Franco and the Holocaust: From Hostility to Protection of the Jews

I.

Nearly half a century has passed since the death of Francisco Franco, but the general-dictator remains an inevitable subject of discord for Spaniards. When the controversies subside, the mainstream media and political figures of the left and extreme left are there to reactivate them. We know about the heated debates that arose when the PSOE and its radical left-wing allies passed the Memory Laws of December 2007 and October 2022, which violated freedom of expression. Significantly, the Madrid newspaper El País, the government’s unofficial organ, recently saw fit to revisit the French controversy surrounding Pío Moa’s book, The Myths of the Spanish War.

A Web of Conjectures

Among the endless polemics about the Civil War and Franco’s regime, there is a less frequent, but nevertheless recurrent, dispute about the Caudillo’s attitude towards the Jews during the Second World War. During 2022, the subject was discussed many times in the mainstream press, especially on the occasion of the publication of the book by Enrique Moradiellos, Santiago López and César Rina, El Holocausto y la España de Franco [The Holocaust and Franco’s Spain], a work whose best-known co-author Moradiellos is a notorious defender of Negrín, the Popular Front and Stalin’s political action in Spain.

Recently, after La Sexta Clave (January 28, 2022), Libertad Digital (February 28, 2022), El País (March 12, 2022), El Español (February 5, 2022), El Mundo (February 13, 2022), ABC (February 10, 2022), Hoy (April 9, 2022), El Périodico (May 29, 2022), El Diario (June 12, 2022), Nueva Tribuna (July 22, 2022), etc., El Confidencial, in turn (October 2, 2022), has been involved in the controversy because of the information that the Secretary General of the Federation of Spanish Jewish Communities (FCJE) has just joined Vox, an openly philosemitic and pro-Israeli party, but suspected by the editor of concealing anti-Semitic and racist views. The dispute is old and the arguments do not vary much on either side.

More than ten years ago, El País (June 20, 2010) published a provocative and sensationalist article entitled, El regalo de Franco para Hitler. La lista de Franco para El Holocausto [Franco’s Gift to Hitler. Franco’s List for the Holocaust], which was echoed by Le Figaro, La Tribune de Genève and other European newspapers.

[The article was published in El País, June 20, 2010, by the journalist Jorge M. Reverte, a socialist, former communist, son of Jesus Martínez Tessier, who was himself editor of the phalangist daily Arriba, after having fought on the Eastern Front in the Azul Division. There are many Francoist personalities who changed radically and pursued brilliant political or media careers after the end of the regime in 1975. The journalist and businessman Luis Cebrián, founder of the newspaper El País and managing director of the Prisa Group, was first editor of the “Movimiento” newspaper, Pueblo, and head of the news services of Franco’s RTVE. He is the son of Vicente Cebrián, who was director of the newspaper Arriba. The first president of the New Democracy government, Adolfo Suárez, had been secretary general of the “Movimiento” and director general of RTVE. The fathers of the vice-president and the vice-president of Zapatero’s socialist government, Teresa Fernández de la Vega and Alfredo Rubalcaba, were also Francoists, as were the fathers of the president of the Congress of Deputies, José Bono, and the wives of the two socialist presidents, Felipe González and José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero].

The information from the Madrid newspaper, taken up by a number of journalists and university historians, has not ceased to fuel speculation and conjecture. This campaign of media-historical-political intoxication would not be worth mentioning if it had not been initiated and orchestrated by Zapatero’s socialist government, via one of the major Spanish news dailies, which is often quoted in the international press [The El País article of June 20, 2006 was summarized in Le Figaro, 20.06.2010 and Tribune de Genève, 21.06.2010].

With hardly a care for nuance, the lead of the El País article stated: “In 1941, Franco’s regime ordered the civil governors to draw up a list of the Jews living in Spain. The file, which included the names, professional, ideological and personal activities of 6,000 Jews, was probably handed over to Himmler. After the fall of Hitler, Franco’s authorities tried to erase all evidence of their collaboration in the Holocaust. El País has reconstructed this story and shows the document that proves Franco’s anti-Semitic order.”

This article was actually based on four pages published thirteen years earlier, in 1997, in the magazine Raices, by the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, general manager of the Shlumberger-Sema-Spain group, Jacobo Israel Garzón [Jacobo Israel Garzón, “El Archivo Judaico del franquismo,” Raíces, Madrid, no. 33, winter 1997-1998, p. 57ff. See also, Jacobo Israel Garzón et Alejandro Baer, España y el Holocausto (1939-1945) (Madrid: Ediciones Hebraíca, 2007)].

In this article, “The Jewish File of Francoism,” Jacobo Israel divulged the existence of a circular from the General Directorate of Security, dated May 5, 1941, which ordered the provincial civil governors to send information on all national and foreign Jews living in the territory. This document, which called for the creation of a “Jewish file,” came from the civil government of Zaragoza (Aragon) and was found in the Archivo Histórico Nacional.

The revelation of the 1941 circular raised many questions. What were the practical repercussions of the file? Was the initiative to create it the responsibility of the government or the police authorities? To what extent did the civilian governors follow the instructions received? How many people were included in this file? The answers of the historian-journalist of El País were vague and superficial. In fact, they are not much more solid today. According to the journalist from the Madrid daily, the file was completely destroyed at the end of the Second World War, and only a few individual files have survived. It would have contained at least 6,000 individual name-cards, because this figure was included in the count of the Jewish population by country in the Wannsee protocol (January 20, 1942). And it would seem “likely” that José Finat, Director General of Spanish Security (1939-1941), later ambassador to Berlin (1941-1942), gave the entire file to the Reichsführer-SS, Himmler.

This web of conjecture is based on a certain amount of reality, but the conclusions often drawn are no less highly questionable. Who would claim to implicate the English authorities in the Holocaust just because the number of Jews in the United Kingdom was mentioned at the Wannsee conference? The journalist-historian of El País was apparently unaware that the figure of 6,000 Jews was in the public domain in the Peninsula long before the events he reported. In 1933, the Madrid press reported a Spanish Jewish community of 5,000 people. In 1934, it counted nearly 1,000 German political refugees, both Jews and non-Jews. A very low number of political exiles that the socialist editor of El Pais was careful not to mention. And for good reason! It alone destroys the myth of a welcoming Spanish Republic whose government of left-wing liberals and socialists received Jewish refugees from the Reich with open arms. On the contrary, before the elections of November 1933, the Spanish Republic, under the left and center-left coalition, had reinstated the visa requirement for Germans in order to curb Jewish immigration, or rather, as it was preferred to say at the time, “to avoid a saturation of the labor market.” It is also highly unlikely that all 6,000 Jews remained in Spain at the end of the Spanish Civil War after the victory of the national side (there were no less than 430,000 exiles at the end of the Spanish Civil War: 270,000 crossed and re-crossed the border in a few weeks; 160,000 were permanent exiles).

The Jewish Community in North Africa was Mostly in Favor of Franco

Another important omission by the editor of El País was that he was unaware of the existence of the North African Jewish community in the Spanish Moroccan protectorate. This community of more than 15,000 people, much larger than the one in the Peninsula, had sided mostly with Franco and the “national camp” during the Spanish Civil War. Conversely, a considerable proportion of militant Jews or Communist sympathizers had fought in the ranks of the International Brigades, “Stalin’s transmission belt” (perhaps 7 to 10% of the total number), and the majority of the international Jewish community had come out in favor of the left and the extreme left. But Jewish support for the Popular Front—we will come back to this—was not as massive and uniform as legend has it. In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, the Jewish community in the Moroccan protectorate was considered safe and loyal by the new state, while that in the Peninsula was considered, rightly or wrongly, hostile and potentially threatening.

But the anomalies and departures from logic in the El País journalist’s article did not end there. Jacobo Israel had suggested that traces of the missing Judaic file should be sought “in the nearly 100,000 investigations carried out by Franco’s police” (in reality, nearly 130,000 are in the Archivo Histórico Nacional). However, this did not prevent the contributor to the Madrid daily from asserting, without citing any source, that in 1940 alone 800,000 investigations were carried out and more than 5 million citizens were registered. Franco’s repression in the immediate postwar period (25,000 people sentenced to death, half of whom were executed, and 270,000 people imprisoned in 1939, a figure which then fell to 43,000 in 1945) had been sufficiently harsh and frightening not to need to be exaggerated.

[The repression during the Spanish Civil War claimed about 55,000 victims in the national camp and 60,000 in the republican camp. Taking into account the victims of the postwar repression, the figure of victims in the republican camp is 75,000-80,000 (historians in favor of the Popular Front put forward the figure of 110,000-130,000, echoing the estimates of exiled socialist-communist historians in the postwar period). The balance was only really upset by the settling of scores (3,000 to 4,000 deaths) and the judicial executions of Front-Populist activists and sympathizers in the immediate post-war period (24,949 death sentences of which 12,851 were commuted to prison terms, and a little over 12,000 judicial executions)].

Clearly, the editor of El País was not trying to be a historian, to shed light on the “shadowy areas” of Francoism, striving for axiological neutrality, but to morally discredit his alleged “descendants,” the conservative-liberals, and to denounce and instrumentalize the alleged participation-collaboration of his “ancestry” in the Holocaust. And to do so, he reactivated the old methods and legends of the Comintern: the aggression of a moderate and peaceful democracy by the reactionary right, the Franco-fascist-Nazi equivalence, the concealment of the Bolshevization of the Socialist Party, the underestimation of the development of the PCE, the denial of the sectarianism and violence of the Popular Front (2,500 to 3,500 deaths from 1931 to 1936, of which more than 400 were in the period of the Popular Front alone, from February to July 1936), etc., adding, of course, the inevitable confusion and amalgam between, on the one hand, the origins and development of the Spanish Civil War and, on the other, the Franco regime. Significantly, at the same time, the socialist government was promoting the Manichean works of Paul Preston (including The Spanish Holocaust. Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth Century Spain), an English activist-historian who was as bigoted as the Washington Post journalist and pamphleteer Herbert Southworth in the 1960s.

Uchronia is Not History

It is quite obvious that in the case of a German occupation of Spain, a “Jewish file” would have been particularly dangerous for the Jews. This point is irrefutable. But uchronia is not history. To confuse virtual history (that of Spain’s entry into the World War and the collaboration of Franco and his regime in the Holocaust, as it might have been) with real history (that of a Franco who kept Spain out of the World War and who allowed the protection and rescue of tens of thousands of Jews) is at best foolishness, at worst intellectual dishonesty.

What was Franco’s real attitude towards the Jews? Was he an anti-Semite or a philo-Sephardi? Before answering, let us return to the truth of the matter. Jews and Judaism were not the dictator’s declared enemies. His sworn enemies were communism (in its Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyite and anarchist-collectivist versions) and Freemasonry. An animadversion and hatred that were, after all, only a reflection of those of the “complementary enemy,” who had the same feelings against the nation, the bourgeois class and against Christianity.

[There are many books on this subject, including those by Haim Avni, España, Franco y los Judios (Madrid, Altalena, 1974); Federico Ysart, España y los judíos en la II Guerra Mundial (Barcelona: Dopesa, 1973); Chaim Lipschitz, Franco, Spain, the Jews and the Holocaust (New York: Ktav Pub. Inc., 1984); José Antonio Lisbona Martín, La política de España hacia sus judíos en el siglo XX (Barcelona: Riopiedras, 1993); David Salinas, España, los Sefarditas y el Tercer Reich (1939-1945). La labor de diplomáticos españoles contra el genocidio nazi (Valladolid, 1997); Bernd Rother, Franco y el Holocausto (Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2001); Isidro González, Los judíos y la Segunda República: 1931-1939 (Madrid: Alianza), and Los judios y la guerra civil Española (Madrid: Hebraica Ediciones, 2009)].

Franco’s Philo-Sephardism

In Franco’s eyes, Sephardic Jews were different from other Jews because they were somehow sublimated by contact with Iberian culture. His politico-religious (not racist) anti-Semitism was curiously combined with a philo-Sephardicism then common in much of the intellectual right of the time, which was careful to distinguish the “noble race” of the Sephardim from the “vile race” of the Ashkenaz.

According to historians who supported the Spanish Popular Front, this philo-Sephardization was merely an excuse to cover up, conceal or deny the fundamental anti-Semitism of Franco and Francoism. But this exclusive view is highly questionable. The example of two of the best-known Francoist historians, Ricardo de la Cierva and Luis Suarez Fernández, to name but two, suggests that this view should be qualified. The first, La Cierva, Director General of Popular Culture under Franco and Minister of Culture under King Juan Carlos, was known as a great defender of friendly ties with Israel and was the person appointed to officially present the Asociación de Amistad España Israel (1979). The second, Luis Suarez Fernández, former director general of the Universities, president of the Hermandad del Valle de los Caídos, closely linked to the Francisco Franco Foundation, one of the best experts on the history of the Jews in Spain, was one of the specialists chosen for the courses organized by the Asociación de los Amigos del Museo Sefardi (1988).

But let us return more directly to the political life of the Caudillo. The young commander and later lieutenant colonel of the legion, Francisco Franco, had had very cordial relations with the Jews of Spanish Morocco. The main leaders, businessmen and bankers of the Jewish community in the territory under protectorate had given valuable economic and material support to the rebel general in 1936. They had put at his disposal economic and financial means, but also a whole network of contacts essential in the management of material purchases. The great majority of the Jews of the Spanish zone of Morocco, but also Jews from the north of Italy and the sector of Zionism headed by Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, had helped the national camp. Franco was very grateful to them. After the war, some authors claimed that this help had been extorted; but they never explained why the generalissimo so openly showed his gratitude to the Jewish community of the protectorate, rewarding and decorating some of its most representative figures. The case of the banker Salama, a declared friend of the Caudillo, is emblematic in this respect.

During the Spanish Civil War, among the generals who rose up, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, a senior Republican officer, famous for plotting the advent of the Republic, and otherwise fiercely opposed to the Phalangists, stood out for his vehement anti-Semitic diatribes on the airwaves of Union Radio Sevilla. Franco took care to warn his North African Jewish friends not to pay him any mind. It was apparently at the end of June 1938, in the aftermath of the “Night of the Long Knives,” that Franco first instructed Spanish legations to protect Jews of Spanish origin or of Sephardic background.

In the immediate post-Civil War period and in the early years of World War II, the Caudillo also made strong criticisms of the Jews. But they were few and far between. The best-known example is his allusion to “the Jewish spirit that allowed the alliance of big capital and Marxism” in his speech on May 19, 1939, in Madrid, on the occasion of the victory parade. Apart from two or three other similar allusions (speeches at Christmas 1939 and May 29, 1942), Franco did not elaborate on the question. In the years 1939-1942, in order to satisfy the German authorities, he tolerated anti-Semitic propaganda in publishing, and in radio and the written press; but at the same time he again let his friends in the North African Jewish community know that they should not be concerned. Ironically, it was in 1941, in the theoretically most anti-Semitic period of the regime, that Franco established in Madrid and Barcelona the Benito Arias Montano Institute of Hebrew Studies, which has since published one of the world’s best Jewish publications, the scholarly journal Sefarad, subsidized by the Spanish state.

Radical anti-Semites did exist in Spain during World War II; but they were not numerous enough to cause the population to reject Jews, nor were the philosemites powerful enough to promote a more generous policy toward them. Antisemitism was widespread on the right, but essentially in its Christian form, and had been marginal in the parties of the left, unlike in France, where its presence had been asserted since the nineteenth century on the right (traditionalism and nationalism) as well as on the left (socialism and anarchism). Left-wing anti-Semitism was to appear in the Peninsula only belatedly, at the end of the twentieth century with pro-Palestinian anti-Zionism, and in the twenty-first century with Islamo-Leftism.

In Franco’s new Traditionalist Falange, a heterogeneous party re-founded in 1937 from the Falange of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the Traditionalist Communion, and all the right-wing and center-right parties, the radical anti-Semites represented only a small minority. The magazine Acción Española (1931) had imported the thesis of Action Française, according to which the Jew was harmful to the state (political antisemitism), but its influence was minimal. Racial anti-Semitism was marginal and its rhetoric had very little resonance in Spanish public opinion. The most widespread antisemitism was, it should be noted, religious in nature. It held that Judaism represented a value system opposed to that embodied by Christianity. Judaism was condemned in the name of Catholicism. The Catholic Church resolutely rejected racist theories of National Socialist origin. Race was also irrelevant to membership in the Traditionalist Falange, just as it had been irrelevant to membership in the original Falange of José Antonio. Many chuetas from Mallorca (one of the groups descended from converted Jews), had been active members since almost the foundation of the first Falange, in 1933.

For their part, the German National Socialist authorities regularly complained that philosemitic personalities occupied key positions in the Spanish government, party and high administration. The most philo-Nazi Spaniards, such as the Abwehr agent Ángel Alcázar Velasco, spread the rumor that Franco and even the founders and intellectuals of the original Falange: Primo de Rivera, Sanchez Mazas, Ledesma Ramos, Aparicio, Ros, Montes, etc., all had the names of “descendants of converts” and were “Jews by mysticism and temperament.” [Ángel Alcázar de Velasco, Memorias de un agente secreto (Barcelona, Plaza y Janés, 1979). The racialist theme of the “descendants of the converted” was developed and systematized after the war by the left-wing anti-Franco philologist Américo Castro (see, España en su historia, 1948). Julio Caro Baroja, a great specialist in the question, author of Los Judíos en la España moderna y Contemporánea, 3 volumes (Madrid: Istmo, 1986), concludes that “it is not possible to ensure that an actual name is or is not Jewish”].

In the post-war period, various authors, such as the journalist Ramón Garriga, the national socialist author Joaquin Bochaca, or the writer Roger Peyrefitte (The Jews, 1971), took up the thesis of a Franco with Jewish origins, but without really providing tangible proof. Nevertheless, some went so far as to see this as an explanation for the ambiguous and contradictory policies of the Caudillo.

II.

The historian Shlomo Ben Ami, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, underlined the paradox and the singularity of the position of the Caudillo. Conservative and pragmatic, the dictator, so often labeled “fascist,” did for the Jews what the major leaders of the democracies could not or would not do. Franco’s Spain saved, according to sources, between 35,000 and 60,000 European Jews. The Jews who were arrested, imprisoned and mistreated at the end of the Spanish Civil War were arrested because of their allegiance to communism or Freemasonry. Rare, if not exceptional, were the cases of Jewish refugees in Spain who were expelled or deported during World War II. Jews who arrived in Spain via the Pyrenean border were treated in the same way as the rest of the refugees. Until the Liberation, Spain granted asylum to all Jews who arrived illegally on its territory.

Freemasonry and Communism: Franco’s Two Main Targets

Franco’s real leitmotif was the international Masonic-Communist conspiracy. It is symptomatic that his book Masoneria (written, in 1950, under the pseudonym, Jakim Boor) begins with the words: “The whole secret of the propaganda campaigns unleashed against Spain rests on two words: masonry and communism.” Anti-communism and anti-masonry were more important to him than any other considerations

[Franco’s brother, the liberal and republican aviator Ramón Franco, hero of the Plus Ultra transatlantic flight, was a Freemason. It has often been claimed that the future Caudillo tried to join two Masonic lodges and that his application was rejected by his military peers. But this rumor has never been supported by tangible evidence].

Franco was an assiduous reader of the Bulletin of the International Entente against the Third International since the beginning of the 1930s. [The International Anti-Communist Entente or Against the Third International was created by the Swiss lawyer Theodore Aubert in 1924. It was a worldwide information network about the expansion of communism]. Franco had personally subscribed to this publication, which focused on the worldwide expansion of communism, from 1934. For him, communism was the most terrible danger to Christian civilization and the main scourge of humanity. His radical anti-communism explains his policy of friendly neutrality towards Germany (official neutrality, then non-belligerence) and his decision to send men to the Eastern Front. In his eyes, the Azul Division was the Hispanic replica of Stalin’s International Brigades. But it also allowed him to distance himself from the dyed-in-the-wool Phalangists, who were considered too cumbersome because of their economic and social revolutionism.

Franco’s second obsession was the role and action of Freemasonry in Spanish history. He saw it as a kind of “superstate,” an international, secret society with an occult and pernicious influence, a permanent threat to the Spanish nation, the main cause of the Peninsula’s disasters for over a century. His declarations, speeches and articles (published under the pseudonyms of Jakim Boor, Macaulay or Jaime de Andrade) leave no room for doubt. Until his death, his anti-communist and anti-Masonic convictions would remain firm, ineradicable. He made them two of the ideological pillars of his regime. And yet, if the Spanish Grand Orient counted a great number of political and military personalities among its members during the Second Republic, a not insignificant number of these Freemasons had chosen the cause of the national camp in July 1936.

It would be a caricature for a historian to consider only the few anti-Semitic statements made by Franco and to try to explain the policy and ideology of his regime by them. The Caudillo was one of the very few heads of state who protected the Jews of Europe during the Second World War. Numerous Jewish political and intellectual figures (including Golda Meir, Max Mazin, Elie Wiezel, Shlomo Ben Ami, Haim Avni, Chaim Lipschitz, Israel Singer, Isser Harel, Isaac Molho and Samuel Toledano) have testified to this and have even expressed their gratitude for his salvific action.

[Shlomo Ben Ami (1991), ambassador and later foreign minister; Golda Meir (Knesset, February 10, 1959) foreign minister and later prime minister; Max Mazin (1973) president of the Hebrew Association of Spain; Elie Wiezel (1990) writer and philosopher; Haim Avni (1982) professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Chaim Lipschitz (1970) historian; Israel Singer (2005) president of the World Jewish Congress; Isser Harel (1989) head of the Shin Bet and the Mossad; Isaac Molho historian; Samuel Toledano president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain].

