Politician-Poet José Antonio Primo de Rivera

“We are going to defend our flag joyfully, poetically, by raising it. Because there are some who believe that in order to unite the will… it is necessary to hide everything that can arouse emotion or point out an energetic and extreme attitude. What a mistake!”

The flag that José Antonio Primo de Rivera wanted to raise was obviously a political flag. Raising it, he added: “People have never been moved by anything but poets, and woe betide anyone who does not know how to raise, against the poetry that destroys, the poetry that promises.”

Never had such words—the conjunction of the poetic and the political—resounded with such force in the public arena. Similar things had not even been heard in those times—Greek polis, Roman res publica, monarchy of divine right— in which a kind of sacred breath breathed in the political.

But today? Today, when political life has become a prosaic affair of merchants? Today, the above words—they were pronounced on October 29, 1933 at the founding ceremony of Spanish Falange—sound to our modern ears as outlandish as they are bizarre; and this despite the fact, perhaps someone will add, that they are aesthetically very beautiful. How nice they sound, it must be said! How well-spoken he was! And as handsome, the poor man, as he was! Et cetera.

The Conciliation of Opposites

The conjunction of the poetic and the political—the pretension of mobilizing the masses by invoking a poetic or spiritual spirit—constitutes, it is true, a contradiction in terms.

What happens is that there are contradictions upon contradictions. There are, on the one hand, the disastrous contradictions, the senseless nonsense. And there is, on the other hand, the Great Contradiction—”the embrace of opposites,” I usually call it—which, as Heraclitus already knew, moves the world and life, that life that would never exist without being spurred on by death; or that order of the intelligible that would never exist without being intertwined with that of the sensitive or emotional.

There, in that embrace of opposites, is where the conjunction of the political and the poetic is situated: in the combat that, necessarily mired in the mud of the public arena, is driven by a poetic or spiritual yearning.

What is this Yearning? What is this Struggle?

It is a yearning and a struggle – the very essence of the Jose-Antonian project—in which two contradictory terms are intertwined: revolution and conservation. The revolution that leads to a break with the old, retrograde conception of the world, while at the same time conserving all that, from tradition, it is imperative to conserve.

But what, concretely, do such a revolution and such conservation consist of?

What we must break with, advocates José Antonio, is the flagrant social injustices of liberal-capitalism (not, of course, to replace them with the much worse injustices of socialism). But what we must also put an end to is the decomposition of things, with the loss of their sap or substance—that consequence of individualism and materialism that lead, he wrote, “not to death by catastrophe, but to a stagnation in an existence without grace or hope, where all collective attitudes are born puny… and the life of the community is flattened, hindered, sinks in bad taste and mediocrity.”

Faced with this mediocre and puny life, what is needed is to raise the poetic breath, to unfold the spiritual rebirth of a world governed in our days by exclusive material desires and presided over by an equality and freedoms that, contrary to what his enemies claim, José Antonio did not reject at all. On the contrary, regretting their merely formal character, he seeks to revitalize them, to endow them with authentic meaning and content.

That is why he wrote: “Reader, if you live in a liberal state, try to be a millionaire, and handsome, and smart, and strong. Then, yes… life is yours. You will have publications in which to exercise your freedom of thought, automobiles in which to put into practice your freedom of locomotion.” If you don’t have them, if you are not at the heart of economic power, you will be left in the gutter.

The Nation

And, intertwined with all this, Spain, the Nation: that “unity of destiny.”

The Nation, the Homeland—the pillar of that substantial, organic order for which José Antonio advocated and which is at the antipodes of what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.”

The Nation, the Homeland—the place of tradition, of origins, of destiny. Of all that without which we would be nothing and without which we would speak nothing.

The Nation, history, tradition—that incandescent lava that unfolds over the centuries, linking the living with the dead and projecting them towards those to come.

The Nation—the very negation of narrow-minded, sullen, uncouth nationalism, just as the Fatherland, understood as it should be, represents the negation of tawdry, flat, chauvinistic patriotism.

The Nation—that unity of destiny that is opposed to the “terroir,” whose provincial narrow-mindedness José Antonio fought against.

And What about Francoism in all This?

What has all this to do with the Regime established after the victory of the national side in the Spanish Civil War? Francoism turned José Antonio into a saint and took the Falange to the altars; but its ideals had little to do with the reality of that prosaic and gray Regime, increasingly bourgeois, and which was so far from the poetic breath that “moves the people.”

What could the “cheerful and flirtatious Spain” defended by José Antonio, and the prudish Spain of demure skirts and prissy behaviors encouraged from the pulpits have in common? Except for outward appearances, except for that paraphernalia of belts, squads and blue shirts, very little; almost nothing had they to do with each other. The two had nothing in common.

(Is there no experience that, embodied in reality, allows us to relate it to the ideals of José Antonio? Yes, there are two. The first is the one undertaken by the great poet Gabriele D’Annunzio when he conquered in September 1919 the unredeemed Italian (today Croatian) city of Fiume. During the fifteen months that followed the most innovative of political, cultural and vital experiences, the Poet-Commander and his brave Arditi (the Daredevils) launched themselves, together with the population of the city, into a fascinating right-wing and libertarian, nationalist and cosmopolitan adventure, until they were defeated in December 1920.

The second historical reference is constituted by the so-called German Conservative Revolution, which, as its name indicates, consisted in joining, as José Antonio would do, the two opposing poles of tradition and revolution. Developed between 1918 and 1933, the German Conservative Revolution included thinkers and leaders of the stature of Oswald Spengler, the Jünger brothers, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Ernst von Salomon, Carl Schmitt, Heidegger, etc., not to mention its deep-rooted philosophical invocation of Nietzsche).

A fortnight before being shot, and while offering to try to bring about a cessation of hostilities between the two sides facing each other off to the death, José Antonio himself had intuited everything that separated him from the nascent Francoism. With schematic words—these were his notes to himself—but profound and harsh, he analyzed the social, political and ideological nature of those who had taken up arms.

“A group,” he said, “of generals of desolate political mediocrity. Pure elementary clichés (order, pacification of the spirits)…. Behind: 1) The old intransigent, narrow-minded, antipathetic Carlism. 2) The conservative classes, self-interested, short-sighted, lazy. 3) Agrarian and financial capitalism, that is to say… the lack of any far-reaching national sense.”

The far-reaching national sense, the far-sightedness, the eagle-eyed gaze—this was what characterized the man who, in one of those miracles that only happen once every thousand years, combined two extraordinary traits: those of the seasoned fighter in fierce combat in the political arena, and those of the deep, subtle thinker dedicated to the great challenges of the spirit.

However, that miracle would not last long—about five years-. A burst of machine gun fire finished him off. The trigger was pulled by the same graverobbers who have believed, eighty-seven years later, to be able to erase the presence of José Antonio. A vain endeavor! They can do nothing against the presence and the memory of the only politician-poet, the only politician-philosopher in Spain’s history.

Javier Ruiz Portella, journalist, essayist, writer and publisher, in Spain, whose recent book, N’y a-t-il qu’un dieu pour nous sauver? (Is There No God to Save Us?). This article comes through the kind courtesy of El Manifiesto.

The War Against the Dead: José Antonio Primo de Rivera, Eternal Victim of Hatred

It is said that when Charles V’s troops were victorious in Wittenberg (1547), some of his advisors urged him to exhume and burn Luther’s remains, which were in the chapel of the city castle. Magnanimous, the emperor simply replied: “He has found his judge. I wage war on the living, not the dead.” But respect for the graves of the dead, the desire for reconciliation and fraternization no longer seems to be on the agenda in the Spain of Pedro Sánchez. A New and striking demonstration of this is the latest twist in the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos or Valle de Cuelgamuros) affair, with the exhumation of the remains of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, finally agreed upon by his family, in the face of pressure from the authorities and to avoid desecration of the grave by foreign hands. The mistake, for many people of good will, has been to persist in expecting sublime acts from the government when the source of the sublime has long since withered away. And so, the young founder of the Spanish Falange was exhumed and buried for the fifth time on the 120th anniversary of his birth (1903-2023). But why so much hostility, resentment and hatred towards José Antonio? Who was really the founder of the Falange?

Refusing Manichean History

For the craftsmen of the dominant historiography, neo-socialists or self-proclaimed “progressive” neo-liberals, the answer is as simplistic as it is repetitive: he was “a fascist, the son of a dictator,” and the case is closed. After thirty-five years of “conservative” or Francoist propaganda, followed by almost half a century of “progressive” propaganda, and despite the impressive bibliography that exists on the subject, José Antonio remains the great unknown or misunderstood figure of contemporary Spanish history. For his opponents, admirers of the Popular Front, often covert glossers of Comintern myths, the young founder of the Falange was a sort of daddy’s boy, a cynical admirer of Italian fascism, a pale imitator of Mussolini. At best, for his opponents, he was a contradictory, ambiguous spirit, who sought in fascism a solution to his personal and emotional problems. Worse, again for his opponents, he was a servant of capital, an authoritarian, antidemocratic, ultranationalist, demagogic, arrogant, violent, racist and anti-Semitic personality, devoid of any intellectual quality. In addition to this absurd and grotesque accusation, his right-wing opponents are no less known for their grievances. According to them, he advocated a deliberately catastrophic policy, a strategy of civil war. In any case, for them, he was a misguided personality whose contribution to political life was null, marginal or negative insofar as he accelerated the national disaster. Some add, as if this were not enough, that José Antonio’s presence in the national camp, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, would not have changed the course of events. If he had confronted the military, they say, they would have imprisoned or even executed him. If he had survived and been more successful, “he would most likely have been completely discredited.” And they do not hesitate to point out what they call a “contradiction between Joséantonian Falangism and Catholicism,” concluding, without hesitation, “as the Bible says, he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.” But to affirm is not to prove.

For nearly half a century, I have been opposed to this caricatured, Manichean or soap opera history, to these reductive schemes contradicted by a considerable mass of facts, documents and testimonies. I know that the mere consideration of values, facts or documents, which contradict the opinion of so many so-called “scientific historians” (or rather camouflaged militants), leads ipso facto, at best, to silence and oblivion, and at worst, to caricature, to exclusion, to insult, to the accusation of complacency, of calculated legitimization, or even of disguised apology of fascist violence. But it doesn’t matter, the main thing is to say what needs to be said. A work, a historical study is worth its rigor, its degree of truth, its scientific value.
Once one has read much of the inexhaustible hostile literature, one must take the trouble to go to primary sources. In my case, the careful study of the Complete Works (Obras Completas de José Antonio Primo de Rivera, 2007) and the rigorous analysis of the documents and testimonies of the time have opened my eyes. The usual clichés about José Antonio Primo de Rivera, his person and his actions, or the repetition of truncated formulas and declarations taken out of context, in order to show the “poverty” of his analysis and the “weakness” of his thought, have not impressed me for a long time.

How can we grant a minimum of credibility to authors who keep silent, ignore or dismiss hundreds of balanced testimonies? Why is the anthology of opinions of personalities from all walks of life, published by Enrique de Aguinaga and Emilio González Navarro, Mil veces José Antonio (A Thousand Times José Antonio, 2003), so carefully ignored by so many so-called “specialists?” Why did Miguel de Unamuno, the greatest Spanish liberal philosopher of the time, along with Ortega, see in José Antonio “a distinguished mind, perhaps the most promising of contemporary Europe?” Why did Salvador de Madariaga, the famous liberal and anti-Franco historian, describe him as a “courageous, intelligent and idealistic” personality? Why would renowned politicians, such as the socialists and anarchists Félix Gordón Ordás, Teodomiro Menéndez, Diego Abad de Santillán and Indalecio Prieto, or famous liberal and conservative intellectuals, such as Gregorio Marañón, Álvaro Cunqueiro, Rosa Chacel, Gustave Thibon and Georges Bernanos, have paid tribute to his honesty and sincerity? Why would the most famous French Hispanist, member of the French Institute, Pierre Chaunu, a great connoisseur of Gaullism, have established a surprising parallel between the thought of Charles de Gaulle and that of José Antonio in a long article in Le Figaro (P. Chaunu, “De Gaulle à la lumière de l’Histoire,” September 4-5, 1982)?

Neither Right nor Left

José Antonio, as a precursor and disciple of Ortega y Gasset, had already denounced, ninety years ago, the two forms of moral hemiplegia: “To be of the right, as to be of the left, is always to expel from the soul half of what there is to feel. In some cases, it is to expel it entirely and to replace it by a caricature of the half” (Arriba, January 9, 1936). He wanted to create and develop a political movement animated by a synthetic doctrine, embracing all that is positive and rejecting all that is negative on the right and on the left, in order to establish a profound social justice so that the people return to the supremacy of the spiritual. The metaphysical, religious and Christian dimension, respect for the human person, refusal to recognize the State or the party as the supreme value, anti-Machiavellianism, and Classical and non-Hegelian foundation of the State are distinctive elements of his thought. With his sense of justice, solidarity and unity, while respecting diversity, with his strong sense of duty, José Antonio was both a traditionalist and a revolutionary.

He probably wanted to carry out a project that was too idealistic for his time: to nationalize the banks and the large public services, to attribute the surplus value of work to the unions, to carry out a profound agrarian reform in application of the principle: “The land belongs to those who work it,” to create a family, communal and union property. He wanted to establish individual, family, communal and union property, with similar rights.

Was his program reformist or revolutionary, realistic or utopian? One can debate this, but what cannot be said is that it lacked openness, generosity and nobility. José Antonio’s national-unionism failed miserably, but ultimately because he was a victim of the resentment, sectarianism and hatred of the Left as much as of the selfishness, arrogance and immobility of the Right. Censored, insulted, caricatured, imprisoned (three months before the July 18 uprising) and shot by the Marxist and anarchist Left on November 20, 1936, after a parody of a trial, the founder of the Falange, mocked and harshly criticized by conservatives and liberals before the war, was recuperated, manipulated, denatured and finally executed and buried a second time by Franco’s Right.

