Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Prototyping the theocracy

“¡Viva la muerte!”, Spain 1936

Jeremy Treglown, in his review, wrote: 
Something not generally emphasised about the Spanish civil war, at least outside Spain, is that, at the time, it represented a victory of religion over secularism. In today’s world, with its unexpectedly renewed theocracies, this is one of many reasons why we should be interested.
The parallels, while not exact, are sometimes striking. Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia:
It struck me that the people in this part of Spain must be genuinely without religious feeling--religious feeling, I mean, in the orthodox sense. It is curious that all the time I was in Spain I never once saw a person cross himself; yet you would think such a movement would become instinctive, revolution or no revolution. Obviously the Spanish Church will come back [...], but there is no doubt that at the outbreak of the revolution it collapsed and was smashed up to an extent that would be unthinkable even for the moribund C. of E. in like circumstances. To the Spanish people, at any rate in Catalonia and Aragon, the Church was a racket pure and simple. And possibly Christian belief was replaced to some extent by Anarchism, whose influence is widely spread and which undoubtedly has a religious tinge. (Chapter 6)
“¡Viva la muerte!” (Long live death!) was the cry General Millán Astray gave to his Spanish Foreign Legion. On one occasion, a speech took up a constant theme of the Nationalists, attacking 'the cancer of the nation', which must be cured by the scalpel of fascism. Millán Astray and the Falangists in the audience took up the cry - “Long live death!” The philosopher Unamuno rebuked them: 'I, who have spent my life shaping paradoxes, must tell you as an expert authority that this paradox is repellent to me.'  In spite of the continued shouts, he concluded by saying that the rebels would conquer, but not convince (1982, P120-1; account in Spanish). After the war, Cardinal Goma admitted that there had been no real religious revival in Spain.
The church was in a position to establish a thorough control of public morals. One of their posters ordered: 'No immoral dances, no indecent frocks, no bare legs, no heathen beaches.' (The Falange, meanwhile, seized girls on the street whom they considered to be immodestly dressed and cropped their hair forcibly.)
The school curricula were changed to put all the emphasis on religious instruction (which meant a hypnotic chanting of the catechism),  [...] singing was limited to hymns or patriotic anthems.  (Beevor, 1982, P385; some of these details are omitted from his latest book)
Anyone who did not attend mass faithfully was likely to be suspected of 'red' tendencies (1982, P116). The rebel generals 'had a virulent hatred of "reds", a term including liberals and all.those opposed to a right-wing dictatorship. This attitude was expressed by General Mola in his instructions for the rising: "He who is not with us is against us." ' (oops!)
Pope Pius XII infamously congratulated Franco on the fall of Madrid: 'Lifting our hearts to God, we give thanks with your Excellency for the victory of Catholic Spain.' The Catholic church may seem to be very different nowadays, but Beevor's new book has a telling recent report: on a visit to Madrid, Pope John Paul II strongly reaffirmed the church's position, that priests murdered by Republican sympathisers were martyrs, and beatified another victim of Republican violence: he failed, however, to mention the Basque priests killed by the Nationalists. (P241; El País, 5 May 2003)

In the propaganda war, it was claimed that anti-clericalism of the Republic went as far as the raping of nuns. As Beevor points out, similar fabrications were made in the Middle Ages, when they were used to justify the slaughter of Jews. When the Nationalists published an indictment of republican crimes in 1946, they offered no evidence for any such incident, only hinting at one case.

When the poet Federico Garcia Lorca was killed, his 'executioner' said, 'We were sick and tired of queers in Granada ... I fired two bullets into his arse for being a queer'.


Anonymous DavidP said...

The 'oops!' line was used by Orwell himself:

Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.

'Pacifism and the War', Partisan Review, August-September 1942

3:01 pm, July 08, 2006  

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