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General strike

A general strike (or mass strike) is a strike action in which a substantial proportion of the total labour force in a city, region, or country participates. General strikes are characterised by the participation of workers in a multitude of workplaces and tend to involve entire communities. General strikes first occurred in the mid-19th century and have characterised many historically important strikes.

Antiquity

An early predecessor of the general strike may have been the secessio plebis in the Roman Republic. In the Outline Of History, H.G. Wells recorded "the general strike of the plebeians seem to have invented the strike, which now makes its first appearance in history." Their first strike occurred because they "saw with indignation their friends, who had often served the state bravely in the legions, thrown into chains and reduced to slavery at the demand of patrician creditors."

Wells noted that "[t]he patricians made a mean use of their political advantages to grow rich through the national conquests at the expense not only of the defeated enemy, but of the poorer plebeian..." The plebeians, who were expected to obey the laws, but were not allowed to know the laws (which patricians were able to recite from memory), were successful, winning the right to appeal any injustice to the general assembly. In 450 BC., in a concession resulting from the rebellion of the plebeians, the laws of Rome were written for all to peruse.

Modern era

The general strike action only became a feature of the political landscape with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. For the first time in history, large numbers of people were members of the industrial working class; they lived in cities and exchanged their labour for payment. By the 1830s, when the Chartist movement was at its peak, a true and widespread 'workers' consciousness' was beginning to awaken in England.

William Benbow pictured in Punch in 1848.

The first theorist to formulate and popularise the idea of a general strike for the purpose of political reform was the radical pamphleteer William Benbow. Closely involved with planning the attempted Blanketeers protest march by Lancashire weavers in March 1817, he became an associate of William Cobbett and passed his time "agitating the labouring classes at their trades meetings and club-houses."

On 28 January 1832 Benbow published a pamphlet entitled Grand National Holiday and Congress of the Productive Classes. Benbow began to advocate direct and even violent action for political reform, in particular he advanced his idea for a "national holiday" and "national convention". By this he meant an extended period of general strike by the working classes, which would be a sacred or holy action (hence "holy-day"), during which time local committees would keep the peace and elect delegates to a national convention or congress, which would agree the future direction of the nation. The striking workers were to support themselves with savings and confiscated parish funds, and by demanding contributions from rich people.

Benbow's idea of a Grand National Holiday was adopted by the Chartist Congress of 1839, Benbow having spent time in Manchester during 1838-9 promoting the cause and his pamphlet.

In 1842 the demands for fairer wages and conditions across many different industries finally exploded into the first modern general strike (the 1842 general strike). After the second Chartist Petition was presented to Parliament in April 1842 and rejected, the strike began in the coal mines of Staffordshire, England, and soon spread through Britain affecting factories, mills in Lancashire and coal mines from Dundee to South Wales and Cornwall. Instead of being a spontaneous uprising of the mutinous masses, the strike was politically motivated and was driven by a hard-headed agenda to win concessions. Probably as much as half of the then industrial workforce were on strike at its peak – over 500,000 men. The local leadership marshaled a growing working-class tradition to politically organise their followers to mount an articulate challenge to the capitalist, political establishment.

The mass abandonment of plantations by black slaves and poor whites during the American Civil War has, controversially, been considered a general strike. In his classic history Black Reconstruction in America, W. E. B. Du Bois describes this mass abandonment in precisely these terms:

Transforming itself suddenly from a problem of abandoned plantations and slaves captured while being used by the [Southern] enemy for military purposes, the movement became a general strike against the slave system on the part of all who could find opportunity. The trickling streams of fugitives swelled to a flood. Once begun, the general strike of black and white went madly and relentlessly on like some great saga.

The next large scale general strike took place over half a century later in Belgium, in an effort to force the government to grant universal suffrage to the people. However, there were periodical strikes throughout the 19th century that could loosely be considered as 'general strikes'. In the United States, the Philadelphia General Strike of 1835 lasted for three weeks, after which the striking workers won their goal of a ten-hour workday and an increase in wages. Later general strikes include the 1877 Saint Louis general strike, which grew out of the events of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 across the United States and the 1892 New Orleans general strike. The year of 1919 saw a cascade of general strikes around the world as a result of the political convulsions caused by the First World War – in Germany, Belfast, Seattle and Winnipeg.

The 1905 general strike in Tampere, Grand Duchy of Finland

The Russian Revolution of 1905 saw a massive wave of social unrest across the Russian Empire, characterised by large scale general strikes on the part of the industrial workers. The 1926 United Kingdom general strike started in the coal industry and rapidly escalated; the unions called out 1,750,000 workers, mainly in the transport and steel sectors, although the strike was successfully suppressed by the government.

Rosa Luxemburg

At the turn of the 20th century, Belgium was particularly prone to large scale strike actions, with at least four mass strikes occurring in 1886, 1887, 1891, and 1893. In 1886, there was the Walloon Jacquerie of 1886, but without an actual leading political organisation. The final strike was the Belgian general strike of 1893 mentioned above.

In 1902 the Belgian Labour Party launched another strike, which failed. Many German Social Democrats thought such an experiment was absurd. Drachkovitch observed that German socialists were against the general strike because "under the Kaiser, supporting it was not very safe."

Rosa Luxemburg, in her 1906 book The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions had a different view, criticizing the Belgian Labour Party for perceived tactical incompetence: A general strike forged in advance within the fetters of legality is like a war demonstration with cannons dumped into a river within the very sight of the enemy.

Carl E. Schorske wrote about the same Belgian phenomenon studied by Luxemburg as well as the German opposition to it:

In German Social Democratic circles, the general strike suffered from the hereditary taint of its anarchist origins (...) Rosa Luxemburg, who studied the Belgian strike, was particularly impressed with its success in activating the political consciousness of the backward portions of the population. She was not yet however, prepared to give it European-wide significance. Luxemburg felt it to be appropriate only in countries in which industry was geographically concentrated.

