Much Ado About Nothing?

                  Stopping Independent truckers from making their rounds

Is the OWS Movement politically Irrelevant?

The bill passed by the Republicans in the House of Representatives yesterday to extend tax cuts for working and middle class Americans – over 90% of the electorate – is offensive to fundamental ideals of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which has mobilized hundreds of thousands of protestors on the streets nationwide. Yet, while the Grand Obstructionist Party is brazenly assaulting the interests of the working and middle classes, that movement is focusing its energies on shutting down commerce on the west coast; instead of conducting massive protests in Washington…the scene of the crime!

If the OWS leadership had any clue as to how changes are actually made in the USA, they would be energetically targeting the Republican legislators who passed this atrocious bill and conducting public information campaigns in their home districts; exposing their Congressman’s venality.  If we take the OWS spokesmen’s  arguments seriously, that there is no difference between the Democrats and the Grand Obstructionists Party, we must place the Anti-Wall street rebels in the same category as the man who couldn’t tell his rectum from a hole in the ground!

In exchange for extending the Presidents’ tax cuts to struggling families, the Republican bill reduces benefits to the unemployed, defunds the President’s health care program, kicks thousands of government workers off their jobs in the midst of the worst economic depression since the 1930’s, and funds the Keystone oil pipeline that will put billions of dollars into the pockets of their oil industry sponsors; with no serious debate about the environmental effects or economic wisdom of this massive and hazardous project.   Yet they refuse to raise taxes on the 1% by a single dime!

This country cannot afford the Republican bill, and the Democrats dare not accept it; if they wish to retain their claim as the party that represents the interests of the working and middle classes. Yet while this legislative obscenity is making its way to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reed has pronounced it “dead on arrival,” and the Republicans are using his stance to claim that the Democrats are killing their “jobs bill,” which would employ thousands of workers,  the Occupy Wall Street movement is focusing its energies on shutting down the ports along the Pacific coast.  If ever there was a situation where the old adage “ Rome burned while Nero fiddled” applied, this is it!

Most of the Trade with Asia comes Through these Ports 

The Right String but Wrong Yo Yo? 

Aside from aiming at the wrong target, since their actions are politically irrelevant, their strategy of shutting down the ports is bringing the anti-Wall Street movement into conflict with labor unions.  The decision to launch the present demonstrations was adopted at a meeting of the “General Assembly” of OWS protestors in Oakland on November 18, where it was resolved that they would “blockade and disrupt the economic apparatus of the 1% with a coordinated shutdown of ports on the entire West Coast on December 12.” A fundamental justification for this action was to give support to the dock workers in Longview Washington, who are in a Darwinian struggle with EGT, the corporation that operates massive grain elevators along the Pacific coast.

The outcome of this struggle will determine if 4000 union members will be employed, or the jobs will be go to non-union scabs with greatly reduced wages and benefits. Yet the International Longshoreman and Workers Union – ILWU – issued a statement denouncing the proposed shutdown of the ports on December 6, a week before the demonstrations began. Since this action had not been discussed and voted on by union members, the leadership could not support it.

“The ILWU has a long history of democracy,” said union President Bob McElrath. “Part of that historic democracy is the hard-won right to chart our own course to victory.”  Aside from issues of union democracy – which is a real issue here since closing down the ports can result in a loss of pay for independent truckers and dock workers as Christmastime approaches – there is also the matter of binding union contracts regarding work stoppages.  If the affected corporations take the Unions to court and win a breach of contract decision it could cost the union $5,000 a day!

When the anti-Wall street rebels responded by dismissing the union’s legitimate concerns as simply the manifestation of a timidity born of decades of union retreats and identification with the interests of the bosses, they placed themselves in the position of the stranger in the Ibo Proverb who comes to a funeral and cries louder than the bereaved family.  Such people are always viewed with suspicion by the aggrieved party.

One thing is certain, should the OWS movement and organized labor become adversaries it will result in a devastating defeat of the movement for economic justice.   Big labor is the only working class institution that has the financial resources, political clarity, organizational infrastructure, and organizing skill any movement to transform economic relations in capitalist America must have to succeed.   Without the active participation of progressive unions like the ILWU, the massive demonstrations against the Wall Street plutocrats will turn out to be much ado about nothing!

The Demonstrators’ Numbers are Impressive

But…The troops are 3,000 Miles from the Battlefield!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 13, 2011

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