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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

LETTERS FROM HELL, VI. Lessons from the Spanish Civil War for the Unmasking of Americans

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We are truly living through “the times that try men’s souls”. All of us horrified by the sheltering of every vile form of revolutionary madness under the cynical leading wing of the Democratic Partygiant mask

Por Dios, Por la Patria, y el Rey!

Spanish Republican forces controlling Toledo at the beginning of the Civil War in 1936 informed the Nationalist commander of the Alcazar in the center of the city, Colonel José Moscardó Ituarte (1878-1956), that they would kill his son Luis if he did not surrender this citadel up to them. "Commend your soul to God and die like a patriot shouting ‘long live Christ the King’ and ‘long live Spain’!” were the instructions the aggrieved soldier gave the twenty four year old Luis. "That, I can do” was the doomed man’s clear response. He was killed.

He was obviously not alone. At least a half a million men and women died in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), many of them priests and nuns butchered for religious reasons, but the reason why it electrified the entire western world was not due to the number of casualties it entailed. The passions it aroused were aroused from the very outset of the conflict. This was because Spain, through the many groups composing the opposing Nationalist and Loyalist Republican camps, presented a microcosm of every possible spiritual, intellectual, political, social, and economic division afflicting the whole of western civilization from the time of the Reformation onwards. In other words, all westerners, in one way or another, had a stake in the struggle and wanted their particular side to win.

John VI 3

“Easier hoped for than accomplished” was what any intelligent observer of the Spanish scene already knew to be true as the country drifted ever more inexorably from civil mayhem to direct military confrontation from the establishment of the Republic in 1931 down to the army uprising of July 18th of 1936. Why? Because the factions on both sides of the Civil War, which had formed into a broadly leftist Popular Front and similarly wide but rightist National Bloc for the purpose of contending the general election of February 1936, were often as much at odds with their allies as they were with their electoral and then wartime enemies.

Popular Front groups providing the Loyalist defenders of the Republic during the war included classical nineteenth century economic liberals and anti-clerical Freemasons, alongside regional nationalists whose unity in their demand for autonomy or independence for ethnic Basque and Catalan states was nonetheless disturbed by their internal division between fervent Catholics and enemies of the Church. None of these “traditional leftists” with their own contradictory inner schisms, had anything in common with their future Anarchist and Stalinist or Trotskyite “comrades”, who also were animated by a mutual loathing.

The only bond of all these forces was the conviction that they could not achieve their particular goals without providing one another joint assistance without exception. This was an incredibly self-deluding belief for those of liberal or regional nationalist bent, and one that ultimately proved to be valid only for the Stalinist Marxists. Those master political technocrats knew how to maneuver in the revolutionary swamp, and worked successfully to eliminate their radical Trotskyite and Anarchist competitors as the Basque and Catalan members of the coalition fell by the wayside on the insufficient steam provided by all simply “moderate” positions. As usual, anything unleashing revolutionary leftists of all shades worked for the benefit of the most organized of the radicals. To destroy these radicals, however, all of the forces contributing to the Popular Front had to be crushed simultaneously. Still, to win not just the war but the peace thereafter as well, self-sacrificing fervor and clarity of vision regarding the basic underlying cause of the cataclysm was desperately required in the rightist camp.

Which among the many factions on the Right was most capable of achieving both of these goals? From our viewpoint, the answer is an easy one: the Carlists, monarchist supporters of the male Bourbon line of descent from Ferdinand VII to his brother, Don Carlos, led on the eve of the Civil War by Alfonso Carlos (1849-1936), living in exile in a still independent Austria. It was the Carlists who most underlined the need to build a stable and just political order upon the Kingship of Christ. Their motto---“For God, for the Fatherland, and for the King”---reflected a thoroughgoing understanding of the Social Teaching of the Church founded upon the recognition of Our Savior as the ultimate Sovereign of each and every nation.John VI 2

