Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top Ten Most-Viewed Posts of 2017

In the English-speaking world, a common New Year's Eve tradition is the singing of "Auld Lang Syne," a 1788 Scots poem by Roberts Burns set to the music of a traditional folk song. Besides New Year's Eve, "Auld Lang Syne" is commonly played at events that mark an ending of some sort, such as funerals or graduations. On June 30, 1997, the day before Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China, "Auld Lang Syne" was famously played by the Royal Hong Kong Police Force to mark the departure of Chris Patten, Hong Kong's last British governor, from Government House, his official residence:


The basic idea of "Auld Lang Syne" is that, though time marches on and circumstances change, one should not forget old friendships. In that spirit, I would like to take a moment to thank all those who have visited this blog over the course of 2017 by sharing the top ten most-read blog posts for 2017. I hope that you've all enjoyed the content on this blog so far and will return for more cool stuff in 2018.

Special thanks in particular to Luis Felipe Utrera-Molina Gómez, for being the first (and so far only) person to comment on a blog post here ("Prophetic Words from 1978") and for extensively sharing that post, making it by far the most-read post on this blog. "Prophetic Words" is a post from early November. Nearly two months later, this blog is still receiving considerable traffic from a link to that post on the website of the Fundación Nacional Francisco Franco, a link that Luis Felipe is no doubt responsible for. Thank you again, Luis Felipe.

1. Prophetic Words from 1978 (November 8, 2017)

2. A Tribute to José Utrera Molina (September 10, 2017)

3. Montañas Nevadas (November 4, 2017)

4. Himno del Trabajo (September 2, 2017)

5. Towards a Democratic Falangism (August 22, 2017)

6. Recommended Reading, and Words of Wisdom (October 7, 2017)

7. Catalonia Has Always Been Part of Spain (November 6, 2017)

8. George Washington's Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Rules of Civility (October 14, 2017)

9. What's Going on in Catalonia, by Ramiro Ledesma Ramos (October 8, 2017)

10. Thoughts on the Situation in Catalonia (October 1, 2017)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Woo Hoo!


The McLaughlin Group is returning to the airwaves! New episodes analyzing current events in today's tumultuous times will begin airing on January 7, 2018!!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Recommended Reading: Christmas Edition

"Every day is Christmas."  John Baptist Greco

I may not be Santa Claus, but I have loaded lots of goodies on my sleigh. (Apologies to Nat King Cole).


And now it's time for me to share them with you. So, here's my list of recommended readings on this Christmas Day, 2017   which, incidentally, is the first "White Christmas" in my part of the world in quite a few years. (Apologies to Bing Crosby).


Okay, okay. Enough corny references to Christmas songs. Without further ado, here are some Christmas-themed articles that are worth reading. We'll start with political articles, and work our way up to cartoon-related articles. 

Paul Craig Roberts makes a case for why Christmas is worth observing... even if you're a non-believer. Roberts publishes this article every year, so reading it has become a tradition of sorts for me. Yet each year, I find Paul Craig Roberts's Christmas column to be refreshing and increasingly relevant. I find it so compelling that I'm going to publish a few excerpts from it:

"The decorations and gifts of Christmas are one of our connections to a Christian culture that has held Western civilization together for 2,000 years.

"In our culture the individual counts. This permits an individual person to put his or her foot down, to take a stand on principle, to become a reformer and to take on injustice.

"This empowerment of the individual is unique to Western civilization. It has made the individual a citizen equal in rights to all other citizens, protected from tyrannical government by the rule of law and free speech. These achievements are the products of centuries of struggle, but they all flow from the teaching that God so values the individual's soul that he sent his son to die so we might live. By so elevating the individual, Christianity gave him a voice.

"Formerly only those with power had a voice. But in Western civilization people with integrity have a voice. So do people with a sense of justice, of honor, of duty, of fair play. Reformers can reform, investors can invest, and entrepreneurs can create commercial enterprises, new products and new occupations. [...]

"Power is the horse ridden by evil. In the 20th century the horse was ridden hard, and the 21st century shows an increase in pace. Millions of people were exterminated in the 20th century by National Socialists in Germany and by Soviet and Chinese communists simply because they were members of a race or class that had been demonized by intellectuals and political authority. In the beginning years of the 21st century, hundreds of thousands of Muslims in seven countries have been murdered and millions displaced in order to extend Washington's hegemony.

