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
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 sentiment 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, but not necessarily revolutionary. Practical everyday concerns such as basic living and working conditions continued to be of dominant importance to the worker. This depressing insight sank a number of important leaders into an existential crisis of considerable proportions. From Abad de Santillan to Buenaventura Durruti, anarchist revolutionaries were forced to reconsider their fundamental purpose. Serious doubts arose as to the revolutionary working- 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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