On the Occupy Oakland November 2 General Strike

Oakland General Strike poster

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.

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Happy International Workers Day 2011

May 1st - International Worker's Day

The struggle continues with yet another May 1st upon us. The impact of the financial crisis through mass lay offs and unemployment, foreclosures, service and education cuts, attacks on unions and a general move towards neo-liberal austerity is still being felt hard. As well, the total failure of much promised and hoped for immigration reform has become all too obvious. Let this be a day to renew our struggles to organize ourselves as a class and as oppressed peoples and carry forward our fight for a better world. It’s needed now more than ever.

Here’s a few retrospective pieces to put the moment into context. First is a brief article on the history of May Day and its significance, some retrospective thoughts on the 2009 May 1st protests as well as some analysis on the 2006 protests that started it all from Machete408.

Next are some thoughts on the San Jose march in 2009. These are criticisms raised by Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley Debug on the co-option of the march by institutional large non-profits and mainstream labor unions. I’m happy to saw the 2011 was of a very different character, less contrived, no directives on what flags or banners to hold, and an open mic where a diversity of speakers were allowed to speak. I think its worth looking back towards to answer the question of where is the movement at now?

The 2007 and 2008 marches were reunions of sorts, marches to honor and remember the history that was made in 2006, the largest mass marches in the history of the United States by a people who largely did not exist according to federal law.

The irony was that in an effort to reclaim that spirit of spontaneity that defined the 2006 march, every effort made by the large institutional organizations seemed more contrived and predictable. The first march, no one knew where it was going to end, or who was “leading” it. The route that was made in 2006, the same one we did yesterday, was created by walking it. It went from the immigrant Latino center in East San Jose, to the heart of civic power in downtown — City Hall. That route was made by children marching for their undocumented mothers, and was a social movement in a raw and profoundly inspiring form. Yet once organizations tried to organize the march, capture and direct the energy in 2007 and 2008, the march got deflated with route directors wearing matching armbands and politicians speaking on expensive stages. It resembled a parade, rather than a call to action.

The ‘Peaceful Revolution in Egypt’: Protest through the eyes of the powerful and the nature of the uprising

What are all these references to the ‘peaceful revolution in Egypt’ that I’m hearing in the media? From the images I saw, it was moltovs, sticks and organized resistance beating back the government thugs and plain clothes police officers who were attempting to attack and discredit the protest movement.

The dust hasn’t even landed on the floor yet in Egypt and already the spin masters of the media and political figures are already laying out a revisionist narrative of what happened as somewhat akin to “fluffy peace demonstrations” in the words of one friend. I think this is interesting because in trying to co-opt an uprising against a dictator held in place by the US for decades and which will be a huge blow to US power in the Middle East (especially if it spreads further) I think we are able to glimpse in action how power structures either co-opt or demonize protest movements.

So are the recent protests in Egypt peaceful? They could be termed non-violent if non-armed confrontation and property destructive fit into that definition, but certainly not peaceful. But being one of those folks who during the WTO protests back in 1999 was attacked (and even threatened to be punched in the face believe it or not) for breaking codes of ‘non-violence’ by bringing out newspaper stands into the street when riot police were attacking people with tear gas or forming a line to push back police who were beating on people doing a sit down blockade of an intersection, I have a hard time listening to the rhetoric of a ‘peaceful revolution’ in Egypt.

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Looking at the Contours of the Crisis

capitalismisnotworking.jpg capitalism isn't working picture by adam_freedom

  With “Contours of the Crisis” in the latest issue of Upping the Anti #8 (see two posts previous), Aidan Conway interviews three leading thinkers on contemporary capitalism who also each happen to be professors of political economy at York University in Toronto as well. They are David McNally, Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch. Below are three highlights that raise worthwhile points to think about around the financial crisis and building “the other world that is possible” as we might say.

  Here on the relationship between class struggle at home and imperialism abroad, which are intracately interwoven.

