Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
To Wage Counter-Revolution
Vocation: The calling to belong and serve the Catholic Church by fighting the Gnostic and egalitarian Revolution according to the laws of God and men.
I was recounting to you the stage in my life’s long journey, long navigation when I was transitioning from congressman to professor and the circumstances in which that happened.
For you to see the perspective I was in, you need to consider my vocation and what I thought of the direction my life should take. For me, the main note was that I knew I had to wage the Counter-Revolution. And every form of personal ambition, command position, or situation meant nothing. If I had waged the Counter-Revolution, my life would have been worth living. If I did not, it would be a failure.
If, during the course of events, I should become very rich, with a very comfortable life, and everything going very well as everyone else wanted for himself but did not wage the Counter-Revolution, my life would be a failure. Because the incompatibility between me, my convictions, and Catholic Faith, and the Revolution was so great that I was not interested in living my life among these people.
I did not have to be important in their eyes by having prestige or a career. Our incompatibility is complete. The difference in thought, mentality, etc., is total, so I wasn’t interested. If I changed, I would feel like I was not living my life but someone else’s.
On the contrary, if I had led the most challenging and miserable life but ultimately managed to make the Counter-Revolution win, I would have lived my life successfully.
I indeed had a duty to fulfill, which I did with enormous affection and respect: providing for my mother.
But for me, that came second to the problem of Revolution and Counter-Revolution. As much as I loved her, I was born to her but not for her. I thus had for her a precious and priceless affection. Furthermore, she had a counterrevolutionary mentality and was a true daughter of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, a fact that I cherished to the highest degree.
Despite all that, I was born to her, but not for her. I was born to wage the Counter-Revolution. More precisely, I was born to serve the Catholic Church. The point is that as a Roman Catholic, I was born to belong to the Catholic Church and serve it. The Catholic Church is the meaning of my life. Other than that, I do not recognize my life as having any purpose. And the Counter-Revolution was my way of serving the Catholic Church.
On the other hand, with the panorama I had before my eyes, seeing the Revolution as I see it, I noticed that I should not serve the Catholic Church, for example, by setting up a colossal, magnificent orphanage or putting together a ladies’ newspaper or any such means. These are very worthy forms of apostolate, and I am far from belittling them.
I asked myself: I see the enormous crisis of temporal society, the outside world, and that this crisis is passing into the Church and creating problems in it. I have been able to see for myself the beginning of this crisis and fully felt its gravity, so I wondered:
What is the point of building an orphanage if, although it will save a few souls and do some good, after a while, it will be devoured by the plague entering the entire Church? Either I fight this plague which is called Revolution in the Church, or whatever I do will soon be eaten by my adversary, who expels me from within and uses the product of my intellectual work to harm the Church. No way. Count me out.
God gave me the grace to see the fight of the Revolution and the Counter-Revolution as the very backbone of history, the very central problem of both Church and State. So either I devoted my entire life to liquidating the Revolution and making the Counter-Revolution victorious, or my service to the Catholic Church made no sense. So, what I had to do was precisely to wage the Counter-Revolution.
At that time, I was about twenty-six years old. I was elected a constituent congressman at twenty-four and served for a year and a half. Then I came back to São Paulo and established myself here.
It was apparent that I had to take stock of my life and see how it served the Counter-Revolution up until that point. It was a matter of conscience to dispose of what was left of my life orderly. I did not know for sure but glimpsed that it would have a long duration. I felt very strong, very healthy. If you see me still strong at my age, you can imagine what I was like at twenty-six. From examples of my maternal and paternal family, I could see that people in their families lived a long time, so I could conjecture that I would too.
At that crossroads, I asked: what have I done so far to accomplish my goal concerning the Revolution and the Counter-Revolution? Where did I start from? How far am I along the way to figure where I am heading? It was natural, and if you pay attention, everything I told you about me revolves around that axis. It serves this purpose and revolves around that axis.
