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 here 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 tradistina 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!

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 here 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 believes 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 sympathies with the diagnosis, but the tradinista cure is more deadly than the disease.

UPDATE: Chad Pecknold helpfully writes:

I’m all for criticism of this stuff, but this isn’t the way to do it. The Falangists were nationalists to the core. What this table actually demonstrates is that whatever slim commonalities might be found, these two proposals are diametrically opposed since one situates itself in a nationalist mode, while the other eschews nationalism entirely, even calling into question whether the nation-state is the proper political form.

To the contrary, the only distinction between the two positions is the falangist nation-state vs. the tradinista one-state phenomenon. If one were to stretch the nation-state to cover the entire world, the goals and objectives of both are remarkably similar in their integralism; their goals, objectives, approaches, etc.

Indeed, if this is the only point of departure — whether the falangist ideas are localized to a nation or intended universally — then I dare say the comparison is more apt than critics realize.

UPDATE x2:  Another point that seems to be raised is that because the comparison isn’t seamless — i.e. every point raised by the socialists is not mirrored entirely by the falangist — ergo the comparison fails.

Of course it wasn’t going to be a copy-and-paste job.

Yet the two points remain: (1) the project of the tradinistas is an entirely political and therefore an integrist one, and (2) the argument against liberalism is a direct challenge to the Second Vatican Council’s Dignitatis Humanae and Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris.  Perhaps more than anything, I find the challenge to religious freedom the most damning… and perhaps, the effective point where the tradinistas and falangists shake hands.

UPDATE x3:  David Mills over at Ethika Politika offers his thoughts that the tradinistas are… well… close… but not quite a cigar:

As a movement, the Tradinistas could be Martin O’Malley or Bernie Sanders. The first seems more likely, because movements rarely succeed. The second seems more than usually possible, because so many Catholics hope for an alternative and the conservative versions have had their day. They could be right, but pendulums swing.

Ouch.  Mills continues, specifically with a critique of the just wage:

Here’s the point of conflict: Catholic social teaching explicitly rejects a merely market-given answer: “The simple agreement between employee and employer with regard to the amount of pay to be received is not sufficient for the agreed-upon salary to qualify as a ‘just wage’, because . . . natural justice precedes and is above the freedom of the contract.”

The teaching could not be more definitive. Still, many conservative Catholics insist that only the market can set wages, meaning either that every wage (whatever it is) is by definition a just wage or that there is no such thing as a just wage. They see the Church’s demand as either nonsensical or impossible, and in either case another example of clerics not understanding economic laws.

In other words, they brush off the teaching as unrealistic, therefore not binding. A Catholic isn’t allowed to do that. He can’t simply invoke an extrinsic claim to deny what the Church says. What is a just wage and how it is achieved may be a very difficult, a hugely difficult, a nearly impossible question to answer, but the Catholic answer isn’t just “The market!” It isn’t just “Have the government set it!” either.

Thus the adaptation of the integralist rubric of the SSPX and other traditionalists by the Catholic socialists, useful to their ends yet focused entirely on a different objective — to the point where Mills has (usefully) points out a failure on both extremes.

Of course, I couldn’t help but notice this:

The members have remained anonymous. The two names that appear on the articles on the homepage, C. W. Strand and Juan Martin de Guzman, seem to be pseudonyms (though not admitted as such), judging from the lack of an author biography and of an online presence.

Judging from the reaction I have received thusfar to the falangist/integralist critique, I could offer a few recommendations as to whom they might be… though it does suggest that even the authors of the manifesto know they are about to go out on a limb in their integralist critique of the Second Vatican Council’s position on religious freedom and liberalism.

UPDATE x4:  Gratefully picked up by the good folks at Ethika Politika.  Give them a read… there’s no finer collection of Catholic thinkers online.

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2 Responses to Oh Great, The Falangists Are Back…

  1. JoshuaK says:

    I am writing my own critique and saw your post. One observation. The vast majority of points from each manifesto that you lined up sound absolutely nothing at all alike. This starts with the very first one, where the Falangists speak openly about subordinating the Church to the state (“so as to permit no interference or activity that may impair the dignity of the State or national integrity.”) But there is nothing like that in the tradinistas. Indeed, I see very little in common, especially as regard to what was condemnable in the falangists.

    Maybe read back through and ask yourself, are these really saying similar things? If you still think so, maybe give a defense. Pick a few essential ones to compare, because prima facie they seem very different and I see no argument for your thesis.

  2. Shaun Kenney says:

    Joshua K —

    The comparisons are indeed rough (as you pointed out — point 15 in the A Tradinista! document, for instance). There are others (points 3 through 5) that are remarkably similar.

    At core, the problem of integralism still remains.

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