicious” appear with metronomic regularity, never once applied to Republicans.
The default mode is the passive voice when, infrequently, Republican killings are described, always in the context of excusing them. Preston makes truly ludicrous claims, such as that during the entire Civil War, there took place (he cannot bring himself to use the word “rape” by Republicans) “the sexual molestation of around one dozen nuns and the deaths of 296,” a low toll he attributes to the “respect for women that was built into the Republic’s reforming programme.”
Naturally, he does not mention the roughly 7,000 other clergy executed by the Republicans, except obliquely, without numbers, and to excuse them as unfortunate, but understandable, excesses by zealous heroes. On the other hand, as I say Preston uses the same numbers of dead as Payne and other unbiased scholars; his fault is in propagandistic presentation and the use of anecdotes that are mostly almost certainly lies, not statistics (in fact, Payne uses higher numbers for those executed after the war, 30,000 instead of Preston’s 20,000).
There is not much more to say about this book, but if you’re interested, you might try reading Payne’s bloodless evisceration of it in a Wall Street Journal review. “Mr. Preston, rather than presenting a fully objective historical analysis or interpretation of violence against civilians during the Spanish conflict, is recapitulating civil-war-era propaganda. . . . Rather than implementing some radical new Hitlerian or Pol Pot-like scheme, the essentially traditionalist Franco followed the policy of victors in civil wars throughout most of history: slaughtering the leaders and main activists of the other side while permitting the great bulk of the rank and file to go free.”
Franco did not care what it took to put the Republican revolution down. Such was Franco’s personality—practical, tending toward icy, in his political relations. Really, though, Franco’s personality was somewhat opaque; he kept no journal and what few personal papers he had are still mostly in the possession of his family and not public.
He was, in both personal and military matters, straightforward for the most part. He took counsel from others, but was decisive when the time came to make a decision. Most importantly, he shared two crucial characteristics with me. He fell asleep immediately upon going to bed, annoying his wife because she wanted to talk, and he hated rice pudding. Beyond that, though, it is hard to say in many cases what Franco thought.
No surprise, however, at some point Franco, at least to some extent, began to believe his own press. He did not become puffed up, much less behave badly—he was always punctilious in his personal behavior, and did not fly into rages or otherwise show lack of self-control like many dictators.
But he did become convinced that he was an instrument of Providence, always a dangerous belief. He also prided himself on some minor abilities he did not have—for example, he believed he was an expert in economics, whereas everyone knew he was not. Regardless, Franco developed a charismatic form of leadership, and was never challenged for leadership. Payne’s conclusion is that “the effort to achieve legitimacy [was] thus more praetorian or Bonapartist than Fascist.” That seems about right.
In any mention of the Civil War, another standard candle, the 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Condor Legion, always comes up. This is not because it was the only, or the most damaging, aerial bombing of the war, but because the Left chose it as the focus of a propaganda campaign. Aerial bombing was then highly inaccurate (my grandmother’s house in Debrecen, Hungary, during World War II, was partially destroyed as the result of American bombs missing the railway station).
Payne notes that far from the “planned terror-bombing” of leftist fever dreams, the bombing of Guernica was a routine strike on a military target (and as Payne notes, “indiscriminate attacks on cities, almost always small in scope, were in fact more commonly conducted by the Republican air force,” giving the example of the bombing of Cabra, which killed more than a hundred civilians, but of which you have never heard).
Preston, of course, ignores these facts, and accepts at face value high-end, propagandistic claims for the number of dead. The inept and mendacious Nationalist response, including the suggestion that the Republicans had burned Guernica themselves to deny it to the Nationalists (it was a largely wooden town), made things worse for the Nationalists. But it was propaganda gold for the Left, who inflated the casualty figure, Payne says, “approximately one thousand percent” (the real figure was around 200, maybe somewhat more or less, and only that high because an air-raid shelter took a direct hit).
How many Spaniards died in the war? All in, maybe 350,000 by violence, including battle deaths, executions, and civilian deaths, with maybe 200,000 or 300,000 more due to “extremely harsh economic and social conditions.”
