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Liberalism Means Just The…

TheijFrench Labour rnMovement.


TheijFrench Labour rnMovement. INTERESTING SIDELIGHTS ON GALLIC PHILOSOPHY. By W. G. Cove. The war has effectively isolated the European workers and confined, their actions within na- tional boundaries. The working-class movements both in enemy and in allied countries have be- come obscure, so obscure, that we can but guess at what is happening. This bottling of the mili- tant national movements has deprived the work- ing class movement of one essential condition of success—namely, a broad sweep that knows no geographical limits. The working class move- ment cannot be merely national: it must be in- ternational. Nationalism derives its inspiration from a fretful tradition, and looks to the past for its future aspirations. Its stimulants are essences—sometimes labelled Kultur," some- times "Culture." Always indefinable! The working-class movement on the other hand finds its inspiration in a common clash of economic in- terests. It has been fashioned in the historical process of the class-struggle. Its basis is the most fundamental and the most permanent of all human groupings, for it has arisen out of the necessity for the satisfaction of economic needs. A REAL NEED IN DEMOCRACY. In order that this movement—primal in im- portance and radical in en'ect—may achieve the integral emancipation of the workers within a? j tolerable space of time; in order that it may work in harmony with the prevailing material conditions and take full advantage of them in order that it may swing in the right direction and woblble as little as possible, it is necessary that we should study the movement in all lands. There can be no doubt that our ignorance of the Continental movement is aijysmali and it is to be hoped 'that our workers' classes will not only study Capitalism and the ancient history of man but that they will also study the working-class movements in other lands. This, we believe, is a crying need, and it would be difficult to find a more fascinating study. Its practical import- ance cannot be over-estimated. If we are to be effective we must know what our comrades across the frontiers have done; we must emulate their successes and avoid their failures. The best study for the worker is the workers' inter- national movement. AN INTERESTING MOVEMENT. There is probably no national movement so in- teresting as the French Labour Movement. Its vision is a new social order free from arbitrary restrictions; its conception of emancipation an integral one; its methods entrancinglv sinuous and resiliency adaptible to changing conditions. It has its theories but is not bound by them. We feel, as we study it, that we are studying life in one of its wayward manifestations. There are no phases in it that gives one the impression of being mechanical episodes. We may disagree with its objective and differ violently as to its methods, but no one who studies Dr. Louis Levine's The French Labour Movement (Columbia University Press, sold by P. S. King, 7/6) will be able to complain that. the French Movement makes dull reading. It vibrates with human interest. The French Labour Movement has been im- bued with a more revolutionary spirit than has the movement in Britain. It has been more cri- tical of existing institutions land less amenable to compromise. It has envisaged a social order differing radically from the present, and has pe- culiar conceptions of revolutionary methods for the realisation of its ideal. Some have argued that Syndicalism is the product of peculiar French conditions, and that it can flourish only in the Latin Countries. The fervour of the Latin Spirit," has been stated as the cause of Syndicalism. But although conditions peculiar to France have been a contributing cause, it would be a mistake to regard Syndicalism as being peculiar to France. Syndicalism cannot be explained as the product of any national spirit. It has transcended the boundaries of na- tions, and has taken root in racial soils other than those of the Latins. It is not the result of temperamental peculiarities, neither is it the foster-child of peculiar national traditions. Syn- dicalism has arisen in very definite industrial conditions. It has been conceived in the clash of economic interests, and has been invigorated by a growing class consciousness. THE PHILOSOPHY OF SYNDICALISM. Although the fundamental causes of Syndi- calism are to be found in material conditions common to all modern industrial nations, yet there can be no doubt that the revolutionary traditions, the impetuous temperament, and the peculiar conditions of French Industry have stimulated its growth in France. The French workingman is brought up in admiration of the men of the Great. Revolution. He cherishes the memory of 1848, his pity and sympathy are stimulated by the events of the Commune." Ac- cording to Levine, French Industry was com- paratively static, and this was a powerful factor in the development of .French Syndicalism. If this be true, then there is much reason for sur- mising that the increasing development of Capi- talism will result in the increasing development of the Syndicalist Spirit. The French workers, too, have suffered political disillusion- ment. They have lost faith in intellectuals and "politicians." They saw men like Briand, Millerand and Viviani climb to power on their hacks and then turn upon them. This spirit, according to the Commissioners on Industrial Unrest, is growing in S'outh Wales, and apart' from any clear conception as to the function of politics, many workers Jiave become distrustful because they feel that they have been sold. Mr. Brace voted against the 30/- a week for farm labourers, and gave as his excuse that he was ? one of the ship's crew." Mr. Bracc might not wish to join in the process of making Syndical- ists, but he is one of the political emancipators that makes workers distrustful of politicians. But our author points out that French Syndical- ism is not merely due to a surfeit of politics. The Revolutionary Syndicalists emphasize the fact that there is an irreconcilable antagonism between Syndicalism and polit;ca Socialism." ,H It. is necessary," writes Jouhaux (secretary of the Confederation) "that the proletariat should know that between parliamentary Socialism, which is tending more and more towards a sim- ple democratization of existing social forms, and Syndicalism, which pursues the aim of a com- plete social transformation, there is not only di- vergence of methods, but particularly divergence of aim." THE ROLE OF THE ANARCHIST. I It appears from sucK a quotation as this that I the SyndiœIists-what are termed the "pure" and simple Syndicalists—believe that poli- I tical action is not merely not helpful, but pwi- tively antagonistic to the right development of .> the working-class movement. The control of the economic basis of life by the workers, the realisation of the "free workshop" cannot in their opinion be attained by parliamentary me,ans, and the process of voting is the process of transferring the workers' power. This section of the revolutionary "bloc" in the Confedera- tion Generate du Travail insists upon industrial action. Another section, the Revolutionary Socialists-, support parliamentary action, while the Anarchists, who seem to have formed the driving section," oppose political action and dilute their Anarchism. To them Syndicalism is but a partial application of Anarchist ideas, and there is evidently a number of Anarchists in this country who realise that the emancipa- tion of the working man must take precedence over the emancipation of the individual. These anarchists state that "we have not yet reached tha.t stage of social development wherein it is possible to order one's life, and that the imme- diate battle is to secure that state of affairs." In order to secure this state the imperative neces- sity is trades-union action, and they urge their fellow anarchists to discard for the time being their ultra-logical attitude of non-participation in all authoritarian movements in order to take part in this struggle which will, at least, mean one step towards a brighter era." AN ATTEMPT AT FUSION. We thus see that Syndicalism is an attempt to fuse revolutionary Socialism and Trades Unionism into one coherent movement. Its aim is to do away with existing institutions and to reconstruct Society along new lines. It denies that this reconstruction can be achieved by poli- tical action—nay, more, it asserts that political ( action and industrial action are divergent, and that the free workshop" controlled by the workers can only be secured by working through trades unions. In its most characteristic ex- pression, it denies the State and would substi- tute purely voluntary Collectivism. The trade union organisation of Labour is looked upon as the natural basis and agency of his enterprise quite as existing political organisations are ac- cepted by the Conservative or Parliamentary Socialist as the best preliminary norms from which to evolve a, new social order." (Giddings.) We shall deal with its methods, etc., in a further article.


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