Anarchosyndicalism against fascism: a response to recent insinuations

Spanish anarcho syndicalists in 1936 fighting the fascists

There may be problems with some people who identify with anarchosyndicalism, but it is not because there is any inherent correlation between it and fascism.

The question of anarchosyndicalism's theoretical stands against fascism, as well as it's long history of fighting against it, is certainly deserving of a long, well-documented article. But that is not what this is going to be. Rather, l would like to take on some recent insinuations, published in relation to the Michael Schmidt case, that there is some sort of inherent link between fascist ideology and anarchosyndicalism. This idea, l find, is grossly incorrect, but one which has been floating around for a while. However, as l come from a region where anarchists have actually flirted with fascists and sometimes ideas have intersected, l am interested in seeing how this can happen, with a view towards eliminating racist, nationalist, ethnopluralist and other ideas unworthy of an egalitarian anarchist movement.

A few weeks ago, one anarchist was observed linking syndicalism to fascism on the internet and now, in the 5th part of the expose on Michael Schmidt, Alexander Reid Ross and Joshua Stevens seem to posit whether there is a positive correlation between national and anarchist syndicalism. What they are saying is not exactly clear for me and l will quote the passages to let readers contemplate what is being said.

„A clear example of this strategy appears in Schmidt’s understanding of nationalism and anarchism in terms of syndicalist thought. “I don’t think that there is any real correlation between anarchist syndicalism and national syndicalism,” Schmidt told us in our interview — a strange denial given that a number of origin voices within national syndicalism, including Mussolini, Valois, and De Ambris, either had been or were supporters of anarchism. However, Schmidt did admit, in a rather glaring contradiction of his own stated views, “I do feel that there is the possibility of purist syndicalism in the post-revolutionary period approximate [to] national syndicalism[.]” In other words, as in the case of the “proper Boerestaat,” a de facto white nationalist state in Africa could function on the basis of syndicalism — i.e., there is not only a correlation, but a positive correlation between national and anarchist syndicalism.”
„Schmidt sought to forward white nationalism using an approximation of anarchist syndicalism as leverage to reopen the colonial legacy of the Afrikaner volkstaat. „

Due to somewhat ambiguous language, l could imagine that either the authors are claiming Michael Schmidt sees a correlation between national and anarchosyndicalism, or that they do. ln either case, the correlation is posited in the article.

ln my opinion, anarchosyndicalism cannot have any correlation with national syndicalism for exactly the same reason that anarchism cannot have any correlation with national anarchism. Both anarchism and anarchosyndicalism, are ideas which are supposed to be essentially egalitarian, therefore, all other ideas which divide people or assign them hierarchical roles in society are anathema to the beautiful idea that l and many comrades hold in our hearts: a world where the divisive and categorizing ideas of nationalists really have no place.

l really don't think this should be hard to understand. National anarchists exist, they call themselves anarchists, but for most legitimate anarchists, they are people who have encroached on our idea and perverted it. There is no shortage of anarchists screaming at the top of their lungs that National Anarchism is not anarchism, just like there is no shortage of anarchosyndicalists fighting against national syndicalism and other ideas related to nationalism and fascism.

This should be painfully obvious. Therefore, anybody who argues that there is some intrinsic correlation between anarchosyndicalism and national syndicalism or fascism, in my opinion, is mostly tendaciously showing their dislike of this anarchist tendency. Because why would anyone give credibility to the anarchists denouncing National Anarchism, but not to the anarchosyndicalists denouncing national syndicalism? Why not say anarchism has a correlation with National Anarchism because some nationalists wanna call themselves anarchists?

This, of course, does not mean that there is no problem for anarchosyndicalism in relation to nationalism and other matters. But simply this problem is similar to the problem faced by any other anarchist: how to keep these ideas away and effectively fight their growth. lt may come as a surprise to the ones insinuating otherwise, but anarchosyndicalists, at least the legit ones, are no less antifascist then they are.

Since l have been talking about the problems of nationalist ideas encroaching on the anarchist movement for the last 25 years, l certainly hope that none of the „syndicalism is close to fascism” people will claim that l support a fascist ideology or something of the sort. l hope rather that they will hear me out and stop making such insinuations that are essentially untrue.

To deal with the issue itself, the encroachment of nationalist ideas has been a problem in the places l lived, Russia and Poland, but it is clearly not limited to these. For example, there are also some types of nationalists in Spain. And if we talk about fascism, we can see that in the US, for the last 40 or so years, there have been tendencies which clearly were attractive to the far right. lf we put a microscope to it, we would find that some post-left celebrities had considerable interaction with essentially right-wing nuts and even came out in defense of white secessionist militias (like Hakim Bey, who l debated the issue with more than once).

This problem clearly is not something exclusive to anarchosyndicalism. To say so is ingenuine. lt would be like saying that some ecological anarchists went to the far-right, so there is a correlation between ecology and fascism.

l am curious what Reid Ross will say about Russia. (There is a chapter about it in his upcoming book.) There were quite serious problems there and, what might be news for some, is that, quite sadly, the problem was noticeable in certain circles of people calling themselves „antifascist”. l wonder if Reid Ross also will expose the long cooperation of some Russian „anti-fascists” with Russian nationalists?

ln case people are not aware, antifascism has a long tradition as an official ideology, promoted by the state in some countries. ln these places, a type of patriotic anti-fascism developed. There are also traditions of patriotic leftism, such as the PPS in Poland. Currently, with the situation in Ukraine, we saw a strong move of nationalist antifascism, trying to pass itself off as something „anti-imperialist” and gaining support amongst people in places like Spain, ltaly and Greece. Some anarchists were among those supporting.

ln Russia, the organization Autonom, plus projects connected to it, had many people who fell into the patriotic camp and eventually it had a split, with nationalists and homophobes breaking off or forming their own distinctive faction. The problems with their increasingly frequent cooperation with nationalist elements and problems with discussion with this had gone on for many years.

A rather long article would be needed to understand all the intricacies of this, but maybe l could mention one case to illustrate how certain ideas get legitimized in anarchist movements. National identity, as people may know, has been a point of manipulation by the Soviet state and then later by Russia. Patriotism has always been fueled by threats from the outside. ln recent years, this has grown to include threats to „unique Russianness”. The global world is seen as encroaching on Russian culture. With these ideas, people who were nationalists were able to pass themselves off in the anti-globalist movement with no problem. So one of the main Eurasianists of Ukraine was active in the PGA for a bit (and was their „infopoint”) and lndymedia chartered a right-wing nut in Russia … This kind of thing was becoming rather common since many leftists and some anarchists are focused anti-Westernism and anti-Americanism and see it as some equivalent of their ideas. Nationalists were able to go around in these movements, presenting their ideas as some legitimate defense of their ethnicity. And many an anarchist defended this as being distinctly different than nationalism.
ln the case of one person, who currently is one of the right-wing „anarchists” and homophobes poisoning the scene in Russia, a huge amount of debate was generated concerning his ideas. ln this case, we found anarchosyndicalists in Russia presenting very coherent argument, comparing his ideas to ethnopluralism and pointing out the problems for anarchists. ln short, the ideas of this person mean that people of other ethnicities inherently threaten pure ethnic identities, thus a king of cultural separation must remain in place.

l wouldn't like to get into all the details, arguments and counterarguments of this case because l had enough of it already when it was happening. But l would add that anarchists were threatening to beat up one of the anarchosyndicalists making the anti-nationalist analyses. Later, the mood of homophobia increased amongst self-professed anarchists. Arguing shit like, LGBT issues divide or scare the working class and are „secondary” (an argument we've heard numerous times in Poland as well), some homophobic anarchist tendencies grew, threatening LGBT activists who wanted to participate in some demonstrations. Then actually there was a physical attack on another anarchosyndicalist for their support of joint actions with feminist and LGBT activists.

