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The political theory of syndicalism gives control of both industry and government to labor union federations. Direct action, such as general strikes and sabotage, is a hallmark. Syndicalists often consider themselves Democratic Socialists. See also Unionism.

Syndicalism is one of the three most common theories of a pre-managed economic and labor structure. It believes, on an ethical basis, that all participants of each organized trade internally share equal ownership of its output and therefore deserve equal earnings and benefits within that particular trade, regardless of position or duty. This is contrasted in socialism by that stance's hold on the distribution of output from all different trades to one another as is required for each one, not necessarily considering how those trades organize themselves internally. Both these systems of pre-organized government can theoretically include variations on privatism, unlike the third such pre-arranged materialist egalitarian stand of Communism, which includes abolition of government sanctioned private ownership and private earnings in favor of making all property legally public and therefore solely the responsibility of the state.

During the Spanish Civil War, syndicalist methods and theories were used by the Spanish anarchist-syndicalist union Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), and also professed by the opposing side, the Falange Espaņola Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacionalsindicalista or the "National Syndicalists."

In the United States, the best-known syndicalist union is the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

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