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Syndicalism is a further development of the Union - Socialism , of the French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was founded. Syndicalism propagates the appropriation of the means of production by the trade unions, which then organize the administration in place of political representatives. Thereby forming strike , Boycott and sabotage the means of syndicalists; parliamentary aspirations are rejected.


The union, built according to federalist principles, was to lead the means of production into the care of the workers by means of a general strike . The union ( syndicate ) of the production units would form the economic basis of a new self-governing society. The most important idea generator and representative of the syndicalist labor movement was in the person of Fernand Pelloutier . The labor exchange represented an important structural element .

Syndicalism was particularly widespread in trade union circles in France at the beginning of the 20th century, for example in the form of the Amiens Charter of 1906, but after the end of the First World War it was ousted by Marxist currents (especially communism ) and also fought by fascism . After the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, syndicalism practically disappeared.

Expanded and supplemented in its essence by ideological and philosophical elements of anarchism , anarcho-syndicalism was formed . In Spain, the anarcho-syndicalist trade union Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) reached a large following of around two million members in the first third of the 20th century and was one of the most important factors in Spanish politics. The CNT sympathized at times with the Russian Revolution and joined the III. International ( Comintern ) at. After 1921, however, only a minority of communist syndicalists represented the connection with the Russian Revolution, and criticism of the authoritarian developing Soviet state also dominated internationally. In Germany, around 1921, the milieus of syndicalist and communist trade unions, which were initially strongly overlapping, separated. Consequently, in 1922 a separate international alliance of anarcho-syndicalist unions, the International Workers' Association (IAA), was founded.

Syndicalism in Germany

History in Germany was initially shaped by the term “ localism ”. This simultaneously denotes the origin and the motivation of the (anarcho) syndicalist movement. It came from the social democracy and in the course of the conditions under the so-called " socialist laws " (1878-1890) turned to a federalist trade union model in which the local associations remained sovereign in their decisions and did not have to submit to any central authority. This was due to the fact that the regional association laws often only allowed local associations, and on the other hand because the "localists" viewed the centralized form of organization as more susceptible to repression and corruption. They also criticized the tendency to focus the tasks of the trade unions solely on the daily issues of higher wages and better working conditions. The class struggle of the working class should not be the sole task of the social democratic party. Here was the seed for the further development of (anarcho) syndicalism, to view and align the trade unions equally as an economic, political and cultural movement.

The organization of the localists

After the end of the “Socialist Laws” in 1890 and further centralization tendencies at the Halberstadt Congress in 1892, an opposition to the “General Commission for the Central Associations” arose within the social democratic trade union movement, which refused to accept this development and declared itself at the Reich level in 1897 as “shop stewards”. Centralization of Germany "or" Union of locally organized or based on the shop steward system centralized trade unions in Germany ". Until the outbreak of war in 1914, the organization, renamed “ Free Association of German Trade Unions ” (FVDG) in 1901, held 11 Reich Congresses . It was particularly well received by the professional associations of construction workers with a center in Berlin. In total, it united up to 20,000 members by the First World War. The organizational heads were found in Fritz Kater , Gustav Keßler , Andreas Kleinlein and Carl Thieme, who both set up the business commission and, since 1897, have been responsible for the central organ, Die Einigkeit , which appeared biweekly with a print run of 10,000. In addition, Fritz Kater was the publisher and editor of the magazine Der Syndikalist .

From localism to syndicalism

At the turn of the century the movement consisted of revolutionary social democrats and party members, but in the years from 1902 onwards the party increasingly began to promote the localist movement and its program of “propaganda for the idea of ​​the masses”. General strikes "until the party congresses of 1906 to 1908 addressed the exclusion of the locally organized members who were called" anarcho-socialists ". According to their programmatic form, these called themselves more and more often “syndicalists”. Their development was also significantly influenced by the writings of Fernand Pelloutier (anarchism and trade unions), Arnold Roller (i.e. Siegfried Nacht: The general social strike ) and the concept of the French " courses du travail ", the so-called " labor exchanges " . In 1908, at its party congress in Nuremberg , the SPD passed an incompatibility resolution with the locally organized trade unions, as a result of which only about 8,000 of the approximately 16,000 members remained in the FVDG.

