FROM its inception the Spanish Phalanx has frankly been a Fascist group. Its founder was José Antonio Primo de Rivera, a handsome and reckless young lawyer who could never forget that his father had been Dictator of Spain. When José Antonio and his friends issued a magazine to publicize their ideas (the first and only number appeared on March 16, 1933) they called it El Fascio. José Antonio declared: "We are Fascists, because we find our origins in Mussolinian principles; we are Nazis, because in National Socialist doctrines vibrate our faith and doctrine. But we are, above all, Spaniards. The National Syndicalist State, corporative and totalitarian, is of Spanish type. It is not a block from the Italian or German quarry. It is a Spanish creation." This is the line which the Phalanx has followed ever since its official foundation at Madrid on October 29, 1933 -- Fascism, but Spanish Fascism.

General Francisco Franco, speaking to a United Press correspondent in July 1937, followed the same line. The new Spain, he said "will follow the structure of the totalitarian régimes, like Italy and Germany. It will adopt corporative forms, for which most of the formulas are already found in our own country, and it will destroy the liberal institutions which have poisoned the people. As in all empires, special attention will be given to the hierarchic principle: love of country, social justice and the protection of the middle and laboring classes will be encouraged. It will be inspired, of course, by the models of Italy and Germany, but with characteristics clearly national. It will be a suit cut to Spain's own measure."

On March 4, 1934, the Phalanx officially merged with the J.O.N.-S. ("Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista ") and became the " Falange Española y de las J.O.N.-S." The J.O.N.-S. was itself the result of several previous mergers. Perhaps the origin of all these groups traces back to the appearance in Madrid, one month before the Spanish Republic came into being, of a little magazine called La Conquista del Estado ("The Conquest of the State"), published by Ramiro Ledesma Ramos and Ernesto Giménez Caballero, who were later to collaborate with José Antonio in the short-lived El Fascio. The manifesto of this magazine read in part: "Every Spaniard who will not face with proper greatness the approaching events is obligated to leave the front lines and let his place be taken by firm, courageous phalanxes." This appeal called for the establishment of the Empire as well as for various domestic measures such as the creation of a syndicalist structure for Spanish economy, preparations for a revolution, the use of terrorism, defense of the army's position and power, and opposition to all forms of regional autonomy.

Meanwhile in Valladolid, Onésimo Redondo, a hard young man of twenty-six, Doctor of Laws from Salamanca and recently an instructor in Castilian at the University of Mannheim, was building up another pro-Fascist group. His weekly paper Libertad had first appeared on June 13, 1931, with the cry: "Workers, Castilians: Be on guard against the dark schemes of the Internationals who are waiting to fall upon our land: the Masonic International, the Socialist International, the Communist International." Redondo was the first to bring Hitler's writings to a Spanish audience when in 1931 he published chapters of "Mein Kampf" in Libertad. In 1933 he hailed Hitler as the new Charlemagne and saw the hooked cross as the eternal forerunner of the Latin cross of Christ. In August 1931, Redondo formed the "Junta Castellana de Actuación Hispánica," with a sixteen-point program calling for an Imperial Spain, a purely Spanish Government, and a "syndical, corporative organization protected and regulated by the State." In November 1931 the "Junta Castellana" and the group around La Conquista del Estado joined to make the J.O.N.-S.

The program of the J.O.N.-S. demanded the centralization of power in Madrid and the suppression of all attempts at creating Basque and Catalan autonomy, for the unification of Spain was to be the first step toward the rebuilding of the Empire. The program also called for the subordination of individuals and social groups to the needs of the State and for the overthrow of the parliamentary régime. It advocated "the imperial expansion of Spain," with immediate claims for Gibraltar and Tangier; it demanded the placing of labor unions "under the special protection of the State;" and it proposed the creation of a National Syndicalist state "which would entrust its highest political jobs to men under forty." This last point (later dropped by the Phalanx) emphasizes the appeal which the party sought to make to the disinherited youth of Spain, humiliated by the loss of her Empire.

Of the two merging groups that formed the Phalanx as it was before the civil war, the J.O.N.-S. was the stronger and more aggressive. Onésimo Redondo was physically and mentally tougher than José Antonio, who was chosen leader of the Phalanx mainly because of the political power of his family name. Both the J.O.N.-S. and the Phalanx at the time of their merger were insignificant political blocs; even at the outbreak of the military revolt over two years later, they could claim less than 100,000 members.