But, as Payne says, “[I]t would be hard to exaggerate the extent of the accompanying trauma the war inflicted on Spanish society as a whole. The complete destruction of the normal polity, the ubiquity of internecine violence, and the enormous privation and suffering left many of its members shell shocked and psychologically adrift.”
This in part explains why Franco faced nearly zero domestic opposition during his lifetime—nobody wanted to go back to that. They were reminded of that by a low-level terroristic Communist insurgency in the late 1940s, which killed several hundred people, mostly in train and train station bombings (and which Preston characterizes as heroic resistance).
After The War
After the war, Franco and the Nationalists cemented their power. As Payne says, “Franco planned not merely to complete construction of a new authoritarian system but also to effect a broad cultural counterrevolution that would make another civil war impossible, and that meant severe repression of the left.”
Forceful action to that end was characteristic of the immediate post-war period, with nearly 300,000 imprisoned in 1939, though most were released in 1940. “The Francoist repression, despite its severity, was not a Stalinist-Hitlerian type of liquidation applied automatically by abstract criteria equivalent to class or ethnicity. The great majority of leftist militants were never arrested, nor even questioned.”
The death sentence was reserved for political crimes involving major violence. Still, there were many executions after the war, much along the same lines as during the war, but with more due process, and quite a few jail sentences—though unlike today in America, when multi-decade sentences for relatively minor crimes are the norm, the sentences were relatively short and soon enough even those convicted of being involved in political killings were released from jail, certainly by the late 1940s.
Preston does not talk much about postwar justice in his biography of Franco, moving quickly to World War II and contenting himself with occasional references to “savage repression,” without much more detail, which superficial treatment by omission reinforces Payne’s more detailed account.
Franco’s goal in 1939, and onward, was to not only complete the
conservative counter-revolution and create neotraditionalism on a social level,
but to economically modernize the country and make Spain relevant on the world
stage. He saw no contradiction between those two things, a failure of
prediction, though understandable through a backward-looking prism. In other
words, Franco wanted to make Spain great again, by which he meant forgetting
the entire previous 150 years.
By economic modernity, Franco meant mostly autarchy, not development relying on foreign trade or foreign investment. And by global relevancy, Franco meant an authoritarian regime with an international presence, mostly at the expense of the French in North Africa. Retrospectively, both these goals seem half-baked.
But from the perspective of the time, both autarchy and authoritarian regimes, of left or right, were the coming thing in Europe, so Franco was not swimming against the tide. In fact, as with many people across the globe, including in the United States, Franco believed firmly that, globally, “the democratic system is today on the road to collapse.” He was wrong, although perhaps his prediction was premature, not wrong.
Still, Franco claimed to be democratic. What that meant was what he, and the Spanish political scholars of the time, rejected “inorganic democracy,” consisting of pure majority rule. Instead, he wanted “organic democracy,” where voting was organized around groups (e.g., family voting; syndicalism); local institutions (including, but not limited to, the Church) had significant power (in essence, subsidiarity); and, naturally, a strong executive power, in the form of himself (as “caudillo”) or, later, a return to monarchy.
As Moradiellos cites the Spanish legal theorist Luis del Valle Pascual, it was “based on the basic social forms (corporations, families, classical municipalities) and formulated by a ‘command hierarchy’ according to a ‘fair principle of selection.’ ”
If the Nationalists had won quickly, as was widely expected, nothing would have been settled. The irony is that the Civil War sought by the Left to permanently destroy the Right ended up doing the opposite. Both because of the smashing of the Left during and after the war, and because the great mass of Spaniards never wanted to return to the dark days of the war, Franco was able to remake Spain after the power of the Left was permanently broken.
True, Spain was ruined after he died, but not in the way that would have resulted if the Nationalists had not launched their counter-revolution, by mass slaughter and establishment of a Communist utopia. Those elements of the Left, as in Greece, were destroyed, and most of their successors took a different, Gramscian tack, resulting in Spain taking the same path to decay as the rest of Western Europe.
