Get complete information on the Anarchist Syndicalism theory of Trade Union Movement


Anarcho-syndicalism is a branch of anarchism which focuses on the labour movement. Syndicalism is a French word, ultimately derived from the Greek, meaning “trade unionism” hence, the “syndicalism” qualification. Syndicalism is an alternative economic system. Anarcho-syndicalists view it as a potential force for revolutionary social change, replacing capitalism and the State with a new society democratically self-managed by workers.

Anarcho- syndicalists seek to abolish the wage system, regarding it as “wage slavery,” and state or private owners, lip of the means of production, which they believe lead to class divisions. Not all seek to abolish money per se. Ralph Chaplin states that “the ultimate aim of the General Strike as regards wages is to give to each producer the full product of his labor. The demand for better wages becomes revolutionary only when it is coupled with the demand that the exploitation of labor must cease.”

Although Anarcho-syndicalism originated close to the beginning of the twentieth century, it remains a popular and active school of anarchism today and has many supporters as well as many currently active organizations. Anarcho- syndicalist trade unionists, being socialist anarchists, differ on anarchist economic arrangements from a collectivist anarchism type economic system to an anarcho-communist economic system. Historically most anarcho- syndicalists have identified as anarcho-communists (such as Lucy Parsons) or anarcho-collectivists (such as Buenaventura Durruti). Flag used by Anarcho-syndicalists


Hubert Lagardelle wrote that Pierre-Joseph Proudhon laid out the fundamental theories of anarcho-syndicalism, through his repudiation of both capitalism and the state, his flouting of political government, his idea of free, autonomous economic groups, and his view of struggle, not pacifism, as the core of humanity. The earliest expressions of anarcho-syndicalist structure and methods were formulated in the International Workingmen’s Association or First International, particularly in the Jura federation.

The First International, however, split between two main tendencies within the organization over the question of political, parliamentary action; the libertarian wing represented by Mikhail Bakunin and the statist wing represented by Karl Marx. Adherents of the former would go on to influence the development of the labour movement in Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Latin America, while orthodox Marxists would form mass-based labour and social democratic parties throughout Europe (initially grouped around the Second International), with major strongholds in Germany and England. Some Marxists, notably Anton Pannekoek, would formulate positions remarkably close to anarcho-syndicalism through council communism.

In 1895, the CGT in France expressed fully the organizational structure and methods of revolutionary syndicalism influencing labour movements the world over. The CGT was modeled on the development of the Bourse de Travail (labour exchange), a workers’ central organization which would encourage self-education and mutual aid, and facilitate communication with local workers’ syndicates. Through a general strike, workers would take control of industry and services and self-manage society and facilitate production and consumption through the labour exchanges. The Charter of Amiens, adopted by the CGT in 1906, represents a key text in the development of revolutionary syndicalism rejecting parliamentarianism and political action in favour of revolutionary class struggle.

The Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden (SAC) (in Swedish the Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation), formed in 1910, are a notable example of an anarcho-syndicalist union influenced by the CGT. Today, the SAC is one the largest anarcho-syndicalist unions in the world in proportion to the population, with some strongholds in the public sector. Around the same time, American Daniel De Leon formulated his Socialist Industrial Union program, which is still advocated by his Socialist Labor Party. While De Leon and the SLP consider the SIU program socialist, it is clearly anarcho-syndicalist in nature.


The International Workers Association, formed in 1922, is an international anarcho-syndicalist federation of various labour unions from different countries. At its peak, the International Workers Association represented millions of workers and competed directly for the hearts and minds of the working class with social democratic unions and parties.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), although not explicitly anarcho- syndicalist, were informed by developments in the broader revolutionary syndicalist milieu at the turn of the twentieth-century. At its founding congress in 1905, influential members with strong anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist sympathies like Thomas J. Haggerty, William Trautmann, and Lucy Parsons contributed to the union’s overall revolutionary syndicalist orientation.

Lucy Parsons, in particular, was a veteran anarchist union organizer in Chicago from a previous generation, having participated in the struggle for the 8-hour day in Chicago and subsequent series of events which came to be known as the Haymarket Affair in 1886.

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