General strikes have been done in order to seek "democracy, political representation and the provision of basic education and healthcare". In Europe, general strikes were very common in the 19th and early 20th centuries.[citation needed]

  • In Portugal, a general strike was called in 2011 by the federation of public labour unions to avert austerity measures.
  • In Honduras, a general strike was called in 2011 by union workers, farmers and other organisations demanding better education, an increase in the minimum wage and against fuel price hikes.
  • In Yemen, thousands of people took the streets in a general strike in 2011 to protest President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
  • In Algeria, public sector workers in 2011 mounted a general strike for higher wages and improved working conditions.
  • In February 1947, General Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan, banned a planned general strike of 2,400,000 government workers, stating that "so deadly a social weapon" as a general strike should not be used in the impoverished and emaciated condition of Japan so soon after World War II. Japan's labour leaders complied with his ban.

Ralph Chaplin, editor of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) newspaper Solidarity and later, of the Industrial Worker, identified four levels of general strike,

  • A general strike in a community.
  • A general strike in an industry.
  • A national general strike.
  • A revolutionary or class strike—the General Strike.

In the 1905 pamphlet The Social General Strike, published in Chicago in 1905, Stephen Naft had previously acknowledged the same four levels of the general strike:

[The name "General Strike"] is often used to designate the strike of all branches in one trade; for instance the general strike of the miners; when helpers and hoisting engineers, etc. are all out. Then it is used as: General Strike of a city, i.e., "General Strike in Florence", or a General Strike in a whole country or province, for the purpose of gaining political rights, i.e., the right to vote; as in Belgium, or Sweden.

The profoundest conception of the General Strike, however, [is] the one pointing to a thorough change of the present system: a social revolution of the world; an entire new reorganisation; a demolition of the entire old system of all governments...

Strike (1910) by Stanisław Lentz, National Museum in Warsaw.

Naft's 1905 pamphlet (translated from the German language) traced existing sentiment for this goal of the general strike to proletarians of Spain and Italy.

The premise of The Social General Strike is that no matter how powerfully the working class organises itself, it still has no significant power over a congress, or the executive (which has military force at its beck and call). Therefore, a general strike called by an "energetic and enthusiastic" minority of workers, might be embraced by the mass of workers who remain unorganised. Thus it may be possible,

...to completely interrupt production in the whole country, and stop communication and consumption for the ruling classes, and that for a time long enough to totally disorganise the capitalistic society; so that after the complete annihilation of the old system, the working people can take possession through its labour unions of all the means of production...

The Social General Strike noted the complexity of modern industry, identifying the many stages in the manufacturing process and geographic dispersal of related manufacturing locations as weaknesses of the industrial process during any labour dispute. The pamphlet notes the problem of hunger during a general strike, and recommends where warehouses are available for the purpose, that proletarians,

...do the same thing as the ruling classes have done uninterruptedly for thousands of years: that is, "consume without producing." This deportment of the ruling classes the working class calls exploitation, and if the proletarians do it, the possessing classes call it plundering—and socialism calls it expropriation.

However, the pamphlet asserts that,

The immense advantage of the general strike is that it begins entirely lawfully and without any danger for the workers, and for this reason thousands will take part...

Socialists, anarchists differ on tactics

In 1966, in a study of revolutionary socialism, Milorad M. Drachkovitch of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace (a conservative think tank), noted two tactical options which divided late 19th century and early 20th century anarchists from socialists: electoral politics, which the socialists embraced, but anarchists generally opposed; and, the general strike as a mechanism to prevent war, which anarchists supported, but socialists refused to endorse.

As a group, the Socialists of the period repeatedly rejected the general strike as a tactic; however, a number of Socialist leaders advocated its use for one reason or another. Socialist leaders who embraced the general strike tended to see it as an instrument for obtaining political concessions.

Drachkovitch identified five types of general strikes:

  • the political mass strike, a general strike for political rights (such as the right to vote)
  • the general strike as a revolutionary act that would transform society
  • the general strike as a "revolutionary exercise" which would eventually lead to a transformation of society
  • a one-day demonstration general strike on May Day (International Workers' Day), aimed at identifying a "worldwide proletariat"
  • commencing in 1891, a theoretical mechanism by which to stop wars between nation states

Drachkovitch perceived the first two concepts, the socialist-friendly general strike for political rights within the system, and the general strike as a revolutionary mechanism to overthrow the existing order—which he associated with a "rising anarcho-syndicalist movement"—as mutually exclusive. Drachkovitch believed that the difficulty arose from the fact that the general strike was "one instrument", but was frequently considered "without distinction of underlying motives."

Milorad M. Drachkovitch also observed the variable success of the general strike in actual use:

In Belgium a general strike movement, broken off in one instance without damage to the organizing forces, eventually led to universal suffrage; in Holland a general strike collapsed with disastrous consequences; in Sweden, a general strike was conducted and terminated with disciplined order but did not attain the desired results. In Italy, general strikes had been both socially effective and politically unproductive. On the other hand, the events of January 1905 in Russia once more seemed to underscore the suitability of the general strike as a decisively revolutionary action.

Syndicalism and the general strike

Orthodox labour unions typically act as a representative from the workers to employers. They bargain over wages, hours, and working conditions.

Other labour organisations typically bargain for the same wage, hour, and conditions improvements, but embrace a critique of capital as establishing and maintaining a permanent working class and an elite ruling class. These unions, therefore, advocate a permanent solution to the circumstances of strikes, injunctions, and crossing other workers' picket lines. Given the hierarchical relationships of the existing economic system, these other unions perceive the necessity of a radical change in the social order. In brief, these unions are radical in their orientation, and may accurately be described as revolutionary.

