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It still remains a problem of the first magnitude to
every Socialist party to give to its members an equally powerful daily
interest in that work. On the other hand, it must be said in all
fairness that the lack of active participation by the rank and file is
very common in the labor unions also, a handful of men often governing
and directing, sometimes even at the most critical moments.

It is the boast of the syndicalists that in their plan of revolutionary
unionism, practice and theory become one, that actions become
revolutionary as well as words--"Men are classed," says Lagardelle,
"according to their acts and not according to their labels. The
revolutionary spirit comes down from heaven onto the earth, becomes
flesh, manifests itself by institutions, and identifies itself with
life. The daily act takes on a revolutionary value, and social
transformation, if it comes some day, will only be the generalization of
this act." It is true that Lagardelle's "direct action" tends towards
revolution, but does it tend towards Socialism? His answer is that it
does. But his answer itself indicates the tendency of syndicalism to
drift back into conservative unionism and the mere demand for somewhat
more wages. Socialist organizations, he says, "must necessarily be
trained in _actions_ of no great revolutionary moment, since these are
the only kind of _actions_ now possible, and in agitation; that is, the
conversion or the wakening of the will of the working people to desire
and to demand an entirely different life, which their intelligence has
shown them to be possible, and which they feel they are able to obtain
through their organizations."[267] (My italics.)

Not all members of the French "syndicats" (labor unions) are theoretical
syndicalists of the dogmatic kind, like Lagardelle. Yet even men like
Guerard, recently head of the railway union, and Niel of the printers,
recently secretary of the Federation of Labor, both belonging to the
less radical faction, are in favor of the use of the general strike
under several contingencies, and stand for a union policy directed
towards the ultimate abolition of employers. But this does not mean that
they believe the unions can succeed in either of these efforts if acting
alone, or even if assisted in Parliament by a party which represents
only the unions, acts as their tool, and therefore brings them no
outside assistance. Such men, together with others more radical, like
André and the Guesdists in the Federation, realize that a larger and
more democratic movement is needed in connection with the unions before
there is any possibility of accomplishing the great social changes at
which, as Socialists, they aim. (As evidence, see the proceedings of any
recent convention of the Confederation Generale de Travail.)

Lagardelle, however, is a member of the Socialist Party and was recently
even a candidate for the French Chamber of Deputies. Other prominent
members of the Party as revolutionary as he and as enthusiastic
partisans of the Confederation de Travail (Federation of Labor) are
stronger in their allegiance to the Party. And there are signs that even
in France syndicalism is losing its anti-political tendency. Hervé, who
demanded at the beginning of 1909 that the "directors of the Socialist
Party cure themselves of 'Parliamentary idiocy'" (his New Year's wish),
expressed at the beginning of 1910 the wish that "certain of the
dignitaries of the Federation of Labor should cure themselves of a
syndicalist and laborite idiocy, a form of idiocy not less dangerous or
clownish than the other."

In fact, it may soon be necessary to distinguish a new school of
political syndicalism, which is well represented by Paul Louis in his
"Syndicalism against the State" (Le Syndicalisme contre l'État).


"Syndicalism is at the bottom," says Louis, "only a powerful
expression of that destructive and constructive effort which for
years has been shaking the old political and social régime, and is
undermining slowly the ancient system of property. It points
necessarily to collectivism and communism. It represents Socialism
in action, in daily and continuous action....

"Now the abolition of the State ... is the object of modern
Socialism. What distinguishes this modern Socialism from Utopian
Socialism which culminated towards 1848, whose best-known
publicists were Cabet, Pecqueur, Louis Blanc, Vidal, is precisely
that it no longer attributes to the State the power to transform,
the capacity to revolutionize, the rôle of magic regeneration,
which the writers in this dangerous phase of enthusiasm assigned to
it. For the Utopians all the machinery of a bureaucracy could be
put at the service of all the classes, fraternally reconciled in
view of the coming social regeneration. For contemporary Socialists
since Karl Marx ... this bureaucratic machinery, whose function is
to protect the existing system and to maintain an administrative,
economic, financial, political, and military guardianship must
finally be disintegrated. The new society can only be born at this
price.