The president of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, to name but one, said in 2005: “Franco’s Spain was an important refuge for the Jews who ventured to come, escaping from the France of liberty, fraternity and equality. I don’t want to defend Franco, but during the Second World War many Jews fled to Spain; and to ignore this is to ignore history.”

These unambiguous testimonies of Jewish personalities have nevertheless been swept aside and blamed on the ignorance of their authors by half a dozen historians at the turn of the 21st century. But can they be given more credence than the works and statements of historians, diplomats and politicians who, presumably, were not unaware of the meticulous investigations carried out by Mossad, one of the world’s most reputable intelligence agencies?

No Jews Expelled during World War II

As early as November 1940, Franco’s government recommended that Sephardic Jews residing in France declare themselves Spanish to avoid prosecution. The Caudillo used as the legal basis for his position a 1924 decree-law signed by Alfonso XIII, at the suggestion of the dictator general Miguel Primo de Rivera (the father of the founder of the Falange, José Antonio). According to this decree-law, all Jews of Sephardic origin who wished to do so could apply for Spanish nationality, regardless of their place of residence and nationality. During the Second World War, this decree allowed Sephardic Jews to register as Spaniards in any consulate or embassy, without conditions or limitations. Madrid was careful to point out that the 1924 decree, which had been promulgated under the Monarchy and the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera, was no longer in effect after the advent of the Republic (1931).

After the French defeat in 1940, the Spanish consulates were overrun by would-be exiles. They granted a transit visa to anyone who presented an emigration visa for another country, without distinguishing between Jews and non-Jews. Some 40,000 to 50,000 Jews went into exile, a large proportion of them via Spain, where 8000 to 10,000 settled permanently.

In 1942, the Spanish government took a new step. It granted passports and visas to the Jews of Europe in order to escape the anti-Semitic persecution of the various countries that were collaborating with National Socialist Germany. Spanish diplomats, ambassadors and consuls in Berlin, Paris, Marseille, Athens, Copenhagen, Vienna, Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Sofia, etc. intervened to ensure the rights of their new nationals. Priority was given to Sephardic Jews, but protection was often extended to Ashkenazim. Between 4,000 and 8,000 benefited from diplomatic protection, and at least 6,000 to 10,000 crossed the border illegally between 1942 and 1944. The result was serious financial and other problems in a country that had recently emerged from the civil war.

Over the last thirty years, various authors (including Antonio Marquina Barrio, Gloria Inés Ospina, Gonzalo Álvarez Chillida, Bern Rother, Danielle Rozenberg and Deborah Dwork) have denounced, often virulently, the Caudillo’s so-called humanitarian action as a myth, manipulation, disinformation and rehabilitation of Francoism. The regime’s policy was marked, according to them, by immobility, extreme slowness, minimal involvement, voluntary passivity, procrastination, delays and always the use of extremely restrictive selection criteria. As per these authors, Franco’s Spain was ultimately responsible for abandoning to a tragic fate many Judeo-Spaniards who could have been spared. According to these more or less militant historians, the number of Jews saved did not exceed 4,000 to 5,000 people (a low figure that only takes into account the refugees who benefited from the protection of diplomatic legations). Franco, they say, was not at all interested in the fate of the Jews. His only concern was to limit the Jewish presence in Spain and to avoid the risk of a permanent stay of potential enemies of the regime. In essence, they argue, far from responding to the philosemitic sensibilities of the Caudillo and his entourage, the very relative protection of the Jews was based mainly on the reason of State: the obsessive affirmation of Spanish sovereignty, the preservation of economic interests, the taking into account of German demands, the pressure of the Allies, the recommendations of Pope Pius XII and the evolution of the world conflict on the Eastern Front.

According to these authors, the merit was due exclusively to a few diplomats who had acted behind the backs of their superiors and even against the instructions they had received. The statements of these diplomats always minimized their role in favor of Franco and were all forced and coerced. However, the morality of one of the most prestigious and great servants of the State, Ángel Saenz Briz (when he was consul general in New York), cannot be doubted. When asked in 1963 by the Israeli historian Isaac Molho about the rescue of the Hungarian Jews, Saenz Briz “Righteous Among the Nations,” concluded his letter of reply with these words: “We were able to house several thousand hunted Jews, whose lives I can proudly say are owed to General Franco… And this is all I can say. If my story is useful in any way, I ask you to use it without mentioning my name, because I have no merit in it, having limited myself to carrying out the orders of my government and of General Franco.” [Letter of Sanz Briz to Isaac Molho (15-11-1963, AMAE, leg. R7649/14), cited in Isidro González García, Relaciones España-Israel y el conflicto del Oriente Medio (Madrid: Editorial Biblioteca Nueva, 2001), pp. 215-218].

Sanz Briz was knighted and made a commander of the Order of Isabel the Catholic, and he had a brilliant career as a diplomat, which he ended as Spanish ambassador to China and then to the Holy See.

Another interesting testimony is that of the diplomat Pedro Schwartz, son of the Spanish consul in Vienna who bore the same name. In 1999, he explained: “I was always amazed at the help Franco gave to the Jews persecuted by Nazism. The condemnations of the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy, which he was convinced endangered the very existence of Spain, did not come from his mouth. But as soon as the Civil War broke out, Franco and his ministers ordered the Spanish consular representatives to protect the Sephardim of the territories that fell under German control from discrimination and expropriation” (La Vanguardia Digital, May 4, 1999).

Franco’s, and his regime’s, assistance to the Jews of Europe during the Second World War is a historically established fact. Was it done without enthusiasm or sympathy? Was it the compassion of a convinced Catholic? Was it a timely gesture to improve the image of the regime and to obtain economic assistance from the United States? Was Franco inspired by his brother Nicolas Franco, ambassador to Portugal, whom he had commissioned, along with the Phalangist Javier Martinez de Bedoya, to negotiate with representatives of the World Jewish Congress? Did he feel closer to the Arab-Muslims, the majority of whose Moroccan leaders had also given him valuable support during the uprising? Did he consider himself primarily indebted to his Arab-Muslim comrades-in-arms, especially his friend General Mohamed Ben Mezian Belkacem? Did he feel resentful of the world Zionist organizations that had shown their sympathy for the Popular Front government? Did he give express instructions to his diplomats to protect the Jews? Did he simply turn a blind eye or tacitly consent to their action? So many questions that remain open to debate.

But the facts remain. Directly or indirectly, Franco helped the Jews during the Second World War at particularly cruel times. He renewed his consular protection in 1948 for the benefit of Jews in Egypt and Greece, then during the mass exile of Jews from Morocco (1954-1961. The Jewish population of Morocco, which amounted to about 230,000 in 1948, was no more than 10,000 in 1974); and again during the Suez affair (1956) and the Six Day War (1967).

At the end of World War II, the World Jewish Congress expressed its gratitude to the Spanish government “for its efforts;” but in 1949 Israel voted against suspending sanctions against Spain at the UN. The Caudillo felt the blow, published some articles under a pseudonym against the Jewish state, pursued a pro-Arab policy and refused to recognize the State of Israel.

But two days after his death, on November 22, 1975, a funeral service was held in his memory in the Hispanic-Portuguese Synagogue in New York, in the presence of representatives of the American Sephardi Federation, “for having had pity on the Jews.” Several Spanish diplomats, whose Francoist sympathies are unsuspected, such as the chargé d’affaires at the Budapest embassy, Ángel Sanz Briz, already mentioned, but also the first secretary of the embassy in Paris, then consul in Bordeaux, Eduardo Propper de Callejón, or the chargé d’affaires at the Berlin embassy, José Ruiz Santaella and his wife Carmen Schrader, were honored as “Righteous among the Nations” by the Yad Vashem Memorial.

[Among the diplomats of the Franco regime who were involved in these humanitarian actions were Francisco Gómez-Jordana and José Felix de Lequerica (Ministers of Foreign Affairs); Nicolás Franco (brother of Francisco Franco, ambassador in Lisbon); Javier Martínez de Bedoya (press attaché in Lisbon); Ginés Vidal y Saura (ambassador in Berlin); Sebastián Romero Radigales (Athens); Eduardo Propper de Callejón (Paris); José Ruíz Santaella (Berlin); Bernardo Rolland de Miota (consul general of Paris) later substituted by Alfonso Fiscowich; José de Rojas y Moreno (ambassador in Bucharest); Julio Palencia y Tubau (ambassador in Sofia); Miguel Ángel Muguiro (chargé d’affaires in Budapest); the Italian-Spanish Giorgio Perlasca (Budapest); Ángel Sanz Briz (Budapest); Pedro Schwartz (consul general in Vienna); Sebastián de Romero Radigales (consul general in Athens); Eduardo Gasset, Federico Olivan, Alejandro Pons, etc. On Franco’s diplomats see, María Jesús Cava Mesa, Los diplomáticos de Franco (Universidad de Deusto, 1989)].

There is no doubt that the dictator, of whom the vox populi said that “a fly could not fly without his knowledge,” was aware of the protection that they gave to the Jews in the midst of the turmoil. The truth, said the late Pierre Chaunu (a prestigious historian, Protestant and Gaullist) “is as nuanced and subtle as the life that God gives.”


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


The Revolution of the Stupid

History, said Ortega, is amusing, unlike Nature, which, mere repetition of itself, is boring. But historical amusement also includes tragedy. At this moment, apart from the fact that everything is degenerating to begin again, according to the law of anakyklosis described by Polybius, and the games with which the capricious goddess Fortuna entertains Clio, what is amusing now are the idiotic simplifiers, who remind us of the schreckliche Simplifikateure (horrible simplifiers)—Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.—whom Jacob Burckhardt saw coming and who “enlived” the 20th century. The new simplifiers, whose destructiveness does not even have any collective purpose, except rhetorically, are legion. They are people who were born stupid, attained the state of stupidity, or stupidity was thrust upon them. As Paul Tabori’s (1908-1974) tell us in his book, The Natural History of Stupidity [published in 1959 as The Natural Science of Stupidity, and then in 1993 as, The Natural History of Stupidity]: “Stupidity is Man’s deadliest weapon, his most devastating epidemic, his costliest luxury.”

Stupidity is also an important historical factor, sometimes the decisive one. But, like boredom and weariness, it has scarcely been studied as a cliopolitical category—perhaps because, as Napoleon is said to have said, surely thinking of his adversaries and enemies, “in politics, stupidity is not a handicap.” The revolution inspired by stupidity has distorted Karl Popper’s dream of an open society. To begin with, after the implosion of the USSR, stupidity confirmed the possibility of the end of history, naively diagnosed by Francis Fukuyama as the triumph of liberal democracy. In reality, it was what is generically called “social democracy,” disguised as liberalism in which reigns the “market of desire” of the “libertarian liberalism” of May 1968, denounced by the Marxist Michel Clouscard. The result is that many people today share the feeling that ill fare the lands of the West. It is already a cliché that the future of a demoralized Europe, given over to carpe diem, is dark and gloomy rather than disturbing. It is enough to bring to mind the moral and spiritual desertification and the plummeting birth rate, instigated by stupid governments, which will marginalize Europe from history.

[See Guillermo Mas Arellano, “Destruir la civilización: tres pensadores franceses” (“Destroying Civilization: Three French Thinkers”). In the press, it is becoming common to find allusions and articles about the stupidity or nonsense of politicians].

The stupid are narcissistic to a greater or lesser degree, and politics attracts narcissists like a honeycomb of rich honey attracts flies. But not enough attention is paid to their influence on politics and, therefore, on history. Karl Marx wrote in The Eighteenth Brumaire and Louis Bonaparte: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.” In other words, men make history without knowing what they are doing. The result depends on circumstances, on the protagonists and, fifty percent according to Machiavelli, seventy-five percent according to Frederick the Great, on chance. To say that one is on the right side or with the correct course of history is, then, stupidity (from stupidus, “dazed”), a concept that reduces the DRAE [Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language] to “remarkable clumsiness in understanding things.”

The present time is much more revolutionary than that of the Great French and Soviet Revolutions with the decisive interlude of the revolution of the intellectuals of 1848.

[Olavo de Carvalho: “the really decisive power is, in the long run, that of a priestly or intellectual order.” Once the intellectuals—Auguste Comte’s savants—became the ruling class, they began to spread more or less utopian ideas—beliefs, which ended up becoming ideas—beliefs that dissolved the European tradition of politics and led to totalitarianism: secularism, atheism, radical individualism, Freemasonry, nationalism, statism, interventionism, collectivism, socialism, communism, anarchism, racism, nihilism, etc.].

The present time is so abnormal that it has become normal to speak of the beginning of the reign of the Antichrist—the earthly Jerusalem—of the Apocalypse, of the Great Tribulation, or simply of the end of the world. Contributing recently to the spread of these prognoses are the real or supposed pandemic-business of the coronavirus and the scientistic myth of climate change in which even the singular Jesuit Pope Francis believes, “fascinated,” says Chantal Delsol, “by ecologist religion and post-Christian humanitarianism.”

Douglas Murray begins his widely read book, The Madness of Crowds [the Spanish translation of which bears the subtitle, How identity politics drove the world to madness]., with the phrase “we are going through a great crowd derangement.” Some brief annotations, comments and examples on the nature and importance of stupidity may be worthwhile, simply to draw attention to this possible cliopolitical category, which helps to understand, for example, that of misgovernment, both of which are nowadays practically normalized.

Polybius (200-118 B.C.) judiciously warned against attributing to divine intervention, events whose causes can be discovered to explain their origin and end. It is, therefore, pertinent to relate the existing confusion with the fact that societies that consider themselves “liberal” democratic are beginning to be, or are already, ochlocratic plutocracies, spiritually governed by Stupidita, a little known but very active ancient divinity, to whom Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) dedicated a valuable essay-homage

[The god of stupidity and insanity in Greece was Κοαλεμος (Coalemos in Latin), of whom little data is known and whose etymology is disputed].

Hans Blumenberg pointed out the craving for novelty as a distinctive feature of Modernity and according to Jacques Barzun, “the new is always the best” is its guiding principle. Parodying Schopenhauer, Nietzsche’s mentor, ex novo lux: the critique of customs, usages, the historical past, religious, moral, aesthetic and political traditions by the subjectivist metaphysics of modern rationalism (Heidegger), and the slogan of the French Jacobins who legally proclaimed “1789” the “Year Zero” of the new history of man freed from all the past—prepared the reign of Stupidity. “The vulgar progressivism that considers everything past as essential barbarism” (Ortega).

The cult of their own identity is a defining feature of the narcissism of the stupid. The admirers of themselves (the greatest vice of all is the vice of oneself, said C. S. Lewis—the “identity” politics of fashionable multiculturalism—”all the brains in the world are powerless against whatever stupidity is in fashion” [La Fontaine, 1621-1695])—confuse differences with “diversity.” Combined with the collectivization of idiocy—which makes the most idiotic idiots feel intelligent—it may be the best explanation of what has been called the suicide of Western civilization by auto-narcissism. What Oliver Cromwell said could be applied to progressive politicians—the majority: “A man never goes so far as when he does not know whither he is going.” But, if Richter is to be believed, the triumph of Stupidity could be “the long-sought universal remedy against all maladies”—a search intensified by intellectuals won over by the ideological mode of thought that has been competing with traditional religion since the Great Revolution.

Stupidity is highly contagious. Boileau used to say: “an imbecile always finds another imbecile who admires him.” Hence the mass of optimists—”optimism is the opium of the people” (Milan Kundera)—are prone to think that universal stupidity is the normal state of humanity, and the pessimists, better informed people, maintain that human stupidity is a mathematical constant.

Flaubert, author of the unfinished novel Bouvard and Pécuchet, concerned about the presence of stupid people everywhere, concluded, in the manner of Carl Schmitt, that “stupidity is the enemy“—a fact often overlooked by historians, without realizing that history is also, in a way, Koalemos’ fight against common sense. Which, fortunately, as Unamuno warned, was already the least common of senses in his time.

[Flaubert captured early on the essence of political correctness: they are “imbeciles, he said, those who do not think as you do”].

At present, everyone is intently media-watching, whether with censorship, self-censorship or even without censorship, which reveals, in their eagerness to appear transgressive, that Koalemos vincit. That is to say, they corroborate, in the words of Quevedo, that “all those who seem stupid, are stupid; and, moreover, so are half of those who do not seem so”—as it should be in advanced democracy, of which so much is said without knowing what it actually consists of.

The general cause is, as Lucien Jerphagnon recalled in his important book, La… sottise? Vingt-huit siècles qu’on en parle (Stupidity…? Twenty-eight centuries of talking about it), and the one pointed out by St. Augustine—stupidity is a consequence of Adam’s sin, and since man is a sinner, the stupid are the majority. This raises the dilemma of whether stupidity is democratic or that democracy itself is stupid. But given the truth that democracy is the realm of opinion, it can be inferred, for example, that it is the messianic export, urbi et orbi, from North America of the democracy prophesied by John Dewey as the religion of progress—the greatest revolution of all times, since it entails the universal reign of Koalemos, a reign in which the normal, common sense, is condemned, and what was once considered abnormal is innovative and transgressive and is thus praised as correct.

[“If stupidity did not look so much like progress, talent, hope, or improvement, no one would want to be stupid,” said Robert Musil, in “Über die Dummheit,” “On Stupidity” (1937)].

Those who are not on the right side of history, fortunately less and less, protest because the persecution of the sane, the normal, the usual is enforced, and the abnormal imposed, without understanding that it is what, finally, Koalemos gratias, should be normal.

The greatest danger of stupidity consists in politicis, in that it is not incompatible with being “cunning.” For “the probability that a given person is stupid,” judiciously writes Carlo M. Cipolla, “is independent of any other characteristic of the same person.” The stupid can be intelligent and “there are stupid men who possess vast knowledge,” said Tabori. A very serious problem, if Jean-Baptiste Molière was right, for whom “people are never so close to stupidity as when they think they are wise.” In this case, as “every form of intelligence has its form of stupidity” (Robert Musil), if the intelligent person thinks he is wise, he tends to detach himself from the reality in which he lives and to live in unreality. For example, inventing an ideology or ascribing to one, generally, if possible, democratic, as the socialist one claims to be, since every ideology has a utopian objective. This is what Julien Benda called “the treason of the intellectuals,” the modern clerics, who exchange the religious faith of the priests for faith in the uncertain. Today they usually officiate as organic intellectual priests dedicated to fostering collective stupidity.

[Charles de Gaulle said: “You can be sure that the Americans will commit all the stupid things they can think of, as well as some that are beyond imagination.” This is the case of President Biden and his cohort of cretinous leftists. The Mathematical Association of America has declared mathematics to be racist].

The stupid, said Jerphagnon, completing Flaubert’s observation, are those who ignore their own condition and consider stupid those who say or do something that does not please them, “so they are a very large family.” He recalls Plato’s confession to Simonides in the Protagoras, St. Augustine’s acknowledgment that the absolute majority of men—and women—are imbeciles, fools and idiots, and Descartes’ assertion that “we rarely have occasion to deal with completely reasonable people.” In short, “throughout history there have been people, and not exactly insignificant ones, who have denounced stupidity; it is possible to smell it everywhere and it floats in the atmosphere of all times,” with which Jerphagnon concluded his interesting inquiry.

It is necessary to distinguish, however, the normal stupidity of ordinary life, in which we all do stupid things, from the much more serious stupidity of the elites as such. The first, generally harmless, is like the sauce of life. It is a literary and theatrical theme—comedy as a specific genre—elevated to the rank of art by the cinema with Chaplin, Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel (“the Fat and the Skinny”), the Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis, etc. The second, that of the ruling classes, is on the other hand very dangerous; especially when it affects like a plague the strata of politicians and intellectuals. Then it is revolutionary—it operates as a highly contagious and destructive disease, capable of annihilating peoples suffering from stupid governments, especially if they are trapped in the forma mentis of ideology, which justifies and empowers the will-to-power of the stupid, tendentially narcissistic. Ideology is a partial truth that is presented politically as universal (Antonio García-Trevijano), with the utopian pretension of definitively reconciling with itself the human species, a group, even individuals, anxious to change their social position. As Gómez Dávila wrote in a short extract: “Ideas tyrannize those who have few;” and ideology fanatically guides those who achieve power with the support of the mass of fools who believe others who are less foolish. With the not infrequent collaboration of businessmen who take advantage of the stupidity of others. Ortega’s man-mass is the normal individual, sick with stupidity, led by the most astute.

[Richter: “Those who have most favored and nurtured the Stupidity of the people are those who have profited the most”].

The big problem is when the stupid rule, a revolutionary inversion of natural hierarchies. “The fool will be servant to the wise” (Proverbs 11:29). The inversion of the hierarchical order in public life is the reason why collective stupidity is today an expanding phenomenon, described as infantilization by those concerned with the spread and intensity of the phenomenon in everyday life.

John Paul II recognized that “stupidity is also a gift of God, but we must not misuse it.” A frequent motive is vanity, which often deviates or obscures intelligence. Then, the intelligent person aspires to be what he is not and acts stupidly, because “pride is a fairy that satisfies all the desires of the idiot” (Jean Paul Richter), a creature who always wants to be satisfied with himself. And since vanity, as Hobbes observed, is a frequent affliction of the politician, today we can speak of the predominance of the “idiot genus” because of the large number of politicians, required by bureaucratization in the statist governments, supported by the mass of the stupid. Moreover, idiots prefer the company of idiots. Karl Kraus used to say, “the secret of the demagogue consists in making himself as stupid as his audience so that they believe they are as intelligent as he is.” That is why it does not matter to the professionals of politics, political careerists of the demagogy that is presented as democracy, to promote manipulable fools, or to make themselves look like idiots in order to attract fools and increase their entourage with fools; and with clever people who pass themselves off as fools.

