Monday, June 27, 2005

George Sorel

Our concern here is to draw lines between ourselves and our enemies, between those of us who favor and offer to fight for the spread of the Good in the pursuit of the telos of Humanity; in short, those of us who are willing to make a commitment to the spread of universal human rights and the protection of those who are oppressed by fascism of all kinds; and those who are fascists themselves, particularly Islamic fascists and their dhimmi fascists collaborators.

Most readers here understand well the fine points of Islamic ideology, and there's little need to go into it here when there are honest experts available on-line, such as Robert Spencer at; but it is necessary for us here to understand the nature of Islam's inherent fascism and the fascism of the dhimmi intellectuals who aid and abet it. Therefore, we spend some long amounts of time defining and elaborating on the definition of fascism so that we can move beyond purile pejoratives and to a clear understanding of fascism itself to get a clear understanding of the nature of our struggle and of our enemies, to know their history, their motivations, their beliefs, some of which, as modern revolutionaries, we actually share with them. Below we'll look at some of the ideas of Georges Sorel, a French intellectual who is influential in the area of extremist ideologies of the 20th century, and also who is capable of providing us today with useful insights as well as tactics for our struggle against fascist Islam and dhimmitude. We can learn the fine-points of fascist Islam, but we must also know the fine-points of fascist Left dhimmitude to free ourselves from illusions that we are like them or in agreement with things that once we consider them we will find are ordinary beliefs held by the majority of reasonable and rational people but that are ideas sneaked into the public discourse via fascism, ideas that have no right place in the liberal democracy of Modernity.

We'll look at the concept of Left and Right and see, as Robespierre did when faced with capture and execution by his past fellows, that "Extremes meet." That when we argue that there is a conflation of Left and Right, and that they are both fascist, there is certain truth to it, not simply name-calling and bitterness. The so-called Post-modern Left is a fascism, and we'll see so clearly in the course of this blog; we'll see how to draw a line between reasonable and rational democrats and liberals and those fascist dhimmis who've betrayed democracy and Liberalism in favor of collaboration with the forces of reaction and fascist Islam for whatever various reasons they might have. We won't be fooled again. We can also take some of the ideas of the fscsists to use against them. Sorel is roughly a bad guy who had some good ideas. We can use them to our benefit, and we can see what the fascist elements are in his work and see those same elements in our Leftist dhimmi compatriots. When we know who aour friends are and who our enemies are--and why--then we'll be properly prepared for the struggle against fascism, prepared and ready to win this war against evil. Us and them, and we shall meet.

Our political vocabulary gained "Left-wing" and "Right -wing" from the division of interests and therefore factions within the French Revolutionary parliament; and those so far from either wing that they had to find seating in the top-most rows being known as the Montanists, those at the top of a mountain, extremists who looked down, who were removed from the general debate, who occupied the metaphical cheap-seats. In terms of 19th century European socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism occupies the top of the revolutionary mountain, so to say, a place prominently occupied by the ghost of Georges Sorel, sometime right-wing fanatic, sometimes left-wing fanatic, but always at the edge of reality in political terms.

What was politically extreme 100 years ago, such as female sufferage, is today seen as completely normal and universally applicable to all. But Sorel is still an extremist. He will always be an extremist because his position is of extremism for its own sake; but his extremism is taken on by the Left and the Right in the 20th century, and it was made main-stream, made ordinary by the extremist status quo of Communist Russia, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany.

Sorel, though a menace to Modernity in many ways, is also capable of providing us, Modern Revolutionaries, with some useful tactical weapons, even strategic weapons in our fight against fascism, the Islamic and the dhimmi-Left fascism of today.

If we are going to win this war against anti-Modern Revolution, against fascist Islam and dhimmitude, then we must organize ourselves professionally. We've already begun the process here of discussing Lenin's essay What is to be Done," a work on organizing a party of professional revolutionaries, and here we'll look at some of Sorel's concepts, such as "Myth," "The General Strike," and "Force and Violence."

(Due to the length of this post we'll continue next time in greater detail.)

Although he claimed himself to be a Marxian, Sorel held a deep suspicion for "armchair socialists", particularly those who mumbled about the inevitability of "progress".
Instead, Sorel advocated massive general strikes and worker action -- not for the small concessions from employers those might bring, but rather as a way of continuously disrupting the capitalist industrial machine and thus eventually achieving worker control of means of production.

