30th Apr 2015: Syndicalism; An International and Historical Perspective by Derek Keenan


Come along to The Counting House and find out all about what Derek has to share

Title of Talk:

Syndicalism: An International and Historical Perspective

Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • What is Syndicalism? The theory and practice of the syndicalist movement

  • Origins of Syndicalism

  • The rise and and fall of the international syndicalist movement

  • The re-emergence of syndicalism

  • Syndicalism in practice today


A few paragraphs on your subject:

What does syndicalism mean to us? It may mean the million workers in the Spanish CNT fighting with a new world in their hearts during the Spanish Civil War. It may mean the legendary Industrial Workers of the World organising the One Big Union across craft and trade, race and gender lines. It may mean a vast movement of workers across Latin America during the first half of the 20th Century. It may mean Starbucks baristas fighting today to build unions in coffee houses in New York and Santiago. But it very possibly means none of these things.
Because syndicalism constitutes one of the least understood currents in the workers movement. And yet syndicalism was the driving force of immense and powerful labour movements across the globe in the first decades of the 20th Century; from Argentina to Japan and from Australia to Portugal workers gathered under its flag. And today it represents a small, but growing, part of the international labour movement; albeit one that remains unduly obscure and marginal.
Syndicalism envisaged a labour movement that favoured direct democracy, grassroots leadership, an anti-bureaucratic ethos and a strong emphasis on political independence. It created massive unions and at its hight was considered a serious threat to the status quo. So what happened to it? How and when did it disappear? Is it making a return? And if so, what does it look like?

A few paragraphs about you:

My name is Dek Keenan. I am an Independent labour movement researcher with an interest in new forms of worker organisation and the history of the syndicalist and similar movements, particularly in the United States, Canada, UK and mainland Europe. I have a first degree in Politics and a MA In International Labour and Trade Unions Studies. I am interested in adult education and particularly independent working class education.
I have spoken at various Conferences, notably, the Anarchist Studies Conference 2012, the 2013 Critical Labour Studies Conference, The 2013 and 2014 Global Labour Institute Summer School, the New Trade Unions and the Democratic Left Conference, Kiev 2013. I work at the University of Strathclyde and I am a member of the UCU.

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