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dimanche, 11 octobre 2020

Hendrik de Man, The Right, & Ethical Socialism


Hendrik de Man, The Right, & Ethical Socialism

“Socialism” is intrinsic to the “Right.” When journalists and academics refer in one breath to “liberalism, neoliberalism, and the Right-wing,” that attests to their ignorance, not to the accuracy of any such bastardization. Even at its most basic level of understanding, it seems to have been forgotten that in Britain there were Tories and Whigs in opposition. Now, Toryism has become so detached from its origins that there is indeed no distinction between British Conservativism, in the parliamentary sense at least, and Whig-liberalism. The same can be said for much of what is called often called “Right” across the world, but especially in the Anglophone states whose philosophy has been dominated by utilitarianism.

henrikdeman-233x300.jpgThe “Right” has a rich but obscured legacy that revolts against capitalism. The “Right” is restorative, and arises when a culture-organism begins to decay. The works of Thomas Carlyle, an essay, Chartism (1840), and the book Past & Present (1843) could be the ideological basis of a true British Right, in which Carlyle condemns free trade from a conservative position. In these, he considered the supposed panacea of universal franchise and decried the debased state of the Aristocracy, which should be replaced with an “aristocracy of merit.” Carlyle stated that free trade would be a harbinger of “social revolution.” (When Karl Marx later said the same, he meant it, contrary to Carlyle, in a positive sense.) Carlyle condemned “Mammon,” materialism, and the “money nexus” of the bourgeoisie, and stated that the problems of the British were fundamentally spiritual and moral, from whence a repudiation of the money-ethos that dominated Britain should proceed. Carlyle did not write in the same stream as the British utilitarian philosophers from whom liberalism arose. He wrote in a more Occidental sense in repudiating the trade and commercial mentality that had long pervaded British thinking, politics, and foreign policy; bourgeois and Whig, as Spengler and Werner Sombart pointed out. Yockey classified Carlyle among the few British philosophers writing from an “organic” perspective of history.

Marx, so far from repudiating that mentality, was intellectually in thrall to it, as Sombart and Spengler explained, and this identity of Marxism with British utilitarian and materialist philosophy resulted in a crisis of the Left during the close of the 19th century when socialist thinkers realized the inadequacy of Marx in truly rejecting capitalism and the bourgeois spirit.

Carlyle set the tone of his condemnation of capitalist Britain with the opening paragraph of Past & Present in a far more eloquent sense than that of Marx; although the Whigs masquerading as “conservatives” then and now regard such words as rabid socialism:

The condition of England, on which many pamphlets are now in the course of publication, and many thoughts unpublished are going on in every reflective head, is justly regarded as one of the most ominous, and withal one of the strangest, ever seen in this world. England is full of wealth, of multifarious produce, supply for human want in every kind; yet England is dying of inanition. With unabated bounty the land of England blooms and grows; waving with yellow harvests; thick-studded with workshops, industrial implements, with fifteen millions of workers, understood to be the strongest, the cunningest and the willingest our Earth ever had; these men are here; the work they have done, the fruit they have realized is here, abundant, exuberant on every hand of us: and behold, some baleful fiat as of Enchantment has gone forth, saying, “Touch it not, ye workers, ye master-workers, ye master-idlers; none of you can touch it, no man of you shall be the better for it; this is enchanted fruit!” On the poor workers such fiat falls first, in its rudest shape; but on the rich masterworkers too it falls; neither can the rich master-idlers, nor any richest or highest man escape, but all are like to be brought low with it, and made “poor” enough, in the money-sense or a far fataller one. [1] [1]

P1030768.jpgPreviously, in his essay Chartism, Carlyle had appealed not to class war but to class unity among fellow Britons, high-born and low, pointing out that the ruling classes did not even realize there was a problem to be solved, much to their own danger:

How an Aristocracy, in these present times and circumstances, could, if never so well disposed, set about governing the Under Class? What they should do; endeavor or attempt to do? That is even the question of questions: — the question which they have to solve; which it is our utmost function at present to tell them, lies there for solving, and must and will be solved.

Insoluble we cannot fancy it. One select class Society has furnished with wealth, intelligence, leisure, means outward and inward for governing; another huge class, furnished by Society with none of those things, declares that it must be governed: Negative stands fronting Positive; if Negative and Positive cannot unite, — it will be worse for both! Let the faculty and earnest constant effort of England combine round this matter; let it once be recognized as a vital matter. Innumerable things our Upper Classes and Lawgivers might ‘do;’ but the preliminary of all things, we must repeat, is to know that a thing must need be done.

Alas, in regard to so very many things. Laissez-faire ought partly to endeavor to cease! But in regard to poor Sanspotatoe [Irish] peasants, Trades-Union craftsmen. Chartist cotton-spinners, the time has come when it must either cease or a worse thing straightway begin, — a thing of tinder-boxes, vitriol-bottles, second-hand pistols, a visibly insupportable thing in the eyes of all. [2] [2]

In the early 20th century, Anthony Ludovici and others attempted to return the Tory Party to its origins, and his works, like those of Carlyle, remain as timeless foundations on which the Anglophone Right can return to its actual premises. The U.S. Right has its foundation in Federalism, the Hamiltonian concept of North American as a people-nation-state — as Yockey recognized — but often insists on looking to its opposite, the Jeffersonian-style Jacobinism that was enthralled by the French Revolution and would have thwarted the American states from ever becoming a nation.

Occidental Synthesis

The German economist Friedrich List, in contrast to the British philosophers, was condemning free trade from a conservative position at around the same time as Carlyle. He espoused autarchy, which he called the “national system.” This was anathema to Marx, who saw such ideologies as antithetical to the dialectical march toward communism.


List critiqued free trade precisely on the grounds that Marx praised it; for its materialism, class divisiveness, and national dissolution. List wrote in his magnum opus:

The system of the school suffers, as we have already shown in the preceding chapters, from three main defects: firstly, from boundless cosmopolitanism, which neither recognizes the principle of nationality, nor takes into consideration the satisfaction of its interests; secondly, from a dead materialism, which everywhere regards chiefly the mere exchangeable value of things without taking into consideration the mental and political, the present and the future interests, and the productive powers of the nation; thirdly, from a disorganizing particularism and individualism, which, ignoring the nature and character of social labor and the operation of the union of powers in their higher consequences, considers private industry only as it would develop itself under a state of free interchange with society (i.e. with the whole human race) were that race not divided into separate national societies.

Between each individual and entire humanity, however, stands THE NATION, with its special language and literature, with its peculiar origin and history, with its special manners and customs, laws and institutions, with the claims of all these for existence, independence, perfection, and continuance for the future, and with its separate territory; a society which, united by a thousand ties of mind and of interests, combines itself into one independent whole, which recognizes the law of right for and within itself, and in its united character is still opposed to other societies of a similar kind in their national liberty, and consequently can only under the existing conditions of the world maintain self-existence and independence by its own power and resources. As the individual chiefly obtains by means of the nation and in the national mental culture, power of production, security, and prosperity, so is the civilization of the human race only conceivable and possible by means of the civilization and development of the individual nations. [3] [4]

This is the actual legacy of the Right. Not Locke, Mill, Spencer, Hobbes, van Mises, Hayek, or Rand.

