Fatherland: The Flute and the Lyre

by José Antonio Primo de Rivera with an Introduction by Simon Harris

Fatherland: The Flute1 and the Lyre is a short article by José Antonio, published in the second issue of the weekly FE on January 11th 1934, that aims to clarify what the Falange means by Spanish patriotism in the context of the calls for self-government in the Basque Country and Catalonia.

The article was written after a proposed Basque Statute of Autonomy had been passed by popular plebiscite in the Basque Country in November 1933. Even more worryingly for José Antonio, in August 1931 the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, known as the Estatut de Núria, had also been passed by referendum in Catalonia and then had finally been approved by the Cortes in September 1932, thereby restoring Catalonia's historic governing body the Generalitat.

As far as José Antonio was concerned, the rise in separatism was a direct consequence of the change in state structure and policies that had occurred as a result of the coming of the Second Spanish Republic.

In Starting Points, the Falange's first primitive manifesto, which was published in the first issue of FE in December 1934, José Antonio had already argued that separatism ignores the reality of Spain, which he believes is "a great unity of destiny". He complained that the separatists fixate on linguistic, racial, environmental and geographical factors, not realising that a nation is not just a language, a race or a territory but a unity of destiny in the universal.

In Fatherland: The Flute and the Lyre, José Antonio accepts that love for one's place of origin is an innate and instinctive tendency. However, this love cannot be understood as patriotism because real patriotism prioritises intellectual foundations over the sentiments. True patriotism requires the fatherland to be seen as a destiny and an undertaking. Otherwise, it disintegrates into the petty localisms supported by separatists.

The original Spanish text of Fatherland: The Flute and the Lyre is a magnificent example of José Antonio's characteristic prose style, which is both poetic and impregnated by suggestive metaphors designed to make the text more intelligible to the mainly juvenile public at which it is aimed.

José Antonio uses two musical instruments, the flute and the lyre, as metaphors for regional separatism and Spanish patriotism respectively. He sees the flute as a symbol of primitive, sensual and romantic emotions that allude to the earth, sensuality, the countryside, folklore, melancholy and indolence. The lyre, on the other hand represents, civilisation, rationality and classicism and suggests rationality, destiny and a greater undertaking.

The argument develops in three stages. In the first, an individual's natural preference for his homeland is established in order to point out the dangers, such as On the other hand, to which this may lead. In the second, the idea that this love can be considered patriotism is negated because genuine patriotism must be based on intellectual and permanent concepts and not on sentimental and temporary ones. In the third, José Antonio argues that the fatherland must be seen as a destiny and an undertaking and points out that without faith in a common destiny, a nation is condemned to disintegrate into local regional allegiances.

Apart from superficial appearances, José Antonio's thinking can in no way be classified as nationalist. This is because modern nationalism first flourished in a particular 19th-century intellectual context which José Antonio repudiates because of his education and personal beliefs.

While the centrifugal nationalism of the Basque and Catalan bourgeoisie is based on ethnicity and biology with both romantic and positivist roots, the patriotism of the Falange does not pretend to be nationalist at all. The term never appears in its messages and propaganda. Because of his Catholic and traditional roots, the patriotism enunciated by José Antonio aspires to universality and has the vocation of Empire.

José Antonio's imperial concept of Spain, renewed with the ideas of unity and collective undertaking (in which the influence of the philosopher Ortega y Gasset is tangible) is incompatible with any manifestation of racialist and exclusive nationalism. This explains the lack of empathy between José Antonio and German National Socialism, which arose considerable interest among Spanish public and among his own followers.

1I have translated the Spanish word “Gaita” as Flute rather than tin whistle, flageolet or recorder. The word is also used to refer to a Galician bagpipe-type instrument with a whistle attached. The point José Antonio is trying to make is that these simple wind instruments are technologically primitive when compared to stringed instruments such as the lyre.



FE, Nº. 2, January 11th, 1934

How much it all means to us! No melody seems so fine as the one from our homeland; no meadow more tender; no music comparable to the sound of its streams. But is there not some poisonous sensuality in this pull of the land? There is something physically, organically, fluid about it, something almost plant-like, as though the land held us captive by subtle roots. It is the kind of love which tempts us to let ourselves go, to grow soft, to weep; which dissolves into melancholy at the mournful sound of the flute. It is a love that seeks shelter and withdraws ever more into ever closer intimacy; from the region to the valley where we were born; from the valley to the haven that reflects the ancestral lineage; from the haven to the home, and, within the house, to the corner that bears our memories.

All this is sweet indeed, like some sweet wine. But also, like wine, this sweetness conceals intoxication and indolence.

Can this kind of loving be called patriotism? If patriotism were affective tenderness, it would not be the highest form of human love. Men would be less patriotic than plants, which cling more closely to the land. We cannot give the name of patriotism to the first thing we happen to find in our hearts, this primary saturation with the terrestrial. In order to be the highest form of love, patriotism must be precisely at the other extreme: supremely difficult; supremely cleansed of earthly bargains; supremely sharply defined; supremely constant. That is to say, it must be anchored, not in the heart, but in the mind.

It is fine to drink of the flute's sweet wine, but without giving up all our secrets to it. All that is sensual is soon over. Thousands and thousands of springtimes have faded, and still, two and two make four, as they have done from the beginning of time. Let us not plant our true loves in the meadows which have seen so many springtimes fade; let us cast them wide, like lines without weight or volume, towards the eternal sphere where the numbers sing their song of precision.

The measured song of the lyre, so rich in its design because it is well-versed in numbers.

Thus, let us not think of the fatherland in terms of the brook and the meadow, the song and the flageolet; let us see it in terms of a 'destiny' and a 'design'. The fatherland is the culmination, in this world, of a great collective undertaking. Without this undertaking, there is no fatherland; without faith in a common destiny, everything dissolves into places of birth, into local flavour and colour. Then the lyre is still, and the flute resounds. There is no longer any reason—except, for instance, those of a secondary, economic nature—why each valley should remain linked to its neighbour. That is when the imperial numbers, of geometry and architecture, lose their voice, giving way to the strident call of the spirits of disintegration, which hide beneath the toadstools of every village.

Have Something To Say About This Topic?

Do you have a great information to add or an opinion to express about on this topic? Share it!

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.