Flag of the CSA.

The Combined Syndicates of America (CSA) is an American association of trade unions, based on the principles of syndicalism.

History and Influence

The Combined Syndicates of America traces its direct history back to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The IWW was founded in Chicago in June 1905 at a convention of two hundred socialists, anarchists, and radical trade unionists from all over the United States. The IWW's goal was to promote worker solidarity in the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the employing class. The IWW was best known for its motto: "an injury to one is an injury to all". One of the IWW's most important contributions to the labor movement and broader push towards social justice was that, when founded, it was the only American union to welcome all workers including women, immigrants, and Negroes into the same organization. Indeed, many of its early members were immigrants.

In 1920s, former journalist John "Jack" Reed, who turned into a savvy political operator during his time in Russia during its revolution and civil war, advocated the creation of a coalition of all the separated trade unions, as they would be stronger if united in one entity. The Industrial Workers of the World accepted the challenge and became the bulk around which the Combined Syndicates of America were born.

The Great Depression only exacerbated the feelings of social inequality and injustice among Northern workers, and lead to the white working class of the areas to find common cause with them. The failure of the 1933 campaign finally broke the last bit of trust that the two parties had with the Democrats, and the resulting anger caused the creation of a "Red Belt" in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and most other areas neighboring the Great Lakes. The socioeconomic stress of the depression caused Red Belt workers to find common cause with the CSA-supported Socialist Party of America, and only a few Democratic mayors and Senators remain in the Red Belt.

Uniting various shades of socialist, syndicalist and communist opinion, the CSA have mobilized the surging throngs of workers in America's industrial heartlands. Its headquarters are located in Chicago. Internationally, they have connections and good relations with the syndicalist government of the Commune of France, the Union of Britain, the Socialist Republic of Italy, the CNT-FAI of Spain, and Mexico.

Key Individuals

Due to the nature of the organization, there are various factions within the group who have different interpretations of socialism and syndicalism beyond that of Reed. Norman Thomas represents the less radical elements of the CSA, taking up the mantle of Eugene V. Debs' socialist legacy. Intellectual Max Schachtman seeks to structure the government in a manner similar to the Union of Britain, where the power is held by the local trade unions. Paul Mattick, a political writer and activist, favors a more orthodox syndicalist approach along the lines of France and Italy. William Z. Foster proposes centralization and state control of the economy, in line with the new Totalist doctrine.