Manual Syndicalism in France

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Then, under the leadership of Victor Griffuelhes Georges Yvetot was the secretary of the Federation of the Bourses du Travail, which was now integrated into the CGT , the golden age of the CGT began and, more generally, the golden age of French revolutionary syndicalism.

The so-called Charter of Amiens, approved in October , became its fundamental programmatic text. It is during this period, until maybe around , that the stage of the most significant theoretical production must be situated. In addition to texts on the general strike by Pelloutier , Briand , Lagardelle , Sorel with his famous Reflections on Violence , published in , Berth , etc. In my view, the direct and immediate influence of this French revolutionary syndicalism in Spain has often been exaggerated, 32 perhaps because no precise chronology has been established for it.

Its influence was undoubtedly significant, over the long term, but it was greater in the years after and much less before that, in the years that we are examining here. At the turn of the century, the availability of books and articles by the principal French theoreticians was quite limited in Spain. Furthermore, the information that did reach Spain was largely filtered through the lens, often critical and in any case reticent, of the anarchists.

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Sus medios. El dia siguiente. Pouget, El sindicato The Trade Union. Pataud and E. Griffuelhes, El sindicalismo revolucionario Revolutionary Syndicalism. As you can see, the translations were of works that addressed the topic of the general strike at first and, after , they displayed a more general interest in the questions of trade unionism. All together, there were thirteen titles translated between and , the period before under consideration here. Nothing by Delasalle was translated.

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Nothing by Lagardelle. The works of these authors would not be translated and published until the twenties by the Biblioteca Nueva in Madrid. Nothing by Pelloutier was translated during the first decade of the century. Few works by the other authors of French syndicalism would ever be translated and published, with the possible exception of Pouget. This information is actually quite uninformative taken in isolation. It must be compared, for example, not with the translations of the major figures of anarchism Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Reclus , but with the Spanish translations of the major French anarchists of the period.

Nor would the picture be substantially different if we include review articles in the Spanish anarchist press in our survey. Here and there one may encounter a series of articles or feature stories translated in the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist press of Spain, but there was no avalanche of such articles and they were rather few in number.

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There was a piece about Delasalle in La Revista Blanca at the turn of the century. And some articles about Pouget in El Trabajo Sabadell , between and And an article about Griffuelhes in Solidaridad Obrera , for example, in Logically, the influence of French syndicalism in Spain should not be evaluated exclusively on the basis of the number of translations. There were other channels of dissemination, such as the more or less regular reports that arrived by way of the French press.

Contact with La Voix du Peuple was quite regular during this period, but never rivaled the privileged relation established with Les Temps Nouveaux , edited by Jean Grave. In any event, what was perhaps most significant, in the long run, was not so much the relative lack of awareness of the most complex theoretical efforts of French revolutionary syndicalism, as the analyses of the scale of their dissemination, especially with regard to the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist press.

In this connection, the importance of the Paris correspondents and journalists is clear. We can take it for granted that none of them was enthusiastic about syndicalism. More or less the same can be said of the anarchist propagandists living in Spain. In this case, generally, we may point out a certain division between a small group of anarcho-syndicalist theorists, who were devoted to presenting the new French syndicalism as the product of an anarchist current that was in favor of trade union action, and a majority of anarchists who were open to the most spectacular and exciting aspects of the French experience especially the slogan of the general strike and anti-militarist propaganda , but who were also very wary of the more narrowly trade unionist and mutualist aspects of the movement.

This does not rule out a certain degree of support for syndicalism, but the latter was always justified with respect to the goals and struggles of others. Syndicalism, in the words of Leopoldo Bonafulla, 36 was at the turn of the century a weapon of struggle , a method of propaganda , and that is why the anarchists must support it. In any event, they must make it clear that syndicalism in itself is not sufficient.

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They should only attempt to support and aid the revolutionary struggle and the general strike, a revolutionary general strike that would necessarily be accompanied by violence and would enhance the capabilities and organizational structures of the trade unions. Syndicalism could prepare the terrain for the revolution, but nothing more. We could provide many examples of this kind of reasoning.

There were other more prudent individuals, like Anselmo Lorenzo. And the experience of the general strike in Barcelona in could only lend support to the more cautious position. In either case, however, each side stood by its arguments and we may point out that it was not necessary to enter into a deep debate about the general strike, nor was it necessary to expound at length about the great themes related to revolutionary syndicalism and its aspirations in order to intervene decisively in the political training and articulation of the working class.

A good example of all this may be the campaign, initiated by the Federation of the Bourses du Travail and the CGT, to force the adoption of the eight-hour day beginning on May 1, , by way of the refusal of the workers to work more than eight hours.

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The news of this campaign quickly reached Spain. Already in May , El Productor had been apprised of the news.

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But its Paris correspondent, E. Contreras, submitted the following commentary:. When all the individuals in society, they tell us, are working at useful jobs, then we will be able to work, not eight hours, but each according to his needs. Despite this caveat, the fact is that the French appeal encountered a great deal of support in the Spanish workers movement, especially in the Catalonian movement.

Furthermore, on the basis of anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist propaganda, the campaign would be seen as the opportunity to resume propaganda for the general strike. In this first stage, the Spanish anarchists were fundamentally resolved to engage in the search for a suitable doctrinal configuration and a specific structure and dynamic. For this reason they were more likely to focus on the more generic and cosmopolitan anarchism of Paris than on the syndicalist experience.

The course laid down during the s, with the participation and obvious interest of the main Spanish theoreticians and propagandists in the international meetings of the anarchists, was still followed. This course was reaffirmed at the International Anarchist Congress of , after intense debates and discussions about the nature of anarchism.

