Social media calls for general strike likely won’t bring change

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There have been calls in social media for a general strike in October.

Spencer Wakefield, Staff Writer

It is arguably impossible to overstate the potential leverage the working class in the United States has at this moment. The pandemic has made clear to countless people the almost objective pointlessness of many jobs. The government under both Presidents Trump and Biden have left hundreds of thousands to die of the coronavirus instead of instituting safety measures because those measures would affect the profits of their highest donors, and there have been years of fighting for higher wages to combat the sickeningly high rents in most of the country.  

Strikes have been one of the most effective tools workers have had for improving their conditions. Seizing this potential for a better future for workers, a loose coalition from dozens of workplaces have suggested one of the most revolutionary broad actions we could take- a general strike. This strike is slated to start on Oct. 15, with, in my opinion, very mild demands. There are rumblings in many circles, both politically engaged and not, about what it could potentially bring about. However, I would also argue that it may be doomed to fail.  

General strikes can grind production to a halt, historically speaking. The word “general” implies what most would think- a strike of all workers, across all industries. The almost-revolution of France in 1968, which resulted in the creation of the country’s robust welfare state, was the largest and most effective general strike in the last 100 years. The country was flung into a panic, with the president fleeing to Germany out of fear of revolution. However, unlike France in May, 1968, the proposed general strike of October has no institutional backing, nor are workers in the United States anywhere near as class conscious as even our modern French counterparts. Unions have, in the last half century, lost almost all of their political power and membership across the United States, and no strike without a strike fund is likely to be successful.  

It is an extremely good sign of political consciousness returning to the working class of this country, something that was thoroughly beaten out of it by the last four decades of Reaganomics and its accompanying propaganda. However, the October strike will not become another October Revolution, not without the backing of what few strong unions remain.  

While it is promising that people are willing to risk everything over a general strike, this is not the first time, even in the last three years, that a general strike has been called for. In Sept. 2019, millions across the globe participated in the climate strikes. But what, exactly, has changed since then? None of their demands were met, and the world is still on fire. None of the October strike’s demands will be met either, and we will still be working horrible jobs for horrible pay with the looming threat of viral death behind us every day.  

However, the real steps towards a workers’ movement in the U.S. and abroad are clear in the opinions of many, including myself. Support for unions is at a high among workers not seen in decades, and focusing that support into a coalition of real, concrete unions could make a general strike feasible in the future. 

We should be lending our support to strikes that are taking place now, like the ones at Nabisco and Lays. We can have a better world, it just won’t come about from a strike organized through social media by a few dozen idealists.