Remembering how left-wing friends in the 1980s took great interest in the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua (recall The Clash’s album Sandinista! I personally backed the Contras, perhaps not my finest political decision), it is intriguing to learn from Donald C. Hodges’ Sandino’s Communism: Spiritual Politics For The Twenty-First Century (1992) how deeply involved Augusto César Sandino was in spiritism and esotericism.
Sandino seems to have taken a particularly keen interest in the religio-philosophical ideas of Escuela Magnético-Espiritual de la Comuna Universal, founded by Joaquín Trincado Mateo. The Magnetical-Spiritual School of Universal Commune, “the direct continuation” of the magical system “Moses founded 36 centuries ago”, if we are to believe Wikipedia, seems to still be around. I doubt however that the political dimension of the school, that first attracted Sandino, are vibrant still. In respect to early 19the century France, Julian Strube has recently studied the juxtaposition of socialism and occultism. It was news to me that such a joint adventure continued well into the interwar period.
In modern times the so-called Roman salute was immortalized by Jacques-Louis David in his The Oath of the Horatii from 1786. Today the gesture is foremost associated with the Nazis. Less well-known is the fact that until 1941 the Roman salute was likewise used in American civil religion and performed when pledging allegiance to “the stars and stripes”. The idea to pick up the old Roman way of greeting – most certainly imagined with the help of David’s painting – seems to have came up within a group of Christian socialists. Included in this group was the Baptist minister Francis Bellamy who broadcasted the use of the salute, allegedly suggested by a friend in the early years of 1890s, thereby giving rise to the nickname “the Bellamy salute”.
I have however encountered an earlier use of the Roman salute among the Knights of Labor. This Christian socialist/humanist secret order was tremendously influential in ths US, especially in the 1880s. In the very first outline to their imperative ritual manual Adelphon Kruptos, a handwritten draft from sometimes between 1869 and 1874, probably written by Uriah Smith Stephens, we learn that the knights had a special secret “covenant sign”: “The (officer) W.A. will call all in the room up and to a rest or military attention, when prayer may be offered by any one designated by the W.A. or by the (officer) D.A.S. Place all eyes on the W.A. and all give the covenant sign in five motions to a rest.” In the marginal of the draft, this ritual element is described as “officers and appis(?) make pentagon”. A couple of pages later it is explained this way: “In five motion 1 left hand on right breast, 2 right hand raised closed, 3 open right hand palm in front, 4 right hand down to side, 5 left hand down to the side, in military rest pause a moment.”
I’ll bet Francis and his friends once were knights! It is also noteworthy, that, if I am correctly informed, Francis Bellamy was the cousin of Edward Bellamy, the author of the extremely influential socialist utopian novel Looking Backward: 2000–1887 from 1888.
The path transferring the Roman salute of David and French republicanism to fascism and Nazism, is said to go through the Italian epic movie Cabiria from 1914 (that I haven’t yet watched). The author to the screenplay was the fascinating Gabriele d’Annunzio, who in his short-lived republic of Italian Regency of Carnaro mixed proto-fascist themes with radical syndicalism.
Having Google-translated three Russian texts that Roland Boer (Stalin’s moustache) was kind enough to suggest to me, I believe these authors argue for a French genesis for the red star. Apparently, the French army applied stars on their uniforms and the Russian army then adopted this custom in the mid 19th century. This martial connection is in line with the fact that the first time the Bolshevik red star is mentioned in press, in Izvestija on the 19th of April 1918, and some weeks later decided upon by Trotsky, on the 7th of May, it concerns ”Mars’ star” as an emblem for the Red Army. Thwarting rumours about the star’s masonic and satanic background and meaning, it was proclaimed that the star should have two beams pointing downward and one upwards. According to the authors, a Red Army leaflet explained that the red star symbolises Truth. If I understand the Google-translations correctly.
I haven’t been able to confirm that French uniforms actually had stars on them. It doesn’t sound implausible, but I still don’t detect them on images I have looked at. And I haven’t given up my theory about the significance of Boganov’s novel…
Top: Efim Ivanovich Kurashov portrayed by L. F. Golovanov. Right: “Soviet Russia in under Siege. Everyone to the Defence!”, propaganda poster from 1919 by Dmitry Moor.
Two new things concerning the from-Masonic-G-to-Anarchist-A theme.
David Leopold was kind enough to show me the image to the left above. It is the membership card for the left-chartist group Fraternal Democrats, active between 1845-1853. It is obviously masonic and most certainly influenced the emblem for the First international (1864–1876). Marx and Engels were in contact with the Fraternal Democrat group from its start. Moreover, the emblem looks very much like an A.
The emblem for the Spanish branch of the First International, to the right above, is indeed not reproduced in the version by historian Alberto Valín Fernández that I referred to in my latest post, but it in fact appears in another version: http://win.masoneriamadrid.eu/LA%20MASONER%CDA%20Y%20EL%20MOVIMIENTO%20OBRERO.pdf
From the frontcover to The Democratic Review of British and Foreign Politics, History and Literature (1850). Harney, G. Julian (ed.). Vol. II. London: J. Watson.
Conspiracy theories about occult origins of socialism circulate on the Internet. Socialists who have been initiated into freemasonry or accidental similarities between socialist and esoteric iconography are taken as proof of an occult, virtually satanic, genesis of the worker’s movement. Not everything in these far-fetched theories is false however, as the existence of The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor may indicate. Right now I am in particular curious about the origin of the anarchist A, the one encircled.
As is well known, the most visible masonic emblem is the G (for God, that at least seems to be the most common exoteric interpretation) in the middle of a square and compasses. Look now at the emblem for the Spanish branch of the First International.* We find in it something halfway between a pair of compasses and an A – “A” for Asociation/Association, I take it. It’s like the pair of compasses (and maybe the square/ruler) builds the letter. (There is probably also a plumb bob.)
Inspired by the masons, the above-mentioned Knights of Labor used an emblem called Great Seal of Knighthood, depicting simply an encircled triangle. (Here represented in the animated Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear from 1984 as the ominous emblem of The Eminent Order of Freemen.) The triangle is a good start on the way to the letter A as in the anarchist A… After the collapse of the Knights of Labor, the anarcho-syndicalist IWW entered the American radical scene. Was it perhaps in this milleau that the anarchist A was first drawn? Has the anarchist A actually been formed from the freemasonry square and compasses? Or is this only coincidences and the anarchist A actually, as have seen suggested here and there, a later invention, independent of everything esoteric? (Have you noticed the incessant presence of the @? Obviously the covert, miniscule form of the anarchist A, a fact that clearly demonstrates the final, worldwide victory for masonic satanism…)
* I’ve tried to check the authenticity of the emblem. The stated source for it is “La masonería y el movimiento obrero: imagos e ideas para una reflexion teórica” by historian Alberto Valín Fernández. Even though I know one or two words in Spanish, reading Galician is not my thing. I however observe that no emblem is reproduced in the article and that we probably should look into ”The Order of Eternal Progress: the quasi-masonic roots of the First International in the United States» by Mark Lause, presented at the conference “’We Band of Brothers’: Freemasonry in radical and social movement 1700-2000” held in Sheffield in 2004.