Here, l specifically mention the positions of my anarchosyndicalist comrades for a reason. lt was they who most consistently, over many years, criticized the influx of not only national, discriminatory and neo-fascist ideas into the anarchist scene and clearly said that we have nothing in common with them. On the contrary, some anarchists took the position that we should in fact find the common things and only that attitude could result in the growth of the anarchist movement. The other attitude, more critical, was usually labelled „sectarianism”.

(Now, when a few of their old comrades are more clearly close to fascism, they create the narrative that they were „infiltrated” or that people changed their views.)

This is important because l believe there is some kind of connection with tendencies to water down anarchism to a minimum, seek out common points with as many people as possible and to becoming the victim of fascist and nationalist influence. l don't want to make this into an absolute correlation – because it isn't. But l see this to be a tendency where l live as well.

ln Poland there is a very long history of anarchist cooperation with the right and the influx of right ideas. A careful study of our „secret stash” in our library is very telling. The „secret stash” started years ago when we decided that we couldn't, in good conscious, sell certain „anarchist” or anti-globalists publications that we kept getting from people, so we put all that stuff in the refrigerator, where it could be read rather by people who wanted to criticize it. The stash contained lots of shit, like articles saying things like if the author doesn't like black people, it's not anarchist to force him to be with them, or booklets espousing something close to national syndicalism, discussing Sorel's and Pilsudski's ideas. The anarchist movement, in short, produced a lot of shit in their publications and continues to sell more, in the name of „open-mindedness”. For, for example, if you go now to Poznan, you can find a new right-wing book on Franco sold in the anarchist bookstore. Since some of my comrades were involved with the arguments on that, let's just say that, in short, there are enough anarchists who will argue that anarchist bookstores have some sort of moral right to sell things like this and are not too concerned that they are actually spreading dangerous ideas.

lf we dig deeper, we probably would find some more people around the world whose idea of libertarian behaviour would legitimize the distribution of books published by the far-right.

The difference of opinion on this issue has been sharply debated here for at least the last 15 years. Most recently this has been a topic in the anarchosyndicalist movement, so here l will add something to the question of whether or not anarchosyndicalism can have any correlations with national syndicalism.

Last year, during elections, at least two members of the organization Workers' lnitiative, which sometimes calls itself anarchosyndicalist (although sometimes not), ran in elections with fascists or right-wing nationalists. The more famous case was in my city (Warsaw) and the member is a very prominent member of that union and long-time activist. lt was famous enough that the mainstream press printed an article about it as well. Again, l will not go through all the details and arguments because it is simply sickening.

We never hid the fact that this happened (although we see plenty of people trying not to see this, just like some people did not want to come to terms with the fact that Schmidt is a sleazy racist and probably worse). But we reject any notion that this proves that anarchosyndicalists are close to fascists. Because for us, this is just more proof that these people are not anarchosyndicalists. And just like anarchists have a moral right to say that National Anarchists are not anarchists, anarchosyndicalists also have the right to say that certain people or tendencies are not anarchosyndicalist, no matter how they might label themselves.

The justifications l heard for many weeks during the internet debates of this topic showed that, despite all the references these people made to anarchosyndicalism, they were quite far from these ideas. lt is important to note that only many, many weeks after did the organization respond, claiming that member simply did not know he was running in elections with a few fascists. And the explanation that „we criticized him”, was taken a sufficient for some organizations to declare the problem solved. ln fact, most of the criticism instead went to anarchosyndicalists who opposed this, who were attacked while defending their members' rights to do as they want. This has been argued for many years as the definition of freedom and anarchism. Tellingly, the whole incident did not result in any expulsion or similar process against that person, who was back on the street at a demo with at least one of the fascists shortly after.

l don't think here l have to explain much why electoral escapades and fascists have nothing to do with our anarchosyndicalist ideals. What is more relevant is the way that they justify these things to themselves. That is, by arguing, among other things, that a union cannot invigilate in the politics of their individual members.

ln my opinion, this is not a question of invigilating or not; it is a question of taking clear stands and consistantly incorporating this into your organizational politics. Anarchosyndicalism, by definition, is connected to the creation of anarchism and is more clearly interested in anarchist means. Among other things, the organization must function according to our non-hierarchical principles and must avoid certain collaborationist and hierarchical models. Our ideas must clearly demonstrate a rejection of nationalism, racism, sexism, homophobia and other ideas which run counter to the idea of egalitarian society. This has to be not only in theory, but in practice.

Anything else isn't really anarchosyndicalism.

To come back to Michael Schmidt and the points made by the authors of the expose or by some other people, it may be worth pointing out that Michael Schmidt is not an anarchosyndicalist and never was one. That said, he certainly spoke a lot about anarchosyndicalism and tried to define it more to his liking. However, this does not prove any correlation between anarchosyndicalism and national syndicalism. This proves that Michael Schmidt, who had, at the very least, poor national politics, tried to create a confused and revisionist vision which would include the likes of Connolly in a „broad” tradition that he and Lucien van de Walt tried to fashion.

One thing needs to be pointed out. Often in this or other discussions, people use the terms „syndicalism” and „anarchosyndicalism” interchangeably. This is quite annoying and shows that people are not too clear about what they are talking about. For me, „syndicalism” is an extremely broad term, meaning „unionism”, and with more implied characteristics than expressed ones. Syndicalism in fact can be nationalist, socialist or whatever. lt can also be anarchist. Because syndicalism is not connected to anarchism, only to unionism.
So if you tell me syndicalism can be nationalist, l would say that is true. But anarchosyndicalism, which is predicated on an egalitarian society, cannot be.

ln some countries, this question is problematic, because some people use the terms „syndicalism” and „anarchosyndicalism” interchangeably and don't see much of a difference. This makes a lot of confusion in my opinion. Another issue is related to the conception of the organization. There are some tendencies which might stress the economic and class focus of a union and want to downplay other issues of egalitarianism. This tendency is visible in the political thought of Michael Schmidt, among others. My opinion is that this way of viewing anarchosyndicalism threatens to make it not anarchist syndicalism, but some form of syndicalism.

Many years ago, our forefathers and sisters (but mostly men), split with the Marxist train of thought. The lWA was later born, refusing to compromise on the issue of the Party and State, in the name of the class struggle.

A century later, some anarchists and anarchosyndicalists, frightened that they are too irrelevant, actively seek the cooperation of authoritarian leftists in building a „mass movement”. Having problems with „the mass”, some proponents of class anarchism, anarcho-communist and anarcho-syndicalists, have resorted to „broadening” the tradition, to focusing on class but downplaying other important issues of egalitarianism. ln essence, they are approaching the Marxist position of building an lnternational where everyone will fight agaist capitalism as the most important thing and the issue of anti-statism or other specific anarchist claims are put on the back burner. This is something that is happening now and is a concrete threat to the anarchist character of anarcho-syndicalism. lt is much more relevant than the threat of fascist infiltration. However, for the organizations and movements which have already moved to the „broad tradition”, infiltration can be an issue.

