Kurt's Reviews > Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice

Anarcho-Syndicalism by Rudolf Rocker
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's review
Mar 13, 09

Read in March, 2009

In all honesty, this book probably deserves 3 1/2 stars, but it won't let me do that, so I rounded up.

This was translated into English from Yiddish, so the prose might not be as sharp as it would be if it written in English (or read in Yiddish). It was heavy on the history and light on the theory, which was the opposite of what I was hoping for. It includes an almost complete history of the syndicalist movement. Indeed, it's amazing that he knew so much about the movement; especially considering how primitive technology and communication were in his time. I was hoping to find in this book an elaborate explanation of how the economic system of syndicalism works. It seems to me he didn't fully realize that's what he was dealing with here. Syndicalism is an economic system. A form of socialism, yes, but a different form. He just gave an account of the movement. Almost a pep talk, which was obviously embellished in many places. There's even one part where he refers to himself in the third person; simply throwing his name (R. Rocker) in with people like Kropotkin, Proudhon, and Nettlau. Very awkward. Not sure what he was thinking there. I know Emma Goldman was dissatisfied with this book. I can see why. It had a lot of potential.

I might have liked it better if it didn't rail against the state so much. He verbally clobbers the idea of the state (any kind of state) half to death, and it's unfortunate because a certain brand of anarchist fundamentalists really buy into that stuff. Likewise, he does the same for Marxism/Leninism, and its adherents. It's tough because the logic behind Marxism is impeccable. You can see why it's so convincing for people. It's just much too at odds with the current reality. It's too Utopian. You really see how much of a tragedy Marxism/Leninism is in this book.

I support the idea of a state (albeit one without political leaders). I don't think that makes me not an anarchist, as I think of anarchism as more of an ideal than any real model of social organization. I give this book this many stars because I did realize that I am somewhat of a syndicalist, and that being a libertarian socialist pretty much demands that you be a syndicalist. Indeed, the history of libertarian socialism is the history of anarcho-syndicalism. My main beef is that it isn't as advertised. Instead of it being called Anarcho-Syndialism: Theory and Practice, it should be called Anarcho-Syndialism: Theory and Practice but Mainly History.


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