Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is a saboteur. As a rule, saboteurs try to conceal their identities because of the consequences of their actions. For example, whereas an environmental pressure group might be happy to be identified with an act of sabotage, it would not want the individual identities of the perpetrators known.
Claimed explanations include:
- That it derives from the Netherlands in the 15th century when workers would throw their sabots (wooden shoes) into the wooden gears of the textile looms to break the cogs, fearing the automated machines would render the human workers obsolete.
- That it derives from the French sabot (a wooden shoe or clog) via its derivative saboter (to knock with the foot, or work carelessly).
- That it derives from the late 19th-century French slang use of the word sabot to describe an unskilled worker, so called due to their wooden clogs or sabots; sabotage was used to describe the poor quality work which such workers turned out.
As workplace action
When disgruntled workers damage or destroy equipment or interfere with the smooth running of a workplace, it is called workplace sabotage. Taylor & Walton defined it as "conscious action or inaction directed towards the mutilation or destruction of the work environment". This can be as part of an organized group activity, or the action of one or a few workers in response to personal grievances. Taylor & Walton placed workplace sabotage into three categories: (1) to reduce tension and frustration deriving from work, (2) to make the work process easier, and (3) to assert control over the work. In general, workplace sabotage takes the form of deliberate and prolonged inefficiency by the saboteurs. Alternatively there may be repeated "accidents" which cause damage/delays to equipment, supplies or processes. Whether it is hand-tools or computer files which go missing, the intended effect is the same. The only real limit to workplace sabotage is the imagination of the saboteurs.
The experience that had the most lasting impact on Haywood was witnessing a general strike on the French railroads. Tired of waiting for parliament to act on their demands, railroad workers walked off their jobs all across the country. The French government responded by drafting the strikers into the army and then ordering them back to work. Undaunted, the workers carried their strike to the job. Suddenly, they could not seem to do anything right. Perishables sat for weeks, sidetracked and forgotten. Freight bound for Paris was misdirected to Lyon or Marseille instead. This tactic — the French called it "sabotage" — won the strikers their demands and impressed Bill Haywood.
For the IWW, sabotage came to mean any withdrawal of efficiency — including the slowdown, the strike, or creative bungling of job assignments.
One of the most severe examples was at the construction site of the Robert-Bourassa Generating Station in 1974, when workers used bulldozers to topple electric generators, damaged fuel tanks, and set buildings on fire. The project was delayed a year, and the direct cost of the damage estimated at $2 million CAD. The causes were not clear, however three factors have been cited: inter-union rivalry, poor working conditions, and the perceived arrogance of American executives of the contractor, Bechtel Corporation.
As environmental action
Certain groups turn to destruction of property in order to immediately stop environmental destruction or to make visible arguments against forms of modern technology they consider detrimental to the earth and its inhabitants. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies use the term eco-terrorist when applied to damage of property. Proponents argue that since property can not feel terror, damage to property is more accurately described as sabotage. Opponents, by contrast, point out that property owners and operators can indeed feel terror. The image of the monkey wrench thrown into the moving parts of a machine to stop it from working was popularized by Edward Abbey in the novel The Monkeywrench Gang and has been adopted by eco-activists to describe destruction of earth damaging machinery.
As war tactic
In war, the word is used to describe the activity of an individual or group not associated with the military of the parties at war (such as a foreign agent or an indigenous supporter), in particular when actions result in the destruction or damaging of a productive or vital facility, such as equipment, factories, dams, public services, storage plants or logistic routes. Prime examples of such sabotage are the events of Black Tom and the Kingsland Explosion. Unlike acts of terrorism, acts of sabotage do not always have a primary objective of inflicting casualties. Saboteurs are usually classified as enemies, and like spies may be liable to prosecution and criminal penalties instead of detention as a prisoner of war. It is common for a government in power during war or supporters of the war policy to use the term loosely against opponents of the war. Similarly, German nationalists spoke of a stab in the back having cost them the loss of World War I.
A modern form of sabotage is the distribution of software intended to damage specific industrial systems. For example, the CIA is alleged to have sabotaged a Siberian pipeline during the Cold War, using information from the Farewell Dossier. A more recent case may be the Stuxnet computer worm, which was designed to subtly infect and damage specific types of industrial equipment. Based on the equipment targeted and the location of infected machines, security experts believe it to be an attack on the Iranian nuclear program by the United States or Israel.
Some criminals have engaged in acts of sabotage for reasons of extortion. For example, Klaus-Peter Sabotta sabotaged German railway lines in the late 1990s in an attempt to extort DM10 million from the German railway operator Deutsche Bahn. He is now serving a sentence of life imprisonment.
