José Antonio Primo de Rivera

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José Antonio Primo de Rivera
José Antonio, Presente!.png
Born José Antonio Primo de Rivera y Sáenz de Heredia
24 April 1903
Madrid, Spain
Died 20 November 1936 (aged 33)
Alicante, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Known for Father of Falangism
Occupation politician, lawyer, writer, poet
Party Falange Española (1933–1936)
Religion Catholic

Member of the Congress of Deputies for Cádiz
Term 30 November 1933 – 7 January 1936

José Antonio Primo de Rivera y Sáenz de Heredia, 1st Duque de Primo de Rivera, 3rd Marqués de Estella (April 24, 1903, Madrid – November 20, 1936, Alicante), was a Spanish patriotic activist and lawyer, best known as the founder of the political party Falange Española ("Spanish Phalanx"). He was executed by the Spanish republican government during the Spanish Civil War.

Primo de Rivera was born in Madrid on April 24, 1903, the oldest son of General Miguel Primo de Rivera, Prime Minister of Spain under King Alfonso XIII. From his father he inherited the title of Marquis de Estella (Navarre). Although he never married, he is reputed to have had several girlfriends, one of them rumored to have been Elizabeth Asquith, the daughter of former British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith.

His mother died when he was five years old, and he was subsequently raised by his father's sister. He was privately taught at home, and learned English and French. When at university, he did not attend lectures until the second year of his undergraduate studies. He spent his summer holidays in the country estate of an uncle where he learned to ride horses and learned to hunt.

Primo de Rivera went on to study law at the University of Madrid between 1917 and 1923. He helped to organize the student union there, "Federación Universitaria Escolar," which opposed the higher-education policies of his father. His undergraduate academic record is mixed. He obtained a grade of A+ in second-year Civil Law, in Private International Law and in Forensics; he got an A in Spanish History, in Political Economics, in Administrative Law, in Taxation Law and in Business Law; but he failed four times: Civil Law twice, History of Spanish Literature once and Criminal Law once. He took undergraduate and graduate courses simultaneously and he obtained both his Bachelor and Doctor degrees in the same year, 1923.

After graduating he picked the "One-Year Volunteer" option to do his military service while his father was Prime Minister. He served with the Ninth Dragoons of the St. James cavalry regiment stationed at Barcelona.

In 1925 he became a registered lawyer and opened an office on a side street of Madrid very near the confluence of three principal avenues. In 1931 he was invested "Perpetual Dean of the Illustrious College of Lawyers of Madrid." During the same year he constituted the "Agrupación al Servicio de la República" (Assembly at the Service of the Republic) and paradoxically ran for office under the monarchist banner of "Unión Monárquica Nacional"; his election bid failed.



On October 29, 1933, he launched Falange Española ("Spanish Phalanx"), a nationalist party inspired by Italian fascism. The foundational convention was held in the Comedy Theatre, Madrid. He was the keynote speaker and his first address was a critique of political liberalism:

Since the Liberal State was a servant of [Rousseau] it became not just the trustee of a nation's destiny but also the spectator of electoral contests. What alone mattered to the Liberal State was that a certain number of gentlemen be sitting at the polling station, that the voting start at eight o'clock and end at four, that the ballot boxes not get smashed...and then to respect the outcome of the voting, as if the outcome was a matter of complete indifference to it. In other words, Liberal governments did not even believe in their mission, that theirs was a respectable duty, but rather they believed that anyone who disagreed with them and decided to attack the State, whether with good or ill intentions, had the same right as they did to defend it.
Profile of José Antonio Primo de Rivera.

He stood for office in the general election of November 19 under the umbrella of "Unión Agraria y Ciudadana," part of the broad coalition Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas (CEDA). This time he was elected and entered Parliament as a member for Cadiz.

In his first parliamentary intervention he answered Gil Robles—the founder of CEDA—who had just spoken out against all forms of government that he claimed arrogated to themselves the attributes of God and crushed the personality of the individual,

We believe that the State does not have to justify its behavior at every turn, just as no individual or social class does, in so far as it holds to a guiding principle all the time. All the while the State is made out to be "God" by Rousseau's idea that the State--or the will of those it represents--is always right. What makes the State like God is the belief that the will of the State, embodied by absolute monarchs in the past and now by the popular vote, is always right. The monarch may have erred; the popular vote may err because neither Truth nor Goodness derives from an act or assertion of the will. Goodness and Truth are perennial tributaries of Reason, and to ascertain whether one is in the right it is not enough to ask the king—whose dictate always seemed just to his supporters--nor enough to canvass the people--whose decision is always right according to the disciples of Rousseau. What must be done rather is to verify whether our actions and our thoughts are in agreement at every step with a permanent aspiration.

On February 11, 1934, Falange merged with Ramiro Ledesma's Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista to create the Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista under Jose Antonio's leadership.

In the general election of February 16, 1936, the Falange won only 0.7% of the vote; but the wave of instability which greeted the victory of the Popular Front, a left-wing coalition of Communists, Socialists, liberal Republicans like the Radicals, and others—caused an influx of new members, and the minuscule party grew to more than 40,000 members by July.

Primo de Rivera created several Falangist symbols. The Falangist uniform was a blue shirt with the embroidered design of a yoke (a symbol for farming) plus a backdrop of five vertical arrows (a symbol for war), copied from the heraldry of the Catholic Monarchs. The cap was the red beret of the Carlists. The flag bore the red and black colours of the Anarchists. The salute was the Roman salute. In casual conversation Falangists were expected to overlook rank and to call one another "Comrade."


