Arguments for Welsh Syndicalism - Past and Future. an introduction from 1999
It has become fashionable for ‘socialist’ and social-democratic elites, representatives and thinkers to deride emphatically egalitarian positions as ‘old’ and outmoded. This view is often accompanied by the belief that the contemporary world limits the policy options of governments and non-governmental organisations to those based upon the ‘free market’ as essential determinant of relative wealth (e.g. Perryman (ed.) 1994). Redistribution of wealth, and/or economic power, is seen as undesirable and impracticable. Behind these views is often the shadow of Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ argument (1992), which still holds currency despite the failure of the free markets which replaced ‘socialism’ in eastern and central Europe in 1989 and 1990, and the recent effects of those failures elsewhere.
The argument put here however is that an egalitarian tradition has existed which rejects both contemporary social democracy and revolutionary state socialism, and which can provide a guide to contemporary egalitarian thought and practice. That tradition is syndicalism, sometimes referred to as ‘industrial unionism’ or ‘industrial democracy’ depending on the facet of the philosophy to be emphasised. Some recognisably ‘Welsh’ developments of syndicalist thought will be argued to be indispensable to the renewal of such a tradition.
In ‘The Natures of Syndicalism and Welsh Syndicalism’ syndicalism will be defined. It will then be argued that the ‘Welsh’ manifestation of that philosophy, with its particular and unusual emphasis on the moral and educational aspects of revolutionary thought and activity, constituted a discrete philosophy. This philosophy will be referred to as ‘Welsh syndicalism’ to denote its similarity to, and difference from, syndicalism per se.
In ‘The Impacts of Welsh Syndicalism’ Welsh syndicalism will be argued, contrary to the arguments of K.O.Morgan (1995, p.442), and M.Woodhouse (1978, p.99) to have been a success, of sorts, in its own time; because it helped shift Welsh politics to the left for over half a century. The ‘pessimism’ through which Woodhouse analyses Welsh syndicalism, and his conclusion that its demise had the inevitability of ‘Greek tragedy’ (1978, p.99, p.103) will be answered, as will K.O.Morgan’s case that The Miners Next Step, the classic exposition of Welsh syndicalism, was a ‘step too far’.
In ‘Welsh syndicalism, the Contemporary World, and the Rebirth of Radicalism’ the usefulness of Welsh syndicalist ideas in the contemporary world will be argued. This will be done through the refutation of the ‘end of history’ arguments provided by Fukuyama (1992) and the philosophical/economic impossibility arguments against egalitarianism put by Popper, Hayek and others. Similarly, postmodernist/feminist notions of emancipation lying beyond the economic sphere and in confrontation with the ‘political economy of the sign’ (e.g. Baudrillard 1975) will be refuted, along with the message conveyed by some versions of feminism that class is not where inequality is most importantly confronted. The inadequacy of either Marxism per se, or individualistic anarchism, will be noted as a part of, and following these arguments. Comments will also be made about the present directions of politics and economics, and it will be contended that the tendencies noted are likely to favour the spread of Welsh syndicalist ideas.
Given the viability of even most of these arguments, the case for the usefulness of Welsh syndicalism will be established, and this shall be the claim of the conclusion. Far from being an ideology whose time and place is the past, the conclusion will remind the reader, once again, that the ideas of Welsh syndicalism can provide a basis for the renewal of radicalism that is necessary for the reinstatement and provision of economic and moral decency to millions.
The Natures of Syndicalism and Welsh Syndicalism
The Nature of ‘Syndicalism’
‘Syndicalism’ derives from the French ‘syndicat’, meaning ‘union’. However the syndicalist understanding of the union is a highly particular one. Unions are perceived not merely as devices for negotiation within the context of a capitalist society, but as a revolutionary society in embryo.
Were this the extent of syndicalist thought however, then it would be little more than a version of Marxism. Rather, it includes the anarchist contempt for the state and hierarchy, and is therefore commonly referred to as anarcho-syndicalism (Rocker 1989). Thus, despite perceiving the union as the germ of the future society, revolutionary syndicalists were seeking to make their union more egalitarian as a preface to remaking the world through union power.
Due to the twin emphases on unionism and decentralisation, syndicalism (largely) eschewed parliamentary politics of any sort, maintaining that it was the industrial battleground which was the decisive one in the class war, and that ‘politics’ was a distraction. The economic action therefore preferred was, due to these emphases, necessarily ‘spontaneous’ – uniting the working classes without a centralised or dictatorial structure. Unions which adopted syndicalism consequently tended to focus on what George Sorel called the ‘revolutionary myth’ of the General Strike (1915). The aim of the General Strike, it was predicted, would be become clear to the striking classes through action alone, although syndicalist thought, like Marxism per se, refuses to define the future society in detail. However, a clear aim would be to realise direct control, by the workers themselves, over their own industries – in contradistinction to the seizure of the state and consequent ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ envisaged by orthodox Marxism (e.g. Lenin 1977, pp.82-87). The state, for syndicalism, would not become better with revolution; it would disappear.
Within this body of belief was a greater rejection of socialist orthodoxy again. The rejection of rationality alone as an epistemological basis for a philosophy made syndicalism revolutionary even in relation to other revolutionary philosophies. O’Connor notes that:
In contrast with Marxism, which claimed to be ‘scientific’ and value-free, syndicalism cultivated a moral, intuitive dynamic. This is most heretical, and most original quality, that it sought to be both a moral and materialist ideology.
(O’ Connor 1988, p.6)
Thus syndicalism can be summed up as an ideology which seeks direct workers’ control through the mechanism of the revolutionary union, against state, political parties, capitalists, and bureaucratic leadership, and with the philosophical weapons of both ‘will’ and ‘reason’.
The Nature of Welsh Syndicalism
In the South Wales Coalfield these ideas started to become influential around 1908. This occurred for several reasons. Some were economic, as John Williams argues strongly (Williams 1997, pp.214-237), but this in isolation is an insufficient explanation for radicalism, and especially not for any kind of radicalism in particular. For example, a rapid decline in living standards helped radicalise the unemployed during the 1920s and 1930s; but not in the 1980s – it takes more than simply immiseration to have such an effect. The economic explanation is only a useful one if supplemented by the effects of some foreign workers already fervently espousing anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist beliefs (Francis and Smith 1998, pp10-11), and, probably more importantly, by the inspiration presented by the miners who received union-sponsored education at Ruskin College or the Central Labour College before returning to become checkweighers in the mines they had left. One of those miners was a man who, insofar as it could be said that any one person did, was to epitomise Welsh syndicalism, and whom K.O.Morgan describes as "the one original thinker Wales has produced in the last hundred years" (1995, p.209) – Noah Ablett.