Teachings on the Social Kingship of Christ underlined the truth that the Spanish fatherland and its traditional monarchy were best served by a respect for the principle of decentralization and subsidiarity; for freedom for all the natural institutions of a diverse national order to operate by their innate laws and customs. As a result, Carlists were just as concerned for ensuring the regional autonomy of the Basque and Catalan lands as those militating in the ranks of the Popular Front, but as a regional autonomy freed from all self-destructive, materialist, anti-Catholic, Enlightenment Liberal taint. Although defeated in three Carlist Wars in the nineteenth century, their militant arm, the requetés, would prove to be the most ready to die with the words on their lips that Colonel Moscardó urged upon his son Luis---“Viva Cristo Rey! Viva España!”understood in their fullest and most proper sense:

Carlists, however, were not the only forces calling themselves anti-revolutionary “rightists”---although the theorists of Carlism were critical of the truly counterrevolutionary credentials and logical coherence of their National Bloc and Civil War allies. Such rightists included, first and foremost, the monarchist supporters of the female Bourbon line of descent from Ferdinand VII, which passed from his daughter Isabella to the current King Alfonso XIII (1886-1941), whose announcement that he could not longer effectively rule and self-imposed exile in Rome had led to the creation of the Second Spanish Republic. Although Carlists considered Alfonso an illegitimate king, his whole camp having been corrupted by cooperation with leftist liberal constitutionalism, the Alfonists had many basically anti-revolutionary supporters in Catholic, conservative, and army circles.

Fervent believers though they were, Carlists were nevertheless not at one with the confederation of twenty independent organizations of Spaniards professing the same Catholic Faith---the Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas or CEDA---led by José Maria Gil Robles (1898-1980). Much less could they agree with José Antonio Primo de Rivera’s (1903-1936) Falange movement. While proud of the Hispanic tradition in general and publicly pro-Catholic, the Falange’s avowed “national socialism” and embrace of a powerful, centralized, material-progress obsessed, and apparently totalitarian Spanish State contradicted Carlist principles of religion, subsidiarity and regionalism.

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Finally---and most importantly from 1936 onwards---Carlists were disturbed by Bonapartist influence upon the rightist coalition. Bonapartism in the broad sense means the interference of the army in the life of the State. This had begun as a tool of the Left, whether in “moderate” form with Napoleon, or in support of more radical causes in the Spanish nineteenth century experience, the justification always being that the army could provide necessary change while maintaining discipline and social order.

Carlism had had to deal with this phenomenon of the leftist army “man on horseback” from the very outset of its history. But the possible uses of army coups d’état expanded in Spain as well as elsewhere in Europe as time went on, with anti-revolutionary forces eager to interfere in government to counter the Left making appeal to them as well. A “rightist” use of the army in politics can be seen in Spain in the coup and dictatorship of José Antonio’s father, Miguel Primo de Rivera (1870-1930) in the 1920s, who worked under the aegis of King Alfonso XIII, just as liberals had before him. But many of these Bonapartists also made reference to revolutionary ideas, with some of them professing openly republican sentiments and therefore considered to be nothing other than “moderate” liberal leftists from the Carlist standpoint. And it was a mixture of such diverse army officers that finally rose up against the Popular Front government that had just barely won the election victory in February, 1936, implementing programs horrifying everyone in the National Bloc and countenancing the civil and anti-Catholic violence that ended with the murder of the prominent rightist leader, José Calvo Sotelo (1893-1936) that unleashed the coup d’état.

Carlists, who had already before these army officers planned an uprising in their strongholds in Northern Spain, now found themselves in an awkward position. That position was complicated still further due to the accidental traffic death of the Pretender, Alfonso Carlos, in September of 1936 and a subsequent division regarding whom to recognize as his successor. A Carlist minority was ready to accept Alfonso XIII, the closest blood relation to the Pretender. Nevertheless, his association with liberal constitutionalism made him an impossible candidate for the large majority of the movement that was always concerned not just for the dynastic blood principle but for commitment to the Social Kingship of Christ as well. Its choice was the man Alfonso Carlos had designated as his “regent” precisely because of his reliability with respect to such principles: Don Javier of Bourbon-Parma (1889-1977), a truly remarkable, intelligent, and courageous man who had fought in the Belgian Army in World War One, but also taken part in the secret peace efforts initiated by of the Emperor Karl and the Empress Zita through his brother, Prince Sixtus of Bourbon Parma. While eager to overturn the Republic through a rising in the North, Don Javier made it clear to all parties, the army plotters included, of the serious disagreements that continued to divide them.