The political canon of the Falange resembled that of Italy's Partito Nazionale Fascista. It shared its dislike of Marxism and its contempt for liberalism. It sought to bridge the gap between patriotism and Marxist internationalism by rejecting the concept of class warfare while conceding the exploitation of the working class under capitalism. Primo de Rivera proposed that the creation of a hierarchical trade union hegemony would guarantee the robust protection of every honest worker. Additionally, the Falangist platform called for extensive agrarian reforms, for the nationalization of the banking system, and for the suppression of all political parties. The party had no formal view on religion other than to guarantee freedom of worship while at the same time acknowledging and affirming that Roman Catholicism was the historical preference of the Spanish people.


José Antonio in Falange uniform

On March 14, 1936, he was arrested in Madrid for illegal possession of firearms. Nine weeks later he was transferred to Alicante. Prison security was lax, and he was able to communicate with other nationalists by mail until a new director of the prison took charge and his cell was searched. The search turned up two handguns and a hundred rounds of ammunition, so thereafter he was held incommunicado. On October 3 he was charged with conspiracy against the Republic and military insurrection, both capital offenses. Primo de Rivera conducted his own defense. On November 18 at 2:30 AM he was declared guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad. The sentence was carried out in the early hours of November 20, 1936; the date immediately became a day of remembrance for Spanish patriots.

At the end of the war in 1939 the mortal remains of Primo de Rivera were carried on Falangist shoulders from Alicante to Madrid and provisionally interred at El Escorial. In 1959 his mortal remains were exhumed and re-interred in the basilica of the Valley of the Fallen outside Madrid.

Dishonor by Recent Regimes

With the resurgence of a left/liberal oligarchy in Spain following the death of Francisco Franco in 1975 came the gradual removal of public monuments to Primo de Rivera erected in the years after his death. Such measures were part of a general policy of dishonoring the memory of Spanish patriots who had opposed the red regime of 1936-1939. Often they are carried out under cover of darkness, in anticipation of public outrage. The City of Guadalajara removed a memorial to the founder of the Falange at night in March 2005, and in January 2010 the City of Corunna removed the statue of its native son Jose Millan Astray just after dawn.

However, thirty-five years of liberal and pseudo-socialist rule in Spain have emboldened the enemies of the country's patriotic legacy. On March 18, 2010 the rider statue of General Franco was retired from even restricted display in the navy yard of Ferrol, his city of birth. On May 5 of the same year the list of names and inscriptions commemorating nationalist casualties of the Civil War were chiseled out of the facade of the pro-cathedral of the city of Vigo in broad daylight.


The characteristic feature of the Spanish tragedy and the European tragedy is this: man has been disintegrated, uprooted, transformed into a number on the electoral roll and a number in the queue at the factory gates. What this disintegrated man is crying out for is to feel the ground under his feet again, to be put in harmony once more with a collective destiny, a common destiny, or simply–calling things by their right names–with the destiny of his Patria.

—9 April 1935.

The Patria is the only possible collective destiny. If we reduce it to something smaller, say to the home or the plot of ground, then we are left with an almost physical relationship alone; if we extend it to the world, we get lost in a conception too vague to be grasped. It is exactly the Patria which on a physical basis forms a differentiation in the universal order; it is precisely that which binds together, and at the same time differentiates within the universal order, the destiny of a whole people; it is, as we always say, a unity of destiny within the Universal.

—9 April 1935.

Revolution is necessary, not exactly when the people has become corrupted, but when its institutions, ideas and tastes have arrived at sterility or are very near reaching it. At such moments historical degeneration is produced. Not death by cataclysm, but a damming up into puddles without grace and without hope. All collective attitudes are born sickly, as the offspring of a mating of almost exhausted parents. The life of the community grows fat, gets silly, sinks into bad taste and mediocrity. There is no remedy for this except by a clean cut and a fresh start. The furrows need new seed, historic seed, for the old has now come to the end of its fertility. But who is to be the sower? Who, is to choose the seed and the moment to scatter it over the earth? That is the difficult question.

—12 October 1935.

No revolution produces stable results unless it brings to birth a Caesar of its own. He alone is capable of divining the course of history lying buried beneath the ephemeral clamour of the mass. The masses may not understand him or be grateful to him, but it is he alone who serves them.

—31 October 1935.

Liberalism is, on one hand, the regime without faith, the regime that hands over everything, even the essentials of the country's destiny, to free discussion. For Liberalism, nothing is absolutely true or false. The truth is, in each case, what the greater number of votes say. Thus, it does not matter to Liberalism if a people agrees upon suicide, provided that the proposed suicide is carried out in accordance with electoral practice. And since for the functioning of electoral practice the existence of factions must be encouraged and strife between them must be stimulated, the Liberal system is the system of permanent disunion, permanent want of popular faith in any profound community of destiny.

—May 1934.

The class struggle had a just motive, and Socialism at the beginning was in the right. What has happened is that instead of pursuing its original path of seeking after social justice among men. Socialism has turned into a mere doctrine, and one of the chilliest frigidity, and it has no concern, great or small, for the liberation of working men. Karl Marx was a German Jew who sat in his study and watched, with horrible impassivity, the most dramatic happenings of his age. He was a German Jew who, with the British factories in Manchester before his eyes, and in the middle of formulating inexorable laws about the accumulation of capital, in the middle of formulating inexorable laws about production and about the interests of employers and workmen, was all the time writing letters to his friend Friedrich Engels, telling him the workers were a mob and a rabble, which need not be bothered with except in so far as they might serve to test out his doctrines.

—4 March 1934.

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