Spanish Nationalist Youth Groups: The Falange

Figure 1.--Here Spanish Falangist youth are parading at the onset of the Civil War. Notice that many of the boys have guns. This press pohoto was captioned, "Spanish Civil War: Youth organization of the insurgent forces. Members of the Falanga Espanola, the youth organization of the insurgent forces, marching through Pampaluna on August 23. Children are seen in the procession."

The 20th Century has seen the rise of two basic types of boys uniformed youth groups. One group of organizations had many different focuses, but an international orientation. The best example is of course the Boy Scouts. Another is the Boys Brigade. These groups have units in many different countries. Another group of organizations rejected internationalism and instead promoted nationist sentiments. Some like the Hitler Youth and Italian Fascist groups were strongly supported by Governments and competing youth groups, like the Scouts were outlawed. In Spain Generalisimo Francisco Franco after defeating Republican, antil clearical forces, set up a totalitarian state and created the Falange political party to goven the state. The Falange created its own uniformed youth group.

Historical Background

World War I

Spain was spared the horrors of World War I (1914-18) and actually prospered as a neutral supplying the French. Workers demanded better pay and working conditions. After the War a debilitating colonial war in Morocco caused great resentment among the workers being drafted. Army officers fearing the rising influence of the workers began organizing juntas. The Spanish Catholic Church was extremely conservative and rich. They completely controlled education. The Church strongly supported the existing order, especially the semi-feudal aristocratic landowners who owned vast estates. In addition there were strong separatist groups, especially in Catalan and the Basque country and the miliart had to intervene. Finally General Miguel Primo de Rivera seized power and was supported by King Alfonso XIII. Rivera ebnded the war in Morocco, but oposed the social reforms demanded by workers and peasants. Rivera set up a Fascist party, the Union Patriotica.

The Republic

Rivera resigned in 1930. Republican activists became increasingly active, forcing elections in 1931 which they swept. King Alfonso fled Spain and a Republic was proclaimed. The King was found guilty of treason, his property confiscated, and he was forbidden to return to Spain. The Republic dissolved the Jesuits, confiscated Church property, secularized education, and initiated land reform. In addition, regional autonomy was granted catalonia. Factiojs feveloped in Republican supporters. Mean while rg Church, aristicracy, monarchists, ring-wing Fascist groups, and more importantly the Army was apauled. A revolt in Catalonoa was brutally supressed. Fascist parties scored some election victories in 1936 and povoked street disorders and assassinations after a Popular Front was formed by the Socialists, Communists, and labor unions.

The Civil War

Finally the military acted. A revolt was led by General Francisco Franco, the commander of the powerful Spanish units in Morocco. Fighting soon spread to Spain itself and one of Europe's most brutal Civil Wars had begun. Franco's forces moved rapidly on Madrid and the insurgents declared him Chief of State. His forces were stopped at the gates of the city and the War turned into a gruling 3-year struggle. Hitler and Musolini rushed military aid and the War proved to be a proving ground for the new Luftwafe. The terror bombing small Basque town of Guernica proved to be a inkling of what was to come. Stalin sent aid, but the Western democracies did nothing to aid the Republic. America even had a Neutrality Act to prevent just such involvements. As a result, the Republic became increasingly dominated by the Communists. The last Republican resistance collapsed in 1939. Franco anf his allies took swift revenge on the supporters of the Republic. Unlike Germany and Russia, an extensive concentration camp system was not set up. Repulican supporters were often just summarily shot.

World War II

England, France, and the United States recognized Franco's Goverment in 1939. Subsequently, Franco joined Germany, Italy, and Japan in an anti-Comintern Pact. When World War II was launched by the Germans, Spain declared neutrality. After the fall of France in 1940, Franco declared non-beligerant status. Franco was, however, one of the few European leaders at the time to defy Hitler. Franco refused to allow German forces to seize Gibralter. Hitler was furious, understandably as it was German aid that made Franco's victory possible. German inteligence chief Admiral Canaris who was apauled at what Hitler was doing in Poland was sent to Franco to arrange for passage of German troops. Canaris was on close terms with Franco, having worked with him during the Civil War and actually convinced him to refuse Hitler. (Explaining that the Wheremacht was preparing and attack on Russia and could not be diverted by an attack on Spain.) Hitler took the unpresidented step of traveling to Spain to personally persuade Franco to join the War. Franco was unconvinced. Afterwards Hitler was to say it was one of the most painful experiences of hos life, he would prefer to have had a tooth pulled. While Franco did not officially joint Hitler in the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, he did contribute one division of "volunteers"--the Blue Division. Subsequently when the War began to go against the Germans, Franco returned to a neutral policy.

