We expect history to provide us with explanations – to place the immediacy of experience within a wider story whose terms will be progressively elaborated and illuminated. Political action, which aims at intervening into history and altering its movement, has an entirely different kind of truth – a subjective truth produced in the act of participating.
Occupy Oakland’s call for a day-long general strike on November 2 has revived interest in the tactic, calls for which were also heard over the winter in Madison, Wisconsin. Yet the general strike is practically unknown today in the United States, functioning more as a rhetorical index of militancy than a serious proposal for unified action. In solidarity with this movement’s profound rupture in political language, we’ve selected a few important moments in the history of the concept to illustrate its potential directions.