To the ramparts once again? The organizers of the Women’s March on Washington did surprisingly well in organizing protests not just in the capital, but in other major cities around the country. Now they have announced that they will call a general strike at some point called “A Day Without a Woman.”
Left unanswered: why?
The will of the people will stand. pic.twitter.com/SKJCRLhRKn
— Women's March (@womensmarch) February 6, 2017
Let’s note that the history of general strikes in the US isn’t exactly stellar, especially over the last century. A handful in the 19th century did succeed, but they were targeted to specific working conditions and industries, and were more localized than general. Three are the most well-known: Philadelphia in 1835, St. Louis in 1877, and New Orleans in 1892. The Philadelphia strike was the most successful and influential, while the St. Louis strike ended in disaster. With the growing influence of unions and the enactment of employment law covering working conditions and compensation, general strikes in the US all but disappeared shortly after World War II. (And frankly, it takes some effort to even find this much.)
The most recent attempt to call a general strike in the US was five years ago, when the Occupy movement demanded it on May Day. Remember how that brought the nation to its knees? Yeah, neither does anyone else.
By the way, the Women’s March isn’t the only entity calling for a general strike. A group calling itself F17Strike has called for a nationwide refusal to engage the economic system a week from Friday. That date is rather convenient, and probably no coincidence:
A proposed national general strike to oppose any and all things Trump has been coalescing around February 17, the Friday before President’s Day — when, presumably, a lot of people will be taking off work anyway because it’s the Friday of a holiday weekend. The idea gained traction on social media in the last few days and was promulgated in a piece by novelist Francine Prose published Monday in the Guardian. “The struggles for civil rights and Indian independence, against apartheid and the Vietnam War — it’s hard to think of a nonviolent movement that has succeeded without causing its opponents a certain amount of trouble, discomfort and inconvenience,” Prose writes, noting that protests like the Women’s March are powerful but all too easily ignored by those who want to ignore them. “And economic boycotts — another sort of trouble and inconvenience — have proved remarkably successful in persuading companies to cease supporting repressive governments.”
Without specifying the day, she suggests a nonviolent general strike, “a day on which no one (that is, anyone who can do so without being fired) goes to work, a day when no one shops or spends money, a day on which we truly make our economic and political power felt, a day when we make it clear: how many of us there are, how strong and committed we are, how much we can accomplish.”
I suspect they will find themselves disappointed in that outcome, although they’ll probably proclaim victory on some public pretense or another. This effort suffers from the same one that the Women’s March strike does: no particular purpose other than to whine over losing the election. The F17 organizers basically demand a do-over:
In other words, it’s a sore losers rally. Good luck with that; America has heard plenty of that every day since November 8th, so it’s not exactly going to be a novelty to find others on the street continuing to gripe about their inability to win. Most likely, stunts like this will remind people why that outcome was either the best possible, or at the very least not the worst outcome.