"There still exist in all countries groups of men or isolated
individuals who stand for collectivism, who claim to want the
complete emancipation of all workers, but who nevertheless adhere
to paternalism. These are called revisionists in Germany,
reformists in France, Italy, and Switzerland.... They go back,
without knowing it, to those theories of enlightened despotism
which flourished at the end of the eighteenth century in the courts
of Vienna, St. Petersburg, Madrid and Lisbon, the ridiculous
inanity of which was sufficiently well demonstrated by events....

"But these Utopians of the present moment, these champions of a
limitless adaptation to circumstances, are destined to lose ground
more and more, according as Syndicalism expresses better and better
the independent action of the organized proletariat.

"In its totality the Socialism of the world is as anti-governmental
as Syndicalism, and in this is shown the identity of the two
movements, for it is difficult to distinguish the field of action
of the one from that of the other."[268]


We see here that the central idea of syndicalism, which is undoubtedly,
as Louis says, a revolutionary action against existing governments, is
not on this account anti-political; the foundation of this point of view
is that labor union action is bound sooner or later to evolve into
syndicalism, which in its essence is an effort to put industry in the
immediate control of the non-propertied working classes, without regard
to the attitude taken towards this movement by governments;--


"Those who have long imagined that some kind of coördination would
be brought about between old economic and social institutions and
the union organizations which would then be tolerated, those who
thought they could incorporate these industrial groups in the
mechanism of production and political society, were guilty of the
most stupefying of errors. They were ignorant both of the nature of
the State and of the essence of unionism; they were attempting the
squaring of the circle or perpetual motion; they had not analyzed
the process of disintegration which humanity is undergoing, which,
accelerated by the stream of industrialism, has given origin to
hostile classes subordinated to one another, incapable of
coexisting in a lasting equilibrium."[269]


We see here a complete agreement with the position of the revolutionary
majority among the Socialists. If syndicalism differs in any way from
other tendencies in the Socialist movement, it does so through a
difference of emphasis rather than a difference of kind. It undoubtedly
exaggerates the possibilities of economic action, and underestimates
those of political action. Louis, for example, says that the working
people are the subjects of capital, but the masters of production, that
they cannot live without suffering in the factory, but that society
cannot live without their labor. This, of course, is only true if stated
in the most unqualified form. Society is able to dispense with all labor
for a short time, and with very many classes of labor for long periods.
Moreover, the forcing of labor at the point of the rifle is by no means
so impracticable during brief emergencies as is sometimes supposed.

Syndicalism may, perhaps, be most usefully viewed as a reaction against
the tendency towards "parliamentarism" or undue emphasis on political
action, which has existed even among revolutionary Socialists in Germany
and elsewhere (see Part II, Chapter V). Among the "revisionist"
Socialists of that country a great friendliness to labor union action
existed, in view of the comparative conservatism of the unions. For this
same reason the revolutionaries became rather cold, though never
hostile, towards this form of action, and concentrated their attention
on politics. In a word, syndicalism is only to be understood in the
light of the criticisms of revolutionary Socialism as presented by
Kautsky, just as the standpoint of the latter can only be comprehended
after it is subjected to the syndicalist criticism--and doubtless both
positions, however one-sided they appear elsewhere, were fairly
justified by the economic and political situations in France and Germany
respectively. "Only as a _political_ party," says Kautsky, "can the
working class as a whole come to a firm and lasting union." He then
proceeds to argue that purely economic struggles are always limited
either to a locality, a town, or a province, or else to a given trade or
industry--the directly opposite view to that of the syndicalists, whose
one object is also, undeniably, to bring about a unity of the working
class, though they claim that this can be accomplished _only by economic
action_, while from their point of view it is political action that
always divides the working class by nation, section, and class.

"The pure and simple unionist," says Kautsky, "is conservative, even
when he behaves in a radical manner; on the other hand, every true and
independent political party [Kautsky is speaking here of workingmen's
organizations exclusively] is always revolutionary by its very nature,
even when, according to its action, or even according to the
consciousness of its members, it is still moderate." This again is the
exact opposite of the syndicalists' position.



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Keywords: movement, lagardelle, itself, tendency, against, germany, france, recently, radical, always
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