Foundational Speech of the Spanish Falange

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

José Antonio's speech at the foundational rally of the Spanish Falange held at the Teatro de la Comedia on October 29th 1933 is considered a cornerstone of Falangist ideology and one of his great speeches. José Antonio was the final speaker at the even and followed two other founding members of the party Alfonso García Valdecasas and Julio Ruiz de Alda.

As we have seen in the previous articles, José Antonio began to show his interest in fascism in early 1933 openly. Following the publication of Towards a new State in El Fascio, he set about forming a political party initially called the Movimiento Español Sindicalista (Spanish Syndicalist Movement), the precursor to Falange Española, together with Alfonso García Valdecasas, Julio Ruiz de Alda and others.

To oversimplify somewhat, the Spanish version of National Socialism was known as National Syndicalism. It was formulated by Ramiro Ledesma Ramos in a manifesto published in his periodical La Conquista del Estado on March 14th 1931. It was intended to win over the anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) to a corporatist nationalism, and Ledesma's manifesto was discussed in the CNT congress of 1931. However, the National Syndicalist movement effectively emerged as a separate political tendency.

Later the same year, Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista (JONS) was formed, which subsequently voluntarily fused with Falange Española in 1934. In the summer of 1933, José Antonio was clearly influenced by his collaboration with Ledesma on the editorial board. This can be seen in the initial choice of Movimiento Español Sindicalista (MES) as the name for the new party.

Officially, the event at the Teatro de la Comedia was a MES rally, but they had already decided to call the new party Falange Española. The discovery of word Falange, meaning Phalanx was a stroke of genius. It meant that that acronym was FE, which means Faith and so conserved the religious associations while still alluding to Fascismo Español or Frente Español (Spanish Fascism or Spanish Front). At the same time, the word Falange (Phalanx) adds warlike connotations as it means a body of troops standing or moving in close formation.

However, they were still waiting for official confirmation that the name Falange Española had been accepted by the authorities when the foundational rally was held. For this reason, during the rally, which was advertised as "an event of Spanish affirmation", none of the speakers –Alfonso García Valdecasas, Julio Ruiz de Alda and José Antonio– use the word Falange when they refer to the "movement that begins today".

Although, when the three speakers arrived on stage, the public, who filled the theatre to bursting, immediately got their feet and greeted them with the Roman salute and José Antonio began his speech with the same gesture, the speakers almost completely avoided use of the words fascism or fascist in their speeches. Of the three of them, only García Valdecasas referred to the relationship between fascism and the movement that began that day in Madrid, and he did so in order to insist that this was a specifically Spanish movement with little influence from abroad.

It was no surprise that the left-wing press described the rally as fascist but so did the right-wing newspapers. The headline in La Nación on October 30th read, "The first event of a fascist nature dispels any misunderstandings with which they tried to fool the people"1, while Informaciones said, "Messrs Valdecasas, Ruiz de Alda and Primo de Rivera raise the fascist flag. Great turnout and enormous enthusiasm."2

Even more significant was the comment published on October 31st in Il Popólo d'Italia, Mussolini's newspaper. For the Il Popólo correspondent in Madrid, the fascist character of the event, the date of which coincided with the eleventh anniversary of the March on Rome, which was being celebrated in the Italian capital at the time, was unquestionable as was the debt the movement owed to Mussolini himself.

The foundational speech given by José Antonio shows a clarity of thought and literary elegance, and from this moment on, it is difficult to imagine that anyone else would be capable of leading the new movement.

The version of the speech published here appeared in La Nación on October 30th 1933 and includes section headings, which presumably were added by an editor. I've included them in my translation for ease of reading.

José Antonio begins his speech by attacking Jean Jacques Rousseau, as he often did in his early speeches and articles. As the great inspiration for the French Revolution, he saw Rousseau the development of liberal values. José Antonio goes on to criticise voting and the democratic system, which is another common theme.

Democracy sets political parties against each other, thus destroying fraternity and gives liberty for one group in society to exploit another, which destroys equality. Socialism is a legitimate response to this inequality but ultimately results in class struggle, which places the material position of the workers above the interests of the nation as a whole.

For José Antonio, the upper classes need to be worthy of the lower classes, and both should put their differences aside for the good of the fatherland. It is only when men work together towards a common purpose that they are genuinely free.

Towards the end of the speech, José Antonio says that "there is no acceptable dialectic other than the dialectic of fists and pistols when justice or the fatherland is violated." Critics have often accused José Antonio of condoning violence as a result of this. However, given the previous arguments and in the context of the violent times through which Spain was living, it is clear that he is saying that the injustices that liberal democracy brings about are to a certain extent inevitable.

