By Otto Ridad
This statement was written by a supporter who has worked closely with Defend Boyle Heights, Serve the People – Los Angeles and 1917, and supports the countrywide Maoist movement.
Over a month ago, the anarchist-hipster bloggers Ediciones Inéditos published a defense, written anonymously on some tumblr blog, of the OVAS who were expelled from the anti-gentrification organization Defend Boyle Heights (DBH) for being wreckers and identity opportunists. While revolutionary organizations are open to principled criticism, this piece is not that. It is libel.
The author(s) carries on the artsy postmodernist anarchist-who-don’t-like-being-called-anarchist tradition of their predecessors of the short-lived L.A. Onda and even shorter-lived Lucha No Feik: two similar Los Angeles-based anarchist blog projects widely read by dozens of nihilistic art school dropouts anarcho-hipsters.
Throughout the entire blog post, the author(s) fails to provide any evidence for claims and accusations that will be addressed below. The blog post does a terrible job at examining and breaking down different concepts, and defends the OVAS uncritically. With that being said, it is necessary to clarify several points.
The author states that “information is conveniently being left out” and that Red Guards -Los Angeles (RGLA) and its “front group” Serve the People – Los Angeles (STP-LA) were banned from La Conxa for “predatory macktivist behavior and recruitment tactics.”
There are several things to break down here.
For one, RGLA was not “banned” because they are an embryonic “pre-” Communist Party organization whose membership is not disclosed to the public. While a series entitled “Unlearning Patriarchy” had been hosted at La Conxa during 2017, this was led by RGLA supporters and not its members. Again, Maoists do not shy away from criticism, and in earlier years members of RGLA had to rectify patriarchal behaviors which can be read about in Red Guards Austin’s piece, “We Will Not Integrate Into A Burning House.”
As a witness all I can offer is what I saw. Or more importantly what I didn’t see: that is, patriarchal (or women oppression) abuse or “predatory macktivist behavior.” Now, there is no such thing as an organization free from bad practices and even worse, but anytime someone wants to make a claim that a specific organization is guilty of a specific practice, the accuser has an obligation to 1. at least be clear and 2. offer some goddamn proof. Otherwise it’s just repeating things for the sake of repeating them. But this is how opportunists like the OVAS work. They throw out accusations; passive-aggressively deflect when questioned. But STP-LA members were told the history of RGLA’s bad incorrect gender practice through the “Unlearning Patriarchy” series. STP-LA used the series as a way to develop new comrades, prevent these anti-women manifestations especially among men and nip them in the bud. I attended all the series and not once did anyone say they were with or supported Ediciones Inéditos, so I am assuming the author(s) weren’t there, and if they were, and if they saw this “predatory macktivist behavior and recruitment tactics” why didn’t they say anything right then and there?
So where does this claim of being predators and macktivists come from?
It’s necessary to point out that the whole blog post that our artsy-anarchist author(s), who have read way too much Invisible Committee, drones on about is unsubstantiated and basically just parroting what the OVAS in their desperate dying throes of relevancy cling to. “STP-LA and RGLA are patriarchal because they’re patriarchal!”
To call this circular logic would be an understatement. Our anarcho-blogger is a parrot for the OVAS, just like the rest of the macho-ass pork chop (reactionary cultural nationalists) Mexica Tiahui men in camouflage cargo pants who hang out at La Conxa.
The primary reason for the banning of STP-LA from La Conxa was a result of hostility and antagonisms from OVA founder and leader-who-doesn’t-like-to-be-called-leader Xela. She was being emotionally abusive to a member of STP-LA through what is called “gas lighting” (psychological manipulation), making verbal threats when sober and inebriated, stealing personal belongings, looking through his computer, and more. Aside from this, the OVAS, but especially Xela, made claims that the men of STP-LA were being “patriarchal”, yet providing no basis for such claims. In fact, their definitions were loosely based and derived from identity politics, essentially positing men as being inherently “patriarchal” simply for being men.
One key example, as shared with me, was during the months of internal struggle within DBH prior to the expulsion of the OVAS. At this time, the organizations that made up the former-coalition would use La Conxa as a meeting space. One of the first hostilities expressed by the OVAS (and was unsubstantiated) was that the organizations, but especially STP-LA, were not contributing enough to maintaining the space and that this had do to with taking advantage of the “labor of brown women.” However, this was never the case. The primary issue was the OVAS hostility to STP-LA’s Communist politics. Regardless, STP-LA followed through with the request of assisting more at OVA events, far more than any of the other organizations within DBH. STP-LA would help set up on several occasions and comrades from 1917 also provided security as well. STP-LA would clean. They initiated a dues system to help alleviate the burden of paying rent and having to print shirts and sell them, a constant source of stress for the OVAS.