One labour movement philosophy of "peaceful revolution" is known as syndicalism. Its tactical method is the strike—the regular strike for protecting the material welfare of the workers, and the general strike as a means to accomplish the desired permanent solution to industrial strife. Syndicalism has been a common union organizing principle in a number of European countries, including France, Spain, and Italy.

One variation of syndicalism is anarcho-syndicalism, which (in comparison to syndicalism) develops rank and file power with democratic traditions to maintain worker control over union leadership.

Industrial Workers of the World

In the United States, Britain, and (to a lesser extent) Australia, the trend toward revolutionary unionism culminated in the growth of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Technically, the IWW is described as a union that practices revolutionary industrial unionism. Some consider the revolutionary industrial unionism of the IWW to be a form of anarcho-syndicalism. Others point out differences; for example, Ralph Chaplin has written,

...the I.W.W. concept of the General Strike differs almost as much from that of the anarcho-syndicalist as from that of the political or craft unionist. In form, structure and objective, the I.W.W. is more all-sufficient, more mature and more modern than any of its anarcho-syndicalist predecessors.

The IWW began to fully embrace the general strike in 1910–1911. The ultimate goal of the general strike, according to Industrial Workers of the World theory, is to displace capitalists and give control over the means of production to workers. In a 1911 speech in New York City, IWW organiser Bill Haywood explained his view of the economic situation, and why he believed a general strike was justified,

The capitalists have wealth; they have money. They invest the money in machinery, in the resources of the earth. They operate a factory, a mine, a railroad, a mill. They will keep that factory running just as long as there are profits coming in. When anything happens to disturb the profits, what do the capitalists do? They go on strike, don't they? They withdraw their finances from that particular mill. They close it down because there are no profits to be made there. They don't care what becomes of the working class. But the working class, on the other hand, has always been taught to take care of the capitalist's interest in the property.

Bill Haywood believed that industrial unionism made possible the general strike, and the general strike made possible industrial democracy. According to Wobbly theory, the conventional strike is an important (but not the only) weapon for improving wages, hours, and working conditions for working people. These strikes are also good training to help workers educate themselves about the class struggle, and about what it will take to execute an eventual general strike for the purpose of achieving industrial democracy. During the final general strike, workers would not walk out of their shops, factories, mines, and mills, but would rather occupy their workplaces and take them over. Prior to taking action to initiate industrial democracy, workers would need to educate themselves with technical and managerial knowledge in order to operate industry.

According to labour historian Philip S. Foner, the Wobbly conception of industrial democracy is intentionally not presented in detail by IWW theorists; in that sense, the details are left to the "future development of society". However, certain concepts are implicit. Industrial democracy will be "a new society [built] within the shell of the old." Members of the industrial union educate themselves to operate industry according to democratic principles, and without the current hierarchical ownership/management structure. Issues such as production and distribution would be managed by the workers themselves.

In 1927 the IWW called for a three-day nationwide walkout—in essence, a demonstration general strike—to protest the execution of anarchists Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. The most notable response to the call was in the Walsenburg coal district of Colorado, where 1,132 miners stayed off the job, and only 35 went to work, a participation rate which led directly to the Colorado coal strike of 1927.

On 18 March 2011, the Industrial Workers of the World website (www.iww.org) supported an endorsement of a general strike as a follow-up to protests against Governor Scott Walker's proposed labour legislation in Wisconsin, following a motion passed by the South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL) of Wisconsin endorsing a statewide general strike as a response to those legislative proposals. The SCFL website states,

At SCFL’s monthly meeting Monday, Feb. 21, delegates endorsed the following: "The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day Walker signs his 'budget repair bill.'" An ad hoc committee was formed to explore the details. SCFL did not CALL for a general strike because it does not have that authority.

The year 1919 saw a number of general strikes throughout the United States and Canada, including two that were considered significant—the Seattle General Strike, and the Winnipeg General Strike. While the IWW participated in the Seattle General Strike, that action was called by the Seattle Central Labor Union, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL, predecessor of the AFL-CIO).

In June 1919, the AFL national organisation, in session in Atlantic City, New Jersey, passed resolutions in opposition to the general strike. The official report of these proceedings described the convention as the "largest and in all probability the most important Convention ever held" by the organisation, in part for having engineered the "overwhelming defeat of the so-called Radical element" via crushing a "One Big Union proposition", and also for defeating a proposal for a nationwide general strike, both "by a vote of more than 20 to 1." The AFL amended its constitution to disallow any central labour union (i.e., regional labour councils) from "taking a strike vote without prior authorization of the national officers of the union concerned". The change was intended to "check the spread of general strike sentiment and prevent recurrences of what happened at Seattle and is now going on at Winnipeg." The penalty for any unauthorised strike vote was revocation of that body's charter.

General strike in Catalonia, 21 February 2019
On 26 November 2020, a nationwide general strike of 250 million people, as per trade unions claim, took place in support of Indian farmers' protests.