As noted above, Welsh syndicalism included close affinities with, and notable differences from, syndicalism as it was thought and practised elsewhere. The affinities can be seen in that Welsh syndicalism included (to a point) the elements of syndicalist thought as listed above. The differences lie in what will be referred to here as the ‘moral critique of leadership’, the (implied) development of anti-statism which it provides, the emphasis placed upon education rather than spontaneity as revolutionary method, the particular understanding of what is meant by ‘the union’, the ‘irritation strike’ (Unofficial Reform Committee 1991, p.18), the ideas Woodhouse refers to as ‘encroaching control’ (1978, p. 92), and the subtle approach to ‘decentralisation’. Of these divergences and developments from syndicalism per se, it is the moral critique of leadership and the concept of education as revolutionary method which will be marked out as most significant in conclusion.
The moral critique of leadership is summarised in The Miners’ Next Step, when it is stated that:
No man was ever good enough, or brave enough, or strong enough, to have such power at his disposal as true leadership implies.
(Unofficial Reform Committee 1991, p.16)
Following and extending Lord Acton’s epigram that "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", The Miners’ Next Step extends the criticism of leadership to its corrupting influence on the leaders their almost inevitable transference of their loyalties to those who also hold power, as here:
‘They, the leaders, become "gentlemen", they become Members of Parliament and have considerable social prestige because of this power’…’they are "trade unionists by trade" and their profession demands certain privileges’… ‘the leader then has an interest – a vested interest – in stopping progress.’
(Unofficial Reform Committee 1991, p.19)
This criticism is further extended to the corrupting influence leadership has on the led, as here:
This power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his.
Thus the alienation which orthodox Marxism perceives to exist under capitalism, as a matter of economic science, and which syndicalism and anarchism perceive to exist in both political-economy and the state, is portrayed in Welsh syndicalism as all of these – but more importantly, as the inevitable result of the acceptance of any permanent hierarchy of power. However, the solution to this problem is not posited in Welsh syndicalism as the destruction of co-ordinating or leadership roles, as was the case, for example, in the anarcho-syndicalist movement in Spain (Maura 1971, pp.60-83). Rather it is seen to exist in the idea of "Workmen the ‘bosses’, ‘Leaders’ the servants" (Unofficial Reform Committee 1973, p.16), meaning that ‘leaders’ are to be given orders and to hold their positions only on as long as they carry out those orders. Further, the theoretical and practical emphasis laid upon workers’ education within Welsh syndicalism can be seen as a practical measure to ensure effective oversight by union members of leaders, and as a means to ensure that the union is never short of members capable of replacing them. Whilst this is an implicit, rather than an explicit, purpose of education, the connections of ideas appear clear.
Explicitly, education is approached as a method of organisation, recruitment, and propaganda for revolution, in a way which almost precisely corresponds to Gramsci’s later conception of a ‘war of position’ (Gramsci, 1986, p.235) in which the ‘organic intellectual’ would be a vital force (Gramsci, 1986, p.5, p.204).
Will Hay, writing for ‘The Industrial Syndicalist’ in 1910 provides a paradigmatic example. Noting the weaknesses of the South Wales Miners’ Federation at the time, he demands greater union militancy. However, he recognises that "Such new methods will need new men!" (Hay 1974, p.151). His solution to finding ‘new men’ was an education system which dealt with the "intricacies of the market, the cost of production, and the method of exploitation under which we suffer." (Ibid, p.156). Those educated, and radicalised, under such a system, would use their "initiative" (Ibid.) to radicalise those around them.
Another prime, if unconscious, example of the educational awareness of Welsh syndicalists is provided in the arguments presented by them in the 1912 Trealaw Judge’s Hall debate:
If the miners with their friends, the transport workers, the dockers, and other workers, conceive that they are the exploited class producing all the wealth, then the means of emancipation are in their own hands, by consolidated effort.
(Society for the Study of Labour History 1975, p.35, my italics).
The educational emphasis and conditional nature of Welsh syndicalist pronouncements show working-class intellectuals as creating not only an ‘objective’ understanding of class conflict, but also the need for active effort to create revolutionary will – far removed from the ‘spontaneity’ and understanding ‘through struggle’ which informed much continental syndicalism. In seeing education as a means to revolution in both the ‘rational’ and ‘romantic’ sphere then, it could be argued that the theoretical reach of it is taken further in Welsh syndicalism than even in Gramsci’s later works. It should be further noted that the role of the 1908 Ruskin strikers, including several latterly prominent syndicalists, reflected precisely such an attitude; and that documents and articles such as The Miners’ Next Step, Industrial Democracy for Miners and others were themselves part of a consciously pedagogic strategy.
The state is an enemy for syndicalism in general due to the Marxian reasoning that it is a "committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie" (Marx and Engels 1965, p.33), and the simultaneous rejection of the position that it could serve any essentially different role if controlled by socialists (Society for the Study of Labour History 1975). Welsh syndicalism accepts this analysis in toto, but also implies a rejection of the state on a deeper level, in its moral critique of leadership. The state is not only the tool and property of others as far as Welsh syndicalism is concerned, it is a corruption of human nature, castrating those who live under it, and alienating those who would control it from their peers. Nationalisation, industrial regulation, and state-sponsored arbitration are not flawed but vital movements towards socialism as perceived by state socialisms, but the spreading tentacles of bureaucratic and exploitative government. This is not to say that Welsh syndicalists completely rejected the use of such methods – but that they were to be only regarded as either ameliorative measures within an essentially immoral system, or as moves upon the battleground of the class war.
The Welsh syndicalist view of what is meant by ‘the union’ is simpler, being taken to refer to unions already in existence. Where the leading lights of the American Socialist Party and International Workers of the World argued for ‘dual unionism’ , being the establishment of radical unions in competition with existing reformist unions, Welsh syndicalism ruled out such methods. In practice its preparatory aim and method was largely radicalisation and structural change of the South Wales Miners’ Federation. However, it is doubtful whether the dual union/single union debate is particularly important for contemporary analysis. After all, attitudes to particular unions, and the choices available at a given time, are almost endless.
