Occupy Oakland and general strike call - updates and discussion

General strike?

Following the violent eviction of Occupy Oakland by police in which Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen was left critically injured, and assembly voted to build for a wildcat general strike on 2 November. Updates and discussion in the comments below.

A couple days ago, the Oakland police forcibly evicted Occupy Oakland with tear gas, flash bang grenades and either rubber, beanbag or wooden bullets (or possibly all three). In the process, a number of people were injured, most seriously an Iraq Veterans of the War member who had gone through 2 tours of Iraq. Apparently the police shot a tear gas canister at head level and fractured his skull. As people were rushing to his aid, a riot cop lobbed a flash bang grenade into the crowd. He's been in the hospital since. I've heard he's in a medically induced coma and breathing machine, but I haven't been able to confirm them. IVAW says he's awake and can write, but not talk. And there's conflicting reports on whether he needs brain surgery or not.

The next night protesters eventually retook the area they had been kicked out of and had an assembly in which they passed a proposal for a November 2nd citywide general strike.

Here is a description of that night from Hieronymous

Quote:
O.K., the demo started at 6:00 and there wasn't a cop in sight -- except a few underground in the BART subway station.

I got there a couple minutes late and there had been fences surrounding Oscar Grant Plaza, but those were in the process of being methodically pulled down and stacked in orderly piles. The crowd came. And came and came and came. We held the General Assembly in the amphitheater (where I gave a workshop, with a multimedia presentation, on the '46 Oakland General Strike last Saturday). And as we began, more people came. By its peak, there were about 3,000 people participating in the General Assembly. The general strike proposal was made and we had breakout groups to discuss it.

My breakout group was mixed, lots of young working class people of all races, but also some older people that included a guy who owned a small hardware store, as well as a guy who ran a small flower shop along with his wife. The latter 2 were all for a general strike, but the hardware guy acted as though he'd never heard of one, but still discussed it with good faith and an open mind. A young woman in our group mentioned details of the '46 General Strike, recalling how "bars were allowed to stay open as long as they served only beer and put their jukeboxes out on the street." She made the case for a total shut down (later she told me she read the account, not knowing it was Stan Weir's, "somewhere on the 'net"). Another 30something woman, who was a single mom, said she liked the idea but would prefer to leave work at lunchtime and take her daughter out from school then.

When it was my turn -- and everyone was so damn polite and respectful while taking turns it scared me -- I mentioned again that the Oakland General Strike completely shut down all commerce and that was its strength. I also mentioned how the mid-day or after work proposals had been used to undermine the May Day Immigrant Strike in 2006, especially in Los Angeles where the Catholic Church, the Labor Council, and Latino city officials did everything they could to prevent it from becoming a real strike. They all wanted a symbolic rally at something like 5:00 p.m., so no one would miss work. But the rank-and-file hardcore persevered and on May 1st a significant part of the working class went out in L.A.

We faced this same shit on March 4, 2010 with the education struggles and I saw ghost of that when local Trotskyites spoke to the GA tonight and said "we need more time to build, so we should prioritize the teach-ins on November 9th and the protest to shut down" the meeting of the statewide "regents at the University of California" on November 16th. This was when the GA reconvened and the liberals urged as much caution, namby-pampy nonsense like non-violence and not sending out bad "messenging," as the Trots.

From what I understand, it was 90% consensus and from what I saw it was closer to 75% for a general strike and 25% against. Since there were over 3,000 people and I never saw or heard a vote since we were working on consensus, I don't know where the numbers above come from. Honestly, I was so demoralized by the naysayers that I went outside the the amphitheater and talked with comrades. When I went back to the GA, it was on to another agenda item.

We kept getting announcements from San Francisco, so when the meeting wound down I headed there, only to see every left bureaucrat in town there to pretend to help prevent the rumored police crackdown. Yet even SF with nearly 500 people at midnight was an inspiring sight. As I left, the BART station was closed and buses were being rerouted, so the attack was to come shortly. But the SF cops are more strategic, so I imagine they'll accomplish their deed with little or no teargas. I've never seen teargas in the Bay Area before the Oscar Grant Riots in 2009 in Oakland, and it was used very sparingly.

Part of the conscious avoidance of teargas is due to the People's Park Riots in 1969, when the National Guard dropped liquid CS gas on the UC Berkeley campus to penned in (we'd say "kettled" today) protestors, but a stiff breeze off the Bay carried this war-grade CS gas into the windows of a hospital on campus, preschools in the hills, and into the houses of wealthy people at the top of the hill. Like with the tear gas in Oakland last night, it drew even more fence-sitters into supporting the People's Park protestors against the cops and National Guard.

All my comrades and I agreed that the liberal use of tear gas last night organized our mass assembly tonight. It will be interesting to see if the SF cops fuck up too.

We can only hope...

Also, here's an account of those two days.

The account by Hieronymous has been lightly edited to match our news guidelines

Comments

x359594
Oct 28 2011 02:20

The police attack on Occupy Oakland has become a flash point. Apparently there was a solidarity rally in front of the US Embassy in Cairo. The New York Times and The Washington Post floated a propaganda bubble about how cities are getting fed up with #Occupy and it's time to shut it down. Public opinion didn't take the bait, and a few city officials have back peddled on plans to raid encampments. I'm not certain what will happen next, but a successful general strike even of one day's duration will count as a victory and encourage more actions, hopefully work place occupations and sit down strikes. We'll see.