Alain Guy, a fine connoisseur of Spanish philosophy, and the political scientist Jules Monnerot, to mention only two prestigious French academics and intellectuals, affirmed that Joséantonian Falangism could not strictly speaking be reduced to “fascism” alone, that is, for serious historians and political scientists, to a certain model designating the imperfect similarities that can be established between the Italian and German phenomena. Nor was it reduced, they said, to Francoism, a regime and ideology whose character was above all conservative and authoritarian. Personally, I certainly do not put an equal sign between, on the one hand, José Antonio’s Falangism, Italian fascism, German revolutionary conservatism (before Hitler’s takeover) and, on the other hand, the three great hysterias of the twentieth century: National Socialist racism, the savage economism of neo-liberalism, or, the one that has undoubtedly caused more deaths than the two previous ones, Marxist socialism.

That said, it must be emphasized that José Antonio acted in a very specific time and space, the Spain of 1933-1936. His thought is not entirely reducible to the historical-cultural context, but it cannot be used to give concrete answers to current questions. Moreover, it contains elements that are questionable or even unacceptable today. Thus, its theorization of the “enlightened” minority, structured in clubs or parties, which would be the actor of development and revolution in the name of the people, is clearly marked and contaminated by the totalitarian conceptions inherited from liberal Jacobinism and Marxist socialism.

José Antonio and the French Non-Conformists of the 1930s

The Christian personalism of the founder of the Falange is very close to the thought of the French nonconformists of the 1930s (Robert Aron, Arnaud Dandieu, Jean de Fabrègues, Jean-Pierre Maxence, Daniel-Rops, Alexandre Marc, Thierry Maulnier, Emmanuel Mounier or Denis de Rougemont) who so influenced the future president of the French Republic, Charles de Gaulle (No less interesting is the comparison that can also be made with the thought of the founder of Fianna Fail, president of the Irish Republic, Éamon de Valera).

Ninety percent, if not all, of the personalist ideas of the French non-conformists of the 1930s, ideas most of which are surprisingly current, and which first permeated the most original circles of the Vichy regime, as well as those of most of the non-communist networks of the Resistance, were shared by the young leader of the Falange.

To be convinced of this, it is enough to recall here the main ideas of this French personalist current (see: Jean-Louis del Bayle, Les non-conformistes des années trente, 1969). There is first of all the criticism of the representative, parliamentary democracy, synonymous of lies, of absence of character, of dishonorable behavior, of control of the press and the democratic mechanisms, of regime in the hands of an oligarchy of ambitious and rich men. Then there is anti-capitalism, whose roots are philosophical and moral rather than economic or political. It is the virulent criticism of “laissez faire, laisser passer,” which leads to the transformation of society into a veritable jungle where the demands of the common good and of justice are radically ignored. It is the denunciation of the submission of consumption to the demands of production, itself submitted to speculative profit. It is the rejection of the absolute primacy of profit and financial speculation, as well as of the domination of banks and finance. It is the rejection of usury as a general law, of the triumph of money as the measure of all human action and of all value. Finally, it is the reproach of attacking initiative and freedom, of killing private property by concentrating it in fewer and fewer hands: “Liberalism is the free fox in the free henhouse.”

This personalist, non-conformist current declared itself “neither of the right nor of the left,” “neither communist nor capitalist;” it wanted to fight for the “dignity of the human person,” for “spiritual values,” and defended “the third way;” it wanted to extend individual property by multiplying non-state collective properties; it wanted to reorganize credit by entrusting it to banks, managed by professional organizations or consumer associations. His main criticism of capitalism was summed up in two words: materialism and individualism. “Drink, eat and sleep is enough;” in that, affirmed the nonconformists, Marxism does not break with capitalism, but prolongs its defects. The ultimate goal was not happiness, comfort and prosperity, but the spiritual fulfillment of man. They advocated simultaneously the need for a revolution of institutions, an economic and social revolution and a spiritual revolution. Fundamental to them was the idea that any upheaval of structures would be useless if it were not accompanied by a moral and spiritual transformation of man, beginning with that of the supporters of the coming revolution.

This brief review of the personalist spirit of the French nonconformists of the 1930s leads to the conclusion that there is not a single one of their proposals that does not find an echo in the writings and speeches of José Antonio. Primo de Rivera was neither a Hegelian, nor a racist, nor an anti-Semite. He did not place the state or race at the center of his worldview, but man as the bearer of eternal values, capable of being saved or lost. He did not advocate a materialistic and totalitarian revolution (collectivist-classist, statist or racist), which seeks to reduce social and spiritual reality to a single model, but a spiritual, total revolution, at once moral, political, economic and social—a Christian-personalist revolution, integrating all people and serving all people.

The influence of Italian fascist ideology on the thought and style of José Antonio is undeniable, but there are also other influences no less important, such as traditionalism, liberalism, anarchism and Marxism-socialism. Many judge José Antonio’s admiration for Mussolini severely. It is true that at the beginning of his brief political career, like many other politicians and intellectuals of his time, such as Churchill or Mounier, he showed a real esteem and even enthusiasm for the social achievements of the Duce. But we must not forget that the state totalitarianism of Mussolini’s regime was infinitely less bloody than the totalitarianism of class or race. All modern ideologies have been at the origin of flagrant crimes, and none can claim to be more human than the others. But there are degrees of horror, and when it comes to judging the founder of the Falange, a minimum of decency and rigor is required.

José Antonio and Che

Several authors have ventured to draw a parallel between José Antonio and the most emblematic figure of twentieth-century revolutionary romanticism, the Leninist-Maoist guerrilla, Ernesto Guevara. The similarities, however, are imperfect. Both exalted the virtues of courage, loyalty and fidelity. Both symbolized the altruism of youth. Both despised luxury, lavish tastes and the ostentation of wealth. Both rejected the economic and social order where only money reigns, where society is abandoned to the sole rules of profit and triumphant egoism, with their inevitable corollaries of speculation, greed and corruption. Both disregarded fear, despised money and were driven by a passion for duty. But the similarities end there.

José Antonio was a convinced Catholic. Che had no metaphysical concerns and was hostile to all religious beliefs. A materialist and atheist, Ernesto Guevara despised what Nietzsche denounced as “the weaknesses of the Christian.” Fanaticism, sectarianism, harshness, hatred of the Other, revolutionary demagogy are traits that Che shared with Robespierre, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao. The most terrible thing about Che is the mixture of personal asceticism and the ability to scourge others, the certainty of always being right, the abstract hatred, the cold political cruelty. For him, friends were friends only if they thought like him politically. Like his master, Lenin, political combat legitimizes all means: cunning, manipulation, cynicism, extreme violence, insults, invective, slander, libel, subsidies to the enemy of the fatherland, theft of inheritances, robberies and summary executions. Che loved people not as they are, with their greatness and weaknesses, but as the revolution would have transformed them. He was an exterminating angel. He expressed his feelings more easily for the death of an animal than for that of an enemy. It is difficult to imagine José Antonio ordering the summary execution of more than a hundred opponents, as Che did in the fortress of La Cabaña. It is equally difficult to imagine him writing, like Lenin to Gorky (September 15, 1922), these repugnant lines about intellectuals to deplore the delay in their executions: “The intellectuals, lackeys of the bourgeoisie, think they are the brains of the nation. In reality, they are not its brains, they are its shit” (see: Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, Lénine, 1998, p. 586).

The Ethics of José Antonio

José Antonio had a sense of measure and balance; he knew that in politics, the absolute refusal of any compromise (which is not the abandonment of principles in favor of opportunism) always leads to implacable terror. Republican and democrat of reason, he rejected any nostalgia of the past, whether monarchist, conservative or reactionary. He had no more the excessive taste of the military for order and discipline than the irresistible attraction of the actor or artist for the stage and comedy. He was neither Franco (for whom he had little sympathy) nor Mussolini. Stupid as it may seem, José Antonio had a marked inclination for goodness; a “goodness of heart,” as the master Azorín rightly pointed out, which, together with a high conception of justice and honor, an unquestionable physical courage, a constant intellectual preoccupation, a charisma or magnetism of a leader, and finally, a keen sense of humor, made him inevitably likeable.

Contrary to the Jacobin utopians and socialist-Marxists, José Antonio wanted to base his system on the person and to defend cultural, regional and family specificities. He did not seek to make the Other, an Other Me, but simply to accept him, to understand him and to convince him to collaborate with him for the good of the whole national community. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, in the face of the avalanche of hatred and fanaticism, of iron and blood, he resisted and stood up almost alone. From his cell in Alicante, he offered his mediation in a last attempt to stop the barbarism. But it was a lost cause, and it was rejected. He died with dignity, without hatred, with a serene soul, like a Christian hero, at peace with God and men. In his will he wrote: “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” (November 18, 1936). In the political world of the 20th century, notable personalities abound, but it is difficult to find more noble ones. He was a kind of last Christian knight.

That said, historically, José Antonio’s merit is that he tried to critically assimilate, from a deeply Christian position, the socialist revolution while dissociating spiritual and communitarian values from the reactionary right. And one of his most original characteristics was to appear on the political scene of his time with a new rhetoric, a new way of formulating politics, with an original and attractive language for the young.

Lies and Truths

It is now appropriate to examine the accusations of violence and anti-democracy that are so often levelled at him. Invariably, he is reproached with a phrase that he himself described as unfortunate: “When Justice and the Fatherland are undermined, there is no other admissible dialectic than that of fists and guns.” But it is still necessary to quote it in its entirety and to put it into perspective. Let’s not forget the constant exalted, inflammatory and anti-democratic declarations of his opponents, starting with those of the “Spanish Lenin,” the socialist revolutionary and Marxist Largo Caballero, who called for the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (Cádiz, May 24, 1936), and declared “we are not different from the communists” (Bilbao, April 20, 1934); “I want a republic without class struggles, but for that, one must disappear” (Alicante, January 25, 1936); or the slogans repeated tirelessly by the socialists newspapers Claridad and El Socialista: “May the parliamentary republic die,” “Hate the criminal bourgeoisie to death.”

Let’s contextualize the alleged Joséantonian violence. The Joséantonian Falange was responsible for sixty to seventy murderous attacks between June 1934 and July 1936. But in the same period, it suffered about 90 deaths in its ranks (there were 2,000 to 2,500 deaths during the Second Republic). From the day after its foundation, in October 1933, the Joséantonian Falange suffered a dozen deadly attacks. These were not street fights, but terrorist attacks, carried out by socialists, communists and anarchists, to physically eliminate the distributors of the Spanish Falange (FE) weekly. The propagandistic image against the Spanish Falange (FE), as the main group whose terrorist action provoked the Civil War, is radically false. It was for his refusal to enter the cycle of violence for months that José Antonio was nicknamed “Simon the Gravedigger” by the right, and that his party and its militants received the nicknames of “Spanish Funeral” (FE) and “Franciscanists.” In reality, it was only after eight months of waiting that the Joséantonian Falange reacted violently. The trigger was the death, on June 10, 1934, of a 17-year-old Falangist student, Juan Cuellar, murdered in the Casa de Campo by a group of Madrid socialists. To top it all off, the socialist activist Juanita Rico urinated on the corpse of her victim and the father of the young Cuellar was unable to recognize his son’s face, which had been stomped, crushed and mutilated.

In reality, a presentation of the facts that ignores the Bolshevization or revolutionary radicalism of the socialist party, the development of the socialist and communist paramilitary apparatus, the incoherence of the liberal republicans, and the reactionary immobility of the conservatives, in order to better demonstrate that the Joséantonian Falange was the main cause of the violence during the Republic and, consequently, of the final breakup, is simply fraudulent. Violence was never a postulate of the Joséantonian ideal. It was violence to repel aggression or to defend rights or timeless truths (“bread, country and justice”) when all other instances were exhausted.

Anti-capitalist, anti-socialist and anti-Marxist, José Antonio was certainly that. But was he anti-parliamentary and anti-democratic? Why would he have said: “But if democracy as a form has failed, it is mainly because it has not been able to provide us with a truly democratic life in its content… Let us not fall into the extreme exaggerations which translate the hatred of the superstition of suffrage into contempt for everything democratic. The aspiration to a democratic, free and peaceful life will always be the objective of political science, above all else” (see Conference in Madrid: “La forma y el contenido de la democracia”—”The Form and Content of Democracy,” 1931). It is ridiculous to transpose the present image of Spanish democracy to the past. The present situation cannot be compared to the period before the Civil War. Then there were many revolutionaries and convinced conservatives, but very few tolerant and peaceful democrats. Respect for the other was not the order of the day.

Was José Antonio a putschist, as many authors claim? It is well known that coups d’état, whether moderate or progressive (and much more rarely conservative), were a prominent feature of political life in Spain (and also in much of Europe) during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the Spanish Peninsula, after the French invasion and from 1820 onwards, no less than 40 major pronunciamientos or coups d’état, and hundreds of very minor ones, took place. It is more than likely that José Antonio was marked, even contaminated, by the putschist tradition of 19th century liberalism and by the dual putschist tradition of early 20th century anarchism and socialism. But what is certain is that his ephemeral and incongruous “insurrection” project, suggested only once at the Gredos meeting (June 1935), was never more than a circumstantial, theoretical and imaginary response—without the slightest principle of application—to the serious socialist insurrection of October 1934.

Who were the real theoreticians and technicians of the dictatorship from the end of the 19th century in Spain, if not the epigones of the praetorian tradition of liberalism, such as the republican-democrat Joaquín Costa, not to mention the socialists and Marxists who were then openly doctrinaire or advocates of the dictatorship of the proletariat, or, more precisely, of the dictatorship of the Party over the proletariat. José Antonio did not doubt the sovereignty of the people. He wanted to improve the participation of all citizens in public life. But to individualist and liberal democracy, to collectivist and popular democracy, he preferred organic, participatory and referendum democracy, which, according to him, was more capable of bringing the people closer to the rulers. In the Europe of the inter-war period, this choice appeared to many as possible, balanced and reasonable. Moreover, if this choice had not been considered by many to be realistic and thoughtful, why would so many famous leaders, whose political convictions were the opposite of José Antonio’s, such as the first Fidel Castro or the Prime Minister José María Aznar, have been attentive readers and admirers of the Complete Works in their youth?