  Sam Gindin: If and when, during the next decades, the foundations of American empire were to really crumble, class struggles within the imperial heartland itself would likely play a major role in bringing this on – precisely because of the way in which the external and internal dimensions of American empire are intertwined. At the same time, the ability to pacify the citizens of the empire is critically dependant on the ability to maintain wider structures of global exploitation and integration. (emphasis added)

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What Would a Relevant Anarchist Politics Look Like?

ArgentinaMayDay.jpg picture by adam_freedom Workers and popular organizations connected to the anarchist movement rally on May Day 2009 in a public square in Argentina.

  What would an anarchist politics look like that spoke to the needs of today’s realities and to today’s movements? How can revolutionaries apply the values of anarchism to an understanding of building mass movements from below, an understanding of power, a vision of a future society with the understanding of the organization needed to reach it, coupled with a strong analysis of race, patriarchy, gender and issues of queer liberation?

 OvertownMiami.jpg picture by adam_freedom Miami Autonomy & Solidarity (MAS, pronounced like the word “más” in Spanish) is a small organization of revolutionaries based out of the fourth largest metropolitan areas in the US. While Miami is a hub of international trade and finance, it’s also the third poorest city in the US and with a majority immigrant and people of color population (nearly 60% were born outside the US). Much like the US/Mexico border, Miami is a city where the third and first world grate against each other. Interestingly, similar to the rest of the US South, the city lacks much of an established left as would other large metropolitan areas such as New York, Boston, Chicago and the Bay Area.

  The organization has been in a process of formation, study and debate for over a year prior to announcing themselves publicly in mid-May 2009. While there are certainly a number of well spoken and excellent individual thinkers in the anarchist milieu, MAS’s Points of Unity below represents one of the best collectively written organizational statements of anarchist politics in North America to this date in my opinion. A recommended read.

 

Miami Autonomy & Solidarity Points of Unity

  Miami Autonomy & Solidarity is an organization of people whom have come together for the purpose of developing a revolutionary organization that works within social movements, as well as on the revolutionary level with the ultimate goal of contributing to an autonomous popular class movement of the oppressed that will overthrow capitalism and the state, as well as ending all forms of oppression.    

Role of the Specific Revolutionary Organization 

  Our specific revolutionary organization is a group founded on and working towards theoretical and strategic unity, as well as tactical coordination amongst its members. These organizational principles serve to strengthen our efficiency and effectiveness in developing our ideas and strategies within the broader working class movement. It must be stated that the need for such a group arises out of the practical struggles of the working class to transform itself into a revolutionary class capable of overthrowing capitalism and the state; as well as building society along egalitarian, self-managed, and directly democratic lines.  

  Through our specific revolutionary organization we seek to contribute to the theoretical development of revolutionary social struggles. We engage in the creation of media that communicates the views and political line of the organization, and we directly participate in struggles based on a common strategic program and coordinated activity. The political organization helps keep a historical memory of struggle and ongoing organizational strategic assessments of struggle in mass movements . We strive to retain experiences of success and failures in order to strengthen the social struggle.

  However, unlike some political parties that try to use social movements as a tool to develop their own power, our organization’s relation to the social movement’s is reversed: our organization is a tool of our members and sympathizers within the social movement used to contribute towards the power of the social movements through the development of the autonomous consciousness, capacity, and solidarity of these movements.   We never seek to dominate, impose upon, manipulate, command or control the movements we’re a part of.  Rather we seek to participate as equals within the struggle, offering our ideas and methods as short and long term proposals for the movements towards liberation.  Continue reading

What’s Interesting in Upping the Anti #9

uta_8_final_cover.jpg picture by adam_freedom  Upping the Anti out of Toronto, Canada is perhaps the hottest and best radical left theory/movement journal since it first began publication in late 2005. Releasing its eighth issue as of May 2009, the journal has provided a steady content of articles, interviews, reviews and topic based roundtables by and with movement activists and organizers on the radical left.

