Violence and Justice was written on April 2nd 1933, a couple of weeks after the publication of Towards a new State in El Fascio. It is an answer to a letter from Julían Pemartín, a childhood friend and future collaborator in the Falange, who mentions several criticisms of fascism that he has overheard in Jerez de la Frontera.
As a result of the publication of Towards a new State, rumours began to spread that José Antonio was positioning himself to become the leader of the fascist movement in Spain. On March 16th 1933, José Antonio's friend and political ally, Juan Ignacio Luca de Tena published an article criticising the tenets of fascism in ABC, the conservative monarchist newspaper, which he edited.
In response to this article, three days later on March 19th, José Antonio wrote a reply, which is celebrated in its own right and is published in anthologies under the title La crisis del liberalismo (The crisis of liberalism). It was published in ABC on March 22nd along with an immediate response from Juan Ignacio Luca de Tena. José Antonio immediately wrote another reply, which was published the following day in the March 23rd edition.
This exchange of letters between the established conservative newspaper editor and the young protofascist son of the former Dictator captured the public imagination, and became a talking point amongst the café society.
Despite expressing his horror at the forced closure of El Fascio and that government censorship threatened the freedom of the press, Luca de Tena's main point is that violence is inherent to fascism. For this reason, it must be rejected by any conservative, who wishes to preserve the moral fabric of society. Much like today, the conservatives of 1930s Spain were more concerned with "values" than fighting back against the very real threat of Marxism.
José Antonio's response, The crisis of liberalism reiterates many of the arguments of Towards a new State and its criticism of liberal democracy but also proactively argues in favour of fascism.
Early on in the piece, José Antonio rebuts Luca de Tena's point that fascism is inherently violent with the oft-quoted phrase, "Fascism isn't a tactic: violence. It's an idea: unity. Against Marxism, which asserts the struggle between classes, and against liberalism, which mechanically demands the struggle between parties, fascism sustains that there is something above parties and above classes, something permanently natural, transcendental, supreme; the historical unit called the Fatherland."
He goes on to complain of the sterility of the liberal State's belief in nothing and passionately emphasises that we have to believe in something. "Fascism was born to inspire a faith," he says, "not of the Right (which ultimately aspires to conserve everything, even injustice) or of the Left (which ultimately aspires to destroy everything, even goodness), but a collective, integral, national faith."
The fact that José Antonio closes this letter with the words "not with a Roman salute, but with a Spanish embrace" already shows that he sees fascism as a foreign ideology that would need to be adapted to Spanish tastes in order to succeed in Spain.
In the final two letters, José Antonio and Luca de Tena do little more than reaffirm their radical and centrist positions. However, the exchange marks the end of a friendship that dated back a decade and a political alliance that was forged following the fall of the Dictatorship and the death of José Antonio's father.
When deciding on what to include in this anthology, I was torn between The crisis of liberalism, which is better known because it was published in the press, and Violence and Justice, which is a little known letter by José Antonio to his friend and fellow fascist sympathiser Julián Pemartín. Finally, I plumped for the latter not only because it was written after the exchange with Luca de Tena had taken place but also because, as it was written for private consumption, José Antonio is more candid. Violence and Justice clearly shows the sincerity of José Antonio's beliefs.
Julián Pemartín Sanjuán was from Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia and was a distant relative and childhood friend of José Antonio. He was also an early fascist sympathiser and would become a founding member of the Spanish Falange. It is worth noting here that many of the early Falangists were members of José Antonio's inner circle and either relatives or longstanding friends.
Pemartín would go on to occupy various positions of responsibility as the Falange grew in size and importance, both under José Antonio and later, after José Antonio's death, under General Franco. In 1938, he wrote Hacia la historia de la Falange (Towards the history of the Falange) along with Sancho Dávila, also a relative and childhood friend of José Antonio.
Violence and Justice is a response to a letter Julián Pemartín had written to José Antonio to congratulate him on his exchange with Juan Ignacio Luca de Tena. He also deals with the objections to fascism that Pemartín had overheard in his hometown of Jerez de la Frontera.
A letter from Jose Antonio to Julián Pemartín1
Madrid, April 2nd, 1933
I would have liked to write to you sooner, but it hasn't been possible. I do it now, on Sunday, and shall try to concentrate on the arguments against fascism which you tell me about in your letter.
1. 'That it cannot come to power except through violence.'
Firstly, this is historically untrue. There is the example of Germany, where National Socialism has emerged triumphant from an election. But if there were no other means but violence, what would it matter? Every system has imposed itself violently, even one so tame as liberalism (the guillotine of 1893 is responsible for many more deaths than Mussolini and Hitler together).
Violence is not systematically reprehensible, but only when it is contrary to justice. Even Saint Thomas, in extreme circumstances, accepted rebellion against a tyrant. Why, therefore, should violence used against a victorious sect which spreads discord, disavows national continuity and obeys instructions from abroad (the International of Amsterdam, freemasonry, etc.) disqualify the system which such violence implants?
2. 'That it must come from the people, complete with its idea and its leader.'
The first part is mistaken. The idea can no longer come from the people. It is 'already there', and those who know of it are not usually of the people. Today the task of putting this idea into practice is probably reserved for a man of lowly origins. To be a true leader, one must be something of a prophet, one must have such faith, such health, such enthusiasm and such anger as is incompatible with refinement. I personally would be suited to anything but the role of a fascist leader. The doubts and the sense of irony that never leave those of us who have ever had any kind of intellectual curiosity make us incapable of uttering the vigorous statements required of the leaders of the masses without stuttering. So if there are friends of ours in Jerez or in Madrid whose livers ache at the thought of me setting myself up as a fascist leader, you can tell them from me to relax.
3. 'That in the countries where it seems to have come out on top, there was some immediate reason for its existence.'
And isn't that so in Spain? There may not be the reason provided by war. That is why I said in my letter to Luca de Tena that here fascism will probably not be violent. But is the loss of unity (territorial, spiritual, historical) less obvious here than elsewhere? At most, it might be said that we must wait until things get worse. But, if we can react sooner, what is the point of waiting for the moments of desperation? Particularly when a socialist dictatorship is being hatched, organized by the powers that be, which would bring Spain to the point of almost no return unless it is thwarted.
4. 'That it is anti-Catholic.'
This objection is typical of our country, where everybody is more papist than the Pope. While the Treaty of Letran is signed in Rome, here we accuse fascism of being anti-Catholic; fascism, which in Italy, after ninety years of liberal freemasonry, has brought the crucifix and religious teaching back into the schools. I can understand people being worried in Protestant countries, where there might be a conflict between the national religious tradition and the Catholic fervour of a minority. But in Spain, where can the exaltation of all that is genuinely national take us other than to discovering the Catholic constants of our mission in the world?
As you can see, almost none of the arguments against fascism are formulated in good faith. Within them breathes the hidden wish to get hold of an ideological excuse for laziness or cowardice, if not for the ultimate national failing, namely the kind of envy which can spoil the best of things for no other reason than to prevent them from having a chance to shine.
I shall see to it that you receive some copies of El Fascio, wherein you will find enough reasons for enthusiasm and a goodly hoard of polemical arguments. In any case, should you want any more information, I am at your disposal.
1 Published in Sancho Davila and Julian Pemartin, Hacia la historia de la Falange, Vol. I (Jerez, 1938), p. 24.