The largest general strike that ever stopped the economy of an advanced industrial country – and the first general wildcat strike in history – was May 1968 in France. The prolonged strike involved eleven million workers for two weeks in a row, and its impact was such that it almost caused the collapse of the de Gaulle government. Other notable general strikes include:

  1. "plebeian secession" was a tactic used by the Roman plebs of vacating a city entirely and leaving its ruling elite to fend for itself, thus an even more radical action than a "general strike", yet unlike the latter term, it does not pertain to withholding labour within a wage-system. General strikes in the current sense of the term only begin to take place in a context where in which labour is treated as a commodity, and wage workers collectively organise to halt production.
  • 2021: Myanmar general strike, in response to the 2021 Myanmar coup d'état
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    2. H.G. Wells, Outline Of History, Waverly Book Company, 1920, pages 225-226
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    10. "What do we mean by a General Strike?".
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    Wikiquote has quotations related to: General strike

    General strike
    General strike Article Talk Language Watch Edit 160 160 Redirected from General strikes A general strike or mass strike is a strike action in which a substantial proportion of the total labour force in a city region or country participates General strikes are characterised by the participation of workers in a multitude of workplaces and tend to involve entire communities General strikes first occurred in the mid 19th century and have characterised many historically important strikes Vorwarts announcing a general strike in Germany on 9 November 1918 at the beginning of the November Revolution Contents 1 History 1 1 Antiquity 1 2 Modern era 1 3 Rosa Luxemburg 2 Purpose 3 Concept 3 1 Socialists anarchists differ on tactics 3 2 Syndicalism and the general strike 3 2 1 Industrial Workers of the World 4 Reaction of orthodox labour 5 Notable general strikes 6 See also 7 Footnotes 8 Further reading 9 External linksHistory EditAntiquity Edit An early predecessor of the general strike may have been the secessio plebis in the Roman Republic In the Outline Of History H G Wells recorded the general strike of the plebeians seem to have invented the strike which now makes its first appearance in history 1 Their first strike occurred because they saw with indignation their friends who had often served the state bravely in the legions thrown into chains and reduced to slavery at the demand of patrician creditors 1 Wells noted that t he patricians made a mean use of their political advantages to grow rich through the national conquests at the expense not only of the defeated enemy but of the poorer plebeian 1 The plebeians who were expected to obey the laws but were not allowed to know the laws which patricians were able to recite from memory 2 were successful winning the right to appeal any injustice to the general assembly 1 In 450 BC in a concession resulting from the rebellion of the plebeians the laws of Rome were written for all to peruse 2 Modern era Edit The general strike action only became a feature of the political landscape with the onset of the Industrial Revolution For the first time in history large numbers of people were members of the industrial working class they lived in cities and exchanged their labour for payment By the 1830s when the Chartist movement was at its peak a true and widespread workers consciousness was beginning to awaken in England William Benbow pictured in Punch in 1848 The first theorist to formulate and popularise the idea of a general strike for the purpose of political reform was the radical pamphleteer William Benbow 3 Closely involved with planning the attempted Blanketeers protest march by Lancashire weavers in March 1817 4 he became an associate of William Cobbett and passed his time agitating the labouring classes at their trades meetings and club houses 4 On 28 January 1832 Benbow published a pamphlet entitled Grand National Holiday and Congress of the Productive Classes 5 Benbow began to advocate direct and even violent action for political reform in particular he advanced his idea for a national holiday and national convention By this he meant an extended period of general strike by the working classes which would be a sacred or holy action hence holy day during which time local committees would keep the peace and elect delegates to a national convention or congress which would agree the future direction of the nation The striking workers were to support themselves with savings and confiscated parish funds and by demanding contributions from rich people 6 Benbow s idea of a Grand National Holiday was adopted by the Chartist Congress of 1839 Benbow having spent time in Manchester during 1838 9 promoting the cause and his pamphlet 7 In 1842 the demands for fairer wages and conditions across many different industries finally exploded into the first modern general strike the 1842 general strike After the second Chartist Petition was presented to Parliament in April 1842 and rejected the strike began in the coal mines of Staffordshire England and soon spread through Britain affecting factories mills in Lancashire and coal mines from Dundee to South Wales and Cornwall 8 Instead of being a spontaneous uprising of the mutinous masses the strike was politically motivated and was driven by a hard headed agenda to win concessions Probably as much as half of the then industrial workforce were on strike at its peak over 500 000 men The local leadership marshaled a growing working class tradition to politically organise their followers to mount an articulate challenge to the capitalist political establishment The mass abandonment of plantations by black slaves and poor whites during the American Civil War has controversially been considered a general strike In his classic history Black Reconstruction in America W E B Du Bois describes this mass abandonment in precisely these terms Transforming itself suddenly from a problem of abandoned plantations and slaves captured while being used by the Southern enemy for military purposes the movement became a general strike against the slave system on the part of all who could find opportunity The trickling streams of fugitives swelled to a flood Once begun the general strike of black and white went madly and relentlessly on like some great saga 9 The next large scale general strike took place over half a century later in Belgium in an effort to force the government to grant universal suffrage to the people 10 However there were periodical strikes throughout the 19th century that could loosely be considered as general strikes In the United States the Philadelphia General Strike of 1835 lasted for three weeks after which the striking workers won their goal of a ten hour workday and an increase in wages 11 Later general strikes include the 1877 Saint Louis general strike which grew out of the events of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 across the United States and the 1892 New Orleans general strike The year of 1919 saw a cascade of general strikes around the world