"Power that is secularized and cut free of civilizing traditions is not limited by moral and religious scruples. V. I. Lenin made this clear when he defined the meaning of his dictatorship as 'unlimited power, resting directly on force, not limited by anything.' Washington's drive for hegemony over US citizens and the rest of the world is based entirely on the exercise of force and is resurrecting unaccountable power."

Again, read the whole thing. It's so worth it.

Next on my list is this article by Matthias Leyrer. Leyrer argues for revitalizing the downtowns of US cities, asking customers to consider shopping at small downtown mom-and-pop stores rather than at big box retailers. He makes a convincing case that this would go a long way towards making Christmas great again. (Not that I don't think Christmas is great as it is, mind you. I just couldn't resist the temptation to paraphrase President Donald Trump's (in)famous campaign slogan).

What better way to end my list of recommended political readings and begin my list of cartoon-related readings than with an article that is both political and cartoon-related? In this article, Gracy Olmstead reflects on what the very difficult Christmas she endured last year and Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas taught her about the true meaning of the season.

Before we move on to 100% happy articles, here's one last partly depressing article. Animator Mark Kausler shares a few of the Christmas cards legendary voice actress June Foray sent him over the years. As you may know, Foray passed away earlier this year at the age of 99. She was the voice of countless classic cartoon characters, including Granny from Looney Tunes (Warner Bros.), Rocky the Flying Squirrel from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (Jay Ward Productions), Jokey Smurf from the 1980s Smurfs animated series (Hanna-Barbera), and Cindy Lou Who from Chuck Jones's 1966 adaptation of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas (MGM).

And now for the 100% happy articles. First, my friend Joe Torcivia reviews Bugs Bunny's Christmas Funnies #1, a Dell comic book from 1950.

Finally, I invite you to check out some of my favorite Christmas-related posts from one of my favorite blogs: Don M. Yowp blog's on early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Here's one from 2013. The neat thing about this one is that it includes links to Yowp's Christmas posts from 2010, 2011, and 2013. And here's Yowp's Christmas post from 2017, which includes links to his Christmas posts from 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Well, all these links should keep you happily entertained for the rest of the 2017-2018 Christmas season (which ends on January 6, 2018, in my book).

In closing, I wish each and every one of this blog's visitors a very Merry Christmas.                      

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Rise and Fall of Holy Land USA

If you've ever driven through The Center of the Universe (also known as Waterbury, Connecticut) on I-84, you've seen it. Indeed, it's distinctly visible from many points in the Brass City  even at night, as it's made of glass and has light bulbs inside it. I'm talking, of course, about the 52-foot cross on Pine Hill.


Photo by Holy Land Waterbury, USA, Inc. 

Although the cross you see above was erected in 2013, there has been a large cross on Pine Hill since the 1950s. The current cross replaced a stainless steel cross that had been erected in 2008: 


This stainless cross was erected in 2008. In 2013, it was taken down to make way for the new cross. At some point while it was lying on the ground, it was vandalized. (Jim Lo Scalzo / European Pressphoto Agency

In turn, the 2008 cross had replaced a 56-foot cross, which had been installed in 1968.


The 1968 cross. Photo © Francisco Jimenez

The 1968 cross was similar to the current cross, the main difference being that it was not as technologically sophisticated and therefore only lit up in yellow, in contrast to the current cross, which has been lit in a number of different colors since it was inaugurated.


The 1968 cross at night. Photo for the Hartford Courant by Stephen Dunn
Promotional material for Holy Land Waterbury, USA, Inc., showing the current cross lit in purple.
The current cross lit in green, as seen from St. Anne's Church in Waterbury, Connecticut.  Photo by shutterbroke, usa.

The 1968 cross replaced the original Waterbury cross, which was erected in 1956.