The concept of ‘encroaching control’ as revolutionary method, contrasts strongly with the sudden and violent general strike as anticipated (whether as ‘myth’ or reality) by most European syndicalists. Encroaching control is that:
…a continual agitation be carried on in favour of increasing the minimum wage, and shortening the hours of work, until we [the SWMF] have extracted the whole of the employers’ profits. (Unofficial Reform Committee 1973, p.30)
… in order to;
…build up an organisation that will ultimately take over the mining industry, and carry it on in the interests of the workers. (Ibid.)
It will observed that this appears as a gradual and evolutionary process, rather than as the cataclysmic insurrection envisaged by other syndicalisms. One of the main debates about the value of Welsh syndicalism has been over how realistic this approach was, and this will be more fully addressed ‘The Impacts of Welsh Syndicalism’.
Finally, Welsh syndicalism’s sophisticated attitude to decentralisation can be seen in The Miners’ Next Step and elsewhere in the twin proposals "Decentralisation for negotiating" and "Centralisation for Fighting" (1973, p.18). Thus the whole power of the union is employed only over matters of principle, rather than merely local disagreements; whilst the lodge or union branch (which in the mining areas essentially was the workplace) is free to set local attitudes to all matters but for the final aim of the union as a whole.
Welsh syndicalism then, is a revolutionary philosophy of workers control, to be achieved through massed union power by primarily economic-industrial weapons. It has a withering critique of official leaders, but values the role of leaders and of working-class intellectuals in unofficial leadership and motivational capacities, and supports vehemently the importance of their education for specifically that role. Because of the moral rejection of official leaders, ‘political’ action is largely eschewed, as is the desirability of any form of state. Revolution, paradoxically, is to be an ‘evolutionary’ process. All of these attitudes were informed, like the whole international movement for workers’ control, by the twin philosophical motivators of intuition (or will) and reason; but, by virtue of its formalisation of the moral critique of leadership, it is possible to say that Welsh syndicalism represented an unusually cogent rehabilitation of the intuitive element of socialism. In its pedagogic attitudes, it sought also to further heighten the achievement of those elements dependent on reason. In ‘The Impacts of Welsh Syndicalism’ it will be argued that Welsh syndicalism was a success in its own time and beyond, insofar as its proponents practised and sought to practise it, and, naturally, with some small caveats.
The Impacts of Welsh Syndicalism
Explanations for the radical shift in Welsh politics, from the liberalism of the latter part of the Nineteenth Century to the broad socialism of the Twentieth Century, tend to be of two types. The first sees the change as structural, in which the vagaries of environment or global capitalism swept strange species of behaviour onto the previously passive beaches and valleys of Wales (e.g. John Williams 1997, pp.214-237). The second is the perception of the change occurring as a function of electoral campaigns and the role of individuals within them (Hopkin, in Jenkins and Smith (eds.) 1988, pp.161-182). Both arguments exemplify the belief that ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’, and tend toward a picture of Wales which was only ever truly radical in rose-tinted myth, with change incremental at best, and where revolutionaries were far out of step with the working classes. The utility of either type of arguments per se will be addressed and dismissed.
Having established the inadequacy of structural and electoral-personal explanations for Wales radical shift, and that there was a radical shift, it will then be shown that Welsh syndicalism was a decisive factor in that process. The idea that Welsh syndicalism’s failure to achieve its most urgently stated aims was in some way inevitable will then be confronted. Finally in this section it will be established that many of the ideas of Welsh syndicalism were to play a major part in Wales (and beyond) long after the demise of any recognisable Welsh syndicalist movement. The simplistic criticism which ‘intellectuals’ of both ‘left’ and right have levelled at both the welfare state and state socialism – that they simply ‘didn’t work’ – will thus be rendered null and void as far as Welsh syndicalism is concerned, and there will be no further obstacles to addressing its potential in the contemporary world.
Much of the case against the structural explanations for the radical shift in Welsh politics during the early Twentieth Century has been dealt with in the comments above on the gaps left by Williams’s (1997, pp.214-237) economic explanation of radicalisation. Longer-term structural explanations would also be forced to face the problem of agency, as well as the fact that other locations with obvious similarities to the Wales of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries were never to be successfully radicalised to anything like the Welsh degree, even in purely electoral terms. Perhaps the clearest example is the United States after the demise of the Industrial Workers of the World as a mass phenomenon. Structural explanations for the Welsh radical shift must therefore be regarded as inadequate.
The electoral-personal argument, or suggestion of one, as given, for example, in Hopkin’s ‘The Rise of Labour in Llanelli’ (1988,pp.161-182) must be rejected also. Whilst it may be true to attribute some electoral results partly to the persistence or style of canvassers or candidates, it is not sufficient to explain the coalfield-wide shift in South Wales, nor can it explain why people were willing to be persuaded to change their vote – let alone why they so determinedly rebutted in practise the longstanding liberal idea of industrial ‘harmony’ in their day-to-day lives. Worse, this explanation simultaneously assumes that the ‘personal is political’, and that, to coin a phrase, the ‘political is [purely] electoral’ – thus combining two opposing conceptions of the political in one argument. Nor is it realistically possible to create a ‘synthesis’ of the structural and electoral-personal arguments unless the agenda-shaping role of agitators outside the [purely] electoral field is taken into account.
The picture of a non-radical Wales which emerges from these arguments must be dealt with independently however, especially in the light of the tonnage of paper dedicated to ‘reassessing’ the impact of revolutionaries in the shaping of Twentieth Century Wales, qua Woodhouse (1978, pp.92-109). This statement should perhaps be taken as indicative, from a historiographical view;
Historians who have puzzled over the persistence of ‘Tonypandy’ as legend and myth in the history of the Labour movement have been driven to re-examine the story by discarding the hindsight which has shaped our [sic] sense of ‘Tonypandy’ as part of an unfolding series of events. From this perspective the shock ‘Tonypandy’ administered to contemporaries, the longevity of its wider influence and the significance of the attached syndicalist doctrine becomes clear again. In some ways it is the sources themselves which blurred our vision and it is only through re-interpretation and comparison of different types of source material that the focus can be sharpened
.(Smith 1988, p.109, my italics)
On which side of the debate the ‘sources’ are likely to point is made clear in an interview quotation in Hywel Francis’s essay on oral history;
"In the movement we never kept anything you see. We worked from day to day…"
(In Francis 1980, p.166)
Nor is it only some recent historiography which appears to demonstrate the ‘labour unrest’ of that time as a ‘shock’. The Times in 1912 ran a series on syndicalism and its threat, with the rationale that:
The existence of a strong Syndicalist movement can no longer be denied … Its rapid development has taken everyone by surprise, including both the older trade unionists and the socialists who have dominated them.
