The Idealist

Chapter 1

The street echoed with the sound of running feet — running. The young man stopped and gradually the echoes faded away. He was completely out of breath, his heartbeat pounded in his ears. When his breath came back, he swore. His quarry had escaped into the night.
José Antonio walked back to where his car stood, its wind- screen shattered, front tyres flattened, all the result of a hail of bullets spurting out of the darkness.
José Antonio’s friend, Manolo, was still recovering from the shock of the attack. He leaned against the bonnet of the dam- aged Chevrolet.‘José Antonio? Oh, thank God! You could’ve got yourself killed man — you’re not even carrying a gun!’
Before José Antonio could reply to Manolo, the police arrived. When he had finished giving all the details, he hailed a taxi and twenty minutes later, together with Manolo, walked
into Bakanik. It was one of the most fashionable cafés in Madrid and where José Antonio and his friends were in the habit of chatting over drinks before going on to the evening meal.
José Antonio bubbled over with excitement as he described what had taken place earlier in the evening.
‘You mean to say, don José Antonio, that you chased a gun- man after he tried to shoot you and you didn’t have a gun?’ asked the barman.
‘That’s right!’
Shaking his head, the barman went off to fetch more glasses.
‘There’s got to be a streak of craziness in the Primo de Rivera family,’ he muttered.
Because of his disregard for his own personal safety, José Antonio was the despair of his friends.
‘You won’t always be so lucky, José Antonio. If you don’t take more care, one day a bullet will find you,’ said Manolo, taking a sip of cognac in an effort to soothe his nervous system.
‘Ah Manolo, nothing’s ever all that bad if it doesn’t kill you.’ Gunmen of the Left of politics made a point of lurking in the shadows whenever they knew José Antonio Primo de Rivera was to be in a particular place. The eldest son of General Miguel Primo de Rivera, the Spanish Dictator during the decade of the twenties, had declared himself fascist. That made him an arch- enemy of the Spanish Second Republic.

It was indeed most unusual for José Antonio to lose his appe- tite. The evening’s excitement drove away any desire he might have had for food. He finished his whisky, wished his friends and the barman goodnight then took a taxi to his home. The house was in darkness. The servants were in bed, his sis- ters, Carmen and Pilar were away on their summer holiday and Tía Ma visited relatives in Barcelona. Tía Ma (Aunty Ma) as José
Antonio and his siblings affectionately called her, was his father’s sister. She had come to look after them when their mother died. José Antonio was only six then. He had two brothers, Miguel and Fernando, both were married. The family had always been close- knit. Duties of state had never prevented General Miguel from taking an active interest in the upbringing of his children. It was due to his insistence that his eldest son was never called any name other than José Antonio — not just José or Antonio. It was woe betide anyone who dared to call him Pepe ( Joe).

Life was very full, José Antonio never spent much time sleeping. Tomorrow there was much for him to do despite it being the month of August and in Spain, the peak of the holiday season. There would be meetings to plan the new political party. He had an appointment with a long standing client who wanted a divorce. At the price of losing friendship and very lucrative business, he would have to suggest that another lawyer be con- sulted. While the Republic had declared divorce to be legal, as a devout Catholic, José Antonio refused to countenance it.
Then, sometime during the day there would come the inevi- table telephone call from Tía Ma begging him to stay out of trouble. No doubt the attempt on his life would be reported in the morning papers. He gave a lusty sigh, fell into bed and was asleep almost immediately.