The 1956 cross. Photo belongs to Jennifer A. Bremer/Roadtripmemories.com

Over the course of the second half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century, the cross, in its various incarnations, became a well-known symbol of Waterbury. Believe it or not, pilots have been known to use the lighted cross to orient themselves during night flights. Less surprisingly, many people who have driven through Waterbury know this city primarily for the cross. What many people who visit and/or pass through the city may not realize, however, is that the famous lighted cross was for many years the centerpiece of Holy Land USA, a biblical theme park that attracted tens of thousands of visitors during its heyday.


Photo from RoadTripMemories
Photo from messynessychic.com.

Opened to the public in 1956, Holy Land USA was the brainchild of John Baptist Greco, a local Italian-American attorney who was a devout Roman Catholic. Besides the cross, Holy Land featured miniature representations of various Bible stories. Its miniature buildings — which Greco built from cinder blocks, old bathtubs, and other used and donated building materials — were designed to evoke places mentioned in the Bible, such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Passages from Scripture were carved into structures throughout the theme park. 

John Baptist Greco. Photo from Sometimes-Interesting.com

I was born in Portugal, but I grew up in Waterbury. You can imagine, then, that Holy Land USA and its wondrous cross was an important part of my childhood. For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with monuments and landmarks, and so Holy Land did not escape my notice and fascination. Indeed, I still vividly remember the 1968 cross. One of my happiest childhood memories is that of my parents taking me up that hill to see the cross up close. In addition to the cross, I was also thrilled to see what was left of Holy Land’s attractions. The miniature Biblical buildings reminded me of a Portuguese Christmas tradition: the display of Nativity scenes, or presépios, some of which can be quite elaborate, such as the one seen below:

This Nativity scene is actually Italian. Photo from adventureswithsarah.net.

Indeed, because of my interest in unusual monuments and buildings, when I was a child my mom made me a fairly elaborate presépio (though not quite as elaborate as the one seen above), which absolutely delighted me. 

Holy Land’s little buildings also reminded me of an American Christmas tradition: the Rankin/Bass Claymation Christmas specials, which feature charming puppet-like characters interacting in miniature villages.

Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976)

The Little Drummer Boy (1968)

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970)

You’ve noticed, no doubt, that I said what was left of Holy Land’s attractions. This is because by the time I was born, Holy Land USA had long been shuttered, abandoned, and allowed to slowly but surely deteriorate. In 1984, Greco closed Holy Land to the public. His intention was to renovate and expand the theme park. These plans, however, never came to fruition. In 1986, Greco passed away, leaving the park to an order of Catholic nuns. Greco also left the nuns millions of dollars with which to restore to park, but, unfortunately, the nuns’ financial advisor abruptly walked away from the project and took the money with him! As a result, while the nuns maintained an active convent on the site of Holy Land, they never reopened the park to the public, leaving it abandoned. Since then, the theme park’s attractions have largely fallen into ruins. In addition to normal wear and tear, repeated waves of vandalism also took their toll on the property. To look at recent pictures of Holy Land USA is to see the sad, slow downfall of one man’s vision. In my estimation, the current state of disrepair in which Holy Land attractions — and the Christian teachings inscribed on their walls — exist is a distressingly apt metaphor for the current state of Christianity in today’s society.  



Some attractions at Holy Land USA, during the park's heyday (left) and more recently (right). Photos from RoadTripMemories
   


Some recent pictures of Holy Land USA, taken from this Daily Mail article

Since the park’s closure in 1984, there have been several attempts to revive Holy Land, but none of these efforts have gotten very far. Most recently, Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary and car dealer Fritz Blasius purchased the property from the nuns in 2013. They installed the current illuminated cross and said they planned to restore the park and reopen it to the public. This effort, too, seems to have fallen by the wayside, as the park remains abandoned and officially closed to the public in 2017.

Whatever happens to Holy Land in the future, we can all pay tribute to John Greco’s little theme park this Christmas season by building a presépio and/or by enjoying classic Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. We would also do well to remember to keep the Christmas spirit alive throughout the year by consistently doing our best to treat others with kindness and generosity. As an inscription on Holy Land’s Nativity attraction used to read, “Every day is Christmas.” 

Photo from messynessychic.com

BONUS FEATURES: 

If you're interested in learning more about Holy Land USA, this article contains tons of information, including many links to additional readings. It's by far the most complete account of Holy Land that I know of. 

