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Syndicalism and Vanguardism

0 votes
Is syndicalism a type of vanguardism? Or maybe could someone explain the differences between the two, if there are any?
asked Dec 24, 2015 by Zubaz (4,140 points)

1 Answer

+3 votes
I'd say the two are distinct, and that vanguardism is a thoroughly unanarchistic concept (it did originate with the Bolsheviks after all, iirc). Personally I'm not a huge fan of Syndicalism, I think the vision that anarcho-syndicalists have for post-revolution society reproduces too many of the intolerable aspects of today's status quo that dominate the individual. However they are at least anarchists, and like other social anarchists they seek to achieve their aims in an horizontal, anarchist way - through a popular revolution (however unlikely that is to happen, and however impossible it is to precisely shape a future society through those means).

Vanguardism on the other hand is inherently elitist and heirarchal. It is a pragmatic compromise that arose when Lenin realised how impractical popular revolution is - Russia had a massive popular revolution in 1905 which fizzled out because of state repression, lack of direction and coordination, and finally liberal factions caving into compromises offered by the state that were then reversed in the following years. Lenin argued that is was necessary to have an ideologically unified revolutionary vanguard - a group of close-knit professional revolutionaries to safeguard the revolutionary ideology, disseminate it to the working classes and remove their 'false consciousness', and command them militarily during the revolution. The Marxist Leninist Vanguard is a project directly aimed at bypassing contesting visions of a post-revolutionary society, and any who would oppose Marxist Leninism. Lenin sure was a swell guy wasn't he? Anyway, I'm sure you can see how that's elitist and heirarchal on an organisational and intellectual level.

Vanguardism is primarily a Marxist idea, not a syndicalist one, but that doesn't mean that syndicalists are immune from behaving in vanguardist ways. Syndicalists seem to have a bad habit of professionalising activism and activists, and their particular revolutionary strategy (revolution-by-industrial-unions'-general-strike) involves copious amounts of condescending 'conciousness raising' of the industrial working class - a demographic that is, at least in the developed West, no longer anywhere near as large, relevent or potent as it used to be.
answered Dec 25, 2015 by Yosemite (6,210 points)
Thanks. In anarcho-syndicalism, is their goal just to master production per se and have one gigantic capitalist (i'm sure there's a better word than capitalist, but I can't think of one) like entity, but ran democratically? Like replicating today's current society in some sort of way? You seem to know more about it than me. I do know they fetishize work, so that's something. :)
@syndicalists would baulk at the word 'capitalist', but you've got the gist of it, and it is fun to see a syndicalist baulk every now and then ;). I think 'industrial' would be a word closer to what they advocate.

The form of post-revolution society that @syndicalists want is closely tied to how they plan on getting it - organise every worker in every workplace into their own respective industrial unions, create a confederation of these unions to organize a relentless series of general strikes that brings the state to it's knees, and then use that trade union confederation as the organisational framework for a delegative democracy, with factory councils and regional committees instead of national parliaments and congresses. There'd still be currency, although I think most @syndicalists argue for labour-backed currency rather than currency that's backed by precious metals, property, or free floating (ie. the kind we're familiar with), and distribution of goods at a regional level would be managed more through mutual aid rather than trade supposedly. Anyway there'd still be work, a militia/police force/gendarmerie of some kind, a (highly) democratic government, currency - all the trappings of a state.