I found myself in this situation: Until the age of twenty, I had a socially and economically stable life at a kind of pinnacle. My family was not extremely rich but very wealthy, and all our assets were invested in rental buildings. There was no tenancy law at that time, and when the contract ended, we could have the tenant vacate the premises. All those buildings stood at prime locations, the city was growing, and so was the value of my family’s assets, without the need to work. I understood pretty well that if I made no mistakes by spending my mother’s equity when my grandmother died, I would not have to waste my time working to make money, and so I could dedicate myself exclusively to our cause.
That is what you gentlemen do. Hermits, camaldolese, etc. renounce earning money to serve the Counter-Revolution.
I said to myself that my objective and ideal was to serve the Counter-Revolution and found an Order of Chivalry as an instrument to serve the Counter-Revolution.
So, from a social and economic point of view, my situation was very stable. However, it was perfectly bottled up because, from age ten to twenty – after a few years of youthful apostolate and another few years of university apostolate, I felt no possibility to recruit anyone for the Counter-Revolution—literally no one.
You know me, and you know that I am no ‘crazy cat.’ I made continuous efforts with prudence, discretion and skill, and tried as hard as possible but got nothing. If you like, it was a failure lying on a feather bed. But I’m not interested in feather beds. I do not want failures, and it was a failure.
For a twenty-year-old, ten years is an eternity. It is like 30 years for a man my age. At age 20, therefore, after ten years of failure, I had the impression of a colossal failure. Even worse than the failure, the more I looked around me, the more I saw no conditions for any counterrevolutionaries to appear.
At that time, I read a lot of European things. I still read German and English fluently and read French as much as possible. I still did not understand Spanish and Italian as I later did. But reading things in French, German, and a few English writings, I had my whole spirit set up with the idea that Europe was the continent of traditions. Therefore, it would be the continent of a possible Counter-Revolution.
So I had this idea: Who knows if I would find a counterrevolutionary organization in Europe, which I could replicate on this side of the Ocean? Please allow me to found a similar organization here, subject to yours. Let us wage the Counter-Revolution together around the world.
How many times, standing before the sea on Gonzaga Beach, in Santos, I thought about the other side of the sea: “These waves come from the blessed continent where a Counter-Revolution likely exists.”
As I saw the ocean waters in the rising tide, I would say: “Who knows if these waters have hit Europe, Portugal, Spain... Who knows if they hit England or came to the Atlantic via the Mediterranean? Who knows if they came to the Atlantic via the English Channel? Who knows if they hit such and such countries, etc. A Counter-Revolution must exist there, but I have no money to go to Europe.”
I only could go if my grandmother died and I inherited something, but it would still be a very modest trip. You achieve few results with a quick and modest trip, but who knows?”
Prince Dom Pedro Henrique, father of Dom Luis and Dom Bertrand, was the only contact I had with Europe. I had met him here in Brazil. He was my age, about a year younger than me.
When he was in São Paulo, his mother, Princess Pia, and Prince Luis Gastão, another brother of his who died in the odor of sanctity, plus another princess, came to visit my grandmother, my mother, and family because of our old relationships with Princess Isabel. Once in a while, I would write Dom Pedro Henrique, who answered my early letters but later quit answering.
I asked myself, “Could he have caved into the Revolution? Has that golden nugget turned to dust in my hand? What can I do now?”
Suddenly, the Catholic Youth Congress happens, and another sea opens up for me, giving rise to a vertiginous ascent. It was a dream come true.
However, I later found that instead of being the first step towards a victorious gallop of the Counter-Revolution, this dream sustained two coordinated failures.
The first was a political failure due to the bishops’ decision to put an end to the Catholic Electoral League. Then there was a failure of my leadership as a Catholic leader: the emergence of the liturgical movement and the Catholic Action movement, both visibly aimed at destroying the counterrevolutionary tone the Catholic movement had and transforming the Catholic movement into a revolutionary movement.
So, I not only lost command of the ship, but the adversary penetrated it through its holds.
As you can see, my loss of the status as a congressman, plus the appearance of those movements threatening my position as a Catholic leader (so far indisputable among the Catholic youth of my time), all that threatened to take away from me the means to wage Counter-Revolution.
Furthermore, my family’s economic failures deprived me of the means to devote my life exclusively to the apostolate, and I was reduced to having to work, something I did not want.