Anarchosyndicalism needs to be more relevant to people, this is for sure. And it also needs to gain in strength. But it cannot compromise its positions to do so.

lf anybody does not get the dilemna, they can look at our situation. For anybody who is not aware, Poles just voted in a Parliament consisting of 6 right-wing parties, with a few fascists here and there. Without going into a long explanation of how the right-wing got working class people hooked, it is enough to say that it is easier to get working class people by your side with nationalist slogans and by carefully avoiding talking against the church, about womens' rights, etc. The conclusion is not hard to draw: if our main goal is to grow and show we are „mass”, then the easiest way to achieve this is to turn a blind eye, be soft on nationalism, etc.

At some point, Schmidt even suggests that anarchists should use nationalism more, to get those people on their side.

For us, this would just be counterproductive. Using soft nationalism to attract people to a movement which should be anti-nationalist is not likely to get the effect you want.

Anarchosyndicalism, by its definition, must be antifascist. There is no correlation between it and national syndicalism or fascism.

But any time that the anarchist aspect of syndicalism is drowned under the issues of „pragmatism”, „massiveness”, and all other points that seek to water it down, there is a risk of the organization simply losing its anarchist character. This l think has already happened a few times. This doesn't mean that these organizations will be infiltrated by fascists, but when people start sweeping incidents under the carpet, this increases the chance that some really bad ideas can infect them.

Let's not turn a blind eye to this issues. The Michael Schmidt case has, l hope, because of his celebrity, drawn attention to potential problems and how certain ideas could be smuggled into our movements. Let's not let this happen.

Posted By

Oct 31 2015 14:22


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Oct 31 2015 14:52

Workers Solidarity Alliance was just having a similiar convo

klas batalo
Oct 31 2015 15:10

Real quick on MS yapping on about "purist" anarcho-syndicalism being close to national tendencies I get the sense that is an attack as the platformists have always made on IWA or FORAista style anarcho-syndicalism. But since the authors of the exposes are so far from our milieu they surely wouldn't understand that.

Oct 31 2015 15:35

Klas, l think you are somewhat correct. MS certainly in many instances has bashed lWA style anarchosyndicalism, which, at the very least, whatever anybody says, offered probably the largest movement against fascism in both Europe and S. America. This is probably because of beliefs that the ideas of our anarchosyndicalism have been narrower than his personal vision and, probably, the vision of a number of other comrades with similar ideas.

Yes, l think that the authors of this expose are far from this milieu and their understanding may be incorrect. Let's see.

On the other hand, one of my arguments is that when you water down your anarchosyndicalism to be in a "broader" tradition, you might end up with some ideas close to MS infecting your movement. l suppose quite a number of anarchists who ultimately do not agree with MS let some things get passed them when reading his and van der Walt's book. Of course these things were not overt there, so they were rather cleverly smuggled in, in minor ways.

Connor Owens
Oct 31 2015 16:34

Great article.

I'm not an anarcho-syndicalist myself (while supporting syndicalism as one anarchist strategy among several) but the kinds of attacks by so-called post-left anarchists on Anarchist News and other outlets in the wake of the Schmidt affair have made my blood boil. It's guilt-by-association nonsense.

It's a good point that syndicalism alone is a purely economic union-focused philosophy - able to be tied to socialism, nationalism, or even fascism - while anarcho-syndicalism is (and should be) inherently connected to an egalitarian and anti-hierarchical ethos which is in stark opposition to all forms of nationalism, racism, sexism, and queerphobia.

The only point I would emphasise which might come across as critical of anarcho-syndicalism (though it isn't intended as such) is that a lot of the more workerist/class-reductionist elements within the anarcho-syndicalist milieu can come across as somewhat dismissive of the egalitarian/inclusive ethics which are meant to guide social anarchist practice. By which I mean referring to a theoretically homogenous "working class" (singular) or proletariat with a common material interest and being somewhat dismissive of struggles around other trans-economic hierarchies like race, nationhood, gender, and sexuality. At worst dismissing even talking about these things as "identity politics".

Perhaps this unwillingness (only by some!) to incorporate concerns that go beyond class into a class struggle framework has unwittingly left the door open to those who see economic class struggle as reconcilable with masculinist, heterosexist, and indeed nationalist elements?

Oct 31 2015 18:23

CO, in the past we have hardly agreed on anything so l am glad that maybe this time we can have a more comradely discussion on this.

About your point that some people are dismissive of some egalitarian ethics, l think this is true, but l don't think it is indicative of trends in most organizations. Nor to l think this is a problem only of or more prevalent in these types of organizations. That's because people like MS, who are macho alpha-males, are unfortunately found around many types of orgs.

That said, there are some growing tendencies in a few orgs that really put the focus on mass movements and seem to be quite willing to let the alpha male types get too much influence, because, quite frankly, it is usually they who recruit people and have followers. So they are considered somewhat more valuable than other members in organizations that prioritize the mass. l think this is a problem as it scews egalitarian ethics in favor of ideas of counterpower with are contigent mostly on the idea of mass.

lt might be off-topic for this though.

Oct 31 2015 18:26
Perhaps this unwillingness (only by some!) to incorporate concerns that go beyond class into a class struggle framework has unwittingly left the door open to those who see economic class struggle as reconcilable with masculinist, heterosexist, and indeed nationalist elements?

Sadly, the answer to this (rhetorical) question is a big fat yes. I've experienced this in my former org and have read too many accounts from other orgs. And if we just consider the composition of most anarchist orgs (workerist or not), it is quite evident from the dominance of white heterosexual meales that we are most likely, even if unaware, a bit sexist, racist etc.

And great post Akai.

Oct 31 2015 21:06
Perhaps this unwillingness (only by some!) to incorporate concerns that go beyond class into a class struggle framework has unwittingly left the door open to those who see economic class struggle as reconcilable with masculinist, heterosexist, and indeed nationalist elements?

FWIW, I think anarchosyndicalist organizations which have always had decent stuff on LGBQT and racial liberation in their statements have had "attraction" problems and implementation problems as well. I can only speak of our experiance (workers solidarity alliance). Since our formation in 1984, we've had some good stuff in our "where we stand" document. I don't think we have been real succesful in attracting folks of color or large numbers from the lgbqt community. We made some small strides and steps, but not everything works out as hoped for. Obviously a different discussion.

Oct 31 2015 21:01

First of all, salutations and thank you to for including me in valuable and critical discussions. I was encouraged by the scope and intelligence of akai's recent post about Chapter 5 of "About Schmidt." I want to express even greater gratitude for akai's contributions to this discussion. For me, the question is whether the word correlation can be applied in a negative context, as in "there is a correlation between two sides fighting against one another in a war" versus a lack of correlation, for example, between a hawk and a handsaw.

This miscommunication probably falls on me as a writer for not being more clear, and I apologize for whatever ambiguity. As to akai's article, I read through it virtually without criticism, gripped by the striking solidarity and powerful courage expressed throughout.

