The strike is over and I have been asked to write about it for the Seattle Union Record. Although the strike lasted only five days, there is so much more to tell than five days worth of events. I am filled with pride that the workers across this great city of Seattle pulled together and accomplished a peaceful strike. We did not intend to shut down the city. Rather, we wanted to show those in charge that we could organize and take care of Seattle's inhabitants. Children received milk and the hospitals had clean laundry. Oh Father, if you could have seen how well everyone worked together, right down to the soup kitchens where anyone could receive a meal. So what happened then? Why did we fail?
I think the biggest question I ask myself now that it is all over is: What were our aims to begin with? Perhaps because we did not state a clear aim, nothing could really come of our struggle. The struggle, it goes back so far that I don't even know where to begin. Was it just two years ago when Idaho and Minnesota passed the first Criminal Syndicalism laws? How many socialists and radicals have been put in jail since then for speaking their minds? It seems to me that the war was really just one more way for the government to get richer and keep the workingman down. Isn't that what happened here in Seattle?
Thursday, February 6, 1919 10am
The first day of the strike. We wanted it to be peaceful. This was not a Russian Bolshevik uprising, although the government is now calling it that. There was, in fact, very little activity this first day. At ten o'clock, the whistles sounded at the shipyards. This signaled the streetcars to shut down and the schools to let out. All the banks closed their doors; even the restaurants were shut down. Things were very quiet. I think everyone was expecting some kind of unrest, but nothing happened. As I wrote earlier, the workers were very organized and the men of the General Strike Committee, a group of 15 men voted to organize and make decisions, had thought of everything. This was a rather amazing task, since none of them had ever organized a strike before. There were no picket lines to cross, no one to beat up and no arrests. The lack of these events alone made this so very different from the many other strikes I have written about before. Father, you have raised me to be a pacifist. Nevertheless, could it be that this very peaceful strike was just too peaceful?
Friday, Day 2
Mayor Hanson put out a proclamation to end the strike. It was the first time I had heard someone call our strike a Bolshevist Rebellion. I think he saw our power and was afraid that the working class revolts that were happening in Russia may also happen here. Mayor Hanson said he supported us, and even met with the General Strike Committee before all this began. By the second day of our strike though, he had changed his tune. He threatened that if we did not end the strike, he would use soldiers and declare martial law if necessary. He did bring in soldiers, although he didn't need to. Remember, this was a peaceful strike, so for him to do so was a big waste of taxpayer money.
Father, you should have heard some of the rumors that were circulating. Remember, there were no newspapers going out, and no radio either. So, people began to make things up. Some spread the word that Mayor Hanson had been assassinated. Another rumor said that the Central Labor Temple had been blown up. Can you imagine!?!
Saturday, Day 3
After only three days, the General Strike Committee voted to end the strike. The workers were getting restless. The shipyard employers were willing to wait us out. With no picket lines to walk, there didn't seem to be much for the workers to do at all. People had lost their sense of unity and wanted to return to work. Again, I wonder if we were just too organized.
Many of the unions didn't show up for the morning roll call at the Labor Temple because they went back to work today. Their members had decided to go back on the job.
Monday, Day 5
February 12, 1919. Did you know this is also Lincoln's birthday? The strike ended on this day. There was a vote of the General Strike Committee. 13 to 1, they voted to end the strike, although I suppose it had ended even before today.
Here we were, successful at closing down the capitalist-run businesses in the city and then reopening them under the power of the worker. We really accomplished what we had set out to do. 60,000 workers went off their jobs, but to what end? Some people are saying we didn't go far enough with our fight. But, does violence have to be a necessary part of a strike? I believe this general strike will be an example for labor organizers across the country. It will also be an example to all of Capitalist America that the worker has the power to improve his or her own working conditions.
Perhaps I do not belong here in America anymore. Maybe Russia would accept my radical ideas more so than here in America. Yes, perhaps that is where I belong.
Sincerely, Your faithful daughter,
Anna Louise Strong
Anna Louise Strong was an amazing woman. Not only was she an outspoken writer for the labor movement, but she was also a mountain climber and led expeditions through the icy glaciers of Mt. Hood. She eventually did go to Russia and stayed there for almost 29 years.
Please email me at: email@example.com
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