The further programmatic direction of syndicalism

From then on, these coined the term “syndicalism” in Germany and beyond and in 1911 gave themselves the program “What do the syndicalists want?”. The ideal foundation was also fed primarily from the writings of Peter Kropotkin and was called " Communist Anarchism ". The syndicalists of the FVDG campaigned not only for better wages and working conditions, but also for the abolition of the capitalist economic system in favor of a "free form of society administered by the workers themselves". This "transformation process" was to be initiated by a general strike, as a result of which the previously profit-oriented production was to be converted in favor of a need-oriented and solidarity-based economy. The tasks of determining needs, distributing the products, but generally also the cultural issues and those of education and upbringing should be reserved for the labor exchanges, in which the individual professional associations as well as the non-professional syndicalist associations were combined. This concept was essentially formulated in the Declaration of Principles of syndicalism of Rudolf Rocker in 1919 and 1922 by the "Study Commission of the Berlin worker exchanges" fully clarified in scripture Workers exchanges of syndicalism. Apart from this core area, the syndicalists also turned against all material and ideological endeavors which, in their opinion, ran counter to the acceleration of the class struggle, for example nationalism , militarism and the church system.

Syndicalism at the time of the First World War in Germany

As a result of its character, the FVDG and its press ( Die Einigkeit und Der Pionier ) were banned at the beginning of the war in 1914, while the SPD and the central trade unions concluded the " truce " and were favored with the German government . For example, the editors of many SPD organs did not have to do military service. In contrast to these, many syndicalists who publicly opposed the war were arrested. In addition, many activists of the FVDG were called up for military service, so that the mere maintenance of the organization became top priority. To this end, the business commission issued two organs during the war years, which were banned after a short time: the bulletin of the business commission of the Free Association of German Trade Unions (1914-1915) and the circular to the boards of directors and members of all associations affiliated to the Free Association of German Trade Unions (1915 -1917).

Syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism in Germany after the First World War

With the end of the war, the FVDG was able to regroup and address many workers who were disappointed by the Social Democrats. By 1919 around 60,000 members had joined. At their first post-war congress at the end of 1919, under the program of the above-mentioned declaration of principles of syndicalism , the organization renamed the “ Free Workers Union of Germany ” (FAUD) brought together over 111,000 syndicalists from all over the Reich with regional focuses in almost all of the larger cities, but especially in the Rhineland, in the Ruhr area, in Silesia and in Berlin. Local associations emerged primarily where industrialization began and central trade union organizations had not yet gained a foothold, including in many small towns and villages. While construction workers were the main industry focus during the imperial era, now tens of thousands of metal workers and miners were added. Strong syndicalist organizations also grew up in the timber, chemical and transport industries in some places. The FVDG was an original proletarian organization. Intellectuals also formed a rare marginal figure at the level of functionaries. Conceptually, the organization name changed in 1919 in favor of the element "Union", which took into account the production processes that had changed since the beginning of the 20th century. The members should no longer only be organized according to special professional groups, but if possible grouped according to industrial sectors in order to increase their effectiveness locally. In addition, in 1921 the official designation "FAUD (Syndicalists)" was changed to the "FAUD (Anarcho-Syndicalists)", which was valid until 1933, by congress resolution, which clarified the communist-anarchist foundation. Nevertheless, the terms “syndicalism” and “anarcho-syndicalism” were used synonymously in Germany both by contemporaries and in research, since no purely syndicalist organization could be defined outside of anarcho-syndicalism. Affiliated associations, such as the “Arbeiter-Unionen” or the “ Federation of Communist Anarchists of Germany ” and the Syndicalist Women's Association , were purely unionist or anarchist.

The International Workers' Association (IAA)

Syndicalism in Germany, albeit numerically no greater than about 150,000 in 1922, had significant theoretical and organizational influence on the international syndicalist labor movement. In the same year, in reference to the “First International” of 1864, the “International Workers Association” (today the International Workers Association ) was re-established according to anarcho-syndicalist ideas. Rudolf Rocker wrote the declaration of principles and, together with Augustin Souchy and Alexander Schapiro, provided the secretariat in Berlin until 1933. The IAA temporarily united up to two million members. It has its strongest sections in Europe and South America. The ILO takes the position that the term “syndicalism” alone is not enough.