Contrary to what is so often repeated, José Antonio admired, even with a certain naivety, the British parliamentary tradition. Some Falangist activists, who did not appreciate the interventions of the founder of the FE in Parliament, did not fail to criticize his “excessive taste for parliamentary debates.” In reality, José Antonio was a supporter of organic democracy, as were Julián Sanz del Río, Nicolás Salmerón, Fernando de los Ríos, Salvador de Madariaga and Julián Besteiro, to name just a few Spanish liberal and socialist authors.

On the other hand, José Antonio was much more patriotic than nationalist. The nation is not, according to him, a race, a language, a territory and a religion, nor a simple desire to live together, nor the sum of all these. It is above all “a historical entity, differentiated from the others in the universal by its own unity of destiny.” “We are not nationalists,” he said in Madrid (November 1935), “because to be nationalist is pure nonsense; it is to implant the deepest spiritual impulses on a physical motive, on a simple physical circumstance; we are not nationalists because nationalism is the individualism of the peoples” (Discurso de clausura del Segundo Consejo nacional de la Falange—Closing speech of the Second National Council of the Falange), Cine Madrid, November 17, 1936).

Some authors have tried to detect in him a late evolution and a rapprochement, almost in extremis, with the theses of National Socialist Germany. They rely on a work dated August 13, 1936, Germánicos contra bereberes (Germanic vs. Berber), written in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, in his cell in Alicante and found among his papers after his death. In it he expresses a superficial and reductive ethnocultural vision that does not stand up to rigorous historical criticism. He tries to explain the Reconquista as a confrontation between two archetypes, the “Germanic spirit” and the “Berber spirit;” but at the same time he seems to recognize the Hispanic-Romanic-Visigothic fusion. This work contains inaccuracies and assertions that are later totally denied and refuted by him in his will. However, it is worth recalling here that this type of ethnocultural interpretation was widespread in his time and among authors with contradictory beliefs. Most historians of nation-states conceived of their origins as an opposition between natives and conquerors. Thus, the historiography of France constantly oscillated between the thesis of a Frankish origin (Clovis, the Frankish king) and that of a Celtic and Gallic origin (Vercingetorix) or Gallo-Roman when Rome was taken into account. For the aristocrat Montesquieu, the liberties were of Germanic origin. But to return to the alleged racism of the work, Germanic vs. Berber, it should be remembered that the same abusive accusation could be made against works of philosophers and historians Ortega y Gasset, Américo Castro or Sánchez-Albornoz.

José Antonio was clearly anti-separatist, but he never succumbed to the Jacobin and centralizing temptation. His speech to Parliament on November 30, 1934, is a testament to this. “It is clumsy to try to solve the Catalan problem by considering it artificial… Catalonia exists in all its individuality, and many regions of Spain exist in their individuality, and if one wants to give a structure to Spain, one must start from what Spain really offers… That is why I am one of those who think that the justification of Spain is found in something else: Spain is not justified by a language, nor by a race, nor by a set of customs, but… Spain is much more than a race and much more than a language… it is a unity of destiny in the universal… That is why, when a region asks for autonomy… what we must ask ourselves is to what extent the consciousness of the unity of destiny is rooted in its spirit. If the consciousness of the unity of destiny is well-rooted in the collective soul of a region, it is hardly dangerous to give it the freedom to organize its internal life in one way or another” (España y Cataluña, Parliament, November 30, 1934).

Let us also recall in passing the alleged machismo or antifeminism of José Antonio for having expressed one day the desire of a “joyful Spain and in a short skirt.” It is perhaps not useless to recall here the name of one of the most outstanding figures of Spanish feminism, the lawyer Mercedes Formica. It is to her that we owe the deep reform of the Spanish Civil Code in favor of the rights of the women in 1958. A Falangist from the beginning in the 1930s, she was a loyal follower of José Antonio throughout her life (who appointed her national delegate of the SEU union and member of the Political Junta), which makes her the victim of a fierce omertà today. In her memoirs, Formica sweeps away the propagandist myth of an anti-feminist José Antonio, demonstrating its falsity and imposture.

As for the so-called imperialism of the founder of the FE, the arguments of those who support it are extremely fragile. There is no territorial claim in the Complete Works. According to José Antonio, in the twentieth century the Spanish empire could only be spiritual and cultural. It goes without saying that one would look in vain for anti-Semitic or racist overtones in his words. He uses the term “total state” or “totalitarian” five times, not without errors and clumsiness, but he does so clearly to signify his desire to create a “state for all,” “without divisions,” “integrating all Spaniards,” “an instrument in the service of national unity.”

Equally surprising is José Antonio’s opinion on fascism. He expressed it unambiguously in 1936: fascism “claims to resolve the disagreement between man and his environment by absorbing the individual into the collective. Fascism is fundamentally false—it is right to presuppose that it is a religious phenomenon, but it wants to replace religion with idolatry” (Cuaderno de notas de un estudiante europeoNotebook of a European Student, September 1936). As for his Catholic convictions, they are beyond question. The last and clearest manifestation of these can be found in the above-mentioned testament that he wrote on November 18, 1936, two days before his execution.

A Variant of the Third Way

The Joséantonian Falange is a variant of the Third Way ideologies, which many doctrinaires, theorists and politicians have defended or advocated since the end of the 19th century. Historically, personalities as diverse as De Gaulle, Nasser, Perón, Chávez, Clinton or Blair have referred to the Third Way. But their allegiances, despite sometimes misleading appearances, are not the same. There are two different political filiations, two directions that never meet. Beyond times, places, words and men, the supporters of the authentic Third Way pursue tirelessly the overcoming of the antinomic thought. They want, as José Antonio said, to build a bridge between Tradition and Modernity. The synthesis-overcoming, the need for reconciliation in the form of overcoming, is for them the main objective of all great politics. This is, after all, the root of the almost metaphysical hatred that their opponents feel for them. This being said, since José Antonio’s thought constitutes one of the members of the vast family of Third Way ideologies, it is all the more legitimate to ask the question: “What did José Antonio really leave us?” To answer this question, I will once again use the words of the Basque philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, which conclude my early book on José Antonio, prefaced in Spain by the economist Juan Velarde Fuertes: “He has bequeathed himself, and a living and eternal man is worth all theories and philosophies.”

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

Why is Democracy Failing in Spain?

We Speak of Liberal or Bourgeois Democracy

Democracy is colloquially quoted as if it were an absolute term, whose meaning we should all understand just by mentioning it (as well as culture, nation, freedom, left, right) and which is also burdened with the heavy responsibility of having to comply with the wishes of each individual, however delirious they may be. This is easily verified on a daily basis in any media or social network. The one discussed here, which is the one implemented in Europe and the United States with different characteristics, is bourgeois liberal democracy. Its origin is usually fixed in three revolutions (England, the colonies that later formed the USA, and France) which, together with the industrial revolution, established the political supremacy of the bourgeoisie over the aristocracy and the lower classes of the Ancien Régime, relegated to exploited workers in the factories of the cities.

In bourgeois democracy, society (or the people) does not evolve spontaneously but is influenced and controlled by its ruling class, which has mutated from local bourgeois with its domicile next to its factory, to international oligarchies. That is why their great victory is to make the citizens (or the people) believe that they vote, think and act freely, as if the influence of the politicians, the press-dogs and the consumerist advertising that the same oligarchies finance, did not exist.

As an illustrative example, recent history in Europe has shown that democratizing consists of privatizing public enterprises, as in the cases of Spain after Francoism and the Warsaw Pact countries, as well as turning any country into a free market economy. It is therefore the ideal system for the control and defense of the interests of the financial oligarchies, where the degree of freedom of each citizen is directly proportional to the size of his or her wealth.

For more than half a century, a country has been democratic or not according to the criteria of the US president. If tomorrow Vladimir Putin decided to cede the exploitation of all his natural resources to Anglo-Saxon companies, the now accused “dictator” would become an exemplary democrat and a true man of peace aspiring to the corresponding Nobel Prize.

Following on from the above, it is fashionable to classify the slogan of the World Economic Forum (You will own nothing and you will be happy) as undemocratic. On the contrary, it is very democratic. In his 1845 book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, Friedrich Engels stated the following:

(Before the English bourgeois revolution)… Thus the workers lived an entirely bearable existence and led an honest and quiet life in all piety and honorability; their material situation was much better than that of their successors; they had no need to kill themselves at work, they did no more than they wished, and yet they earned enough to meet their needs. They had time for healthy work in their garden or on their plot, work which was for them a diversion.”

(After the English Bourgeois Revolution)

This is how the class of agricultural weavers gradually disappeared completely, merging into the new class of those who were exclusively weavers, who lived solely on their wages, did not possess property, not even the illusion of ownership conferred by the lease of land.

Almost two hundred years after the publication of this book, and after innumerable wars, revolutions and dictatorships, the people would only have become happier. Sometimes happiness consists simply in ignoring.

a) First Reason for Failure: Spanish Financial, Political and Charlatan Elites are Unpatriotic.

It is in our collective imagination, like so many other things, that the high industrial development of Catalonia and the Basque Country was due to its incipient and original bourgeoisie of Europeanist character, as opposed to the rest of the country, which maintained an aristocratic structure typical of the Ancien Régime. Here, tariffs and the possibility of trading within an Empire that traced trade routes halfway around the world mattered little. But the truth is that these bourgeoisies were the ones who, based on racist criteria classified as scientific at the time, founded the separation of these territories.

Before and after these nationalisms, politicians and charlatans predominated, who in the name of democracy have wanted Spain to be a colony of France, England, USA and even the USSR; but these, unlike what the current propaganda tells, aspired to exterminate the bourgeoisie to implement their dictatorship of the proletariat.

In our times, we can see, among other nonsense: how a foreign minister asked to cede tons of sovereignty to Europe; parents with their little Spanish flag on their wrists enroll their children in any British school; some high-ranking military members understand that the freedom of Spain consists in submitting to the US and NATO; businessmen who in the search for their greatest profit take their production centers to other countries; or large landowners who cede their lands to the construction of solar panels and invest their profits in Morocco.

In short, the elites who should direct the “democracy we have given ourselves,” have particular interests opposed to those necessary for a correct eutaxia of Spain.

b) Second Reason for Failure: Spaniards Await the Arrival of an Idyllic Democracy that has Never Existed and Never will Exist in Real Life.

The generation born during the years of Desarrollismo (developmentalism) will have the dubious honor of being the first that, in general terms, lived better than their children. I do not blame them for being deceived according to the dictates of the Tardofranquismo (Late Francoism) and the Transition, but they are guilty of having militated and voted in an irrational and fanatical way for corrupt parties full of politicians and well-connected people who only look after their personal interests, while keeping their children and grandchildren deceived about the consequences of their votes. If, as we have been told by those born in that generation, that the democracy we have been given is the government of the people, for the people, then what have you had in your heads during all these decades?

On the other hand, what would you have labeled any individual who at Christmas 1978 would have addressed the anti-Francoists and predicted that after 40 years of democracy Spain would have the highest unemployment rate in Europe, temporary employment companies would boom and the number of millionaires and vulnerable people would increase; state companies, including strategic ones, would pass into the hands of large private capital; GDP would fall below that of Mexico, sovereign debt would exceed 100% of GDP, and countries that did not exist at the time, such as the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Lithuania, would be ahead in the per capita income ranking; the industrial sector would go from around 30% to 16% of GDP, the fields would lie fallow while food prices would rise without limit and livestock farming would show such a state of crisis that there would be no choice but to import milk from France; with only the salary of one of the two parents—in general, a family would not be able to live with dignity even though salaries would reach historical maximums, skyrocketing the expense in social benefits; supporting a child would become a privilege; young people would take time to find a decent job and would pay for any house, if they could buy it, with a thirty-year mortgage; drugs and delinquency would be accepted to the point that squatters would have more rights than homeowners; ETA would have more than 379 unsolved crimes since then and a presence in Parliament; the educational content in education would be worse and worse, and respect for authority and elders would be lost; the main political positions would be held by people who have not done anything in their lives and would not fulfill anything of what they promise in election campaigns, and the main political parties would accumulate countless cases of corruption?

The reality is indisputable. If until 1978, according to what they say, the people longed for a democracy, 40 years later, the children and grandchildren of that town, born and educated in that dream, aspire for their salary to last until the end of the month, to have a job decent, not lose the house and, in the best of cases, save something. And in each electoral campaign they promise a reindustrialization (up to 20% of the GDP); the same ones whose political existence makes it impossible for that industrial objective to be fulfilled. (And not only due to lack of interest and incapacity).

In order for this to go unnoticed to a greater extent and for Spaniards not to rebel against the financial elites, who become wealthier with each passing year, and crises, politicians and press-dogs at their service take care of dividing and confronting society with mental drugs from which they also obtain economic benefits, namely animalism, ecologism, gender ideologies or fragmentary nationalisms. It is also curious that in times of change, as in the 1980s and today, there is an increase in drug use. More and more democrats aspire to legalize it, so that the people do not become aware of the misdeeds of those they vote for.

Another idea of the collective imagination is that in Francoism there was always soccer when there were social problems, although it is well known by soccer fans that it was played on Sunday afternoons at coffee time. For the last decade, perhaps since the 2008 crisis, there have been soccer matches and programs every day of the week, from the morning news until the early hours of the next morning. Every political regime is bread and circus—but when the price of bread goes through the roof, the circus also grows in parallel: in our case, the media circus.

A Case that Began to Open my Eyes

I started to become politically aware (rather of the existing parties) during Aznar’s term of office, when I was in the 4th year of ESO. For someone who lived surrounded by a leftist environment defined within the undefined Left, that is, defined by repeating and believing everything published by the media related to the PSOE, later Podemos, but not by knowing how to define what is left of all life that they supposedly defended.

Therefore, it was not surprising that it was accepted that Aznar was a Francoist, especially because he supported a war, defended privatizations and sank the Prestige. At that time, the first two points were beyond me, but on the other hand, about the oil spill, I was struck by the fact that my environment gave so much importance to that disaster (even volunteers went to clean “oil sludge”), when the same did not happen with the spills from the Aznalcóllar mine, less than 100 kilometers from our residences and which reached Doñana. Environmentalism only matters depending on who governs.