De Man_0.jpg

But such was the paradigm shift in politics during the Cold War, with disaffected Marxists entering en masse the ranks of the Cold Warriors against the USSR, that by the time the eminent American scholar Christopher Lasch had rejected neo-Marxism he could not find “genuine conservativism” in the USA. He could only find advocates of free trade, which he considered as destructive to tradition and the organic community as the Left. [4] [5]

What Lasch perceived in the early 1970s Oswald Spengler had seen in the aftermath of World War I: that the “scientific socialism” of Marx et al did not transcend capitalism, but reflected it, because both arose within the same Zeitgeist of British materialism and industrialism. [5] [6] As Lasch saw decades later, capitalism shares with the Left a common outlook against the traditional social order, which is the organic community. Carlyle had perceived this in 1840. After World War I, Spengler spoke of “Prussian Socialism,” and Otto Strasser of “German Socialism,” based on pre-capitalist German — and wider European — ethos. To Strasser, “socialism” is synonymous with “conservativism” because it harkens back to the pre-capitalist organic community. Marxism is within the same historical stream as liberalism, Marxism being “a doctrine whose liberal factors necessarily unfit it for the upbuilding of the socialist (i.e. conservative) future, and one whose program cannot but involve it in the decline of liberalism.” As Spengler had stated, Strasser reiterated that “this was simply due to the fact that the longing for socialism began to find expression at a time when the ego idea, liberalism, that is to say, was in the ascendant.” [6] [7]

The fundamental premise of the Right is the dichotomy described by German sociology, of Gemeinschaft versus Gesellschaft; the traditional organic community, or the “modern” doctrine of society as a contract between individuals for their material benefit. Sombart came to regard Marxism as rooted in the latter along with liberalism, as its only goal is to unite individuals for selfish material gain in the name of the proletariat, as liberalism does in the name of the bourgeoisie, which he regarded as the abysmal gulf between British bourgeois philosophy (including Marx) and that of the German (including Carlyle), which he delineated as a difference between the heroic spirit and the commercial or trader’s spirit. [7] [8]


May 1940, de Man with Queen Elizabeth.

Corradini, head of the Italian Nationalist Association, stated at its first congress in 1910, nine years prior to the founding of Mussolini’s fascio, that Italy is a “proletarian nation,” and that “socialism” so far from serving the interests of the “proletarian nations” creates with its internationalism and class struggle a civil war within the social organism. [8] [9] Nine years later, at the Nationalist convention in Rome, Corradini described syndicalism as the means by which the organic social community (Gemeinschaft) can be established; creating “real collaboration, organic, unifying, and complete.” [9] [10]

When a synthesis began to arise from the late 19th century between the elements of the Right and Left, this was a process of the Left turning Right, while elements of the Right were returning to their actual — pre-capitalist — origins. The synthesis became the major “third force” in the world competing against communism and capitalism, and drawing many of the Left’s best thinkers who had already been realizing the limitations of “scientific socialism.”

Even if we consider the terms Left and Right at their most basic level — the seating arrangements of the French Assembly — it might seem odd today, when ideological terms have become obfuscated and origins forgotten, that those on the Right represented the maintenance of tradition, representing the monarchical and Catholic regime that retained a few vestiges of the traditional epoch; those on the Left stood for a bourgeois new order of laissez-faire trade. This bourgeois revolution is a primary part of the Left’s legacy, being considered as a necessary element of the dialectical process of what Marx called the “wheel of history.” [10] [11] It should be kept in mind that Marx, according to this dialectical outlook, stated that socialism could not proceed until capitalism and the bourgeoisie had replaced the vestiges of the traditional order, causing the ruination of peasants, artisans, burghers, and aristocrats. These ideas are expressed most clearly in The Communist Manifesto.

Advocacy of a return to the pre-capitalist order was vehemently denounced by Marx as “reactionism.” [11] [12] To the Rightist this is not regressive, but restorative, as the Right states that there are fundamentals that are timeless, and one might say emanating from an axis; while the “progress” of liberalism and “scientific socialism” is destructive fallacy. [12] [13] Hence, the Right is literally a conservative revolution insofar as “revolution” implies a return to origins. It also means that the liberal-capitalist order requires a complete overturn to restore those origins.

Role of the Bourgeoisie

The French Revolution of 1789 was pivotal and its impact has only increased over the world. From the French Revolution arose both liberal capitalism and the Left. The Revolution abolished the vestiges of the Medieval guilds in France under the Chapelier Law of 1791. These forefathers of “scientific socialism” enacted the free market, standards of production markedly declined, and there was widespread dissatisfaction with such “liberty.” Such was the concern at this destruction of the guilds that the National Assembly in 1795 reiterated they would not be revived, and the prohibition became Article 355 of the Constitution, which meant that a constitutional amendment would be required to reverse the law. In Revolutionary France, the guild era was recalled as one of happiness and plenty. No longer with stability, fraternity (despite the ironic slogan of the Revolution: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”), and a higher purpose that the guilds had offered, worker unrest was widespread. The supposed peoples’ representatives expressed concern at mounting worker “insubordination.” There was prolonged debate on the reconstitution of the guilds under Napoleon Bonaparte, but ultimately the laissez-faire radicals won. [13] [14] What replaced the organic community, however debased it had become by that time, was “civil society,” and the “social contract” between individuals, or what the Declaration on the Rights of Man & of the Citizen referred to as the “general will,” enforceable in the name of freedom by death. Joseph de Maistre criticized the Enlightenment notion that a nation could be built on such legalistic artifices that fail to reflect the spirit of a nationality. Of written constitutions as nation-building instruments, he wrote:

There never has existed a free nation which had not, in its natural constitution, germs of liberty as old as itself; and no nation has ever successfully attempted to develop, by its fundamental written laws, other rights than those which existed in its natural constitution. . . . No assembly of men can give existence to a nation. An attempt of this kind ought even to be ranked among the most memorable acts of folly exceeding in folly what all the Bedlams of the world might produce most absurd and extravagant. [14] [15]

Again, with de Maistre, the contrast is between the society that is organic and that which is contractual. Today, “civil society” is regarded as the desirable norm for the entire world.


Crisis of the Left

There were Leftists who regarded the Marxist and other such forms of socialism as inadequate and historical analyses based on nothing more than economic relations as insufficient. Leftist thinkers, Sombart being notable among these, began to see “scientific socialism” — as Marx called it — as an appropriation of the bourgeois capitalist spirit for the proletariat rather than as a transcendence. World War I was the catalyst for the eruption of a discontent that had been growing within the Left. The war had proved that the patria readily transcended class conflict; that as Corradini had stated, the national struggle supplants sectionalism whether of the liberal-bourgeois or “socialist” varieties.

Professor Alfredo Rocco, Italian Minister of Justice (1925-1932), the primary architect of the future corporatist state, began politically as a socialist before joining Corradini’s Nationalist Association. He saw the strengthening of the proletariat as necessary for social cohesion. In his 1920 address to the University of Padua, inaugurating the academic year, he referred to history as one of organic social cycles of birth and decay. Within this, he develops the concept of “unceasing struggle” within every “social body” “between the principle of organization represented by the state and the principle of disintegration, represented by individuals and groups, which tend to disrupt it and lead to its decline and fall.” While the concept is Spenglerian, Rocco was drawing on the Italian philosopher Giovanni Battista Vico, who preempted Spengler by about 180 years — and here we have in Vico another forgotten philosopher of the Right.

211400.jpgRocco traced the disintegrative impact of liberalism and the role of the bourgeoisie in undermining the social organism — “an amorphous and disorganized mass” in an “individualistic reaction.” The doctrine was provided by the Salon intelligentsia espousing an imaginary “natural law” and by the Encyclopaedists, “and it came to a head politically in the explosion of the French Revolution.” Faced with the reality of governing and of foreign wars, the French revolutionary regime soon had to reimpose the authority of the state, culminating in the genius of Napoleon. Following this epoch there arose again bourgeois liberalism with its atomistic “liberty.” Rocco cogently defines the liberal regime in describing the situation that arose from the tumults of the 19th century:

[ind]From that time onwards, the claims of individualism knew no bounds. The masses of individuals wanted to govern the state and govern it in accordance with their own individual interests. The state, a living organism with a continuous existence over the centuries that extends beyond successive generations and as such the guardian of the imminent historical interests of the species, was turned into a monopoly to serve the individual interests of each separate generation. [15] [16]

To restore the social organism against the atomization of liberalism, Rocco urged the integration of the syndicates, or corporations as they were known in Italy since Classical Rome, as integral organs of the social body. Rocco pointed out that liberalism in the name of individual liberty had “destroyed those ancient and venerable organizations, the guilds and corporations of arts and crafts,” which were decreed as abolished on the night of August 4th, 1789 by the French National Assembly, and in the subsequent law of August 14th — 17th 1791. In Italy, the ban was soon lifted, but the corporations did not regain their standing. “Yet professional organization or syndicalism, as it is normally known, or corporatism, to use the more traditional Italian word, is a natural and irrepressible phenomenon to be found in every age. It existed in Greece as well as in Rome, and in the Middle Ages as in modern times.” The disjunction and indeed animosity that had emerged between artisan and owner under modern capitalism could be reconciled within corporatism.

