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This book appears in Anarchy Archives courtesy of International Institute for Social History.

McCabe, Joseph. The Martyrdom of Ferrer. Watts & Co., London, 1909.








We have in English a very ample literature of travel in Spain and description of Spanish customs. It is chiefly remarkable for the number of important and unique features which these travellers have failed to see. Their periodical re-description of fans and mantillas, of bullfights and flirting, of cathedrals and vineyards, has merely succeeded in conveying to English readers a most inaccurate impression of the country. The unique things of Spain that it is useful to know are those features of the ecclesiastical world which I have described, And the complexion of its political world, which I am about to describe. One cannot wholly wonder at the perplexity of English men and women in regard to the execution of Ferrer. One must know Spain first.

     It must not be imagined, however, that I am now about to describe features of Spanish life that are so obscure as to be open to different interpretations, or that I am about to retail the partisan charges of Anarchists. What I say in this chapter is based entirely on Spanish literature of the weightiest character, and is admitted by the foremost politicians of the country. It is the "open sore" of Spanish life, and is discussed in terms of scorn, anger, or despair by scores of recent Spanish writers who are far removed from either Anarchism or Socialism. One does not love to lay bare the shame of a neighbour nation. But when those who control this political system dip their hands in the blood of an innocent and noble-spirited man, it is time to tell the truth.

     Let me introduce the matter with a glance at the recent work of a Catholic writer of undoubted culture and strict loyalty to his Church--Ramon de Torre-Isunza.1 He calls his book "The truth for His Majesty the King," and prefaces it with a personal letter to Alfonso XIII. As he looks for the revivification of his "dead country" through a combination of education and a regenerated Church, he will not be suspected of bias.

     In his letter to the King he uses plain, agonised language. The country, he says, consists of "a corrupt society and corrupting authority"; the political system "exhibits an essential and inevitable corruption," and "is based on immorality and ignorance." Señor de Torre-Isunza does not lack courage, but if he thinks this language will pass the cordon of Jesuits and servants of the Government round the King he is over-trustful. He quotes with approval Macias Picavea's statement that there is "no such deep immorality in any other State in the world" in the political and administrative life. But I must content myself with stringing together a few of the conclusions that the writer reaches in the course of his analysis.

     "We are not far removed," he says, "from a veritable savagery, which is barely modified externally by traditional habits and imitation of foreign Customs" (p. 163) "Our religion is a pharisaic formalism, the more immoral as it is hypocritical" (p. 168). There are "few men of honour" in the political world; all offices are obtained by corruption and intrigue, and the whole State is characterised by "a profound immorality and congenital debility " (p. 176). The Government is all "oligarchy," or " a number of gentlemen who take office for the purpose of exploitation" (p. 192). They are "bound by no law, and have respect neither for God nor man" (p. 197). The superficial opposition of Liberals and Conservatives has "no real significance" (p. 198); Parliamentary deputies are not elected, but fraudulently imposed on their districts; education is controlled by this "monstrous" system in its own corrupt interest, and the whole system of law and legal education is vicious and demoralising.

     It would be a profound mistake to take this language as the exceptional outpouring of a writer with an aversion to politics. I have chosen to begin with Ramon de Torre-Isunza because he is a cultured and fervent Roman Catholic and Monarchist.

1La Verdad á S. M. El Rey (1902). All quotations in this work are translated, literally, by myself.


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