Regarding the Iraq War, what once seemed to me undemocratic, now seems to me the true essence of democracy, so I correct my mistake and affirm that the leader of the PP acted as a true democrat, together with the two oldest democracies in the world. Moreover, over the years I discovered that Aznar followed the process of privatization of INI companies, started by the PSOE and due to EU demands and whose income below their value was used to falsify the accounts that allowed us to access the Euro, a system that has brought us so much prosperity(!). To this we must add that he was the one who gave the most to the independentists with the Majestic Pact, who eliminated the “Mili,” tripled the number of regularizations of illegal immigrants with respect to the PSOE, or allowed the repair of the nuclear submarine Tirelles in Gibraltar.

If one wanted to place Aznar within one of the different families of Francoism, one would have to place him next to those who were in exile with the support of England, a nationality which, like so many of the PP, he seems to yearn for.

This year there will be three electoral periods: run to vote to rid Spain of fascism or social communism, which are so “dangerous” that they can be defeated simply with votes, and not with weapons! On the other hand, why does nobody want to save us from liberalism? The answer is quite simple, the five main parties are different formats of liberalism.

Manuel Rodríguez Sancho is a Railway engineer and author of the political novel, El último tren de la democracia (The Last Train of Democracy). He runs his own blog. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: La Niña Bonita, or Mariana Española. Poster, April 14, 1931.

Battle Standards of Lepanto

“Military service, under the banner, of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, brilliant soldier of the Elite Special Forces of the Spanish Old Tercios, at Lepanto, soul of every soldier and heart of Spain, is a divine virtue.”

For the first time since the death of the “King of Spanish Literature,” 407 years later, I have the great honor of dedicating a brief study to the invincible standards of the glorious Man of La Mancha, who loved them with all his heart and soul and defended them with the highest dignity, nobility and courage because “the soldier seems more likely to be dead in battle than alive and safe in flight” (Don Quixote, II-XXIIII).

Here the words of Major General (R) Rafael Dávila Álvarez come readily to mind: “There is nothing like the Spanish soldier, and my only aspiration has always been to be at his level.”

Under threat of imminent war against the Ottoman Empire of Selim II (1524-1574), Cervantes entered his first military service in Italy, and thanks to the recommendation of Giulio Acquaviva d’Aragona and Giovanni Girolamo I Acquaviva d’Aragona (1521-1592), the tenth Duke of Atri, and that of his son Adriano Acquaviva d’Aragona (1544-1607), very good friends of General Marcantonio Colonna (1535-1584), of whom Cervantes had heard “have often heard Cardinal de Acquaviva tell of your Lordship [Ascanio Colonna, Abbot of Santa Sofia] when I was his chamberlain at Rome” (Galatea, 1585).

Indeed, Cervantes’ first military mission began under the command of Marcantonio, who led numerous naval operations before the battle of Lepanto, and whom Cervantes served for more than two years, according to the dedication of La Galatea addressed to Cardinal Ascanio Colonna (1560-1608), where he affirmed that “I may at least deserve it for having followed for several years the conquering standards of that Sun of warfare whom but yesterday Heaven took from before our eyes, but not from the remembrance of those who strive to keep the remembrance of things worthy of it, I mean your Lordship’s most excellent father.”

To Cervantes it was an opportune occasion to restore his reputation and to enter the army because “the Turk was coming down with a powerful armada and his design was not known, nor where he was going to unload such a great cloud” (Don Quixote, II-I). Therefore, on June 5, 1570, Pope Pius V (1504-1572) appointed the Roman Marco Antonio Colonna, the general in chief of the pontifical squadron, and on July 15 of the same year, the “Prince of Christendom” ordered “his commanders in Italy to place themselves under the orders of the General of the Armada of Pius V” (A.Z. c. 51 no. 2).

According to the historian Ricardo de Hinojosa y Naveros (Los despachos de la diplomacia Pontificia en España,185-86) Marcantonio was general of the pontifical galley squadron before April 1570, which was part of the twelve galleys assembled along with the sixteen galleys of the Genoese admiral Giovanni Andrea Doria on September 1, 1570 in La Suda in order to organize the relief-expedition of Cyprus and to raise the siege of Nicosia.

Cervantes joined the Pontifical Armed Forces in early 1570 and took part in the unsuccessful campaign for the relief of Nicosia, whose was launched on August 30, 1570 and then abandoned after the loss of Nicosia.

Cervantes details that they arrived “at the strong island of Corfu, where they took water” (The Liberal Lover) and then crossed the place where The Liberal Lover began: “O pitiful ruins of wretched Nicosia, scarcely wiped with the blood of your valiant and unfortunate defenders!” and tells that “looking from an outcrop at the demolished walls of the already lost Nicosia; and so he spoke with them, and compared their miseries to his own, as if they were capable of understanding him.”

Cervantes undoubtedly served in a company of Marcantonio until the arrival of his brother Rodrigo in Genoa, on July 26, 1571, who was one of the 2,259 soldiers of the company of Captain Diego de Urbina, deployed in the Tercio of the field commander Miguel de Gurrea y Moncada (ca. 1549-1612) and in that of Lope de Figueroa, who crushed the Alpujarra rebellion under the command of John of Austria and the Third Duke of Sessa.

Cervantes alludes to the arrival of John in Genoa, on August 6, 1571, who on August 9, 1571 went on to Naples, as follows: “My good fortune would have it that Senor Don John of Austria had just arrived in Genoa and was passing on to Naples to join the Venetian armada” (Don Quixote, I-XXXIX).

Military historian Juan Luis Sánchez Martín thinks that Cervantes enlisted in Diego de Urbina’s company “between August 9 and August 19, 1571 in Naples” (Los capitanes del soldado Miguel de Cervantes, 176) and the letter of August 25, 1571 from Don Juan to García Álvarez de Toledo Osorio (1514-1577), captain general of the galleys of Naples, evidences the appearance of Spanish troops in the Venetian squadron thus: “I found here Marco Antonio de Colonna with the twelve galleys of his Holiness, which are in his charge, well in order; likewise I found Sebastián Vernier, general of the navy of the Venetians, with forty-eight galleys, six galleys and two ships” (M. Fernández Nieto, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quijote de la Mancha, 214-15).

On September 1, 1571 the sixty galleys from Venice arrived in Messina, and on September 8 Don Juan reviewed the fleet “in which he had boarded on his ships, the Venetians, 4000 soldiers, for the service of the king of Spain;” and on September 9 in Leguméniças he communicated that “with the occasion of a dispatch that I sent to Naples it has seemed to me to advise you that these Venetian gentlemen at the end have finished resolving to take in their galleys four thousand infantrymen of those of S. M… that is to say, 2500 Spaniards and 2500 Spaniards, that is to say, 2500 Spaniards and 1500 Italians” (J. A. Crespo-Francés, Miguel de Cervantes, 8).

On Sunday, October 7, 1571, Cervantes was part of the Third Squadron of the fifty-four ships of the Venetian commander Agustín Barbarigo (1500-1571), located on the left wing of La Real, led by Don Juan, about which on March 20, 1578, Ensign Mateo de Santisteban stated thus: “To know the said Miguel de Cervantes, which was the day that the said Cervantes served in the said battle, and was a soldier of the company of Captain Diego de Urbina in the galley Marquesa, of Juan Andrea” (K. Sliwa, Documentos De Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra, 49-50).

This statement proves that Cervantes fought in the only Genoese galley Marquesa, commanded by the Italian captain Francisco Molin, belonging to Admiral Giovanni Andrea Doria, No. 34 of the Third Squadron of the Venetian commander Augustin Barbarigo, second in the high command of the Venetian Fleet after the Venetian Admiral Sebastiano Venier (1496-1578).

At Lepanto, Cervantes was among, inter alia, the following standards:

Before ending this brief summary on the legacy of Cervantes, hero of Algiers, who infinite times, with tears of love, kissed the flag of his homeland, heart of Spain, I thank the excellent military historian and Infantry Brigadier, Miguel Angel Dominguez Rubio, decorated with the Cross of Military Merit with White Distinctive, the Cross of the Royal Military Order of San Hermenegildo and the NATO Medal, Head of the Communication Office, Infantry Regiment, “Tercio Viejo de Sicilia,” N. No. 67, and author of the exemplary book: 1719-2019 Tercio Viejo de Sicilia nº 67: 300 años de la llegada a San Sebastián (Halland Books, 2019), in collaboration with Josué del Cristo Pineda Gómez. His love, sacrifice and bravery to Spain, homeland of heroes, and his gift of the shoulder flash, the medal with the words: “Valor, Firmeza y Constancia” [Courage, Firmness and Constancy], and the pocket flag of the Infantry Regiment, “Tercio Viejo de Sicilia,” No. 67, whose words ennoble all of us, who love “our sweet Spain, beloved homeland” (Treatise on Algiers):

With this Flag on your pocket, you will always carry with you a piece of our Homeland. It will help you to keep your commitment of Service to Spain. It will remind you of all those who fight by your side and are proud of your sacrifice and it will give you the strength will give you the strength for your dedication in the defense of our Nation, its values and its freedom.

I conclude by making a special emphasis that our exemplary and excellent Infantry Regiment, “Tercio Viejo de Sicilia”, No. 67, has as a collective pride to recite every morning the Camino del Sicilia, the stanzas that form the essence of our identity, and the voice of the colonel who exhorts us loudly: “This is the old Third!” And everyone responds with the verses of the Camino del Sicilia: “This is the old third,

which in death has proven more than a thousand times its nobility!” And this compendium of virtues and commitments is sealed with our “Battle Cry,” that is answered by the three words of response: “In combat, courage!”

“In our ideals, steadfastness! In preparation, constancy!” (M. Á. Domínguez Rubio, 1719-2019, Tercio Viejo de Sicilia, 50).

Laus in excelsis Deo.

Krzysztof Sliwa is a professor, writer for Galatea, a journal of the Sociedad Cervantina de Esquivias, Spain, and a specialist in the life and works of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and the Spanish Golden Age Literature, all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in English, German, Spanish and Polish, and is the Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Cordoba and Toledo.

Featured: The Battle of Lepanto, fresco by Giorgio Vasari; painted ca. 1572-1573.

The Miscarriage of the World

It is remarkable that as early as 1918 Oswald Spengler published his magnum opus, The Decline of the West, a work of prophetic anticipation in two volumes, which deals with the decline of Western civilization propitiated by mollitude, hedonism and the cult of money, which turns the masses into passive and vulnerable objects, subjected to totalitarianism, whether tacit or explicit. Spengler’s reflections in the form of cultural pessimism were continued, after the interregnum of Caesarisms following the First World War and the subsequent cataclysm of the Second World War, by thinkers, such as the Italian Augusto Del Noce, who questioned, through a transpolitical reading highly relevant to the current situation of the world, the ethical legitimacy of the world’s social model, the ethical legitimacy of the social model of liberalism, in which capital becomes an end in itself, and the subject ends up being reduced to an object whose function is limited to being part of the productive processes of an economistic system, whose raison d’être is to grow and reproduce ad infinitum.

“In saying this we also affirm that current history is nothing other than the explicit contradiction of Marxism—when taken, in effect, to its extreme, the moment of historical materialism, as an affirmation of total relativity, and the dialectical moment, as a revolutionary principle, must be dissociated; and historical materialism thus separated from dialectical materialism invaded the West. There, where culture is characterized by the hybris of the sciences of man, hybris in the sense that such sciences want to replace philosophy—sociology, psychoanalysis and, today, above all, structuralism” (Augusto Del Noce, Agonia della società opulenta).

The central premise of Augusto Del Noce is the radical refutation that the reality of the human being can be understood only in terms of material subjectivity, but that such reality, in order to be endowed with meaning, must be understood on the basis of what man thinks of his relationship with the world in which he is, and with what transcends that world. There is in this postulate a notable coincidence with the affirmation of Xavier Zubiri, in the sense that the self is not only not the only reality, but that egocentrism opens up a split, characterized by the agonisms of the self and the “you” and the “them” and the “us,” which have as a consequence that there are no genuine relations between persons, since every individual is seen by other individuals primarily as an instrument of his own realization, and in such a way that the validity of man is subordinated to the principle of result (the important thing about man is what he does), opening a gap that cannot be closed without recourse to an intercession necessarily free of egotism: “…in the sense that everything acquires meaning only for that which can become an instrument of affirmation of the particular subject, in the egoistic sense, and which reciprocally can subsist only insofar as it is used by others” (Del Noce, Agonia della società opulenta).

For both authors, this mediation can only be professed by that which aims at the transcendental (the religious; that which facilitates otherness as an interest between one being and another being, the inter-esse according to the formulation of Emmanuel Lévinas). This assertion serves Del Noce as a basis for sustaining that the systemic desacralization carried out by liberalism prevents this mediation, since by engaging in anthropological simplifications based on immanent interpretations of the course of history, they usurp the role of the sacred in transcendent religion, transferring it to the political field, in which by definition the subjective takes precedence.

Del Noce goes even further, arguing that modern secular political theologies (heirs of that Kantian theorem, according to which every material practical principle is necessarily empirical, and therefore a reflection of the subjective impression it makes on us, lacking a fortiori the objectivity required to form the backbone of a moral law), are incapable of grounding human free will on an objective moral basis, it ends up paving the way for the absolutist and arbitrary imposition of relative and contingent moralities: “…after Christianity, the category of two essential philosophical forms, Christian thought and Rationalism, were conditioned by an initial position regarding the original fall. Now, there is a third form of thought that claims to be constituted without this option, Empiricism, essentially specified by the distinction between the verifiable and the unverifiable; on account of which not only knowledge, but morality and politics could be organized independently of any hypothesis about suprasensible reality” (Del Noce, Il problema della modernità, p. 294).

According to this argument, the omission of objective (i.e., transcendental) juridical elements leads to a purely formalistic conception of democracy as a normative decision-making process. Let us recall that, according to Hans Kelsen, “democracy is procedure, and only procedure,” a principle later echoed by Robert A. Dahl and John Rawls.