Franco’s governmental system therefore involved an “indirect and corporatist scheme of representation.” Whatever the specifics, which changed somewhat over the decades, the regime was widely supported by most of Spanish society (although foreigners could be forgiven for not realizing that, given the ongoing global Left propaganda campaign).
Nobody wanted to go back to the war, and most people, with the usual exceptions of some urban workers and radicalized agricultural laborers (along with Catalan and Basque separatists), saw that the Republicans having won would have been very bad indeed.
The majority of the revolutionary/Republican leaders had been executed or fled the country, and the rest of the remaining Republicans kept their mouths shut (although they were not persecuted). Franco emphasized the country’s Catholic identity, and he used the Movement to keep a firm lid on all segments of Nationalist support, gradually downgrading the Falange and keeping a firm lid on the monarchists.
From 1939 to 1945, Franco tried to get as much benefit as he could from the Second World War without becoming directly involved. Spain couldn’t actually join the Axis without imploding, since it depended on British-supplied oil and was in dire economic straits.
But Franco wanted to expand Spain’s possessions in North Africa, and when Hitler and Mussolini were at the height of their power, he was only too happy to curry favor—while refusing to actually offer anything meaningful, trying to keep up his balancing act of not overly angering the Allies. Certainly, Franco resonated with some aspects of National Socialism and Fascism, but was never interested in such systems being imposed in Spain, and refused to participate in persecutions of the Jews, accepting thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing France and ignoring the protests of the Germans and the Vichy French.
The major contribution to the Axis was that thousands of volunteer Spaniards fought against the Soviet Union, in the Blue Legion. Soon enough Franco realized that Hitler had reached his apogee, and delicately sidestepped away, trying to pretend that he was never really that serious about it anyway, and don’t you know that Communism is the real enemy? Still, this is probably the least attractive period of Franco’s career, though I suppose people who allied with Stalin shouldn’t really find too much fault with Franco’s choice of wartime friends.
Thus, Franco would have gotten autarchy even if that hadn’t been an economic goal of his, because after 1945, Spain was wholly isolated, due to its association with the Axis, and due even more to the global hatred of the Left for Franco and his success against the Left. Such rage dominated the American perspective, as well as pretty much every other major country other than England (where Churchill was very open that were he Spanish, he would have been a Nationalist).
Soon enough, though, between hard diplomatic work and the aggression of Stalin, relations with the United States improved. Under Eisenhower they became positively warm. Therefore, with his usual luck, Franco managed to emerge from World War II with Spain in a reasonably good position, and without the recurrence of the Republican threat.
Still, the 1940s mostly consisted of Spain staggering along economically. Moreover, this, along with Franco’s excessively relaxed attitude, encouraged widespread corruption, always the hallmark of a system with troubles (although Franco himself did not build a fortune, nor did his family get especially rich, at least by the standards of most authoritarian regimes).
Postwar Spain very much had the rule of law. Franco never interfered in the judicial process, which was uniformly applied (even though technically supreme judicial power was vested in him). The Cortes had free discussion. Every so often there were still death sentences, such as that imposed on Julián Grimau in 1963. Grimau was a Republican police officer who had been in charge of an infamous Barcelona prison where many were executed (mostly leftists in disfavor, but some Nationalists too).
He returned to Spain (why is not clear) and was arrested and sentenced (somewhat dubiously, using an obscure statute to get around the expiration of the statute of limitations).
This incident would not be important except for what it says about the Left and its lies. “The Communist leader was painted in the international media, however, as an innocent oppositionist, a peaceful organizer, about to be executed exclusively for being a political opponent. A massive clemency campaign got under way. . . . The Spanish embassy in Paris was firebombed.”
Nonetheless, Grimau was executed, causing more howls of rage from the Left, which succeeded in imposing another short period of international ostracism. Why this matters is that it shows that any claim made by the Left, that is, any claim in mainstream currency that makes the Nationalists look bad, has to be examined not only for its tilt, but for whether it has any truth at all, or is simply a pack of lies. Since the Left is so often able to control the narrative, and never has to pay any price for lying, it is encouraged to lie.
