Monday, June 19, 2006

Workers Power & the Ultraright

By Ean Frick

When Marx talked about the working class attaining socialism he used the phrase “the self-emancipation of the proletariat.” This can mean many things but most obviously it means that workers would seize control ofthe means of production and run them according to the the needs of their class or community. This phrase also defines what is not socialism. This proletarian self-emancipation is not by way of a vanguard of middle-class professionals who are essentially acting on behalf of the workers(i.e. representativedemocracy) despite that they are not from that class, nor is socialism the mere nationalization (herereferring to nation-statism), which just puts the power of production in the hands of state and thus keeps the manager-worker relation in tact. What can be found to be most faithful to Marx’s phrase inradial theory is the socialism of the guildsocialists, councilists and syndicalists, whodescribed a system workers councils linked by federations of other councils.This is very much theeconomic structure envisioned by the French libertarian socialist and nationalist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

This idea of direct workers control was named by the French anti-authoritarians of May ‘68 as autogestion, for the trend of thought clearly has some origins in France as early as Blanqui and the Communards. While the slogan and theory of workerspower is mostly associated with the Left, it is onlyfound on the far fringes(i.e. ultraleft, utopian, andlibertarian) of which these currents faithful to ithave very little to do with what is generallyconsidered the Left politically.But this isn’t the only place on the politicalspectrum that these ideas are found. These currentscan be best described as the ultraright (the mirrorimage of its compliment the ultraleft), though theyare often labeled incorrectly as ‘far-right’ and ‘fascist’ by liberal mainstream opinion.

The firstgroup is the Distributists, focused around the philosophy of G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, who preached an economic philosophy where ownership of the means of production would be spread out among the community as much as possible. They also wished to see a return to the guild system and sought thee limination of banks and usury. This is clearly much more in the spirit of socialism than a system where managerial duties are in the hands of a few state bureaucrats as was in place in Russia from 1922-1991. But Chesterton, Belloc and other Distributists didn’t derive their ideas from Marx or any other thinkers normally associated with the Left, but rather from the teachings of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, where the Pope addressed the issue of the condition of the working classes and supported their right to form unions.

The following group was actually considered fascist both in contemporary discourse as well as upon its inception, however, it’s ideology had much more incommon with syndicalism than what is generally definedas fascism. The Faiscieau was formed in 1925 by George Valois, a one time anarcho-syndicalist who had met with the brilliant radical thinker Georges Sorelas well as Charles Maurras, he was also the founder of the Cercle Proudhon, a group of intellectuals committed to a national syndicalist France. Though the Faiscieau certainly had some fascist dressing,mostly in the aesthetic sense(marches, uniforms, ect.) but also claiming an admiration for Mussolini, from the start they were not your typical fascist party. While authentic fascist Benito Mussolini is quoted assaying: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power”, Valois wished to see the economy run by those actually involved in manufacturing goods. This would clearly mean that workers would have control over the means of production as they are most involved in the manufacturing process.Valois also saw his fascism as a revolt against bourgeois rule,which differs from authentic fascism which was committed to protecting the interests of the ruling class against the tide of Marxism. Valois was also committed to an absolutely free trade unionism.

In Aphorisms , written by Jón Ögmundarson, Valois is attacked for “Abandoning the transcendence of democracy, capitalism and Bolshevism in favour of a class free despotism opposed to materialism but offering nothing in it's place.” Ögymndarson also attacks futurism as “Nothing more then an adolescent rejection of what one is by birth and the obligation sentailed as a result in favour of a directionless and violent vitality imbued stylish inconsequentials" This is worth noting given an interesting similarity between futurism and the politics of the Faiscieau. Since Valois’ main target was the bourgeoisie, not socialism, he saw Marxists as “brother enemies.” Hiscriticism of Marxism lay in the fact that he thought it encouraged workers to be lazy but also because the insistence on demands for higher wages was irrespective of productivity. While this isostensibly a reactionary, anti-worker position, when considered with the fact that Valois envisioned theworkers taking control of means of production it appears as a proto-futurist position where the worker and machine are one and the worker gets as much out of his labor as he puts in. Here the being who controls the means of production in the new society would alsobe constantly indebted to the technology of the meansof production, but since this society would also be holarchic, there would be no worry about excess products or rampant economic-technological growth that would seek to conquer and subjugate the natural environment.

Another place where the idea of workers autonomy is found on the far fringes of the Right is in integralnationalism. One of the central ideas of integralnationalism is the theory of blood and soil. This issimply the idea that any racial, ethnic or regional groups of people deserve the right to live off the landthey descended from. This idea clearly goes against modern capitalism where people are expected to movefrom place to place for the sake of jobs, which are becoming all the more transient, and ethnic, racial orregional heritage have little meaning in a world where commodities are the primary factor in human interaction. What is also implied by blood and soilis that the group of people in question would live offthe land organically and self-sufficiently. In the setting of a small, village community this would clearly constitute as agrarian ‘workers power’ so to speak. Here the Law of Least Effort could easily be applied. Since every member of the society would be involved in its sustainment, there wouldn’t be any citizens mooching of the labor of others. This would be the truest form of a self-determining society, which each citizen being collectively autonomous.

The most recent example of the ultraright supporting workers power comes from the intellectual mind behind the Nouvelle Droite, Alain de Benoist. In The French New Right in the Year 2000, de Benoist and Champetier call for the regroupment of individuals in a society along the lines of spontaneous community: “Communities are constituted and maintain themselves on the basis of who belongs to them. Membership is all that is required. There is the vertical reciprocity of rights and duties, contributions and distributions, obedience and assistance, and a horizontal reciprocity of gifts, fraternity, friendship, and love. The richness of social life is proportional to the diversity of the members: this diversity is constantly threatened either by shortcomings (conformity, lack of differentiation) or excesses (secession,atomization).” They also call for the political power to be in the hands of local communities: “Local communities would have to make decisions by and for themselves in all those matters which concern them directly, and all members would have to participate at every stage of the deliberations and of the democratic decision-making.” Direct democracy, rather than the current bureaucratic farce of democracy, would also bea logical conclusion for an autonomous society:“Renewing the democratic spirit implies not settling for mere representative democracy, but seeking to also put into effect, at every level, a true participatory democracy (‘that which affects all the people shouldbe the business of all the people’).” The fact that the ideals of workers power, the theory of direct control of the means of production, have survived the death of modernism, where many outdated philosophical myths were finally done away with (i.e the idea of Hegelian linear progress, the abstract man,universalism, emphasis on reason) despite the fact that were are still dealing with their excesses, is worth noting. It is also interesting that the current voice for autonomous community control comes from a philosopher who claims to be beyond the dualism ofLeft/Right as well as is one of the main voices behind the European New Right.

While there are still those elements on the farthest fringes of the Left, known collectively as left communists or ultralefts, espousing historical workers autonomy theory, if one reads their writings they will soon see that they are highly critical of what is normally considered the Left and really deserve to be classed as trueradicals, committed more to libertarian methodology than any flimsy abstraction of ‘left-wing’ thought. It is essential to put forth the ideas of direct control over the means of production since they represent a viable economic solution for a society inwhich the archetype of the Anarch is to survive.

1 comment:

JM said...

Great Blog! You should publish something about Guillaume Faye's writings to our people over there find out his forward realistic and thinking.