This formalism, according to Augusto Del Noce, leaves this “pure democracy” defenseless and submissive, in the face of totalitarian vagaries. The Italian philosopher’s thesis is that Isaiah Berlin’s secular consecration of negative freedom, which he expresses by arguing that “the defense of freedom consists in the negative end of preventing the interference of others,” translates in practice into a propensity to reduce moral ties to their minimum expression, which in turn creates the social conditions that feed a breeding ground favorable to the flourishing of expressions of vitalist essentialism.

Such vitalism (which is ultimately controllable, and therefore manipulable), conceives the human being as an “animal of impulses,” whose personal traits are reducible to the biological characteristics of his species, and which explains the importance acquired by this idea among philosophical currents, such as eliminative materialism, and psychological ones, such as behaviorism, whose shared foundation is that the science of the mental should not pay attention to the consciousness, but focus on stimuli and the verifiable responses they generate, since it is this pragmatic knowledge that allows human behavior to be conditionable, without the need to resort to the use of brute force to achieve certain ends.

A clear example of this can be found in the “Nudge Theory” of the American Richard H. Thaler, which earned him the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2017, for “his contribution to behavioral economics”. Thaler’s work is far from being unknown in the world of political science, as was amply demonstrated during the confinements decreed following the pandemic outbreak of 2020, proof that in our times, it is possible to affirm that the maximum value of a democratic system is linked to the idea of non-violence, and at the same time to establish the necessary conditions to subordinate the moral legitimacy of the means applied to the ends pursued, thanks to a conformity obtained through a highly sophisticated—formally impeccable—manipulation of social behavior, and the gradual neutralization of the social dialectic, which resituates political conflicts in the sphere of economic competition in order to depoliticize social antagonisms in a substantive way.

The latter, according to Jean-Claude Michea’s thesis, obliges liberal states to promote a kind of permanent cultural revolution, with the aim of gradually eradicating the cultural, religious and political obstacles that hinder the advance of the commodification of all facets and aspects of human life—as Carl Schmitt (1932, p. 58) put it, liberalism being the child of liberalism and the son of liberalism and the result of liberalism. 58), liberalism being the child of economism, one of the pillars on which it is based is the “economist materialist objectivity,” which, in the end, has as a consequence that the reason of State ends up being little more than a pure mercantile reason.

As Del Noce points out in this regard, such a state of affairs reveals the existential danger of emptying democracy itself of its moral content (democrazia vuota del sacro), as it becomes a kind of gnosticism accessible to a select group of “initiates,” experts who, having previously denied the existence of a transcendent reason, and therefore the very existence of a supernatural order, arrogate to themselves the mission of creating a universal but immanent reason that will bring order to an anarchic world that they characterize as the fruit of chance. Consequently, this technocratic gnosis that characterizes the modern manifestations of political liberalism is, before being an economic model and a political regime, an expression of a vision of the totality of the earthly world, which, being conceived in mechanical terms (Walter Rathenau) assumes, by extension, human consciousness in a mechanistic key (Kurt Breysig).

This is why Del Noce warns against the complacency of abandoning oneself to contractualist, theoretical frameworks, and warns against the risk of relegating political representation to technocrats, who give absolute value to quantitative normativity, formal rather than substantive; which, in their most radical expressions, decay into a performative quasi-fundamentalism, consisting of a self-referential and self-justifying democratic liturgy, in which we can easily find similarities with the “cargo cult,” both in its ritualistic aspects and in the voluntarism that underlies it, consisting, in short, in denying the limits of human reason in order to undertake a rebellion against reality.

Naturally, this ritualism, no matter how voluntaristic it may be, cannot escape the reality of being plunged into crises of authority, which, in the first instance, derive from a crisis of truth. This is inevitable when the idea of ontological truth is unacceptable, because then there is no basis for accepting the concept of objective legitimacy, nor, consequently, for establishing a hierarchy of values in an absolute and perennial key—what politics gives, politics takes away, by the grace of the general will.

The demonstrated incapacity of the liberal democracies in force to establish a true secular religion (alternative to the true one), which serves as a prop for a political system whose main attribute is the sacralization of absolute relativism. From this consecration it follows that tolerance of difference ends up being hypostatized as the highest value, at the price of renouncing the moral authority of values, equating the value of all of them. In this way, the values of the political system, such as the aforementioned tolerance, are placed before the values of man, which are demoted to the category of personal choices without intrinsic validity, but subjective, and therefore relative, since every individual is free to determine his own values, with the exception of those who deviate from the liberal orthodoxy. It is obligatory to quote Carl Schmitt (1932, p. 57), who said that, by virtue of the “ethical pathos” of liberalism, the individual is the Alpha and the Omega; “terminus a quo et terminus ad quem.”

The normative ambiguity that results from this, together with the lack of common purpose that emerges from this moral pluralism, lead, according to Del Noce, to the elaboration of the myth of the affluent society as a substitute for religion and destiny, since the realization that freedom is not properly a movement, but rather being able to move (and that, therefore, the substantive issue is where to move to and what for), makes it essential to determine an attractive goal that justifies this commitment to freedom at all costs. Truly existing liberalism believes to have found this goal in the story of a sustained and unlimited material progress, supposedly attainable, thanks to the infinite capacity presumed to homo technicus to multiply fish and loaves (even though natural resources are finite); that aspires to a future golden age in which moral virtue will be obtained, not through the perfection of the person, but thanks to the economic well-being of the individual.

Reaching this utopia is proving elusive, however, awakening doubts that lead us to believe that the very idea of a future, with or without an earthly paradise, is elusive. It seems undeniable that the affluent society has made the world so instantaneous that time and space have ceased to have meaning, and where reality is so complex, intertwined, and informatively overwhelming, that its becoming has become unpredictable and unsettling.

All of which has brought us to a point where, for lack of a more propitious scapegoat, we hold the leaders we ritually choose responsible for our anxieties, accusing them of devising a political praxis even more stupid than that exercised by their predecessors, when, in truth, what is probably happening is that they are as incapable of seeing where this misguided world is heading as we are ourselves.

Santiago Mondejar Flores is a consultant, lecturer and columnist on geopolitics and international political economy. This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Office in a Small City, by Edward Hopper; painted in 1953.

Constructing the Alienated Masses

Lying in meekness and inane idleness until recently, broad sectors of the masses have now awakened to action in the effervescence of an orcish nightmare. The “progressive” demagogy does not differentiate between objective and subjective rights—everything are rights and what are not rights are considered unbearable obstacles to universal happiness, which has three solid moorings upon which it intends to advance in history: victimhood, obedience to the one faith and poverty accepted as supreme virtue. That is the plan of the owners of the world, to the satisfaction of the miserly left.

Until the 2008 crisis, the left was unionist and celebratory. From that date on, it became whiny, vocal and over-acting; that is to say, indignant. If there was anything positive about that debacle, which originated in the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the real estate development model in the United States, it was to show that the renowned “welfare state,” the canonical reference for all the social democracies of the planet, was unsustainable in the context of a speculative economy.

In previous decades and up to that moment, the left and Western neo-progressive movements, once they had effectively renounced any strategic objective, installed themselves in a sort of “Pax Romana” within the capitalist system, dedicated to the transformation of daily life and customs, in accordance with the petty bourgeois ideology of the 1960s, and thus much to the taste of the French, Italian and Spanish progressives in particular. The important thing was no longer to make the revolution—an impossible one among many—but to make it look as if it had been made or was being made. Thus, the good leftist militant of the time was, simultaneously, a theoretician, attentive to urbanity and social decorum, to the obligatory use of the so-called inclusive language and to political correctness in all its facets; and he was also a discreet bon vivant, knowledgeable in gastronomy and enology, in Woody Allen and Pedro Almodóvar films and in detective novels, especially those of Vázquez Montalbán.

Assuming its contradictions—not very scandalous in a scandalously ungrateful world—the progressive of the 1980s and 1990s of the last century lived half-heartedly between the laughter of the Movida Madrileña, between the nearly cultured roguishness of the Ruta del Bacalao and the generosity of the cultural departments of the city councils. Spain was a party.

But all good things come to an end and that dream of restless urbanites could not be the exception. The spectacular collapse of the established welfare model led to the discrediting of social democracy—so sudden and so bitter as to be barely transitory—and to the emergence of new political formations to the left of the PSOE and the PCE that massively dragged along previously collectivized social sectors which felt marginalized—because they were—in the distribution of the system’s royalties. These first contestants had in common the bet for the all or nothing, since they had nothing to lose, and the almost absolute lack of experience and theoretical formation. With a thin dogmatism, typical of those who have few ideas and cling to them desperately, that flood of protest and intransigence gave rise to the new paradigm of neo-progressive commitment—masses of twitterers unable to read more than 140 characters in a row, toxic feminists who confuse rudeness with nonchalance and drunkenness with women’s liberation and people of that prestige; in short, people with no certain direction although very resentful against the system.

As happened four decades before, today, after those first effervescences, conformity within the system acquires its own forms of everyday life and is installed as an alternative to the impossibility of changing anything substantial, but also as a way of living as if everything were changing. The difference between the primitive leftists who recycled their revolutionary proposals to turn them into a routine experience and these latest generation of mobilized people is twofold, as I see it. The former took a shower every day and the latter take one, I estimate, every fortnight or so. And, the new anti-system types, paradoxically, coincide in their recipes to fix the world with the globalist elites who manage the deep gears of the established. Their sentimental attachment to characters like Greta Thunberg, Zuckerberg, Beyoncé or Kamala Harris, their aesthetic references compiled in the contents of TV platforms like Netflix or HBO, their ecological opinion symmetrical to the discourse of the big energy companies, their apology for public health that seems copied from an advertising brochure of some medical insurer, speak to us not so much of their theoretical weakness as of the little margin left to the traditional left to articulate alternative discourses and how deeply the good-egalitarian propaganda of the elites has penetrated among the uncritical masses—that is to say, in almost the whole world. For, in effect, the elites want us to be equal. Poor and equal, adapted to precariousness, destitute in the search for and, perhaps, the maintenance of impoverished jobs. In return, the all-powerful offer their shepherds the complete package of the new emotional well-being: the Internet at a reasonable price, social networks where everyone is someone—as much someone as they want, to convince themselves that they are someone—brilliant “anti-fascist” slogans against the discordant and ideologically impeccable contents in their favorite series.

That’s all there is, for the moment. Transcending this new moral leverage of the masses will be as difficult, or as simple, as unleveraging them from the couch and the TikTok profile. I mean it will be or it won’t be, because you never know.

José Vicente Pascual is a writer and novelist, living in Madrid. La Hermandad de la Nieve (Brotherhood of the Snow) is his latest work of historical narrative. This articles appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Untitled, by Zdzisław Beksiński; painted in 1981.

Clara Campoamor and Mercedes Formica: Two Exceptional Feminists, Victims of Political Correctness

The progressive doxa and ideology make the women’s rights movement in Spain, in the 20th century, a sort of preserve of radical and Marxist feminism. The leading figures, invariably cited by the mainstream media, are the socialists Victoria Kent, Margarita Nelken and Carmen de Burgos y Segui, the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinists Dolores Ibarruri and Matilde Landa, and, to a lesser extent, the anarchist Federica Montseny. Apart from these? Nothing or almost nothing. Even the famous and talented writer, Emilia Pardo Bazán, has been met with embarrassment or hostility on the grounds that she was an aristocrat with conservative or even traditionalist-Carlist convictions. Other examples? Feminists as important as María Espinosa de los Monteros or Consuelo Gómez Ramos, to name but a few, share a similar fate and are even ignored or blacklisted for having been supporters of a conservative Catholic feminism or for having held public office under the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera.

Another significant case is the Republican-Liberal Clara Campoamor. Honored and admired, often referred to as the most prestigious feminist of the 1930s, her biography is nonetheless watered down, if not glossed over, to avoid mentioning her harsh criticism of the Popular Front. But the archetypal example of ideological amnesia is without question that of the lawyer Mercedes Formica. A major architect of women’s emancipation under Franco’s regime, her Jose Antonian and Falangist convictions, affirmed throughout her life, led to her being placed squarely under the radar.

Clara Campoamor Rodriguez and Mercedes Formica-Corsi, are undoubtedly two almost perfect victims of the “historically correct.” One is instrumentalized and manipulated by the politico-cultural power, the other is caricatured, ignored or passed over in silence. They deserve to be rethought, reevaluated and revisited.

Clara Campoamor: A Scandalous Political and Cultural Recovery

Clara Campoamor was born in Madrid on February 12, 1888. While still a child, she lost her father and had to help her mother survive. She was successively a milliner, a commercial employee, a post office employee and a mechanics teacher. She then resumed her studies, entered the University, obtained a law degree and enrolled in the College of Lawyers in Madrid in 1925. A well-known lecturer, she helped found the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the Spanish Women’s League for Peace.

Clara Campoamor. Credit: Historia.

In 1930, at the age of forty-two, on the eve of the proclamation of the Second Republic, Clara Campoamor entered politics. She was a member of the national council of Manuel Azaña’s Acción Republicana, the embryo of the party that he would officially create in 1931. However, she soon left this party to join the Radical Party of Alejandro Lerroux, a centrist party that was then more to the right. On June 28 of the same year, in the general elections, she was elected deputy in a Madrid constituency. A month later, she was appointed by her party as a member of the Commission in charge of drafting the Constitution. She succeeded in having the draft of the fundamental law proclaim the full suffrage rights of women. During the debates in the Cortes, when she defended the wording of the law, she came up against another woman, the radical-socialist deputy Victoria Kent. Like many members of her party, Kent was against the right to vote for women and asked for its postponement, fearing that it would favor the right because of the Catholic convictions of too many Spanish women. A few days earlier, a famous PSOE politician, Margarita Nelken, later affiliated to the PCE, expressed the same opinion in the press. A surprising point of view, but in agreement with that of a good number of socialist-Marxist leaders who, through “elitism”, shared with the reactionary right the same distrust and contempt for the people, who were considered uneducated and had to accept, willingly or not, to be guided by the enlightened elite.

As a result of the successive speeches, including those of Kent and Campoamor, the Parliament was divided into two blocks. Socialist leader Prieto, who also opposed women’s suffrage, left the room before the vote. The final result was clear: 161 votes in favor, 121 against and 188 abstentions. Taking into account that the PSOE had 116 deputies and the Radical Socialist Republican Party had 61, out of a total of 177 socialist deputies, 83 voted in favor and 94 against. 40 percent of those elected to the chamber abstained or were absent.

