As we approach the first large-scale strike against the Coalition cuts offensive, unrealistic demagogy about “General Strike” continues to proliferate on the left.
The Socialist Party calls for a “one day public sector general strike”, i.e. not a full-scale general strike, usually with GENERAL STRIKE in huge letters and the rest tiny. Meanwhile, in the leadership of the PCS union, it deflects discussion of the kind of action that can actually win. PCS conference was told that “nothing is ruled out”, but delegates were not allowed to debate specifics.
The SWP continues to raise the slogan everywhere except where it might have some effect, as a way of sounding left-wing and recruiting. Meanwhile the role of its members in the unions is far from revolutionary: witness NUT conference, where they helped push a concrete plan for action in the autumn off the agenda.
Amid this orchestra of stupidity and cynicism comes a humorous note, from Workers Power. The WP youth group, Revolution, has launched a petition — yes, a petition — for a general strike.
Since WP expelled almost all its experienced trade union activists five years ago, there is little “ballast” in the organisation to hold it back from this kind of extravagant silliness.
Whom are they petitioning? The petition doesn’t say. It says that Revo “believe it is time for a general strike in this country too” and that they’d “like as many young people as possible to sign the call for a general strike”. No doubt, since more signatories means more contacts for WP.
The statement cites “general strikes” that have recently taken place in “Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal”. In fact the very impressive French strikes and workplace occupations over pensions last October failed because they did not turn into a general strike; and the Greek general strikes have so far been episodic mobilisations with little rank-and-file control or ongoing strategy to win.
The WP “petition” is as far from educating young activists about the dynamics of these very different struggles as it is from putting forward a serious strategy for mass mobilisation after 30 June in the British labour movement.