But they conveniently neglected to touch upon this. They have been and continue to be deflecting opportunists. They cannot handle looking at themselves in the mirror, truly seeing their errors, political and even practical ones, and changing them. No, they’re too scared to reflect on the fact that their entire politics and the practice that it springs from is garbage that has led to their constant burn-out, to their revolving-door of ever-shrinking membership. Not only do activists smell this rank rotting politics but so too do the masses, who are largely absent from the events at La Conxa. Sadly,they don’t put out more than a handful of chairs otherwise it makes the place look really empty with all the unused seats!
Maoists know the internal drives development in all things, in all matter. Meaning, the internal workings of an organization are generally the most important thing, in particular their politics. Instead of reflecting as to why people weren’t showing up, they claimed that their labor was being taken advantage of. Instead of asking why isn’t anyone coming to the yoga class, to the postmodernist open mic, to the Reiki massage, or to the bizarre “patricide” thing (try explaining that one to the working-class immigrant masses, which obviously includes fathers, next door, which THEY NEVER BOTHERED TO ORGANIZE).
To this day, it has never been clarified how STP-LA was “patriarchal.” In fact many STP-LA supporters and a few OVAS were present during some of the last “Unlearning Patriarchy” sessions and were working towards building a women’s defense organization considering the upsurge in sexual assaults in Boyle Heights during the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018. It would have made sense to address criticisms and accusations of “patriarchy” then and there, but instead there were conversations on theory, structure, and tactics and what appeared to be a strengthening of principled unity. Both organizations acted in good faith with one another at that point in time. In fact, all OVAS present agreed with the political development of this project without objections! It wasn’t until the “anti-leader” leader of the OVAS, Xela, brought down the authoritarian hammer when she realized that even the OVAS were finding themselves agreeing with Marxist political lines in those meetings.
The next point the author(s) states is that one of the reasons why the OVAS were kicked out was for identity opportunism, which is correct, but they fail at explaining what this actually is. They claim that being against identity politics is a “tenet of Maoist ideology” and that “identity politics” is seen as a non-politics since it does not build-up to their desired unified Maoist party line.” But what really is identity politics? Does having a class analysis mean that you actively ignore identity? What are some of the distinctions between the two outlooks? For one, a class analysis is not merely chosen, but is fundamental and necessary in understanding capitalism, but more importantly, how to destroy it. The emergence of the capitalist mode of production led to the creation of two major classes that remain in an extremely antagonistic relationship to one another, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In a nutshell, the former produces commodities for the latter, and the latter accumulates surplus value and further concentrates its wealth in its own hands. Because of the working classes oppressive conditions and alienation from its own labor, its concentration in production, its size as a class, and discipline (overall its relation to production), it is the only class capable of leading the destruction of the parasitic capitalist mode of production. Without this basic understanding, the lines of who can and how to destroy capitalism become blurred.
So the question remains: why a rejection of identity politics? While the Marxist understanding of contradiction teaches that there are principal and secondary contradictions, identity politics flattens out the distinctions and equalizes them. This gives the appearance of a leveled playing field and allows one to merely choose where they want to struggle without understanding the root cause of something, such as capitalism, and how this can extend itself into other realms. At worst, it positions social class as an identity, as some of the postmodernists would want to have you believe. This has been the response to the chauvinism of some orthodox Marxists in the past, or even present-day revisionists, which makes these postmodernists super reactive, and even reactionary, by throwing out a class analysis entirely by saying there needs to be a higher focus on gender, ability, size, privilege, skin shade, etc., but it is all political underdevelopment and moralism for trying not to feel so bad. Like a Catholic praying Hail Mary or Our Father prayers as penance after confession, the postmodernist is the weird atheistic version of this, by checking their privilege in meetings or before a speech, like acknowledging this is Native land (a crowd favorite – our author(s) do this by boldly proclaiming that Los Angeles is Tongva territory! Oh, thank you! That’ll teach those silly settlers!), it is nothing but performance, and when you ask them what the solution to these obvious injustices that create these very materially-real privileges for some over others, they will either be honest or they will deflect and tell you to stay in your lane or to pay them – Venmo me, PayPal link in bio! – like a good little capitalist that they have resorted in being. The point is that class is not an identity, it is a social relation to the means of production and how commodities are made – that is what determines your social relations, it influences everything in society, in all societies on earth, even semi-feudal societies.
