General strike

General strike

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A general strike is a strike action
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

 by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region, or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 sympathies of the participants. It is also characterized by participation of workers in a multitude of workplaces, and tends to involve entire communities. The general strike has waxed and waned in popularity since the mid-19th century, and has characterized many historically important strikes.

Purpose


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 century. It could be argued that many of them have contributed to rights, such as universal healthcare, low cost college education, and higher taxes on the rich.

In Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, a general strike has been called by the federation of public labor unions to avert austerity measures.

In Honduras
Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

, a general strike has been called by Union workers, farmers and other organizations demanding better education, an increase in the minimum wage and against fuel price hikes.

In Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

, a general strike has been called by protesters to protest the presidency of that country.

In Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, public sector workers have mounted a general strike for higher wages and improved working conditions.

At any given moment, there may be general strikes in numerous nations around the world. Government leaders may seek to ban general strikes, and in some cases they are successful. In February, 1947, General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers was the title held by General Douglas MacArthur during the Occupation of Japan following World War II...

 in Japan, banned a planned general strike of 2,400,000 government workers, stating that "so deadly a social weapon" as the general strike should not be used in the impoverished and emaciated condition of Japan so soon after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Japan's labour leaders complied with his ban.

Concept


Ralph Chaplin
Ralph Chaplin
Ralph Hosea Chaplin was an American writer, artist and labor activist. At the age of seven, he saw a worker shot dead during the Pullman strike in Chicago, Illinois. He had moved with his family from Ames, Kansas to Chicago in 1893...

, editor of the Industrial Workers of the World
Industrial Workers of the World
The Industrial Workers of the World is an international union. At its peak in 1923, the organization claimed some 100,000 members in good standing, and could marshal the support of perhaps 300,000 workers. Its membership declined dramatically after a 1924 split brought on by internal conflict...

 (IWW) newspaper Solidarity
Solidarity (U.S. newspaper)
Solidarity, a newspaper published by the Industrial Workers of the World, was an eastern U.S. publication. The newspaper, the official periodical of the organization in its early years, was born of the McKees Rock strike in 1909, initially by the IWW's Pittsburgh-New Castle Industrial Council...

and later, of the Industrial Worker
Industrial Worker
The Industrial Worker, "the voice of revolutionary industrial unionism," is the newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World . It is currently released ten times a year, printed and edited by union labor, and is frequently distributed at radical bookstores, demonstrations, strikes and labor...

, 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 reorganization; a demolition of the entire old system of all governments...


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 organizes 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, may be embraced by the mass of workers who remain unorganized. 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 disorganize the capitalistic society; so that after the complete annihilation of the old system, the working people can take possession through its labor 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 labor 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
Expropriation
Expropriation is the politically motivated and forceful confiscation and redistribution of private property outside the common law. Unlike eminent domain or laws regulating the foreign investment, expropriation takes place outside the common law and may be used to denote an armed robbery by...

.


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
Second International
The Second International , the original Socialist International, was an organization of socialist and labour parties formed in Paris on July 14, 1889. At the Paris meeting delegations from 20 countries participated...

, Milorad M. Drachkovitch
Milorad M. Drachkovitch
Milorad M. Drachkovitch was the posthumous son of Milorad T. Drachkovitch, Minister of the Interior in the Former Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Drachkovitch was born in Belgrade. During World War II, Drachkovitch fled to escape the communist regime in Yugoslavia and fought with the Resistance against...

 of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace
Hoover Institution
The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace is a public policy think tank and library founded in 1919 by then future U.S. president, Herbert Hoover, an early alumnus of Stanford....

 (a conservative/libertarian think tank
Think tank
A think tank is an organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, and technology issues. Most think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax...

), 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
    International Workers' Day is a celebration of the international labour movement and left-wing movements. It commonly sees organized street demonstrations and marches by working people and their labour unions throughout most of the world. May 1 is a national holiday in more than 80 countries...

