Occupy Oakland at the crossroads

In the confrontation between Occupy Oakland protesters and police, charges and countercharges have been flying in the media over whether the cops used excessive force or the protesters resorted to other than non-violent means to repel the city’s evacuation of the encampment on the morning of Oct. 25 and in subsequent encounters.

Meanwhile, getting lost is the goal of the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement, which is to make the banks accountable to the people and pay for the mess they created.

The financial sector must be made to pay, through far stricter regulation and funding, massive creation of jobs, meaningful foreclosure measures, aid to states and cities like Oakland, and more.

These are all victims of the capitalist social system, today being ruled by speculators and their firms reaping outrageous profits in the casino-like financial market, producing not one single tangible object.

It is this fictitious economic order – buttressed by the military industrial complex, the energy monopolies, insurance companies and other reactionary sections of capital – that is driving our nation and the world to ruin. And it is precisely these class and social forces that the Occupiers are challenging.

The movement for the 99 percent against the 1 percent is much bigger than any single one of its component parts.

Unquestionably, in launching the Occupy Wall Street movement a month ago, the mostly youthful rebellion captured the moral fiber of the overwhelming majority of Americans against the banks and corporate greed, and more.

Yes, that includes the Occupy Wall Street movement but also other long established movements that have been coming to the fore in recent years, like the organized labor movement, the movement for equality of peoples of color, women, immigrants, the gay community and, most importantly, the youth.

The occupiers are giving expression and, at the same time, impetus to the proposition that the culprit is more than a few bad banks and corporations. They are saying that it’s the “system that’s not working for us and the 99 percent.”

In challenging the very system – capitalism – that’s given rise to corporate greed, corruption, erosion of democracy, poverty, gross inequality, war, environmental degradation, racism and all the other isms of the political right wing, the occupiers are doing a great service to the nation and world.

After all, our nation remains the home of the world’s most powerful sections of capital, despite the global reach of capitalism today.

I have my personal views of how the situation in Oakland would have been best handled.

Letting loose the Oakland police, which has less than a sterling record of responsible policing, on Occupy Oakland without first exhausting all avenues to resolve the concerns the city had regarding safety was shortsighted. The subsequent police conduct left a lot to be desired.

The demonstrators, who in their overwhelming majority have acted in the spirit of nonviolent civil disobedience Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement he led established, must continue to take measures to guarantee that remains the tactical guiding mode of action.

At the same time, Oakland’s most respected movements and civic leaders must throw their full moral weight behind the Occupy movement and all the social forces – labor and others – that have come to define the 99 percent movement

At this critical juncture, the challenge is for all parties with a direct stake in the future of the movement to overpower the power of the banks and large corporations to come to the table to work out a mutually satisfactory arrangement.

I think this is necessary and possible.

Other Occupy cities with administrations sympathetic to the Occupy movement have worked out mutually satisfactory arrangements.

That means that everyone with a stake in furthering the cause of the 99 percent bears a heavy responsibility to conduct the struggle in ways that unify and enhance, not undermine, the common cause, which is to put Wall Street up against the wall.

By its very nature, the process of working out differences of outlook and approach by the various groups and forces that make up the 99 percent movement requires give and take in everyone’s part.

At the end of the day, it is broad united action around a commonly agreed goal and set of demands that will win the day against the reactionary institutions of capitalism.

The eyes of the nation are on Oakland. Let’s not blow it, Oakland!

Photo: Marilyn Bechtel/PW


Juan Lopez
Juan Lopez

Juan Lopez is chairman of the Communist Party in northern California and statewide coordinator. He has been a labor and community activist during the nearly forty years he's lived in Oakland, where he and his wife raised three children. He was formerly a member of the Teamsters union and a shop steward.