Radicals: Don’t Ignore the General Strike!

By Alex Riccio (February 6, 2017)


The rise of Trump and the alt-right has exposed fascism’s ability to creep into spaces of political and social power within the United States. “The ‘fascist creep,’” writes Alexander Reid Ross in his new book on the topic, “refers to the porous borders between fascism and the radical right, through which fascism is able to ‘creep’ into mainstream discourse.” Not only does it creep into discourse, but through techniques of infiltration fascism is capable of creeping all the way to the White House. But as I think about this process of right-wing slides into fascism, I can’t help but pose that since the election of Trump we have been witnessing the potential for creeping socialism (even of the anarchist variety) as well.

One can point to the flurry of polls which suggest that millennials are more favorable to socialism than to capitalism, the surprise success of Bernie Sanders primary run despite his willingness to embrace “democratic socialism,” the permanent discursive imprint left by OWS disparaging the 1%, and a host of other political developments which suggest that the socialist creep may be on the rise. In recent months we have also witnessed an explosion of social protest, making the times ripe with opportunities for socialism to creep in even more. I imagine that some of your liberal friends have suddenly become more receptive to direct action, punching neo-nazis in the face, and even disavowing the Democrat party in the face of their passive resistance (and here I’m being kind) to Trump’s onslaught of authoritarian maneuvers. Such changes in liberal sentiment reveal openings in the political imagination, and I point this out to encourage the Left to think of proposed events like the upcoming General Strike as possibilities for radicalizing liberals, and deepening the roots of a socialist creep.

Obviously, and here I harbor no illusions, the strike on Feb. 17 is going to be far from what we desire—an event where organized labor surges, workers shut down whole industries, and our objectives are much more appetizing than the strange jumble of demands this present strike is calling for (I mean, who really cares about Trump’s taxes? We know he’s a thief, all capitalists are crooks).

But this call has been made, and promoted, mostly by liberals who are inexperienced or unaware of the long history, and hard work, that has generated massive disruptions like the list of labor strikes outlined by Alex Gourevitch in his critical article on the matter. Before leaping to impugn proposals which have inspired swaths of the population we radicals have been struggling to energize, let’s see this upcoming protest as an opportunity to reach folks where they are at in the process of their political development and facilitate this process as best as we can.

Remarking on the deluge of derisions against the Women’s March after inauguration day, Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor writes that such actions are more “the beginning, not the end.” She continues, “movements do not come to us from heaven, fully formed and organized. They are built by actual people, with all their political questions, weaknesses and strengths.”

Therefore, she concludes, if you think these actions aren’t radical enough, then do something about it. I can think of no better advice for those experiencing discomfort with present calls for a General Strike.

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