General strike

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A general strike is a strike action by the entire workforce in a country or region. Towards the end of the 19th century, the growing international labor movement favored the general strike for the implementation of economic or political goals. In early 1886, the North American labor movement called for the eight-hour general strike on May 1st . The strike was bloodily suppressed. The Second International , founded in Paris in 1889 , proclaimed May 1st to be “Day of Struggle of the Labor Movement” in memory of the victims of the Haymarket Riot at the time . On May 1, 1890, this "day of protest and remembrance" was celebrated for the first time with mass strikes and mass demonstrations all over the world.

Extra edition of " Vorwärts " from November 9, 1918


General strikes are extremely effective because of their extensive disruption to everyday life. Different areas of public life (transport, post, supply and disposal) come to a standstill. Usually, those willing to work can be prevented from breaking a strike due to a union organization . If the general strike is organized by the trade unions, it presupposes a high level of organization on the part of the trade unions.

Serious economic injustices or social unrest are often the triggering motives for a general strike.

In addition to economic causes, a general strike can also have political causes, such as in March 1920 during the Kapp Putsch in the Weimar Republic , where the general strike ultimately contributed to the suppression of the military coup.

The aim of numerous social democratic , socialist and other left movements was to carry out the country's “soft revolution” through organized paralysis. When the state and administration are consequently eliminated, the workers would be able to reorganize society according to new lines. This philosophy was favored by the industrial workers of the anarcho-syndicalist unions, especially in the early 20th century .



Legal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany

In Germany, unlike in European countries such as France or Italy, general strikes are not legally covered by the right to strike . This could result in claims for damages by industry against calling unions.

Corresponding court decisions are based on an expert opinion from 1952 and led to the judgment of the Federal Labor Court from 1955, in which Hans Carl Nipperdey was centrally involved on both occasions . However, the right to strike has been further interpreted within the framework of several international agreements that have been concluded since then, but also within the framework of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights . In the absence of a reason, however, the German courts have not yet dealt with it further.

The only exception is Article 20 of the Basic Law : "Against anyone who undertakes to remove this order, all Germans have the right to resist if no other remedy is possible."

Ruhr area and Weimar Republic 1905–1921

Map of the general strike of miners in the Ruhr area in 1905 ( Die Woche , 3/1905)

The German trade unions called the strike of the miners of the Ruhr area in January 1905 a "general strike" because of its size and its considerable effects on goods production throughout the country.

On November 9, 1918, the general strike was called in Berlin. On the same day the emperor abdicated. The Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann calls out to the Reichstag :

“Workers and soldiers! Be aware of the historical significance of this day. (…) Nothing may happen that dishonors the workers' movement! Be united, faithful and conscientious! (...) Long live the German Republic! "

At the beginning of the Weimar Republic from February to April 1919 there were regional general strikes in numerous German cities, especially in the Ruhr area , in central Germany around Halle and Merseburg , in Upper Silesia and in Berlin . In the capital alone, around one million workers went on strike and demanded that the councils be recognized in the new constitution, as well as other measures such as socializing the economy and military reform.

As a result of the Versailles treaties, a military coup took place in March 1920, triggered by the national conservatives and, above all, parts of the officer corps of the Reichswehr. In response to this, Carl Legien , the chairman of the General German Trade Union Confederation (ADGB) called all functionaries who could be reached in Berlin to the trade union building on Engelufer. The Association of Independent Employees' Associations (AfA) with its chairman Siegfried Aufhäuser was also there . The unionists decided to go on a general strike in response to the Kapp Putsch . The work stoppages began on March 15, 1920 and were the largest in German history. Over 12 million people took part in the Ruhr uprising . With the largest general strike in German history, the ADGB, AfA-Bund, Christian trade unions and the Beamtenbund ended the right-wing attempted coup within five days.

In the context of the Central German uprising in March 1921, left forces called for a general strike ( KPD and USPD ). The call was followed at least in Lusatia , in parts of the Ruhr area and Thuringia, as well as in Hamburg .

