Presented by José Antonio Primo de Rivera as a speech to Falangists at the Teatro Calderón, Valladolid, March 4, 1934
The following speech by José Antonio Primo de Rivera was made at the first major meeting of the Falange Española de las J.O.N.S., the unified movement created by the merger of the Falange Española and the Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista in early 1934. Three thousand fascists and national-syndicalists converged on the city of Valladolid for the event, filling the grand Calderón Theater which had been bedecked with massive black-and-red banners and Spanish flags. José Antonio, Ramiro Ledesma, Julio Ruiz de Alda, and other leaders of the new movement took the stage to a storm of fascist salutes, before the Jefe Nacional gave his address – a short, powerful speech stridently rejecting liberalism, socialism, and reaction while advocating a new path leading to a uniquely Spanish form of revolutionary-nationalism. The speech and meeting proved to be a baptism of fire – as the Falangists left the theater they were shot at by communists, with a street-fight promptly breaking out in which one Falangist was killed. Nonetheless, the meeting was regarded by the participants as a great success.
This is not the place to applaud anyone or to cheer. Here no one is anybody, each is only a mere component, a soldier of this task-force set on a task which is ours and that of Spain.
Let me tell anyone about to cheer yet again that I will not thank him for the acclaim. We have not come here to be applauded. What is more, I might almost say that we have not come to teach you anything. We have come here to learn.
There is a great deal to be learnt from this land and this sky of Castile by us, who in many cases live far removed from them. This land of Castile, which is the land of no airs or graces, the essence of land, the land which is neither local color, nor the river, nor the boundary, nor the hillside. The land which is certainly not the sum of a number of estates, or the basis of certain landed interests to be haggled over in assemblies, but which is land itself, land as the repository of eternal values, austerity of conduct, the spirit of religion in life, speech and silence, the solidarity of ancestors and descendants.
And above this quintessential land, the quintessential sky.
The sky so blue, so bare of passing clouds, so utterly without the greenish reflections of leafy groves, so purely blue that one might say it was almost white. And so Castile, with the quintessential land and the quintessential sky gazing at one another, has never been resigned to being a mere province; it could not help but aspire at all times to being an empire. Castile has never managed to understand what is local, it has understanding only for what is universal, which is why Castile denies itself the certainty of limits, perhaps because it is unlimited, both in scope and in stature. And therefore Castile, that land encrusted with wonderful names – Tordesillas, Medina del Campo, Madrigal de las Altas Torres – that land of the Chancery [i.e. the medieval Chancery], of fairs and castles, that is, of justice, trade and militia, gives us an idea of what constituted the Spain we no longer possess, and oppresses our hearts with a deep sense of loss.
For if we have taken to the road through the towns and countryside of Spain, with many hardships and some amount of danger (though that is of no matter), in order to spread abroad the good tidings, we have done so, all the comrades who have spoke before me said, because we are deprived of Spain. Our Spain is split by three kinds of rifts: local separatisms, party conflicts, and the divisions along class lines.
Local separatism is a sign of decay which is bound to spring up whenever there is a tendency to forget that the fatherland is not synonymous with those things immediate and physical that we can perceive even in the most primitive state of spontaneity. The fatherland is not the taste of the water from any particular source, it is not the pigment of the soil of any particular grove: the fatherland is a historic mission, a mission of universal dimensions. The life of any and every people is a tragic struggle between the spontaneous and the historic. Primitive peoples are almost vegetally aware of the characteristics of the land. By the time they emerge from such a primitive state, peoples know that their specific nature is not determined by the physical features of the land they inhabit, but that it is their mission in universal terms which sets them apart from other peoples. As soon as a phase sets in when this sense of universal mission falls into decay, separatisms begin to flourish once more and once again the peoples turn to their soil, to their land, to their music and their language, endangering once again the glorious integrality that was Spain in the heroic past.
But apart from this, we are divided into political parties. The parties are full of filth, but above and beneath this filth there exists a profound explanation of political parties, which should suffice to make them odious.
Political parties are born the day men lose the sense of there being over them a truth in whose sign peoples and individuals fulfill their missions in life. Prior to the birth of political parties, peoples and individuals knew that above their own reason stood the eternal truth, and, as the antithesis to eternal truth, the absolute lie. But there came a time when men were told that neither truth nor lies are absolute categories, that everything is debatable, that everything can be resolved by the vote, and that votes can decide whether the fatherland should continue united or should commit suicide, and even whether God does or does not exist. Men split up into groups, make propaganda, insult each other and become restless, until finally one Sunday they place a glass box on a table and start filling it up with little bits of paper on which it says whether God exists or does not exist and whether the fatherland should or should not commit suicide.
And this brings about what culminates in the Cortes.
