Syndicalism is a form of economic and political organization based on workers’ control of the means of production, collective ownership of land and property, and direct democracy through workers’ councils. The syndicalist worldview places people at the center of economic activity, giving workers a greater degree of control over their lives. This makes it an attractive option for intentional communities looking to build autonomous and self-sustaining societies.
The social and economic impact of syndicalism can be seen in the labor rights gained by workers in many countries in the 20th century, as well as more equitable living wages, participatory decision making processes, and cooperative ownership models. Syndicalism is also a powerful tool for creating international solidarity between workers around the world.
The roots of syndicalism can be traced back to early labor movements in Europe, such as those led by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France or José María Arizmendiarrieta in Spain. However, the concept became more widely known after the Russian Revolution of 1917 when Vladimir Lenin advocated for its adoption as an alternative to state socialism. Since then syndicalism has been adopted by many intentional communities around the world as an effective way to create self-sustaining societies free from external interference or exploitation.
The syndicalist worldview is based on several core principles, the most important of which are the following:
Organizing around the work: Syndicalism is about organizing around the work that needs to be done in order to create a self-sustaining society. This involves creating a system of labor rights and cooperatives to ensure that all members of the community can participate in decision making processes and share in the benefits of collective ownership.
Centralization vs Decentralization: Syndicalists believe that power should be decentralized and distributed among workers’ councils or unions so that everyone has an equal voice. This ensures that decisions are made democratically and with consideration for everyone’s needs. At the same time, a centralized leadership structure provides oversight and ensures accountability.
Direct Democracy and Participatory Decision Making: Syndicalism does not rely on representative democracy or hierarchical leadership structures; instead it encourages participatory decision making among all members of the community. This ensures that everyone has an equal say in decision making processes, allowing for consensus-based solutions which take into account all perspectives.
Self-Determination and Autonomy: Syndicalism places a strong emphasis on self-determination and autonomy, allowing communities to make their own decisions without external interference or exploitation from outside forces.
Solidarity and Mutual Aid: Solidarity between workers is essential for successful syndicalist communities, as it ensures that everyone is working together towards common goals. Mutual aid also plays an important role in ensuring that resources are shared equally among all members of the community.
Economic Cooperation and Labor Rights: Syndicalists believe in creating an economic system based on cooperation rather than competition, with labor rights being respected by all members of the community. This includes minimum wages, safe working conditions, access to healthcare, education, housing, transportation, etc.
Collective Ownership of Land and Property: Collective ownership allows for resources to be shared equitably among all members of the community, ensuring that everyone has a stake in the success of the project.
Internationalism and Interdependence: Syndicalists believe in creating relationships with other intentional communities around the world in order to build a global network of solidarity.
Practices for Building an Intentional Community
Organizing a Workers’ Council or Union for the Community’s Residents: A workers’ council or union can provide a structure for members of the community to participate in decision making processes and ensure that labor rights are respected.
Creating Labor Co-Ops: Labor co-ops can provide an effective way to manage resources and businesses collectively, ensuring that everyone is sharing in the benefits.
Developing Sustainable Income: Sustainable income generation is essential for any intentional community, as it ensures that everyone has access to resources needed to survive. This can include income generated from businesses owned by the community, or income generated from outside sources (grants, donations, etc).
Creating Cooperative Systems: Food production is one of the most important aspects of any intentional community; creating cooperative systems which ensure equitable access to food is essential for maintaining self-sustainability. This includes managing resources and land cooperatively as well as creating systems for procurement and distribution.
Managing Energy Resources Efficiently and Cooperatively: Syndicalist communities must be able to manage energy resources efficiently and cooperatively; this includes sourcing energy from renewable sources such as solar or wind power as well as sourcing energy from biodiesel or microhydro power plants. It also involves efficient storage and distribution of energy so that everyone has access to what they need.
Building Community Solidarity through Education and Outreach: Education is key to building solidarity between members of an intentional community; this includes educating people about syndicalism as well as teaching people skills such as cooperative decision making, communication, and conflict resolution. Outreach is also important for building relationships with other intentional communities around the world.
Bringing It All Together
Syndicalism is a powerful tool for creating self-sustaining and autonomous intentional communities. By organizing around the work, decentralizing power structures, and creating cooperative systems for resource management, syndicalist communities can ensure that everyone has an equal voice in decision making processes and access to resources needed to survive and thrive. With its emphasis on solidarity, mutual aid, and internationalism, syndicalism is a powerful force for building a better world.