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Oh Great, the Falangists Are Back

I’ll begin with the basics — I had no idea that Catholic socialism still existed, given its utter repudiation by Pope Leo XIII.

Still, it would appear as if the old dragon still draws breath, in no small part as a reaction to the neo-conservative moment within the Catholic intelligentsia in the United States (spearheaded perhaps by First Things) and countered perhaps by the “revolutionary Aristotelians” such as MacIntyre and Dreher.

If you are a layperson, consider four camps within Catholic intellectual circles: two on the right, two on the left. Within the right there are two camps — conservative (John Paul II) and traditionalists (SSPX). Within the left, there are two camps as well: radicals (liberation theology) and progressives (Pope John XXIII).

What is interesting here — and a worthwhile moment to pause — is the effort between some of the radicals to appropriate the language of the traditionalists, primarily in an effort to synthesize a few disparate ideas:

  1. Distributist ethics and a rejection of capitalism.
  2. Traditionalist language and norms.
  3. The spirit of integralism as a check against the corrosion of a post-modern society.
  4. A baptism of liberation theology (stick with me on this one).
  5. A reinforced emphasis on localism and subsidiarity.

The core problem is that the tradinistas have been here before, and it is a radically different form of integralism than that proffered by the traditionalists. In a previous incarnation, they carried a different name: falangists.

Now clearly, the tradistinas would roll their eyes at such a charge. Yet apart from the distinction between the nation-state and the world-state, is there really much of a difference between the syndicalist and the tradinista?

For comparison purposes, here is the Twenty-Six Point Program of the Spanish Falange and the A Tradinista! Manifesto. Compare and contrast as you will… and you’ll notice some glaring similarities.

Twenty-Six Point Program of the Spanish Falange

A Tradinista! Manifesto

25. Our Movement incorporates the Catholic meaning — of glorious tradition, and especially in Spain — of national reconstruction.

The Church and the State will co-ordinate their respective powers so as to permit no interference or activity that may impair the dignity of the State or national integrity.

1. Jesus Christ is the way, and the truth, and the life, who became man for the salvation of all.

We believe in the authority and teachings of Christ, entrusted to His Church. We invite all in sympathy with our beliefs and goals to join us, as our project concerns the common good of all humanity.

2. Spain has a single destiny in the world.

Every conspiracy against this common unity is repulsive. Any kind of separatism is a crime which we shall not pardon. The existing Constitution, to the degree that it encourages disintegration, weakens this common destiny of Spain. Therefore we demand its annulment in a thundering voice.

2. Political authority ought to promote the teachings of the Church.

We recognize the social kingship of Christ, and all people are subject to him by His very essence and power. While the polity has a positive obligation to facilitate the salvation of its citizens, it should not compel them to become Christian. The polity is autonomous, though not perfectly separated from, the Church.

7. Human dignity, integrity, and freedom are eternal, intangible values.

But one is not really free unless he is a part of a strong and free nation. No one will be permitted to use his freedom against the nation, which is the bulwark of the fatherland’s freedom. Rigorous discipline will prevent any attempt to envenom and disunite the Spanish people or to incite them against the destiny of the fatherland.

3. The goal of political authority is to create a good and virtuous people.

The law is a teacher and always promotes a particular conception of the good; morally-neutral laws are therefore impossible. The essence of government is to lead citizens to virtue and societies to the highest of the natural common goods. All law and policy must aim at the common good, not at private interest.

22. It will be the primary goal of the National-Syndicalist State to rebuild the communal patrimonies of the towns.

4. Political authority must be decentralized as far as possible.

The principle of subsidiarity requires us to assign to lower associations the tasks they can realistically perform; but some tasks can be done only at a federal level. Since the modern nation-state is an instrument of the capitalist class, a radical decentralization of political authority is possible only with the abolition of capitalism.

11. The National-Syndicalist State will not cruelly stand apart from man’s economic struggles…

…nor watch impassively while the strongest class dominates the weakest. Our regime will eliminate the very roots of class struggle, because all who work together in production shall comprise one single organic entity. We reject and we shall prevent at all costs selfish interests from abusing others, and we shall halt anarchy in the field of labour relations.

5. Economic life should be ordered to the common good.

Although almsgiving and private charity are commanded by God, they are insufficient to carry out all of the requirements of justice. The polity has the duty of preventing and rectifying economic injustices, thereby fostering the well-being of citizens.

