The Hiéron du Val d’Or: from the notebooks of Farquhar McHarg (Pistoleros 1: 1918)

Musée eucharistique du Hiéron, Paray-le-Monial, Saône-et-Loire, France


“… Central to the Hiéron du Val d’Or’s arcane beliefs [and those of Joan Miró i Trepat] and esoteric rituals was an obsession with Eucharistic symbolism, geometry and sacred architecture. It was nonsense, of course, but the importance of this organisation lay in its political influence, and its obsession with preventing the catastrophic happenings prophesied by ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ and what it euphemistically called ‘returning Europe to the original nobility of purpose and spiritual primacy of a Catholic Christianity modelled on the old Holy Roman Empire’.

“The thrust of the Hiéron du Val d’Or’s seminars and conferences wasn’t simply to dissect and counter Masonic, Bolshevik, Liberal or anarchist subversion and ‘contain’ the advance of Godless communism and ‘Masonic free thought’, but to actually confront the enemy by launching a four hundred year rollback, It was what they euphemistically called ‘expanding Catholic values’, ‘mobilising true faith into action’, and ‘spreading the social reign of Christ’.

Joaquín Milans del Bosch y Carrió (Barcelona, 1854 – Madrid, 1936)

“People like Miró and Milans weren’t interested in negotiating with the modern world; only ‘extreme measures’ could halt the onward march of liberal interventionism and the working class militancy that was challenging the very foundations of belief on which the Papacy and the Monarchy were built.

“What society needed, they believed, was a purging and patriotic ‘White Terror’.

“The kernel for the ‘White Terror’ was already in place in a number of European countries; it functioned through secret, like­minded Catholic army officers’ organisations such as ‘Tradition, Family and Property’ and the ‘Compass Rose Society’ (‘La Rosa de los Vientos’)which, in Spain at the time, was headed by ninety or so senior officers representing all the major army regiments and civilian security forces. At the centre of this Europe wide web of integrist malcontents was the Hiéron’s ‘Clandestine Planning Committee’, the organisational body responsible for supervising and coordinating resistance to the impending revolution — and for giving strategic direction to its campaigns of terror.

“With the end of the Great War in sight, the warnings and revelations of Fatima — itself a prism of signs and wonders — and the strong smell of revolution in the air, the Catalan chapter of the Hiéron began planning for the post-War world, and for three days in mid­-September 1918, the Fortress of Montjuic became the venue for a ‘discreet’ international conference on the theme of ‘Bolshevism —An Instrument of World Expansion’. The catalyst for the conference was the phenomenal success of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia and the mushrooming growth of the CNT following the Sants Congress, which had thrown the Catalan employers into a real panic.

Guillermo Graell Moles (1845-1927)

“Nominally organised under the aegis of the Fomento Nacional del Trabajo, the national employers’ organisation, the event had in fact been sponsored by the Hiéron and the counter­intelligence bureau of the Spanish secret service, with whose members it cultivated close relations. General Milans del Bosch and Guillermo Graell, the Fomento’s secretary-general and Spain’s leading ideologue of militant lay clericalism, chaired the sessions, jointly.

“Graell was the author of a shelf of tracts, pamphlets and books such as The Religious Question and An Essay on the Necessity to Return to Religion which expressed the pre­-fascist, integrist, employers’ desires for religious order by arguing for the closest possible ties between the Catholic Church, the workforce and the business community, while extolling the virtues of an idealised lost world, a never­-never land in which peaceful, happy and devout workers and peasants belonged to a trade guild, attended religious processions, confessed and expiated their sins — and doffed their boinas to their betters.

“The ideological stars of the Hiéron conference were an eclectic international group of extreme right­wing journalists, academics and theologians. Some sought to define what they saw as the present threat to the social order while others prescribed the means by which it could be overcome. Their enemies were everywhere and included everything and anything that promoted what they defined as heresy, moral laxity or undermined faith, good order and discipline. It was a broad canvas that covered science, reason, and even a belief in the goodness of man. In their rogue’s gallery of Satan’s little helpers were such hate­filled blasphemers as Descartes, Bacon, Hobbes, Kant, Leibniz, Rousseau, Hegel, Adam Smith, Michael Bakunin, Pierre Joseph Proudhon — and, last but not least, Francisco Ferrer i Guardia.

“The study of science and rationalist philosophy, for the Hiéron organisers, led inevitably to heresy via Protestantism and anarchy. Protestantism because it developed the notion of individualism and suggested princes could be resisted on spiritual and temporal grounds. It also denied the authority of Rome — all of which led directly to anarchy.

“One after another, the speakers denounced materialism, self-improvement and mutual aid with equal vehemence. As for labour unions, Jesus had more to offer workers than did union organisers. Resignation, submission and suffering were extolled as essential to the human condition, and the only ways to win ‘God’s love’. Heaven’s entrance fee could only be paid through suffering in this life. According to their beliefs, people who lived in poverty were happier than the idle, bored and joyless rich who had acquired their wealth through questionable means — and spent it in frivolous consumption.

