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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 34

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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