História Social do trabalho na Espanha: Introdução

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Introdução da obra História social do trabalho na Espanha

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  INTRODUCTION  T RADITIONAL  H ISTORYANDTHE N EW  S OCIAL  H ISTORYOF L   ABOURIN S PAIN  José A. Piqueras and Vicent Sanz Rozalén  The social history of labour and labourers is currently in the paradoxicalposition of having defined the subject of study in all its rich complexity asnever before – a fact born out by some excellent works – yet fewer andfewer social historians are working on the subject.In general terms, it has become a branch of history which is increasingly based on the examination of documentary sources, with up-to-datemethodology and with the ability to resolve questions by means of analysing and recounting basic problems of the past of many social groups which are truly relevant in all pre-industrial and industrialised societies and whose prominence in protest, associative and political movements has beena significant factor of social life since the beginning of the nineteenthcentury. However, this has not prevented some authors from using thesocial history of labour as an outlet for their ideological beliefs.Nonetheless, over the last two decades, in Spanish academic circles,prejudice against militant history has grown to such an extent that it ishardly taken seriously since it is not seen to fulfil the strictest scientificrequirements of the field. Paradoxically, this attitude does not apply to thenumerous political studies on the political history of the Restoration(1874–1923) or the history of conservatism. Neither does it seem to apply to critical reviews of the left-wing parties of the Second Republic(1931–1939). In these studies the ideologised viewpoints of authors are notmuch better than the most politicised accounts of working-class history yetno response is considered necessary, a fact which illustrates the prejudices of the academic establishment and its political leanings.  2 Introduction   Ways of Making Social History  The increasing lack of interest in working-class history is not something which is new to the last decade, nor is it peculiar to the Spanish case. Marcel van der Linden recently characterised the decline – which he described as‘regional’ – of the historiography of workers in countries which form thenucleus of traditional capitalism in similar terms. Likewise, van der Lindenhighlighted the growing interest in labour history, protest and working-classinvolvement in the changes taking place in the economic systems of countriesundergoing industrialisation. In these latter countries, studies multiply at thesame rate as the number of salaried workers, while at the same time highly active trade union and political organisations are being formed. 1 In thisrespect, we can conclude that working-class history is no different to any other branch of history. It searches the past for answers to questions whichdeserve the attention of present-day society, and it deals with the past eitheras a cause of the present, including the process of class formation, or as thereconstruction of historical backgrounds which show how class wasincreasingly discernible in defence of their interests or in political conflicts. It is appropriate to add a second observation, this time regarding therelevance of the topics and the upsurge or decline of subspecialities. Interestin the history of labourers appears to be greater in periods of disputes whichare the result of industrial processes in progress, in situations where there areprospects for change and at times when industrial working-class movementsare on the increase. For one reason or another, so-called working-class history reached a crisis point at the end of the 1970s, at the same time or a short while after the economic crisis which affected advanced capitalist countriesfrom 1973 onwards. This resulted in major changes in the organisation of production processes, in the characteristics of the labour market, in theimpact of new technologies on employment and the economy in general, ina drop in the number of active workers employed in the primary sector andin a fall in levels of union membership, above all in the industrial sector. Theprocess included the institutional regulation of labour conflicts and thenormalised handling of negotiations with the labour movement in almost all western European countries. In Spain, this was carried out by means of theMoncloa Pacts (1977), the creation of mediation and arbitrationorganisations (1979) and the Workers’ Statute (1980). 2  All of this resulted ina substantial modification of what had been the Left’s history of resistanceand struggle to modify the relations between capital and work; not tomention to influence the orientation of society and obtaining certain socialand political rights. Logically, a reduction in the number of disputes and thefact that these conflicts are being effectively managed affects the type of historical studies carried out, which change the point of observation of socialconflicts according to life experiences and to the negotiating strategies of actors of the past.It is symptomatic that at the same time as there has been a decrease ininterest in subjects related to the social history of labour and labourers, bookson this subject have often been replaced by an avalanche of ‘self-help’ labour  Introduction  3 literature, in which the collective aspect is replaced by an exclusively individualperspective on sociolabour relations.The sense of dissatisfaction with the results of mainly descriptive and to acertain extent heroic working-class history soon gave way to readjustments which involved maintaining the same line of study while making it ‘moresocial’, that is to say effectively integrating the issues in the framework of thehistorical society and in a varied and in most cases inconclusive set of movements and protests (the revolution, the liberation of the fourth state, thedestruction of capitalism …).The evolution of the social history of labour in Spain has not differed very