Is There Any Better Time Than Now For a General Strike?

Yves here. The super rich don’t appear to have the good sense to realize that even their refrigerators of food will carry them only a few months, and they depend on other critical supplies like drugs and fuel, as well as laborers to maintain their properties. With so-called front line workers putting their health at risk for inadequate (if any) hazard pay, now is the time to demand better. And if takes a general strike, so be it. Nurses have been planning a one-day walkout to make a similar point.

By Sonali Kolhatkar,  the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into stark relief the inequalities baked into the U.S.’s capitalist system—one that deems nurses and grocery workers “essential,” but leaves them with just as few rights and privileges as they had before the crisis struck. The scenario before us, where society depends more than ever on the bottom rung of the working class, offers a perfect storm for these “essential workers” to use their leverage and demand better protections for themselves now and in the future. This perfect storm may well unfold on May 1—a day with historic roots in the U.S., marked by workers all around the world to demand their labor rights.

For those of us considered “non-essential workers,” May 1, 2020, also offers an opportunity to say a resounding “no” to President Donald Trump, who is desperate to salvage his flagging shot at reelection and demanding that people return to work at the beginning of May. Trump has made clear that his needs are more important than ours in defying health experts who agree that May 1 is far too early to return to “normal.” He has claimed “total” authority over lifting state and citywide quarantines during the pandemic. A general strike on May 1 would lay waste to his wishful thinking for totalitarianism.

Kali Akuno, the co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, laid out his organization’s call for a May Day strike this year and shared with me in an interview that, “we are calling on all workers to come as one, in particular the essential workers to strike for their lives.” He explained that, “If Trump is calling for businesses to return to normal, if that is allowed to proceed without the personal protective gear being in place for every single one of our essential workers, we’re just going to create a calamity and keep this crisis going further.”

Akuno also sees the pandemic as a turning point where workers can send a message of refusing to “go back to business-as-usual”—the status quo where a massive underclass of working people are living paycheck-to-paycheck without adequate health care, paid leave, childcare for their dependents, or decent wages is no longer acceptable. “It was business-as-usual that allowed this to roll out in the way that it has,” he said.

Workers deemed “essential” have been forced to work in order to keep their jobs but offered little recompense or even protection from the virus. A supermarket worker at Tem’s Food Market in Macon, Mississippi, found my personal mask-making project on social media and begged me to make 20 masks for her colleagues and her. In the early days of the crisis, not only were grocery workers like her not provided with protective gear, but many were also stunningly not allowed to wear their own safety equipment such as masks and gloves. My own cousin, a grocery store manager in Boston, Massachusetts, responded to my worried queries about his health and safety saying that upper management was not permitting him and others to wear masks at work until recently. This was corroborated by supermarket analyst Phil Lempert who told the Washington Post, “One of the biggest mistakes supermarkets made early on was not allowing employees to wear masks and gloves the way they wanted to.”

It is no wonder that the workers we rely on to feed and care for us are falling ill from the virus and dying. Thousands of grocery workers have already tested positive for COVID-19 and as of mid-April more than 40 have died. Although such “essential workers” are naturally terrified of catching the virus in their workplace, their vulnerable socioeconomic status also means they cannot afford to quit. The pressure to conform and fall in line with the demands of corporate America are all too real as workers face a choice between accepting their oppression or being fired. More than 16 million Americans have already lost their jobs, and beyond a $1,200 payout from the federal government and hard-to-access unemployment benefits, there is little else to compensate them.

Still, in the face of such an untenable situation, workers are already agitating for their rights with walkouts and protests. The New York Times’ labor writer Steven Greenhouse explained that, “Fearing retaliation, American workers are generally far more reluctant to stick their necks out and protest working conditions than are workers in other industrial countries.” However, now, “with greater fear of the disease than of their bosses, workers have set off a burst of walkouts, sickouts and wildcat strikes.” Whole Foods workers had planned an action for May Day but moved up their “sick out” to March 31 to demand better conditions and pay. Amazon workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, organized a walkout, but the world’s largest retail giant simply fired the organizer. The person ultimately responsible for overseeing workers at Whole Foods and Amazon is Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man who personally racked up an extra $24 billion this year alone largely as a result of the pandemic. Bezos’s wealth and power, when contrasted with the harsh conditions under which his employees work, are an appropriate symbol for a general strike on May Day as the best chance for workers to demand their rights.