     (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 in conflict. 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 labor unions typically act as a representative from the workers to employers. They bargain over wages, hours, and working conditions.

Other labor organizations 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
Labour movement
The term labour movement or labor movement is a broad term for the development of a collective organization of working people, to campaign in their own interest for better treatment from their employers and governments, in particular through the implementation of specific laws governing labour...

 philosophy of "peaceful revolution
Revolution
A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political revolution:...

" is known as syndicalism
Syndicalism
Syndicalism is a type of economic system proposed as a replacement for capitalism and an alternative to state socialism, which uses federations of collectivised trade unions or industrial unions...

. 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
Anarcho-syndicalism
Anarcho-syndicalism is a branch of anarchism which focuses on the labour movement. The word syndicalism comes from the French word syndicat which means trade union , from the Latin word syndicus which in turn comes from the Greek word σύνδικος which means caretaker of an issue...

, 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
Industrial Workers of the World
The Industrial Workers of the World is an international union. At its peak in 1923, the organization claimed some 100,000 members in good standing, and could marshal the support of perhaps 300,000 workers. Its membership declined dramatically after a 1924 split brought on by internal conflict...

 (IWW). Technically, the IWW is described as a union that practices revolutionary industrial unionism
Industrial unionism
Industrial unionism is a labor union organizing method through which all workers in the same industry are organized into the same union—regardless of skill or trade—thus giving workers in one industry, or in all industries, more leverage in bargaining and in strike situations...

. Some consider the revolutionary industrial unionism of the IWW to be a form of anarcho-syndicalism. Others point out differences; for example, Ralph Chaplin
Ralph Chaplin
Ralph Hosea Chaplin was an American writer, artist and labor activist. At the age of seven, he saw a worker shot dead during the Pullman strike in Chicago, Illinois. He had moved with his family from Ames, Kansas to Chicago in 1893...

 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 organizer 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
Bill Haywood
William Dudley Haywood , better known as "Big Bill" Haywood, was a founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World , and a member of the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of America...

 believed that industrial unionism
Industrial unionism
Industrial unionism is a labor union organizing method through which all workers in the same industry are organized into the same union—regardless of skill or trade—thus giving workers in one industry, or in all industries, more leverage in bargaining and in strike situations...

 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 labor 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
Sacco and Vanzetti
Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were anarchists who were convicted of murdering two men during a 1920 armed robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, United States...

. The most notable response to the call was in the Walsenburg
Walsenburg, Colorado
The City of Walsenburg or Los Leones is a Statutory City that is the county seat and the most populous city of Huerfano County, Colorado, United States...

 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 March 18, 2011, the Industrial Workers of the World website (www.iww.org) supported an endorsement of a general strike as a followup to protests against Governor Scott Walker
2011 Wisconsin protests
The 2011 Wisconsin protests were a series of demonstrations in the state of Wisconsin in the United States beginning in February involving at its zenith as many as 100,000 protestors opposing the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill. Subsequently, anti-tax activists and other conservatives, including tea...

's proposed labor legislation in Wisconsin
Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

, 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.

Reaction of orthodox labor


The year 1919 saw a number of general strikes throughout North America, 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
American Federation of Labor
The American Federation of Labor was one of the first federations of labor unions in the United States. It was founded in 1886 by an alliance of craft unions disaffected from the Knights of Labor, a national labor association. Samuel Gompers was elected president of the Federation at its...

 (AFL, predecessor of the AFL-CIO
AFL-CIO
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, commonly AFL–CIO, is a national trade union center, the largest federation of unions in the United States, made up of 56 national and international unions, together representing more than 11 million workers...

).

In June, 1919, the AFL national organization, in session in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City is a city in Atlantic County, New Jersey, United States, and a nationally renowned resort city for gambling, shopping and fine dining. The city also served as the inspiration for the American version of the board game Monopoly. Atlantic City is located on Absecon Island on the coast...

, 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 organization, 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 labor union (i.e., regional labor 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 Winnepeg." The penalty for any unauthorized strike vote was revocation of that body's charter.

