This article was posted on 01 Jun 2014, and is filed under Volume 3, Issue 1.

Solidarity Means Attack: Choreographic Analysis and the West Coast Port Blockade

Olive Mckeon

Abstract: The old anarchist slogan ‘solidarity means attack’ calls for collective action that shows solidarity with a political struggle by extending its force and scope, by claiming it as part of one’s own struggle. The West Coast Port Blockade of 12 December 2011 followed the logic of this maxim. A successful blockade shut down ports along the west coast of North America, including the ports of Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver, and Anchorage. Community picketers organised the West Coast Port shutdown in solidarity with the struggle of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to preserve the jurisdiction of their union against the efforts of Export Grain Terminal (EGT) to hire non-unionised workers. Organisers in Oakland called for a solidarity strike that utilised community pickets to shut down ports in a number of cities, hoping to revitalise both the Occupy movement and the longshoremen’s struggle. These pickets in solidarity with the longshoremen became the condition of possibility for their strike.

Through the example of the West Coast Port blockade, this article considers how performance scholars study acts of political solidarity and social movements more broadly. Within the field of dance studies, several scholars have proposed choreographic analysis as a method to study social movements, as it can illuminate the corporeality of political struggles, the literal movement of bodies as they coalesce and dis-aggregate that is constitutive of a ‘social movement.’ This article explores the resources and limits of choreographic analysis as a methodology to study political solidarity. Rather than define solidarity as a concept or specific set of practices, I examine what we can learn about its meaning through a case study in which a solidarity strike by non-unionised picketers became the means for workers to strike at all.

Keywords: choreographic analysis; dance studies; labour struggles; social movements; historical materialism; solidarity.

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Biography: Olive Mckeon is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is writing a dissertation on historical materialism as a dance historical methodology.

Image Credit:
Port Shutdown (12 December 2011), © Andrew Kenower

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