Age of Revolutions

By Eric Brandom

By the end of the 19th century, Marx’s legacy was attached to political parties that sought to win power democratically, indeed that to a great degree identified revolution with the electoral victory of socialist parties. Many anarchists militated for a competing purely negative vision of revolution—only the destruction of the state, capitalism, and doubtless much else would bring about a new and better world. Georges Sorel’s syndicalism was different yet again. His was not a conservative revolution, but a revolution that would conserve.

download Georges Sorel, 1847-1922

This idea is articulated in Sorel’s 1898 pamphlet, “L’Avenir socialiste des syndicats,” which, if we keep in mind that the fin-de-siècle French “syndicat” is a more open and flexible institution than 20th century trade unions, we can call “The Socialist Future of the Unions.” Sorel retired in 1892 from a successful career as civil engineer, moved to…

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