Wednesday, November 2nd was general strike day in Oakland, California. As this is being written, it’s too early to tell what the total impact will be. Reports still conflict, and there are missing pieces. We do know that the port was shutdown for a while. Several small groups of violent protestors were discouraged by the protesters and the police. Whatever the final tally, it can already be said that there were a number of victories for the strikers, the strike organizers, and the Occupy Movement that inspired them.
The last time a general strike was called in an American city was 1947 – in Oakland. Since then the Taft-Hartley act has prevented unions from participating in strikes in support of other unions, effectively placing a major roadblock in the way of general strikes. However, several unions in Oakland endorsed the Occupy Movement’s general strike without committing to participate, thereby complying with the letter of the law if not exactly its intent. On the other hand, what about a general strike requires the involvement of unions in the first place? It may help to have them on board, but if people feel the need to strike, they don’t need unions to do it.
Considering the extreme – and illegal – reaction of the Oakland police just over a week ago when they put one protester in the hospital by firing a tear gas canister at his head at close range, and the widespread outrage that resulted, chances are that a strike or other action at least as popular and effective would have occurred with or without official union endorsement.
The mayor’s reaction to the strike call was to give public employees permission to participate in the strike. That’s very nice, but since when do strikers need permission? Isn’t it exactly the lack of support – call it “permission” if you prefer – for the things people think they have a right to do that produces actions like strikes to begin with? Strikes are acts of defiance, bold messages shouted with great feeling expressing dissatisfaction with the rules, including ones in the same class as the Taft-Hartley act of 1947, that authority and its whole bed of laws can approve or disapprove of as it pleases with no mind paid by the strikers, because they are there to demand their rights. There’s no asking for permission to it.
There’s no surprise, then, that the Oakland police weren’t out in droves Wednesday morning to contest the strike. They sent a letter to the mayor explaining their pathetic confusion at her tolerance for the strike and apparently didn’t like whatever answer they did or didn’t get. Maybe they just felt unjustly punished by being required to report for duty, whether they had prior time off scheduled or not, instead of being allowed to strike along with many other city employees and a vocal, significant number of the mayor’s constituents.
Even though the Oakland police don’t seem to get it, some police around the country have finally sorted out their priorities and realized that they’re part of the 99%. In Albany, New York, police refused the mayor’s orders to move on protesters. If the 1% find themselves isolated from the force of authority that they have long usurped to protect their privilege, will they at last address the grievances of the people who have made that privilege possible?
The answer is, “Probably not.” Or maybe even, to take liberties with speculation on aristocratic speech, “They will take my wealth, however I got it, when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.” To which we may soon be able to answer, “That can be arranged.”
Perhaps in subtle recognition of growing support for the Occupy Movement, Congressional Democrats have just proposed a constitutional amendment that would regulate the amount of money that can be spent on political campaigning. The amendment would effectively nullify the 2010 “Citizen’s United” ruling that opened the floodgates to unlimited purchase of US elections by entities like corporations.
Passing a constitutional amendment is not easy to do, and not likely to happen. However, that it’s even been proposed at all says something, even if maybe not what the people proposing it think.
The Citizen’s United ruling was based on typical, convenient legal genius alleging that corporations have the same rights as people. In essence, that before the law, corporations are people. It shouldn’t take too much thought by a reasonable person to see that quite clearly, corporations are definitely not people, and further, that if it takes an act passed by a two-thirds majority of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states to recognize such a nose on one’s own face, then there’s a lot more wrong with the US than a constitutional amendment is going to fix.
Until Americans recognize that there is more value to life than money and the owning of it, whatever legal constructs may be devised will be nothing more than interesting challenges for adequately corrupted lawyers. It’s little more than holding a greased pig contest with one of the rules being that every time someone gets a good hold on the pig, it’s time to apply more grease.
In Oakland, as people continue to protest and go on strike, and everywhere an Occupy encampment has sprouted, those protesting should think carefully about the aims of their movement. Are they really trying to create fundamental change and build a better world? Or is the real goal nothing more than changing guard on the counting house?
Links directory (Really, visit them. Don’t miss the guest appearance by Kim Jong Il! Great stuff! The article text that they link from is in parentheses at the end of each line. And yes, the music is commentary. The lyrics for all the tunes have their own links so you don’t miss any of that not always very subtle messaging.)
- AlterNet (Joshua Holland) – Occupy Oakland Attempts to Shut Down City with America’s First General Strike in 65 Years (general strike day in Oakland)
- Reader Supported News – Occupy Worldwide (Occupy Movement)
- Information Clearing House / The Guardian (Andrew Gumbel) – Video of Scott Olsen Being Shot by Police at Occupy Oakland (firing a tear gas canister at his head)
- SFGate (Kevin Fagan, Demian Bulwa) – Oakland police union: ‘We are confused’ by Quan (their pathetic confusion)
- AlterNet (Andrew Jones) – New York Cops Defy Order to Arrest Hundreds of ‘Occupy Albany’ Protesters (police refused the mayor’s orders)
- truthout / ThinkProgress (Zaid Jilani) – Senators Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United (Democrats have just proposed)
- MercuryNews (Kristin J. Bender, Cecily Burt and Sean Maher) – At least 4,000 are at the gates to the Port of Oakland (Oakland)
- LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem feat. Kim Jon Il (YouTube – error606) (Oakland police) Lyrics
- LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett, Goon Rock – Party Rock Anthem (YouTube – LMFAOVEVO) (constituents) Lyrics
- Marilyn Manson – Beautiful People (YouTube – Deadlygto) (corporations are people) Lyrics
- Flo Rida feat. Ke$ha – Right Round (YouTube – HipHopVideoTV2) (Americans) Lyrics
- Notorius B.I.G. / Miley Cyrus – Party and Bullshit / Party In The USA mashup (YouTube – tandemunicycle) (real goal) Lyrics (Notorius B.I.G.) / Lyrics (Miley Cyrus)