How are rules enforced in anarcho-syndicalism

Anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism

Rudolf Rocker

Sunday February 27, 2005, by Rudolf Rocker

Anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism

Rudolf Rocker

Table of Contents


1. On the ideology of anarchism

2. History of Anarchist Philosophy from Lao-Tse to Kropotkin


1. The origins of anarcho-syndicalism

2. Socialism and anarcho-syndicalism in France

3. The role of the trade unions from an anarcho-syndicalist point of view

4. The struggle in Germany and Spain

5. The political struggle from an anarcho-syndicalist point of view

6. The general strike

7. Anarcho-Syndicalism since World War I


Afterword 1947





Anarchism is a particular intellectual current whose supporters strive for the abolition of economic monopolies and all political and social coercive institutions within society. In place of the capitalist economic order, the anarchists want to put a free union of all productive forces, which is based on cooperative work, and which would have as its sole purpose the satisfaction of the necessary needs of every member of society. Instead of the current nation-states with their lifeless machinery of political and bureaucratic institutions, anarchists are calling for a federation of free communes, which are linked to one another by their everyday interests and which regulate their affairs through mutual and free contracts.

Anyone who examines the economic and political development of the present system more closely will recognize that these goals do not spring from the utopian ideas of some dreamers. Rather, they are the logical result of a thorough examination of the miserable social conditions of today, which in every phase of the present social conditions are becoming ever more evident and harmful. Modern monopoly capitalism and totalitarian states are nothing more than the last stages of a development that could not end anywhere else.

The disastrous development of our present economic system, which has resulted in an enormous accumulation of social wealth in the hands of privileged minorities and the continued oppression of the great mass of the people, paved the way for today's political and social response. She served her in every way. It sacrificed the general interests of society to the private interests of individuals, systematically undermining real relationships between people. People forgot that industry is not an end in itself, but only serves to secure a material livelihood and should make the achievements of a higher culture accessible to him. Where diligence is everything, work loses its ethical influence and man is nothing, brutal economic despotism begins. Its effects are no less ominous than those of any political despotism.

Our modern social system has internally divided the social organism of every country into two hostile classes. Outwardly it broke the common cultural circle of the warring nations; both classes and nations are openly hostile to one another. Due to their incessant struggle, social life is subject to constant disturbances. Two world wars within half a century with their terrible aftermath, and the latent danger of new wars which currently dominates all peoples, are only the logical consequences of these unbearable conditions, which can only lead to further worldwide catastrophes. The mere fact that most states today are obliged to spend a considerable part of their gross national product on so-called national defense and on the liquidation of old war debts is proof that the present situation is untenable. It should be clear to everyone that the alleged protection that the state grants to individuals is being bought too dearly.

The ever-growing power of a soulless political bureaucracy that oversees and "protects" people's lives from cradle to grave is becoming an ever greater obstacle to human cooperation. A system which, with every action, sacrifices the well-being of large sections of people, even entire nations, to the selfish addiction to power and the economic interests of minorities, must necessarily break social ties and lead to an ongoing struggle each against each other. This system has merely set the pace for great mental and social response. This finds its expression today in fascism and in the idea of ​​the totalitarian state, which far surpass the power-obsession of the absolute monarchy of the past centuries and try to bring every area of ​​human activity under the control of the state. "Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state!" (Mussolini) became the leitmotif of a new political theology. While the old church systems say "God is everything and man is nothing", the modern creed is "The state is everything and the citizen is nothing". And just as the word "the will of God" was used to justify the will of the ruling classes, so today only the selfish interests of those who feel called to exercise this will are hidden behind the "will of the states" interpret and impose on people.

In modern anarchism, two great currents meet, which before and after the French Revolution found a very large expression in the intellectual life of Europe: socialism and liberalism. Modern socialism developed when it became increasingly clear that political institutions and changes of government could never get to the root of the great problem, the social question. His followers recognized that an adjustment of social and political conditions for the good of all is impossible despite the best conditions. It is not possible as long as people are divided into classes on the basis of possession or non-possession of property - classes whose very existence precludes any thought of real community in the first place. This led to the conviction that only through the abolition of economic monopolies and joint ownership of the means of production could a state of social justice be established. A state in which society becomes a real community and human work no longer results in exploitation, but ensures the well-being of all. But as soon as socialism emerged in an organized manner and became a movement, certain differences of opinion suddenly arose, stemming from the influence of the social milieus of the various countries. It is a fact that every political concept from the rule of God to Caesarism and dictatorship has affected certain parties in the socialist movement.

The two great currents of political thought exerted a decisive influence on the development of socialist ideas: liberalism stimulated by progressive thinkers in the Anglo-Saxon countries and partly in Holland and Spain; democracy in the sense set out by Rousseau in his "social contract" (1), and which found its most influential representatives in the leaders of the French Jacobins (2). Liberalism started out from the individual in its social theories. He called for the state's activities to be kept to a minimum. In contrast, democracy was based on an abstract collective concept, Rousseau's "General Will", which sought to make this idea a reality in the nation state.

Liberalism and democracy were excellent political concepts. Since most supporters of liberalism and democracy hardly considered the economic conditions of society, the further development of these conditions could practically not be reconciled with the original principles of democracy. But even less so with those of liberalism. Democracy, with its motto of "equality of all citizens before the law", and liberalism with its "right of man to his person" both failed because of the realities of the capitalist economy.

As long as millions of people in every country have to sell their labor to a small minority of the haves and find themselves in the most dire economic situation if they cannot find a buyer, the so-called equality before the law remains a farce since the laws were made by those who live in Are possessions of social wealth. But in the same context one cannot speak of a person's right to his person either, since this right ends where someone is forced to submit to the economic dictates of another.

Like liberalism, anarchism also advocates the idea that the happiness and well-being of the individual must be the measure in all social affairs. And like the important representatives of liberal thought, anarchism also takes the view that the tasks of government must be kept to a minimum. His followers followed this idea to the last consequence and endeavored to eliminate any institution of political power from social life. When Jefferson (3) puts the basic concept of liberalism in the words: "The government that rules the least is best," the anarchists say with Thoreau: (4) "The best government is that which does not govern at all".

Together with the fathers of socialism, the anarchists demand the abolition of economic monopoly in every form and support communal ownership of land and means of production, the use of which must be accessible to everyone without distinction; because personal and social freedom is only conceivable for everyone on the basis of equal economic conditions. Within the socialist movement, the anarchists take the position that the struggle against capitalism must also be a struggle against the coercive institutions of political power, since in history economic exploitation has gone hand in hand with political and social oppression. The exploitation of man by man and man's domination over man are inseparable and are mutually dependent.

As long as the possessing and the non-possessing classes are at enmity in society, the state will be indispensable for the possessing minority in order to protect their property. When this premise of social injustice disappears, to give way to the order that recognizes no special rights and will have the community of social interests as a basic premise, the government must leave the field over people to the management of economic and social affairs, or to to speak with Saint Simon (5): "The time will come when the art of ruling people will disappear. A new art will take this place, that of managing things". In this regard, anarchism must be viewed as voluntary socialism.

This also determined the theory put forward by Marx and his followers that the state, in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, is a necessary transition stage to a classless society in which the state, after the elimination of all class conflicts and finally of the classes themselves, dissolves becomes and disappears. This concept of completely misunderstanding the real nature of the state and the importance of the factor of political power in history is only the logical result of so-called economic materialism. He sees in all the phenomena of history only the inevitable consequences of the production method of that time. Influenced by this theory, people viewed the various forms of the state and all the other social institutions as a "legal and political superstructure of the economic base". They believed they had found the key to every historical process in it. In reality, every historical section provides us with thousands of examples in which the economic development of various countries has suffered a setback of decades as a result of the state and its power politics.

