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Michael Moore begins: "On this day, December 30th, in 1936 - 75 years ago today - hundreds of workers at the General Motors factories in Flint, Michigan, took over the facilities and occupied them for 44 days. My uncle was one of them."

Filmmaker Michael Moore at Liberty Plaza visiting demonstrators taking place in the Occupy Wall Street protests, 09/26/11. (photo: raymond/Flickr)
Filmmaker Michael Moore at Liberty Plaza visiting demonstrators taking place in the Occupy Wall Street protests, 09/26/11. (photo: raymond/Flickr)

75 Years Ago Today, the First Occupy

By Michael Moore,

30 December 11



On this day, December 30th, in 1936 - 75 years ago today - hundreds of workers at the General Motors factories in Flint, Michigan, took over the facilities and occupied them for 44 days. My uncle was one of them.

The workers couldn't take the abuse from the corporation any longer. Their working conditions, the slave wages, no vacation, no health care, no overtime - it was do as you're told or get tossed onto the curb.

So on the day before New Year's Eve, emboldened by the recent re-election of Franklin Roosevelt, they sat down on the job and refused to leave.

They began their Occupation in the dead of winter. GM cut off the heat and water to the buildings. The police tried to raid the factories several times, to no avail. Even the National Guard was called in.

But the workers held their ground, and after 44 days, the corporation gave in and recognized the UAW as the representative of the workers. It was a monumental historical moment as no other major company had ever been brought to its knees by their employees. Workers were given a raise to a dollar an hour - and successful strikes and occupations spread like wildfire across the country. Finally, the working class would be able to do things like own their own homes, send their children to college, have time off and see a doctor without having to worry about paying. In Flint, Michigan, on this day in 1936, the middle class was born.

But 75 years later, the owners and elites have regained all power and control. I can think of no better way for us to honor the original Occupiers than by all of us participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement in whatever form that takes in each of our towns. We need direct action all winter long if we are to prevail. You can start your own Occupy group in your neighborhood or school or with just your friends. Speak out against economic injustice at every chance you get. Stop the bank from evicting the family down the block. Move your checking and credit card to a community bank or credit union. Place a sign in your yard - and get your neighbors to do it also - that says, "WE ARE THE 99%." (You can download signs here and here.)

Do something, anything, but don't remain silent. Not now. This is the moment. It won't come again.

75 years ago today, in Flint, Michigan, the people said they'd had enough and occupied the factories until they won. What is stopping us now? The rich have one plan: bleed everyone dry. Can anyone, in good conscience, be a bystander to this?

My uncle wasn't, and because of what he and others did, I got to grow up without having to worry about a roof over my heads or medical bills or a decent life. And all that was provided by my dad who built spark plugs on a GM assembly line.

Let's each of us double our efforts to raise a ruckus, Occupy Everywhere, and get creative as we throw a major nonviolent wrench into this system of Greed. Let's make the politicians running for office in 2012 quake in their boots if they refuse to tax the rich, regulate Wall Street and do whatever we the people tell them to do.

Happy 75th! your social media marketing partner


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+57 # Tippitc 2011-12-30 20:22
Thank You Michael Moore!! Occupy needs you!!
+13 # barkingcarpet 2011-12-31 00:28
This is a fine piece of music by Dan Hall. !937 strike. Worth a watch/listen. End the fascist corporatocracy. Repeal corporate personhood, and demand sane policy/regulation.
+11 # rsnfan 2011-12-30 23:32
And people need to do something. I am looking for help on the 21st of January to help with a rally to work toward an amendment to the Supreme Court ruling giving person rights to corporations in CU vs FEC.
I sent the request to over 100 people. I have received one "no".
How are we ever going to fix anything?
+3 # mim 2011-12-31 11:26
Where do you hope to have the rally?
+12 # wilhelmscream 2011-12-30 23:41
We need help in ME. Our GOV. wants to cut 65,000 Mainers off of MaineCare (Medicaid) to close a $221 million budget gap. This is BAD for ME!! The GOV needs waivers from the Federal Government to do this but he doesn't care about waivers. It be nice if Michael Moore came to Maine to help us fight these cuts
+12 # Wildsingingbird 2011-12-30 23:42
Thank you Michael. I don't know what this movement will become abd I do know that it is a grassroots effort and organic so will develop a life of it's own. I practice mindfulness in Thich Nhat Hanh's tradition and I find this peaceful movement is consistent with my practice of cultivating loving kindness, deep listening and compassion. I wish to stop suffering of all beings. I believe this movement to be consistent with the practice and to help people wake-up and become aware isthe right thing to do. Keep-up the communication, turn off the TV, stop shopping and help end the suffering of the 99%. :o
+21 # skydog70 2011-12-31 01:07
And the Great Flint Sit Down Strike of 1936 was also about 11 years before the Taft-Hartley Act was passed (by my relatives)- outlawing sit down strikes and closed shops. If there is one thing that has to go, (if Labor stands any chance to win back what has been lost), it is to Repeal that vile Act. I just want to say that right here and now- get our politicians to shake in their boots if they don't promise to get rid of it.
+10 # mim 2011-12-31 10:58
The Taft-Hartley Act was passed by a Republican Congress over President Truman's veto. I agree, that law has got to go!

