‘general strike!’ – and then what?

4 03 2011

London communist forum: 4pm, Sunday 13th March at the Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, near Old St

From SWP to anarchists, Britain’s far left is calling for a general strike. Such calls are likely to get louder in the run-up to the TUC demonstration in London on 26th March.

To some, the general strike is a tactic to extract concessions from the ruling class. Others believe a general strike can bring down the Con-Dem government. And then there’s those who regard it as a… route towards working class rule and socialism.

What happens when a general strike is declared? How long can we last when everything comes to a standstill? How will the ruling class fight back? Who or what will fill the power vacuum if the government is toppled? Is a trade union based struggle sufficient to overthrow capitalism and establish a socialist society?

Our debate will address these and other questions, touching on topics such as Rosa Luxemburg’s seminal text, The Mass Strike, the May ’68 strike in France, the 1980 Solidarność-led strike in Poland, and the continuing strikes in Egypt.

Speakers are Mike Macnair (CPGB, author of Revolutionary Strategy) and David Broder (The Commune).

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4 responses

8 03 2011
Chris Ford

‘The Mass Strike, the May ’68 strike in France, the 1980 Solidarność-led strike in Poland, and the continuing strikes in Egypt’

Is this a caricature? The Leninist/Weekly Worker supported the military repression of Stalinist regime in Poland against Solidarnoc, in Miners Strike Support Committees such as the Glasgow Mineworkers Defence Committee they opposed solidarity with Solidarnosc and motions condemning the scab coal from the Polish regime.

9 03 2011

How is that a ‘caricature’?

9 03 2011

If you go as far back in history as Rosa Luxemburg, you could probably look up Georges Sorel’s ‘Reflections on Violence’, too. I know he’s not quite a Marxist writer; still his writings not only confuse but inspire (as Gramsci once pointed out). In the said pamphlet, he opposed the idea of nation-wide general political strike, which, in his opinion, was nonsense and of no use for the workers, to the concept of the proletarian mass strike, which though seemingly pursuing economic goals only, was a genuine revolutionary act because of its mobilizing potential, open class confrontation, etc. The pamphlet is not an easy read, interwoven with vague ideas and arguing with long dead and forgotten politicians but still worth the effort.

The use of strikes by counterrevolutionary, conservative forces (Chile, Venezuela) is another potentially interesting topic to touch upon.

And how about the 1926 strike?

9 03 2011
Dave Black


In her 1904 critique of the Bolsheviks, Luxemburg criticized a “subjectivism” that would attempt to bar the way to opportunism “by means of clauses in a party constitution”. What was needed was an organizational plasticity:

“Socialism in life demands a complete spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois rule… No one knows this better, describes it more penetratingly; repeats it more stubbornly than Lenin. But he is completely mistaken in the means he employs…The only way to a rebirth is the school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by terror which demoralizes.”

But no sooner had Luxemburg penned this critique than the Russian Revolution of 1905 overthrew the role of the revolutionary as “schoolmaster” and inspired her theory of the “Mass Strike.” In this new form of struggle arose the possibility of overcoming the movement’s antinomies: of the political and the economic; and of the organized and non-organized forces of revolution (a point stressed by Dunayevskaya in her book on Luxemburg). As Gillian Rose argues, this prognosis may be taken “counter-suggestively as a prophetic index of the counter-revolutionary politics that are likely to ensue when non-organized workers are not rallied and do not rally to the political and economic struggle”; it is the “incipient insight that barbarism without ‘socialism’ leads to some form of fascism.”


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