Franco maintained political order, and dropped his demand for autarchy, not so much because he had changed his mind but because he was convinced of the need to do so by his technocratic advisors (most of them Opus Dei members, including Franco’s closest advisor for decades, Luis Carrero Blanco, assassinated by a Basque bomb in 1973).
The idea that Franco ruled “with an iron hand” is silly; he actually didn’t spend much time ruling at all, and most governing was done by his cabinet, which he carefully balanced among competing political interests and periodically reshuffled to that end. “Franco was a ‘regenerationist’ who sought to economically develop his country while restoring and maintaining a conservative cultural framework, contradictory though those objectives were.”
Political controls, whether over the press or the political activity of unions or individuals, loosened over time, which was criticized by the Right and taken as a sign of weakness by the Left. That said, the political controls were never very aggressive; Solzhenitsyn was widely criticized by the Left when he visited Spain after he was exiled by the Soviets and snickered at the Spanish Left’s claim that they suffered under Franco; he pointed out that they could buy all the foreign newspapers they wanted, move wherever they wanted, and only suffered the lightest censorship. He was not invited back.
“The last twenty-five years of the Franco regime, from 1950 to 1975, was the time of the greatest sustained economic development and general improvement in living standards in all Spanish history.” GDP rose an average of 7.8 percent per year through the 1950s.
Payne compares Spanish economic policy in the 1960s to that of China today, noting that “the two main differences are that there was greater freedom in Spain during the 1960s than there [is] in China and that the proportion of state capitalism was much less.”
But, as Payne also notes, “Modernization resulted in a profound social, cultural, and economic transformation that tended to subvert the basic institutions of Franco and his regime.” The birth rate was deliberately, and successfully, encouraged to stay high. Land reform was gradually introduced, as was universal education.
All in all, Spain was made great again, although no doubt the carping Left managed to convey a different picture to the world of the time. But as this happened, in the 1960s and 1970s, Franco became somewhat out of touch, and more out of sympathy, with the new booming, glitzy, consumerist Spain, even if that was the inevitable result, at least in that era, of the economic dynamism he had sought and achieved.
Franco died in his bed in 1975, slowly and painfully but with no complaint, with his rule never having been challenged, and having carefully arranged the succession of political power to a restored monarchy, in the person of King Juan Carlos, grandson of Alfonso XIII, deposed in 1931. What Franco wanted was a strong monarchy, an avoidance of a return to political parties, which had caused so much trouble in the early twentieth century, and continued neotraditionalism.
He got none of those things. All the things that Franco had tried to do, except to prevent a Communist takeover, were largely and swiftly overturned, many even before he died. Materialism and consumerism ruled Spain; the birth rate plummeted; even the Church, long a bulwark of Francoism, turned left, with younger priests engaging in subversive activities and even encouraging violence (a harbinger of the corruption that has now swept over the Roman church).
King Juan Carlos, although he was more liberal than Franco hoped, but probably no more liberal than Franco thought likely, ensured that the Left was not able to immediately retaliate against Franco supporters as they gained power. So for some years Francoism was mostly ignored. Some writers, including Moradiellos, contort themselves to derive meaning from this silence.
They attribute it to a tacit agreement to move on. But silence is the default for all the great leftist crimes of the twentieth century; this attempt to derive meaning is merely an expression of surprise at the Left’s inability to successfully persecute anyone associated with Franco and Francoism after the end of that political system.
More likely this silence is indifference by modern Spaniards, who refused then and still refuse today to endorse the Left’s usual campaign to silence and punish their opponents of decades before.
Political memory is the essential fuel of the leftist engine of destruction, which requires delegitimizing any regime opposed to the Left, and that, as Moradiellos complains, a third of Spaniards choose “none” as their “personal political attitude to the immediate collective past,” simply shows that, for whatever reason, Spaniards generally refuse to buy into the Left’s hysterical demands for rewriting the past and using it for oppression in the present, which is to their credit.