Lara Terence put the morning paper aside and pulled her coffee toward her.
‘ Who’s this José Antonio?’ she asked her friend Lucy Blanco.
‘He’d be the most charming, dashing, sought-after young man in Madrid.’
‘Really.’
‘ Why do you ask?’
‘The paper gives an account about him going to a certain fashionable bar last night and telling all his friends that he had chased a gunman who tried to kill him. Seems he found it all most exhilarating, to say the least.’
‘So you see, as well as being divinely handsome he’s also quite mad.’
‘Seems like it.’
‘But do tell me Lara, when are you and Enrique getting mar- ried?’
‘In the very distant future.’
‘I thought that was why you came to Madrid.’
‘No, Lucy, the Madrid editor of Enrique’s paper wanted him back here, and my paper in London asked me to be its Madrid correspondent.’
‘You’d rather write for a newspaper than be married?’
Lucy was very married. For her, marriage was the ultimate life style. There was always a man on hand to escort her on fash- ionable occasions and there was plenty of time to gossip.
‘Lucy, about this José Antonio, do you know anything else about him?’
‘He’s at present courting the daughter of a duke and he’s involved with some kind of new politics or something.’
Lara realised that Lucy could talk at length about the duke’s daughter. Still, the new politics or whatever it was might turn out to be interesting.

It was the year 1933, the eldest of the Primo de Riveras was thirty and already a lawyer of note. A fascist, he wanted to create a political party which would bring a just society to the Spanish people. Forever the idealist, he planned to bring a very backward Spain into the twentieth century. This he intended to achieve through an authoritarian regime. The task he had set himself was breathtaking in its enormity. The Spanish Second Repub- lic had come into being in 1931 because of the utter collapse of the monarchy. In fact the Second Republic was declared on the very day the king left Spain for exile in France. A Republi- can-Socialist coalition was elected. Along with the new regime came revolutionary turmoil and strikes. Churches either being burned to the ground or being sprayed with bullets were com- mon occurrences in the early days of the Republic. These events were now rare, nevertheless Spain remained split in two distinct political divisions which confronted each other with unremit- ting ferocity.
On the Right were the big land owners, industrialists, the clergy and the military while on the Left were the workers and peasants who had supplied the wealthy with slave labour. For centuries the power of the upper classes had gone unchallenged. Now that the Left was in power, there was more than just a chance that an improvement in the living conditions of the land workers, the miners and the working class in general would come about.

If José Antonio had been able to see into the future, he most likely would have abandoned any idea of forming his party. And he would have done so, not because of the seeming insurmount- ability of the situation but because his party would, in a time to come, be used as an instrument of a government which would prolong significantly, Spain’s backward status.

The new political party, Falange Española (Spanish Pha- lanx), was the idea of four people — José Antonio; Julio Ruiz de Alda, an aviator famous for his flights between Spain and the Americas; Alfonso Valdecasas, an academic; and Ramiro Ledesma, a former postal clerk. More of an academic than a politician, Valdecasas contributed very little in the way of progressive ideas to the new party. It was not until after the founding ceremony of Falange Española or the Falange as it became known, that he convinced himself there was no future for him in the party. He left to take care of his own affairs. But, years later, he was to come back and join a Falange which had been reorganised to play its part in extending the duration of a reactionary dictatorship.

Never altogether sure if he would give his support to the emerging political party, Ramiro Ledesma left the Falange to form a political movement of his own. When that turned out to be a failure, he returned to the post office. In October of 1936, the Republic shot him because he was a fascist.
Because he was a natural leader, José Antonio was the chief of the Falange. Ruiz de Alda was elected deputy.

‘ What can you tell me about José Antonio Primo de Rivera?’ Lara asked her fiancé, Enrique.
They were chatting over coffee in the Hostería Carlos V, the bar where they were in the habit of meeting early every evening.
‘He’s a señorito!’
‘He’s a what?’
‘Primo de Rivera.’
‘Enrique you’re not listening to me!’
‘A señorito is, and Primo de Rivera’s one of them, the son of wealth and privilege. Those señoritos believe that they owe their society nothing and that there is one set of rules for them and another for the rest.’
‘Do you happen to know him?’
‘Primo de Rivera? No, why do you ask about him anyway?’
‘The new political party is being launched on Sunday after- noon. I’m going along to cover it.’
‘Of course you know they’re all a bunch of rotten fascists!’ Enrique’s voice was full of venom.
Lara herself was very much an adherent of the Left but she had not yet become accustomed to Enrique’s particularly hard line attitude. It had not been so vehemently expressed when they were in London but, that was in another country.
‘ Where’s this big event going to take place?’ Enrique wanted to know.
‘In the Comedia.’
‘That’s the cinema owned by relatives of the Primo de Riv- eras. They’re probably letting the Señorito have it free of charge.’