(Quoted in Kirkaldy 1914, p.100)
Kirkaldy also noted with worry the publication of The Miners’ Next Step, quoting at length from it (Ibid, pp.110-111), signalling the prominence the Welsh syndicalist movement had amongst British syndicalism as a source of worry for liberal and conservative commentators of the time.
It is not sufficient of course to argue the power and promise of Welsh syndicalism by reference only to either the descriptive prose of modern historians, or the threat its enemies believed it to pose. To demonstrate fully that Welsh syndicalism had promise beyond its final achievements, and that it had a key role in Wales’ radical shift, it is necessary to provide a cogent answer to Woodhouse’s inevitable failure thesis and Morgan’s perception of The Miners’ Next Step as "a step too far"(Woodhouse 1978, Morgan 1995, p.442). It will then be necessary, to demonstrate that Welsh syndicalism played a key role in Wale’s radical shift, to note some flaws in the inevitable failure theses, and some of the longer-term impacts of syndicalism
The core of Woodhouse’s argument is that Welsh syndicalists "underestimated the significance of the state" (1978, p.93) in both theory and practice, with little conception of the state as armed and dangerous enemy – despite the fact that Welsh syndicalists own polemic against nationalisation used that very reasoning. A clear sign of this problematic is the strategy of ‘encroaching control’ being framed so as to virtually ignore the possibility of state intervention on the part of the employers. There is no strategy to combat massed police or troops, nor to use (or abuse) Parliament in order to delay, prevent, or capitalise upon, the use of state force. Without such strategies explicitly theorised and prepared, Woodhouse suggests, no revolutionary movement can expect success. The loss of the ‘decontrol battle’ of 1919 – 1921, and the concomitant ‘death’ of Welsh syndicalism, can thus be seen as inevitable, and even pre-ordained; as a ‘tragedy’ in the literary sense. (Woodhouse 1978, p.92).
Whilst Woodhouse’s case is a strong one, it fails to take into account some arguments which Welsh syndicalists would widely have taken as given, as well as the militancy developing from what Holton calls ‘proto-syndicalist’ (1976, p.132) attitudes through the coalfield from 1908. For all its distinctive nature, which has led to debates about whether their was such a thing as ‘Welsh syndicalism’ (e.g. Woodhouse 1978, Morgan 1995), Welsh syndicalism developed from syndicalist beliefs, and retained the traces of its past. Here for example, Hay ironically dismisses Sorel’s intellectualism, whilst making a clearly Sorelian point:
It is not the Sorels of the world that are important…it is Bill Jones on the firing line with stink in his clothes and fire in his heart.
(Hay 1974, p.83)
Clearly then, the ideas which Sorel published in ‘Reflections on Violence’ (1915), were already well known within British syndicalism. Included within this canon was the proposition that the forces of reaction were essentially weak and frightened of violence, or even the threat of it. Along with this, his idea of the power of ‘myth’, would also have been influential, causing, perhaps, some of the arrogance which writers of the time perceived to characterise the Welsh ‘advanced men’ (see e.g. Egan 1985, pp.27-29). Thus what Woodhouse sees as essentially a theoretical omission can also be seen as a developed theoretical position. Nor will it do to presume as a given that the forces of reaction were not weak in some senses in the 1910-11 or 1919-1921 period, or that the power of ‘myth’ was inevitably too blunt a tool for the job – given the scale of those conflicts. However, one must question the will of Ablett, and of the Welsh syndicalist movement as a whole, in the willingness to recommend or accept ‘masterly inactivity’ (Woodhouse 1978, p.107), and in the absence of any explicit strategy for combatting state intervention. Further, it should be noted that the strategy of ‘encroaching control’, which Woodhouse maintains was discredited in the decontrol dispute, only a strategy applicable to private industry – and it was the industry’s return to the private sector which was what the dispute was about.
More important for Woodhouse’s case though is the contention that Welsh syndicalism could not command enough support to be a genuinely revolutionary movement, and was therefore always bound to fail. This is the same case that Morgan argues (1995, pp.442-449) – that, whilst intelligent, committed, and accomplished, the syndicalists of Wales were radically distant from the more pragmatic trade unionism of the people they thought were their comrades. Despite his sympathetic portrayal of Ablett, Morgan appears to suggest that Ablett and his like were somehow not ‘of’ the union (Morgan 1995, pp.117-121,442-449).
However, the length and militancy of the strikes of 1908, 1910-11, 1919-21 and later, should help to reassure us that the doctrine of class war was not heartily rejected by the miners of Wales. The (later) success of the irritation strike and the ‘stay-down’ strikes of the 1930s (Jenkins 1992, p.359), can also be traced back to ideas expressed in The Miners’ Next Step. Arthur Horner was later to comment that the men would ‘stay-down’ with a very minimum of provocation, and for long stretches, unless talked out of it by their union officials (Horner 1960). It is difficult to reasonably assert that such a readiness for irritation strikes was not at all influenced by the strategy of ‘encroaching control’. Further, many of now unremembered and barely-remembered men who organised and took part in later strikes, lock-outs and stay-down disputes later, or who spread their radicalism through adult education, or even parliamentary politics, could be seen to trace their personal radical shifts through the activities of the Unofficial Reform Committee, the Industrial Syndicalist Education League etc (Francis 1980, pp.171-172). For any group to have such a transformative effect even upon a few individuals, it is necessary for it to clearly understand the people with whom it is trying to communicate.
The radicalising effects of Welsh syndicalism up to the stay-down strikes of the 1930s have already been noted. The effects were broader and longer though. A significant part of the inspiration behind the politics of Bevan and others (Smith 1993) came from Welsh syndicalism, whether immediately or at one remove. Welsh syndicalists were to play a major role in radicalising industries and areas with which they are hardly synonymous, such as schoolteaching – precisely due to their educational emphases and consequent refusal to accept ‘brain workers’ as necessarily opposed to manual workers. (Lawn 1984, O’Leary 1985).