Before the rise of the clerical monarchy, Spain was the most developed country in Europe industrially, holding first place in production in almost every field. But a century after the triumph of the clerical monarchy, most of the industries had disappeared; what was left of them survived under the most miserable conditions. Most industries went back to the most primitive methods of production. Agriculture collapsed, waterways were ruined and vast expanses of land were turned into a desert. The princely absolutism in Europe, with its foolish "economic regulations" and its "industrial legislation", which severely punished any deviation from the prescribed production methods and did not allow any new inventions, blocked industrial progress in European countries for decades and prevented its natural development . And even after the terrible experiences of two world wars, the power politics of the great nation-states turns out to be the greatest obstacle to the restoration of the European economy.

In Russia, however, where the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat rules, the striving for political power of a single party has prevented any real reorganization of economic life and forced the country into the slavery of state capitalism. The dictatorship of the proletariat, which naive people believe is a necessary transition to real socialism, has turned into a terrible despotism and a new imperialism that in no way falls short of the tyranny of fascism. The assertion that the state must exist until society is not divided into hostile classes appears, in the light of all historical experience, like a bad joke.

Every type of political power presupposes a special form of human slavery, for the maintenance of which power was created in the first place. Externally, in relation to other states, the state has to create some artificial contradictions in order to justify its existence. Internally, the division of society into castes, estates, and classes is the necessary condition for its continued existence. The development of the Bolshevik bureaucracy in Russia under the dictatorship of the proletariat - which is nothing more than the dictatorship of a small clique over the proletariat and over the entire Russian people - is but a new example of an old historical experience which has been repeated innumerable times. This new ruling class, which is now changing into a new aristocracy, has set itself apart from the great masses of Russian peasants and workers, just as the privileged castes and classes in other countries have separated themselves from the masses of the population. And this situation becomes more and more unbearable when a despotic state denies the lower classes the right to turn against the existing conditions, so that every protest results in the endangerment of life.

But even a higher degree of economic equality than that in Russia would not guarantee against political and social oppression. Economic equality alone does not mean social liberation. It is exactly what the schools of authoritarian socialism never understood. In prison, in the monastery or in the barracks one finds a fairly high degree of economic equality, since all inmates are provided with the same accommodation, the same food, the same uniform and the same duties. The old Inca state in Peru and the Jesuit state in Paraguay had created the same economic supply for all residents. But nevertheless the worst despotism reigned there, and man was only the automaton of a higher will, on whose decisions he had no influence in the slightest. It cannot be denied that Proudhon (6) saw "socialism" without freedom as the worst form of slavery. The urge for social justice can only develop and only be effective if it starts from and is based on a sense of freedom and responsibility. In other words, socialism will or will not be free. In realizing this fact lies the true and profound justification of anarchism.

Institutions serve the same purpose in the life of society as the physical organs serve in the life of plants and animals: they are the organs of the social body. Organs do not develop arbitrarily, but owe their origin to certain necessities of the physical and social environment. Changed living conditions create changed organs. And an organ gradually disappears or atrophies as soon as its function is no longer necessary for the organism.

The same goes for social institutions. They also do not arise arbitrarily, but are brought into being due to special social necessities in order to pursue a specific purpose.This is how the modern state developed after economic privileges and the class divisions associated with them became increasingly visible within the framework of the old social order. The newly created possessing classes needed an instrument of political power to assert their economic and social privileges against the masses of the people.

This created the corresponding social conditions for the development of the modern state as an instrument of political power for the oppression of the non-possessing classes. This task is the main reason for its existence. Its outward forms have changed in the course of historical development, but its tasks have always remained the same. They have even spread steadily as his followers have succeeded in making additional fields of social activity available. And just as one cannot arbitrarily change the functions of a physical organ, neither can one transform an organ of social oppression into an instrument for the liberation of the oppressed at will.

Anarchism is not a patent solution for all human problems, not a utopia of a perfect social order (as it has so often been called) because it fundamentally rejects all absolute schemes and concepts. He does not believe in any absolute truth or in any particular ultimate goal of human development. Rather, an unlimited ability to perfect social models and human living conditions, which constantly strive for higher forms of expression, and which, for this reason, cannot be assigned a specific end point or a fixed goal.

The greatest evil of any form of power is that it constantly tries to squeeze the great diversity of social life into certain forms and to adapt them to individual norms. The stronger his followers feel, the more comprehensively they will try to serve every area of ​​social life. The result is their crippling influence on the activity of all creative forces. Here it is shown with alarming clarity the enormity to which Hobbes "Leviathan" (7) can be developed. It is the total triumph of the political machine over mind and body, the rationalization of human thought, feeling and behavior according to the established rules of bureaucracy and, ultimately, the end of all genuine intellectual culture.

Anarchism only recognizes the relative importance of ideas, institutions and social conditions. It is therefore not a specific, closed social system, but rather a specific direction in the historical development of mankind. In contrast to the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and government institutions, he strives for the free and unhindered development of all individual and social forces in life. Freedom, too, is only a relative, not an absolute goal, since it constantly tends to expand its scope and to affect wide circles in a variety of ways. For the anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical goal. Rather, it is the vital concrete opportunity for every human being to bring all abilities and talents to full development and to place them in a social framework. The less this natural development of man is disturbed by clerical and political tutelage, the more productive and harmonious people will be, the more they will be the measure of the intellectual culture of the society into which they have grown. That is why all of the great cultural periods in history have been periods of political weakness. For political systems have always been obsessed with the mechanical and not the organic development of social forces.

State and culture are irreconcilable opposites. Nietzsche, who was not an anarchist, recognized this very clearly when he wrote: "After all, nobody can spend more than he has. That applies to individuals; that applies to the people. If one is involved in high politics, in agriculture, exhausted in trade, parliamentarism, in military interests - if one gives away this sum of reason, zeal, will and power over himself that makes up his own self, he will not have it for other things.Culture and the state - that should be a matter of fact fool no one - are opponents: the cultural state is just a modern idea. One lives against the other, one develops at the expense of the other. All great cultural epochs are periods of political decline. What is significant in the cultural sense is apolitical even anti-political. "

Where the influence of political power on the creative forces in society is minimized, culture thrives best, as political rule constantly seeks uniformity and tends to subordinate every aspect of social life to its tutelage. Political rule is found in an inescapable contradiction to the creative endeavors of cultural development, which is always on the lookout for new forms and fields of social activity. For them, freedom of expression, diversity and the incessant change of things are just as vital as rigid forms, dead rules and violent repression for the maintenance of political power. Every successful piece of work reinforces the desire for greater perfection and deeper inspiration; every new form is the harbinger of new opportunities for development. But power tries to keep things anchored in stereotypes. That was the reason for all revolutions in history. Power is only destructive, constantly striving to force every manifestation of social life into the straitjacket of its rules. Their intellectual language is dead dogma, their physical form brute force. And these forms of expression also leave their mark on their representatives and often make them simple-minded and brutal.

That is the reason why modern anarchism emerged. From this he draws his moral strength. Only freedom can inspire mankind to do great things and bring about intellectual and social change. The art of ruling people was never the art of educating and inspiring them for a new way of life. Lifeless drill is the expression of compulsion that stifles any vital initiative from the start and only produces subjects, but not free people. Freedom is the greatest good in life, the driving force in every intellectual and social development, the creator of every new goal for the future of humanity. The liberation of man from economic exploitation and from intellectual, social and political oppression, which finds its highest expression in the philosophy of anarchism, is the first prerequisite for the development of a higher social culture and a new humanity.


