University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

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 43

Pragmatism Unveiled 
ernment," ordering that such grievances be "reduced to their minimum
expression."7' It 
further called for the immediate establishment of the Federaciones de Industria
(Federations 
of Industry), precisely the structural changes the radicals had so ardently
opposed five years 
earlier in Madrid. The moderate turn also made itself noticed in the announcement
of the 
CNT's intention to defend the standing government against any "military
pronouncement" 
threatening the stability of the Republic. The dictum finished with a strong
recommenda- 
tion to put aside "individual criteria" in favor of "organizational
discipline," something un- 
heard of in prior congresses and bordering on ideological blasphemy.72 
Though still married to the use of revolutionary rhetoric and willing to
use violent 
tactics and intimidation, CNT syndicates largely turned to moderation, concentrating
al- 
most entirely on labor-related issues and finding solutions to the precarious
economic situ- 
ation. Even though the Republican period coincided with the hardest years
of the Great 
Depression, the economic situation in Spain was not critical enough to convince
workers to 
risk everything, including their lives, to effect profound social change.
In fact, when the op- 
portunity for revolution finally came in July 1936, the CNT hierarchy was
more concerned 
with restoring an advantageous position within the Republican Popular Front
government 
than with organizing any serious revolutionary insurrection.73 
Perhaps the most influential impact of the CNT's use of revolutionary rhetoric
was to 
encourage some of the major players in Spanish politics to opt for extra-legal
tactics, step- 
ping outside the boundaries of democratic political participation. The rightist
Sanjurjada 
in 1932 and the October 1934 events in Asturias and Catalonia stand out as
clear examples 
of this disregard for democratic participation. Clearly, both the military
and leftist politi- 
cal elements involved in organizing these two failed coups considered the
disdain for legal 
avenues of political participation and the use of violence acceptable methods
to attain power. 
However, one wonders what their level of conviction and determination would
have been if 
the CNT had, during the first years of the Second Republic, not pushed so
far the boundar- 
ies of "acceptable" political action. 
Many factors influence each revolutionary situation. While in 1932 and 1933
not 
enough factors came together to convince workers to take to the streets,
in July 1936 those 
factors aligned. Among the most significant were the lack of government power,
a growing 
fear of "Fascism," the relative success (when compared to the three
ochos) of the October 
1934 revolt, the general radicalization of the Spanish political landscape
that followed it, and 
the decision of an increasing number of political groups to forego legal
avenues of political 
participation. Of all of these, perhaps the most crucial was the collapse
of government power 
caused by the military coup dttat. The popular revolution of July 1936 was
much more a 
direct result of the power vacuum left by the coup and the authorities' inability
to stop fac- 
tory occupations and violent ajustes de cuentas (settling of old scores)
than of any structured 
revolutionary strategy. Although the continued exposure to revolutionary
rhetoric contrib- 
uted to workers' willingness to change the social, economic, and cultural
establishment, the 
4 3 


Go up to Top of Page