Every Man a King Juan Carlos

by Joel Schlosberg
Every Man a King Juan Carlos

Note: Karl Hess was wrong. There is a fundamental difference between an hereditary monarch and an elected president or prime minister. Unless drawn from a class of hereditary landlords, the latter will always be a political bureaucrat. He will be part of a faction that may at any time be driven from office. Any regard he feels for the long term benefit of his country will be more than balanced by his own need to make five lifetimes of income for himself in five or ten years, and to keep his client base attached with jobs and sinecures. A monarch, on the other hand, has no need to lie his way to the top, or to stay there by handing out bribes. Taking the trouble to be born is no qualification for a shoemaker or brain surgeon. Heads of state are different. They have an actual incentive to look out for the long term benefit of the society over which they and their descendants will rule. Just because our own dear Queen has been shockingly useless does not invalidate the general case for a divine right but constitutional monarchy. Despite his corruption and philandering, Juan Carlos appears to have kept Spain more stable and more liberal than would otherwise have been the case. SIG

King Juan Carlos I of Spain’s announced abdication has instigated a flurry of commentary contrasting dictatorship and democracy. The consensus views the remaining non-honorary power of the dozen remaining monarchies in Europe, particularly in diminutive monarchies like Liechtenstein and the Vatican, as vestigial holdouts from the relentless trend towards the representative-democratic nation-state as “the end of history.” A beloved monarch’s role in leading a transition from the Franco regime’s capital-F Fascism to a conventional modern democratic state is an anomaly.

Yet Spain is a textbook illustration of two devastating criticisms of the consensus view made by anarchist Karl Hess in a July 1976 Playboy interview. First, when Hess denied “that the medieval monarchs were much different from our Presidents now,” and was incredulously challenged that “Surely, even as an anarchist you must be willing to admit that there are some differences between Presidents and kings,” he insisted: “Presidents achieve power by hoaxes and handshakes, while kings take the far less tiring route of being born. That is the only difference I can discern.” Second, while “Most analysts see the political spectrum as a great circle, with authoritarian governments of the right and the left intersecting at a point directly opposite representational democracy. But my notion of politics is that it follows a straight line, with all authoritarian societies on the right and all libertarian societies on the left,” with the opposite of both representative democracy and dictatorship being “a world of neighborhoods in which all social organization is voluntary and the ways of life are established in small, consenting groups.”

In his introduction to The Anarchist Collectives, Murray Bookchin scorned the mainstream liberal and Old Left interpretation of the Spanish Civil War as “a struggle between a liberal republic that was valiantly and with popular support trying to defend a democratic parliamentary state against authoritarian generals.” In fact, the ordinary people of Spain “viewed the republic almost with as much animosity as they did the Francistas,” and ”were concerned not to rescue a treacherous republican regime but to reconstruct Spanish society.” Following Bookchin’s introduction is detailed primary documentation of their success when state power was pushed back enough to give them a fighting chance.

Far from being what the Old Left saw as a quixotic last stand of preindustrial “primitive rebels” against the tide of history, the Spanish anarchists seem ever more prescient of tomorrow’s post-industrial age.

The seemingly unstoppable power of the state and its plutocratic appendages — the modern successors of what Bookchin called the Spanish people’s ”historic class enemies, ranging from the landowning grandees and clerical overlords inherited from the past to the rising industrial bourgeoisie and bankers of more recent times” — to crowd out alternative socioeconomic organization has always entirely stemmed from their ability to extract wealth involuntarily — in Franz Oppenheimer’s phrase, “political means.” The roots of the political means are steadily drying up as economic production becomes ever more localized and less capital-intensive, and correspondingly harder to efficiently levy tribute from. In the military realm, the might of the standing army is being increasingly challenged by fourth generation warfare techniques reviving the popular spirit of the voluntary, decidedly un-state-run Brigadas Internacionales.

Human-scale social organization decentralized enough to make Monaco look cumbersome, functioning without requiring any individuals to give up sovereignty over their personal lives, will bear out George Woodcock’s observation that “In reality, the ideal of anarchism, far from democracy carried to its logical end, is much nearer to aristocracy universalised and purified.”

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  1. “Just because our own dear Queen has been shockingly useless does not invalidate the general case for a divine right but constitutional monarchy.”

    How has she been “shockingly useless”? Constitutional monarchies are not known as crowned republics for nothing!

    The role of our Monarch is to be an ornament, and not to interfere in political affairs. I imagine if she did, that the institution itself might fall out of favour and soon find itself abolished.

