Anarcho-Syndicalism (hereafter “AS”, for brevity) is an Anarchist political theory that is rooted in the principal of worker-owned industry, unionisation and co-operative, self-managed labour.
The theory underpinning AS suggests that the current capitalist model necessarily results in wage slavery as the workers do not own the product that they produce, thus their labour is merely rented by their employer. By taking ownership of industry, and the produce thereby produced, wage slavery is effectively eliminated as the workers are able to manage their own time and will be reaping the full benefit of their endeavour.
According to Rocker, AS exists to perform a dual purpose:
1. To enforce the demands of the producers for the safeguarding and raising of their standard of living
2. To acquaint the workers with the technical management of production and economic life in general and prepare them to take the socio-economic organism into their own hands and shape it according to socialist principles.
In an AS society the workforce is entirely co-operative and would be viewed as self-employed in our current vernacular. The ability of the worker to directly impact the direction of their industry gives rise to the democratic workplace and an increased sense of workforce fulfilment, given their shared ownership of the process and the resulting product. This, in theory, increases the motivation of the workforce and labour will thus be undertaken voluntarily rather than simply as a vital requisite.
“In the pre-capitalist world, everyone had a place. It might not have been a very nice place, even maybe a horrible place, but at least they had some place in the spectrum of the society and they had some kind of a right to live in the place. Now that's inconsistent with capitalism, which denies the right to live. You have only the right to remain on the labour market.”
Whilst there are similarities between AS and Marxism-Leninism, one crucial difference is the rejection of the idea that a just workers’ state, a state acting in the interest of the workers, can exist. The state, as envisioned by proponents of AS, would be replaced by a bottom-up democracy formed of unions, collectives or syndicates that self-manage to achieve consensus on decisions. When a decision needs to be made at a higher level, for example building infrastructure across a large area, elected delegates from each syndicate form temporary councils; this process can be repeated at ever-higher levels for decisions with wider-reaching consequence.
Etymology[edit | edit source]
The term Anarcho-Syndicalism is a composite word formed of Anarcho, from Anarchism, and Syndicalism, from the French syndicat meaning “trade union”.
Examples of Anarcho-Syndicalism[edit | edit source]
Aragon, Catalonia and the Spanish Civil War[edit | edit source]
“Food, clothing, and tools were distributed equitably to the whole population. Money was abolished, work collectivized and goods passed to the community, consumption was socialized. It was, however, not a socialization of wealth but of poverty.”
On the small village of Membrilla in Spain, described as the “poorest village of Spain, but … the most just”, was written:
“The whole population lived as in a large family; functionaries, delegates, the secretary of the syndicates, the members of the municipal council, all elected, acted as heads of a family. But they were controlled, because special privilege or corruption would not be tolerated.”
Greece, Post-Economic Collapse[edit | edit source]
Viome, a “recuperated” factory in Thessaloniki, has been occupied by 26 former workers since it’s parent company liquidated during the 2011 Greek economic crisis. When it was realised that the factory faced closure the workers opted to take over management to secure their jobs and livelihood and, in the ensuing period, there were passive struggles with the landlords during which time the workers repeatedly formed human chains to protect the premises from reclamation.
The current management of the factory is run as a cooperative with no formal roles - each morning the workforce decides what needs to be accomplished and allocates tasks accordingly. The factory now makes soaps and eco-friendly produce where it formerly made chemicals.
Zapatistas[edit | edit source]
See the Zapatistas article.
Paris Commune[edit | edit source]
See the Paris Commune article.
Notable Figures[edit | edit source]
Rudolf Rocker led the 1912 garment workers strike in London’s East End and published a pamphlet entitled Anarcho-Syndicalism (1938).
Noam Chomsky is a notable AS-proponent and has written several contemporary books on the subject including On Anarchism (2005).
Resources[edit | edit source]
- 📖 On Anarchism - Noam Chomsky (2005)
- 📖 The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia - Ursula K. Le Guin (1974)
- 🔗 Anarcho-Syndicalism on SensAgent
References[edit | edit source]
- Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism. Rudolf Rocker.
- Noam Chomsky
- Study of Collectivization by the CNT in 1937. Collectivizations: l’oeuvre constructive de la Révolution espagnole.