Rome


The first general strike may have been the secessio plebis
Secessio plebis
Secessio plebis was an informal exercise of power by Rome's plebeian citizens, similar to a general strike taken to the extreme. During a secessio plebis, the plebs would simply abandon the city en masse and leave the patrician order to themselves...

in ancient Rome. In the Outline Of History, H.G. Wells recorded "the general strike of the plebeians; 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
Patrician
The term patrician originally referred to a group of elite families in ancient Rome, including both their natural and adopted members. In the late Roman Empire, the class was broadened to include high council officials, and after the fall of the Western Empire it remained a high honorary title in...

 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.

North America


North American general strikes include the 1877 Saint Louis general strike
1877 Saint Louis general strike
Generally accepted as the first general strike in America, the 1877 Saint Louis general strike grew out of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. The general strike was largely organized by the Knights of Labor and the Marxist-leaning Workingmen's Party, the main radical political party of the era. ...

, which grew out of the events of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877
Great railroad strike of 1877
The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 began on July 14 in Martinsburg, West Virginia, United States and ended some 45 days later after it was put down by local and state militias, and federal troops.-Economic conditions in the 1870s:...

 across the United States, and the 1892 New Orleans general strike
1892 New Orleans general strike
The New Orleans general strike was a general strike in the U.S. city of New Orleans, Louisiana, that began on November 8, 1892. Despite appeals to racial hatred, black and white workers remained united...

.

1919 Seattle general strike


In Seattle, 35,000 shipyard workers went on strike for a pay increase. The Seattle Central Labor Council called for a city-wide strike in support. More than one hundred union locals voted to strike. Total number of strikers were sixty-thousand union workers, joined by 40,000 other workers who walked out in sympathy.

The city was successfully shut down, except for essential needs such as fire protection and hospital laundry. Thirty-five neighborhood milk stations were set up throughout the city, and large kitchens prepared thirty thousand meals per day.

National leadership of the American Federation of Labor
American Federation of Labor
The American Federation of Labor was one of the first federations of labor unions in the United States. It was founded in 1886 by an alliance of craft unions disaffected from the Knights of Labor, a national labor association. Samuel Gompers was elected president of the Federation at its...

 and other top union officials opposed the strike, and successfully brought pressure to end it.

According to Howard Zinn, participants in the strike were mostly affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, and there were only a few IWW locals. Zinn observed,


The strike had been peaceful. But when it was over, there were raids and arrests: on the Socialist party headquarters, on a printing plant. Thirty-nine members of the IWW were jailed as "ring-leaders of anarchy."

1934 textile workers


The term "general strike" is sometimes applied to large-scale strikes of all of the workers in a particular industry, such as the Textile workers strike (1934)
Textile workers strike (1934)
The textile workers' strike of 1934 was the largest strike in the labor history of the United States at the time, involving 400,000 textile workers from New England, the Mid-Atlantic states and the U.S. Southern states, lasting twenty-two days...

. Such "general" strikes, however massive they might be, involve workers only in a particular workplace.

1934 dock workers strike


The classic general strike involves workers (and members of the working-class) who may have no direct stake in the outcome of the strike. For example, in the San Francisco General Strike of 1934
1934 West Coast Longshore Strike
The 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike lasted eighty-three days, triggered by sailors and a four-day general strike in San Francisco, and led to the unionization of all of the West Coast ports of the United States...

, both union and non-union workers struck for four days to protest the police and employers' tactics that had killed two picketers and in support of the longshoremen's and seamen's demands.

1934 Teamsters strike


The distinction between a strike of different organizations, and a general strike is not always clear. In the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934
Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934
The Minneapolis General Strike of 1934 grew out of a strike by Teamsters against most of the trucking companies operating in Minneapolis, a major distribution center for the Upper Midwest. The strike began on May 16, 1934 in the Market District and ensuing violence lasted periodically throughout...