In any case, the failure of the army forces to achieve their goal immediately on July 18th, 1936, allowed the Loyalist Republicans to turn a coup d’état into a Civil War. This made the rising in the north, which was successful, all the more important to the army leadership, which, due to the unexpected death of the other authors of the revolt---General José Sanjurjo (1879-1936) and General Emilio Mola y Vidal (1887-1937), fell firmly into the hands of General Francisco Franco (1892-1975). But the relationship of Franco with Don Javier, who was forced to spend almost all of the war outside Spain, and the “hands on” Carlist leader at the front, Manuel Fal Conde (1894-1975), was tense to say the very least.John VI 1

To make a long and complicated story short, Don Javier and Fal Conde realized that the Carlists could not abandon the common war effort, but that cooperation against an enemy that must be crushed could never mean acceptance of the whole “Nationalist” program as developed under Franco as Caudillo or “Leader”. For this involved a forced union with---and basic control by---the Falange , whose principles the Carlists could never approve, involving as they did a centralized “revolutionary” understanding of the Spanish State, those aspects of which Franco felt capable of working with he supported. This meant an effective marginalization of the Carlist Movement, which Franco openly told Don Javier opposition on the part of  republican army officers to the movement’s truly serious monarchism made necessary. Don Javier’s firm defense of the cause, supported by Fal Conde, would lead them into direct opposition to much of Franco’s program in the postwar years, often under very difficult conditions for them personally. They simply did not trust that program, nor did they entertain hopes for its long-term success.

“Lifting our hearts to God”, ran Pope Pius XII’s message of congratulation to Franco at the end of the war against the Republic, “we give sincere thanks with Your Excellency for the victory of Catholic Spain”.  But was “Catholic Spain” really victorious along with the Nationalists? Was the “Social Kingship of Christ” really the goal of what was publicly called “The Crusade” during the war years? Don Javier, Fal Conde, and the Carlists following them did not think so, and I fully believe that history has proven them to be correct, for reasons that fit all too neatly into the recurring history of the problems emasculating counterrevolutionary reactions to revolutionary madness since 1794.

For none of these “counterrevolutionary” reactions were logically and solidly counterrevolutionary in character. 1794 and the fall of Robespierre and St. Just was actually the work of the “moderate” revolutionary bourgeoisie and technocrats, worried solely about their property and the efficiency of the army. Sad to say, even the restored French Monarchy in 1814 decided to play along with their basically liberal principles to survive. The June Days of 1848, the beginning of the “turn around” during a new spate of revolutionary activity, was not much different, with the liberal bourgeoisie encouraging a “Party of Order” against the socialist “Red Menace” the condition for whose establishment was that Catholics stop calling moderate Liberalism “leftist”. And, sad to say, once again, the post-1848 “counterrevolutionary” forces in France, and then in Italy and Germany, went along with them. Did true counterrevolution triumph in consequence? No. The Revolution continued along its merry way.

Franco’s cooperation with the Falange could not seriously survive in the postwar, anti-Fascist world. Sharing a common enemy in Soviet Communism, Franco’s Spain, step-by-step, went down the moderate Liberal path, now represented by pluralist America, which was joined in its labors by the Roman Catholic Church herself from the 1960s onwards. This stroll down Pluralist Liberal Lane translated into an acceptance of the Alphonsist monarchical line, its constitutional Liberalism and cooperation first with historical Christian Democratic elements in Spain, and then with the committedly pluralist, technocratic, and “European Community” minded “Catholic” conservatives of the Opus Dei. With the death of Franco and the beginning of the reign of Juan Carlos in 1975, strengthened by the blessing of a Catholic Church that had come to see the Social Kingship of Christ as a danger to a liberty, equality, and fraternity properly defined only by the French Revolution and its aftermath, the 1936-1939 Crusade was shown to have been a long-term dismal failure.

With a pox on the memory of Tom Paine, we, today, are truly living through “the times that try men’s souls”. All of us horrified by the sheltering of every vile form of revolutionary madness under the cynical leading wing of the Democratic Party; all of us horrified by the contempt being displayed for Christianity and the past as a whole; all of us disgusted by the most irrational, manipulative, tyrannical fraud that I have ever encountered in history after forty two years as a Professor in that discipline, exposed to the sicknesses of the human mind and spirit throughout the ages---all of us know that we must support the re-election of Donald Trump and do nothing that could jeopardize that victory. Mutatis mutandis, we are in the Carlist position.

