(Scene from the ongoing strike and lock-out at Tecnocap in Glen Dale, West Virginia)
Over 300,000 private sector workers in the United States are filling out strike ballots this month. Las Vegas casino, resort and entertainment workers and a quarter of a million United Parcel Service and UPS Freight workers nationwide are just the latest exclamation point on the story of our generation: the strike wave of 2018.
Just as the public school workers’ strikes brought the question of social production and reproduction directly, immediately, personally, into the lives of the rest of the working-class, the continuing tendency toward statewide, interstate and sector-wide strikes is sustaining the strike movement at the national and most local levels. As more workers are touched by the strike wave, more workers are deciding to resist, demand, organize and strike at their own workplaces.
Writing in 1918, a forgotten leader of the American socialist movement, Louis Fraina, observed that, “The concentration of industry and technological development generally have during the past twenty years revolutionized the material existence of the proletariat. On the one hand has been produced the typical proletarian of average unskilled labor; on the other, the integration of industry in mammoth proportions has developed the conditions for general class action of the workers through industrial means directed against the capitalist, not as an individual but as a class, and against the whole bourgeois regime and its state.”
How familiar this observation from 100 years ago sounds today. Then, it was in response to the rise of the assembly line and Taylorism. Today, those same words could be applied to the rise of the FANGS (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google + Apple) and the social consequences of the contemporary capitalism that made them.
How familiar too are the political conclusions he drew from that observation, which have remained valid for the working-class despite the fact that Fraina in 1918 could not have predicted the capitalism of 2018:
“Mass action is not a form of action as much as it is a process and synthesis of action. It is the unity of all forms of proletarian action, a means of throwing the proletariat, organized and unorganized, in a general struggle against capitalism and the capitalist state. It is the sharp, definite expression of the revolt of the workers under the impact of the antagonisms and repressions of capitalism, of the recurring crises and revolutionary situations produced by the violent era of imperialism. Mass action is the instinctive action of the proletariat, gradually developing more conscious and organized forms and definite purposes. It is extra-parliamentary in method, although political in purpose and result, may develop into and be itself developed by the parliamentary struggle.”
Strike fever is a symptom of mass action; the promise of the potential for and possibility of mass action is evident in struggles centered in the workplace merging with those centered in the community– the defense of black labor from ferocious police violence and disenfranchisement, the defense of immigrant labor from nativism, ICE raids and criminalization and the defense of everyone from a resurgent fascism in the streets.
The unity of social movements like Black Lives Matter with Fight For 15, the unity of fast food strikes with demonstrations against the police, the unity of the fight against voter suppression with raising the minimum wage, the unity of the fight for trade union rights for immigrant farm workers with resistance to the ICE deportation regime, and the ultimate unity of all struggles with this strike wave is the transformation of the potential for mass action into its realization as a general workers’ movement against capitalism in the present.
Whether the proletariat is tearing down a Confederate statue or walking a picket line; raising money for a strike fund or marching against police brutality; talking about grievances or arguing politics at work– all actions are imbued with a special significance with the potential for mass action in the air. As more workers are directly affected by the strikes, the volume of workers openly fighting in the class struggle creates the possibility for this strike wave to become something more.
As always, we encourage readers of Anti-Capital to participate in common work with us. Solicit co-workers to draft their personal experiences in the workplace, report on your own experience of the class struggle, put your disagreements with us on paper: we welcome submissions, critique and discussion.