Is large scale strike action an essential element of Marxism?

I'm asking because something significant and unforeseen has to occur, I think, to make that at all possible.

  • 1
    Are you talking about general strikes?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Dec 26, 2016 at 15:04
  • @JosephWeissman there is a difference, tho i forget the exact definition of it. IIRC mass strike action may be more sponetaneous and so is less likely to be contained within the left of capital
    – user6917
    Dec 26, 2016 at 15:09
  • 3
    I'll say this -- a general strike may be a useful tactic, but I have a hard time imagining it as "essential" or necessary historically -- what remains historically necessary (for Marx...) is that the proletarian acquire the means of the production, but the means by which this acquisition takes place may certainly involve other kinds of industrial actions (slowdowns, etc) -- I'm not sure there's an essential link to strike, but maybe you could explore further some of the intuition you're articulating here?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Dec 26, 2016 at 15:13
  • It's interesting to note the idea of a general strike goes back at least to Ancient Rome: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secessio_plebis
    – CriglCragl
    Jul 4, 2023 at 11:06

3 Answers 3


Under Marxism, outdated class structures were supposed to be overthrown with force (revolution) instead of being replaced through patient modification. So, I believe strike action is an essential element of Marxism. But why large scale strike action always if it is not necessary?

Would this question arise if the rulers were Marxists? Would it be an essential element then?

Since Marxism is based on science up to a certain extent, I believe, large scale strike action is not its essential element.

If scientific, a mission can be accomplished even by a clever coup. In such case, there is no need of a large scale strike action. But I think Marxism will support large scale strike action in case of emergency.

To occur something significant and unforeseen, a clever coup is enough.

Marx said the results of the strikes were irrelevant and it was the nature of the protest that was important. He believed that through strikes and other class protests, workers won a moral and political victory. That means he gave importance to morality and the nature of strike.

See: Karl Marx’s View of Strikes

  • i get what you're saying but am reluctant to agree that marxism allows for seizure of the state by a vanguard, i.e. anyone but the working class
    – user6917
    Dec 28, 2016 at 13:08
  • 1
    See the differences in 2 views:worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1970s/1970/… Dec 28, 2016 at 15:21
  • i find the spgb bewildering, and passionately disagree with your contention, but thanks, i appreciate the note, good of you
    – user6917
    Jan 11, 2017 at 15:40

Is large scale strike action an essential element of Marxism?

No. More precisely, there have been a debate among Marxists about mass strikes with some schools in favor and some against it. The central work on the subject is The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions by Rosa Luxembourg, written in response to mass strikes in 1905 Russia and elsewhere.

In terms of the contemporary personalities, the views can be described as follows:

  • Engels was against the mass strike, which he associated mainly with Bakuninists (i.e., the communist anarchists.) For him mass strike is either premature or already unnecessary, as it requires the funds and the level of organization that the proletariat would possess only after a successful revolution.
  • Bernstein viewed mass strike as a substitute for the revolution, which is consistent with his revisionist view, which favored achieving socialism via non-violent measures, particularly via the parliamentary engagement. For Bernstein mass strike was a tool to use in response to suspension of the universal suffrage, which would put political engagement in jeopardy.
  • Bebel and the bureaucratic wing of the SPD viewed strike as a measure of last recourse that should be agreed upon by the party and the trade unions, and thus controlled by them.
  • Luxembourg herself advocated spontaneous strike. Contrary to Engels she considered strike as an element of an ongoing revolution. The spontaneity part implied that the mass strikes is not decided upon, but occurs independently in many places due to the convergence of the appropriate political and economic circumstances. Note that spontaneity poses serious problem to many Marxist schools, as it suggests that there is no need for the revolutionary vanguard, represented by the party, the intellectuals or the trade unions.

This by no means summarizes all the views of the mass strikes and the events that occurred throughout the following century, but it is clear that there are very polar views on whether strikes are a part of Marxism or not at all.


This is rudimentary, but here's my recipe.

Workplaces of strategic importance:

  1. they should be highly visible
  2. they should be as internationally various as possible
  3. they should depend upon each other's products
  4. there should be a minimum of 50 on the 1st day...

We may well be able to imagine a few hundred or thousand workers forming a mass strike, without war or serious impoverishment, etc.. And that may be practically sufficient for revolution, I think, given that there is enough political ferment among the international proletariat against state brutality, such that if they can't just go in and crack skulls until everything goes back to normal. "It just works"?

  • sci fi haha :-)
    – user28117
    Aug 28, 2017 at 22:43

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