In addition, there is what Wilfredo Pareto said: in every political order, there is always a political, cultural and economic elite. And since the idiot is also his own best friend—stupidity with political and cultural power—today the media, is very profitable for economic oligarchies, especially if it is coupled with a lack of scruples and emotional appeals to humanitarianism. Well, humanitarianism justifies, for example, that the Herodian rulers and the innumerable idiots that inhabit the earth consider abortion progressive, the greatest, by far, of the genocides—it is usually already the first cause of mortality in many “advanced” countries—and euthanasia, another even more humanitarian genocide underway, which only benefits businessmen.

[Added to abortion as a contraceptive resource is the “need” to exterminate before birth those that Álex Navajas calls, “the climate killers,” because as the population increases, the damage to Mother Earth increases].

Carl Schmitt used to say about humanitarianism: Wer Menscheit sagt, will betrügen, he who appeals to humanity wants to deceive. The decadence of Europe, victim of the humanitarianism described by Robert Hugh Benson in 1907, in the apocalyptic novel Lord of the World, is often compared to that of the Western Roman Empire.

[It is curious that Pope Francis recommends this book from 1907, critical of Comte’s religion of humanity, a religion of sentiment. For example, the hymn of the Masons (“The Lord that dwells in earth and sea”) combines feelings and emotions that exalt humanitarianism, a secularization or politicization of Christian charity].

Various causes are adduced. Philippe Fabry argues, incorporating the interpretation of Mikhail Rostovtzeff to that of Montesquieu, that the main cause was the loss of freedom. Hanlon’s well-known principle or law—”one should not attribute to wickedness what is almost always the consequence of stupidity”—completes the explanation. But there is no shortage of evil idiots.

[Ricardo Moreno Castillo rightly adds that stupidity is more harmful: “Stupidity is more harmful than evil because it is easier to fight against the second (because it acts with a certain logic), than against the first (which lacks it ). You can talk to an evil person and even convince him that he could be much happier becoming a good person. A stupid person, on the other hand, is invulnerable to reasoning. If we could suppress the evil in the world it would be a little better. But if we could suppress stupidity, the world would be so much better” (Introduction, p.18).].

Historical experience teaches that men become stupid when their civilizations decay. Ortega recalled this precisely with regard to the Roman Empire. But it is doubtful whether it was stupidity, mainly that of the ruling oligarchies converted into decadent castes, that caused freedom to decay; or whether, on the contrary, it was the decadence of freedom that caused the intensification of collective stupidity. Probably both. What is certain is that the decadence and disappearance of cultures and civilizations owes much to stupidity.

It is written in Ecclesiastes (1:15): stultorum infinitus est numerus (as to fools, infinite is the number), a disputed translation of the Vulgate of St. Jerome, which coincides, however, with the phrase of the pagan Cicero in the Epistola ad familiares (9. 22. 4): stultorum plena sunt omnia, “all things are full of fools.” Assertions corroborated by Albert Einstein: “there are two infinite things: the Universe and human imbecility, but I doubt the former.” The intensity of politicization, driven by ideologization, unconscious or conscious promoter of stupidity as an interpreter of faith in Koalemos, proves it at this moment. Since religions are the key to cultures—a word related to cult—and civilizations, it is obvious that idiocy is incompatible with them and it is necessary to destroy them so that the god of stupidity may prevail. The religious founders, knowing what Ecclesiastes, Cicero, other sages and common sense said, wanted to improve the human condition. It is not strange that the psychiatrist, a lay substitute for the confessor, has become the family doctor, as faith in the biblical God migrated to the State and the market, as the American theologian William T. Cavanaugh says.

The politicization—”even the personal is political”—which substitutes religion for politics, affects first and foremost the ruling classes. The dumbing down by “the antiquarians of ideology” (G. Morán) and the maternal humanitarianism of feminist bio-ideologies (women are the most oppressed class according to Marxist-Leninist neo-faith) is beginning to be as evident as the influence of propaganda (no less humanitarianist, and, I might add, merciful—”the banalization of compassion,” says Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez de la Peña—”without ceasing to be destructive”) of the fourth estate, the media in the hands of “loquacious illiterates” (Alberto Buela). “Compassion, in this century, is an ideological weapon,” said Gómez Dávila in one of his famous scholia. A weapon easy to handle even by the stupidest, it is used by rulers and businessmen without the slightest scruple to attract and convince the masses they exploit.

Once religion, which provides security compatible with freedom, has been superseded by politicization, which creates uncertainty, one of the problems of “affluent societies” (J. K. Galbraith) consists, in fact, in the alliance between the political, cultural and economic elites against the people, at the time when The Revolt of the Masses (Ortega) and The Revolt of the Elites (Christopher Lasch) coincide. This alliance explains the influence of the manqué individual, who, as Michael Oakeshott observed, began to gain popularity and followers with the development of state capitalism—the only real “capitalism”—coinciding with the formation of the new estate of professional politicians, when the State, a technical apparatus, the artificial form of the Political, was affirmed. Professionalization that also explains the political rise of the eternal estate of the idiots. Against the first, the Jesuit Pedro de Ribadeneyra cried out in his Tratado de la religión y virtudes que debe tener el príncipe cristiano para gobernar y conservar sus Estados. Contra lo que Nicolás Machiavelo y los políticos de este tiempo enseñan [Treatise on Religion and Virtues that the Christian Prince must Have to Govern and Conserve his Realms, and Against what Niccolò Machiavelli and the Politicians of that Time Taught] (1595). Against the second, much more numerous, Richter testified in the essay in which he poses as the spokesman for Stupidity. “The begetters have played a role in our revolutions,” lamented Chateaubriand, incapable of understanding “the right side of history,” as former US President Obama, Nobel laureate for the extraordinary merit of being black, although there are hundreds of millions of blacks, liked to say.

Stupidity, said Voltaire, is “an extraordinary disease” of narcissists incapable of perceiving their own stupidity. Its peculiarity consists in the fact that, since “it is not the sick person who suffers because it, but others,” it becomes socially more dangerous than the dominion of the wicked, because, as Ortega pointed out, “the wicked sometimes rest; the fool never.” Indeed, the fool, a character unmistakable with the insane, the ignorant, the narrow-minded, the short-sighted, the illiterate or the uneducated in the conventional sense, has no limits.

[The famous wise Count of Keyserling liked to talk with the shepherds of Gredos and Baztán, whom he considered among the most cultured men in the world].

Cicero said the same earlier: “any man can make a mistake; only a stupid person keeps on doing the same thing.” And Einstein confirmed it: “the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has limits.” A scientific statement by whoever makes it, which excludes normal people guided by common sense, becomes the greatest enemy of stupidity—a reason for the stupid to try to extirpate it, when they achieve power. Hence the fifth rule of Cipolla’s little manual, in agreement with Moreno Castillo: “the stupid person is the most dangerous type of person that exists.” A rule applicable with reservations in private life, which multiplies the danger of fools when they act in public life, in which they are more and more numerous. Perhaps also as a consequence of the combination of humanitarian liberalism with democracy, in which everyone can give his opinion, although his opinion generally reproduces that of stupid people who spread the ideas of others among the multitude of fools by nature.

Indeed, in the democratic context, the stupid easily act as wise men. Heine observed during the German Vormärz: “the wise emit new ideas and the fools expand them.” One explanation may be that, according to the great philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, “almost all new ideas have a certain aspect of stupidity (or foolishness) when they are first produced.” The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa saw it differently: “no intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed with it.” Both views are reconcilable: the English journalist and historian Paul Johnson realized that the spread of moral relativism owes much to the interpretation and dissemination—obviously by fools—of Einstein’s theory of relativity, one of the origins of “post-truth” and the fact that, as the great statesman Felipe Gonzalez said, “in democracy, the truth is what the citizens believe to be true.”

The growing interference of fools in politics is surely the greatest danger to democracy. Almost two centuries ago, Tocqueville grasped that North America did not get along very well with excellence and meritocracy.

[Tocqueville’s fears have been realized. Tocqueville would not come out of his astonishment if he could see that, by one of those unforeseeable twists of history, America – which Hegel saw as an immature nation and Raymond Aron still said was not a nation – is one of the greatest dangers to freedom, while Russia seems to defend it. See Thomas Molnar. Le modèle défiguré: L’Amérique de Tocqueville à Carter (1978); Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008); R. R. Reno, Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West (2019); Zbigniew Janowski, Homo Americanus: The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy in America (2021)].

And Nietzsche, a critic of mass democracy, warned in 1872 against superficial, popularizing and reductivist pedagogy. But for almost a century now, “the conspiracy of the imbeciles” (the expression is by Jean-Paul Brighelli) has been dedicated to establishing “the predominance of the cretin.” The continuous pedagogical reforms to “democratize” teaching, especially since 1968, when the homo festivus et stupidus appeared on the scene, encourage collective idiocy.

[The pedagogical fashion consists of promoting the emotional and absurd investigations instead of teaching and training students in the fundamentals].

Bureaucratized Universities—bureaucratization, which may be necessary due to technique, idiotizes the administered when it is excessive—cultivate idiocy, which the new media, “the priesthood of the ruling class” (Zbigniew Janowski), spread like a contagious disease. Radio, cinema, television, internet, cell phones, tablets, telephones and the “entertainment industry” multiply infinitely the influence of the press of Heine’s time. Back then, the large number of illiterates protected people from cultural cretinism. Today, “to promote culture is to crown the mediocre,” said a pessimistic Gómez Dávila, who always kept in mind die schrekliche Simplifikateure that Jacob Burckhardt, one of his two “patron saints” (the other was the skeptical Montaigne), feared so much. “Stupidity is always there, one would realize it if one did not always think of oneself,” said Albert Camus, and the simplifiers fascinate fools with a bit of propaganda.

Even Noam Chomsky recognizes that “propaganda is to democracy what a club is to a totalitarian state.”

[Edward Bernays (1891-1995), Freud’s nephew who settled in the USA, is credited with the invention of the technique of public relations, and the origin of propaganda as a method, namely, marketing, to channel and “manufacture thought.” Bernays successfully organized a campaign to make women equal to men by encouraging them to smoke. See Bernays’ Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923), Propaganda (1928), Public Relations (1945), The Engineering of Consent (1955), and Philippe Darantière, Le techno-nihilisme. Idéologie du changement de civilization].

Pius XII warned in his Christmas radio message of 1944: “Propaganda models all souls after the same pattern, taking away their peculiarities and almost their very life. Even the differences in psychology and attitude between the sexes tend to diminish as much as possible. For all this, the people, which is essentially a great family of diverse but harmonious souls, gathered around what is common to them, disappears. And the mass emerges, with its great empty, collective, enslaved soul.” A mass composed of subjects—at least in Europe there are no other citizens than the politicians who rule in the parties—who live in a more or less virtual unreality, what has been called “metaverse” or metauniverse, the universe beyond. It is happening with the new generations, more and more infantilized. For the new media not only creates what Heimito von Doderer christened die zweite Realität, the second reality inhabited by “the digital idiot,” but it has exponentially increased the possibility of propagating theories and doctrines whose idiocy knows no bounds, while instilling fear of reality as the only truth.

Although violent totalitarian States or Governments still exist (today we must say patriarchal, masculine or sexist—Machiavelli, for example, is a “sexist” in the feminist new-speak) most, if not all the European States and Governments and those of the exsanguinated Christianity, are Sovietizers (Vladimir Bukowsky). Robert Spaemann marked them as totalitarian “liberals.” Rod Dreher calls “soft” totalitarianism, in Live Not by Lies, that which is being imposed in the United States, encouraged by the government of the left-wing cretins presided over by Biden, whose last resounding feat has been to provoke Russia led by Putin, the “satanic enemy” of the progressivism of the stupid.

[One difference between the USA and Europe and other countries is that, there, “the wicked,” led by former President Trump, another anti-progressive “Satan,” are enemies of the stupid].

Self-proclaimed liberal democrats states and governments promote—and finance—stupidity (not always intentionally but for stupidity’s sake) in education, in the media and through the infinite and increasingly maternal Legislation, which conditions behavior by idiotizing the way of acting and even speech, which, among other things, must be automatically emotive and inclusive.

Peter Sloterdijk does not believe that the capacity to think is being lost. What is happening is that life today does not invite us to think: we live in such a hurry that news is rushed through without giving us time to digest it. He is quite right.

[Karl Steinbuch published, in 1966, Die informierte Gesellschaft. Geschichte und Zukunft der Nachrichtentechnik (The Informed Society. History and Future of News Technology), on the need for society to be sufficiently informed. In 1989, he published Die desinformierte Gesellschaft: Für eine zweite Aufklärung (The Disinformed Society: For a Second Enlightenment), warning that the abundance of news was destroying education, whose disaster he predicted, and bewildering public opinion. In 1992, he published Kollektive Dummheit: Streitschrift gegen den Zeitgeist (Collective Stupidity: Polemic against the Zeitgeist)].

But it is a fact that, due in part to technological advances and sentimental humanitarian pedagogy (unfortunately without poetry, “the voice of the ineffable,” as Juan Ramón Jiménez used to say) collective stupidity is becoming widespread, encouraged and guided by governments which, aided and encouraged by the new technologies, are all practically totalitarian today—states in which, as experience shows, there is an abundance of functional illiterates and idiots in positions of command. But the stupid revolutionaries are generous. Bent on the noblest task of equalizing everyone, they impose educational laws to bring the new generations up to their level.

There are still subjects or administrators who think and complain that their governments treat them as imbeciles. But they do not realize how imbecilic are the supportive rulers, who want them to be equal to them. The skeptics who remain (and seem to be more and more in number because of the authoritarian if not tyrannical measures because of the coronavirus and the increase in taxes to defeat “sinister” climate change) fear that, if the rulers are incriminated for their wastefulness, kickbacks, bribes, vote-buying through subsidies, threats, excesses or other corruptions—defense lawyers could allege, as a mitigating or exonerating circumstance, that they are poor fools.

It is worth clarifying that collective stupidity or dumbing down is a very different phenomenon from the “weak thinking” described by Vattimo. It has been frequently observed since Robert Musil wrote that “freedom and reason… have not been in good health since the middle of the 19th century or a little later.” This was the time when, according to Whitehead, began the destruction of common sense, thanks to which stupidity was bearable. The manipulation of political language by Soviet agit-prop contributed effectively to its destruction. One of the first to notice a great regression in the intellectual level was precisely the Soviet dissident Aleksander Zinoviev (1922-2006), reconverted to communism when the USSR imploded, perhaps shocked by the superior stupidity of the supposedly liberal democracies.

[Cf. Michele Federico Sciacca, L’oscuramento dell’intelligenza; Alain Finkielkraut, The Defeat of the Mind; C. Castoriades, La Montée de l’insignifiance (The Rise of Insignificance). André Glucksmann held postmodernism responsible in La Bêtise (Stupidity), and Giancarlo Livraghi, The Power of Stupidity. On the relationship of postmodernism with the turn of socialism towards modal ideologies, typical of cretinocracy, see Stephen R. C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. The postmodern appears, Ernst Jünger mocked, when a woman puts on a new hat. Fashion, which is frequently a falsification of customs, is also often the cradle of stupidity, for fashionable stupidity is preferred to old-fashioned wisdom].

The propagandistic use of (pseudo)political language as common language, the “inclusive” language—”so a word out of the thought of the heart of man” (Sirach 27:7)—already makes it possible to legally punish the inconvenient or incorrect judgment with the very new and unlawful “hate crimes;” Orwell’s “thought crimes” in 1984. “The corruption of language reveals that of man,” said A. García-Trevijano; and the totalitarian powers want to coercively impose the language of stupidity as a common language, so that its corrupt nature is not noticed.

The rise of revolutionary cretinocracy is not attributable, however, only to the bureaucratization of politics by the ideological mode of thought—whose spirit is totalitarian—typical of the protective States of maternal tendency that treat their subjects as children. “Ideologies render to those who lack ideas the same service as wigs do to bald men” (Ricardo Castillo) and create sectarians and one-sided people who “have only certainties” (Bertrand Russell), while normal intelligent people are full of doubts. Mark Twain advised not to argue with the stupid so as not to be put on their level.

Bureaucracy—”the government of nobody” (H. Arendt)—is consubstantial to the State, a technical apparatus whose ratio, the status ratio, contributes powerfully to impose the quantitative culture of rationalism over the qualitative, aided by the social sciences, which confuse quantity with importance, as if in real politics everything had been decided in advance.

[See, René Guénon, The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. The ratio status, inherently interventionist, turned into l’ordre publique (public policy) of the Napoleonic État de Droit (rule of law), uses governance, a business technique adopted by the technocracy of the liberal Totalitarian State].

Bureaucracy is the form in which the State is personified by governments eager to “protect people from themselves” as Gunnar Myrdal recommended to his government, perhaps inspired by the biblical saying that the number of fools is infinite, even if they are Swedes, to establish the “Empire of Good” described by Phillipe Muray. Unbelieving, Sloterdijk ironizes: “so many civil servants allow the State not to be seen.”

“The fool is greedy, envious, petty,” said Unamuno. And Voltaire and Ortega failed to add that, if the stupid have power, they easily become, without realizing it, scoundrels. To achieve the noble goal of equalizing everyone in idiocy, the bureaucracy commanded by the stupid is concerned about culture and civilization, which reflect the identity of a people with itself. Hence, its direction is entrusted to direct and indirect nomenklaturas in which swarm more or less fatuous fools, madmen [perhaps because there is no shortage of insane people, Alain de Benoist generalizes and considers the stupid to be insane], organic intellectuals and non-venal intellectuals who still believe, no longer in the goodness of socialism, but in that of communism, promoted in part by the UN, and by “experts,” advisors, specialists, convinced of, or feigning, their moral superiority—careerists and crooks, rogues, knaves, criminals and international financial mafias, who exploit emotions. Fools instinctively corrupt culture to assert themselves in power, as is happening at the moment, when children are perverted, for example, with the Bolshevik argument that “children do not belong to their parents.” [Are they res nullius or state property? If they belong to the State, does the State copulate?]

According to Cipolla’s third rule, “a stupid person is a person who causes harm to another person without at the same time obtaining a benefit for himself, or even obtaining a harm.” And since stupidity is now a contagious pathology so widespread that it can be called a pandemic, we are beginning to talk about the urgency of a movement to survive what can be considered the pathological religion of stupidity. Rémi Brague blames the phenomenon on the failure of the modern project, describable as the planning of the future in imitation of Creation, implicit in the Pelagian “New Christianity” of the Count of Saint-Simon, “the father of planners” (Wilhelm Röpke), creditor of Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Mao and other progressive atheists. The renewing principle of techno-scientific Christianity reads: “Religion must direct society towards the great goal, which consists in obtaining as rapidly as possible an improvement in the lot of the poorest class.” As this religion tends to equalize, this explains its success among the supporters of social justice, despite the fact that there are also degrees of stupidity among equals.

Brague, who suffers from the reactionary disease of preserving common sense, wonders if there is any sense in the existence of human beings in the context of the culture planned by what skeptics call the “international of stupidity,” very well represented by the virtuous tyranny of the stupid “counterculture” of woke bio-ideology. The progressivism of the fools who exploit the clever, which politically functions as the Maoist wing of the “robolution,” as they say in Cuba. Robolutionism that aspires to destroy culture—the key is the “sexual revolution”—by imposing its particular nihilistic, rather than Marxist, conception of morality and culture. Thomas Sowell published in 1999 the very current Barbarians inside the Gates.

Morality, the ethos, depends on the religious beliefs that concretize and fix, in a certain way, the customs and uses, that is to say, the Law, the aesthetics, etc. But the invading morality of our days is not the same as the one we knew, warns Alain de Benoist in Les Démons Du Bien (The Demons of the Good). From the new moral order to gender ideology.

It is possible to synthesize the new morality of the new culture imposed by the stupid ungovernments in that of the aforementioned woke fashion. Spread from California as a “counter-sexuality” to free the human being from sexuality (we must be idiots, agree the reactionaries and libertines), replacing it with other pleasures, such as the love of trees and plants. The devaluation of the body thrives in the environment of the “age of digital dementia,” observes Juan Manuel de Prada.

[The idea of contrasexuality, which already has many followers in the world of idiots, seems to have been suggested by Michel Foucault, who was homosexual].

The new morality of the imbeciles is a mutation of the “anti-fascist” puritanism of the pathological political correctness prevailing in the immature “Imperial Republic” (R. Aron) to which one could apply Dostoyevsky’s phrase “tolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be forbidden to think in order not to offend the imbeciles.”

Saul David Alinsky, Tolstoy according to Thomas Mann and other influences adapted Marxism-Leninism to the United States, which is today the champion of “cultural Marxism,” Neo-Marxism that has little of Marx. Marx, who was not an idiot, said he was not a Marxist (je ne suis pas marxiste); and to be a Marxist today is a symptom of incurable idiocy. “The poor,” recognizes the French Marxist Thomas Piketty, “no longer vote for the left,” which is usually the preferred choice of idiots fascinated by the myth of social justice that legitimizes the robolutionaries. But the American mercantile spirit, just as it once led democratic anti-Bolshevism, now exports profitable pathological nonsense, also democratic, such as equating the foolish with the clever through Calvinist political correctness, and revives supposedly Marxist movements such as Black Lives Matter, but in the Nazi version, which substitutes class for race. An amusing trick of Fortuna with the permission of Clio, so that Hitler retrospectively defeats Stalin and the communists clinging to the dogma of the class struggle.