One of the reasons why I have come here is to breathe this fresh air, because my lungs are all too full of the fumes of the Cortes. If you were to see, at this time of such troubles and anxieties, if you, who live in the country, who till the fields, were to see what goes on in there! If you could see the coteries gathered in those corridors flocking to hear the hoariest and most hackneyed jokes! If you could have observed how the other day, during a debate on whether yet another slice of Spain should be amputated, all that could be heard were speeches harping with pettifogging rhetoric on article such-and-such of the constitution, on whether this percentage or that of the popular vote was required to authorize the amputation! And if you had been there when a Basque, every inch a Spaniard and every inch a Basque, listed the distinguished Spaniards of his homeland, and seen how a fellow sitting on those benches, which support the government of Señor Lerroux, took the liberty of treating the matter as a joke and of mockingly adding the name of Uzcudun to those of Loyola and Elcano!
And as though this were not enough, to the century which has given us liberalism and with it the parliamentary parties, we owe the legacy of the class struggle. For economic liberalism maintained that all men were able to work as they wished – slavery was a thing of the past; quite so, the workers received no blows; but since the workers had nothing to eat but what they were given, since the workers were helpless and with no defence against the power of capitalism, capitalism laid down the conditions and the workers had to accept these conditions or be resigned to dying from hunger. And so, while penning splendid Bills of Rights on pieces of paper which practically no one read (if only because the people were not even taught to read), even while composing such declarations, liberalism produced before our eyes the most inhuman spectacle of all time: in the best cities of Europe, in the capitals of states endowed with the most exquisite liberal institutions, there were human beings, our brothers, living in overcrowded, mis-shapen, horrendous red and black houses, trapped by grinding poverty, tuberculosis and the anaemia of their hungry children, only to be told from time to time with biting sarcasm of how free they were and sovereign to boot.
Obviously the workers were bound to rebel one day against such mockery, and the class struggle was bound to explode. There was just reason for the class struggle, and there was, in the very beginning, just reason for socialism, and we have no cause to deny it. The trouble is that socialism, instead of pursuing its initial course of aspiring to social justice among men, has been transformed into a mere doctrine of horrifying heartlessness, caring not a whit about the liberation of the workers. There are all those workers going about, enormously pleased with themselves and calling themselves Marxists. Already there have been many streets in many Spanish towns named after Karl Marx; but Karl Marx was a German Jew, who from his study observed the most dramatic events of his time with terrifying impassivity. While gazing at the English factories of Manchester and formulating inexorable laws on capital accumulation and the interests of workers and employers, this German Jew wrote in his letters to his friend Friedrich Engels that the workers were a vulgar rabble not worth bothering about except in so far as they served to test his theories.
Socialism ceased to be a movement for the redemption of men and came to be, as I have been telling you, an implacable doctrine; and instead of wanting to restore a state of justice it aimed at taking injustice, in retaliation, as far as ever bourgeois injustice had gone in its organization. What is more, socialism decreed that the class struggle would never cease and stated, besides, that history must be given a materialistic interpretation; that is to say, in order to explain history, only the economic phenomena matter. And when Marxism culminates in a system like the Russian one, children are told in school that religion is the opiate of the people; that the fatherland is merely a word invented as a tool of oppression; and that even modesty and the love of parents for their children are bourgeois prejudices which must be eradicated at all cost.
That is what socialism has come to be. Do you really think that if the workers knew all that, they would feel attracted to something so dreadful, so horrifying and inhuman as the brain-child of that German Jew called Karl Marx?
Those of us who are now about thirty years old entered the life of Spain when the world was like that, when Spain was like that. We could have been tempted to accept the system and fight our way into the coteries of the Cortes or else to get involved in excesses which would further aggravate and poison the proletarian masses and their class struggle. That would have been a very simple matter, and at first sight it seemed to offer certain advantages. If anyone of us had joined the Conservative Republican Party, or the Radicals, the democratic liberals or the Popular Action Party, he would easily have become a minister, for since we have a government crisis once a fortnight, with new ministers turning up each time, we have to ask ourselves whether there can still be someone in Spain who has never as yet been a minister.
But for the likes of us that is very little. We have chosen to leave the beaten track and to set forth, as our comrade Ledesma has put it, on the road of revolution, on the road of a different revolution, on the road of a real revolution; because all revolutions hitherto have been incomplete, since not one has ever served, at one and the same time, the national idea of the fatherland and the idea of social justice. We integrate the two: the fatherland and social justice, and upon these two immutable principles we boldly and categorically intend to build our revolution.
They say that we are imitators. Onésimo Redondo has already replied to that. They say we are imitators because this movement of ours, this movement of a return to Spain’s authentic nature, is a movement which has already emerged elsewhere. Italy and Germany have turned inwards upon themselves in an attitude of extreme exasperation at the myths promulgated for the purpose of sterilizing them; but just because Italy and Germany have turned inwards and found themselves, should we say that Spain in search of herself is imitating them? Those countries have returned to their own authenticity, and as we do likewise the authenticity we shall find will be our own, not that of either Germany or Italy, and therefore by doing as the Italians or the Germans have done we will be more truly Spaniards than we have ever been.