8. The National-Syndicalist State will permit all kinds of private initiative that are compatible…

…with the collective interest, and it will also protect and encourage the profitable ones.

10. We repudiate the capitalistic system…

…which shows no understanding of the needs of the people, dehumanises private property, and causes workers to be lumped together in a shapeless, miserable mass of people who are filled with desperation. Our spiritual and national conception of life also repudiates Marxism. We shall redirect the impetuousness of those working classes who today are led astray by Marxism, and we shall seek to bring them into direct participation in
fulfilling the great task of the national state.

6. Capitalism must be abolished.

The foundational relation of capitalist society is between those who are compelled to sell their labor-power on pain of destitution and those who, by their ownership of capital, are enabled to exploit the former. Since it is premised on workers’ lack of economic freedom, this structurally-unjust relation must be eliminated; and in doing so, the capitalist class – which serves its own ends, detrimental to the common good of society – will also be done away with.

12. The first duty of wealth- and our State shall so affirm- is to better the conditions of the people.

It is intolerable that enormous masses of people should live wretchedly while a small number enjoy all kinds of luxuries.

7. Class society must be erased.

Class struggle is a fact of contemporary life and flows directly from the injustices of capitalist society. As Christians, we support the struggle of all oppressed people against the exploitative class war being waged against them. This struggle is fundamentally a genuinely universal effort, founded in solidarity, for a just society based on the common good, precisely because the capitalist class serves only its own sectarian interest. The means of class struggle, peaceful if possible, must respect basic moral norms and fundamental human dignity.

9. Our conception of Spain in the economic realm is that of a gigantic syndicate of producers.

We shall organise Spanish society corporatively through a system of vertical syndicates for the various field of production, all working toward national economic unity.

8. Livelihood should not depend on the market.

Markets are not unjust in themselves, but they become vehicles of exploitation when people must sell their labor-power on the market in order to survive. So, while citizens should be free to engage in market exchange, the polity should ensure that no basic needs – food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, etc. – go unmet, guaranteeing a livelihood independent of the market.

13. The State will recognise private property as a legitimate means for achieving individual,
family, and social goals…

…and will protect it against the abuses of large-scale finance capital, speculators, and money lenders.

9. Every person has a right to property.

Private property is a basic feature of human society; nevertheless, the right to property is not unconditional, and ownership is justified only if it serves the common good. Complementing private property should be a combination of a new commons (knowledge, land) and widely-democratized productive property, and the polity must ensure that private ownership, unlike in its bourgeois form, is not used in exploitative ways.

14. We shall support the trend toward nationalisation of banking services…

…and, through a system of Corporations, the great public utilities.

17. We must, at all costs, raise the standard of living in the countryside…

…which is Spain’s permanent source of food. To this end, we demand agreement that will bring to culmination without further delay the economic and social reforms of the agricultural sector.

10. Worker cooperatives should be strongly encouraged.

Centralized and monopolized private ownership of means of production must give way to control by the political community. At the same time, the polity should not directly run small- or mid-sized enterprises, leaving these to be owned and managed – as far as possible – on a worker-cooperative basis. More equitable and non-exploitative work relations within firms will result.

23. It shall be the essential mission of the State to attain by means of rigorous disciplining…

…of education a strong, united national spirit, and to instill in the souls of future generations a sense of rejoicing and pride in the fatherland.

11. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and similar forms of oppression must be eradicated.

These may manifest themselves as subjective attitudes, but they are primarily and fundamentally structural and material barriers to equality. Both forms of oppression must be fought. Justice demands that we stand with those unfairly excluded from political and economic life, and to demand their full integration into society.

24. Cultural life shall be organised so that no talent will be undeveloped…

…because of insufficient economic means. All who merit it shall be assured ready access to a higher education.

12. Marriage and family life should be specially supported by the polity to promote the common good.

We uphold the value of the indissoluble marriage of one man and one woman, ordered towards the generation of offspring, which is the foundation of society. Accordingly the polity should take supporting the education and rearing of children as a primary responsibility. Few things are more hostile to the poor among us than the bourgeois conception of marriage and family life, in which marriage becomes a mere contract or means to self-gratification. We therefore reject contraception, no-fault divorce, in-vitro fertilization, and any similar attempt to sever marriage from procreation or interfere with its indissolubility.