To see more pictures of Holy Land USA (both in its heyday and currently), see this article and this article

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Cara al Sol



Some things need no introduction, and “Cara al sol” is one of them (well, at least if you're a Francoist Spain buff like me). Dramatizing a Falangist soldier’s comforting parting words to his lover as he marches off to fight for country and social justice, this 1935 song is the anthem of Falangism, as well as a key symbol of Francoism. The music was composed by Juan Tallería and the lyrics were written by José Antonio Primo de Rivera himself. For a brief and interesting account (in Spanish) of how “Cara al sol” was created, click here

The following are the original lyrics in Spanish, followed by my own translation of the lyrics into English: 

Cara al sol con la camisa nueva
que tú bordaste en rojo ayer,
me hallará la muerte si me lleva
y no te vuelvo a ver.

Formaré junto a mis compañeros
que hacen guardia sobre los luceros,
impasible el ademán,
y están presentes en nuestro afán.

Si te dicen que caí,
me fui al puesto que tengo allí.

Volverán banderas victoriosas
al paso alegre de la paz
y traerán prendidas cinco rosas:
las flechas de mi haz.

Volverá a reír la primavera,
que por cielo, tierra y mar se espera.

Arriba escuadras a vencer
que en España empieza a amanecer.



"Cara al Sol," by Carlos Sáenz de Tejada

Facing the sun in the new shirt
that you embroidered in red yesterday, 
that’s how death will find me if it should take me 
and I never see you again. 

I will form together with my comrades
who stand guard over the stars, 
with a hard countenance.  
They are present in our effort. 

If you should hear that I fell, 
know that I went to my post up there. 

Victorious flags will return
marching to the joyous rhythm of peace; 
attached to them will be five roses: 
the arrows of my quiver.

Springtime will laugh again; 
In the air, in the land, and in the sea we await it. 

Arise, squadrons, to victory, 
for in Spain a new day begins to dawn! 

Special thanks to DeroVolk for the music video and to rumbos.net for the Spanish lyrics. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

How to Boost Your Productivity: Emulate Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera

Do you own your own business? 

Cosmo Spacely, Owners of Spacely Sprockets, Inc. on The Jetsons
Or do you work for someone else?

George Jetson, employee of Spacely Sprockets, Inc.  
Whether you work for yourself or are employed by someone else, you probably are constantly striving to boost your productivity. If you are a business owner, increased productivity means increased profits. If you are an employee, increased productivity means greater standing within the company, or, failing that, greater competitiveness in the job market.

If you would like to improve your productivity, you could do a lot worse than to emulate two legends of the animation industry: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. 

Joe, Bill, and their main stars. From left to right: Yogi Bear, Joe Barbera, Scooby-Doo, Fred Flintstone, Bamm-Bamm Rubble, Pebbles Flintstone, Bill Hanna, George Jetson, and Huckleberry Hound 
As you may recall from this blog post, Hanna and Barbera started their own animation company after losing their jobs at MGM. The animation company they created — Hanna-Barbera Productions — is renowned for making television cartoons financially viable. They did so by adopting the limited animation method, which allowed them to produce the steady, ceaseless stream of cartoons that the demands of television required. In my estimation, Hanna and Barbera’s success in the field of television animation was due to four major factors: (1) they worked hard, (2) they knew how to manage their workload, (3) they made the most of the means they had at their disposal, and (4) they constantly broadened their horizons. By adopting (or perfecting) these four traits — hard work, managing your workload, making the most of what you have, and broadening your horizons — you too can take your productivity to the next level. 

There is no denying that Hanna, Barbera, and their staff worked themselves extremely hard in order to meet the grueling demands of TV. As Barbera once reflected, “In terms of work, what we are doing is impossible. At MGM, we turned out a total of 48 minutes of cartoon film a year. We now turn out more than that in a week. Recently one of our artists said to me, ‘Joe, do you realize how much work we’re doing here? I said, ‘Don’t tell me. I don’t want to think about it. I’m scared to death!’” Despite feeling overwhelmed at times, Barbera had confidence in his company’s ability to meet the demands the animation industry placed on it. On one occasion, Hanna-Barbera publicity director Sarah Baisley noticed Barbera looking very tired. Someone had just asked him for a favor, and he had promised to follow through. Baisley asked Barbera if he ever got tired of people asking him to do things for them. Barbera replied, “It’s okay. They’re only asking me because I can.” 


