Monthly Archives: May 2012

Occupy Oakland Post-May Day: Strengths, Limits, and Futures

The Beginning and End of Occupy Oakland:

The article “Occupy Oakland is Dead,” posted on Bay Of Rage, covers the beginning and end of Occupy Oakland and captures many important points. The origins of Occupy Oakland lie in the first rebellion against the police murder of Oscar Grant on January 7 2009, making Occupy Oakland distinct from other Occupies. The insurgent student movement that fought austerity through building occupations shook up the liberal wing of the student movement that argued occupation as a tactic was akin to property destruction and thus destructive.

Occupy Oakland didn’t apply the logic of the 99% to the police, and was clear how and why the police were violent agents of the 1%. The centrality of food, health care, and shelter as “use-values”, useful items for human reproduction, within the camp symbolized and embodied the seeds of a world free of exploitation.

Incredible political events were launched as a result of Occupy Oakland: the November 2nd march on the port; the unpermitted march on November 19th to Lakeview Elementary as a direct response to the wave of school closures in Oakland; the December 12th west coast shutdown supporting ILWU struggle against EGT; and the January 28th move-in day to upgrade the content of the evicted camp with an actual building; the February 17th immigrant rights march against the firing of undocumented workers at Pacific Steel in Berkeley after an attack by ICE; the February 20th protest at the gates of San Quentin; a wave of neighborhood BBQs in West, North, and Deep East Oakland; and finally, completing its cycle of struggle, actions on May 1st.

Occupy Oakland captured the unfolding radicalism across the nation and upped the ante, with a fierce anti-state and anti-capitalist character.

The authors of the Bay Of Rage article argue, “It makes no sense to overly fetishize the tactic of occupations, no more than it does to limiting resistance exclusively to blockades or clandestine attacks. Yet the widespread emergence of public occupations qualitatively changed what it means to resist.” Occupy Wall Street generally, and its expression in Oakland in particular, opened up a space for newly politicized individuals, revolutionaries, and progressive people of diverse backgrounds to engage with one another directly across various political and identitarian divisions.  The engagement went beyond verbal interaction and took the form of direct confrontation with the state, reclamations of public space, and strategic interventions against the circulation of capital.  This by all means is true. But what is also true is every labor struggle Occupy Oakland engaged in was also lost, with the most notable example being the ILWU-EGT struggle and the Licorice Factory strike in Union City.

How do we make sense of a situation where, Occupy Oakland, a leading center of resistance, has lost every labor battle it has engaged in? How do we make sense of the limitation that Occupy Oakland’s central space, Oscar Grant Plaza, has been lost. Tahrir square, Plaza del Sol and Syntagma square were spatial centers that facilitated the generalization of rebellion, declaring war on the capitalist order.  What is a radical social movement left to do once it has lost its spatial center? Continue reading