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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)

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


Page 33

Pragmatism Unveiled 
anarcho-collectivism of Kropotkin, the revolutionary syndicalism of George
Sorel, and the 
federalism of Pi i Margall, though the theoretical spectrum spread wide enough
to include 
Stirnean and Nietzschean antisocial individualism and such peripheral groups
as vegetarians 
and nudists.'3 In fact, the Federaciodn Anarquista Iberica (Iberian Anarchist
Federation, or 
FAI), the extra-official ideological branch of the CNT dedicated to the integration
of la espe- 
cifica (the anarchist ideal) into the labor syndicate, was founded in 1927
during a gathering 
of anarcho-nudists on the beaches of Valencia.14 
With so many varying tendencies, the only common thread uniting all of the
CNT's 
ideological factions was a strong rejection of the state.'5 This strong anti-statist
and, by ex- 
tension, antiestablishment principle was the most distinctive identifying
characteristic of the 
CNT. It made the syndicate unique and placed it on a different operational
plane.'6 Scholars 
have traditionally considered the CNT's anti-statist stance and the predominant
use of revo- 
lutionary rhetoric that accompanied it convincing enough proof of the revolutionary
nature 
of the movement. After all, had the membership not favored the revolution
in some form 
or another, would it not have opted for other more reformist-oriented labor
organizations, 
such as the Socialist UGT, especially after the entrance of its political
arm, the PSOE, into 
the government in 1931?'7 Members of the CNT must have ultimately preferred
the radical 
alternatives offered by the CNT's revolutionary platform. 
A new generation of scholars has recently veered away from this previously
dominant 
analytical paradigm to argue instead the importance of practical factors
in explaining the 
popularity and success of the CNT.18 Mercedes Vilanova and Anna Monjo's extensive
oral 
histories have confirmed what for years was claimed by many within the CNT,
that a great 
majority of the union's membership was more concerned with practical bread-and-butter
issues than with the coming of a social revolution.'9 As these recent contributions
have re- 
vealed, workers chose to enroll in the CNT in large part because of the success
of its labor 
tactics and its defense of workers' practical interests. This new interpretational
paradigm dif- 
ferentiates between militants, who typically understood their role in the
CNT in ideological 
terms and included some type of belief in the eventual coming of the revolution,
and the 
rank-and-file, who had little if any knowledge of revolutionary theory and
saw in the CNT 
an effective representative for the attainment of practical improvements
in the workplace.2" 
Other new studies have further expanded our understanding of the role played
by the 
CNT outside of the factory or workplace to include the worker barrios (neighborhoods),
where it is argued the union's militants helped create a separate worker's
"public sphere" and 
fulfilled the role of service providers for a worker society that had largely
been marginalized 
by the dominant social and political groups and the state.2' The CNT represented
an alter- 
native social and cultural framework that rationalized the structures of
everyday life for the 
underprivileged in the socioeconomic order. Within the syndicate, the worker
found protec- 
tion from employer, church, and state repression. The CNT offered workers
a distinct set 
of social norms and cultural mores and a rapid and effective executive element
that resolved 
3 3 


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