Workers Party in America
Mark Forums Read
4th April 2011
A Balance Sheet on the Use of the General Strike Slogan during the Recent Struggle
Or,... How a Good Tactic Made into a Bad Strategy Helped Defeat Public Workers in Wisconsin
FOR THREE WEEKS
last February and March, tens of thousands of workers and young people gathered at the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, to protest against a bill proposed by Republican Governor Scott Walker that would strip unionized public workers of their rights to collectively bargain.
Unlike in recent memory, when such actions only provoked token responses, working people took to the streets in mass numbers demanding that the state legislature “kill the bill.” During the first week of protests, the number of workers participating in the marches, rallies and occupation of the Capitol grew by leaps and bounds, from a few thousand the first day to over 50,000 by the end of the week. By the next week, upwards of 100,000 workers and young people were surrounding and occupying the Capitol.
Nevertheless, Walker and the Republicans controlling the state legislature pushed on. Initially, the governor and his GOP colleagues attempted to pass off this attack on workers’ rights as merely a “cost-cutting” measure. However, a well-played prank confirmed what nearly everyone suspected from the beginning: the goal was to break the back of the public workers’ unions.
Even though Walker was now exposed, this did not slow the Republicans down. The bill was rammed through the State Assembly in the early morning hours of February 25 and sent to the State Senate. However, because the 14 Democrats in the State Senate had fled to Illinois to prevent the body from voting on the “budget” bill that included the unionbusting provisions, it stalled for almost two weeks. It was only after the “budget” provisions in the bill were removed, leaving only the naked assault on the right to unionize, that the Republicans could proceed.
On the evening of March 9, in an illegal closed-door session, the State Senate pushed through the bill, sending it to a hastily-organized conference committee for rubber-stamp approval and a final nod from the State Assembly, who approved the measure the following day and sent it to Walker for signing.
Even as over 100,000 gathered in and around the Capitol in Madison to register their outrage, the Wisconsin Republicans smugly moved on with their agenda, presenting a state budget that slashes funding for education, public services, etc., while handing out billions of dollars in corporate welfare.
THERE IS NO
question that the events in Wisconsin, now being mirrored in states across the country, including Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and New York, not only represent an historic defeat for working people, but also signal the end of the willingness of the capitalists and their petty-bourgeois managers to continue the nearly six decades of “social peace” that was carved out between the officials of the AFL-CIO business unions, on one side, and the exploiting and oppressing classes, on the other.
Walker entered into this struggle with the support of a majority of the ruling classes. He would not have been able to hold on in this fight as long as he did if he did not enjoy the backing of, at the very least, a strong and powerful minority of the capitalists and their petty-bourgeois (“middle class”) managers. That steadfast support was able to keep him from wavering in the face of the mass protests, even after his agenda was exposed in the media.
The extent of Walker’s support among the exploiting and oppressing classes could also be seen in the actions of his purported opponents, the Democratic and labor union officials. From the beginning, the Wisconsin Democratic officials, including the 14 wayward State Senators, and the spokespeople for the unions all expressed their willingness to accept not only the removal of collective bargaining rights, but also the massive concessions that amounted to a nearly 20-percent pay cut for public workers.
The chief objections of the Democrats and union officials to Walker’s bill were,
, the end of payroll deduction for union dues and,
, the requirement of annual recertification of existing unions as their collective bargaining agent. In other words, the objections had very little, if anything, to do with the well being of workers themselves, but a great deal to do with the continued health of the union officials’ bank accounts ... and the campaign donations to Democrats from union Political Action Committees.
This was very quickly confirmed in the weeks following the passage of the unionbusting law when the officials from the main public-sector unions, including the two largest, the Wisconsin Public Employees Union and Wisconsin Education Association Council, hastily adopted new contracts that not only included all of the concessions that were a part of Walker’s bill, but in some cases, such as the Green Bay teachers’ union, went farther than the governor’s demands.
All of this was “negotiated” in exchange for continuing to funnel dues money from the paychecks of public workers into the coffers of the union officials. At no time during the entire struggle did these officials and Democratic Party politicians question the fundamental premise that working people were being forced to shoulder the economic burden of capitalism’s crisis. Indeed, it was not even a question for these officials and politicians as to the extent to which workers had to pay — pay they would, but only insofar as it did not threaten the positions of these petty-bourgeois political and economic managers.
divisions were not lost on many of the workers who came to Madison to fight Walker’s bill. From the beginning, there was a tacit understanding that the officials and Democrats did not have any real control over the mass protests that grew by the day. Try as they did, the “official” leaders of the working class were never able to completely control the dynamo that amassed in and around the Wisconsin Capitol.
