The Most Revolutionary Act

Diverse Ramblings of an American Refugee

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
New Plymouth, New Zealand
December 02
Retired psychiatrist, activist and author of 2 young adult novels - Battle for Tomorrow and A Rebel Comes of Age - and a free ebook 21st Century Revolution. My 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led me to leave the US in 2002. More information about my books (and me) at


OCTOBER 28, 2011 5:30PM

General Strike: Where OWS Needs to Go

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French peasants storming the Bastille (1789)

French peasants storm the Bastille (1789)


(This is the final of three blogs assessing the achievements of #OccupyWallStreet)

As I mention in my two prior blogs, the OWS movement will leave a legacy of accomplishments — mainly related to consciousness raising and movement building – even if the actual occupations shut down tomorrow. There is still lots of furious debate over #OccupyWallStreet’s long term goals, which roughly center around the dismantling of the corporate state, the establishment of an alternative, non-corporate economy, and the development of an independent media that reflects the interests and concerns of the 99% of us who aren’t millionaires and billionaires. Yet we are unlikely to see major policy or infrastructure changes until our new movement hits the 1% where it really hurts — in their pocketbook. Prior to Tuesday’s violent police attack on Occupy Oakland, I had the sense that the authorities were quite comfortable with thousands of us camping out in city parks every night — so long as we weren’t interfering with business as usual.

Time for a General Strike

This is where #OccupyWallStreet differs significantly from the major uprisings in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, where mass demonstrations were accompanied by general strikes that shut down economic activity. In Egypt, it was the unions’ threat to shut down the Suez Canal that ultimately forced Mubarak to step down. In the US, we would be talking about illegal wild cat strikes. Both Taft Hartley and no-strike clauses some unions have agreed to make it a criminal offense to strike unless defined processes are followed.

Clearly Occupy Oakland, which retook Oscar Grant Plaza on Wednesday (see, is mindful of the current general strike in Greece, as well the importance of industrial action during the Arab Spring. They have called for a general strike in Oakland on November 2nd (no one to attend school or work).  I think they have a good chance of persuading a good chunk of the city to stay home. The police riot that closed off downtown Oakland on Tuesday did not go unnoticed by a large African American community with long history of being brutalized by Oakland cops. Workers World (see ) suggests that it was no accident that the first OWS occupations to be targeted with police violence were those with a substantial African American population (Oakland, Chicago, and Atlanta). Popular protest has a tendency to be contagious, especially in communities with a history of grievance-based uprisings and a 48% youth unemployment rate.

Why It May Be Easier to Get Non-union Workers to Strike

Oakland-ILWU, which endorsed Occupy Oakland on October 22nd and called on other unions to block their eviction from Oscar Grant Plaza, may well stage a one day sympathy strike. The longshoreman’s union is historically one of the more militant and has a history of wild cat strikes. However this may be one of those instances where low unionization rates among African Americans may work in our favor. Calling on unionized workers to engage in an illegal strike is a big ask. It would likely incur strong opposition from union leaders, who would be the ones facing prosecution.

It’s also possible to disrupt business as usual by targeting banks and other businesses with well-organized consumer boycotts and direct action, such as sit-ins and blockades or with a combination of tactics. In announcing their November 2nd General Strike, Occupy Oakland has warned Oakland banks and corporations that it will march on them if they remain open.

Call for a National General Strike on November 28th

If next Wednesday’s general strike is even partially successful, I expect a few other cities to follow suit. The real test will be the response to Citizens for a Legitimate Government’s call for a national general strike on November 28, after the Super Committee announces the austerity cuts American people will be subjected to (see

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i like the idea of general strike. but i think most 'merikans , myslelf included, do not know what the heck is going on. If we were striking against facism - ok then - or for national health - good too. I think that a much clearer set of objectives needs to be communicated before mass support will be found - heck this could take a day or a year to accomplish.
Julian Assange (who has been very active in Occupy London) was on the BBC last night talking about a proposal that has been circulating around the US Occupations to hold a general election in each congressional district for 2 representatives to a Grievance Council that would formulate and compile grievances to present to the US government.

I find the idea quite intriguing. The broadcast was blacked out in the US. Here's the link:

He talks about OWS in Part II about 8 minutes in.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
--sinclair louis

"One withstands the invasion of armies; one does not withstand the invasion of ideas."
--victor hugo

occupy party reaches critical mass/seismic effect--now what?
I'm all for a partial long-term boycott that involves not buying anything that doesn't provide a rational benefits and in addition to that when it comes to necessities receipts should be saved and when they fall apart due to the fact that the money from manufacturing has been diverted to marketing, public relations, lobbying, profits etc. they should be returned during busy store hours and the complaints should be where other customers can hear about them and possible discussion about the corrupt tactics used by corporations could be raised. This could result in managers being quick to replace, which would cut their loot and increase the deal; or it could result in draconian rules to subvert these objection; then concerns about the first amendment protecting ONLY the corporations can be raised and they might decide the quick replacements are better.
In response to some concern with the language of ‘taking the day off’, I wanted to clarify. I teach 2 hours from home. The picket began at my university at 8am. In order to actively participate in our strike, I would need to have spent £150 to travel up to university on a day when I’m not usually in anyway. So I didn’t go, which means I have ‘taken the day off’ in one respect (but given the fact that I have a book deadline tomorrow, I am also continuing to work). And for me, joining a picket in London would not be joining my strike – which is at my university – but sort of just being there to be a body there. I have fixed the language (hopefully) to reflect that these were two different, but related, thoughts. Papa Johns Coupons