It was therefore against the will of a majority of left-wing deputies—socialists and socialist radicals (the right-wing deputies were almost absent from this chamber)—that the principle of women’s right to vote was acquired. But, let us emphasize, it was in Spain before France, since French women had to wait for the provisional government of General de Gaulle, in 1944, to become finally electors and eligible as men.

On the occasion of this vote, Clara Campoamor’s intervention was decisive. She has the honor of having been the deputy who contributed most to obtaining the right to vote for women. But it is necessary to remember here an important point; she belonged to the radical party of Lerroux, a republican and liberal party, nourished by anti-Catholic Freemasons, of which she was deputy from 1931 to 1933. She was not a socialist militant or sympathizer, as many leaders and historians of the PSOE say or imply today, trying to appropriate her figure. She expressly rejected Marxist socialism and communism.

Clara Campoamor was also, under the same government, Director General of Beneficiencia y Asistencia Social and delegate to the SDN of the Spanish Republic. She was also one of the main drafters of the law establishing divorce in Spain. And her little known or misunderstood history does not end there. In the aftermath of the socialist uprising of October 1934, against the government of the radical Lerroux, Clara Campoamor, who, it seems, disagreed on the way to repress those responsible for the insurrection, decided to leave the Radical Party. She immediately tried to join the Izquierda Republicana (Manuel Azaña’s party), but was refused admission. The “cardinal sin” that she was accused of, she said, was the women’s vote, which would have led to a victory for the right in the general elections of November 1933. This is at least the interpretation of most of the left-wing leaders of the time, which today is not unanimously accepted by historians. The defeat of the leftists can be explained more by the disappointment of a part of the electorate and the wear and tear of power than by the importance of the female vote.

But the ordeal of Campoamor had only just begun. Too often, it is said and written in an imprecise way that she voluntarily went into exile to escape the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. The unvarnished truth is much less glowing for her opponents. In reality, in September 1936, fearing to be arrested and summarily executed in one or another of the Chekas of Madrid, she fled, with her family, the Popular Front zone, not wanting, as she would later write, “to be one of those details sacrificed unnecessarily.” Having managed to reach Switzerland, via Italy, she published less than a year later in Paris, La Revolución española vista por una republicana (Plon, 1937), an edifying work that curiously was not published in Spain until the early 2000s.

In this book, Clara Campoamor analyzed the origins of the Spanish Civil War and severely denounced the violations of Republican legality by the Popular Front government that emerged from the February 1936 elections. She explained how the situation deteriorated very quickly; how the government, indecisive and inactive, proved incapable of maintaining public order and preventing physical violence and assassinations. She emphasized the extent to which the left, the socialists and the communists, had prepared for war, carefully hiding substantial arsenals of arms and ammunition, and forming and organizing militarily trained militias. She told how from the first days of this fratricidal conflict, leftist terror spread to more and more victims; and how the political persecution spread throughout the Popular Front area.

Clara Campoamor summarized her testimony in “The Causes of the Government’s Weakness, as Seen by a Republican,” an instructive article published after her death in a special issue of the journal Histoire pour tous/History for All (La guerre d’Espagne/The Spanish Civil War, no. 16, February-March 1980, Paris). Here are some brief excerpts to enlighten the reader:

“From the first days of the struggle a bitter terror reigned in Madrid. Public opinion was tempted at first to blame the violence in the cities, and especially in Madrid, on the anarchists. History will one day tell whether they were justly blamed for these events. In any case, it is up to the governments, without distinction, to take responsibility for them.”

“As the exhortations of the government newspapers eloquently show, terror reigned in the rear from the beginning of the struggle. Patrols of militiamen began to make arrests in homes or in the street; wherever they thought they would find enemy elements. The militiamen, outside of all legality, set themselves up as popular judges and followed their arrests with shootings…. The guardians of the law were either indifferent or powerless before the number of executors who carried out this odious task.”

“At the beginning, they targeted the fascist elements. Then the distinction became blurred. People belonging to the right wing were arrested and shot; then their sympathizers; then members of the radical party of Mr. Lerroux, sometimes even—tragic mistake or class vengeance—members of the Republican Left party… When these mistakes were noticed, the murders were blamed on the fascists and continued… The government found every morning sixty, eighty or a hundred dead lying around the city.”

“And yet the government could have stopped the looting and the anarchy, because it had at its disposal the Civil Guard, which, being very numerous in Madrid, did not side with the insurgents. This force, by its numbers and training, would have been sufficient to maintain order in the capital if it had been wanted to be used… The government therefore did not want to use this force which, in order to re-establish order, would have had to repress the violent acts of the militiamen”.

“During the night, Madrid did not sleep, it trembled. Everyone listened attentively to the sounds of the street, strained one’s ears for footsteps on the stairs… always expecting a search by the militia…. Madrid had fallen to the lowest degree of disorganization and bad taste…. But only by hiding under ground could one escape the ferocity of the carnivores of the rear.”

“Of the thousands of prisoners in the central prison in Madrid, only two young men managed to escape. All the others were massacred. Among them were well-known personalities, such as Mr. Melquíades Alvarez, a member of Parliament, a former Republican and leader of the Liberal Democratic Republican Party, and Mr. Rico Avelló, former Minister of the Interior in the government presided over by Mr. Martinez Barrio in 1933, and High Commissioner to Morocco in February 1936. The shooting echoed all night long inside the prison, spreading terror in the neighboring houses.”

“These last facts finally convinced the government to take the leadership of the repression by forming a tribunal, composed of members of the magistracy and a popular jury recruited from all the parties registered in the Popular Front. This tribunal, given the publicity that its verdicts would receive, would be required to measure their scope and justify them. However, it was not afraid to pronounce sentences such as those of Salazar Alonso, Abad Conde and Rafael Guerra del Rio, former ministers of the Radical Party in the Lerroux cabinet, who were accused—without any proof—of having promoted the uprising. Their crime was quite different: it was to belong to the old radical party, under whose government they had been several times ministers.”

“It is all very well to say that in the exasperation provoked by a civil war all these excesses can be explained; but they remain unjustifiable. The peaceful citizens, the humble merchant, the civil servant, the petty bourgeois; in short all those who do not look at life on the historical level but as it is presented day by day, suddenly understood the danger this terror constituted for them, which was exercised by a resentful rabble and envenomed by a hateful class propaganda.”

“Yes, the pay of ten pesetas per day, paid to the militiamen and militia women, the parade in the city, and for some the looting and the revenge, were sufficient baits to attract in the militias many people who should have been in prison…. Debauchery reigned at the front. and many combatants had to be hospitalized.”

“The terrorists worked on behalf of the insurgents more successfully than their own supporters. These elements always forced the government to continue the struggle, and for good reason…. They had the perfect life: provided with money, looting, massacring and satisfying their thirst for revenge and their baser instincts.”

It is understandable that the admirers of the Popular Front boycotted or ignored the honest and severe testimony of this notorious anti-Francoist. Ignored or marginalized by both sides, Campoamor went into exile, first in Switzerland, then, from 1938, in Argentina, before returning to Lausanne in 1955. She lived on her writing and her profession as a lawyer, publishing articles and lecturing at conferences. Her three requests for permission to return permanently to Spain, which were made by visiting her country three times between 1948 and 1955, were all rejected. In 1964, the Tribunal for the Repression of Freemasonry and Communism was abolished, but by that time she had long since given up her plan to return. She died of cancer in Lausanne on April 30, 1972. Her body was cremated and the ashes were deposited in the Polloe cemetery in San Sebastian, in accordance with her last wishes.

Mercedes Formica: An Admired Feminist Turned Pariah

The biography of the lawyer Mercedes Formica is much less known, but it is no less admirable. Mercedes Formica Corsi-Hezode was born on October 8, 1916, in Cadiz, into a relatively wealthy family. Her father, an engineer, was the director of the Gas and Electricity Company of Seville. She was the second daughter of six children who lived their early youth peacefully, without any major problems, between Seville, Cadiz and Cordoba. Her mother, Amalia Hezode, wanted Mercedes to be able to work one day, to be free, independent and to marry for love. She encouraged her daughter to pass the baccalaureate and to study. Mercedes was the only young woman in Seville to enroll in law school in 1932. Unfortunately, that year was a very dark one for her because the family home was destroyed. Her father decided to start a new life with a young German woman. The separation was all the more painful for her mother, who refused the amicable divorce and lost parental authority. Worse still, at the request of her husband and his lawyer, the courts ordered her to move to Madrid with her daughters, one of whom was barely three years old. Amalia would not see her only son again except on rare vacations, barely a few weeks, until her death. The extremely modest alimony she was granted condemned her to live with her daughters in complete destitution. Only scholarships allowed Mercedes to continue her university studies. Divorce law of that time (1932) was favorable to the man; it enshrined the triumph of the stronger, the only one really protected by the law. The marital home was conceived by it as the “husband’s house,” and it gave him the right, humiliating for the woman, to get rid of her by “depositing” her with her parents, in a monastery or in any other place he wished. Mercedes, still a teenager, would never forget the terrible injury and grief inflicted on her mother.

Doña Mercedes Formica de Llosent y Marañón, Madrid, 1954. Credit: SBMA.

Intelligent, hard-working, charismatic and extremely beautiful, Mercedes Formica became a lawyer, historian, novelist and feminist (although she never liked this last label). Her literary work includes the novels, Monte de Sancha (1950), La ciudad perdida (1951), El secreto (1953), A instancia de parte (1955), La hija de Don Juan de Austria (1972), María Mendoza (1979), La infancia (1987), Collar de ámbar (1989) and the trilogy of her memoirs: Visto y vivido (1982), Escucho el silencio (1984) and Espejo roto y espejuelos (1998). However, despite her undeniable literary talent, it was her political and social commitment that made her famous.

Married in 1937 to Eduardo Llosent Marañon, poet and man of letters, Mercedes Formica rubbed shoulders with all the intellectuals of post-Civil War Madrid. Her husband, Llosent, former director of the magazine Mediodia in Seville, was a friend of poets, such as García Lorca, Gerardo Diego, Rafael Alberti and Dámaso Alonso before the Civil War. He was also known for having contributed to the tribute book, Coronas de sonetos en honor a José Antonio, with the poem “Eternity of José Antonio.” Close to the philosopher Eugenio d’Ors, he was soon appointed director of the National Museum of Modern Art (now Museo Reina Sofia). But the couple’s marriage would only last for a while. After separating, Mercedes Formica obtained an annulment and in 1962 she married José María de Careaga y Urquijo, Mayor of Bilbao and Technical Secretary General of the Ministry of Industry.

Mercedes Formica’s social-political commitment went back to the very beginning of her life as a student. In her memoirs, she recounts that on a visit to a friend’s house one Sunday in October 1933, when she entered the living room, she heard a man’s voice on the radio saying: “We are not a party of the left, which in order to destroy everything, destroys even what is good, nor of the right, which in order to preserve everything, preserves even what is unjust.” This chance “radio” encounter with José Antonio Primo de Rivera, during the broadcast of the founding speech of the Falange, would condition her entire life. Years later, she wrote in Visto y vivido (1982), this “young, intelligent, courageous man was feared, rejected and ridiculed by his own social class, which never forgave him for his constant references to injustice, illiteracy, lack of culture, miserable housing, endemic hunger in rural areas, with no other resources than temporary work, the urgent need for land reform. To confuse José Antonio’s thought with the interests of the extreme right is something that ends up rotting the blood. It was the extreme right that condemned him to civil death, waiting for the physical death that they thought he deserved.”

In Mercedes Formica’s life, the meeting with José Antonio marks a before and after. She would be faithful to his memory and his ideas until her last breath. From 1934, she was resolutely involved in the life of the phalangist movement, not hesitating to put her life in danger. Affiliated with the SEU (Sindicato Español Universitario), she was the only female Phalangist in the Faculty of Law in Madrid. The sympathizers preferred not to join so as not to risk paying with their lives.

That same year, Mercedes Formica was appointed by José Antonio as the female delegate of the SEU in Madrid. When the first SEU National Council met on April 11, 1935, she gave a report in which she insisted on the urgency of creating a Book and Textbook Exchange and on the need to increase the number of scholarships, grants, restaurants and student residences. At the suggestion of Carmen Primo de Rivera, one of José Antonio’s sisters, she agreed to contribute to the activities of the Women’s Section. In February 1936, she became the national delegate of the SEU, and as such a member of the National Committee of the Falange.

After the execution of José Antonio on November 20, 1936, and even more so after the adoption by Franco of the decree-law of April 19, 1937, which imposed the fusion of all movements—Carlists, Phalangists, monarchists and other affiliations—fighting in the national camp, Mercedes Formica felt cheated and disappointed. She was reluctant to remain involved with the new political structure created by Franco, the Traditionalist Falange of the JONS. In 1997, she confided to Rosario Ruiz “Franco was not a Phalangist, and I understood then that all this was going to be a kind of gigantic mess, in which there were many converts who, in order to save themselves, had very cruel ‘merits.’ Before the conflict, José Antonio’s followers were very few, perhaps two thousand in all of Spain, and perhaps even less; and in the Franco zone, only a minority remained, perhaps one hundred or two hundred. Those who were in Madrid and Barcelona were shot.”

She did not hesitate to ridicule last-minute converts, and mockingly asked the question: “But where did so many blue shirts come from?” She reproached the newcomers for having set themselves up “as representatives of something they did not believe in; intolerance being their distinctive sign.”

At the beginning of 1944, the National Delegate of the Women’s Section, Pilar Primo de Rivera, offered her the editorship of the weekly Medina. She also worked for the Institute of Political Studies. In August 1944, she accompanied her husband on a diplomatic and cultural tour of Argentina and met Juan Domingo and Evita Perón. Mercedes Formica lost many years of study due to the Civil War and her involvement in the social activities of the Women’s Section, especially in favor of the children of the defeated. But she finally obtained her terminal degree in 1948. Her first wish was to join the Diplomatic Corps; however, she had to give it up so as not to have to live far from her husband. At the same time, the only woman diplomat in Spain was Margarita Salaverria, who was the first to pass the entrance exam during the Republic, in 1933. Faithful to the national camp, she continued her career under Franco. In the 1970s, her husband was appointed Spanish ambassador to the United States and she lived with her family in Washington.

