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
NATION AND CONFLICT IN MODERN SPAIN conflicts in both the workplace and the worker neighborhood. In addition, obtaining a position of influence within the CNT offered the worker the possibility of upward mobil- ity that had been continually denied him by "bourgeois" society. The CNT organizational framework provided an alternative social structure within which enterprising workers could climb to higher levels, gaining respect and authority. However, placing a strong emphasis on the pragmatic motivations for enrolling in the CNT raises the question of why the rank-and-file did not respond negatively to the evident use of revolutionary rhetoric within the CNT, but in large part accepted it and even em- braced it as representative of its experience and perceived place in society. At the same time, however, this acceptance did not translate into support for the various revolutionary insur- rections organized and led by the syndicate's radical anarchist elements in 1932 and 1933. The tres ochos were overwhelming failures largely because they received very little support from cenetista workers. Why would CNT members who accepted and used revolutionary rhetoric not join the revolutionary act when it presented itself?. The traditionally accepted answer is that the much smaller militant base manipulated the syndicate's democratic deci- sion-making process to impose their ideological prerogatives.23 The revolutionary discourse of militants, especially radical anarchists, aimed to push the CNT down the road to revolu- tion without recognizing that its much more pragmatic constituency was more concerned with bread-and-butter issues. Although partially correct, this explanation fails to consider the need of militant elites to cultivate the support of the rank-and-file to preserve their dominance within the organizational hierarchy.24 Even if one accepts the assertion that the CNT was largely controlled from the top down, the perceived influence of the rank-and-file membership's mindset on decisions made by the organizational hierarchy and the language militants used to communicate with the lower echelons of the CNT cannot be underesti- mated. If the largely ideologically indifferent constituency had not accepted the militants' rhetoric, they might have retracted their support or perhaps even have left the movement. I would argue that the conceptual distance between militants and rank-and-file was not so large. The ideologically indifferent rank-and-file did not reject revolutionary discourse outright. They could identify with the revolutionary language without necessarily believing in or desiring an immediate revolution. In this context, workers understood mentions of the revolution to be more than direct references to the complete destruction of the bourgeois world and the imposition of comunismo libertario. Anarchosyndicalist revolutionary rhetoric combined abstract notions of a utopian tomorrow with references to the concrete changes and benefits instituted by workers' acciin directa (direct action) labor tactics.25 I would further argue that for many workers, the CNT's anti-statism did not so much represent revolutionary conviction as the defense of a separate worker space and society in the barrio beyond the reach of government authorities and outside the influence of bourgeois culture. To these cenetistas, belonging to the syndicate or being sympathetic to the anarchosyndical- ist movement symbolized active (and real) participation in an ongoing experiment in social 34
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