George Ciccariello-Maher is Associate Professor of Politics and Global Studies at Drexel University and the author of We Created Chávez: A People's History of the Venezuelan Revolution, also published by Duke University Press.
Jumpstarting the Class Struggle
This chapter tracks the emergence of a radicalized dialectic of class struggle in the work of turn-of-the-century French syndicalist, Georges Sorel. Distilling an early version of Sorel’s myth from his restaging of the Trial of Socrates, we see how Sorel would later break with unity and turn that myth toward revolutionary change. He does so through an engagement with his Marxist contemporaries, embroiled in the Revisionist Controversy, but in so doing, adopts a complex position: embracing the need to revise Marx, but to do so toward not reformist but revolutionary ends. Diagnosing the absence of an objective basis for the class oppositions grounding the Marxian dialectic, Sorel formulates a revolutionary myth that, through proletarian violence, seeks to reestablish the class opposition. In so doing, he argues for the subjective reestablishment of the objective conditions that drive forward the revolutionary dialectic. However, in the depth and absoluteness of the opposition between bosses and workers, which borders on incommensurability, Sorel pushes the limits of dialectics itself, and in his embrace of an inverted barbarism, points toward decolonization.