Anarchist ideas can be found in almost every period in known history. We meet them in the Chinese sage Lao-tse, in the Greek philosophers, the hedonists and cynics and other advocates of so-called natural law, in Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school and opponent of Plato. They found expression in the teachings of the Gnostic Carpocrats in Alexandria. They also had an unmistakable influence on certain Christian sects in the Middle Ages in France, Germany, Italy, Holland and England. Most of them were victims of cruel persecution. In the history of the Bohemian Revolution they found a powerful defender in Peter Chelcicky, who in his work "The Net of Faith" passed the same judgments about the church and the state as Tolstoy did centuries later. Among the great humanists, it was Rabelais who, in his description of the happy Abbey of Theleme (8), painted a picture of life freed from all authoritarian constraints. Of the other pioneers of libertarian thought, only La Boetie, Sylvain Marechal, and above all Diderot should be mentioned here, in whose extensive writings one finds again and again the expressions of a really great spirit that has freed itself from all authoritarian prejudice.

In the meantime it is reserved for modern history to give the anarchist conception of life a clear form and to connect it with the immediate process of social evolution. This was first done by William Godwin (1756-1836) in his "An Inquiry into the Nature of Political Justice and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness" (London 1793). Godwin's work was, it can be said, the ripe fruit of that long development of political and social radicalism in England, going from George Buchanan to Richard Hooker, Gerard Winstently, Alge Enon Sydney, John Locke, Robert Wallace and John Bellers to Jeremy Bentham, Joseph Priestley, Richard Price, and Thomas Price. Godwin saw very clearly that the cause of social misery is not to be found in the form of the state, but in its very existence. But he also recognized that people can only live freely and naturally with one another if the appropriate economic conditions are in place and the individual is no longer the victim of exploitation by others. That was a consideration that most representatives of pure political radicalism have mostly completely overlooked. As a result, they were later forced to make ever greater concessions to the state, which they actually wanted to keep to a minimum. Godwin's idea of ​​a stateless society presupposed the socialization of the land and the means of production as well as the continuation of economic life in the form of free cooperatives of the producers. His work had a profound influence on the progressive circles of the English working class and on the most enlightened sections of the liberal intelligentsia. Most importantly, however, he contributed to the young socialist movement in England, which found its most mature representatives in Robert Owen (9), John Gray and William Thompson, the unmistakable libertarian character that it had for a very long time. In Germany and many other countries, however, this could not be taken for granted.

The French socialist Charles Fourier (1722-1832) with his theory of attractive work must also be mentioned here as one of the pioneers of libertarian ideas.

But a far greater influence on the development of anarchist theory had Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), one of the most talented and versatile writers of modern socialism. Proudhon was fully rooted in the intellectual and social life of his time, and this influenced his attitude to every question with which he was concerned. Therefore, one cannot judge him by the specific practical proposals that met the needs of the time, as many critics did. Among the innumerable socialist thinkers, he was the one who most thoroughly understood the causes of the miserable social situation and, moreover, possessed visionary abilities. He was the outspoken opponent of all artificial social systems and saw in social development the constant urge for newer and higher forms of spiritual and social life. He was convinced that this development could not be tied to any particular abstract formulas.

Proudhon fought the influence of the Jacobin tradition, which dominated the thinking of the French democrats and most of the socialists of the time, with the same determination as the interference of the central state and economic monopoly in the natural social process. For him, the great task of the 19th century revolution was to rid society of these cancerous growths. Proudhon was not a communist. He condemned property as a mere privilege of exploitation. But he recognized the possession of the means of production for all, used by industrial groups that should be linked by free agreement. But only as long as this right is not abused to exploit others, and as long as it is ensured that the entire product of individual labor benefits every member of society. This reciprocal relationship guarantees the enjoyment of equal rights by all in exchange for social services. The average time it takes to complete any product becomes the measure of its value. In this way capital - deprived of its accumulating power - is tied to the performance of labor. When it is useful to everyone, it ceases to be an instrument of exploitation. Such an economic system makes any political apparatus of coercion superfluous. Society becomes a federation of free communities that conduct their affairs according to need, alone or in conjunction with others. In this society personal freedom is the freedom of the other and not its limitation, but its security and affirmation. "The freer, more independent and enterprising the individual is, the better it is for society." (Proudhon)

The organization of federalism, in which Proudhon saw the immediate future of mankind, does not impose any restrictions on future development possibilities and offers every individual and social activity the greatest possible scope. Proudhon also fought from the standpoint of federalism against the aspirations of the emerging nationalism for political and national unity, which found its most energetic representatives in Mazzini, Garibaldi, Lelewel and others. In this regard, he saw the real nature of nationalism much more clearly than most of his contemporaries. Proudhon exerted a strong influence on socialism, which is particularly noticeable in Romance countries.

Ideas similar to Proudhon's economic and political conceptions were propagated by the followers of so-called individualistic anarchism in America. Its most capable representatives were men like Josiah Warren, Stephen Perl Andrews, William B. Greene, Lysander Spooner, Benjamin R. Tucker, Ezra Heywood, Francis D. Tandy, and many others. But none of them could achieve Proudhon's vision. Characteristic of this school of libertarian thought is the fact that most of its representatives adopted their political ideas not from Proudhon but from the traditions of American liberalism, so that Tucker could claim that "anarchists are all Jeffersonian democrats".

A unique representation of libertarian ideas can be found in Max Stirner's (Johann Kaspar Schmidt, 1806-1856) book "The One and His Own", which was quickly forgotten and had no influence on the development of the anarchist movement. Stirner's book is primarily a philosophical work that traces human dependence on so-called higher powers in all its remote ways, and does not shy away from drawing conclusions from this knowledge. It is the book of a deliberate and deliberate rebel that reveals no reverence for authority, however lofty it may be, and therefore makes a powerful appeal to independent thinking.

Anarchism found a revolutionary fighter in Michael Bakunin (1814-1876). This based his ideas on the teachings of Proudhon. However, he extended it to the economic sector when, with the federalist wing of the First International, he demanded collective ownership of land and all means of production, and wanted to see the right to private property limited only to the products of individual labor. Bakunin was also an opponent of communism, which in its time had a completely authoritarian character, as it is today an expression of Bolshevism. Bakunin: "I detest communism because it is the negation of freedom and because I cannot imagine anything human without freedom. I am not a communist because communism directs all the forces of society onto the state and absorbs it into the state; because it is necessary leads to the centralization of property in the hands of the state, while I want the abolition of the state - the radical obliteration of the principle of authority and tutelage of the state which has exploited and corrupted people on the pretext of making them more moral and civilized. "

Bakunin was a revolutionary who did not believe in a partnership settlement of the existing conflicts in society. He recognized that the ruling classes blindly and stubbornly opposed all possibilities for major social reforms. Accordingly, he saw the only salvation in an international social revolution that would abolish all institutions of political power and economic exploitation and replace them with a free federation of producers and consumers to meet daily needs. Since he, like so many of his contemporaries, believed in the imminent revolution, he devoted all his energies to uniting all sincere revolutionary and libertarian elements inside and outside the International in order to secure this revolution against any dictatorship or regression. Thus, in a certain sense, he became the creator of the modern anarchist movement.