On its website, Akuno’s organization Cooperation Jackson spells out the demands it is making for May Day in encouraging workers to not show up for their jobs, and for all Americans to collectively refuse to shop for a day. These include not only short-term demands for personal protective equipment for all essential workers, but also long-term demands for a Universal Basic Income, health care for all, housing rights, and a Green New Deal.

Americans are perhaps more receptive to the idea of a general strike than they have been in a century. Alongside the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet are calls on social media for a #GeneralStrike2020. High-profile left thinkers like Naomi Klein have already embraced the idea of a general strike. But Akuno admits that a strike will not work if only small numbers of Americans participate, saying, “we need to reach people in the hundreds of millions,” and “we have to organize in such a way where we change the fundamental dynamics of labor, how it’s valued, how it’s treated.” In other words, there is the potential for transformative change in this crisis—but only if we can seize the moment.

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  1. xkeyscored

    May 1, 2020, also offers an opportunity to say a resounding “no” to President Donald Trump

    I hope a general strike goes way beyond saying ‘no’ to one representative of one faction of the US ruling class. Cooperation Jackson’s demands thankfully don’t mention him or the Dem/Rep nonsense, even if their webpage calling for a strike does.

    “We have an opportunity to take control now, and we are ready to fight for a society in which all people can live with full autonomy without having to worry about survival.”

    Taking control would be great indeed. Giving it to the Democrats, who have shown little interest in reining in the corporations and rentiers, would accomplish little, I fear.

    “We can shut the system down to break the power of the state and capitalist class.” And if we don’t, they’ll continue on their omnicidal path, turning the fruits of our labour against us.

  2. rob

    A general strike could be great….. if there was something to strike about…
    But there isn’t… there are a thousand things to strike about.
    The gods have crushed out “tower of babel”… we now speak with too many voices , for any of them to be heard.
    There is no “central” idea. The voices are in static opposition to each other. The hegelian dialectic keeps the status quo.
    If there was cohesion… a population could control their government.But at this moment… there are too many opinions…. and the least sane ones have the support of more financial backing…
    The propaganda, we as a species have known; is absolute
    Our political leaders/voices
    our religious leaders/stories
    our historical indoctrinations
    our opinions are provided to us ,with the result being stagnation.

    If we could agree what is important, we could decide to move forward.. but we can’t… so we can’t get there from here.
    And legions of mis-informed people are still the tools of our oppression, and the protectors of our masters power.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      paraphrasing: (nothing to strike about because everything is to strike about)

      The tower of Babel is way off the mark. The strike as described would be quite reasonably specific. 1) about critical workers getting pay and conditions commensurate with the risks they are taking. 2) the opposite of “The American Dream Nightmare” that workers lives are less important than the wealth of the few.

      In concrete terms this means: improve working conditions (safety, health care) and pay for all workers that must continue to work during the pandemic and two, keep the priority on managing and reducing the pandemic RATHER than shifting the focus to bringing back the economy. This would include maintaining and supporting the effort to care for the sick and should be enhanced to also caring for ALL people, never mind just “workers,” stranded without income.

      Anyway, that’s my take from the post. I could easily be missing something, and may have added in a couple of my own pets without diluting the message to babel.

    2. flora

      My take: by now, the wealthy have stockpiled (see Nancy’s freezers) and can comfortably go a month or more without groceries or carry out, for example. The people most effected by a 1 day strike now would be the not-rich people struggling to get by… and the public backlash from that would undercut what the strike is meant to achieve.

      Nurses walking out for a day over criminally dangerous – for themselves and their patients – working conditions is understandable and applauded. That’s specific.
      A general strike at this time – in an attempt to show the rich who’s really in charge – is destined to backfire in the area of public sympathy and support. My 2 cents.

