Prior to the 20th century, military conflicts used to be put on hold during the winters as all parties decided the elements would do more harm than the enemy. It’s no surprise then that Occupy Wall Street has taken a bit of time off the front pages of the news—but rest assured, they have been very, very busy.
Citizens connected to this movement have filed a civil rights action in federal court; held press conferences; recruited dozens of speakers such as Professors David Harvey and Angela Davis as OWS educators; cultivated relationships with labor leaders, religious leaders, and forged international connections with those similarly dispossessed around the world. They have reclaimed fertile but empty land for farming; pressed the Justice Department to fight civil rights violations and end mass incarceration. They have trained 50,000 citizens in non-violent direct action, civil disobedience, and their civil and political rights. They have forced governments to hold elections on time. They have told shareholders they are watching (and taken over their meetings); turned credit unions around from a fourth-quarter 2010 loss of 251,000 members to a fourth-quarter 2011 gain of 398,000 with a 5% increase in assets in 2011; occupied banks, homes, state legislatures, and even AT&T. They have been harassed, arrested, beaten, and survived to fight another day stronger than before. They have demonstrated when student debt reached $1 trillion and created their own university. They have joined up with venerable elder organizations like ACT UP and injected new ideas into American politics such as a Financial Speculation Tax. And lastly, they have organized a Worldwide Day of Protest on May 15 and a General Strike, today, on May 1.
The General Strike is not your old-fashioned general strike, according to Marina Sitrin. The object is not simply to shut down the means of production nor does it ask people to risk losing their jobs or their families’ economic security. The goal is to show elected officials that the 99% controls production and consumption. This shows that we the people are the economic spigot that must be attended to—and that capital, money, is a means to an end, and that end is human.
Secondly, the General Strike asks citizens for a “manifestation of alternatives” in terms of childcare, mutual aid, and both collective and self-education. The goal is to provoke thought and action with respect to the way we operate politically, economically, and socially in order to bring new visions into living, breathing practice. The movement calls on you to experience this May Day, not simply read about it. Vital ideals of small is beautiful, substantive democracy, slow markets, and social justice will show you that your private frustration is shared by others and has an answer—this movement believes in a politics and economy that works for all of us rather than a mere handful.
Today’s General Strike brings together a broad coalition of unions, immigrant rights groups, community- and faith-based organizations, worker centers, and the Occupy Wall Street movement in 135 different cities around the nation and many more around the globe. Here in New York City, there will be 99 different picket lines (they were more than halfway toward their goal on April 24), public teach-ins, and a massive march at Union Square at 5;30 p.m. Claiming solidarity with workers, unemployed, and underemployed in Spain, Greece, America, and many more, these actions take aim against austerity, union busting, attacks on immigrant rights, and a system of inescapable inequality.
Use your voice, use your hands, use your mind today. Not in the service of an economic and political system you know to be immoral, but for the cause of dignity and justice we all carry in our hearts.