Nevertheless, the best that we can do for the long-term defense of the Catholic Church, the social order, human freedom, and the United States of America is to continue our prayers on the president’s behalf, not just for his re-election, but also for his full conversion to the Faith. This is essential, because many of our temporary allies in this momentary common cause are still part of the problem that I identified in an earlier installment of my Letters From Hell.letters from hell graphic

The basic sin of Liberalism---the reduction of earthly affairs to the purely material and individual level---is still the chief obsession of all too many Republicans and Conservatives alongside their still more radical democratic enemies---as much as they would like to deny this truth. And the Revolution will always bounce back again so long as the Original Sin of Liberalism---its materialist obsession, in one way or another, with an individualist and anti-social definition of freedom---is not completely obliterated from the entire globe. I can believe that all this is possible through our prayers, precisely because after hearing an Ave Maria sung from the White House itself, I can believe that anything is possible.

These Letters From Hell could continue, discussing what is likely to happen after the coming election, whenever---and if ever---its outcome is known. I have many titles ready for further installments reflecting my premonitions regarding the all too immediate future: “Firestorm”; “Journey to the End of the Night”; “End Game”, “Danse Macabre”, “Diabolical Free For All”; “The Seventh Seal”, and “Liber Scriptus Proferetur” among them.

In short, I am certain that there will be civil disorder no matter who wins: in different states in different ways, depending upon who constitutes the majority and the minority therein. On the anti-Trump side, this violence is inevitably bound to focus, in openly or disguised ways, on the Catholic Church as Enemy Number One. No priest or bishop can be liberal or radical enough to save himself from being tarred with the ever-recurring anti-Christian label of Hater of Mankind (or its modern equivalent) known to us all too well from Roman times. So long as the Christian name is used, it will be reviled.

An article entitled “Either-Or” would explain the reason why. The Revolution has always been the highly effective tool bringing trainloads of Sophist, Nominalist, and Libertine ideas from every age since the days of the Socratics to the modern front lines to battle all those upholding the cause of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. That cause has only been given its real strength only due to the reality of Incarnation and the teaching and grace of God that the Incarnation has provided us, transmitted through a Catholic Church that proclaims the Social Kingship of Christ. The firestorm that the Revolution unleashes upon earth is fully backed by Satan and his minions who have conducted war in heaven since the fall of the angels and are thrilled to have others on their side whom they can drag to perdition along with them.

The rhetoric of the Revolution characterizes it as engaged in a war of lying, self-destructive, and ultimately meaningless “words” pitted against the saving Word. It loves to hide behind masks, often claiming that it is not fighting against religion, but simply---as with Queen Elizabeth, patriotically defending England against her foreign Catholic foes--- or---as with the dangerous medical ideologues, pharmaceutical robber barons, and their democratic party fellow travelers tormenting us today---altruistically protecting the public health against obscurantists who would allow the Grim Reaper to wreak his havoc.

In the long run, it is “either” the Revolution and all the evil that it represents “or” the Catholic Church and the Social Kingship of Christ. Everything else is a stopgap measure. Let us pull the mask off the face of the Revolution this November in a way that will complete the job fully for the benefit of the world, the United States, each and every one of us, and our future fellow Catholic, Donald Trump.

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Last modified on Tuesday, October 6, 2020
John Rao | Remnant Columnist, New York

John C. Rao, Ph.D. is an associate professor of history at St. John's University, director of the Roman Forum/Dietrich von Hildebrand Institute, and former president of Una Voce America.  In 1977 he received his D.Phil. in Modern European History from Oxford University. Notable works include Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States, Removing the Blindfold, and Periphery. His latest book, Black Legends: The War of the Words Against the Word, a guide to the history of the Catholic Church, was published by The Remnant Press in 2012. A student of Dietrich von Hildebrand and a close friend and collaborator of Michael Davies, John Rao has been a frequent contributor to The Remnant since the early 1980s.  He is known for writing his Remnant columns from Rocco's Cafe, an Italian pastry shop in Greenwich Village Manhattan.

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