Hieronymous
Oct 28 2011 09:34

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Quote:
Plan to break up Occupy Oakland camp took a week

Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross, Chronicle Columnist

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oakland began preparing to dismantle the Occupy camp in front of City Hall a week ago, when interim Police Chief Howard Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana put out the call for neighboring jurisdictions to provide some of the hundreds of cops who wound up being mustered early Tuesday.

On Friday, two days after those two had set the process in motion, Mayor Jean Quan abandoned her initial support for the protest and came to the same conclusion as they had: The camp was a hazard to public safety and health, and had to go.

The questions were how, and when.

First up, timing. It would take at least five days to arrange the influx of police from other jurisdictions, and anyway, Occupy forces were planning a big march Saturday. That meant Monday at the earliest.

In the meantime, the plan was to try to thin the crowd by sending in social workers to lure away some of the hard-core homeless who had joined the campers.

On Monday, fire officials went through removing propane tanks that could serve as weapons against police.

By then, Quan had gotten out of Dodge - flying to Washington for long-scheduled meetings designed to raise money for developing the old Oakland Army Base.

The mayor, who has been taking hits over her public safety policies, was concerned about how it would look for her to be out of town when the cops made their move - but not concerned enough to cancel, feeling that her new police chief could handle the situation.

orange.ruffy
Oct 28 2011 10:03
Quote:
Hmm. Call me skeptical, but until I see official union participation, I don't think this will go anywhere towards what we think of the term. Possibly a bigger demo than usual, but other than that, I don't know. I mean to go from a relatively tame protest of 1,500 to a general strike in a week seems like a massive, impossible jump.

Agreed, but part of my point is the push for a general strike is strong enough to lay down a marker for the future, whether or not they come close to a complete shut-down. In less than a year, we've gone from general strike as a private ideal within limited circles, to the subject of public agitation within social struggles, to a small but real initiative emerging from within a struggle. I'm not claiming this will be a wildcat insurrectional mass strike with 95% participation, but it is a real next step that deserves serious support.

Circulating news and organizing solidarity demos will help put the word about the Oakland general strike on everyone's lips. And the more that there's a national buzz (that would get a small push-start, for example, with an official solidarity announcement from the IWW), the more likely it is that the leftier unions will jump on the bandwagon and honor the strike locally in the Bay.

Chilli Sauce
Oct 28 2011 16:17

Agreed with Roughy (I fucking love some orange ruffy, btw, beautiful fish), just the fact that in the last year we've had talk of a general strike in the US....that's just fucking massive in itself.

jacobian
Oct 28 2011 16:34

It seems to me that calling a general strike without actually being able to effect one is not laying the basis for anything except potentially demoralisation.

It's remotely possible that some people will strike, despite the fact that the time frame was ridiculously small between the call and the date, but I think it's unlikely.

More sensible would be to take the small steps which would actually make such a thing more likely. Ask locals to come and support the occupation with their banners and give a speech. Try to get the ILWU out there to talk about police repression. Make links, and maybe some union members will stay and get their arses beaten by the police drawing in the rest in solidarity.

When you call a general strike completely independently from the workers who will be doing it, it sounds a bit like: "Hey you, I need some solidarity so why don't you stick your neck out and give it when I tell you."

Hieronymous
Oct 28 2011 17:07

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Quote:
Occupy Oakland protesters boo Quan off the stage

Will Kane,Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writers

Friday, October 28, 2011

(10-28) 09:42 PDT OAKLAND -- Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was booed off the stage by Occupy Oakland protesters Thursday night as she tried to speak at their general assembly.

Quan was standing in line to speak at the forum on Frank Ogawa Plaza around 11 p.m. when the group began booing and chanting, "Go away."

Quan, who has taken heat for the police action Tuesday night in which officers fired tear gas at Occupy protesters, walked into City Hall without saying anything.

Police peacefully removed demonstrators from the plaza outside City Hall early Tuesday, only to launch tear gas and seriously injure one demonstrator when protesters returned that evening. Police officials said they had acted in response to instances of protesters throwing objects and paint at officers.

The clash attracted international attention, and Quan, who was in Washington, D.C., on a lobbying trip when it happened, was criticized for saying she hadn't known exactly when police were going to clear out the Occupy camp.

In a video message she posted on her Facebook page, Quan said she was "deeply saddened about the outcome" Tuesday night. "It was not what anyone hoped for, ultimately it was my responsibility, and I apologize for what happened."

She added, "When there's violence, there are no winners - it polarizes us and opens old wounds."

Quan recorded the message Thursday night in City Hall, before her attempt to address Occupy Oakland directly. Chants and cheers from the demonstrators could be heard in the background.

The mayor added, "We're asking you, again, not to camp overnight," and said protesters needed to keep the plaza clean and open to public safety workers.

Quan told KQED-FM that she had posted the message on Facebook because she didn't think she'd be able to speak at the rally.

The mayor's failed attempt to address the crowd came at the end of a day in which Occupy Oakland protesters reclaimed the battleground plaza at 14th Street and Broadway. City officials had said they would not allow people in the plaza between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., but the dozens of people who pitched tents there Thursday slept overnight undisturbed by police.