I had this serious problem: at that time, people traveled to the countryside much less than today. The roads were shorter; cars were rare and expensive. People traveled much more by train, but trains took a long time and were not as practical as they later became. Travel was not simple. As a result, there was a huge gap between the interior of Sao Paulo state and its capital. A person who lived in the interior – say in Campinas, a sister city close to São Paulo – was already a hillbilly, and hillbillies were low-level. He might influence his city, but not the state.
Therefore, I could not live in the interior because I would lose the prestigious condition of living in the capital. Nowadays, all that has changed. Why? Because life has changed. People’s fortunes in the interior the fortunes have become very big, and at that time, they were not. In the interior, families began to live in much greater luxury. In my time, country people were frugal and had a lot less luxury. Today, due to a series of circumstances, the interior is much closer to the capital than it was then. At my time, it was a drop in prestige to move to the interior.
For example, living in a prosperous city, a small capital like Ribeirão Preto, was radically different than living in São Paulo. So I had to cling to São Paulo and maintain a personal, human situation that would allow me to talk to everyone on an equal footing, for otherwise, my influence to wage the Counter-Revolution would disappear.
As I took stock of things, I found that everything related to my job situation was very complicated. I was threatened with losing my jobs. True, I was a life-tenured professor at the University College, but how long would that last? When would some law put an end to that? When that happened, what would I do?
On one occasion, during the meeting of the São Paulo bench (in the Constituent Assembly), they discussed teaching issues that had nothing to do with the Catholic Church. They were studying something about which I was indifferent. Suddenly, I see the House whip Alcântara Machado look at me and say, “What we have just approved here, and will be approved in the Constituent Assembly, will make Dr. Plínio’s career - he’s its great beneficiary!”
Having that problem on my mind, I pricked up my ears and said,
“But how is that, Dr. Alcântara?”
“This is an authorization for private entities to found universities. And in Brazilian law, the Church is a private entity and can establish huge Catholic universities as in Europe, with a prestige equal to or greater than those of the state. And you have all the conditions to be appointed professor at the Catholic university even without a public exam and start your life where others end up.”
I thought, “here’s something I need to grab tooth and nail!”
Actually, upon arriving in São Paulo, I received two invitations. One from the Benedictine Fathers, who were about to establish a university-level College of Philosophy and asked me to accept a chair because my reputation as a congressman enhanced the college’s prestige.
I asked, “But, what chairs?”
They answered: “You choose the list of vacant chairs. Your appointment will be for life.”
I picked the chair on Medieval, Modern and Contemporary History.
They said: “Fine, but are you aware that you earn little? The state pays a university professor about one thousand and five hundred a month. The Church has less money than the state because It does not collect taxes. Therefore, she will not pay one thousand two hundred and fifty, but only to two hundred and fifty.”
I thought to myself: that is better than nothing. And said, “I see, but gladly accept...”
Then, for the same reasons, a female order founded by the Augustinian Canons in Belgium invited me to teach at the Des Oiseaux College. I chose the same chair. It was a girl’s only college but had male and female professors.
I accepted, and so had two professorships. I thought: at least five hundred thousand réis a month suffices to avoid extreme need and poverty. I have to work like a lion to give many classes per week. And university classes are much more demanding than in secondary schools. At a secondary school, you open a book, take a note, and teach. In a university, your responsibility is obviously much greater.
So I accepted, and with my salary as a professor at the University College, which was much higher, I could balance matters.
I have already told you how I went from a poor, frankly desolate house on [Marquês de Itu] street to a house on Itacolomi Street with outstanding appearance, excellent taste, and everything very clean and inexpensive. I installed myself there with my mother.
I thought: “These are jobs. A man can lose his job at any time. I have to find something else, [establish] a personal law firm so that whoever takes my jobs does not take away my clientele. I will open a law firm and see if I can get clients. In this way, I can balance the situation to take my evenings off, though not my days.