In his most famous work (1908), Sorel emphasized the violent and irrational motivations of social and economic conduct (echoing Pareto in many ways). His identification of the need for a deliberately conceived "myth" to sway crowds into concerted action was put to use by the Fascist and Communist movements of the 1920s and after.

Sorel found in the political and social life of bourgeois democracy the triumph of mediocrity and espoused various forms of socialism, chiefly revolutionary syndicalism. In his best-known work, Reflections on Violence (1908, tr. 1912), which became the basic text of syndicalism, Sorel expounded his theory of violence as the creative power of the proletariat that could overcome force, the coercive economic power of the bourgeoisie. He supported belief in myths about future social developments, arguing that such belief promoted social progress. Sorel supported at various times such disparate alternatives to the existing order as extreme French monarchism and the Bolshevik Revolution.
See J. J. Roth, The Cult of Violence: Sorel and the Sorelians (1980); J. R. Jennings, Georges Sorel (1985).


From Reflections on Violence

Although Marxist socialism was the dominant political ideology of workers, syndicalism was widely preferred in areas of France, Spain, and Italy. Syndicalism grew out of trade union associations that espoused the utopian vision of one day controlling their industries and, eventually, the political state. The strike became the central weapon of syndicalism, but it was the general strike that made syndicalism revolutionary. The thousands of strikes in Europe at the end of the century offered the potential of one mighty, total work-stoppage that would ruin capitalism and dismantle the state.

Georges Sorel (1847-1922) wrote his treatise on syndicalism in 1908. The following excerpt includes Sorel's important notion of the general strike as a mythic belief, the widespread acceptance of which would prompt collective action by workers as well as soften employers' resolve against concessions.
Against this noisy, garrulous, and lying Socialism, which is exploited by ambitious people of every description, which amuses a few buffoons, and which is admired by decadents-- revolutionary Syndicalism takes its stand, and endeavours, on the contrary, to leave nothing in a state of indecision; its ideas are honestly expressed, without trickery and without mental reservations; no attempt is made to dilute doctrines by a stream of confused commentaries. Syndicalism endeavours to employ methods of expression which throw a full light on things, which put them exactly in the place assigned to them by their nature, and which bring out the whole value of the forces in play. Oppositions, instead of being glossed over, must be thrown into sharp relief if we desire to obtain a clear idea of the Syndicalist movement; the groups which are struggling one against the other must be shown as separate and as compact as possible; in short, the movements of the revolted masses must be represented in such a way that the soul of the revolutionaries may receive a deep and lasting impression.

These results could not be produced in any very certain manner by the use of ordinary language; use must be made of a body of images which, by intuition alone, and before any considered analyses are made, is capable of evoking as an undivided whole the mass of sentiments which corresponds to the different manifestations of the war undertaken by Socialism against modern society. The Syndicalists solve this problem perfectly by concentrating the whole of Socialism in the drama of the general strike; there is thus no longer any place for the reconciliation of contraries in the equivocations of the professors; everything is clearly mapped out, so that only one interpretation of Socialism is possible. This method has all the advantages which "integral" knowledge has over analysis, according to the doctrine of Bergson; and perhaps it would not be possible to cite another example which would so perfectly demonstrate the value of the famous professor's doctrines.

The possibility of the actual realisation of the general strike has been much discussed; it has been stated that the Socialist war could not be decided in one single battle. To the people who think themselves cautious, practical, and scientific the difficulty of setting great masses of the proletariat in motion at the same moment seems prodigious; they have analysed the difficulties in detail which such an enormous struggle would present. It is the opinion of the Socialist-sociologists, as also of the politicians, that the general strike is a popular dream, characteristic of the beginnings of a working-class movement; we have had quoted against us the authority of Sidney Webb, who has decreed that the general strike is an illusion of youth, of which the English workers-- whom the monopolists of sociology have so often presented to us as the depositaries of the true conception of the working-class movement-- soon rid themselves.

And yet without leaving the present, without reasoning about this future, which seems forever condemned to escape our reason, we should be unable to act at all. Experience shows that the framing of a future, in some indeterminate time, may, when it is done in a certain way, be very effective, and have very few inconveniences; this happens when the anticipations of the future take the form of those myths, which enclose with them all the strongest inclinations of a people, of a party, or of a class, inclinations which recur to the mind with the insistence of instincts in all the circumstances of life; and which give an aspect of complete reality to the hopes of immediate action by which, more easily than by any other method, men can reform their desires, passions, and mental activity. We know, moreover, that these social myths in no way prevent a man profiting by the observations which he makes in the course of his life, and form no obstacle to the pursuit of his normal occupations.The truth of this may be shown by numerous examples.

