“A strike is an incipient revolution. Many large revolutions have grown out of a small strike.”
The whole world is watching (and is way ahead of us)
Thanks to the popularity of my recent articles here at Fair Share of the Common Heritage, I found myself recruited to write something about the prospect of a US-based general strike.
So, off I went, scanning news across the interwebs…
My eyes widened when I read: “Social groups reiterated their call to a general strike for 24 hours November 14, asking the labor, productive and academic sectors to join the mobilization, guaranteeing it will be peaceful and with innovative forms of protest.”
But alas, it was an update from the Dominican Republic.
Shortly thereafter, my heart jumped at these words: “Trade unions have called a general strike in protest.”
Great—but not for the US—as the article was in relation to Portugal.
Then again, I felt excitement: “A 48-hour general strike to be held on Wednesday and Thursday is set to ground flights for two days and cripple public and many private services.”
That story, of course, was about Greece.
Finally, I found: “Strikers at the car assembly plant ended their eight-day occupation of the plant late Friday night, under threat of police violence. About 1,500 police troops moved into the factory early that day to enforce a high court order to end the occupation. Workers continued with their strike, however, camping outside the factory some 100 meters away.”
This action, however, took place in India.
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has been a transcendent, potentially watershed moment in American activism. Can it—should it—be the catalyst for something along the lines of what’s described above?
To follow, are my general thoughts on a general strike…
The foundation has already been laid
On my initial visit to OWS, the first thing I noticed upon exiting the downtown #2 Train was that Wall Street—the actual street—had been shut down by the NYPD. OWS had been announced for months in advance so the army of the rich was under strict orders to make certain that nothing was to hinder business-as-usual.
There’s much to praise and love about OWS and the Zuccotti Park/Liberty Plaza occupation (plus its related marches and protests) is costing the Big Apple a fair amount in NYPD overtime for overkill. But, as OWS passed the one-month stage, no one could honestly say the earnings of the 1% have suffered yet.
So…what might convert 1% arrogance to 1% anxiety?
Reality: They need us more than we need them
There’s plenty that needs to be addressed (I’ve documented much of it here). We’ve tried letters to the editor, petitions to Congress, candlelight vigils, clever signs, weekend marches, puppet shows, voting for the lesser (sic) evil, and even holding hands across the world—but things keep getting worse.
The 1% can mock the OWS crowd for playing bongos, but they won’t be laughing if more and more people pull their money from big banks.
The 1% can mock the OWS crowd for (allegedly) not having an agenda, but they won’t be laughing if the subways and buses don’t run, bank tellers stay home, food deliveries halt, airlines are grounded, garbage piles up on the streets—and the nanny calls in sick…for the next month.
Imagine: No one to drive their limos, tutor their kids, do their laundry, landscape their property, walk their dogs, open doors for them, reboot their damn laptops when they crash, and best of all: no one to fight their wars.
Ultimately, the 1% can mock the OWS crowd all they want, but they won’t be laughing as they watch stock prices and corporate profits take an abrupt nose-dive.
Two words: General Strike
A tactic with a long history dating back to Roman days, it’s been described by the “Call for General Strike” Facebook page, as “involving workers across multiple trades or industries that involves enough workers to cause serious economic disruption” (and is) “in essence, a general strike is the complete and total shutdown of the economy.”
It worked in 1886 in the fight for an eight-hour day and it worked much more recently in Egypt (although that endgame does not seem it will play out as hoped) and the general strike concept remains as fluid as it needs to be while participants can be as involved as they want/choose to be.
It may start with personal/lifestyle changes pertaining to consumption, banking choices, transportation options (e.g. choose 2 wheels, not 4), and the like. These are all good initial steps in the name of luring the masses into a build-up to something bigger.
However, moving from points of consumption to points of production (factories, offices, and other workplaces) through a full-fledged general strike will require coordination and commitment. This is much more than most of us have been willing to do so far—but that notion seems to be changing daily.
We’ve got the numbers
Instead of trying (in vain) to provide any sort of blueprint for such action, I’d rather close by simply reminding the 99% that those who profit most from this corrupt and destructive system are standing on our shoulders. If we squirm and shrug and flail our arms, it will get mighty wobbly up there. Whether a general strike lasts a month, a day, or just one hour, the 1% will hear your message…louder and clearer than ever before.
As Arundhati Roy sez: “Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe.”
Class warfare is nothing new. It’s been waged—top-down—for centuries. Clearly, to turn the tide in this battle for global survival, we need new tactics and more allies.
In a nation of over 300 million people, it’s only taken perhaps 10,000 steady occupants—from coast to coast—to make OWS front-page news on a daily basis. Imagine the impact when tens of thousands grows into millions…
OccupyRefusal. OccupyResistance. Occupy4GeneralStrike.