Anarchism found another important representative in Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921). This set itself the task of making the achievements of modern science useful for the development of the sociological concept of anarchism. In his book "Mutual Help in the Animal and Human World" he takes a stand against so-called "Social Darwinism". Its exponents tried to prove the inevitability of the prevailing social conditions from the Darwinian theory of the "struggle for survival" by giving the struggle of the strong against the weak the status of an iron law of nature to which man is also subject. In reality, this conception was strongly influenced by the Malthus'schen doctrine, according to which the "table of life" is not set for everyone, and that the "useless" have to get used to this fact. Kropotkin shows that this conception of seeing nature as the field of unrestricted warfare is only a caricature of real life. In addition to the brutal struggle for existence, there is also another tendency in nature, which is expressed in the social connection of the weaker species and the preservation of races through the development of social instinct and mutual help. In this sense, man is not the creator of society, but society is the creator of man, since he inherited social instinct from the species that preceded him. This alone enabled him to assert himself against the physical superiority of other species in his environment and to make sure of an unexpected development.

According to Kropotkin, the fact remains that most personal connections, even under the most terrible despotism, are arranged by social habits, free and mutual agreements, without which no social life would be possible. If this were not the case, even the most brutal coercive machinery of the state would not be able to maintain social order for a certain period of time. It goes without saying that these natural behaviors, which arise from the deepest human nature, are now constantly disturbed and paralyzed by the effects of economic exploitation and state paternalism. These are the worst forms of the struggle for existence in human society, which must be overcome through the form of mutual help and free cooperation. The awareness of personal responsibility and the capacity for mutual affection, which constitute all morality and all ideas of social justice, develop best in freedom.

Like Bakunin, Kropotkin was a revolutionary. But he saw, like Elisee Reclus (10) and others, the revolution was only a special phase of the evolutionary process. It arises when new social hopes are so restricted in their natural development that they have to forcefully destroy the old shell before they can function as new factors in human life.

In contrast to Proudhon's mutualism and Bakunin's collectivism, Kropotkin advocated not only common ownership of the means of production, but also of products: in his opinion, given the state of technology at the time, an exact measure of the value of individual labor is not possible. On the other hand, however, it is possible to secure relative prosperity for every person with the rational control of modern working methods. Communist anarchism, which before Kropotkin had been advocated by Joseph Dejacque, Elisee Reclus, Carlos Cafiero (11) and others, and which is now recognized by the great majority of anarchists, found its excellent representative in him.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) must also be mentioned here, who, proceeding from original Christianity and the basis of the ethical principles laid down in Christian doctrine, came to the idea of ​​a society without rule.

All anarchists have the will to free society from all political and social coercive institutions that stand in the way of the development of a free humanity. In this sense, mutualism, collectivism and communism are not to be seen as closed economic systems that do not allow further development, but as economic prerequisites for securing a free community. Presumably, in every form of a future free society, different forms of economic cooperation will coexist. For every social progress must be connected with free experiments and practical tests of new methods for which every possibility will exist in a free society of free communities.

The same is true of the various methods of anarchism. The work of his followers is primarily an educational work to prepare people intellectually and psychologically for the tasks of their social liberation. Any attempt to limit the influence of economic monopoly and the power of the state is a step further towards the realization of this goal. Every development of voluntary organization in the various social areas in the direction of personal freedom and social justice deepens people's consciousness and strengthens their social responsibility, without which no change in social life can be achieved. Most anarchists of our time are convinced that such a social transformation takes years of constructive work and education and cannot be brought about without the revolutionary upheavals that have achieved every advance in social life to this day. The nature of these tremors depends, of course, on the strength of the resistance that the ruling class is able to mobilize against the realization of the new idea. The larger the circles animated by the idea of ​​reorganizing society in a spirit of freedom and socialism, the easier it will be for new social changes to be born in the future. Even revolutionaries can only develop and mature ideas that exist and have already penetrated people's minds. But you cannot develop new ideas or new worlds from scratch.

Before the rise of totalitarian states in Russia, Italy, Germany and later in Spain and Portugal and the outbreak of World War II, there were anarchist organizations and movements in almost every country. But like all other socialist movements of the time, they fell victim to fascist tyranny and could only exist underground.



Many anarchists devoted most of their activities to the labor movement, especially in Latin countries where the anarcho-syndicalism movement began. His theories are based on the teachings of libertarian and anarchist socialism, his form of organization on the revolutionary syndicalism movement, which experienced a noticeable boom between 1895 and 1910, especially in France, Italy and Spain. But his ideas and methods were not new. They had already found a great response in the ranks of the 1st International when it had reached the climax of its theoretical development. This was clearly shown in the debates at their 4th Congress in Basel in 1869, which dealt with the importance of the economic organizations of the workers. In the paper on this question which Eugene Eins put to Congress on behalf of the Belgian Federation, a completely new point of view was raised for the first time, one which bore an unmistakable resemblance to certain ideas of Robert Owen and the English labor movement of the 1830s .

In order to give a correct assessment of this fact, one must remember that at that time the various schools of state socialism had no, or at best little, influence on the trade unions. The French Blanquists saw in these organizations only a reform movement, with a socialist dictatorship as an immediate goal. Ferdinand Lassalle and his supporters directed all activities towards uniting the workers in a political party; they were outspoken opponents of all trade union struggles, in which they saw only an obstacle to the political development of the working class. Marx and his followers recognized the need for the trade unions to achieve certain improvements within the capitalist system. But they believed that the role of the trade unions would be exhausted and that they would disappear with capitalism, since the transition to socialism could only be achieved through the "dictatorship of the proletariat".

In Basel, this idea was subjected to a thorough and critical examination for the first time. The views expressed in the presentation of One, and shared by the delegates from Spain, the Swiss Jura, and most of the French Sections, were based on the premise that the present economic organizations are not just a necessity within the present ones Be company. In addition, they are seen as the social core of a coming socialist economy. For this reason it is the duty of the International to educate the workers for this task. In accordance with this, Congress adopted the following resolution: "Congress declares that all workers should endeavor to establish associations for resistance in various industries. Once a union is established, associations in the same industry must be informed so that establishment national alliances in industry These alliances are charged with collecting all material relating to their branch of industry, advising on and monitoring measures that can be carried out together, and replacing the current wage system with a federation of the free Producers. The Congress instructs the General Council to provide for the alliance of the trade unions of all countries. "

In his argument for the resolution tabled by the committee, Eins stated: "With this dual form of organization of local workers 'associations and general alliances for every branch of industry on the one hand and the political administration of workers' councils on the other, there is a need for comprehensive representation of the Labor, regionally, nationally and internationally, will be taken care of. The councils of industries and industrial organizations will take the place of the current government, and labor representation will once and for all eliminate the government of the past. "

This new conception arose from the realization that every new economic form of society must be accompanied by a new political form of the social organism and that it can only find its practical expression in it.

Their supporters saw the nation state as merely the political agent and defender of the possessing classes. For this reason, they did not fight for the conquest of power, but for the abolition of any power system within society in which they saw the necessary condition for all tyranny and exploitation. They believed that with the monopoly of property, the monopoly of power must also disappear. On the basis of this knowledge that the days of man's rule over man were numbered, they tried to get used to the management of things. Or, as Bakunin, one of the great forerunners of anarcho-syndicalism, put it: "Since the organization of the International no longer aims at the establishment of new states or the appointment of despots, but rather the radical elimination of all independent violence, it has had to change something To the extent that the latter is authoritarian, artificial and violent, alien and hostile to the natural development of the interests and feelings of men, the organization of the International must be free, natural and in every respect in accordance with those interests and Feelings stand. But what is the natural organization of the masses? It is based on day-to-day employment, unionization. When all branches of industry, including the various branches of agriculture, are represented in the International, the organization of the working masses will be completed. "

Or on another occasion: "The practical and fundamental study of social science by the workers themselves in their sections and their labor chambers will - or has already - evoked in them the unanimous, well-considered, theoretically and practically founded conviction that serious, complete liberation The worker is only possible under one condition: by the appropriation of capital, that is, of raw materials and all machines, including land, by the totality of the workers ... The organization of the individual sections, their union in the International, and their representation by the Chambers of labor not only create a large educational establishment in which the workers of the International, combining theory and practice, must study economics, they also carry the living germs of the new social order that will replace the bourgeois world Theories, but also the future gen facts ... "After the fall of the International and the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71), through which the center of the socialist labor movement shifted to Germany, whose workers had neither a revolutionary tradition nor the rich experience that the Possessed by socialists in other Western countries, these ideas were gradually forgotten. After the defeat of the Paris Commune (1871) and the revolutionary uprisings in Spain and Italy (12), the sections of the International in these countries were forced to continue their underground existence for many years. It was only through the awakening of revolutionary syndicalism in France that the ideas and theories of the First International were saved from oblivion and once again inspired larger sections of the workers' movement.