Protesters resurrected the camp's "Kid Zone" and planned to bring back its kitchen and medical tent. As the day wore on, they danced, received acupuncture and massage treatments and talked about plans for a citywide strike Wednesday.

Many said Tuesday morning's raid on the camp had hardened their resolve to live in the plaza as part of the worldwide Occupy Wall Street movement.

"That's what this whole thing is about - occupying public space," said Josh Chavanne, 29, of Oakland, one of several people who have moved back into the plaza. "We're here because many of us believe it is our right as human beings to decolonize property."

But the rebuilding effort - and the lack of immediate action by the city - frustrated some officials who warned that allowing demonstrators to dig in again would lead to inevitable conflict.

"We can't just be observers," said City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who said downtown businesses had lost money since the occupation began Oct. 10. "We have to enforce the rules and the laws for everyone. Unfortunately, I don't think the mayor and some other people agree with that, and so here we are."

De La Fuente said he agreed with the Occupy movement's pursuit of economic equality, but added, "I do not support doing it at the expense of other people and violating other people's rights."

City officials said they were assessing what to do about the fledgling rebuilding effort, but declined to speculate on what would happen if the camp returns in full flower.

"Right now, as long as it's nonviolent, the plan is to let a peaceful protest take place," said Sgt. Jeff Thomason, a police spokesman.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan attempts to get in line to speak during an open mic session outside of Oakland City Hall at the Occupy Oakland camp in Frank Ogawa Square on Thursday, October 27, 2011 in Oakland, Calif.

orange.ruffy
Oct 28 2011 19:52
Quote:
When you call a general strike completely independently from the workers who will be doing it, it sounds a bit like: "Hey you, I need some solidarity so why don't you stick your neck out and give it when I tell you."

I'm not sure what you want me to say. And maybe some of that unclarity is also because it's not clear what subject position you're adopting. Are you implying that you are in Oakland, that you have comrades in Oakland who are keeping you up to date, or that you've read enough on the internet (I'm not dissing this either) and that you thus know that the call for the general strike is actually completely independent from "the workers?" If so, I could accept that, or at least we could have a more nuanced conversation, but I have comrades in Oakland that I trust, comrades who I trust despite what I think of as their cynicism, who've communicated that they think there's actual potential.

If the only possible actor in a general strike is the big-P proletariat (itself a caricature of the actual proletariat) already organized into major unions, then I'll concede my argument regardless of your background information or subject position. But in another thread, Hieronymous has already pointed out some of the fallacious thinking that informs this particular strain of nay-saying.

As I've said before, I do think it would be a step forward if those particular unions who stake their reputation on possessing a certain image of militantcy were successfully pressured into honoring the strike. But assessing links with the class on the basis of the participation of a broad coalition of unions in this process seems neither useful nor desirable. We're speaking about a social atmosphere in which there's been a sudden and considerable delegitimation of not only of the high city officialdom, but also a wide strata of social managers who can normally be trusted with neutralizing any possible eruption of the class struggle. One in which there's increasingly broad support for struggle in streets, and no longer just against the police (which has been in place to varying degrees since January 1st 2009), but for a struggle that's articulated a vocal anti-capitalism. One in which there's a recent history of struggles spreading with surprising speed at least through neighborhoods and schools if not yet the workplaces. And one in which there are not only 2-3000 person autonomous assemblies convening (and refusing dialogue with politicians!) but in which these assemblies seem to be representing a somewhat broader cross-section of the population than usual (though even if the 1400 people who voted yes on the strike were really all just anarchists, middle class liberals, students, and leftists, that would still represent quite a few different workplaces, schools, crusty squats, etc. where pro-strike agitation would take place).

Yes, I do share your concern about demoralization. But honestly, that gamble's already been taken by the only people it will really effect, those in the GA in Oakland. If people around the country throw their support behind the strike and it fizzles, sure we'll be disappointed, but we'll have tasted the possibility and spread the notion that political strikes can even be conceived of. We won't really suffer more than if we invest than if we talk shit on the internet. But if it fizzles, the wider struggle in Oakland will likely fizzle, even if you refuse to extend solidarity because it wasn't realistic in the first place. That said, I'd even be down to talk more about these risks and about demoralization, but more has to be brought to the table than the surprising and unexpected news that the AFL-CIO hasn't endorsed the call yet.

Wellclose Square
Oct 28 2011 20:03
Quote:
In reply to Jacobian, orange.ruffy wrote I'm not sure what you want me to say. And maybe some of that unclarity is also because it's not clear what subject position you're adopting. Are you implying that you are in Oakland, that you have comrades in Oakland who are keeping you up to date, or that you've read enough on the internet (I'm not dissing this either) and that you thus know that the call for the general strike is actually completely independent from "the workers?" If so, I could accept that, or at least we could have a more nuanced conversation, but I have comrades in Oakland that I trust, comrades who I trust despite what I think of as their cynicism, who've communicated that they think there's actual potential.

Jacobian's had a lot to say on the Greek labyrinth thread too, so I think he's "read enough on the internet".

Take gambles... nothing to lose... if it comes off - all the better. Interesting times.

Juan Conatz
Oct 28 2011 20:17

Just to clarify, in case anyone is confused, I'm 2,000 miles away from Oakland, but folks I know there have been thankfully updating me on FB.

