Watching the Oakland General Strike


Other demon­stra­tors, some affil­i­ated with estab­lished community groups, said they planned to target banks that do not close for the day, convene a dancing flash mob, sponsor music and street parties, march with elderly residents and people with dis­abil­i­ties to the Cal­i­for­nia state office building, hold youth teach-ins and takeover fore­closed homes and vacant city buildings.” This is great. So far the police repres­sion in Oakland has failed, and they are raising the level of struggle, if indeed the takeover of fore­closed homes occurs.

One of the major symbols of the crisis of the working class over the last several years — there was no “crisis” of cap­i­tal­ism — has been the spate of people getting booted out of homes they could no longer afford to pay for, never mind con­tin­u­ing to pay exor­bi­tant mortgages for houses worth less than the families owe on the mortgages. Kicking people out of their homes is cruel. The upshot of this cruelty is that reversing or stopping evictions is straight­for­ward with suf­fi­cient community support: simply prevent the police from carrying out the eviction.

This would not be the first time that such a tactic was attempted. Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward write of small bands, often led by Com­mu­nists, beginning to use physical force to prevent the removal of furniture from homes in 1930 and 1931. Popular fury led to the restora­tion of 77,000 evicted families to their homes in New York City alone.

In Chicago, small groups called “black bugs” went through the streets to “mobilize large crowds to reinstall evicted families,” while elsewhere Com­mu­nists organized “gas squads to turn the gas back on in people’s houses and electric squads to string wires around the meter after it was shut off by the local utility,” not dis­sim­i­lar from what is currently happening in South Africa where the township movements siphon elec­tric­ity from the main grid without per­mis­sion. Elsewhere, “In Detroit, it took one hundred policemen to evict a resisting family, and later two Detroit families who protected their premises by shooting the landlord were acquitted by sym­pa­thetic juries.”

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