Friday, February 3, 2017

General Strike and Recall

Alex Gourevitch has written a thoughtful and well-informed essay about the general strike, Whose Strike? The essay begins with an essential cautionary tale -- an overview of the violent history of strike repression in the U.S. 

This historical background is important. For one thing, it may help to dispel the misleading cries about the intrusion of a presumably un-American "fascism." Violent repression of labor activism is as American as cherry pie. But Gourevitch's point is not that a general strike is too risky to consider. It is that because it is so risky, it cannot be taken lightly: 
In the past, workers stayed out on those strikes, even fighting the state, in part because of dense, historically developed, cultures of solidarity; established traditions of militancy; organized, if not always recognized, unions; and long connections with left-wing organizers. These days, the appetite for fighting the state is next to nil, there is no tested public sympathy for labor actions, and there are no clear organizations standing ready to lead. 
If you’re going to ask people not just to risk losing their jobs but potentially face the armed apparatus of the state, there had better be preparation, leadership, and some evident readiness for mass labor actions. 
Not to mention, there had better be a recognizable goal. But what is the point of the proposed general strike? To say down with Trump? What, so we can have Pence? 
Or is the point just a generalized ‘No’? A massive expression of discontent? None of the significant costs of a general strike are worth it if it’s just a grand gesture of refusal.
As to what should be that recognizable goal. I have a few suggestions: 1. abolition of the wages system and 2. direct democracy. Those two phrases are shorthand. They refer to a complex analysis, not to whatever image or association is evoked by the words in the phrase. Abolishing the wages system and direct democracy are processes, not proclamations.

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