A friend of mine is looking for slogans and stuff involving a general strike. I’m not aware of any, except the Precarias a la Deriva counterquestion to the Spanish general strike … in 2002? 2003? …. which was called by a big union or unions but left las precarias out, the counterquestion being “what is your strike?” I did some looking, though, and here’s what I came up with.

This bit of the IWW preamble implies a general strike:
“These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class
upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its
members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease
work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof,
thus making an injury to one an injury to all.”

I got that point from a talk by Staughton Lynd. There’s a somewhat similar reference, but to a different part of the preamble, in his talk here.

I just got the Big Red Songbook. There’s several implied references in
songs, I think, with very degrees of explicitness. Page references are
in brackets.

“Dump the Bosses Off Your Back”
(“All the agonies you suffer / you can end with one good whack”) [178]

“Tie ‘Em Up!”
(Chorus: “Tie ’em up! Tie ’em up; that’s the way to win. / Don’t
notify the bosses till the hostilities begin / Don’t furnish chance
for gunmen, scabs and their like; / What you need is One Big Union and
the One Big Strike.” Second half of the second verse: “The day when
you begin to see the classes waging war / You can join the biggest
tie-up that was ever known before. / When the workers all o’er the
country are united into one / Then the workers’ One Big Union all the
wheels shall run.”) [188]

There’s a cartoon by Jim Lynch on 263 that’s relevant. It shows a
giant hand labeled I.W.W. reaching down from the top outside the
frame, pressing the cork into a bottle labeled “General Strike.”
Inside the glass bottle are four scared looking characters labeled
“company police,” “KKK”, “labor-hating judge”
and “organized capitalists.”

“General Strike Song” [264-5.]

“Over the land, over the sea
Comes the call to join the fight – the strike to be free;
Now everywhere ringing on the air
Rebel voices mingle in wrathful harmony;

Lay down you tools, leave your machine,
Come up from the mines, out of the fields so green;
Tie up the ships, close down the shops –
Let the parasites get wise as they get lean.

Deep down in mines, shut up in shops of steel,
Let them do the speed-up till their brains begin to reel;
But no gears could work, starvation would lurk –
Without us nothing moves – not a single wheel!
Without us nothing moves – not a single wheel!

Then take up your tools, work your machine,
Run your ships and factories, till the field so green;
But close the gate up tight – lock out the parasite –
For he can never know what work and freedom mean.

No more to slave, nor more to toil
For well-fed politicians or masters drunk with might;
Strike now as one, fight for our right
To all that we produce from factory or soil.

So let us strike – strike to be free;
Shed the shackles, break the chains of wage slavery;
Join in the song, strike with the strong –
All power to the Union – the world for the free!
All power to the Union – the world for the free!”

All of those appeared in little red songbooks of one or the other edition.

“Tie ’em up” refers to the general strike as resulting in the
OBU/working class taking possession of the means of production. On a
similar note I know sometimes the general strike was referred to as
“one big strike” which makes the parallel stronger. Kornbluh mentions
the phrase “one big strike” here but doesn’t cite it.

By googling “one big strike” I found this:


According to this the pamphlet was written in 1933 by Ralph Chaplin.

There’s a reference to the general strike in the subtitle to The Trial of a New Society by Justus Ebert. The subtitle is “Being a Review of The Celebrated Ettor-Giovannitti-Caruso Case, Beginning with the Lawrence Textile Strike that caused it and including the general strike that grew out of it.”

I also found an IWW leaflet for sale, here which has an argument running the other direction, instead of “OBU therefore general strike” it goes “general strike is needed therefore OBU is needed” —

“One of the big lessons of the Frisco strike is the fact that One Big Strike calls for a new union alignment. More and more will the modern wage worker learn that trying to get General Strike performance from a craft union is like trying to get an airplane speed from a horse and buggy. This is obviously as impossible as it would be to fire heavy artillery projectables from a pop-gun. There is no escaping the fact that One Big Strike calls for One Big Union.”

This stuff also relates to my earlier question about the IWW having an implied theory of revolutionary transition.


With May Day right around the corner, this tune by Ralph Chaplin’s nice:

May Day Song

O, Labor Day, O, First of May,
Welcomed and honored on land and on sea.
Winter so drear must disappear,
Fair days are coming for you and for me.
We, of the old world, building the New,
Ours is the will and the power to do;
Then let us sing, hail to the Spring–
Hail to the Day we can strike to be free!

Banner so red, high overhead,
Hated and feared by the powers that be!
In every land firmly we stand;
Men of all nations who labor are we.
Under one banner, standing as one,
Claiming the earth and our place in the sun.
Then let us sing, hail to the Spring–
Hail to the Day we can strike to be free!

O, Labor Day, O, First of May,
Warm with the gleam of the bright days to be!
Join in the throng, fearless and strong–
One mighty Union of world industry.
Shoulder to shoulder, each in his place,
Ours is the hope of the whole human race.
Then let us sing, hail to the Spring–
Hail to the Day we can strike to be free!

I hope this year’s is as good as last years.


Somebody ought to do a study of Chaplin. He wrote a lot of IWW poems and songs, an autobiography, several theoretical/strategic/historical works (note to self, list them eventually, also, see this: The I. W. W. and the Brainworkers
Robert L. Tyler American Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Spring, 1963), pp. 41-51, see also reference here to an article in Pacific Historian, Summer, 1986, and this), edit IWW publications, and created IWW visual art. See pages 28, 128, 154, 170, 366, and 420 in the Big Red Songbook. A lot comes up on a google image search where the search terms are ” “ralph chaplin” cartoon ” and with just searching “ralph chaplin“.