What will make "general strikes" spread?

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Nov 2 2011 02:15
What will make "general strikes" spread?

This paragraph from the DSG article on the #occupy movement stood out.

DSG wrote:
Bringing the crisis home– that is, agitating the class and breaking the “all in this together” rhetoric of parliament– will involve a massive plurality of struggles, and #Occupy serves that end well. Misgivings over “fluffy” politics are understandable, but it is through experience that political thought develops, and state violence is rapidly radicalising the #Occupy grassroots, with #OccupyOakland today passing a motion for a citywide General Strike following the state crackdown earlier in the week. Combined with a growing street presence, escalating industrial action and a general sense of unrest over rent, debt and fuel poverty, working-class people in Britain too are reasserting class in the struggle with capital.

Occupy Oakland had already passed the most radical statement in the whole of the occupy movement before the police repression. While I can see how it contributed to the calling of the city wide general strike, there were a number of local factors that supported it that can't be replicated elsewhere. This reminded me of the point in the Aufheben article on the August riots talking about the factors needed for the spread of the '81 riots in the UK. Oakland seems to have a fairly unique history of collective working class action that maybe Madison didn't?

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Joined: 29-04-08
Nov 2 2011 03:23

Well, Madison also didn't have assemblies, which was something that was part of the conversation in trying to push things forward. The capitol occupation and the protests were much more rock concert oriented, except for certain points like the reoccupation, when various different people used the megaphone to talk.

I think even if there was assemblies, there would have been a hesitancy to call a strike, and that's something I don't have the energy to get into right now, but is rooted in different conceptions of what 'general strike' actually means.

And then there's the different histories as well. Oakland has been, for a long time, a breeding ground for radical leftists. Madison has as well,but it's my impression that besides a strike wave in 1917,most of that came out of the 1960s-70s student movement, where Oakland has more point of production type history, as well as the Black Panthers, to supplement the student and angsty anarchisty stuff as well.

I don't mean to shit on what's going on in Oakland, and it's yet to be seen what will happen tomorrow... But if it's just a bunch of people calling in sick to attend a large protest, well, Madison had that occur probably 20 times. Unions told their members to head down to protests that sometimes conflicted with work time, and even some work groups flat out stated to their managers that they were leaving early to join a feeder march.

Joined: 10-03-09
Nov 2 2011 03:35

Yeah, the _calling_ of a "general strike" is nothing special in itself - overoptimistic activists have called plenty of them over the years, usually to no effect beyond a marginal increase in absenteeism on a particular day. The key question is, what will it take to have one that doesn't need quotation marks around it?