A general strike is a strike action that includes a large part of the total labor force in a city, region, or country. General strikes are characterized by the participation of workers in a multitude of workplaces, and tend to involve entire communities. The idea of the general strike is powerful precisely because a massive and persistent withdrawal of labor can bring a capitalist city or even an entire economy to a halt.
The last general strike in the United States occurred here in the East Bay in 1946. One hundred thousand members of the American Federation of Labor shut down the economy of four local cities for two and a half days. Thousands of strikers took over the streets of downtown Oakland. It was an explosive protest against employers’ refusal to recognize the union of newly organized retail workers, and against police intervention to disrupt picket lines.
What touched off the Oakland general strike and why did it end almost as suddenly as it began? Why have there been no subsequent general strikes in the United States in over 70 years? Should activists on the left today be calling for general strikes? Or following Rosa Luxemburg, should we view general strikes as historical phenomenon resulting from specific social conditions?
To find out the answer to these questions and more, please join us for a special edition of Socialist Night School. Fred Glass, local labor historian and author, will be joining us to give lead-off talk on the history of the last Oakland General Strike.
Find the readings here: https://www.eastbaydsa.org/night-school/