Many Leftists, just as much within the victor states as the defeated, saw the war as a “defeat of socialism.” Lanzillo, a syndicalist on the staff of Mussolini’s socialist newspaper Popolo d’Italia from 1914, wrote in his book The Defeat of Socialism that contrary to socialist expectations, the proletariat of every nation eagerly fought for their national, not international, class interests. “Socialism based its arguments on the dialectical opposition of interests within individual countries, and war showed the possibility of reconciling those interests in the will to defend by force of arms a common heritage and common ideals.” [16] [17] This echoes Sombart’s 1915 work; although Sombart insisted that the “spirit” was uniquely “German,” after the war, it became universal among those who yearned for something more than a return to the decaying pre-war order.

Hendrik de Man and Socialism 

Hendrik de Man, leader of the Belgian Workers Party, went so far as to initially cooperate with the German occupation during World War II, seeing it as a blow at the bourgeois spirit of the prior century. Despite this, de Man is still regarded as an important theorist of socialism. His “neosocialism,” also known as “planism,” [17] [19] is a significant ideological development among the Francophone Left. De Man was among the leading Socialists of Europe, having worked with Rosa Luxemburg [20], Karl Liebnecht, Karl Kautsky, and Leon Trotsky [21]. After service in World War I he visited the Soviet Union, lived in Washington, and worked as a professor of economics at the University of Frankfurt.


Marxism, de Man stated, reduces man “to the level of a mere object among the objects of his environment, and these external historical ‘relationships’ are held to determine his volitions and to decide his objectives.” Like many socialists who rejected Marx, World War I was a seminal event for de Man. He wrote in The Psychology of Marxian Socialism:

The war, in which I participated as a Belgian volunteer, shook my Marxist faith to its foundations. It is war-time experience which entitles me to say that my book has been written with blood, though I cannot myself be certain that I have been able to transform that blood into spirit. The conflict of motives whose upshot was that I, an ardent antimilitarist and internationalist, felt it my duty to take up arms against Germany; my disillusionment at the collapse of the International; the daily demonstration of the instinctive nature of mass impulses thanks to which even socialist members of the working class had their minds poisoned with the virus of nationalist hatred; my growing estrangement from most of my sometime Marxist associates, who went over to the bolshevik camp — thanks to all these influences conjoined, I was racked with doubts and scruples whose echoes will be heard in this book. [18] [22]

After the First World War, he withdrew from politics for several years to reflect on his thoughts and life. He conceded that what was required was not merely to “revise” or “adapt” Marxism, but to liquidate it. [19] [23]

In France, Socialist Party leader Marcel Déat, whose “neosocialism” was significantly influenced by de Man, anarcho-syndicalist Georges Valois, and Communist Party eminence Jacques Doriot came to such conclusions. The “British Fascism” of Sir Oswald Mosley had its programmatic origins in his days as a Labour Minister, and the fundamentals remained. Of this post-war situation for socialists, de Man stated:

It is not surprising that socialism is in the throes of a spiritual crisis. The world war has led to so many social and political transformations that all parties and all ideological movements have had to undergo modification in one direction or another, in order to adapt themselves to the new situation. Such changes cannot be effected without internal frictions; they are always attended by growing pains; they denote a doctrinal crisis. [20] [24]

cms_visual_1073992.jpg_1535106009000_293x450.jpgMarxism remained “rooted in the philosophical theories that were dominant during the middle decades of the nineteenth century, theories which may provisionally be summarised in the catchwords determinism, causal mechanism, historicism, rationalism, and economic hedonism.” [21] [25] So far from the bourgeoisie being increasingly proletarianized due to the crisis of capitalism, as Marx had predicted in The Communist Manifesto, de Man saw that “the working class is tending to accept bourgeois standards and to adopt a bourgeois culture.” [22] [26] “In the last analysis, the reason why the bourgeoisie is the upper class to-day, is that everyone would like to be a bourgeois.” [23] [27] Today more than ever it is apparent that the historical dialectic has not unfolded in the manner Marx predicted. The “cult of the masses” was an invention of bourgeois intellectuals including Marx, who were remote from the masses; [24] [28] a “relapse into the naivety of the outworn primitive democratic adoration of the crowd.” [25] [29]

In comparing the pre-capitalist guild era of the Medieval epoch with the capitalist era of production, de Man pointed out that

The essence of the charge brought by Marxism against capitalism is that the capitalist method of production has divorced the producers from the means of production. In actual fact, capitalism has done something much more serious; it has divorced the producer from production, the worker from the work. In this way, it has engendered a distaste for work which is often increased rather than diminished by an improvement in the material circumstances of life, and cannot be cured by any mere change in property relationships.

Especially conspicuous is the contrast between the industrial worker of to-day and the Medieval artisan as a guildsman. The handicraftsman of the Middle Ages might or might not be the owner of his house, his workshop, or his booth; his position might be a good one, financially speaking, or the reverse. But at least he was master of his own work. . .

The craftsman of the Middle Ages took delight in his work; he lived in his work; for him, his work was a means of self-expression. [26] [30]

De Man dealt directly with the workers, and often through his own lack of understanding was taught many lessons on the workers’ ethos that would be regarded as “reactionism” (as Marx puts it in The Communist Manifesto) by those on the Left too imbued with the bourgeois outlook to understand. At one such point, de Man alludes to the personal attachment tradesmen have to their own old toolboxes, an ethos that goes beyond the comprehension of Marxist doctrine (and an attitude that one can still observe among tradesmen and apprentices). [27] [31] He stated that Marxist theories about working-class solidarity lacked an ethos, and were mechanistic. They sought to build something merely on the basis of modes of production. This is the “economic man,” the “hedonist” and “egoist.” [28] [32] It is the same spirit of the merchant referred to by Sombart. The desire for solidarity was born not from this bourgeois outlook, but from the instinct that had existed during the Medieval era; of Christian ethos; that of “craft fraternity” defended by the guilds. [29] [33] Socialism, said de Man, should aim to revive a social ethos that was instinctive [organic], not mechanistic. [30] [34] He alluded to two postulants that serve as an ethical basis for this “new socialism”: “1. Vital values are higher than material values; and of vital values, spiritual values are the highest. 2. The motives of community sentiment are higher than the motives of personal power and personal acquisition.” [31] [35] Again, Sombart had said the same in his wartime appeal.

51zxhJ8I5JL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAn additional factor in the fallacy of Marxism was that especially since the First World War the proletariat had become more national and less international. [32] [36] Machinery and modes of production might indeed be international and what is today called globalization shows that capital is an internationalizing tendency, as Marx approvingly predicted. But people are more than their modes of production. [33] [37]

De Man saw the socialist movement as intrinsically national and the proletariat as more than a globule of putty to be molded for the purposes of production, whether by liberalism or Marxism:

The French revolution, which was the supreme struggle on the continent of Europe for the realization of the political demands of the bourgeoisie, was (so thought the revolutionists) to culminate in a universal rising of the peoples against the despots, and to make the Declaration of the Rights of Man the constitution of the whole human race. The Goddess of Reason, in whose honor the revolution set up its altars, was to become the deity of all mankind. [34] [38]

National sentiment is an integral part of the emotional content of the socialism of each country. It grows in strength in proportion as the lot of the working masses of any country is more closely connected with the lot of that country itself; in proportion too as the masses have won for themselves a larger place in the community of national civilization. At bottom, this partial absorption of socialist sentiment by national sentiment need not surprise us. We have merely to recognize that it is the return of a sentiment to its source. [Emphasis added]. Socialism itself is the product of the interaction between a given moral sentiment and a given social environment. It is not only the social environment which has a national character. The other factor, likewise, the moral sentiment, has primarily, in different peoples, a peculiar tinge, derived from a peculiar national past. [35] [39]

Hence, de Man recognized that socialism and tradition (that is “the Right”) are, so far from being antithetical, intrinsic each to the other.

