Prospects of anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism

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Apr 29 2016 15:01
Prospects of anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism

This article is not about the protests in France, but on the prospects of anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism.


Giant social movement protests in France. 500,000 people went on strike against new labour laws. Some anarchists look at this movement and say that maybe it will lead to social revolution. But in reality, this development probably will not happen. While the French workers are under the control of the trade unions, the social revolution is impossible. It is impossible even to think about the occupation General strike and the seizure of the factories in the self-management of labor collectives and their federations.

Only if the power of the trade Union apparatus will be destroyed and replaced to the horizontal Federation of workers councils (or revolutionary syndicates - professional federations of workers ' Assemblys), it can be changed. There is problem: to remove the barrier (trade Union apparatus integrated into the System) is an extremely difficult thing. It is not because this apparatus consists of any outstanding personalities and politicians.

Trade unions are connected with the system of collective agreements, adopted to the mediation of the state courts and other institutions, lawyers and professional Union negotiators. Many workers are accustomed to the fact that such a contracts partially protect the social rights (reverse side of the coin is certain obligations to business and government). Therefore, the trade Union apparatus is perceived by the members of the movement as an ally. The apparatus makes a living with the deals with businesses. Workers pay to bureaucratic apparatus membership fees. Naturally, bureaucracy is not interested in social revolution : it will destroy the basis of its existence - intermediation between government, business and workers.

Modern anarchists are unable to offer an alternative, as they have no experience beyond the system of trade Unions. They have no experience of the Soviets of workers ' deputies or revolutionary syndicalism.

Some anarchists from the Federation of Anarchists of France are working in the trade Union apparatus. Modern "anarcho-syndicalists", as, for example, the Spanish CNT, offer contracts with the bosses - collective agreements. These collective agreements are carried out with broad participation and the mediation of lawyers, and some of the lawyers - members of the CNT.

Great modern historian Howard Zinn had written in his People's History of the United States:

"The IWW (or "Wobblies," as they came to be called, for reasons not really clear) aimed at organizing all workers in any industry into "One Big Union," undivided by sex, race, or skills. They argued against making contracts with the employer, because this had so often prevented workers from striking on their own, or in sympathy with other strikers, and thus turned union people into strikebreakers. Negotiations by leaders for contracts replaced continuous struggle by the rank and tile, the Wobblies believed... One IWW pamphlet said: "Shall I tell you what direct action means? The worker on the job shall tell the boss when and where he shall work, how long and for what wages and under what conditions."

Arturo Giovanitti left wing Socialist had written in 1913 :

"Syndicalism — or rather, I prefer to use the word "Industrial Unionism" — is different from the other trade organizations.... Outside of the immediate industrial union we have a national industrial union, and then a federation of all these national industrial unions, which controls all the industrial workers of the world. We have no contract, because we refuse to sign any contract with the bosses, and by having no contract with the various trades or with the various industries we are in a way free at a moment's notice to call a strike in which every industry will be affected throughout the State or nation, and by a series of strikes and by the enforcement of the boycott, whereby we can refuse to buy goods from an unfair firm, and by a rigid application of the label we can force the capitalist class to terms".

Revolutionary syndicalism demanded the rejection of the mediation. It was opposed the trade Union bureaucracy and the institutions of the state. It was using direct action as an alternative. If modern anarchists don't want to reject the mediation, it will be done sooner or later by other groups.