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This website was created on occasion of the 100th anniversary of the general strike in Seattle

1919 - 2019

January 21st - February 11th, 1919

 

Seattle General Strike


100 years ago, over 45,000 shipyard workers from numerous unions staged a walkout in Seattle and eventually grew into a general strike with over 65,000 people, making it one of the most significant (and ignored) strikes in American history.

 

 

Seattle, the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, gained prominence with its shipbuilding industry that greatly contributed to the American war effort when it joined the Imperialist WWI and as a result, attracted thousands of workers searching for jobs. However, even though the companies earned great profits, wages for the workers remained the same and a few weeks after the War, the AFL’s Metal Trades Council planned to negotiate with the Metal Trades Association (which represented the bourgeoisie who owned the shipyard industry) in order to increase wages for the shipyard workers. In response, Charles Piez, vice-president of the government agency Emergency Fleet Corporation, accidently sent the MTC (rather than his intended recipient, the similarly-named MTA) a telegram threatening to cut off steel allotments from the Seattle shipyards if they were to negotiate with the workers.

 


As a result, 45,000 shipyard workers went on strike and on February 6th, numerous other unions representing an additional 30,000+ workers from various industries throughout Seattle followed suit in solidarity, shutting down the city for several days.

 

 

Despite this, the strike committee provided the workers with soup kitchens and other services.

 

 

In addition, there were also thousands of flyers that were released throughout the streets that pointed out the successful October Revolution in Russia and hoped for the American workers to follow suit.

 


However, mayor Ole Hanson was determined to shut down the strike and deputized over 3,000 men and established a machine gun unit. That along with effective propaganda ended the strike.

“We organized 1,000 extra police, armed with rifles and shotguns, and told them to shoot on sight anyone causing disorder. We got ready for business. I issued a proclamation that all life and property would be protected; that all business should go on as usual. And this morning our municipal street cars, light, power plants, water, etc., were running full blast. There was an attempted revolution. It never got to first base.”


Afterwards, 39 members of the IWW were arrested and Hanson would be lauded by the press as an anti-Bolshevist fighter, later writing books about the “dangers of Bolshevism”. The strike helped pave a way for the First Red Scare in which thousands of leftists were suppressed and persecuted in the US bourgeoisie’s attempts to avoid the same fate as the Tsar.

 


While it may not have been successful, the strike has much to teach the American and world proletariat, such as how powerful the force of Bolshevism is and how even the most “democratic” bourgeois governments will quickly abandon their precious congresses and parliaments in favor of reactionary violence and coercion.

 

 

The power of the workers – industrially organized – is the only power on earth worth considering. Once they realized that power, classes will disappear, and in their place will be the only useful members of society – the workers.