Modern anarcho-syndicalism is a direct continuation of those social aspirations which took shape in the First International and which were best represented by the libertarian wing of the great workers' alliance. Its development was in direct response to the concepts and practices of political socialism. A reaction that was already manifesting itself in the great rise of the syndicalist labor movement in France, Italy, and especially Spain, where the great majority of organized workers had remained faithful to the teachings of the libertarian wing of the International.

In France the opposition to the theories and practices of the modern workers' parties found its clear expression in the theories and actions of revolutionary syndicalism. The immediate reason for the development of these new tendencies in the French labor movement was the continuing fragmentation of the socialist parties in that country. All these parties saw in the unions only recruiting schools for their political goals and had no understanding of their real functions. The constant differences of opinion between the various socialist splinter parties were also carried over into the trade unions. It often happened that when the unions of one splinter party went on strike, the unions of the other splinter parties acted as strike breakers. This untenable situation gradually opened the workers' eyes. Thus the trade union congress of Nantes (1894) instructed a special committee to find ways of reaching an understanding among all trade unions. The result was the founding of the CGT (Confederation Generale du Travail, General Union of Labor) at the Congress in Limoges in 1895, which declared itself independent of all political parties. From that point on, there were two large trade union groups in France, the CGT and the "Federation of Labor Exchange". In 1902, at the Montpellier congress, the latter united with the CGT.

One often encounters the widespread opinion, particularly nourished by Werner Sombart (13), that revolutionary syndicalism in France owes its origin to intellectuals such as Georges Sorel, (14) E. Berth and H. Lagardelle, who founded in 1899 The magazine "Die Sozialistischebewegung" worked out the intellectual results of the new movement in their own way. That is totally wrong. None of these people belonged to this movement. They also had no noticeable influence on internal development. Furthermore, the CGT was not composed entirely of revolutionary syndicates. Around half of its members were reformist and had joined the CGT only because they recognized that the unions' dependence on political parties was a major calamity for the movement. But the revolutionary wing, which had on its side both the most energetic and active elements of organized workers and the most brilliant intellectual forces, left its signature stamp on the CGT.It was those forces that determined the development of ideas in revolutionary syndicalism. Many came from the ranks of the anarchists, such as Fernand Pelloutier, the highly intelligent secretary of the Federation of Workers' Exchanges, Emile Pouget, the editor of the CGT's official body "The Voice of the People", P. Delesalle, G. Yvetot and many others. Mostly under the influence of the radical wing of the CGT, the new movement developed and found its expression in the Charter of Amiens (1906), which laid down the principles and tactics of the movement.

This new movement in France found a strong echo among the Romansh workers and penetrated other countries as well. The influence of French syndicalism on large and small sections of the international labor movement at that time was greatly enhanced by the internal crisis which afflicted almost all socialist workers' parties in Europe. The struggle between the so-called revisionists and the orthodox Marxists, and especially the fact that their parliamentary activities convinced the most violent revisionist critics of the need to follow the path of revisionism, caused many thoughtful forces to seriously reconsider their situation. They found that participation in nation-state politics did not bring the labor movement any closer to socialism, but had helped greatly in destroying belief in the need for constructive socialist activity. But what is worst of all: it robbed people of their initiative by pretending to them that salvation always comes from above.

Under these circumstances, socialism increasingly lost the character of a cultural ideal that was supposed to prepare workers for the annihilation of the present capitalist system. For this reason he could not be stopped by the artificial borders of the nation-states. In the spirit of the leaders of the modern workers' parties, the supposed goals of the movement became more and more mixed up with the interests of the nation-states until they were ultimately unable to perceive certain boundaries that existed between them. It would be a mistake to see this as an intended betrayal of the leaders, as is so often claimed. The truth is that we are dealing here with a gradual alignment with the lines of thought and norms of contemporary society which must necessarily affect the minds of the leaders of the various workers' parties in each country. These parties, which had once set out to conquer political power under the flag of socialism, found themselves compelled by the iron logic of the conditions to sacrifice their socialist convictions to the politics of the nation-states. The political power they wanted to conquer had gradually conquered their socialism, until there was little more than the name.


These were the considerations that led to the development of revolutionary syndicalism, or anarcho-syndicalism as it was later called, in France and other countries. The term workers syndicate initially only meant an organization of producers for the immediate improvement of their economic and social status. But the rise of revolutionary syndicalism gave much greater weight to this original meaning. The party is an organization with specific political functions within the modern constitutional states, which seeks to uphold the present social order in one form or another. In contrast, from the syndicalist point of view, the trade unions are the united workers' organization; their aim is to defend the producers in the existing society and to prepare and carry out the reconstruction of social life in the direction of socialism. The unions therefore have a twofold task:
1. To enforce the demands of producers to secure and raise the standard of living;
2. To familiarize the workers with the technical management of production and economic life in general and to prepare them to take the socio-economic organism into their hands and shape it according to socialist principles.

The anarcho-syndicalists believe that political parties are incapable of performing any of these two tasks. According to their ideas, the trade unions should be the spearhead of the labor movement, tried and tested in daily struggles and permeated with a socialist spirit. For it is only in the economic sphere that the workers are able to use their full power; It is their producer function that maintains the entire social structure and thus guarantees the existence of society. Only as a producer and producer of social wealth can the worker become conscious of his strength. In solidarity, he can carry out militant actions imbued with the spirit of freedom and the ideal of social justice. For the anarcho-syndicalists, the workers' syndicates are the fertile nucleus of the future society, the elementary school of socialism in general. Every new social structure creates for itself organs in the body of the old organism; without this premise any social evolution is unthinkable. For the anarcho-syndicalists, socialist upbringing does not mean participation in the political power of the nation-state. Rather, it is the job of the anarcho-syndicalists to make the essential social problems clear to the workers. Workers must be prepared for their role as transformers of economic life so that they can cope with this task. No social body is better suited for this purpose than the workers' economic struggle organization; it gives the social activities a specific goal and strengthens the resilience in the immediate fight for the daily needs and the defense of human rights. At the same time he develops moral strength, without which any social transformation is impossible: vital solidarity of those affected and moral responsibility for all actions.

Precisely because the educational work of the anarcho-syndicalists is directed towards the development of independent thought and action, they are outspoken opponents of all the centralistic tendencies that are characteristic of most of the existing workers' parties. The top-down system of centralism, which entrusts the administrative affairs of a small minority, is always accompanied by unproductive bureaucratic routine; it kills all individual initiative through lifeless discipline and bureaucratic ossification. For the state, centralism is the most suitable form of organization since it strives for the greatest possible uniformity of social life in order to maintain political and social equilibrium. But for a movement whose very existence depends on the prompt reaction at any given moment and on the independent thought processes of its followers, centralism is a calamity. It weakens their decision-making power and systematically suppresses any spontaneous initiative.

