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Bunk, Brian D., 1968-; Pack, Sasha D.; Scott, Carl-Gustaf (ed.) / Nation and conflict in modern Spain: essays in honor of Stanley G. Payne
(2008)

Winston, Colin M., 1955-
Carlist worker groups in Catalonia, 1900-1923,   pp. [1]-14


Page 9

Carlist Worker Groups in Catalonia, 1900-1923 
becoming the country's second largest labor federation after the Socialist
UGT. Although 
the Libres were crushed by the Second Republic, their experiment in non-leftist
syndicalism 
was a relative success, especially when compared to the abysmal failure of
Catholic union- 
ism in Spain. The reasons for this success are varied, but some of the most
important stem 
directly from the union's radical Carlist heritage. 
One of the most vital factors contributing to the Libres' early survival
was the union's 
absolute rejection of any Catholic or confessional tag. This reflected both
the radical Carlism's 
disenchantment with the ASP and the failed Catholic syndical heritage of
the Catalan capital 
and the fact that the Libres emerged spontaneously from a segment of Barcelona's
working 
class, rather than being created (as were the Catholic unions) by extraproletarian
elements. 
Ram6n Sales, a practicing Catholic who went to Mass daily, rebutted a suggestion
to create 
a Catholic union at the Libres' founding meeting by arguing that "in
Barcelona one should 
not even mention Catholic unionism because it has failed repeatedly and is
yellow syndical- 
ism.'2 
Early Libre propaganda hurled nearly as much invective at the Catholic unions
as at 
the CNT. The Marques de Comillas was lambasted for sponsoring scab unions
and the ASP 
was dismissed as "the shoeshine boy of the Employers' Federation.3I
Libre militants consid- 
ered themselves a different breed from the sniveling blackleg babies who
hid under the robes 
of priests and bishops: "We want men without atavisms, without traditional
prejudices, not 
educated in the confessional. We want youth with a firm will, virility in
the groin, and with 
audacious thoughts." This contemptuous attitude toward the Church stemmed
in part from 
radical Carlism, specifically the fear that the hierarchy was the servant
of the liberal sociopo- 
litical status quo. One Libre leader, in fact, accused his Catholic critics
of attacking the union 
out of spite that "there exist potent organizations that are not slaves
of the Lliga."31 Not sur- 
prisingly, the Libres' overall relationship with Catalonia's non-Carlist
Catholic elite-after 
a brief honeymoon during which it was hoped that the Libres would save the
city from the 
godless CNT-quickly became antagonistic, Barcelona's Catholics attacking
them as brutal 
white anarchists. 
An equally crucial element in the Libres' success was their adoption early
on of an 
aggressive obrerista rhetoric and conduct. At its most straightforward, the
Libres equated 
obrerismo with proletarian solidarity, expressing the hallowed Catalan tradition
of practical 
trade unionism. Unlike most Catholic unionists, but like the radical Carlists
of La Trinchera, 
the Libres enthusiastically accepted May Day and did not hesitate to defend
the basic pos- 
tulates of modern trade unionism: strikes, boycotts, collective contracts,
and an adversarial 
relationship with the employers. This alone gave them a tremendous advantage
in the highly 
conflictive Barcelona labor scene, and enabled them to lead a host of successful
strikes, espe- 
cially during 1922-1923. 
Obrerismo was also associated with the tradition of Barcelona's radical Carlists,
the cur- 
rent most responsible for the group's creation. These individuals were in
an ideological quan- 
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