Marxism teaches us that there are two steps in the process of gaining knowledge, starting from perceptual knowledge to rational or logical knowledge. Identity politics is stuck in the perceptual knowledge stage where it is observations of contradictions and relations to external things but it doesn’t grasp the development of things, of these identities – or as Mao says about what logical knowledge is “the totality, the essence and the internal relations of things and discloses the inner contradictions in the surrounding world.” Marxism allows us to see the deeper essence of things, that a Chicano, Black, or Indigenous person is brought on by the national oppression by U.S. imperialism, and the reaction of the colonized and nationally-oppressed person is to resist – another fundamental Marxist law, oppression breeds resistance – and in resisting at first they may take on a worldview of only seeing oppression against their nation, but maybe not of the proletariat within the nation. However, this can be developed with a Marxist outlook since it can lead a revolution against the thing that drives colonization and national oppression, imperialism, because imperialism after all is the last stage of capitalism, a system based on the exploitation of the working class by the capitalist class.
Without understanding the root, we will assume that we are attacking the head when we are only fighting the arm. As Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party once noted, racism is a byproduct of capitalism. He understood that solely combating racism and solely organizing around race did not do away with the exploitative system in place. This is why the Panthers often clashed with pork chop cultural nationalists who were all talk when it came to who was Blacker than who, yet promoted capitalism. Today these lessons still ring true. We do not need more Black owned banks, trans politicians, or women cops and ICE agents. We must do away with the capitalist system itself.
The author claims that “identity opportunists” are those who they conceive as using their identity as a way to push an agenda other than Maoism. A topsy-turvy inversion of the notion of identity as a site of varied oppressions.”
But our author, as is their style, doesn’t understand the words they are using, evidently. Identity opportunism is made up of two things: identity and opportunism. An opportunist is someone who lacks firm principles and takes actions or pushes a certain ideological line when it is convenient for them. Identity is used here as the identity of a particular group, often an oppressed or marginalized group. That in and of itself is not bad or wrong, but where these opportunists take it is to a whole other level by making a politics of identity. Identity politics. As the now-concluded Red Guards Austin, the annihilators of identity opportunism, say of identity politics: “As we use it here, the term “identity politics” refers to a method for analyzing the world that puts identity as principal over political line.
An example of an identity opportunist: Someone can say they are anti-police, but can later push for reformist tactics such as trying to reconcile the masses with the police. When confronted, they will say that you cannot criticize them because of their identity whether it is race, gender, etc. While brief, this example highlights that while the line of collaborating with the police is reactionary, people will hold these incorrect positions and deflect by claiming that you are targeting them because of their identity rather than their political line.
So is someone an identity opportunist just because they do not agree with Maoism? No. But is someone an identity opportunist because a Maoist “conceives” them to be using their identity to push a line other than Maoism? At the end of the day, there is no “conceiving.” There is only one or the other, actively using your identity to deflect or not. (For more on the subject of identity politics and identity opportunism, I highly recommend RGA’s “On Identity Opportunism,” where the above quote came from.)
A case in point. The OVAS were never considered identity opportunists for organizing women. In fact there are comrades across the country in revolutionary women’s organizations such as the Popular Women’s Movement-Movimiento Feminino Popular in Austin, Texas, and the Women’s Militant Front in Charlotte, North Carolina. Why the OVAS are called identity opportunists is due to their use of identity to deflect from criticisms and push incorrect ideas. One of the worst examples, as noted in the DBH piece “The Reconstitution of Defend Boyle Heights,” was when Xela “criticized” a comrade for “Columbusing” simply because they were not from Boyle Heights. Funny enough, this comrade was from Puerto Rico, the oppressed nation-colony of the Taínos, the first to be colonized by Columbus, and still under the imperialist domination of the U.S., not that it matters where the comrade is from primarily, but the irony was ridiculous. The error is shown in her attack on this comrade and his identity instead of his politics rather than having principled disagreements over political line. The OVAS politics are contrary to anarchist politics considering that during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s, many people from across the world gave their lives to fight the fascists in the International Brigades. That is because the OVAS aren’t really anarchists, but instead postmodernists concealing themselves under a black flag and revealing themselves essentially in being petty cultural pork chops. (For more examples of identity opportunism within the anti-gentrification and Maoist movements, I recommend “Out of the DJ Booths, Into the Streets” by DBH and Defend Our Hoodz-Austin, and “Opportunism vs. Maoism” signed by the Red Guard collectives and other Maoist collectives).
