American Syndicalism: The I. W. W

By John Graham Brooks | Go to book overview
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THE GENERAL STRIKE

As things are felt and lived before any literary skill gives them form, there were plenty of incoherent uprisings with every characteristic of the General Strike, generations before Sorel's sombre genius turned them into a religion for mass-activity. It is the despised "intellectuals," now and in the past, who have furnished the effective formulas for the General Strike; as they adjusted the conception to present proletarian uses; as in the middle of the last century, one of the most brilliant journalists of Europe, Emile de Giradin, conceived of it as the one weapon against the third Napoleon. In Victor Hugo Histoire d'un Crime, in twenty lines that burn like a flame, the technique of the General Strike is given. He uses the very words "La Grève Universelle." The very term "folding the arms" (croisant les bras), which I have heard from I. W. W. orators, occurs in the passage. The poet appeals to society to create a "great emptiness" round this would-be despot, by cutting him off through the general boycott from every source of help. The picture is the more complete because a man famous in later days, Jules Favre, argued successfully in opposition by setting forth the same practical difficulties that have crippled most subsequent application of the General Strike, except for narrower and less ambitious ends.

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