With regards to the Russian false-left, I thank akai for referring to my book. I was only in Russia briefly, for five months, studying in Moscow and working as a translator for the samizdat group, Chronicle of Human Rights. In that amount of time, my close friend, Muslim, was attacked on the streets in the Novoslobodskaya area of Moscow on two different occasions by National Bolshevik skinheads wearing the Strasserist Black Front insignia—a hammer and sword. Perhaps now it is easy to observe one of the many things that I'm forced to take personally regarding Schmidt's "Black Battlefront."

At any rate, I appreciate akai's work, and insight into these important issues both in Russia and in Poland. In the last few weeks, I've been told I'm anti-syndicalist, anti-platformist, and a green anarchist. In fact, I have held a red card for years, tried to join a platformist group this year (there were some quotas on membership, so it didn't work out), and have always taken a very critical approach to green anarchism. (As an aside, the only small critique I have about akai's article is the place where they doubt that one could say there's a correlation between ecology and fascism—there is a very real correlation, which you can check out in Ecofascism by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier).

At my current job as a canvasser for a local environmental NGO, I've participated in "shop-floor" organizing that led to increased participation of the canvass in management. Of course, canvassing and the general NGO industrial complex are two sides of the same exploitative labor conditions under capitalism, but I believe strongly in our current project stopping nestle from extracting the water from Mt Hood, and I also believe powerfully in the vital role played by syndicalists throughout the world in international collective liberation.

Before moving on to further detail, I would like to briefly add that i have also taken part in international struggles against free trade agreements along with comrades from South Korean, Latin American, and US-based syndicates with the Trade Justice group in NYC, as well as the pro-immigrant rights and indigenous solidarity movements on the US-Mexico border.

The underlying miscommunication can hopefully be clarified in three points:

1) Schmidt identifies nationalist and anarchist syndicalism as non-correlative, and then in the same breath says that a "post-revolutionary" state (implying a white nationalist Boerestaat) would approximate national syndicalism.

2) The contradiction here is breathtaking; Schmidt at once disassociates anarchist syndicalism from nationalist syndicalism, and then calls for an approximation of a national syndicalist Boerestaat.

3) My own point here is that if there is a correlation between anarchist and nationalist syndicalism it should be posited as a negative one—one of conflict and yes, even war—however, in Schmidt's estimation there is not only a correlation, but a *positive* one!

Why I say there might arguably be some sort of negative correlation (remember that the term correlation does not imply a positive relationship) is because, as in the case of the Portuguese National Syndicalists before and at the beginning of Salazar's reign, or for that matter former-anarchist Georges Valois who worked closely with Sorel and Maurras to develop the underpinnings of national socialism, numerous anarchists did change sides.

This is because, in my opinion, European nationalism was created as a way to destroy popular struggles for liberation. The term "nationalist socialism" was created by Maurice Barrès to funnel the proletariat into a class collaborationist "movement" on the basis of a mutual desire to destroy the republican system. It was this mutual animosity toward parliamentarism that brought Sorel and Maurras together, and thinkers like Arturo Labriola clearly described a nationalist syndicalism in which all state authority would broken down and be distributed among the syndicates. For this reason, many national syndicalists gave platitudes to anarchists and attempted to win them over. At the same time, anarchists like Malatesta were too smart for this kind of thing, created the Arditi del Popolo, and fought the fascists in the streets with great bravery and courage. While I disagree with his uncritical emphasis on the Enlightenment, I would recommend checking out Zeev Sternhell's The Birth of Fascist Ideology for a good history of the development of nationalist syndicalism and corporatism.

What this history shows, in my view, is that anarchist syndicalism can never be an "approximation" of national syndicalism, as Schmidt implies—particularly not in the form of white nationalism! At the same time, there is arguably a directly negative correlation between nationalist and anarchist syndicalism that has led to an unfortunate "crossing over between sides" (as seen in the Schmidt case), and a long and brutal class struggle against fascism.

Thank you again to for hosting this important discussion, and I am very grateful to akai as well for this critical article. We are all intellectuals in our own ways as we struggle together for a better world.

Oct 31 2015 23:30

"we are all intellectuals in our own ways"

Thanks for that.

Nov 1 2015 04:02

Frankly, this is an extremely weak essay. Primarily(but not exclusively) because it ignores the historical connections between syndicalism and fascism- actually it is totally devoid of historical references.

Any serious attempt to distance anarcho-syndicalism from nationalism and fascism must contend with the "crossover" which occurred, historically, between syndicalism and fascism(fascism proper, not national socialism, necessarily). The truth is that fascism was founded by anti-parliamentarist syndicalist who emphasized direct-action and general-strikism; anti-modernism and anti-rationalsim, anti-Marxism; and ultimately, the rejection of working class as a revolutionary subject in favor of a sort pf producerism and volkisch communitarianism around concepts like "the popular classes" or "the people". Guys like Sorel, D'Annunzio and Alceste De Ambris come to mind.

Nov 1 2015 05:42
kingzog wrote:
Any serious attempt to distance anarcho-syndicalism from nationalism and fascism must contend with the "crossover" which occurred, historically, between syndicalism and fascism(fascism proper, not national socialism, necessarily). The truth is that fascism was founded by anti-parliamentarist syndicalist who emphasized direct-action and general-strikism; anti-modernism and anti-rationalsim, anti-Marxism; and ultimately, the rejection of working class as a revolutionary subject in favor of a sort pf producerism and volkisch communitarianism around concepts like "the popular classes" or "the people". Guys like Sorel, D'Annunzio and Alceste De Ambris come to mind.

Well, as the article points out syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism are not at all the same thing and their goals couldn't be more different. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "producerism" but certainly there was no widespread appeal to any type of volkishness among Anarcho-syndicalists as anarcho-syndicalists were internationalists and emphasized the solidarity of global proletariat regardless of national territorial boundaries, and to this end they formed transnational organizations such as the IWA, an internationalist Anarcho-syndicalist organization formed in the 1920's which still exists to this day. Thus the popular classes for Anarcho-syndicalists, as opposed to National-syndicalists, were not "the people" per se, but are instead the working-classes.

As for the accusations of anti-rationalism and anti-modernism these had nothing to do with Anarcho-syndicalism. Anarcho-syndicalist movements often went to great lengths to promote education among workers so they would be self-actualizing individuals who could make up their own minds about the pressing issues facing the workers without having to be dependent on intellectuals outside of the working-class to manage their movement. I think the idea that Anarcho-syndicalists, and by extension Anarchists, promote anti-intellectualism comes largely from sloppy journalism and from the baseless slanders of various hierarchical political factions perturbed over the idea that Anarcho-syndicalists promote that the workers should lead themselves as a class instead of blindly accepting the leadership of self-proclaimed revolutionary intellectuals.

You really should visit the Libcom library and actually read some of the works about Anarcho-syndicalism. Rudolph Rockers classic book on the subject is as good starting point as any.

My apologies for any sloppy grammar but I'm using a tablet and it's a real pain to write anything substantial with, and now it wants to freeze up on me.

Nov 1 2015 09:53

OK, first, thanks to Alexander for clarifying what was meant. l think the word "correlation" can be misunderstood and, in fact a lot of people did misunderstand.

Secondly, what a winner with Kingzog. (Fan of Zog?) But OK. Yes, l did not make a long history of the incidents of overlap between syndicalism and fascism, because my point was about anarchosyndicalism and fascism.

ln my opinion, the only notable defection from „our ranks” was the USM and Parma groups of USl in 1914, very shortly after USl's founding. lt is very significant but, in my opinion proves more that members of syndicalist organizations, which are mass organizations, (and in the case of USl at the time, also not clearly anarchosyndicalist, but revolutionary syndicalist with strong anarchist membership) might also have some weakness in terms of committment to some aspects of anarchosyndicalism. l don't think this is great, but it has been the case and explains some splits.