2. Spain has a single destiny in the world.

Every conspiracy against this common unity is repulsive. Any kind of separatism is a crime which we shall not pardon. The existing Constitution, to the degree that it encourages disintegration, weakens this common destiny of Spain. Therefore we demand its annulment in a thundering voice.

13. Abortion is a horrifying crime which must be eradicated immediately.

We insist on the right to life from conception to natural death; all innocent human lives must be protected. While prohibiting abortion, the polity should simultaneously provide abundantly for the material security of mothers. No one should face economic hardship because of having a child.

20. We shall undertake a relentless campaign of reforestation and livestock breeding…

…and we shall punish severely those who resist it. We shall support the compulsory, temporary mobilisation of all Spanish youth for this historic goal of rebuilding the national commonwealth.

14. Anthropogenic climate change threatens the common good of all mankind, and must be fought.

It is indisputable that climate change has man-made causes. Given its increasingly manifest and obviously dangerous consequences, especially for the indigenous peoples and the poor, it must be halted.

6. Our State will be a totalitarian instrument to defend the integrity of the fatherland.

All Spaniards will participate in this through their various family, municipal, and syndical roles. There shall be no participation in it by political parties. We shall implacably abolish the system
of political parties and all of their consequences- inorganic suffrage, representation of clashing groups, and a Parliament of the type that is all too well known.

15. We reject nationalism and the nation-state.

Our respect for the well-being of others does not depend on their nationality, and the nation-state, corrupted by its bureaucratic structure, has proven itself incompetent in facing modern challenges of climate change, terrorism, drug cartels, migration, and – above all – global capitalism. We nevertheless support struggles against colonialism and imperialism, and advocate a genuine international authority governed by Christian principles to prevent the exploitation of one country by another.

4. Our armed forces- on land, sea, and in the air- must be kept trained and sufficiently large to assure to Spain at all times its complete independence and a status in the world that befits it.

We shall bestow upon our Armed Forces of land, sea, and air all the dignity they merit, and we shall cause their military conception of life to infuse every aspect of Spanish life.

16. Warfare is justified only by careful moral analysis.

It is of paramount importance for societies to show genuine restraint and moral conscience in the face of the decision to use military force. Given the nature of modern weaponry, it’s difficult to imagine that any war today, offensive or defensive, could satisfy the traditional requirements of the Church’s just war theory. The primary intrinsic good of a polity is peace, and peace must always be the norm by which war is judged.

21. The State may expropriate without indemnity lands of those owners…

…who either acquired them or exploited them illegally.

17. All societies should generously welcome migrants fleeing hardship.

In memory of the Holy Family’s exile in Egypt, the Church has always shown a special solicitude for the plight of migrants. The care of migrants is a matter of natural justice – not charity – and we demand that political societies reflect the Church’s solicitude.

15. All Spaniards have the right to work.

Public agencies must of necessity provide support for those who find themselves in desperate straits. As we proceed toward a totally new structure, we shall maintain and strengthen all the advantages that existing social legislation gives to workers.

18. In everything possible, we stand with the poor and the marginalized.

Our politics are animated entirely by a concern for the poor: the victim, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the ignorant, the sinner. Seeing the face of Christ in the least among us, we focus on these as the aim and measure of our politics.

16. Unless they are disabled, all Spaniards have the duty to work.

The National-Syndicalist State will not give the slightest consideration to those who fail to perform some useful function and who try to live as drones at the expense of the labour of the majority of people.

19. We strive toward a genuine polity animated by Christian socialist principles.

We recognize the value of small-scale political organizations as intermediate to our ultimate ends. But we also realize that our highest common goods can only be achieved in a polity, and it is precisely such polities, governed by principles like those articulated here, that we would seek to establish.

26. The Falange Espanola Tradicionalista y de las JONS demands a new order, as set forth in
the foregoing principles.

In the face of the resistance from the present order, it calls for a revolution to implant this new order. Its method of procedure will be direct, bold, and combative. Life signifies the art and science of warfare (milicia) and must be lived with a spirit that is purified by service and sacrifice.