The first Christians expected the return of Christ and the total ruin of the pagan world, with the inauguration of the kingdom of the saints, at the end of the'first generation.' The catastrophe did not come to pass, but Christian thought profited so greatly from the apocalyptic myth that certain contemporary scholars maintain that the whole preaching of Christ referred solely to this one point. The hopes which Luther and Calvin had formed of the religious exaltation of Europe were by no means realised; these fathers of the Reformation very soon seemed men of a past era; for present-day Protestants they belong rather to the Middle Ages than to modern times, and the problems which troubled them most occupy very little place in contemporary Protestantism. Must we for that reason deny the immense result which came from their dreams of Christian renovation?

In our own times Mazzini pursued what the wiseacres of his time called a mad chimera; but it can no longer be denied that, without Mazzini, Italy would never have become a great power, and that he did more for Italian unity than Cavour and all the politicians of his school.

The myth must be judged as a means of acting on the present; any attempt to discuss how far it can be taken literally as future history is devoid of sense. It is the myth in its entirety which is alone important: its parts are only of interest in so far as they bring out the main idea. No useful purpose is served, therefore, in arguing about the incidents which may occur in the course of a social war, and about the decisive conflicts which may give victory to the proletariat, even supposing the revolutionaries to have been wholly and entirely deluded in setting up this imaginary picture of the general strike; this picture may yet have been, in the course of the preparation for the Revolution, a great element of strength, if it has embraced all the aspirations of Socialism, and if it has given to the whole body of Revolutionary thought a precision and a rigidity which no other method of thought could have given.

To estimate, then, the significance of the idea of the general strike, all the methods of discussion which are current among politicians, sociologists, or people with pretensions to political science, must be abandoned. Everything which its opponents endeavour to establish may be conceded to them, without reducing in any way the value of the theory which they think they have refuted. The question whether the general strike is a partial reality, or only a product of popular imagination, is of little importance. All that it is necessary to know is, whether the general strike contains everything that the Socialist doctrine expects of the revolutionary proletariat.

To solve this question we are no longer compelled to argue learnedly about the future; we are not obliged to indulge in lofty reflections about philosophy, history, or economics; we are not on the plane of theories, and we can remain on the level of observable facts. We have to question men who take a very active part in the real revolutionary movement amidst the proletariat, men who do not aspire to climb into the middle class and whose mind is not dominated by corporative prejudices. These men may be deceived about an infinite number of political, economical, or moral questions; but their testimony is decisive, sovereign, and irrefutable when it is a question of knowing what are the ideas which most powerfully move them and their comrades, which most appeal to them as being identical with their socialistic conceptions, and thanks to which their reason, their hopes, and their way of looking at particular facts seem to make but one indivisible unity.

Thanks to these men, we know that the general strike is indeed what I have said: the myth in which Socialism is wholly comprised, i.e. a body of images capable of evoking instinctively all the sentiments which correspond to the different manifestations of the war undertaken by Socialism against modern society. Strikes have engendered in the proletariat the noblest, deepest, and most moving sentiments that they possess; the general strike groups them all in a co-ordinated picture, and, by bringing them together, gives to each one of them its maximum of intensity; appealing to their painful memories of particular conflicts, it colours with an intense life all the details of the composition presented to consciousness. We thus obtain that intuition of Socialism which language cannot give us with perfect clearness-- and we obtain it as a whole, perceived instantaneously.

We may urge yet another piece of evidence to prove the power of the idea of the general strike. If that idea were a pure chimera, as is so frequently said, Parliamentary Socialists would not attack it with such heat; I do not remember that they ever attacked the senseless hopes which the Utopists have always held up before the dazzled eyes of the people.

They struggle against the conception of the general strike because they recognise in the course of their propagandist rounds that this conception is so admirably adapted to the working-class mind that there is a possibility of its dominating the latter in the most absolute manner, thus leaving no place for the desires which the Parliamentarians are able to satisfy. They perceive that this idea is so effective as a motive force that once it has entered the minds of the people they can no longer be controlled by leaders, and that thus the power of the deputies would be reduced to nothing. In short, they feel in a vague way that the whole Socialist movement might easily be absorbed by the general strike, which would render useless all those compromises between political groups in view of which the Parliamentary regime has been built up.

