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1919 The Industrial Workers of the World in the Seattle General Strike
by Colin M. Anderson
Article published on 3 September 2012
last modification on 4 May 2015

by r-c.
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An attempt to find out the IWW’s actual involvement in the Seattle General Strike of 1919, which has been hampered by myths caused by the capitalist press and AFL union leaders of the time.

The Seattle General Strike is an event very important in the history of the Pacific Northwest. On February 6, 1919 Seattle workers became the first workers in United States history to participate in an official general strike. Many people know little, if anything, about the strike, however. Perhaps the momentousness of the event is lost in the fact that the strike took place without violence, or perhaps it is because there was no apparent visible change in the city following the event. But the strike is a landmark for the U.S. labor movement, and is very important, if for no there reason, for what it stands for. Workers expressed their power through a massive action of solidarity, and demonstrated to the nation the potential power of organized labor. This was at a time when labor was generally divided over ideological lines that prevented them from achieving such mass action very often.

For many at the time, however, the strike represented something else: something more sinister and extreme. To many of the locals in Seattle the strike was the beginning of an attempted revolution by the Industrial Workers of the World and others with similar radical tendencies. These people saw the putting down of the strike was the triumph of patriotism in the face of radicalism gone too far. The insistence of these conservatives that the IWW was behind the strike, together with the state of the organization and its place in the labor movement at the time, has created a mystery as to just how much of a role the "Wobblies" played in the Seattle General Strike.

The Seattle General Strike is an event very important in the history of the Pacific Northwest. On February 6, 1919 Seattle workers became the first workers in United States history to participate in an official general strike. Many people know little, if anything, about the strike, however. Perhaps the momentousness of the event is lost in the fact that the strike took place without violence, or perhaps it is because there was no apparent visible change in the city following the event. But the strike is a landmark for the U.S. labor movement, and is very important, if for no there reason, for what it stands for. Workers expressed their power through a massive action of solidarity, and demonstrated to the nation the potential power of organized labor. This was at a time when labor was generally divided over ideological lines that prevented them from achieving such mass action very often.

For many at the time, however, the strike represented something else: something more sinister and extreme. To many of the locals in Seattle the strike was the beginning of an attempted revolution by the Industrial Workers of the World and others with similar radical tendencies. These people saw the putting down of the strike was the triumph of patriotism in the face of radicalism gone too far. The insistence of these conservatives that the IWW was behind the strike, together with the state of the organization and its place in the labor movement at the time, has created a mystery as to just how much of a role the "Wobblies" played in the Seattle General Strike.


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