Wednesday, 24 January 2018

A Promise Fulfilled (Part II)

As I said in an earlier post, I've led a very interesting life. My spiritual and intellectual journey is not the least interesting part of it. I often tell my friends that I am undoubtedly the only Traditional Catholic, Monarchist, Distributist that they will ever meet who, in his younger days, belonged to all four radical left-wing 'Internationals' or their successor groups.

I have blogged on my journey to Catholicism, and my very short journey to Monarchism, and you can read the first here:

The Story of my conversion to Catholicism.

And a much shorter post on my visceral Monarchism, written as a commentary on a Tumblar House video by my bon ami Chevalier Charles Coulombe:

How Do People Become Monarchists?

(Links in the article below are to the websites of still extant organisations, to articles on no longer existing organisations, or to documents mentioned, and to information on some of the figures who influenced me.)

Now to my journey through anarchism, socialism, and communism to Distributism. Even as a boy, I was fascinated by economic theories. I read what was available in the encyclopædias available to me, at school and at home, and in the few books available in the small public library in the County Seat. I remember that as a teenager, I had been influenced by what I had read about Mitbestimmung or Co-Determination in Germany, whereby the workers are represented on the Board of Directors of a corporation, and Betriebsverfassung, whereby workers are entitled to form Works Councils at local shop floor level. I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees, the union to which my Uncle Glen, an employee of the Union Pacific Railroad, belonged. In it, I suggested that the union invest its pension funds in stock in the corporation with the intent of securing representation on the Board, with an eye to eventually acquiring outright ownership of the company. I was roundly denounced as a communist, a prophecy of things yet to come! Of course, this was in the immediate aftermath of the McCarthy Era, when anything other than good old, unalloyed 'American Capitalism' was 'communist' by definition.

I also became very familiar with agricultural co-operatives, since I lived on a farm and my Dad was a member both of the local farm co-operative and the Farmers' Union, an organisation that had been denounced as a 'communist front' not too many years before. Again, in the encyclopædias and books available to me, I read up on co-operatives, both producer and consumer. I studied and memorised the Rochdale Principles, to wit,

Open membership.
Democratic control (one person, one vote).
Distribution of surplus in proportion to trade.
Payment of limited interest on capital.
Political and religious neutrality.
Cash trading (no credit extended).
Promotion of education. 

I was fascinated and intrigued by all these ideas that appealed to my innate sense of economic justice.

When I was about 20, I ran across references to the Student League for Industrial Democracy. By the time I discovered it had become the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) which I did later join, and which had severed its connection to the League for Industrial Democracy, but at the time it led me to the original parent organisation.

Through this connection, I began my arduous journey through the dark forests of leftism. Over the next few years, I was member at one time or another of the Socialist Party of America, which had been, successively, a member of the Second International, the Labour and Socialist International, and the Socialist International. I joined the New Democratic Party of Canada, under the leadership of that Great Canadian, Tommy Douglas, who introduced Medicare to the True North, Strong and Free (There is absolutely no sarcasm in this! I consider Tommy Douglas to be a great man, and I think single-payer healthcare is a wonderful idea!), which party had itself been formed from a merger of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Farmer-Labour-Socialist), the Canadian Labour Congress, and a socialist 'think tank' called the League for Social Reconstruction. It too was a member of the Socialist International. Just to round out my 'Second International socialism', I also the joined the Fabian Society (UK), a constituent part of the Labour Party which made me a member of that Party.

Moving quite a bit to the left, I then joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) a/k/a the 'Wobblies', an anarcho-syndicalist labour union. I also discovered the International Workers' Association (IWA), and its British affiliate the Syndicalist Workers' Federation which I joined, both of which were also anarcho-syndicalist. The IWA was a successor group, founded in 1922, to the anarchist tendency in the 'First International', the International Workingmen's Association. The syndicalist idea will reoccur in my journey much later.