Hendrik de Man was condemned as a “collaborator” after World War II and settled in exile in Switzerland. Like others condemned “traitors” and “collaborators,” he had remained in his country during the occupation to try and make something positive from the situation. When the German military occupied Belgium in June 1940, de Man issued a manifesto to the Belgian Workers Party stating that “For the working classes and for socialism, this collapse of a decrepit world, far from being a disaster, is a deliverance.” He had been Minister of Public Works (1934-1935) and of Finance (1936-1938). The failure to see his “Plan” implemented is reminiscent of a similar situation faced by Sir Oswald Mosley with his “Mosley Memorandum” to the Labour Government on the unemployment problem. Like Mosley, he saw that plutocracy could only be defeated by strong government action.

o4yw5i7LVt2nWwPOCyhdQLECBbk.jpgWhile other Belgian politicians fled the country and formed a government-in-exile, de Man served as de facto Prime Minister for over a year. In 1941, he co-founded with other trade union leaders the Union des Travailleurs Manuels et Intellectuels, which was intended as the basis of a corporatist state above party politics. However, German occupation prevented this from becoming a truly effective organization.

De Man soon fell out with the occupation authorities. Although remaining the primary adviser to King Leopold III and the Queen Mother, he left Belgium in 1941 after talks with the Reich failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion for Belgian sovereignty and he was banned by the occupation authorities from public speaking. He first lived in France, then Switzerland until his death in 1953.

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[1] [43] Thomas Carlyle, Past & Present (1843), Book I: “Proem,” Chapter I: “Midas.”

[2] [44] Thomas Carlyle, Chartism (1840), Chapter VII: “Not Laissez-Faire.”

[3] [45] Friedrich List, The National System of Political Economy (1841), Chapter XV: “Nationality and the Economy of the Nation.”

[4] [46] Christopher Lasch, “What’s Wrong with the Right? [47]Tikkun, No. 1, 1987.

[5] [48] Spengler in The Decline of the West, The Hour of Decision, and Prussianism and Socialism. See for the latter Spengler: Prussianism Socialism and Other Essays (London: Black House Publishing, 2018).

[6] [49] Otto Strasser, Germany Tomorrow (London: Jonathan Cape, 1940), Part III: “The Structure of German Socialism” (4) Marxism, 126.

[7] [50] Werner Sombart, Händler und Helden (Merchants and Heroes, 1915). It seems likely that Spengler was influenced by this book, and Yockey, whether directly or via Spengler. But not all Germans have the “heroic spirit,” and not all British that of the “trader.” In this dichotomy, Marx reflected the “British,” Carlyle the “German”; insofar as each state represented a rival Zeitgeist which conflicted in two world wars. It seems reasonable to conclude that the “trader” spirit, in defeating the “heroic,” was taken over from Britain by the USA after World War II.

[8] [51] Enrico Corradini, The Principles of Nationalism, Report to the First Nationalist Congress, Florence, December 3, 1910.

[9] [52] Corradini, Nationalism and the Syndicates, Rome, March 16, 1919.

[10] [53] Marx’s “wheel of history,” so far from being in the traditional sense, where a culture revolves metaphorically on an axis, in the Evolian sense, proceeds in a straight line called “progress,” until falling into the abyss.

[11] [54] Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto (1848), “Bourgeois and Proletarians.”

[12] [55] Evola referred to the axial basis of civilization in Revolt Against the Modern World; Yeats rendered the idea poetically in “The Second Coming” (1920).

[13] [56] See Michael P. Fitzsimmons, “The Debate on Guilds under Napoleon,” The Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, Vol. 36, 2008.

[14] [57] Joseph de Maistre, Essay on the Generative Principle of Constitutions (1847), Preface.

[15] [58] Alfredo Rocco, The Syndicates & the Crisis within the State, Padua, November 15, 1920.

[ [43]16] [59] Agostino Lanzillo, The Defeat of Socialism (Rome, 1918), Preface.

[17] [60] Named after H. de Man’s “Labor Plan” of 1933 to deal with unemployment.


[18] [61] Hendrik de Man, The Psychology of Marxian Socialism (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1988 (1928)), 12.

[19] [62] Ibid., 14.

[20] [63] Ibid., 19.

[21] [64] Ibid., 23.

[22] [65] Ibid., 25.

[23] [66] Ibid., 103.

[24] [67] Ibid., 35.

[25] [68] Ibid., 36.

[26] [69] Ibid., 65-67.

[27] [70] Ibid., 75.

[28] [71] Ibid., 127.

[29] [72] Ibid.

[30] [73] Ibid., 131.

[31] [74] Ibid., 189.

[32] [75] Ibid., 303.

[33] [76] Ibid., 313.

[34] [77] Ibid., 321. This cult of the Goddess of Reason was intended as a literal civic religion in Jacobin France to replace Catholicism.

[35] [78] Ibid., 325-326.

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dimanche, 10 octobre 2010

La critica alla democrazia in Henri de Man

La critica alla democrazia in Henri de Man

Ex: http://fralerovine.blogspot.com/ 

La democrazia come forma di dominio borghese

Il giovane De Man è ancora fedele al marxismo ortodosso, in linea con la Seconda Internazionale, ma già si delineano alcuni temi che saranno centrali nel suo pensiero. In particolare, in “L’era della democrazia” (1907) emergono tre punti fondamentali. In primo luogo, il suo socialismo ha una base volontaristica, secondo cui lotta di classe e istinto di sopravvivenza – “volontà di potenza” per usare un termine nietzscheano” – coincidono. In secondo luogo – e qui viene ribadita la sua linea radicale e non riformista –, il proletariato dovrà essere attento a non cedere agli inganni della borghesia, bensì mantenersi puro e intransigente per conquistare il potere. Egli, infatti, riconosce il carattere precedentemente rivoluzionario della borghesia, ma ammonisce a non confondere la rivoluzione borghese con quella proletaria.


1. La crescita parallela dei movimenti socialisti dei lavoratori e del movimento democratico di parte della borghesia, come abbiamo visto negli ultimi anni, in particolare da noi in Francia, Inghilterra, Olanda e Belgio, ha portato molti membri del nostro partito alla conclusione che, siccome entrambi i fenomeni sono portati avanti dalla medesima causa e per lo stesso scopo (la “democrazia” che infine diverrà “socialista”), così il progresso della democrazia e quello del movimento dei lavoratori sarà simile, combinato, inseparabile. Bene, questa conclusione è erronea, questa conclusione è falsa, questa conclusione è pericolosa.


In terzo luogo, però, il proletariato, man mano che acquisterà coscienza di classe, sarà in grado di vincere la borghesia con le proprie forze, sfruttando le stesse condizioni della democrazia borghese.


2. Sarebbe il peggior tipo di pessimismo concludere che non dobbiamo aspettarci immediati miglioramenti politici, che dobbiamo fermarci e riporre tutta la nostra speranza nel sovvertimento rivoluzionario della società capitalista. No; la democrazia politica – cioè, un minimo di diritti politici e legalità – è la condizione assolutamente indispensabile per il successo della rivoluzione sociale […]. Ma il proletariato sarà sempre più l’unica forza a sostenere tutte le battaglie per la democrazia e dovrà dipendere sulle sue risorse per la realizzazione della democrazia. Man mano che la democrazia diventa più indispensabile per il proletariato, diviene più pericolosa per la borghesia, e man mano che la lotta per ogni frammento di libertà e legalità diventa più difficile, sempre più s’avvicina a quella lotta finale in cui non ci sarà quartiere, dove la posta sarà il controllo del potere politico, la stessa esistenza dello sfruttamento capitalistico e della democrazia a uno e a un medesimo tempo.


Fin dall’inizio, quindi, il rapporto con la democrazia borghese, in quanto sistema politico reale e quotidiano in cui ci si trova ad operare e che occorre affrontare, risulta fondamentale nell’opera di De Man, il quale però ammonisce che la democrazia può spianare la strada al proletariato ma non è in sé una condizione sufficiente, tale da condurre automaticamente al socialismo.


3. Dunque, nella nostra lotta, non lasciamo che illusioni sulla misericordia della borghesia, né fiducia nella sincerità delle loro convinzioni democratiche, confondano la consapevolezza di classe del proletariato. La posta della battaglia è ben maggiore che un po’ di legalità o solo una riforma, ben più grande di quanto una rivoluzione borghese abbia mai tentato. E il proletariato ha un’arma molto più forte e formidabile di quanto la borghesia ne abbia mai usate. Non l’ha forgiata a partire dall’idea democratica – e dal fraseggio di un impotente classe in declino. Come il giovane eroe nel Sigfrido di Wagner, vede ciò con distacco […]. E forgerà la sua spada per salvare il mondo a partire dalla forte organizzazione di classe e con eroica coscienza di classe.