20. Liberalism is failed, and we must move beyond it.

We reject the prevailing ideology, political systems, and political economy of the contemporary West. The history of the liberal political project is the history of the justification of racist and imperialist oppression; of the exploitation and control of wage-labor; of the estrangement of politics from truth, beauty, and goodness; of the corrosion of sound faith. The promises of liberalism have repeatedly been shown to be empty lies, and we reject them outright. It fails on its own terms as well as ours.

What one notices rather quickly is that — in situ — there really isn’t much that separates the falangist from the tradinista. If that makes one a contra, then so be it.

In the final analysis, the sort of integralism proffered here is one that is a political integralism that mimics the forms of traditionalism while pushing the substance of progressivism — and certainly distant from the integralism of the Catholic popes of the late 19th and early 20th century (i.e. those who believed that integralism was merely an exposition of Catholic values in the public square; a Catholic life lived). It is — in its political sense as expressed by the tradinistas — the opposite extreme of the modernist heresy:

It was, of course, the progressives and neo-Modernists who first started using the term “integralist” in a pejorative sense. It is thus supremely ironic that it is today taken up by those who profess to champion the interests of the Church, such as George Weigel. They are utilizing a false dichotomy created by Modernist innovators who sought to disassociate the intellectual element of faith from the experiential, to embrace modern liberal pluralism, and to destroy the authority of the Holy See. They did this by asserting that Pius X had gone too far in his persecution of Modernism, and labeled those who agreed with the Pian attacks on “the conglomeration of all heresies” as “integralists”, thus creating a false dichotomy of two extremes whilst positing a new via media. This via media was supposed to be the path of mainstream Catholicism, though in reality it was a via media the popes and saints of yesteryear would have considered highly questionable. Thus, the whole ground was shifted under the feet of the faithful, and those who simply retained an integral approach to the faith became extremists while the progressive nouvelle theologie became mainstream.

This opinion, however, is not held universally… and there are indeed powerful (and moderately persuasive) arguments to the contrary:

The future of integralism as a significant force within the life of the Church and the nations of the world is unwritten, but the principles of integralism, which are bound to the truth of Christ’s rightful rule in the spiritual and temporal spheres, will survive with the Church until the Second Coming. The defeatist mindset which holds that the days of integralism have passed and that a “new order” or “new relationship” must be established between the Church and the world remains a prevalent temptation; and like all temptations, which are from the devil, must be resisted. Equally tempting to integralists is despair. Have the affairs of the Church and society not become so corrupted with error and moral rot that there is no longer any hope or, if there is hope, it is in trying to escape the world and pray for the eschaton? Ah, but no Catholic has any right to despair. None! The integral Catholic must remain fortified by the messages of light which God, in His love and compassion for his frail, fallen, and fearful creatures has delivered through the Church. And above all the integralist repairs to the words of their savior and king: “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As persuasive as this sounds, I am not entirely convinced that the Second Vatican Council got it wrong with regards to the American (religious freedom) vs. Spanish (confessional state) models of governance as outlined in Dignitatis Humanae:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

This is ultimately what is at the core of the issue, and what the tradinistas — insofar as they are traditionalists — seek to alter and abolish.

What is curious about the project is its decided leftward (rather than nationalist and therefore rightward) turn. The tradinistas almost look back to the Spanish Civil War with tremendous regret… as if the mythos and drama of the Spanish Republicans could be melded to the moral underpinnings of Spanish nationalism; a socialist movement with a falangist soul.

What a tremendous error that would be in the effort against liberalism and modernism. One sympathizes with the diagnosis, but the tradinista cure is more deadly than the disease.

 

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  • Timothy Kirchoff

    Surely there is a better point of reference to which to compare the Tradinistas (a seemingly small group of young Catholic intellectuals who are probably getting far more attention than they expected) than that variety of religious fascism that literally fought a war against socialists and socialist-supported forces (I actually had to look up what a Falangist is, and I suspect most Catholics not associated with Opus Dei, whose founder’s story is tied up in that war, would have to do the same).

    I have trouble identifying a single Tradinista point in the long list that actually corresponds meaningfully to the Falangist point to which it is compared. In most of the 20 points, the similarity is superficial at best. Why put together this long list of things that have virtually nothing to do with each other?