It was at this congress that the famous debate between Errico Malatesta and Pierre Monatte took place, concerning the implications of revolutionary syndicalism and whether or not anarchists should support it. The anarchists in Barcelona attempted to send a delegation. The Centro de Estudios Sociales wanted to send a delegate.

In any event, there was a significant dissemination of the texts of the debates and the resolutions of the congress. The initial success of Solidaridad Obrera and the creation of the CNT appeared to alter the picture that we have sketched up to this point. It was then that a real theoretical elaboration with regard to syndicalism began, one that took the French experience into account—and to some extent, the Italian experience as well. All of them stood on the basis, of course, of the syndicalist and internationalist tradition of the 19th century. However, this opening to French revolutionary syndicalism would soon experience a setback in the decline in the revolutionary fervor of the French CGT itself and in the disappointment that followed in the wake of International Trade Union Congress held in London in September-October In any event, it could have revealed the degree to which the movement had become international.

As it turned out, however, the meeting was dominated almost exclusively by anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, with a rather sparse trade union attendance. The CGT did not want to participate and even the French revolutionary syndicalists turned their backs on the congress. Furthermore, the presence of the Unione Sindicale Italiana—the only organization with any significant membership that attended the Congress—was only marginal.

Even the Industrial Workers of the World did not send a delegation. The incipient CNT, still illegal, did not yet have either numerical weight or political force. Ultimately, taken as a whole, the thirty-three delegates representing twelve countries only represented about , trade union members, and about half of them were from the Italian federation.

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Discussions about credentials for admittance to the Congress and about whether or not to allow the attendance of delegates sent by organizations that were not, strictly speaking, trade unions, as well as about how formalized the international organization they sought to form should be, monopolized almost all the time of the Congress.

It was resolved to leave the programmatic and tactical definitions for later determination. The only positive resolution that was approved was a manifesto in which anarchist rather than syndicalist accents predominated. Pedro Vallina, in exile at that time in London, was also present at the Congress. After the Congress, Negre and Solidaridad Obrera in particular attempted to rely on their experiences at the Congress to help elaborate the definition and programmatic structure of the CNT and, even though they did so only implicitly, their explanations revealed bitter recriminations directed at the French CGT.

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Thus, in the end, the Congress had done nothing but register the weakness of the revolutionary syndicalist movement on an international scale. The years of war that would follow were to alter this situation. Revolutionary syndicalism in Italy assumed some very peculiar characteristics. It therefore affected, at least initially, a particular fraction of the political elite and leadership elements of the party and had much less influence on trade union structures. It thus played a role, during the first years of its existence, within the framework of debates concerning the viability of the political struggle and the policy of party alliances; and assertions about the development of actual trade union affairs and the defense, for example, of direct action or the general strike, always appeared to be subordinated to these themes that were considered to be more fundamental.

The initial impulse in favor of revolutionary syndicalism was provided by Arturo Labriola and Avanguardia socialista in Milan and Enrico Leone and his journal Il Divenire social in Rome Other sources included the tribune of the left known as Pagine libere in Lugano , edited by Angelo Alighiero Olivetti. Once the ideas of revolutionary syndicalism failed to make headway in the party, a more strictly syndicalist propaganda and activity were initiated.

A congress of the various syndicalist groups, held in Ferrara in July , approved a resolution to break with the PSI and immediately proclaimed its intention to spearhead a campaign within the CGL to replace the reformist leadership of the recently founded confederation. Henceforth, the more specifically trade union-oriented aspects of the movement were developed: direct action, legitimization of the boycott and sabotage, strengthening inter-trade solidarity and the role of local groups in opposition to the centralized leadership groups of the industrial federations, advocacy of the strike weapon, etc.

The loss of the battle in the CGL, which came to a head in during the Libya crisis, made a split inevitable. Finally, in November , at the Congress of Modena, the Unione Sindicale Italiana was formed, which had fewer than , members in December , as compared to the , workers who belonged to the CGL. The new USI contained syndicalists, anarchists and republicans.

Up until the foundation of the USI the anarchists had played a rather marginal role in the debates in Italy about revolutionary syndicalism, in part because they had been deeply absorbed in diverse organizational efforts of their own, always under the inspiration of Malatesta, who was practically always in exile. In any event, it would be in relation to the newly formed USI that Italian anarcho-syndicalism would develop, and DeAmbris was soon replaced by Armando Borghi as leader of the federation.

As one would expect, the relation between Spanish anarcho-syndicalism and Italian revolutionary syndicalism was, compared to the relation of the former and the French movement, very tenuous. Nonetheless, there was such a relation, although it has been systematically ignored.

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In order to confirm this we need only peruse, for example, the books and articles by Prat, with quotations, often quite explicit, from Leone, Labriola and—from a different perspective—Enrico Ferri. For its part, anarchism, somewhat reticent with regard to getting involved with revolutionary syndicalism, magnified its relation with Fabbri and thus, for example, El Productor Barcelona gave regular reports on the articles and contents of Il Pensiero.

We may make this observation: it is clear that the anarchists who were most critical with regard to the French experience were also those who were most influenced by Malatesta. Later, the strikes in Parma and the movement of DeAmbris would be explicitly featured as exemplary in the pages of Solidaridad Obrera. The volume of works by Italian anarchist and syndicalist authors that were translated into Spanish during the period we are examining was considerable. A list of these translations, with the exception of the works of Malatesta, follows: Gori, El 1 de mayo.

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