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Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice [Paperback]

Rudolf Rocker , Mike Davis , Nicolas Walter , Noam Chomsky
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

June 1 2004 Working Classics

In 1937, at the behest of Emma Goldman, Rocker penned this political and philosophical masterpiece as an introduction to the ideals fueling the Spanish social revolution and resistance to capitalism the world over. Within, Rocker offers an introduction to anarchist ideas, a history of the international workers’ movement, and an outline of the syndicalist strategies and tactics embraced at the time (direct action, sabotage and the general strike). Includes a lengthy introduction by Nicholas Walter and a Preface by Noam Chomsky.

“[Rocker’s] approach is far from ‘utopian’; this is not an abstract discourse but a call to action.”—Noam Chomsky

Rudolf Rocker (1873–1958) was a leading figure in the international anarchist movement for over 60 years.


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Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice + What is Anarchism? + Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings
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About the Author

Rudolf Rocker is one of Anarchism's most cherished characters. Born in Germany, Rocker settled in Britain in 1895, learned to read and write in Yiddish and became a beloved member of the Jewish Anarchist movement until his death. As a proponent of the workers movement known as Anarcho-syndicalism, Rocker wrote for journals in German, Yiddish and English throughout the world. Noam Chomsky is one of the world's leading intellectuals, father of modern linguistics, outspoken media and foreign policy critic and tireless activist. A former meatcutter and long-distance truck driver, Mike Davis teaches urban theory and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He is the author Buda's Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb and City of Quartz. He lives in San Diego. Nicolas Walter was a journalist, lifelong anarchist and tireless activist against militarism and nuclear weapons. He lived in Britain.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Suprising Work, Thoroughly Effective Jan. 3 2014
By James 'error' Campbell TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice" allows for empowerment of modern populace; it is written for the proletariat. I can say blatantly that I would never have heard of this work, if not for reading Chomsky's "On Anarchism"; Rudolf Rocker is in his citations. "Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice" literally sticks to its title in terms of the content displayed in elaboration throughout all its chapters. Rocker is undoubtedly a very intelligent man, one whom presents his ideas with a cogent and succinct prose. Rocker's is an ability to summarize a very strong presentation of past and present anarchist thought, displaying in a colorful manner what we are missing in our lives and society. The substance of this work concerns the people of this planet, their need to support each-other in their struggle for freedom and amelioration; a noble topic. Additionally, I now understand Chomsky as a person to a higher degree, I see clearly Rockers inspiration living through him. Perhaps more importantly, my own mind is much more aware of the power contained inside of people, the working classes and their methods of popular struggle.

An immediate gain may be ascertained in this short read (116 pages long), a significant contribution to the labor movement, society, philosophy and human organization in general. This exposition is a valuable insight into what may be possible for human kind, if we are to rise to our bench-marked potential as a species and achieve what should be possible. Rocker discusses many suppressed measurements in our lives and their forbearance on the development of intellectualism, education, culture, liberation and community. He reveals the struggle that we all have faced in our development and suffrage.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Introduction to Anarcho-Syndicalism April 18 2012
By Antonis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Left-wing politics have traditionally been divided in to two broad categories. One is Socialism, which includes Social Democracy and Soviet Communism, where the other is Anarchism, which includes a number of different schools of thought. The major difference is the approach these political traditions have towards the state. While the first group sees the state as a tool to be used to achieve its political, economic and social goals (the welfare state, centrally-planned economies etc.) the later group looks at the state with skepticism and rejection. The state, by its very nature, is viewed by anarchists as a destructive institution, that can be used only to oppress, but not to emancipate human beings. Thus anarchists look for ways of organizing the society and the economy that are not based on the coercive nature of the state.

In this classic book, Rudolf Rocker, a known anarchist of the early 20th century, explores the idea and practice of Anarcho-Syndicalism, a specific anarchist school of thought that focuses on the use of direct action as well as the role of the trade unions in the future organization of society. Anarcho-syndicalism was mostly influential in the first half of the 20th century, with its climax being the application of its ideas during the Spanish civil-war.

