Political Animal


April 07, 2013 4:43 PM The first British general strike in 86 years? Why, how rude!

By Kathleen Geier

When this story appeared on one of my listservs, I must confess that my pulse quickened and my eyes lit up. A general strike, ‘ey? Mark Serwotka, head of Britain’s Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, says labor unions in Britain have been discussing organizing a one-day general strike “to fight back against cuts to pay, jobs and pensions in the public sector.” If it happens, it would be the first general strike in England since 1926.

Another union, United, which is Britain’s largest, also supports the strike. United is said to believe that such a strike:

would be a landmark in our movement’s recovery of its morale, strength and capacity to play a leading part in a society crying out for credible and honourable leadership.

Though I am hardly an expert on British politics, it seems highly unlikely that a general strike would by itself reverse the tide of the austerity madness that currently grips that country’s — and the world’s — ruling elites. But people fighting back and perhaps instilling the fear of God into these modern-day Marie Antoinettes? That is always a heartening thing to see. Britain hasn’t seen very many strikes at all since the fabled winter of ‘79, which ended up ushering in the era of neoliberalism that has dominated Britain’s politics ever since. It would be poetic justice if a general strike could be the catalyst that threw neoliberalism back to the pits of hell from which it came.

This is one story I’ll be keeping my eye on.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • c u n d gulag on April 07, 2013 6:01 PM:

    How dare the poor working thralls, desecrate the holiest shrine of "St. Maggie Of Screwing the Poor!"

    Why, the "AUDACITY!"
    The "GALL!!!"

    Why, what would St. Ronald Reagan say, if only he could remember that his zipper wasn't part of an IQ Test!?!?!

  • Celui on April 07, 2013 6:17 PM:

    'The Masses striking back' is exactly what is needed now, especially in the face of this ill-considered European austerity crap. Austerity serves only one purpose: to strengthen the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of the workers. When did 'workers' begin to make inroads both in wages and working conditions? When they 'struck back' against the mindless excesses of the oligarchs. The problem is always what role with government play in such a move? Does it move to strengthen a nation's resources for its citizenry, or does it move to solidify support for the wealthy? Or--is there a possibility of government leading the way for improved fortunes for the downtrodden? My gosh! I'm beginning to sound a lot like some kind of socialist. Or, maybe I'm talking about solving the socio-economic woes of all peoples in order to avoid the economic-based uprisings that seem so likely to occur.

  • Ron Byers on April 07, 2013 7:48 PM:

    Around the turn of the last century the western world was living in a gilded age. The rich got richer as everybody else got poore. As I recall the gilded age came crashing down when the elites finally overplayed their hand. We were lucky in the United States we had two Roosevelts. One ushered in reform that was resisted by the Carnagies and Rockefellers. The other picked up the pieces when everything came tumbling down. The Europeans got a great war, the great depression, Lenin, Stalin, Adolph Hitler and finally a second greater war. The elites are building to another big meltdown. They don't see this gilded age coming to a crash. God only knows how many hundreds of millions are going to die world wide. One thing is for sure, its coming unless we all work hard to stop it.

  • James on April 07, 2013 10:28 PM:

    Actually, the last "real" strike in Britain was in 1984-5, when the Coal Miners went on strike. (I was a student in Scotland and the time and helped bring food to miners' families near the Kirkcaldy pit.) Massive movements of police were brought in to break the strike, here is one of the starker images:


    There were travel restrictions through the country as Thatcher pulled out all the stops to break the union. It made the strikes of the winter of discontent look mild.

    Another resource:


  • John on April 08, 2013 9:50 AM:

    I don't see how a one day demonstration strike could ever accomplish anything.