The strike committee meeting yesterday was around 500 people, there a number of unions or union members involved including one in particular who is not saying what they're gonna do because "loose lips sink ships".

The people I know, which range from more insurrectionary folks to Trotskyist IWW members, all seem to think there's a real possibility this could be a big deal.

orange.ruffy
Oct 28 2011 20:36

To Wellclose: Sorry if I was being too indirect, but I was also hoping that if Jacobian is drawing on background information, available on the internet or otherwise, that indicates that the general strike call is "completely" separate from the workers, they would provide it. This isn't meant as a challenge- having more to go on for this conversation than just having a "good" feeling or "bad" feeling about the strike, or what your unnamed friends and comrades are supposedly telling you (i.e. my case) would allow the discussion to develop.

To be clear, I'm going on friends, on poking all around twitter and other social networks, my occasionally direct experience of Oakland over the past few years, on media capitalist and otherwise, and posts here and on bayofrage. But the broad strokes being painted against supporting the strike seem really inadequate to me.

bastarx
Oct 28 2011 20:40

Admin: snip

Wellclose Square
Oct 28 2011 20:40

Yeah, fair play orange, suppose I'm not very trusting... Hope it comes off.

Django
Oct 28 2011 21:06

Juan Conatz
Oct 28 2011 22:36

From Adam Weaver

Quote:
In response to the police repression unleashed by Oakland PD in evicting Occupy Oakland from their occupation site, the renamed ‘Oscar Grant Plaza’, on Wednesday, October 26, the General Assembly of Occupy Oakland approved a call for a November 2 General Strike declaring “All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.” Already local officials of the mainstream unions are attempting to push for late afternoon rallying times (to discourage workers from striking as did unions, non-profits and the Catholic Church during the 2006 immigrant protests) and Democratic Party linked groups such as MoveOn.org, Rebuild the Dream, and national union leadership are sharpening their knives in drafting plans to coopt and channel the occupy movement into an electoral and policy agenda as happened in Madison earlier this year.

As the usual suspects look to gut the occupy movement of radical potential at their alters of responsible leadership and trickle down change from above they look to pull the movement backwards. But perhaps as dangerous is the abstention and hesitation of radicals to push this movement forward and blossom in its potential.

For radicals who have been around the proverbial organizing block I would urge caution to avoid falling into the role of being the left naysayers of the movement. Just as under capitalism “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned”, in times of upheaval and crisis events that never seemed possible suddenly become so. People who are unpoliticized or only have nascent consciousness become radicalized and people who are already politicized begin to identify with revolutionary politics. The lack of organic connections to more politically defined political militants leaves these newly radicalized layers to flail in the wind and take many political missteps, grow cynical, or be swept into the first organization that seems to offer a ready baked formula for radical change.

The Occupy movement, just like the 2006 immigrant marches which included workplace strikes, the Republic Doors and Windows factory occupation, or the California student protests and building takeovers, if you would have asked most any seasoned radical if any of this was possible, no reasonable estimation would come back affirmative. Would any of us had imagined that a mass meeting of several thousand would take up the question of a general strike and take a vote 1,484 in favor to 46 opposed? I sure wouldn’t have. A week ago only layers of individuals within the anarchist movement, the IWW and an Al-Jazera article were the only voices I heard putting “occupy” and “general strike” into the same sentence. Now the entire occupy movement is looking at and discussing this. That’s a major step forward.

So will a general strike actually materialize next week? Who knows. Almost surely it won’t be a total shut down by any stretch, but it seems like from what I’m hearing that downtown Oakland will be shutdown and outreach groups for several industries have already formed to agitate, flyer and mobilize. But keep in mind the ‘general strikes’ that we hear about in Chile, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, etc are not too different than this – from my understanding only 20-30% of workers participate in the called for stoppages. Let’s also keep in mind that every conversation struck about the possibility of a general strike and leaflet handed out and posted becomes a radical point of reference around the idea of mass collective action and this lays the ground work, it is a great preparation if you will, for larger steps in the future. As revolutionaries let’s not forget the Gramscian adage “Pessimism of the intellect, Optimism of the will.” Its truer now more than ever.

http://machete408.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/on-the-occupy-oakland-november-2-general-strike/

Juan Conatz
Oct 28 2011 22:43

Solidarity march in Egypt

Juan Conatz
Oct 28 2011 22:54

Looks like the Carpenters joined in...

Quote:
1. Defend Occupy Oakland With The Muscle of Organized Labor [A statement from leading ILWU and IBU members supporting the protests and general strike called for November 2 by Occupy Oakland.]

2. Resolution Passed by Carpenters Local 713 to Join the General Strike and Protests

DEFEND OCCUPY OAKLAND
WITH THE MUSCLE OF ORGANIZED LABOR

Demonstrators in downtown Oakland protesting the bank-driven economic crisis were brutally attacked by police from 18 Bay Area agencies on Tuesday Oct. 25. Mayor Quan, who was supported by ILWU Local 10 in the recent elections, ordered this bloody assault. Cops used potentially lethal weapons to break up the occupation of Frank Ogawa (now renamed Oscar Grant) Plaza just as they did in the port against anti-war protesters in 2003. That police attack was even criticized by the UN Human Rights Commission and ended up costing Oakland over $2 million in civil suits.