While Rocker's book is in many ways outdated, it is still considered a classic general account of anarcho-syndicalism, and can easily be used as an introduction to anarcho-syndicalist ideas. With the fall of planned economies in 1991, and the economic crisis of 2008, both Soviet communism and capitalism are seen by more and more people as inadequate models for our economic and social organization. Anarchism, or some of its ideas, however, could be used as a basis for new forms of organizing our society outside the control of the state or of the capitalist organization of production.

Five stars because this is a good edition of a classic political text.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sounds great Feb. 27 2006
By calmly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Rocker writes lucidly and forcefully. He presents a clear alternative to political socialism, including Marxism. Anarcho-syndicalism seems well-grounded ethically and as if it would avoid the problems of concentrating power inherent in both capitalism and socialism.

But can it work? The biggest argument that it can seems to be CNT in Spain in the 1930's. As Rocker described it, they were highly effective and fully anarcho-syndicalist. They were defeated largely due to the involvement of powerful foreign powers. In the U.S. before World War I, the IWW (similar to the anarcho-syndicalists in Europe) grew in influence but were suppressed by the government.

Today in the U.S. the only sizable organized anarcho-syndicalist activity appears to a mucher smaller IWW. They continue to support unionization efforts and refrain from political activity.

If people can organize around trade unions, as Rocker describes and as the IWW does on a small scale, with sufficient involvement as to be able to run industries themselves, then anarcho-syndicalism as Rocker describes it seems wonderful. There would, however, many practical issues to work out. Rocker says that the CNT in Spain did that. However, if people prefer to be led, then anarcho-syndicalism won't work, as someone will undoubtedly step in to lead and, in doing so, enforce preferences for themselves.

For over 70 years, anarcho-syndicalism seems not to have been won over many people. Will conditions change so that people embrace it? Would educational efforts help revive it? Or has capitalism adapted and won? Is self-government just too much effort for most people? This work by Rocker seems about the best place to start in exploring such questions.
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazon is a benefit Jan. 30 2014
By Ron - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Amazon delivers. I was pleased to find this book readily available. I will not comment on the subject matter as I am at the start of reading about this political position.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hope for Socialists March 22 2009
By Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
While the fall of the Soviet Union was seen by some as proof that socialism is untenable, Rocker shows in this text how the revolution was doomed from the start, and offers an attractive alternative to the party-led style of statist socialism attempted there. Synidcalism seems to me to be a slightly more "realistic" way in which to achieve socialism, that doesn't depend on the benevolence of a centralized authority. Rocker also relates some of the history of the labor movement in general in Europe, and of syndicalism in particular. I would like to have seen a bit more detail regarding syndicalist government structure and economics, the practical aspects, but he gives a very good overview of the movement in not many pages.
16 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Overview July 17 2007
By Steiner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
How can a society progress to a level of legitimate egalitarian communization without the creation of a hierarchical structure of leadership or vanguard? For anarchists, the answer often lies in anarcho-communism or anarcho-syndaclism. This text by Rudolph Rocker, is perhaps the definitive work on the latter theory. Anarcho-syndaclism eliminates the apparatus of the state as a means to socialism, whereas classical Marxist theory insists that the state will wither away once the proletarian has seized control of the means of production. Anarcho-syndaclism values the use of direct action as a means to control the forces of production, and the utility of unions and defederated workers councils as the proper structures for social planning. Rocker points to the syndaclists of the Spanish Revolution as the primary example of the theory in action, though there seem to be few cases in history of such socialization without centralized planning. Perhaps this mode of revolution is more legitimate and effective than classical Marxism or Marxist-Leninism, though I suspect that anarchism will always suffer from the fact of its inefficiency and inability to mobilize populations democratically. Nevertheless, Rocker's analysis and background history (aside from several cavalier uses of `human nature) is provocative alternative to state capitalism and state socialism.
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