Marxist secularist Frank Ridley (Francis Ambrose Ridley: 22 February 1897 – 27 March 1994) was a long-standing friend of Albert Meltzer, whom he visited regularly at Albert’s Coptic Street Bookshop — which is where I met him, in 1967-68, in my role as Coptic Press printer and general dogsbody. Albert, who was a great fan of Frank’s work, wanted to republish some of his long out-of-print books, including ‘The Assassins’ and the present work, ‘The Jesuits. A Study in Counter-Revolution’, but given our resources at the time it proved impossible. I did promise that we’d re-publish it one day, which turned out to be today — much later than we’d hoped-for and too late for them to see: Frank died in 1994 and Albert died two years later. At least in its present format, as an eBook, it is now available for new generations of readers who, otherwise, would have been unlikely to come across Frank’s fascinating and learned account of the Pope’s Jihadis, the ‘Assassins of Christendom’, and the shock-troops of the Catholic counter-revolution.
This book, then, seeks to substitute historical dialectics for theology or archaeology as the chief clue to the investigation of the great medieval reaction of four centuries ago. For perhaps the first time, it shows Loyola’s ultimate significance as the leader and founder of the most successful counter-revolution in history, a counter-revolution which preserved half Europe and Latin America under the yoke of medievalism until quite recent times, and whose effects can be seen in Spain and elsewhere to this day It is, therefore, fundamentally as a study in counter-revolution that the career and historic significance of Ignatius Loyola, and of his masterpiece, the Society of Jesus, is here presented.
From Ridley’s Epilogue (‘The Jesuits…’)
‘I have elsewhere characterized the fundamental identity of Fascism and Jesuitism as follows:
“We may define Fascism, considered as a sociological phenomenon, as an artificial attempt to support an effete economic and social system by the aid of the crutches of dictatorship and repression, by means of a totalitarian State which will artificially impede the natural evolution of society. In that ultimate historic sense, while the name “Fascist” is new, what it represents is as old as civilization ; the artificial effort of a dying society to prolong its existence long after it has exhausted its social function and, consequently, its natural right to live. As such, it is everywhere characterized by refusal to face the possibility of future evolution and by a hankering after an idealized past.
“In this respect all the historic forms of Fascism concur Augustus, the founder of the Fascist Empire of the Caesars, bade Virgil, his court poet, devote the Aeneid his magnum opus, to the celebration of the golden age of the distant past; Ignatius Loyola, the master of medieval Fascism, as Jesuitism was styled above, laid it down as an iron law: ‘No novelties in theology’ ; respect the authority of the past. While the Fascist dictators of today, Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco, as is well known, never tire of calling attention to the glories of the Rome of the Caesars, the Germany of the Niebelungenlied, and the Spain of Columbus. Atavism is, in fact, so far from being accidental to this creed, that it is found at all times in every Fascist state. That this is so, indicates the essentially reactionary and retrogressive nature of this social phenomenon.”*
* F A. Ridley, The Papacy and Fascism, p. 567. As was indicated above, the philosophy of Jesuitism and Fascism is essentially the same. Both, as is inevit-able in movements of a consciously anti-progressive nature, repose upon will, not reason, and practise an empirical pragmatism which welcomes and feeds upon the grossest popular superstitions. Thus the Jesuit cults of the Pope, the Sacred Heart, the “Prisoner in the Tabernacle,” Lourdes, etc., may be paralleled with such Fascist superstitions as anti-Semitism, neo-pagan cults, the cult of Horst Wessel, etc. As regards the pragmatism common to both, the remarks of Loyola, cited in the text, may be compared with the following words of Mussolini :
“A doctrine then must be no mere exercise in words, but a living act, and thus the value of Fascism lies in the fact that it is veined with pragmatism, but at the same time has a will to exist and a will to power, a firm front in face of the reality of ‘violence.’ The Fascist state is an embodied will to power and government. The Roman ideal is here an ideal of force in action.” (Mussolini The Political and Social Doctrines of Fascism. Cf., Hitler’s famous description of Germany under his leadership, “walking instinctively, like a somnambulist” under the guidance of the Will. Hundreds of pages of Mein Kampf might, in fact, have been taken straight from the textbooks of the Jesuit psychologists.)
‘Jesuitism in the sixteenth century, and Fascism in the twentieth, thus represent the reality of counter-revolution in an epoch of unprecedented revolt. They are, indeed, the two greatest anti-revolutionary movements in history, framed, in accordance with the laws of dialectical counter-poise, to meet the two most dynamic ages of technical evolution and of social and intellectual revolution that the world has known. Will the upshot of these two movements be the same? The Jesuits routed reason over half Europe and America. They held vast areas subject to the yoke of their modified medievalism down to the most recent times. In Spain, their country of origin, they still represent perhaps the most powerful force making for reaction in every sphere. Here they work hand in glove with the political Fascism of today.
‘Will Fascism achieve a similar success, a similar “counter-Reformation,” in respect to our generation? It is impossible to foretell the future, but it seems unlikely that it will do so. The forces making for change are so much stronger, the forces of progress are now embodied in a ceaseless technical revolution. It is probable that the powers of cultural darkness, of Fascism, Catholicism, and Jesuitism, will alike perish before the revolutionary surge of the twentieth century, and that the age of plenty, the age of the final and definitive victory of science over superstition, will come to fruition over their ruins.
‘Nonetheless, the rise and reactionary victory of the Company of Jesus over the forces of progress in its contemporary world constitutes an impressive warning that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”, that human evolution depends ultimately upon human beings and not upon merely mechanical changes in the physical environment, that human progress is no mere automatic advance. The Company of Jesus demonstrated what human will and human intelligence consciously applied can achieve to check, as well as to advance, the evolution of mankind. And if we would accurately summarize the historic role and character of the Spanish Order, we would do well to realize that the relation between “ends” and “means” is not merely good Jesuit doctrine, but is, equally, good doctrine when applied to the Jesuits themselves.
‘Observed from this standpoint, the Jesuit Society, in regard to the end it sought to achieve, must be defined as the most audacious and successful conspiracy against the progress of humanity that the world has known , but regarded as a means, it represents the most powerful and intelligent adaptation of the human will in action , that master-characteristic which bends indifferent nature to the use of man and triumphs over a cold and hostile universe , that faculty whose province it has so often been to make, and also to mar, the forward movement of mankind throughout the chequered course of human history.’