on 22 October 2007
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.