National Syndicalism

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National Syndicalism

Post by Finnish Nat-Bol on Fri Jul 18, 2014 8:59 pm

Does anyone know anything about this movement? I've read a only little and I don't remember that much. I remember, among some other things, that the Portuguese National Syndicalists wanted to introduce wages for housewives and independence for the colonies. Also, could Mussolini (or Bombacci or some other Italian more or less Fascist) be called a representative of this movement? I've seen some people call them such.
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Re: National Syndicalism

Post by Celtiberian on Fri Aug 08, 2014 5:37 pm

Finnish Nat-Bol wrote:Does anyone know anything about this movement? I've read a only little and I don't remember that much. I remember, among some other things, that the Portuguese National Syndicalists wanted to introduce wages for housewives and independence for the colonies.

Before describing the history and tenets of National Syndicalism, it's important to understand that the term describes two different, albeit loosely related, phenomena. In the case of the Spanish and Portuguese National Syndicalist movements (e.g., the Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista and Movimento Nacional-Sindicalista), what you basically had were two reactionary Catholic parties using the term as a euphemism for corporativism. As a distinct school of thought, National Syndicalism's origins can be traced to Italy during the First World War. In a sense, one could describe it as an intellectual offspring of the Marxist revisionism initiated by Eduard Bernstein in the late 1890s/early 1910s.

As much as I agree with certain aspects of his work, Georges Sorel bears some culpability in the development of National Syndicalism. Though disdainful of Bernstein's reformism (as enunciated in his 1899 work Evolutionary Socialism: A Criticism and Affirmation), Sorel nevertheless agreed that the Second International's interpretation of Marx was faulty and led to ineffective political strategies. And while this challenge to orthodoxy prompted many valuable contributions—e.g., Sorel's insistence that scientific socialism required an ethical component (he recommended Proudhonian moralism) to be truly effectual—it also produced a number of pernicious theories. Sorel's eventual abandonment of materialism in favor of sociological voluntarism, for instance, led many syndicalist theoreticians to conclude that the proletariat were of no particular importance to the process of social transformation because it was rather easy for them to replace Sorel's Bergsonian myth of the general strike with the nation, church, or crown, in an effort to make reactionary nationalism, class collaborationism, and even monarchism appear as sensible means by which to implement their economic program. It's worth noting that Sorel's two most ardent students, Georges Valois and Édouard Berth, following periods of reaction, ended their political careers on the far left (the former becoming a libertarian communist, and the latter a state communist partisan of the Bolsheviks). Hence it would be a mistake to infer from what I've written that Sorelianism necessarily leads to outcomes akin to National Syndicalism. On the contrary, to the extent one wavers from the class struggle and/or socialism, they are departing from Sorelianism; for Sorel himself unambiguously rejected the notion that the nation or monarchy could animate individuals into action in a comparable manner to the class struggle, since both lacked the redemptive quality socialism possesses.

Proceeding to Sorel's effect on the syndicalist movement, it was negligible in his motherland of France but, for a variety of reasons, made a significant impact in Italy. (I should qualify that statement by highlighting that I mean Sorelianism's influence was pronounced among the country's syndicalist theoreticians—many of whom were petit-bourgeois adventurists—not on the rank-and-file workers of syndicalist organizations.) Initially it was Sorel's neo-Marxist theories which interested figures like Arturo Labriola, Paolo Orano, Filippo Corridoni, Angelo Olivetti, and even Benito Mussolini (who was a leader on the left of the Italian Socialist Party at the time). But the events surrounding the First World War caused many of these theorists and organizers to reexamine their Weltanschauung. Like the social imperialists of the Second International, a number of Italy's syndicalist theoreticians came up with rationalizations for supporting intervention. For example, Orano was of the opinion that Italy could exit the war in a superior geopolitical position, which would enable it to rapidly develop its productive forces, thereby hastening the proletarian revolution. Unfortunately it wasn't long before these more reasonable hypotheses began to give way to reactionary ones. One of the more insidious theoretical maneuvers, as mentioned above, was viewing the nation as possessing the same force as the class struggle in terms of galvanizing the masses via myths. This was done in an attempt to comprehend why the proletariat were defying their international class interests in favor of national elevation (though it bears repeating that Sorel himself spurned any such notion). Thus the progenitors of National Syndicalism came to believe they could utilize the same process of constructing national myths to mobilize the people (regardless of class) to a project of social transformation. Their hostility to the biennio rosso, following the war, best exemplifies the detestable extent to which they took their new theory:

"The end of the war led to the biennio rosso and the threat of socialist revolution. In response, the [national] syndicalists finally began cutting themselves off from the old orthodoxy for good, condemning the working class, declaring the class struggle to be counterproductive, and calling for collaboration between the workers and productive sectors of the bourgeoisie. Although some of them had begun to contemplate a nonproeltarian preliminary revolution before the war, it was the biennio rosso which finally led the syndicalists explicitly to repudiate the orthodox revolution and to determine more precisely what an alternative revolution would have to involve. It would be a national, populist, political revolution, one with no special role for the proletariat."
David D. Roberts, The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), pp. 154-155.