That fact alone created a situation where thousands of working people in the United States were, for the first time in recent memory, able to think and consider perspectives that went beyond the traditional boundaries set by capitalism and its agents. However, it was not only this fact that gave credence and, in many respects, greater relevance to the slogans and views of the self-described partisans of the revolutionary working class, including self-described socialists, communists and anarchists.
In the weeks preceding the upsurge in Wisconsin, millions of Americans watched as their brothers and sisters in Tunisia and Egypt threw off decades of dictatorship and faced down violent state repression. Workers across the country, even those who had been non-political or identified more as conservatives, found themselves identifying with the protesters in Tahrir Square, and their demands for jobs, a better standard of living, democratic change and an end to attacks by the state. And the fact that the workers of North Africa made visible displays of support for their brothers and sisters in Wisconsin contributed to the confidence and morale that was needed to stand firm throughout the struggle.
It seemed to many that something — perhaps not a full-blown revolution, but nevertheless a great change — was in the air, and the fight was theirs to win or lose. All that was needed was a clear direction or beacon that pointed the way forward. For many, that direction was summed up in the myriad of slogans that called for a general strike.
It was a tantalizing idea. It represented mass, militant action by large sections of the working class defending the rights of all working people. It was on the lips of every class-conscious worker, young radical and self-described revolutionary. Within days of the outbreak of struggle, the call for a general strike went from an idea skulking on the fringes of the workers’ movement to a seemingly viable alternative course of action.
As each of the self-described radical and revolutionary organizations raised the slogan, they also sought to “out-radical” each other. This game of “leftist” one-upmanship soon led to the general strike slogan becoming, among many, the general strategy for moving forward and, among others, a virtual panacea — the answer to all the problems plaguing the working class today.
THIS VIEW OF
the general strike — whether promoted as a strategy or as a panacea, or anywhere in between — is fundamentally flawed and, in every respect, alien to communist theory and practice. This is especially the case in a struggle such as we saw unfold in Wisconsin. Indeed, for a situation such as that which existed in Madison during those three weeks, elevating the tactic of a general strike to that of a strategy (or more) was dangerous and even reactionary.
What is a general strike? The simplest, but still useful, definition speaks of all workers in a given area or set of industries going on strike at the same time for the same purpose, and around a common set of demands or goals. Historically, the general strike has been seen as the highest form of struggle that labor unions of any type can undertake — as “a great, decisive struggle between the [bourgeoisie] and the proletariat,” as one German Socialist put it a century ago.
But this struggle is one that generally takes place on the battlefield of
, within the process of production and distribution. In and of itself, it can only directly challenge that
the class enemy has in this process. Moreover, it cannot step beyond the confines of that specific process created by the
between classes, in terms of its perspectives and platform, without threatening (implicitly or explicitly) to combine their struggle and organizations with associates in other arenas of society.
When the employer is the capitalist government, however, the artificial wall of separation (erected by the capitalists themselves to protect their position as a ruling class) between economics and the other fields of society, especially politics, breaks down. A governmental council can make “business decisions” like any management or board of directors you find in a factory or mill. But unlike with a private employer, that same governmental council can, in the same breath, mobilize the armed forces of the capitalist state to enforce its “business decisions.”
The capitalist government is a reflection of the concentrated power of the ruling classes. Its composition, boundaries, perspectives and policies are shaped by the dominant needs and interests within those classes — that is, by the majority of the most determined, vocal and active of the exploiting and oppressing classes. Where the private capitalist has to appeal to his or her colleagues for assistance in times of crisis and struggle, the capitalist governmental council has no real need, since it speaks in a collective voice for the dominant factions of the ruling classes themselves.
Because of this combined economic and political character, those workers employed by a capitalist government are in a different set of relations than those in the relatively “pure and simple” interactions between the classes found throughout the rest of the mode of production. The government employee has a “boss” that changes based on the balance of forces within the ruling classes, as expressed, most outwardly, in the selection of public officials through the ballot box.
Thus, control of “public services” and other productive agencies of the capitalist government is not an issue of who holds the economic balance of power in one particular shop or workplace, as it is in the realm of private capital, but becomes a blatantly
question, where the balance of power is applied across multiple industries and services through the coercive power of the capitalist state — the instrument through which the ruling classes enforce their view of “law and order.”
