General Strike Called by Oakland, California Occupiers for November 2nd

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“Will BART be closed? Will the buses be running? Will the streets be blocked off? That’s what we don’t know,” said Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman for the University of California, which employs about 1,300 in downtown Oakland, reported in the San Jose Mercury.

The University of California will allow office employees in Oakland to make individual decisions.

Some businesses in downtown Oakland are closing, and some have already experienced a decline since the strike announcement came last Friday the same day Michael Moore came to speak in support of the Oakland Occupiers.

After the police crackdown and injury of Scott Olson, Oakland Occupy has been joined by allies in favor of tomorrow’s strike, according to Red, Green & Blue.

Protesters hope to shut down the Port of Oakland, which is the fifth busiest shipping port in the U.S.. Organizers say they will be marching outside banks, corporations, foreclosed homes, schools, libraries in a broad based call to action.

General Strike in Oakland in 1946

Oakland was the site of America’s last great general strike. Over the course of two days in December 1946, 130,000 workers in Oakland refused to work out of solidarity with a strike by 400 mostly female retail clerks in which police were intervening. Union officials called the massive strike a “worker’s holiday.” All stores but pharmacies and food markets were shut down. After two days, the general strike ended when the city government pledged police neutrality in future strikes. The retail strike continued for another five months before being resolved.

If a general strike is effective in largely shutting down the economic activity in a city, it means that hundreds, if not thousands of workers won’t be able to work even if they don’t want to participate in the strike. This might be because transportation is shut down or the businesses they work for are unable to operate normally. Loss of a day’s pay would likely result.

General Strikes in the Past

General Strikes before 1919

The idea of a “general strike” is a “strike of a majority of the workers in the more important industries of any one locality or region,”originated and was developed in Europe. The essential premise behind a general strike is that labor can bend employers to its will if instead of stopping production in a single industry, it shuts down work in an entire city or region, according to schraginfo.com/research.

This concept has its beginnings in the second decade of the nineteenth century in England, and first appeared in that country in 1842. This first strike began with a strike by coal miners against a reduction in wages, but developed, through the efforts of labor leaders, into a mass protest by workers in many industries and across several English counties.

Eight decades later and an ocean away in Boston the strike of 1919 already shared certain crucial elements with future general strikes: a grievance in one industry spreading to others, the political nature of a general strike, the refusal of the most powerful national labor organizations to provide support, the military response by the government, and the ultimate failure of the strike.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Europeans associated advocacy of a general strike with radical, revolutionary ideology. From 1864, Marxist First International was formed and first supported the general strike. The most enthusiastic proponents of a general strike were French revolutionary socialists, but their endless debates did not result in a single major general strike in the nineteenth century. The most successful mass strikes were the revolutionary strikes in Russia in 1905 and March 1917, the latter of which was instrumental in the overthrow of tsarism.

In North America, as in Europe, support of the general strike was mostly limited to radicals, such as the Industrial Workers of the World. “From its inception at the first convention in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World had carried as one of its major aims the ‘Social General Strike’ as the final solution of the class struggle.” I.W.W. leader William Haywood in 1911 declared that “if I didn’t think that the general strike was leading on to the great revolution which will emancipate the working class, I wouldn’t be here.”

The first American general strike, the St. Louis strike of 1877, was organized by the Workingmen’s Party, a Marxist organization. This small faction transformed, through speeches and organization, a strike among railroad workers into a strike by thousands of workers in several industries for the eight-hour day and a ban on child labor. This strike collapsed after four days due to disorganization on the part of its leaders, lack of food for the strikers, and the arrest of those leaders by police and militiamen. The strike did not accomplish its main goals, though it may have achieved incremental gains for labor.

The Occupy Oakland General Strike could be a harbinger of the future for the “Occupy Movement” surging across the United States and abroad. The November 2nd General Strike could be the largest demonstration since the events against the Viet Nam War.

http://www.occupytogether.org/

Occupy together is a website listing all the cities in the U.S. and countries abroad joining the Occupy Movement. You can be part of the General Strike by not using public transportation, not conducting business of any kind, staying home from work or school. You can participant with 99% percent.

Proposal in the Daily Californian: Wear a green arm band to work or to school and to show solidarity with Oakland Occupiers.

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