In this section then, we have seen that there was a radical shift in early Twentieth Century Wales; that neither structural nor electoral-personal arguments are sufficient to explain that shift; that a correct explanation must therefore offer significant credit to Welsh syndicalism. Those points established, it has been shown that Welsh syndicalism was not a subject of ‘inevitable failure’, and, indeed, that given its demonstrable role in the sustained radical shift in Wales in the Twentieth Century, there are grounds for arguing that it was in fact a success. In "Welsh Syndicalism, the Contemporary World, and the Rebirth of Radicalism" the case will be made that a philosophy taking central tenets of Welsh syndicalism is capable of providing the basis for a revived international revolutionary movement.
Welsh Syndicalism, the Contemporary World, and the Rebirth of Radicalism
In the previous sections Welsh syndicalism has been demonstrated to be a distinct ideology, and some of its key tenets have been explored. It has also been shown that Welsh syndicalism was a successful radicalising force in its own time – despite its revolutionary aims never being achieved. Further, we have seen that the revolutionary potential of Welsh syndicalism was never disproved, and was greater than some historians allow. In this final chapter Welsh syndicalism will be shown to; a) still be of consequence, b) have contemporary trends running in its favour, c) still provide achievable aims, and d) be ‘philosophically possible’.
In order to demonstrate these points it will first be useful to briefly posit once again the essential features of Welsh syndicalism, as established in "The Natures of Syndicalism and Welsh Syndicalism" and explored further in "The Impacts of Welsh Syndicalism". To demonstrate a) - that "Welsh syndicalist aims are still of consequence" - it will be shown that the radical postmodernist position, positing emancipation lying in the rejection of the ‘code’ of the ‘political economy of the sign’ (Baudrillard 1975, pp.6, 106-163) is fatally flawed. Those versions of feminism that regard class as merely an ideologically constructed irrelevance will demonstrated incorrect also.
Point b) will be established, as far as is possible, by showing that state socialisms and free market conservatisms have discredited, or are discrediting,
themselves whilst unintentionally popularising notions central to Welsh syndicalism’s viability as a successfully radicalising ideology.
Point c) will be established by the refutation of the ‘end of history’ argument provided by Francis Fukuyama (1992), which posits that variations on globalising capitalism are the only possible significant futures, and that therefore revolutionary movements cannot provide any aim which is genuinely achievable.
Point d) will be established by answering the defining arguments of philosophical/economic critiques of egalitarianism per se, that no genuinely redistributive or non-pragmatic socialism is desirable or ‘philosophically possible’.
The Essential Features of Welsh Syndicalism – A Recap and Slight Expansion
Welsh syndicalism is a philosophy which identifies itself by a moral critique of the effects of hierarchy upon both masses and individuals. It accepts Marx’s argument that extraction of surplus value is the basis of capitalism, and therefore seeks to destroy capitalism by destroying surplus value. It seeks "common ownership of the means of production" through democratic and accountable unions, as opposed to through ‘the state’, as communists were to come to seek (e.g. Lenin 1977, p.84). It posits both intuition/will and reason as philosophical bases for political action, and/or political knowledge. It proposes workers’ education to develop initiative and understanding. It seeks improvement in pay and working conditions as important in the short term because of a genuine moral concern for the working-class standard of life, and in the long-term as moves in the class struggle. It marries faith in massed union action with a pronounced suspicion of bureaucratic leadership and officialdom.
Why Welsh Syndicalism is Still of Consequence
Syndicalism, anarchism, and Marxism all believe that capitalism oppresses and exploits classes and individuals, whether as a result of an impersonal economic dynamic, or a centralised state successfully restricting the right of the use of force to itself and its agents alone, or both. Further, all three maintain that the only means of disposing of the capitalism system is revolution – understood as a total change in the relations of production or power within a society – even if that revolution may be a ‘gradualist’ one such as Welsh syndicalism’s "encroaching control"; American anarchism’s communes and schools; Marx’s later approval of (some) parliamentary activity. In essence these three groups of beliefs hold in common an understanding that worthwhile change can only result from class war, whether it be, in Gramscian terminology, a "war of movement" or a "war of position" (1986, p.235). Whatever their many disagreements, none of these beliefs has held anything but a materially egalitarian social order as its fundamental aim.
Since the late 1960s, however, radical philosophies have emerged which reject egalitarian thought outright, or posit that the battle for egalitarianism is not the fundamental one, and that habits of domination and exploitation and oppression are built into the structures of language and image through which we [fail to?] communicate (e.g. Baudrillard 1975). Postmodernism is the school of thought most obvious here, but some feminist analyses make similar criticisms of (most often) Marxism, and by implication, other egalitarian philosophies of class conflict such as anarchisms and syndicalisms. What shall be done here is to confront the inadequacy of some central points of these criticisms, especially as criticisms of egalitarian class conflict theories per se, rather than Marxism alone. Assuming that ‘radical’ critiques of class conflict are shown to be inadequate, then Welsh syndicalism must, along with other revolutionary theories of class conflict, provide aims relevant to the contemporary world. That is to say, it is still of consequence.
Baudrillard is perhaps the radical postmodernist par excellence writing in the sphere of political economy. In "The Mirror of Production" (1975) he argues that Marx was a prisoner of his time and the mistaken scientism of the Nineteenth Century, causing Marx to see human beings as homo economus, in precisely the same way as did capitalist political economy. Having recognised these "errors" in Marx, Baudrillard proceeds to genuine radicalism by maintaining that it is not in economic production that our political economy is constructed in the contemporary world; but rather, following Galbraith’s analysis of the world of the late 1960s and early 1970s (Galbraith 1971), it is in the realm of monopoly capitalist consumption and manipulation. He further applies the semiotic work of Deleuze to demonstrate the social–linguistic construction of reality (Ibid, p.137, 147), arguing that in these circumstances what is of prime human consequence is the critique of the ‘political economy of the sign’ (op cit.), that is to say, how manipulation occurs within monopoly capitalism.
Genuine radicalism then, for Baudrillard, lies in counter cultural ‘speech’ (op cit, p.163-167), and in the radical communication of marginalised groups within society, which he is at pains to exclude the working classes per se from (op cit., p.159). Genuine radicalism lies in a species of freedom before, beyond, and through, the ultimately meaningless and domination-reproducing discourses of revolution (Marxism in particular). The real revolution;
…is here in all the energies that are raised against political economy. But this utopian violence does not accumulate; it is lost. It does not try to accumulate itself as does economic value in order to abolish death. It does not grasp for power. To enclose the "exploited" within the single historical possibility of taking power has been the worst diversion the revolution has ever taken. One sees here to what depths the axioms of political economy have undermined, pervaded and distorted the revolutionary principle. Utopia wants speech against power and against the reality principle which is only the phantasm of the system and its indefinite reproduction. It wants only the spoken word; and it wants to lose itself in it.
(Baudrillard 1975, p.167)
It would be too simple to criticise Baudrillard on the basis of his later comments, based upon the same methodological considerations he employs here, to the effect that the 1992 war in the Persian Gulf firstly would not happen, later that it did not happen, and that the only truly radical response to this vast non-event was a rejection of its existence except as an ideological fiction, as part of the ‘simulacra’, the ‘spectacle’, as a disembodied ‘images’ serving the ‘code’ (Norris 1992, pp.11-31). Tempting, but too simple, because in "The Mirror of Production" Baudrillard, whatever his later eccentricities, can clearly be seen to have every sympathy with the idea of some form of ‘revolution’. However, while such criticisms are not legitimate for our purposes here, the philosophy just summarised is fatally flawed in other ways. Several major points will be mentioned here, all of which are applicable to the political philosophy of other postmodernist thinkers.
Most clear and most tragic, is the violence that this intellectual, pseudo-critical banter does to marginalised peoples. It is still the case that the richest in Western societies live far longer than the poorest. This gap in life expectancy is growing, rather than shrinking. It may be beyond us to ‘abolish death’, but to trade away life for the ‘lost’ ‘violence’ of ‘speech’ is intellectualism gone mad. Indeed, there is at least one cogent theorist who argues that the idea of ‘life’ and the inequality wealth causes in it, is justification for revolutionary action (Honderich 1980)
Nor is this the only way in which Baudrillard and other radical postmodernists co-operate in the intellectual propagation of the system they purport to criticise. By rejecting enlightenment rationalism (whether idealistic or substantive) in the search for a semiotic unravelling of a barely-defined ‘political economy of the sign’, the ‘radical’ postmodernist is left with no ground from which to advocate the redistribution of wealth, and attacks those who would.
Postmodernism also crucially underestimates human intellectual faculties, as individuals, communities, or indeed as classes, stemming at least partly from postmodernists’ failure to encounter their critics (Lash 1991, p.78). Much of the political foundation of postmodernism emerges from the contention that people are manipulated as passive individuals. Only thus can the anti-passive ‘speech’ of Baudrillard be regarded as revolutionary, or Foucault's genealogies create positive action. Even the less body-as-passive writings of postmodernism assume that the essence of the human is not to act but to be acted upon. (Ibid, p.) People are not simply passive individuals though. There is at least one social scientist who maintains that, given minimal social input, we are genetically predisposed to create novel forms within language (Chomsky 1973, pp.167-186): what Baudrillard would call ‘speech’. If this is correct then Baudrillard’s ‘revolution’ is achieved for humans simply by being born.
Nor is it true, whether humans are passive or not, to imagine them as individuals alone. Thus, were we to re-interpret the notion of ‘speech’, and to calculate its revolutionary effects over time or over geographical community or over class, then there is little reason to suspect that what we would end up with would not be Marxism or syndicalism or anarchism, being as, amongst other things, all these philosophies are aggregations of speech over time and against political economy. (That is to say that all of these traditions have stemmed from debates which presupposed the inherent falsity of political economy.) In failing to note that speech can be aggregated, Baudrillard and other radical postmodernists commit the same mistake in social-political terms as classical economists were proved to have done in economic terms in the 1920s and 1930s by Keynes others. That is to say, they reasoned from the ‘micro’ to the ‘macro’, and misunderstood both: with disastrous consequences. In the 1920s and 1930s the result was a series of crises for capitalism – whereas radical postmodernism simply demoralises resistance to liberal capitalism.
In its failure to address substantive issues such as life expectancy, in its perception of human passivity, in its vacuous and belated revolution, and in its flawed methodology, radical postmodernism shows itself to have less to offer than the class conflict perspectives it seeks to replace. Indeed, it appears profoundly and naively conservative. Whilst ‘orthodox’ Marxism may have been damaged in the short term by the postmodernists’ sheer repetition of the ‘death of the metanarrative’ theme (Lash 1991, pp.92-97), there is little reason to suspect that Marxism cannot recover much of its power in the longer-term. Indeed, given the recent instability of world markets, Marx’s criticisms of political economy are finding adherents even now in some unexpected quarters (Lewis, New York Times, June 27th 1998, p.12; Cassidy, John, Independent on Sunday, 7th Dec. 1997). As for anarchism and syndicalisms, postmodernism has even less of substance to say about them.
It is difficult to comment sufficiently on feminism’s claims to invalidate or question class conflict theory because of the vast breadth of feminist thought, and the very success of feminism in penetrating other ideologies. There is, for example, great debate between liberal, socialist, Marxian and psychoanalytic feminisms. Notwithstanding this, the central question of whether any or all of these and other feminisms render class conflict theories inconsequential can be answered relatively simply.
In order for feminism to render class conflict theory inconsequential it must be established first that gender division is the main source of social power, and, secondly, that class-centred revolution would constitute a positive hindrance to the achievement of gender equality. Whilst the first proposition is the basis of a vast literature (see e.g. Humm (ed.) 1992), the second has received rather less attention (as the same volume, by omission, demonstrates). Movements to market economies from more egalitarian systems in Russia, Eastern Germany etc, however, have caused rapid reassertion of ‘traditional’ (i.e. more unequal) gender roles along with a concomitant destruction of state and community childcare and welfare provision (Jarausch and Gransow 1994, p.269). Thus feminism, whether or not its central analysis and aims are regarded as more coherent than those of class-conflict theory, does not thereby show class-conflict theories (even Marxism) to be inconsequential: meaning that Welsh syndicalism remains of consequence still in the light of feminist criticism.
Why Welsh Syndicalism has Contemporary Trends in its Favour
It will be argued here that free-market conservatism has effectively died, and that the (comparatively) short-run ramifications of this situation are likely to cause many societies to polarise between an authoritarian right and an anti-statist left, with the left being the faster-growing force of the two.
The assertion that free-market conservatism has effectively died is provocative, but hardly insupportable. On the 27th of this year four men lost their jobs. Three of them were partners in the ‘Long Term Capital Management’ investment fund, which collapsed owing over $200bn. All had been prominent in the ‘Chicago School’; responsible for creating the new intellectual consensus which largely destroyed Keynesianism in the 1970s and 1980s, through the Pinochet, Thatcher and Reagan experiments (Hutton, The Observer, 27th September 1998, p.30). The fourth was Helmut Kohl, who sought to retain his Chancellorship by employing more still of the Chicago School’s recommendations, despite spiralling unemployment and social chaos in Germany following their implementation (Traynor 7th Feb. 1998). The failure of the British [sic] Conservatives and American Republicans to provide fully effective opposition since stock markets started to crash earlier this year is the failure of pure free market theory, which cannot explain why unregulated markets fail; and which in fact denies at moments that they can! Assuming that most voters prefer prosperity, free market policies will be passé for successful politicians of the right for some time to come. Given the death of free market conservatism, those politicians will be forced into protectionist and paternalist policies (Hutton et al, Observer, Nov 11th 1998, p.19), causing them to alienate much of their former constituency. The simple persistence of the anti-statism which was once a solid foundation for free-market conservatism will become an anti-conservative phenomenon, precisely as it is in anarchism or syndicalism – and precisely as it is not in either revolutionary or gradualist state socialisms. Further, anti-statism will increasingly adopt forms inimical to conservative prejudices precisely because of conservatism’s move towards statism. A new constellation will have been created moving towards the left, receptive to anarchisms, syndicalisms, and left-wing socialisms.
On the ‘left’ the ’New Democrat’, ‘New Labour’ styles of left to right manoeuvring are showing signs of strain. U.S. blacks and Latinos turning out in higher proportion than affluent whites for the first time to support the Democrat’s continued battle to support positive discrimination and labour legislation – that is to say simply because the Democrats are not perceived to be free marketeers. However, with the demonstrable erosion of democracy by globalising capital (see e.g.Grieder 1997) such a contradiction will remain only so long as there is no effective left opposition. With the recent and continuing renascence of trade unionism in the United States such a challenge to the American establishment is no longer unthinkable. Similar ‘New’ projects in Europe have been constructed from coalitions impossible to sustain without tension; democratic socialism, social democracy, and liberalism in Britain at a time of constitutional flux (and SNP and Plaid Cymru competition); the ‘red/green’ coalition in Germany; or the loose left coalition in Italy. Nor will a spirit of compromise unite coalitions indefinitely, whilst splits and disaffection will create political spaces inside and outside parliaments on the left, right, green, industrial, centrist, and regional/nationalist ‘wings of the political spectrum.
Given that even most of the above assertions are correct then right-wing individualism is likely to shift in favour of left-wing anti-statism in terms of popular political awareness. Pro-state egalitarianism is likely to splinter and crack even where it governs at precisely the moments when industrial direct action begins to regain its motivational power on an international level. Given also the 1980s and 1990s trend of direct action movements towards anti-bureaucratism and anti-statism, both the ‘material’ political economic circumstances and the ideological atmosphere for a revival of syndicalism or anarchism as mass phenomena must be conceded to be either present or imminent.
Thus there can be such a revival and its aims would still be of consequence. It remains to show those aims are achievable.
Why Welsh syndicalism still provides achievable aims
In ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ it is argued, essentially, that we have reached the highest currently conceivable form of social organisation, and that it is liberal capitalism (Fukuyama 1992). If this is the case then class war perspectives, including Welsh syndicalism, cannot be achievable and must be dismissed as worthless. Fukuyama’s case will be summarised below. It will then be argued that this argument is misconceived. It will further be noted that were his case conceded, there are still grounds for arguing the achievability of some class conflict ideologies’ aims. An afterword to this section will contend that the criticisms offered of Fukuyama invalidate much of orthodox Marxist analysis – leaving syndicalisms and anarchisms as the only remaining viable ideologies of class war.
Fukuyama’s contention is reasoned through a ‘Hegelian’ perspective, and the Hegelian interpreter Kojeve – producing a ‘systemic philosopher’ referred to as ‘Hegel-Kojeve’. The prime methodology this produces for Fukuyama’s purposes is that of historical ‘progress’ (1992).
Fukuyama is aware of the suspicion with which ‘progress’ viewed in the contemporary world, and so seeks to justify it by reasoning that scientific, and particularly technological, knowledge is cumulative. Given that scientific progress exists it is therefore reasonable to suppose that it effects the political world, and progress must exist there also (Ibid, pp.71-81). In this he agrees with Marx, despite obvious differences.
Unlike Marx, Fukuyama assigns precedence to ‘spirit’ or ‘recognition’, after Hegel, as the mainspring of progress. Thus the stages of history are the development of ‘thymos’ (the desire for recognition) and the conflicts of will and ideas which issue from it. At the point of equal ideal recognition both liberty and equality are achieved as far as can be expected of humanity at its current stage. This is the point Fukuyama claims liberal democratic capitalism reaches, unlike any other conceivable social arrangement thus far. He takes as proof of this the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Bloc because of internal circumstances arising from thymotic urges. Whilst his arguments do not depend on capitalism as a more efficient system of economic organisation than egalitarian systems, he cites this as a factor in the collapse of communism. Further, despite the correlation of capitalism and democracy being problematic, he argues that the two tend to complementarity.
At the end of history then, Fukuyama feels justified in claiming that liberal democratic capitalism has proved itself the only ideology still fully alive. Having ended the battle of people and systems for recognition, it will offer the best chances for all in that struggle, and there is no alternative.
Whilst this is at moments persuasive, it is highly questionable. Firstly, it is almost laughable to reconcile ‘progress’ with the century of the Holocaust and the Atom Bomb. Fukuyama’s dismissal of these and other atrocities of the Twentieth Century as ‘aberrations’ (op cit., p.89-91) constitutes no such rehabilitation of progress, but a belittling of human life. Nor does the argument hold together in itself. To presume that scientific progress will itself create moral progress is to presume that science happens before politics, and is unaffected by it. This is not the case; the direction and application (and truth) of science continue to be areas of political battle. Science’s ‘progressive’ impact on politics is therefore mistaken. Some defenders of the end of history thesis attempt to argue that it is not ‘historicist’ like Marxism, and that Fukuyama’s use of progress is based on ‘tendency’ rather than natural ‘law’ (Williams et al 1997, pp.123-144). This allows for ‘aberrations’ from progress, avoids Karl Popper’s famous critique of historicism (Popper 1957), and sidesteps the argument above because not all scientific-political discourse is deemed relevant. However, any argument starting with the ‘first man’, ending with the ‘last man’, and drawing a determining link from one to another is about historical laws – whatever weasel words are used to escape the charge.
