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Oakland heads for a general strike/Hedges models verbal non-violence

Posted by Charles II on October 27, 2011

To see how verbal nonviolence works and overwhelms the opponents of its practitioners, see Chris Hedges (via Avedon).

Oakland is going to need it. The wounding of Iraq veteran Scott Olsen will precipitate an attempt at a general strike; the police obstructed the medical treatment of Olsen, aiming flashbangs directly at medics (see also David Dayen). These police actions appear to me to represent assault with a deadly weapon, with no mitigating circumstances. Read this account by FBI agents on injuries they suffered from the detonation of a defective flashbang in 2008 to understand how deeply irresponsible firing flashbangs was:

That’s when, Bain says, the flash-bang grenade in his vest just blew up.

“The car is on fire,” Bain recalled. “I was told later I was on fire. Smoke billowing in the car. It was obviously chaos.”

Scanzano remembers “it was like being in combat. There was smoke and fire in the vehicle, and I knew that we were in trouble.”

An ambulance rushed the three agents to a nearby hospital.

“To me, it felt like someone just whacked me in the back with a baseball bat as hard as they could,” said Bain, recalling the incident, which happened four years ago.

Bain suffered severe bruising, a concussion and burns to his neck and ears. All three agents said they have experienced hearing loss.

Beanbag rounds have a similar safety profile, which is to say that they are potentially lethal.

Click for more on general strikes

It’s worth thinking about what a general strike means. They work great hardship, especially on the poorest. There’s the loss of wages, of course. It would be likely that at least some schools would shut down. Parents would of necessity be drawn into the strike. Financial businesses would be shut down. Just getting money from the major banks could be difficult. Some businesses would be severely affected, since truckers might refuse to deliver goods. Presumably the strikers have thought things through and considered what businesses they want to target, and which they want to remain open. Still, the inner city, with its very thin network of commerce, would be the most seriously affected. There would have to be a response from voluntary organizations like churches and soup kitchens to provide alternative supply.

It will have national repercussions. The Port of Oakland is the fifth busiest port in the US. All shipping from Asia will have to be diverted to Los Angeles, Long Beach, Tacoma, or Seattle. It handles over 10% of West Coast Ex-Im (there are also ports in Mexico and Canada, of course, but that adds considerable complexity). Exports would be the most impacted. It wouldn’t be surprising if a sympathy strike/slowdown develops in Los Angeles.

This is just off the top of my head. General strikes are a very big deal. They are not very common, specifically because they can cause widespread hardship. And the authorities have adapted since the early days of direct action. But when there is a breakdown of governance, they are sometimes the only way to break out of a social impasse.

Here’s an account of Oakland’s last general strike, that of 1946:

The strike ended 54 hours old at 11 a.m. on December 5. The people on the street learned of the decision from a sound truck put on the Street by the AFL Central Labour Council. It was the officials’ first really decisive act of leadership. They had consulted among themselves and decided to end the strike on the basis of the Oakland City Manager’s promise that police would not again be used to bring in scabs. No concessions were gained for the women retail clerks at Kahn’s and Hastings Department Stores whose strikes had triggered the General Strike; they were left free to negotiate any settlement they could get on their own. Those women and many other strikers heard the sound truck’s message with the form of anger that was close to heartbreak, Numbers of truckers and other workers continued to picket with the women, yelling protests at the truck and appealing to all who could hear that they should stay out. But all strikers other than the clerks had been ordered back to work and no longer had any protection against the disciplinary actions that might be brought against them for strike-caused absences, By noon only a few score of workers were left, wandering disconsolately around the now-barren city, The CIO mass meeting that had been called for that night to discuss strike ‘unity’ was never held.

n the strike’s aftermath every incumbent official in the major Oakland Teamsters Local 70 was voted out of office.

As one can see, if the strikers aren’t unified around non-negotiable objectives, general strikes can simply fall apart. In Oakland’s case, it’s pretty clear that one of their objectives should be firing and prosecuting the entire command of the police department for using weapons like “beanbag” rounds, possibly rubber bullets, and indiscriminately scattered tear gas.

One Response to “Oakland heads for a general strike/Hedges models verbal non-violence”

  1. […] is serious business, folks. As mentioned in a previous post. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

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