“‘The Great War will be followed’, said one of the keynote speaker at the Hiéron conference, ‘by a social war which will jeopardise the great temporal and spiritual institutions of Europe. Even as we speak, Bolsheviks, anarchists and liberals are capitalising on the instability of the situation. They are pushing matters to breaking point by progressively poisoning the minds of the impatient and enthusiastic poor, radicalising and provoking the weaker members of society into refusing to accept their lot with their normal deference, submission and resignation…’

August 1920: press coverage of von König’s ‘Black Gang’, 3 months after his expulsion from Spain (May 1920)

“The panel of police, military and security speakers proposed various strategies to counter the subversive onslaught against family, nation, tradition and property, but the one which was given the most enthusiastic reception, came from a hitherto unknown and relatively new face in town, the Baron von Koenig, who delivered a paper on how to ‘break’ the CNT and end the social unrest which was ‘crippling’ Barcelona.

“This ideological snake oil salesman knew exactly what emotional buttons to press in his audience. His comprehensive and studiously calibrated plan for pacifying the working class ranged from infiltrating agents into the unions to act as informers and provocateurs, to physical and psychological intimidation. He even hinted at ‘eliminating’ troublesome trade unionists. The Baron’s paper, delivered with unselfconscious irony, outlined a semi-covert organisation of what he described as ‘plausibly deniable’ auxiliaries and cells who, in the event of a revolution, would give ‘unhesitatingly ruthless, energetic and unorthodox’ battle to the enemy. These auxiliaries would be recruited from ideologically selected and trusted Catholic, Royalist, and middle­class organisations, and led by an operational nucleus of reliable, disciplined and highly motivated officers from the police, security and armed services.

“‘The threats Spain faces today are real, multiple, and potentially devastating’, said the Baron. ‘Unless we exert a strong and ruthless hand immediately, the Bolsheviks and anarcho-syndicalists will soon be making totally unreasonable demands upon management and employers in the pursuit of their ultimate objective — social revolution.

“‘The greatest danger comes from the CNT, whose leaders are desperate men driven by a millenarian faith-based idealism in pursuit of unworkable and ungodly ends. They are a festering sore on the body politic, a cancer that is gnawing into the vitals and sapping the moral life of Spain. There is no alternative but to destroy them physically and psychologically. We are not dealing here with the accommodating union officials of the UGT; these men are irrational and cannot be bought or brought into the system — nor will they concede without a fight.

“‘To sum up then’, he continued. ‘A special action service is required, a secret and unconventional body parallel to the official security forces, like the Sometent, which is capable of organising national resistance to an anarchist or Bolshevik type revolution, and would provide civilised Spain with a militant bulwark against the Godless hordes of anarchism, Bolshevism, atheism, subversion, terrorism and the new unionism of the CNT. Its terms of reference would be to straddle the grey area between normal military and police operations carried out by men in uniform, and the clandestine political and psychological warfare operations conducted by civilian agents. It will safeguard the nation’s institutions and maintain the status quo by confronting and neutralising — anywhere and anytime — the gravest of Bolshevik and anarchist threats.

“‘Even if there is no revolution or need for a clandestine resistance movement, we will still have an instrument of control capable of conditioning the political life of the country and preventing any further slips towards liberalism; one which will allow us to manipulate popular mass movements — and, when necessary, eliminate them at birth. When a nation asks its security forces to take on enemies such as the CNT who use terror and intimidation to compel an indifferent workforce to join its ranks and provoke a repression that will, in turn, outrage national and international public opinion, then the forces of law and order cannot avoid using extreme measures in retaliation.

“‘The only way to prevent revolution is to confront the enemy — in this case the terror cells of the CNT and the Bolsheviks — with every means at our disposal. Caution is a luxury we cannot afford when facing the dangers we face. We must treat them as the enemies of humanity that they are — beyond the protection of the law. The courts and the judicial system may not be able to handle them, but we can — and we will!

“‘But our intelligence capabilities must be adequate to the task. We must create an extensive network of informers and agents to monitor the radicals, dissidents, militants and sympathisers — both actual and incipient — and report on all subversive talk, publications, activities and movements. With good intelligence we can manipulate, neutralise and, when necessary, physically eliminate the enemy.

“‘Remember, friends, we are at war and the exceptional nature of the threat we face justifies everything — and I mean absolutely everything, no matter how apparently brutal or immoral. We must avoid thinking in moral terms and only do what is most useful. If you have gangrene in your fingers, what do you do? Do you allow the whole hand, and then the body, to become gangrenous? — or do you cut off the finger? Our mission demands results, and will require extreme and exceptional measures, but remember — that which corrupts an entire country and its people must be pulled up like the weeds that infest a field of wheat. Some will call us butchers, but get it into perspective, we are butchers surrounded by vampires!’’

“Baron von König’, 1900 (Scotland Yard files)

“At the end his speech, the enthusiastic audience rose as one to give the Baron a standing ovation. With the applause still echoing around the auditorium, Mir i Trepat, his protégé and patron stepped up to the lectern. ‘Are we all agreed, then?’, he declared. ‘We refuse to negotiate with the enemies of Spain and of God. Even the terms of surrender will be non-­negotiable! The workers we employ will be those who agree to work on our terms, and our terms alone, no one else’s. Those who resist us will be neutralised — or eliminated!’

“The captain general and police commissioner clapped and nodded approvingly while Soldevilla, the Archbishop of Zaragoza, who was also on the podium, raised his hand and made the sign of the cross, giving the proceedings the Church’s seal of approval.”

From: The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg. Pistoleros 1: 1918

1918: meeting of the Patronal