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Movement advocating direct action by the working class to abolish the capitalist order, including the state, and to replace it with a social order based on the syndicat, a free association of self-governing producers. Developed as a doctrine by leaders of the French trade union movement at the end of the 19th century, syndicalism was strongly influenced by the traditional anarchism and antiparliamentarianism of the French working class. Syndicalists looked forward to victory in a class war, after which society would be organized around the syndicats. These bodies would coordinate their activities through a labour exchange, which would function as an employment and economic planning agency. At the peak of its influence, before World War I, the movement had in excess of one million members in Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. After the war, syndicalists tended to drift toward the Soviet model of communism or to be lured by the ostensible benefits offered by labour unions and democratic reforms. See alsocorporatism.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on syndicalism, visit Britannica.com.