At the end of the 1940s, Mercedes Formica decided to apply for the public prosecutor’s and notary’s examinations, but again she had to give up quickly because one of the requirements was to be a man. For lack of anything better to do, she joined the Madrid Bar Association. But it was extremely difficult for a woman to join a well-known law firm. Therefore, she opened her own law firm, and also became a journalist, novelist and essayist. In 1951, Pilar Primo de Rivera asked her to participate in the Hispanic-American-Philippine Congress. She was given full freedom to write a report proposing reforms on the status of women. But her paper on the situation of university-educated women in the workplace was eventually deemed too committed and buried. A year later, however, the First National Congress of Justice and Law of the FET de las JONS joined her voice to those of the Phalangists of the Women’s Section who demanded more rights for women.

In 1953, Mercedes Formica was alerted to a news item in the press. It was about the assault of a woman by her husband, who stabbed her several times. When the journalist asked the distressing victim why she had accepted her husband’s abuse for so long, she gave a chilling answer: “I tried to separate from him, but a lawyer I consulted told me that I would lose everything, children, house and my few possessions.” Outraged, Mercedes Formica decided to publicly denounce the absurd law that left separated women without any protection.

On November 7, 1953, she published a famous article in ABC, a liberal-conservative monarchist newspaper, entitled “The Marital Home.” The repercussion was enormous; it was taken up, commented upon, or quoted not only in the national press, but also abroad. In the United States, the New York Times, Time Magazine and Holiday magazine echoed it. The same was true of the European press in Great Britain (The Daily Telegraph and the Morning Herald), Germany, Switzerland and Italy, and of course in the Iberian-American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Cuba). In Spain, this article was praised in the anarchist weekly CNT by the communist activist of the PSUC, Lidia Falcón, future founder of the Feminist Party in 1979 (This famous figure of Spanish radical feminism, would be accused of transphobia and incitement to hatred in 2020 and excluded from the communist party Izquierda Unida (IU), allied to Podemos).

In Madrid, on November 18, 1953, the director of ABC, decided to publish a new article. Its title was unambiguous: “The marital home is not the husband’s house.” At the end of November and the beginning of December, the Madrid daily launched a wide-ranging survey to which the most important Spanish jurists and lawyers were invited. At the 1954 National Congress of Lawyers, lawyer-priests were among those who spoke out in favor of the reform. Some of them did not hesitate to point out that in his 1931 book, La familia según el Derecho natural y cristiano (The Family According to Natural and Christian Law), Cardinal Isidro Goma, the strongest supporter of the “Crusade” in 1936, wrote: “It is time to underline the offensive inequality to which the civil code has relegated the Spanish woman and mother.”

For her part, Mercedes Formica did not stop there. On March 3, 1954, she published an interview in the magazine Teresa, in the Women’s Section, in which she summarized her point of view. Again, on July 10, 1954, she gave a lecture on “The legal situation of Spanish women” at the Medina Circle of the Women’s Section. She did not fight, as one might think, against the retrograde laws of Francoism, but against legal principles dating back to the nineteenth century. The Constitution of the Republic of 1931 stated the general principle that “all Spaniards are equal before the law,” a principle that was taken up by the Fuero de los Espanoles of Franco’s Spain in 1945; but in both cases there were no concrete laws or regulations to implement it. The Civil Code of 1889 had remained unchanged under the Republic, despite the law on marriage and divorce, and then, just as unalterable under Franco’s regime, which had deviated from the law on divorce and introduced penalties and sanctions against abortion, infanticide, adultery and child abandonment. Women needed their husband’s permission for any act with legal consequences. Spain was not an exceptional case; in France, for example, it was only with the law of July 13, 1965 that married women were allowed to work without their husband’s prior authorization and to open a bank account in their own name. On both sides of the Pyrenees, the same prejudice existed in the middle classes—the work of married women was perceived as proof of the man’s inability to provide for his family.

For almost five years, the debates and polemics, initiated by Mercedes Formica, followed one another at a good pace. The lawyer and journalist did not give up. She visited the president of the Supreme Court, José Castán Tobeñas, and obtained his support; she convinced parliamentarians of the Cortes; finally, she had a meeting with the head of state. In order to obtain this meeting, on March 10, 1954, the mediation of Pilar Primo de Rivera was essential. When before the “Generalissimo,” Mercedes Formica mentioned the need for the wife’s consent to dispose of her property during the separation, he corrected her: “No. Consent must be required at all times, with or without separation.” Franco knew from experience the difficulties of children of separated or divorced parents. He remembered that when he was an army cadet and his mother’s alimony payments were late in coming, he was forced to ask for credit at grocery stores. At the end of the hearing, the Caudillo invited Mercedes Formica to go and speak on his behalf to the Minister of Justice, the traditionalist Antonio Iturmendi.

Her efforts were successful, but only four years later. The law of April 24, 1958, would modify sixty-six articles of the Civil Code. The concept of “husband’s house” was replaced by that of “marital home;” the discriminatory concept of “wife’s deposit” was abolished; the man’s absolute power over household goods disappeared; and widowed or remarried women no longer lost parental authority over their children. Mercedes Formica was undoubtedly responsible for this reform of the Civil Code; but it was not until 1978 that the Penal Code was reformed and the discriminatory treatment of women in matters of adultery was repealed. Other legislative reforms aimed at establishing equality between women and men were initiated by Mercedes Formica and her friends in the Women’s Section, such as Monica Plaza and Asunción Olivé. These included the Law of July 22, 1961, on women’s professional and labor rights, and the Law of July 4, 1970, on the consent of mothers for adoption.

In 1970, Mercedes Formica’s signature was among those of 300 writers, some of whom had been volunteers in the Blue Division, artists and intellectuals who protested against clerical censorship to the Minister of Information Manuel Fraga Iribarne. Mercedes Formica intervened again to demand an improvement in the situation of destitute pensioners (1966), to demand an increase in the number of childcare centers (1967), to defend the law decriminalizing adultery (1977), and to denounce the non-application of sentences against rapists (1998). From the 1970s onwards, her work was taken up and extended by the lawyer María Telo (who had a letter-writing relationship with Clara Campoamor) and by Concepción Sierra Ordoñez. Both of them were founders of the Spanish Association of Women Jurists (1971), an association in which the Phalangists of the Women’s Section Belén Landáburu and Carmen Salinas Alonso were also active. These four women were behind the 1975 law on the legal situation of married women and the rights and duties of spouses.

Mercedes Formica’s fight was not only in favor of women, but was part of a larger struggle against injustice and in defense of the weak. It was not, she said in the twilight of her life, an extravagant or senseless struggle, as the opposition (Immobilists) maintained for a while; nor was it a paradoxical, contradictory or even superficial struggle to change nothing in depth, as the extreme feminists claimed. Mercedes Formica wanted to be consistent, in accordance with her youthful convictions, which were against the stereotypical image of the submissive woman, of the angelic housewife, confined to the private space to take care of her husband. She was aware of the reproaches made to the founder of the Phalange for having made comments about women that were described as ambiguous and stereotypical by his opponents. Hadn’t José Antonio said that the Phalange was feminine because it had to have two major virtues, self-abnegation and a sense of sacrifice, which are much more common in women than in men? Didn’t he keep saying that he wanted “a joyful Spain in short skirts?” Didn’t he refuse to plead divorce cases during his life as a lawyer, judging them to be a source of suffering for the children? But to the inevitable scorners and critics, Mercedes Formica answered stoically, as in her Memoirs: “On the anti-feminism of José Antonio and the thesis so widespread, according to which he wanted a woman at home, with almost a broken leg, I must say that it is false. It is part of the process of interpretation to which his thought was subjected. As a good Spaniard he did not like the pedantic, aggressive, extravagant woman, full of hatred for the man. From the beginning he could count on women academics, and he gave them responsibilities. In my particular case, he didn’t see in me the angry suffragette, but the young woman concerned about Spain’s problems, who loved her culture and was trying to make her way in the world of work.”

Mercedes Formica continued her activism into old age. She wrote her last article in 1998, before the first serious symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease affected her. She died in Malaga on April 22, 2002, victim of a heart attack. Very few people attended her funeral and few media reported on her death, even though she was undoubtedly one of the most important women of 20th century Spain. Recognition is not a virtue of the vulgar, it is the prerogative of great hearts, they say. These were not legion at the time of her death. In 2015, at the instigation of the Marxist and far-left party Podemos, the municipality of Cadiz removed the bust of Mercedes Formica that had been installed in the center of the city, in the Plaza del Palillero. But two street names perpetuate her memory to this day, in Malaga and Madrid.

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

New Documents: Maese Nicolás is Based on a Barber Cervantes Knew

“Oh, sweet Spain, beloved homeland.” Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

The distinguished historian, Don Sabino de Diego Romero, President of the Cervantes Society of Esquivias, former mayor of Esquivias, and author of excellent books and articles, including Genealogía de Fray Francisco Ximénez de Santa Catalina, fraile de la Santísima Trinidad de Calzados, natural del Lugar de Esquivias, que fundó un hospital en Túnez (Genealogy of Fray Francisco Ximénez de Santa Catalina, friar of the Holy Trinity of Calzados, native of the Place of Esquivias, who founded a hospital in Tunis), Cervantes y Esquivias, lo que todos debemos saber (Cervantes and Esquivias. What We All Should Know), and Catalina. Fuente de inspiración de Cervantes (Catalina. Cervantes’ Source of Inspiration), discovered a new document about a real person in Don Quixote.

In 2015, Diego Romero published Análisis biográfico sobre Catalina de Salazar y Palacios (Biographical analysis on Catalina de Salazar y Palacios), which provided new, unpublished documents on the barber Mease Nicolás, a character in Don Quixote, that most outstanding work of universal literature by the “king of Spanish literature.”

According to the excellent documentary work of Diego Romero, from the of the time of the publication of Don Quixote, in 1605, Cervantine researchers have been making all kinds of speculations about whom Cervantes took as literary models, starting with Don Quixote himself and continuing with characters, such as Sancho Panza, the priest Pero Perez, as well as a character whom Cervantes gave the responsibility of bringing Quixote’s “madness” to a happy ending, namely, the barber Maese Nicolás.

In this sense, it should not be forgotten that Maese Nicolás is introduced by Cervantes, for the first time, in Chapter V of the Part One of Don Quixote, together with the priest Pero Pérez, both residents of Esquivias, who eagerly conspire to bring Don Quixote back to his senses and are found in Quixote’s library, burning the pernicious books that altered his mind, in the opinion of both characters, found in Quixote’s library.

Therefore, in this context, I would like to emphasize that according to Don Sabino de Diego Romero, the barber’s shop, together with the tavern, were the ideal places for conversation among neighbors, and playing the guitar, and being also the centers of attention and influence. The barber, tonsor (of medieval origin), in addition to shaving beards, exercised the function of tooth-puller, performed bloodletting, healed wounds, bruises and broken bones well into the nineteenth century, when doctors became an independent guild and looked after the ailments once taken care of by the barbers. The barber of Esquivias was the one who took care of the tonsure—popularly known as coronilla (“crown”)—of Father Pero Pérez, priest of Esquivias, who exercised his pastoral work in the hermitage of San Bartolomé, in the outskirts of the town. The number of services rendered by the barber meant that:

“The influx of people to the barber’s shop was such that this place was the most frequented for social interaction and public discourse, where public forums were formed, for open debates with the participation of the locals on current issues.
“In small towns, in the absence of a regular doctor, it was the barber-surgeons who looked after medical needs, and accompanied the physician in his sporadic visits to the sick of the place.
“This meant that the affluence to the barbershop was massive and the barber needed the assistance of a good number of people, women in this case, who helped, cleaned, and produced soaps for personal use that were sold in the establishment, among other things.
“Likewise, as the shaving process was slow, given the deficient tools used, this meant an inevitable delay, resulting in the crowding of people in the barbershops being greater than in the taverns.”

Without a hint of doubt, Don Sabino de Diego Romero has found in Esquivias the barber-surgeon of the last third of the 16th century, whose name was Nicolás de Olmedo, a person of primordial influence among the commoners of the town. His opinion was respected by all, even by the noblemen of the town, who were also his clients, since the Master Barber, Nicolás de Olmedo, exercised a decisive influence between the two cultural strata of the town of Esquivias, noblemen and commoners, both for being the center of attention in his barbershop, as well as the natural gratitude of the families of Esquivias, for hiring a good number of young girls for the many services at his shop.

At this point, I must state that Diego Romero has found precise documentation that, between 1577 and 1589, Nicolás de Olmedo hired 20 young girls, all of whom were eleven years old. According to the new document of January 5, 1592, found by Diego Romero, we know that the Council of Esquivias agreed to appoint a new barber officer in this way:

“For being Able and sufficient and having a Letter of Review for such barber by Cristobal Ximenez… And that he be obliged to have knowledge of the Sick that are found in the said place and to walk with the doctor to visit them… that he cannot leave the said place without the License of Justice. That he may not play ball or throw or work with an axe or adze or anything else. And if he should be ill, that he be obliged to have another barber in the place at his own expense, and if he does not do so, that the Council bring another barber at his own expense.” (And it is signed by Nicolás de Olmedo, as a member of the Council).

Thus, from the beginning of January of 1592, the Master Barber, Nicolás de Olmedo, stopped holding the office of the barber’s shop in Esquivias, which then reverted back to Cristóbal Ximénez.

Further, it is worth mentioning that thanks to these new documents, found by Diego Romero in the archives of Esquivias, other native characters have become known, and there is now evidence that some of these were relatives of María de Uxena (Quixote, “Galatea,” 288º, 19), the girl whom Catalina de Salazar y Palacios named as heir. One of the most representative of these characters is the Master Barber, Nicolás de Olmedo.

