The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 1936
Blessing And Blood
And A Reflection On The French Revolution
By W. J. Cash
Site ed. note: For another Cash article, from a month earlier, on the Spanish Civil War, see "Spanish Blood" - August 23, 1936; and see also "Fuehrer and Duce Stumped", April 25, 1937, and "Blockade in Boston", July 24, 1938, for further commentary by Cash on the Spanish civil war and Franco.
THE Pope's speech at Rome last week, in which he gave his blessings to the rebels in Spain and to all the Nazi and Fascist regimes of the earth, reminds me grimly of Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution." In a celebrated book, you will remember the great Irish rhetorician exercises himself vastly about the atrocities of the Jacobins, and in particular about the execution of Marie Antoinette. "I should have thought," he declaims--"I should have thought that ten thousand swords would have leaped from their scabbards, that the chivalry of France would have risen to a man, to avenge the slightest laying of a finger upon her, the slightest affront to her youth and beauty and dignity."
It is very fine and magnificent reading, that passage of Mr. Burke's which I merely paraphrase here. And so for that matter is the whole book. It titillates your spine with fire and ice, and fills your heart and mind with high and noble indignation against the wicked Jacobins, and with exalted respect for Mr. Burke--until you happen to note a curious hole in the mighty tirade. And that hole? Old William Hazlitt used to dote on pointing it out. It is this: that all Burke's rage is reserved for the wrongs committed by the Jacobins, that all his sympathy is reserved for the woman who was a queen. In all the rolling flood of eloquence, there is no one single word to suggest that Burke knew, or was capable of knowing, that the bloody deeds of the Place de la Greve were not merely gratuitous and--that they did not happen without a cause. Not one single word to suggest that Burke had any mind for the two hundred years of the accumulated crimes of a criminal regime, to which the outrages of the Terrorists were the terrible and mathematically inevitable retort.
IN all the swelling torrent of words, one looks in vain for any intimation that Edmund Burke knew, or cared, for the fate of the 20,000 men (twice the number of the victims of the Terror) who lost their lives--their personal, precious lives, mind you, presumably as dear to them as ever any queen's was to her--in the building of the fateful road to Versailles. Not a single word to show that Burke knew or cared for the fate of those 20,000 peasants or workmen of Paris torn from their places without their consent and driven to labor on the road until they dropped in their tracks--that same fateful road along which the mob from Les Halles roared on the evening when Marie took her first step toward the tumbrils and the giddy descending knife.
Burning, searing words for the judicial murder of noble and priest by the minions of Danton and Robespierre. But not a breath of the countless murders of peasant and workman committed by noble and priest with impunity, not a breath of freemen impaled on swords for the mere assertion of manhood, not a word of M'sieu Voltaire and a hundred thousand beside whipped through the streets by command of curs hiding behind a crest, and cast into prison when they dared to complain. Not a breath of the hundreds of thousands starving to death in the France of the ancient regime, not a breath of the great hordes of serfs and peasants crying for bread while noble and priest hogged the wealth of the land, spent it on riotous living, and instantly defied every suggestion of reform until revelation and terror came upon them too late that fourth day of August in the year 1789.
Tender tears and swords unsheathed for the youth and beauty of the queen brutally slain. But not a shadow of a sigh for the unnumbered thousands of peasant girls ravaged--torn from the arms of their betrothed under the seignorial right. Not a chivalrous regret for the unnumbered thousands of others debauched by the priests under the shadow of the Cross. Not a single sword from its scabbard for the daughters of honest burghers willy-nilly seized and made the playthings of my lord baron and my lord bishop: for the fathers and brothers and lovers murdered or thrown to rot in the dungeons when they sought to interfere. Not a whisper that this woman whose head rolled there on the scaffold was after all plotting with the enemies of France and with noble and priest--that she stood truthfully attainted of high treason, and that she had sworn to destroy every reform and restore the old order intact. Not a sibilant to recognize that all this blood and all this wrong, after all, flowed out of all the wrong that had gone before--that it was the certain flower of the pigheaded refusal to recognize and yield to the need for reform.
I CAN find it in my heart to respect Edmund Burke for many of his deeds and many of his writings. But never since, deep in a history of the old regime long ago in my high school days, these things I set down here first dawned on me--never since then have I been able to respect him for the "Reflections." The book is brilliant and beautiful--and intolerably stupid and short-sighted.
But what has this to do with the Pope's speech. Only this: that the Pope blessed Nazism and Fascism as the shield and buckler against Communism, but gave no sign that he perceives that if Communism is destined to sweep all Europe--and it looks as though it may be--it is ultimately and mainly just because of Nazism and Fascism--which, in their essence, are no more than the organized will of the privileged classes to block all rational reform. These leave the underdog no recourse but to join up with the Comrades, and steadily heap up wrongs which, as certainly as we live, will be extinguished precisely as those of old France were extinguished.
Only this: that the Pope assailed the Spanish nationalists for the murder of priests and the burning of churches, but neglected to give any hint that he is aware that the business of ruthless extermination was begun at Pamplona on the third day of the revolution where General Mola, according to Associating Press dispatches, had every tenth prisoner shot down in the great square. Nor does he give any hint that he knows, what those same dispatches reported, that the priests of Pamplona were fighting in Mola's ranks. Nor that the priests of Spain have undoubtedly been plotting with Bennito Mussolini to overthrow the government of Spain and turn the country into a puppet state of the Italian Caesar's.
ONLY this: that the Pope blessed the rebels of Spain, but gave no hint that he is aware that the troubles which presently beset the country are the direct outcome of the abuses of power and the hogging of the land's wealth by just the three groups who make up these rebels, the nobility, the army, and the preisthood--the direct outcome of wrongs, heaped up by these groups for centuries. Nor that, according to all the great commentators on Spain, the preisthood, universally described as unbelievably cynical, debauched, and rapacious, is by far the most blameworthy of the three groups. That the Pope blessed these rebels and showed no concern that their naked purpose is the restoration of all the old abuses, with new ones into the bargain.
I do not doubt that the Pope means well. But if he wants to do something really effective about heading off Communism, I think that, instead of blessing murderous swine like Mola (captain of the infidel Moors), he might begin with what, though he has been sitting in St. Peter's chair a good many years now, he has so far made no move toward: the reform of the Spanish clergy, and that the divesting of the Spanish Church of a good part of its incommensurate and, dubiously-got, and hunger-and-misery-and-hate-breeding wealth.
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