Hard work is crucial to success. Working like crazy in and of itself, though, won’t get you anywhere if there is no method to your madness. Hanna and Barbera were very lucky to have very different but complementary personality traits. Just as importantly, they recognized this fact and turned it to their advantage. Accordingly, each man ran his own half of the company more or less independently of the other. In 1988, Barbera explained, “We lean toward different areas of the business, so we each get to do what we like. I work on creating the ideas for the projects, and trying to sell those ideas in the various markets. Bill oversees the actual production in studios all over the world, which I would hate doing.” Evidently, a sense of humor also helped them cope with their workload. Musing on the division of labor between himself and his business partner, Barbera once noted, “When Bill’s out of town, I turn the light out behind his name on the studio sign, but he does the same thing to me when I’m gone so we stay even. I have to answer a question that has been asked a lot lately. How can two people work together for 50 years and not fight? We did fight the very first week, and we haven’t spoken since.” 


Beyond working hard and dividing their labor, Hanna and Barbera made the most of the means that were at their disposal. For example, they greatly valued their employees and consistently strove to make sure they were happy. One day, they made the mistake of installing time clocks at the studio. Jean Ann Wright, a former assistant animator at Hanna-Barbera, recalls that many animators were deeply offended. The next day, Hanna restored their goodwill with this humorous memo: “Joe and I do not know how it happened, but over the weekend some sneaky guy climbed over the fence and installed a bunch of time clocks in our studio. We want you to know that we have ordered them taken out, which will be pretty darn quick because we were pretty emphatic about it.”


Just as importantly, Bill and Joe made the most of limited animation. I think I made the drawbacks of limited animation pretty clear in my previous blog post on Hanna-Barbera. Suffice it to say here that limited animation is no match for the sheer beauty of the full animation that characterizes the movie theater cartoons of what is quite justifiably known as the Golden Age of Animation. Hanna and Barbera were the first to recognize this fact; limited animation was not a stylistic choice but rather a necessity of the tighter budgets and faster timetables of television. Hanna and Barbera knew that if their television cartoons were to prove successful, they could not rely heavily on the animation to seduce audiences. They needed something more. They needed rich voices and sophisticated humor. 




Accordingly, Bill and Joe recruited talented character actors such as Daws Butler and Don Messick to give distinctive, memorable voices to their characters. The talent of Daws Butler is best captured by the following anecdote, which is recounted in Daws Butler: Characters Actor, a biography of Butler by radio historian Ben Ohmert and voice actor Joe Bevilacqua. When Butler was auditioning for a role in Ruff and Reddy, Hanna-Barbera’s very first made-for-TV series, Barbera told him that he wanted Reddy the dog to have a Southern voice. In response, Butler spent 30 minutes mimicking the myriad dialects that existed in the South: “Well, North Carolina would sound like that and South Carolina would be a little slower, like that, and the Cracker, oh the Cracker voice down in Florida, the Everglades, and then if we go over into Atlanta...” Butler’s versatility earned him the role of Reddy — and, later on, the role of such legendary characters as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, or Mr. Jinks. 

In addition to excellent voice actors like Butler and Messick, two experienced writers  Mike Maltese and Warren Foster   helped Hanna-Barbera turn out high-quality cartoons even while working within the constraints of limited animation. During their many years writing for the Warner Bros. animation division, which was famous for producing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies movie theater cartoons, these two men proved themselves to be comedic geniuses. At Hanna-Barbera, Maltese and Foster contributed countless imaginative lines to TV cartoons. For instance, in one cartoon, Snagglepuss the pink mountain lion challenges a pirate to a game of cards: “How’s about a little game of poker? Damp Jacks wild. Gin rummy? Chemin de fer? Whist? Old Maid? Young Maid? Tiddlywinks? Potsy, maybe? (Whips out tennis racket). Tennis anyone? Or isn’t tennis your racket? Ya get it? Ya get it?” In another cartoon, Snagglepuss finds himself out west: “Ah! The west at last. With its spaces. Wide open, even. Its weeds that tumble. Its get-along-little-doggie. How picturesque. How calendar-artie!” When he accidentally shoots an outlaw, he tells a cheering crowd, “’Twas a mere nothin’. A paltry piddlin’ pittance of pistol practice, even.”




