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Anarcho-syndicalism is the anarchist wing of the labor union movement. Its primary aim is the abolition of the wage system.

The basic principles of anarcho-syndicalism are:

  1. workers’ solidarity,
  2. direct action
  3. self-management.

Workers’ solidarity means that anarcho-syndicalists believe all workers, no matter what their race, gender, or ethnic group are in a similar situation vis-à-vis their bosses (class consciousness). Furthermore, it means that, within capitalism, any gains or losses made by some workers in their relation to bosses will eventually impact all workers. Therefore, it says that in order to gain liberation, all workers must support one another in their struggle against bosses.

Anarcho-syndicalists believe that only direct action—that is, action concentrated on directly attaining a goal, as opposed to indirect action, like electing a representative to a government—will allow workers to liberate themselves.

Furthermore, anarcho-syndicalists believe that workers’ organizations—the organizations which struggle against the wage system and which, in anarcho-syndicalist theory, will eventually form the basis of a new society—should be self-managing. They should not have bosses or “business agents”; rather, the workers should be able to make decisions which affect them amongst themselves.

Anarcho-syndicalism appeared through the similar goals and circumstances of syndicalists and anarchists. George Sorel misappropriated the term to combine his theory of action, irrational violence, with syndicalism. Anarcho-syndicalism came to be a prominent force in France two decades before the First World War.

Hubert Lagardelle wrote that Pierre-Joseph Proudhon formed the fundamental theories of anarcho-syndicalism; 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 man.

Rudolf Rocker is also a famous anarcho syndicalist, whos work, Anarcho-Syndicalism (1938) is an influential work amoung anarcho syndicalist circles.

The International Workers Association is an international anarchosyndicalist federation of various labor unions from different countries. The Industrial Workers of the World, a once-powerful, still active, and again growing labor union, is considered a leading organ of the anarcho-syndicalist philosophy in the United States. The Spanish Confederación Nacional del Trabajo played a major role in the Spanish labor movement and is also still active.

The anarcho-syndicalist orientation of many early American labor unions played a large part in the formation of the American political spectrum. The United States is the only industrialized former English colony to not have a labor-based political party. See, It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States, Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks. ISBN 0-39-332254-8.

Michael Bakunin, one of the fathers of anarchism, wrote

“The [libertarian labour unions] ... bear in themselves the living seeds of the new society which is to replace the old world. They are creating not only the ideas, but also the facts of the future itself.”
REF: Dolgoff, S. (ed), Bakunin on Anarchism, Montreal; Black Rose Books, 1990, pp. 255.

Noam Chomsky, considered to be a prominent anarcho-syndicalist, has also written and spoken favorably about anarcho-syndicalism.

See also: general strike, syndicalism


  • Vivir la Utopia - Living Utopia El anarquismo en Espana [1] by Juan A. Gamero, produced by Arte-TVE, Catalunya, 1997.

Anarcho-syndicalist Organizations[edit]

External links[edit]

This article incorporates text from An Anarchist FAQ [1] @-faq