Syndicalism: How to use the term

In fact, authoritarian communist and fascist forces tried to use the term for their goals, especially in France, Italy and later also in Spain. In contrast to many such centralistic and nationalistic varieties with reference to Georges Sorel, it must be emphasized that the international syndicalist labor movement consciously oriented itself towards the ideas and methods of anarcho-syndicalism, as it was also formed in Germany. Contrary to some beliefs, Georges Sorel played no role for the syndicalist labor movement in Germany and in many other countries only a minor role, if at all. In Italy, however, Sorel exerted a great influence. Benito Mussolini openly confessed to Sorel and stated that he was strongly influenced by Sorel. What makes the specification of the term “syndicalism” necessary, especially in an international context, is the simple fact that the term has a different meaning from country to country. It comes from the French for “syndicat” and in the Romansh-speaking countries initially only describes a largely indefinite trade union term. The term "revolutionary syndicalism" is not very suitable because it is only moderately defined and imprecise in terms of content.

See also


  • Gerhard Aigte: The development of the revolutionary syndicalist workers' movement in Germany in the war and post-war period (1918-1929) (= Free Workers Union Bremen. Polemic 1, ZDB -ID 2227240-9 ). FAU-Bremen, Bremen 2005.
  • Franz Barwich / Study Commission of the Berlin Workers' Exchange (1923): "This is syndicalism". The labor exchanges of syndicalism. Verlag Edition AV , Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-936049-38-6 .
  • Helge Döhring: Anarcho-Syndicalism. Introduction to the theory and history of an international socialist labor movement. Verlag Edition AV, Lich / Hessen 2017, ISBN 978-3-86841-143-0 .
  • Helge Döhring: Syndicalism in Germany 1914-1918. "In the heart of the beast" Verlag Edition AV, Lich / Hessen 2013, ISBN 978-3-868410-83-9 .
  • Helge Döhring: Anarcho-Syndicalism in Germany 1933-1945. Butterfly Verlag, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 3-89657-062-5 .
  • FAU-Bremen (Hrsg.): Syndicalism - history and perspectives (= Free Workers Union. FAU Bremen 4, ZDB -ID 2227240-9 ). Main band. FAU Bremen, Bremen 2005.
  • FAU-Bremen (Hrsg.): Class struggle on a world scale (= Free Workers' Union. FAU Bremen 8). Supplementary volume. FAU Bremen, Bremen 2006.
  • Georg Fülberth : G-dash. Little history of capitalism. PapyRossa-Verlag, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-89438-315-1 .
  • Luigi Ganapini: Revolutionary and Fascist Syndicalism in Italy (1920-1945). In: Yearbook for Research on the History of the Labor Movement, Issue I / 2007, ISSN  1610-093X , pp. 72–77.
  • Bob Holton: British Syndicalism 1900-1914. Myths and Reality. Pluto Press, London 1976, ISBN 0-904383-22-9 .
  • Rudolf Rocker : Declaration of the principles of syndicalism. Kater, Berlin 1920.
  • Hartmut Rübner: Freedom and Bread. The Free Workers' Union of Germany; a study on the history of anarcho-syndicalism. Libertad Verlag, Berlin and Cologne 1994 ISBN 3-922226-21-3 .
  • Peter Schöttler : The creation of the “Bourses du Travail”. Social policy and French syndicalism at the end of the 19th century (= Campus Research 255). Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1982, ISBN 3-593-33045-8 (also: Bremen, Univ., Diss., 1978).
  • Georges Yvetot: ABC of Syndicalism. Revolution publishing house, Vienna 1908.
  • Arturo Zoffmann Rodriguez: "Marxist and proudhonist at the same time": The Communist-Syndicalists of the Spanish CND 1917-1924 , in: Work - Movement - History , Issue 2017 / III, pp. 74–96.
  • Clara Wichmann : The theory of syndicalism (1920). In: Clara Wichmann: From the revolutionary élan. Contributions to the emancipation movements 1917-1922 . Edited by Renate Brucker, Verlag Graswurzelrevolution, Heidelberg 2018, pp. 122–148, ISBN 978-3-939045-36-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Syndicalism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Arturo Zoffmann Rodriguez: "Marxist and Proudhonist same time": The Communist-syndicalists of the Spanish CND 1917-1924. In: Work - Movement - History , Issue 2017 / III, pp. 74–96.
  2. See Michael Freund: Georges Sorel: The revolutionary conservatism. Frankfurt 1932, p. 8.
    Jan-Werner Müller : Contesting Democracy. Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe. New Haven 2011, p. 93 f.