Industry, labour and politics in Catalonia 1897-1914
This thesis analyses the development of trade unionism and working class political organisations in Catalonia between 1897 and 1914. Our study of the labour movement has been put within the context of both the structure of Catalan industry, and the response of the state and employer associations to the challenge of labour. The beginnings of the industrial revolution in Catalonia can be traced to the first half of the nineteenth century, when there grew up an important factory -based cotton textile industry. However, Catalan industry was faced with a serious difficulty. Outside Catalonia the Spanish economy remained backward and agrarian based. Demand for capital goods and manufactures was, therefore, low. This handicap slowed the rate of growth, and held up the technological transformation of Catalan industry. None the less, Catalan workers were not unaffected by the advance of capitalist relations of production. In order to cut costs and increase productivity cotton textile industrialists tried to replace male by female labour. Furthermore, in metallurgy and the artisanal trades new machinery was introduced piecemeal, and efforts were made to transform apprenticeship into cheap labour. Strong working class opposition was mobilised against such schemes. However, Catalan unions were faced with state repression and employer intransigence. This made it difficult for the workers to form stable bureaucratic unions which could enter into collective bargaining with employers. This fact had important political implications. It has been argued that the trade union practice of the Socialists was geared to the existence of such federations. The difficulties faced in organising them, therefore, hindered Socialist penetration. Unions in Catalonia were often unstable, and social conflict in much of Catalan industry was severe. This, together with the unwillingness of the state to carry through a serious programme of social reforms, increased working class support for the anarchists and syndicalists, for both anarchists and syndicalists rejected conciliatory wage negotiations and state intervention, and instead favoured the use of direct action and the revolutionary General Strike. By 1914 the Catalan working class was still poorly organised. However, within the unions, it was the supporters of direct action who were in the strongest position. This provided a springboard for the rapid growth of the anarcho-syndicalist labour federation, the CNT, between 1916 and 1919. On the other hand, the inability of the Socialists to gain a strong union base in Catalonia also prevented them from becoming an important political force. As a result, left wing politics remained dominated by middle class led republican parties.