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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)

Winston, Colin M., 1955-
Carlist worker groups in Catalonia, 1900-1923,   pp. [1]-14


Page 11

Carlist Worker Groups in Catalonia, 1900-1923 
war and armed struggle, quickly developed in Libre ranks and became deeply
rooted in the 
union's collective psyche. For some leaders it was bound up with the afterlife
and apocalyptic 
Christian theology; less sophisticated militants expressed themselves in
terms of macho val- 
ues and sexual virility. One Libre broadsheet, for example, urged workers
to respond to ha- 
rassment from CNT "henchmen" by "shooting them in the forehead
without any hesitation 
or caution" and promised to "destroy 100 lives of the Unico (CNT)
for each Libre member 
who is assassinated by that brand of rascals, thugs, and ruffians."32
The stress on voluntarism 
and the cathartic value of struggle was never mere rhetoric: when it came
to violence, Libre 
unionists practiced what they preached. 
Beyond Carlism 
Early Libre syndicalism remained faithful to its radical Carlist roots. It
cannot be adequately 
described as either a fascist or right radical movement. Rather, it was a
suigeneris form or 
heterodox Carlism, strongly imbued with a sense of worker unity, potentially
revolutionary 
in some of its political and economic positions, but conservative on social
and religious mat- 
ters and bitterly opposed to the left. It remained sufficiently traditionalist
to be vigorously 
defended by the Carlist party during a nationwide bank strike organized by
the union in 
1923, when the rest of the right and Spain's Catholic establishment denounced
the Libres 
as crypto-anarchists.33 
Under the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, however, the Libres broke decisively
with the 
Carlist party and world view. This change came as an improvised response
to altered political 
and social circumstances and was only later theoretically justified. Most
Libre leaders were 
pragmatic, non-intellectual men who grappled in an intuitive fashion with
the challenges of 
industrial conflict and the political crises of the Spanish state. By the
late 1920s the union had 
articulated a position fundamentally foreign to traditionalism. Almost inadvertently,
the con- 
straints that had hampered the modernization of Carlism were overcome, and
Sindicalismo 
Libre emerged as a uniquely Spanish form of indigenous lower-class right
radicalism and 
Fascism. 
It should be stressed that this evolution applied only to the movement's
original radi- 
cal Carlist core; the top leaders and the 10,000 or so traditionalist and
Catholic workers 
that joined it during its first year of existence. The bulk of the Libre
rank-and-file joined for 
the practical benefits of trade union membership rather than out of political
conviction; it 
underwent no such ideological evolution. These workers looked elsewhere for
political ex- 
pression, and quickly abandoned the Libres when, as happened after April
1931, the political 
radicalism of the movement's elite gutted the syndicate's ability to function
effectively as a 
trade union. 
The Libres' close collaboration with the dictatorship brought about two ideological
shifts that irrevocably severed the movement from Carlism: the adoption of
a vigorous, 
11 


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