In recent years the silence has been broken, because the Left in Spain has been running an aggressive campaign against Francoism, since the Left never forgets, unlike the Right. A key component of these campaigns is always the elimination of any agreed-upon amnesty that was offered the Right (the Left has a permanent amnesty in all cases, whether or not the law says so).
This campaign gets occasional notice in English-language media. One element of this has been to attack the mausoleum for Civil War dead Franco erected at the Valley of the Fallen (where he is also buried, although he did not specify that wish). The claim is made that it was built by “slaves”; Peter Hitchens echoes this claim.
Payne disagrees, and as always offers specifics as opposed to the generalities of leftist propagandists. “Such accusations are exaggerated. Between 1943 and 1950 a little more than two thousand prisoners convicted by military courts were employed, but they received both modest wages, as well as fringe benefits for their families, and a steep reduction in their prison terms, ranging from two to six days of credit for each day worked. Each was a volunteer for the project, and there were rarely more than three to four hundred at any given time. They worked under the same conditions as the regular laborers, and some of them later returned to join the regular work crew after completing their sentences.” The Pyramids this was not.
And a few weeks ago the Spanish government announced that Franco’s body would be disinterred. At least they are reinterring him in a government cemetery, rather than throwing his body in the river, though wait a few decades, and maybe that will happen too.
What Does This Imply?
We have now reached the point where, inevitably, I try to derive lessons for today. As always, one should not try to shoehorn the present into the past. Much is different between 2019 America and 1936 Spain, and not just that people are a lot fatter now.
The specific political issues of the day are quite different, in part because everyone being wealthy by historical standards long ago destroyed the mass appeal of Communism and true socialism (even if it appears to be having a resurgence of sorts), and anarchism is not on any relevant menus. Such specifics are less important than the basic divide between Left and Right, however, which remains exactly the same as it was in 1936.
The atrociously low level of public discourse today also adds to confusion; it is difficult sometimes to grasp the nub of arguments with the tremendous amount of chaff flying around in the air. But beyond these, there are two differences that really matter.
First, the divisions are much more poorly demarcated in America today. In Spain, who was Right and who was Left was clearly evident to everyone. Today, who is Left is mostly evident, though somewhat vaguer than in Spain, with more spread-out power centers and leadership, as well as more fragmented issues of focus.
But there is no equivalent in America today to any part of the 1930s Spanish Right. There is no powerful, organized opposition, or any organized opposition whatsoever, to the Left. The closest thing to an opposition is the masses of “deplorables,” who are denied all power by both the Democrats and Republicans in America, the latter group existing mostly to provide a pseudo-opposition to the Left, by promising the deplorables what they want and then reneging on even trying. No equivalent exists to the monarchists, or the Falange.
There is no powerful media that advances the Right agenda; there are some outposts of conservative monologues, and some Internet stars, but they are not allowed to set the narrative, which is wholly within the grasp of the Left or its enablers, as are the universities, the schools, all big corporations, and the entertainment media. Intellectual groups of conservatives in America are ineffectual, with no actual power or influence and no path to achieve it (although some could offer intellectual heft if there were an actual Right).
Second, and a consequence of the first difference, the specific enemies of today’s American Left are less clear. Spain had Right institutions staffed by people who could be easily targeted: the Church, the Army, the right-wing press, right-wing academics.
The Left focused on winning by eliminating those people. Today’s Left could not do that; if the Left were going to conduct a campaign of violent suppression, the targets would merely be occasional individuals who form the beginnings of a threat to the absolute Left hegemony (e.g., Jordan Peterson), not Right institutions or classes of people staffing those institutions, since there are neither such institutions nor such classes of people.
True, today’s Left does not need to do that, since it has gathered all power to itself, but either way, it makes attacks such as the Left conducted in Spain mostly pointless.
