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May Day 2012: The Call for a General Strike

Posted on Mar 15, 2012

By Scott Tucker

(Page 4)

War Against War: A Meditation on Bradley Manning’s Mind
[Truthdig, June 2, 2011]

A class-conscious struggle against the corporate state is also a struggle against war and empire. If this government makes the free election of real democrats and of socialists impossible, then we, the people, have the right and duty to elect ourselves as public citizens; and to begin creating a new republic founded upon peace, social wealth, ethical obligation, ecological sanity, and the solidarity of labor across all borders. Every workplace is potentially a free council of workers; every street and neighborhood is potentially a public space of freedom.

In Europe, many thousands of working people have already taken to the streets against the austerity programs imposed by parties of the earnest right and the bogus left. What we may call the political warm spring in Europe may yet become a hot summer. In Greece, workers and students waged a general strike, and in Spain they still occupy public squares—recently braving an assault by riot police swinging shields and truncheons against citizens who peacefully linked arms in a mass sit-down protest in Barcelona. We, too, have a history of urban general strikes in this country, and of class-conscious struggles against war and corporate rule. This government depends on our obedience, but our lives depend on open rebellion. Start small and start now.

Occupy Calls for a Global General Strike on May 1, International Workers’ Day
[Daily Kos, Jan. 30, 2012, by jpmassar ]


Square, Site wide
Occupy Oakland’s General Assembly last night voted unanimously, 200-0 (with hundreds still in jail from Saturday night), to join in support of a call for a General Strike originating with Occupy Los Angeles. It will take place on International Workers’ Day, May 1st, 2012.

OWS Calls for May Day Strike
[Truthdig, Feb. 19, 2012, by Alexander Kelly]

Occupy Wall Street has boldly called for a general strike of the 99 percent on May Day—May 1. “*No Work *No School *No Housework *No Shopping,” read the text approved by the OWS General Assembly. The action is scheduled to overlap with a day intended to call attention to the plight of immigrants.

Occupy Wall Street calls for May Day general strike
[Waging Nonviolence, Feb. 15, 2012, by Nathan Schneider]

The prospect of an Occupy general strike has been circulating for a while already. One of the several Facebook event pages devoted to it has more than 10,000 attendees. Occupy Los Angeles began calling for a May 1 general strike as early as last November, and Occupy Oakland joined at the end of January. Occupy Wall Street’s Direct Action group tried to take a strategic approach to the idea; though many of its members had little hesitation about calling for it, they took steps to ensure there was consultation, and therefore buy-in, among some of those whose participation would be vital. Since the beginning of the year, they’ve been holding twice-weekly meetings—with as many as 150 people crowded into a church or a union-office basement—which included labor organizers, immigrants’ rights groups, artists and anarchists.

Together, these stakeholders debated what a general strike could even mean in 2012, given the poor state of organized labor, and whether making such an ambitious call would turn into anything other than an embarrassment. “It has to happen on a huge enough scale that retaliation is unthinkable,” a person noted at one of the initial meetings on January 11. While one voice that night argued that “you use this tool to gain specific ends”—the tool of a general strike—another preferred to “not issue any demands, but rather take what is ours.” From these discussions, it was agreed that the more open-ended language of “a day without the 99 percent” should stand alongside that of “general strike.”


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By Anarcissie, March 18, 2012 at 7:38 am Link to this comment

balkas—I define politics as the theory and practice of whose will shall prevail in a community.  Electoral politics is one kind of politics, but there are other kinds.  OWS has been engaged in some of the other kinds, which can take many forms, as witness the progress and fortunes of the Civil Rights / Black Power, feminist, anti-war, Labor, Gay Rights, and other movements of the recent past.  All of these had profound effects on our politics and culture, but none of them formed a successful political party.  Mostly, they made trouble.

Let’s take a very recent example.  Mr. O was ready to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block—anything to appease the Right.  However, during the maneuvering, OWS suddenly hit the news.  The whole cutting game was suddenly put off, at least until after the next election.  That was more than the proggies, liberal Democrats, Green Party, Working Families Party and so forth could accomplish.