In addition to this, the investigations carried out by Diego Romero document that Nicolás de Olmedo was married to Magdalena Rodríguez, sister of Catalina Alonso, mother of Ana Rodríguez—who married Juan de Uxena, who were parents of María de Uxena (Diego Romero, Catalina, p. 280), and in turn, Nicolás del Olmedo was the brother of Lucía Romana, who married Martín Alonso, parents of Pedro Alonso (Quixote-V-I; “Galatea,” 290º, 18-19).

In this respect, it is indispensable to emphasize that Nicolás de Olmedo and Magdalena Rodríguez were grandparents of the child Juan, whose baptism, Miguel de Cervantes and his wife Catalina de Salazar y Palacios, on the basis of the good friendship between both families, sponsored, on October 25, 1586.

Add to this that on April 9, 1588, Catalina, together with her cousin, Diego García de Salazar, acted as godparents at the baptism of Susana, the granddaughter of the Master Barber, Nicolás de Olmedo, where, on that occasion, Catalina was identified, in the baptismal certificate, as “muger de Miguel de Cervantes” (wife of Miguel de Cervantes).

Adding to the extensive list of inhabitants of Esquivias, and those related to the Master Barber, Nicolás de Olmedo, Diego Romero has discovered that Magdalena Rodríguez, Olmedo ‘s wife, was the aunt of Juana Gutiérrez (obit October 25, 1604) who was the wife of the Sacristan Mayor, Francisco Marcos, who in turn appeared as witness in the marriage of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra with Catalina de Salazar y Palacios.

It should also be said that Catalina Alonso, the maternal grandmother of María de Uxena, was the sister-in-law of Nicolás de Olmedo, and who, at the time of her death (Documents, 10-IX-1590), named Don Juan de Palacios y Salazar, Catalina’s maternal uncle, as her executor.

Baptismal certificate of Diego, son of Nicolás de Olmedo and Magdalena Rodríguez. February 8, 1573 (B1059v2ª. Unpublished).

In view of this, through the documents revealed, linked to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, husband of Catalina de Salazar y Palacios, and the evident relationship that existed between Cervantes and Nicolás de Olmedo, for being contemporaries; in fact, according to Diego Romero, it is crystal clear, based on the legitimate documentation, that for the character of Maese Nicolás, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra took the person of the Master Barber of Esquivias, Nicolás de Olmedo.

In short, I congratulate the Esquivian historian Don Sabino de Diego Romero for the magnificent discovery of new documents of capital importance about the authentic characters presented in The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha for the documented biography of Catalina, the glorious Man of La Mancha, the history of Spain and of Esquivias.

As well, I must emphasize that Diego Romero has discovered the twelfth real character of Don Quixote, after Quijano or Quijada y Quesada, sometimes called Alonso Quijano, protagonist of Don Quixote; the priest Pero Perez; Teresa Panza, wife of Sancho Panza, whom Cervantes calls Juana Gutierrez, Mari Gutierrez or Teresa Cascajo; Sancho Panza; the squire Vizcaíno; Pedro Alonso, also called Pedro Alonso de Salazar; Aldonza Lorenzo; Ricote, the Morisco; Pedro Martínez, Tenorio Hernández, and Juan Palomeque, named in Chapters XVII and XVIII of the first part of Don Quixote.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I thank Don Sabino de Diego Romero for his exemplary and excellent work; and with all certainty these documentary gems will form part of the new book, Documentos de Catalina de Salazar y Palacios (Documents of Catalina de Salazar y Palacios), which currently includes 1700 legal documents, 1350 of which were discovered by our extraordinary and indefatigable author Don Sabino de Diego Romero, President of the Cervantine Society of Esquivias. Congratulations.

Laus in excelsis Deo.

Krzysztof Sliwa is a professor, writer for Galatea, a journal of the Sociedad Cervantina de Esquivias, Spain, and a specialist in the life and works of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and the Spanish Golden Age Literature, all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in English, German, Spanish and Polish, and is the Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Cordoba and Toledo.

Featured: Escrutinio de las Novelas llevado a cabo por el Cura y Maese Nicolás, el Barbero (Scrutiny of the Novels carried out by the Curate and Maese Nicolás, the Barber), engraving by Jérôme David, and published by Jacques Lagniet in Paris, between 1650—1652.

Peace Calls Us

Beatriz Villacañas is a poet, essayist, translator and literary critic. She holds a PhD in English philology and teaches English and Irish literature at the Complutense University of Madrid. Her father was Juan Antonio Villacañas, one of the greatest Spanish poets of the post-war period. She has published many books of poems and has won various literary prizes. For her poem, “Peace Calls Us” (newly translated below), she was named an International Cultural Ambassador on behalf of Spain by the International Chamber of Writers and Artists, CIESART, as well as an International Ambassador for Peace.

The translations that follow are by Krzysztof Sliwa, who is a biographer, documentalist, writer and Corresponding Academician of the Royal Academy of Cordoba, Corresponding Academician of the Royal Academy of Toledo and Member of Honor of the Sociedad Cervantina de Esquivias, Spain.

“God is the only example” [Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591)].

“The pen is the language of the soul” [Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616)].

Peace Calls Us

Peace calls us, brothers, it invites us,
and opens for us the lights of its bridges,
on which we walk to find the sources
of a Good that heals every wound.

Although evil is winning the game,
let us not give up, let us be resilient.
May peace, justice and the good be the currents
to navigate in this life.

Let us open our eyes to Truth
and with its lucidity and its caress,
let us be a worthy humanity.

And in the face of lies and their malice
let us defend peace and truth:
And with them will come the good and justice.

Peace and Truth: Union

Truth in life is essential,
Truth is our need.
With truth we will have freedom,
and Peace will arrive wholesome and complete.

With truth, peace will be real and peace
will give us security, wholesome path to happiness.
Peace and Truth: vital union.

We must know truth delivers us from lies
and its betrayal and not let evil take its toll.
Peace and truth in our hearts will come
and give us good strength:
after crying, the song.

Praying in Hope

Jesus, in my soul I feel now
that You will come to save us from the one who lies.
In Your Love, I see and feel that Your bridge
leads us to the truth and to the dawn.

You give springtime to those who long for it:
for my thirst for You, You give me the spring
that your Permanent Presence flows in me,
with the Truth that saves and redeems.

You are, Jesus. Truth, Way and Life,
and I believe, Lord, for Thou sayest it,
Thou art the all-embracing Good.

May the Truth set the guidelines
and may lies be destroyed,
while You, Jesus Christ, bless us.

Living Word

Your Word is so living, Father
that it gives light to the meadows,
gives color to the flowers,
makes the roots fruitful,
enlivens the fire of love,
opens the way
to the steps that yearn for transcendence,
makes my verses sprout.

You, at each of our steps, You teach us
that everything here is born
from the fruitful root of Your Word.
Each day opens a dialogue with You.
I thank You
because Your Word
is daily news of Love:
and Love, day after day,
gives us news of the eternal.

When Faith Came to Dwell In Me

Question after question I asked myself
and, without an answer, I spoke with doubt,
always searching for the naked Truth,
that would illuminate my life.

Poetry came to lend a hand.
With it, Dear God, You gave me Your help.
The faith that does not make mute penetrated me,
that which turns tears into joy.

Faith is a gift, also a workout,
an indispensable and persistent effort
to which Your Love gives great benefit.

Faith entered to dwell my ardent soul,
which thirsted for You from the beginning,
and, wanting to feel You, already feels You.

“Gain a heart of wisdom” (Proverbs 4:23).

Laus in excelsis Deo.

Featured: The Last Judgment, detail, by Fra Angelico; painted ca. 1435-1440.

“My Humor comes from Pain and Love”

The accomplished humorist, Eduardo Aguirre Romero, author of the magnificent books, inter alia, Cine para caminar (Walking Cinema), Blues de Cervantes (Cervantes Blues); Cervantes, enigma del humor (Cervantes, The Enigma of Humor) prologued by the writer Víctor Fuentes, has just published his masterpiece, Entrevista a Cervantes (Interview with Cervantes), which is dedicated “with gratitude and affection to the memory of the architect Jesús Martínez del Cerro (1948—2022), builder of the two prototypes of the machine to detect false readers of Don Quixote.”

Don Quixote opened the way to a more humanitarian comicality”

In this context, it should be emphasized that Eduardo Aguirre Romero, journalist at the Diario de León, offered a reading workshop in the León City Hall, entitled, “Don Quixote for the elderly,” and he promotes the language of sweet Spain, by way of his first-rate works, in which, to better understand the life and works of the “King of Spanish Literature, he gives special emphasis to the humor of Cervantes, a subject of capital importance but very little studied by scholars.

But, before continuing, it is important to add a word about Cervantes, enigma del humor (2017), in which Aguirre Romero (who is originally from Madrid and now based in León since 1985) clearly deduces that in Don Quixote, humor rhymes with both love and pain and states that Cervantes’ humor is a multifaceted one, as “it does not evade your reality; it helps you to interpret it” (Cervantes, enigma del humor).

The insightful wit of Aguirre Romero accurately detects that “in these uncertain times, Miguel de Cervantes still has a lot of light to offer us.” As well, he meditates on the origin of humor and comes to the conclusion that “the best thing would be to ask Cervantes himself” (Cervantes, enigma del humor).

Consequently, in his Entrevista a Cervantes, “a work in progress,” the Cervantes-enthusiast from León converses with the genius of Spanish literature, not only because the immortal Miguel is still alive but also because the interviewer wishes to give the biography of the glorious man of La Mancha, in order to learn about the trajectory of his enigmatic life. Therefore, Aguirre Romero brings Cervantes to life, in flesh and blood, gives him a voice with all the freedom of expression and opinion; and without disguising the truth, even if it is unpleasant, he gives a biographical sketch of the famous Alcalá native.

Regarding his economic situation, Miguel maintains that “I had good times… but in my last years, if it wasn’t for the Count of Lemos and the Archbishop of Toledo, I would end up in a corner with a monkey and a goat. Isn’t that poverty? I had it tattooed on me since childhood” (Cervantes, enigma del humor, 48).

“All that can be forgiven, and more. When the time comes”

When asked about the words of the Spanish writer, Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936), who belonged to the “Generation of ’98″—”’Don Quixote is immensely superior to Cervantes,’ what do you think?” The peerless novelist answers that “He is worth more than me… and more than almost all of us, because he does not condense. And Sancho also condenses us. But read, read, for sure there is more material to cut” (Cervantes, enigma del humor, 50).

Referring to Avellaneda, Aguirre Romero asks, “Can that also be forgiven, that in addition to murdering the book, he defamed you in the prologue? He even bragged about wanting to take away your profit, besides making certain allusions to… your horns.” Miguel replies that “all that can be forgiven, and more. When the time comes” (Cervantes, enigma del humor, 57).

“Thank you, O Lord, for you have revealed these things to the simple and you have hidden them from the wise.”

Similarly, the journalist sheds light on the doubts surrounding the character of Cervantes, who does not mince words and confesses that “I was wounded in my self-love, many times. Battered, too. I was even tempted to give up… but I was never rancorous. Nor vindictive, except for a few blows in this prologue or in that sonnet, because we are not of the same mind” (Entrevista, 58); and further on he declares that “one can be very intelligent and not understand anything. In fact, it is often those who understand the least. There is a very beautiful phrase of Jesus: ‘Thank you, Lord, for you have revealed these things to the simple and hidden them from the wise'” (Entrevista, 64-65).

The humorist Aguirre Romero notes that “Cervantes was the first to combine with genius the dramatic and the comic; that laughter was more than laughter… and no one before had so united comedy with depth and compassionate tenderness, though Cervantes himself often ignores such potential… and to perceive it, he had to fall in love with his characters, to feel responsible for them… There is not a comic Quixote and a serious Quixote. It is a single book. That is the marvelous multifaceted condition of Cervantes’ humor. A single humor, with numerous registers” (Entrevista, 34-35).

However, the key question that the author poses to Cervantes is:

Aguirre: “Where does Cervantes’ humor come from? You were poor in fits and spurts, you were crippled in a battle, you were imprisoned for five years, you were jailed several times for alleged embezzlement, you got along badly with your daughter… in old age you had to ask for help to survive… With that biographical background, where did you get the vital forces to write the universal masterpiece of humor?”

Cervantes: “Precisely from there… from pain.”

Aguirre: “Does his humor come from pain?”

Cervantes: “From pain and love. When he had the worst time… he laughed. And not only that, he was capable of making others laugh… Only fools need to smile when things go well for them. [If they steal your humor, they will have defeated you (Entrevista, 65).

“My humor comes from pain and love”

In all honesty, Entrevista a Cervantes is a well of wisdom, where humor and truth emerge, which characterize the writing of Aguirre Romero, who always follows the proverb of Cebantes, that brilliant soldier of the Elite Special Forces of the Spanish Tercios Viejos: “Be brief in your reasoning, because no one is pleased if it is long;” and he hides “an ace up his sleeve: there is also pain and love hidden behind what—a priori—only seemed funny” (Entrevista, 34).

Before concluding, it is my great honor to congratulate not only Eduardo for his excellent work that carries much of him within it, but also for his proclamation of vital joy—and that of the believer—in a period of great economic concerns due to the crisis, from which he has not been spared, but also to Professor María Fernández Ferreiro, the editor of Entrevista a Cervantes, for her excellent series of books that she has gathered, and the extraordinary Grupo de Estudios Cervantinos (GREC) at the University of Vigo.

Without the slightest shadow of a doubt, this masterpiece of our admirable Eduardo Aguirre Romero, “dedicated to society hit by a long economic crisis and a crisis of values” (Entrevista, 37), which fills the heart with greater joy, has managed to combine the funny with the serious. The characters and themes are identified with those of Cervantes’ works, while the entire work stems from a healthy and wise humor, which captures the soul of the reader, and makes us better people.

All this proves that Entrevista a Cervantes is a flagship and this book belongs to the whole world. Congratulations!

Laus in excelsis Deo.

Krzysztof Sliwa is a professor, writer for Galatea, a journal of the Sociedad Cervantina de Esquivias, Spain, and a specialist in the life and works of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and the Spanish Golden Age Literature, all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in English, German, Spanish and Polish, and is the Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Cordoba and Toledo.

Featured: Miguel de Cervantes, Gustave Doré; published in 1863.