Our author(s) also claims that “predatory recruitment by overt vanguardist organizations” were used. Another blatant lie with zero proof. But first lets breakdown what the author means by “predatory recruitment tactics” since they offer, again, no explanation, or provide examples. Any organization can use such tactics and is in no way a characteristic of “vanguardist” organizations. Anarchist collectives, non-profits, and so forth. An example of predatory recruiting, we are left to assume since the edgy author(s) don’t tell us what it means, could mean an organization actively targeting young women and girls for the sake of the gratification of an individual or individuals. This has never been the case with STP-LA.
If that was the case, the organization would cease to be Maoist and instead of being disciplined, it would become full of individualistic, hedonistic, misogynistic members who lack collective unity and principles. This organization would not practice rectification let alone the need of criticism and self-criticism and instead pursue personal interests by any means. So which is it? Are Maoists “authoritarians” who have too strict of a discipline or “autonomous” self-fulfilling individuals free from the confines of criticism? Pick one and stay consistent.
While the author(s) does however mentions that “predatory recruitment tactics” are “vanguardist” tactics without explaining how, they also go on to mention that “vanguardist entities” are those “which position themselves as the higher authority or specialized professionals in the liberatory movements of oppressed people- the saviors, gatekeepers, proselytizers and managers reproduced in resistance movements.” Once again, the author throws around edgy-sounding words and concepts without fully understanding them and without providing examples.
A vanguard is not merely a group who thinks that they are the “higher authority” or know it all, but instead is an organization led by the most ideologically advanced, led by those who have a thorough understanding of our society, of what it takes to destroy capitalism and build a new future, of mobilizing the masses to their fullest capacities, of creating a tight nit organization which can withstand the blows of repression and lead the masses to victory. And we are speaking only in the Marxist sense of the communist vanguard meaning the most advanced proletarians and the Communists who will lead the revolution against capitalism. Anyone can disagree with this theoretically. That’s fine. But at the very least the author(s) should know the words which he is typing out instead of parroting them from the anti-communist handbook assigned to him in college. Rather than positioning oneself as better, Communists acknowledge that we must elevate the class consciousness of the workers, and this will not happen spontaneously, otherwise capitalism would no longer exist at this moment! (For more on what a vanguard actually is, I recommend the book “What Is To be Done” by Lenin, especially Chapter 2).
Unfortunately, the author continues:
“We oppose predatory behavior and macktivism for the purposes of recruitment, gaining information and access to space and communities, resulting in collectives and spaces feeling infiltrated. Infiltration is not just an overt act from state agents, but tactics used to gain and manipulate information, access and people, by those convinced their own goals outweigh the dynamics it takes to get there (their ends justify their means).” As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Maoist organizations that exist such as STP-LA do not practice macktivism or predatory behavior and if individual members ever did so they would be isolated. But our author(s) isn’t really concerned with pesky truth and evidence. They are being vague because deep down they know things don’t add up – aren’t abusers supposed to be isolated? Mactivists too, right? So, then, who is the macktivist in STP-LA? Was it Xela’s ex? With whom she lived with for years? Was he mactivising her by living with her or something? Is that how it works? No, our author makes no explanation because … IT NEVER HAPPENED. However, an interesting claim of the author is that collectives can “feel” infiltrated. At the end of the day, there is no feeling on this matter. There must be investigation and the conclusion must be that there either is infiltration or there is not. It is not a matter of “feeling.” If it was a matter of feeling, there would not be defining characteristics of what infiltration is, and could easily include a wide array of things based on ones subjective feelings and understanding of what infiltration is to them. This makes a mockery out of state infiltration and infiltration by wreckers and abusive opportunists who seek to destroy organizations and manipulate people for their own ends.