However, if people strongly believe that party politics is the way to go, I would expect them to be participating in it in some way, not telling OWS to do it.  If they won’t or can’t, a meditation on why they can’t, and its possible application to others, might be useful.

gerard—I agree that not everyone can get out on the streets and duke it out with the cops.  But anyone who can form a coherent sentence and type it into a computer or get it printed on a leaflet can have an effect.  None of us is entirely powerless.

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By balkas, March 17, 2012 at 9:43 am Link to this comment

i had to reread all my posts in order to find the advice i gave OWS that it forms own political party.
in view of two very important factors: that OWS rejects [i am told] politics/any political party and that no protest
ever changed for better any serious problem [deep racial, cultural, religious, ethnic, personal divide; constant
warfare, etc.], rejecting politics/political party or parties; particularly ones which oppose the goose with two
wings or the agents of the 1%, appears like entering a marathon without one leg or foot.

politics is a part of it all [the nature]. we are part of that nature; we must, thus, engage in all aspects of that
one reality and in politics, afortiori.
if you do not; if you chuck politics; you utterly fail!
but OWS does not HAVE TO form own party—it can work from inside other parties.
OWS may be led also by anarchists and no just other-minded youths. that may or may not explain why OWS
rejects at this time politicking.
in any case, either-or thinking too often represent a fictitious reality; and nobody can adjust to a fiction.
so, let’s look at this either-to-chuck-or-not-to-chuck-politics from life. how realistic is the second extremity?
let’s think about this!!!

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By gerard, March 17, 2012 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

Some of us—maybe many—who write comments here are aging, some with physical complicatiions, some with financial or family problems.  Most of us probably can’t do more, for natural reasons. Most of us are obviously deeply concerned about what we think should be happening, and so we propose this and not that, hoping, I suppose, that our suggestions may come to pass somehow, if and when someone younger .... someone more able ... someone else…
  I myself am discouraged one day and encouraged the next.  I’m probably not unique in this. Actually, commenting is a poor substitute for action—and ...
on top of that frustration comes the increasing pain of just reading each day’s depressing news.
  I keep telling myself that if we do nothing more than share, along with the caring that goes with it—that’s better than mere entertainment.  It’s all part of the web where everything is connected—often in subtle ways we can’t easily see. Along with that, the action will come in due time. Without it, nothing but despair.

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By Anarcissie, March 17, 2012 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

balkas, March 17 at 5:28 am:

‘anarcissie, u said: “why don’t you form a political party, if you think it’s a good idea?”.
you’ve actually made a statement and not posed a question. ...’

No, the question was not rhetorical.

This website and many others like it are full of bloggists and commenters who want to tell others, like OWS, what to do.  I am curious as to why they don’t do the things they recommend themselves.  I think it’s a reasonable question.  Why tell someone else to start a political party when you can do it yourself, for instance?

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By balkas, March 17, 2012 at 6:28 am Link to this comment

anarcissie, u said: “why don’t you form a political party, if you think it’s a good idea?”.
you’ve actually made a statement and not posed a question.
in addition, we need to get away from asking ONE QUESTION; WHICH, PERFORCE, RUDELY DEMANDS ONE
questions shld be posed—-thousands of them if one has time to posit them and if one can find a lIstener
who’s gonna hear them all.
and we still need an ENLIGHTENED/honest listener and one willing to answer them.
true, we do not have time to pose hundreds or thousands of questions; it’s not a MUST we do that, but it
does suffice for our peace of mind to reject the syndrome that there is ONLY ONE QUESTION AND ONLY
that darn: ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTION? shld be discarded as nonsense.
MSM columnists, politicos, clergy use this ancient ruse more than the folk. and we know why!
so, in short, i suggest we ask questions and beg for answers.
btw, have you forgotten or didn’t know of greens and justice party? thanks

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By Nathan Lane, March 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Occupy Cincinnati is staging a MayDay strike.

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By heterochromatic, March 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm Link to this comment

Ana—- no it’s not you that’s difficult.

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By Anarcissie, March 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment

balkas, March 16 at 10:36 am:

you’ve said—tho not explicitly—that a political party other than one now in power would not be of any value.’