THERE HAS BEEN
no better example of this in recent memory than in Wisconsin, where Walker and the Republican officials of the state legislature threatened the use of both the police and National Guard to enforce “order” during the “debate,” passage and implementation of the anti-union “budget repair” bill, as well as to defend the government’s employment of scabs in the event of a strike.
Many rightly decried the threats of state “violence” by Walker and his associates, including sections of the ruling classes themselves. But the critics had differing reasons for opposing Walker based on their class. While many (if not most) workers and self-described partisans of the working class denounced the threats as an attack on their rights and living standards, those elements of the ruling classes couched their critique in language of “necessity” and tact.
For those dissenting elements of the ruling classes, it was a question of whether it was necessary to call out the troops at this time, or whether it was a “sensible” and tactful thing to do. These sentiments were often bookended with moral and emotional appeals that sought to make both exploiters and exploited think back to the days of “social peace,” when labor (read: union officials) and management “got along” and “worked together,” and shared “common interests.”
Understanding this class-based divergence of viewpoint is important, because it speaks to the limited and partial role that a general strike, in and of itself, would play in a struggle such as we saw in Wisconsin.
Let us assume that a general strike was organized following the passage of Walker’s bill. Let us further assume that, due to the relative inability of the union officials and Democrats to completely control the movement, it adopted demands such as those advocated by the petty-bourgeois socialists of the Socialist Equality Party:
Total rejection of all economic concessions and social spending cuts. Instead of cuts, social spending should be increased in response to the crisis facing millions of people throughout the country.
Unequivocal rejection of any and all restrictions on the legal right of workers to negotiate and strike to defend and improve their standard of living.
A substantial increase in taxes on corporate profits and the income of the rich to close the budget deficit and the cost of new and essential social spending.
The immediate resignation of Walker and his reactionary administration. The governor has deliberately made himself the political spearhead of the corporate attack on the working class and the use of dictatorial methods.
The first question becomes,
who is going to implement these demands
? One might immediately reply that it will be the workers themselves. Fair enough, but how? It has no political organization or system of its own through which it could implement them. Moreover, it has no means by which to enforce implementation.
This is not to say that such political bodies could not be built alongside the economic organizations engaged in a general strike. On the contrary, such bodies of struggle can be built, but that requires adopting a political perspective and program,
of which the slogans for economic relief and power are but one part
. In other words, in a struggle such as we saw in Wisconsin, the question of
— of which class rules — is the central pivot on which the battle turns, because it is in the arena of politics that the question of
ABSENT OF THE
development of a viable (i.e., workable) alternative political structure created and led by the working class, one which can wrest control of these public services and agencies away from the capitalist government, workers are compelled to deal with the political concentration of the ruling classes on their own territory. When such a vacuum is created, it is easier for “friendly” elements of the exploiting and oppressing classes to step into the breach and pull large sections of the working class back into line.
We see this happening not only in the case of the SEP’s demands, as stated above, but in the political agendas promoted by virtually all other self-described socialist and communist organizations who have been intervening in Wisconsin. From the SEP to the International Socialist Organization to the Party for Socialism and Liberation to the “official” Communist Party USA to the numerous others not mentioned, we see created a great political vacuum.
On one end, we have organizations like the “official” Communists, the ISO and others, who have raised the slogan of a general strike with no regard to either the political tasks of this struggle or the organizations who would conduct it. This not only leaves the leadership of the economic struggle in the hands of the union officials (virtually all of whom had already expressed their acceptance of Walker’s economic demands), but it also concedes the leadership of the political struggle to the Democratic Party. The principle of the independence of the working class is defeated bloodlessly in the name of expediency.
On the other end, we have the SEP and other, more radical petty-bourgeois socialists (as well as some honest working-class socialists), who raise the slogan of a general strike draped in more “radical” colors, with economic demands that are wrapped in “revolutionary” and “political” language, including the call for strike and workplace committees, and conclude with an appeal for workers to join their particular political group. This is their “solution” to the problem in Wisconsin.
Actually, it is their “solution” to everything — their great panacea.
Although these groups may advocate a more or less workable form of organization and structure for the economic struggle (the aforementioned strike and workplace committees), there is no mention of the overarching political questions contained in a struggle like we saw in Wisconsin, most notably the question of control. They offer nothing for the political struggle except vague abstractions about the elusive “mass party of labor” or “socialist alternative” ... and the sucking sound of the vacuum. As a result, these more radical elements, like their not-so-radical colleagues, concede the ground to the union officials and Democrats as well. They are, in the end, two sides of the same coin.
