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Reply #61: This is what it would look like: [View All]

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LucyParsons Donating Member (938 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-23-08 09:29 AM
Response to Reply #52
61. This is what it would look like:

Life during the strike

A cooperative body made up of rank and file workers from all the striking locals was formed during the strike, called the General Strike Committee. It acted as a "virtual counter-government for the city" (Brecher), somewhat akin to the Paris Commune in 1871. The workers in the committee organized to provide essential services for the people of Seattle during the work stoppage. For instance, garbage that would create a health hazard was collected, and firemen remained on duty. Exemptions to the stoppage of labor had to be passed by the Strike Committee. In general, work was not halted if doing so would endanger lives.

In other cases, workers acted on their own initiative to create new institutions rather than simply continuing the old. Milk wagon drivers, after being denied the right by their employers to keep certain dairies open, established a distribution system containing thirty-five neighborhood milk stations. A system of food distribution was also established, which throughout the strike committee distributed as many as thirty thousand meals each day. Strikers paid twenty five cents per meal, and the general public paid thirty five cents. Beef stew, spaghetti, bread, and coffee were offered free of charge.

Army veterans created an alternative to the police in order to keep the peace. The "Labor War Veteran's Guard," as it was called, forbade the use of force and did not carry weapons; it was policy "to use persuasion only." As it happened, peacekeeping was unnecessary: no arrest was made by traditional police forces in actions related to the strike, and general arrests dropped to less than half of normal. Major General John F. Morrison, stationed in Seattle, claimed that he had never seen "a city so quiet and orderly." A poem in the Union Record reads, in part:

What scares them most is
They are ready
They have machine guns
And soldiers,
Is uncanny.

Nina DeMarcia

The methods of organization adopted by the striking workers bore resemblance to anarcho-syndicalism, perhaps reflecting the influence of the Industrial Workers of the World in the Pacific Northwest (though only a few striking locals were officially affiliated with the IWW). The radicalism of events was certainly conscientious; both workers and their opponents saw the situation as a prelude to revolution. The Seattle Union Record, in an editorial by Anna Louise Strong, attempted to analyze the historical significance of the general strike:

The closing down of Seattle's industries, as a MERE SHUTDOWN, will not affect these eastern gentlemen much. They could let the whole northwest go to pieces, as far as money alone is concerned.

But, the closing down of the capitalistically controlled industries of Seattle, while the workers organize to feed the people, to care for the babies and the sick, to preserve order--this will move them, for this looks too much like the taking over of power by the workers.

Labor will not only Shut Down the industries, but Labor will reopen, under the management of the appropriate trades, such activities as are needed to preserve public health and public peace. If the strike continues, Labor may feel led to avoid public suffering by reopening more and more activities.


And that is why we say that we are starting on a road that leads--no one knows where!

Seattle's mayor concurred with the conclusion that the general strike was a revolutionary event but admitted this with regret: "The so-called sympathetic Seattle strike was an attempted revolution. That there was no violence does not alter the fact . . . The intent, openly and covertly announced, was for the overthrow of the industrial system; here first, then everywhere . . . True, there were no flashing guns, no bombs, no killings. Revolution, I repeat, doesn't need violence. The general strike, as practised in Seattle, is of itself the weapon of revolution, all the more dangerous because quiet. To succeed, it must suspend everything; stop the entire life stream of a community . . . That is to say, it puts the government out of operation. And that is all there is to revolt -- no matter how achieved."
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