I became a 'delegate' (organiser) for the IWW, and in that capacity I attended the union convention over Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago, in 1969. The IWW had originally contained both anarchist and socialist tendencies, however in 1908 a rift developed between the anarchists and the socialists, most of whom were members of the Socialist Labor Party (SLP) under its chief theoretician Daniel DeLeon. As a result, the SLP withdrew from the 'Chicago IWW' and established a rival union, dedicated to political action. It was also called the IWW, the so called 'Detroit IWW' which later changed its name to the Workers' International Industrial Union. The actual cause of the split was the adoption by the IWW of the 'anti-political' clause in their Constitution: 'ARTICLE VIII - POLITICAL ALLIANCES Section 1. The IWW refuses all alliances, direct or indirect, with any political par- ties or anti-political sects, and disclaims responsibility for any individual opinion or act which may be at variance with the purposes herein expressed.'

As a member of the Syndicalist Workers Federation, I introduced a motion to the convention to affiliate with the International Workers Association. Even tho' it had some support it was voted down because of Article VIII. Despite the fact that my only motion was defeated, the convention was very interesting. I met men who had known Big Bill Haywood, the Wobblie who fled to the Soviet Union and is buried under the Kremlin Wall, I made 'pilgrimage' to the grave of the anarchist Emma Goldman, who had likewise gone to the Soviet Union, but became disillusioned and tried to return to the US. She was denied re-entry and went to Canada. When she died there, her body was returned to the US for burial. She was ethnically a Jew, but the Jewish community refused her burial in the Jewish Waldheim, so she was buried in the German cemetery. I met men who had fought in the Spanish Civil War, in the CNT-FAI militias. All in all, it was a fascinating experience.

By now, the Vietnam War was in full swing. I had been participating in peaceful protests since early in 1968. I became involved with the Student Mobilization (sic) to End the War in Vietnam, which was actually a front group for the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and its youth wing, the Young Socialist Alliance, both of which were Troskyite in origin, and would have belonged to the 'Fourth International' had it still existed.. As a result, I was drawn into the YSA and applied for membership in the SWP. I soon became disillusioned, however, because I discovered that these people, who prided themselves on being 'Old Bolsheviks', the 'vanguard of the working class', were actually upper middle class bourgeoisie. One time, at a social gathering, I described having to split wood on the farm as a boy. One of the other 'workers' expressed astonishment, saying that he had only split wood when his family went to their cabin on the lake for summer holidays!

As a result of my disillusionment, but still convinced of Marxism, I sought out the Communist Party USA, a member Party of the Third International before Stalin dissolved it in a propaganda ploy, becoming a Candidate Member. I left the Party after a few months because of profound differences over certain policies. Technically I was 'purged' from the Party! However, as I related in my post regarding my conversion, my time in the CPUSA started my journey into Catholicism, so, in the long run, my wanderings in the swamps of leftism had a happy outcome.

I became a Serbian (Eastern) Orthodox in 1973, at the end of my leftist wanderings. I was received into the Holy Roman Catholic Church on St Wenceslaus' Day, 1980, some seven years later. Like many former communists who become Catholic, I became a strong anti-communist. I discovered and read 'Approaches', an 'occasional review' published by Hamish Fraser, and started corresponding with him. Hamish had been a Communist Party militant for years before converting. I read Dedication and Leadership, by Douglas Hyde, another former communist convert to Catholicism. So I had rediscovered God, left left-wing politics behind, and joined the Church, but I was still vitally interested in the Social Question and economic justice.

A year or two after my Reception, I undertook, as a Lenten discipline, to read the great Social Encyclicals of the Popes, beginning with Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labour). I read Pope Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno (On the Reconstruction of the Social Order), the Allocutions of Pope Pius XII on social questions, and Mater Et Magistra (On the Church as Mother and Teacher of All Nations) of Pope John XXIII.

In those pre-internet days, I was reading these documents in books borrowed from my university library. The books had footnotes and citations regarding the origin of the ideas presented, often quoting from authors who were influenced by them. Being the voracious reader I was before the world wide web, this lead to more reading well beyond the Easter Vigil! In fact, it has never stopped. This led me to reading works by such authors as G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Fr Denis Fahey, C.S.Sp., and what I could find in English of the writings of Henri, Comte de Chambord, Count Albert de Mun, Marquis François-Rene La Tour du Pin, His Excellency Freiherr Wilhelm von Ketteler, Bishop of Mainz, Father Heinrich Pesch, S. J., and other French, Spanish and German language Catholic writers on the Social Question. Thus, I was introduced to Distributism, Solidarism, French Corporatism, the Vogelsang Schule, Mexican Synarchism, and Christian Syndicalism.

