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.