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May Day and the General Strike in a Time of Precarity / Relatos Zapatistas, May 6 2012
Discussion and analysis of May Day and the general strike in a time of precarity. Show features a short documentary on May Day actions in New York; a telephone interview with Irena from Decolonize Oakland; and a roundtable with Omar, Lauren, Steven, and Tony from Occupy Oakland. (mp3, ~2hrs)
On May 1, thousands of protesters converged in Oakland for international workers’ day, joining protesters around the world in striking, taking the streets, and shutting down business as usual. May Day commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Massacre, when Chicago police attacked and murdered workers participating in a general strike and demanding an 8-hour workday. While the day has traditionally been associated with labor unions and unionized workers, the immigrants’ rights movement breathed new life into it in 2006, when a million protesters—including 100,000 in San Francisco alone—participated in demonstrations across the country against racist, anti-immigrant legislation (the Sensenbrenner bill, or HR 4437) that was working its way through congress. The migrante—who may be the most precarious worker imaginable in the US today—is the paradigmatic figure of the new struggle that emerges from a reimagined idea of the worker and of work, of the subject of radical political struggle.
Occupy Oakland’s call for the general strike on May 1, which was passed by the general assembly with a 100% consensus and is available at the strikemay1st.com website, begins:
“The General Strike is back, retooled for an era of deep budget cuts, extreme anti-immigrant racism, and massive predatory financial speculation. In 2011, the number of unionized workers in the US stood at 11.8%, or approximately 14.8 million people. What these figures leave out are the growing millions of people in this country who are unemployed and underemployed. The numbers leave out the undocumented, and domestic and manual workers drawn largely from immigrant communities. The numbers leave out workers whose workplace is the home and a whole invisible economy of unwaged reproductive labor. The numbers leave out students who have taken on nearly $1 trillion dollars in debt, and typically work multiple jobs, in order to afford skyrocketing college tuition. The numbers leave out the huge percentage of black Americans that are locked up in prisons or locked out of stable or secure employment because of our racist society.”
Today’s show is focused on May Day and the general strike. Mobilizations took place in over one hundred cities across the country, with actions ranging from the shut down of Los Angeles International Airport to attacks on the material symbols of globalized capital in the streets of Seattle. We will hear from participants in Tuesday’s actions in both the bay area and New York. We will analyze the actions and reactions, conflicts on the streets, outcomes and critiques. We will pay special attention to the situation in Oakland, where the occupy movement has faced and continues to face waves of intense repression from the police and the city government. The primary questions we are posing are: What does a general strike mean today, when organized labor is increasingly marginalized and workers increasingly atomized? What does precarity mean, beyond an economic condition? What does it mean to strike—and beyond that, to general strike—in a historical moment when un- and underemployment, precarious labor, and austerity increasingly characterize late capitalism?
Relatos Zapatistas broadcasts the first Sunday of every month from 4-6 pm on Berkeley Liberation Radio (104.1 fm).