I also read various constitutional attempts at incorporating these ideas in a country's governmental structure. These included the Constitution of the Irish Republic of 1937 especially the Directive Principles of Social Policy, the Constitution of Fiume, written by Gabriele D'Annunzio in 1920, the Fundamental Laws of Franco's Spain, and what I could find on the 1934 Constitution of Austria. It seems that the only English language copy available, at least on-line, is a pdf of a poor photocopy of a translation made shortly after the end of the 1939-1945 War.

Over the next few years these ideas coalesced into the economic ideas I hold even to this day. Since they are heavily influenced by the Distributism of the Chesterbelloc, I tend to simply call the end result 'Distributism' but there are elements of other systems as well, especially French Corporatism and the organisational principles of Christian Syndicalism, this latter tempered and modified by my knowledge of the history of the IWW and 'Fr Hagerty's Wheel', a plan of organisation designed by the former Priest and left-wing socialist, Thomas J. Hagerty, who wrote the famous Preamble to the IWW Constitution.

I believe that property should be widely distributed, so that the average family own their own home, and have sufficient ground to grow at least some of their own food. I believe in the fostering of home based businesses. I believe in small locally owned stores and consumer co-operatives in opposition to massive, multinational 'big box' stores. I believe in employee stock ownership plans, and co-determination. I believe in producers coöperatives in agriculture and related fields.

In the political/governmental field, I have never been a believer in the jacobin democracy that is the prevailing ideology in our Western world. Even as a teenager, I saw through the facade, and realised that at its root it is an evil ideology. It inevitably degenerates into Vox Populi, Vox Dei, whereby the voice of the 'people' is seen as the infallible Voice of God.

I am a monarchist who believes in a true constitutional monarchy, not the 'crowned republics' that masquerade as constitutional monarchies today. I believe in a monarch that actually rules, in conjunction with representatives of the people. Thus I reject the slogan, 'The Queen reigns, but does not rule'.

I believe that there should be an Upper Chamber of 'sober reflection' made up of either hereditary 'nobles' or persons appointed for life, on the basis of their proven statesmanship, not like several modern Upper Houses, such as the UK House of Lords and the Canadian Senate, appointment to which is reminiscent of Dr Johnson's definition of 'pension'- 'In England, it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his own country', both these Chambers being increasingly made up of toadies and sycophants of the Party which appoints them.

The Lower Chamber, whilst elected by the people, should not be elected on the atomistic, individualistic basis demanded by jacobin democracy. I am a retired working man with workers and farmers as my forebears. What can I have in common, except our common humanity, with a wealthy attorney, doctor, or business owner? I believe that representation in the lower house should be on an occupational basis, as suggested by many of the authors I have cited. This could be instituted along the lines of Article 18, Section 7, of the Constitution of Ireland on the composition of the Seanad Éireann, of the Section on Corporations in the Constitution of Fiume, or of Fr Hagerty's Wheel,

Since solidifying these ideas, I have been called a marxist by my right-wing friends, and a fascist by my left-wing friends, so I think I may have hit upon the correct solution to the Social Question!

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Comments are subject to deletion if they are not germane. I have no problem with a bit of colourful language, but blasphemy or depraved profanity will not be allowed. Attacks on the Catholic Faith will not be tolerated. Comments will be deleted that are republican (Yanks! Note the lower case 'r'!), attacks on the legitimacy of Pope Francis as the Vicar of Christ (I know he's a material heretic and a Protector of Perverts, and I definitely want him gone yesterday! However, he is Pope, and I pray for him every day.), the legitimacy of the House of Windsor or of the claims of the Elder Line of the House of France, or attacks on the legitimacy of any of the currently ruling Houses of Europe.