as a result of the political convulsions caused by the First World War in Germany Belfast Seattle and Winnipeg The 1905 general strike in Tampere Grand Duchy of Finland The Russian Revolution of 1905 saw a massive wave of social unrest across the Russian Empire characterised by large scale general strikes on the part of the industrial workers The 1926 United Kingdom general strike started in the coal industry and rapidly escalated the unions called out 1 750 000 workers mainly in the transport and steel sectors although the strike was successfully suppressed by the government 12 13 Rosa Luxemburg Edit At the turn of the 20th century Belgium was particularly prone to large scale strike actions with at least four mass strikes occurring in 1886 1887 1891 and 1893 14 15 In 1886 there was the Walloon Jacquerie of 1886 but without an actual leading political organisation The final strike was the Belgian general strike of 1893 mentioned above 16 In 1902 the Belgian Labour Party launched another strike which failed Many German Social Democrats thought such an experiment was absurd Drachkovitch observed that German socialists were against the general strike because under the Kaiser supporting it was not very safe 17 Rosa Luxemburg in her 1906 book The Mass Strike the Political Party and the Trade Unions had a different view criticizing the Belgian Labour Party for perceived tactical incompetence A general strike forged in advance within the fetters of legality is like a war demonstration with cannons dumped into a river within the very sight of the enemy 18 Carl E Schorske wrote about the same Belgian phenomenon studied by Luxemburg as well as the German opposition to it In German Social Democratic circles the general strike suffered from the hereditary taint of its anarchist origins Rosa Luxemburg who studied the Belgian strike was particularly impressed with its success in activating the political consciousness of the backward portions of the population She was not yet however prepared to give it European wide significance Luxemburg felt it to be appropriate only in countries in which industry was geographically concentrated 19 Purpose EditGeneral strikes have been done in order to seek democracy political representation and the provision of basic education and healthcare 20 In Europe general strikes were very common in the 19th and early 20th centuries citation needed In Portugal a general strike was called in 2011 by the federation of public labour unions to avert austerity measures 21 In Honduras a general strike was called in 2011 by union workers farmers and other organisations demanding better education an increase in the minimum wage and against fuel price hikes 22 In Yemen thousands of people took the streets in a general strike in 2011 to protest President Ali Abdullah Saleh 23 In Algeria public sector workers in 2011 mounted a general strike for higher wages and improved working conditions 24 In February 1947 General Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan banned a planned general strike of 2 400 000 government workers stating that so deadly a social weapon as a general strike should not be used in the impoverished and emaciated condition of Japan so soon after World War II Japan s labour leaders complied with his ban 25 Concept EditRalph Chaplin editor of the Industrial Workers of the World IWW newspaper Solidarity and later of the Industrial Worker identified four levels of general strike A general strike in a community A general strike in an industry A national general strike A revolutionary or class strike the General Strike 26 In the 1905 pamphlet The Social General Strike published in Chicago in 1905 Stephen Naft had previously acknowledged the same four levels of the general strike The name General Strike is often used to designate the strike of all branches in one trade for instance the general strike of the miners when helpers and hoisting engineers etc are all out Then it is used as General Strike of a city i e General Strike in Florence or a General Strike in a whole country or province for the purpose of gaining political rights i e the right to vote as in Belgium or Sweden 27 The profoundest conception of the General Strike however is the one pointing to a thorough change of the present system a social revolution of the world an entire new reorganisation a demolition of the entire old system of all governments 27 Strike 1910 by Stanislaw Lentz National Museum in Warsaw Naft s 1905 pamphlet translated from the German language traced existing sentiment for this goal of the general strike to proletarians of Spain and Italy 28 The premise of The Social General Strike is that no matter how powerfully the working class organises itself it still has no significant power over a congress or the executive which has military force at its beck and call Therefore a general strike called by an energetic and enthusiastic minority of workers might be embraced by the mass of workers who remain unorganised 28 Thus it may be possible to completely interrupt production in the whole country and stop communication and consumption for the ruling classes and that for a time long enough to totally disorganise the capitalistic society so that after the complete annihilation of the old system the working people can take possession through its labour unions of all the means of production 29 The Social General Strike noted the complexity of modern industry identifying the many stages in the manufacturing process and geographic dispersal of related manufacturing locations as weaknesses of the industrial process during any labour dispute 29 The pamphlet notes the problem of hunger during a general strike and recommends where warehouses are available for the purpose that proletarians do the same thing as the ruling classes have done uninterruptedly for thousands of years that is consume without producing This deportment of the ruling classes the working class calls exploitation and if the proletarians do it the possessing classes call it plundering and socialism calls it expropriation 30 However the pamphlet asserts that The immense advantage of the general strike is that it begins entirely lawfully and without any danger for the workers and for this reason thousands will take part 31 Socialists anarchists differ on tactics Edit In 1966 in a study of revolutionary socialism Milorad M Drachkovitch of the Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace a conservative think tank noted two tactical options which divided late 19th century and early 20th century anarchists from socialists electoral politics which the socialists embraced but anarchists generally opposed and the general strike as a mechanism to prevent war which anarchists supported but socialists refused to endorse 32 As a group the Socialists of the period repeatedly rejected the general strike as a tactic 33 however a number of Socialist leaders advocated its use for one reason or another 34 Socialist leaders who embraced the general strike tended to see it as an instrument for obtaining political concessions 33 Drachkovitch identified five types of general strikes the political mass strike a general strike for political rights such as the right to vote the general strike as a revolutionary act that would transform society the general strike as a