Even if there was a mass “socialist alternative” or “party of labor” in existence, and even if one or another of these more radical trends were its leadership, they would still, in the end, be conceding leadership to the ruling classes. This is by virtue of the fact that the political struggle would continue to take place
on the ground of the exploiting and oppressing classes’ choosing
By choosing to place an abstract concept of a potential possibility at the core of their political program, these more radical elements offer nothing but air. In desperate times, the promise of something better that what you have can be soothing, but it doesn’t get the job done. In times of great struggle, such promises can do more harm than good. The class struggle is nothing if not concrete, meaning that it takes place here, now, with what we have and what we can build.
DURING TIMES OF
great struggle, the working class and its organic movement often outpace the organizations that seek to speak in its name. It is only at those moments when the organic workers’ movement is able to find its voice in the concrete platform of one of these organizations that genuine advance by the class as a whole can be made. Wisconsin was no exception.
However, at virtually every turn, the self-described socialist and communist organizations found themselves outpaced. (We, too, were outpaced by events in Wisconsin, though for wholly different reasons.) Even when they advanced radical slogans or demands, such as those raised by the SEP, these groups were outpaced by material conditions, due to the fact that
political leadership was either abstract, partial or non-existent
. That unevenness could be sensed almost instinctively by workers gathering in Madison, and their hesitation was exploited by the union officials and Democratic politicians.
What was needed at that moment was a concrete, comprehensive platform that had as its starting point the understanding that this was essentially a political struggle — where the question of implementation and enforcement of the law governing the workplace rights and conditions of workers in public services and agencies can only be resolved by way of settling accounts with the existing capitalist government and the ruling classes’ state.
The political formations that spring from this core understanding have as their fundamental principles those that are also brought forward in the economic struggle: direct and democratic control by workers themselves; the broadest possible unity and defense at all times against assaults by the ruling classes and their agents; rejection of compromises and half-measures that leave working people in a weaker position relative to the exploiters.
Thus, alongside the call for workplace and strike committees, which give the worker the means to lead and control their economic struggles, this concrete platform would also call for workers’ support committees and neighborhood assemblies that would draw wider sections of the working class into the struggle. Together, these bodies, which would increasingly be representative of all workers in a given area, would be able to organize councils and other bodies that would be able to wrench those public services and productive agencies away from the capitalist government.
Key areas controlled by the capitalist government, such as its treasury, essential government services (e.g., fire departments, public lighting, water and sewerage, etc.) and social welfare agencies (e.g., public health clinics, financial assistance agencies, etc.) would be the most immediate institutions targeted for transfer and reorganization. Such transference and transformation would be carried out by the government workers themselves, by taking hold of the technology that allows their agencies to function and preventing agents of the ruling classes from sabotaging their efforts.
Defense against such reactionary sabotage and other types of violence by the ruling classes and their state will be essential to the struggle as a whole. While elements of law enforcement did rally in solidarity with the public workers, as a body the police represent the most immediate means by which the exploiting and oppressing classes enforce their rule over society. This means that the ultimate success or failure of the struggle will rest on the neutralizing and defeat of the armed bodies of the state by workers’ own self-defense units. Those individuals from the police (and National Guard) that genuinely opposed the dictates of the ruling classes and chose to cast their lot with the working class could, on a case-by-case basis, play a positive role by providing insight into the plans of the class enemy or assisting with other related tasks.
These self-defense units, however, cannot be token bodies. In every workplace and neighborhood, organization of these units, even if only in teams of three or five, would prove to be decisive. As
units called into action only under threat, they would maintain organic ties to the working class as a whole through continuing relations at the workplace and in their communities. Through those ties, they would be able to better serve their neighbors and co-workers in their defensive capacity. Taken as a whole, these combined self-defense units could quickly become the instrument through which the working class is able to enforce its own concepts of “law and order” — concepts truly shared by the majority of society.
IT IS WITHIN
the context of a political strategy, such as what we’ve outlined above, that the slogan for a general strike gains its full power and potential. This is because, within the framework of a political struggle, a general strike becomes
a means to an end
, and not an end in itself. More to the point, it becomes a means by which the working class can fundamentally alter the balance and relationship of forces between itself and the exploiting classes.
