Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera

Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera

José Antonio Primo de Rivera was born into a wealthy family in Madrid, Spain, in 1903. Antonio was the son of Miguel Primo de Rivera, the military dictator of Spain between 1923 and 1930.

Primo de Rivera became a lawyer and became involved in politics when he made speeches defending the policies of his father. He also edited the right-wing journal, El Fascio. After it was shut down by the Republican government he wrote for the periodical ABC.

In October 1933 Primo de Rivera established the Falange Española (Spanish Falange). In its manifesto published later that year the Falange condemned socialism, Marxism, republicanism and capitalism and proposed that Spain should become a Fascist state similar to the one established by Benito Mussolini in Italy.

Primo de Rivera won a seat in the Cortes as a delegate for Jerez de la Frontera. He also founded two newspapers, Fe (1934) and Arriba (1935).

In the general election that took place in February 1936, the Falange won only 0.7 per cent of the vote. After the victory of the Popular Front the Falange Española grew rapidly and by July had a membership of 40,000.

Primo de Rivera fully supported the military rebellion in July 1936 against the republican government and after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War the Falange became the dominant political movement of the Nationalists.

José Antonio Primo de Rivera was captured by the republicans on 6th July 1936. He was held in captivity until being executed in Alicante on 20th November 1936.

Primary Sources

(1) José Antonio, Falange Manifesto (November, 1934)

Nation, Unity, Empire

1. We believe in the supreme reality of Spain. The urgent collective task of all Spaniards is to strengthen, elevate, and aggrandize the nation. All individual, group, or class interests must be subordinated without question to the accomplishment of this task.

2. Spain is an indivisible destiny in universal terms. Any conspiracy against this indivisible whole is repulsive. All separatism is a crime we shall not forgive. The prevailing Constitution, insofar as it encourages disintegration, offends against the indivisible nature of Spain's destiny. We therefore demand its immediate repeal.

3. We are committed to Empire. We declare that Spain's historical fulfillment is the Empire. We demand for Spain a prominent position in Europe. We shall not tolerate international isolation or foreign interference. Regarding the countries of Spanish America, our aim is the unification of culture, economic interests, and power. Spain claims that its role as the spiritual axis of the Spanish-speaking world entitles it to a position of preeminence in world affairs.

4. Our armed forces - on land, at sea, and in the air - must be sufficiently strong and efficient to ensure at all times for Spain total independence and a world status that befits the nation. We shall give back to the land, sea, and air forces all the public dignity they merit, and we shall see to it that a similar martial outlook pervades the whole of Spanish life.

5. Spain will look again to the sea routes for her glory and her wealth. Spain will aim to become a great seafaring power, for times of danger and for the sake of trade. We demand for the Fatherland equal status among navies and on the air routes.

State, Individual, Freedom

6. Ours will be a totalitarian State in the service of the Fatherland's integrity. All Spaniards will play a part therein through their membership in families, municipalities and trade unions. No one shall play a part therein through a political party. The system of political parties will be resolutely abolished, together with all its corollaries: inorganic suffrage, representation by conflicting factions, and the Cortes as we know it.

7. Human dignity, the integrity of the individual, and individual freedom are eternal and intangible values. But the only way to be really free is to be part of a strong and free nation. No one will be permitted to use his freedom against the unity, the strength, and the freedom of the Fatherland. A rigorous discipline will prevent any attempt to poison or split the Spanish people, or to incite them to go against the destiny of the Fatherland.

8. The National-Syndicalist State will permit any private initiative that is compatible with the collective interest and, indeed, will protect and stimulate those that are beneficial.

Economy, Work, Class Struggle

9. In the economic sphere, we think of Spain as one huge syndicate of all those engaged in production. In order to serve national economic integrity we shall organize Spanish society along corporative lines by creating a system of vertical unions that will represent the various branches of production.

10. We reject the capitalist system, which disregards the needs of the people, dehumanizes private property, and transforms the workers into shapeless masses that are prone to misery and despair. Our spiritual and national awareness likewise repudiates Marxism. We shall channel the drive of the working classes, that are nowadays led astray by Marxism, by demanding their direct participation in the formidable task of the national State.

11. The National-Syndicalist State will not stand cruelly aloof from economic conflicts between men, nor will it look on impassively as the strongest class subjugates the weakest. Our regime will make class struggle totally impossible, since all those cooperating in production will constitute an organic whole therein. We deplore and shall prevent at all costs the abuses of partial vested interests, as well as anarchy in the workforce.

12. The primary purpose of wealth is to improve the standard of living of all the people - and this will be the declared policy of our State. It is intolerable that great masses of people live in poverty while a few enjoy every luxury.

13. The State will recognize private property as a legitimate means of attaining individual, family, and social ends, and will protect it against being abused by high finance, speculators, and moneylenders.

14. We shall defend the move toward nationalization of banking and the takeover of the major public services by corporations.

15. All Spanish citizens have the right to work. The public institutions will provide adequate maintenance for those who are involuntarily out of work. While we are moving toward the new overall structure, we shall retain and increase all the advantages the workers derive from current social legislation.

