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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 32

temporarily.8 On the other hand, the CNT's refusal to participate in the
electoral process 
placed the syndicate conceptually outside the political establishment, and
as such, came to be 
seen as a genuinely revolutionary movement.9 No other labor organization
or political group 
incorporated revolutionary rhetoric in its discourse to this degree. A similar
fascination with 
the CNT's revolutionary character has dominated scholarly analysis of anarchosyndicalism.
In nearly all studies of the movement, the focal point of inquiry has been
the movement's 
revolutionary character and the working-class consciousness of which it was
thought to be 
the manifestation.'0 These studies have analyzed the Spanish anarchosyndicalist
almost exclusively in terms of its ideological rhetoric. Thus, from the beginning,
there was 
virtual unanimity among observers that anarchosyndicalism had to be interpreted
in the 
context of its ideological goals. 
In contrast to the prevalent approaches to anarchosyndicalism, whose starting
point is 
some conception of the revolutionary temperament of the movement, I would
argue that 
the ideologies that informed the anarchosyndicalist movement cannot be discussed
in ab- 
straction from their practical deployment. The general tendency has been
to accept the literal 
meaning of revolutionary language ipso facto. All too often, revolutionary
talk has been in- 
terpreted as revolutionary intentions, planning, and action. However, the
meaning of anar- 
chosyndicalist revolutionary language cannot simply be inferred from quotation
taken out of 
context." A close look at the CNT organizational press, local meeting
notes, and syndicate 
congress notes reveals a significant and complex pragmatic context for the
use of revolution- 
ary rhetoric, one that communicated messages that reached beyond the simply
Without dismissing ideological inspiration, I argue in favor of placing more
emphasis on the 
practical influences and motivations for the use of revolutionary rhetoric
in CNT circles. My 
intention is not to reject the presence and strong influence of revolutionary
factions within 
the anarchosyndicalist movement; these existed without question. My objective
is to delve 
into the other practical uses of the revolutionary rhetoric that identified
the movement. By 
freeing the interpretation of revolutionary language from a priori ideological
inferences, it 
becomes possible to establish a more precise relationship between ideological
rhetoric, its 
intended meaning(s), and the CNT's policies and actions during the Second
Ideological Origins and Practical Finalities 
The CNT was founded in 1910 to give concrete form to an amalgamation of ideological
projects, among which we can include anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism
that came to 
be identified as anarchosyndicalism. Defining this ideological construct,
however, is a com- 
plex task. The malleable and flexible nature of the CNT, composed of numerous
and diverse 
ideological factions, lends support to a great variety of interpretations,
making it difficult 
to define appropriately and completely this composite ideology.'2 Ideological
influences in- 
cluded the proto-anarchism of Proudhon, the anarcho-communism of Michail
Bakunin, the 

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