Unfortunately, the next Republican Congress will probably try to repeat the Wagner Act.
+4 # mim 2011-12-31 11:00
I meant repeal the Wagner Act (stupid auto-correct).
+19 # chinaski 2011-12-31 01:32
Four years earlier in 1932 the Bonus Army occupied Anacostia Flats, only to be driven out by armed troops and tanks led by Douglas MacArthur.
A happy 79th to them.
+19 # angelfish 2011-12-31 01:40
Indeed! Happy 75Th! Remember what Mother Jones said, "Pray for the dead and fight like Hell for the living"! We, the living, have an obligation to raise a ruckus and carry on about injustice When and Wherever we see it! God Bless you, Michael! The People UNITED, will NEVER be defeated! Remember and vote the Miscreants OUT on Election Day 2012!
+12 # Trade Unionist 2011-12-31 03:21
It is marvelous to be reminded of such a fantastic anniversary!! You should ask Amy Goodman to include a story about this event. I always remember Wyndham Mortimer's book "Organize" published 1971 by Beacon Press which chronicles his role in that Flint Sit-Down Strike. It taught me the potential for ordinary people to gain power in a struggle through organizing themselves and standing firm on their principles. It is worth reading it now!!
+13 # Ralph Averill 2011-12-31 03:22
Michael Moore's essay is a reminder that nobody ever got anything worthwhile without fighting for it, without taking action, without sacrificing.
Every candidate for legislative office in 2012 must be asked whether or not he/she will support Bernie Sanders' constitutional amendment asserting that corporations are not people and money is not speech. Only an unequivical yes or no will do.
It's all about Congress in 2012.
+11 # unitedwestand 2011-12-31 03:42
Michael Moore if a hero of the people and for the people. Now the people need to be heroes and show up wherever we can. There are many events scheduled, one that is coming up soon is Occupy The Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California. I'll be there are you? (I'm asking you too Michael, I know the organizers asked you to come. If you can't come I'll understand.)
+3 # goodsensecynic 2011-12-31 12:31
Heroes are convenient symbols, but they don't make a movement; they make a celebrity. Yes, it's probably necessary to have prominent advocates; but, unless a movement's strength is generated from the bottom up, all the Michael Moore's of this world (about a dozen at last count), will have their hour with Piers Morgan and be spun into a reality show.

Regarding the founding of the UAW and other industrial unions, two things:

(1) besides maybe Walter Reuther, give me the name of any other "leader" - especially on the shop floor, where it counted;

(2) remember what happened when organized labor in the United States became successful and "established"; first, it became a witting ally of the anti-communist hysteria in the 1950s and then it watched all its gains erode, starting in the 1970s, accelerating in the 1980s and 1990s (under BOTH Reagan and Clinton) and finishing with "globalization" in the more-or-less here and now.

The struggle, in short, is never completely won, but complacency ensures that it will be completely lost in the long run.
+5 # prim 2011-12-31 05:02
OCCUPY! When the movement started, I was filled with hope, but this expectation is fading. Money is too powerful. The enriched media, part of the 1%, effectively confuse the demands of the 99%. This is easily done. There are many problems and each singular one splinters the demands into many fractions. The umbrella, that covers all these ills, is MONEY!

If the 99% can focus on this factor and eliminate this tool of the 1%, it will give us an all important system whereby we can start correcting the other problems.

I am so encouraged that Michael Moore has taken this position. The occupy movement has lacked a prominent spokesman, and he has now stepped in. Please spread this concept, and follow Michael’s suggestion.