As you can see, puns and alliteration such as these played a major role in making Hanna-Barbera cartoons must-watch TV — and not only for kids. The adventures of Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw were enthusiastically followed at many coffee houses. One official questionnaire given to Tucson, Arizona, police officers, included the question, “Do you watch Huckleberry Hound on television?” Huckleberry Hound was also very popular with college students. In 1960, The Huckleberry Hound Show was one of the top four most popular shows among Yale students. Even rocket scientists loved the blue hound. A team of scientists at the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico asked their local TV station to air Huckleberry Hound at a later time of day because they were too busy working on missile projects during The Huckleberry Hound Show’s air time. Perhaps most surprisingly, an island in the Antarctic was named after Huckleberry Hound

The somewhat surprising popularity of Hanna-Barbera cartoons among adults led Hanna and Barbera to broaden their horizons. Beginning in 1960, Hanna-Barbera produced not only cartoons aimed at kids but also cartoon shows specifically targeted at adult audiences such as The Flintstones...






The Jetsons... 



and Jonny Quest. 


So, there you have it, folks. If you want to boost your productivity, follow the example of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera: work hard, manage your workload, make the most of the means you have at your disposal, and broaden your horizons. Who knows? Your next business idea may just become the biggest sensation since Huckleberry Hound.   

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Testament of José Antonio Primo de Rivera


As promised, here is my translation of the testament of José Antonio Primo de Rivera. 

Before we get to the testament itself, however, a bit of context would be helpful. In March 1936, José Antonio was arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms. In Spain: A Unique History, historian Stanley G. Payne — who, for what it’s worth, is not an admirer of José Antonio — describes this as “an arrest of dubious legality.” He would remain in prison — facing trial after trial for what Payne calls “a series of (sometimes artificial) charges” — until his execution on November 20, 1936. By that time, the Spanish Civil War had been raging for four months. 

José Antonio’s execution came on the heels of, and as a result of, his trial for the charge of “conspiracy and military rebellion.” Certainly, there was a military conspiracy and, eventually (in July 1936), a rebellion — the failure of this rebellion to immediately topple the Popular Front government of the Spanish Republic marked the official beginning of the Spanish Civil War (the Popular Front was an alliance of left-wing political parties that came to power in February 1936, in the wake of an election rife with voter fraud). Like many of the earlier charges against José Antonio, the charge with involvement in the conspiracy and rebellion was legally dubious. As Falange Española Digital, a most fascinating blog that I recently discovered, points out, “Given that José Antonio had been in prison for months before the rebellion took place, it is hard to see how he could have taken part in it.” 

Not only did José Antonio face sham charges, he also faced a kangaroo court. The jury was deliberately stacked with supporters of the Popular Front. 

Remarkably, despite these adverse conditions, José Antonio almost managed to persuade the jury to acquit him! 

The jury deliberated for four hours before handing down a “guilty” verdict. According to José Antonio biographer Felipe Ximénez de Sandoval, the jurors’ deliberations ended in a tie vote. The stalemate was broken in a highly irregular manner: “One of the jurors — a socialist with the surname Domenech who worked for the hardware store Panadés y Chorro, in Alicante — imposed, pistol in hand, the death sentence, amid an unspeakable scandal.” Thus did the threat of violence condemn José Antonio Primo de Rivera to death.           

While it may seem surprising that José Antonio was almost able to persuade the rigged jury to acquit him, it’s not so surprising if we remember that José Antonio’s ideology was a synthesis of right-wing and left-wing thought. Incidentally, this is why I admire Falangism: it combined the best, and eschewed the worst, of the left and the right. Adapted to the twenty-first century, it could do so again. But I digress. To better understand the core principle of Falangism (and why José Antonio managed to make a positive impression on a very hostile audience), it helps to look at José Antonio’s analysis of the Spanish Left and the Spanish Right, from his open letter to “a Spanish soldier,” which he wrote in November 1934 — that is, just after a failed attempt at violent Communist revolution in Spain: 

