General strike May 1st: Why?

Why do we need a general strike?

Submitted by Antonio de cleyre on February 21, 2012

Two things are essential to the production of all goods; materials, such as machinery and land, and labour, or the effort of humans. In our society there are a number of ways to make a living. The two most common are these: one can make one’s living through being a worker- through providing labour, or one can make one’s living by owning capital, such as buildings, land, machinery or the money to purchase them, such people are capitalists.

It may seem like both groups, workers and capitalists, are essential to the process of production. But we must ask ourselves, why is that workers cannot produce anything without the permission of capitalists? It is because they are not allowed to operate the machinery of the capitalist without the capitalist’s permission. If workers went to a factory they did not own and began producing goods-and tried to sell them- such workers would be ejected by force, almost certainly by the force of the state. The capitalist however, absolutely cannot produce without the permission of the worker.

So workers are necessary. What we do is required by society. What they do is not necessary, the only reason we “need” their cooperation to make anything is because violence will be used against us if we do not have it. In an ultimate sense, this means that workers have more power than capitalists. Because what we offer society is necessary, while what they offer is unnecessary except that it is made necessary by violence, we are under no obligation to give them anything we produce. Ideally then, we would all be workers (except children, those studying, and those unable to work), and there would be no capitalists, since capitalism is parasitism.

Because we are necessary, and they are not, we have power; we can withdraw our labour, and refuse to provide it anymore unless our demands are met. This is the essence of the strike, the core tactic which gives unions their power, even if most, having grown corrupt and bureaucratic, refuse to exercise it. But while the localized strike is vital for improving the conditions for workers, and has much value, it ultimately cannot change the whole of the system we live under, because the system is larger than any individual workplace.

What we need then is a larger strike, a strike which encompasses the whole working class, or near enough to be good enough. This total strike is called the “general strike”. Historically, from ancient Rome to the 20th century, great concessions have been extracted through general strikes. But even general strikes are limited in a sense, because they are typically limited to the borders of a single country. Corporations and capitalists acknowledge no such limits, and play one country off against another. So let our resistance be as global as capital.

The power of a worldwide general strike would be almost unimaginable. Workers are the true power in this world, and nothing would show that more than worldwide solidarity. No society is possible without the working people of the world; if nothing is possible without our permission, then we decide what things will be.

Capitalism goes beyond the workplace. we do not have time to consider all, but here are few key examples. Capitalists, many owning a great many properties, claim that those of us who rent have no right to live in their own homes unless they pay a fee- such rentiers contribute no effort, but merely get rich off their ownership. Men claim that it is natural that many women should work in the home, and receive no profit from it, even though it is necessary to the continuation of society- a form of parasitism fundamentally similar to capitalism. Psychological manipulation in the form of advertising encourages us to buy more than we need, in the delusional belief that it will make us happy- further increasing profits, and often plunging workers into debts, requiring interest payments which extract a further surplus from us. Students go to university, and develop and socially necessary skills but pay exorbitant fees to do so.

To resist these additional abuses, we suggest that on May 1st, and during any future General Strikes, no one should do any chores, no one should study, no one should buy anything and, where it is possible, no one should pay rent or debt.

Therefore, to end a system based on violence and to craft a better world, we support a worldwide general strike on May 1st, no work, no chores, no buying and where possible no paying rent or debt. Without us there can be no world; nothing can be without our permission; we, the workers, have the strength to make a better world, thus we are obligated to do so.