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Anarcho-syndicalism is a political philosophy and anarchist school of thought that views revolutionary industrial unionism or syndicalism as a method for workers in capitalist society to gain control of an economy and thus control influence in broader society.
Many of the material conditions around which this philosophy emerged have changed in the modern era. Nevertheless, the core fundamentals hold true, and so a new context and explanation becomes necessary to synthesize an anarcho-syndicalism of the twenty-first century.
For example, the general strike has been replaced with the general assembly as a means of organizing. The factory has been replaced with the internet. And, the means of production have been replaced with technology that is generally accessible to everyone.
In this way, we can begin to see how anarcho-syndicalism has been updated to fit a new context, though the core principles remain the same.
The following is a basic introduction to anarcho-syndicalism for those who are unfamiliar with the philosophy.
What is Anarcho-Syndicalism?
Anarcho-syndicalism is a political philosophy that can be summed up in a few words: direct action.
Anarcho-syndicalism is not just a political philosophy, but also an anarchist school of thought. It is not just a school of thought, but it is also a method of organizing.
In short, anarcho-syndicalism is a revolutionary strategy that aims to create a classless, stateless society through the use of direct action.
The word “anarcho” means “no government” and the word “syndicalism” means “unionism.” So, anarcho-syndicalism is literally the idea of no government and the use of unionism to create a classless, stateless society.
The word “direct action” is a term that is used to describe the use of tactics that are intended to create change directly, rather than indirectly.
These direct actions are often used as a means of resistance against the state and capitalism. The goal is to create change through the use of direct action, rather than indirect action.
This is a core principle of anarcho-syndicalism.
Who is an Anarcho-Syndicalist?
An anarcho-syndicalist is someone or a member of an organization that supports the use of direct action specifically to bring about revolutionary change.
This revolutionary change aims to create a classless, stateless society through the use of direct action.
It is important to note that there is no organization that actually calls itself “Anarcho-Syndicalist,” because the idea of anarchism as a political philosophy is simply a means of achieving the goal of a classless, stateless society, which is the primary concern of anarcho-syndicalists.
Anarcho-syndicalists do not want to be part of a state. Governments use force, they use indirect action, and they create hierarchy. Anarcho-syndicalism is a means of achieving a new and alternative world that aims to create a classless, stateless society through the use of direct action.
Why is Direct Action Important?
Direct action is important because it means taking matters into one’s own hands in order to create change. The philosophy comes from the notion that the state and capitalism both want to create change that benefits only themselves.
The idea of sending a letter to one’s senators or congressman may be a good way of trying to create change, but it is indirect action.
Direct action can represent a number or tactics, whether it is a protest, a boycott, or even the refusal of work.
Direct action can also be through strategic organizing of workers in the workplace. This includes labor strikes and ultimately an effort to bring about control of not just one’s own workplace, but eventually society as a whole.
This is the underlying goal of anarcho-syndicalism, as it is the only way to bring about control over all social institutions and finally achieve a society free of class and the state.
Considering all of this, when we talk about a new anarcho-syndicalism of the twenty-first century where the internet has taken over the role of factories and the means of production have become generally available to everyone, we can see how the core principles of direct action are still needed for social change.
The project of the next generation is to create this new way of thinking about direct action, and how it can be applied for future generations. The only one way to do that is create a disruptive future through the use of direct action as a means to create change. In this new context, direct action needs to be used to create new gains for the working class, as well as for all oppressed people.