The author(s) fails to provide any examples to back up this claim. I know some context behind STP-LA and the OVAS “community space” LA Conxa. STP-LA had borrowed La Conxa several times in good faith. They never overburdened them with trying to use it all the time, with leaving it dirty, with taking resources and not putting them back, etc. There was always donations made by members and supporters whenever there were internal meetings or open events. It was also asked of all the organizations within DBH at the time to at least host two events each month to help the OVAS maintain the space. So there was no “infiltrating” to take advantage of the space or the collective. While I make no claims of “infiltration” of the OVAS (which would be snitch jacketing), the same good faith was not reciprocated. In fact, Xela was snooping through her former partners’ laptop (the presumed macktivist!?) which is one of the reasons why Xela was criticized in DBH, and from there on out commenced months of internal struggle. Heck, there was even a sit down between Xela, her partner at the time and third parties to try to rectify her destructive behavior, but alas it was pointless.
One might ask if this was just an individual within the organization, why not isolate that one individual. Well, Maoists practice criticism and self-criticism, and we know that people can rectify certain behaviors or actions – but it must be done in a collective setting. There is no criticism or self-criticism or rectification that occurs individually. An organization must be in charge of this process. So, this was attempted in good faith with Xela, but she responded antagonistically, being an identity opportunist and deflecting from criticisms. The reason the entire collective was expelled was because they uncritically backed her up even after evidence was provided to them through email AND in person in internal DBH meetings. Unlike the OVAS, membership of Maoist organizations (including leadership) are not exempt from criticisms, demotion, recall, or potential expulsion. While the OVAS have often (as does this anarchist blog) directed accusations of “authoritarianism” at STP-LA because of its Communist politics (which Communists are proud of having authority over enemies of the people like capitalists), the OVAS somehow adhere to Xela’s leadership dogmatically, never questioning or criticizing her and only accepting her line based of friendship and not politics and investigation. Not only does this expose their liberalism (read “Combat Liberalism” by Chairman Mao), but it shows something more important, that leadership will exist within all organizations, no matter how much one tries to distance themselves from this “authoritarian” concept of leadership. The difference is how it is handled. Leadership can be acknowledged and it can guide an organization. It can be criticized, etc. Or it can be leadership by default which claims that its role does not exist, which does not practice criticism and self-criticism, yet makes all the decisions in an organization based off of that individual and their social clout – or manipulation skills – rather than the collective interest and a shared political line. Xela is an example of the latter. So much for being “anti-authoritarian.”
To conclude, the author(s) makes an appraisal of autonomy yet hardly describes its characteristics or provide examples (the common theme throughout this, this thing, this… metaphysical long-prose petty and pointless document…), as it failed to do so with “left authoriatarianism.” It said: “Ideological divisions exist and have been amplified as the OVAS/Psyco Brigade has developed their commitment to collective autonomy and revolution which leans more toward autonomy, self-organization and a flattening of hierarchies.” Apparently there is no “flattening of hierarchies” within the OVAS considering that anything Xela says goes. And once again, there is no concrete example of what “collective autonomy” or “self-organization” is. There is no plan that the OVAS have in destroying the state (or will they destroy the state through yoga classes, Reiki massages and open mics?).
At the end of they day they are all talk – identity opportunists dressed in black. The ideology of the OVAS, in the absence of a cohesive political thought, is an eclectic metaphysical mix of postmodernism, bourgeois radical-sounding feminism, and cultural nationalism – they have nothing but identities to rally around. It must be concluded after reading this blog entry that the author is angry with the lack of attention their blog gets, that not enough props are given for their hipster-esque graphic design aesthetic; he is writing for the sake of approval of the lefty niche self-congratulatory-while-simultaneously-self-flagellating LA scene.
For anyone who has encountered or worked with Xela and the OVAS, I urge you all to share your stories and reaffirm the line of isolating the OVAS. Investigate and don’t merely accept positions as truth solely because of identity! You are not being a “good male ally” by doing so. You are not being revolutionary by merely repeating anything anyone, even women, say. At best, it is silly. At worst, it is actually patronizing. Do not attend their events. Do not book them for events. Let people know of their antagonistic behaviors and actions. But more importantly, get involved and start organizing and building towards revolution! Stand firmly against identity opportunists and wreckers! And for Chairman Mao’s sake, if you catch the author(s) of this trite blog entry or Ediciones Inéditos, who are most probably aka that one person from L.A. Onda, AKA Lucha No Feik, tell them to put away the Invisible Committee books for crying out loud, Ain’t nobody got time to read that shit!