Germany Bizone - the general strike of 1948

Poster of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) for the strike on November 12, 1948

After the Second World War , as part of the economic and currency reform of June 20, 1948, the demand in the bizone rose so strongly that even a considerable expansion of the supply could not keep pace with this development. The massive price increases that this triggered led to a sharp drop in the wage share and caused great unrest among the population. Thus, after various union calls in 1948, there were several large demonstrations in many cities in the bizone of Germany. The first plans for a general strike began on October 26, 1948. Federal Executive and Federal Council of the DGB agreed on that day due to the price development, "as a result of the policy of the DGB and the unions Economic Council in Frankfurt " was considered, on a coordinated approach, "That the disparity between wages and prices must be put to an end". Therefore "strong measures" were targeted and a general strike came in preparation. On October 28, 1948, strikes and protests for price regulation, wage increases and participation were carried out in Stuttgart . This was followed by serious unrest. Since the police could not master the situation, the US military police called in used tear gas and tanks . These events went down in history as the so-called "Stuttgart Incidents" (Stuttgart tumult). The actual general strike therefore took place on November 12, 1948 only under great conditions by the occupying powers. One wanted to avoid a repetition of the "Stuttgart incidents". The protest was formed against the politics of Ludwig Erhard . Up to 9.25 million participants who have walked out are occupied. At that time the bizone had 11.7 million employees. The strike participation was thus about 79%. A short time after the strike, Konrad Adenauer , chairman of the CDU , called on Ludwig Erhard in a telegram to take all "available means against unfounded price increases" and to "accelerate the adjustment of wages and salaries that were left behind to the price level". The effects of the currency reform, including the names of the general strike, can also be found on the Deutsche Bundesbank's website, albeit in a very weaker formulation.

GDR 1953

The uprising of June 17, 1953 was a protest and strike movement against the increase in labor standards in the planned economy of the GDR by 10%, which had already started two days earlier. But there was no chance to systematically call all companies to strike . Nevertheless, on the day of the general strike day on June 17, which was called not by trade unionists but by workers, there were nationwide demonstrations, strikes in 700 towns and cities, until the Soviet occupation forces were suppressed .
The Federal Agency for Civic Education lists 55 documented deaths and executions on its website

  • 34 demonstrators, passers-by and spectators were shot dead by People's Police and Soviet soldiers on June 17 and the days after (up to June 23) or died as a result of gunshot wounds inflicted on them
  • 5 men were sentenced to death by authorities in the Soviet occupation forces in Germany and executed
  • 2 death sentences were passed by East German courts, which were also carried out
  • 4 people died as a result of inhumane detention conditions
  • Four people arrested in connection with the June uprising committed suicide in (pre-trial) custody, although in at least two cases outside interference cannot be ruled out
  • 1 protester died of heart failure while attacking a people's police station
  • 5 members of the GDR security organs were killed: two people's policemen and an MfS employee shot dead by strangers while defending a prison, a security employee was killed by an angry crowd and another people's policeman was accidentally shot by Soviet soldiers

The Federal Agency for Civic Education reports on a further 25 alleged or unexplained deaths, that 7 people were demonstrably not killed in connection with the popular uprising. In the remaining 18 cases, the evidence is unclear.

France and French overseas departments

France 1968

The largest general strike in recent European history - the first wildcat general strike ever - was the May 1968 riots in France.

France 2006

On March 28, 2006, a general strike against the labor market reform of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin took place in France , during which the Contrat première embauche (“contract for initial employment”) for young people up to 26 years of age was to be relaxed or repealed. Protection against dismissal should be lifted for the first two years of employment. According to the government, this should lead to a reduction in youth unemployment . The strikers feared opposite results, because dismissals are possible without notice and without giving reasons. Members of many social classes took part in the strike, including many students, as university graduates, for example, would also have been affected by the relaxation of protection against dismissal.