USl had 500-600,000 members at one point. lt is a misunderstanding to think that all members of mass anarchosyndicalist organizations are anarchists. The organizations should run on anarchist principles and strive to create a libertarian society. ln 1914, a small minority in USl, many manipulated by the cause of interventionism, left. But, for example, although the USM left, almost half of the workers left the USM because of this. So, yes, a small portion of workers split off from USl and went in a fascist direction, while USl went on to be outlawed and participated in battle after battle against fascism.

This is, in my opinion, the most significant thing that happened in terms of syndicalists and fascists and l wouldn't want to downplay this. However, that does not mean that there is a correlation between anarchosyndicalism and fascism as is being suggested. What this means is that anarchists have different ideas for how to organize themselves. Some, like the type which Schmidt had fallen into, choose to organize themselves in tiny organizations of anarchists and to act inside mass movements. Others choose to create mass movements with libertarian principles but then there is always a risk that some people in this go in another direction. For example, the CNT from Spain. For me this doesn't prove that anarchosyndicalism, which is the opposite of fascism, intersects in thought with fascism. What this proves is that anarchosyndicalist organization is sometimes difficult and there are times when part of its membership can fail. This is a challenge in anarchosyndicalism, but not unique to it. l mean, how many Marxists became butchers? Etc. etc.

l see the type of comments by the Zog guy as more some sectarian attempt to trash anarchosyndicalism than anything else. What is needed though is a very clear idea of what challenges we face as anarchists when we leave the comfort zone of small groups of comrades who are all very good anarchists and we build movements where not everybody comes from that background. Of course there are anarchists who would argue that this is not desirable.... but most of them still talk what happened in Spain as a social revolution. Despite the fact that the CNT clearly had defects. This is another story. When the shit hits the fan, some members of these anarchistic mass movements choose another way.

But the facts are that out of the millions of people who were in anarchosyndicalist orgs, a small amount of people did this.

That said, and as somebody mentioned, fascists have historically tried to coopt elements of anarchism and other revolutionary movements to suit themselves. For example, currently you will find fascists honoring Makhno and Bakunin ... ln the past, a couple of national syndicalists tried to influence the CNT and tried to move it in this direction at the 1931 Congress but with absolutely no success.

lt is absolutely clear that fascists want to use national syndicalism to attract working people away. Recently in Poland, fascists started this attempt, with no luck so far. lf you read what they say, they are not happy that anarchists have syndical activity, not them. They also tried to get involved with tenants, also with no luck. So we are just lucky l guess that they are not as competent as we are. They already stole many of our things - slogans, posters, etc. We had been holding successful national demos (we did it for 3 years) and they simply took the name and tried to use it and hold their own demos. They only drew a dozen people or so in a few cities, but it made enough confusion that we had to stop using the name.

But let's at least not ignore the issue and examine a bit of history. Cercle Proudhon (CP). One could argue about what exactly was taken from the anarchist thought of Proudhon (nota bene, far, far from my favourite) and what from the syndicalist thought of Sorel.

CP was first, anti-democratic. Anarchism has always criticized representative democracy but its mainstream proposes direct democracy and this is very different than the fascist take on democracy, with is that it should be eliminated and an elite should rule. What is interesting historically is that anarchists of the time criticized the use of the name of Proudhon and pointed out that Proudhon's views were misrepresented by CP. (This is online, have a read: This is very typical of what fascists do. Maurras was clearly a monarchist in fact, and monarchism is the implied form of rule for CP. So it's clear that Proudhon was not a monarchist and the use of Proudhon's name was very gross. Of course Proudhon, at least at the end of his life, had moved away from anti-statism.

lt was the conclusion of CP and following generations of fascists that democracy is a source of capitalism, therefore, democracy itself needs to be eliminated, but the proposed solution of fascists is the complete opposite of what anarchists propose.

The other question would be of course if Proudhon was the most influential thinker for anarchosyndicalists or not. That is another topic. But anarchosyndicalists were profoundly anti-statist.

Basically, although l really don't like Proudhon, l think it would be a stretch for anybody to say that what Proudhon did was create an ideology which was a forerunner to fascism. That some proto-fascists took some things from Proudhon and twisted some others does not really imply such a straight connection. l think Tucker's article, which l linked to, explained it well.

Sorel is another matter, but again, it should be pointed out that Sorel was not an anarchosyndicalist. ln his work, he offers a lot of criticism of anarchists. Everybody knows that his ideas had elements which were easily appropriated by fascism. The problem with Sorel is actually something l address in the article Kingzog doesn't like. Where the egalitarian social elements of anarchosyndicalism go missing or are drowned out by pure syndical goals, other ideas can creep in. So Sorel, he focuses on the general strike as the method of liberation – but everything else that an anarchist might be interested in, in terms of building the future libertarian society, is missing.

Now let's talk about Mussolini. He certainly did not come from an anarchist background, but was a member of the Socialist Party. So, should we start now some discussion about how socialism is connected to fascism?

OK, but yes, he drew from Sorel. Sorel himself had later rejected his earlier nationalist streak, but too late. By the time of WWl, clearly part of socialism and syndicalism had taken a nationalist turn. Nationalism has always been a historic problem, but not only of syndicalism. The national strains of socialism were against the internationalist strains and often went to war with them.

(This was not something very new. For example, one could look at Poland in the 1890s for very interesting debates about this issue, with the SDKPiL devergence from PPS. A lot of these questions were articulated in these debates well before they became hot issues in other countries.)

OK, the long and the short of it was that Mussolini attacked and outlawed USl and many of its militants were imprisoned or killed and some of them that made it through the 20s in ltaly just died in the 30s in Spain. This fact stands in stark contrast to any suggestion that anarchosyndicalism had something in common with fascism as fascists were extremely interesting in murdering anarchosyndicalists. But what we see is that first there were some attempts to coopt these organizations. What would become national syndicalists and fascists tried in 1914 to get USl on its side, and failed, although they managed to take part of the people from two unions. National syndicalists tried probably to do some minor infiltration in CNT at the beginning of the 30s and failed to get anybody. ln the 1910s, with many historic specificities, yeah, some syndicalists were swayed by national rhetoric. After the development of a clear national syndicalist tendency and fascism, in the 30s it proved impossible to trick the CNT.

Red Marriott
Nov 1 2015 16:15
Reid & Stephens wrote:
“I don’t think that there is any real correlation between anarchist syndicalism and national syndicalism,” Schmidt told us in our interview — a strange denial given that a number of origin voices within national syndicalism, including Mussolini, Valois, and De Ambris, either had been or were supporters of anarchism.

Valois, yes, the others I’ve seen no evidence for that claim (happy to be corrected).

Kingzog wrote:
Any serious attempt to distance anarcho-syndicalism from nationalism and fascism must contend with the "crossover" which occurred, historically, between syndicalism and fascism(fascism proper, not national socialism, necessarily). The truth is that fascism was founded by anti-parliamentarist syndicalist who emphasized direct-action and general-strikism; anti-modernism and anti-rationalsim, anti-Marxism; and ultimately, the rejection of working class as a revolutionary subject in favor of a sort pf producerism and volkisch communitarianism around concepts like "the popular classes" or "the people". Guys like Sorel, D'Annunzio and Alceste De Ambris come to mind.