, as an example, many building trades unions and organizations of unemployed workers in federal work projects struck in sympathy with striking truck drivers and to protest the police violence against picketers. Thousands of others participated in demonstrations to support the strikers. Those sympathy strikes, while sizable, never acquired the scope necessary to amount to a "general strike", however, and the organizers of the Teamsters' strike did not describe it as such.

1946 Oakland strike


In October 1946, women at two department stores went on strike. On December 1, 400 members of the city's police force were employed to break the strike. Police succeeded in breaking the picket line, but their actions created a spontaneous general strike throughout the city. An estimated 130,000 people stopped work, essentially shutting down the city.

The Belgian experience and Rosa Luxemburg


Milorad M. Drachkovitch noted four mass strikes in Belgium — 1886, 1887, 1891, and 1893 — which eventually led to universal suffrage.

Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 was likely one of the first important industrial countries where a general strike happened, at least in Europe. In 1886, there was the Walloon Jacquerie of 1886
Walloon Jacquerie of 1886
The Walloon jacquerie of 1886 was a working class jacquerie of a bloody spring as many Walloon scholars are calling it This violent upheaval of the Belgian, especially Walloon proletariat, caused a profound psychological shock in an atmosphere of fear of an inevitable and explosive social...

, but without an actual leading political organisation. The final strike was the Belgian general strike of 1893
Belgian general strike of 1893
The Belgian general strike of 1893 was ordered by the General Board of the Belgian Labour Party after the Belgian Parliament rejected the Law Proposal on universal suffrage....

.

In his book about Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and activist of Polish Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen...

, Paul Frölich quotes several experiences of general strikes, including the Belgian general strike for the universal suffrage in 1893. Although the strike succeeded, absolute equality of suffrage had yet to be obtained.

In 1902 the Belgian Labour Party launched an other 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
Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and activist of Polish Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen...

 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.


The Walloon author Claude Renard explained the relative successes of the general strike by the relative small territory of Belgium (and especially Wallonia where the industry was concentrated). He also quoted Luxemburg who criticized Le Peuple, the official newspaper of the Belgian Labour Party who was again in favour of the German method after the General strike of 1902 failed. In Die Neue Zeit
Die Neue Zeit
Die Neue Zeit was a German socialist theoretical journal of the Social Democratic Party of Germany that was published from 1883 to 1923. Founded by leading socialist politicians and theorists, it became the most important organ of the SPD competing with Sozialistische Monatshefte...

, she pointed out the small territory of Belgium, the fact that only 3 or 400 thousand workers were able to make a country strike-bound. But she insisted also about a climate of liberty and democracy where the working class is really stronger, in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 as well as in Belgium.

For several historians, it seemed that Wallonia sprang from these strikes and likely from the last Belgian general strike the 1960-1961 Winter General Strike
1960-1961 Winter General Strike
1960–1961 Winter General Strike was the most important strike of the 20th century in Belgium and was called the Strike of the Century. Its triggering factor was Eyskens' government introducing a number of austerity policies under the general name Loi unique...

.

Spain


General strikes were frequent in Spain
Anarchism in Spain
Anarchism has historically gained more support and influence in Spain than anywhere else, especially before Francisco Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939....

 during the early 20th century, where revolutionary anarcho-syndicalism
Anarcho-syndicalism
Anarcho-syndicalism is a branch of anarchism which focuses on the labour movement. The word syndicalism comes from the French word syndicat which means trade union , from the Latin word syndicus which in turn comes from the Greek word σύνδικος which means caretaker of an issue...

 was most popular.

Notable general strikes


The largest general strike that ever stopped the economy of an advanced industrial country
Developed country
A developed country is a country that has a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue...