To comrade Onésimo Redondo I would say, Don’t worry too much about their saying that we imitate. If we dealt with that particular point, they would soon invent others. The source of guile is inexhaustible. Let them say to us that we imitate the fascists. After all, in fascism as in all the movements of every age one finds beneath the local characteristics certain recurrent elements which are the patrimony of every human mind and which are the same everywhere. One example of this was, if you like, the Renaissance. Another, if you like, was the hendecasyllable: the hendecasyllable came to us from Italy, but very soon after it had been brought from Italy, hendecasyllables, Castilian hendecasyllables, were used by Garcilaso and Fray Luis to sing of the fields of Spain and by Fernando de Herrera to praise the Lord of the plains of the sea, who granted victory to Spain at Lepanto.
They also say that we are reactionaries. Some say so in bad faith, to persuade the workers to avoid us and not to listen to what we say. In spite of that, the workers will listen and when they hear us they will no longer believe those who said this, because precisely those who, like us, want to restore the idea of an indestructibly integrated destiny cannot possibly be reactionaries. On the contrary, reactionaries thrive in a regime of strife as when one class has recently vanquished another and the vanquished class is thirsty for revenge; but we do not participate in the game of reprisals of class against class or party against party. We place a guide for all our actions above party politics and class interests. This guide of ours – and here lies the real essence of our movement – is the idea of a totally integrated destiny called fatherland and nation. With this concept of the nation served by the instrument of a strong state and subservient neither to a class nor to a party, the interest emerging victorious is that of the integration of all within that whole, not the momentary interest of the winners. The workers will realize that this is so, and then they will see that ours is the only possible solution.
Others, though, suppose us to be reactionaries in the vague hope that, while they grumble away in their clubs and casinos, hankering after the privileges which have partly fallen away, we will be the storm-troopers of reaction, get the chestnuts out of the fire for them, and busy ourselves installing all those in their armchairs who are now watching us in comfort. If we were to do that, we would deserve to be cursed by the five dead men whom we have felled for the sake of a more lofty cause.
Finally, they say that we have no programme. Can you think of anything more serious and profound that owes its existence to a programme? When have you ever known the really decisive things, the eternal things, like love, life, and death, to be governed by a programme? What we must possess is a total awareness of what it is we want, an absolute sense of the fatherland, of life and of history; and it is this total awareness, bright in our souls, which will tell us in every situation what we must do and what we must prefer. In better times there were not all these study groups, all these statistics, electoral rolls and programmes. Besides, if we had a concrete programme we would be just another party, and we would look very much like the cartoon-figures they make of us. They all know that they are lying when they say that we copy Italian fascism, that we are neither Catholic nor Spanish; but the very people who make such accusations are with their left hand organizing a kind of parody of our movement. Thus they will have a parade at the Escorial if we have one in Valladolid. And if we speak of eternal Spain, of Imperial Spain, they too will say that they long for the greatness of Spain and the corporative state. These movements can be as alike to ours as a plate of cold meat to the hot meal of the night before. For it is precisely its temperature, its spirit, which distinguishes this longing of ours, this understanding of ours. What do we care about the corporative state, what does it matter whether the Cortes is abolished, if different organisms are going to continue churning out these selfsame cautious, pale, slippery, and smiling youths, incapable of being aroused by patriotic fervour or even – let them say what they will – by religious fervour?
Be very careful when it comes to the corporative state; be very careful in your approach to all the cold things many people will tell you with the one aim of transforming us into just another party. Onésimo Redondo has already warned us of this danger. We will not satisfy our aspirations by rearranging the state in some way. What we want is to give back to Spain optimism, self-confidence, a clear and forceful life-style. That is why our group is not a party: it is a militia. That is why we are not here in order to become deputies, under-secretaries, or ministers, but in order to fulfill, each in his place, whatever mission we are commanded to undertake; and though we five are now behind this table, the day may come when the lowliest militant may be called upon to give us orders and we may be called upon to obey. We have no personal ambitions, except, perhaps, the ambition to be in the forefront of danger. All we want is to see Spain become once again herself, and to say with honor, social justice, youthfulness, and patriotic enthusiasm what this very city of Valladolid said in a letter to the Emperor Charles V in 1516:
Your Highness ought to come and take up in one hand that yoke bequeathed to you by the Catholic King, your grandfather, with which so many men of courage and pride have been tamed, and in the other hand the arrows of that incomparable Queen, your grandmother Doña Isabella, with which she removed the Moors so far away.
Well, here in this selfsame city of Valladolid which pleaded thus, you have the yoke and the arrows; the yoke of toil and the arrows of authority. Thus we have come, beneath the emblem of the yoke and arrows, to say right here, in Valladolid:
“Castilla, once again for Spain!”
Article sourced from Hugh Thomas’s Roots of the Right: José Antonio Primo de Rivera – Selected Writings (1972), Jonathan Cape