José Antonio Primo de Rivera

Founder of the Falange Española

José Antonio Primo de Rivera, often just known as José Antonio, was a lawyer and politician, who founded the Spanish fascist party Falange Española de las JONS and was executed in the early months of the Spanish Civil War.

José Antonio Primo de Rivera y Sáenz de Heredia was born in Madrid on April 24th 1903 and was the eldest son of Miguel Primo de Rivera, who was Spanish dictator from 1923 to 1930.

His mother died when he was only 5 so he was brought up by a paternal aunt and his home-based education by private teachers instilled in him military and religious values.

José Antonio Primo de Rivera graduated in Law in Madrid and was doing his military service with the Dragones de Santiago when his father led the coup d'etat that brought him to power.

Following the fall of his father's dictatorship in 1930, José Antonio became involved in the Unión Monárquica Nacional but failed to get elected to the Cortes Generales in the first General Elections of the Second Spanish Republic of June 1931.

During this period he wrote for the newspaper La Nación and in 1933 as Italian and German fascism was on the rise, José Antonio became a contributor to El Fascio.






The Falange Española

On October 29th 1933, he founded the Falange Española at the Teatro de la Comedia in Madrid and in the elections of 1933, in which the Spanish Republic moved sharply to the right, José Antonio was elected to the Cortes Generales for Cadíz.

In 1934, he fused the Falange Española with the Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista of Onésimo Redondo and Ramiro Ledesma Ramos, which gave rise to the Falange Española de las JONS.

A year later, after a close election, he was elected undisputed leader of the single party and from then onwards José Antonio Primo de Rivera became an icon of Spanish fascism.

José Antonio initially maintained links with the Monarchists obtaining scarce funding by offering Falangists as shock troops against the left in an attempt to destabilise the Republic until he later received a monthly wage of 50,000 liras from Italian fascists.

Throughout 1935 he gave meetings throughout Spain, which were covered in the weekly fascist magazine Arriba, and around this time the level of violence between left and right escalated and the first deaths were reported on both sides.

In the elections of 1936, the left stood as the Popular Front and the right stood as the National Front, whilst the Falange stood separately but with only 44,000 votes failed to obtain any seats.

The victorious Popular Front declared the Falange illegal and following an assassination attempt by party members on Law professor Jiménez de Asúa, José Antonio Primo de Rivera was arrested and imprisoned first in the Cárcel Modelo in Madrid on March 14th 1936 and then transferred to Alicante on June 5th 1936.

Whilst in prison José Antonio exchanged correspondence with General Mola offering support from the Falange if an uprising were to take place.

The Nationalist insurrection began on July 18th 1936 and José Antonio Primo de Rivera remained in prison in Alicante, which was safely under Republican control.

Although he moderated his statements somewhat over the following months, José Antonio was executed on November 20th 1936.

News of his death was silenced by the Nationalist rebels for the next two years and he was referred to as "El Ausente" or "The Absent One".

After Franco's victory, José Antonio became one of the icons of the regime with his name always heading the lists of Nationalist dead and the inscription "José Antonio. Presente!" could be found in many churches across Spain.

His body was exhumed and now lies in the Valle de los Caidos or Valley of the Fallen along with Franco and other Nationalist dead.




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