In closing, José Antonio mentions that he will be standing as a candidate in the general elections for the second legislature of the Second Spanish Republic, which are set for the following month. He has no faith in the electoral process but is standing out of political necessity for his place, and the place of all Falangists, is "out in the open air, beneath the clear sky of night, gun in hand and with the stars high above us."

1La Nación: "El primer acto de carácter fascista desvanece los equívocos con que se intentó engañar al pueblo."

2Informaciones: "Los señores Valdecasas, Ruiz de Alda y Primo de Rivera alzan la bandera fascista. Gran concurrencia y enorme entusiasmo."    


Foundational Speech of the Spanish Falange

Teatro de la Comedia, Madrid,

October 29th, 19331

The Farce of Voting

A paragraph of thanks is not necessary. Just a simple, Thank you, as is appropriate to our concise military style,

When a dreadful man by the name of Jean Jacques Rousseau published The Social Contract in March 1762, political truth ceased to be something permanent. Until then, in other less superficial times, as executors of historic missions, states had truth and justice written on their brows and even in the stars. Jean Jacques Rousseau came along and told us that truth and justice were not permanent categories of judgment but rather time-dependent decisions of choice.

Jean Jacques Rousseau assumed that the whole we constitute as a people has a superior soul that is on a different plane from each one of our souls, and that this superior essence is endowed with an infallible will capable of instantly defining what is just or unjust, right or wrong. And since this collective will, this sovereign drive only expresses itself through voting—which is the triumph of speculation by the majority over that of the minority when it comes to predicting the superior will—it would signify that the vote, that farce of ballot-papers cast into a glass urn, had the property of determining at any given time whether God did or did not exist, whether the truth was the truth or not, whether the fatherland should remain or whether it would better, at some time, for it to commit suicide.

As a servant of this doctrine, the liberal state wasn't constituted to act as a resolute executor of the nation's destiny but as a mere spectator of the electoral contest. For the liberal state, it was only relevant that a given number of gentlemen presided over polling stations, that elections started at eight and finished at four, that no ballot boxes were destroyed—although destruction is every ballot box's noblest fate. Afterwards, all the state had to do was to calmly accept whatever emerged from the poll as though that was not its concern. That is to say that the liberal rulers had no faith even in their own mission; they did not believe that they were there to fulfil of an entirely respectable duty, but that anyone who disagreed and set about bring down the state, by fair means or foul, had just as much right to say so and to try to do so as the guardians of the state had to defend it.

The Democratic System

Hence the democratic system which is, first and foremost, a system most ruinous and wasteful of energy. A man with a talent for the lofty function of government—perhaps the noblest of all human functions—would have to devote 80, 90 or even 95 per cent of his energies to substantiating formalistic demands, to electioneering, to snoozing on the benches of the Cortes, to fawning over voters and putting up with their impertinence because it was from the voters he derived power, to withstanding the humiliations and taunts of those who, precisely because of the almost divine function of government, were destined to obey him. And if after all that he had a few hours to spare at dawn or a few minutes snatched from uneasy slumber, this bare minimum was all the man with a gift for government could devote to serious reflection on the essential functions of statecraft.

The System of Majorities Destroys Fraternity

Then came the loss of spiritual unity of the peoples, for since the system was based on the attainment of majorities, anyone who wanted to capture the system had to obtain a majority of the votes—if need be by stealing them from the other parties. To this end, he could not hesitate in slandering the other parties, in bombarding them with the worst insults, in resorting to deliberate lies, in not wasting a single chance of spreading falsehood and vilification. Thus it came about that although fraternity was one of the axioms that the liberal state exhibited on its facade, there has never been a state of collective existence wherein men, reviled and hostile to each other, felt less like brothers than in the disagreeable turmoil of the liberal state.

And finally, the liberal state brought us economic slavery, for it says to the workers, with tragic irony: "You are free to work as you like; nobody can force you to accept any particular conditions; but bear in mind that as we are rich, we can offer you whatever conditions we like; as free citizens, you are by no means obliged to accept them; being poor citizens, though, if you do not agree to the conditions we impose, you will die of hunger amid the utmost liberal dignity." And that is why, in the countries that boast the most splendid parliaments and the finest democratic institutions, you only had to wander a few hundred metres from the luxurious neighbourhoods to come upon infected slums where workers and their families lived in cramped conditions at an almost subhuman level of existence. And you would find agricultural labourers toiling on the land from dawn to dusk with their backs doubled and scorched, who—thanks to the laissez-faire liberal economy—earned some seventy or eighty days' pay of three pesetas throughout an entire year.