I said nothing of the kind, implicitly or ex-.  Nor do I think it.  Is what I write all that opaque?

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By balkas, March 16, 2012 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

you’ve said—tho not explicitly—that a political party other than one now in power would
not be of any value.
so, in effect you are approving of the Dem-Repub party. but, regardless of whether this
observation or interpretation of what you have said and meant in your post to me, why did
you not explicitly say that americans don’t need a second political party?
and you still have an opportunity to either accept the two wings of one goose or as really
two parties, justify their existence/sole right to govern, all they do, etc.
i have already said many times that i am opposed to one-party rule in US or anywhere else,
unless—and this of crucial import—99 or even 99.99% of very well enlightened people
about their inalienable rights, decide to just have one management managing all their
in short, once for all time eliminate not only all political parties, but also all politicking.
what we need is guidance, tutoring, enlightenment and managers—never ever rulers.

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By gerard, March 16, 2012 at 11:20 am Link to this comment

Good point, Anarchissie!  Thanks a bunch.

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By Anarcissie, March 16, 2012 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

balkas, March 16 at 7:43 am:

why do you think that the ruling party in US; which is for wars and more wars, inequality; against higher education/healthcare for all, just to mention a few happenings, is ok? ...’

Did I say that?  No.  I simply asked, since you have joined the ranks of those who Know What OWS Should Do, why you didn’t do it yourself.  The same question could apply to millions of proggies and liberals.

As it turns out you live in Canada, a resources colony of the U.S., where you can vote for the New Democratic Party in the safety of knowing they will never assume a governing role.  I don’t know what the proper course of action in Canada is—in my experience the power is much more well-hidden and well-defended than in the U.S.  Here, the way to activist success seems to be to make trouble, not to form little political parties.  We have had many little political parties and they don’t seem to do anything.  But a few hundred people camping in a park had the politicians, bureaucrats and professional bloviators climbing the wall.

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By balkas, March 16, 2012 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

talking about canada being miles ahead of US! it seems that more homogeneous regions such as sweden, finland,
norway appear a light day [ok, maybe a light year] ahead of US in justice for working class.
it is not that their respective mafias [one percent] do not want to do to their working people what US mafia [all
mafias think exactly the same] is doing to own ‘less-valued’, ‘lazy’, ‘unmotivated’, ‘want s’mthing that belongs to
others’ [this last one belongs to ron paul], etc.
they do and fervently! but who/what stands in their way? another mafia, diktatorship—so to speak—that and only
that stands in the way of the diktatorship of the higher class proletariat.
and never complaints, marches, protests—-only power, which always includes also enlightenment, peacefulness,
doggedness, hard work and never blitz results, blitz solutions, blitz questions, or blitz answers, blitz reading that
plague america and much of the world.
this patholgy taught to us of instant understanding, instant answers, quick and more quick this and that [a la tv,
movies] gotta go.

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By balkas, March 16, 2012 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

why do you think that the ruling party in US; which is for wars and more wars,
inequality; against higher education/healthcare for all, just to mention a few
happenings, is ok?
there is a political party in US which opposes one and the only war/inequality on
personal and interethnic levels party; which only rules and had ruled the region on
behalf of the mafia, aka, US.
i live in canada. i vote for social democrats. at this time, we are miles ahead of US
in fairness, equality, benefits, interethnic harmony, individual freedoms, etc.
and the US war-banksters party is keeping an eye on us and plotting with home
to utterly destroy it.

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By EmileZ, March 16, 2012 at 8:26 am Link to this comment

@ Ed Romanao

Read the Taft-Hartley act.

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By Ed Romano, March 16, 2012 at 8:07 am Link to this comment

No. The U.S. is not a nation in the usual sense of the word. It’s more like a bus stop… but about a “general strike”. Such a strike can be pulled off in countries like France and Spain in the 1930’s because they have strong oppoition parties and left leaning labor unions. The so called labor movement in this country is kaput. For an opposition group on the fringe to call for a general strike is very risky for this reason…. Should it fail the only result will be that the weakness and ineffectiveness of the movement will be made evident. The call for a general strike should only be made when an organization is fairly certain a large number of people will respond…. At one time it was against the law in this country to stand up in public and call for a general strike. Is that still in effect?