Distorted reports from the nascent Soviet Union, in conjunction with the reactionary sociological theories of Robert Michels and Vilfredo Pareto gaining traction among the intelligentsia, exacerbated this increasingly conservative outlook exhibited by the National Syndicalists. The result was a complete repudiation of the syndicalism they once espoused. As opposed to being a mere means by which to achieve a syndicalist (i.e., classless, egalitarian economy based upon workers' control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange) society, corporativism became an end in itself for them. It should come as no surprise, then, why so many of these National Syndicalists became leading figures in the National Fascist Party.

Also, could Mussolini (or Bombacci or some other Italian more or less Fascist) be called a representative of this movement? I've seen some people call them such.

Mussolini followed the same theoretical trajectory as the National Syndicalists, so I suppose one could justifiably include him among that milieu. Nicola Bombacci is a different matter altogether, though. He had been an active communist throughout the First World War and at no point adopted positions associated with the National Syndicalists. It wasn't until 1935 that Bombacci became involved with the Fascist Party—although he had been a personal friend of Mussolini's since the latter's earliest days in the PSI.

The Italian Social Republic should not be interpreted as having been a manifestation of National Syndicalism for the simple reason National Syndicalism was never a static ideology. It began as a revisionist theory of how to achieve a syndicalist economy and ended as a corporativist tendency subsumed by fascism. Bombacci's 1943 Charter of Verona was adopted as a symbolic gesture to the radical proletariat of Northern Italy—the actual amount of companies which were socialized during the regime's history were trivial (less than a dozen). The defeated man that he was by that time, Mussolini was no longer capable of currying favor with the bourgeoisie or aristocracy to aggrandize himself and therefore needed to make certain concessions in order to maintain some semblance of legitimacy. Whether his puppet state in Salò would have moved further to the left or right, were it permitted to exist following the Second World War, depends entirely on what the balance of forces would have been. Had the Axis won, there's no doubt that it would have reverted to the corporativism that characterized Italian fascism prior to 1943. If, however, the Allies won but Mussolini managed to make a deal with the Soviets, it's conceivable the Social Republic would have developed into a conventional state socialist regime or possibly a market socialist dictatorship analogous to Tito's Yugoslavia.


Last edited by Celtiberian on Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:42 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: National Syndicalism

Post by HomelessArtist on Sat Aug 09, 2014 1:06 am

I was thinking about asking what did the forum think about Sorel but that post actually told me enough.

So Sorel is good as long he isn't separated from materialism?

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Re: National Syndicalism

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Aug 09, 2014 1:57 am

HomelessArtist wrote:I was thinking about asking what did the forum think about Sorel but that post actually told me enough.

So Sorel is good as long he isn't separated from materialism?

I consider Sorel's contributions to Marxist sociology to have been largely positive. His emphasis on the need for a socialist ethic to be incorporated into syndicalist activism, as well as his insights into the non-rational dimension of human action, were invaluable. Voluntarism wasn't his only theoretical shortcoming, however. He also rejected Marxist value theory—which, contrary to what the revisionists believed, is a logically sound and empirically validated approach to political economy—and dismissed rationalism more than is warranted.

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"The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism . . . the formula of Communism: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', would be nonsense, if abilities were equal."
—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
—Mikhail Bakunin Red Star
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Re: National Syndicalism

Post by HomelessArtist on Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:59 am

Great, thank you very much but I think a thread about Sorel may still worth it.

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Re: National Syndicalism

Post by Celtiberian on Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:17 pm

HomelessArtist wrote:Great, thank you very much

No problem.

but I think a thread about Sorel may still worth it.

Indeed. Feel free to start a thread on the subject and I'll be sure to expand upon Sorel's theories.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: National Syndicalism

Post by Scarlet-Left on Tue Aug 12, 2014 8:52 am

This might be the best place to ask. Does anyone know much about Alceste De Ambris or his work? I know that he contributed to the ideology in some way but split from the fascists after brief association with them initially.

Were his disagreements theoretical or personal?

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Re: National Syndicalism

Post by HomelessArtist on Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:49 pm

My crude italian and the italian wikipedia say he split from the socialist party because he supported italy entering the war, just like Mussolini and I don't quet understand but he split from fascism when fascism moved from centrism to the right.

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Re: National Syndicalism

Post by Celtiberian on Tue Aug 12, 2014 8:02 pm

Scarlet-Left wrote:This might be the best place to ask. Does anyone know much about Alceste De Ambris or his work? I know that he contributed to the ideology in some way but split from the fascists after brief association with them initially.

Were his disagreements theoretical or personal?

As HomelessArtist mentioned, de Ambris was a syndicalist turned moderate fascist. The tenets of the doctrine he found most appealing were its disdain for liberal democracy and corporativist economic philosophy (of which he was a influential theoretician), which is why he only ever supported the movement in its earliest days. He always found imperialism and war objectionable, so when those became major facets of fascist ideology, he could no longer sympathize with it. His falling out with Mussolini occurred in 1919 over the latter's failure to adequately support Gabriele D'Annunzio's occupation of Fiume.

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"The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism . . . the formula of Communism: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', would be nonsense, if abilities were equal."
—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
—Mikhail Bakunin Red Star
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