US: New peak of occupy movement with protests in Oakland

"Follow Oakland’s example: For mass actions to fight against cuts and foreclosures"

Below we reprint the text of a leaflet by Socialist Alternative (CWI supporters in the US) after recent protests in Oakland.

End the dictatorship of Wall $treet

Follow Oakland’s example: For mass actions to fight against cuts and foreclosures

On November 2, the events in Oakland represented a new peak for the whole occupy movement – up to 20,000 came together to defend our right to protest against all attempts to crack down with police brutality. They didn’t limit themselves to demonstrations alone. Teachers left their schools, public sector workers went on sick-out, and the port was shut down. Unions called for support for the demonstrations when Occupy Oakland called for a “general strike.”

It was a powerful first attempt to hit the corporations where it hurts them most: their profits. It showed society, and the workers involved in the struggle, a first glimpse of their power. It also displayed the potential that exists to fundamentally change society if the Occupy movement and the labor movement come together. This is what needs to be built on.

“This is Our City and We Can Shut It Down.”

Maria Medeiros, Socialist Alternative member, reports from Oakland:

One of the most popular signs read, “This is Our City and We Can Shut It Down.” The sign accurately captured the mood of the day. Protesters aimed to show off the movement’s unity, strength, and community support, and to send a message to city officials: Last week’s police brutality was unacceptable, and we’re not going anywhere.

They succeeded. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people took to the streets at the height of the protest, and occupiers took over the Port of Oakland for several hours, preventing the night shift from working.

Protesters shut down several nearby bank branches, arriving in the morning to form human chains at the entrance and put tape over ATM machines, staying for hours afterward. From the podium, MCs relayed messages about places where more pickets were needed – not just banks, but workplaces like Whole Foods where workers had reportedly been denied the day off to go to the protest.

R.B., an African-American music producer commented: “They talk about Oakland and show our crime rate, but here you have blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, you have all these youngsters out here mingling and there aren’t going to be any problems. It’s a real urban community coming together for another agenda.”

Hundreds of teachers from the Oakland Unified School District, along with Laney College faculty and students, joined a feeder march on the school district administration building early in the day.

Longshore workers had told protesters they’d stop work on the night shift if the port was occupied. But there were reports that some swing shift workers had also taken the day off, and the port was ghostly silent when protesters arrived around 5:00 p.m.

There was a real sense of power as overwhelming numbers of protestors surged toward the port on foot and on bicycles, meeting with little police resistance though helicopters swarmed overhead.

The Occupy movement has shaken American society to its core, with several national polls showing majority support. This is not surprising after decades of stagnant or falling living standards and now mass unemployment and increasing poverty. While banks got bailouts and raked in trillions in profits, working people have been forced to make endless sacrifices.

This movement has the potential to make a real impact on the future of this country and the world.

There is a massive anger in this country, and the occupations have given people a desire to protest and a confidence to fight for real change. It can trigger wider movements and give a focus to all those angered by the bipartisan class war against the majority.

Oakland shows the power of working people

The repression has backfired. With tear gas and batons, police tried to break Occupy Oakland, seriously injuring Iraq Veteran Scott Olson in the process. In response, Occupy Oakland called for stepping up the resistance and spreading struggle to the working class.

The Oakland actions show a way forward with an appeal to the working class to take determined action, including job actions. In order to defeat foreclosures and budget cuts, we’ll need mass protests, including eviction blockades and well-prepared strikes.

The trade unions should follow the example of Oakland: For example, on November 17, when occupiers and SEIU have called for a national day of action. Also, on any day in the ‘week of action’ called by “,” the trade unions should be organizing mass sick-outs and call workers to take the day off work to come to the demonstrations. Also, wherever possible, the unions should call for strike action to strengthen and develop the movement. Socialist Alternative proposes that General Assemblies and trade union bodies discuss all possible ways to prepare the ground for this step forward. Every supporter of the Occupy movement, every worker and every student can contribute by building action committees in neighborhoods, workplaces, universities and colleges. These committees can help to bring many more people into the movement, and can coordinate and mobilize for participation in national days of action.

Workplace and trade union activists can use the example of the Occupy protests to encourage their co-workers to join the struggle, come to the demonstrations, and use the movement to change the balance of forces in the workplace. This can help rebuild the labor movement on the basis of mass direct action.

In Greece, Spain, and beyond, working class action – strikes and general strikes – came together with the mass assemblies of the Indignados ("Enraged") to transform the European political world in recent months. Uniting the occupations, unions, and community groups in mass days of action against the cuts will help prepare the ground for similar developments in the U.S. as the only way to defend the interests of working people.

Combat the Congressional Super Committee plan for $1.5 trillion in cuts to social services

To achieve its potential, the movement needs to develop a bold strategy of mass mobilizations to break the power of Wall Street and to end the dictatorship of the markets. We can’t allow the movement to lose momentum or be led into dead end strategies! To continue to grow, we need to connect our message to the concrete struggles faced by working people, especially the battles against budget cuts, the fight against foreclosures, and the crying need for good jobs.

By November 23rd, the unelected Congressional Super Committee will unveil a bill to slash trillions in social services funding while leaving Wall Street untouched. Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ programs, education funding, food assistance, environmental protection and much more are on the chopping block. Our movement needs to step up to this challenge and escalate our struggle.

Then, by December 23rd, Congress will have to vote these trillions in cuts up or down, providing a critical window to escalate resistance. Unions, community groups and the Occupy movement should respond with mass united mobilizations.

To defeat this vicious ruling class agenda, we will need occupations, direct action, and even strikes. This proposed destruction of social programs calls for a massive resistance.

Stop foreclosures with mass mobilization – put the banks under public control and management

Occupiers throughout the country are discussing moving the occupations to homes facing foreclosure in preparation to resist the eviction with human blockades. This should be discussed as a tactic to spread the struggle and also to deal with the cold weather. It is also another chance to use the power of mass mobilization to defend working-class and poor people against the dictatorship of Wall Street.

We can stop the bankers from evicting people from their homes. This can be linked to the struggle to turn existing class relations upside down. Instead of the bankers and big business dictating over society, the whole financial sector should be put in public ownership with workers and public control and management. This will allow the majority in the U.S. to democratically decide how the vast wealth and resources of this country should be used.

For local, regional, and national conferences to bring together experiences and democratically debate a strategy

We urgently need to have conferences, not just at the Occupations, but also in union halls, community centers and universities, to involve the widest number of activists in the debate about the way forward. These conferences can be a starting point to discuss state and regional as well as national actions and strategy. A national conference of the Occupy movement and its allies could help chart a course for the struggle against corporate America and its attacks on working people.

How to end the dictatorship of Wall Street?

Bold mass mobilizations demanding jobs not cuts, an end to foreclosures, etc., has the potential to bring millions into the streets. A clear set of demands will help to express the burning needs of working-class people and youth, give us a united voice, and thereby encourage many more to participate. We should unite in calling for:

  • Tax the rich. Make the bankers pay for their crisis.
  • A massive job creation program to rebuild the infrastructure paid for by taxes on the profits of big business.
  • An emergency plan to develop clean energy and rebuild the economy. A plan to create jobs in education, health care and wherever socially needed can show a way out of this crises. This plan needs to be democratically discussed and based on workers’ and public control and management.
  • End the wars. Slash the military budget.
  • Break the power of Wall Street. Put the financial institutions and banks that dominate the U.S. economy into public ownership under the democratic management of elected representatives of workers and the public. Compensation to be paid on the basis of proven need to small investors, not millionair

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November 2011