On the one hand, having my evenings free enables me to do many things. On the other hand, it is also true that teaching at the São Paulo Law School and the Catholic University, I had very good positions to wage the Counter-Revolution by teaching a counterrevolutionary history course with the possibility of gaining adherents to establish an Order of Chivalry to wage Counter-Revolution. Is this central objective clear?
I actually opened a law firm but had no time to make it take off. I invited Dr. Paulo [Barros de Ulhoa Cintra], a lawyer who graduated a couple of years after me, to help me. And I found a way for him to earn a share of what I did. I earned very little from the law firm but had an advantage that Dr. Paulo was aware of: if I lost my jobs, I would take over the law office and he would leave.
I continued to live in São Paulo, in that house, in those conditions, so that we could continue to carry out the Counter-Revolution.
My main concern using those circumstances to carry out the Counter-Revolution was this. Since my teaching positions are for life, I have to prepare and give my classes well to gain a reputation as a professor.
Since a College of Philosophy forms secondary and university teachers, as the years go by, many teachers’ classes will be formed and marked by my influence. In one way or another, they will talk about me in their classes, increasing my reputation and name recognition, and extending my influence to wage the Counter-Revolution, so that is fine.
At the moment, however, my concern is to give a great, well-done course that impresses the students from a counterrevolutionary standpoint and conduct classes so that they feel a firm hand and understand they are not dealing with just anyone. And I will devote my evenings to do apostolate with the Marian Sodality.
No other position was available to gain a little more prestige than as the director of a monthly newspaper at the Saint Cecilia Church called Legionário. They also invited me to be its director because I was a congressman, which was suitable for the monthly. I accepted and said, “You can put my name on it right away, but I will take over only when my mandate as a congressman ends because it is not possible to do both at the same time. When I am no longer a congressman, I will start exercising this position.”
When I was no longer a congressman, I showed up and said, “look, here I am to take over.”
“Fine, make yourself at ease.” So I took over.
I always devoted my evenings to cultivating my friends in the Marian Sodality and my relations with the Marian movement in general. I was often invited to speak and give lectures in the Catholic movement. I would give one, two, or three lectures almost every month. I worked in earnest and did the best I could. That multiplied the number of invitations to speak also in the interior.
I realized that it looked bad to refuse to go to bishops’ parties, so I attended, talked, and gave speeches to their hearts’ content. And when I sat on the train on my way back, what a sigh of relief!
Curiously, there is an expression in Sacred Scripture: “God, who sends snow, also sends wool; and God, who sends us sickness, prepares the bed for us to lie down.” So it happened to me: I sustained a series of disasters. Still, everything was cushioned on a smaller level, but ultimately with certain guarantees and compensations, and, above all, the possibility of carrying out the Counter-Revolution.
In that sense, my influence as a Catholic leader grew even more after I became a congressman. Also, I was becoming a little older and therefore had more personal respectability than a younger man. No offense meant to the twenty-somethings here, but a 26, 27, or 28-year-old man does not have the personal respectability of a 30-year-old. The period I’m talking about spanned several years.
I evidently noticed these signs. For example (I think I’ve already mentioned it here, but anyway), Catholic meetings were often held in theaters, filling them to capacity. If I arrived late—which happened often, I was always invited to sit at the panel. But even before that, when entering the theater – even though I had no position - the whole audience would get up and applaud.
If there were a speech going on, the speaker would interrupt it to greet me when I arrived, and then I would sit at the table. Of course, from the moment I entered the room, the keynote speech at the end would be mine. There was no way I could attend a meeting without giving an address at the end. It did not cross anyone’s mind.
I noticed that the whole room was napping a little while other speakers talked. When it was my turn, everyone would perk up.
That was so before I became a congressman, and at times it was not that way, although I was a congressman. I do not know what Providence had in mind, but that still increased a lot after I became a congressman.
I heard through the grapevine this complaint of an old archbishop: “We really have decided to bring down Plinio because he had a prestige that a layman is not supposed to have. He personally had more prestige than any of us bishops. So, it was necessary to finish him off.”
So, I devoted myself to the university classes and public speaking, which I did very abundantly. And then to move forward the Legionário.