“The Left is more numerous [than the Right] (don’t forget that the Left includes almost the entirety of the immense Spanish proletariat); more impetuous; more politically astute… but it is anti-national. If we ignore artificial partisan divides, we see that the Left is comprised of two main factions: 

  1. A bourgeoisie, predominantly intellectual. Having been educated abroad and strongly influenced by international institutions, members of this part of the Left are incapable of feeling Spain in the depths of their hearts. Thus, everything which tends to break up national unity has been uncritically accepted by the left-wing media. 
  2. A proletarian mass completely won over to Marxism. Socialist politics, conducted in an extremely persistent and able manner, have almost managed to rake out patriotic emotions from this mass. The Marxist multitudes carry nothing in their spirit except for a baleful conception of life as class struggle. That which is not proletarian does not interest them; as a result, they cannot feel solidarity with any conception of the nation that embraces anything beyond that which is strictly proletarian. Marxism, if it triumphs, will eradicate even the leftist bourgeoisie with which it is currently allied. In this the Russian experience is very instructive. 

And the Right? The Right invokes great things: the fatherland, tradition, authority… but they, too, are not truly national. If they were — that is, if they did not hide a class-based interest behind noble words, they would not be entrenched in defense of economically unjust positions. Spain is, for the time being, a rather poor country. In order for the life of the average Spaniard to reach a level of human decency, the more privileged among us must make sacrifices. If the Right (which all of the privileged classes support) had a true sense of national solidarity, they would by now be sharing, through the sacrifice of their material advantages, in the harsh life of the common people. Only then would the Right would have the moral authority to hold itself up as the defender of the great spiritual values. But as long as the Right defends its class interests tooth and nail, its patriotism will sound like empty words, and right-wingers will continue to prove themselves to be as materialistic as the representatives of Marxism.”        

Given José Antonio’s clear concern for the well-being of the common people and his biting condemnation of the reactionary Right, it’s not so hard to imagine Marxist revolutionaries being swayed by José Antonio’s testimony from deep hostility to him to a measure of sympathy for him. As the filmmaker José Luis Sáenz de Heredia wrote during a research project for a planned movie about José Antonio, 

“The jury, at ten-thirty in the night, has received a questionnaire consisting of twenty-six questions, each of which require only a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. The jury consists of members of the political parties and labor unions of the Popular Front. Thus, they are logically predisposed to render a ‘guilty’ verdict. Given the jurors’ hostile predisposition towards the defendant, it also seems logical that their answers to the twenty-six questions would be a mere formality. Nonetheless, that is not what happens. The hostile jurors have just listened to a man who is not that whom they hate. They (or at least some of them) thought another man, whom they were sure they knew all too well, was on trial. There are no legitimate grounds to hate the man who has just spoken. He is not an idle and lazy aristocrat. Nor is he a pimp, a gunman, or a fascist. And though not all of the jurors, of course, are able to express this in words, there is in him an intangible element of human greatness that transcends the boundaries of logic, goes beyond purity, and touches — one knows not how — one’s heart.”        

Without further ado, then, let us turn to the testament of José Antonio: 

“Testament written and granted by José Antonio Primo de Rivera y Sáenz de Heredia, 
thirty-three years of age, single, attorney, native and resident of Madrid, son of Miguel and Casilda (may they rest in peace), in the Provincial Prison of Alicante, on the eighteenth of November of the year nineteen hundred and thirty-six. 

Sentenced to death yesterday, I ask God that if he does not see fit to free me from that fate, that he help me maintain until the end the decorous tranquility with which I foresee that hour and that, when he judges my soul, that he apply not the measure of what I deserve, but rather that of his infinite mercy. 

On the one hand, I worry that my desire to leave at this juncture an accounting of some of my deeds may be a manifestation of vanity and excessive attachment to the things of this world. On the other hand, since I have galvanized the faith of many of my comrades to a degree far greater than my own worth (which I know all too well, to the point that I write this phrase with the most straightforward and contrite sincerity), and since I have moved so many of them to take on enormous risks and responsibilities, to leave them behind without any kind of explanation would seem to me to be inconsiderate ingratitude. 

