all eyes on oakland as the struggle continues

Donagh Davis reports from Occupy Oakland on how things have developed, from the shooting of Scott Olsen, the strike, the shutting down of the port, up to the violence surrounding the occupation of a building this morning.

Since the tents were pitched just over three weeks ago, Occupy Oakland has come out of Occupy Wall Street’s shadow to assert itself as a major social movement phenomenon in its own right – as well as a major world news story. Like many other ‘Occupies’ around the country, the Oakland occupation started as an attempt to emulate the Wall Street phenomenon. Three weeks later, it is way beyond that.

Occupy Oakland shut down the USA's fifth busiest port

A crucial watershed came a week ago, when the Oakland mayor, Jean Quan, made good on her threat to evict the Occupy Oakland encampment – no doubt a major eyesore for her, sitting directly outside City Hall, on Frank Ogawa Plaza – dubbed ‘Oscar Grant Plaza’ by the Occupiers, in memory of a young man shot dead by police on the local BART subway system in 2009. Continue reading “all eyes on oakland as the struggle continues”

the land of the free

Sharon Borthwick writes on the race and class prejudice behind the US death penalty, in the aftermath of the state killing of Troy Davis

At the South Carolina State Penitentiary on 16th June, 1944, 14 year old, George Junius Stinney, was strapped to the electric chair. Securing him to the frame holding the electrodes proved difficult as the child was so slightly built and merely 5’1”, a reason to suspect it wasn’t he who had wielded the huge railroad spike, the weapon used in the killing of two white girls. In a locked room with only white officers bearing witness, Stinney confessed within an hour of his arrest. The court-appointed defence lawyer, did not call any witnesses and as the Stinney family were moneyless, an appeal could not be raised.

Another harrowing and messy murder took place towards the end of World War II, when 24 year-old Eddie Slovik was strapped to a post and shot by firing squad, eleven bullets entering his body, but not immediately killing him. The appointed executioners were reloading their weapons when Slovik finally died: “They’re not shooting me for deserting the United States Army, thousands of guys have done that. They just need to make an example out of somebody and I’m it because I’m an ex-con. I used to steal things when I was a kid, and that’s what they are shooting me for, they’re shooting me for the bread and chewing gum I stole when I was 12 years old”, Slovik had told them. Stinney was black and Slovik white. They had in common their poverty and thus their utter powerlessness, as simultaneously, the allies allegedly fought for freedom. Continue reading “the land of the free”

what’s wrong with kansas? russia iran disco suck

Sharon Borthwick writes on the meaning of the success of right-wing ‘Tea Party’ candidates in the United States midterm elections

Shocking as it may be, the Tea Party movement has been a great success. This ‘grass roots’ conservative activism is not a new phenomenon and it would be interesting to look at its recent history.

Thomas Frank’s 2003, What’s the Matter with Kansas? proves a useful tool in that regard. Frank himself, grew up in Kansas and was a deeply conservative adolescent who hero-worshipped Ronald Reagan. He learnt from older men an anger that was “endless, implacable, spectacular”. Continue reading “what’s wrong with kansas? russia iran disco suck”

rank and file organising: it could happen here too

by Sheila Cohen

April 2010 saw the biggest conference ever for Labor Notes, the US-based rank and file trade union newsletter and network which celebrated its 30th birthday last year. Over 1200 activists gathered in the (unionised) hotel just outside Detroit where corporate blandness was set off by the T-shirted exuberance of American workers not shy of yelling a slogan or two – especially when workers on strike against a non-unionised branch of the same hotel chain came forward to tell a familiar story of rank injustice and betrayal.

It’s impossible to take in everything at a Labor Notes conference (especially if you’re jet-lagged) but I followed my main interests in attending a chain of workshops addressed to union organising and membership participation (or lack of it). The first of these – “Innovative Organising Strategies” – was if anything the most inspiring, featuring the crucial dynamics of organising a union “before the union came along”, as some US activists have put it. Continue reading “rank and file organising: it could happen here too”

arizona passes racist law attacking immigrants

Kasandra Dalton reports on the situation in the United States as Arizona passes a law allowing the arbitrary arrest of immigrants

Last week the state legislature in Arizona and the Republican governor Jan Brewer signed the anti-immigrant law SB 1070. This is essentially a racist law to criminalise immigration and creates the legal power for police to arrest people upon mere suspicion of illegal immigration status.

There has been significant political fallout from this quasi-fascist decisión on the part of the Arizona Republicans. Even Barack Obama, Mexican president Felipe Calderón, the Bishop of Los Angeles and Shakira have protested and made their views public. Continue reading “arizona passes racist law attacking immigrants”

obamacare: the nuns strike back

by Ernie Haberkern
Berkeley, California

The Health Care Reform bill has finally made it through the archaic legislative labyrinth our slave-owning founding fathers left us. Our modern corporate capitalists have found this unrepresentative system as useful as the slave owners did. One of features of the system is that it facilitates behind-closed-doors dealing that makes it extremely difficult for the average voter, or even the fairly well-informed voter, to find out what exactly the effect of the legislation will actually be. In fact, the result is usually so complicated that it often has consequences unforeseen and unintended by the authors of the legislation.

So what does this ‘reform’ actually amount to? In the first place, there is no regulation of the cost of drugs. In particular, the current twelve year monopoly granted to companies for brand name drugs remains in effect. This deal was made last August and in return the pharmaceutical industry, which played a major role in the defeat of Bill Clinton’s attempt to pass a health care bill, actively lobbied in favor of Obama’s plan. Continue reading “obamacare: the nuns strike back”

dawn of the crisis generation in california

On 4th March thousands of workers and students across California took action in protest against budget cuts, lay-offs and fee hikes caused by the state’s financial crisis. This article from Indybay was written after 157 people were arrested for occupying the I-880 motorway.

“Why the hell did you get on that highway?” asked the cops, our cell mates, our coworkers, our classmates. There are many responses that could be given that have been outlined by banners, occupation demands, student leaders, or budget statistics, but none of them really connect to why one would take over a highway. Obviously there are no libraries on a highway. The funding for schools isn’t going to be found on any one of those lanes of oncoming traffic. And, in fact, a lot of people who were arrested on the highway were not students or teachers. This is because the highway takeover is an action against a power structure that is much larger than this year’s budget crisis. Continue reading “dawn of the crisis generation in california”