These two differences imply that a civil war here, today, of the type fought in Spain is very unlikely, whatever dark mutterings about the possibility keep cropping up on both the Right and Left. Even if the Right wanted to start a violent counter-revolution, it is not even remotely clear how that could be organized, or what the practical goals would be.
And the flashpoints that actually started the Civil War, private killings sanctioned by the government, are, despite the prevalence of low-level violence by the Left, really totally absent in America today. One can predict that they’re coming, but there’s little actual evidence of that, even if the normal historical arc of the Left is to converge on the desirability of physically eliminating opposition.
Sure, there is plenty of evidence of soft totalitarianism, where the Right is actively suppressed by denying prestigious education and remunerative employment, as well as membership in the ruling class, to anyone who dares to challenge the Left. It’s very hard to organize, or justify, high-level violence as a response to that, though. So yes, someday the grasp of the Left may exceed its reach, and result in civil war, but that does not appear imminent.
Such optimism, however, if that is what it is, depends on wealth, which can paper over a lot of sins and structural problems. The Left in power inevitably destroys wealth, because it always wants to enforce equality, by taking from the haves and giving to the have nots (hence the resurgence of true socialism).
The neoliberals who are only hard Left on social matters, while maintaining some semblance of economic reality (at the same time oppressing actual workers), will likely give way to the more attractive religious beliefs of the Marxists, while even on social matters they eat their own—both processes we see beginning in the current Democratic race for President.
At root, the Leftist program always has as its ultimate aim the achievement of utopia through the accomplishment of two concrete goals—remaking of society for “equality,” and the destruction of all core structures of society and their replacement by celebration of various forms of vice, this latter process labeled “liberty.”
It appears that people will, if it’s done non-violently, tolerate the former so long as their cup of consumer goods is full. When the music stops because the money runs out, whether because of economic irrationality or some externally imposed rupture, all bets about civil war are going to be off, because, I predict, the demarcations, and the leadership of groups so demarcated, will immediately arise.
The problem is that such demarcation will likely result in civil war, unless reality defeats and discredits the Left first, which is certainly possible. If not, it will have to be defeated permanently, as Franco very nearly did. It does no good to put the Left down if they will simply rise again; it is pointless to play Whack-A-Mole.
The Left must be stripped of all power and fully discredited, and to be discredited, it must be viewed by future generations as the intellectual equivalent of a combination of Nazism and the worship of Sol Invictus. I am not sure if that is even possible, since what the Left offers is so very, very seductive.
At a minimum it would require in the present day the equivalent of denazification; or perhaps the same kind of successful forgetting of the past implemented by King Charles II after the Restoration (not the typical Left forgetting of the past, which is just biding time until their past enemies can be destroyed). But it would also require offering something attractive as an alternative to the Leftist poison dream, which Franco did not do—he offered the past, which while better, does not inspire, and cannot be returned to. History has no arrow, but it does not go backward, either. The future must be what we make it.
Thus, at this moment Franco seems irrelevant. Or we are schooled to believe he is irrelevant, because we are conditioned to believe that the inevitable end of a regime like Franco’s is, well, like Franco’s—the return of left-wing dominance, at a minimum, the end of neotraditionalism, and triumph of liquid modernity.
We are so conditioned both because that is what has happened in all instances so far, not just of the ending of regimes like Franco’s, but also of the end of Communist regimes, which were replaced by “liberal democratic” regimes friendly to the philosophies that underlay Communism, but offering more Coca-Cola. We are further so conditioned because it is in the interests of, and a core belief of, the Left that history does have an arrow, and their triumph is the way it must be.
But this is really merely a glaring example of the error that George Orwell ascribed to James Burnham, to always be predicting “the continuation of the thing that is happening.” The opposite is actually true: the modern world of so-called liberal democracy is based on a fundamental denial of reality, and therefore it cannot continue.
Franco was not wrong that “inorganic democracy” is a silly system, something long recognized but forgotten in the modern era (and leaving aside that we don’t even have that anymore, as can be seen most clearly in Europe). Past performance is not only no guarantee, but no indicator, of future results; the Enlightenment project is played out.
