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Forum Home > Demands and Actions > Flex the Power of Occupy Movements in Southern California

Huey Long
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Social movements become meaningless if the are mere symbolic or therapeutic expressions.  Occupy NY and Occupy Oakland have both flexed their power.  OWS with some of their early actions that really gave this movement some momentum, and we all saw Occupy Oakland's action yesterday.


The Occupy movements in Southern California are restrained largely due to the geography of the region.  SoCal has at least half a dozen active groups (probably more) for with a population of 20 million spread over 34,000 square miles. New York has 1 occupation with the same population dispersed over 20,000 square miles.  NY is 1 highly symbolic landscape of power and that is a major reason why it is so successful.


For this movement to mean anything in our region, all of the Occupy movements must get together and organize a mass day of action where all the groups and constituents they bring . 


You all surely noticed that Oakland took to the port, that was their symbolic space.  We have our own symbolic landscape as well. 


The port of LA/LB is the largest in the nation, imports 44% of all cargo coming into the country and is with anything the chief "site" of economic globalization in the U.S.  Without the Port of LA/LB, the agglomeration of manufacturing in the far east would not have been possible.  The port enabled capital to move from just south of the border to far flung regions of China.  I am trying to point out that we have our own symbolic landcape of power in our backyard. 


Goods movement through the port saved the regions economy from decline after high tech manufacturing began to leave the region 15 years ago.  Yet it has not come without a cost.  It has produced uneven geographies of public health and development.  Poor communities of color the are in close proximity to the port, freeways, and warehouses areas (Mira Loma) have seen spikes in asthma and a host of other diseases related to poor air quality.  It in particular affects young people and schools: kids get asthma at higher rates and miss school spiking health costs and costing schools funding.  CARB reports that 2500-2900 people die a year in this state from diesel related diseases.  This is spread across the region, from Wilmington to Mira Loma, but the ills are felt in communities with little political power.   


The inequities of goods movement are not limited to public health and can also be found in labor markets.  Short haul truckers make poverty wages and are comprised of mostly immigrant workers who are not Teamster members.  Wharehouse workers in the Inland Empire are also struggling  .  Most importantly, as trade has declined in recent years since the great recession, these (along with construction workers) end up being the most expendable.


Goods movement drives sprawl (Tejon Ranch and Inland empire) and eats up our infrastructure and transit funds.  They focus on widening freeways for trucks, not us. The "greening" of the port is a total sham and will not mean much if trade grows if the economy rebounds.  I could go on and on.


Like the banks, the importers socialize the costs and externalities they create.  We pay for transit infrastructure our of our tax dollars.  We pay for the increased health care costs.  Our young people suffer educationally.  The state legislature couldn't even pass a $5 container tax to help offeset these costs.  The Port of LB stood in the way when a proposal to create a clean truck fleet with unionized drivers was proposed.  We expand rail transit for goods, not for us.  It goes and and on.  As the banks socialize risk, so do the corporations like Wal Mart that profit tremendously from trade through SoCal.

 

Yet without this force driving our economy, Southern California would be in deep trouble.  Not the 1% or even the 20%, but the working class would pay tremendously if goods movement declines.  Inland Counties in particular.  Their is no B plan.  This is not hyperbole either, if you look at the decline of "Rust Belt" cities, it did not happen slowly.  It began as soon as the economy was liberalized in the early 1970's.  Further, our modern neoliberal economy is become increasingly flexible so declines, even massive ones can and do happen much quicker.

 

The lack of a B plan should be a major concern to all of us given the reality that the Panama Canal has been widened and will not allow mega cargo ships to move through and to cheaper and less unionized ports in Galveston, New Orleans, Charleston, etc...  Further, Mexico is planning on building a Mega Port in a highly sensitive region in Baja that is vital for migrating wales (Bajia Colonet).  NAFTA will allow the freight to move from that port into the US without regulation.  This will not only produce environmental destruction but also exploitation of workers.  They have actually found a way to move a port, it is surreal but that is a window into the power and capacity of transnational corporations.   


If the Occupy movement wants something meaningful to come out of this, something that will hopefully result in economic democracy and sound management of the commons (if not relocalization and sustainable development), than a mass action must be organized.  The ruling class in this region has to be alerted to the fact that the 99% understands the political economy of this region and demand economic democracy.  We will never have that if our fate is left to the whims of global capital. 


Global capital does not care about us.  It has no geographic or national loyalties.  Nor do the politicians that are elected to represent powerful interests.  We are invisible as it moves across the planet in search of cheaper and more exploitable inputs and regions. 


The point of this is to try to get the discussion going about organizing some sort of mass action to flex the power of the Occupy movements in Southern California.  I am sure or at least hope it is happening already.


This is a fight for our lives, our futures, the planet.  History rarely provides moments for the 99% to confront the ruling class and this is it.  Think of all the honks of support you have heard, the thumbs up, the folks showing support as you all have slept on a sidewalk and dealt with unreasonable police harrassment.  I have not slept a night out and have all the respect for you all who have put your heart and souls into this.


But it is time to get down with it and make something big happen.  This movement speaks for every marginalized group who has taken to the streets in the last decade, the anti-globalization, LBGT rights, immigrant rights, unions working to organize logistics workers. etc...  Thus the potential exists to organize something big.


Anyway.  Just a thought.  I have not been active thus have no voice in the agenda of OLB.  But please keep in mind that this movement needs something big in this city in order for power to feel challenged.  That is the ultimate goal right?

 

November 3, 2011 at 11:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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