Definitions

syndicalism

syndicalism

[sin-di-kuh-liz-uhm]
syndicalism, political and economic doctrine that advocates control of the means and processes of production by organized bodies of workers. Like anarchists, syndicalists believe that any form of state is an instrument of oppression and that the state should be abolished. Viewing the trade union as the essential unit of production, they believe that it should be the basic organizational unit of society. To achieve their aims, syndicalists advocate direct industrial action, e.g., the general strike, sabotage, slowdowns, and other means of disrupting the existing system of production. They eschew political action as both corruptive and self-defeating. The writings of Pierre Joseph Proudhon, with his attacks on property, and of Georges Sorel, who espoused violence, have influenced syndicalist doctrine. Syndicalism, like anarchism, has flourished largely in Latin countries, especially in France, where trade unionism was for years strongly influenced by syndicalist programs. Syndicalism began a steady decline after World War I as a result of competition from Communist unions, government suppression, and internal splits between the revolutionary anarcho-syndicalists and moderate reformers. In the United States the chief organization of the syndicalist type was the Industrial Workers of the World, which flourished early in the 20th cent. but was virtually extinguished after World War I.

See F. F. Ridley, Revolutionary Syndicalism in France (1970).

Movement advocating direct action by the working class to abolish the capitalist order, including the state, and to replace it with a social order based on the syndicat, a free association of self-governing producers. Developed as a doctrine by leaders of the French trade union movement at the end of the 19th century, syndicalism was strongly influenced by the traditional anarchism and antiparliamentarianism of the French working class. Syndicalists looked forward to victory in a class war, after which society would be organized around the syndicats. These bodies would coordinate their activities through a labour exchange, which would function as an employment and economic planning agency. At the peak of its influence, before World War I, the movement had in excess of one million members in Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. After the war, syndicalists tended to drift toward the Soviet model of communism or to be lured by the ostensible benefits offered by labour unions and democratic reforms. Seealso corporatism.

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