France 2019

On December 5, 2019 has against the planned pension reform of the French government , a general strike used. Public transport was severely restricted. The strike is set to continue over the holidays.

French overseas departments 2009

In 2009 there were weeks of general strikes in the French overseas departments of Guadeloupe , Martinique and La Réunion , which were accompanied by serious unrest.

India 2019

On January 8 and 9, 2019, the largest general strike in the world to date in human history took place in India . It is estimated that 200 million people took part in this strike, which ten trade union federations called for. The demonstrators protested against a new labor and strike law by the Modi government , which is supposed to make union rights more difficult and weaken general strikes, for higher wages and against the government's failure to keep a promise to introduce a nationwide minimum wage .

Luxembourg 1942

On August 31, 1942, there was a so-called general strike against the German occupying power in Luxembourg . The reason for this was the forced recruitment of young Luxembourgers into the Wehrmacht .

On August 30, 1942, the head of civil administration in Luxembourg , Gustav Simon , announced that military service would be compulsory for five Luxembourg age groups. Thereupon a wave of protests broke out, which took various forms (refusal of the Hitler salute , withdrawal from the Volksdeutsche movement ). In the days that followed, a strike broke out in some parts of Luxembourg. To this day, the question of whether it was a strike organized by the resistance movements or spontaneous actions by the population remains a matter of dispute.

An example was set in the brutal crackdown. 21 strikers, some of whom were randomly selected, were arrested, tried before the court martial and shot on the following day near the SS special camp in Hinzert .

Netherlands 1941

The demonstrations of February 25, 1941 and the following day in Amsterdam expanded into a general strike and went down in Dutch history as the “ February strike ”. The German military commander declared a state of emergency about North Holland. Firearms were used and 40 were injured and nine were killed. On the evening of February 26, the general strike was violently ended.

Switzerland 1918

The national strike was a general strike that took place in Switzerland from November 11-14, 1918. Around 250,000 workers and trade unionists took part. The national strike was judged by the courts to be incompatible with the fundamental right of freedom of assembly and a violation of the peace , which resulted in prison terms for the strike leaders.

See also


  • Fabian Bünnemann: The Compatibility of the Prohibition of Political Strikes with International and EU Labor Law. Germany's Handling of the Right to Strike , Verlag Dr. Kovac, Hamburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-8300-8440-2
  • Helge Döhring (Ed.): Defense strike ... protest strike ... mass strike? General strike! Strike theories and discussions within the German social democracy before 1914 . Basics of the general strike with a view, Edition AV, Lich 2009, ISBN 978-3-86841-019-8
  • Alexander Gallas & Jörg Nowak: Mass strikes in the global crisis in: Workers of the World , Volume I, Number 8, 2016
  • Alexander Gallas / Jörg Nowak / Florian Wilde (eds.): Political Strikes in Europe of Crisis , Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-89965-532-2 , online (PDF 2.6 MB).
  • Michael Halfbrodt: General strike, eight-hour day and May Day . A chapter from the radical labor movement. Ed. Blackbox, Bielefeld 1997.
  • Majerus, Benoît. 2007. General strike in Lieux de mémoire au Luxembourg. Usages du passé et construction nationale, eds. Sonja Kmec et al. Luxembourg: Edition Saint-Paul, pp. 147–152. online (PDF 590 kB), (French)
  • Jörg Roesler: The reconstruction lie of the Federal Republic , chapter: The general strike of November 12, 1948 , Karl Dietz Verlag Berlin, 2008, ISBN 978-3-320-02137-5 | PDF
  • Georges Sorel: About violence . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1981.
  • Axel Weipert: The Second Revolution. Council movement in Berlin 1919/1920. Bebra Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-95410-062-0 .
  • Veit Wilhelmy: Is the political strike coming? - Further materials for a taboo volume 2. Fachhochschulverlag, Frankfurt 2010, ISBN 978-3-940087-53-9
  • Veit Wilhelmy: The political strike materials become a taboo . Fachhochschulverlag, Frankfurt 2008, ISBN 978-3-940087-17-1
  • Veit Wilhelmy: Tailwind for the Political Strike - Current Materials Volume 3. Fachhochschulverlag, Frankfurt 2012, ISBN 978-3-943787-00-9

