Encyclopedia > Anarcho-syndicalism

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Anarcho-syndicalism is the anarchist wing of the labor union movement. Its primary aim is the end of the wage system.

The basic principles of anarcho-syndicalism are:

  1. workers' solidarity,
  2. direct action
  3. self-management.

Workers' solidarity means that anarcho-syndicalists believe all workers, no matter what their race, gender, or ethnic group are in a similar situation vis-a-vis their bosses. Furthermore, it means that, within capitalism, any gains or losses made by some workers in their relation to bosses will eventually impact all workers. Therefore, it says that in order to gain liberation, all workers must support one another in their struggle against bosses.

Anarcho-syndicalists believe that only direct action -- that is, action concentrated on directly attaining a goal, as opposed to indirect action, like electing a representative to a government -- will allow workers to liberate themselves.

Furthermore, anarcho-syndicalists believe that workers' organizations -- the organizations which struggle against the wage system and which, in anarcho-syndicalist theory, will eventually form the basis of a new society--should be self-managing. They should not have bosses or "business agents"; rather, the workers should be able to make decisions which effect them amongst themselves.

The Industrial Workers of the World, a once-powerful labor movement, is considered a leading organ of the anarcho-syndicalist philosophy in the United States.

Michael Bakunin, one of the fathers of anarchism, wrote

"The [libertarian labour unions] ... bear in themselves the living seeds of the new society which is to replace the old world. They are creating not only the ideas, but also the facts of the future itself."

REF: Dolgoff, S. (ed), Bakunin on Anarchism, Montreal; Black Rose Books, 1990, pp. 255.

See also: general strike


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