syndicalism (sĭnˈdĭkəlĭzəm) [key], 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 strike, sabotage, 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 Proudhon, with his attacks on property, and of Georges Sorel, who espoused violence, have influenced syndicalist doctrine. Syndicalism, like anarchism, 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 World, which flourished early in the 20th cent. but was virtually extinguished after World War I.
See F. F. Ridley, Revolutionary Syndicalism in France (1970).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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