 – 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
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 government. Other notable general strikes include:
  • 494 BC – The Aventine Secession, Ancient Rome, creating the Tribune of the Plebs
  • 449 BC – A secessio plebis
    Secessio plebis
    Secessio plebis was an informal exercise of power by Rome's plebeian citizens, similar to a general strike taken to the extreme. During a secessio plebis, the plebs would simply abandon the city en masse and leave the patrician order to themselves...

     leading to the adoption of the Twelve Tables
    Twelve Tables
    The Law of the Twelve Tables was the ancient legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law. The Law of the Twelve Tables formed the centrepiece of the constitution of the Roman Republic and the core of the mos maiorum...

  • 287 BC – A secessio plebis leading to the adoption of the Lex Hortensia
    Lex Hortensia
    Lex Hortensia was a law passed in Ancient Rome in 287 BC which made all resolutions passed by plebeians binding on all citizens.-Introduction:...

  • 1842 – 1842 General Strike
    1842 General Strike
    The 1842 General Strike, also known as the Plug Plot Riots, started among the miners in Staffordshire, England, and soon spread through Britain affecting factories, mills and coal mines from Dundee to South Wales and Cornwall....

    , Great Britain
  • 1886 - Walloon jacquerie of 1886
    Walloon Jacquerie of 1886
    The Walloon jacquerie of 1886 was a working class jacquerie of a bloody spring as many Walloon scholars are calling it This violent upheaval of the Belgian, especially Walloon proletariat, caused a profound psychological shock in an atmosphere of fear of an inevitable and explosive social...

     Wallonia
  • 1893 - Belgian general strike of 1893
    Belgian general strike of 1893
    The Belgian general strike of 1893 was ordered by the General Board of the Belgian Labour Party after the Belgian Parliament rejected the Law Proposal on universal suffrage....

     Belgium
    Belgium
    Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

     Wallonia
  • 1902 – Geneva General Strike of 1902, Switzerland
  • 1905 – The Great October Strike, Russia
  • 1907 – Geneva General Strike of 1907, Switzerland
  • 1907 - New Orleans Levee General Strike, United States
  • 1909 – Swedish General Strike
    Swedish General Strike
    The Swedish General Strike of August 4 to September 4, 1909, was a general work stoppage by over 300,000 individuals all over Sweden. It was the first major conflict between the Swedish Trade Union Confederation , and the Swedish Employers Association...

  • 1909 - Uprising of the 20,000
  • 1912 – Brisbane General Strike
    1912 Brisbane General Strike
    The 1912 Brisbane General Strike in Queensland, Australia, began when members of the Australian Tramway Employees Association were dismissed when they wore union badges to work on 18 January 1912...

    , Australia
  • 1912 – Zurich General Strike of 1912, Switzerland
  • 1917 – Australian General Strike
    Australian General Strike of 1917
    The General Strike of 1917 was a general strike which began in the Australian state of New South Wales and spread to other states over six weeks from 2 August to 8 September 1917.-Background:...

  • 1917 – Brazilian General Strike
  • 1917 – Spanish General Strike
  • 1918 – Swiss General Strike
  • 1919 – Barcelona General Strike, Spain
  • 1919 – Winnipeg General Strike, Canada
  • 1919 – Seattle General Strike, US
  • 1919 – General Strike in Basel and Zurich 1919, Switzerland
  • 1920 – German Kapp Putsch Strike
    Kapp Putsch
    The Kapp Putsch — or more accurately the Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch — was a 1920 coup attempt during the German Revolution of 1918–1919 aimed at overthrowing the Weimar Republic...

  • 1922 – Italian General Strike
    Italian General Strike
    The Italian General Strike was a general strike against Benito Mussolini's power-grab with the March on Rome, in late October 1922. It was led by socialists and ended in defeat for the workers...

  • 1920 - German passive resistance strikes at the Ruhr
  • 1926 – UK General Strike of 1926
    UK General Strike of 1926
    The 1926 general strike in the United Kingdom was a general strike that lasted nine days, from 4 May 1926 to 13 May 1926. It was called by the general council of the Trades Union Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening...

  • 1933 - French general strike of 1933
  • 1932 – Geneva General Strike of 1932, Switzerland
  • 1934 – West Coast Longshoremen's Strike, US
  • 1934 – Minneapolis Teamsters Strike
    Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934
    The Minneapolis General Strike of 1934 grew out of a strike by Teamsters against most of the trucking companies operating in Minneapolis, a major distribution center for the Upper Midwest. The strike began on May 16, 1934 in the Market District and ensuing violence lasted periodically throughout...

    , US
  • 1934 – Toledo Auto-Lite Strike
    Auto-Lite strike
    The Toledo Auto-Lite strike was a strike by a federal labor union of the American Federation of Labor against the Electric Auto-Lite company of Toledo, Ohio, from April 12 to June 3, 1934....

    , US
  • 1936 – Palestinian general strike
    Palestinian general strike
    The Palestinian general strike lasted from April–October 1936 in the British Mandate of Palestine and was part of the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine....

  • 1936 - French general strike of 1936
  • 1936 – Syrian General Strike
    1936 Syrian general strike
    The 1936 Syrian general strike gave fresh momentum to that country's nationalist movement, which had been stalled since the 1933 suspension of parliament. When French Mandate authorities arrested prominent members of the National Bloc and closed its offices in Damascus, demonstrations in that city,...

  • 1941 – February Strike
    February strike
    The 1941 February Strike, also known as 'The Strike of February 1941', was a general strike organized during World War II in the Netherlands against the anti-Jewish measures and activities of the Nazis. Its direct causes were the pogroms held by the Germans in the Jewish neighbourhood of Amsterdam....

    , Netherlands
  • 1942 – Luxembourgian General Strike
  • 1946 – Indian General Strike
  • 1946 - Oakland, California
    Oakland, California
    Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

     General Strike
  • 1950 – Austrian General Strikes
    1950 Austrian general strikes
    The Austrian General Strikes of 1950 were masterminded by the Communist Party of Austria with half-hearted support of the Soviet occupation authorities. In August–October of 1950 Austria faced a severe social and economic crisis caused by anticipated withdrawal of American financial aid and a sharp...

  • 1950 - General strike against Leopold III of Belgium
    General strike against Leopold III of Belgium
    The Royal Question refers to the 1950 political conflict surrounding the question whether King Leopold III should return to Belgium after World War II. A referendum was organised, in which the majority voted in favour of his return...

  • 1953 - Hartal 1953
    Hartal 1953
    Hartal 1953 was a country-wide demonstration, commonly known as a hartal, held in Ceylon on August 12, 1953. It was organized to protest of the policies and actions of the incumbent United National Party government, and resulted in the resignation of the Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake...

    , Ceylon
  • 1954 - General strike of 1954, Honduras
    General strike of 1954 (Honduras)
    The General Strike of 1954 was a watershed political and economic event in the history of Honduras that ushered in widespread change.When former United Fruit Company lawyer Juan Manuel Gálvez became president in 1954, following the contested election of 1953, he surprised everyone by adopting a...

  • 1956 – Finnish General Strike
  • 1960 - 1960-1961 Winter General Strike
    1960-1961 Winter General Strike
    1960–1961 Winter General Strike was the most important strike of the 20th century in Belgium and was called the Strike of the Century. Its triggering factor was Eyskens' government introducing a number of austerity policies under the general name Loi unique...

     in Wallonia
  • 1968 – French General Strike
  • 1973 – Uruguayan General Strike
    Uruguay general strike of 1973
    In 1973 a coup was declared in Uruguay by the president, Juan María Bordaberry, who closed parliament and imposed direct rule from a junta of military generals. The official reason was to crush the Tupamaros, a Marxist urban guerrilla movement. The leftist trade union federations called a general...

  • 1974 – Ulster Workers Council Strike, Northern Ireland.
  • 1984 – Uruguayan General Strike
    History of Uruguay
    This is about the history of Uruguay.-Pre-Columbian times and colonization:The only documented inhabitants of Uruguay before European colonization of the area were the Charrua, a small tribe driven south by the Guaraní of Paraguay...

  • 1988 – Spanish General Strike
    Spanish general strike of 1988
    Spain's 1988 general strike took place on December 14, and in Spain it is simply called 14-D . It was called by the two main trade unions: CCOO and Unión General de Trabajadores ....

  • 1989 – 2-hour general strike of all citizens of Czechoslovakia during the Velvet Revolution
    Velvet Revolution
    The Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that took place from November 17 – December 29, 1989...

  • 1992 – Nepalese General Strike
  • 1995 – French Public Sector Strikes
    1995 strikes in France
    The 1995 strikes in France were a series of general strikes in France, mostly in the public sector in late 1995. The strikes received great popular support despite paralyzing the country's transportation infrastructure...

  • 1995 – Days of Action, Canada
  • 2000 – Cochabamba General Strike
    2000 Cochabamba protests
    The Cochabamba protests of 2000, also known as the "Cochabamba Water Wars", were a series of protests that took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third largest city, between January 1999 and April 2000 in response to multinational participation in the infrastructure and management of the city's...

    , Bolivia
  • 2002 – Italian General Strike
  • 2005 – Bolivian Gas Conflict
  • 2006 - April 2006 Nepalese general strike
    2006 democracy movement in Nepal
    The 2006 Democracy Movement is a name given to the political agitations against the direct and undemocratic rule of King Gyanendra of Nepal. The movement is also sometimes referred to as Jana Andolan-II , implying it being a continuation of the 1990 Jana Andolan.-Reinstitution of Parliament:In a...

  • 2007 – Guinea General Strike
  • 2009 – French Caribbean General Strikes
    2009 French Caribbean general strikes
    The 2009 French Caribbean general strikes began in the French overseas region of Guadeloupe on 20 January 2009, and spread to neighbouring Martinique on 5 February 2009. Both islands are located in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean...

  • 2010 - Spanish General Strike

See also


  • Secessio plebis
    Secessio plebis
    Secessio plebis was an informal exercise of power by Rome's plebeian citizens, similar to a general strike taken to the extreme. During a secessio plebis, the plebs would simply abandon the city en masse and leave the patrician order to themselves...

  • Hartal
    Hartal
    Hartal is a term in many Indian languages for strike action, used often during the Indian Independence Movement. It is mass protest often involving a total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, courts of law as a form of civil disobedience...

  • Stay away
    Stay away
    A stay away, also known as a stay-away or stayaway, is a form of protest where people are told to "stay away" from work, similar to a general strike.- In Zimbabwe :...

  • Direct action
    Direct action
    Direct action is activity undertaken by individuals, groups, or governments to achieve political, economic, or social goals outside of normal social/political channels. This can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action...

  • Occupation of factories
    Occupation of factories
    Occupation of factories is a method of the workers' movement used to prevent lock outs. They may sometimes lead to "recovered factories," in which the workers self-manage the factories.They have been used in many strike actions, including:...

  • Workers' self-management
    Workers' self-management
    Worker self-management is a form of workplace decision-making in which the workers themselves agree on choices instead of an owner or traditional supervisor telling workers what to do, how to do it and where to do it...

  • Georges Sorel
    Georges Sorel
    Georges Eugène Sorel was a French philosopher and theorist of revolutionary syndicalism. His notion of the power of myth in people's lives inspired Marxists and Fascists. It is, together with his defense of violence, the contribution for which he is most often remembered. Oron J...

  • List of strikes
  • Industrial unionism
    Industrial unionism
    Industrial unionism is a labor union organizing method through which all workers in the same industry are organized into the same union—regardless of skill or trade—thus giving workers in one industry, or in all industries, more leverage in bargaining and in strike situations...

  • Industrial Workers of the World
    Industrial Workers of the World
    The Industrial Workers of the World is an international union. At its peak in 1923, the organization claimed some 100,000 members in good standing, and could marshal the support of perhaps 300,000 workers. Its membership declined dramatically after a 1924 split brought on by internal conflict...


External links