As political action
The term political sabotage is sometimes used to define the acts of one political camp to disrupt, harass or damage the reputation of a political opponent, usually during an electoral campaign. See Watergate.
- Birth control sabotage
- Edmund Charaszkiewicz
- Colin Gubbins
- Direct action
- Fifth column
- Guerrilla warfare
- Industrial espionage
- The Mole (TV series)
- Norwegian heavy water sabotage
- Setting up to fail
- Social undermining
- Special Activities Division
- Special Operations Executive
- ^ Hodson, Randy and Teresa A. Sullivan, The Social Organization of Work, Chap. 3 pg. 69
- ^ Partridge, Eric (1977). Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. Routledge. p. 2843. ISBN 0203421140.
- ^ Donald, Graeme (2008). Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis: The Military Origins of Everyday Words and Phrases. Osprey Publishing. p. 230. ISBN 1846033004.
- ^ Taylor, Laurie and Walton, Paul. Industrial Sabotage: Motives and Meanings, in Images of Deviance. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books (1971), p. 219
- ^ Rinehart, J.W. The Tyranny of Work, Canadian Social Problems Series, Academic Press Canada (1975), p. 78. ISBN 0-7747-3029-3
- ^ Roughneck, The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, Peter Carlson, 1983, page 152.
- ^ Jimthor, Stablewars, May 2008
- ^ Roughneck, The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, Peter Carlson, 1983, pages 196-197.
- ^ Rinehart, J.W. The Tyranny of Work, Canadian Social Problems Series. Academic Press Canada (1975), pp. 78-79. ISBN 0-7747-3029-3.
- ^ Dokumentarfilm.com
- ^ Markoff, John, "Malware Aimed at Iran Hit Five Sites, Report Says", New York Times, 13 February 2011, p. 15.
- Émile Pouget, Le sabotage; notes et postface de Grégoire Chamayou et Mathieu Triclot, 1913; Mille et une nuit, 2004; English translation, Sabotage, paperback, 112 pp., University Press of the Pacific, 2001, ISBN 0-89875-459-3.
- Pasquinelli, Matteo. "The Ideology of Free Culture and the Grammar of Sabotage"; now in Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2008.
- News, accounts and articles on workplace sabotage and organising - Sabotage, employee theft, strikes, etc.
- Ozymandias Sabotage Handbook
- Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching
- Article on malicious railroad sabotage
- Elizabeth Gurley Flinn, Sabotage, the conscious withdrawal of the workers' industrial efficiency
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sabotage — [ sabɔtaʒ ] n. m. • 1870; « fabrication des sabots » 1842; de saboter 1 ♦ Techn. Action de saboter (un pilotis, une traverse). 2 ♦ (fin XIXe) Cour. Action de saboter (un travail). ⇒ gâchage. « un grand nombre d ouvriers avaient prôné le sabotage… … Encyclopédie Universelle
sabotage — sab‧o‧tage [ˈsæbətɑːʒ] verb [transitive] 1. to secretly damage or destroy equipment, vehicles etc that belong to an enemy or opponent, so that they cannot be used: • There are fears that striking workers may try to sabotage the plant. 2. to… … Financial and business terms
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sabotage — sab·o·tage / sa bə ˌtäzh/ n [French, from saboter to clatter with wooden shoes, botch, sabotage, from sabot wooden shoe] 1: the willful destruction of an employer s property or the hindering of normal operations by other means 2: the injury,… … Law dictionary
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sabotage — [sab′ə täzh΄, sab΄ə täzh′] n. [Fr < saboter, to work badly, damage < sabot: see SABOT & AGE: from damage done to machinery by wooden shoes] 1. intentional destruction of machines, waste of materials, etc., as by employees during labor… … English World dictionary
sabotage — [n] damage demolition, destruction, disruption, impairment, injury, mischief, overthrow, subversion, subversiveness, treachery, treason, undermining, vandalism, wreckage, wrecking; concepts 86,246,252 Ant. aiding, assistance, fix, help sabotage… … New thesaurus
Sabotage — Sa bo tage , n. [F.] 1. (a) Scamped work. (b) Malicious waste or destruction of an employer s property or injury to his interests by workmen during labor troubles. 2. any surreptitious destruction of property or obstruction of activity by persons … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
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sabotage — ► VERB ▪ deliberately destroy or obstruct, especially for political or military advantage. ► NOUN ▪ the action of sabotaging. ORIGIN French, from saboter kick with sabots, wilfully destroy … English terms dictionary