OWS, social protest and quashing demonstration

Posted in Decline and Fall, Permanent Fail at 4:49 pm by George Smith

Unintentionally hilarious quote of day, from a San Jose Mercury News piece on OWS and a planned general strike in Oakland:

The Oakland Chamber of Commerce raised alarms about the continued economic impact. “There are a number of negative ramifications from these protests,” said Paul Junge, director of public policy with the chamber. “A number of local businesses are seeing sales drop off dramatically.”

The Fountain Cafe, in the Oakland City Center complex downtown, is among those that have already felt the bite of Occupy Oakland.

“The protests have hurt our business,” said Elias Salameh, owner of Fountain Cafe. “If it goes on any longer, I’m sure it will hurt more.”

Protests, by people demonstrating against mass unemployment (theirs) and economic inequality brought on by plutocracy, criticized for being bad for business.

A strike will hurt shopping and eating!

Missing from the news piece is that for strikes to be effective wounding business is often quite necessary. Or else authorities who believe protesters can be waited out or dispersed by police forces won’t change or be removed.

In this country it’s why private sector collective actions have essentially been squashed up until now. And, one is paying attention, why the GOP has gone after private sector unionization all over the country.

According to the newspaper, not all business is opposed to OWS:

Some businesses intend to close in solidarity with the general strike attempt. Berkeley-based Biofuel Oasis, a worker-owned collective that sells fuel and farming supplies, will shut its doors for the day.

“It’s all about local businesses keeping money in the community and supporting the local economy,” said Ace Anderson, one of the members of the cooperative. “We hope we won’t lose too much business by being closed. But it’s for a good cause.”

Some labor leaders called on their members to take time of work to support the Occupy event.

By contrast, in 2010 a general strike put a dent in business interests in France. It was countrywide and was enabled by unionized workers whose rights and powers were largely protected in ways that were erased in the US in the past decades.

From the New York Times:

The political scientist Jacques Capdevielle noted with surprise that while only 4 percent of French workers were unionized, credible polls showed that a majority of the French supported the [national] strike.

Jean-François Copé, parliamentary leader of Mr. Sarkozy’s party, said Wednesday that this was “the week of truth??? on the pension overhaul and emphasized “the cohesion of the majority and the government??? on the change, saying, “There is no other solution to save our pension system.???

He then criticized the opposition Socialist Party for promoting the demonstrations without a viable legislative alternative and for calling students, whose weeklong school holiday starts on Friday, into the streets. He said he was appalled that “a handful of people have taken the economy of our country hostage by blocking the fuel depots.???

While it did not bring about significant chance, it demonstrated that the French — or at least a good number of them — were willing to go into the street and oppose government austerity plans in a way that did achieve a slow down.

However, it is fairly inconceivable that American citizens and workers could strike and block fuel distribution in this country. But this is more of a reflection on how effective the corporatocracy has been at squashing the willingness to embark on such such things rather than on logistical problems with doing so.

Truckers, for example, could refuse to move fuel. And that would really hurt fast.

Damaging national interests and business through general strikes is a way to get around having to hope for political change through the ballot box. Corporate America destroyed private sector collective action first. And then it destroyed the power of the ballot by buying all candidates and gaining permission to anonymously give unlimited amounts of money to cut-out political agencies opposed to change. (In a manner of speaking, corporate America was given permission to do the kinds of things the CIA does to destabilize and undermine foreign governments and leaders — with the exception of supplying arms.)

Between elections this leaves only general strikes brought about by groups with substantial popular support, like OWS. Or, eventually, a rebellion.

If you take the long view, from the standpoint of security for everyone and stable government, it is better to enact positive change before the natives are so provoked they begin looting and burning.

At Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi advocates OWS members withdraw their cash from Bank of America.

It’s fairly lame, although not entirely so, in light of how bad things are.
And it’s reminiscent of Bill Maher’s idiotic call, one nobody really remembers, to divest from big banks about a year ago.

I wrote about that here.

Paradoxically, one of the banks in Maher’s list of suitable new banks for holding your money was OneWest, an institution a few OWS members in Pasadena targeted a couple weeks ago.

On the other hand, OWS drawing attention to Bank of America as a very bad institution in the hopes that larger agencies and groups involved in doing business with will divest is an entirely … capital … idea.

Noted this summer: Installation of bullet-proof see-through polymer between tellers and clientele at the Bank of America at the corner of Colorado and Lake in Pasadena.


  1. Christoph Hechl said,

    November 4, 2011 at 4:41 am

    There is alway more that you can do, but to refrain from doing something because you cannot do everything that could be does not seem like a good idea to me.
    If you don’t start to walk you will never get anywhere.
    I guess we will just have to wait what ideas will come up, and which ones will be used.
    The fact that you will never be able to convince everybody to join the protests, can never be an apology not to do anything.

  2. George Smith said,

    November 4, 2011 at 7:37 am

    The current arguments from the status quo are senseless. Two claims — one, if they can’t change things at the ballot box, what do they hope to accomplish?

    The second — and this revolves around undermining any rationale for general strikes and protest. If there’s any hint of violence or incommoding American business, then it’s all no good. The inconveniencing American business is really rich since one of the central reasons for these things is overwhelming corporate greed which has resulted in great benefit for the top but nothing for anyone else.

    There are other add-ons. Like, some of the protesters come from really nice homes or can afford lots of gadgets with which they social network. Therefore, they cannot be part of the 99 percent, have it good, and are fakes and shouldn’t be protesting. Which is ridiculous. You can’t join a group because you’re above the destitute and poverty-stricken level??