revolutionary exercise which would eventually lead to a transformation of society a one day demonstration general strike on May Day International Workers Day aimed at identifying a worldwide proletariat commencing in 1891 a theoretical mechanism by which to stop wars between nation states 14 Drachkovitch perceived the first two concepts the socialist friendly general strike for political rights within the system and the general strike as a revolutionary mechanism to overthrow the existing order which he associated with a rising anarcho syndicalist movement as mutually exclusive 35 Drachkovitch believed that the difficulty arose from the fact that the general strike was one instrument but was frequently considered without distinction of underlying motives 36 Milorad M Drachkovitch also observed the variable success of the general strike in actual use In Belgium a general strike movement broken off in one instance without damage to the organizing forces eventually led to universal suffrage in Holland a general strike collapsed with disastrous consequences in Sweden a general strike was conducted and terminated with disciplined order but did not attain the desired results In Italy general strikes had been both socially effective and politically unproductive On the other hand the events of January 1905 in Russia once more seemed to underscore the suitability of the general strike as a decisively revolutionary action 36 Syndicalism and the general strike Edit Orthodox labour unions typically act as a representative from the workers to employers They bargain over wages hours and working conditions Other labour organisations typically bargain for the same wage hour and conditions improvements but embrace a critique of capital as establishing and maintaining a permanent working class and an elite ruling class These unions therefore advocate a permanent solution to the circumstances of strikes injunctions and crossing other workers picket lines 37 38 39 Given the hierarchical relationships of the existing economic system these other unions perceive the necessity of a radical change in the social order In brief these unions are radical in their orientation and may accurately be described as revolutionary One labour movement philosophy of peaceful revolution is known as syndicalism Its tactical method is the strike the regular strike for protecting the material welfare of the workers and the general strike as a means to accomplish the desired permanent solution to industrial strife 40 Syndicalism has been a common union organizing principle in a number of European countries including France Spain and Italy One variation of syndicalism is anarcho syndicalism which in comparison to syndicalism develops rank and file power with democratic traditions to maintain worker control over union leadership Industrial Workers of the World Edit In the United States Britain and to a lesser extent Australia the trend toward revolutionary unionism culminated in the growth of the Industrial Workers of the World IWW Technically the IWW is described as a union that practices revolutionary industrial unionism Some consider the revolutionary industrial unionism of the IWW to be a form of anarcho syndicalism 41 Others point out differences for example Ralph Chaplin has written the I W W concept of the General Strike differs almost as much from that of the anarcho syndicalist as from that of the political or craft unionist In form structure and objective the I W W is more all sufficient more mature and more modern than any of its anarcho syndicalist predecessors 26 The IWW began to fully embrace the general strike in 1910 1911 42 The ultimate goal of the general strike according to Industrial Workers of the World theory is to displace capitalists and give control over the means of production to workers 42 43 In a 1911 speech in New York City IWW organiser Bill Haywood explained his view of the economic situation and why he believed a general strike was justified The capitalists have wealth they have money They invest the money in machinery in the resources of the earth They operate a factory a mine a railroad a mill They will keep that factory running just as long as there are profits coming in When anything happens to disturb the profits what do the capitalists do They go on strike don t they They withdraw their finances from that particular mill They close it down because there are no profits to be made there They don t care what becomes of the working class But the working class on the other hand has always been taught to take care of the capitalist s interest in the property 44 Bill Haywood believed that industrial unionism made possible the general strike and the general strike made possible industrial democracy 44 According to Wobbly theory the conventional strike is an important but not the only weapon for improving wages hours and working conditions for working people These strikes are also good training to help workers educate themselves about the class struggle and about what it will take to execute an eventual general strike for the purpose of achieving industrial democracy 45 During the final general strike workers would not walk out of their shops factories mines and mills but would rather occupy their workplaces and take them over 45 Prior to taking action to initiate industrial democracy workers would need to educate themselves with technical and managerial knowledge in order to operate industry 45 According to labour historian Philip S Foner the Wobbly conception of industrial democracy is intentionally not presented in detail by IWW theorists in that sense the details are left to the future development of society 46 However certain concepts are implicit Industrial democracy will be a new society built within the shell of the old 47 Members of the industrial union educate themselves to operate industry according to democratic principles and without the current hierarchical ownership management structure Issues such as production and distribution would be managed by the workers themselves 47 In 1927 the IWW called for a three day nationwide walkout in essence a demonstration general strike to protest the execution of anarchists Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti 48 The most notable response to the call was in the Walsenburg coal district of Colorado where 1 132 miners stayed off the job and only 35 went to work 49 a participation rate which led directly to the Colorado coal strike of 1927 On 18 March 2011 the Industrial Workers of the World website www iww org supported an endorsement of a general strike as a follow up to protests against Governor Scott Walker s proposed labour legislation in Wisconsin following a motion passed by the South Central Federation of Labor SCFL of Wisconsin endorsing a statewide general strike as a response to those legislative proposals 50 51 The SCFL website states At SCFL s monthly meeting Monday Feb 21 delegates endorsed the following The SCFL endorses a general strike possibly for the day Walker signs his budget repair bill An ad hoc committee was formed to explore the details SCFL did not CALL for a general strike because it does not have that authority 51 Reaction of orthodox labour EditThe year 1919 saw a number of general strikes throughout the United States and Canada including