Syndicalism and the co-operative commonwealth

Syndicalism and the co-operative commonwealth

Emile Pouget and Emile Pataud lay out their conception of how a revolution would happen. Originally published in 1913.

syndicalismcoope00pata.pdf11.91 MB


Juan Conatz
Feb 28 2012 07:18

Kind of interested on where the term 'cooperative commonwealth' came from. Seeing this pamphlet by two French syndicalists from 1913 made me think that possibly that the relation between the IWW and French syndicalism was more than it has been admitted (old school Wobs always said the IWW was an 'indigenous' expression of unionism with little outside influence).

According to Nate, the IWW used the term even before it was officially formed, in the letters leading up to the conference. Also that Kautsky used the term.

One of the earliest uses of the term comes from The Co-operative Commonwealth in its Outlines, An Exposition of Modern Socialism (1884) by Laurence Gronlund. Gronlund was in the Socialist Labor Party, whose members were part of the founding of the IWW.

So doesn't prove more ties between the IWW and French syndicalism, but I'm still curious where this term originates. Kind of sound like something that would have come out of Mutualism or possibly utopian socialism.

Jason Cortez
Feb 28 2012 11:42
Owen believed that his co-operative commonwealth could begin to be introduced under capitalism and in the first half of the 1830s some of his followers established "labour bazaars" on a similar principle: workers brought the products of their labour to the bazaar and received in exchange a labour-note which entitled them to take from the bazaar any item or items which had taken the same time to produce, after taking into account the costs of the raw materials. These bazaars were failures but the idea of labour-time vouchers (or "labour-money") appeared in substantially similar forms in France with Proudhon and in Germany with Rodbertus and is one source of currency crank theories.

from mailstrom

Credit for forming the earliest co-operative society in Britain goes to the dockers of Chatham and Woolwich, who had their own little business up and running as early as 1760, while there was a "Co-operative Supply Company" operating in Oldham in 1795.

Ironically, however, it was a capitalist who really started the ball rolling. Robert Owen was never an advocate of co-operative stores.

Instead, this textile manufacturer with a social conscience had that wider vision - a dream of "villages of co-operation" where people could live and work in a decent environment and share the profits of their labours.
These communities, he believed, would eliminate competition and capitalism, leading to a classless society. Somewhat cheekily, he expected his villages to be funded by wealthy philanthropists and, amazingly, several did agree to part-fund such schemes.

Shops, however, were at the heart of the thinking of Dr William King. This Brighton man, who founded The Co-operator newspaper in 1828, believed the only way forward was for workers to help themselves, and they could best do this by contributing small, regular sums which would be used to finance shops. These would begin by selling a basic range of goods to members, and use the profits to pay the unemployed to manufacture a wider range of articles.

Eventually, these self-help groups would open factories and buy land on which to establish the Co-operative Commonwealth. King's ultimate dream was the same as Owen's, but they differed in how to achieve it and, in the end, it was King's theory that came nearer to the eventuality

from the Cotton Wood Times
So it seems to have been in common usage for some time before 1884 and to be synomonous with the wide ranging meanings of socialism then used.

klas batalo
Sep 2 2012 17:55

Yeah seems like it mostly came from the socialist side of things, and as it seems from the quotes above you are pretty much correct from some form of vague workerist mutualism. In the Dauve piece about the German Communist Left, he also mentions that this was the ideology of many early revolutionary syndicalists.

The “syndicalists” were divided into two major currents. The first was a survival from the 19th century workers movement and of the “workers separatism”4 which rejected both the communist movement and capitalism for the same reason, preferring instead to deal with the labor question in its own way, in terms of its exclusively worker-based organization. It was connected to the Proudhonist tradition, which was not so much an ideological tendency as it was a theorization of workers aspirations; its contemporary analogue is the politics of self-management.5 This current, which was predominant in the early days of the CGT, entered into crisis after 1906 (when the general strike for the eight-hour day failed) due to the expanding industrialization which liquidated its base in trade- and skill-based organizations. French revolutionary syndicalism never underwent a factional struggle between moderates and radicals: the revolutionary tendency, by virtue of its own development, was transformed in a reformist direction. In 1914, there was no surprise: “For several years, Griffuelhes, Pouget and Merrheim had discouraged antipatriotic action.”6
Joseph Kay
Sep 2 2012 18:37

Tbh, I dont think Dauvé's a particularly reliable source as polemic often seems to get the better of him. E.g. to label Pouget a Proudhonist is not even wrong.

klas batalo
Sep 2 2012 18:43

sounds fair, i've definitely noticed him being polemical. also i don't have as much knowledge as some about syndicalist stuff, so i just go by what i've read heard etc

Joseph Kay
Sep 2 2012 18:54

I'm pretty sure this text explicitly talks about free access communism extending as far as the revolution allows, for example (more a synthesis of Bakunin and Kropotkin than Proudhon).

Kate Sharpley
Jan 7 2013 19:17

Just posted a review of this: A Novel of the General Strike [Book Review] by Lyman Tower Sargent

Pataud and Pouget produced a detailed plan for a general strike revolution in a particular setting. They produced an instructive handbook, but as I have pointed out, they tended to be overly optimistic. I think we must be self-consciously pessimistic in such situations. An anarchist society will not be produced by assuming that at every possible crisis the opposition will be stupid and we will be brilliant.