Infatti, approfondendo la sua preparazione teoretica e la sua conoscenza della democrazia liberale, De Man sarà sempre più cauto e guardingo relativamente all’attrazione del liberalismo e del riformismo sul proletariato. Particolarmente interessanti sono le sue lettere da London, pubblicate nel 1910 sul “Leipziger Vokszeitung” come “Lettere di viaggio socialiste”, laddove egli descrive come il partito laburista sia del tutto integrato in quello liberale e, perciò, funzionale agli stessi interessi borghesi, mentre invece quelli dei proletari sono ignorati o calpestati.


4. È del tutto ovvio che la natura della competizione elettorale tra i due grandi partiti borghesi, che almeno a Londra monopolizza quasi il campo di battaglia, è una competizione per catturare i voti del lavoratore attraverso trucchi pubblicitari da poco, così che il partito che ha meno scrupoli e più denaro vincerà. Perché alla fine, l’essenza del senso politico nel sistema elettorale inglese è questo: trasformare il potere finanziario delle classi proprietarie in potere politico in modo che il diritto di voto dei lavoratori sia reso un modo di preservare la loro dipendenza intellettuale e politica dai partiti borghesi.


L’analisi e la critica del sistema democratico inglese prosegue toccando altri punti fondamentali, quali la legge elettorale in sé, la quale esclude il voto femminile, riduce l’elettorato ai soli possidenti o affittuari benestanti, garantisce il voto plurale a laureati e proprietari terrieri, ed è basata su un sistema maggioritario, per cui in ogni collegio è eletto solo il singolo candidato che ottiene la maggioranza relativa. Inoltre, egli descrive la conduzione della campagna elettorale presso i lavoratori con distribuzione gratuita di alcoolici, propaganda di massa e addirittura l’organizzazione delle masse stesse al voto. Il termine che meglio descrive l’atteggiamento delle classi dominanti verso la classe operaia è “condiscendenza”.


5. Il movimento socialista operaio è trattato dalla classe dominante in Inghilterra in completo contrasto con il socialismo e con il movimento operaio. Mi esprimerò più chiaramente: il socialismo come teoria sociale e filosofica non appare come minaccioso per il corpo della borghesia, finché esso non trova sostenitori nei circoli intellettuali borghesi […]. In breve, il socialismo qui è ancora socialmente accettabile, come non lo è stato per lungo tempo in Germania. La borghesia inglese molto tempo fa ha fatto pace con il movimento dei lavoratori a patto che non fosse socialista, cioè, con il movimento sindacale di vecchio stampo.


Tuttavia, come fa notare De Man, alla “carota” viene affiancato il “bastone”: i metodi repressivi non sono meno assenti nella democrazia liberale, semplicemente essi sono usati con maggiore parsimonia e oculatezza. Questo è particolarmente evidente nel modus operandi della polizia inglese, in realtà non molto dissimile da quella prussiana, nonostante la differenza di regime, in linea teorica.


6. Alla fine il parallelo tra i “bobbies” e i “Bleus” riflette fondamentalmente quello tra le due forme di governo, il borghese liberale e lo Junker reazionario, in generale. Queste sono le due forme democratiche di oppressione politica del proletariato nell’era capitalista; la prima è la più ragionevole, la seconda la più brutale. Questo non significa che la polizia di Londra non possa e non si sia comportata in modo brutale. Ma questo ha luogo non regolarmente ma solo in circostanze straordinarie, cioè, quando è considerato davvero indispensabile.


In sintesi, il giovane De Man prende una posizione molto dura verso la democrazia borghese, liberale o autoritaria che sia. Se da una parte, infatti, riconosce che all’interno di essa è possibile trovare gli strumenti per portare avanti la lotta di classe, pure è consapevole che a un certo punto sarebbe risultata inevitabile la rivoluzione.

La democrazia come tappa intermedia

Nel 1914, con l’invasione del Belgio da parte tedesca, questa visione secondo cui non c’era differenza tra i vari regimi borghesi e imperialisti doveva cambiare radicalmente. Le democrazie occidentali parevano, infatti, garantire maggiori possibilità ai movimenti operai rispetto agli imperi centrali. Altrettanto importanti furono le sue esperienze di viaggio in Unione Sovietica e negli Stati Uniti, che lo convinsero della necessità di un ordinamento democratico come tappa intermedia tra il capitalismo e il socialismo. In quest’ottica egli arrivò a contrapporre all’URSS, che egli accusava di eccessiva furia nel tentare d’imporre le conquiste del socialismo a un proletariato ancora impreparato, gli Stati Uniti, dove invece vedeva quasi compiute le basi democratiche del socialismo.

Henri De Man, ne traccia una sintesi nell’articolo “La lezione della guerra”, comparso su “Le Peuple” nel 1919. Egli è però attento a sottolineare come la sua posizione non fosse stata immediatamente interventista come molti altri socialdemocratici e socialisti europei, bensì meditata alla luce degli eventi da lui vissuti tra il 1915 e il 1918, e frutto di una coscienza tormentata dalla consapevolezza delle contraddizioni.


7. Al fine di evitare ogni incomprensione, devo dichiarare che, anche se io ero un ufficiale associato all’azione del governo durante la guerra con due missioni ufficiali all’estero – in Russia nel 1917 e negli Stati Uniti nel 1918 – non sono mai stato tra quelli che hanno perso la loro autonomia morale per l’intossicazione del patriottismo ufficiale e dello sciovinismo militarista. Io ero un socialista antimilitarista e internazionalista prima della guerra. Credo di esserlo ancora di più ora. Forse lo sono in modo differente, ma certamente non in misura meno profonda o meno sentita. È precisamente perché io considero il socialismo una realtà urgente e ancora più ineluttabile che mai che esso mi appare da una prospettiva differente dalle mie opinioni del 1914. La revisione delle mie idee è dovuta soprattutto al fatto che per tre anni sono state letteralmente sottoposte alla prova del fuoco.


De Man propone in queste pagine però una svolta di entità non indifferente, anzi una vera e propria revisione del marxismo, dovuta ad esperienze che traspaiono come traumatiche. Egli trasvaluta tutti i valori, alla ricerca di una dottrina politica che gli consenta di comprendere davvero gli eventi.


8. Non penso più che possiamo capire i nuovi fatti della vita sociale con l’aiuto di una dottrina stabilita sulla base di fatti precedenti e differenti. Non penso più che la toeria che vede le guerre contemporanee unicamente come il risultato di conflitti economici tra governi imperialisti sia giusta. Non penso più che i soli fenomeni economici possano fornirci la trama di tutta l’evoluzione storica. Non penso più che il socialismo possa essere realizzato indipendentemente dallo sviluppo della democrazia politica. Non penso più che al socialismo basti fare appello agli interessi di classe del proletariato industriale, disdegnando il supporto che certi interessi e ideali comuni all’intera nazione o a tutta l’umanità possono darci. Non penso più che la lotta di classe proletaria, che rimane il mezzo principale per la realizzazione del socialismo, possa condurre ad esso senza ammettere certe forme di collaborazione di classe e di partito. Non credo più che il socialismo possa consistere semplicemente nell’esproprio dei mezzi di produzione di base da parte dello Stato, senza una profonda trasformazione dei processi amministrativi per portare allo sviluppo illimitato della produttività sociale. Non penso più che una società socialista possa essere sostenuta domani se rinuncia allo stimolante che oggi è fornito dalla competizione d’imprese private e di un ineguale frutto del lavoro, proporzionato alla sua produttività sociale. Credo in un socialismo più a portata di mano, più pragmatico, più organico – in una parola, più umano.