      1. flora

        Adding: looked at the unemployment numbers? If I’m working an unskilled or low skilled job right now, or if I’m hanging on to my job when others around me have been let go, not sure I’d want to encourage my boss to let me go, too. So many people are desperate for a job right not.

        I’m very sympathetic to the idea of general strike, but have to wonder about the common sense of people who encourage the struggling to risk their employment in a general strike at this particular time. Have you seen the unemployment numbers recently? Ordering Cavalry charges into machine gun fire in WWI comes to mind.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          You make very good points in both comments and I’m not sure they can be reasonably answered. But even then, even without good answers, the strike may be worth it, however more sober and stark such a decision would have to be when considering your cautions.

          Strikes are always a last resort, when conditions beomce really intolerable. And without even talking about the horrific conditions in ICU’s, I think an argument can be made that some things such as checkout workers in supermarkets, are simply in an untenable situation as is. These people, kids, adults, older “baggers,” just to light on one aspect (shelf stockers being another) are literally risking their lives for salaries that woudn’t even cover shelter without room-mates, never mind real health care insurance. It’s insanity, real insanity and qualifies for searching introspection. Is risking my life for this worth it? For some there may not be a choice – it’s work or go on the streets and likely perish anyway. For others, the risk is just so far out of proportion to the reward that it’s worth trying to make the situation visible to others even at the risk of job loss.

          Then, I think the whole idea of just a 1 day strike would be to make these untenable conditions as widely known as possible while minimizing backlash from the corporate level. One of the points you suggest that I’m not sure of is, “an attempt to show the rich who’s really in charge.” If this is the idea of the strike, then I think it worthless. I see the idea being to try and make the public at large aware of just how impossible and unfair such conditions are and to leverage that recognition to get management to change, whether it be food service or the ICU. It certainly can’t be to bring management to it’s knees – in 24 little hours.

          Coming back to where I started, however, I still don’t see this as fully answering your points. It’s not at all clear cut and there wold indeed be real danger to people involved.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            Adding, that one feature of such a strike might be to make some people already in such jobs aware of just how dangerous they are. I have friends with newly adult children that still think this whole thing is a lark and are pleased to hold down nickel and dime jobs (the friends could use a little tweaking as well). They NEED to be made aware of COVID-19 and how dangerous it is just as much as the public at large needs to be aware of the inequities involved.

          2. flora

            I agree with all you say. Yet, there’s a third aspect: who owns the corporations and businesses you strike against? PE owns more and more hospitals, care homes, doctors offices, grocery chains, chain stores and restaurants of all kinds. PE makes it’s money by hollowing out and destroying companies, making money on the failures. If a general strike caused these grocery chains and PE hospital chains to “fail” then it just pads more income into PE owners portfolios, maybe a little sooner than expected, but they’ll make money either way. If they show a big enough loss they’ll get a govt bailout and then after they’ll let the businesses fail. They aren’t interested in the long term viability of the companies they own.

            The monstrously bloated health insurance companies will make more money. United Health is making a boatload of money right now.

            So, I agree with your points, in general. But know who and what owns the businesses you’re striking against, and ask if the strike will in any real way hurt them, or in a perverse way help them.

            1. flora

              This isn’t to say ‘don’t strike’; it’s to suggest the importance of knowing the who and what and how to make a general strike now, or any strike, effective and not ultimately a demoralizing failure.
              I haven’t seen that level of who/what/how expressed anywhere about a general strike. I have seen it expressed by several of the smaller strikes and wildcat strikes occurring now.

            2. Hepativore

              There is also the fact that the rank-and-file media sources are going to be eager to paint strikers as selfish and ungrateful, not to mention the fact that the financial elites, egged on by the PMC would probably order in law enforcement/national guard on all of the strikers. After all, look how they are sacrificing the financial health of our country during the pandemic instead of going out and doing their duty for their paymasters. Plus, there is that bill that would suspend the right to due process and allow police to hold people indefinitely without trial during “times of national emergency” that is probably going to be approved if it has not been done so already.

