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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

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

Page 41

Pragmatism Unveiled 
tougher state repression, increased management intransigence in the workplace,
and landed 
more militants in jail.5 Government subjugation raised the direct costs of
organizing revo- 
lutionary actions-jailed members and the flight of the disillusioned constituency-without
increasing the possible returns, or the chance that the revolutionary "double
games" might 
successfully influence the political process in favor of the CNT. In fact,
the chance that 
revolutionary gymnastics would succeed tended to diminish as the "Republic
of Order" 
tightened its control over labor disturbances. The severity with which the
guardias de asalto 
suffocated the Casas Viejas insurgence in December 1933 made it clear to
cenetistas that 
the government was no longer willing to play double games. By early 1934,
the undeniable 
failure of these episodes of playing at revolution spelled the end of CNT
revolutionary gym- 
nastics. The total failure of the ochos demonstrated the strategic error
of thinking that labor 
agitation truly reflected a predisposition for revolution. Worse yet, the
syndicate's ideological 
orientation as well as its strength and efficacy began to be seriously questioned
by large num- 
bers of its own membership. Many cenetistas left the organization altogether.
The Catalan 
regional, for example, fell from just over 300,000 members in 1931 to about
100,000 in 
early 1934.19 
The most significant consequence of the ochos, then, was a dawning realization
by its 
leadership that the CNT membership was largely uninterested in joining them
for the ex- 
ercise of revolutionary gymnastics. Radicals had confused the antiestablishment
of large numbers of workers with revolutionary resolve. In practice, it represented
the dif- 
ference between repudiation and contestation of the establishment. Workers
were happy 
to support the first, but afraid to commit to the second. Years of melding
both concepts 
together under the discursive heading of the "revolution" in the
CNT discourse made the 
confusion inevitable. As it turned out, workers were predominantly antiestablishment,
not necessarily revolutionary. Practical everyday concerns such as basic
living and working 
conditions continued to be of dominant importance to the worker. This depressing
sank a number of important leaders into an existential crisis of considerable
From Abad de Santillan to Buenaventura Durruti, anarchist revolutionaries
were forced to 
reconsider their fundamental purpose. Serious doubts arose as to the revolutionary
class identity of the membership. Durruti and Ascaso went so far as to recognize
that Spanish 
labor was not only unprepared to bring about the revolution, it was not even
aware of the 
revolutionary message promulgated by the anarchists.60 
Radicals who had criticized and later expelled moderates a couple of years
earlier for 
trying to reign in the "revolutionary aspirations of the workers"
were themselves demand- 
ing that "irrational revolutionary games" cease. The CNT came full
circle and returned to 
a period of strengthening its organizational structure. As Solidaridad Obrera
reflected in its 
April 15, 1934, editorial, a number of militants and leaders began to doubt
the adequacy 
of the policies and plan of action used by the CNT on the eve of the last
ocho revolt. Faced 
with dwindling membership numbers and threatened by the looming prospect
of an orga- 
4 1 

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