Racist identity movements are subsidized—as before in the USSR of the class struggle—by big businessmen, financiers and multinationals, generally from the US, attracted by the profitable, fashionable stupidity (secular and political ideologies and religions are today fashions) of the “woke culture,” which cultivates the ego of idiots by increasing their self-esteem, and by “cancel culture” of the hyper-individualism of “woke capitalism”—another way to ruin the hated middle classes to control the economy and establish the messianic New World Order of the rich. For, as Cavanaugh says, “the ‘one world’ ideology only really benefits those who own capital, which can move freely across borders.” The stupidity of the fashionable counterculture can be very profitable. On the occasion of the coronavirus pandemic—skeptics call it, Plandemic—there is talk of a political-media-pharmaceutical conspiracy to make multi-million dollar deals by taking advantage of global stolidity.

[The New World Order of globalism seems like a whim of greedy, conceited, stupid or bored billionaires—four things not incompatible—mainly North Americans, grouped around or led by the Zionist George Soros. One of his dangerous diversions is the harassment of Putin, a supporter of the traditional order].

It is worth commenting on the case of Spain, before concluding these notes. It is an unbeatable example of the first fundamental law of human stupidity enunciated by Carlo Cipolla: “each one of us always and inevitably underestimates the number of stupid individuals circulating in the world.” Ungoverned by the successive governments of the Monarchy of Parties, increasingly stupid, Spain constitutes an excellent example of the capacity of political stupidity to move mountains.

[“When the dictatorship disappeared in Spain due to the death of its incumbent, the different species of fools became evident,” writes Moreno. As the stupid are not indifferent to money, encouraged by Mr. Solchaga, minister of Mr. Felipe Gonzalez, a lawyer practicing as a statesman, they began to throw cash around to control the economy and get rich].

Indeed, the Kingdom of Koalemos’ Stupidity managed to establish itself in Spain perhaps more solidly than in other countries, taking advantage of the third reinstatement of the Bourbon Dynasty, by skillfully using the Preamble of the 1978 Carta Otorgada (Charter of Grant), certainly not the Constitution, since, prudently, political freedom was not returned to the people, and replaced by the right to vote ritually for the parties. Renan said that human stupidity is the only thing that gives an idea of infinity. And the Preamble suggests, precisely as a guideline, to establish an “advanced” democracy in order to progress infinitely.

[Reinstatement is not the same as restoration. The first modern Reinstatement was that of Fernando VII, the second that of Alfonso XII and the third that of Juan Carlos. In fact, there was a fourth fleeting Reinstatement, that of Amadeo de Saboya, which implied a change of dynasty. Some believe that the awarding of the Order of Charles III to the podemite Pablo Iglesias and other politicians loyal to Sanchismo by Felipe VI, has dealt the coup de grace to the Crown].

Influential monarchists foolishly recommended the convenience of a “pass to the left”—for which the naive and the foolish instinctively voted—in order to consolidate the Monarchy. [For the third time in less than 175 years and, in fact, at the expense of the Zeitgeist, republican and democratic].

In fact, an oligarchic consensus was instituted, like the social-democratic one existing in Europe, with a modernizing left wing around the Socialist Party, undoubtedly the one preferred by the King, “engine of change,” which included resuscitated separatists and communists, and a contemporizing right wing, of the “center”—judging by the facts, a branch of the socialist party to fix the economic flaws and control the dissenters. The Monarchy of Parties chopped up the Nation in the Charter of Grant according to the principle divide et impera, the “modernization” fostered collective stupidity and reduced politics to a razzle-dazzle between the consensual parties, in fact, a uni-party. Finally, the most idiotic people of the Kingdom have come to power, who surpass in totality the undeveloped stupidity of Dr. Zapatero and his entourage—the incapable Dr. Sanchez and his stupid females and stupid males.

[See, Y. Couceiro, “La superioridad moral de los necios,” La tribuna del pais vasco (13. IX. 2018). The moral superiority of the socialist religion lies in the fact that it conceives politics as a civil war to definitively redeem humanity—a bloodless war, by means of legal revolution in pacifist socialisms, or a bloody war, as necessary, in its most radical varieties, the communist and the anarchist, also with different variants. Mr. Zapatero resumed the Spanish Civil War by inventing the law of Historical Memory and other legislation. Dr. Sanchez aspires to win this civil war definitively, without knowing how far he is willing to go. The precedent that opened the way was the politicization of the judiciary by Mr. Gonzalez, Charlemagne Prize winner in 1985, deservedly praised by Hispanic and many non-Hispanic idiots].

The problem of Spain, which began in 1711 with the Bourbon establishment and worsened since the Spanish War of Independence (the Peninsular War), consists in the fact that, as the stupid men and women in power only know how to play at destroying, in the first place, culture and, with it, the State that supports them, the Nation is finally in a position of religious, moral, aesthetic, political, social, economic, sexual, demographic crisis. And as a Nation about to be extinguished.

[Thanks to the power of the sacralized State—and the complacent failure of the Church—they can declare a sin against Stupidity a crime in civil terms for whatever they can think of. For example, hate crimes or opposition to abortion].

The current misgovernment is “100% integrated by a cast of intellectually disabled people” (F. Jiménez Losantos dixit), practically all of them confessed republicans in a State that is formally monarchic. In order to celebrate them as they deserve in the elephantine, corrupt and absurd State of the Autonomous Communities, new ministries, general directorates, institutions, etc. have been invented. The final objective seems to be to restore Hispanic-American unity by integrating into the 21st century socialism bloc, nostalgic of the much-missed Soviet Union, and as a victim of satanic capitalism, apparently an enemy of Koalemos.

[Cf. Royal Decree 1150/2021 of December 28 (B.O.E. 31. XII. 2021) by which the Sanchez government authorizes itself—just like the famous Ermächtigung Gesetz of March 24, 1933, which granted Hitler full powers—to dictate the measures it deems appropriate to guarantee National Security].

The citizens suppressed for more security by the socialist party’s decree of a civil war nature, like all socialisms, the definitive death of Montesquieu and The Spirit of the Laws [since the division of powers is fictitious, Montesquieu’s fundamental rule is also violated, as in all liberal totalitarianisms: “The tax on goods is the tax of freedom. The tax on persons is the tax of servitude.” A tax against the family, one of the limits that Bodin—the theoretician—placed on state sovereignty, and concentrated in the Marxist social-democratic tax on income]—the objective of the successive monarchical governments seems to be, at least from a certain moment, the Kulturkampf necessary to put the Nation at the forefront of the age, led by progressive ideologies, such as bio-ideologies, enemies of the antiquity of common sense and the ratio status. The main ones are: the misandric or gender one, which, stricto sensu, is limited to defending the legitimate human right of women to be idiots, even if Putin says it is “a perfect phantasmagoria,” and in a broader sense defends, for example, legally regulating the menstrual cycle; the ecologist, defender of the Earth against human perversity that chokes it with CO2-impregnated fumes; the hygienist, health or sanitary (greatly strengthened by the support of the churches—vaccination is “an act of love,” they say in the Vatican) favoring dictatorship (assuming vaccination is necessary) to tyranny (if it is unnecessary) to combat the coronavirus flu.

[Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg and President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has asked for a Covid passport to be required for access to religious services. Where is the Church “on the move” headed? National Socialism invented the “public health policy”—the function of the WHO—which suppresses the natural right or freedom of the individual to decide about his body and the way to heal himself].

These three ideologies are mothers of the LGTB and all the other letters, of the “counter-sexualist”—there is a ministry in charge of an energetic sexual commissar, who sings the truths to the dawn star—the animalist—there is a general direction for everything related to animals (it is not clear if it includes or excludes “politicians,” perhaps because the director has not heard of Aristotle), “ecosexualism” (love to/and with trees and plants), climate change (a branch of ecologism)—the fight against fumes including cow flatus, as well as Pachamamalogy, which enjoys a certain appreciation in ecclesiastical environments, etc. They have the undeniable merit of creating numerous bureaucratic jobs that remedy structural unemployment, which remains fixed as the highest in Europe (at this moment double the European average) since the “transition” began.

Everything points to making Spain the universal example of how collective stupidity can triumph, undoubtedly, the ideal way to advance democracy in order to establish die wahre Demokratie, the true democracy—something like the Kingdom of God in the land of the Puritans of the Fifth Monarchy—dreamt of by Karl Marx as the goal of all socialisms, the desire-mandate to which the Law of the [anti]historical Memory, popularly known as the “Law of the Hysterical Revenge,” points to—the Law that the socialist misgovernment of Dr. Sanchez (of course, a democrat, since the democracy of the stupid can only be socialist or communist) calls with more precision of “Democratic Memory.” Typical laws, with which, as Richter says, “the idiot forbids reason to go beyond memory,” in order to channel peacefully in the correct march of history towards universal stupidity, those who are not yet idiots as they should be and the new generations—if there are any, given the fall in the birth rate, encouraged, with the help of propaganda, by the high taxes that punish families so that they become idiotic and do not procreate.

The nature of the political consensus among the oligarchies is obviously very different from that of Cicero’s consensus omnium, the social consensus determined by the ethos that unifies the peoples. It has ensured that, even if the Nation is not totally idiotized, it is at least in the hands of so many fools, childish people, even for their age, as it has never been before. Without lacking the resentful, delinquent, wicked and everlasting careerists, who always come to the honeycomb of rich honey that are Budgets. O tempora, o mores! The time of stupid apprentices of the customs of Ali Baba and his gang, in “a country,” laments a reactionary journalist, “inert, anesthetized, stupefied, dumbfounded and something like a fool.”

The politics of the transition (“transaction” Jesús Fueyo specified) to the Monarchy in which the Church “became mute,” as Tocqueville said of the French in The Ancien Régime and the Revolution, is, for the reactionaries entrenched in common sense, a mess characterized by the disputes between the traditionally anti-national or anti-Hispanic left—converted, again Koalemos gratias, to Latin Americanism, an expression more stupid and, therefore, more correct than Hispano-Americanism—and the social-democratic left that acts as a centrist “right.” Democracy—”the sovereignty of a people over its destiny” (J. Fueyo)—identified with outdated anti-Francoism, awaits its turn. In the meantime, democracy, Yeah!

The secret of the consensus between the left and the fetish of the center is that, as Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994) perceived, the right and left “have signed against the reactionary [in the sense of the one who reacts] a secret pact of perpetual aggression.” Consensual Hispanics do, in fact, reasonably brand people, groups or parties that are not in tune—those that do not accept, for example, the decomposition of the oldest nation in Europe, or oppose the culture of death—as being extreme right-wing. This is a very logical curse-argument, since the “right” is the right wing of the oligarchic consensus. They are also labeled as Francoists or “faças.” The apothegm, says Amando de Miguel, of historical fascism, “well, there is no other,” “everything within the State; nothing outside the State.” An apothegm from which the anti-politics of the misgovernment (which perhaps borders on criminality, as long as the penal code is not duly modified to adjust it to the ethos of the kingdom of Koalemos) of the rulers, acolytes and plugged-in members of the PSOE Sanchista, standard-bearer of Stupidity, benefits from.

“If there are no completely intelligent men, there are completely stupid ones,” writes Moreno Castillo. Most of the completely stupid have integrated into the new socialism—socialisms attract fools—and the reactionaries, who are not even stupid, since they live in a world apart—perhaps they do not even vote—say that politics has turned Spain into a dunghill. Some scornfully equate the progressive Kingdom of Spain to the solidly established Kingdom of Peronia, laus Koalemos, in Argentina, from where it radiates imperially to the whole world, together with its Venezuelan partner and the Cuban luminary.

Having practically finalized these flash-notes, the leadership of the right wing of the socialist party, led by characters so infantile and stupid that they have committed political suicide, imploded. In principle, it was not a mere incident in the race to advanced democracy. As Dr. Sanchez also imploded the socialist party, not to improve it, which is certainly impossible, but to re-found it as PSOE and Co. [Probably following Peter Drucker’s advice when a business enterprise is going badly, Sanchez has a doctorate in economics]—the disappearance of the monopoly of consensus by the two original dynastic parties leaves the Monarchy of Parties out in the open. The historian Pedro González Cuevas writes in his recent book: “Felipe VI and his descendants have the future against them. And the fact is that, unlike his father, they have nothing to offer either to the left or to the nationalists.” The reaction of the subjects to the crisis of the self-styled popular party, which for many has become unpopular, reveals a certain weariness with the concentration of stupid people in the political class. However, judging by the symptoms, the popular party will continue to be the unpopular coryphaeus of the socialist party and its associates.

Finally, everything is unknown in the struggle between stupidity and common sense. Will neuroscience and the fashionable artificial intelligence intensify the permanent revolution that is leading the West to dumbness and servitude, and will they obtain the universal remedy so that everybody will definitely be an incurable idiot? The traditional magister vitae, history, would cease to be a work of art (Ranke); the new history would finally be the story of the vicissitudes of Stupidity and those still capable of thinking, residing in the paradises of the stupid, would have to console themselves by imagining, like Blaise Pascal, the joy of living in an intelligent hell.

[With corrections to the version published in Razón española, no. 232 (July-August 2022), and with thanks to Arnaud Imatz].


Dalmacio Negro Pavón (Madrid, 1931) has been professor of History of Ideas and Political Forms in the Faculty of Political Science and Sociology at the Complutense University of Madrid and is currently professor emeritus of Political Science at the CEU San Pablo University. He is also a full member of Real Academia de Ciencias Morales y Políticas (the Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences). He has translated and edited several classic works of German, English and French political thought. His many books include El fin de la normalidad y otros ensayos (The End of Normality and Other Essays), La ley de hierro de la oligarquía (The Iron Law of Oligarchy), Lo que Europa debe al Cristianismo (What Europe Owes to Christianity), Il Dio Mortale. Il Mito dello Stato tra Crisi Europea e Crisi delle Politica (The Mortal God: The Myth of the State amidst the European Crisis and Crisis of Politics), and La tradición de la libertad (The Tradition of Liberty).


Featured: “An Allegory of Folly,” by Quinten Massys; painted ca. early 16th century.

The School of Salamanca: Origins of Political Economy and International Law

At the beginning of the 16th century, Salamanca was a city of 20,000 to 24,000 inhabitants, with about 7,000 students (today there are 145,000, of whom 30,000 are students). Founded in 1243, the University of Salamanca is the third oldest university in Europe. In the Golden Age (1492-1681), Spain was the country with the largest number of university students in Europe.

The reputation of the University of Salamanca grew stronger from the 15th century onwards. It became a center of intellectual influence, the symbol of the Renaissance and of Spanish humanism. The great figures, such as Antonio de Nebrija, Fray Luis de Leon, St. John of the Cross, Luis de Gongora and many others studied there. Unlike the Universities of Valladolid and Alcala (the vanguard of Spanish Erasmism), which were mainly focused on theology, Salamanca was also oriented towards legal, political and economic studies. However, the School of Salamanca was above all a theological movement that had as its primary objective the renovation of theology.

[The two most complete works on the School of Salamanca are those of Juan Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca y la renovación de la teología en el siglo XVI, and Miguel Anxo Pena González, La Escuela de Salamanca. De la Monarquía hispánica al Orbe católico].

The theological humanism of the School of Salamanca, and more broadly of the Hispanic Neo-Scholastic school (the scholastic tradition going back to the University of Paris founded around 1200), was an original synthesis of Thomism, Scotism and nominalism, enriched successively by Dominicans, Jesuits and Franciscans, but also by Augustinians, Mercedarians, Carmelites, secular priests, jurists and laymen. The period of its full flowering was from 1526 to 1604; thereafter, its influence declined and finally died out in 1753. At its peak, the trend in favor of Thomism as an orthodox line was very strong; but in the sixteenth century the intellectual atmosphere was open enough to allow the expression of very different concerns and visions. To illustrate this atmosphere, it is worth recalling that the universities of Salamanca, Alcala, Valladolid and Osuna were familiar with the work of Canon Copernicus, who defended heliocentrism with De Revolutionibus (1543). Its study was optional at the University of Salamanca in 1561 and its teaching was compulsory from 1594 onwards. This situation was not exceptional in sixteenth-century Spain, since the Casa de la Contratación de Indias, an institution created in 1503 to promote navigation, had a large team of royal astronomers and cosmographers fully aware of European astronomy.

[Eugenio Bustos, “La introducción de las ideas de Copérnico en la Universidad de Salamanca,” Revistas de la Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas naturales (67), pp. 235-253].

Francisco de Vitoria (1483-1546), the Master of Masters

It was the Dominican Francisco de Vitoria (1483-1546), who first contributed to the prestige of the School of Salamanca. Vitoria came from a family of converts. He first studied at the Universities of Burgos and La Sorbonne. He was thirty years old when he left Paris and returned to Spain. He first went to the University of Valladolid, then arrived in Salamanca in 1526, where he remained until his death.

[Since the 1980s, studies on Francisco de Vitoria have multiplied. In fifteen years (1980-1995), Ramón Hernández Martín (author of Francisco de Vitoria. Vida y pensamiento internacional) estimates no less than one hundred works have been published. See in particular, Francisco Castilla Urbano, El pensamiento de Francisco de Vitoria. Filosofía política e indio americano, and Simona Langella, Teología y ley natural. Estudio sobre las lecciones de Francisco de Vitoria].

The School of Salamanca, or “Hispanic School” (since there were many of its followers in Hispanic America), was not the result of a deliberate plan, or of a well-established project. It was a current of thought that was spontaneously created around a master. And this master-founder was Vitoria. For him, as for all his followers, if power is necessary for the State, its raison d’être and its finality can only be the common good. The Pauline idea that power comes from God was accepted by the whole of Christianity, but it gave rise to two opposing interpretations. For some, the monarch governs and imposes laws in an absolute manner, by direct delegation from God (a point of view later developed by James I of England and by Bossuet). In Spain, however, it was quite different, since the idea outlined by Isidore of Seville (560-636) at the time of the Hispano-Visigoths—that the monarch or the dominant oligarchy does not receive power directly from God, but indirectly through the people. This conception was theorized and concretized by the great masters of the School of Salamanca in the 16th and 17th centuries. In other words, for Vitoria, Francisco Suarez, Luis de Molina and so many other Neo-Scholastic authors, God does not grant power directly to the monarch, but only to the people, who freely transmit it to the king by means of a pact that can be modified. The power is “of human right;” it is not directly divine, and it can be more or less ample, according to a free pact. The king is not a mediator between the will of God and the people, but rather the people are.

Vitoria’s freedom of expression from his chair is astonishing. An example: the instrument that Spain brandished to exercise its dominion over the Indies was a bull of Pope Alexander VI, which gave the Crown of Castile a right over the lands and inhabitants of the Indies. However, in two of his famous re-readings (Relectiones) De Indis and De jure belli (1539) [Francisco de Vitoria, Leçons sur les Indiens et sur le droit de guerre. trans. Maurice Barbier, o.p., (Libraire Droz, 1966)], Vitoria simply asserts that the Emperor is not the master of the world and that the Pope is not the lord of the planet either. According to Vitoria, the papal bull does not legitimize either the conquest or the discovery. He asserts that the property of the Indians does not belong to the monarch, nor to the conquistadors, and that the Spaniards do not have the right to get their hands on the gold of America or to exploit the wealth of the continent against the will of the Indians. The emperor, he says, rules over a community of free peoples. Imperial laws are only just insofar as they serve to promote, conserve, and protect the indigenous people.

What are the illegitimate and legitimate titles of domination and conquest according to Vitoria? Illegitimate are the alleged powers of the Emperor or the Pope over the world; the right of discovery; the violation of natural law by the natives (anthropophagi, human sacrifices, incest, homosexuality, etc.); the acceptance of foreign domination by a minority of the rulers and the ruled; and finally, the alleged special gift of God. Legitimate only are: the right of people and the right of natural communication; the right to preach and to announce the Gospel freely; the tyranny of the native rulers, the agreement of the majority of the natives; the alliance and the call for help from friendly peoples; and finally, a point that seems to be debatable—the temporary incapacity of the natives to administer themselves. One sees that paradoxically the arguments that justify today the right of interference (the possibility for international actors to intervene in a State, even without its consent, in case of massive violation of human rights) are not so far from his own.

In short, according to Vitoria, the Indies should be considered a political protectorate. A protectorate justifiable only insofar as it serves the welfare of the indigenous peoples. On the other hand, Vitoria and his followers generally agree that individuals who have never been Christians should not be forced to become so.

The reaction of the Emperor, Charles V, was remarkably debonair and peaceful. He limited himself to sending a letter to the prior of the convent of San Esteban in Salamanca to urge his colleagues to show a little more restraint and caution in expressing doctrines that might offend the dignity of the Emperor and the Pope.

In his 13th lesson, De jure belli, Vitoria redefines the theory of just war, developed until then by Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas. He states his three principles: One should not seek the occasions and causes of war, but should live in peace with men; the rejection of the Gospel is not a reason for just war. War should not be waged for the loss of the enemy, but for the defense of one’s country and so that peace may result. It is necessary finally to have a just proportion between the violation of the right and the evils generated by the war, and to benefit from victory with measure and moderation.

