Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anti-capitalism, general strike, may day, strike, wildcat strike
3) The general strike and wildcat strike are not typologies but tendencies. A strike’s general tendency is its capacity to expand, transgressing sectoral, national, and jurisdictional boundaries. Its wild tendency is its capacity to become disorderly and unmanageable, especially from the perspective of organized labor and the state.
4) Each of these tendencies is present, to a greater or lesser extent, in every strike, whether or not it receives the designation “general” and/or “wildcat”. During a routine strike, the general and wild tendencies are supressed, whether through coercion, consent, or habit. Yet these tendencies remain present, not necessarily at the “moment of origin”, but as an atemporal undercurrent that both precedes and exceeds the strike chronological trajectory.
5) The general strike is impossible. The myth of the general strike appears as an unattainable goal, a receding horizon, an absolute rupture that can only be approximated, never achieved. The formal declaration of the general strike necessarily emerges as an afterthought, confering official status on a general-strike-in progress. The authorization of the general strike by union bureaucrats merely codifies the general strike whose manifestation is already manifestly manifest.
6) The wildcat strike is unintelligible. It cannot be called into account, for It does not account for itself., nor can it be accounted for. The wildcat strike is anathema to any trade union for it flouts the contractual logic of collective bargaining, particularly the premise of formal transparency.
Here the wildcat strike tendency is inclusive of the time honored strategies of shopfloor resistance: slow-down, sick-out, the “checkerboard” strike, sabotage, work-to-rule. The wildcat strike speaks through code, a hidden transcript beneath the plane of discourse.
7) Both the general strike and the wildcat strike defy the incremental logic of Politics. A strike’s growth is not additive, but viral, infectuous. A strike’s wilding is not a planned deviation but spontaneous, unpredictable.
8) If the magnitude of a routine strike is measured in units of time (i.e. man hours lost), the general strike measures its success in terms of its scope, while the measure of a wildcat strike is its intensity.
9) While the general and wild aspects of a strike always co-exist, they tend to operate at cross purposes. That is, the full realization of a strike’s general tendency typically coincides with the diminishing of its wild tendency, and vice versa. Because the trade union is uniquely capable of conferring official status on a general strike, the GS necessarily entails the mobilization of bureaucratic capacity at the expense of rank-and-file self-activity. Yet paradoxically, the general strike cannot dispense with the wildcat origin myth. Therefore, the general strike constantly invokes the wildcat strike, but timidly, with the realization that the reemergence of the wildcat tendency will be own self-destruction. The Seattle General Strike Committee consisted almost of exclusively of rank-and-filers, not union officials, but in practice they remained subservient to both the Seattle Central Labor Council (which authorized the strike) and the local leadership of their respective unions. Similarly, the wildcat strike attempts to escape its narrowness by conjuring the myth of general strike myth, but with the understanding that the formal declaration of the general strike will be its own undoing.
8) The chief limitation of the wildcat strike is its particularity, which is resolved through its counter tendency: its becoming-general. Conversely, the general strike is restrained by its claim to universalism, which is in turn answered by its countervailing tendency: its becoming-wild.
9) The pure Wildcat Strike (devoid of its general tendency) will devolve toward the Particular Strike, or the Domestic-Cat Strike. The Domestic-Cat strike is the diminished form of the wildcat strike. If the the wildcat is fierce, predatory, the Domestic-cat is an innocuous creature, occassionally disruptive, but unwilling to escape its familiar confines, and unable to imagine a life without its Master.
10) The General Strike that supresses its wild tendency succumbs to its attenuated form: the Universal Strike. Because the actually-exsting general strike always pales in comparison to the myth of the general strike, the general strike will overcorrect this discrepency by presenting itself a totalizing force, the end of history, the ultimate triumph of working class. As the unfortunate English language mistranslation of the Internationale prophecized, we have been naught, we shall be all. In the process, the strike’s leadership emerges as the Sovereign, a state-in-waiting.
11) The general strike finds its principal antagonist in the state, while the wildcat strike’s immedaite adversary is the trade union. But the most dangerous possibility results from the blurring of these lines. Thus, the wildcat threatens to become generalized as it redirects itself against the state. The general strike embraces its wild tendency as it confronts the very union that called it into being.
12) The general strike and the wildcat strike are irreconcilable. Therefore, it is not enough to generalize wildcat strikes, as if the general strike were nothing more than the accumulation of local wildcats. The general strike must still be wrested from the hands of union officials, political parties, self-appointed architects and logicians of struggle, and other recuperators. But it is equally insufficient to call for a General Strike with Wild Characteristics. The project, therefore, is two-fold: Generalize the wildcat strike and rewild the general strike.
13) The relationship of the general strike to the wildcat strike is both co-dependent and parasitical. One cannot exist without its other, yet each consumes its other in the process of its own making. Thus the so-called “general wildcat strike” is oxymoronic for the simulataneous co-articulation of the general and wild tendencies results is an unstable mix that can never achieve equilibirum. Any effort to overcorrect by policing the boundaries of the wildcat strike or disciplining the general strike will backfire, resulting only in a retreat toward the routine strike, neither general nor wild. The liminal space between general and wildcat strike is fraught with uncertainty, for in this space both the course of action and its mode of representation remain contested, unresolved. Yet, this uneasy anequilibrium is a necessary preconditon for the outlier strike. Indeed, It is precisely from within this tension that a new possibilities might emerge.
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