16. Every Spaniard who is not an invalid is duty bound to work. The National-Syndicalist State will not have the slightest regard for those who do not fulfill any function but who expect to live like guests at the expense of other people's efforts.


17. As a matter of urgency we must raise the standard of living in the rural areas, on which Spain will always depend for her food. For this reason, we commit ourselves to the strict implementation of an economic and social reform of agriculture.

18. As part of our economic reform, we shall strengthen agricultural production by means of the following measures:

By guaranteeing all farmers an adequate minimum price for their produce.

By seeing to it that much of what is nowadays absorbed by the cities in payment for their intellectual and commercial services is returned to the land, in order to endow rural areas sufficiently.

By organizing a real system of national agricultural credit that will lend farmers money at low rates of interest, thereby guaranteeing their possessions and harvests and freeing them from usury and patronage.

By spreading education pertaining to matters of agriculture and animal husbandry.

By rationalizing production according to the suitability of the land and the outlets available for its products.

By promoting a protectionist tariff policy covering agriculture and the raising of cattle.

By speeding up the construction of a hydraulic network.

By rationalizing landholdings in order to eliminate both vast estates that are not fully exploited and smallholdings that are uneconomic by reason of their low yield.

19. We shall achieve a social organization of agriculture by means of the following measures:

By redistributing once again all the arable land to promote family holdings and by giving farmers every encouragement to join the union.

By rescuing from their present poverty the masses of people who are exhausting themselves scratching on barren soil, and by transferring them to new holdings of arable land.

20. We shall launch a tireless campaign of reforestation and stockbreeding, imposing severe sanctions on whomever obstructs it, and even resorting temporarily to the enforced mobilization of all Spanish youth for the historic task of rebuilding our country's wealth.

21. The State will have powers to confiscate without compensation any land, the ownership of which has been acquired or enjoyed illicitly.

22. A priority of the National-Syndicalist State will be to return to villages their communal property.

National, Education, Religion

23. It is a fundamental mission of the State to impose a rigorous discipline on education that will produce a strong, united, national spirit and fill the souls of future generations with joy and pride in their Fatherland. All men will receive preliminary training to prepare them for the honor of admission to Spain's national forces.

24 . Culture will be organized in such a way that no talent will be lost for lack of finance. All those who are deserving will have easy access even to higher education.

25. Our Movement integrates the Catholic spirit, which has been traditionally glorious and predominant in Spain, into the reconstruction of the nation. Church and State will come to an agreement on the areas of their respective powers, but any interference from the Church or any activity likely to undermine the dignity of the State or the integrity of the nation will not be tolerated.

(2) Edward Knoblaugh, Correspondent in Spain (1937)

Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, son of the former dictator and organizer of the Spanish Nationalist Syndicalist Party, was one of those executed in the general "liquidation" of Rightist leaders at the outset of the war. Independence of thought and action had characterized Primo's brilliant political career. He declined to ally himself with the Gil Robles coalition in the 1936 elections although he knew that his refusal virtually assured defeat for the National Syndicalists. Primo bitterly resented the fact that this party frequently was referred to as "fascist." The National Syndicalists supported the Catholic Church but apart from the religious issue their policies were almost identical with those of the C.N.T.

The 33-year-old political leader, although of slight physical build, had gained a reputation as a fighter during his one term as deputy to the Cortes. When heckled during his impassioned pleas for social reform or when some slurring remark on the memory of his dead father was passed by a critic of the Rivera administration, young Primo had often scrambled over the benches of the chamber and engaged in hand-to-hand affairs with fellow deputies. Soon after the February elections Primo was imprisoned for his caustic criticism of the new regime. In public speeches and editorials in his weekly newspaper Primo declared that the "failure of the government to prevent destruction of Rightist property or to punish those responsible for the destruction demonstrated the impotency of the new Popular

Front government to govern."

Inasmuch as many of his attacks had been leveled directly at the Anarchists, he was one of the first to be marked for death by the CNT-FAI, following the outbreak of the war.

The government, realizing that Primo enjoyed considerable popularity in many quarters abroad, made an effort to save his life. Largo Caballero took a particular interest in the case because word had been sent him that his young son, whose name I never secured, was being held as a hostage by the Rebels and that Primo's death would mean the boy's death. Primo was spirited incognito to Alicante after the government had caused reports to be circulated that he had died in prison, but the ruse failed. The Anarchists traced Primo to his secret dungeon cell in the Alicante prison and threatened to storm the prison unless he was delivered to them. They finally agreed to the pleas of the Governor of Alicante that Primo be given trial. He was tried. The trial was such a farce that correspondents were not permitted to attend the sessions or to cable anything of the proceedings after the first day.

Primo was executed November 20, 1936, by a militia firing squad. The government did everything possible to prevent news of the execution from reaching abroad but it leaked out through Gibraltar several days later and we were permitted to confirm it. Largo went into mourning. We supposed he had heard his boy had been shot.