Web links

Wiktionary: General strike  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. On the political strike in Germany since the newspaper strike in 1952 on
  2. Die Woche , issue 3/1905 of January 21, 1905, p. 97: “Disputes […] have grown into a huge uprising in the Westphalian coal mining area. On Monday the miners' general strike was finally proclaimed, although their leaders themselves had warned against this step. An end is not in sight, since the employers behave negatively towards the workers' demands. "
  3. "Long live the German Republic!" SPD 11/9/1918
  4. Axel Weipert: The Second Revolution. Council movement in Berlin 1919/1920. Berlin 2015, pp. 41–159. In addition to a detailed description of Berlin, there is also an overview of the strike movements in the various parts of the country.
  5. a b DGB: 100 years ago: General strike stops military coup. Retrieved March 11, 2020 .
  6. ^ Deutsches Historisches Museum : General strike 1920 , queried on March 15, 2009
  7. ^ A general strike that was not allowed to be on
  8. ^ Currency reform 1948. In: Deutsche Bundesbank . June 20, 2008, accessed May 19, 2020 .
  9. Rosa Luxemburg Foundation : Jörg Roesler: The Reconstruction Lie of the Federal Republic (PDF; 994 kB)
  10. ^ Currency reform 1948 on
  11. State Center for Civic Education Baden-Württemberg : June 17, 1953 : "On May 14, the Central Committee of the SED decided to raise labor standards by 10 percent. ... On the morning of June 16, 1953, leading trade union officials came to the construction site of the Friedrichshain Hospital, where on June 15 a strike could only be averted by calling a staff meeting. The construction workers demanded that the increase in standards be withdrawn. ... For the next day, June 17, 1953, the workers called a general strike . "
  12. ^ Edda Ahrberg, Tobias Hollitzer, Hans-Hermann Hertle: The dead of the popular uprising of June 17, 1953. Federal Agency for Civic Education, accessed on August 4, 2020 .
  13. Protests against pension reform - hundreds of thousands paralyze France. In: December 5, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  14. Long traffic jams caused by a general strike in France - rail traffic also affected in Germany. In: December 5, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  15. ^ Judith Kormann: The traffic in and around Paris stands still - the latest developments on the general strike in France. In: December 5, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  16. ^ Nina Belz: General strike in France: Emmanuel Macron's great test of strength. In: December 5, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  17. ^ Judith Kormann: The traffic in and around Paris stands still - the latest developments on the general strike in France. In: December 5, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  18. ^ General strike in France: Orphaned train stations, long traffic jams. In: December 6, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  19. Nina Belz: Why the protests against the pension reform in France differ from those of 1995. In: December 8, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  20. Romy Street Burg, Pierrick Lanciaux: All against one. In: December 12, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  21. Holiday between protesters: France is when there is a strike. In: December 20, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  22. ^ French railways cancels most of the train journeys on Christmas Eve. In: December 20, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  23. France flagged. In: December 23, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  24. Railway employees on strike - train cancellations in Rhineland-Palatinate. In: December 23, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  25. No strike break in France at Christmas. In: December 23, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  26. Strike costs French railways 400 million euros in sales. In: December 24, 2019, accessed December 24, 2019 .
  27. ^ Bernard Schmid : Riot in the French "overseas territories" , March 12, 2009 (accessed December 15, 2014)
  28. Julius Jamal: Biggest strike in history: 200 million lay down work in India! In: January 10, 2019, accessed January 18, 2019 .
  29. Thomas Berger: Two-day general strike in India. In: January 8, 2019, accessed January 18, 2019 .
  30. Forced recruitment and general strike in Luxembourg. In: Luxemburger Wort . March 15, 2012, accessed May 19, 2020 .