The opposition it meets with from official Socialists, therefore, furnishes a confirmation of our first inquiry into the scope of the general strike.

Georges Sorel (1847-1922) stated his theory of social myths most clearly in a letter to Daniel Halevy in 1907, from which these selections are taken. Sorel was a socialist, a syndicalist, and after 1917, a vigorous admirer of Lenin. His anti-intellectualism and his passion for revolutionary activity in place of rational discourse made him most influential in shaping the ultimate direction of fascism, especially in Mussolini's Italy.

...Men who are participating in a great social movement always picture their coming action as a battle in which their cause is certain to triumph. These constructions, knowledge of which is so important for historians, I propose to call myths; the syndicalist "general strike" and Marx's catastrophic revolution are such myths. As remarkable examples of such myths, I have given those which were constructed by primitive Christianity, by the Reformation, by the Revolution and by the followers of Mazzini. I now wish to show that we should not attempt to analyze such groups of images in the way that we analyze a thing into its elements, but that they must be taken as a whole, as historical forces, and that we should be especially careful not to make any comparison between accomplished fact and the picture people had formed for themselves before action.

I could have given one more example which is perhaps still more striking: Catholics have never been discouraged even in the hardest trials, because they have always pictured the history of the Church as a series of battles between Satan and the hierarchy supported by Christ; every new difficulty which arises is only an episode in a war which must finally end in the victory of Catholicism.

In employing the term myth I believed that I had made a happy choice, because I thus put myself in a position to refuse any discussion whatever with the people who wish to submit the idea of a general strike to a detailed criticism, and who accumulate objections against its practical possibility. It appears, on the contrary, that I had made a most unfortunate choice, for while some told me that myths were only suitable to a primitive state of society, others imagined that I thought the modern world might be moved by illusions analogous in nature to those which Renan thought might usefully replace religion. But there has been a worse misunderstanding than this even, for it has been asserted that my theory of myths was only a kind of lawyer's plea, a falsification of the real opinions of the revolutionaries, the sophistry of an intellectual.

If this were true, I should not have been exactly fortunate, for I have always tried to escape the influence of that intellectual philosophy, which seems to me a great hindrance to the historian who allows himself to be dominated by it.

In can understand the fear that this myth of the general strike inspires in many worthy progressives, on account of its character of infinity, the world of today is very much inclined to return to the opinions of the ancients and to subordinate ethics to the smooth working of public affairs, which results in a definition of virtue as the golden mean; as long as socialism remains a doctrine expressed only in words, it is very easy to deflect it towards this doctrine of the golden mean; but this transformation is manifestly impossible when the myth of the "general strike" is introduced, as this implies an absolute revolution. You know as well as I do that all that is best in the modern mind is derived from this "torment of the infinite"; you are not one of those people who look upon the tricks by means of which readers can be deceived by words, as happy discoveries. That is why you will not condemn me for having attached great worth to a myth which gives to socialism such high moral value and such great sincerity. It is because the theory of myths tends to produce such fine results that so many seek to refute it....

As long as there are no myths accepted by the masses, one may go on talking of revolts indefinitely, without ever provoking any revolutionary movement; this is what gives such importance to the general strike and renders it so odious to socialists who are afraid of a revolution....

The revolutionary myths which exist at the present time are almost free from any such mixture; by means of them it is possible to understand the activity, the feelings and the ideas of the masses preparing themselves to enter on a decisive struggle: the myths are not descriptions of things, but expressions of a determination to act. A Utopia is...and intellectual product; it is the work of theorists who, after observing and discussing the known facts, seek to establish a model to which they can compare existing society in order to estimate the amount of good and evil it contains. It is a combination of imaginary institutions having sufficient analogies to real institutions for the jurist to be able to reason about them; it is a construction which can be taken to pieces, and certain parts of it have been shaped in such a way that they fitted into approaching legislation. While contemporary myths lead men to prepare themselves for a combat which will destroy the existing state of things, the effect of Utopias has always been to direct men's minds towards reforms which can be brought about by patching up the existing system; it is not surprising, then, that so many makers of Utopias were able to develop into able statesmen when they had acquired a greater experience of political life. A myth cannot be refuted, since it is, at bottom, identical with the conviction of a group, being the expression of these convictions in the language of movement; and it is, in consequence, unanalyzable into parts which could be placed on the plane of historical descriptions. A Utopia, on the other hand, can be discussed like any other social constitution; the spontaneous movements it presupposes can be compared with the movements actually observed in the course of history, and we can in this way evaluate its verisimilitude; it is possible to refute Utopias by showing that the economic system on which they have been made to rest is incompatible with the necessary conditions of modern production.