Socialism and its Distraction

That is why socialism was bound to emerge, and rightly so (it is not our way to deny any truth). The workers had to defend themselves against the system that offered them only the promise of rights but did nothing to provide them with a fair chance at life.

But socialism, which was a legitimate response to liberal slavery, has since gone astray because firstly, it gave a materialistic interpretation of life and of history, secondly, for its spirit of retaliation and thirdly, for its declaration of the dogma of the class struggle.

Socialism, above all the socialism elaborated in the chill of their studies by the impassive socialist apostles in whom the unfortunate workers put their trust, and who have now been revealed to us as they really are by Alfonso Garcia Valdecasas2 That version of socialism sees nothing in history but the interplay of economic forces. The spiritual element is abolished: religion is the opiate of the people; the fatherland is a myth with which to exploit the wretched. This is the message of socialism. Nothing matters but production, economic organization. And the workers have to crush their souls to rid them of the last drop of spirituality.

Socialism doesn't aim to restore a social justice wrecked by the endemic distemper of the liberal state; its aim is reprisal, and it aspires to reaching as high a degree of injustice in one direction as the liberal systems have achieved in another.

Finally, socialism proclaims the monstrous dogma of the class struggle; it declares the doctrine that the conflict between classes is inevitable and a natural fact of life because there can never be anything capable of appeasing it. And so socialism, which arose as a valid criticism of economic liberalism, brought us by other means the same results as economic liberalism: disintegration, hatred, and the destruction of every link of brotherhood and solidarity between men.

"By God, how good a subject, had he but a worthy lord!"3

Thus it has come about that when we, the men of our generation, open our eyes, we see a morally bankrupt world, a world split apart by all manner of differences; and regarding what concerns us directly, we see a morally bankrupt Spain, a Spain divided by all manner of hatreds and conflicts. And thus we have had to weep from the depths of our souls as we travelled through the villages of our wonderful country, those villages where beneath the humblest cloaks one can still find people endowed with a rustic elegance not given to the extravagant gesture or the redundant word. These people live on an apparently arid land, with a superficial dryness, which yet amazes us with its fertility erupting in the success of its vines and wheat. As we travelled through those lands and saw those people and knew them to be tormented by the local overlords, forgotten by all the factions, divided, poisoned by tortuous doctrines, our thoughts about such a people could but echo their very own celebration of El Cid as they saw him roaming through the fields of Castile, banished from Burgos:

"By God, how good a subject, had he but a worthy lord!"

That is what we want to find through the movement we are establishing today: a legitimate lord and master for Spain, but a lord like San Francisco de Borja4,of whom we cannot be deprived by death. And for that death to be kept at bay, he must be a lord who is not at the same time a slave to the vested interests of any group or party.

Neither Left nor Right: Fatherland

The movement founded today, which owes allegiance to no party but is a movement, we might almost say an anti-party, is neither of the Right nor of the Left; because basically, the Right stands for the maintenance of an economic structure, albeit an unjust one, while the Left stands for the attempt to subvert that economic structure, even though the subversion of it would entail the destruction of much that was worthwhile. All this is then dressed up by both camps with a number of spiritual concepts. We want all those listening to us in good faith to know that there is room for all these spiritual concepts within our movement; but that our movement will on no account tether its destiny to the vested interests of groups or classes which underlie the superficial division of Right and Left.

The nation is an absolute whole, including all individuals and classes; the nation cannot be controlled by the most influential class or of the best-organised party. The nation is a transcendental synthesis, an indivisible synthesis with its own purpose to fulfil; and what we want to see is the movement founded today, and the state it will create, being the effective, authoritarian tool of an indisputable whole: that permanent, irrevocable unit we call fatherland.

Instead of a Programme, Common Sense

nd that sums up the motivation of our future acts and our present conduct, because we would be just another party if we were to formulate a programme of specific solutions. Such programmes have the advantage that they are never implemented. However, if you have a permanent attitude towards history and life itself, that very attitude will generate solutions to specific problems, just as love tells us when to argue and when to embrace, without true love ever having the slightest need of a programme of reprimands and embraces.

Let us now state our total conception of the fatherland and of the state designed to serve it.

All the peoples of Spain, however different they may be, must be reconciled in an irrevocably common destiny.

Political parties must disappear. No one has ever been born a member of a political party. But we are all born members of a family; all of us are residents of a borough; all of us toil in the exercise of our trade. Well, if these are our natural categories, if the family, the municipality and the corporation are the pillars of our real existence, why do we need such an intermediary and pernicious instrument as political parties which, in order to bring us together in artificial units, begin by dividing us in our authentic context?