Then-Local 10 longshoreman Billy Kepo’o was hit in the hand by a police tear gas canister causing a bloody mess. Now, Iraqi war vet, Scott Olsen, was hit in the head with a police projectile, causing a fracture and putting him in critical condition in Highland Hospital. This is exactly what killed one of the strikers in Seattle in the Big Strike of 1934. That history of police violence against strikers is why our Local 10 Constitution bans cops from membership in our union.

Last year, Local 10 shutdown all ports to protest the police killing of young Oscar Grant. This year ILWU has been supporting Occupy Wall Street. Just last Monday the San Francisco Labor Council declared the Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Wall Street “sanctioned union strike lines” offering the protesters an umbrella of union protection.

ILWU is under attack from PMA employers, not just here in the port of Oakland but especially in Longview, Washington. Our jobs and the survival of the ILWU as a fighting union are at stake. We heard the report of our Longview Local 21 brothers at our union meeting last week and we pledged our solidarity, just as we did for other unions under attack, whether in Charleston, South Carolina or Madison, Wisconsin.

At the same time there is an outrage at the bankers and the capitalist crisis which has caused massive hardship on the working class. Occupy Oakland protesters have called for a General Strike on November 2. Whether this actually means real strike action by workers depends in large part on union participation. Local 10 has always been in the lead in the labor movement and all eyes are on us. As a first step, in defending our union and others against economic and political repression, we need to mobilize our members to participate in the rally and occupation November 2 in Oscar Grant Plaza. Shut it down!

Anthony Leviege #9576, Ronnie Armour #9922, Troy Bell #9837, Tremaine Waters #9202, Richard Washington #9402, Anthony Manning #9986, Odis Rucker #9811, Robert Grissom #101284, Jack Heyman #8780 (ret.), Samantha Levens (S.F. IBU), Robert Irminger (S.F. IBU), Howard Keylor #220447 (ret.), Clarence Thomas #8718

October 28, 2011

********

Carpenters Local 713 represents 3,000 mostly private sector construction workers in Alameda County, California and passed the following motion last night (Thurs October 27th,2011) by a standing vote with an overwhelming majority.
Please feel free to distribute widely. Thanks.
...
Local 713 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters stands in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. We support the right of all working people to organize and peacefully assemble to demand their rights.

We further agree that the 1% should not continue to go untaxed while the 99% face layoffs, pay and benefit cuts, foreclosures and the closing of our children’s schools and our public services.

We further strongly condemn the police brutality used against the Occupy Oakland movement and the devastating injury inflicted on Iraq veteran Scott Olsen.

We further resolve to support the call of the 2,000 Oaklanders at Occupy Oakland for a one-day strike in Oakland for Wednesday November 2nd, 2011, to protest our country’s rising inequality and the brutal actions of the police in the city of Oakland, California.

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/10/28/18695805.php

jacobian
Oct 28 2011 23:13

Admin: snip

Juan Conatz
Oct 28 2011 23:16

Can ya'll take your personal arguments somewhere else, please? Christ.

jacobian
Oct 28 2011 23:24
orange.ruffy wrote:
To Wellclose: Sorry if I was being too indirect, but I was also hoping that if Jacobian is drawing on background information, available on the internet or otherwise, that indicates that the general strike call is "completely" separate from the workers, they would provide it. This isn't meant as a challenge- having more to go on for this conversation than just having a "good" feeling or "bad" feeling about the strike, or what your unnamed friends and comrades are supposedly telling you (i.e. my case) would allow the discussion to develop.

I don't have information that it's completely separate. My statement was entirely contingent on whether or not there is support there.

I'm saying that there have to be real links, and if you haven't got people in unions then calling for a general strike is mere wishful thinking. I was talking to OWS folks over the internet and they didn't seem to know the status.

Now, a few people have said we have to get over the fetishisation of unions and that people can strike without them. Strictly speaking that's true, but it also makes strike much less likekly. If you haven't the infrastructure for communicating and agreeing on strikes it can be a hell of a lot harder to imagine how you could get one to occur. I think without at least some plausible unions throwing their hat in the ring, it's a non-runner.

I'm very happy to hear that there are whispers that it might actually have some support.

Chilli Sauce
Oct 28 2011 23:20

I have to say, Nov 2nd doesn't seem like much time to organise (although I say that as an uniformed outsider, perhaps there is enough anger on the ground to make this reality and time really is of the essence...).

Also, not sure about that Carpenter's statement, they're not calling out their members after all...

klas batalo
Oct 28 2011 23:29
Quote:
looks like the Carpenters union has joined in and some ILWU and IBEW members wrote a statement supporting Nov. 2
Juan Conatz
Oct 29 2011 01:38

From Occupy Oakland

Quote:
Nov 2, the strike coordinating committee just passed a proposal 2 march on the port of Oakland 2 #shutitdown #occupyoaklad @USGeneralStrike

I believe the ILWU has a 'no picket line crossing' in their contract so this may well shut down the port.

Hieronymous
Oct 29 2011 15:27

This is from another thread, but is pertinent here:

Hieronymous wrote:
Arbeiten wrote:
Every time I see on facebook/twitter etc, someone advertise this strike, I ask them if there are any unions involved. I never get a reply.