A general strike, in and of itself, cannot alter these relations. When such a general strike is called, even if it begins with great fanfare and confidence, it quickly devolves into a contest of which side can out-camp the other — who can last “one day longer” than the other. Inevitably, the exploiting and oppressing classes emerge as the victors, primarily because they can sit and wait, forcing the organizations of the working class, as well as workers themselves, to go bankrupt trying to survive. In a time when CEOs have salaries that are just as large as some AFL-CIO unions’ entire budgets and individual corporations often make profits comparable to the Gross Domestic Products of whole countries, one has to wonder about the logic that lurks behind the calls to attempt to sweat it out vis-à-vis the ruling classes.
Even if, on a rare chance, a general strike is able to wrest some gains from the exploiters and oppressors, they are cosmetic or incremental changes: a little more pay, an extra day off, new glow-in-the-dark safety vests, etc. And as we have seen, in the long run, what took years to be gained often takes only days to be lost.
Most importantly, though, a general strike in itself, even when it is most successful, cannot change the balance of power between classes. The capitalist remains the owner and exploiter; the petty-bourgeois manager, professional or official continues to be the capitalist’s administrator and organizer of exploitation; the worker is still exploited. The exploitation may be less by a few degrees, but only by that amount the exploiters were willing to allow ... and only for as long as it suits them.
All this is because a general strike in and of itself does not step beyond the confines of the economic arena. The state is not challenged in the slightest by even the most far-reaching economic action. A general strike may provoke nervousness by the exploiting and oppressing classes, compelling them to call on the armed bodies of the state to make a peremptory assault on the working class, but this nervousness only begins to manifest itself
if there is fear among the ruling classes that the general strike will venture beyond its set boundaries and threaten the state
We saw this take place in France last fall, when the government of Nicolas Sarkozy began to decry the “radicalization” of the workers’ movement, deploying the police to suppress strikes, protests and workplace occupations for the first time in decades. We also saw this occur in Wisconsin, with Walker’s threats to deploy the National Guard. In these instances, both Sarkozy and Walker feared the unions would venture beyond their “bread and butter” demands, and would turn its fire towards the government and state.
The ruling classes understand — perhaps better than most workers — the potential power a general strike can have, when it is employed as a key tactic in the economic arena, and as a component of workers’ waging a decisive political struggle. The mass withdrawal of labor power through the calling of a general strike does weaken the exploiting classes economically, but the latter can still look to its political power and authority, in the form of a stable government and unchallenged state, for support. However, if a general strike occurs as part of a coordinated effort to weaken the ruling classes on both the political and economic fronts at the same time, the sum total effect of employing such tactics becomes greater than if one or the other was carried out in relative isolation.
The general strike thus becomes not only a force in itself, but also a “force multiplier,” to use a military term. That is, the combined effect of the general strike and concentrated political action, which aims to rob the exploiting and oppressing classes of its power, builds on itself. It creates a life of its own, with new dynamics that can far exceed the expectations of even the most optimistic person. Modest demands may give way to slogans that seemed utopian or unrealistic only days before. Indeed, like we saw take place in Egypt, the demands that sparked the actions may become a mere component of a larger platform that draws in and binds together all of the varied aspirations of the working class.
SOME OF OUR
critics will read the above and attempt to declare us to be “not relating to workers where they are” or “raising demands too advanced.” The more blunt (and honest) of these critics will complain that we are “calling for workers’ councils and revolution” at a time when such things are judged (by them) to be “not on the agenda.”
To these critics, we feel compelled to ask: How are we not relating to workers where they are? Are the workers themselves not raising the slogan for a general strike? Were we hearing things when workers by the hundreds and even by the thousands chanted, “General strike!” in and around the Capitol building in Madison during the largest days of protest?
The slogan for a general strike became something of a mass phenomenon in Wisconsin, even if it wasn’t fully understood by all those taking part in the protests. If this had not been the case, then some of the more craven opportunists calling themselves socialists and communists who slithered in and out of the crowds would have been more vocal in
to the slogan, choosing its natural place at the right hand of capitalism’s “labor” lieutenants. But many of those opportunists joined in the call
a general strike, not against it. This stands as a testament, and something of a water mark, for the consciousness of the working class in the midst of this struggle.
As communists, we took this measurement as our starting point. We sought to explain how even the best organized and led general strike could not, in and of itself, kill Walker’s bill, and that it would take a political struggle, backed by the effective use of the general strike tactic in a broader context, to win. Further, we explained not only what was needed to make a general strike effective in the economic arena, but also how similar principles and structure that parallel those needed for the general strike would be needed for the political struggle. Finally, we discussed what the focus of the political struggle would be and how it could be won.
