National Synarchist Union
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|Founded||May 23, 1937|
|Youth wing||Juventudes Sinarquistas|
|Colors||Green, White and Red|
The National Synarchist Union (Spanish: Unión Nacional Sinarquista) is a Mexican political organization. It was historically a movement of the Roman Catholic extreme right, in some ways akin to clerical fascism and falangism, implacably opposed to the left wing and secularist policies of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its predecessors that governed Mexico from 1929 to 2000 and since 2012.
The UNS was founded in May 1937, during the leftist administration of President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-40), by a group of Catholic political activists led by José Antonio Urquiza, who was murdered in April 1938. It was a revival of the Catholic reaction that drove the Cristero War (that ended in 1929), and its core was centered in the Bajío rural bourgeoisie and professional lower middle-class, where Catholicism was very strong. The group published the "Sinarquista Manifesto," opposing the policies of the government of President Lázaro Cárdenas. "It is absolutely necessary that an organization composed of true patriots exists," the Manifesto declared, "an organization which works for the restoration of the fundamental rights of each citizen and the salvation of the Motherland. As opposed to the utopians who dream of a society without governors and laws, Synarchism supports a society governed by a legitimate authority, emanating from the free democratic activity of the people, that truly guarantees the social order within all find true happiness." The group's date of formation, 23 May, was celebrated annually in León, Guanajuato by the membership.
The UNS was led by Salvador Abascal, a hard-liner, from 1940 to 1941 when he stood down in order to set up a synarchist commune in Baja California with the more moderate Manuel Torres Bueno becoming leader. The group was fond of large scale publicity stunts, such as the "takeovers" they launched in Guadalajara, Jalisco and Morelia in 1941. These temporary affairs amounted to little more than symbolic gestures but nonetheless helped to demonstrate the support the UNS enjoyed amongst the peasantry of the Western states.
Synarchist involvement in regional protest groups and political parties was both a reality and a regularly used accusation aimed at discrediting opposition. The Civic Union of León, one such local party active in the mid-1940s, was dominated by a cadre of synarchists in the leadership positions. In contrast Austreberto Aragon Maldonado, whose Liga de Resistencia de Usarios del Agua de Oaxaca—a group that supported improvement in the water supply in Oaxaca—enjoyed widespread support in the region, was regularly denounced by the state government as a synarchist despite regularly denying any involvement in the UNS and taking care not to involve himself with any extremist groups. Aragon was targeted in this way due to the broad-based support his movement enjoyed and the possibility that it could become a focus for wider resistance.
The ideology of the UNS derived from the current of Catholic social thinking of the 1920s and 1930s, based on the papal encyclical Rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII, which also influenced the regimes of Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria, António Salazar in Portugal and Francisco Franco in Spain. Taking its impetus from the same strand of rightist politics that had informed the Cristiada movement, the group sought to mobilise the peasantry against "atheistic and communist tendencies". It stressed social co-operation as opposed to the class conflict of socialism, and hierarchy and respect for authority as opposed to liberalism. In the context of Mexican politics, this meant opposition to the centralist, semi-socialist and anti-clerical policies of the PRI regime. As a result, UNS members were denounced as fascists and persecuted by the Cárdenas government and the group had little real impact in Mexican politics.
The question of synarchism became an issue for U.S. Intelligence analysts during World War II. In a now declassified U.S. report dated April 22, 1942, Raleigh A. Gibson, First Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, sent the U.S. Secretary of State an English translation of an editorial from El Popular, the newspaper of the Confederation of Mexican Workers, published on April 21, 1942. It reads in part as follows:
- "The French sinarquistas rushed into furious strife against French and European democracy; those of Mexico organized to combat Mexican and continental democracy. The French sinarquistas were adopted by Abetz, the Ambassador of Hitler in France; the Mexican sinarquistas were recruited, were given a name, were educated and directed by Nazi agents in Mexico and by Falange directors who are working illegally among us. And this is so apparent, so conclusive, that it eliminates the need of concrete proofs of the organic connection between them. The fundamental proof is that sinarquism is not a unique and exclusive Mexican product, as its leaders untruthfully argue. That Sinarquism, even bearing the identical name, does exist in other parts of the world and is an international movement formed by those who are under the supreme orders of Hitler."
Mexican author Mario Gill argues that the synarchist movement in Mexico was essentially co-opted by right-wing Catholic elements in the U.S., led by Cardinal Francis Spellman and Bishop Fulton Sheen. This assessment was echoed by El Popular, which in its December 14, 1943 issue wrote as follows:
- "There is no doubt that the recent visit to Mexico of Msgr. Sheen, the pro-fascist 'black leader' of North American clericalism, contributed towards obtaining the conversion of the Mexican Synarchists to a new policy in tune with the demands of the situation of the new world."
