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Do We Need a General Strike? | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Do We Need a General Strike?

It seems to me that just the very fact that the idea of a general strike is being discussed shows how far our political discourse has come and how deeply Scott Walker and prolonged economic anxiety have radicalized otherwise moderate masses.

Walker’s bill reaches far beyond just public sector unions and his stripping of public workers’ right to bargain affects the rights of everyone who works for a living. This attack on workers’ rights, if allowed to stand, won’t stop with the public sector or with Wisconsin. These anti-union bills are already spreading around the country from Indiana to Ohio to Nebraska to Michigan.

The IWW website is making a strong case for a general strike as the most effective tool to combat Walker’s bill and copycat legislation cropping up in numerous other states.

“A general strike against Walker would begin the process of rebuilding a strong labor movement in the United States. Since the US plays such an important role in the global economy and world political system, this could also invigorate workers’ struggles around the planet. To make it happen will require participation from many people across industries, across unions, and across the country.”

Especially given how much time and energy progressives have put into calling for a "new New Deal" over the last few years, it's critical to remember that there never would've been a National Labor Relations Act and numerous other worker protections in 1935, without the widespread labor unrest of 1934--general strikes in major cities like Minneapolis and San Francisco, up and down the West Coast waterfront, throughout the entire textile industry in New England and across the southeast.

The South Central Federation of Labor, a federation of ninety-seven labor organizations representing 45,000 workers, has already endorsed the need to prepare for a general strike, and David Dayen reports at FDL that the mood of the protesters who stormed the Capitol on word of the bill’s passage, echoes that resolution. “You could see some kind of near-term labor walkout, at least in Madison and possibly throughout the state.”

Joe Conway, the charismatic president of the Madison firefighters’ union, said recently that the political situation has grown so dire in Wisconsin, he’d support a general strike. “We should start walking out tomorrow, the next day. See how long they can last,” he told reporters with The Uptake. “This is a nation-wide movement to attack all working men and women in Wisconsin and the United States.”

And Michael Moore has called on high school students and working people of all stripes to restart the American democracy movement and fight back in this latest round of “class war” against the middle class.

Find out more about what exactly a general strike is, when the tool has been victorious in numerous international struggles for change and rights, how it may apply to the current situation and how you can get involved.
 

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