The Grand Camouflage: The Communist Conspiracy in the Spanish Civil War

By Burnett Bolloten | Go to book overview

13
The Anarchosyndicalists Enter the Government

A S leader of the Socialist UGT, Largo Caballero's relations with the Anarchosyndicalists in the years before the Civil War had been marked by almost constant enmity. During the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, who had proscribed the CNT, Caballero had served as Councillor of State in the dictator's Cabinet, partly with the object of protecting and strengthening his own organization and partly in the hope of gaining ground from the Anarchosyndicalists.1

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1
See Brenan, The Spanish Labyrinth, pp. 223-4. Before being outlawed the CNT had been increasing in strength very rapidly. "With the aid of its sindicato único and the prestige of its great strikes," writes Brenan (ibid., p. 224), "it had not only swept away all the recent gains of its rival in the Andalusian campo, but it had invaded the Socialist preserve of the centre and north. Here it had seized half the builders' union in Madrid, which was one of the first strongholds of the UGT, had drawn off many of the railwaymen and planted itself firmly in the Asturias, in the port of Gijón and in the great iron foundries of Sama and La Fclguera.

"To Caballero, who had the whole organization of the UGT in his hands, this was a serious matter: the fear of losing ground to the CNT was almost an obsession with him. As a Marxist he felt the supreme importance of the unification of the proletariat. He sensed therefore in the Dictatorship a good opportunity for making some progress in this direction. Possibly the UGT would be able to absorb the CNT altogether.

"This hope was not fulfilled. By using the comités paritarios (arbitration boards in industrial disputes) of the Dictatorship as a starting point, the UGT greatly increased their strength in the country districts, especially in Extremadura, Granada, Aragon and New Castile, but they failed completely in Catalonia and made no progress among the industrial proletariat." It should not be overlooked that at one time the CNT had likewise hoped to monopolize the entire trade union movement. At an Anarchosyndicalist congress held in 1919, a resolution was passed to the effect that a manifesto should be addressed to all the workers of Spain granting them a period of three months in which to enter the CNT, failing which they would be denounced as scabs. -- Quoted by H. Ruediger, Ensayo crítico sobre la revolución española, p. 25. During the Civil War Ruediger was representative in Spain of the International Workingmen's Association, with which the CNT was affiliated.

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