  • Matthew Shadle

    Shaun, if you have not already read it, you might be interested in Charles Anderson’s 1970 book The Political Economy of Modern Spain. He points out that among the Spanish Falangists of the 1930s, there was a left wing and a right wing (And maybe a center? It has been a while since I read it.) You could very easily make the case that the Tradinistas have much in common with the left wing, and contemporary integralists like those at The Josias are more like the right wing, but sharing in common anti-liberalism. I am going to post something on the Tradinistas at the Political Theology Today blog tomorrow, and I give this post a positive mention. Hope you read mine!

  • AsherLev

    ‘I had no idea that Catholic socialism still existed, given its utter repudiation by Pope Leo XIII.’

    Red herring. The ‘socialism’ repudiated by Leo XIII and by pretty much all subsequent pontiffs, was that of the planned economy, but that is just one variant in the constellation of political ideologies known today as ‘socialism’. Pope Benedict XVI noted that we can distinguish between this ‘totalitarian’ form of socialism and more ‘democratic’ models, concluding that actually ‘democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine’.

    ‘If you are a layperson, consider four camps within Catholic intellectual circles: two on the right, two on the left. Within the right there are two camps — conservative (John Paul II) and traditionalists (SSPX). Within the left, there are two camps as well: radicals (liberation theology) and progressives (Pope John XXIII).’

    Any taxonomy that tries to map a complex and diffuse set of Catholic views onto the one dimensional left-to-right scale of our contemporary politics is bound to obscure more than it can reveal. Certainly most of today’s ‘conservatives’ would be disconcerted by John Paul II’s calls for amnesty, while ‘progressives’ would hardly find common cause with John XXIII’s condemnation of reproductive technologies contrary to the natural law. The fact is, the Tradinistas are not a case of ‘radicals’ trying to cut across political lines in an effort to ‘appropriate the language of the traditionalists’. It is simply a bunch of orthodox Catholics, with Macintyrean tomes in hand, who are trying to popularize what they see as authentic Catholic Social Teaching. That’s because democratization of the means of production, subsidiarist governance, environmental stewardship, care for migrants etc. are themselves part of the Church’s traditional teaching.

    ‘For comparison purposes, here is the Twenty-Six Point Program of the Spanish Falange and the A Tradinista! Manifesto. Compare and contrast as you will…’

    Well, I did compare and contrast as I willed and I ended up with a heck of a lot more contrasts than comparisons. The most glaring difference, of course, is article 15 of the Tradinistas’ manifesto, where they ‘reject nationalism and the nation-state … colonialism and imperialism’ as pathologies of ‘global capitalism’, which hardly squares with the falangists demand that the ‘state’ become ‘a totalitarian instrument to defend the integrity of the fatherland’; a view which lay at the very core of their fascistic ideology.

  • DLink

    I have little competence in theology so can not argue the reference points here as applies to doctrine. My field of education and experience is history and social science and this article seems to be in large part a comment on these areas. Let’s not forget that the 1930s was a period of rising leftism in many countries. All were Marxist to some degree no matter their official names. There was also a large body of the population in most countries that had roots in what could be called traditional social and political institutions. Admittedly, by this point some of these institutions had forfeited their right to the loyalty of the populace through their failure to adapt to changing times. Pius IX was right to oppose Garibaldi’s methods but he was also especially reluctant to acknowledge that Europe was in the process of change and rather than trying to influence and guide the process, he chose to stand athwart the wind and cry stop to all of it. Same thing happened in Spain in 1935. It is a fallacy to call the Republican government democratically elected. They threw out the monarchy and cobbled together an assortment of idealists, the power hungry, anarchists and just plain kooks who could not even agree on what type of government they wanted. Power abhors a vacuum so Franco filled the void. By the time the whole thing, including a civil war was over, the people were so weary of all the discord and destruction, they reluctantly accepted the Falange. In the Church today, we are roughly at a parallel to 1934. It is our choice whether we want to continue the infighting that has led to SSPX at one extreme and the modernist cabal of ordination feminists, redistributionists and peaceniks on the left. There has been a distinct lack of leadership that emphasizes the foundational permanent part of Catholic belief. We have even seen the spectacle of Cardinals proclaiming new theologies built on little more than a belief that the Almighty may have made a mistake in not seeing to their own papal selection. Fortunately, the center holds, for now. However that is not a guarantee for the future.