Daniel Guérin

Daniel Guérin

Daniel Guérin (19 May 1904, Paris – 14 April 1988) was a French libertarian and author, best known for his work Anarchism: From Theory to Practice, as well as his collection No Gods No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism in which he collected writings on the idea and movement it inspired, from the first writings of Max Stirner in the mid-19th century through the first half of the 20th century. He is also known for his opposition to Nazism, fascism, Stalinism and colonialism, in addition to his support for the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) during the Spanish Civil War, and his revolutionary defence of free love and homosexuality (he was bisexual).

Contents

CGT, PSOP, and Libertarian Marxism

Early on, he started political activism in the revolutionary syndicalist magazine La Révolution prolétarienne of Pierre Monatte. He traveled to Lebanon (1927–1929) and French Indochina (1929–1930) and became a passionate opponent of colonial ventures. In 1932, he joined the Confédération Générale du Travail, a syndicalist trade union; in the mid-1930s, he entered Marceau Pivert's movement Gauche Révolutionnaire ("Revolutionary Left"), a current of the SFIO Party. When the Gauche was excluded from the SFIO, he became one of the leaders of the new Parti Socialiste Ouvrier et Paysan (PSOP - "Workers and Peasants Socialist Party"), and was at that time quite close to Leon Trotsky.

In 1933, he traveled to Nazi Germany, an experience which inspired him to author Fascism and Big Business, in which he detailed the roots of nazi ideology and its ties to capitalism. Gradually, his ethos edged further left, eventually developing into a combination of Marxism and anarchism. In his essay Libertarian Marxism?, he stated a belief that Karl Marx's philosophy should be judged complete at the Paris Commune, in which he appended his original plans for a two-step revolution, first abolishing class, then abolishing government, into a more immediate, libertarian process. A brief summary of his ideas can be found in his own words:

"To call oneself a libertarian marxist today is not to look backwards but to be committed to the future. The libertarian marxist is not an academic but a militant. He is well aware that it is up to him to change the world - no more, no less. History throws him on the brink. Everywhere the hour of the socialist revolution has sounded. Revolution - like landing on the moon - has entered the realm of the immediate and possible. Precise definition of the forms of a socialist society is no longer a utopian scheme. The only utopians are those who close their eyes to these realities." (Why Libertarian Marxism, 1969)

Spanish Civil War and the 1940s

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, he was quick to support the Republican side but within a year, after internal rifts in the Republican armed forces erupted into actual combat — the Stalinist Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia on one side, and the Trotskyist Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) and anarchist CNT on the other, he had lost a great deal of faith in the Soviet-supported factions.

In 1946, Guérin went to the United States, and was appalled at the treatment of African Americans, and their lack of equality with their White counterparts. He witnessed the Civil Rights Movement, and chronicled his experience in his book Negroes On the March, an important text in the doctrine of revolutionary integrationism, which argues that the struggle for equality by African Americans in the U.S. is their primary struggle, that it can be won only via the struggle by the entire working class for socialism, and that it is essential to that larger struggle. The same year he published his in-depth study of the French Revolution, La lutte de classes sous la première République : Bourgeois et 'bras nus' (1793-1797) ("Class struggle in the First Republic: Bourgeoisie and the people") in which, unlike many leftist historians, he was very critical of the Jacobins.

Later life

In 1959, by publishing Youth of Libertarian Socialism he began his involvement with anarchism. Guérin belonged to several anarchist-communist organizations: the ORA (Anarchist Revolutionary Organization), from 1971 to 1977, the UTCL (Union of the Libertarian Communist Workers), from 1979 to his death in 1988 (in 1991, the UTCL became Alternative libertaire).

He also participated in the events of May 1968 in Paris, as well as his calls for Algerian independence from France. Guérin's writings were prolific in France, but English translations are rare. Guérin was the subject of the French film Daniel Guérin, Combats Dans le Siècle (1904-1988), made by Patrice Spadoni and Laurent Mulheisen.

List of writings (incomplete)

  • Anarchism: From Theory to Practice
  • Class Struggle in the First French Republic
  • Fascism and Big Business
  • Proudhon: Oui ou Non?
  • Popular Front: A Lost Revolution
  • Anarchism and Marxism
  • For a Libertarian Marxism
  • Towards a Libertarian Communism
  • Negroes on the March
  • No Gods No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism
  • 100 Years of Labor in the USA

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