              While I think a general strike might have been possible in times past, the US workforce is simply too downtrodden and scared to try and attempt such a thing en mass, not to mention the fact that the military and law enforcement have much nastier weapons and technological means to keep people in line than they ever did before. It might be easier for people to organize than it was in the past, but it is also much easier for people to be spied on now. Spying and monitoring is a routine practice by employers as well as the companies that run the private platforms that people might use to organize. The private sector openly sells information to and communicates with various state and federal agencies in order for the police state to enforce the will of the business elites. There is no option to “opt out” of having your data collected with many of these things as they either completely dominate most of the marketshare of the niche they fill, or people are forced to submit to surveillance through their jobs if they want to keep them.

              As an aside, one thing that I think is going to happen is that when this whole pandemic is over, the process of business consolidation and monopolization will occur on an even greater scale. Many of the places that closed down during the pandemic are probably not going to reopen again. Then we can look forward to things like Google Rental Properties, Amazon Bar and Grill, and Apple Automobile Dealership rushing in to fill in the void of all of the businesses that were casualties of the pandemic economic fallout.

              1. flora

                I think the PR potential disaster is likely to work as you suggest.

                I’ve tried to point out all the terrain that works against a strike gaining it’s objective right now.

                To be fair, however, there is one way a strike could succeed; it’s a narrow narrow possibility but it does exist, imo. I mentioned PE. i

                Per Matt Stoller: Is Private Equity Having It’s Minsky Moment?

                PE is heavily indebted, and therefore is at high risk in a shock….
                … a few weeks ago, credit spreads for junk bonds blew out, until Congress passed a massive bailout bill and the Fed stepped in…..
                I think you can see where I’m going with this. PE portfolio companies are heavily indebted, and they aren’t generating enough cash to service debts. The steady increase in asset values since 2009 has enabled funds to make tremendous gains because of the use of borrowed money. But now they are exposed to tremendous losses should there be any sort of disruption. And oh has this ever been a disruption. The coronavirus has exposed the entire sector.


                So, one way I can see a general strike hurting PE is by adding yet another shock to their fragile financial system, reducing revenues for even one day might put them closer to margin calls. (PE run on debt, massive debt, thus the risk of margin calls destroying their business model.) Caught between increased risk of margin calls over shrinking revenues because no business for a day and raising wages for workers to keep revenues up would be a gut-check for PE managers, imo.

                1. flora

                  adding: and appologies for going on too long.

                  Being able to threatened well capitalized businesses and corporations in the 1930s with reduced profits is very much different from being able to threaten deeply indebted corporations with not being able to meet their debt payment or margin calls, imo. The environment has wholly changed.

  3. Stella

    The whole point of a general strike is to disrupt daily life. Daily life seems pretty well disrupted already. This smacks of ‘In the past people did a general strike and got change, so lets do a general strike and we’ll get change’ But obviously that’s not how it works. And given the immense amount of media hype surrounding this pandemic, it’s trivial to spin strikers as dangerous radicals, which were they actual dangerous radicals would be a good thing, but since they’re not, well that negative spin hurts your cause immensely, and not being actual dangerous radicals, you will be unable to exploit it to your advantage. At best the media spins this to make Trump look bad, in an attempt to herd enough into Biden2020. The real left, the people, they lose.

    If anything, this whole pandemic response quite clearly shows the limitations of simply “sitting in” and “shutting things down.”

    So where’s the vision? The one that is more than just the sort of sanding off some of the sharp edges of the status quo that those “revolutionaries” like Sanders are peddling, Jacksons bullets a start, but that’s what you jot down on a napkin, we need something with heft. The bibles got heft, the korans got heft, harry potters got heft, marxs got heft. Look at what those inspired people to do and to sacrifice (certainly some horrors there too).

    We certainly need a “new normal” but the one we’re sleepwalking towards sure ain’t it.

    If we hope for any gifts this May Day, let us hope for them to be narrative gifts.