If Francisco de Vitoria is often considered the founder of international law, it is not because he invented the notion of the law of nations, the jus gentium (the Greeks and the Romans already used, in the relations between States, elements of a true system of international law, later developed by Saint Augustine, Saint Isidore and Saint Thomas), but because Vitoria was able to discover the fundamental laws of relations between men. His genius was to consider the law of nations as a natural law, common to all men and to all States.

The Disciples of Vitoria

A whole group of scholars soon became part of Vitoria’s lineage. About twenty names are famous, but about 80 deserve to be studied. They soon became the moral conscience of the Empire. Among them: Domingo de Soto, known for his theory of money and his renovation of the law of nation /jus gentium; Melchor Cano, who advised King Philip II to resist the temporal claims of the Pope; Tomás de Mercado, who studied the commercial exchanges between Spain and the Indies; Martin de Azpilcueta, former rector of the University of Coimbra, who was the first economist to correctly analyze the process of inflation caused by the influx of precious metal from the Indies.

To these names should be added those of Juan Gil de Nava, Pedro de Sotomayor, Juan de la Peña, Mancio de Corpus Christi, Bartolomé de Medina, Domingo Bañez, Juan de Guevara, Luis Sarabia de la Calle, Fray Luis de León, Diego de Covarrubias y Leiva, Bartolomé de Medina and Juan de Maldonado. Then, the names of a second generation, to which belonged the Jesuits Luis de Molina (who taught in Madrid and Coimbra), Juan de Mariana, and especially Francisco Suarez (1548-1617). The economic thought of these authors was new and original. Domingo de Soto maintained that the wealth of nations came from exchange and not from the accumulation of precious metals. He was thus clearly opposed to mercantilism.

[Raoul de Scorraille, François Suárez de la Compagnie de Jésus, d’après ses lettres, ses autres écrits inédits et un grand nombre de documents nouveaux, 2 vols.; Joseph H. Fichter, Man of Spain: A Biography of Francis Suárez; José Manuel Gallegos Rocafull, La doctrina política del P. Francisco Suarez (Jus, 1948); Mateo Lanseros, La autoridad civil en Francisco Suarez (IEP, 1949); Reijo Wilenius, The Social and Political Theory of Francisco Suarez (Societas philosophica Fennica, 1963); Jean-François Courtine, Nature et empire de la loi. Études suaréziennes; and A. Couartou-Imatz, La souveraineté populaire chez Francisco Suarez (Faculté de droit de Bordeaux, 1974)].

Luis de Molina explained that the right price is the price of competition, of the game of supply and demand; that the value attributed to things is subjective and not objective, as Marx, and Ricardo before him, would later say. For Molina, the right price is the market price; it is the abundance or scarcity of goods that determines their price and not the costs of production, work or risk, as was believed in the Middle Ages (via Duns Scott).

The masters of the Salamanca school criticized excessive taxation and price controls. Price controls can and should only be exceptional. They also clearly defended property, which is necessary for social peace; to deny it, to refuse it, according to them, is a heresy (Domingo de Soto), but it is not absolute; it can never be detached from its social function.

The thinkers of Hispanic Neo-Scholasticism condemned usury, but accepted moderate interest. They were therefore attacked, on the one hand, by Protestants and Catholics who demanded a return to the purity of the Church’s doctrine and who reproached them for softening the prohibition, and, on the other hand, by secular authors who accused them of hypocrisy because they sought exceptions to the principle.

These thinkers also made a distinction between citizens and foreigners. Luis de Molina is the very example of the scholastic author who today offers arguments to defend restrictions on the international market and immigration.

After the Dominican Francisco de Vitoria, the most famous author of the School of Salamanca is the Jesuit Francisco Suarez (1548-1617). His work was known throughout Europe in his time. It consists of 27 volumes (unlike Vitoria who did not publish anything during his lifetime, his re-readings being notes taken by his students).

Suarez is an anti-absolutist thinker. In his Defensio fidei (1613), he states the fundamental axiom of Neo-Scholastic theology: “No king, no monarch, has or has had according to the ordinary law, the political principate immediately from God or by the act of a divine institution, but by means of human will or institution” [Cited by Couartou-Imatz, L’État et la communauté internationale dans la pensée de Vitoria (Faculté de droit de Bordeaux, 1972), p.16]. Public power always comes from God, but it is given to the people who place it in the hands of an individual or an institution for reasons of historical circumstances. This being the case, only the authority that does not lose sight of its mission is legitimate—that mission being, the attainment of the common good and the respect of human dignity. At the heart of the Neo-Scholastic approach is the integration of theology, ethics, politics and economics. The Dominicans and the Neo-Scholastic Jesuits cannot be described as individualistic thinkers in the contemporary sense, even though their work demonstrates a constant concern for human dignity.

It is only from the beginning of the nineteenth century that several Spanish and European jurists, all specialists in international law, began to recognize the influence of Vitoria and his followers on the Dutch Protestant jurists, Hugo Grotius, and the German, Samuel von Pufendorf, who were then considered the only precursors of international law. Their influence on the works of the Italian jurist, Alberico Gentili, the German philosopher, Johannes Althusius, the French political theorist, Jean Bodin, and indirectly on the group of Scottish economists, headed by Adam Smith, is equally undeniable.

The precursory character of the School of Salamanca was more and more admitted from the turn of the 20th century. In France alone, the pioneering work of Ernest Nys (1894), Alfred Vanderpol (1911), Hubert Beuve Méry (1928) and Louis Le Fur (1939) should be recalled.

In the field of economics, however, it was not until another century later that the thinkers of the School of Salamanca were recognized as the founders of modern economics. For a long time, they were confused with the most vulgar mercantilism (which defended the idea that the possession of precious metals made the wealth and power of nations). It had even been said that the thinkers of the School of Salamanca, guided by their religious principles, had been unable to understand the mechanisms of the market and prices. But this was not true!

The works of Pierre-André Sayous, Joseph Schumpeter, José Larraz Lopez, Luis Martínez Fernández, Andrés Martín Melquiades, José Barrientos, Juan Belda Plans, Murray Rothbard, Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson, Jesús Huerta de Soto, Raymond de Roover, Alejandro Chafuen, to name but a few, have shown that the thinkers of Hispanic Neo-Scholasticism described and systematized, long before the economists of the 19th and 20th centuries, and in an almost complete way, the theory of subjective value, the theory of marginal utility, the theory of prices, the quantitative theory of money, the phenomenon of inflation and the mechanisms of exchange. What is most surprising is that modern economic science has confirmed the conclusions reached by the thinkers of the School of Salamanca through theological and ethical reasoning, as early as the 16th century.

Many ultraliberal supporters of the Austrian School have sought to see in the Salamanca School the origins of the liberal school of economic thought.

[See Alejandro A. Chafuen, Christians for Freedom. Late Scholastic Economics/ Raíces cristianas de la economía de libre mercado ( Buey Mudo, 2009); Thomas E. Woods, The Church and the Market. A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy/ La iglesia y la economía. Una defensa católica de la economía libre ( Buey Mudo, 2010); André Azevedo Alves and José Manuel Moreira, The Salamanca School. For the opposite view, see Daniel Martín Arribas, Destapando al liberalismo. La Escuela Austriaca no nació en Salamanca (SND Editores, 2018)].

Some of the most feverish supporters even went so far as to assert that “God is liberal/libertarian;” perhaps in order not to be outdone by those who, like Camilo Torres or Leonardo Boff, saw in Christ “the first communist.” But this is to forget that the Neo-Scholastic authors never separated the economy from morality, from natural law and from God. And this also forgets that the principles of a just Christian order, juridical, political, economic and social, are in direct opposition to those of a liberalism that idolizes freedom and private property.

The Influence on Power

What was the influence of the School of Salamanca in the 16th century? On the Church it was undoubtedly very important. Members of the School of Salamanca were omnipresent at the Council of Trent (1545-1563). During its three stages, the Spanish participation amounted to a total of almost a thousand people, of whom 245 are known among the most prestigious figures.

What about political power? It is impossible to overemphasize here the close and privileged relationship that existed between the thought of Vitoria and his followers and the Spanish Monarchy. On November 20, 1542, Charles V promulgated in Barcelona the New Laws of the Indies. His decree abolished slavery and the encomienda and ordered that the Indians be considered free vassals of the Crown of Castile. But obviously the ideal ran up against the realities and the interests of the men. The pressure of the Spanish authorities of the Indies and the various insurrections (in Peru) compelled the emperor to modify partially the contents of his decree. But the influence remained however tangible in the more than 3000 laws of the Indies enacted by the kings of Spain.

A word about the Valladolid controversy, which in 1550-1551 pitted the Dominican Bartolomé de Las Casas against the humanist theologian, also a Dominican, Juan Ginés de Sepulveda. Sepulveda declared the domination of the Indians just in order to civilize them, to teach them religion without doing it by force and to have them respect natural law. Las Casas, on the contrary, was a pacifist. According to him, there was no legal title that could justify the Spanish presence in America. He proposed the restitution of lands, compensation for the Indians and peaceful evangelization. But his pacifism was perceived by the whole School of Salamanca as an unrealistic and irresponsible thought. In this, Vitoria was paradoxically closer to the realist or moderately Machiavellian (and not at all Machiavellic) Sepulveda, a fine connoisseur of Aristotle, than to the utopian Las Casas.

[Machiavellianism refers to a conception of politics that advocates the conquest and preservation of power by all means. The adjective “Machiavellic,” which has passed into common French parlance, refers to the dark and manipulative interpretation of Machiavelli’s best-known work, The Prince (1531). Thus “Machiavellic” is always sinister and nefarious. This is to be distinguished from the term “Machiavellian,” formed by contrast to designate the concepts stemming from Machiavelli’s political philosophy, without passing judgment. Thus, “Machiavellian” is realist philosophy in politics].

Today, scholars continue to argue about the position of the Salamanca School on individual rights. For some, the Salamanca masters represent a resurgence and development of an authentically Aristotelian and Thomistic framework centered on an organicist conception and objective natural law. For others, they are closer to the notion of subjective law centered on individual rights and liberties. For some, they are part of the most orthodox Catholic tradition; for others they break with it and anticipate modernity.

Are Vitoria and his followers at the origin of the modern conception of human rights? No, answers the philosopher of law Michel Villey. “Certainly, the Spanish scholastics had a great desire to impose their theology and their conception of a natural moral law on jurists; but to derive from it duties, obligations to be borne by the individual. They were agents of order. As for deducing from the dignity of nature the ‘rights’ of man, they were not ready for it, not having the taste for anarchy, because of their attachment to tradition.” According to Villey, human rights have their source in a deviated Christian theology; they are the product of modern philosophy, which emerged in the 17th century.

In any case, the legacy of the School of Salamanca is originality of thought, a combination of an organic conception of society, centered on the common good, with a prominent place given to the dignity of man and even to individual rights; a simultaneous defense of the right of the city and the right of individuals.


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


Featured: “Francisco de Vitoria,” by Daniel Vázquez Diaz; painted in 1957.

A Bird in the Snow

This story by Armando Palacio Valdés (1853—1938) was published in 1925.


He was born blind, and had been taught the one thing which the blind generally learn,—music; for this art he was specially gifted. His mother died when he was little more than a child, and his father, who was the first cornetist of a military band, followed her to the grave a few years later. He had a brother in America from whom he had never heard; still, through indirect sources he knew him to be well off, married, and the father of two fine children. To the day of his death the old musician, indignant at his son’s ingratitude, would not allow his name to be mentioned in his presence; but the blind boy’s affection for his brother remained unchanged. He could not forget that this elder brother had been the support of his childhood, the defence of his weakness against the other boys, and that he had always spoken to him with kindness. The recollection of Santiago’s voice as he entered his room in the morning, shouting, “Hey there, Juanito! get up, man; don’t sleep so!” rang in the blind boy’s ears with a more pleasing harmony than could ever be drawn from the keys of a piano or the strings of a violin. Was it probable that such a kind heart had grown cold? Juan could not believe it, and was always striving to justify him. At times the fault was with the mail, or it might be that his brother did not wish to write until he could send them a good deal of money; then again, he fancied that he meant to surprise them by presenting himself some fine day, laden with gold, in the modest entresol in which they lived. But he never dared communicate any of these fancies to his father; only when the old man, wrought to an unusual pitch of exasperation, bitterly apostrophized the absent one, he found the courage to say: “You must not despair, father. Santiago is good, and my heart tells me that we shall hear from him one of these days.”

The father died, however, without hearing from his son, between a priest, who exhorted him, and the blind boy, who clung convulsively to his hand, as if he meant to detain him in this world by main force. When the old man’s body was removed from the house, the boy seemed to have lost his reason, and in a frenzy of grief he struggled with the undertaker’s men. Then he was left alone. And what loneliness was his! No father, no mother, no relatives, no friends; he was even deprived of the sunlight, which is the friend of all created things. He was two whole days in his room pacing the floor like a caged wolf, without tasting food. The chamber-maid, assisted by a compassionate neighbor, succeeded in saving him from this slow process of suicide. He was prevailed upon to eat. He spent the rest of his life praying, and working at his music.

His father, shortly before his death, had obtained for him a position as organist in one of the churches of Madrid, with a salary of seventy cents a day. This was scarcely sufficient to meet the running expenses of a house, however modest; so within a fortnight Juan sold all that had constituted the furniture of his humble home, dismissed his servant, and took a room at a boarding-house, for which he paid forty cents a day; the remaining thirty cents covered all his other expenses. He lived thus for several months without leaving his room except to fulfil his obligations. His only walks were from the house to the church, and from the church back again. His grief weighed upon him so heavily that he never opened his lips. He spent the long hours of the day composing a grand requiem Mass for the repose of his father’s soul, depending upon the charity of the parish for its execution; and although it would be incorrect to say that he strained his five senses,—on account of his having but four,—it can at least be said that he threw all the energies of his body and soul into his work.

The ministerial crisis overtook him before his task was half finished. I do not remember who came into power, whether the Radicals, Conservatives, or Constitutionals; at any rate, there was some great change. The news reached Juan late, and to his sorrow. The new cabinet soon judged him, in his capacity as an organist, to be a dangerous citizen, and felt that from the heights of the choir, at vespers or in the solemnity of the Mass, with the swell and the roar from all the stops of the organ, he was evincing sentiments of opposition which were truly scandalous. The new ministers were ill disposed, as they declared in Congress through the lips of one of their authorized members, “to tolerate any form of imposition,” so they proceeded with praiseworthy energy to place Juan on the retired list, and to find him a substitute whose musical manœuvres might offer a better guarantee,—a man, in a word, who would prove more loyal to the institutions. On being officially informed of this, the blind one experienced no emotion beyond surprise. In the deep recesses of his heart he was pleased, as he was thus left more time in which to work at his Mass. The situation appeared to him in its real light only when his landlady, at the end of the month, came to him for money. He had none to give her, naturally, as his salary had been withdrawn; and he was compelled to pawn his father’s watch, after which he resumed his work with perfect serenity and without a thought of the future. But the landlady came again for money at the end of another month, and he once more pawned a jewel of the scant paternal legacy; this was a small diamond ring. In a few months there was nothing left to pawn. So the landlady, in consideration of his helplessness, kept him two or three days beyond the time and then turned him out, with the self-congratulatory feeling of having acted generously in not claiming his trunk and clothes, from which she might have realized the few cents that he still owed her.

He looked for another lodging, but was unable to rent a piano, which was a sore trial to him; evidently he could not finish his Mass. He knew a shopkeeper who owned a piano and who permitted him to make use of it. But Juan soon noticed that his visits grew more and more inopportune, so he left off going. Shortly, too, he was turned out of his new lodgings, only this time they kept his trunk. Then came a period of misery and anguish,—of that misery of which it is hard to conceive. We know that life has few joys for the homeless and the poor, but if in addition they be blind and alone, surely they have found the limit of human suffering. Juan was tossed about from lodging to lodging, lying in bed while his only shirt was being washed, wandering through the streets of Madrid with torn shoes, his trousers worn to a fringe about his feet, his hair long, and his beard unshaven. Some compassionate fellow-lodger obtained a position for him in a café, from which, however, he was soon turned out, for its frequenters did not relish his music. He never played popular dances or peteneras, no fandangos, not even an occasional polka. His fingers glided over the keys in dreamy ecstasies of Beethoven and Chopin, and the audience found some difficulty in keeping time with their spoons. So out he went again through the byways of the capital. Every now and then some charitable soul, accidentally brought in contact with his misery, assisted him indirectly, for Juan shuddered at the thought of begging. He took his meals in some tavern or other in the lowest quarter of Madrid, ate just enough to keep from starving, and for two cents he was allowed to sleep in a hovel between beggars and evil-doers. Once they stole his trousers while he was asleep, and left him a pair of cotton ones in their stead. This was in November.

Poor Juan, who had always cherished the thought of his brother’s return, now in the depths of his misery nursed his chimera with redoubled faith. He had a letter written and sent to Havana. As he had no idea how his brother could be reached, the letter bore no direction. He made all manner of inquiries, but to no effect, and he spent long hours on his knees, hoping that Heaven might send Santiago to his rescue. His only happy moments were those spent in prayer, as he knelt behind a pillar in the far-off corner of some solitary church, breathing the acrid odors of dampness and melting wax, listening to the flickering sputter of the tapers and the faint murmur rising from the lips of the faithful in the nave of the temple. His innocent soul then soared above the cruelties of life and communed with God and the Holy Mother. From his early childhood devotion to the Virgin had been deeply rooted in his heart. As he had never known his mother, he instinctively turned to the mother of God for that tender and loving protection which only a woman can give a child. He had composed a number of hymns and canticles in her honor, and he never fell asleep without pressing his lips to the image of the Carmen, which he wore on his neck.

There came a day, however, when heaven and earth forsook him. Driven from his last shelter, without a crust to save him from starvation, or a cloak to protect him from the cold, he realized with terror that the time had come when he would have to beg. A great struggle took place in his soul. Shame and suffering made a desperate stand against necessity. The profound darkness which surrounded him increased the anguish of the strife; but hunger conquered in the end. He prayed for strength with sobs, and resigned himself to his fate. Still, wishing to disguise his humiliation, he determined to sing in the streets, at night only. His voice was good, and he had a rare knowledge of the art of singing. It occurred to him that he had no means of accompaniment. But he soon found another unfortunate, perhaps a trifle less wretched than himself, who lent him an old and broken guitar. He mended it as best he could, and with a voice hoarse with tears he went out into the street on a frosty December night. His heart beat violently; his knees trembled under him. When he tried to sing in one of the central thoroughfares, he found he could not utter a sound. Suffering and shame seemed to have tied a knot in his throat. He groped about until he had found a wall to lean against. There he stood for awhile, and when he felt a little calmer he began the tenor’s aria from the first act of “Favorita.” A blind singer who sang neither couplets nor popular songs soon excited some curiosity among the passers-by, and in a few minutes a crowd had gathered around him. There was a murmur of surprise and admiration at the art with which he overcame the difficulties of the composition, and many a copper was dropped in the hat that dangled from his arm. After this he sang the aria of the fourth act of “Africana.” But too many had stopped to listen, and the authorities began to fear that this might be a cause of disturbance; for it is a well-established fact with officials of the police force that people who congregate in the streets to hear a blind man sing are always prompted by motives of rebellion,—it means a peculiar hostility to the institutions; in a word, an attitude thoroughly incompatible with the peace of society and the security of the State. Accordingly, a policeman caught Juan energetically by the arm and said, “Here, here! go straight home now, and don’t let me catch you stopping at any more street corners.”

“I’m doing no harm!”

“You are blocking the thoroughfare. Come, move on, move on, if you don’t want to go to the lock-up.”

It is really encouraging to see how careful our authorities are in clearing the streets of blind singers; and I really believe, in spite of all that has been said to the contrary, that if they could keep them equally free from thieves and murderers, they would do so with pleasure. Juan went back to his hovel with a heavy heart, for he was by nature shrinking and timid, and was grieved at having disturbed the peace and given rise to the interference of the executive power. He had made twenty-seven cents. With this he bought something to eat on the following day, and paid rent for the little pile of straw on which he slept. The next night he went out again and sang a few more operatic arias; but the people again crowded around him, and once more a policeman felt himself called upon to interfere, shouting at him to move on. But how could he? If he kept moving on, he would not make a cent. He could not expect the people to follow him. Juan moved on, however, on and on, because he was timid, and the mere thought of infringing the laws, of disturbing even momentarily the peace of his native land, was worse than death to him. So his earnings rapidly decreased. The necessity of moving on, on the one hand, and the fact that his performances had lost the charm of novelty, which in Spain always commands its price, daily deprived him of a few coppers. With what he brought home at night he could scarcely buy enough food to keep him alive. The situation was desperate. The poor boy saw but one luminous point in the clouded horizon of his life, and that was his brother’s return to Madrid. Every night as he left his hovel with his guitar swinging from his shoulder he thought, “If Santiago should be in Madrid and hear me sing, he would know me by my voice.” And this hope, or rather this chimera, alone gave him the strength to endure life. However, there came again a day in which his anguish knew no limit. On the preceding night he had earned only six coppers. It had been so cold! This was Christmas Eve. When the morning dawned upon the world, it found Madrid wrapped in a sheet of snow six inches thick. It snowed steadily all day long, which was a matter of little consequence to the majority of people, and was even a cause of much rejoicing among æsthetes generally. Those poets in particular who enjoy what is called easy circumstances spent the greater part of the day watching the flakes through the plate-glass of their study windows, meditating upon and elaborating those graceful and ingenious similes that cause the audiences at the theatre to shout, “Bravo, bravo!” or those who read their verses to exclaim, “What a genius that young fellow is!”