much from the route taken in other countries although the point of inflectionin the way social history is dealt with took place slightly later. In addition, when the ‘crisis’ of traditional social history occurred, the amount of ‘traditional’ knowledge based on the collection and description of social factsand events was in Spain greatly inferior to that of other countries in which thisline of studies had not been interrupted and which had no direct experienceof the so-called ‘working-class movement’. It should not be forgotten that inthe European context, Spain is a unique example for two reasons. First, itexperienced a dramatic Civil War (1936–1939), in which working-classpolitical and trade union organisations played a very important role. Secondly,the country lived under a long, very strict dictatorship (1939–1977), whichduring its first twenty-five years continuously and systematically repressed working-class organisations and left-wing organisations in general. Duringthe war and during the immediate postwar period, the dictatorship physically eliminated numerous members of parties and trade unions, sent others to jailand dissolved their organisations, confiscated or destroyed their files andbooks and persecuted their traditions and their intellectuals. For almost fourdecades, the Franco regime rewrote history and ignored issues related to working-class history. In such political conditions, academic historiansdirected their attention to fields of study which required less commitment.In Spain, it was not until 1959 that professionals started making referencesto working-class history. The first publication was written by Casimir Martí,a Catholic priest who had just earned his doctorate in Sociology from theGregorian University of Rome with a study on Catalan anarchism. 3 There wasa tradition of militant history prior to 1939 and also among historians in exile.There were also two previous examples which can be considered ‘academic’labour history. One was from 1916 and the second from 1925, the latterbeing intended for the students of a School of Business Studies. 4 In 1950,José María Jover made a call – not exempt from prejudice – for the need todeal with the issue. 5 In the 1960s, modest studies were published which weresimilar to the previous ones and which contributed to breaking the taboo.The year 1972 saw the publication of two important and, to a large extentconcomitant works: one by Josep Termes on the First International and theother about anarchism and revolution in the nineteenth century by Clara E.Lida – an Argentinean historian who was a follower of the exiled Spanishhistorian Vicente Llorens in Princeton. Publication of the latter had beendelayed for two years due to censorship regulations. At the same time,  Manuel Tuñón de Lara published the first, albeit rather basic textbook on theSpanish working-class movement from 1832 to 1936. One year later, MiquelIzard published an extended version in Spanish of a previous work written inCatalan about the most important manufacturing workers’ association duringthe nineteenth century, namely that of the cotton textile sector. 6 To a largeextent, these four works mark the birth of the social historiography of work in Spain. 7 The cultural traditions of the authors were different, however. WhereasMartí, Termes and Izard came from seminars which were promoted in thelate 1950s at the University of Barcelona by Jaume Vicens Vives and later by Carlos Seco, Tuñón de Lara was exiled in Paris in 1946 and from 1965onwards was a lecturer at the University of Pau in the south of France. From1971 onwards, Tuñón organised yearly symposiums on Spanish history whichbrought together historians from inside and outside the country in Pau. Theone organised in 1974 was dedicated to the working-class movement. Theperiod, at the end of General Franco’s dictatorship, was one in which there was a marked resurgence in trade union and political opposition and thisallowed left-wing circles to maintain the hope of a regime change in whichthe working class would be able to play a prominent role. Likewise,publishing houses had greater freedom as to what they were allowed topublish and there was a large demand among university students andprofessionals for books about the working class and Marxist theory, works which had been banned for decades.By the end of the dictatorship the conditions were such that attentiononce again turned to studies about social movements. The politicalimplications which this type of studies involved – because of the subject andbecause of the militancy of the authors – helped them to gain support andbecome increasingly widespread. During the years that followed, there was a veritable explosion of social history dealing with the labour history,revolutionary ideas and social movements. Following the French model, inSpain the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is referred to asthe contemporary period, and this attracted the attention of the majority of university History students, who from 1973 onwards studied a specificuniversity degree course which was separate from Philosophy and Arts. And within the contemporary period, studies about working-class history undoubtedly occupy first place, followed by equally incipient studies on thetransition from feudalism to capitalism and the history of agrariandisentitlement. Today, a large proportion of lecturers in the speciality who were educated in the 1970s prepared their doctoral theses on one of thesesubjects, many on the first one. At times, the studies were undertaken atnational level and on many other occasions at local or regional level, a sign of new approaches to the past, but also of the growing autonomist feeling(against the centralised state) among the opposition to the dictatorship.Together with the anti-Franco beliefs of the young authors, there was alsotheir emotional identification with the exploited classes, who in the Spanishcase were also defeated in 1939, and the fact that they were part of aninternational historiographical trend. 8 4 Introduction 
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