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A general strike is a strike action by an entire labour force in a city, region or country. In the late 19th century, the growing international labour movements advocated general strikes for industrial or political purposes.
General strikes were frequent in Spain during the early twentieth century, where revolutionary anarcho-syndicalism was most popular. The biggest general strike in recent European history – and the largest general wildcat strike ever – was May 68 in France.
Many leftist and socialist movements have hoped to mount a "peaceful revolution" in a country by organizing enough strikers to completely paralyze it. With the state and corporate apparatus thus crippled, the workers would be able to re-organize society along radically different lines. This philosophy was favored by the anarcho-syndicalist labor organization Industrial Workers of the World, especially in the early twentieth century, when many members hoped to organize "One Big Union" of all workers who would launch the general strike that would end capitalism forever.
The term "general strike" is sometimes also applied to large-scale strikes of all of the workers in a particular industry, such as the Textile workers strike (1934). Those "general" strikes, however massive they might be, only involve workers who are pursuing their own immediate economic demands. The classic general strike, by contrast, also involves workers who have no direct stake in the outcome of the strike; as an example, in the San Francisco General Strike of 1934, both organized and non-union workers struck for four days in protest of the police and employers' tactics that had killed two picketers and in support of the longshoremen's and seamen's demands.
Notable General Strikes
- 1820 Rising in Scotland
- Winnipeg General Strike of 1919
- Seattle General Strike of 1919
- British General Strike of 1926
- San Francisco general strike of 1934
- Minneapolis General Strike of 1934
- Toledo General Strike of 1934
- French general strike of May 1968
- Northern Ireland general strike of May 1974
- Italian general strike of 2002
- Spanish general strike of 2002
- Ukraine's Orange Revolution of 2004
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