FROM PROTEST CAMP TO GENERAL STRIKE
The American Protest Movement is Two Steps Ahead
By Lars Rohm and Vera Dracke
[This article published in: Direkt Aktion 1/18/2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.linksnet.de/de/artikel/27270.]
While the European Occupy movement is only the naughty little twin, the adulation in the US seems unending. Civil rights activists, philosophers, NGOers, professional politicians and troublemakers all agree. Something crucial happened in the US in 2011. The strengthening of the Occupy movement, first on Wall Street and then in hundreds of American cities, is celebrated as the revival of the revolutionary middle class.
“What is most exciting in the Occupy movement is the building of connections and alliances everywhere. If this can be maintained and developed, the efforts of Occupy could lead our society in a humanitarian direction,” Noam Chomsky rejoices. Unlike outraged German citizens and other shocked persons, actors of the current protests in the US go all out. They refuse paying back their student loans, occupy houses, block evictions and support strikes. Their practical ideas and their connectedness make them attractive and necessary.
But alongside all activism, there are blank spaces in the movement.
CLOSE THE PORTS!
On December 12, 2011 over 1000 activists blocked the access roads of the ports of Oakland, Seattle, Portland, Longview, Los Angeles, Anchorage and Vancouver. Port facilities were shut down temporarily or completely because of the protests. The blockades were directed against two corporations SSA Marine (port operating company) and the EGT (grain exporter). The Goldman Sachs investment bank holds mammoth shares of SSA Marine. In addition, the ILWU union (International Long shore and Warehouse Union) was in a wage dispute at the terminal for grain export and should be supported in their struggle. The Occupy movement in Utah tried to block the logistics center of Wal-Mart. Workers and the represented unions were there although they were not given full support. The ILWU even repeatedly declared it did not support the occupiers for not respecting the democratic decision-making processes of the dock workers and endangering their daily wage.
Individual local workers acted in solidarity. Police force followed the occupations. The arrests in the US are seen with shock and dismay.
TWO STEPS FORWARD
The future of the movement is a theme of reflection. In December 2011 the conference “Occupy Onwards” was held in New York City.
“It is naïve to think the system will disappear because a few people break ou9t of it. To Goldman Sachs, it doesn’t matter that you keep your chickens. We must change the political culture,” the American historian Julia Ott urged. The sociologists Christopher Chase-Dunn and Michaela Curran-Strange see this culture already changed according to a recent study in California. There is an Occupy movement in nearly 30% of Californian communities. Apart from the large cities, this is astounding for many small towns. The movements are evenly divided between the conservative South and the “leftist” North.
On the national plane, the Occupy movement made itself heard on December 7, 2011. Under the motto “Take Back the Capitol,” activists from 50 states occupied the offices of their senators in Washington D.C. As with every movement, the system question is not raised directly here. As with every movement, taking the next step and not standing still is important. With all its deficiencies, the movement in the US seems to be at least two steps ahead of the European and the German movement in this sense.
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