For a long time Socialism was scarcely anything but a Utopia; the Marxists were right in claiming for their master the honor of bringing about a change in this state of things; Socialism has now become the preparation of the masses employed in great industries for the suppression of the State and property; and it is no longer necessary, therefore, to discuss how men must organize themselves in order to enjoy future happiness; everything is reduced to the revolutionary apprenticeship of the proletariat. Unfortunately Marx was not acquainted with facts which have now become familiar to us; we know better than he did what strikes are, because we have been able to observe economic conflict of considerable extent and duration; the myth of the "general strike" has become popular, and is now firmly established in the minds of the workers; we possess ideas about violence that it would have been difficult for him to have formed; we can then complete his doctrine, instead of making commentaries on his text, as his unfortunate disciples have done for so long.

In this way Utopias tend to disappear completely from Socialism; Socialism has no longer any need to concern itself with the organization of industry since capitalism does that....

People who are living in this world of "myths," are secure from all refutation; this has led many to assert that Socialism is a kind of religion. For a long time people have been struck by the fact that religious convictions are unaffected by criticism, and from that they have concluded that everything which claims to be beyond science must be a religion. It has been observed also that Christianity tends at the present day to be less a system of dogmas than a Christian life, i.e., moral reform penetrating to the roots of one's being; consequently, new analogy has been discovered between religion and the revolutionary Socialism which aims at the apprenticeship, preparation, and even reconstruction of the individual -- a gigantic task.... the side of Utopias there have always been myths capable of urging on the workers to revolt. For a long time these myths were founded on the legends of the Revolution, and they preserved all their value as long as these legends remained unshaken. Today the confidence of the Socialists is greater than ever since the myth of the general strike dominates all the truly working-class movement. No failure proves anything against Socialism since the latter has become a work of preparation (for revolution); if they are checked, it merely proves that the apprenticeship has been insufficient; they must set to work again with more courage, persistence, and confidence than before; their experience of labor has taught workmen that it is by means of patient apprenticeship that a man may become a true comrade, and it is also the only way of becoming a true revolutionary.

[Source: The full text of Sorel's Letter to Daniel Halevy is presented in his Reflections on Violence (1908), trans. T. E. Hulme and J. Roth, (New York: Collier, 1950), pp.26-56.]

The History Guide | Feedback |
copyright © 2000 Steven Kreis

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dhimmitude: the Islamic system of governing populations conquered by jihad wars, encompassing all of the demographic, ethnic, and religious aspects of the political system. The word "dhimmitude" as a historical concept, was coined by Bat Ye'or in 1983 to describe the legal and social conditions of Jews and Christians subjected to Islamic rule. The word "dhimmitude" comes from dhimmi, an Arabic word meaning "protected". Dhimmi was the name applied by the Arab-Muslim conquerors to indigenous non-Muslim populations who surrendered by a treaty (dhimma) to Muslim domination. Islamic conquests expanded over vast territories in Africa, Europe and Asia, for over a millennium (638-1683). The Muslim empire incorporated numerous varied peoples which had their own religion, culture, language and civilization. For centuries, these indigenous, pre-Islamic peoples constituted the great majority of the population of the Islamic lands. Although these populations differed, they were ruled by the same type of laws, based on the shari'a.

This similarity, which includes also regional variations, has created a uniform civilization developed throughout the centuries by all non-Muslim indigenous people, who were vanquished by a jihad-war and governed by shari'a law. It is this civilization which is called dhimmitude. It is characterized by the different strategies developed by each dhimmi group to survive as non-Muslim entity in their Islamized countries. Dhimmitude is not exclusively concerned with Muslim history and civilization. Rather it investigates the history of those non-Muslim peoples conquered and colonized by jihad.

Dhimmitude encompasses the relationship of Muslims and non-Muslims at the theological, social, political and economical levels. It also incorporates the relationship between the numerous ethno-religious dhimmi groups and the type of mentality that they have developed out of their particular historical condition which lasted for centuries, even in some Muslim countries, till today.

Dhimmitude is an entire integrated system, based on Islamic theology. It cannot be judged from the circumstantial position of any one community, at a given time and in a given place. Dhimmitude must be appraised according to its laws and customs, irrespectively of circumstances and political contingencies.