Ready for A General Strike?

Those who are re-thinking politics because of these unprecedented times might enjoy a new video on YouTube: “General Strike.”

A very handsome young man explains why every American worker should begin immediately to prepare for a nationwide political strike. He suggests two kinds of activities: stop going to work and stop paying rent. Either one, he says, will certainly teach the capitalists a lesson.

Normally, people wouldn’t even listen, certainly not for 42 minutes. But these aren’t normal times. Instead of dismissing the guy, why not look on the positive side?

You have to admit right away, he’s a really good presenter. Probably a graduate of college communications courses.

Another thing I like is that, unlike lots of radicals I’ve known, he doesn’t think we can all stop working tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, and thus overthrow the government. His stated goals are pretty much the same ones that progressive politicians espouse: health care for all, fair wages for all, and protection against Covid-19.

He shows a lot more humility than the old know-it-all radicals. He says he doesn’t precisely prescribe a process, but he recommends joining and helping progressive organizations. He wants us to support the strikes that already happening. He wants us to help with the Native American cause. These are pretty much in line with what other progressive organizations want. He doesn’t put forward his own timetable for the rest of us to meet. Actually, I was a little disappointed that he didn’t mention International Workers Day, May 1st.

So, we had a persuasive argument to prepare for a general strike from a very pleasant young man who says that this is the most important political period of his life. In general, I agree with him. Getting ready for a general strike is a good idea. If one wanted to be negative, one could complain that radicals are always calling for general strikes, and it’s true – but it doesn’t mean that they are wrong every time they do it. Right now today, Republican politicians are preparing to force everybody back to work, pandemic or no pandemic! Maybe the times have caught up with the idea? Columnist Abigail Van Buren used to say, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day!”

Digging a little deeper, one wonders why the brother doesn’t identify any particular organization with whom he agrees and that the rest of us should join. He gives several hashtags to help us organize: #GeneralStrike2020 #RentStrike2020 and #CareStrike. The video gives his name and title, “Emerican Johnson, Cornpop Ambassador to Vietnam.” At the end of the video, there’s a list of names with a background poem being read. It has “F-U” all through it.

That’s when I began to be critical. Why, if one hopes to organize everyone, would someone deliberately offend all the religious and vulgarity-conscious workers? Is profanity a membership requirement in whatever movement Brother Johnson hopes to build?

Further, what is this organization? There are some clues. For one thing, the speaker’s background is a bright combination of red and black. Red is traditionally the workers’ color, and black is for anarchists. The icon to start the video shows a black cat. The first organization listed as a good one to work with is the Industrial Workers of the World, IWW.

AHA! What American radical group has red and black for their colors, a black cat for their symbol, and “general strike” as the short form of their entire program? What American radical leader can talk for 42 minutes without mentioning the importance of union contracts and electoral politics for working families? Yes, it’s the Wobblies, the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World.

The IWW has been trying to organize a general strike to overthrow capitalism since they began at the turn of the last century. Again, that doesn’t mean that they were wrong, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they are wrong right now today!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast the program. My other rants are podcast as “Workers Beat Extra.” If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

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