    There may or may not be a case for a transition to absolute monarchy, or a more moderate mix of absolutism and democracy (such as Liechtenstein and Monaco), but I fail to see how HM The Queen can be criticised for being “useless” when all she has done is be the ornament she is meant to be.

    If there is more to constitutional monarchy than this, please do elaborate. To my knowledge, there has been no explicit monarchical intervention into political affairs — beyond the formal functions expected — since Queen Anne’s reign.

  2. It is indeed a basic fact that the Queen is useless, and only allowed to keep her job specifically because she is useless. The head of state is purely ceremonial. She could be replaced by a parrot for all the difference it makes; indeed His Sqawkishness could also be paraded around the world and through London to attract tourists, there would be no difference whatsoever. A parrot would at least be cheaper and the succession would be more rapid.

    We are a monarchy in name only. That might be a good thing or a bad thing, but it is certainly the nature of the thing.

  3. In the Spanish Civil War even George Orwell admitted that the peasants tended to favour the Nationalists over the Republicans – even when the peasants concerned were not particularly religious. Orwell was baffled by this (being on the Republican side himself) although later, in passing, he mentions that the Nationalist forces tended to make an effort to pay for supplies they took from peasants whereas the Republicans (not believing in the principle of private property) did not. Surely that goes a long way to explaining the attitudes of the peasants?

    Although he fought on the socialist side, George Orwell had a sense of honesty which films (and academic books) on the Spanish Civil War totally lack. For an ordinary peasant or village craftsman the arrival of Republican forces was a disaster (meaning that one would be robbed – and murdered if one resisted) – it is no surprise that such people would desperately hope to hear the cry “For God and Spain” as the Nationalists drove the forces of “democracy” (i.e. robbery) out of the village.

    As for King Juan Carlos – he is not responsible for the mess modern Spain is (with 25% unemployment and a fertility rate of about one baby per woman – meaning long term genocide). Modern Spain is an extreme example of a Constitution that is a “Christmas Tree of rights” – endless Welfare State ism and a “labour code” (like that of virtually all of Southern Europe) that seems expressly designed to prevent employers hire employees (Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal – all hopeless).

    Modern “Social Democracy” leads to eventual economic bankruptcy (in fact if not in legal form) and long term biological genocide – but it is the religion of the modern age, and it is heresy to question it.

    The King of Spain has no power at all – and wanted none.

    Like Queen Elizabeth in the United Kingdom, King Juan Carlos has a 20th century understanding of what a “Constitutional Monarchy” means.

    Sean Gabb seems to have an 18th century view of what a Constitutional Monarchy should be (that is no crime – I have the same opinion myself) i.e. that a “constitutional” monarch is part of the checks and balances of the constitution who can be expected to (for example) actively work to uphold their Oath to defend the Realm ad safeguard its liberties (as if that vile Victorian Walter Bagehot with his “dignified” view of the monarchy, had never lived, although even Bagehot was not quite “modern” he still had the monarch “waning” in certain exceptional circumstances), but Sean does not seem to understand that to a modern monarch (with a few exceptions – such as the Prince of Liechtenstein) such as view is profoundly SHOCKING.

    For example to modern ears the Oath is just a ritual (and the term “just” a ritual is important – to the modern mind rituals do not carry practical obligations in the public world) – it is not a political statement

    To modern people a monarch most have no role in “political” matters – for example Elizabeth Windsor (as a private individual) is a Christian, but it would never occur to her (as Queen) not to sign an abortion Bill (or course the lady would sign it – and did back in 1967). If the Queen was presented with a Bill to make abortion compulsory – the lady would sign that also (whilst telling a few friends that it was a bad thing). This is what being “modern” is all about.

    It may seem odd that someone can put all their beliefs and principles in a box with a label on it marked “for private life ONLY”. But that is how modern monarchs have been taught (by the “liberal” elite) to think.

    By the way intervening in politics on the “liberal” side is NOT a political act – even though that clearly makes no sense (none). Modern monarchs have been taught that is their duty to intervene to support “liberalism” (and that this is NOT political) even if they personally do not personally agree with the “liberal” doctrine they are intervening to support.

    “Experts” (academics and other such) and “enlightened opinion” (for example the United Nations and the Commonwealth) decide what should be done – and one supports them (it is supposedly not political to do so) even if one personally does not agree with them.

    It must be a strange thing to be a modern monarch.


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