And, yes, that meant speaking concretely about the need for workers’ councils, workers’ control (of the strike, the movement and a new political system) and workers’ power. To refuse to even raise the issue of workers’ power, in the context of relative mass support for a general strike, is to concede in advance the continued dominance of the exploiting and oppressing classes. It is a criminal act of omission and betrayal that politically disarms and disorganizes working people in the face of their enemy.
For those who still shake their heads and seek to admonish us for discussing questions that are not “on the agenda” or, worse yet, slander us by claiming our perspective is little more than a “literary adventure,” we are again compelled to ask: What did
do to prepare workers for when such things are “on the agenda?” What did
do to hasten that day? Moreover, even if your slander was factually accurate, what did
interventions contribute toward the advancement of the class struggle?
We will readily admit that our actions during the struggle were limited and confined for the most part to the distribution of our statements on the struggle. We will also admit that we made mistakes in the course of the struggle — mistakes that rightly serve as a warning for the future if we do not heed them. But while we acknowledge what our limitations were, we also recognize that we have made a positive contribution to the class struggle through the statements and articles we have published, including this one.
TO BE BLUNT
, it remains to be seen whether the surge of working-class militancy we saw during those three weeks in Wisconsin was a prelude to a larger, more generalized resistance by working people to the attacks by the ruling classes and their state, or an anomalous spike in the midst of further retreat, or something else entirely. History is a merciless judge, and is unforgiving of those who second guess its judgment.
Whether the Wisconsin struggle was the first, perhaps drawn-out, note in a long and building crescendo of class conflict, or was an isolated uptick that is followed by continued retreat and capitulation, it serves as an alarm for the working class and its organizations. The time for preparation and clarification begins now. This is especially true for working-class communists; we are on notice to be ready for future struggles. We may be caught unawares if and when new struggles break out, but we should be prepared to move quickly and efficiently immediately thereafter.
We as communists should look to revolutionize our methods of organization and activity, to solidify our existing gains and lay the basis for future ones. Most importantly, we should be able to offer political leadership in all struggles, from the formulation of a communist political perspective on the events and issues that emerge in the working class, to the education of working people, both inside and outside the Party, on this perspective and what it means, to agitation and mobilization of our brothers and sisters around its principles and platform.
Within this, it is important to remember that there is a difference between political leadership and practical leadership. While communists offer political leadership in the form of its perspectives, principles, program and platform, we understand that the task of practical leadership — the task of liberating the working class from exploitation and oppression — belongs to workers themselves. We do not seek to substitute ourselves for our class or its movement. Rather, we offer political direction and guidance, and seek through that to win the trust and support of our fellow workers — our success or failure in this endeavor being in their hands alone.
March 30, 2011
10th April 2011
Die Neue Zeit
Comrade, how can the general strike be a "force multiplier" as part of a broader strategy? You already know of my preference for "concentrated political action" over general strikes.
11th April 2011
Originally Posted by
Die Neue Zeit
Comrade, how can the general strike be a "force multiplier" as part of a broader strategy? You already know of my preference for "concentrated political action" over general strikes.
Generally speaking, a general strike draws wider circles of workers into action than does political activity alone. The strike can act as an auxiliary base of support and transmission belt for bringing otherwise "apolitical" workers into a political struggle by bringing them into direct contact with that fight and the organizations involved in it. Through this interaction, the general strike becomes a stabilizing and corrective element on the political struggle, while the political action gives the general strike a direction that goes beyond the narrow "bread and butter" issues, which in turn gives a general strike power beyond its field of activity -- an ability to project power across other arenas of society.
A general strike can also play a defensive role, shielding the political struggle from attacks that are meant to undercut the movement's ability to fight. For example, the organizations involved in a general strike can organize the base social network (food banks, communal meals, housing, etc.) needed to sustain a political movement as part of the social work that is normally needed in such situations. They can also, as the article points out, organize to take control of essential public services as part of the general strike, which assists in the political struggle due to those takeovers robbing the capitalist state of its monopoly on public assistance.
Having a preference for concentrated political action does not negate the ability of a general strike to play an enhancing role, in the context of a broader political strategy. In fact, a general strike makes it all the more likely that such concentrated action in the political arena succeeds. Separately, each of these great options, the general strike and the concentrated political action, is a hard row to hoe, but when combined, they make each other's work that much easier.
12th April 2011
Die Neue Zeit
Either that, or I'm just too busy "politicist-istically" attacking strawman positions from other tendencies that can burst like a birthday balloon.
2nd July 2011
That was an excellent post Sam.
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