I was at the Occupy Oakland General Assembly last night and during the strike preparation break-out, I joined the labor group (others were community outreach and education, which in turn broke into 3 groups: K-12, community college, and university). Lots of piecards talking a lot, but saying nothing. But others in the break-out made clear that this is a first attempt at a general strike, which I personally find a little premature, but it was a very powerful popular sentiment and most were clear that we were planting the seed of an idea that might take a while to bear fruit. Next weeks action is only the opening salvo.

Part of this sentiment for militancy goes back to the March 4th education movement in the Bay Area where Trotskyite groups tried to highjack the movement, preaching that "people weren't ready," by steering it into harmless teach-ins and rallies -- culminating with a rally in San Francisco at 5:00 p.m., intentionally planned to be after work and including every pro-Democratic Party piecard giving their boilerplate speeches.

On March 4, 2010, the actions that refuted this were in Oakland, where from the start of the day at least 3 high schools had total walk-outs and over 3,000 students and teachers converged on (what we now call) Oscar Grant Plaza. Another contingents of students from Berkeley High, Berkeley City College, UC Berkeley and others, marched 4.5 miles to Oscar Grant Plaza and participated in a noon demo of 6,000. It was before the mayoral election, and the high point was when the MC of the demo kicked mayoral candidate (& current mayor) Jean Quan off the stage, saying that no politicians or bureaucrats could speak.

In the labor break-out, when it was my turn to speak, I made clear that in the U.S. only 11.9% of the working class are in unions. So for a general strike to succeed, it will take the involvement of the unorganized 88.1%. This fixation on the unions will be its undoing. I pointed out that the unorganized troqueros (short-haul truckers) at the Port of Oakland had an 8-day wildcat in 2004 and have had other skirmishes with the cops during other spontaneous strike actions since then. 16,500 troqueros shut down the Los Angeles/Long Beach Port complexes on May Day 2006 by a factor of 90%, creating a backlog of imports from Asia that took months to clear up.

Those troqueros are clearly the most militant proletarian sector in California, having a track record of militant direct action for nearly a decade. During the labor break-out, I also made the point that all our literature needs to be translated to Spanish, and since the port of Oakland is about 12 blocks away we should do outreach there. A representative of ILWU Local 10, who are the longshore workers at the port, spoke but it was mostly the usual canned speech about "we're with you," with no mention of any possible concrete actions.

I also mentioned that Oakland Chinatown begins just 4 blocks from Oscar Grant Plaza and that there are still many garment sweatshops and other cottage industry factories nearby, so we should also get literature translated into Chinese and reach out to our fellow workers there.

I tried to make the point that this needs to go beyond the narrow definition of labor (usually connoting unions), and become a class movement.

I'll repeat some of the highlights:

The troqueros used to be unionized Teamsters until the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 deregulated the trucking industry. The NLRB (federal labor authority) considers them "independent contractors" while the IRS (federal tax collection agency) considers them waged workers. Regardless, they've had the most militant recent history of wildcat striking, nearly all of it at the ports.

1. Wildcats by non-union troqueros shut down the APL gate at the Port of Oakland for 8 days in 2004.

2. Wildcats by non-union troqueros shut down the Los Angeles/Long Beach Port complex (the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere) by 90% on May Day 2006. This was militant working class self-activity by 16,500 truckers. It was part of the nationwide general strike of Latino workers (list below).

