direct action

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direct action,

theory and methods used by certain labor groups to fight employers, capitalist institutions, and the state by direct economic action, without using intermediate organizations. Political measures, such as arbitration, collective bargaining, and trade agreements, are rejected as ineffective. According to the theory, workers, acting as a class, are in a position to exert pressure on capitalist institutions to secure rights. Such measures as the strikestrike,
concentrated work stoppage by a group of employees, the chief weapon of organized labor. A suspension of work on the employer's part is called a lockout. Strikes usually result from conflicts of interest between the employer, who seeks to reduce costs, and employees, who
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, 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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, the boycottboycott,
concerted economic or social ostracism of an individual, group, or nation to express disapproval or coerce change. The practice was named (1880) after Capt. Charles Cunningham Boycott, an English land agent in Ireland whose ruthlessness in evicting tenants led his
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, and 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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—frequently accompanied by physical violence—are the preferred methods for labor disputes; propagandapropaganda,
systematic manipulation of public opinion, generally by the use of symbols such as flags, monuments, oratory, and publications. Modern propaganda is distinguished from other forms of communication in that it is consciously and deliberately used to influence group
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 and agitation are employed against the government. The specific reforms gained are seen as steps toward the ultimate revolution and toward abolition of capitalism. The theory was developed with the rise of the labor movement in the 19th cent. and was formulated as a definite policy in the early 20th cent. by anti-Marxist radical groups, notably proponents of syndicalismsyndicalism
, 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.
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. The method was used in France and spread to other European countries. In the United States 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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 advocated it.


See W. Mellor, Direct Action (1920); L. L. Lorwin, Labor and Internationalism (1929).

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