And the way to move it forward was this. Catholic journalists at that time, except for a few, I actually know only two, [were pretty bland, if not white heresy]. One of the exceptions was Jackson de Figueiredo, the other, Carlos de Laet. I never got to meet Figueiredo, who was very combative.
Carlos de Laet was a Brazilian born to a French father or mother, as Laet is a French name, probably from Brittany. He had all the lightness and grace of the French style, although he wrote in Portuguese. But he used the resources of the Portuguese language very well. He was a much more brilliant writer than Jackson de Figueiredo, and very caustic and funny, but no joker. He was a man of the stature of Luis Veuillot, the great French counterrevolutionary writer of the last century.
Carlos de Laet was also a polemicist. Other writers were horrified by controversy and kept making accommodations with the Revolution, which they neither praised nor attacked. They pretended not to realize that the Revolution existed.
Their genre was, for example, in the month of Mary, they would write an article about the month of Mary titled “Azucena.” It is a flower that blossoms in May; I do not know if in Europe or Brazil. I confess to you that my ignorance in botany is such that I am not quite sure what difference is between an azucena and a lily. In my eighty years, I haven’t had the time to clarify that. But I know that [the azucena] is an a flower emblematic of Our Lady. It is very white, with a very soft scent, apt to be compared to Our Lady. Both the lily and azucena were Marian flowers, emblems of Our Lady.
The article’s title was “A lily,” with some hand-drawn flowers around it, and, inside, a poem by a daughter of Mary about the lily and Our Lady. Thus, the newspaper was written with all that “sugar” and “honey,” and read exclusively by sacristy frequenters and those from that milieu. It was an internal parish bulletin.
I formed the project of opening all windows and doors, letting in the winds of national and international politics, cultural, philosophical, theological problems, etc., dealing with them in a polemic style and writing “with the tip of the sword,” keeping an ongoing controversy more or less with everyone.
Above all, I closely monitored international politics in its ideological aspects—the great fight of time, between communism, fascism, and Nazism—German Nazism and Italian fascism, fighting the allied powers and communism in force in Russia.
Unfortunately, since there were sympathizers of Nazism, fascism, and communism all over the world, so this was an international polemic with repercussions in every country. It had repercussions in São Paulo, already a cosmopolitan city at that time, among the diaspora here. Anything I wrote against either of the two dictators resounded in the respective diaspora. When I wrote in favor of something in a country, feedback was favorable. When I wrote against it, there was hostile feedback and letters to the editor
That was a real movement. That was life! It was a bombardment by the Counter-Revolution against the Revolution. Pam!
On the other hand, I set up a system of selling Legionário at church doors so that it reached much farther than St. Cecilia’s parish church. I asked young Marian congregants aged twelve, thirteen, and fourteen to sell the Legionário in all parishes with their parents’ permission.
Parish priests dared not say anything because the old Archbishop Dom Duarte (Leopoldo e Silva) liked and supported Legionário, and so it sold everywhere.
Soon, the paper heavily influenced the life and discussions of Catholics in Rio, Minas, Porto Alegre, Recife, with repercussions in Montevideo, Buenos Aires, a little farther away in Santiago, Chile, with some repercussions in Europe, and very rarely in the United States.
But that was growing. I managed to make Legionário a weekly, but my idea was to make it a daily newspaper to attack [the Revolution].
Then I began to attack all the nascent heresies: the errors of the Liturgical Movement, the errors of Catholic Action, those of Jacques Maritain, a French revolutionary philosopher who had once been counterrevolutionary, and to take a fighting stance against the errors of that time.
Legionário became Brazil’s leading Catholic newspaper. It was a means of spreading the influence of our environment and counterrevolutionary ideas throughout Brazil, which was where we wanted to go.
With this overview of events and my interest in French affairs, I could not fail to take a stand about the latter. In France, a false right called “Action Française” devoured the right, bringing it closer to Nazism. There was there a Catholic left born out of the politics of Leo XIII, the so-called “Ralliement” – a very complicated leftist policy that would require a long explanation. So we were bombarding right and left.