Egli spiega poi le sue motivazioni di contro al marxismo internazionalista, adducendo come tappa necessaria sul cammino verso il socialismo l’autonomia nazionale e la democrazia politica, entrambe ancora da raggiungere nelle due grandi nazioni europee dove era stata tentata la rivoluzione bolscevica, ovvero Russia e Germania, in quanto nazioni ancora rette da una monarchia di diritto divino. In quest’ottica, la guerra delle potenze dell’Intesa era giustificata anche da un punto di vista socialista proprio perché portava a termine quella rivoluzione borghese di cui parlava Marx. De Man continua a fare riferimento al filosofo di Treviri, anche se ne critica l’economicismo.


9. Il metodo del materialismo storico fondato da Marx ci ha abituati troppo a vedere solo il lato economico dei fatti della vita sociale. D’altra parte, il marxismo è stato represso troppo fortemente dal socialismo di Germania e Russia, due Paesi dove la mancanza d’istituzioni democratiche e, quel che è peggio, di tradizioni democratiche ha necessariamente avuto ripercussioni sul punto di vista dei lavoratori.


Egli ha ben presente che non è stata una guerra rivoluzionaria socialista, ma nondimeno è stata una guerra rivoluzionaria democratica. Passando poi a confrontare Stati Uniti e Russia, sottolinea le migliori condizioni del primo Paese, in confronto al secondo dove il proletariato, mancando di un’educazione democratica, non è stato in grado di gestire il potere conquistato.


10. In Russia, ho visto socialismo senza democrazia. In America, ho visto democrazia senza socialismo. La mia conclusione è che, per parte mia, preferirei, se dovessi scegliere, vivere in una democrazia senza socialismo che in un regime socialista senza democrazia. Questo non significa che io sia più democratico che socialista. Molto semplicemente significa che la democrazia senza socialismo è pur sempre democrazia, mentre il socialismo senza democrazia non è nemmeno socialismo. La democrazia, essendo il governo della maggioranza, può condurre al socialismo, se la maggioranza è a favore di esso; il socialismo, se non è basato sul governo della maggioranza, è un regime dispotico, il che significa o guerra civile o stagnazione.


Per risolvere questo problema, il proletariato dovrebbe includere non solamente gli operai, ma anche i tecnici e gli intellettuali, i quali vendono anch’essi la loro forza lavoro, sia pure più specializzata, il che fa di loro dei proletari.


11. Non sarei un socialista se non credessi che questa capacità si può trovare in nuce nel proletariato – a condizione che l’espressione includa oltre ai lavoratori manuali coloro, come i tecnici, i colletti bianchi, gli ingegneri, gli studiosi e gli artisti, che oggi vendono la loro forza lavoro intellettuale sul mercato del mondo capitalista. Ma poiché questo nucleo possa svilupparsi e rendere più che non solo vantaggi temporanei, un lungo periodo di adattamento della classe lavoratrice ai nuovi compiti di gestione sociale deve aver luogo.


Questa collaborazione tra le classi inferiori, sostiene De Man, ha già in realtà visto in parte la luce nelle trincee, laddove la maggioranza dei combattenti erano appunto proletari (in questo senso allargato). Qui sono state poste le basi sociali per un socialismo democratico, del tutto differente dal socialismo dittatoriale del bolscevismo sovietico.

Riguardo agli Stati Uniti, troviamo interesse nella “Lettera d’America” comparsa, sempre su “Le Peuple”, l’anno successivo. Ciò che l’autore sottolinea, sono le ottime condizioni materiali dei lavoratori americani, in particolare i contadini, rispetto a quelli europei. E a queste si accompagna una superiore istruzione e dunque una vera e propria coscienza di classe, che porrebbe le basi per un movimento socialista di successo.


12. Questo è un Paese che dimostra che non è la povertà che crea la più vigorosa coscienza di classe, e che un regime di sfruttamento capitalistico è più minacciato dove la gente comune ha acquisito il più alto grado di benessere materiale ed istruzione, come nel Far West americano. Tutto questo Paese è proprio ora lo sfondo di una grande rinascita della coscienza di classe, sia tra la popolazione rurale, sia tra i lavoratori urbani. È un fenomeno sorprendente, specialmente per un periodo immediatamente successivo a una guerra. La sua espressione più caratteristica è l’alleanza dei sindacati e delle organizzazioni agrarie per sostenere un programma esplicitamente collettivista.


La democrazia nel planismo

Il successivo percorso di studio di De Man lo portò a toccare e ad approfondire ben altri argomenti, in particolare relativamente alla critica e al superamento del marxismo da un punto di vista psicologico, come espresso in “Psicologia del socialismo” (1926). La sua critica del marxismo è funzionale però a una radicalizzazione del movimento socialista. Secondo l’autore, infatti, è nella dottrina di Marx che devono essere rintracciati quei tratti filosofici positivisti come il meccanicismo, il razionalismo, l’edonismo materialista, che favoriscono l’imborghesimento dei movimenti marxisti. Un altro problema è la tendenza alla divisione, specie nei partiti di stampo bolscevico, tra dirigenti attivi e masse passive (“Masse e capi”, 1932). Il lato più propriamente psicologico è poi approfondito in “La lotta per la gioia del lavoro” (1927), laddove esamina i moventi psicologici che influenzano positivamente il lavoratore, ovvero principalmente l’utilità sociale, l’interesse personale, e il senso dell’obbligazione sociale; e quelli che lo influenzano negativamente, come l’insicurezza e la precarietà delle condizioni di vita e di lavoro o l’impossibilità di promozione sociale.

Con “L’idea socialistica” (1933) viene finalmente approfondito un altro tema cruciale, quello dell’imborghesimento del proletario. De Man ricostruisce prima storicamente il passaggio da una borghesia lavoratrice a una borghesia proprietaria e sfruttatrice e poi osserva il processo analogo nel proletariato contemporaneo. Secondo lui, indubbiamente, ha un forte peso il miglioramento delle condizioni di vita, ma il fattore cruciale, che mina a suo parere il marxismo alla base, è il materialismo: la classe operaia lotta non per il bene dell’umanità, ma egoisticamente per il proprio benessere, mirando essenzialmente a rovesciare il dominio borghese e sostituirvisi. In questo senso, riprendendo il pensiero di Spengler e Sombart, il marxismo non è tanto un movimento opposto al capitalismo, quanto interno ad esso. Il socialismo invece doveva prescindere dagli interessi specifici della classe operaia, che a suo parere avrebbero potuto anche essere soddisfatti dal capitalismo, come negli Stati Uniti.

È proprio su queste premesse, che De Man scriverà il “Piano del lavoro” nel 1933, come programma pragmatico di riforma dello Stato dal punto di vista tanto sociale quanto economico.


13. L’obiettivo di questo piano è una trasformazione economica e politica del Paese, consistente in: 1) L’istituzione di un sistema economico misto che includa, oltre a un settore privato, un settore nazionalizzato che comprenda il controllo del credito e delle principali industrie che sono già monopolizzate di fatto; 2) La sottomissione dell’economia nazionale così riorganizzata a lle direttive del benessere comune mirante all’allargamento del mercato interno così da ridurre la disoccupazione e da creare condizioni che portino a un’accresciuta prosperità economica; 3) La realizzazione all’interno della sfera politica di una riforma dello Stato e del sistema parlamentare tale da creare le basi per una vera democrazia sociale ed economica.


Scendendo in maggiori dettagli riguardanti quest’ultimo punto, che delineino come sia mutata la concezione della democrazia propugnata da De Man, occorre consultare la settima e ultima parte del piano.


14. Per rinforzare le basi della democrazia e per preparare istituzioni parlamentari per la realizzazione delle trasformazioni economiche che sono delineate, la riforma dello Stato e del sistema parlamentare deve soddisfare le seguenti condizioni: 1) Tutti i poteri derivano dal suffragio universale non adulterato; 2) L’esercizio delle libertà costituzionali è pienamente garantito a tutti i cittadini; 3) Il sistema politico ed economico assicurerà l’indipendenza e l’autorità dello Stato e del potere pubblico rispetto al potere finanziario; 4) il potere legislativo sarà esercitato da una singola camera, di cui tutti i membri siano eletti con suffragio universale; 5) questa camera, i cui metodi di lavoro saranno semplificati e adattati alle necessità della moderna organizzazione sociale, saranno assistiti nell’elaborare leggi da consigli consultativi, i cui membri saranno scelti in parte fuori dal Parlamento, sulla base della loro riconosciuta competenza; 6) per evitare i pericoli dello statalismo, il Parlamento darà alle agenzie responsabili per legge della gestione dell’economia quei poteri d’implementazione indispensabili alla rapidità d’azione e alla focalizzazione delle responsabilità.


