Thursday, November 10, 2011

This Thanksgiving, Give Thanks for Occupy Wall Street

Five reasons to be grateful to those intrepid activists who trudged down to Wall Street with their tents on September 17:
1.  Labor is back.  Tuesday’s victory in Ohio, repealing the governor’s attack on public workers’ bargaining rights, has been hailed by union leadership as “one of the biggest victories in decades for a labor movement that has been on the defensive all year.”  The fact is that the victory itself was pretty modest, but it was a rebuff to Gov. John Kasich and his buddy Scott Walker and the other Tea Party governors who just six short months ago were poised to trample the labor movement into the ground.  When the outpouring in Wisconsin failed to stop the tide, the unions and their supporters seemed about ready to throw up their hands in defeat.  The OWS movement, for all its ostensible “fuzziness” and lack of “concrete demands,” showed that something could be done.  It’s like a cloud has lifted.  You go to demonstrations and see people you haven’t seen since the first day of the Iraq War, if then.  People are crawling out of their holes.  I believe if this continues, some day we might see actual organizing in the private sector – though perhaps I’m overestimating the legs this movement is gonna have.

Photo of Oakland General Strike, from Planet Save

2.  Protest is fashionable.  I remember the last time that was true.  It was in the eighties, the antinuclear days.  If you were a protester, people wanted to know you.  In 1983, I got invited to a wedding by people I hardly knew, because I had just gotten out of jail from the big Livermore Labs blockade.  I was their celebrity protester.  Media went around interviewing us about our (boring) lives for protester profile features.  Now it’s like that again.  The scruffy people I go off to meet on my lunch hour are not seen as a possible source of contagious diseases; rather, coworkers want to shake their hands so they can go home and tell their kids they met one of those Occupy people.
3.  It’s a great time to be a political blogger.  Enuf said.  My twitter following is still pathetic, but hits on my blog are climbing.  More to the point, there’s a lot of other stuff I want to read.  Though #Occupy or #OWS are still not trending on Twitter.
4.  People are debating nonviolence.  I might rather everyone agreed about the value of nonviolent struggle, but at least people are thinking deeply, from Time Magazine to the movement itself (check out the videos from Occupy LA).  A few great things I’ve read today:
in response to the police, it rests on being able to show that nonviolence works. Thanks to Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, whose work I already quoted last week, we now have information at our disposal that can make this case. … The basic finding is that of 323 violent and nonviolent movements they analyzed between 1900 and 2006, 53% of the nonviolent ones succeeded as compared to only 26% of the violent ones. What's even more telling is that when the movements were repressed, the nonviolent movements were 6 times more likely to succeed.”  (From Miki Kashtan’s blog and she gives the link to the full article.)
“Lack of agreements [about nonviolence] privileges the young over the old, the loud voices over the soft, the fast over the slow, the able-bodied over those with disabilities, the citizen over the immigrant, white folks over people of color, those who can do damage and flee the scene over those who are left to face the consequences.” (An Open Letter by Starhawk and other trainers)
“If there is any chance that nonviolence will be proclaimed as a strategy, especially in Oakland, especially
And by far the most ill-informed is this comment

 Non-violence doesn’t not work when your opponents are sadists.
Sorry, “indio007” but you are dead wrong about that (assuming "doesn't not work" was a typo).  It’s precisely when your opponents are sadists that nonviolence works best.  Ask the Freedom Riders.  Or more to the point, ask the people who spent five hours blockading Wells Fargo a few weeks ago while the cops ignored us.
I went to the Occupy Oakland forum on property damage last Thursday, brought on by the confrontations following the General Strike.  It was very interesting - 500+ people sitting in the cold and dark mostly respectfully listening to one another.  Most people (though not all) spoke for some form of nonviolence, some for tactical or strategic reasons, others to protect the camp and those in it who are vulnerable.  To me the most impressive was a guy who was part of the building occupation Wednesday night who critiqued his own group for setting a fire and building a barricade rather than locking arms and blockading with their bodies.  That indicated to me that (some) people are thinking deeply and learning from one another.
5.  Everyone’s learning to use twitter and text loops (well, almost everyone).  A die-hard friend of mine was convinced to get a cell phone because she didn’t want to risk missing the call to come defend Occupy Oakland in the middle of the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment