Tuesday, February 13, 2007

General Strike

A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labor force in a city, region or country. While a general strike can be initiated based on political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class 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.

The term "general strike" is sometimes also applied to large-scale strikes of all of the workers in a particular industry, such as the Textile workers strike (1934). Those "general" strikes, however massive they might be, only involve workers in a particular workplace. The classic general strike, by contrast, also involves workers (and members of the working-class) who have no direct stake in the outcome of the strike; as an example, in the San Francisco General Strike of 1934, both union and non-union workers struck for four days in protest of the police and employers' tactics that had killed two picketers and in support of the longshoremen's and seamen's demands.

The distinction is not always that clearcut. In the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934, as an example, many building trades unions and organizations of unemployed workers in federal work projects struck in sympathy with striking truckdrivers and in protest against the police violence directed against picketers; thousands of others participated in demonstrations in support of the strikers. Those sympathy strikes, while sizeable, never acquired the duration or scope necessary to amount to a "general strike", however, and the organizers of the Teamsters' strike did not describe it as such.

Syndicalism and the general strike

Some in the labor movement hope to mount a "peaceful revolution" by organizing enough strikers to completely paralyze the state and corporate apparatus. With this goal achieved, the workers would be able to re-organize society along radically different lines. This philosophy, known as syndicalism, enjoyed modest support amongst the radical sections of the labour movement in the late 19th and early 20th century. The United States, Canada, and (to a lesser extent) Australia had this trend culminate in the growth of the Industrial Workers of the World. General strikes were frequent in Spain during the early twentieth century, where revolutionary anarcho-syndicalism was most popular. The biggest general strike in recent European history – and the largest general wildcat strike ever – was May 1968 in France.

Notable general strikes


External links

Love stops war when it becomes a General Strike

Student strike against the war on February 15th

Students at UC - Santa Barbara have initiated a one day student strike against the war on February 15th. Students at Columbia University, UC - Berkeley, Sonoma State, Occidental College, Fordham University, San Francisco State, University of North Carolina - Greensboro; and Columbia College (Chicago) are planning rallies, walk-outs, and/or strikes on their campuses February 15th.

February 15th marks the 4th anniversary of when millions of people came out around the world to protest Bush's planned war on Iraq. In the wake of Bush's escalation of a war that has already caused the deaths of 655,000 Iraqis and over 3,000 US soldiers, and threats to attack Iran, this student strike is urgently needed, and must spread to other campuses quickly. Now is not the time to be waiting for Congress to make slow incremental steps towards some eventual phased withdrawal. Now is the time for millions of people to get out and demand an end to the war immediately and the Bush administration be impeached for war crimes.

Now is the Time to Act. The mission of this generation must be to drive out the Bush regime or we will inherit a horrible future. Organize walkouts at your High School. Hold a protest in front of school during lunch. Mobilize students to wear armbands that read: " End the War Now" and/or "Bush Must Go".

Spread the word about this student strike everywhere. Punk band Anti-Flag posted the strike on their website 2/12/07. Email this everywhere you can, get it posted on websites, myspace, etc.

Post the above graphic everywhere [click here for gif file] Download a sample February 15th flyer [ click here ]

Press Release [ click here ]

A Challenge to Students:

Organize a strike on your campus Feb. 15

February 15th and the Questions Keeping Us Up at Night by Allen Lang

Voices in support of the student strike

Message from Howard Zinn in support of student strike

Noam Chomsky lends support to student strike

Read Calls for student strikes Feb. 15 from the following campuses:

UC - Santa Barbara

Columbia University

Occidental College (LA)

Columbia College (Chicago)

List of campuses planning activities Feb. 15 Download a Sample Feb 15 Flyer

Message from Howard Zinn:

 "I would like to endorse the idea of a student strike on campuses all over the country on Feb. 15, to rekindle the flame of protest that flared up all over the world on that date four years ago, as ten million people protested the pending invasion of Iraq by the United States. A student strike at this time would be a great boost to the movement against the war and would send a signal to Congress that it should listen to the American people and act immediately to stop this ugly war."

