Page 1, 30th September 1949

30th September 1949
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Page 1, 30th September 1949 — British Trade Union Leader Visits Franco Spain
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British Trade Union Leader Visits Franco Spain

States "The Workers Have Independent And Confident Air"

Mr. Bernard Sullivan, prominent Catholic trade union leader and vice-chairman of the London County Council, has just returned from an extensive tour of Spain. He describes exclusively below what he saw and heard there.

"The transfer of wealth to the workers has given them an air of independence and confidence," he writes.

"I SAW FOR MYSELF"

By BERNARD SULLIVAN

READING THE REPORTS AND CRITICISMS OF VISITORS TO SPAIN AND FOLLOWING THE CORRESPONDENCE IN THE CATHOLIC PRESS, I ACCEPTED WITH CERTAIN PREJUDICES AN INVITATION OF THE SPANISH SYNDICATES TO VISIT THEIR COUNTRY AND INVESTIGATE AT FIRST HAND THE CONDITIONS OBTAINING THERE.

I took the plane to Madrid and spent three weeks covering 2,500 miles by car from Madrid to Burgos, Bilbao' San Sebastian, Pamplona, Lerido, Barcelona, Tarragona, Alicante, Seville and back to Madrid.

I saw in Madrid the rebuilding of the University Town which witnessed so much fighting in the revolution, and which will be both an architectural and educational asset to the Capital. Already it is alive with students who are occupying the buildings as fast as they are erected.

I visited a big biscuit factory and saw the employers and shop stewards as I passed through the works. Here was the first evidence of the shortage of raw materials all the country suffers from. Much of the Plant was idle and there would be much more employment if credits could be given to buy the flour and sugar needed I questioned both workirs and directors about the industrial-organisations known as Syndicates. There are no trade unions in Spain similar to the British type. The English trade unions base their functions on the struggle to secure a satisfactory price for their labour.

It is inevitable therefore that strikes occur from time to time in various industries where the negotiating machinery is not effective, or where the unions' ability to secure satisfactory rates does not receive the approval of the workers in the industries.

In Spain, after the revolution, Franco set up one organisation in which workers and employers are represented. This Syndicate is divided into industries that have their separate machinery with an overall executive of all the industries.

There is organisation at the " enterprise" or factory level from which the delegates to the industrial Syndicate are elected.

There is a similar structure regionally of the national organisation and it was my plan to examine these bodies to see if they were free or Fascist institutions.

EMPLOYERS I found the employer at the biscuit works opposed to the Syndicate as a combined association but philosophically he remarked that he had worked under the Socialist, Communist and now the Franco regime and managed to continue to manufacture his commodities.

Throughout my visit I always asked the workers and the employers separately for their views of the Syndicates, and everywhere found the workers more enthusiastic than the employers. The best tribute I got from an employer was that before Franco there was always strife and hunger, but now there was peace and bread.

With my guide I spent a day in the mountains with a man I met in London, and we attended Mass with 5,000 cadets in camp and picnicked with his family before leaving for Burgos.

Before leaving Madrid I visited a theatre where there was a famous troupe of dancers and Lola Floriat a great comedienne dancer who should be seen in this country. She seems to be one of the most popular figures in Spanish entertainment

Here we heard the song tbat is sweeping Spain, " Madrid" with its nostalgic refrain. Spain is not the only country suffering from the boycott imposed on it by the Allies.

Burgos is a picturesque town with a splendid avenue of plane trees bordered with cafes. A band was playing in the evening with great crowds of good-humoured people enjoying the beautiful cool air.

It was noticeable that the boys and girls usually walked in separate parties except where there was some relationship between them. This didn't prevent the girls flirting with the boys as they passed them.

Here I saw a few beggars, but they were less numerous than in Dublin and they seemed as gay as the rest of the people. The spirit of this race is something to be seen to be believed.

RENT FREE In Burgos I was taken to see new workers' homes laid out on good town-planning lines, with creches, nurseries, schools, churches, and often lidos.

One estate was composed of big or poor families and 1 was informed that they were exempt from payment of rent owing to their incomes or liabilities.

This estate along with many others was being built by the Syndicates, who compete with private enterprise, the municipality and the State in providing working-class accommodation. Most of these bungalow-type houses had large gardens, and, usually, a hen run.

A bigger and better estate included a big gymnasium and social centre, an indoor bath and a lido outside, restaurants, tennis and squash courts with first-class headquarters for the Syndicates, containing library, cafe bar and rest rooms.

In the Basque country I questioned the people about the Franco Government and its lack of freedom for op

position parties. They are a very independent people who have always wanted a separate state and they have little affection for the Government, but were very emphatic about a king.

If such a movement developed, they said, there would be a general strike of the workers and this view was supported elsewhere.

SYNDICATE M.P.s

The view throughout Spain is that Franco has set up an organisation that would be capable of forming the basis of a new Government as they are represented in the Cortes with a Syndicate Franchise which elects members of Parliament, additional to the household vote.

Other factories were visited in Bilbao and all of them had their own welfare organisation managed by the joint committee of employers and workers.

I lunched with the Syndicates' representatives and found men who had fought with the International Brigade and at least one of the delegates had been in the Communist Party.

The secret of the good spirit (Over to page 3)




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