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By Anarcissie, March 16, 2012 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

Why don’t you form a political party, if you think it’s a good idea?

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By balkas, March 16, 2012 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

OWS may or may not espy the facts that US is not a nation or country—it is more like a region ruled by a cosa nostra
gang of people. 
and, of course, the cosa nostra, which OWS calls the 1%, make huge [the huger the better] ‘promises’; keep flattering
and frightening out of their wits vas majority; which is not part of the gang of people who posses america; i.e., the
this behavior is not uniquely that of the US 1%.
this behavior is ancient and had been practiced in every asian, american, and european land i know of.
one of the reasons why multiracial, multiethnic, and multireligious regions, called nations or empires last so long or too
long is the fact that there always had been a deep and unabridgeable divide between ethnics, ‘religions’ [cults], and
races in such regions.
but, even tho rendered by the 1% fearful/envious of, bitter towards, hateful for one another, nevertheless remained
much fascist [ie, accepting supremacism] and thus always behaved against their own self-interests.

so, take persia, assyria, rome, tsarist russia, imperial japan, US, UK, france, the picture is the same.
all of these regions were founded on one and exactly same [in its basics] ideology: personal and ethnic supremacism or
the right of a person to own another and on the right of an ethnic group to be dominant in governing such regions.

to bridge the divide in US, one has to pare down econo-military-educational-political powers of the two dominant
ethnic groups.
for, cannot, eg blacks, see that they wind up in jail or without jobs/education proportionately by far more than
ashkenazim or anglos?
and that the two dominant nations in the region own nearly all MSM, banks, education, means of production, etc.
so hows the Ows gonna get these people onside if OWS is to busy with other matters and not forming a political party
that would represent also blacks, latinos, indigenes, homeless people?

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By Anarcissie, March 16, 2012 at 7:23 am Link to this comment

jeandavid, March 16 at 4:30 am:

‘How can you expect people who are clinging to survival with their sub-standard jobs to go on a general strike? They would be fired instantly.’

The poor are used to being fired.  It’s the people in the middle, who have ‘good jobs’, mortgages, car payments, kids in school, and so forth who are hamstrung.  As there are getting to be more and more of the former and less of the latter, maybe there’s something to the general strike strategy.

No one here knows what will work.  If someone had told you ‘We’re going to camp out in a park in downtown Manhattan,’ you would have said they were crazy.  Now, lots of you are talking about ‘What OWS must do!’ as if you had some kind of experience of activism.

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By balkas, March 16, 2012 at 6:27 am Link to this comment

if this november obama, santorum, ron paul receive 98% of votes cast and only about 60% of
americans take time to vote, that would prove that OWS had not succeeded to any degree in
persuading americans to vote for people who want to provide for them some goodies in daily life
and their much greater participation in the governing of the land.
at this time, at least 70% of americans appear totally out of it all. and one can expect that no
protest or strike would empower the 70-80% to any degree.
history is clear about the phenomena of plaints, begging, marching, occupying this or that or
seemingly winning concession from the ruling class.
i say: never cry, never complain/march/protest! and why not? because you are proving by doing that that your
much or totally impotent.
yes, seethe with anger; yearn for peace/greater role in governing a country, free education,
healthcare for all, but do not ask for that.
instead of that, get into congress/judiciary/w.h and pass laws!

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By EmileZ, March 16, 2012 at 6:14 am Link to this comment

@ litlpeep

Shut the fucking litlpeep super-brain down for a minute or two.

Nevermind, forget I said anything.

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By balkas, March 16, 2012 at 6:00 am Link to this comment

ST: “the occupy movement has to evolve beyond encampments subject to police raids”
i think that is a valid observation. but what else could the movement do at this time when it
does not have, as far as i know, a single politico to represent it in the judiciary, congress, and
regarding a one-day general strike, it may do more harm than good to the cause of the OWS.
for one thing, right wing americans, which may constitute as much as 90% of US pop, might
consider any strike illegal/immoral/ungodly, or as a nuisance.
the movement needs to form a political party which would assist OWS in educating americans
about what they should have in their daily living.
eg, they do not need inflation, army bases, wage wars of whatever kind, master-serf
relationship on personal level, ‘war on drugs’, racial divide, religious divide, banksters with
freedom to steal, etc.