3. The following cities and towns participated in the 2006 May Day General Strike:

Accomack County, VA: several hundred
Alamosa, CO: 200
Albuquerque, NM: 2-5,000
Allentown, PA: 300
Anchorage, Alaska: hundreds
Athens, GA: 1200
Atlanta, GA: 1-5,000
Aurora, IL: 9,000
Austin, TX: 8,000
Bakersfield, CA: 15,000 march/ 4,000 students walk out
Beaufort County, SC: 80-90% of Latina/os boycott work
Berkeley: 1,000 college & high school students
Boise, ID: 75
Boston: 2-5,000
Boulder, CO: 2,000+
Burlington, VT: 300
Carbondale, CO: 1,200
Camden, NJ: 1,000 join Philadelphia rally, most independent grocers in county closed
Caldwell, ID: several hundred for silent vigil
Cannon Beach, OR: 175
Ceres, CA (N. San Joaquin Valley): 2,000
Chapel Hill, NC: 40
Charlotte, NC: 10,000 rally, 684 students absent, Spanish-language radio goes ad-free to support boycott
Chattanooga, TN: 300
Chicago: 600,000 (fire department estimate), some school districts up to 80% absent
Cincinnati, OH: several thousand rally at National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Cleveland OH: 200-400
Colorado Springs, CO: 3,000
Columbus, OH: 40 at Ohio State University
Concord, CA: 3,000
Dallas, TX: 1,500
The Dalles, OR: 700
Dayton, OH: 550
Denver CO: 75,000
Des Moines, Iowa: 40+ businesses close
Detroit, MI: many businesses in southwest closed
Dothan, AL: hundreds
Durango, CO: 100
Eugene, OR: 400
Kansas City, MO: 2,000
Knoxville, TN: 300
El Paso, TX
Eugene, OR 1,000-1,500
Eureka, CA: hundreds march to Arcata
Florida: state totals 30,000 in Pensacola, Homestead, Ft. Meyers, other cities
Forks, WA: 700
Fresno, CA: 15,000+ and earlier rally of 3-4,000 students at CSUF
Grand Island, NE: 3,000
Grand Junction, CO: 3,500
Hickory, NC: hundreds
Hood River, OR: 1,500
Houston, TX: 15,000
Huntsville, AL: several hundred
Ithaca, NY: 400
Jackson Heights (Queens), NYC: 1000+ make chain measuring 10 blocks
Joliet IL: 600
Laramie, WY: 200
Las Vegas, NV: 2,000
Laurel, MS: 200
Little Rock, AK: hundreds
Los Angeles: 500,000 (about 72,000 --27% of students absent)
Louisville, KY: 1,000
Lumberton, NC: 4,000*
Madras, OR: 250
McAllen, TX: thousands rally, 700 students absent
Medford, OR: 500
Merrifield, VA: some day labor crews reduced by over 90%
Miami: 10,000 (65,000 walk out)
Madison, WI 7-9,000
Milwaukee: 70,000
Minneapolis, MN: 3,000
Modesto, CA: 15,000 & student march of 250 from Modesto High
Morehead, KY: 60
Nashville, TN: many workers strike, immigrants shut off lights from 8-9 p.m.
New York City: 50-500,000
New Orleans: 2-10,000
Oak Cliff TX: 500
Oakland, CA: 40-50,000
Odessa, TX: rally
Ogden, UT: 1,000
Olympia, WA: 400
Ottumwa, MI: hundreds rally, 440 students absent
Oxnard, CA: 4,000
Omaha, NE: 3-6,000
Ontario, CA: 1,000
Orlando, FL: 20-30,000
Paso Robles, CA: 200 rally, 24% students absent
Philadelphia: 7,000 (incl. 1,000 coming from Camden)
Pittsburgh, PA: 150+
Port Chester, NY: 2,000 march, blocks of stores closed
Porterville, CA (Tulare County): 4,000
Portland, OR- 10,000
Poughkeepsie, NY: 800-2,000
Pueblo, CO: 500
Raleigh NC: 3,000
Rapid City, SD: several hudred
Russelville, AL (town with large KKK presence): more than 20% of Latino/a students absent (30% county-wide)
Salem, OR: 8-10,000
Salinas, CA: 13-20,000 (biggest at least since 70s)
San Antonio, TX: thousands
San Bernadino, CA: 1,000
San Diego: 10,000+ at multiple events
San Francisco, CA: 75-125,000
San Juan, TX
San Rafael, CA: 5-7,000
Santa Ana, CA: 2-5,000 (police start confrontation with protestors)
Santa Cruz, CA: 4-6,000 when two marches merge
Santa Maria, CA: 5-30,000
Santa Rosa, CA: 8-10,000
Santa Barbara, CA: 15,000
Sacramento, CA: 18-40,000
Salt Lake City, UT: 7,500 (10,000 statewide participate in events)
San Jose, CA: 50,000 at least—up to 100,000
San Ysidro, CA: 1-2,500 march to border
Seaside, CA: 1-2,000
Seattle, WA: 30,000
Siler City, NC: effectively shut down through boycott
Sioux Falls, SD: hundreds
Somerville, MA: hundreds
Stockton,CA
Sussex County, DE: poultry plants shut down who refused to close Feb. 14th for the regional Day Without an Immigrant
Tennessee: 10,000+ strike/boycott
Tiffin, OH: 200, organized by Toledo’s Farm Labor Organizing Committee
Tulare, CA: 3,000
Tuscaloosa, AL: silent march on Univ. of Alabama campus, 200+
Union City, CA: 1,000
Ventura, CA: 200+ march, some school districts almost 40% absent
Virginia Beach, VA: hundreds
Vista, CA: 8-12,000
Washington D.C.: Malcolm X Park, 2-3,000 and Capitol: 5,000
Watsonville: 12,000
Wendover, UT: 500
White Plains, NY: 500 highschoolers walk out, march to courthouse
Worcester, MA: 2,500 rally (largest since Vietnam War), 67+ businesses close, 800-900 students absent. Feeder marches organized for: students, Africans, Colombians, Dominicans, Jamaicans, Latinos, Pleasant St Neighbors, and Christians
Yakima, WA: 8-15,000

(source: Infoshop News)

Almost none of these workers were in unions.

Notice that almost 50,000 walked out in Oakland? (I was there and would say this number is accurate) It was the most people converging in downtown Oakland since the 1946 General Strike. Also, they marched 100 blocks (nearly 8 miles) from the eastern border of the city to downtown. With bilingual outreach and persistent organizing, who says it can't happen again? If not on Wednesday, then in the next attempt at a general strike.

I simply don't know where the dogma comes from that workers must have a union to go on strike. Frankly, it's bullshit!

Lastly, students at the UC and CSU universities are facing drastic tuition increases in the middle of November -- on top of fees that have tripled in the last decade. The UC Berkeley campus is just 4.6 miles from Oscar Grant Plaza and already on March 4, 2010 there were at least 3,000 students who marched there. I imagine if the students can be drawn into the general strike, even more will march to Oakland this time. Oakland is closing 5 public schools, that are mostly black, and the school board meeting last Wednesday was shut down by angry parents. They might be drawn in too.

LauritzTheAgitator
Oct 29 2011 09:38

Couple of thoughts to those who are saying you can't have a general strike without the unions.

