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The General Strike

A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the workers in a city, region, country, or industry. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants. It is also characterized by participation of workers in a multitude of workplaces, and tends to involve entire communities.

Here we present two descriptions of the general strike, one by William "Big Bill" haywood and the other by Ralph Chaplin:

The General Strike - Speech by William "Big Bill" Haywood, March 16, 1911

Haywood wrote several pamphlets and numerous articles. He was one of the I.W.W.'s most famous lecturers. In World of Labour (London, 1913), G. D. H. Cole said: "Haywood could make himself understood by a crowd that did not know a word he said, merely by waving his arms and shouting." On Haywood's death, an obituary in The Nation (May 30, 1928) called him "as American as Bret Harte or Mark Twain."

Haywood's pamphlet The General Strike (Chicago, n.d.), published by the I.W.W., was a summary of a speech he gave in New York City on March 16, 1911.


The General Strike - Pamphlet by Ralph Chaplin, 1933

When Ralph Chaplin wrote this pamphlet in 1933, fascism was on the march in Europe and America. He saw the general strike not just as a broad work stoppage, but rather as the occupation of industry by the workers themselves. It was his belief then that only worker control of industry could combat fascist repression and insure world peace.

This conception of the general strike influenced the stay-in strikes of the '30s here and was modified by Japanese workers after World War II when they occupied the industries to make sure they were kept running. More recently, in the 1980s, workers in Bolivia, the Phillipines, Poland and South Africa have militantly taken up the tactic. It remains to be applied on a mass level once and for all to do away with the dangerous foolishness of private or State ownership of production. It is an idea both revolutionary and constructive, with a tremendous future.