The organization of anarcho-syndicalism is based on the principles of federalism, on free association from below. It puts the right to self-determination of every group above everything and only recognizes the consent of everyone at the grassroots level. The organization of the anarcho-syndicalists is organized accordingly on the following basis: The workers in every place join their professions. The unions of a city or rural district come together in chambers of labor, which establish the centers for local propaganda and training; they form the workers in order to prevent the emergence of a limited party spirit. In times of local labor disputes, they ensure that all affected groups work together. All Chambers of Labor are grouped according to districts and regions to form the National Federation of Chambers of Labor. This maintains a permanent connection between the local bodies and arranges the free agreement of the productive work of the members of the various organizations according to cooperative principles. Furthermore, she ensures the necessary cooperation in the training work and provides the local groups with advice and assistance.

Each union is also linked to all organizations in the same industry. These in turn, in turn, with all related branches, so that all are united in general industrial and agricultural connections. It is their task to make demands of the daily struggle between capital and labor and to unify all forces for common action. Thus the federations of labor chambers and the industrial federations create the two poles around which the entire life of the workers' syndicates revolves.

Such a form of organization not only gives workers the opportunity to take direct action in the struggle for daily needs, but also enables them to acquire the knowledge necessary to reorganize society in order to get it going without outside intervention in the event of a revolutionary crisis to put. The anarcho-syndicalists are convinced that a socialist economic order cannot be created by decrees and laws of any government, but only through the unrestricted cooperation of workers, technicians and peasants. Only in this way can production and distribution be guaranteed by their own administration in the interest of the general public on the basis of mutual agreements. In such a situation, the chambers of labor would take over the management of the existing social capital, determine the needs of the residents of their district and organize local consumption. The activity of the Federation of Labor Chambers would make it possible to calculate the total needs of the whole country and regulate production accordingly. On the other hand, it would be the task of the industrial and agricultural associations to control the means of production, the transport system etc. and to supply the various groups of producers with what they need. With one word:
1. Organization of the entire production of a country through the Federation of Industrial Associations and the management of labor through workers' councils elected by the workers themselves;
2. Organization of social distribution through the Federation of Labor Chambers.

In this respect too, practical experience has taught the best lessons. It has shown that many problems of a socialist transformation of a society cannot be solved by any government, not even by the dictatorship of the proletariat. In Russia, the Bolshevik dictatorship faced economic problems for nearly two years: it tried to hide its ineptitude behind a flood of decrees and ordinances, most of which were immediately lost to the bureaucracy. If the world could be liberated by decrees, there would be no more problems in Russia for a long time. In its fanatical zeal for power, Bolshevism destroyed the most valuable organs of a socialist order: it suppressed the cooperative communities, it brought the trade unions under state control, and the soviets (councils) were deprived of their independence from the start. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" did not pave the way for a socialist society, but for the most primitive type of bureaucratic state capitalism. It brought about a relapse into political absolutism, which in most countries had already been abolished by the bourgeois revolution. In his "Message to the Workers of Western European Countries" Kropotkin said quite correctly: "From Russia we learn how communism cannot be introduced, although the population, fed up with the old regime, does not actively oppose the experiment of the new rulers The idea of ​​the Soviets, that is, the workers 'and peasants' councils controlling the political and economic life of the country, was a great idea ... As long as a country but is ruled by a party dictatorship, the workers 'and peasants' councils obviously lose their importance. They then only play the passive role of the 'states general' and parliaments of bygone days, which the king convened to oppose an all-powerful privy council. "


In Germany, where the moderate wing of political socialism (15) had gained power, socialism froze in the long years of routine parliamentary activities. He was no longer capable of any creative action. Even a bourgeois newspaper like the "Frankfurter Zeitung" stated that "the history of the European peoples has not yet produced a revolution that was so poor in creative ideas and possessed so little revolutionary energy". The mere fact that a party with a larger membership than any other workers' party in the world, which for many years was the strongest political force in Germany, had to leave Hitler and his gang the field without any resistance speaks for itself. This example of helplessness and weakness can hardly be misunderstood.

One only has to compare the German situation of those days (16) with the attitude of the anarcho-syndicalist workers 'organizations in Spain, and especially in Catalonia, where their influence was strongest, to see the considerable difference between the workers' movements in these two countries. When the conspiracy of the fascist military turned into open revolt in July 1936, it was mainly the resistance of the CNT (National Federation of Labor) and FAI (Anarchist Federation of Spain) that put down the fascist uprising in Catalonia in a few days. This important part of Spain was freed from the enemy and the original plan of the conspirators to take Barcelona by surprise was thwarted. The workers did not want to stop halfway; this was followed by the collectivization of the land and the takeover of the factories by the workers 'and peasants' syndicates. This movement, initiated by the CNT / FAI initiative, extended to Aragon, the Levant and other areas of the country. A large part of the Socialist Party and the socialist trade union UGT (General Union of Labor) could not resist this revolutionary movement.

This event revealed that the anarcho-syndicalist workers of Spain were not only able to fight, but also had constructive ideas that are so eminently important in a time of real crisis. This is the great merit of libertarian socialism in Spain, which has brought up Spanish workers since the time of the First International in a spirit that puts freedom above everything else and regards the intellectual independence of its followers as the basis of its existence. It was the passive attitude of organized workers in the other countries, who resigned themselves to the policy of non-intervention by their governments, that led to the defeat of the Spanish workers and peasants after a heroic struggle of more than two and a half years.


Anarcho-syndicalism has often been accused of having no interest in the political structure of the various countries and consequently no interest in the political struggles of the day. This notion is utterly wrong and stems from either complete ignorance or willful distortion of the facts. It is not the political struggle as such that fundamentally and tactically distinguishes the anarcho-syndicalists from the modern workers' parties, but the form of struggle and the goals it strives for. Anarcho-syndicalists pursue the same tactics in their struggle against political oppression as they do against economic exploitation. But they are convinced that with the system of exploitation also its political protective device, the state, must disappear in order to give way to the administration of public affairs on the basis of free agreement; In doing so, they do not overlook the fact that the efforts of organized labor within the existing political and social order must constantly be directed against any attack of reaction; they also do not overlook the fact that the scope of these rights must be continually expanded wherever the opportunity arises. The CNT's fight against fascism is perhaps the best proof that the supposedly apolitical stance of anarcho-syndicalism is nothing but empty talk.

But in their view, the timing of their action in the political struggle is not determined by the legislature, but by the people themselves.

Political rights do not arise in parliaments, they have arisen outside of it. And even the version of the law did not guarantee the application of these laws for a long time.They do not exist simply because they are legally laid down, but only when they have become an established habit of the people and when any attempt to impair them will meet with fierce resistance from the population. Where this is not the case, no parliamentary opposition or any platonic appeals to the constitution will help. You force respect from the other when you know how to defend your dignity as a human being. This is not only true of private life; it also applies in political life.

All the political rights and freedoms that people enjoy today are due not to the goodwill of their governments, but to their own strength. Governments have always tried to use all their means of power to prevent these goals from being achieved. Great mass movements and whole revolutions were necessary to wrest them from the ruling classes. Because they would never have granted this voluntarily. The entire history of the past 300 years is proof of this. What matters is not that governments chose to grant people certain rights, but the reason why they had to. Of course, if one accepts Lenin's cynical assertion and describes freedom as a "bourgeois prejudice," then political rights certainly have no value for workers. But then the countless struggles of the past, all the revolts and revolutions to which we owe these rights, have no value either. In order to proclaim this piece of wisdom, it was hardly necessary to overthrow tsarism, since even the censorship of Nicholas II would certainly have had no objection to the definition of freedom as a "bourgeois prejudice".