First of all, there's no way the unions would or could participate in the general strike anyway. The NLRB and all their business-union contracts forbid political strikes, they'd lose their certification and get fined if they participated. so they simply won't go there.

Secondly, and this, which appears at first to be a drawback, is actually an advantage: the level of unionization in the private sector today is roughly the same as it was 100 years ago, when the Wobblies led general strikes. And they not only struck without the AFL unions, they usually struck against the fierce opposition of the AFL as well as the bosses and city fathers. The success or failure of a general strike today depends exactly on the same factor as what the Wobblies depended on: the participation of large segments of non-union, unorganized workers. Realistically the chances of unorganized workers coming out are much better than organized workers, because of the union laws, so it's to our advantage in this instance that the labor movement has been so thoroughly crushed in its legalistic embodiment..

jacobian
Oct 29 2011 10:51

Nobody said that workers have to be in unions to strike. The problem is simply that without the infrastructure of a union, creating strikes is much more difficult. Now with something like logistics where you have a section of workers that are in relatively high level of communication due to various types of centralisation like truck stops etc. plus a history of having been unionised it's obviously going to be easier.

It's not a straightforward necessity, it's merely a statement of likelihood.

The argument can't be between whether workers can't strike without a union (which they obviously can) and workers can always strike and unions are irrelevant because neither position is tenable. The question really needs to be about how likely it is. If one leans towards the "unions are irrelevant" end of the spectrum that's going to have big consequences on ones strategy. For instance, one would be pretty unlikely to put much effort into union organising. I think that would be a big mistake.

orange.ruffy
Oct 29 2011 11:59

Point taken, though it's also shifted between your posts, from dismissal of the call in Oakland to a pragmatic skepticism. That's fine, I can work with that. If the problem is just the "how," let's talk methods. Given that if political/general strikes do successfully reemerge within this cycle of struggle, we can count on the major unions ignoring/repressing/recuperating them and certainly not suddenly offering their resources and infrastructure, it's worth brainstorming decentralized methods to sidestep them. I'm just going to list the first tools that come to mind for generalizing a strike call, not in order and not very critically either. Are there other obvious ones I'm missing or things that have worked elsewhere?

-large, open assemblies that not only organize for the strike but de facto mobilize for it too. (duh)

-postering and propaganda everywhere.

-flyering specific, important, large or conflictive, workplaces. approaching rank-and-file groups personally. flyering public transit and soapboxing on buses, trains, and streets to build excitement.

-social networks.

-banner drops and other build-up actions like the interruption of prominent political/media/entertainment events.

-flying squads to shut down specific enterprises the day of (I don't think we're anywhere near the level of class conflict where people would understand efforts to shut down every enterprise, so unfortunately the distinction between banks and grocery stores still stands).

-creation/occupation of a specific strike coordination center in a very public place in the days leading up to the strike. this seemed important in Barcelona last year.

-shutting down or making free the public transit system.

-decentralized blockades.

-free food, music, etc.

-whatever's worked for spreading strikes on campuses recently.

-solidarity actions, resolutions, or walkouts in cities far or near.

I've tried to stay in the realm of the conceivable, if not the realistic or politically relevant. Thus, the list has to reflect the fact that this struggle is admittedly constituted outside the circuit of productive capital, even if Occupy Oakland is somewhat closer, on the level of ideas, to a critique of productive capital (i.e. a communist position), that it has a broader and more interesting class composition, and is more grounded in a trajectory of radical struggles than most other occupations. So many of the experiences and methods of strike agitation, developed by struggles within productive capital, aren't relevant. But again this moment, if it emboldens angry workers currently outside the movement (even if they don't walk out), could make for an important break with the current illusion of classlessness/the 99%/powerlessness within the workplace and spread class struggles against productive capital.

jacobian
Oct 29 2011 12:21
orange.ruffy wrote:
Point taken, though it's also shifted between your posts, from dismissal of the call in Oakland to a pragmatic skepticism.

My original post was made out of ignorance of the actual support by unions and workplaces. The idea of the GA calling a general strike looked incredibly odd to me as it's not the people who be sticking their neck out. However, I did say it was remotely possible that there would be a strike, so it wasn't a dismissal.

The rest of your post seem like useful practical activity.

I do think there is a danger of demoralisation when too much frenetic focus on something so huge without much in the way of buildup and over a very short time frame.

blarg
Oct 29 2011 19:45

If history is any guide, a few key groups of workers are going to make or break this general strike attempt. Obviously you can get the longshore workers on board (if you can get anyone!), but what about public transit workers? Is Occupy Oakland plugged in with rank & file leaders (as opposed to just a few isolated angry workers) among the transit workers? Other key groups might be truckers (not just at the port), electrical and other utility workers, and teachers. I'm probably forgetting some. But anyway, if Occupy Oakland folks are in personal contact with genuine rank & file leaders among these groups, and if based on that contact it looks like a successful general strike is feasible, then I say go for it. Otherwise it'll probably be a demoralizing failure as a strike, and it would be a lot smarter to just call for a (non-permitted) mass demonstration that just happens to be during normal work time...

no1
Oct 29 2011 21:54

facebook event has a bit under 2000 attendees, but clearly not all of them are in Oakland https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=183924845023473

Edit:
facebook status update just now said "Oakland's Teachers Union has unanimously endorsed the Oakland General Strike!!!"

Mark.
Oct 29 2011 21:44