On Oakland: A port shuts down, new possibilities open up

If anyone was in any doubt, last Wednesday’s events in Oakland revealed that we truly are living in exciting times. For the first time, the growing Occupy movement went beyond just occupying public space, and actively disrupted the economy. No matter what the limitations of the day were, it was successful on one vital level: it re-introduced the idea of the general strike into American political life. Not as something to be called on and off by union bosses, and not as an abstract concept preached about by a few isolated revolutionaries, but as a real, vital thing, a crucial weapon for everyone fighting for control over our own lives. The last year’s proved how quickly an idea can spread, from the university occupations in last winter’s student protests through to the ever-growing list of camps, so who can say where the general strike genie will turn up next now it’s escaped from the bottle?
I wasn’t at Oakland, so I can’t see much point in writing up a big report myself, but here’s a collection of useful sources and related texts: Phil Dickens has already given a UK perspective on the day’s events, some local anarchists made these observations immediately before the strike, this piece from Viewpoint Magazine gives a bit of context on the background to the strike, here’s the write-up from the Occupy Oakland main site, the Commune have an eyewitness report, and the long-running Occupy California site carries a number of texts including this initial review by Gazuedro and a statement on the occupation of the former Travellers’ Aid society building. The use of black bloc tactics on the day has sparked fierce debate, with at least three different pieces criticising the role that the bloc played. I can’t deny feeling some sympathy with those who smashed up Whole Foods – apart from the specific reasons why that store was targeted, attacking a shop selling locally grown organic food feels like a beautifully clear rejection of all the attempts to channel the movement into support for a nice, reformed, hippiefied capitalism. Still, despite all this, I ultimately agree that the property destruction on the day was unnecessary and counterproductive – the black bloc on March 26th, and the militant actions that took place on the student protests, were inspiring because they were a symbol of a more effective alternative to the tradition of peaceful, dignified defeat that the British left is used to. The Oakland general strike, on the other hand, was inherently radical in itself, and compared to the economic disruption caused by shutting down a major port for a day, the smashing of a few windows seems positively impotent.
It’s also interesting to note that a second Iraq veteran, Kayvan Sabehgi, has been injured by Oakland police. Of course, Army veterans’ lives are worth no more or less than anyone else’s, but they occupy a special place in the American national imagination, and the growing confrontation between ex-Army members and current police officers could yet have major consequences. Serious mutinies in the US army have happened before, and they may yet happen again.
Moving on from Oakland to the Occupy movement more generally, the last week or so’s also been very busy: in another example of how the movement’s pacifist ideology is on a dangerous collision course with reality, Occupy Newcastle was attacked by the far-right, a development which the left may have to take some responsibility for, feminists are becoming increasingly critical of the movement, the Phoenix Class War Council are currently providing regular round-ups of interesting and relevant news, Caiman del Barrio criticises Occupy London’s disconnection from everyday life, and Pierce Penniless makes a strong case for why the protests are still worth engaging with despite, and even perhaps because of, their many limitations.
In other news, the student struggle is picking up ahead of the next national demo, as St. Andrews and Birmingham Universities have both occupied – I think Birmingham’s occupation was very brief, but St. Andrews’ is still going strong. Electricians Against the World, Indymedia London and Manchester Mule all have updates on the ongoing rank-and-file electricians’ struggle, the IWW cleaners’ branch are having another protest in London this Monday, anti-cuts prisoner Omar Ibrahim needs support, two evictions have been defeated in Hackney, and Edinburgh Claimants have won another victory over A4e. Looking around the world, the workers who make bottles for Corona in Mexico are in a bitter struggle with their bosses and have put out a boycott call, largely overlooked struggles continue in East Asia, the China Labour Bulletin have produced an in-depth report on the increasingly open battle between the Chinese working class and the state they supposedly control, and as the global rejection of austerity causes the crisis to deepen further and further, the grassroots struggle against increasingly unbearable conditions in Greece still provides an inspiring example of what is possible.

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About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
This entry was posted in Activism, Anarchists, Occupations, Protests, Repression, Strikes, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to On Oakland: A port shuts down, new possibilities open up

  1. Pingback: House raids and mass arrests: the Black Scare is well under way | Cautiously pessimistic

  2. Pingback: Once More With Feeling – some thoughts on why it’s all kicking off on campus | Cautiously pessimistic

  3. Pingback: More notes on the social strike | Cautiously pessimistic

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