“The truth”? Yet none of those “guys” were anarchists or anarcho-syndicalists – all were much more marxist-influenced syndicalists (see below). And Reid & Stephens’ use of Italian national anarchists as an example is more revealing than they may realise. The USI Italian syndicalist union had national-syndicalist entrants who tried to steer it towards pro-militarist and nationalist positions in WWI but they were successfully resisted by the mass of the USI which retained its anti-militarism and internationalism under a strong anarchist influence. De Ambris led his patriotic faction out of USI and merged with Mussolini’s group to form Fasci autonomi d'azione rivoluzionaria. Post-WWI; after fierce clashes with a rising fascist movement USI was outlawed by Mussolini in 1926.

"It is no coincidence that the strongest working-class resistance to Fascism was in . . . towns or cities in which there was quite a strong anarchist, syndicalist or anarcho-syndicalist tradition" (Tobias Abse,"The Rise of Fascism in an Industrial City", page 56, in Rethinking Italian Fascism)

Sorel was never an anarchist but much more a marxist (as anyone who cares to read him would see), he was at times both critical of and sympathetic to aspects of anarchism. He had a nationalist period before, late in life, enthusiastically supporting Lenin and the Bolshevik regime.

D'Annunzio was elected as a conservative to the Italian parliament in 1899. In 1900 he crossed the floor and stood for Mussolini’s socialist PSI, failing to get re-elected. He later embraced fascism.

Valois had been anarcho-syndicalist in his youth - after which he became national-syndicalist, fascist, later becoming a libertarian communist and dying in Belsen. (See; From Fascism to Libertarian Communism - George Valois Against the Third Republic - Allen Douglas)

Prior to his nationalist turn, De Ambris seems to have been always a non-anarchist revolutionary syndicalist who turned to fascism before becoming disillusioned with it; he’s described in 1913 at the London international syndicalist congress;

In the course of the sessions serious differences surfaced between those who, like the Italian delegate Alceste De Ambris, tried to soften the anti-statist and anti-capitalist slant of the proposed resolutions and avoid “splitting the working class” by creating a new trade union International; and adherents of a more consistently revolutionary line.

After an initial enthusiasm he became a syndicalist opponent of fascism;

The most famous revolutionary syndicalist opponent of fascism was Alceste De Ambris. N 1919 and 1920 he had been closely associated with Mussolini, but the attitude of the latter in the Fiume episode greatly disappointed him. Moreover, he had come to the conclusion that Mussolini was in the process of betraying the ideals of national syndicalism and that he was moving further and further to the right. It should be remembered that the “economistic” view of syndicalism held by De Ambris accepted nationalism only within the limits necessary to productionism. This view owed a great deal to the theories of Labriola and Leone and remained within the Mazzinian tradition of social justice and national identity. When fascism became openly antileftist and still more violent after 1920, other syndicalists such as Ugo Dalbi, Elio Laceria, Enzo Ferrari, and Ulisse Luchessi joined De Ambris in his opposition. These were the very people who had once believed that Fascist syndicalism had a positive effect, inasmuch as its labor component would be bound to cause a division between the socialistically minded and the reactionaries in the movement. In 1922, when fascism came to power, De Ambris and his group went into opposition. De Ambris finally went into exile.
(The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution By Zeev Sternhell, Mario Sznajder, Maia Asheri)

The same book describes the transition from Marxist-based revolutionary syndicalism to fascism;

...those ... group of intellectuals ... had long before distanced themselves from Marxist-socialist analysis, with its materialist implications. They had replaced the working class with the nation – a voluntaristic nation in which social change was entrusted to activist elites. They held that socialism had completely lost its revolutionary spirit and that materialism had succeeded only in poisoning the party and labor organizations. Olivetti explained how the replacement of the idea of class consciousness by an ethiconational vision was to be understood. In his “Manifesto dei Sindicalisti”, drafted in the first half of 1921, he declared: “The producer, in achieving his moral liberty and in accomplishing his whole duty, will realize the social revolution, which is above all a national revolution and a moral revolution.” Olivetti left no room for doubt about the relative importance of class problems and national problems. “The nation is above classes,” he declared, “and all considerations of class should give way before things of a national character.” ...

Mussolini was a marxist member of the socialist PSI, though with some early influence of anarchism via his father who had;

Been a member of Bakunin’s anarchist International in Italy in the 1870s ... [Mussolini junior] even translated ... into Italian ... two of Kroptkin’s major books...,%20Sacco-Vanzetti%20and%20the%20Anarc...

The original emergence of Italian revolutionary syndicalism came from socialists (Labriola & co) within the PSI - there is a necessary distinction;

Italian revolutionary syndicalism should be distinguished from anarcho-syndicalism: the former, which arose as an effort to revise Marxism, had a profound influence on Mussolini's thought and provided early Fascism with some of its leading figures, including Edmondo Rossoni, Alceste De Ambris, and Angelo Olivetti; the latter, however, arose out of the Bakuninist tradition and was led by anarchists, such as Armando Borghi, who worked for anarchist goals through the syndicalist movement.,%20Sacco-Vanzetti%20and%20the%20Anarc...

The USI split on the opposition of anti-parliamentary, anti-militarist anarchist principles to the nationalism and party orientation of the revolutionary syndicalists (who were soon to gravitate to fascism).

Of all those named by Reid & Stephens and Kingzog in support of a correlation between anarcho-syndicalism and national-anarchism and/or fascism only one, Valois, was ever actually an anarchist. There was much more marxist influence on syndicalists who became prominent fascists. The vast bulk of anarcho-syndicalists led the fight against fascism. Yet such misleading simplistic claims as those above are made. The claims made are no better than claiming that because some anarchists are influenced by reading Marx or have ever been engaged in struggles alongside marxists that they bear some responsibility for stalinism.

Nov 1 2015 16:45

Thanks for that.

l would add that USl really dId not splIt - because only 2 unIons left and, of those, one splIt Itself.

As mentIoned, USl at that tIme was not anarchosyndIcalIst but anarchIsts were an Important part. As far as l remember the hIstory of USl, In 1918 they wanted to stress theIr anarchIstIc nature and expelled some revolutIonary syndIcalIsts.

lf my memory serves me rIght, Alceste de AmbrIs not only was not an anarchIst, but In 1913 was elected as deputy from PSl. (SocIalIst Party). But yes, he turned agaInst fascIsm and was even exIled from ltaly.

Of course, one can ask about why USl had a ParlIamentarIan In Its ranks, but the answer Is that of course It dId not start as a strIctly anarchosyndIcalIst organIzatIon.

Nov 1 2015 21:27

one of the first NSDAP branches outside Bavaria, the one in Dortmund-Mengedde was in 1922 founded by people who were in its majority former members of the FAUD, but they were neither representative for the FAUD, nor for the Nazis

Nov 1 2015 21:48
Entdinglichung wrote:
one of the first NSDAP branches outside Bavaria, the one in Dortmund-Mengedde was in 1922 founded by people who were in its majority former members of the FAUD, but they were neither representative for the FAUD, nor for the Nazis

They left because?Just curious, not meant disrespectfully

Nov 1 2015 22:06

Hi there,

Thanks for all the interesting and insightful comments. The issues around Proudhon and his "influence" on Valois and Sorel I find extremely sketchy. Proudhon during the Second Republic was actually in favor of involvement in the state on a progressive measure, and actually played the role of deputy. It was only when Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte took over that Proudhon abandoned involvement in the government. From Proudhon's final, uncompleted work, Sorel took an ultimate rejection of all parliamentarism forever, which kind of reduced his entire oeuvre and misconstrued the character of his philosophy. That's really a separate point, but I find it interesting.

