situations which presume that women will stay at home, to link ourselves to the struggles of all those who are in ghettos, whether that ghetto is a nursery, a school, a hospital, an old-age home, or aslum. To abandon the home is already a form of struggle, since thesocial services we perform there would then cease to becarried out in those conditions, and so all those who work out of the home would then demand that the burden carried by us untilnow be thrown squarely where it belongs – onto the shoulders of
capital.... The working class family is the more difcult point to
break because it is the support of the worker, but as worker, andfor that reason the support of capital. On this family depends thesupport of the class, the survival of the class – but at the woman’sexpense against the class itself.... Like the trade union, the family protects the worker, but also ensures that he or she will never beanything but workers. And that is why the struggle of the woman
of the working class against the family is crucial (41).
What Dalla Costa and James indicate in this passage is that strikes in thesphere of social reproduction, while similar to ‘conventional’ labor strikesinsofar as they directly counter exploitative forms of work discipline,appear different from such strikes in two crucial, and seemingly
contradictory, respects – rst, that they seem to directly undermine the
survival of working class subjects, and second, that they carry with themthe promise of liberating the working class from the requirement to labor in order to survive. If we translate this analysis into the university context
(something that Dalla Costa and James also do, at times, in their essays),
we can see certain resonances with recent student strikes. On the onehand, such strikes appear self-defeating, as evidenced by the ubiquitousrefrain that a walkout in support of public education is a self-contradictorygesture. How, we are asked, can one defend public education by refusingto teach class or to attend lecture? On the other hand, such strikes appear to promise the liberation of the student from her social and economic role:such liberation would entail the abolition of student debt; thedecomposition of hierarchical relations between students, professors, and
university workers (which we saw hints of during the November 15 openuniversity); and ultimately the realization of her capacity to live free of
the requirement to work for wages.
What we saw with the open university at Berkeley on November 15, and
what we will likely see in coming days at Davis, was a form of learningthat we’ve drawn upon and revised in shaping our recent campus actions.In Oakland, the image of the mass assembly was sutured with the term“general strike” – each of us had seen the picture of the evening assemblyframed with the phrase: “strike while the iron is hot” – so, at UC Berkeleyand UC Davis, the moment our assemblies expanded beyond the boundaries of our quads and plazas, we similarly called for generalstrikes.It’s worth asking, however, just how general these strikes have been, andrelatedly, whether our strike calls have been properly-tailored to their political moment. Some on the left have accused us of misusing the termgeneral strike, of diluting the meaning of the phrase insofar asabsenteeism hasn’t been universal. Their point is well taken, of course:we haven’t yet organized a full-scale shutdown of a city or sector of sociallife. Many in Oakland went to work on November 2, while nearly all
university employees (excepting instructors) carried out their jobs on November 15. Nevertheless, these strikes have been remarkably wide
-spread and effective; they’ve blocked, for a time, the operations of particular industries and institutions. And our repeated use of the phrasegeneral strike seems to have enabled, and rendered legible, certain
important dimensions of these events – dimensions that other terms (i.e.shutdown, blockade, boycott, or student walkout) would have failed to
capture or set off.
To call a strike general is to give it a predication that puts off, or qualies,
all particularizing predications it might otherwise be given. A generalstrike is not a strike carried out by a clearly-demarcated body of workers;it’s not called in order to effect some particular change of policy or economic practice; in terms of tactics, the general strike is
promiscuous, embracing ying pickets, occupations, wildcats, mutual aid,
and widespread sabotage. A strike is general only if its limits areunsettled, expansive, indistinct: if it gives birth to unexpected subjects andsites of struggle.Our recent strike actions are perhaps most notable for their expansivequality, for how they’ve inspired and enabled surprising lines of struggle.In calling for a general strike throughout the city of Oakland, for instance, those gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza didn’t necessarily knowthey were calling for the shutting down of Oakland’s port, since the shut-down was planned in the days following the strike resolution. Nor