syndicalism

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syndicalism

(sĭn`dĭkəlĭzəm), 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 strikegeneral strike,
sympathetic cessation of work by a majority of the workers in all industries of a locality or nation. Such a stoppage is economic if it is for the purpose of redressing some grievance or pressing upon the employer a series of economic demands.
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, sabotagesabotage
[Fr., sabot=wooden shoe; hence, to work clumsily], form of direct action by workers against employers through obstruction of work and/or lowering of plant efficiency. Methods range from peaceful slowing of production to destruction of property.
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, 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 ProudhonProudhon, Pierre Joseph
, 1809–65, French social theorist. Of a poor family, Proudhon won an education through scholarships. Much of his later life was spent in poverty. He achieved prominence through his pamphlet What Is Property? (1840, tr.
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, with his attacks on property, and of Georges SorelSorel, Georges
, 1847–1922, French social philosopher. An engineer before he devoted himself to writing, Sorel found in the political and social life of bourgeois democracy the triumph of mediocrity and espoused various forms of socialism, chiefly revolutionary syndicalism.
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, who espoused violence, have influenced syndicalist doctrine. Syndicalism, like anarchismanarchism
[Gr.,=having no government], theory that equality and justice are to be sought through the abolition of the state and the substitution of free agreements between individuals.
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, 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 WorldIndustrial Workers of the World
(IWW), revolutionary industrial union organized in Chicago in 1905 by delegates from the Western Federation of Mines, which formed the nucleus of the IWW, and 42 other labor organizations.
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, which flourished early in the 20th cent. but was virtually extinguished after World War I.

Bibliography

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

syndicalism

see ANARCHO-SYNDICALISM.

syndicalism

1. a revolutionary movement and theory advocating the seizure of the means of production and distribution by syndicates of workers through direct action, esp a general strike
2. an economic system resulting from such action
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