Sorel and Syndicalism

This paragraph was dropped from section H.2.8: What is the relationship of anarchism to syndicalism? as it was not totally relevant (and section H was long enough as it was!). Also, Stack's statement was based on personal experience (hearing him) rather than being in print. Still, it is a relatively common myth so here it is in the blog. The other related myth (namely that the Italian anarcho-syndicalists mostly became fascists) is refuted in section A.5.5: Anarchists in the Italian Factory Occupations.

Sorel and Syndicalism

Indeed, rather than acknowledge these similarities to Bakunin's ideas, Stack prefers to rewrite history by claiming (at his meeting on "Marxism and Anarchism" at the SWP's Marxism 2001 conference) that Georges Sorel was the father of syndicalism! Any one familiar with the history of syndicalism and the ideas of Sorel would, of course, know the syndicalist movement had been in existence for a number of years before Sorel wrote Refections on Violence. Sorel, to summarise, discussed from afar a movement which already existed. As the editor to a recent edition of Sorel's book notes, "the immediate backdrop" of Reflections on Violence was "the rise of the French syndicalist movement" which "Sorel had been following . . . since the late 1890s." It was only "after 1902, when the Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT) launched a series of spectacular strikes, that syndicalism came to the forefront of Sorel's attention." In summary, "Sorel did not create or even inspire the syndicalist movement, nor was he ever fully in agreement with its ideas." ["Introduction", Reflections on Violence, pp. viii-ix] Rather, syndicalism came about when anarchists (as Bakunin recommended thirty years previously) entered the trade unions. Ironically for Stack, Sorel himself acknowledged this in his work, arguing that historians "will one day see in this entry of the anarchists into the syndicats one of the greatest events that has been produced in our time." [Op. Cit., p. 35] Clearly Sorel can join Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin in the list of author's Stack has not read but feels able to discuss!