Second, ‘spirit’ as the motor of history, even without questioning ‘progress’, is problematic. Whilst spirit or will is a component of human action (as Welsh syndicalism recognises), it does not act, or exist, without the material realm. Nor is it constant once that realm is presupposed; it emerges in politics only within social-economic phenomena. That is to say that the spirit is contingent on circumstances – as social psychology repeatedly demonstrates (see e.g. Milgram 1974). Therefore ‘perfect recognition’ is an irrelevance.
The demonstrably loose connection between capitalism and democracy since the publication of ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ (Chechnya is a topical illustration), along with the current collapses of global markets (Guardian 2nd Dec., 1998, p.2) make Fukuyama’s subsidiary arguments untenable also. Whilst it is down to time for the proof, the evidence and arguments presented by Fukuyama give us no reason to sympathise with his conclusions. Therefore, Welsh syndicalism’s aims, in the dim light of Fukuyama’s arguments, remain achievable.
How Marxism is affected by our criticisms of Fukuyama
To call into question ‘progress’ is to question Marxism, although not, as some postmodernists believe, all previous social philosophies. To reject progress, is de facto to reject inevitability. In criticising Fukuyama above that is what we have done. This does not mean rejecting Marx’s work in toto, but only that which sees progress as inevitable and somehow greater than human. Given that Marxism per se is understood generally to mean a philosophy which postulates the inevitability of proletarian revolution at a certain point in history we can dispose of it along with Fukuyama, if with more regret.
Syndicalism, on the other hand, disposes entirely with inevitability. Sorel’s misnamed ‘Marxism’ is almost entirely about the creation of will. In Welsh syndicalism’s demands for education and new men those ideas become concrete, as they do here;
We used to believe that we were bound to emerge through capitalism into its highest sense…thus we looked upon it in extreme youth when we were all utopians. (Soc for the Study of Labour History 1975, my italics)
So it is clear that inevitable progress is rejected in Welsh syndicalism, and not merely in principle. This, it will be noted in the conclusion, is one of Welsh syndicalism’s greatest assets in the contemporary and (as immediate trends are moving) imminent worlds.
Why Welsh Syndicalism is Philosophically Possible
We will briefly examine here some of the contentions of Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper, and their relevance as criticisms of Welsh syndicalism. It will be argued that their visions of egalitarianism’s faults are inapplicable to Welsh syndicalism.
Hayek argues that egalitarianism is, by economic reasoning, an impossibility. His case in economic terms is that the free market is capable of aggregating a larger number of economic choices than is any alternative system, and will therefore, by continual innovation, outperform any other economic system. Essentially, markets make everyone richer. In moral-political terms, Hayek sees the market again as the guarantor of freedom, in the sense of being left alone by the state; and therefore states that any attempt to interfere with the market, especially for the purposes of redistribution or welfare provision, is necessarily oppressive (Hayek 1944).
The evidence for Hayek’s economic case is not good however. For most of his life he fought a losing battle against Keynesian ideas (Gamble, 1996,pp. 46-48), and his ideas started to gain serious currency only with the apparent collapse of Keynesian policies in the West, and the consequent rise of the New Right. He refuses to admit that markets per se can ever be coercive. This is explored by Richardson in his analysis of the crude and unbalanced nature of Hayek’s use of the term ‘coercion’, which Hayek applies to minimal psychological pressure used by trade unionists to maintain the solidity of a strike, but not to the employer willing to threaten employees with unemployment and starvation in order to drive up profits (Richardson 1996). Richardson goes so far as to say that Hayek’s use of the term coercion, almost the entire basis of the latter’s moral reasoning, is "a kind of intellectual smokescreen" (Ibid, p.233). The nature of Hayek’s major writing also makes it clear that his arguments are only designed to explicitly counter the arguments of the statist left anyway (Hayek 1944), notwithstanding his insistence that those arguments automatically apply to all socialisms. Hayek’s thought can be demonstrated to be erroneous in economic terms then, prejudiced in definition, and to be irrelevant to Welsh syndicalism or any other anti-state egalitarianism.
Popper’s case is based upon Hayek’s in economic terms. Those elements will therefore be ignored. In philosophical terms it is more measured. Human values necessarily conflict with each other, making societies necessarily ‘imperfect’ (Popper 1993, p.116). Consequently a society built on one value is doomed to rest on dictatorial force. This hardly invalidates the ideas of Welsh syndicalism, given that it combines within itself the conflicting values and ideas of community action and elite initiative; of intuition and reason; of individual and social control. Combining as it does so many conscious contradictions, Welsh syndicalism cannot be accused of seeking a ‘perfect world’, in the sense which Popper uses the term. Its moral critique of leadership, and its emphasis on education and initiative, are designed to ward off the very threat of authoritarianism Popper perceives in egalitarianism. Thus, at least in the implications of Hayek and Popper’s thoughts, Welsh syndicalism stands as philosophically possible.
How Anarchism is affected by Popper
There is a species of anarchism (foreign to most sincere anarchists) which understands as its aim, and sole value, the sovereignty of every individual over themselves, and which does not refer to any collectivity at all (see e.g. Woodcock on Max Stirner 1986, pp.80-89). Popper’s theory of the imperfectability of societies absolutely discredits such simplistic individualistic visions.
It has been argued through this dissertation that Welsh syndicalism is a distinct ideology, which has been successful as a radicalising force. It has been further argued that it is capable of providing the core beliefs of a resurgent radicalism throughout much of the contemporary world, and, by implication, in most of it. This has been done by demonstrating that it is still of consequence, that it provides achievable aims, that contemporary and emerging politics in a selection of influential nations are favourable to its emergence as the basis of radicalism, and that it is economically and philosophically possible. Within and through these arguments the efficacy of free market systems have been rejected, as has ‘orthodox’ (centralist/dictatorial) Marxism, as have ‘radical’ postmodernism, those feminisms which deny the validity of class-based politics, the philosophical conservatism of Karl Popper, and extreme individualism (whether of the ‘anarchist’ or New Right varieties).
For those who seek a relief of material poverty and the poverty of powerlessness, Welsh syndicalism has been shown here to be capable of providing a guide; through an extreme distrust of ‘leaders’; combined with moral outrage; the vast power that lies in education for and by people; the willingness to unite not only morally but practically; the confidence in ordinary people to conduct their own affairs; and the will to despise and to resist at every turn the united power of the state and of capital.
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