Juan’s breakfast had been a crust of stale bread and a cup of watery coffee. He could not divert his hunger by contemplating the beauty of the snow,—in the first place, because he was blind, and in the second, because, even had he not been blind, he would have had some difficulty in seeing it through the patched and filthy panes of his hovel. He spent the day huddled in a corner on his straw mattress, evoking scenes of his childhood and caressing the sweet dream of his brother’s return. At nightfall he grew very faint, but necessity drove him into the streets to beg. His guitar was gone. He had sold it for sixty cents on a day of similar hardship. The snow fell with the same persistence. His legs trembled as they had when he sang for the first time, but now it was from hunger rather than shame. He groped about as best he could, with great lumps of mud above his ankles. The silence told him that there was scarcely a soul on the street. The carriages rolled noiselessly along, and he once came near being run over. In one of the central thoroughfares he began to sing the first thing that came to his lips. His voice was weak and hoarse. Nobody stopped to listen. “Let us try another street,” thought he; and he went down the Avenue of San Jerónimo, walking awkwardly in the snow, with a white coating on his shoulders and water squirting from his shoes. The cold had begun to penetrate into his very bones, and hunger gave him a violent pain. For a moment with the cold and the pain came a feeling of faintness which made him think that he was about to die, and lifting his spirit to the Virgin of the Carmen, his protectress, he exclaimed in his anguish, “Mother, have pity!” And after pronouncing these words he felt relieved and walked, or rather dragged himself, to the Plaza de las Cortes. There he grasped a lamp-post, and under the impression of the Virgin’s protection sang Gounod’s “Ave Maria.” Still nobody stopped to hear him. The people of Madrid were at the theatres, at the cafés, or at home, dancing their little ones on their knees in the glow of the hearth,—in the warmth of their love. The snow continued to fall steadily, copiously, with the evident purpose of furnishing a topic for the local column of the morning paper, where it would be described in a thousand delicate phrases. The occasional passers-by hurried along muffled up to their ears under their umbrellas. The lamp-posts had put on their white night-caps, from under which escaped thin rays of dismal light. The silence was broken only by the vague and distant rumble of carriages and by the light fall of the snowflakes, that sounded like the faint and continuous rustle of silk. The voice of Juan alone vibrated in the stillness of the night, imploring the mother of the unprotected; and his chant seemed a cry of anguish rather than a hymn of praise, a moan of sadness and resignation falling dreary and chill, like snow upon the heart.

And his cry for pity was in vain. In vain he repeated the sweet name of Mary, adjusting it to the modulations of every melody. Heaven and the Virgin were far away, it seemed, and could not hear him. The neighbors of the plaza were near at hand, but they did not choose to hear. Nobody came down to take him in from the cold; no window was thrown open to drop him a copper. The passers-by, pursued, as it were, by the fleet steps of pneumonia, scarcely dared stop. Juan’s voice at last died in his throat; he could sing no more. His legs trembled under him; his hands lost their sense of touch. He took a few steps, then sank on the sidewalk at the foot of the grating that surrounds the square. He sat with his elbows on his knees and buried his head in his hands. He felt vaguely that it was the last moment of his life, and he again prayed, imploring the divine pity.

At the end of a few minutes he was conscious of being shaken by the arm, and knew that a man was standing before him. He raised his head, and taking for granted it was the old story about moving on, inquired timidly,—

“Are you an officer?”

“No; I am no officer. What is the matter with you? Get up.”

“I don’t believe I can, sir.”

“Are you very cold?”

“Yes, sir; but it isn’t exactly that,—I haven’t had anything to eat to-day.”

“I will help you, then. Come; up with you.”

The man took Juan by both arms and stood him on his feet. He seemed very strong.

“Now lean on me, and let us see if we can find a cab.”

“But where are you going to take me?”

“Nowhere where you wouldn’t want to go. Are you afraid?”

“No; I feel in my heart that you will help me.”

“Come along, then. Let’s see how soon I can get you something hot to drink.”

“God will reward you for this, sir; the Virgin will reward you. I thought I was going to die there, against that grating.”

“Don’t talk about dying, man. The question now is to find a cab; if we can only move along fast enough—What is the matter? Are you stumbling?”

“Yes, sir. I think I struck a lamp-post. You see—as I am blind—”

“Are you blind?” asked the stranger, anxiously.

“Yes, sir.”

“Since when?”

“I was born blind.”

Juan felt his companion’s arm tremble in his, and they walked along in silence. Suddenly the man stopped and asked in a voice husky with emotion,—

“What is your name?”

“Juan.”

“Juan what?”

“Juan Martínez.”

“And your father was Manuel Martínez, wasn’t he,—musician of the third artillery band?”

“Yes, sir.”

The blind one felt the tight clasp of two powerful arms that almost smothered him, and heard a trembling voice exclaim,—

“My God, how horrible, and how happy! I am a criminal, Juan! I am your brother Santiago!”

And the two brothers stood sobbing together in the middle of the street. The snow fell on them lightly. Suddenly Santiago tore himself from his brother’s embrace, and began to shout, intermingling his words with interjections,—

“A cab! A cab! Isn’t there a cab anywhere around? Curse my luck! Come, Juanillo, try; make an effort, my boy; we are not so very far. But where in the name of sense are all the cabs? Not one has passed us. Ah, I see one coming, thank God! No; the brute is going in the other direction. Here is another. This one is mine. Hello there, driver! Five dollars if you take us flying to Number 13 Castellana.”

And taking his brother in his arms as though he had been a mere child, he put him in the cab and jumped in after him. The driver whipped his horse, and off they went, gliding swiftly and noiselessly over the snow. In the mean time Santiago, with his arms still around Juan, told him something of his life. He had been in Costa Rica, not Cuba, and had accumulated a respectable fortune. He had spent many years in the country, beyond mail service and far from any point of communication with Europe. He had written several letters to his father, and had managed to get these on some steamer trading with England, but had never received any answer. In the hope of returning shortly to Spain, he had made no inquiries. He had been in Madrid for four months. He learned from the parish record that his father was dead; but all he could discover concerning Juan was vague and contradictory. Some believed that he had died, while others said that, reduced to the last stages of misery, he went through the streets singing and playing on the guitar. All his efforts to find him had been fruitless; but fortunately Providence had thrown him into his arms. Santiago laughed and cried alternately, showing himself to be the same frank, open-hearted, jovial soul that Juan had loved so in his childhood. The cab finally came to a stop. A man-servant opened the door, and Juan was fairly lifted into the house. When the door closed behind him, he breathed a warm atmosphere full of that peculiar aroma of comfort which wealth seems to exhale. His feet sank in the soft carpet. Two servants relieved him of his dripping clothes and brought him clean linen and a warm dressing-gown. In the same room, before a crackling wood fire, he was served a comforting bowl of hot broth, followed by something more substantial, which he was made to take very slowly and with all the precautions which his critical condition required. Then a bottle of old wine was brought up from the cellar. Santiago was too restless to sit still. He came and went, giving orders, interrupting himself every minute to say,—

“How do you feel now, Juan? Are you warm enough? Perhaps you don’t care for this wine.”

When the meal was over, the two brothers sat silently side by side before the fire. Santiago then inquired of one of the servants if the Señora and the children had already retired. On learning that they had, he said to Juan, beaming with delight,—

“Can you play on the piano?”

“Yes.”

“Come into the parlor, then. Let us give them a surprise.”

He accordingly led him into an adjoining room and seated him at the piano. He raised the top so as to obtain the greatest possible vibration, threw open the doors, and went through all the manœuvres peculiar to a surprise,—tiptoeing, whispering, speaking in a falsetto, and so much absurd pantomime that Juan could not help laughing as he realized how little his brother had changed.

“Now, Juanillo, play something startling, and play it loud, with all your might.”

The blind boy struck up a military march. A quiver ran through the silent house like that which stirs a music-box while it is being wound up. The notes poured from the piano, hurrying, jostling one another, but never losing their triumphant rhythm. Every now and then Santiago exclaimed,—

“Louder, Juanillo! Louder!”

And the blind boy struck the notes with all his spirit and might.

“I see my wife peeping in from behind the curtains. Go on, Juanillo. She is in her night-gown,—he, he! I am pretending not to see her. I have no doubt she thinks I am crazy,—he, he! Go on, Juanillo.”

Juan obeyed, although he thought the jest had been carried far enough. He wanted to know his sister-in-law and kiss his nephews.

“Now I can just see Manolita. Hello! Paquito is up too. Didn’t I tell you we should surprise them? But I am afraid they will take cold. Stop a minute, Juanito!”

And the infernal clamor was silenced.

“Come, Adela, Manolita, and Paquito, get on your things and come in to see your uncle Juan. This is Juanillo, of whom you have heard me speak so often. I have just found him in the street almost frozen to death. Come, hurry and dress, all of you.”

The whole family was soon ready, and rushed in to embrace the blind boy. The wife’s voice was soft and harmonious. To Juan it sounded like the voice of the Virgin. He discovered, too, that she was weeping silently at the thought of all his sufferings. She ordered a foot-warmer to be brought in. She wrapped his legs in a cloak and put a soft cushion behind his head. The children stood around his chair, caressing him, and all listened with tears to the accounts of his past misery. Santiago struck his forehead; the children stroked his hands, saying,—

“You will never be hungry again, will you, uncle? Or go out without a cloak and an umbrella? I don’t want you to, neither does Manolita, nor mamma, nor papa.”

“I wager you will not give him your bed, Paquito,” said Santiago, trying to conceal his tears under his affected merriment.

“My bed won’t fit him, papa! But he can have the bed in the guests’ chamber. It is a great bed, uncle, a big, big bed!”

“I don’t believe I care to go to bed,” said Juan. “Not just now at any rate, I am so comfortable here.”

“That pain has gone, hasn’t it, uncle?” whispered Manolita, kissing and stroking his hand.

“Yes, dear, yes,—God bless you! Nothing pains me now. I am happy, very happy! Only I feel sleepy, so sleepy that I can hardly raise my eyelids.”

“Never mind us; sleep if you feel like it,” said Santiago.

“Yes, uncle, sleep,” repeated the children.

And Juan fell asleep,—but he wakened in another world.

The next morning, at dawn, two policemen stumbled against a corpse in the snow. The doctor of the charity hospital pronounced it a case of congealing of the blood.

As one of the officers turned him over, face upward,—

“Look, Jiménez,” said he; “he seems to be laughing.”


Featured: “A Recess on a London Bridge,” by Augustus Edwin Mulready; painted 1879.

A Response to my Censors

The attentive observer will perceive a tone of hysteria and panic in the reaction, in France as in Spain, to the interview in Le Figaro Histoire (summer 2022), published on the occasion of the French translation of Los Mitos de la Guerra civil [Les mythes de la guerre d’Espagne, 1936-1939 (Éditions L’Artilleur)—Myths of the Spanish Civil War]. A reaction of anger and indignation, which is meant to intimidate (“how dare Le Figaro Histoire” give a platform to a “liar,” a “falsifier,” and worse, “a political scoundrel”). But there’s never a trace of rational criticism; or just as often an embarrassed silence.

The reason for this attitude is understandable. If what The Myths of the Spanish Civil War says is true, the dominant discourse in Spain, France and Europe about this war, its meaning and its historical consequences is false—which opens up new hypotheses, and damages many vested interests. The problem for the supporters of the dominant, mainstream discourse, however, should not be complex: it would be enough for them to highlight two or three key points of my book and to demolish them with data and arguments. But nothing like that has happened so far, except, as I say, silence on the part of some and insults and intimidation on the part of others. The impression that emerges is that these “critics” have not even read the book, which, according to them, is “Franco’s propaganda” and “says nothing new,” despite its enormous success in Spain and now in France. So let me give some explanations here.

Between 1999 and 2001, I published the trilogy Los orígenes de la guerra civil [The Origins of the Spanish Civil War], Los personajes de la República vistos por ellos mismos [The Personalities of the Republic as seen by Themselves], and El derrumbe de la República y la guerra [The Collapse of the Republic and the Spanish Civil War]—the result of nine years of work. Since these three books can be very difficult to read for the general public, since they are full of archival notes, bibliographic references, press documents, minutes of the Cortes, etc., I thought that a more “popular” or popularized summary of the three would be useful.

The summary, which constitutes The Myths of the Spanish Civil War, was conceived according to an original method of exposition, in two large parts, which seemed to me the most effective. The first part deals with the political and ideological conceptions of the ten main leaders of the different parties or major personalities. Strange as it may seem, this is not often the case in history books of the Spanish War, which rarely go into the ideological content of the conflict. In the third volume of my trilogy, I devoted a lot of space to such content, without which nothing can be explained in depth; and in The Myths I did it in a more direct and personal way, sticking to the ideas themselves of the various personalities.

In the second part, I examined seventeen very specific issues and events, in order to bring them out of the realm of myth, or rather pseudo-myth, and into that of historiographically verifiable reality. And I did this either on the basis of the documentation of the Left itself, or on the basis of detailed and unquestioned research by various historians. Finally, I added two epilogues, placing the Spanish Civil War in the history of the 20th century and in the history of Spain. Also attached are maps, a chronology, and the regional origins of the people mentioned.

I was surprised by the many comments that were rather favorable to The Myths of the Spanish Civil War and to other books of mine, comments which nevertheless stated that my books lacked originality, except perhaps in the clarity of the exposition. According to such comments, my books don’t discover anything new; everything I say “has already been said by others.” Honestly, if I had just been repeating what is already known, I don’t think I would have bothered to write anything about the Civil War. But if I had really made that mistake, it would still be necessary to explain why my books are the ones that have unleashed the most hatred and fear among so many progressive—but also right-wing—historians and politicians.

In historiography, as in so many other fields, there is the level of concrete data and the level of interpretative analysis, as the historian Stanley Payne recently reminded us in connection with my book, Hegemonía Española (1475-1640) y Comienzo de la Era Europea (1492-1945) [Spanish Hegemony and the Beginning of the European Era]. The accumulation of data is a basic and somewhat laborious necessity; but it is basically simple and easy; while interpretive analysis is much more difficult, as it requires relating the data, comparing it and drawing coherent conclusions. This is the highest level of historiography.

So much has already been written about the Spanish Civil War and about so many aspects of it that it is difficult to discover new facts, or something that has not already been said or mentioned by someone, and often even repeated thousands of times. Nevertheless, I believe I have managed to make some contributions. The first one I will mention here is about the third coup attempt, the one by the Jacobins (liberal-progressives and statists) or the liberal Left of Manuel Azaña (then former minister and president of the council), in the summer of 1934. When the left lost the November 1933 elections, Azaña twice pressured the president of the Republic (a conservative centrist), Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, to cancel the elections and call new ones with the guarantee of a left-wing victory—to no avail. He could do nothing else with the meager means he had at his disposal at the time, but it was a kind of coup attempt. Then, in the following summer, Azaña reached an agreement with the president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, and his supporters to carry out a more effective coup this time. The attempt failed because it required the collaboration of the Socialist Party (PSOE), which refused because it was preparing a “proletarian” revolution and did not want to collaborate in the perpetuation of a “bourgeois” Republic.

This fact, which I think was previously totally unknown in the historiography of the Left and the Right, is an important contribution; but it merits only an article and not a book. The same is true for other similar facts that I will mention next. That said, what a well-argued and articulate book needs is precisely an interpretative analysis. And in this difficult area, I believe that my book is innovative, and that it will remain so until someone manages to effectively refute its arguments, which to date has not happened.

To stick to the analytical and interpretative level, we can start with the general approach to the Spanish Civil War. I explained in my book The Myths, and I will not repeat it here, why the Popular Front (a coalition of Marxist, Communist and Bolshevik socialist parties, as well as separatist and liberal-Jacobin parties, joined after the uprising by the Trotskyites and anarchists) could not be composed of democratic parties. I am not the only one nor the first to point this out, although I don’t think that the origin of this lie has been correctly detected thus far in Soviet strategy and propaganda; and I believe that I am not wrong.

But there is another essential aspect: the practically generalized acceptance, on the Left as well as on the Right, of the presentation of the Popular Front as the “republican camp,” on the assumption that it would be the continuation of the Second Spanish Republic. Very few, on the Left or the Right, have escaped this radically distorting approach to history. Only Stanley Payne (40 preguntas fundamentals sobre la Guerra civil [40 Fundamental Questions about the Spanish Civil War] La Esfera de los Libros, 2006 /La guerre d’Espagne, Le Cerf, 2010) and perhaps a handful of other historians have emphasized this discontinuity, referring to a kind of Third Republic, which I prefer to call just the Popular Front, because it failed to crystallize into a minimally stable regime, having lost the Civil War. But there is another crucial point. This Popular Front was not only different from the Second Republic, it was precisely the one that destroyed it. This is one of my fundamental theses, which completely changes the understanding of the war.

Another important point is the date at which the Republic of 1931 can be considered to have ended. Those who accept its end usually place this date at the time of the distribution of arms to the unions in July 1936. In my opinion, this destruction of the Republic took place during the electoral process, from February to April of the same year. This conception is doubly important, because it establishes a link between the October 1934 insurrection, in which there was a de facto “popular front,” and the February 1936 elections; it emphasizes that these elections were fraudulent not only because of the falsification of the minutes, but also because of the whole process, from the dissolution of the Cortes to the removal of President Alcalá-Zamora. I believe I am the only one who has expressed this comprehensive conception.

Another element of this thesis is the responsibility of the President of the Republic, Alcalá-Zamora, in the dubious and inherently illegitimate calling of the February 1936 elections, which I believe I am the only one to have pointed out.

Finally, it is important to note that this analysis of the process of the destruction of the Republic completely demolishes most of the current interpretations of the Republic and the Civil War, which is far more important than any contribution of data or details. It partially but fundamentally eliminates many other versions, including the typically Francoist ones. The latter maintain and repeat the essential distortion typical of the “republican camp,” because they are fundamentally anti-republican and are not interested in the fate of this Republic. They therefore see a continuity between it and the Popular Front; a succession of violence and convulsions of a regime that they consider illegitimate and the product of a first coup d’état, due to the municipal elections of 1931. Now, this is another important distortion, because although there was a coup d’état—it was carried out by the monarchists against their own regime and not by their republican opponents. (The municipal elections of 1931 were a crushing victory for the monarchists, but the republicans won in almost all the provincial capitals. The monarchist government of Romanones therefore considered that the urban votes had more weight than the others and that the elections were therefore won by the Republicans). The Republic was therefore legitimate and did not cease to exist, for the reasons mentioned, until five years later, in the electoral process of February 1936.

I believe that no one else has sustained these insights with the precision, documentation, and clarity that I have applied in my books, and they essentially refocus an entire historical process. If my theses are correct, there has been monumental confusion for half a century. And because of this confusion, and the resulting attitudes, they have met with truly fanatical resistance and opposition, contrary to any rational debate.

Much of the historiography and essays on the Spanish Civil War are characterized by a derisory and maudlin mystification about “Spanish Cainism,” “fratricidal war,” “ancestral civil war,” and other such nonsense, with which many authors vainly attempt to display their ethical sensitivity, which would finally be exceptional in a people they believe to be ever so beastly and bloodthirsty. The height of this interpretation was reached by authors like Eslava Galán and Pérez Reverte, and was made canonical by authors close to the Popular Party, such as García de Cortázar, Pedro J, Pedro Corral and some others. The war was waged by groups of murderous madmen on both sides, who dragged along the others, poor people, who “were just living their lives.”

But apart from this display of simplistic stupidity, nowhere, as far as I know, was the precise conclusion of the fundamental character of the Popular Front as an alliance of Soviets and separatists adequately emphasized, namely that both national unity and Spanish, European and Christian culture were very seriously threatened (for the Soviet system was a total culture, beyond its directly political implications). And it is enough to take these elements into account to understand the nature of the war and its stakes. This is a point that, even in Franco’s historiography, remains somewhat nebulous or unclear, or lost in many details. However, it is enough to seriously observe the character of the Popular Front to understand that the Mola-Franco rebellion was an in extremis reaction to a historical danger. A rebellion that saved the country from disintegration and Sovietization; a salvation that the PP paradoxically condemned, a fact that itself confirms what the historian Florentino Portero said: “This Right is condemned to feed on the intellectual debris of the Left, due to its lack of historical and ideological culture.”

I modestly believe that my books, and in particular The Myths of the Spanish Civil War, clarify this key issue in a much more precise way than any I can remember at the moment. And I believe that this clarification has direct political consequences and repercussions that extend to the present day.


This article appears through the kind courtesy of Causeur, and Arnaud Imatz.

Memory of Andalusia… Yes, But which One?

Orientalism (especially so-called “scholarly,” i.e., institutionalized) is a European phenomenon whose complex history essentially concerns the three great nations of France, England and Germany. The other orientalisms, little or badly known, have been qualified as “peripheral”—thus, Spanish orientalism, neatly called “domestic” or “domestic orientalism.” This is because it emerges against the background of the past of Al-Andalus, which exerted a real fascination on Spanish writers and Arabists, such as Francisco Javier Simonet, Francisco Codera Zaidín and the theologian Miguel Asín Palacio. From the tentative resurrection of Arabic studies in the eighteenth century to the present day, an ideology and a scale of values underlie the work of many Spanish Arabists.

