Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism
The Borderlands of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries
Reviewer: Joseph A. Kotarba
Edited by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz and John Radzilowski. Preface by Patrick Foley. Charlottesville, Virginia: Leopolis Press (2102 Arlington Boulevard, #2, Charlottesville, VA 22903-1535). 2003. ISBN 0-9679960-5-8. Index. xiii + 137 pages. Paper. $12.71.
There are at least two reasons why comparative analysis is useful in writing the history of nations. First, comparison can disclose shared, underlying processes-economic, cultural, or political-that explain similar events in both nations. Second, comparison can show unexpected links-diplomatic, philosophical or religious-between two nations. The four essays presented in Marek Jan Chodakiewicz and John Radzilowski's book enlighten us about nineteenth- and twentieth-century conservatism and nationalism by juxtaposing the fate of Spain and Poland.
Radzilowski provides a useful introduction for, and Carolyn Boyd comments on, three essays derived from a panel conducted at the nascent Historical Society meetings at Boston University in 1999. The panel was dedicated to the analysis of Spanish Carlism, a movement that lasted from about 1810 to 1939. The Carlists took their name from the conservative position they held regarding royal succession. King Ferdinand VII named his daughter Isabel as his heir, a move that went counter to Spain's constitutionally designated successor, the King's conservative brother Carlos. For the next hundred years, the Carlists represented both members of the royal family and commoners who opposed the liberal throne.
As Alexandra Wilhelmsen writes in her essay, the Carlists represented the rich conservative tradition in Spain. No country opposed the French Revolution more than Spain. Although Spain confronted revolutionary France in two wars, Spain itself was spilt into two warring factions: the liberals who instituted dramatic changes in the Spanish political and cultural systems, and the counterrevolutionaries who opposed them. Civil wars rocked Spain in the early nineteenth century. During Liberal rule bishops were exiled and most religious orders were outlawed. The Carlists emerged to continue the conservative tradition in Spain by following the realists, who rejected the French Revolution and its unsavory repercussions; and the legitimists, who staunchly supported the traditional Spanish constitution. The Carlists' motto was "Dios, Patria, Fueros, Rey," that is, "God, Fatherland, Regional Rights, King." They favored the return of Catholicism as the state religion, the legal and economic freedom of the Church, independence from foreign interference and domination, and a return to the principles of local government that evolved over many years to serve Spain's particular circumstances and traditions.
Boyd Cathey's essay on Juan Vasquez de Mella examines the voluminous writings of one of Carlism's major political thinkers. Mella wrote most of his significant works between 1885 and 1928, lean years both militarily and politically for the Carlists. There were many sources for his ideas, including Jaime Balmes and St. Thomas Aquinas. Cathey argues, however, that Juan Donoso Cortes was probably the most influential: "Mella saw Donoso as a prophet who had foreseen clearly the advent of modern socialism, bolshevism, and eventual dictatorship. From Donoso Cortes Mella drew a keen appreciation for the workings of Providence in history" (28). Mella criticized classic liberalism, especially as espoused by Rousseau and his followers, for destroying traditional intermediary institutions, such as guilds, fraternities, self-governing communities, and religious communities. Liberals claimed to place the individual at the highest level of respect and authority, above all of the so-called irrational and archaic institutions of the aristocracy. Mella countered that the individual is in fact "defined by his family, his region, his profession, his language, his inheritance, his faith" (quoted in Cathey, 31). Consequently, Mella argued that, instead of an increasingly centralized state, Spanish society would be best served by a representative monarchy. Advice and consent would emanate from a number of groups ranging from the nobility to other, local constituent entities. Given this historical and political backdrop, Marek Jan Chodakiewicz presents the longest and most developed essay in the book to examine the extent and quality of the Polish Right's identification with Carlism. Chodakiewicz's history is sweeping and well detailed. In the nineteenth century, the links were literary as well as historical. One fascinating tidbit is the fact that a conservative activist by the name of Josef Nalecz-Korzeniowski, a gun smuggler for the Traditionalists during the Third Carlist War, came to be known as Joseph Conrad during his later career as a writer. As his analysis enters the 1930s, Chodakiewicz focuses on the emergence of the Polish Nationalist Movement. Also known as the Endeks, it became the largest right-wing formation in Poland. Endeks were anti-German, anti-Communist, anti-liberal, and anti-Jewish. Chodakiewicz cites several sources to support his argument that conservative, nationalist Poles at this time were less anti-Semitic in a racialist sense than they were profoundly pro-Catholic. The Endeks rarely promoted violence against Jews. Chodakiewicz discusses at length how the complex involvement of conservative Poles during the Spanish Civil War reflected their all-consuming hatred of Communism. Although Chodakiewicz's analysis is scholarly and convincing, his focus is on the Polish Nationalist Movement and not on Carlism. They may have turned out to be one and the same, yet the fate of Carlism as a distinctive political movement is left unclear.
In summary, the Chodakiewicz and Radzilowski book is a positive contribution to our understanding of Polish conservatism. The authors remind us just how central Roman Catholicism has been and continues to be in Polish political thought and activism. There are at least two key ideas in Carlism relevant to politics today. First, regionalism remains a very important factor in shaping political positions. We have all witnessed the resilience and value of regionalism in American politics, most recently in terms of the graphic blue and red states used to describe voting trends on television during our presidential election. Regionalism is also relevant to understanding the evolving societal relationships in Central and Eastern Europe, as illustrated by recent events in Poland and Ukraine. Second, the Carlists' policy of restoring the integrity of intermediate social institutions as moral and cognitive anchors for the individual is very timely for American society today. The moral vacuousness of socialism and the gluttony of late capitalistic consumerism, potential anchors for the individual self, have proven to be bankrupt and wanting. Social theorists ranging from Emile Durkheim in postrevolutionary France to Robert Bellah today have made similar observations and policy proposals, I imagine, largely without awareness of the Carlists. ∆
Back to the September 2005 Issue
The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 7/25/05