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Kerry Bolton

The Left, the Right, and Social Revolt – Part 2

Series: The Left, the Right, and Social Revolt

The single true resistance to capitalism and its moneyed interests can come only from a return to the idea of the organic state and its traditional guild economies.

Organic Society

Rome had its ‘corporations’, by which is meant guilds or syndicates of craftsmen, not to be confused with the present wider usage of the term to describe a business enterprise. (Hence when the Left refers to ‘corporatism’ as the capitalist form of political domination, it is another corruption and befuddling of terminology). Each craft guild had its patron god. In the West, culminating in the Gothic epoch, the guilds of craftsmen and burghers had their patron saints. Religiosity infused the guilds as it did the rest of society. We have been told since the Renaissance epoch, when the name ‘Gothic’ was coined as a pejorative for the highest epoch of the West – that this was an era of superstition, ignorance and repression, from which have been ‘progressively’ liberated by the Reformation, the Renaissance, Cromwell’s parliamentarianism, 1776, Jacobinism, ‘The Declaration on the Rights of Man and the Citizen’, 1848, The Communist Manifesto, ‘The Fourteen Points’, ‘The Atlantic Charter’, the ‘United Nations Declaration on Human Rights’, and other such excrescences, each of which has been a ‘progressive’ step away from the traditional nexus that holds an organic society together, bringing us closer to the creation of the global Homo economicus.

What the 1789 Revolution proceeded to do was abolish the guilds as an encumbrance to ‘liberty’ – the liberty of trade, the freedom of the free market; the rise of the bourgeoisie, and eventually the oligarchy. How ‘the people’ gained from this ‘democracy’ is explained by its supposedly being a stepping stone towards greater and better things (either towards communism, or towards liberal-democratic-capitalism, since both sides of the coin laud 1789 as the harbinger of their respective utopias). This ‘liberty’ destroyed the ‘fraternity’ that had been provided by the guild in practical, spiritual and cultural ways. What is now called a ‘job’, that generally pointless, time-wasting drudgery on the economic treadmill, was once a ‘calling’, and one that was divinely ordained, no less – the Western Gothic equivalent to Hindu dharma. Work was craft. The classes were not static, as they are so often accused of being in that epoch, but one could work through by one’s excellence and diligence, from apprentice to journeyman to master. The journeyman could travel throughout Europe and be welcomed as a brother in the guilds of his craft; meaning that Europe, or the Western High Culture, was considered a transcendent unity.

Free Trade capitalism is no more a legacy of the Right, at any stage of history, than Trotskyism.

Society functioned as an organism; that is, as an ‘organic’ or ‘corporative state’. Original ‘corporatism’ meant what its etymology implies: a body (corpus). Individuals are analogous to cells, the cells compose the organs such as self-governing guilds, self-governing towns, and ‘estates’; and these organs are co-ordinated by the brain: the monarch and his councils. Something of this outlook is examined in my previous article for Arktos Journal on Dante who, like his contemporaries in general, expounded on the organic social order as the application of Christianity; what was maintained as ‘Catholic social doctrine’ right up until the contamination of the Church with banal liberal ‘progressive’ social doctrines in our own time. Under an organic social order each unit (cell, organ) functioned as an indispensable part of a totality (social organism).

If we accept this analogy, we might define anything that disrupts the functioning of this social organism at any level as a social pathology. The class struggle of the Left attacks the social organism on the level of the organs (classes); the individualism of Liberalism attacks the social organism at the cellular level. Both are social cancers. Free Trade capitalism (Classical Liberalism) is no more a legacy of the Right, at any stage of history, than Trotskyism.

Evola unequivocally identified ‘corporatism’ and the organic state as the traditional forms of social organization. He devotes entire chapters to these subjects in Men Among the Ruins: Chapter 4: ‘The Organic State – Totalitarianism’; Chapter 12: ‘Economy and Politics – Corporations – Unity of Work’. Why there should be such puzzlement among the Right as to the genuine course of socio-economic doctrine is therefore itself a puzzle.

The fundamental spirit of corporativism was that of a community of work and productive solidarity, based on the principles of competence, qualification, and natural hierarchy, with the overall system characterised by a style of active impersonality, selflessness, and dignity. This was very visible in the medieval artisan corporations, guilds, and craft fraternities. … The problems of capital and the ownership of the means of production were almost never an issue, due to the natural convergence of the various elements of the productive process in view of the realisation of the common goal.1

Guilds

In 1943 Father Denis Fahey, when he was a very influential theologian, translated Professor G. Kurth’s (1847-1916) Workingmen’s Guilds of the Middle Ages. Fahey was one of the last significant exponents of traditional social doctrine in the Church, and will be recalled by some readers for his authorship of what became an Old Right classic, The Rulers of Russia. Kurth, a Belgian scholar of international repute for his works on Medieval life, wrote in the introduction that every century in Christendom other than his own had benefited from the Catholic institution of the guilds. ‘These magnificent associations were the glory and the strength of the workers of humble means, and flourished wonderfully throughout the Middle Ages’:

