A Good Time for Revolution: On Strikes and the Harvard Man

Once upon a time, a Harvard Man knew how to handle a strike.

In 1919, two hundred students answered Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell’s call to break the policemen’s strike. They patrolled the streets of Boston, barricaded Harvard Yard against thieves and thugs, and heaped antisemitic abuse on a young pro-strike instructor by the name of Harold Laski. The students, including all of the football team, made up 15% of the city’s strike breakers. “To hell with football,” said the coach, “if the men are needed.”

What a difference a century makes.

Unfamiliar with the bloody battles of yesteryear, less adept in matters of primitive accumulation, today’s ruling class is no longer repelled by strikes. It’s confused by them.

So when Harvard’s dining hall workers go out on strike, the students respond like this:

  • “I don’t get why they have to protest directly outside of the Houses. You’re basically hurting the students who went out and endorsed you—the Undergraduate Council endorsed the strike—and you’re waking them up in the middle of midterms.”
  • “Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people’s protests, but when it gets in the way of my academics it kinda irks me a bit.”
  • Walking through picket lines on the way to a midterm is “a really weird experience.”

Not all the students share this view; some support the dining hall workers.

Still, it’s hard to shake the sense that it’s not your daddy’s ruling class anymore.

Seems like a good time for revolution.




  1. Dean C. Rowan October 8, 2016 at 12:27 am | #

    There is no “time for revolution,” as if it were akin to time for vacation. Still, fuck Harvard. But I don’t get the issue with your third quote. It’s fair, if not perfectly articulate, to describe walking through picket lines to a midterm as “weird.” Doesn’t happen all that often. Makes one uncomfortable for who knows how many reasons.

    Still, fuck Harvard.

  2. E scott October 8, 2016 at 9:31 am | #

    Could the strike breaking enthusiasm have been motivated by anti-Irish prejudice?

  3. Barbara Winslow October 12, 2016 at 12:16 pm | #

    During the 1919 Seattle General Strike, scabs came from University of Washington students.

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