    Or maybe we should stop waiting for gifts and start crafting our own.

    1. Krystyn Podgajski

      The whole point of a general strike is to disrupt daily life.

      I would disagree that is the point. The point is to demonstrate who has the real power. There is no better time than this, when the real power of the economic machine is laid bare by the pandemic. This virus is pro-working class and has initiated a strike for us.

      When my grandfather was striking in to coal towns in Pennsylvania there was little disruption to their lives but not working and possibly getting beat up on the way to the Polka Club. They grew food and stole coal from the mines.

      And there are more ways to strike than via labor. Rent strikes, boycotts, etc.

      But have you noticed how eager some people want us to “get back to work”? It’s becasue they know this shows both out power and their weakness.

      To me, if you want the heft that stories bring, start explaining this virus as a message from Gaia, the great balancer. I have been doing that and it seems to be easily digested by most people.

  4. Rod

    some big blue sky outside my door this morning when the next generation sent this to me:

    Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. (That never happened. What are you talking about?)


    What in the holy fuck just happened? I hope you might consider this: What happened is inexplicably incredible. It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound. Please don’t recoil from the bright light beaming through the window. I know it hurts your eyes. It hurts mine, too. But the curtain is wide open. What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped. Here it is. We’re in it.

    imo, a good read for the optimists amongst us…

    1. Shonde

      Isn’t what is happening to our economy right now what would be happening to that same economy if there were a real general strike during so called normal times?

      In essence, the virus is showing us the economic power of a general strike. Now how do we get “we the people” to understand the power in our hands that is currently so evident?

  5. Donna

    Thank you, Yves and Brooklyn Bridge. I heard Akuno interviewed on Black Agenda Report last week. I say “yes, let’s do this thing.” I believe in the effectiveness of strike action. My Dad was a member of the AFL-CIO. In the 50s, I remember my Dad and actually our family participated in two strike actions. I say family because there definitely was less food and less money during the strike. However, as a result I went from having to wear shoes with the nails coming through the soles to always having sturdy shoes.

    I also remember the grape boycott in the 70s. Of course, that action got national coverage and shoppers understood the hardships the farm workers faced and supported them. I don’t expect a General Strike to be covered in the MSM. But, I intend to promote this with friends and family. Hopefully, we can all get the word out.

    1. Arizona Slim

      My late mother was a union card-carrying public school teacher. I will join this strike in her memory.

  6. Frank Little

    There was a very interesting graphic circulating on twitter the other day showing the ability to work from home by income quintile (or maybe it was quartile) and, unsurprisingly, the wealthier you are the more likely you are to be able to work from home. This is part of why so many rich people who will probably not be going back in to the office are the ones clamoring for the economy to “open up” so the poor can get back to risking their lives to move things around for them.

    I remember seeing a video of a warehouse worker (can’t remember where) complaining about all the conditions while also lamenting that he and his co-workers were risking their lives to package things like Gucci sunglasses and other obviously non-essential items during a crisis.

    I certainly don’t blame the workers for demanding only one day of action on May Day given the many risks they face on top of already precarious circumstances, but unless higher paid workers who are still being paid while working from home are willing to stand alongside these low wage workers for an extended period of time I fear a brief work stoppage won’t be effective. Perhaps a longer stoppage would work better, but those who can would need to be putting money in put into a strike fund. Such a fund would also present challenges since so many workers lack any kind of union protection and infrastructure.

  7. Trick Shroadé

    I’m going to a contrarian and say that things will go back to normal (for better or worse) more quickly that a lot of people think.

    1. Buckeye

      Yep, you have it right. People have no identity outside working long hours for crap money at a rotten job. Weak personal finances and weak sense of self have been exposed by this shutdown.

      There WILL be fallout in some sectors, like retail and restaurants. But that will be driven top-down by financial factors, not bottom-up by some “proletariat awakening.”

      There is no attack on the status quo because that relies on a top-down organization to get things going at the grassroots. No such top-down organization exists. Masses of people rising up against oppressors always leads to bloody defeat. Every peasant uprising in history comes to mind.