The crowd outside the Comedia that Sunday, 29th October, 1933, was indeed animated. Young men milled about in their hundreds. They burned with enthusiasm, the air was heavy with their anticipation. Lara managed to get through the entrance and squeeze into a place where she got a clear view of the stage. A tall, slim young man with shiny black hair stood before the microphone. He wore the dark blue shirt of his party and addressed the men in a clear, calm voice.
‘…the liberal state came to offer us economic slavery, saying to the workers, with tragic sarcasm: “You are free to work as you wish. No one can compel you to accept specified conditions that please us. As free citizens, you are not obliged to accept them if you do not want to. But as poor citizens, if you do not accept them you will die of hunger, surrounded of course by the utmost liberal dignity.” ’
‘Therefore socialism had to appear, and its coming was just
( for we do not deny any evident truth). The workers had to defend themselves against a system that only “promised” them rights and did not strive to give them a just life…’
‘The Patria is a total unity, in which all individuals and classes are integrated. The Patria cannot be in the hands of the strongest class or of the best organised party. The Patria is a transcendent synthesis, an indivisible synthesis, with its own goals to fulfil, and we want this movement of today, and that state which it creates, to be an efficient, authoritarian instrument at the service of an indisput- able unity, of that permanent unity, of that irrevocable unity that is the Patria…’
‘Here is what is required by our total sense of the Patria and the state which is to serve it. That all the people of Spain, however diverse they may be, feel in harmony with an irrevocable unity of destiny.’
‘That the political parties disappear. No one was ever born a member of a political party. On the other hand, we are all born members of a family — we are all neighbours in a municipality, we all labour in the exercise of a profession…’
‘Finally, we desire that if on some occasion this must be achieved by violence, there be no shrinking from violence. Because who has said — while speaking of “everything save violence” — that the supreme value in the hierarchy of values is amiability? Who has said that when our sentiments are insulted we are obliged to be accom- modating instead of reacting like men? It is very correct indeed that dialectic is the first instrument of communication. But no other dia- lectic is admissible save the dialectic of fists and pistols when justice or the Patria is offended…’
‘…I should like to have this microphone before me carry my voice into every last working-class home to say, Yes, we wear a tie. Yes you may say of us that we are señoritos of Spain. In this manner they have achieved the true status of señores, because in distant lands, and in our very Patria, they have learned to suffer death and to carry out hard missions precisely for reasons in which, as señoritos, they had no interest at all.’
‘I believe the banner is raised. Now we are going to defend it gaily and poetically. There are some who think that in order to unite men’s wills against the march of the revolution it is proper to offer superficially gratifying solutions. They think it is necessary to hide everything in their propaganda which could awaken an emotion or signify energetic or extreme action. What equivocation! The people have never been moved by anyone save the poets, and woe to him who, before the poetry which destroys, does not know how to raise the poetry which promises!’
‘In a poetic movement we shall raise this fervent feeling for Spain. We shall sacrifice ourselves. We shall renounce ourselves, and the triumph will be ours, a triumph — why need I say it? — that we are not going to win the next elections. In those elections vote for whoever seems to you least undesirable. But our Spain will not emerge from the Cortes, nor is our goal there. The atmosphere there is tired and murky, like a tavern at the end of a night of dissipation. That is not our place. Yes, I know that I am a candidate, but I am one without faith and without respect. I say this now, when it can mean that I lose votes. That matters not at all. We are not going to argue with habitués over the disordered remains of a dirty banquet. Our place is outside, though we may occasionally have to pass a few transient minutes within. Our place is in the fresh air, under the cloudless heavens, weapons in our hands, with the stars above us. Let the others go on with their merrymaking. We outside, in tense, fervent, and certain vigilance, already feel the dawn breaking in the joy of our hearts’.*

‘He’s certainly a gifted speaker and… something of an idealist; murmured Lara as she got up to leave.’The last para graph of his speech is indeed poetic. A fascist poet -I wouldn’t have thought poetry fitted into fascism…’

 

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