In September 1934 the National Council of the Spanish Phalanx met in Madrid, unnoticed by the important political groups, and adopted a twenty-seven point program. Through Franco's edict number 255 (April 19, 1937), this program, minus the last point, became law throughout Nationalist Spain. It is therefore a document of great practical significance. Briefly, the Falangist objective is Fascist in domestic affairs and imperialistic in foreign policy. The highly centralized, regimented, militaristic state of the Phalanx is not an end in itself but an instrument for reestablishing its power over Spain's former dominions.

The spiritual basis of the program was best described by the aged ex-anarchist thinker, Ramiro de Maeztu, now dead, in his book "Defensa de la Hispanidad," published in 1934 and highly praised by the Spanish Primate, Cardinal Gomá y Tomás. The word hispanidad, coined or resurrected by Maeztu, expresses the mystique of Spanish National Syndicalism just as German racism expresses the mystique of National Socialism. Hispanidad includes all those, regardless of race, who live under Spanish culture and religion -- for example, the Indians of South America. A map of hispanidad published in a Nationalist reissue of Maeztu's book includes most of the United States as part of the lost empire. Hispanidad does not exclude foreign peoples whom it may convert, but does exclude foreign ideas such as masonry, liberalism, Protestantism, Socialism and Communism. (A survey of Falangist literature will show that the afflictions of Spain are listed approximately in that order of importance.)

We need not take up here the Falangist propositions dealing with the political and economic reorganization of Spain's internal affairs. These are matters to which the United States can, presumably, remain largely indifferent. There are, however, three points in the creed of the Phalanx -- and therefore in the avowed policy of the Nationalist Government -- which are of importance to the United States because they concern international affairs, and particularly because they concern Latin America and Pan Americanism.

Point three of the Falangist program declares: "We have a will to empire. We affirm that the full historical significance of Spain implies an empire. We demand for Spain a preëminent place in Europe. We will not tolerate either international isolation or foreign interference. Regarding the countries of Spanish America, we strive for the unification of culture, of economic interests and of power. Spain considers that her position as spiritual axis of the Hispanic world gives her the preëminent place in their common enterprises."

Point four says: "Our armed forces, on land, on sea and in the air, must be as efficient and as numerous as may be necessary to insure at all times the complete independence of Spain and the world leadership which is her due. We shall restore to the army of land, sea and air all the public dignity they merit and we shall cause, following their ideals, a military sense of life to pervade all Spanish activities."

And point five states: "Spain will again seek glory and wealth on the sea. Spain must aspire to become a great maritime power, for the pursuit of danger and for commercial reasons. We demand for the Motherland naval and aërial strength equal to any."

That the Phalanx takes these imperialistic injunctions seriously is amply demonstrated by the writings of Falangist publicists. Early in 1935, after the Nazi triumph in the Saar, Redondo published an article which his Falangist followers two years later were to describe as being "the announcement of a new age." Redondo wrote: "A united Germany is the beginning of a strong alliance between all the German countries. And a united Spain will be the bastion of the revivified hispanidad. Thus, as the Germany of Hitler has recovered the Saar and sooner or later will conquer the will of Austria, so National Syndicalist Spain will restore the united Empire of all the nations that speak Spanish . . . Spain will renew her historic task of redeeming the barbarous peoples and the Spanish-German alliance will place us at the head of the world."

In an article by Miguel Gran appearing in the February 1937 issue of the official Falangist magazine Fe it was stated: "For the America of our culture, our faith and our blood, we wish more than just living together, more than friendship. We desire unity: unity of mind, unity of economy, and unity of power. We desire to put an end to 'Monroeism,' in order to put in its place our affirmation: 'The Spanish world for the Spanish' ['Lo hispano, para los hispanos']."

At the time of the Lima Conference in December 1938, Franco's Nationalist press roundly denounced the policy of the United States and warned the Latin American countries against the imperialism of "Tio Sam." Typical of this newspaper comment was that of the San Sebastián Voz de España which declared on December 9, 1938, that the Lima Conference was "organized by Jews and atheists so that the United States could enslave the American hemisphere." On December 20, the Burgos correspondent of the London Times reported that the Nationalists were watching Lima "with some anxiety" because "Spanish thinkers desire that the cultural and economic links between Spain and the countries to which she gave birth . . . should be tightened." In Nationalist Spain, the Times said, "Any attempt by a non-Spanish nation to extend its tutelage over Spanish America is regarded with deep suspicion. Above all, Spain and the Spanish-speaking nations are exhorted to be on their guard against the 'Peligro Yanqui.' Mr. Roosevelt, it is said, is attempting to transform the 'good neighbourliness' . . . into armed solidarity and secure for the United States predominance throughout America in the cultural and economic fields."