So let’s predict the future. One possible path is the one we’re on: where Leftist oppression wears a smile and offers maximal freedom, that is, corrupt license, to everyone except those opposed to offering maximal freedom, and allows democracy as long as votes are for more of the same. Such is “liberal democracy” today; as Ryszard Legutko says, consisting of “coercion to freedom.” I imagine that as long as the money holds out, this could go along for a long time, even though collapse is a step function and no society at this point of degeneration has ever done anything but rapidly collapse.
Which leads us to the other possible path, getting off the path we’re on, pushing through some brambles, perhaps, and setting our steps on a broad and sunny path the contours of which were set, and the road itself paved, a long time ago. Franco proves it can be done, and just because Franco’s vision was shattered on his death, doesn’t mean the next entrant in the contest to bring virtue back to the West will suffer the same fate.
Even today, there are leaders pushing in this direction. In many ways, Viktor Orbán and his extremely popular Fidesz party in Hungary, and the Law and Justice Party in Poland, are the philosophical heirs of Franco, and are highly successful, which explains the hatred and vitriol directed their way by the global Left.
As Franco said in 1961, and as I am sure Orbán would agree, “The great weakness of modern states lies in their lack of doctrinal content, in having renounced a firm concept of man, life, and history. The major error of liberalism is in its negation of any permanent category of truth—its absolute and radical relativism—an error that, in a different form, was apparent in those other European currents that made ‘action’ their only demand and the supreme norm of their conduct [i.e., Communism and National Socialism]. . . . When the juridicial order does not proceed from a system of principles, ideas, and values recognized as superior and prior to the state, it ends in an omnipotent juridicial voluntarism, whether its primary organ be the so-called majority, purely numerical and inorganically expressed, or the supreme organs of power.” Exactly so.
This implies that the Left can be permanently defeated without war. But the only way out is through. As David Gress said of conservatives of the nineteenth century, “[T]hey were pessimists because they understood on the one hand that liberalism was the destiny of the West, and on the other that this set of doctrines was unable and unwilling, by its very nature, to restore the sense of self, of continuity, of belonging, and of tranquility that they considered essential to any civilization with a pretense to last.”
But liberalism has had its day; it is no longer the destiny of the West, but a played out set of empty and destructive doctrines. Through that reality, the future looks different, and brighter. We have rarely seen the Right offering this as an alternative, instead offering pabulum and the prayers that they will be eaten last. But we do see it being offered more often: in Hungary, in Poland, in Brazil, in Russia (though in dubious forms in those latter two).
In America, too, though without the organization or leadership found in those countries. It is not clear who could lead such a movement here. Certainly, nobody in evidence now. But the maelstrom births new creatures, some demons, some angels, some in-between. The right person at the right time can both defeat the Left and offer the future. Instead of offering that we will be as gods, he will offer that we be mighty among men, and he will offer human flourishing, rather than human destruction and depravity, the gifts of the Left.
What should be the goals of that man? His first step should be administrative: to create the organization on the Right that is lacking. This will be a new thing; the Man of Destiny will not rise through the Republican primaries and kiss Mitch McConnell’s ring, before settling into his seat in the Russell Office Building. Beyond that, though, what?
Franco, for all of his virtues, had a vision that was far too narrow. For the most part, he wanted to re-create the past, which is by definition impossible, and the attempt is both self-defeating and breeds unexpected consequences. He was the man to win the war, but really, he was not the man to lead the future, even Spain’s future.
What we want, what we need, is a new system drawing on the same roots, but not an insular, autarkic, inward-looking one. Rather, one dynamic, that can renew the shrinking human race. Perhaps it will renew the dying culture of the West, by far the best the world has ever seen. Or perhaps it is too late for that, and some form of synthesis to create a successor culture is necessary, as the West rose from Rome and the barbarians.
All doors are open, or will be, soon enough, and it will be the job of the new Franco, and his acolytes, to both unlock the correct door, and to step through.
Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows a poster of Franco, from the 1940s.