Nelle successive tesi di Pontigny del 1934, stabilirà il ruolo del partito all’interno della pianificazione qui delineata, ovvero la piena partecipazione, all’interno del sistema legale e politico democratico alla riforma dello Stato. Questo interventismo, unito alla delusione per l’inerzia del regime borghese e democratico sarà alla base della sua scelta, nel 1940, di appoggiare il fascismo, sperando che potesse compiere quella riorganizzazione dello Stato che né il socialismo né la democrazia erano stati in grado di intraprendere.

lundi, 10 août 2009

La gauche et la collaboration en Belgique: De Man, les syndicats et le Front du Travail



De Man (debout) avec Emile Vandervelde avant la guerre

La gauche et la collaboration en Belgique

De Man, les syndicats et le Front du Travail


par Raoul FOLCREY



La collaboration de gauche en Belgique? Elle prend son envol avec le manifeste que Henri De Man, chef de file du Parti Ouvrier Belge (POB), publie et diffuse dès le 28 juin 1940. De Man (1885-1953) a été agitateur socialiste dès l'âge de 17 ans, polyglotte, correspondant en Belgique de la social-démocratie allemande et des travaillistes britanniques avant 1914, volontaire de guerre, diplomate au service du Roi Albert 1er, professeur à Francfort avant le nazisme, initiateur du mouvement planiste en Europe dans les années 30, ministre, président du POB; avec une telle biographie, il a été sans conteste l'une des figures les plus marquantes du socialisme marxiste européen. Hérétique du marxisme, sa vision du socialisme n'est pas matérialiste, elle repose sur les mobiles psychologiques des masses frustrées, aspirant à la dignité. Le socialisme, dans ce sens, est une formidable revendication d'ordre éthique. Ascète, sportif, De Man, issu de la bonne bourgeoisie anversoise, n'a jamais aimé le luxe. Le socialisme, déduit-il de cette option personnelle, ne doit pas embourgeoiser les masses mais leur apporter le nécessaire et les rendre spartiates.


Avec son fameux Plan du Travail de Noël 1933, De Man donne au socialisme une impulsion volontariste et morale qui séduira les masses, les détournera du communisme et du fascisme. Les intellectuels contestataires français, ceux que Loubet del Bayle a nommé les «non-conformistes des années 30», s'enthousiasmeront pour le Plan et pour ses implications éthiques. Pour l'équipe d'Esprit (regroupée autour d'Emmanuel Mounier), d'Ordre Nouveau (Robert Aron et A. Dandieu), de Lutte des Jeunes (Bertrand de Jouvenel), de l'Homme Nouveau (Roditi), De Man devient une sorte de prophète. Côté socialiste, en France, ce sera surtout le groupe «Révolution Constructive» (avec Georges Lefranc, Robert Marjolin, etc.) qui se fera la caisse de résonnance des idées de Henri De Man. Pierre Ganivet, alias Achille Dauphin-Meunier, adopte également le planisme demanien dans sa revue syndicaliste révolutionnaire L'Homme réel. Au sein du parti, Léon Blum craint le Plan du Travail:

- parce qu'il risque de diviser le parti;

- parce qu'il implique une économie mixte et tend à préserver voire à consolider le secteur libre de l'économie;

- parce qu'il crée une sorte de «régime intermédiaire» entre le capitalisme et le socialisme;

- parce que la critique du parlementarisme, implicite chez De Man, rapproche son socialisme du fascisme.


Pour Déat, les idées planistes, exposées notamment par De Man à l'Abbaye de Pontigny (septembre 1934), reflètent un pragmatisme de la liberté, une approche de l'économie et de la société proche du New Deal de Roosevelt, et ne relèvent nullement du vieux réformise social-démocrate. Le planisme, avait affirmé Déat dans l'Homme Nouveau (n°6, juin 1934), n'impliquait aucune politique de compromis ou de compromissions car il était essentiellement révolutionnaire: il voulait agir sur les structures et les institutions et les modifier de fond en comble. Presqu'au même moment, se tenait un Congrès socialiste à Toulouse: la plupart des mandats de «Révolution Constructive» s'alignent sur les propositions de Blum, sauf deux délégués, parmi lesquels Georges Soulès, alias Raymond Abellio, représentant le département de la Drôme. Georges Valois, proudhonien un moment proche de l'AF, est hostile à De Man, sans doute pour des motifs personnels, mais accentue, par ses publications, l'impact du courant para-planiste ou dirigiste en France.


Or, à cette époque, pour bouleverser les institutions, pour jouer sur les «structures», pour parfaire un plan, de quelque nature qu'il soit, il faut un pouvoir autoritaire. Il faut inaugurer l'«ère des directeurs». Pratique «directoriale», planification, etc. ne sont guère possible dans un régime parlementaire où tout est soumis à discussion. Les socialistes éthiques, ascètes et spartiates, anti-bourgeois et combatifs, méprisaient souverainement les parlottes parlementaires qui ne résolvaient rien, n'arrachaient pas à la misère les familles ouvrières frappées par le chômage et la récession. Dans son terrible livre, La Cohue de 40, Léon Degrelle croque avec la férocité qu'on lui connaît, un portrait du socialisme belge en déliquescence et de De Man, surplombant cet aréopage de «vieux lendores adipeux, aux visages brouillés, pareils à des tartes aux abricots qui ont trop coulé dans la vitrine» (p. 175). De Man, et les plus jeunes militants et intellectuels du parti, avaient pedu la foi dans la religion démocratique.


Dès le déclenchement des hostilités, en septembre 1939, De Man opte personnellement contre la guerre, pour la neutralité absolue de la Belgique, proclamée par le Roi dès octobre 1936. Fin 1939, avec l'appui de quelques jeunes militants flamands, dont Edgard Delvo, il fonde une revue, Leiding (Direction), ouvertement orientée vers les conceptions totalitaires de l'époque, dit Degrelle. Il serait peut-être plus juste de dire que le socialisme planiste y devenait plus intransigeant et voulait unir, sans plus perdre de temps, les citoyens lassés du parlementarisme en un front uni, rassemblé derrière la personne du Roi Léopold III.


Après l'effondrement de mai-juin 1940, De Man publie un «manifeste aux membres du POB», où figurent deux phrases qui lui ont été reprochées: «Pour les classes laborieuses et pour le socialisme, cet effondrement d'un monde décrépit, loin d'être un désastre, est une délivrance»; «[le verdict de la guerre] est clair. Il condamne les régimes où les discours remplacent les actes, où les responsabilités s'éparpillent dans le bavardage des assemblées, où le slogan de la liberté individuelle sert d'oreiller à l'égoïsme conservateur. Il appelle une époque où une élite, préférant la vie dangereuse et rapide à la vie facile et lente, et cherchant la responsabilité au lieu de la fuir, bâtira un monde nouveau».


Ces phrases tonifiantes, aux mâles accents, étaient suivies d'un appel à construire le socialisme dans un cadre nouveau. Cet appel a été entendu. De toutes pièces, De Man commence par créer un syndicat unique, l'UTMI (Union des Travailleurs Manuels et Intellectuels), officiellement constitué le 22 novembre 1940, après d'âpres discussions avec le représentant du Front du Travail allemand, le Dr. Voss. De Man, ami du Roi, voulait sauvegarder l'unité belge: son syndicat serait dès lors unitaire, ne serait pas scindé en une aile flamande et une aile wallonne. Le Dr. Voss, visant l'éclatement du cadre belge en deux entités plus facilement absorbables par le Reich, impose la présence des nationalistes flamands du VNV dans le comité central composé de socialistes, de démocrates-chrétiens, de syndicalistes libéraux. Edgard Delvo, ancien socialiste, auteur d'un ouvrage préfacé par De Man et paru à Anvers en 1939, collaborateur de Leiding, la revue neutraliste hostile à toute participation belge aux côtés des Anglais et des Français, théoricien d'un «socialisme démocratique» ou plutôt d'un populisme socialiste, est l'homme du VNV au sein de ce comité. En 1942, poussé par les services du Front du Travail allemand, Delvo deviendra le maître absolu de l'UTMI. Ce coup de force des nationalistes provoque la rupture entre De Man et son syndicat: l'ancien chef du POB quitte Bruxelles et se réfugie en Haute-Savoie, grâce à l'aide d'Otto Abetz. Il sera désormais un «cavalier seul». Les socialistes, les libéraux et les jocistes quittent l'UTMI en 1942, laissant à Delvo les effectifs nationalistes flamands et wallons, peu nombreux mais très résolus.