Concerning the foreign policy of Franco's Government we have the remarkable book "Que es 'Lo Nuevo' . . ." published in 1938. This work, a competent and comprehensive statement of the nature and aims of Spanish Fascism, was written by José Pemartín, Chief of University and Secondary Education in the Nationalist Government. Pemartín affirms that one of the imperatives of Spanish existence is: "To extend and expand our great Latin, Christian, Hispanic culture and our political jurisdiction, above all over the South American countries of Hispanic soul and language." Pemartín not only indicates that Pan Americanism is to be displaced by Pan Hispanicism but that the United States is to be drawn into the Pan Hispanic orbit. He writes: "If we leave Europe and take up a world point of view, we see that over in America there is most certainly reserved to seemingly weak and backward Spanish America the same noble mission of Latinity as in Europe: the conversion of North America to Catholicism. This will seem an impossible dream to some superficial minds. Nevertheless, bear in mind how easily the material prosperity and the already low moral level of the United States have crumbled since the Wall Street crash of November 1929. Think also of this -- the United States is not a nation but a huge conglomeration of peoples and races, under the moral depression of the defeat which Japan will inflict on them, sooner or later."

Franco's emissaries in Spanish America -- members of the Spanish race, speaking the Spanish language, worshipping in the Spanish Catholic faith, with a militaristic Spanish Motherland behind them -- have in Falangism a doctrine that possesses undoubted attractions for many Latin Americans. This is particularly true of the ruling classes and cliques. By adopting or imitating Falangist slogans and methods they may hope to give their power a new lease on life and to stem the tide of democracy. Now that Franco is victor in Spain, every instinct for self-preservation will drive the Phalanx towards the completion of its program, towards the conquest of its empire. It must make Pan Hispanicism strong enough to challenge and defeat Pan Americanism.

This movement is independent of what may be done by Italy, Germany or Japan in Latin America. These are, and will always remain, alien forces in that region. No imperative of expansion drives them to Spanish America. Franco, on the other hand, seems inexorably driven in that direction by the supreme imperatives of Falangism. He cannot expect to expand in Europe. His action in case of a European war will therefore be dictated largely by considerations of empire. He may seek to be neutral, or he may even oppose his late allies. But no matter which policy he pursues in the end, it will be at the expense of Pan Americanism, for the reconquest of the Empire must always be the ultimate goal of Spanish Fascism.

Three ties bind Spanish Americans to Spain: language, race and religion. (These are also exactly the differences that separate Spanish America from the English-speaking, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant United States.) Every book, magazine and newspaper leaving Spain for Latin America will now carry the call of the Falangist Motherland. "Our language is the nervous system of our spiritual empire and the real and tangible inheritance of our historical-political empire," reads a Franco decree of September 20, 1938. The superior appeal of Falangist propaganda, written in Spanish by Spaniards with a Spanish point of view, as compared with that from Germany, Italy or the United States, cannot be overemphasized. When, in May 1939, President Roberto Ortiz of Argentina decreed the dissolution of all political organizations directed from abroad, he gave them ninety days in which to revise their by-laws to conform to "democratic principles" and ordered that their names, statutes and by-laws be printed in Spanish. This last provision was, of course, no penalty for the Phalanx; and it serves to illustrate the enormous initial advantage which that body possesses over its allies and competitors in Latin America. Indeed, from this decree it would almost seem as if the thing feared by the Argentine President was the foreign language and not the totalitarian agitation.

Every device possible will be utilized by Spain to tell the people of South America that they are not merely Bolivians, Peruvians, Chileans, etc., but also members of the mystic body of hispanidad. In the campaign the Phalanx can count on the support of the Catholic Church, dominant in South America as in Spain. As long ago as 1934 Cardinal Gomá y Tomás, speaking at Buenos Aires on the day (October 12) celebrated in Spanish countries as the "Día de la Raza" (Day of the Race), gave high praise to Maeztu's book and its concept of hispanidad. The Cardinal called upon the South American countries to turn toward Spain and away from the threats of "Monroeism, statism, Protestantism, Socialism or simple mercantilism." He deplored the separation of the colonies from Spain, which he attributed to "the itching to try new democratic forms of government." He declared that democracy was dying and was unable to "serve as a basis for hispanidad and mould the people of the race into a great unity for defense and conquest."

That the coöperation of the Catholic Church with Falangist imperialism can be dangerous to Pan Americanism is understood clearly by many American Catholics. As Professor Francis X. Connolly of Fordham University wrote in the Jesuit weekly America (April 18, 1939): "If the new state of Generalissimo Franco is successful, it is very likely that all our conferences and economic blandishments will come to nothing and what we inaccurately call Latin America may truly become Spanish America."

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now