On Monday, South African journalist and author Michael Schmidt delivered a lecture at Wilfrid Laurier University, where he discussed the influence of social anarchism and syndicalism on labour structures and class movements.
Schmidt’s talk focused on the tradition of anarchism as presented in his book Black Flame (Counter-power, Volume 1), which he co-wrote with Lucien van der Walt, a professor at the University of Witswatersrand.
“We actually wound up with a much broader tradition than we expected,” said Schmidt.
Black Flame analyzes the impact of anarchy around the world in the last 150 years, beginning with what Schmidt identified as its first wave from 1867 to 1894.
Schmidt exemplified later movements that had a greater impact on class and labour structures with the development of an international union called the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
The formation of the IWW – whose power peaked in the 1920s – is one of several “organized industrial trade unions [viewed] as a radical working class movement,” according to Schmidt.
Schmidt attributed the growth of what began as a maritime application to syndicalism with the growth of the IWW.
“Through seafaring members of the IWW and returning immigrants, the idea of industrial unionism spread to Australia, Latin America and Europe.”
Finally, Schmidt explained that anarchism today is in the form of anti-capitalist movements.
He concluded by quoting an edition of the New York Times: “Anarchism remains an idea that will not die.”