The Falange

The Falange Española was a small Fascist party that was founded in 1933 by Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera which had little popular support. It gained some adhrerents when it merged with the Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista (JONS) in 1934 The new group, the Falange Espanola de las JONS (FE/JONS) became the leading right-wing group in Spain. Falange leaders like Ramiro Ledesma Ramos and José Antonio Primo de Rivera claimed to promote the emancipation of the poor, those which Falangists claimed couldn't understand the love of Spain and pursue spititual interests because they were unable to meet their physical needs. They maintained that only then when the basic needs of workers were met could they understand civic dignity and successfully assume the concepto of a united national destiny. Actual policies, however, were to suuport the landed and propertied interestrs and suppress unions and land reform. Adhering to Fascism, the Falange, through its militia, joined the Nationalist forces of Generalisimo Francisco Franco. Franco turned it into the ruling party in 1937. The Jesuits were allowed to reorganize, land reform cancelled, unions outlawed, and King Alfonso's civil rights returned. Franco was proclaimed El Caudillo with absolute power. England, France, and the United States recognized Franco's Goverment in 1939.

Youth Movements

We notice severla youth movements active in Soain during the 1920s and 30s, bnut have little information about them. There were the Boy Scouts, but we have little information on their activities during the 1920s and 30s. Many youth wee drawn to the more haevily poluticized groups. These include: the Federacion Iberica de Juventudes Libertarias (FIJL-Anarcjist Youth), the Juvnetud de Accion Popular (JAP-Catholic Action Youth Movement), and the Juventudes Socialistas Unifacadas (JSU-United Socialist Youth Movement). The JSU was the Socialist youth society established in 1936 by the fusion of the communist and socialist youth movements.

Falange Youth Movement

I do not yet have any information on the Falange Youth groups. I am unsure how strong the Scout movement was in Spain and what policies the Falange adopted toward the Scouts. I do not have as yet any infornation on the uniforms worn by Flange youth. We have noted a few photographs. We have also noted photographs of contacts between the Falange Youth grouops and the Hitler Youth, but are not sure how extensive those interactions were. The Falange Youth groups were in the news recently because of the controversy surrounding International Olympic Chairman Samaranch who was active in the organization. Unfortunately I have been unable to find more information about the Falange Youth. Hopefully HBU readers will know more. As the Falange was founded in 1933 there could not have been much of an organization before the Civil War. After the Falange was made the ruling party in 1937, state resources would have been available. but we do not yet know to what extent a youth program was developed.

Modern Nationalist Groups

There are nationalist youth movements in Spain today. We do not know of any national nationalist group, but there are a variety of natioanlist separtist groups. The most important of these groups assocaited with the Basque independence movement. Their youth movement is called Jarrai. This is an umbrella group of a substantial number of youth organisations ranging from radical nationalists to Trotskyist and Stalinists. At important holidays these organisation set up stalls, bars, stages and literature. Some wear football-type shirts with logos to spell out their political leanings. These groups appear to be more political groups for older teenagers and young adults than organizations for boys, but we have little information. Thdey seem to be united under the slogan of "Independence and Socialism". Most support Herri Batasuna and the armed struggle waged by ETA. Spanish authorities in 2001 acted against one of these organizations--HAIKA. This youth organization of the the Basque national liberation movement. The Spanish Government charges that the group is a terror organization. Besides the Basque Country, there are separatist sentiments in other areas of Spain--especilly Catalonia. There probably are associated youth groups, bit we have few details.


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 9:48 AM 12/25/2014