    2. Anarcissie

      I’m going to a contrarian and say that things will go back to normal (for better or worse) more quickly that a lot of people think.

      I don’t think we know that yet. One thing we don’t know is when the infection and death rates will decline. Another is how the political system will handle the pressures from the ruling class to make people get back to work and the contrary pressures from various quarters in the opposite direction. A third unknown is how pasting over the supposed gigantic hole in economy with funny money is going to work.

      No sort of normalization is going to occur while those uncertainties remain in play.

  8. Krystyn Podgajski

    Shouldn’t we be doing slow, incremental strikes? You know, to attack more middle of the road people?

      1. Krystyn Podgajski

        Whoops, frckn autocorrect. Should have read:

        Shouldn’t we be doing slow, incremental strikes? You know, to attract more middle of the road people?

        I was being sarcastic.

        1. Shonde

          You mean like all the Biden and Hillary supporters who are true believers in incremental change?

        2. Oregoncharles

          That’s what a one-day strike is, essentially a shot across the bow. And a starting point.

      2. xkeyscored

        Do we have to convince existing decision-makers? That just leaves them running the show, doubtless doing all they can to retain their power.
        It may be utopian wishful thinking, but mightn’t making decisions ourselves be a good idea?

        1. Mel

          The final strike will be when the strikers don’t carry placards — they’ll bring sheafs of paperwork. And when the event ends at 3PM, they’ll put their paperwork down on the desks, and update their phone numbers in the rolodexes, and start administering. That’s when we’ll know they’re serious. (That’s how Jack London’s story goes, too, come to think of it.)

  9. The Historian

    I’m retired so there is no job for me to strike. But in solidarity with the strikers, I am going to have a silent day. I will turn my phone, my TV and my internet off and just do other things that don’t cost money instead.

    1. Aloha

      What a great idea and thanks for posting it!!! For those of us who are disabled this makes participating possible too.
      Our gov. here in Hawaii has just announced that in order for him to “balance the budget” he is suggesting a 20% pay cut for nurses, public teachers and all state workers. The protest is on!

      Thank you Yves for posting this topic because it gives me hope that we can have a much better future for all of us but this beautiful planet too. If anything is clear it is that we can’t rely on our elected officials to fight for basic human rights.

      My list is long but here are a couple of important topics to consider:
      Put banking regulations that protect consumers back in place and close the PayDay Loan sharks
      Major corporations and the rich start paying state and fed taxes
      Free health care for all
      $15. an hour starting today not 2022
      Minimum 2 weeks paid sick leave, 2 weeks vac.
      Demand that the UK stop the circus trial against Julian Assange and release him

      1. Billy

        Meanwhile, the salaries keep being paid at the Hawaii Commission on the status of women that are publicizing a few landlords soliciting sex from tenants and producing lots of graphics. Nice proselytizing website!

        Wonder how many teachers’ salaries their salaries would pay?

  10. Oso

    Any large scale effort on May 1 will be something to build upon, the last general strike in Oakland was during Occupy and had (per SF Chronicle) participation of up to 100,000. Obviously awareness of CV wouldn’t allow masses in the streets but along with sickouts/zoom etc we can still pack the streets with automobiles. there have been single participant automobile protests of hotels to get homelss people housed in, santa rita jail ‘free them all’ lately. it’s possible to make a real impact here – a positive one, far eclipsing the Lansing, Mi right wing liberty protest.

  11. Rod

    I would alert all at NC that many Climate Crises Organizations are currently mobilizing an electronic blitz for the week of Earth Day April 22–the whole week.
    Millions had been organized to shut down targeted cities in the USA— we have not disappeared or been disbanded.
    We are not dumb and disorganized.
    Sunrise through Sierra Club et al have details.

    Consider it the Entrance Ramp to May 1st and after.

    If you are not part of the solution then you are…

  12. Leroy

    Does anybody have any idea of how it is that in the middle of the worst downturn in the history of America, the stock market is doing well ?

    1. Buckeye

      Trillions of dollars pumped into the hands of corporations by the Federal Reserve/Treasury Dept.

