Bunk, Brian D., 1968-; Pack, Sasha D.; Scott, Carl-Gustaf (ed.) / Nation and conflict in modern Spain: essays in honor of Stanley G. Payne
Bunk, Brian D., 1968-
"A shape note of pugnacity" : conservative youth groups in Spain, 1914-1939, pp. 15-29 ff.
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 16
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