By what mystery was spread the historiographic myth of Al-Andalus as the oasis of a sweet, gentle life and harmonious religious understanding, in a world of brutes? The prize goes to Danielle Rozenberg for “recovering the memory” of a Spain presumed to be amnesiac. A few careful hours of reading is enough to pulverize this fashionable mythology.

First, there is Rosa María Rodríguez Magda, who published Inexistente Al Ándalus, De como los intelectuales reinventan el Islam (Ediciones Nobel, 2008) [Inexistent Al Andalus, How Intellectuals reinvented Islam]. She shows that the three communities, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, had limited relations, most of the time tense, not to mention the specific laws that were applied to them.

In another vein, the three volumes of Reinhart Dozy, Spanish Islam: A History of the Moslems in Spain (4 vols. 1861; 2nd ed. 1881) constitute a vast panorama of the history of the Muslims of Spain; that is to say a tiresome series of murders, betrayals, massacres, revenge, reprisals, taking and retaking of kingdoms or citadels, attempts at unification, broken and betrayed alliances.

Let’s be honest, there is no doubt that Islam was imposed by force wherever Muhammad’s warriors went, driven by the thirst for plunder and the prospect of the spoils of war.

The blood of the Umayyads flowed in 755 in Damascus when they were massacred by the Abbasids, whom the Persians had preferred to them. The only survivor, Abd al Rhaman, took refuge in Cordoba and ended up being proclaimed emir. From then on, these Umayyads were to be the propagators of the Arab greatness before the mass of converts coming from the submitted nations. These Umayyads were not ethnically Arabs. But their “blondness” did not prevent them from defining themselves as Arabs and claiming to be the best, purest and most faithful sons of the Prophet’s nation, in the ideological struggle they waged against the Abbasids of Baghdad and the Fatimids of Cairo. The Arab theme is central to Umayyad propaganda. This land, Al-Andalus, where the descendants of the caliphs of Damascus regained their rank, undeniably foreign to the Arabs, was an issue.

The fundamental choices of Al-Andalus were “Arab” choices: the Arab culture and the religion of the one God, a religion born on Arab-soil. They kept from those early times the arrogance proper to these Bedouins of the desert. The hatred between Berbers and Arabs continued from generation to generation. When the Berber princes governed, they oppressed the Arabs and the indigenous (Christians and converted Muslims). When the Arabs took over, it was their turn to shamelessly enrich themselves and oppress. Nietzsche described this phenomenon very well, applying it to Christianity, which he hated. In reality, it is the old animal programming, the ancestral and tribal rages that govern the Bedouin world and that have been infused into their primitive religion with such force that it has become almost invincible. Through power rivalries between Visigoth factions, some of them (including the archbishop of Seville) and the Jewish community, openly resorted to the help of the Muslims. Hence the meteoric success of their conquest of the peninsula.

Thus disappeared the Visigothic and Christian kingdom of Toledo, once magnificent, which yet remained in collective memory as a beacon of the Reconquista de Hispanae; and this from 722. A discontented fringe of the population turned to the newcomers, as in Byzantium. But the invaded populations were disappointed very quickly, when the true face of the conquerors showed itself—destruction of churches and places of worship, desecration of holy bodies; for the converts, prohibition to leave Islam under penalty of death. Chained to the religion of their masters, they derived little benefit from it and bore their contempt.

The first period of resistance was essentially religious, marked by spectacular provocations leading inexorably to martyrdom (on the model of the Christian martyrs in the first centuries of the Roman Empire). Eulogius was the leader of this rebellion.

It the second period, there were more uprisings, rebellions and revolts, inexorably drowned in blood. On the side of power, these three centuries were marked by cunning, treachery, and cruelty towards the indigenous, Christians and Muslims. The political facts gathered by Arab sources, stresses Gabriel Martinez-Gros, “do not show the social structures which emerged from beneath the froth of events but the consolidation of the political intrigue,” fundamental font of the history of this prolonged, ruinous and bloody occupation.

The Umayyads of Cordoba prospered for nearly two centuries until Emir Abd ar-Rahman III proclaimed himself caliph in 929, rejecting the spiritual authority of the Abbasid Caliphate. This so-called “golden age” was because of him; but in reality, it was merely a pause in the long oppression of the Spanish people. The reduction of tax allowed a moment of economic and cultural development. It did not last, and a civil war finally brought down the dynasty in 1031. Andalusia was then divided into a multitude of taifas (principalities). After a period of “splendor,” the khalifate of Cordoba succumbed to its divisions.

In the second half of the eleventh century, the vigorous Christian offensive of the “Reconquista” reached its peak and Islam could only hold out in Spain thanks to the help of the Berbers of Morocco:

Coming out of their deserts of Mauritania, these great Berber Sanhaja nomads, wearing the black veil with which the Tuaregs still cover their faces, after having conquered half of North Africa, went to Spain. They set back the Christian Reconquest; but also, taking advantage of their holy mission, they annexed the small Muslim kingdoms that they had come to save from the Infidels” (Georges Marçais).

These primitive Berbers of Morocco gave religious power a weight reminiscent of today’s mullahs, with their tyrannical, fussy and vicious morality. In Seville, in particular, these new masters replaced the Abbadids (the Abbad dynasty) who had called them to their aid. The last ruler, the poet king EI-Motamil, embarked with the princesses of his house on a boat that, going down the Guadalquivir, took them to the Maghreb, from where they would not return. Succeeding the sultans of Arab race and artistic tastes, hardly bothered by religious scruples, the rough Berber conquerors established the reign of austere virtue. Al-Ghazali, the most famous of them all, bore the fine title of “gravedigger of reason.”

At the head of the cities were appointed men of their own. Above all, the foqaha, Malikite jurists, who enjoyed the favors of the Berbers all the more because they issued opinions in accordance with Berber policy. The Almoravids added them to the provincial governors (qadi) to serve as advisors. To maintain the garrisons and prepare future expeditions, they obviously had their Sanhaja relatives from the desert, but also the “blacks” whom they had once defeated and converted to Islam and who were readily more arrogant than their masters and converters.

The deference owed to the new masters cannot be extended to the brigands they brought over. The wearing of the veil, which confused them with their leaders, was an attribute of nobility whose abuse was intolerable. Such were the trustworthy Andalusians and the “colored Berbers.” This division of labor expressed the distinction maintained in this Muslim society between the two fortuitously juxtaposed elements of the population: on the one hand, the Berber Almoravids (replacing the Arab and “Syrian” caste, which was very much in the minority) and the “muladi” or converted Christians, and on the other hand, the indigenous mass (the Andalusians), a mass divided between Christians, called “Mozarabs,” and Jews. At the bottom of this pyramid, the slaves.

Things did not go softly for the African conquerors and the people of Andalusia. The dynasties defended this Islamized Andalusia, but for their own benefit. They demanded of the people the literate, architects and artists not out of a taste for culture, but to increase the glitter of their reign. And yet hardly by the end of two generations, the sons of the big Saharan barbarians were seduced by Andalusian softness. The conquered land initiated them into the joy of living and to the charm of the common culture; the poets of Seville gave them the taste of the beautiful language; the art of Cordoba lived again in the mosques that they built in Fez, in Marrakech and in Tlemcen. Made of Berber robustness and Spanish elegance, the Hispano-Moorish civilization was established and flourished on both sides of their empire. It owed nothing to Islam, having borrowed everything from the civilization that it worked to destroy, but which tirelessly revived. It was made of the Arab taste for poetry and music, but above all for the ardent desire of the human soul to actualize the resources and treasures of beauty that it carries within, by casting them into the cultural molds at its disposal. It is neither Christian, nor Moslem, nor Jewish—it is a deep aspiration which finds its particularized expression in the psalms as well as in the lyric and love poetry, in the musicality of the language (the prosody), where the “Arab” poets exceled, an inheritance from the “times of ignorance.” It was this property of the soul and of human nature that austere Islam did not cease to repress because it felt an instinctive hatred of freedom and of the creative power inherent in any culture, (carried by some of its sons and daughters).

Are the Andalusians of today Arabs as the new ideology would like to make believe? The “balance of blood and race” (Gabriel Martinez-Gros) of the Andalusian compound is largely favorable to Spain and the West. The Islamization was also an Arabization, after the Romanization and the influence of the Visigoths, Romanized barbarians. In the Maghreb, the fact of bearing a name of Arab origin is most often only a sign of allegiance to power, and not proof of any descent from Muslim conquerors. But there is no “ethnic” particularism in Andalusia from the point of view of its population. The progressive reconquest by Spaniards first from the north and then from the center resulted in the same destructive behaviors towards the conquered populations: displacement, exile of those who refused to convert or even destruction.

The Muslim “umma” claimed to erase tribal distinctions. In reality, in the first centuries, it was confused with the “asabiyyah” of the Arabs instituted by the Prophet. A powerful asabiyyah, i.e., clan cohesion, reinforced by belonging to Islam, the religion of the masters, facilitated or even allowed the accession of a large family to power. Until another family took it over. To maintain power, one needs a “government.” Muslim power was corrupt from the outset, based on prebends, and continued only through intrigue, plots, betrayed alliances and violence.

And yet, the delirious ideology of Blas Infante (1885-1936) emerged, who was even awarded the title of “Father of the Andalusian Homeland” by the Parliament of Andalusia on April 3, 1983. For him, the Arab presence in Andalusia was not a lasting invasion but eight centuries of freedom, cultural influence, well-being and scientific progress. The Andalusian people were the product of a process of assimilation, resulting from the cohabitation of populations of different origins and religions. He went so far as to advocate the creation of a federal state which would delegate to Andalusia international relations with the peoples of Africa and the East.

In these semi-fantasy modern perspectives, special mention should be made of the novelist Juan Goytisolo, a sort of Spanish Roger Garaudy, but more subtle and intellectually equally ambiguous (he was buried in Marrakech and spent most of his life outside Spain). His book, Crónicas sarracinas (1982) [Saracen Chronicles], gives an idea of the weight of the Islamic past in the ideological struggles over the formation of national identity. In this work, Goytisolo had the elegant objective of “sodomizing myth” and defending his “Saracenicity.” The review of P.R. Baduel Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée gives a small idea of this edifying work.

Three chapters each are devoted to Ali Bey, to Gustave Flaubert and to Sir Richard Burton, “pilgrim and sexologist.” While Flaubert shamelessly and at the expense of the government went to pursue his fantasies of an oriental lupanar, Ali Bey, (pseudonym of Domingo Badia), administrator of the Royal Tobacco Monopoly in Cordoba and self-taught Arabist, was on a secret Spanish mission in Morocco, from where he then left for the East, where he was the first European to go (disguised) inside Mecca which he described and drew. Back in Europe and in France, he lamented, “the atrophy of the heart produced by the narrowness of a society of individual property, for he who returned from the great desert spaces.” Sir Richard Burton ventured to India and then went to Mecca, an act of unprecedented courage. Goytisolo compares his interest in Muslim society with that of Lawrence of Arabia: “Both feel the same fascination for Islam and the harsh and austere world of the Bedouins, placed entirely under the sign of masculinity. Both aspired to the wild freedom of the desert, to this hospitable and fraternal world from which woman is excluded.” Lawrence’s homosexuality, Goytisolo says, was linked to this choice of a society of males. This is a faulty parallel that reflects either great intellectual dishonesty or great ignorance about the life of Lawrence of Arabia, who, as we know, was illegitimately born and raped by a Turk when he fell into their hands, and who apparently never recovered from either injury.

Seeing the world through the lens of one’s homosexuality (even belatedly assumed) is not the most reliable light. Let’s be serious: Goytisolo’s ” Saracenicity” is nothing more than a figure of speech. In Las virtudes del pájaro solitario (1988) [The Virtues of the Solitary Bird], he builds his fiction on the Sufi origins of the mystical poetry of Saint John of the Cross.

At this point where the imagination erases fifteen centuries of history, the only answer is an appalled silence.

The Spanish Civil War halted the process of autonomy in Andalusia, which was resumed when the autonomies were established with the 1978 Constitution: Andalusian socialism then took over the nationalist theories of this Andalusia presented as the crucible of a civilization where Judaism, Islam and Christians coexisted in harmony, under the rule of the Muslim emirs and khalifahs, a civilization that could be the prelude and model of a tolerant multicultural society.

The same one that the French Islamo-leftism dream about.

The official flag of Andalusia includes two green bands, in clear reference to the color and banner of Islam.


Featured: “Abd al-Rahman III Receiving an Ambassador,” by Dionisio Baixeras Verdaguer; painted in 1885.

Al-Andalus was No Different…

In the early 1960s, an avalanche of tourists came in the footsteps of those intrepid travelers who toured Spain in search of the preconceived image they had of it. If those distinguished strangers were looking for exoticism, two centuries later, their successors came in search of the so-called “sun and beach tourism” on which was built an industry that has left an indelible mark on the Spanish coastline, once marked by watchtowers that warned of the dreaded arrival of Barbary piracy. The main figure associated with those days is Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Minister of Information and Tourism, to whom we owe the famous phrase, “Spain is different,” a phrase attributed to Napoleon after the defeat at Bailén.

Deindustrialized in exchange for its entry into the European Economic Community, now the European Union, Spain continues to have tourism as one of its main economic strengths. However, despite the fact that the clichéd image of Spain—bulls and flamenco—is largely maintained, the development of the autonomous model has forced the country to seek, if not manufacture, distinct symbols of identity. In the case of Andalusia, whose patriotic paternity has been attributed to a Muladi called Blas Infante, there are many who try to make the region match an idyllic al-Andalus, a model of tolerance and intercultural dialogue. The reverie is not new. In fact, it’s linked with the fantasies of those nineteenth-century travelers and even with those of certain political groups that sought to confront Andalusian democratism with Castilian authoritarianism.

All this is relevant because, for some time now, not only have the theses of Olagüe been rescued by Gonzalez Ferrin, regarding the alleged peaceful arrival of Islam to Spain, but even the concept of “reconquest” has recently been cancelled, as it is considered not only inadequate, but linked to political positions characterized as Spanish-ist or extreme.

In this context, the book by Yeyo Balbás, Espada, hambre y cautiverio. La conquista islámica de Spania (Sword, hunger and captivity. The Islamic conquest of Spain), a work that deals with the expansion of the Islamic empire to its limits, including, but not limited to, Visigothic Spania. An expansion by no means peaceful. Balbas’s book is distinguished not only by a solid handling of the Muslim sources, often ignored by historians attached to the narratives made from the Christian side, but adds a factor that meets the requirements for the cultivation of what Bueno called “phenomenal history”: the relics or vestiges that archeology is revealing. This archaeological aspect endows the book with a sort of verification mechanism that serves to dispel visions, often adjusted to literary canons, of a much more convulsed and fractured past than the usual maps that divide the Iberian Peninsula into two parts, the Christian and the Muslim, tinged with different colors.

Through the pages of Balbas’ book parade characters whose profiles are blurred by legend, but also crude realities such as massacres, crucifixions, slavery or a polygamy under which crimes were committed among factions linked to one or the other heir. The Al-Andalus that emerges in Balbas’ book is not different from the rest of the Dar-al Islam—although, as it is logical, being a Spanish author, he focuses more on Al-Andalus to examine the case of some Christians punished, first, and protected later, because of their Trinitarian God, and whom the Muslims therefore called “polytheists.” This forces Balbas to look at events surrounding the famous Don Julian and Don Rodrigo, that is, the battle of Covadonga, the starting point of a reconquest whose mere mention constitutes, in certain ideological environments, the prelude to anathema.


Iván Vélez is an architect and associate researcher at the Gustavo Bueno Foundation. Author of numerous books and articles. He serevs as the Executive Director of the DENAES Foundation and Coordinator of the p;olitical party VOX in the Parliament of Andalusia. Ths review appears courtesy of Posmodernia.


Featured: Late-14th-century Gothic mural painting by a Christian Toledan artist on the ceiling of the Hall of Kings of the Alhambra, possibly depicting the first ten sultans of the Nasrid dynasty.

Pío Moa: Facing the Gravediggers of History

How are we to analyze the Spanish Civil War, beyond the myths and political passions? How is a historian’s work to be done, given that history is often heated and subject to the passions of memory and partisan politics? Such is the work of Pío Moa in his book on the myths of the Spanish Civil War, which has just been translated into French. The book is prefaced by historian Arnaud Imatz, corresponding member of the Royal Academy of History in Spain, and author of numerous works on the history of Spain. He is here in conversation with Hadrien Desuin. This interview comes through the kind courtesy of Revue Conflits.

Please read our interview with Pío Moa, which we published earlier. Dr. Imatz has also published with us an extensive analysis of Pío Moa’s work, which you will find here and here.


Hadrien Desuin (HD): You wrote the Preface to the French translation of the latest best-selling book by Spanish historian Pío Moa. Is his work rigorous? And if so, why did it provoke controversy in France after an interview in Figaro histoire?

Arnaud Imatz (AI): I wrote the Preface for a number of reasons, both general and particular. The first reason, I believe, is the conception of the history of ideas and facts that was passed on to me by my teachers at a time already long past—the 1970s—when I was preparing my doctoral thesis in political science. My teachers taught me that the quality of historical research (which is not to be confused with historical memory, an emotional and reductive vision of history) depends on the author’s training, his intellectual curiosity, his capacity for discernment, his creativity, his conscience and his moral integrity. They instilled in me the idea that the historian must search ardently for the truth, knowing that he or she will only partially arrive at it. They also convinced me that everything in this regard is a matter of subtlety, proportion, nuance, common sense and honesty.

Having been at first, in a way, a collateral victim of the media lynching suffered by Moa in Spain, it took me years before I decided to overcome my prejudices to read this author who was labeled “inflammatory.” This is a step that the censors of Moa (who are for the most part socialist-Marxist academics in favor of the Popular Front, but also “specialists” eager to get ahead, not to mention the legions of neo-inquisitors who are rampant on social networks today) stubbornly refuse to take—because you don’t make deals with the devil! For my part, I came away, I confess, impressed and astonished by my reading of Moa, and above all with the firm conviction that, unlike many of his critics, he fulfills the criteria of the honest, disinterested historian who has integrity.

I must, of course, mention here my special interest in the Spanish Civil War. This interest has never wavered for almost half a century. It led me first to publish a doctoral thesis on the founder of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, to which the prestigious Spanish economist and academician, Juan Velarde Fuertes, wrote the Preface; and to publish a book with a Preface by Pierre Chaunu, member of the Institute of France (La guerre d’Espagne revisitée, 1989). Then, this led me to write the Preface to one of the best specialists on this topic (unjustly made victim in France of a real omerta for almost forty-five years) the American Stanley Payne (La guerre d’Espagne. L’histoire face à la confusion mémorielle, 2010). Finally, I have written multiple articles on the subject during the years 2000-2020. With all that said, there are of course, among the reasons for my interest, also those that relate specifically to the particular case of Moa’s life and work.

Moa is the bête noire of the left, of the extreme left and of a good part of the right. The hatred and insults to which he is periodically subjected, in journalistic and academic circles, are truly astounding. He is “the incarnation of evil,” a “negationist,” a “dangerous revisionist,” a “fascist,” a “camouflaged Nazi,” a “mediocre author,” a “historian without methodology,” “a pseudo-historian who is not an academic,” “a writer without any insight or culture,” “a provocateur,” “a liar” whose “intellectual indigence is well-known,” and worst of all, a “camouflaged agent of the Franco police.” The adepts of the ad hominem attack have a field day with him. For the most enthusiastic, he is nothing less than an “apologist for the crimes of humanity.” The infamous take-downs, the insults, the invectives and the calumnies—everything was good to silence him in the Peninsula; and the polemics that he arouses today in France, after his interesting and thorough interview in Figaro histoire (summer 2022), can only be a weak echo.

But the Moa question is not as simple as his many detractors would have us believe, who usually confuse, more or less consciously, diatribe with debate. A declared liberal democrat, Moa has repeatedly expressed his respect for and defense of the 1978 Constitution. So, it is really his past and his atypical path—an absolute sacrilege in the eyes of socialist-Marxists and other crypto-Marxists—that he is secretly and invariably reproached for. He was first a communist-Maoist under Franco’s regime. He belonged to the terrorist movement GRAPO, the armed wing of the PCr (the reconstituted Communist Party). He was not an operetta anti-Franco militant, as so many established intellectuals and politicians are today, but an armed and determined resistance fighter, ready to die for his cause. As a Marxist, a fighter against Francoism, an unsuspected leftist, and a librarian at the Ateneo de Madrid, he had access to the documentation of the Pablo Iglesias Socialist Foundation. This research was the main source of his first book, a real media sensation, Los orígenes de la guerra civil Española (The Origins of the Spanish Civil War).

After going through and studying these socialist archives in detail, Moa radically changed his ideas, not hesitating to sacrifice his professional future and social life for them. He discovered the overwhelming responsibility of the Socialist Party and the left in general for the 1934 putsch, and for the origins of the Civil War. Up till then, we used to talk about the “Asturias Strike” or the “Asturias Revolution.” After his book, we talk about the “Socialist Revolution of 1934.” In my Preface, I recounted in detail the amazing story of his first successful book. But it was his bestseller, Los mitos de la guerra civil [The Myths of the Civil War] published in 2003 (reprinted or republished some twenty times, selling more than 300,000 copies, and which was number one in the Spanish sales charts for more than six months) that aroused the truly hallucinatory anger of the mainstream media. Through the voice of the Christian Democrat historian Javier Tussell, the socialist newspaper El País demanded censorship of the unbearable “revisionist.” There were trade unions protested in front of the Cortes, and a hysterical propaganda campaign even suggested imprisonment and re-education of the culprit. Since then, Moa has been persona non grata at state universities and in the public service media.