True Freedom

We want less liberal hot air and more respect for man's most profound freedoms. For the freedom of man is only respected when he is considered, as we consider him, to be the embodiment of eternal values, the physical repository of a soul which can damn itself or be saved. Only when man is viewed in this way can it be said that his freedom is genuinely respected, and even more so if this freedom is placed, as we would wish it to be, in a framework of authority, hierarchy and order.

We want everyone to feel part of a dignified and comprehensive community: that is to say, the contributions are many and various—some will contribute their manual work; others, works of the spirit; some, accomplishments of morality and refinement. But let me make one thing quite clear: in a community such as we envisage, there must be no scroungers and no slackers.

We want no talk of individual rights that can never be honoured in the homes of the starving, but we do want every man, every member of the body politic, to be entitled by rights to a means of earning by his labour a humane, adequate and fair living.

We want the religious spirit, the keystone of our history's finest arches, to receive the respect and protection it merits; which does not mean that the state should meddle in matters beyond its proper concern, or share—as it has done, perhaps for reasons other than true religious conviction—what are solely its own responsibilities.

The Dialectic of Fists and Guns

We want Spain to recover the universal meaning of her culture and history.

And finally, if at any time these things can only be achieved through violence, we do not want to be stopped by violence. For who has ever said—speaking of "anything but violence"—that kindness is at the apex of all moral values? Who has ever claimed that when our feelings are insulted, we have to be kind rather than to react like men? It is right that dialectics should be the primary instrument of communication. But there is no acceptable dialectic other than the dialectic of fists and pistols when justice or the fatherland is violated.

That is what we think about the future state we are endeavouring to build.

Gentlemen and Workers

But our movement will not be fully understood if it is believed to be merely a way of thinking; it is not a way of thinking; it is a way of being. We must not only advance the construction, the political architecture. We must adopt, at every moment of our life, in our every act, an attitude that is truly human, profound and complete. This attitude is a spirit of service and of sacrifice, the ascetic and military conception of life. Therefore, let no one think that here we are recruiting in order to hand out sinecures; let no one think that we are gathered here to defend privileges. I would like this microphone I have before me to carry my voice into the farthest corners of the homes of workers, so I can tell them: yes, we do wear ties; yes, you can call us gentlemen. But we have a fighting spirit precisely because as gentlemen it is not in our own interest; we are prepared to fight for harsh and fair sacrifices to be imposed on many of our own class, and we are ready to fight for the benefits of a totalitarian state to be made equally available to the powerful and to the lowly. And this is the way we are because this is how the gentlemen of Spain have always been throughout history.

This is how they came to deserve the authentic status of lords, because, in faraway countries and our own, they braved death and took on the most difficult missions for the very good reason that, to gentlemen such as they, these things mattered not at all.

A Candidate Without Faith or Respect

I believe that the flag is flying. Now let us defend it cheerfully, poetically. For there are some who, faced with the onslaught of revolution, believe that unity of purpose can best be achieved by proposing the most lukewarm solutions; they think that anything which might arouse an emotion or provoke a vigorous and extremist attitude should be kept out of propaganda. What a misjudgment! None but the poets have ever moved a people, and woe to those who know not how to counter the poetry of destruction with the poetry of promise!

In a poetic movement, we shall elevate that fervent concern about Spain; we will sacrifice ourselves, we will renounce, and ours will be the victory, a victory which, needless to say, we will not win in the coming elections. In these elections, vote for what seems to be the lesser evil. But that is not where our Spain will emerge from, nor is it our proper environment. It is a murky atmosphere and stale, like a tavern at the end of a dissolute night. It is not the place for us. I do believe that I am a candidate, but one without faith in or respect for the process. And I say so now, though it may cost me every vote. I could not care less. We shall not be fighting the regulars for the stale remains of a grubby dinner. Our place is outside, though we may perhaps be passing through on our way. Our place is out in the open air, beneath the clear sky of night, gun in hand and with the stars high above us. Let the others continue their feasting. Outside, in tense, fervent, confident vigilance, we already sense the coming dawn stirring in our hearts.

1Where no precise source is given, the original text may be found in Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, Obras Completas: Edición del Centenario (Madrid: Plataforma 2003, 2007).

2Lawyer and professor; one of the three founders of the Falange and the only one to survive the civil war.

3Verse 20 of El Cantar del Mio Cid in Spanish «¡Díos. Qué buen vasallo si oviera buen señor!»

4St. Francis Borgia (1510-1572) was Third Superior General of the Jesuits and a man of remarkable piety. He was Viceroy of Catalonia before becoming a Jesuit.

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