General strike

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A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region, or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants. It is also characterized by participation of workers in a multitude of workplaces, and tends to involve entire communities. The general strike has waxed and waned in popularity since the mid-19th century, and has characterized many historically important strikes.

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The Belgian experience and Rosa Luxemburg

Belgium was likely one of the first important industrial countries where a general strike happened, at least in Europe;[1] first in 1886, the Walloon Jacquerie of 1886,[2] then the Belgian general strike of 1893.[3] In his book about Rosa Luxemburg Paul Frölich quotes several experiences of general strikes and among them the Belgian general strike for the universal suffrage in 1893. The strike succeeded. But absolute equality of suffrage had yet to be obtained, and in 1902 the Belgian Labour Party launched an other strike but this latter failed. Then many German social democrats thought such experiment were absurd. Rosa Luxemburg had a completely different view and criticized the Belgian Labour Party: A general strike forged in advance within the fetters of legality is like a war demonstration with cannons dumped into a river within the very sight of the enemy.[4] Carl E. Schorske wrote about the same Belgian phenomenon studied by Luxemburg as well as the German opposition to it: In German Social Democratic circles, the general strike suffered from the hereditary taint of its anarchist origins (...) Rosa Luxemburg, who studied the Belgian strike, was particularly impressed with its success in activating the political consciousness of the backward portions of the population. She was not yet however, prepared to give it European-wide significance. Luxemburg felt it to be appropriate only in countries in which industry was geographically concentrated.[5] The Walloon author Claude Renard explained the relative successes of the general strike by the relative small territory of Belgium (and especially Wallonia where the industry was concentrated). He quoted also Rosa Luxemburg who criticized Le Peuple, the official newspaper of the Belgian Labour Party who was again in favour of the German method after the General strike of 1902 failed. In Die Neue Zeit, she pointed out the small territory of Belgium, the fact that only 3 or 400 thousand workers were able to make a country strike-bound. But she insisted also about a climate of liberty and democracy where the working class is really stronger, in France as well as in Belgium.[6] For several historians, it would be possible that Wallonia sprang from these strikes[7] and likely from the last Belgian general strike the 1960-1961 Winter General Strike

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