If anarcho-syndicalism nevertheless refuses to participate in the current national parliaments, it does not justify it with a lack of sympathy for the political struggle in general. But his supporters believe that this form of activity is the weakest and most helpless form of political struggle for the workers. For the possessing classes, parliamentarism is certainly an appropriate tool for resolving emerging conflicts because they are all interested in maintaining the current economic and social order. Where there are common interests, mutual consent is possible and useful for all parties, but the situation is very different for workers. For them, the prevailing economic order is the cause of their exploitation and their social and political oppression. Even the freest choice cannot blur the obvious distinction between possessing and non-possessing classes in society. It can only put the stamp of legality on the repression of the working masses.

Whenever socialist parties wanted to achieve decisive political reforms, they could not do it through parliamentary channels, but were forced to rely entirely on the economic struggle of the workers. The general political strikes in Belgium (late 19th century) and Sweden (1902) to enforce universal suffrage are evidence of this. And in Russia it was the great general strike of 1905 that forced the tsar to sign the new constitution. This realization led the anarcho-syndicalists to concentrate their activities on the socialist education of the masses and to prepare them for the use of their economic and social power. Their method is direct action (17), the combination of economic and political struggle. Direct action is understood to mean the workers' immediate struggle against economic and political oppression. Of these, the most outstanding are the strike in all its gradations, from the simple wage struggle to the general strike, the organized boycott, and all the other innumerable means which the workers as producers have in their hands.


One of the most effective forms of direct action is the "social strike", most commonly used in Spain and partly in France. He has shown the remarkable and growing responsibility of workers to society as a whole. He is less concerned with the immediate interests of the producers than with protecting the general public from the harmful excesses of the ruling system. The social strike aims to force entrepreneurs to assume certain responsibilities towards the public. First and foremost, it aims to protect consumers, of whom the workers themselves make up the largest part. In the present circumstances, workers often degrade themselves by doing a myriad of things that continually harm the entire community for the sake of employers. They are forced to use inferior and often harmful materials for the manufacture of their products, to build shabby dwellings, to consume unhealthy food; Perform innumerable acts designed to deceive the consumer. To intervene vigorously here is, according to the anarcho-syndicalists, the great task of the workers' syndicates. Progress in this direction would at the same time strengthen the position of workers in society and, in the longer term, strengthen their position.

Direct action through organized labor finds its strongest expression in the general strike, in the stoppage of work in every branch of production when other means of combat fail. It is the most powerful weapon the workers have at their disposal and gives the full expression of their strength as a social factor. The general strike is, of course, not a means that can be arbitrarily used on every occasion. Certain social prerequisites are necessary in order to give it the appropriate moral strength and to make it a declaration of will of the broad masses. The ridiculous demand so often ascribed to the anarcho-syndicalists that it only takes a general strike to establish a socialist society within a few days is, of course, an invention of ignorant opponents. The general strike can serve various purposes. It can be the last stage of a sympathy strike, such as B. 1902 in Barcelona, ​​or 1903 in Bilbao, which enabled the miners to abolish the hated system of wages in kind and forced the employers to install sanitary facilities in the mines. It can also be a means of reinforcing some basic demands, such as: B. in the attempted general strike in the United States in 1886 when the eight-hour day was required for all branches of industry. The great general strike of the English workers in 1926 was the answer to the attempt by employers to lower the general standard of living of workers by cutting wages.

But the general strike can also have political goals, such as For example the struggle of the Spanish workers in 1904 for the release of political prisoners, or the general strike in July 1909 in Catalonia, which was supposed to force the government to end the war in Morocco. The general strike of the German workers in 1920, which was carried out after the so-called Kapp Putsch and overthrew the government that had gained power through a military coup, also belongs to this category. In such critical situations, the general strike takes the place that the barricades used to play in political uprisings. For the workers, the general strike is the corollary of the modern industrial system which they suffer today; at the same time it offers them the strongest weapon in the struggle for their social liberation, provided they recognize their own strength and learn to use it correctly.


After the First World War, the people in Europe were faced with a new political and socio-economic situation. In Central Europe, the old monarchist system had collapsed. Russia was in the midst of a social revolution, the end of which was not in sight. The Russian Revolution had deeply impressed the workers in every country. They felt that Europe was in the midst of a crisis and that their hopes would be dashed for many years if this crisis did not provide decisive new impetus. For this reason they placed the greatest hopes in the Russian Revolution and saw in it the beginning of a new era in European history.

In 1919 the Bolshevik Party, which had won power in Russia, sent an appeal to all revolutionary workers' organizations and invited them to a congress in Moscow for the following year in order to create a new International. Communist parties only existed in a few countries at the time; on the other hand, there were syndicalist organizations in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Germany, England, and the countries of North and South America, some of which were very influential. For this reason it was the concern of Lenin and his followers to win these individual organizations over to their ideas. So it came about that at the founding congress of the 3rd International in the summer of 1920 almost all syndicalist organizations in Europe were present.

But the impression made by the syndicalist delegates in Russia was not such as to make cooperation with the communists seem possible or desirable to them. The dictatorship of the proletariat was already showing itself in its true light: the prisons were filled with socialists of various directions, including many anarchists and syndicalists. But above all it became clear that the new ruling caste was in no way able to shape a truly socialist life. The founding of the 3rd International with its authoritarian apparatus and its efforts to make the entire European labor movement an instrument of Russian foreign policy made it clear to the syndicalists very quickly that there could be no place for them in the 3rd International. For this reason the Congress in Moscow decided to build an independent revolutionary alliance of revolutionary trade unions alongside the 3rd International, in which the syndicalist organizations of all shades should find a place. The syndicalist delegates approved this plan. But when the Communists demanded that this new organization be subordinated to the Third International, this demand was unanimously rejected by the Syndicalists.

In December 1920 an international syndicalist conference was convened in Berlin to decide on its position vis-à-vis the forthcoming congress of the Red Trade Union International, which was being prepared for 1921 in Moscow. The conference agreed on seven points, on the acceptance of which the entry of the syndicalists into the union international was made dependent. The importance of these seven points lay in the movement's complete independence from all political parties, and the insistence that the socialist construction of society can only be carried out by the economic organizations of the producing classes themselves.

At the Moscow Congress the following year, syndicalist organizations were in the minority. The Central Council of Russian Trade Unions dominated the whole situation and pushed through all its resolutions.

Thereupon an international syndicalist conference was held in Düsseldorf in October 1921, at which it was decided to convene an international congress for the following year. This congress took place from December 25, 1922 to January 2, 1923 (in Berlin). The following organizations were represented by delegates: Argentina through the "Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina" with 200,000 members; Chile through the "Industrial Workers of the World" with 20,000 members; Denmark through the "Union for Syndicalist Propaganda" with 600 members; Germany through the "Free Workers Union" with 120,000 members; Holland through the "National Arbeids Secretariat" with 22,500 members; Mexico through the "Confederacion General des Trabajadores"; Norway through the "Norsk Syndicalisk Federasjon" with 20,000 members; Portugal through the "Confederacao Geral do Trabalho" with 150,000 members; Sweden through the "Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation" with 32,000 members. The Spanish CNT was involved in a terrible struggle against the Primo de Rivera dictatorship at the time and had not sent delegates, but assured its agreement at the illegal Zaragoza congress in October 1923. In France, where there was a split within the postwar CGT led to the creation of the CGTU, the latter joined Moscow. But there was a minority in the organization that banded together to form the Revolutionary Syndicalist Defense Committee, which numbered about 100,000 workers and took part in the deliberations of the Berlin Congress. The "Federation of Construction Workers" and the "Federation of Youth of the Seine" were also present from Paris. Two delegates represented the syndicalist minority of Russian workers.