      For at least 15 years now about 80% of the stock market valuation has been due to corporations buying back their own stock shares to push prices (and the index) to outrageously high levels.

      3 Trillion in tax cut welfare last year, and another 2 Trillion in handouts for “virus relief” as well as 9 Trillion in cash pushed into the Overnight Repo market since mid-September 2019.

      And also Trillions in “Quantative Easing” since the 2009 collapse.

      Oh, and super low interest rates.

      Gee, am I missing anything? It’s so hard to keep track of all the corporate communist corruption these days!

    2. Anarcissie

      That’s easy. State institutions produce a lot of funny money and/or credit, which is given to rich people only. Rich people bid the price of shares up. Also, other things rich people buy, like real estate. As long as the funny money is not given to the not-rich, overt inflation does not occur much in the real economy and daily life.

  13. Anarcissie

    I don’t know from the article whether what is proposed is a one- or few-days general strike, or an indefinite general strike to be continued until some conditions are met or some event occurs. The list of demands was very ambitious and suggests that considerable time, effort, and other resources would be required to organize so many disparate interests, groups, and ideas into a unified strike interest, and that it would have to be an indefinite general strike until the demands were met. Part of the effort needed for the strike would be the gathering of resources necessary for the strikers to endure the privations of the strike. Plans would also have to be made for countering antistrike propaganda and violence. Two weeks is certainly not time enough for all that necessary preparation.

    A one-day general strike would not achieve any of those demands, but it might be good practice. I believe the ‘incremental’ idea is to have a series of strikes, each a little longer than the previous one. (I’m assuming people want to take the idea seriously, and it’s not just more fluff to bat around on Twitter.)

  14. Oregoncharles

    Local report: the Oregon Green Party heard from a local group in Medford wanting to do the same thing and hoping we would help lead it. That struck a chord. I think this is a parade we want to get in front of. It also means there’s an organizer out there we didn’t even know about.

    For those who don’t know Oregon: Medford, in far southern Oregon, is not where you would expect a radical initiative to come from. It is, however, far more working class than Ashland, its famous neighbor. I think this means real ferment in some unexpected places – Medford is about as flyover as the west coast gets.

    1. Oso

      Oregoncharles i’ll follow with local report from Oakland. One event is virtual using zoom by Oakland Sin Fronteras, immigrant rights group who put in work on the regular. Second is word of mouth planning, likely along the lines of protests the last two weeks, mobile sound caravans. cars circling (for example) santa rita jail to demand prisoners freed due to covid19, or circling empty hotels to demand homeless be quartered there, to fulfill mayor’s promise gone unfulfilled. nothing like the 80 to 100K (per Chronicle) in 2011 general strike but we’re very conscious of covid19 here. activists pushing #stayhome cause black/brown deaths out of proportion and we have to put the community first, nevertheless we can still be present and show the community we are here for them.

      1. Oso

        basically Mayday actions emphasizing workers seizing power, organizing with social distance in mind. people have signs hung from cars, hit certain areas 6 to 10′ apart.

  15. Tom Bradford

    Sorry. I think it would be a disaster.

    If there was a leader – charismatic and eloquent (tho’ not of course a Hitler, a Franco or a Mussolini) with popular support calling for this, with a clear set of demands someone on the other side could both commit to and implement, well perhaps. But there isn’t.

    As a result it would be scrappy. Nurses and social workers won’t walk out on hospitals and rest homes because the consequences would be immediate to them. Too many people won’t risk losing the jobs they have when there are already millions unemployed, or can’t even afford to lose a day’s pay. The rich – and even the well-off – will sit back and take the first tub of ice-cream of the top layer of the stocks in their freezers, watch their lawns grow and wait for it to pass over.

    And what are you striking for? Improvement in your pay and hours or everyone’s? Health insurance for everyone or m4a? Stocks of protective gear against the next pandemic?
    How would anyone decide the strike had succeeded and call it off.

