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The Nation

Do We Need a General Strike?

It seems to me that just the very fact that the idea of a general strike is being discussed shows how far our political discourse has come and how deeply Scott Walker and prolonged economic anxiety have radicalized otherwise moderate masses.

Walker's bill reaches far beyond just public sector unions and his stripping of public workers' right to bargain affects the rights of everyone who works for a living. This attack on workers' rights, if allowed to stand, won't stop with the public sector or with Wisconsin. These anti-union bills are already spreading around the country from Indiana to Ohio to Nebraska to Michigan.

The IWW website is making a strong case for a general strike as the most effective tool to combat Walker's bill and copycat legislation cropping up in numerous other states.

"A general strike against Walker would begin the process of rebuilding a strong labor movement in the United States. Since the US plays such an important role in the global economy and world political system, this could also invigorate workers' struggles around the planet. To make it happen will require participation from many people across industries, across unions, and across the country."

The South Central Federation of Labor, a federation of 97 labor organizations representing 45,000 workers, has already endorsed the need to prepare for a general strike and David Dayen reports at FDL that the mood of the protesters, who stormed the Capitol on word of the bill's passage, echoes that resolution. "You could see some kind of near-term labor walkout, at least in Madison and possibly throughout the state."

Joe Conway, the charismatic president of the Madison firefighters’ union, said recently that the political situation has grown so dire in Wisconsin, he’d support a general strike. “We should start walking out tomorrow, the next day. See how long they can last,” he told reporters with The Uptake. “This is a nation-wide movement to attack all working men and women in Wisconsin and the United States.”

And Michael Moore has called on high school students and working people of all stripes to restart the American democracy movement and fight back in this latest round of “class war” against the middle class.

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg writes the ActNow column for the The Nation. ActNow aims to put readers in touch with creative ways to register informed dissent. Whether it's a grassroots political campaign, a progressive film festival, an antiwar candidate, a street march, a Congressional bill needing popular support or a global petition, ActNow will highlight the outpouring of cultural, political and anti-corporate activism sweeping the planet.

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