The Congress unanimously decided to found an international alliance of all syndicalist organizations under the name of the International Workers' Association (IAA). He adopted a statement of principles, which is an outspoken commitment to anarcho-syndicalism. The second point in this declaration reads as follows: "The syndicalists, with a clear understanding of the facts stated above, are in principle opponents of any monopoly economy. They strive for the socialization of the soil, the tools of labor, the raw materials and all social wealth; the reorganization of the entire economic life on the basis of free, ie stateless communism, which finds its expression in the motto: 'Everyone according to his abilities, everyone according to his needs!'

On the basis of this recognition that socialism is ultimately a cultural question and as such can only be resolved from the bottom up through the creative activity of the people, the syndicalists reject any means of so-called nationalization that only leads to the worst form of exploitation, to state capitalism , but can never lead to socialism. "

The break with Bolshevism and its supporters in the various countries was thus clear. The IAA went its own way from then on, holding its own international congresses, issuing its own bulletins, and regulating relations between syndicalist organizations in different countries.

The most powerful and influential organization in the IAA was the Spanish CNT, the initiator of many labor disputes in Spain and later the backbone of the resistance to fascism and the social revolution. Before Franco's victory, the CNT had about 2 million members, industrial workers, peasants and intellectuals. It owned 36 daily newspapers, including the "Solidaridad Obrera" in Barcelona, ​​the largest newspaper in Spain, and "Castilla Libre", which was the most widely read newspaper in Madrid. The CNT has published books and millions of pamphlets and contributed more than any other movement in Spain to educating the masses.

In Portugal, the Confederacao Geral do Trabalho, founded in 1911, was the country's most powerful workers' organization and was based on the same principles as the CNT in Spain. After Salazar's dictatorship (1933) prevailed in Portugal, the CGT was banned from appearing in public and had to go underground.

In Italy, under the influence of the ideas of French syndicalism, the syndicalist wing of the "Confederazione deI Lavoro" left this organization because of its dependence on the Socialist Party and founded the "Unione Sindicale Italiana". This union was the engine of many tough labor disputes and played a prominent role in the events of the so-called "Red Week" in June 1914 and later in the factory occupations in Milan and other cities in northern Italy. (18) After the fascists came to power, the entire Italian labor movement disappeared.

In France, after the organization was completely under the influence of the Bolsheviks, the anarcho-syndicalists left the CGTU and founded the Confederation Generale du Travail Syndicaliste Revolutionaire, which joined the ILO.

The so-called "localists" existed in Germany long before the First World War and organized themselves into the "Free Association of German Trade Unions" founded in 1897. This organization was originally influenced by social democratic ideas, but it combated the centralistic tendencies in the German trade union movement. The resurgence of French syndicalism greatly influenced this association and led to the adoption of purely syndicalist principles. At its congress in Düsseldorf in 1920, the organization changed its name to "Free Workers' Union of Germany". This organization did a great service through the tireless work of its active publishing house in Berlin, which published a large number of valuable works. After Hitler came to power, the "Free Workers Union" disappeared.A large number of their supporters disappeared in the concentration camps or had to go into exile.

In Sweden there is still a very active syndicalist movement, the "Sveriges Arbetaren Centralorganisation", the only syndicalist organization in Europe that escaped the reaction of fascism and the German invasion during the war. The Swedish syndicalists took part in all major labor disputes in their country and continued the work of socialist and libertarian training.

In Holland the syndicalist movement was concentrated in the "Nationale Arbeids Secretariat", but when this organization came more and more under the influence of the Communists, almost half of its members split off and founded the "Nederlandisch Syndicalistische Vakverbond", which joined the IAA .

In addition to these organizations, there were anarcho-syndicalist propaganda groups in Norway, Poland and Bulgaria that joined the IAA. The Japanese "Jiyu Rengo Dantai Zenkoku Kaigi" also joined the IAA.

In Argentina, the "Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina" founded in 1891 was for many years the organizer of the country's largest labor disputes. Her story is one of the stormiest chapters in the annals of the labor movement. The movement published the daily newspaper "La Protesta" for more than 25 years. Also a large number of weeklies across the country. After General Uriburu's coup, the Federacion was suppressed, but it continued to operate underground, including under the dictator Peron.

In May 1929 the Federacion called a congress of all South American countries in Buenos Aires. In addition to the organizer, trade unions from the following countries were represented at this congress: Paraguay through the "Centro Obrero deI Paraguay"; Bolivia through the "Federacion Local de la Paz", "La Antorcha" and "Luz y Libertad"; Mexico through the "Confederacion de Trabajo"; Guatemala through the Comite pro Accion Sindical; Uruguay through the "Federacion Regional Uruguaya". Brazil was represented by the trade unions of the seven constituent states. Costa Rica was represented by the organization "Hacia la Libertad". At this congress the "Continental American Workers Association" was brought into being, which represented the American branch of the IAA. The headquarters of this organization was initially in Buenos Aires, but was later relocated to Uruguay because of the dictatorship.

These were the forces that anarcho-syndicalism had at its disposal in the various countries before the rule of fascism and the outbreak of World War II.



This pamphlet was published nine years ago as the Spanish Civil War drew to a close. The defeat of the Spanish workers and peasants by fascism after two and a half years of civil war destroyed the last hope of countering the tide of reaction in Europe. Spain became the nemesis for the European labor movement and especially for libertarian socialism. The Spanish people had to fight their brave struggle for freedom, human dignity and social justice almost alone, while the whole world watched the unequal struggle inactive. The so-called Western democracies denied the Spaniards the war material they so urgently needed in their heroic struggle. And the organized labor movement in Europe and America, demoralized and fragmented, remained indifferent or helpless when everything in Europe was at stake. It had to pay dearly for its passivity, since Francoist Spain paved the way into World War II with its terrible consequences. Even Sumner Wells, the former US Secretary of State, had to admit that his country's policy towards Spain in those years of decision was one of the greatest mistakes America ever made.

For the labor movement, Franco's victory was one of the greatest defeats the workers of Europe had ever suffered. Under the terror regime of Hitler's armies, the entire labor movement in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Belgium, Norway and the countries of south-east Europe disintegrated; the entire continent became a desert of ruins, hunger and unspeakable misery reigned. Even today, in 1947, large parts of Europe are like wilderness. Economic life is paralyzed, natural raw material sources are exhausted, industry and agriculture are totally disorganized. It goes without saying that such a terrible catastrophe will not leave the peoples unaffected. In many countries people became demoralized and apathetic as a result of their terrible suffering, especially in Germany and Austria, where there was little hope of a quick rebuilding of economic and social life. Even so, almost everywhere there are signs of awakening and the development of new ideas dealing with the current situation.

The only way out of the current chaos, the only way to rebuild the devastated countries would be a federated Europe with a unified economy. Europe would have to be built on a new foundation in which no people would be isolated by artificial barriers and would not be under the tutelage of a stronger neighbor. That would also mean the first step towards a world federation with equal rights for every people, including the so-called colonial peoples, who were previously victims of imperialism and were hindered in their natural development. It is also the only means to achieve further changes and improvements in the general organism of our social life, and to overcome the economic exploitation and political oppression of individuals and peoples. Indeed, after the terrible experiences of the past, there is no other way to create new relationships between peoples, and to achieve new forms of society and a rebirth of humanity.

In Europe, such a change is long overdue. Their greatest obstacle, however, is still the power politics of the great powers and their incessant struggle for hegemony on the continent. That is the constant cause of wars and the real reason why, to this day, a generation has always had to rebuild what its predecessor had destroyed.