Michael Moore’s blog:

‘In 2012, I'm Only Backing Candidates Who Pledge
to Get Money OUT of Politics – Like Dan Kildee from Flint’
+2 # goodsensecynic 2011-12-31 14:48
At this point, I'm not sure if you're discouraged ("hope ... is fading") or "encouraged" by Michael Moore. No matter! You'll work it out.

You're right to say that the "umbrella" is "MONEY" ... but that's enough. The REAL issue (i.e., what creates and distributes "money") is an entire economic system (call it "mode of production") which, in the final analysis, governs the production and distribution of goods and services as well as the political and ideological institutions that arrange and justify it.

Be careful, however, when saying that the Occupy Movement NEEDS a leader. The genius of the Occupy Movement is its leaderlessness. It amounts to an experiment in social organization. Like "commune"ists and gentle anarchists in the past, it has done a nice job of showing that there are alternatives to hierarchy.

By succumbing to the media demand for leaders and maybe lists of specific demands, you are playing "their" game. It reminds me of a story of US cavalry riding into Indian territory, meeting a small hunting party and demanding that they return the next day, and bring their leaders. The next day, hundreds of Indians showed up, saying "We are all leaders here."

The story may be a fabrication; but, if so, it's a nice one.

Alternative? Be like the hideous religious right + neoliberal "Think Tanks" which took over the Republican Party, but Occupy the Democratic Party instead.
+1 # goodsensecynic 2011-12-31 15:39
Whoops! In 1st line above, I should have said:

" ... but that's NOT (repeat NOT) enough."

Silly me!
+5 # mim 2011-12-31 19:50
Not having specific leaders or specific demands accomplishes two things:

1. No leaders means that the plutocrats can't destroy the movement through character assassination against an individual.

2. Lack of specific demands means that they can't enact one or two legal Band-Aids and say, "You got what you wanted. Game's over. Go home. Shut up."

In short, they're not going to get rid of us that easily.
-6 # Lute 2011-12-31 07:13
Michael, you are delusional if you believe non-violence will win out against vested wealth and power. You ought to be yelling Aux Armes, Citoyens!
+12 # Timaloha 2011-12-31 08:45
The first occupy occurred four years earlier than this episode when WWI veterans, their families and affiliated groups - some 47,000 of them -- marched on Washington and occupied public land in an effort to gain early payment of bonuses promised to them. They called themselves The Bonus Army, and they were driven out and their encampments and property destroyed by the U.S. Army, including tanks and horse cavalry, at the cost of two dead and hundreds wounded. The dead veterans were shot by police. After their deaths, Pres Hoover ordered the army to evict the protesters. The troops were led overall by Army Chief of Staff Gen Douglas MacArthur and a cavalry charge was conducted by Maj George S. Patton.
+9 # marthature 2011-12-31 10:46
Occupy of 1834 - in Pennsylvania - men and women mill workers had been locked out of a mill - led by the women, they smashed the gates, occupied the factory, and fought off the sheriff's posse with mill batts.
+6 # goodsensecynic 2011-12-31 12:19
As a 66-year-old, and therefore an official "senior citizen," I am now permitted to grouse about those young folk who combine arrogance and igorance in equal quantities, and who dismiss anything that happened more than two weeks ago as "irrelevant."

So, I applaud Mr. Moore, and urge those who read his words with nods of approval to become aware ... no, REALLY aware of the legacy and the inheritance that the Occupy Movement and others need if they are going to be more than part of a cruel TIME magazine "person-of-the- year" joke.

The corporate propaganda machine (part mass media and part official education) either ignores or trivializes the history of oppressed people, for example turning the Luddites into romantic anti-technology fools.

Meanwhile, caught up in the ecstasy of the specious present, ahistorical protesters, also contribute to what Edward Thompson called the fate of the past movements, namely the "enormous condescension of posterity."

Remember, please, what Marx warned about historical events: they can happen twice - first as tragedy, second as farce.

A good knowledge of history and of enduring social structures is NECESSARY if mere protest is not to become the cultural meme-de-jour.

Or, as George Grant said in 1965: "Moral outrage is too valuable a commodity to be wasted on anything but reality."

'nuff said ... the old fart has spoken.
Heed your parents well, and good job Michael!
+2 # JayMagoo 2011-12-31 13:10
Thanks, Mike. You and I think alike. If I ever see you in a bar, top-shelf, my friend. You name your poison.

+3 # Left Coast 2011-12-31 16:31
I hope we could start with the workers at Wall-Fart (as I call it). A day, or a week of national recognition by all employee's of this multi-billion dollar company. I think that would be a great place to start. Don't you? Who will spread the word?

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