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By litlpeep, March 16, 2012 at 5:58 am Link to this comment

The communitarians have been more or less quietly calling our attention to our local communities (where we still have these) as locales for again creating democratic and republican political institutions to transform our existing bipartisan hack parade arrangements of/in public offices.

At their best, these thinkers are at least as important to those of us in rural and remote and remote rural locations as are the academics focused on megalopolitan areas, such as LA, NYC, Oakland, Chicago, etc.

Without some integral and transformative political cultures such as the democratic and republican civic traditions afforded our forebears who transformed vulgar aristocracies into vulgar “representation” regimes, we can only fail, perhaps worse than they did. 

Using the language of democratic republican practices, and actually embodying these practices in local settings, but failing utterly to institutionalize them in any meaningful national way (the US is a perfect example of this radical failure), they created and we inherited only a more vulgar aristocracy, ours increasingly rarely after the founding era wearing even pretensions of nobility.

However, the bipartisan hacks, like Obama and Clinton, do pretend to noble dreams and goals, though they wear the pretenses merely as electoral garb designed for seducing easy followers into continuing their belief in the nationalism that has failed us all utterly in almost every way that matters.

There is no easy way out of this political condition.  There are no quick fixes.  Either we relearn, and re-invent the political practices and forms that enable us to again create respectable governments in our midst, or we sustain or worsen current failures.

I am not committed to state socialism for the simple reason that, as with capitalism (every known/existing form of which relies heavily upon utopian/martial states to achieve its goals, both also depend fundamentally upon a vulgar, unconscious, materialism that is nowhere sustainable.

To create “theory” based on any ideas that are not themselves tested in lived, collective practice, is academic daydreaming.  To reduce theory to “memory with a purpose,” is smarmy talk at best; at worst yet another academic rhetoric that found no adequate critic prior its public rollout.  It prepares one for writing juvenile academic responses to juvenile public activities, but does no such thing as guide masses in their practical thinking.  It is designed for abstract thinking; it has very limited utility for practical thinking, and no utility for guiding practical activities.  It is hardly theory at all.

Meanwhile, it is so devoid of any recognition of the spiritual disciplines needed for such things as practical public activities, that one wonders if spiritual life has been totally written off as has almost all pre-modern thought regarding myth.
(James Joyce and Joseph Campbell are obvious, notable exceptions, as is Arundati Roy.)

It isn’t just Sorel whose thinking was dangerous about myth.  There is hardly a modern thinker who is not equally dangerous, even Arendt, who struggled mightily, but utterly failed to come to grips with all ancient myth, even though she came close with “The Human Condition.”  She failed because she never saw the rich spiritual universe inside which Odysseus existed, and from which he never saw anything outside, and hardly enough inside.

Since antiquity, we Westerners have only cultivated what was outside the Homeric political vision, except we also cultivated the military-material life of that dream.  That dream was not sustainable without seige, theft, rape, plunder, and destruction of every “other.”

Without spiritual discipline, we have no meaningful combination of dream and practice, i. e., theory.

A few communitarians have attempted bringing this to our attention; our failures certainly far outstripped any meager success.  Until we get such theory, we must proceed with extreme caution, or get crushed.

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By jeandavid, March 16, 2012 at 5:30 am Link to this comment

How can you expect people who are clinging to survival with their sub-standard jobs to go on a general strike? They would be fired instantly.

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By EmileZ, March 16, 2012 at 1:58 am Link to this comment

A national reaffirmation of the Occupy presence (without ruling out participation in more specifically directed actions), is probably a good idea.

However, it might also be a good idea to find some simple unifying demand, which hopefully would not alienate too many people, like raising the minimum wage, or stopping our military “adventures”.

@ Anarcissie

Unfortunately, my favorite records don’t have lyrics (but that doesn’t stop me). Anyway, I just wanted to say that I agree wholeheartedly about the awesome kitty.