two that were considered significant the Seattle General Strike and the Winnipeg General Strike While the IWW participated in the Seattle General Strike that action was called by the Seattle Central Labor Union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor AFL predecessor of the AFL CIO 52 In June 1919 the AFL national organisation in session in Atlantic City New Jersey passed resolutions in opposition to the general strike The official report of these proceedings described the convention as the largest and in all probability the most important Convention ever held by the organisation in part for having engineered the overwhelming defeat of the so called Radical element via crushing a One Big Union proposition and also for defeating a proposal for a nationwide general strike both by a vote of more than 20 to 1 53 The AFL amended its constitution to disallow any central labour union i e regional labour councils from taking a strike vote without prior authorization of the national officers of the union concerned 53 The change was intended to check the spread of general strike sentiment and prevent recurrences of what happened at Seattle and is now going on at Winnipeg 53 The penalty for any unauthorised strike vote was revocation of that body s charter 53 Notable general strikes EditSee also List of strikes Chronological list of general strikes 1926 United Kingdom general strike Spanish general strike of 1988 General strike in Catalonia 21 February 2019 On 26 November 2020 a nationwide general strike of 250 million people as per trade unions claim took place in support of Indian farmers protests 54 The largest general strike that ever stopped the economy of an advanced industrial country and the first general wildcat strike in history was May 1968 in France 55 The prolonged strike involved eleven million workers for two weeks in a row 55 and its impact was such that it almost caused the collapse of the de Gaulle government Other notable general strikes include 494 BC The Aventine Secession a Ancient Rome creating the Tribune of the Plebs 449 BC A secessio plebis a leading to the adoption of the Twelve Tables 287 BC A secessio plebis a leading to the adoption of the Lex Hortensia a b c plebeian secession was a tactic used by the Roman plebs of vacating a city entirely and leaving its ruling elite to fend for itself thus an even more radical action than a general strike yet unlike the latter term it does not pertain to withholding labour within a wage system General strikes in the current sense of the term only begin to take place in a context where in which labour is treated as a commodity and wage workers collectively organise to halt production 1835 Philadelphia General Strike Pennsylvania 1842 General strike Great Britain 1862 1865 The plantation general strike in the Confederate States of the U S 1877 Great Railroad Strike of 1877 1886 Walloon jacquerie of 1886 Wallonia 1892 New Orleans General Strike New Orleans Louisiana U S 1893 Belgian general strike Belgium 1902 Geneva general strike Switzerland 1905 The Great October Strike Russia see 1905 Russian Revolution 1907 Geneva general strike Switzerland 1907 New Orleans Levee General Strike United States 1909 A general strike coupled with a major uprising in Barcelona 1909 Swedish general strike of 1909 1912 Brisbane General Strike Australia 1912 Zurich general strike Switzerland 1917 Australian general strike 1917 Brazilian general strike 1917 Spanish General Strike 1918 Irish General Strike against Conscription 1918 Swiss general strike 1919 Barcelona General Strike Spain 1919 Winnipeg General Strike Winnipeg Manitoba Canada 1919 Seattle General Strike Seattle Washington U S 1919 General Strike in Basel and Zurich 1919 Switzerland 1920 General strike in Germany to stop Kapp Putsch 1920 Romanian general strike 1922 1922 Italian general strike 1920 German passive resistance strikes at the Ruhr 1926 United Kingdom general strike 1933 French general strike 1932 Geneva general strike Switzerland 1934 Portuguese general strike of 1934 1934 West Coast waterfront strike US 1934 Minneapolis general strike US 1934 Toledo Auto Lite Strike US 1936 Palestinian general strike 1936 French general strike 1936 Spanish general strike 1936 Syrian general strike 1938 French general strike 1941 February strike Netherlands 1942 Luxembourgish general strike 1946 Indian general strike 1946 Oakland general strike Oakland California 1950 Austrian general strikes 1950 General strike against Leopold III of Belgium 1953 Ceylonese Hartal Ceylon 1954 Honduras general strike 1956 Finnish general strike 1958 Bahamas general strike citation needed 1960 1960 1961 Winter General Strike in Belgium 1968 French General Strike 1972 Quebec general strike 56 1973 Uruguayan General Strike 1974 Ulster Workers Council Strike Northern Ireland 1975 Icelandic women s strike 1976 Saint John General Strike 57 1978 1979 Strikes during Iranian Revolution 1984 Uruguayan General Strike 1988 Spanish General Strike 1989 Two hour general strike of all citizens of Czechoslovakia during the Velvet Revolution 1992 Nepalese General Strike 1995 French public sector strikes 1995 Days of Action Canada citation needed 2000 Cochabamba general strike Bolivia 2002 Italian general strike citation needed 2002 Venezuelan general strike of 2002 2003 2005 Bolivian Gas Conflict 2006 April Nepalese general strike 2007 Guinea general strike 2009 French Caribbean general strikes 2010 Spanish general strike citation needed 2012 European general strike citation needed 2012 29 March Spanish general strike citation needed 2013 Slovenian public sector general strike citation needed 2016 Indian general strike 2017 3 October Catalan independentists general strike 2017 8 November Catalan independentists general strike 2018 Iranian general strike 2019 Indian general strike citation needed 2019 Two day national Sudanese general strike during the 2018 19 Sudanese protests 2019 18 October 2019 Catalan general strike 2019 5 August Hong Kong general strike during the anti extradition bill protests 2020 Essential workers general strike 2020 2020 Belarusian protests 2020 Indian general strike of 2020 54 2021 Myanmar general strike in response to the 2021 Myanmar coup d etatSee also Edit Organized labour portal Civil disobedience Civil resistance Demonstration political Direct action Earth Strike Georges Sorel Hartal Industrial Workers of the World Industrial unionism List of strikes Nonviolent resistance Occupation of factories Protest Secessio plebis Stay away Syndicalism Workers self managementFootnotes Edit a b c d H G Wells Outline Of History Waverly Book Company 1920 page 225 a b H G Wells Outline Of History Waverly Book Company 1920 pages 225 226 Carpenter Niles William Benbow and the Origin of the General Strike The Quarterly Journal of Economics Vol 35 No 3 May 1921 pp 491 499 Oxford University Press a b Bamford Samuel 1843 Passages in the Life of a Radical Archived from the original on 15 April 2017 Retrieved 5 October 2013 Institution of the Working Classes UCL Bloomsbury Project University College London Retrieved 28 August 2012 Linton W J James Watson Manchester Abel Heywood amp Sons Archived from the original on 10 October 2017 Retrieved 5 October 2013 Beer M 1921 A History of British Socialism London G Bell amp Son OL 23304301M F C