With regards to national syndicalists who had switched over to or supported anarchism, I think the examples of Mussolini and De Ambris still hold. In his younger years, Mussolini translated a couple works by Kropotkin into Italian, wrote a defense of the Haymarket martyrs, and supported Gaetano Bresci. He also wrote a review of Kropotkin's work in which he puts forward his thesis, “It is necessary therefore, that as of today, the revolutionary minorities acquire the technical capacity to reorganize the economic production on a new basis of justice, the day that the capitalist landholdings will be expropriated. The suppression of private property, will achieve a new form of political organization. The State—the committee of defense of the interests of the propertied classes—will have no more reason to exist.”

De Ambris supported what he called the "destructive gesture of the anarchists," which was to him the revolutionary general strike. There was also Francesco Saverio Merlino who left anarchism to become a socialist and became the main influence of Panunzio. If you look into Ottavio Dinale's journal La demolizione, it's supposed to be an anarchist journal and there are numerous anarchist names featured alongside Marinetti and other Sorelians. Sternhell calls it "an anarchist journal with a revolutionary-syndicalist orientation," and Dinale would come into collaboration with Mussolini.

In Spain, there was Nicasio Alvarez de Sotomayor, who led a strike for the CNT before being expelled and joining Ladesema's national syndicalists.

Also in Portugal, Stanley Payne notes that people went from anarchist syndicalism to a national syndicalist-led coalition. Here's a link to the page.

I don't think that any of the above should be blown out of proportion as though fascism came from anarchism or anything like that. There's no sense in stretching the associations, when whatever correlations exist are built on co-optation and the relationship is one of hatred. The core aspect of the claim of "correlation" between anarchist syndicalism and national syndicalism here lies in Schmidt's views, not mine. Schmidt claims "no correlation" and then says there's not just a positive correlation, but an "approximation."

- sasha

Nov 1 2015 22:06

l didn't know of the FAUD thing or the Portuguese one, which l will ask the Portuguese comrades about. So, OK, a few more instances than l thought, very unfortunately.

But you know, the Mussolini thing is really a stretch. l would never say he was an anarchist. His father was an anarchist and no doubt he got some initial influence there, but, so what. He was never in an anarchist organization and did not go en masse into fascism with a group of comrades.
Yeah, this means that some people who flirted with anarchism went on to be fascists, or to shoot Fannie Kaplan or to be presidents of countries - no way to get around that. l am sure quite a few others are bosses, corporate managers etc. Shit happens. We shouldn't dismiss it, but l wouldn't make any theory that one form of anarchism is closer to fascism or anything, which l have seen some brilliant people comment someplace on the internet.

As for de Ambris, l am really sure he was not an anarchist, but a socialist. l already mentioned him in an earlier comment.

Nov 1 2015 22:36
syndicalist wrote:
Entdinglichung wrote:
one of the first NSDAP branches outside Bavaria, the one in Dortmund-Mengedde was in 1922 founded by people who were in its majority former members of the FAUD, but they were neither representative for the FAUD, nor for the Nazis

They left because?Just curious, not meant disrespectfully

people being radicalised through the period 1918/19, looking for something more radical, becoming disillusioned, then finding something "new" and "radical"... not all of them stayed very long in the Nazi party

Nov 1 2015 22:41
akai wrote:
l didn't know of the FAUD thing

it was a quite marginal event and none of them was a long-time FAUD/FVdG member, there is an article in German (Aufbruch in neue Zeiten : Anarchosyndikalisten und Nationalsozialisten in Mengede in der Frühphase der Weimarer Republik. by Müller, Andreas. In: Archiv für die Geschichte des Widerstands und der Arbeit Nr. 8 (1987), S. 121-154., republished as a booklet by a FAU branch around 2000) about it ... in general, there were relatively few Nazis with a background in the workers movement and even fewer high-profile cases (e.g. Sepp Oerter, Barthold Karwahne)

Nov 2 2015 02:17

I was clear in my first post that the connection between fascism and anarcho-syndicalism was through syndicalism. AS is a fusion of anarchism and syndicalism, guys, come on.

For straight anarchism, I'd say there are quite a lot of localist tendencies which can manifest as nationalism. We see this in the politics of anarchists themselves. A lot of talk here has been about excluding nationalism from anarchism by stipulating a definition of anarchism which precludes nationalism or other features. While it may be technically correct, its a useless way to actually analyse and determine why there has been so much crossover and fusion between the two over the years.

Nov 2 2015 02:18

This whole matter has certainly raised a lot of thorny questions ranging all the way from early 20th century history to present dynamics in the pitifully small (especially in North America) anarchist 'scene', through intellectual trends in Europe around the time of WW1 and ending up in the final circle of intellectual Hell, philosophy. It's a hard thing to comment on it all, and in some cases I have to admit great ignorance such as the nature of Portugal's 'fascism' (how 'fascist' as opposed to traditionalist authoritarianism was it actually ?) or lesser ignorance (the situation in Ukraine, Russia and especially Poland). Some things I feel more confident about.

First of all the relations of anarchism and fascism. The French contribution by people such as Sorel had a certain nature, a very confused nature that was later mirrored in fascism, especially in Mussolini. He went from relatively orthodox Marxism to 'revisionism'., to trying to give a 'theory' (which was equal parts social psychology and the typical bloodthirst of what used to be called 'déclassé intellectuals) to syndicalism, to collaboration with marginalized 'intellectuals' of the French far right to end up as a great admirer and apologist of Bolshevism. I wonder how long he was able to hold any one position. The 'trend' in French syndicalism that he represented was always marginal, or at least the circle of his fans was very small. The members of the French CGT were, on average, more concerned with day-to-day activities such as preparatory organization, strikes, cooperatives, etc.. The 'syndicalism' of Sorel appealed much more to intellectual fireflies who flitted about the light of the CGT.

No doubt the belief in the cleansing apocalypse of the 'rrrrevolution' carried on in a minor key amongst CGT members - in a Sunday-go-to-meeting way, and it bore its own bitter fruit post WW1 in the Communist takeover of the union, the Communists playing to a 'feeling' that valued Revolution and its illusions over any socialist or anarchist content in any future, or even present, society.

Sorel is only interesting in terms of his 'intellectual' theories - whatever they were at any given time. In this he bears a resemblance to the figure of Proudhon whom the French far right adopted, no doubt to the great distress of Proudhon's ghost, as some sort of forefather. I've only read 'Reflections on Violence' by Sorel, nothing else. As to Sorel the major impression I went away with, aside from a few simplistic assertions which could have been fully expressed in one paragraph, was that this was a confused babbler who decorated his intellectual Christmas Tree with thousands of ornaments of useless digressions.