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By gerard, March 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment

“Richard Kim, writing in the Nation magazine yesterday, further explained how Occupy plans to be more active now that Spring is approaching.

In people’s living rooms, in donated office spaces and in indoor parks, Occupy’s working groups are as busy as they were in the fall. Occupy Our Homes has resisted foreclosures and evictions in dozens of cities across the country. Occupy the SEC filed a public comment on the Volcker Rule urging regulators to strengthen this aspect of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. Other groups have been hard at work on issues ranging from student debt to alternative banking to worker-owned cooperatives. Meanwhile, protests—against police brutality; against corporations like Bank of America, Pfizer and Walmart; against budget cuts; and against institutions like the Whitney Museum—have continued at an almost frenetic pace. Organizers have also been using the winter to incubate grander plans, among them a May 1 Day of Action that may turn into a call for a nationwide general strike and proposals to occupy corporate shareholder meetings, the NATO summit in Chicago, and the Democratic and Republican conventions at the end of the summer.”
  —from Common Dreams, 3/15/12

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By Anarcissie, March 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment

Hey, everyone’s playing their favorite record.  No need for me to chime in.  I’m just going to say I love the poster, and my cats love it, too.

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By mrfreeze, March 15, 2012 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment

As most of you already know, I think strikes are a great idea. They’ve transformed certain movements; however, doing a big, general strike in the U.S. isn’t likely to happen. Instead, as bob zimway wrote below, specific industries and businesses should be targeted. Rush Limbaugh should actually be an inspiration to anyone who is thinking about putting pressure on someone or some institution they don’t like.

Unfortunatly, on May 1st, Americans will be playing with their Apple toys, cell phones most likely watching American Idol or Monster Trucks dreaming about becoming billionaires…...because they truly believe in “the American Dream.”

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By gerard, March 15, 2012 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment

In times of great need, when nobody knows for sure what to do or how to do it, three things happen:
  1. People who lack faith in other people but don’t have any idea themselves what to do,prophesy failure.
  2. People who long for something good to happen, don’t themselves know for sure what will happen but help anyway, prophesy possible success.
  3. People who are really fed up for good reason, and get in touch with other people who are also fed up for good reasons, talk over possibilities,plan carefully, experience courage, have a sense of doing the right thing together because it’s the right thing being done in the right way—they succeed even though they never thought they could do it.

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By Bobi6, March 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I want to add one more thing. I have read two good articles on the balance
of power yesterday. The balance between government and private corporate
power but even a mention of THE PEOPLE power. It used to be a three way
power struggle between government, corporations and Labor. Labor
obviously lost out. The government is no longer of and byTHE PEOPLE. A
general strike might just be the ticket to recognition that this country is
made up of 300 millions people who have no voice. Let’s demand our
voices be heard.

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By bobi6, March 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It would be nice to get our lame president’s attention. As far as I know he
has never acknowledge the importance of the Occupy groups. Goo article
today on Tom Dispatch on poverty and it growth in this nation. We have
to bring people’s attention to that too.

I am not knowledgable about General Strikes but believe they have
worked in other countries - namely Poland. Although I am no longer an
Obama supporter we also need to get the GOP’s lies corrected and tell
the real story. They are good at spin machines but it’s all lies. It’s our job
to get this thing going.

The rich are once again pulling way out front with bonuses and indecent
pay checks. Time to stop this division of the country economically.

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By bob zimway, March 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment

Occupy Wall Street should live up to its name by focusing on banks and other
organs of the vampire squid. The idea of a massive demonstration in NYC this
summer is also being talked about (with a Lloyd Blankfein farewell), as is OWS’ One
Year Anniversary on September 17.

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By heterochromatic, March 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm Link to this comment

What “severe crackdowns” ?

kicking people out of the illegal camps qualifies as a severe crackdown?

some folks must life a very comfy life, a life of theorizing about shit rather than
experiencing much….

more experienced people might just mention that a bunch of theoretical
reasons why calling for a general strike isn’t a poor idea when the timing is
such that it’s bound to be a total failure is very nice, but doing some actual and
serious work in preparing for the success of a strike call throughout the winter
would have been much nicer.

the time to call for a demonstration of strength is when you have some.

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