May Day, 2017: Call to Action
Facebook has a number of events calling for a general strike on May 1, 2017.
I have no idea whether or not it will “succeed,” but it ought to, and, sooner or later, it must!
What Is It?
A general strike, also known as a political strike, is a labor action that is not limited to a single employer. Instead, it takes in a geographic area. The great Seattle general strike shut down Seattle. There was a general strike in Houston 1946, according to the book, “Rainbow at Midnight.” The 1886 strike for the 8-hour day was worldwide.
The idea is to add economic struggle to our usual progressive arsenal of voting, lobbying, and protesting. A general strike asks that we don’t go to work unless our demands are met.
Recently, we saw “A Day Without an Immigrant” and “A Day Without a Woman” show some limited success throughout the United States. It is very hard to assess how many people actually missed work, because they are likely to keep it secret. Also, no clear demands were put forward and it was never clear exactly who was organizing. We do know that a lot of students took the day off and a few small businesses shut down.
In my opinion, both of these operations were worthwhile because, for the first time since 1946, Americans are seriously discussing the idea of nationwide participation in economic struggle. If you read this far, that’s a victory!
What Could Happen?
“A strike is an incipient revolution”
–Big Bill Haywood, head of the Industrial Workers of the World
It is possible to achieve great goals if participation levels are high enough in a political strike. We see successes in Europe from time to time. Brazilians just struck March 17 over cuts in their government pensions. They shut down Sao Paulo!
What Should Happen On May 1, 2017?
“It is not sufficient to fight, comrades, it is also necessary to win!”
–Leon Trotsky, organizer of the Red Army
Pursuing the economic struggle is not only exigent but necessary. Ultimately, the corporations in power have no concern for democracy. They’ve already eroded American democracy considerably and will do their best to destroy it completely. That’s why we have to learn to use economic struggle.
Organizers who want a successful general strike on May 1, 2017, need to come together on demands and strategies. Legislation guaranteeing a national minimum wage of $15/hours would be a good target demand. If Congress should pass such legislation and the President were to sign it into law, the May 1 general strike should be called off. If not, organizers should make certain that employers feel the consequences.
A good strategy would be to organize “flying pickets” on May 1. In advance, sign-making parties could be set up that would help develop and train volunteers. A rendezvous point and some picketing targets could be discussed. On May 1, organizers would gather at the rendezvous point and send carloads of picketers to selected low-paying enterprises such as fast-food restaurants. The more the better, but even a small turnout at a limited number of targets might have a measurable effect.
What WILL Happen on May 1, 2017?