Órgano del Círculo Tradicionalista General Carlos Calderón

Órgano del Círculo Tradicionalista General Carlos Calderón leal a S.A.R. el Duque de Aranjuez Don Sixto Enrique de Borbón y al ideario católico-monárquico.
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sábado, 25 de febrero de 2017

Reseña de «El final de una ilusión. Auge y declive del tradicionalismo carlista (1957-1967)» de Mercedes Vázquez de Prada

Publicamos hoy la reseña bibliográfica en inglés que amablemente nos envía nuestro nuevo colaborador extranjero, Arvo Jokela, sobre el reciente libro de la historiadora Mercedes Vázquez de Prada «El final de una ilusión. Auge y declive del tradicionalismo carlista (1957-1967)», ganador del XIV Premio Internacional de Historia del Carlismo “Luis Hernando de Larramendi”. Este libro puede ayudarnos a comprender mejor los entresijos de un periodo en el que unos supuestos carlistas no tradicionalistas —contradicción en sus propios términos—, al tiempo que colaboraban con el General Franco, trataban de desnaturalizar el carlismo, que en aquel momento experimentaba un verdadero auge, para convertirlo en objeto de sus veleidades izquierdistas. Todo ello culminaría con la traición del príncipe Carlos Hugo a la Santa Causa cuando en 1968 vio desvanecerse sus esperanzas de ser nombrado sucesor de Franco a título de rey.

Mercedes Vázquez de Prada, El final de una ilusión. Auge y declive del tradicionalismo carlista (1957-1967), Schedas, Madrid 2016, ISBN 9788416558407, 356 pages in total, 34 illustrations, soft cover, available also for electronic devices, market price in Spain around €15. 

Historiography on Carlism during the Francoist era keeps growing especially since the late 1980s; it currently amounts to some 200 titles, around 50 of them being major works. The last two years proved particularly fruitful; two PhD dissertations completed were Invierno, primavera y otoño del carlismo (1939-1976) by Ramón María Rodón Guinjoan, accepted at Universitat Abat Oliba CEU in 2015, and La resistencia tradicionalista a la renovación ideológica del carlismo (1965-1973) by Daniel Jesús García Riol, accepted at Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia also in 2015. Unfortunately though perhaps understandably, none of these works was known to Mercedes Vázquez de Prada, who at the same time was pursuing her own study. In 2016 it was awarded (ex- aequo with another work) the XIV Premio Internacional de Historia del Carlismo “Luis Hernando de Larramendi”, and the same year it was released commercially as a book.

The Progressist bid to take control of Carlism is the subject of numerous works, including major studies of Caspistegui Gorasurreta (1997) and Martorell Pérez (2009). None of them is the ultimate and definitive word on the issue; as some works are focused on limited periods, some examine specific threads, some pursue partisan approach, some are plagued by scholarly deficiencies and none explored all sources available, there is still room for further research. This is why the work of Vázquez de Prada is certainly welcome, even though the author does not aspire to general synthesis of the topic. Declaring the 1960s “key moment in history of the Carlist movement”, she concentrates her attention on this very period and identifies her objective as finding “why the Traditionalist project collapsed”. The answer is structured into 5 chapters, each covering usually a bi-annual period and each subdivided into some 20 brief sub-chapters, usually covering specific episodes within the timeframe discussed.

Apart from historiographic and documentary publications listed in bibliography, the book is based on personal archives. They key one is this of Jose Maria Valiente, a set of personal documents which has been barely taken advantage of so far. Exploring it is perhaps the most fundamental advantage of the work; with Vázquez de Prada’s book the source base on Carlism gets broadened by new records, so far unaccounted for and not referred by any other scholar. The author should also be given credit for referring a number of documents in large and descriptive detail; to future students who might not have access to Valiente’s correspondence, the book might serve as a meta-source itself. On the other hand, one can hardly help the feeling that the work is overfocused; perhaps up to 75% of all the references point to the Valiente’s archive. Though as Jefe Delegado he was obviously the key Carlist politician of the period in question, adopting such a perspective poses serious questions as to how representative the picture painted is, given most letters quoted are either written by Valiente or by people who remained on at least correct if not straightforwardly amicable terms with him. Undoubtedly, as one of the last bulwarks of Traditionalism in the increasingly Progressist realm of Comunión Valiente seems to be a good choice as a focal point of the discourse targeting the collapse of Traditionalism. The problem with Vázquez de Prada’s book is that Valiente and his political entourage are referred as the only Traditionalist fortress. Given declared objectives of the author, this seems to be a hardly acceptable narrowing of discussion. The Traditionalists mounted their defense also beyond Valiente’s circle, e.g. in Juntas de Defensa or Baleztena-dominated Pamplonese realm, and especially beyond the orthodox Comunión, in RENACE, by remnants of the Carloctavistas, among some tending to Juanismo or Franquismo or by intellectual circles organized around various periodicals and Centro de Estudios Zumalacárregui. The result is that the book reads a bit like a political biography of Valiente during his jefatura, even though the author explored also personal archives of Manuel Fal Conde and few others Carlist figures.

