In the beginning of the 20th century Socialism contended with the multiple difficulties that the struggle against Capitalism had to offer. Several Revisionist movements arose from this ideological crisis. One of these Revisionist movements advocated a radical change of orthodox Marxism. This to break the standoff and to realize a political change. Socialist thinkers such as Georges Eugene Sorel and Hendrik de Man became convinced revisionists because of their practical experiences within the labour movement and they formed the intellectual basis for early revolutionary Nationalism. One of their most important critiques was aimed against the schematic character of the Marxist interpretation of social and cultural phenomena and the denial of the human nature as the most important factor within this. The theoretical works of the persons, who represented this movement, reflected a complete revision of the philosophic principles of Marxism.
World War 1 (1914-1918) led to new insights among these revisionists. The most important lesson learned by the world war was the fact that orthodox Socialism was not able to change the world. It didn’t contain the truths people were willing to die for. On the other hand they had to acknowledge that millions of people in this war were not only prepared to risk their lives and die for their nation, but also to die for less important reasons. The working masses in Europe were prepared to give their lives for the autonomy and sanctity of their nations and for the self-government of people instead of materialist class interests. This led to the conclusion that economical circumstances alone were not enough to explain each historical development. They no longer believed that Socialism could only be reached by acknowledging the class interests of the industrial proletariat. Socialism could only be reached by the contribution of interests and ideas that were shared by the entire nation. This revisionism meant the end of the Socialist utopia, or the end of the revolutionary myth as Sorel put it. Instead of "dead Marx" they began aiming themselves towards a living Socialism.
The revisionist philosophies didn’t doubt the importance of Marx within social sciences or his analyses of Capitalism. Their criticism was mostly aimed towards the Marxist conclusions, the economic determinism and the scientific rationalism of Marxist thought. The revisionists disputed the Marxist notion that all human actions are mainly led by economic interests. The economic hedonism that sets the foundation for Marx’s conception of class, class interest and class struggle, and his determinism ignores the psychological process by which economic necessities are transformed into human goals. This gives Marxism an unethical character. Marx suggests that Socialism originates from class struggle - as a necessary consequence of Capitalism - and therefore it represents no judgment of value. Marxism stated that Socialism didn’t arise because it was just, but because it was inevitable. Therefore no moral arguments are needed to justify Socialism, only causes and consequences. The revisionists put the idea that Socialism can only be the product of moral decisions against this. They rejected the "mechanic" and "automatic" character of Marxism and opposed it with an "organic" Socialism. The Socialist movement grew into a mass movement that was led by a class of professionals and was fragmented in small parties that all took care of the interests of their own members. The revisionists stated that it was the spirit of opportunism that led to the fact that the Socialist battle to conquer the institutions, became the battle of the institutions to conquer Socialism. Marxism was seen as the pioneer of opportunist reformism and the adoption of the bourgeois culture, which only served the interests of the bureaucratic conservatism.
The conclusion they formed out of this, was that the modern world didn’t need a reformed version of Socialism, but an entirely new Socialism. A Socialism that emancipated man away from its dependence on technical and economical means of existence. A Socialism which was more than just anti-Capitalist. A Socialism that represented an eternal urge for an impartial social order. This struggle for an organic, eternal and ethical Socialism wasn’t just a struggle against Marxism, but a struggle for a completely new Socialism. This led to a Socialism that was independent of each class consideration and embodied an aspiration for a better and more just society. The essential motivation for the labour movement was no longer materialistic, it was formed by an instinct for self respect. The revisionists stated that not just ideas by itself are the result of colliding forces, but that these ideas are created by mankind in an unending variation of intellectual, ethical, aesthetical and emotional reactions. It incorporates a faith, a passion. The fundamental notions of "scientific" Socialism - social revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat - were only myths and symbols of faith, that laid the foundations for politics; the masses had to believe. Socialism would survive as long as it believed in its future.
Within the European labour movements (above all the revolutionary Syndicalist movements) where these critiques - on determinism, opportunism, reformism, bureaucratization, bourgeois values and utopic verbalism - were shared, this new Socialism found an increasing support. Nothing was despised more within these rebel movements then the politicians, party politics, electorate and parliamentary debates. Georges Eugene Sorel was one of the first who tried to get rid of Socialism its mechanical, materialist, hedonist and determinist character, by claiming that humanity was not only led by social forces, it also moved in the light of myths and images. The root of all our action is our instinct, and moral conscience is an impulse of our instinct. Others complemented this with a psychological aspect. The chronic dissatisfaction of the working class was just one part of the reasons for a social inferiority complex. Therefore the essential motivation for the working class was not just a case of materialistic interests, but also one of self respect. These developments had a great impact on the crystallisation of the early revolutionary Nationalist movement, which had the "doctrine of the will" and "cultus of movement" as her foundation. They recognized the principle of emotion as the motivating power and considered the process of identification with an ideal as natural. The same principle was applied on the necessary difference between the natural status of the leader and that of the masses. Every society or organization needs leaders. This is no different within a Socialist system; it also knows a hierarchy, powerful figures and natural inequalities. The desire for equality and the necessity of inequality - none can be exclusive - condition each other. The aspirations of the lower classes to realize social equality is the essential motivating power behind Socialism, but at the same time each society needs a superior class, which can provide an example for a desirable State.
With this elitarism became an important aspect of the revisionism of the interbellum. Combined with the aversion of parliamentarism and the bourgeois society these formed the foundations of a new conception of Socialism. The more Socialism began to represent the idea of the State, the more this represented the idea of the nation that was embodied by the State. There was a shared solidarity between employees and employers, both were dependant on each other and on the nation. The pluralism of interests in the modern world could no longer be expressed in terms of the traditional Marxist dichotomy. This revision of Socialism laid the foundation for the revolutionary Nationalism that developed during the interbellum.
Source: Vrije Nationalisten Noord-Brabant / Netwerk Nationale Socialisten