  With the tag line “a journal of theory and action” the journal leans towards the more academic side. But unlike some of the more dense and long running left journals (Monthly Review comes to mind), the editorial collective and contributors are nearly all folks engaged in struggle and much of the theory and discussion comes directly out of movement organizing work. It’s not another left journal for radical college professors, but for folks in the movement trying to grapple with many of the difficult issues and conversations that those seeking to create revolutionary change should be. Perspective wise they maintain a pluralistic and non-party stance combined with anti-capitalism, anti-imperialist and anti-oppression politics (the three antis as they call them). Read reviews of issues #3 here and issues #2 and #3 here.

  With this issue UTA brings us an interview “Contour of the Crisis” with three political economy instructors at York University in Toronto on the realities and opportunities for the left in the current financial meltdown (discussed above);  “Movements Where People Can Grow” is an interview/discussuion with Helen Hudson (who among other groups is a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, see their new spiffy website here) with her thoughts on building long-term and sustainable movements; a roundtable with former activists of SLAM (Student Liberation Action Movement, audio archive here) active in opposing tuition increases in the New York public university system in the 1990’s and discussing their strong leadership from women of color; and another roundtable with members of various study groups/circles taken up by radicals in a number of cities.

Helen_Keller.jpg picture by adam_freedom Also, here’s a quote from the back cover of this issue that warms my heart from Helen Kellar, the advocate for the blind. Often left out of history is her radical politics as an anarchist and member of the IWW.

  Capitalism will inevitably find itself face to face with a starving multitude of unemployed workers demanding food or destruction of the social order that has starved them and robbed them of their jobs. in such a crisis the capitalism class cannot save itself… Its police and armies will be powerless to put down the revolt. (1918)

  Here is also a quote on how she first moved towards radical politics from her Wikipedia entry…

   I was appointed on a commission to investigate the conditions of the blind. For the first time I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame [referring to prostitution and syphilis] that ended in blindness.

Looking at the 2009 May Day Rallies

MayDaymarch.jpg picture by adam_freedom

    The piece below from Chicago left blog Pilsenprole anlyzes the political terrian that led to the smaller turnout of the 2009 May Day rallies around immigration rights- though still more than the conservative media and well funded founcation sponsored Tea Party Protests this past April 15th. I couldn’t help but see many of the similarities with San Jose and I’m sure other cities as well.

  At the march in San Jose the role of Obama’s election was both a driving force (signs were emblazened with his image almost invoking him as a reason for the march itself) but also a damper as more institutional organizations took the stance that lobbying for immigration changes were more important and marches and movement (see post below for more). Following his nine point discussion on the immigration marches is a comparison between the media coverage around the Tea Parties and the May Day rallies. Read the original post here.

 

OK, I will be honest – this year’s May Day march in Chicago was small. Much smaller than the 750,000 to a million who marched in 2006. Smaller even than the tens of thousands who marched last year. After lambasting the mainstream media for their horrible coverage of last years march, I feel the need to be honest about the fact that this years turn-out was the smallest since 2006. And this pattern was repeated around the country, coast-to-coast. That said, this was a surprise to practically no one. Sure there were a few immigrants rights activists that predicated bigger turn outs, more out of the hope that their enthusiasm might encourage more people to show up. But I think everyone pretty much knew that this would not be the best of May Day celebrations.

The reasons are a multitude and quite obvious to anyone who has paid any attention to the political terrain as it relates to both the labor and immigrant rights movements:

1. Barack Obama’s election has diminished rather than encouraged increased activism among members of a number of social movements, including the immigrant rights movement. We saw this with the anti-war movement in previous months. The attitude is, we did our part in November, now let’s let Obama make good on his promises and give him some space and time. Unfortunately history shows that without mass mobilization, Obama will be less likely to remember promises made.
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