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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)

Getman-Eraso, Jordi W.
Pragmatism unveiled : the meanings of revolutionary rhetoric in Spanish anarchosyndicalism,   pp. 31-50


Page 39

Pragmatism Unveiled 
factions accused each other of diverging from the "revolutionary"
path and lacking ideologi- 
cal purity. The primary objective of rival factions was to weaken opponents
by accusing them 
of collaborationism and rhetorical contradictions. What better way to do
so than to accuse 
them of adulterating the sacrosanct anarchosyndicalist ideology? Factional
confrontations 
proved especially fierce at regional and national syndicate congresses. Without
an explicit 
ideological framework within which to justify organizational procedure, the
CNT depended 
on congresses to determine policy. To this end, the fulfillment of congress
agreements be- 
came a heavily exploited legitimizing tool.47 When a group or faction could
claim to enforce 
agreements reached at a congress, it achieved the highest degree of authority
attainable 
within the CNT. This had been the case since the syndicate's inception. Every
major struc- 
tural change in the CNT was introduced and passed at regional or national
congresses, from 
the Sindicatos Unicos drawn up at the La Comedia Congress in 1919 to the
restructuring of 
the syndicate into Federaciones Nacionales de Industria at the 1931 Madrid
Congress.48 
Control over organizational congresses became critical to obtaining influence
within 
the CNT. Moderates and radicals alike used agreements reached at congresses
both to le- 
gitimize their actions and to exclude those who opposed them. In the first
months of the 
Republic, moderates controlled more leadership positions, had more delegates
attending 
the Madrid National Congress, and consequently monopolized policy agreements
reached 
at that meeting.49 Radicals, unable to stop moderate proposals from being
passed, stood 
by in frustration, but soon learned their lesson. Infiltrating important
syndicate positions 
from the bottom up, the radicals came to control a larger and larger portion
of the CNT 
hierarchy50 This shift was reflected in their increasing influence and eventual
domination 
of subsequent congresses. After radicals overtook moderates at the helm of
the syndicate, 
they used the same tool of legitimacy-the fulfillment of accords reached
at congresses-to 
justify the organizational policies they implemented.5 In 1931, the moderate
treintistas lost 
their influence within the CNT hierarchy because of their rapprochement with
a Republican 
government which, even though leftist in orientation, had clearly turned
against the CNT's 
interests on the street.52 In turn, radical faistas gained power using a
fagade of repudiation of 
the Republican government and insistence on radical revolutionary action.
Antiestablishment Stance and the Success or Failure of the CNT 
Since its inception, the CNT had enjoyed its greatest periods of success
when the syndicate's 
efforts concentrated on centralizing organizational structure and coordinating
effective la- 
bor actions. Between 1915 and 1919 and again from 1930 to 1932, union membership
numbers soared3 Significant improvements in salary and working conditions
were obtained 
as strength and efficacy in labor negotiations increased. However, this process
drew the 
CNT closer, both physically and metaphorically, to the political and social
establishment. In 
the eyes of certain militant factions, this threatened to undermine the CNT's
antipolitical 
39 


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