Proudhon and revolutionary syndicalism
René Berthier
Article mis en ligne le 8 janvier 2024

par Eric Vilain

Excerpt from an interview conducted by our Brazilian comrades at the Instituto de Estudos Libertarios in Rio de Janeiro

How can a socialist thinker who is described as “opposed to
strikes” be claimed by revolutionary syndicalism ? Which raises
the first question : was Proudhon really opposed to strikes ? As
is often the case with the absurdities that circulate about the
anarchist movement, it is Marx who is behind them. So when
Marx reports that Proudhon was pleased that the miners of
Rives-de-Gier had been repressed after going on strike1, he is
simply showing that he had only read the Capacité politique
des classes ouvrières superficially (in fact, the quotation used
in the Capacité comes from the Système des contradictions
économiques). Proudhon is simply saying that from the point of
view of the legislation of the time, the strike was illegal and
that repression was, for the same reasons, legal. So he was not
happy that the miners had been repressed. Proudhon also
emphasised : “the working plebs, whose noble aspirations I am
here to serve as best I can, are still, alas ! no more than an
inorganic multitude ; the worker has not placed himself on the
same level as the master”. He was explicitly referring here to
article 1781 of the Civil Code, which states that in a lawsuit,
the boss’s word is worth more than that of his workers ; a
situation he naturally did not approve of2. For Proudhon, the
fact that the “working plebs” were an “inorganic multitude”
meant that they had no collective consciousness and no
organisation – which he regretted.