Thereafter, few independent scholars, academics and historians have dared to take sides with Moa. Some, however, are famous. Among them are Hugh Thomas, José Manuel Cuenca Toribio, Carlos Seco Serrano, César Vidal, José Luis Orella, Jesús Larrazabal, José María Marco, Manuel Alvarez Tardío, Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza, José Andrés Gallego, David Gress, Robert Stradling, Richard Robinson, Sergio Fernández Riquelme, Ricardo de la Cierva, etc. There is also one of the most prestigious specialists, the American Stanley Payne, who wrote these particularly accurate and instructive words:

“Pío Moa’s work is innovative. It introduces fresh air into a vital area of contemporary Spanish historiography, which for too long has been locked into narrow, formal, antiquated, stereotyped monographs, subject to political correctness. Those who disagree with Moa must confront his work seriously. They must demonstrate their disagreement through historical research and rigorous analysis, and stop denouncing his work by way of censorship, silence and diatribe, methods that are more characteristic of fascist Italy and the Soviet Union than of democratic Spain.”

There is another important reason for my interest in the publication of the French version of Pío Moa’s bestseller—the defense of freedom of expression; the fight against all forms of censorship and official truth; the resistance to the rise of totalitarian Manicheism. Pío Moa did not hide his sympathy for Gil Robles, leader of the CEDA (Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas) during the Second Republic. A sympathy for the leader of the Spanish liberal conservative party of the 1930s that I do not share; nor do I share Moa’s justification, in my opinion excessive, of the long years of Franco’s dictatorship. It is true that as a Frenchman, I am neither a Francoist nor an anti-Francoist, but a historian of ideas and facts, with a passion for the history of the Hispanic world. But that said, I do not confuse Moa’s research with his political analyses, interpretations and daily commentaries, in which he gives free rein to his combative spirit, his penchant for polemics and his taste for diatribe, inherited, for good or ill, from his past as an insurgent and his solid Marxist training. I agree with him that the Civil War and Franco’s regime are distinct facts that, as such, can be judged and interpreted in very different ways. I also agree with him in denouncing the fundamentally subjective and false reasoning that the Second Republic, which is the founding myth of post-Franco Spanish democracy, was an almost perfect regime in which all of the left-wing parties acted impeccably.

There is a final reason which led me to become directly involved in the publication of Moa’s bestseller. In 2005, Tallandier Editions acquired the rights to Los mitos de la Guerra Civil. The publication of the French version was planned for 2006. A translator was hired, the book and its ISBN number were announced in bookstores. But strangely enough, the release date was postponed; and, finally, the publication was canceled without any explanation. In February 2008, during a program on the French channel Histoire (then directed by Patrick Buisson), dedicated to the Spanish War, in which I participated along with Anne Hidalgo, Éric Zemmour, Bartholomé Bennassar and François Godicheau, I was surprised to learn that another book on the Spanish War had just been published by Tallandier instead. The book was the proceedings of the colloquium, “Passé et actualité de la guerre d’Espagne,”(“Past and present of the Spanish Civil War”), edited by Roger Bourderon, a specialist in the PCF and former editor-in-chief of the Marxist-inspired journal Les Cahiers d’histoire, and preceded by an opening speech by the socialist militant Anne Hidalgo, then first deputy mayor of Paris. It was well after I was made aware of this astonishing experience that I decided to get directly involved in the search for a new publisher. The French-speaking reader would have to wait for fifteen more years to finally have access to this work. We can be sure that the book would not have seen the light of day without the open-mindedness, the independence and the intellectual courage of the management of Éditions l’Artilleur /Toucan.

HD: You yourself are also a specialist of this period. What new contributions does the book make to the historiography of the Spanish Civil War?

AI: It is often said that Moa does not bring anything new, nothing more than what was said before him by authors in favor of the national or “Francoist” camp, such as King Juan Carlos’ first Minister of Culture, Ricardo de la Cierva, or Jesús Larrazabal and Enrique Barco Teruel, or even by anti-Franco authors, such as Gabriel Jackson, Antonio Ramos Oliveira, Claudio Sánchez Albornoz or Gerald Brenan. Perhaps. But none of them ever had the aura of Pío Moa in public opinion. On the other hand, we must distinguish his research work [with his first books, the well-sourced and documented trilogy, Los origins de la Guerra Civil, Los personajes de la República vistos por ellos mismos and El derrumbe de la Republica y la Guerra Civil] from his successful synthesizing effort, which is The Myths of the Spanish War.

But the most innovative element of his work, the one that did not fail to make his opponents cringe, is the disclosure of the archives of the Socialist Party, a party that was totally Bolshevized from the end of 1933, and that was in the main responsible for the 1934 putsch. Many authors had had the same intuition before Moa. The anti-Francoist Salvador de Madariaga had even written: “With the rebellion of 1934, the Spanish left lost even the shadow of moral authority to condemn the rebellion of 1936.” And these harsh words were corroborated by the Founding Fathers of the Republic, Marañon, Ortega y Gasset and Perez de Ayala, and even by the Basque philosopher Unamuno. It was also known that Largo Caballero, the main socialist leader, nicknamed the “Spanish Lenin” by the Socialist Youth (which merged with the Communist Youth in the spring of 1936), had declared: “We do not differ in any way from the Communists… The main thing, the conquest of power, cannot be done through bourgeois democracy… Elections are only a stage in the conquest of power and their result is only accepted with the benefit of an inventory… if the Right wins we will have to go to civil war.” Or again (and note carefully): “When the Popular Front collapses, as it undoubtedly will, the triumph of the proletariat will be indisputable. We will then establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

And now, after the systematic exploration and public disclosure of the archives of the Pablo Iglesias Socialist Foundation by Moa in 1999, there is no room for doubt.

HD: Franco is portrayed as entering the war almost against his will. Isn’t that a bit exaggerated? Do the communists have a monopoly on the historical responsibility for the war?

AI: The three main people responsible for the Spanish war were, in order, the socialist leader Largo Caballero and presidents Azaña and Alcala-Zamora, who would later use terrible words to describe the Popular Front. For a long time, at least until the beginning of July 1936, Franco was the general who rejected the idea of a coup d’état. It seems that the assassination of one of the leaders of the right, Calvo Sotelo, was the determining event in Franco’s final decision to participate. The role of the communists, which later became essential, was relatively marginal on the eve of the uprising. Moa’s thesis about the background and course of the Civil War is broadly correct. The main parties and leaders of the left, supposedly defenders of the Republic, violated republican legality in 1934. They then planned a civil war throughout Spain. They then finished destroying the Republic in the fraudulent elections of February 1936, crushing freedom as soon as they took power. I refer you here to the essential work of Roberto Villa García and Manuel Álvarez, 1936: Fraude y violencia en las elecciones del Frente popular, 2019 [On the Fraud and Violence of the Popular Front in the February 1936 Elections]— without the 50 seats that the right was robbed of in a real parliamentary coup d’état, the left would never have been able to govern alone.

The Civil War was not a battle of the democrats against the fascists, any more than it was a battle of the reds against the defenders of Christianity. There were in fact three unequal forces in the Republican camp, or rather the Popular Front. The first, by far the most important, included the communists, the Trotskyites, the Bolshevik socialists and the anarchists, who aspired to establish a people’s democracy-type regime on the Soviet and/or anarchist collectivist model. The second, the nationalist-separatists (Catalans, Basques, Galicians, etc.). Finally, the third, which was much more of a minority, brought together the parties of the bourgeois-Jacobin or social-democratic left, which voluntarily or involuntarily played into the hands of the first force. It cannot be overemphasized that the French Popular Front was very moderate in comparison with the Spanish Popular Front, a left-wing coalition dominated on the eve of the uprising by an extremist, violent, putschist and revolutionary Bolshevik Socialist Party.

In the other camp, the national and not nationalist camp, as the French media repeated out of ignorance or Pavlovian reflex, there were also several political tendencies ranging from centrist-radicals (a group of whose former ministers were executed by the Popular Front), to republican-democrats, agrarians, liberals and conservatives, to liberal monarchists, monarchist-Carlists/traditionalists, phalangists and nationalists. The conflict was between left-wing “totalitarians” and right-wing “authoritarians,” and the true democrats were conspicuous by their absence on both sides.

HD: The Vox movement tries to defend the positive aspects of Franco’s legacy and Moa’s book sells very well. Is Spain rehabilitating Franco? Is it ready to look at its history with objectivity?

AI: The positive and negative aspects of Franco’s regime are known to historians. Among the errors that can be blamed on the Caudillo and the supporters of Franco’s regime are in particular: the drastic censorship applied until the early 1960s, the harshness of the repression in the immediate post-civil war period (not the 100,000 or even 200,000 executed according to the propaganda of the Comintern, but 14,000 judicially executed and almost 5,000 extrajudicial settlements of accounts or political assassinations), and the Caudillo’s unyielding will to remain in power until the end.

The Vox movement, generally described as populist, although in reality it is a pro-European liberal-conservative party, is in fact the only party that currently attempts to defend the positive aspects of Francoism. These positive aspects include the indisputable economic successes between 1961 and 1975 (the years of the “Spanish miracle,” with a GDP growth that oscillated between 3.5% and 12.8%, which allowed Spain to rise to 9th place among industrialized nations, whereas today it is in 14th place); the fact that Franco and the Francoists defeated communism (which was in the minority at the beginning of the Civil War, compared with the Socialist party that was completely Bolshevized, but became hegemonic during the conflict); that they also allowed Spain (which was neutral at first and then non-belligerent) to escape the Second World War; and, finally, that they stopped separatism and preserved the unity of the country. It was the moderate Francoist right that took the initiative to establish democracy; the left having had the political intelligence to adapt and help consolidate democracy.

There are not 36 ways to get out of a civil war; there is only one: total and unconditional amnesty. The actors of the democratic transition (1975-1986) knew this. That is why the Democratic Cortes (in which la Pasionaria, Santiago Carrillo and Rafael Alberti, to name but a few, sat) passed an amnesty law on October 15, 1977, for all political crimes and terrorist acts of both the right and the left (especially those of ETA and the extreme left).

The vast majority of the political class was motivated by two principles: mutual forgiveness and dialogue between government and opposition. It was not a question of imposing silence on historians and journalists, but of allowing them to debate freely among themselves, while being careful not to use their work for political purposes. Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Memorial laws (Zapatero’s “Law of Historical Memory” in 2007 and the imminent project of a “Law of Democratic Memory” by Pedro Sánchez’s coalition—PSOE-PSC, Podemos/CatComú, PCE/IU—in 2022), were theoretically adopted to fight against “the apology of Francoism, violence and hatred;” but in reality, being totalitarian in nature, they are practically liberticidal. The Spanish authorities seem to want to seek social peace only through division, agitation, provocation, resentment and hatred. Spain is far from trying to heal its wounds once and for all and to look at its history with honesty, rigor and objectivity. Through the fault of its political caste, singularly mediocre, sectarian and irresponsible, it is reactivating the spirit of civil war and is slowly but inexorably sinking into a global economic, political, cultural, demographic and moral crisis of alarming proportions.

Historians know that in history there are facts, sometimes hidden, often underestimated or overestimated, depending on the authors; and that their analyses and interpretations are no less different, according to the convictions and sensibilities of each. But historians also know that no one can monopolize the word and make terroristic use of the so-called “scientific” argument without being outside the space of serious research and ultimately of democracy. Pío Moa knows and proclaims all of this; and for this reason we cannot recommend too highly the reading of his fine, well-argued, courageous and caustic book.


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


Featured: “To arms! Duty allows no excuses.” Poster from 1937.

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

[Click for Part I]

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

The Republic and the Civil War: Eight Decades of Historiography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Click for Part I]


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


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

History As Antidote To Propaganda: A Conversation With Pío Moa

A former militant of the reconstituted Spanish Communist Party (PCEr), a founding member of GRAPO, a Maoist movement, a resistance fighter and a terrorist, during the last years of Franco’s dictatorship, who retired from all political activity, as a democrat and liberal more than forty years ago, Pío Moa has become one of the most famous authors of his country. Ignored in France, he is at the center of all controversies and is a cultural phenomenon in Spain, where his books are bestsellers. His honest and disinterested effort to reinterpret the history of the Second Spanish Republic, the origins, developments and consequences of the Spanish Civil War, particularly from the archives of the Pablo Iglesias Socialist Foundation, is the most successful of the last twenty years.

His remarkable work of synthesis, Los Mitos de la Guerra civil (The Myths of the Spanish War 1936-1939), sold more than 300,000 copies, in Spain and in Spanish-speaking countries, and which he has just republished in an updated and completed version with Editions L’Artilleur (March 2022). We interviewed the author, Pío Moa, on the occasion of the French publication of this book-event, with historian Arnaud Imatz.


Arnaud Imatz (A.I.): The Spanish Civil War (SCW) or the Spanish War, as it is called in France, is one of the privileged places of lies. It has been repeated ad nauseam that it was the consequence of Franco’s harmful action; or, to put it more “cleverly,” the result of the aggression of the Army, the Catholic Church and the Bank against the People, Democracy and the Republic. In your work and research, you demonstrate that it was, on the contrary, the revolutionary movement and the collapse of the State and democracy that led to the July 1936 uprising. How did you come to this conclusion when you were an anti-Franco activist in your youth, a militant of the Marxist extreme left?

Pío Moa (P.M.): Paradoxical as it may seem, Franco was the last to rebel against the republic. Before him, socialists, anarchists, left-wing republicans (starting with the president of the council of ministers, Manuel Azaña), Catalan and Basque separatists, and the right-wing soldier José Sanjurjo had done so. The president of the republic Alcalá-Zamora, a moderate right-wing politician, also sabotaged right-wing politics because of his inferiority complex. Nothing is more false than the refrain “the people against the Church, etc.” The people voted massively to the right in November 1933. And it was then that the left decided to launch an armed insurrection. When I was young, I was a Marxist. I considered the errors and crimes that were being displayed before everyone’s eyes as temporary consequences of a great historical ordeal, which could not be perfect, and which would be overcome. Studying the contradictions of Marxism, especially from the theory of the fall of the rate of profit, I concluded that from fundamental errors in the theoretical conception one could only lead to errors and criminal practices, and that these were not accidental or the product of inexperience.

Pío Moa.

A.I.: Why do you give so much importance to the attempted socialist revolution of 1934 in the origins and direct history of the SCW?

P.M.: The Socialist and Catalan separatist revolution of October 1934 was openly and explicitly presented as a civil war aimed at destroying the “bourgeois” republic, imposing a communist republic and, if necessary, the secession of Catalonia. This is absolutely documented, which is why there has been an enormous effort to conceal it on the part of a generalized propagandist historiography, but without any rigor or serious value.

A.I.: Was there a fascist danger in Spain in the 1930s?

P.M.: There was no fascist danger. The leaders of the PSOE, Largo Caballero and his intellectual mentor Luis Araquistáin, said so themselves. They said it outside Spain. Inside, they insisted on its danger to mobilize people. This was part of their preparation for the Civil War.

A.I.: How did Republican legality and democratic coexistence definitively collapse in 1936?

P.M.: The left could have been moderate after learning the lessons of their failure in the 1934 insurrection. But the opposite happened. They approached the February 1936 elections by openly announcing that they would not recognize a victory for the right. These elections could not therefore be normal. And they were falsified, as recent very concrete studies have shown. This falsification was a real coup d’état that opened a period of complete rupture of republican legality.

A.I.: In your opinion, who are the main political figures responsible for the Civil War?

P.M.: Paradoxically, the main person responsible was the president of the republic, Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, a man of the right. In 1933 the left-wing parties and the separatists were defeated at the ballot box, and in 1934 they were defeated again in their armed rebellion. The PSOE and the separatists should then have been outlawed until they had learned their lesson. Alcalá-Zamora tried, on the one hand, to block any effective action and, on the other, to bring down those who won the elections and defeated the insurrection. Why did he do this? Mainly because of the typical complex of the right-wing politician who wants to pass for a “progressive” and thus curry favor with the left. After him, the main culprits were the socialist leader Francisco Largo Caballero and the Catalan separatist Lluís Companys.

A.I.: Did the great political formations of the Popular Front accept liberal democracy and reformism, or did they rather seek to establish a form of “popular democracy,” a collectivist system or even a “dictatorship of the proletariat?” And were there really democrats in the Spain of 1935-1936?

P.M.: The radical party of Alejandro Lerroux was democratic, although corrupt. The CEDA (Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rights) was not, but it accepted republican legality. The left-wing parties saw the republic as a means of imposing a “proletarian” dictatorship, i.e., their own; and the separatists saw it as a means of achieving secession. That is why, when they lost the elections in 1933, they turned to open rebellion.

A.I.: In France, the International Brigades are always more or less described as a movement of volunteers who went to defend democracy in Spain. Jacques Chirac said this in 2002, during a tribute to Colonel Rol-Tanguy, ex-brigadist and communist militant. Can you explain to us what the International Brigades were? Why is their image, often idyllic in the West, generally sinister and repulsive in Eastern countries?

P.M.: The International Brigades were a parallel army mobilized by the Comintern. They are obviously very well regarded by those who have a communist or similar mindset. Of course, the people of Eastern Europe know very well where the so-called communist romanticism leads; they are not fooled, like our “progressives.”

A.I.: Why was the Popular Front defeated?

P.M.: The only serious force within the Popular Front (which was essentially an alliance of pro-soviets and separatists), was the communists. They had a real strategy and the direct support of Stalin. They quickly realized that a regular, disciplined army was needed, not a more or less “folk militia.” The truth is that the rest of the Popular Front was composed of disparate and motley groups, very prone, especially in the case of the socialists, to theft and rearguard chekas. (For those who do not know, the chekas, named after the Soviet Cheka, were the torture centers—more than 400—organized by the various left-wing parties in all major cities). The Communists had to face the stupidity of their allies, and the crimes they committed raised great resentment among them. In fact, these allies, such as Azaña, sabotaged the communists’ actions as much as they could.

A.I.: The Marxist historian Manuel Tuñon de Lara was for a long time the admired and respected icon of French Hispanists, while at the same time one of the greatest international specialists. The American historian Stanley Payne was the victim of an incredible omerta of more than forty years in France (an omerta that was only broken in 2010 with the publication of La guerre d’Espagne. L’histoire face à la confusion mémorielle (Éditions du Cerf). Why is the perception of the Spanish War still so overwhelmingly favorable to the Popular Front in French academic and journalistic circles?

P.M.: Tuñón de Lara was clearly a Stalinist historian. The sympathy for the Communists in France is explicable. First, the Resistance had been largely Communist and their imposing propaganda made it possible to believe that they had been almost the only ones to resist. Secondly, it was the USSR that really defeated Nazism, at an immense cost. Finally, the French were lucky enough not to experience the delights of communism. That is why many can still afford the luxury of admiring Stalinist communism, of which Tuñón is a model.

A.I.: The greatest massacre of the Civil War was carried out for essentially religious reasons. 20% of the clergy, almost 7000 religious men and women were murdered. Between 1987 and 2020, various popes beatified no less than 1916 martyrs of the faith and even canonized 11 of them. But during the SCW, authors who claimed to be Christian humanists, such as Bernanos, Mauriac, Maritain or Mounier, severely criticized the exactions committed in the national camp and more or less directly supported the Popular Front camp.. How do you explain this?

P.M.: Within the Church, there was a current of sympathy towards communism, which culminated in the Second Vatican Council, with certain “dialogues between Christians and Marxists” that were very harmful to the Church. I think there was also a French nationalist sentiment, during the Spanish War. Franco was helped by Germany and Italy, and many believed that Spain would become one of their satellites, which did not happen. On the other hand, the Popular Front was indeed a satellite of Stalin.

A.I.: In Spain, the arrival of a new generation of historians and journalists at the turn of the 21st century has been accompanied by a terrible resurgence of hatred and sectarianism. You yourself have been insulted, mocked, slandered, pilloried, but also, and at the same time, applauded and praised by many readers and a host of scholars. Why this new political and cultural tension?

P.M.: After the Spanish people accepted democracy and the passage of “law to law” in a referendum, that is, respect for the historical legitimacy of Franco’s regime, the opposition, which was still that of the separatist leftists, embarked on a campaign to falsify history. Their vision seemed to prevail at the end of the 20th century, because it was accepted by an intellectually very poor right. But suddenly, it was documented and decisively refuted, and the socialist and extremist lefts reacted as usual—to the point of taking refuge in a typically totalitarian “historical memory law” that threatens the freedoms of research, expression and teaching. In so doing, their political leaders clearly show what kind of democrats they are and, incidentally, how weak and fragile their history is.

A.I.: The Spanish authorities seem obsessed with passing and strengthening these memorial laws, which only stir up division, unrest, resentment and hatred. Is it so difficult to accept the idea of a collective fault without discrimination between “good and bad” as a necessary condition for an authentic reconciliation?

P. M.: Yes! These laws feed resentment and division because they are based on enormous lies. To defend them, there are certain parties, most of them corrupt, and an extraordinarily uneducated and almost childish journalism in its manipulations. The historical reality is that Franco defeated a very serious Soviet and separatist threat, maintaining national unity and Hispanic culture. He overcame a murderous international isolation that sought to starve the Spanish people, and he left a prosperous, moderate and reconciled country. If it is true that “the truth will set us free,” it must be defended above all else.


Featured image: Poster for the International Brigades, ca. 1936.