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An Analysis Of The OccupyWallStreet (OWS) Movement in USA
international | anti-capitalism | opinion/analysis Saturday November 05, 2011 21:59 by John Throne and Richard Mellor. - facts for working people loughfinn at aol dot com
Oakland general strike
How the movement can be expanded and taken forward
I was at an Oakland City Council meeting last night that was called to discuss the ongoing Occupy Oakland encampment and activities. A resolution from one of the liberal council members aimed to reaffirm the council’s support for the OWS movement.
Before the vote (I left before it was taken) the city gave a detailed account of what it considers all the negative aspects of the Occupy Oakland encampment. The unsanitary conditions are a danger to the community the council believes. There have been fights, a reporter bitten by a dog and even worse, condoms and needles were found after the cops cleared the group out last week. I am sure if you threw 100 families from their homes in the hills and went through their belongings you’d fine some good quality dope, no shortage of condoms and probably plenty of other useful sexual novelties.
The council is also concerned about public health with food being served to the poor and the homeless. Barbecue pits and fires for cooking have been seen. Perhaps the most astonishing piece of information was being told that there was trash in or around the intersection of 14th and Broadway.
The hypocrisy of this fools no one. All the conditions the council describes here exist throughout the poor and working class districts of Oakland and the city does nothing about it. In fact, these conditions are a product of the city council’s policies as representatives of the corporations. I have been involved in tenant struggles against some of Oakland’s worst landlord. One of them, who owned at the time 200 units in the city, was one of the worst slumlords in town and I visited every one of his units at one point. I have seen apartments and rooms that we wouldn’t put pigs in never mind human beings. There were leaky roofs, rats, roaches, mold, electrical hazards; you name it. Many tenants are single mothers with children some were immigrants or undocumented immigrants who were vulnerable and easy prey for landlords wanting sexual favors.
I remember we had to occupy former Oakland mayor Jerry Brown’s office in order to get him to even talk to tenants. We occupied the DA’s office demanding they indict one slumlord but they never did. They have no time throwing youth and numbers of the young black men in the city in jail or indicting them though. The landlords have influence in the city government.
At the council meeting last night many people spoke of the powerful movement and gathering the day before. It’s important to recognize that we broke the law too. We occupied the city center, shut down banks etc. But this was an action by a diverse cross section of the US working class and our families; it was the 99%. We make it clear that the state and its media's condemnation of vandalism that occurred after the General Strike and action has no credibility with us. The Oakland city Council and mayor has attacked workers’ living standards and pensions and has cut vital services on behalf of Wall Street and the corporations. Taking someone’s job away is violence, throwing someone from their home is violence. Closing public schools and cutting vital social services is violence.
So while we give the state’s condemnation of violence and vandalism no credibility we do believe adventurist and individual vandalism by a tiny minority does serious damage to this movement. The previous night’s vandalism has been seized upon by the media and city council and has caused some division within Occupy Oakland. Obviously there are provocateurs but it is a mistake to pretend there is not a small element on our side that believes smashing a store window is a revolutionary act. Sure a provocateur can throw the first brick but if there was no grouping that had that as a strategy; it would not degenerate in to what it does.
In order for us to build and strengthen the OWS movement, in other words, for it to be successful, we have to draw in the thousands of people that were at the strike the day before and the actions of those whose policy it is to smash up stuff or wage a personal war against the police for their own gratification does not make this easy to say the least. This adventurism does not draw the workers and our families we saw the day before in to the movement it drives them away. This does not mean we don't defend ourselves against police attacks when we need to.
For the OWS to grow in to a powerful anti-capitalist mass movement that can challenge the 1% and transform the way we live it must link with the parents and teachers and students who are opposing the school closures and who would support a mass occupation of those schools and running them ourselves. The movement must draw in those who will support occupying the libraries that are scheduled for closing which would be a pole of attraction. We should also put to the movement that we should occupy foreclosed homes with those who have been thrown out or with the homeless if the original owner is not present willing or able. We can support tenants and help them stay in their apartments without paying rent until serious health and safety and other issues are remedied. We can have mass convergences on homes of tenants and of their landlords if conditions are not met. This is what will work.
Imagine how difficult it would be for the police to deal with homes throughout the area being occupied as to simply camping out in the downtown. They didn’t stop the occupation of the intersections and shutting down of the banks on Thursday because it was too dangerous to do so, it would have emboldened the movement and strengthened it had they done so and the movement didn’t give them an excuse.
This is what will draw the thousands, indeed millions of workers and families in to the movement and in to the struggle against capital and the 1% not acts of vandalism masked as revolutionary activity. At some point, the movement will become isolated if the movement was to pursue such activity.
It is likely as the election nears that the pressure will come down to get the other Wall Street party elected. This will come from the reformist elements and the Labor hierarchy who will throw their support behind Obama. It is a utopian idea to claim that a movement is leaderless. There are always leaders and it is more democratic to recognize and formalize a leadership it than to pretend it doesn’t exist. The GA would still govern and set the boundaries and limits on it but our opposition is organized and so should we be. Our opposition has clear goals and so should we. What we stand for concretely is another important organizing aspect of any movement. One of the reasons the rank and file don’t attend Union meetings is that their leaders support concessions. Union members her the same thing from their leaders that they hear from the boss, “We all have to sacrifice in hard times.”
We demand of our society a few simple things that include:
We don’t care what the bosses’ say is realistic or not. What is realistic is what we need. What is not realistic is one person earning $10 billion a year and human beings being unable to receive medical care or sleeping in doorways, many of them mentally impaired and veterans of wars.
The money is there, the 1% has it and their political representatives spend our money on endless wars and empire building. We fight them through direct action mass defiance campaigns perhaps through 99% clubs we can organize in our communities and workplaces. Whatever we call this process we have to broaden the movement and as campaigns grow we can run 99% candidates for political office, candidates rooted in the campaigns and the movement that, when elected, can use the office in order to further the interests of such a campaign and the transformation of society form one that serves the interests of the 1% to the interests of the 99% majority that presently has no real voice in the running of society.
I’ll close this entry with a few words from the declaration of independence that seem fair enough to me that we have an “unalienable” right to “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, and, “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
Pretty basic stuff.