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SPAIN: Syndicato v. Telefonica

4 minute read

Thoughtful Spaniards agree that Sosthenes Behn, chairman of International Telephone & Telegraph Corp., was largely responsible for the revolution that threw out King Alfonso. Many Spaniards cannot read; 45% of them are illiterate; but they can all listen. Revolutionary doctrines spread to the farthest villages of Spain thanks to the telephone and radio systems (“best in Europe”) which I. T. & T. installed and operates through its subsidiary, Compania Telefonica Nacional de Espana. Yet last week thousands of Spanish revolutionaries rose against their foster-father.

Syndicalists, nearest native equivalent of Communists, held a convention in Madrid to plan for a great general strike to protest the assembly of the Republican Cortes, which they consider far too conservative. First move was to call out all the Syndicalist employes of the telephone company.

The strike got under way slowly. Members of other unions in the Telefonica refused to go out with the Syndicalists, nearly normal service was maintained for three days. Then wire-cutters got to work. Somewhere in the desolate tableland south of Zaragoza the main line to Barcelona was severed. Other snippers cut Spain from the outside world for a time by breaking the international line just outside Madrid.

Syndicalists did best in Barcelona, where they claim a strength of 300.000 and the silent support of Catalonia’s “President,” Francisco Macia. More than 700 telephone operators left their desks. Lewis J. Proctor, U. S. manager of Telefonica, was severely beaten as he tried to leave his office. Dock workers went out in a sympathy strike, so did employes of the gas works. The Government rushed destroyers and a squadron of airplanes up from Cartagena to maintain order.

Ladies’ Night. One of the most violent evenings was all for the ladies. While striking telephone operators in the centre of Barcelona flung brickbats and shrilled curses at their scab sisters in the central offices, Barcelona’s Civil Governor decided that the time was ripe to raid some of the music halls on the Paralelo, Barcelona’s trolley terminus and rowdiest thoroughfare, at the foot of towering Montjuich. Here, he had been informed, female entertainers were celebrating the liberty of the Republic by dancing in the raw. Policemen looking strangely British in scarlet tunics and blue helmets, swooped down on the Moulin Rouge and the Royal Concert.* There was no objection until word was passed that two rival establishments, the Apollo and Pompeii, were undisturbed. Managers, customers, girls and waiters went out to battle. Beer bottles crashed through the windows. Heavy saucers hummed through the air. An Andalusian blonde was felled by one on her ear. One of the attacking Amazons had her hip gashed by a seltzer bottle.

Strikes gripped Valencia, Tarragona, Bilbao. In Guillena began the first cowherds’ strike in Spanish history. Hundreds of cowherds rode in off the bleak Andalusian ranges, demanding more pay, leaving hundreds of black Spanish cattle bellowing pitifully for water. The Governor of Seville mobilized a squadron of cavalry and sent them forth with a ringing message that reporters wired round the world: “Soldiers of Spain! Go to Guillena and lead the cows to pasture!”

Crash. The week’s disorders brought financial disaster to one of Barcelona’s greatest banks: the Bank of Catalonia. Rumor in Madrid had it that not last week’s disturbance but news of shady dealings with the Government petroleum monopoly in the days of the late Miguel Primo de Rivera were responsible for Bank of Catalonia’s closing.

*Even at their worst, the music halls of the Paralelo would seem tame to Montmartre habitues or U. S. burlesque patrons. No admission is charged, beer sells at 30¢ the bottle. The performance lasts about four hours and consists of one girl at a time prancing about a very small stage.

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