Among my early helpers was Dr. Azeredo Santos, who critiqued Maritain and his philosophical current. Then, Prof. Fernando Furquim de Almeida, a university professor who wrote about French problems and quarrels in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, very relevant affairs at that time. The young student Adolpho Lindenberg, who later became one of Sao Paulo’s great architects, covered international politics. Dr. Castilho was our implacable editor-in-chief, knowing Portuguese on the tip of his tongue. He was a stupendous grammar revisor and a top layout technician with extraordinary dedication. Many others also helped us with this.
If I’m not mistaken, we had an editorial staff meeting to put together the newspaper on Wednesday nights. For that purpose, I had some small and inexpensive school benches made and lined up in a room with chairs and invited all the most intelligent young men I knew in the Marian Sodalities to come and write for Legionário. It was a way to grow our group because by starting to work on Legionário, the young men would go twice a week. They liked the atmosphere. There came three, four, five, and became more used to our group than their Marian Sodality. At some point, one or the other would ask to transfer to the St. Cecilia Sodality, but I would not allow it, saying,
“You will continue in your Sodality and be our representative there. Come here in the evenings and talk to us whenever you want. Join our group if you want. But you have to represent us at the Sodality. On Sundays, you have to go to Mass at your Sodality.”
They did not want to because they wanted to be together and talk all the time, but I would not allow it. With that, we were bringing together a good number of Marian congregants as members of the group. The group was growing, and things were developing quite well.
When I assumed this was compensation Providence gave me for what I had lost and above all the means to get what I wanted... bang!... a barrage of circumstances began, and everything started to crumble. But there is no time to recount all that here.
For the first time, this idea crosses my mind: to establish, if possible, a group to study history from the 30s to the Second World War, during and after World War II from the eyes of Legionário to explain our position, so you understand the remote roots of our movement.
You would make a summary of what has been published, proclaim it here, and I would comment on it.
As you have expressed an interest in the topic, it would be a way of making you understand why we were anti-Nazi, anti-fascist and against Marshal Pétain, and, on the contrary, “pulled for” General De Gaulle.
Then to explain the reasons for our stands regarding Brazilian politics, the struggles that began to tear the Holy Church apart, giving a less nebulous idea of that remote past.
(What was the environment you created among the staff of Legionário?)
The main difficulty I had to face writing Legionário was this: My opinions were not generally accepted in Catholic circles. People thought that a German priest was a Nazi, an Italian priest was a fascist, and a Spanish priest was a Franco supporter. There were fewer French priests, but still a considerable number. They either supported Pétain or De Gaulle. The positions they took were not those of Legionário, which stuck to no one but the Papacy and relentlessly analyzed documents, events and everything else from the point of view of the pope’s speeches and instructions.
With that, on the one hand, our flanks were very covered, but on the other hand, it raised a question in the minds of the group’s basic rank-and-file: all this is a personal attitude of Dr. Plínio’s; to what extent is it the attitude of the Church?
The Clippings Meetings are based on the need to prove to the principal members of the group that ours was the attitude of the Church. Seeing that the intermediaries between them and me thought all alike, the others would more readily understand that they could follow me. I also held a meeting where I explained it, and they formed their own convictions with arguments and took a stand. Some joined the fight; others left and strayed from our path. Others, on the contrary, steadied themselves and followed our path. So, we gradually opened our road.
That is how was formed the body of what later became the TFP. More than a body, it formed TFP tradition, thought, mentality, and style.
If you read Legionário, you will find the TFP as genuine as it has ever been.
So, next week I could give something about this disaster counteroffensive: how did I gradually lose out – I’ve already spoken about my work as a professor, right?
So, before the counteroffensive:
1. Attitude toward students in the various colleges.
2. Attitude toward members of Legionário and Marian congregants in general, the Catholic world in general, Archbishop Dom Duarte, etc.
3. How all that was gradually bombarded. There were two fundamental bombardments that I have barely mentioned here, the Catholic left and Integralism.
Hence we had another downfall, followed by another restoration.
You see that it has been a life with ups and downs in which, at a certain moment, the TFP emerged, a fact I once described as “a lily born during the night, from the mud, and in the storm.”