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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)

Bunk, Brian D., 1968-
"A shape note of pugnacity" : conservative youth groups in Spain, 1914-1939,   pp. 15-29 ff.


Page 16

NATION AND CONFLICT IN MODERN SPAIN 
witnessed tremendous political change: in the twenty-five years following
the start of the 
First World War, the Spanish political system went from constitutional monarchy
to mili- 
tary dictatorship to democratic republic, followed by civil war and the establishment
of an 
authoritarian regime under Francisco Franco. The level of political change
helped create or 
exacerbate the political factionalism within the country as Spain became
a veritable incuba- 
tor of ideologies ranging from reactionary monarchism to revolutionary anarchism.
In this 
atmosphere of regime change and intense competition for adherents, the mobilization
of 
young people became a vital tool in building a powerful movement. Conservative
parties 
looked to European models, especially in Italy and Germany, for ways of mobilizing
young 
people and directing them away from membership in the revolutionary organizations
of 
the political left. The rightist groups of all political ideologies therefore,
placed an increased 
emphasis on the recruitment of young people and the numbers of organizations
and youth 
groups rose steadily throughout the period. The results of this unprecedented
mobilization 
proved overwhelmingly negative to the political system and ultimately contributed
to the 
outbreak of civil war in 1936.2 
Between 1914 and 1939, the young conservatives organized by the rightist
parties 
played a subversive and destructive role in the political process. The youth
groups of the 
political right consistently undermined, directly or indirectly, not just
unfriendly administra- 
tions, but the very nature of the political system itself. Although the specific
ideologies of the 
groups varied and changed over time, the actions of conservative youth remained
consistent- 
ly opposed to the political system, be it a constitutional monarchy or democratic
republic. 
The organizations served to exacerbate political instability in three ways.
First, the groups 
produced cadres of young people alienated from the political process who
quickly learned 
to go outside the constitutional process to initiate change. This effect
was most pronounced 
within the leadership of the earliest groups who went on to play important
roles in the major 
political organizations of the Republic. In addition, the development of
a national Catholic 
youth group during the 1920s provided organizational experience and served,
despite the 
group's determined efforts, to politicize young people. Second, the youth
groups employed 
modern techniques of mass mobilization and propaganda to insure widespread
distribution 
of their subversive messages. During the Republican period this included
the adoption of 
overtly fascist imagery even by groups who resisted the political tenets
of Fascism. Finally, 
all of the youth groups employed violent rhetoric and sometimes direct violent
action that 
helped to create and perpetuate a culture of conflict. The rhetorical and
physical violence 
reinforced the belief that dramatic political change could only be achieved
outside legal con- 
straints. Only with the advent of civil war and the forced imposition of
political unification 
and military discipline did the negative impact of young conservatives cease.
By injecting a 
"shape note of pugnacity" into political discourse, the conservative
youth groups played a 
key role in creating and perpetuating the political turmoil that engulfed
Spain in the period 
1914-39.3 
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