Every century has benefited by them, with the single exception of our own. The nineteenth century alone has seen workingmen isolated from one another, with no bond between them, reduced to the condition of grains of dust blown about by the wind, and finally falling into an undeserved state of misery and misfortune. What was the reason of this? Because the French Revolution in its furious hatred of religion wanted to destroy everything that religion had created, and the guilds were the first victims of that lust of destruction. All workingmen ought to know and detest the Chapelier Law of June 14–27, 1791, of which the first article runs as follows: ‘As one of the fundamental principles of the French Constitution is the annihilation of every kind of guild for citizens of the same status or profession, it is forbidden to re-establish them, under any pretext or in any form whatsoever.’2

What the proletariat (itself a new class of the uprooted and alienated former burghers, craftsmen and peasants, pushed into slums to work as factory fodder) got instead was class struggle and trades unionism. As Spengler stated, this Leftism was an attempt to seize capital from the new money class, to become the next owners of capital, according to Marx’s historical dialectic; not to transcend capital, which would have required a restoration of faith, village, guild and craft. Any such restoration Marx regarded with unrestrained outrage. He condemned such ‘reactionism’, in The Communist Manifesto, as a movement that had arisen as an alliance among clergymen, noblemen, and what remained of craftsmen who looked to a revival of the guilds. It was ‘reactionism’ because it threw a spanner in Marx’s dialectical ‘wheel of history.’

The French Revolution had destroyed the social foundations of craft industry and agriculture in the name of ‘the people’. Indeed, the Jacobin answer to the peasant revolt in the Vendée region was one of annihilation. Trade unionism the following century was a poor substitute, attempting to catch scraps from the table of commerce, in conflict with the class that Jacobinism and other revolts and reformations before and since, animated from the ruins of the traditional order: the bourgeoisie. Behind the class conflict stood undetected the plutocrats and oligarchs, who had more than any other been restrained by the Church with its teachings against usury. Here again, the Reformation has much for which to answer in the name of ‘freedom’: the Protestant states tended to ‘liberate’ the usurer. Protestant theology on commerce and banking undermined Catholic teaching not only against usury, but against the ‘just price’, and the labourer being ‘worthy of his hire’. Protestant clergy defended usury against the Church’s traditional teaching that ‘money should not beget money’. This was an axiom of many traditional societies across time and place.3

It was the consequences of capitalism and industrialism that prompted Pope Leo XIII to issue his encyclical Rerum novarum in 1891, and Pope Pius XI his Condition of Workers, in 1931. They urged a restoration of guilds, and brotherly regard between both the owners of capital and those who laboured without any such means. They provided the political basis for Salazar’s Portugal, Dollfuss’ Austria4 and corporatist movements and states across the world. While Fascism and other forms of ‘national syndicalism’ (as Flangism in Spain was termed) were among the most militant forms, in replying to the violence of Communism and the entrenched repression of capitalist states, these had however been predated by the Christian Democratic movement during the 19th century, of which the above-mentioned Professor Kurth was a leading ideologue, while in Britain ‘guild socialism’ arose and formed an early alliance with the Social Credit economic doctrine; itself a response to usury. Although it is now largely forgotten, during the 1930s the world ideological conflict did not just involve capitalism and socialism, but also corporatism, with corporatist movements and states arising from Hungary to Italy and Greece, from Australia to Brazil. There is nothing however about corporatism and the organic state that is discernible in present-day Christian Democracy, with the CDU in Germany for example advocating the free market, while its Weimer-era precursor, the Centre Party, advocated ‘corporatist-solidarist ideas’.5

Kurth commented on the materialist epoch, inaugurated by the Jacobin outlawing of the guilds that the Church tried to address:

It may be truthfully said that that law constituted the most abominable crime ever committed against the interests of the workingman during the nineteen hundred years of Christianity. Nearly all the misfortunes of the modern worker have arisen from the fact that, when large-scale industry took its rise, he found himself deprived of the numberless resources with which guild organization would have furnished him, to prevent economic decay.6

Kurth, writing of the guilds with the hope that they would be restored in the modern era, stated:

Most of the guilds organized a scheme of mutual assistance among their members and came actively and charitably to the aid of those who had fallen into misfortune. Oftentimes they gave a dowry to the daughters of the poorer colleagues or defrayed the expenses of the education of their orphans. Thanks to a small subscription, sick members were, during the time they were incapacitated for work, in receipt of an income that preserved them from destitution. Several guilds even found the means of assuaging the more cruel kinds of suffering outside their own ranks, and bestowed ample alms on leper-houses and hospitals.7

This mutual assistance seems very much superior to the degradation of the uprooted, city-dwelling proletariat of subsequent centuries, and perhaps one could venture to include the system of economics that prevails today. William Cobbett in his History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland recorded how much better off the workers and peasantry had been in England prior to the Reformation, in terms of diet, working hours and holidays. Today’s workforce works very much longer than their counterparts of pre-Reformation times.8

Only the Right has ever represented a resistance to money-interests, and those on the Left who have realized this have come to the Right to restore pre-capitalist organic social bonds.