The author singled out 1957-1967 as the period crucial for fate of the post-Civil War Carlism. Such a choice allows to sharpen the perspective to a fairly concise timeframe and to stay highly focused; the result is that the work is abundant in detail and very informative. On the other hand, such a choice seems controversial and debatable. The period until 1961, it is prior to Carlos Hugo settling in Madrid, appears to be just a run-up to the conflict between Traditionalists and Progressists rather than part of its most heated phase, which indeed was probably over with resignation of Valiente in 1967. Including the years of 1957-1961 would logically call for including also the years of 1968-1971, when the Progressists consumed their victory in struggle for domination in the Comunión and completed transformation of the organization into a new entity. Either the ultra-focused choice of 1962-1967 or a somewhat broader 1957-1971 perspective would seem logical; settling for 1957-1967 does not. As the border dates chosen mark also Valiente’s tenure as the Carlist leader, one is left with an even stronger impression that Vázquez de Prada’s work is rather the chronicle of his leadership.

What works to author’s advantage is that throughout all of her study she remains fairly restrained. Vázquez de Prada refrains from making audacious suggestions, drawing captivating parallels, advancing puzzling theories, pursuing intriguing speculations, drawing impressive schemes. Her narrative is balanced and unobtrusive, descriptive and very matter-of- fact. However, having closed the book one might be left with an impression that this restraint has been carried a bit too far along the way. Apart from periodization proposed, the book scarcely offers any theoretical superstructure built upon this solid descriptive and reconstructive foundation. Most of the reading is recording one episode after another and they are barely structured or analyzed to sublimate key lines of development, list major factors, draw process maps or plot principal agents on the chart defined by basic lines of conflict. It is very surprising though perhaps also telling that the work ends simply with describing circumstances of Valiente’s resignation; though one assumes that the next section to read would be a synthetic summary offering a number of conclusions, in fact there is none. The question, asked by Vázquez de Prada in the introduction, remains unanswered, at least not explicitly by the author, and a reader is left with his own thoughts. Some, including the undersigned, might find it a bit disappointing.

What makes the book a very interesting read is that the author discusses a number of episodes which were either ignored or barely noticed by other scholars. The attempt on Valiente in mid-1957, the gathering in Hendaya in late 1957, Consejo Privado session of 1962, National Council in Valle de los Caidós in late 1962, the re-appearing question of Libro Blanco, assembly in La Oliva in 1965, Primer Congreso Carlista of 1966 and a number of other events are for the first time neared in detail, possibly re-defining the historiographic vision of trajectory of transformations within the Comunión. Some readers might feel prompted to adjust their understanding of how the Traditionalists lost their grip on the organization. The undersigned tended to locate the moment when the balance of power shifted towards the Progressists in the mid-1960s, perhaps in 1965, when Zavala became head of Secretaría Técnica. Having read the study of Vázquez de Prada I consider it necessary to push this moment two years earlier, to 1963, when departure of a number of individuals combined with re- organization of party executive relegated the Traditionalists to minority position at least in the governing structures of the Comunión. On the other hand, in the Carlist history of the 1960s there are many episodes which were obscure and remain so also after the lecture of Vázquez de Prada’s recent work. Though the author a number of times discusses marginalization of Zamanillo, one still fails to understand the mechanics of the process and why the Traditionalists permitted it to happen. The stand of Massó and his entourage during 1964-1966 remains another highly unclear issue, with their motivations and objectives remaining fairly enigmatic; is it legitimate to consider the group sort of a third force, associated neither with the Traditionalists nor with the Progressists? These and other episodes will still wait for a satisfactory insight.

Final words of compliment should be directed both to the author and to the editor. Unfortunately it is not a standard in Spanish historiographic works to be accompanied by indexes, which is not the case of Vázquez de Prada’s book (though the index attached is far from perfect, e.g. Manuel Fal Conde is not listed as appearing on page 293 or Jose María Araúz de Robles on page 63). Footnotes are conveniently placed at the bottom of the page and the text is free from glaring typos. Regrettably, Roberto Gonzalo Bayod's name being miswritten a number of times as Roberto García Bayod, and a mis-typed date of 1975, referring to Carlos VII (p. 283), make a reader ask himself whether there are any less obvious glitches remaining. An interesting assortment of illustrations, few of them not published elsewhere, complete the nice experience of spending time in the company of the book, though one is left wondering whether the cover picture, being a mirror image of a photo published inside, is an editorial oversight or some sort of a hidden message on part of the author.

Arvo Jokela

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