En Wallonie, dès la parution du Manifeste du 28 juin 1940, plusieurs journalistes socialistes deviennent du jour au lendemain des zélotes enragés de la collaboration. Ainsi, le Journal de Charleroi, organe socialiste bon teint depuis des décennies, était édité par une société dont l'aristocratique famille Bufquin des Essarts étaient largement propriétaire. Dès les premiers jours de juin 40, un rédacteur du journal, J. Spilette s'empare du journal et le fait paraître dès le 6, avant même d'avoir créé une nouvelle société, ce qu'il fera le 8. En novembre 1940, Spilette, avançant ses pions sans sourciller, s'était emparé de toute la petite presse de la province du Hainaut et augmentait les ventes. Els De Bens, une germaniste spécialisée dans l'histoire de la presse belge sous l'occupation, écrit que l'influence de De Man était prépondérante dans le journal. Spilette défendait, envers et contre les injonctions des autorités allemandes, les positions de De Man: syndicat unique, augmentation des salaires, etc. Spilette baptisait «national-socialisme» la forme néo-demaniste de socialisme qu'il affichait dans son quotidien. Ensuite, rompant avec De Man, Spilette et ses collaborateurs passent, non pas à la collaboration modérée ou à la collaboration rexiste/degrellienne, mais à la collaboration maximaliste, regroupée dans une association au nom évocateur: l'AGRA, soit «Amis du Grand Reich Allemand». L'AGRA, dont le recrutement était essentiellement composé de gens de gauche, s'opposait au rexisme de Degrelle, marqué par un héritage catholique. Les deux formations finiront par s'entendre en coordonnant leurs efforts pour recruter des hommes pour le NSKK. Le 18 octobre 1941, le Journal de Charleroi fait de la surenchère: il publie un manifeste corsé, celui du Mouvement National-Socialiste wallon, où il est question de créer un «Etat raciste» wallon. Spilette appelle ses concitoyens à rejoindre cette formation «authentiquement socialiste». 


A Liège, le quotidien La Légia, après avoir été dirigé par des citoyens allemands, tombe entre les mains de Pierre Hubermont, écrivain, lauréat d'un prix de «littérature prolétarienne» à Paris en 1931, pour son roman Treize hommes dans la mine. Les Allemands ou Belges de langue ou de souche allemandes, actionnaires de la société ou rédacteurs du journal, entendaient germaniser totalement le quotidien. Pierre Hubermont entend, lui, défendre un enracinement wallon, socialiste et modérément germanophile. Cette option, il la défendra dans une série de journaux culturels à plus petit tirage, édités par la «Communauté Culturelle Wallonne» (CCW). Parmi ces journaux, La Wallonie, revue culturelle de bon niveau. Dans ses éditoriaux, Hubermont jette les bases idéologiques d'une collaboration germano-wallonne: défense de l'originalité wallonne, rappel du passé millénaire commun entre Wallons et Allemands, critique de la politique française visant, depuis Richelieu, à annexer la rive gauche du Rhin, défense de l'UTMI et de ses spécificités syndicales.


Fin 1943, les services de la SS envoient un certain Dr. Sommer en Wallonie pour mettre sur pied des structures censées dépasser le maximalisme de l'AGRA. Parmi elles: la Deutsch-Wallonische Arbeitsgemeinschaft, en abrégé DEWAG, dirigée par un certain Ernest Ernaelsteen. Ce sera un échec. Malgré l'appui financier de la SS. DEWAG tentera de se donner une base en noyautant les «cercles wallons» de R. De Moor (AGRA), foyers de détente des ouvriers wallons en Allemagne, et les «maisons wallonnes», dirigée par Paul Garain, président de l'UTMI wallonne, qui pactisera avec Rex.


Quelles conclusion tirer de ce bref sommaire de la «collaboration de gauche»? Quelles ont pu être les motivations de ces hommes, et plus particulièrement de De Man, de Delvo et d'Hubermont (de son vrai nom Joseph Jumeau)?


La réponse se trouve dans un mémoire rédigé par la soeur d'Hubermont, A. Jumeau, pour demander sa libération. Mlle Jumeau analyse les motivations de son frère, demeuré toujours socialiste dans l'âme. «Une cause pour laquelle mon frère restait fanatiquement attaché, en dehors des questions d'humanisme, était celle de l'Europe. Il était d'ailleurs Européen dans la mesure où il était humaniste, considérant l'Europe comme la Patrie de l'humanisme (...) Cette cause européenne avait été celle du socialisme depuis ses débuts. L'internationalisme du 19° siècle n'était-il pas surtout européen et pro-germanique? L'expérience de 1914-1918 n'avait pas guéri les partis socialistes de leur germanophilie (...). ... la direction du parti socialiste était pro-allemande. Et, au moment de l'occupation de la Ruhr, ..., [mon frère] a dû aligner son opinion sur celle de Vandervelde (ndlr: chef du parti socialiste belge) et de De Brouckère (ndlr: autre leader socialiste), qui étaient opposés aux mesures de sanctions contre l'Allemagne. Le peuple (ndlr: journal officiel du POB), jusqu'en 1933, c'est-à-dire jusqu'à la prise du pouvoir par Hitler, a pris délibérément et systématiquement fait et cause pour l'Allemagne, dans toutes les controverses internationales. Il a systématiquement préconisé le désarmement de la France et de la Belgique, alors que tout démontrait la volonté de l'Allemagne de prendre sa revanche. Mon frère (...) n'avait pu du jour au lendemain opérer le retournement qui fut celui des politiciens socialistes. Pour lui, si l'Allemagne avait été une victime du traité de Versailles avant 1933, elle l'était aussi après 1933 (...). Et si la cause de l'unité européenne était bonne avant 1933, lorsque Briand s'en faisait le champion, elle l'était toujours après 1933, même lorsque les Allemands la reprenaient à leur compte (...). [Mon frère] partait de l'idée que la Belgique avait toujours été le champ de bataille des puissances européennes rivales et que la fin des guerres européennes, que l'unification de l'Europe, ferait ipso facto la prospérité de la Belgique».


Tels étaient bien les ingrédients humanistes et internationalistes des réflexes partagés par De Man, Delvo et Hubermont. Même s'ils n'ont pas pris les mêmes options sur le plan pratique: De Man et Hubermont sont partisans de l'unité belge, le premier, ami du Roi, étant centraliste, le second, conscient des différences fondamentales entre Flamands et Wallons, étant fédéraliste; Delvo sacrifie l'unité belge et rêve, avec ses camarades nationalistes flamands, à une grande confédération des nations germaniques et scandinaves, regroupées autour de l'Allemagne (ce point de vue était partagé par Quisling en Norvège et Rost van Tonningen aux Pays-Bas). Mais dans les trois cas, nous percevons 1) une hostilité aux guerres inter-européennes, comme chez Briand, Stresemann et De Brinon; 2) une volonté de créer une force politique internationale, capable d'intégrer les nationalismes sans en gommer les spécificités; une inter-nationale comportant forcément plusieurs nations solidaires; Delvo croira trouver cet internationalisme dans le Front du Travail allemand du Dr. Ley; 3) une aspiration à bâtir un socialisme en prise directe avec le peuple et ses sentiments.


De Man connaîtra l'exil en Suisse, sans que Bruxelles n'ose réclamer son extradition, car son procès découvrirait la couronne. Delvo sera condamné à mort par contumace, vivra en exil en Allemagne pendant vingt-cinq ans, reviendra à Bruxelles et rédigera trois livres pour expliquer son action. Hubermont, lourdement condamné, sortira de prison et vivra presque centenaire, oublié de tous.