Decline and revival
The UNS was firmly pro-Axis powers during World War II and its propaganda increased in this direction following the increase in anti-American feeling engendered in Mexico by the Sleepy Lagoon murder. Government schemes aimed at taming the UNS, notably giving the land in Baja California to Abascal's followers, did not prove a success and soon it was felt by the government that the group had to be controlled. President Manuel Ávila Camacho placed a ban on the UNS holding public meetings in June 1944 at a time when factionalism was dividing the movement. Some radical members went rogue, including one, De La Lama y Rojas, who on 14 April 1944 shot at Camacho and bemoaned the President's survival with the words "I was not able, sadly, to complete my mission". De La Lama y Rojas was himself shot and killed whilst in police custody soon after the failed attack. The movement split in two in 1945 when Carlos Athie replaced Torres Bueno as leader. The deposed leader started his own group, and both factions claimed the UNS name. Above all however the group was outmanoeuvred by the policies of the Camacho government, which maintained a policy of openly supporting Catholicism whilst also enacting legislation aimed at improving the lot of the working classes, effectively occupying political space that would normally be associated with critics from the right and left respectively.
In 1946 the Torres Bueno faction regrouped as the Popular Force Party (Partido Fuerza Popular). This party was banned in 1949 along with the Mexican Communist Party as part of a wider policy against "extremism". In 1951, however, when it was clear that the more moderate National Action Party (PAN) had become the main party of opposition to the PRI government, the Synarchist leader Juan Ignacio Padilla converted the movement to a non-party one promoting conservative Catholic social doctrine, promoted through co-operatives, credit unions and Catholic trade unions. Nonetheless the PAN actively sought co-operation with the Sinarquistas as part of its attempts to form a mass movement, and the Synarchist movement was active on behalf of the party during the 1958 election campaigns. The group also established links with Opus Dei, which partially funded the Synarchists in the late 1960s by diverting funds to the Synarchist journal Hoja de Combate.
Synarchism, which had become largely localised to Guanajuato, was revived as a political movement in the 1970s through the Mexican Democratic Party (PDM), whose candidate, Ignacio González Gollaz, polled 1.8 percent of the vote at the 1982 presidential election. In 1988, Gumersindo Magaña polled a similar proportion, but the party then suffered a split, and in 1992 lost its registration as a political party. It was dissolved in 1996. The Torres Bueno-Athie split was never ended and to date there are two organisations, both calling themselves the Unión Nacional Sinarquista. One has an apparently right-wing orientation, the other is apparently left-wing, but they both have the same philosophical roots. The PDM is seeking registration to take part in mid-term elections in 2015 
In popular culture
In the 1981 Luis Valdez Broadway play Zoot Suit and film of the same name, one character brings it to the attention of the protagonist that the popular Chicano styles and mannerisms of the day had been pegged as stemming from sinarquismo with sympathies for the Axis powers by the yellow press.
- Hammett, Brian (1999). A Concise History of Mexico.
- Manifiesto Sinarquista (1937)
- Daniel Newcomer, Reconciling modernity: urban state formation in 1940s León, Mexico, U of Nebraska Press, 2004, p. 117
- Philip Rees, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890, 1990
- Enrique Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, Harper Perennial, 1997, p. 506
- Benjamin T Smith, Pistoleros and Popular Movements: The Politics of State Formation in Postrevolutionary Oaxaca, University of Nebraska Press, 2009, p. 289
- Smith, Pistoleros and Popular Movements, pp. 281–283
- Krauze, Mexico, p. 504
- Kevin Starr, Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940–1950, p. 103
- Robert Jackson Alexander, Latin American Political Parties, Praeger, 1973, p. 438
- LA UNIÓN NACIONAL SINARQUISTA DE MÉXICO: El Sinarquismo en el período de la posguerra
- L. Vincent Padgett, The Mexican Political System, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976, p. 44
- Smith, Pistoleros and Popular Movements, p. 328
- Padgett, The Mexican Political System, pp. 99–100
- Padgett, The Mexican Political System, pp. 108–109
- A. Riding, Mexico: Inside the Volcano, Coronet Books, 1989, p. 113
- National Synarchist Union (Website of the right-wing UNS, in Spanish)
- National Synarchist Unionista (Website of the competing left-wing UNS, in Spanish) (Not available Jul 26, 2008)
- UNS reactivará al PDM para intermedias de 2015
- “P.D.M. ¡Volveremos…!”
- National Synarchist Union blog (Website in Spanish)