Moreover, the guilds were self-governing. They formulated their own charters, provided their own welfare funds; they were prospering corporate entities that compared favourably to those of private or family wealth. The elders of the guilds were elected by the whole membership, usually for one term only. General voting to the local councils was exercised through guild membership; therefore it is nonsense to think that commoners were devoid of political voice. They were better enfranchized than is the case today with our nebulous democratic electorates and parliaments. Politics, like economics, was exercised at local level. It was the revolutions of ‘the people’, Jacobinism, English parliamentarianism and the Reformation, which centralized political and economic powers. Master guildsmen underwent examinations comparable to those of today’s universities or polytechnics. A master printer was examined on his knowledge of Greek and Latin. A master baker had to prepare an impressive meal to be judged by a panel of master guildsmen. The guild diplomas were as honoured as those of the humanities and sciences from the universities.

Kurth states of the situation pertaining since the French Revolution:

Since the French Revolution, owing to the decay of the sense of solidarity in the Mystical Body [of Christ] and the suppression of the guilds, men have come to think of life as a battlefield where the weak are destined to become the victims of the strong. They call this the struggle of existence. These sinister notions have nowhere wrought such havoc as in the realm of industry. Competition has there become the sole rule and every man tries to produce at the cheapest in order to sell at the cheapest: for thus all his rivals are crushed. Everybody now realizes that to achieve this happy result either the workers’ wages must be lowered or the public must be cheated in regard to the quality of the goods. In the Middle Ages people thought differently. They believed men were made for mutual assistance not for mutual cannibalism. Their first concern was that the worker might be able to live honourably on the product of his labour, and that the public might be loyally served for their money. To this end every necessary means was adopted to prevent that unbridled competition through which some become unduly rich by exploiting their fellowmen, and reducing multitudes of them to misery.9

Today competition is held to be sacrosanct. This Social Darwinism, which politically is Whig Liberalism, can readily be seen to be the same today as when it was being described by Kurth, but now this doctrine is called ‘Right-wing’. In place of what the Church called the ‘Mystical Body of Christ’ in the world, we have the mystique of ‘market forces’, which we are assured exist and in which we must have faith despite this mystical force not much being in evidence.

Free Trade Subversive

Marx correctly called Free Trade revolutionary and subversive, and stated on that basis that he backed Free Trade.10 Evola and Spengler, as we have seen, concurred, from another perspective.

Other socialists towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, recognized the inadequacy of the Left in regard to capitalism. Sorelian Syndicalists found common ground with the Catholic-royalists of Action Francaise in detesting the legacy of the 1789 Revolution, and both saw in corporatism the means of establishing the organic society. Henri De Man, the leader of the Belgian Labour party, and Marcel Déat, a leader of French socialism, were among the leaders of the Left who joined with the Right in a synthesis that aimed to transcend capitalism in all respects.11

The Right never was a manifestation of capitalism. In France the Left, led by alienated bourgeois intelligentsia and funded by oligarchs, agitated mobs to destroyed the remaining vestiges of the organic social order, and inaugurated Free Trade as a constitutional principle. Only the Right has ever represented a resistance to money-interests, and those on the Left who have realized this have come to the Right to restore pre-capitalist organic social bonds. When journalists, academics, and other mental defectives describe Liberal parties as ‘right-wing’ and even ‘extreme Right’, and governments enacting economic privatization as being ‘Right-wing’ and ‘conservative’, this is pure bunk, subverting, distorting and retarding the true Right – the only actual revolt against materialism and decay.

Footnotes

1Evola, Men Among the Ruins (op. cit.), p. 225.

2G. Kurth Workingmen’s Guilds of the Middle Ages (1943 translation)

3K. R. Bolton, Opposing the Money Lenders (London: Black House Publishing, 2016), pp. 3–4.

5Samule Gregg, Becoming Europe (New York: Encounter Books, 2013), p. 83.

6G. Kurth, op. cit.

7Ibid., Ch. II: Mutual Assistance.

8William Cobbett, op. cit.

9G. Kurth, op. cit.

10Karl Marx, Elend der Philosophie, Appendix, (1847).

11Zeev Sternhell, Neither Left Nor Right: Fascist Ideology in France (Princeton University Press, 1986). Sternhell, an Israeli scholar, provides an objective, detailed account of the crisis in Marxism in France and Belgium that saw a convergence of Socialist revisionists and Rightists. Revolutionary syndicalists and traditional corporatists were among those who found common ground in opposing liberalism and capitalism.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Dr. Bolton,

    An excellent article. Have you seen Peter Kolozi’s Conservatives against Capitalism? Although the author writes from a leftist perspective, the book contains much of interest to conservatives who oppose capitalism.
    Thank you for your writings! B. Thorn

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