I've read a lot more Proudhon, and I can see how anybody who wants to base their beliefs on 'Holy Writ' could find anything they might want in his long and contradictory career. There's a Proudhon for all seasons, and in my opinion that which is most valuable in him, his ideas that developed into mutualism, were lifted bodily from the practice of the French workers of his day. No doubt they took him as a 'revered icon', but I doubt that many French workers 'understood' him. I doubt that few people have understood him to this day. I doubt that he can be understood. The most telling sign of this was his trial in Bescançon concerning his views on property. He was acquitted because the jury came to the conclusion that they had no idea what he was talking about.

The question of Mussolini and Italian fascism is similar, and there was indeed an influence on this fascism from the extremely marginal circle of the French far right who attempted to appropriate syndicalism for their own uses. But that's another subject that I will hopefully return to tomorrow. For now it should be mentioned that Mussolini's father was a socialist and in no way an anarchist. The tendency to present politics in as dramatic a fashion as possible, with great admiration for violence of all sorts was common to both socialists and anarchists in Italy at that time, and Benito's father's admiration for the anarchists was based pretty much on this alone. The worship of violence, in fact, is pretty much the only thread aside from extreme nationalism that is common to all the varieties of fascism.

Nov 2 2015 02:21

Let me elaborate a little more. A lot of political movements and ideologies have contradictions. A lot are born of syncreticism(combining things which are ostensibly at odds with one another). Fascism itself is syncretic. So of course it can appropriate other tendencies. The better question is why so many anarchists start out anarchist and then gravitate towards nationalism and sometimes fascism.

Nov 2 2015 02:29

When it comes to anarcho-syndicalism, it shares theories and anecestors with syndicalism proper. Syndicalism proper had a major influence on fascism. Like I wrote earlier, fascism borrows a lot of elements from syndicalism that anarchism also borrows or shares. Direct action, anti-parliamentarism, general-strikism and sometimes a skepticism of enlightenment thought or even rationalism- like Nietzscheian philosophy for instance.

Quickly, one can see this makes it easier to crossover, especially if one has nationalistic tendencies in the form of being soft on national self determination in general.
There is also a lot of crossover with Maoism on that basis, bte. That dude from MAS comes to mind.

Nov 2 2015 02:33

There is also the issue that general-strikism itself does not pose the question of the conquest of political power, which is always required. Anarchists think simply seizing production sidesteps political power. This is false. Crypto-fascism or outright fascism offers a solution to this which keeps the elements of a mass movement but which is also anti-marxist. So dissatisfied anarchists who turn nationalist might gravitate towards it once they realize the inadequacy of general-strikism without a strategy for taking power.

Rob Ray
Nov 2 2015 11:32
When it comes to anarcho-syndicalism, it shares theories and anecestors with syndicalism proper

Almost every theory has crossover with other theories, they grow out of and learn from each other for heaven's sake.

John Zerzan wrote:
What isn't happening is the Left. Historically, it has failed monumentally. What war, depression or ecocide did it ever prevent? The Left now exists mainly as a fading vehicle of protest in, say, the electoral circuses that fewer and fewer believe in anyway. It hasn't been a source of inspiration in many decades. It is dying out. The Left is in our way and needs to go.

This is a line from primitivist Zerzan's 2008 piece "The Left? No Thanks!" and could be lifted nearly word for word from any anarcho-syndicalist tract written in the last century. Now Zerzan also rejects anarcho-syndicalism, but clearly there's ideas which resonate even in his world, and doubtless reading a-s works has influenced some of his thinking even while he rejects other parts of it. This happens all the time, so it's utterly ludicrous to say any tendency particularly risks becoming another simply because you can pick out similar lines or trace links to old thinkers.

On the specific idea of anarcho-syndicalists becoming fascists, of course some will. There's fascists who become anti-fascists, Swappies who become Tories, people's views change over time depending on their material circumstances and interpretations of the world. Anarcho-syndicalism, generally, is less prone to that ime than most - I've seen people drift into leftist reformism (usually through frustration with a lack of progress) but very rarely towards active rightism.

Nov 2 2015 15:50

Thanks for writing this article! Connecting anarcho-syndicalism with fascism is an insult to all the CNT comrades killed by General Franco. I doubt any other flavour of anarchism has done more to fight fascism, or lost more comrades to it.

Red Marriott
Nov 2 2015 17:42
Reid wrote:
Mussolini translated a couple works by Kropotkin into Italian, wrote a defense of the Haymarket martyrs, and supported Gaetano Bresci.

Lots of other marxists also supported the Haymarket martyrs, as did most of the international labour movement and many liberals – that’s entirely irrelevant. Bakunin translated the Communist Manifesto – but to make misleading statements on that basis that he ‘had been or was a supporter of marxism’ would be similarly ridiculous. Or to say that Marx ‘had been or was a supporter of anarchism’ because he had been in an organisation - the 1st International - with anarchists. That Mussolini & Ambris never joined anarchist groups or called themselves anarchists – but instead chose always membership and identification within a much more marxist-oriented arena makes clear the limits of any allegiance to anarchism.

Reid wrote:
De Ambris supported what he called the "destructive gesture of the anarchists," which was to him the revolutionary general strike.

That’s actually a quote from Marinetti (“il gesto distruttore dei libertarî”) in a very un-anarchist statement;

"We want to glorify war - the only cure for the world - militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman... We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all... utilitarian cowardice." (Marinetti, Futurist Manifesto 1909)

You’re probably confusing this with the Fascist Manifesto that Marinetti co-wrote with De Ambris in 1919. And all syndicalists, including non-anarchists like De Ambris, supported the tactic of the general strike and knew it wasn’t exclusively an anarchist tactic – so again, irrelevant.

The significance of the fact that anarchism, amongst other things, had some lesser influence on those who became fascists is being overstated; and they are stretching the ‘facts’ of that influence in, ironically, a similar way to how the Black Flame authors stretched their ‘facts’ on Italy; see -

Marxism, syndicalism and anarchism can all be shown to be part of the background of some who became national anarchists and fascists. (Bear in mind those discussed here are a handful of intellectuals rather than the millions(?) of anarcho-syndicalist workers of that time.) And in this case Marxism, via the PSI and revolutionary syndicalism, has had a bigger influence on those named who became fascists. Yet Kingzog mentions all influences on syndicalism except his favoured Marxism. But ‘any connection at all’ doesn’t mean “a correlation”. I don’t see any shared integral logic that suggests such a claim, but rather basic incompatibilities between anarchism’s principles of anti-statism and egalitarianism and national-anarchism and dictatorship. In the evolution of political theories just about any one thing can be shown to have some link with another; but mostly this line of ‘reasoning’ seems to be simplistic shallow claims at the service of the claimant’s ideological agenda rather than sincere attempt at clarity.

Nov 2 2015 20:00

Just gonna chip in on the Mussolini was an anarchist thing too - at the time fascism started getting big, anarchism was really popular (hard to imagine now right?). How do we know people that dabbled in anarchism weren't just following the tide, attracted by an extreme but slightly popular idea?

I mean, Jack Straw was in CND. Does that mean there is a correlation between Pacifism and New Labour? Probably not.

Nov 2 2015 21:47

The sort of "Marxism" the proto-fascist syndicalists favored was hardly Marxist. It rejected materialism and rationalism. It was a historic revisionism and in the end, they became anti-marxist(because this revision was untenable), rejected the working class as a revolutionary subject and sought to impose harmony between classes, rejecting class struggle.