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All Marxists are crazy, and it's scientific

At the end of the 30s, the chief psychiatrist of the Spanish dictator Franco conducted a study on the volunteers of the International Brigades, with the aim of revealing the "biological-mental origins of Marxist fanaticism"

Giles Tramlett Guardian

Archive photo: AFP
A meeting between Franco and Hitler, 1940. The prisoners said that Gestapo officers were present during the experiments, who acted jointly with Dr. Viejo

To dictator Francisco Franco's chief psychiatrist, Antonio Viejo Negra, this must have seemed obvious. If the Generalissimo and his far-right partners from the Spanish Civil War fought for justice, God and truth, then their opponents on the left had to be crazy, psychotic or at least mentally ill. At the end of the 30s, when the fascists were close to victory, Viejo decided to prove it. The solution, he decided, was found in an abandoned monastery in San Pedro de Cardena, near Burgos, which had become a makeshift prison for the volunteers of the International Brigades, who fought for the Republic.

In 1938, the prisoners underwent a series of strange physical and psychological tests, in one of the first systematic attempts to place psychiatry at the service of ideology. 64 years later, the results of Viejo's project, which investigated the "biological-psychological origins of Marxist fanaticism", were revealed.
Former inmates at San Pedro de Cardena remember going through about 200 tests. They were asked about their sex lives and their heads and noses were measured. "They forced us to undress and took all these measurements. We assumed that they thought it would benefit them in case the fascists invaded Britain," said Bob Doyle, one of the only survivors among a group of 75 British prisoners who were tested at the camp. Another ex-prisoner, Carl Geiser, the highest-ranking American in the prison and a former political commissar in the American Brigade named after Abraham Lincoln, recalled: "I was photographed with only a small piece of cloth covering my genitals."

Two men in civilian clothes presented the prisoners with a series of questions. It took them several days to interrogate about 200 British, Irish, American, Canadian, Portuguese and South American prisoners. "One of the assistants...said out loud the length, width and volume of the prisoner's skull, the distance between his eyes, the length of his nose, and described the color of his skin, his body structure, scars and the type of injury," Geiser wrote in his book, "Prisoners of the Good Fight published in 1986. Each prisoner was ordered to stand in front of a camera, photographed from the front and from the side and a close-up of his face was also taken. After that we were considered to have passed the 'scientific' classification."

The results of Viejo's tests were published in a military medical journal and raised dust in libraries in Spain, until the historian Richard Vinays revealed them while working on his book." "The Lost Children of Franco The results would have been considered ridiculous, had not Viejo been an influential person. During the period when the study was conducted, he served as the chief psychologist of the Spanish army. He progressed and became the most important psychiatrist in the country, with the first university chair in Spain in the field. He wrote dozens of books and participated in international conferences until his death in 1960.

His report claimed, for example, that 58% of the English prisoners were "singles who had sexual experience even with women who were not prostitutes"; 7% of them were recruited by "charlatans in Hyde Park"; 17% were registered with the "Employment Bureau". All (three) Welsh prisoners were "alcoholics", Viejo discovered. "It is conceivable that psychopaths of all kinds will join the ranks of the Marxists," the psychiatrist claimed before starting the research. "Because Marxism involves social immorality... we assume that those fanatics who fought with weapons would exhibit a schizoid temperament."

It is therefore not surprising that he diagnosed about a third of the English prisoners as "mentally retarded". Another third, he ruled, suffered from mental illnesses that turned them into schizoids, paranoids or psychopaths. Their deterioration into Marxism was exacerbated by the fact that 29% of them were also considered "socially retarded" according to the tests. Viejo added that "once again we find confirmation that the origins of Marxism are rooted in social resentment, unfulfilled ambitions and jealousy. The stubborn ideological approach of the English Marxists stems from their opaque minds and their lack of culture."

The results of the study, which predictably concluded that Marxists are really crazy, reveal the mental world of those who, under Franco's leadership, ran Spain for the next 40 years, more than they say anything about the British and other prisoners in San Pedro de Cardena. The results also increased the use of one of Franco's favorite political solutions - the firing squad. Those who could not be saved were better off dead.

The members of the brigade who are still alive today were amazed to hear about Viejo's research. They thought the experiments were carried out by Gestapo officers. Now it seems more likely that if Gestapo men were indeed present there, they acted in concert with Viejo, who spoke fluent German. Either way, the prisoners knew the purpose of the experiments. "They wanted to prove that we are not normal," Geiser said. The reaction of the prisoners was to turn the experiments into mockery and slander. Along with deliberate bragging about their sexual exploits, they were careful to avoid saying things that could lead to their execution the next morning.
Life in prison was difficult, but the members of the brigade did not lose heart. "It was difficult. There were no windows in the cells, only bars. it was cold. We slept on a stone floor without any bedding. Sanitation was minimal. We received a very small loaf of bread once a day, and apart from that only beans," Dave Goodman, a member of the British Brigade, told The Guardian shortly before his death last year.

Viejo concluded, wrongly, that all members of the International Brigade were staunch Marxists. "In the concentration camps, some of us were democrats, others were anarchists, some were communists... What we learned from this was that we all need to come together and stand by each other," Geiser said.

Viejo was awarded many decorations as a military doctor and served as a military attaché at the Spanish Embassy in Berlin. He was updated on the "latest achievements" of Hitler's Nazi psychiatrists, who were already busy sterilizing and "euthanizing" tens of thousands of people, who were considered a threat to the Harry gene pool.

Viejo, who was a devout Catholic, was opposed to any contraception and therefore rejected sterilization as a solution. He made his own proposals for the purification of the "Hispanic race", which he claimed had lost its power due to 500 years of intermarriage with Jewish converts. Early selection of candidates suitable for reproduction will restore the race to its "nobility", he argued in a book entitled "The Improvement of the Hispanic People and the Renewal of the Race".

The final conclusions of his research may have helped justify the killing of 30,000 to 50,000 republican sympathizers by firing squads, but they will appeal to most of the surviving members of the International Brigades. Despite the pressure of the prison, 85% of them refused to express regret for having fought to save the government of the Republic, which was elected in general and free elections. "The English research subjects participated in the fighting much more than the Americans, judging by the number of wounded... most of them continue to stick resolutely to their ideals," concluded Dr. Viejo.

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