Something is going to happen, it’s going to be large, beautiful and inspiring, but it is not going to be a General Strike; and that’s perfectly fine. A. Weaver from Machete408 in his post “On the Occupy Oakland November 2 General Strike” makes the argument that:
For radicals who have been around the proverbial organizing block I would urge caution to avoid falling into the role of being the left naysayers of the movement. Just as under capitalism “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned”, in times of upheaval and crisis events that never seemed possible suddenly become so. People who are unpoliticized or only have nascent consciousness become radicalized and people who are already politicized begin to identify with revolutionary politics. The lack of organic connections to more politically defined political militants leaves these newly radicalized layers to flail in the wind and take many political missteps, grow cynical, or be swept into the first organization that seems to offer a ready baked formula for radical change.
There is a tremendous amount of energy in Oakland right now. Walking downtown, you can feel it in the air: The police walks on a different kind of edge, the suits walk scared, the politicos hide their faces from the camera and sneak from the back of City Hall. There is a flurry of activity, from leftists to unionists to community activists are spreading the word about the strike action and engaging people in conversations about our current situation and capitalism. The energy is building up and the word is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Unions are, in different levels, trying to get their people out there or at least symbolically supporting the strike.
Something will happen, it will just not be a General Strike.
It will not be a General Strike because, for many people, the occupy movement still something they experience through the television. There is sense of them over there (people camping out and going to rallies every night) , and us here (people going to work every day and being spectators). The argument that “in times of upheaval and crisis events that never seemed possible suddenly become so” fails to take into account that these times of crisis and upheaval are generally escalations. Although build up has been happening, it has still not broken the barrier of alienation – people are still isolated and terrified of their bosses, people are still disconnected.
The call for a General Strike might have be a hasty one (specially since it only gave one week for preparation and build-up), but it has forced the issue of participation in capitalism and the power of working people to change things to the forefront. It has forces radicals inside the unions the examine the work that they are doing and take a stance – either this is revolutionary work, and my job as a revolutionary is to push my union to participate on this, regardless of bureaucracy, or being in the union is just my day job and that’s the end of that. It has forced the union to take a stance in supporting the action or be deemed irrelevant. It has shattered the confidence of many people in the electoral route for change, and it has instilled in people the confidence that they can do things for themselves.
It must however, be more expansive. The General Strike is an action of sharp contrasts: you either strike or you scab. That sharp contrast is good and crucial – but at the level that Oakland is right now, it is paramount that other venues open for people to participate. We must broaden the base of people who participate in the Occupy movement, and use this event as a spark to generate even more organizing and agitation outside Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza. Hearing from a comrade that she was one-upped by a neighbor in door knocking in her street is one of those signs that the sentiment and energy is seeping through the cracks and building up. This is what we need. This is what we should be doing, and what many are doing.
It is really not productive to get caught fantasizing about a anarcho-syndicalist general strike and be tied to the exclusive project of stopping production. It is a lot more relevant and revolutionary to try and break people from the patterns of alienation, even if just a bit more, and have them engage in mass action, be strike mass action or not.
All that being said, I can only ask one thing of my beloved adopted town – prove me wrong, and shut down the town!