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
- 1820 Rising in Scotland
- 1842 General Strike in England organised by the Chartists
- Haymarket Riot, 1886, occurred during a strike for the eight-hour workday.
- Russian Revolution of 1905
- 1912 Brisbane General Strike
- Spanish General Strike of 1917
- Irish anti-conscription general strike of 1918
- Barcelona General Strike of 1919
- Winnipeg General Strike of 1919
- Seattle General Strike of 1919
- British General Strike of 1926
- San Francisco's Big Strike of 1934
- Toledo General Strike of 1934
- Great Arab Revolt of 1936
- Finnish General Strike of 1956
- French general strike of May 1968
- Uruguay general strike of 1973
- Northern Ireland general strike of May 1974
- Spanish general strike of 1988
- Nepalese general strike of April 1992
- Ontario, Canada's Days of Action in 1995
- Italian general strike of 2002
- Venezuelan general strike of 2002-2003
- Ukraine's Orange Revolution of 2004
- Guinea general strike of 2007