It is not necessary that I repeat now what I said and wrote many times about what the founders of the Spanish Falange intended it to be. It amazes me that, even after three years, the vast majority of our compatriots continue to judge us without having begun to even remotely understand us and even without having sought or accepted the slightest bit of information. Should the Falange consolidate itself into something durable, I hope all will be cognizant of the hurt we feel at the fact that so much blood has been shed because, between the fury of one side and the antipathy of the other, no one cared to pay us serene attention. May that split blood forgive me the part I have had in provoking it, and may the comrades that preceded me in making the ultimate sacrifice receive me as the latest of their own. 

Yesterday, for the last time, I explained to the Court that was judging me what the Falange is. As on so many occasions, I reviewed and adduced the old texts of our familiar doctrine. Once again, I observed that a great many faces, at first hostile, grew illuminated, first with surprise and then with sympathy. In the expressions on these faces I seemed to read this sentence: “Had we known what this was, we wouldn’t be here!” And indeed, we wouldn’t have been there, nor would I have been before a People’s Court, nor would others be killing themselves across the fields of Spain as I write this. Nonetheless, it was too late to avoid all of this, and I limited myself to reciprocating the loyalty and the valor of my esteemed comrades, winning for them the respectful attention of their enemies. 

That was my aim — not to win for myself with tinsel gallantry the posthumous reputation of a hero. I did not claim to be responsible for everything, nor did I resort to any other variant of the romantic stereotype. I defended myself with the best resources of my profession of attorney, which I love so much and which I cultivated with such assiduity. Perchance there will no shortage of posthumous commentators who will fault me for not having preferred the art of the bluff. To each his own. As for myself, aside from the fact that I am not a good actor, it would have been monstrous and cowardly to hand over without a defense a life that could still have been useful and that God did not give me the right to burn in a holocaust of vanity like a display of fireworks. I also aimed to avoid descending to the level of reproachable deceit or to compromise anybody with my defense, as well as to cooperate with the defense of my siblings Margot* and Miguel, who were on trial with me and were threatened with very grave sentences. I thought it advantageous to not only maintain certain silences in the course of my defense, but also to make certain accusations, accusations grounded in the suspicion that the authorities had deliberately isolated me in the middle of a region that to this end had remained submissive. I must declare here that I have not the slightest proof for this suspicion. Though, exasperated by my solitude and desperately seeking explanations for it, I sincerely nourished this suspicion in my spirit, now, just before my death, I cannot and should not maintain it. 
  
Another matter remains for me to clarify. The absolute isolation from all communication in which I have lived since shortly after the beginning of the war was broken solely by an American journalist [Jay Allen], who, with the permission of the authorities, asked me to make a few statements in early October. Until, five or six days ago, I saw the brief filed against me, I have not had knowledge of the statements that were attributed to me, because neither the newspapers that contained them nor any other newspapers were available to me. Reading these statements now, I declare that among the various paragraphs presented as mine, some of which interpret my thought more faithfully than others, there is one that I completely reject: the one that badmouths my comrades of the Falange for cooperating in the rebel movement alongside “foreign mercenaries.” I have never said anything remotely like that, and yesterday I declared as much outright before the Court, although declaring this did not help my case. I cannot defame military forces that have rendered Spain heroic services in Africa. I cannot from here reproach comrades whom I do not know whether they are well- or poorly-led, but who surely try to interpret in good faith my longtime axioms and doctrines. God grant that their arduous commitment is never taken advantage of for any task other than that of building the great Spain of which the Falange dreams. 

I wish mine would be the last Spanish blood spilt in civil discords. I wish I could find the Spanish people — so rich in good, endearing qualities, Fatherland, Bread, and Justice — already at peace.

I think I have nothing left to say about my public life. As to my impending death, I await it without swagger — for it is never a happy thing to die at my age — but also without protest. May the Lord our God accept in it what it has of sacrifice to partially compensate for the egotism and vanity I have displayed in much of my life. I forgive with all my soul whomever may have hurt or offended me, without exception, and I pray that all those to whom I owe reparation for any offense, large or small, will forgive me."      

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*Margarita Larios Fernández de Villavicencio, the wife of José Antonio’s brother Miguel, and therefore José Antonio’s sister-in-law.