Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Red Beret and The Red Flag, by David Lindsay

The thing Facebook declares, to those of us who are around them but not of them, the enthusiasm of the Latin Mass boys for the coming King Philip VI of Spain. How so? Are they not Carlists?

Juan Carlos was not even the senior Alfonsist heir. That was his father. The abdicator was picked for his political acceptability as surely as Louis Philippe was, or as surely as William of Orange was, and in very much the same interests as either of those, by figures standing in a continuous tradition from them and from the executioners of Charles I.

Yes, that is where Fascism comes from. It was not by chance that the influence of Maurras in Spain was on, over and through the Alfonsists, not the Carlists.

Had the supremacist forces of bourgeois liberal capitalism not swept away the little local kings, princes and grand dukes (and republican city-states) of German-speaking Europe and of the Italian Peninsula, then there would have been no gap for Hitler and Mussolini to fill in the vigorous defence of that same supremacy and supremacism.

And so on. But of that, another time.

National Catholicism is also an old and egregious error. The belief in some right to an autonomous “Catholic” church baptising the morality of the politically dominant class, and effectively subject to the State, has arisen in eleventh-century Byzantium, in sixteenth-century England, in seventeenth-century France and the Netherlands, in eighteenth-century Austria, in nineteenth-century Germany and Switzerland, among the Croats at least since the early 1990s, and in today’s China, as well as defining both the “liberal” and the “conservative” wings of the Catholic Church in the contemporary United States.

None of those histories is a happy one. Munich laymen who imagined that their financial contributions entitled them to run the Church through quasi-parliamentary institutions gave much succour to early Nazism, although that went on to become absolutely peculiar to the Protestant areas of Germany and to the anticlerical Third Lager in Austria.

If the Spanish did declare the Tercera República, then what would Real Madrid be renamed, and why? Or would Atlético just be declared to have won everything from the Civil War onwards, once and for all?

But at least since 1971, there have been Carlists on both sides. For a section of Carlism has swung firmly to the Left in observing how capitalism corrodes to nought all four of Dios, Patria, Fueros and Rey.

The difference between them is fundamentally strategic, about how best to adhere and attend to the Classical, Biblical, Medieval and Early Modern heritages that define the traditions deriving from disaffection with the events of 1688, 1776 and 1789.

Those traditions emphasise the indispensable role of the State in protecting against the market everything that conservatives seek to conserve. They offer perennial critiques of individualism, capitalism, imperialism, militarism, bourgeois triumphalism, and the fallacy of inevitable historical progress.

They uphold the full compatibility between, on the one hand, the highest view of human demographic, economic, intellectual and cultural expansion and development, and, on the other hand, the most active concern for the conservation of the natural world and of the treasures bequeathed by such expansion and development in the past.

Among the expressions of those traditions are the trade union, co-operative and mutual, Radical Liberal, Tory populist, Guild Socialist, Christian Socialist, Social Catholic and Distributist, and many other roots of the British, Irish and Commonwealth Labour Movements.

Variously, those roots have been embedded in, have been fed and watered by, and have grown into economic and wider patriotism locally and nationally, proud provincialism, worker-intellectualism, and organic working-class culture and self-organisation in town and country.

Don Carlos Hugo and the Carlist Left had to look to Tito’s Yugoslavia, a much-mourned entity with no shortage of good points among the bad, for the Libertad, Socialismo, Federalismo, Autogestión necessary in order to safeguard, and be safeguarded by, Dios, Patria, Fueros, Rey.

In Britain, we also had and have much to learn from the past achievements of workers’ ownership, self-management and profit-sharing within a multinational state which pursued a strongly multilateral and pro-peace foreign policy while eschewing weapons of mass destruction and transnational military power blocs, and which included both culturally Christian and culturally Muslim places and peoples.

Not for nothing did the words “As a Croat and as a Catholic” have to be excised from the official record Tito’s words when, in March 1971, Pope Paul VI received him in audience.

But we never entirely needed the Yugoslav witness in quite the same way, staunchly Anglophile though it was, and perhaps for that very reason: rather, Yugoslavia needed, and knew that she needed, the British witness.

Just as we have never needed Gramsci. The insistence on the unity of theory and practice, the rejection of economic determinism and of metaphysical materialism, the celebration of the “national-popular”, an organic working-class culture and self-organisation including worker-intellectuals: we already had them all before he was born.

Set within many overlapping contexts in which they were at once moderated and moderating. Like our own Libertad, Socialismo, Federalismo, Autogestión. Not to say, our own Dios, Patria, Fueros, Rey.

Since Soviet archives were opened up, all sorts of information has come to light. It is invaluably set out in Stanley G. Payne’s The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

The entire Republican cause was Comintern-directed, and the Soviet intervention was in no sense parasitic as has traditionally been supposed or asserted. For example, far from being commanded by a Canadian volunteer, the International Brigade was in fact commanded by Manfred Stern, a Soviet Commissar.

Or take Francisco Largo Cabellero, Socialist Party Leader and Popular Front Prime Minister. Entirely typically of his party, he defined it as a revolutionary force wholly distinct from British Labour or the French Socialists, and differing “only in words” from the Communists.

The Socialist Party’s 10-point programme of 1934 was wholly Leninist in form and substance, calling, among other things, for the replacement of the Army and the Civil Guard with a workers’ militia, and for the dissolution of the religious orders and the expropriation of their property. One could go on, and on, and on.

Stalin only loosened his grip once the Civil War was clearly lost, long after the Republicans themselves had given up what little commitment to democracy that they might ever have had.

Never was there a war more deserving of Henry Kissinger’s observation relating to the conflict between Iran and Iraq: “It’s a pity that only one of them can lose.”

But in the midst of all of that were the Carlists, a mass movement for Catholic Social Teaching expressed in forms including the foundation of trade unions, and for the local autonomy and distinctiveness of rural and urban working communities.

Every aspect of that was opposed by the Falangists into alliance with whom they had felt compelled by the Soviet-directed Republic, but who exiled their leaders. After the Civil War, Franco barely included the Carlists in his regime, his forces opened fire on them at least once, and he ended up giving the Throne to an Alfonsist whose tiny elite following the Carlists had understandably dismissed as, “a general staff without an army.”

And in the midst of all of that is an almost completely forgotten short chapter of British history, namely the tale of the first of our people to take up arms against Fascism. At Barcelona in 1937, they were murdered by the agents of Stalinism.

It suits certain interests to ignore the Independent Labour Party in general; its attempt to commandeer the entire Opposition benches for its three MPs in 1940 raises rather a lot of uncomfortable questions across the political spectrum.

And it suits certain interests to suppress the fact there was ever an anti-Stalinist and anti-Trotskyist Left with deep rural roots and a highly inclusive attitude, active from Britain to Catalonia via the France of Marceau Pivert and many other places besides.

There is a small plaque to the ILP Contingent in the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. But nothing to compare with the Soviet-directed International Brigade’s considerable monument, at which an annual ceremony is held on London’s South Bank, together with at least four more memorials in England, three in Scotland, two in Northern Ireland, two in the Irish Republic, and one in Wales.

Watch this space.

That may also involve watching, or more than watching, a Requiem Mass for those into whose Carlist rally the Falangists hurled grenades at Bilbao on 16th August 1942. So be it.


  1. It is good to read a post by someone who knows something about the complexity of spanish history, rather than the mainstream press, many of whom barely seem to heard of General Franco, let along King Alfonso XIII.