Recently the ILWU called for a rally on October 23 and expressed interest in a work stoppage to ensure that Johannes Meserle receive the maximum sentence for the murder of Oscar Grant. The ILWU have a long history of taking a leading role in periods of mass struggle and of engaging in political strikes. The San Francisco General Strike started when state and private police killed 2 longshoremen as they tried to break picketlines that had closed not only SF ports but all of the ports on the west coast for 2 and a half months. In 1973 the ILWU refused to ship munitions headed for Chile following the military coup and suppression of the Cordones (workers councils). In 1984 the ILWU shut down the ports for 11 days in a political strike against aparthied in South Africa.
ILWU Local 10
The ILWU is able to take such militant action without being destroyed by the ruling class because the longshoremen occupy such a strategically strong position in the production of profit – the unloading of the majority of commodities headed for consumption. Harry Bridges, along with a rank-file committee organized and led a strike in 1934, quickly growing into a general strike through all of San Francisco and even Oakland, it continues this militant historical legacy into an array of other struggles long after. The ILWU is now throwing their weight into the struggle for justice during a period of racist state murder and mass incarceration marked by the deepest economic crisis in capitalist history. On May 1, 2008, International Labor Day, they shut down all of the west coast ports in a one day political strike against the war. On June 20 of this year the Longshoremen refused to cross a picketline blocking the entrances to the port to stop an Israeli ship from docking in the wake of the Freedom Flotilla Massacre. Now they are calling for a rally on the 23rd of October at Oakland City hall and may shut down the ports.
The anti-budget cut movement and struggle for public education in California over the last year has inspired worldwide resistance, and has brought in a lot of new people who have never organized or been political before. The March 4th movement provided an outlet for people to get involved and educate themselves about the budget cuts; it also created a base to build off for the next cycle of struggle. Since March 4th conferences have gone down and a new date for mass action has been picked: October 7th… but will October 7th be qualitatively different than March 4th? Will more sectors of society be brought in? Will struggle deepen and become more militant? As the economic crisis deepens and affects more and more people internationally, there is a real need for a militant perspective examining why the budget cuts are happening, who is causing them, and who is suffering from them.
So far the education sector has largely lead resistance to the cuts, on college campuses specifically, but these cuts go far beyond the universities. It is not just education that is being destroyed; social services, such as free and/or affordable healthcare are being cut; there are massive foreclosures and a lack of affordable or public housing; unemployment remains high. Anyone can see that these cuts aren’t just affecting students, but the working-class as a whole. While all these cuts are happening in the public sector the top corporations and banks were immediately bailed out by the Federal Government as soon as their financial instruments evaporated in the bubble pop. If it wasn’t clear to you before that this system was based off of exploitation and a class divide between the rich and the poor, massive bailouts to the capitalists and bankers while we are left to struggle for the basic necessities of life should make it clear.
Police attack people protesting the racist murder of Oscar Grant. - July 9th, 2010, Oakland
These budget cuts are also occurring during a time period of massive state violence to communities of color and queer people; the passage of the anti-immigration bill SB 1070 is causing and supporting more profiling of immigrant populations and ICE raids; the Oscar Grant movement has exposed the police’s continual assault against Black women and men that stems from the days of slavery; and there is consistent harassment and murder of queer and gender oppressed people. Is a budget cut struggle solely confined to defending education enough to really fight the cuts and the crisis? Is it enough for the people most affected by it to be brought in? No. We need a larger analysis that identifies the true enemy, the capitalist system, which relies on other systems of oppression (patriarchy, racism, & homophobia) to target and discipline people of color, women, and queer folks to keep divisions within the class that makes uniting and resisting harder.