    And on the streets those who struck and suffered for it will turn on those who for whatever reason didn’t, those who did achieve something for themselves by striking will be resented by those who didn’t, splits will develop and it will be a long, long time before anyone would again dare propose a strike.

    The time for a general strike would be when the economy is humming along, employment is high, the stock market is high and it can be organised from the top down so that those who can’t strike are in a position to show their support for those who can and do by supporting them financially and in other ways, and such strikes as there are can be focussed for maximum damage – truck drivers one day, posties another, supermarket staff another &tc.

    Now is the time to recognise and build solidarity, harness the resentment and anger, note where the stresses are that can be exploited, begin building the organisation and letting the leaders emerge. But now in the middle of a crisis affecting the ‘working class’ worst of all is the worst possible time for a strike, IMHO.

    1. Chuck

      You make a cogent remark and answer the question: to stage a “general strike” or not. I agree with your sentiment and would say that a “general strike” as a tactic in a broader strategy of achieving social, political and economic transformation would make sense; but to tactically launch a general strike as as a form of protest seems ill advised.

      So what are we all “fighting” for? I’m for the Green vision: plutocrats are subdued; government is open and transparent; social justice secures well being and right livelihood; earth is restored so the web of life may live in optimal ecological condition; and a free and open business market place limited by a do-no-harm ecological proscription (or suffer heavy fees / taxes, etc), and reasonable taxation policies.

      We don’t want things to go back to business as usual after Covid 19 lets up; but the way things are going, after Covid19, what we know now and experience will become only more so; just as “civil rights” have thinned out after 9/11 Patriot Act was passed, so will there be more economic consolidation at the top, as many have observed is occurring.

  16. Rattib

    Framing really matters if the goal is mass participation, especially with the obstacles listed above. What about calling for a day (or week) at home of Mourning and Remembrance, so that workers and their allies can assert power while simultaneously calling attention to the gravity of the situation?

  17. RBHoughton

    What an excellent and timely article. Throw away the people purporting to represent unions and get in some real workers who know what’s going on and are willing to stand up to the employers’ thugs. Have we not been saying “We are all in this together?”

  18. Sancho Panza

    With 22 million newly unemployed, and thousands of furloughed hospital workers (yes, covid is killing their core business), I can’t imagine a more absurd idea than a general strike.

  19. Ian

    Yes its a good time to be going on a general strike against the Biden voting electorate. The American electorate can’t even vote for someone like Sanders who has some hope of alleviating their healthcare issues, do you really think they will do a general strike?!

  20. Oso

    this is an excellent time to get the message of worker solidarity out to the community, especially with the history of Mayday. Few people are going to risk their ability to feed their family now and we can’t expect them to. Even during the best of times many workers support in spirit/take paid time off, with covid19 only people in the street will be socially distanced, many been doing mobile caravans with signs/horns to supporter incarcerated or homeless. a chance to reach out on a local basis. many are doing zoom meetups. a chance to plant seeds for the future.

  21. Lupemax

    Once again George Carlin with his wisdom and where I’m at…… addressing the national press club in 1999… in answer to a question about draft dodger Bill Clinton and the Kosovo bombings…

    around the 1 minute mark where he begins…”I see this culture as circling the drain in ever faster and tighter circles…and I just observe it…and I root for that…”
    Indeed I do. Time to give something else a chance. Humanity has failed.

    Of course the entire National Press Club Appearance is outstanding as always… except for the 1 candle birthday cake at the end… Sad that…

  22. Turing Test

    An effective general strike needs leadership and strong organization, neither of which currently exists.

    Which is a shame, because the current historical moment is a rare instance in which the economically disadvantaged are in a position to apply real pressure to the prevailing system and its beneficiaries by threatening to withhold their labour.

    I disagree with those who say this is a bad time to strike. There is no really good time to strike, but the most effective time is when you have leverage, as opposed to waiting for things to return to normal. In normal times – say 3 months ago- labour didn’t have any leverage, and that was reflected in their utter impotence and political irrelevance.

    If they allow this historical moment to pass all they can look forward to is a return to the status quo.

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