sabotage [Fr., sabot=wooden shoe; hence, to work clumsily], form of direct action by workers against employers through obstruction of work and/or lowering of plant efficiency. Methods range from peaceful slowing of production to destruction of property. In 1897, French workers adopted sabotage as a general strategy. It was also used by the syndicalists (see syndicalism) and by the Industrial Workers of the World in the United States. It has been condemned by Communists and Socialists as counterrevolutionary because it often results in a wave of repressive measures. The term has also been used, notably by Thorstein Veblen, to refer to limitation of output by businessmen to enhance profits by maintaining scarcity of goods. In wartime it connotes nonmilitary enemy activity, by either foreign agents or native sympathizers, especially the physical damage of vital industries.
See also guerrilla warfare; terrorism.
See E. Pouget, Sabotage (1910, tr. 1913); S. B. Mathewson, Restriction of Output among Unorganized Workers (1931); E. Feit, Urban Revolt in South Africa, 1960–1964: A Case Study (1971).