Below is the call from several students at UC - Santa Barbara for the student strike:

We, the students and staff of UC Santa Barbara, want to challenge our generation to put an end to the U.S. conquest of Iraq. Right now most opposition to the war is only symbolic. Congress is being sheepish and choosing not to end the war because we, the people, are not forcing them to act.

Thus, if we really want to affect policies we need to withdraw our compliance and stop business as usual. Shutting down the university is the most immediate and powerful thing students can do on this front. Striking sends the message to our university's administration and the world that we will not tolerate our institution's grossly disproportionate ties to corporations and federal agencies that do nothing other than profit off war and prepare nuclear weapons. It also sends a message to the government that we will not be complicit in any illegal or immoral war.

We have chosen to strike on the 15th of February in order to commemorate the largest peace demonstrations in human history. Following our strike will be a week-long teach-in designed to educate ourselves and those around us on the atrocities perpetrated by the U.S. government in Iraq. We are calling on the youth of our nation to join us in demonstrating our resistance to the government's disregard for human life. Join the strike!


Today, Iraq looks like this:

 Fallujah after an airstrike

 An Iraqi child after witnessing her parents killed by US troops at a checkpoint

 A dead body on the streets of Fallujah

4 years ago, America looked like this:

 Feb. 15, 2003 protests against the war on Iraq

What will it look like today? That's up to what you do. February 15: Student Strike Against the War

A challenge to all students reading this:

Forward this to everyone you know.

Get together everyone you can on your campus tonight, read the call from students at UC - Santa Barbara, and organize a strike against the war on your campus Feb. 15th.

Email us at youth_students@worldcantwait.org to let us know your campus is going on strike.

From there, announce the strike in your classes & dorms, ask every student group to endorse the strike, ask professors to cancel their classes that day and instead talk to students about the reality of what's going on in Iraq right now, and spread this strike to other campuses.

History is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.


Latest list of campuses organizing acrions on Feb. 15 (latest additions at the top):

Fordham University (NYC) City College of NY 11:30 Meet at the NAC/Rotunda Go to Rally @Columbia at Noon

Columbia University - Noon at Low Plaza 2:00 P.M. Teach-In at Lerner c555

Georgia State University 10:00 A.M. @The Courtyard by the Stage

University of North Carolina - Greensboro Atrium Fountain 11:00 A.M.

Columbia College (Chicago) 8:00 A.M 623 S. Wabash Lobby - Will Go All Day

Lewis & Clark College (Portland, Oregon)

Mills College

Occidental College (LA) In the main quad 10:00 am to 11:30 pm student group discussions with professors who cancelled normal class 11:30-12:00 Student debates on the Military Commissions Act, Iraq and possible war with Iran 12:00-1:30 Speakers including vets from IVAW and Larry Everest - more speakers tba 1:30-4:30 student group discussions with professors who cancelled normal class Evening: vigil, documentary showings of the Bush Crimes Commission San Francisco State - Malcom X Plaza UC - Berkeley@ 11:00 a.m. Sproul Plaza to be joined by Fremont High and Berkeley High

UC - Santa Barbara

UC Davis - Memorial Union Quad 11 A.M.-2 P.M. UC Santa Cruz - 12pm to 3 pm at the Baytree/Quarry Plaza.

Sonoma State - Meet at the Clock Tower 12:00 P.M.-5:00 P.M Following a week long sit-in Vanderbilt - Meeting outside the cafeteria at lunchtime and marching to the Community Chapel

Let us know when your campus decides to organize a strike against the war Feb. 15th - email youth_students@worldcantwait.org.


Statement of the Columbia Coalition Against the War (Columbia University):

We, the Columbia Coalition against the War, are staging a strike followed by a teach-in on February 15th, 2007. We are inviting the entire Columbia community, including students, faculty, staff, and the administration, to join us in publicly and actively opposing the unjust War in Iraq. We call upon the people of this Country - especially our generation - to shoulder the responsibility of bringing an immediate end to this war.

This unjust war began without provocation and continues despite the opposition of the vast majority of American and Iraqi people. This war, criminal in its violation of the Geneva Conventions, has resulted in a catastrophic loss of life - 3,300 coalition troops and over 655,000 of our Iraqi brothers and sisters. In the name of this war, and the “war on terror,” there has been a broad assault on our civil liberties including the violation of habeas corpus, condoning of torture, and rampant racism against Arabs and Muslims. This war has made the world less safe, and less free.

Voices in Support of the Student Strike:

 Noam Chomsky:

Speaking to a packed auditorium at Columbia University Feb. 5th, Chomsky cited Harold Pinter's Nobel lecture in which Pinter called for "organized opposition" to the Iraq war and the Bush administration, and called the student strike Feb. 15 "a step towards such organized opposition," citing the importance and impact of the student strikes and protests in 1970 against the US war on Southeast Asia.

Bruce Lincoln, Caroline E. Haskell Professor of History of Religions University of Chicago:

"I support the goal of forcing a recalcitrant administration to put an end to its ill-conceived adventure in Iraq and I admire the commitment of those who have taken the lead in organizing this strike. In solidarity with them, I will not teach on the 15th and am encouraging my students to take actions consistent with their consciences as regards the war.

I circulated the statement from Columbia students to all my colleagues, told them of my intent to cancel classes and urged them to do the same. I've also announced to my classes that the strike is taking place, told them of my support for it, and called off classes."

Howard Zinn:

 "I would like to endorse the idea of a student strike on campuses all over the country on Feb. 15, to rekindle the flame of protest that flared up all over the world on that date four years ago, as ten million people protested the pending invasion of Iraq by the United States. A student strike at this time would be a great boost to the movement against the war and would send a signal to Congress that it should listen to the American people and act immediately to stop this ugly war."

We strongly encourage the students of Columbia to walk out of classes in opposition to this war. We call on the faculty and administration to set aside business as usual, join our strike, and issue statements of support. Columbia, as a global university, has a responsibility to take a proactive stance against this illegal war.

By investing in corporations crucial to the war effort, our university has aligned its financial future with America's protracted occupation of Iraq. We therefore call on the administration to divest from these corporations for the duration of the war to hasten the war's end.

February 15th, 2003 marked the largest coordinated anti-war demonstration in human history. We unite on the upcoming anniversary to "rekindle the flame of protest that flared up all over the world on that date four years ago," as noted by historian Howard Zinn in his support for a nationwide strike. Our protest and teach-in on the 15th is only the beginning. We aim for this to be the rebirth of a strong and diverse anti-war movement on Columbia's campus and on campuses around the world.

We will work to build support in our schools and our communities for resistance to the war. We will give voice to the majority of Americans who have expressed their strong opposition to the war. We will show the leaders in Congress that we, the people, are the true “deciders.” We will continue to struggle to end the war and bring the troops home now.


Call for Strike from Columbia College Chicago Students:

In the face of massive opposition to the war and destruction of the Middle East, with global opposition to the legalization and widespread use of torture and illegal detentions, President Bush has announced that he is going forward unapologetically with his proposed troop escalation. Coupled with the 21,000 troop surge has come threats against the sovereign nation of Iran and its diplomats in Iraq. If Bush is allowed to go forward with this, the horrific implications for the people of the world will be irreversible.The time has passed to sit on our hands and wait for politicians to step up and stop this. The Democratic Party’s refusal to take a stand against this is unacceptable. The debate in this country cannot remain focused on how to fight this war more efficiently: This war is illegal, immoral, and Bush’s doctrine of pre-emptive war violates international law. In the last two years, we’ve seen countless atrocities carried out on Iraqi civilians, increased violence in Iraq, the annihilation of habeas corpus, and the legalization of torture. As the Bush administration is gearing up for an attack of Iran, waiting two more years for this to stop is unconscionable.  We will no longer go on with business as usual as if this is not happening. For millions of Iraqis, daily life is characterized by bloodshed and horror. For Iraqi civilians, networking, grades, and career planning are not options. In solidarity with the civilians of Iraq and in opposition to the horrific crimes of our government; we the students of Columbia College Chicago are joining University of California - Santa Barbara and Columbia University by declaring a student strike on February 15. This strike commemorates the largest anti-war protests in human history 4 years ago. We will send a message to the world that we will not be complicit in war crimes. We are no longer asking, but demanding, that the war end now, and the Bush administration be impeached and tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Imagine the impact that a nation-wide student strike will create. The time for business as usual and symbolic protest has passed. We are challenging other students to join us and strike!