Mather 1974 The General Strike of 1842 A Study in Leadership Organisation and the Threat of Revolution during the Plug Plot Disturbance web bham ac uk 1848 George Allen amp Unwin Ltd London Retrieved 30 January 2008 W E B Du Bois Black Reconstruction in America 1935 New York The Free Press 1998 63 4 What do we mean by a General Strike Philip S Foner History of the Labor Movement in the United States Vol 1 From Colonial Times to the Founding of The American Federation of Labor International Publishers 1975 pages 116 118 G A Phillips The General Strike The Politics of Industrial Conflict 1976 Keith Laybourn The General Strike of 1926 1993 a b Milorad M Drachkovitch The revolutionary internationals 1864 1943 Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace Stanford University Press 1966 pages 99 100 Carl Strikwerda 1997 A house divided Catholics Socialists and Flemish nationalists in nineteenth century Belgium Rowman amp Littlefield p 109 ISBN 978 0 8476 8527 1 Retrieved 23 September 2010 Many Riots in Belgium New York Times 13 April 1893 Milorad M Drachkovitch The revolutionary internationals 1864 1943 Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace Stanford University Press 1966 page 82 Paul Frolich August 1994 Rosa Luxemburg ideas in action Pluto Press p 141 ISBN 978 0 902818 19 4 Retrieved 23 September 2010 Carl E Schorske 1983 German social democracy 1905 1917 the development of the great schism Harvard University Press p 34 ISBN 978 0 674 35125 7 Retrieved 23 September 2010 Labour Research Labour Research Department Fabian Research Department 2005 Retrieved 15 August 2012 The Wall Street Journal http online wsj com article BT CO 20110408 702627 html Archived 8 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 9 April 2011 Seattle PI http www seattlepi com news article Teachers strike fuels unrest in polarized Honduras 1317798 php retrieved 9 April 2011 ABC News http www abc net au pm content 2011 s3185314 htm retrieved 9 April 2011 Magharebia http www magharebia com cocoon awi xhtml1 en GB features awi newsbriefs general 2011 04 07 newsbrief 03 retrieved 9 April 2011 The Sydney Morning Herald 1 February 1947 page 1 a b Chaplin Ralph 1985 The General Strike Industrial Workers of the World Archived from the original on 6 October 2008 Retrieved 8 April 2011 a b Stephen Naft The Social General Strike Debating Club No 1 Chicago June 1905 pages 5 6 translated from the German language pamphlet of the same name by Arnold Roller a b Stephen Naft The Social General Strike Debating Club No 1 Chicago June 1905 page 6 translated from the German language pamphlet of the same name by Arnold Roller a b Stephen Naft The Social General Strike Debating Club No 1 Chicago June 1905 page 7 translated from the German language pamphlet of the same name by Arnold Roller Stephen Naft The Social General Strike Debating Club No 1 Chicago June 1905 page 8 translated from the German language pamphlet of the same name by Arnold Roller Stephen Naft The Social General Strike Debating Club No 1 Chicago June 1905 page 9 translated from the German language pamphlet of the same name by Arnold Roller Milorad M Drachkovitch The revolutionary internationals 1864 1943 Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace Stanford University Press 1966 page 81 a b Milorad M Drachkovitch The revolutionary internationals 1864 1943 Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace Stanford University Press 1966 page 83 Milorad M Drachkovitch The revolutionary internationals 1864 1943 Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace Stanford University Press 1966 pages 82 83 Milorad M Drachkovitch The revolutionary internationals 1864 1943 Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace Stanford University Press 1966 page 99 a b Milorad M Drachkovitch The revolutionary internationals 1864 1943 Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace Stanford University Press 1966 page 100 Melvyn Dubofsky We Shall Be All A History of the Industrial Workers of the World University of Illinois Press Abridged 2000 page 88 Philip S Foner History of the Labor Movement in the United States Vol 4 The Industrial Workers of the World 1905 1917 International Publishers 1997 page 18 Thomas J Hagerty and W E Trautmann One Big Union An Outline of a Possible Industrial Organization of the Working Class with Chart 1st edition Charles H Kerr amp Company 1911 Milorad M Drachkovitch The revolutionary internationals 1864 1943 Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace Stanford University Press 1966 page 84 Paul Frederick Brissenden The I W W A Study of American Syndicalism Columbia University 1919 page 45 a b Philip S Foner History of the Labor Movement in the United States Vol 4 The Industrial Workers of the World 1905 1917 International Publishers 1997 page 140 Melvyn Dubofsky We Shall Be All A History of the Industrial Workers of the World University of Illinois Press Abridged 2000 page 90 a b Bill Haywood The General Strike Chicago n d pamphlet published by Industrial Workers of the World from a New York City speech delivered March 16 1911 a b c Philip S Foner History of the Labor Movement in the United States Vol 4 The Industrial Workers of the World 1905 1917 International Publishers 1997 page 141 Philip S Foner History of the Labor Movement in the United States Vol 4 The Industrial Workers of the World 1905 1917 International Publishers 1997 pages 141 142 a b Philip S Foner History of the Labor Movement in the United States Vol 4 The Industrial Workers of the World 1905 1917 International Publishers 1997 page 142 Donald J McClurg The Colorado Coal Strike of 1927 Tactical Leadership of the IWW Labor History Vol 4 No 1 Winter 1963 page 71 Donald J McClurg The Colorado Coal Strike of 1927 Tactical Leadership of the IWW Labor History Vol 4 No 1 Winter 1963 page 72 retrieved 9 April 2011 a b http www scfl org retrieved 9 April 2011 retrieved 9 April 2011 a b c d Sheet Metal Workers Journal Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers International Alliance Volumes 24 25 Chicago Illinois 1919 pages 265 267 a b Joy Shemin 26 November 2020 At least 25 crore workers participated in general strike some states saw complete shutdown Trade unions Deccan Herald Archived from the original on 5 December 2020 a b The Beginning of an Era from Situationist International No 12 September 1969 Translated by Ken Knabb https libcom org history articles quebec general strike 1972 Leger Raymond October 14 1976 the Saint John General Strike Frank amp Ella Hatheway Labour Exhibit Centre Retrieved 6 May 2017 Further reading EditHenry L Slobodin The General Strike International Socialist Review vol 17 no 6 December 1916 pp 353 355 External links EditWikiquote has quotations related to General strikeChronology of general strikes The Mass Strike by Rosa Luxemburg 1906 General Strike 1842 From chartists net downloaded 5 June 2006 From Reflections on Violence Strike Famous Worker Uprisings slideshow by Life magazine Strikes and You from the National Alliance for Worker and Employer Rights Seattle General Strike Project Oakland 1946 Project Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title General strike amp oldid 1052240953, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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