“The masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding, it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge.” – Mao Zedong, “Preface and Postscript to Rural Surveys” (March and April 1941), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 12.
“The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you. The world belongs to you. China’s future belongs to you.” – Mao Zedong, “Talk at a meeting with Chinese students and trainees in Moscow” (November 17, 1957).
It’s good wherever there is struggle, wherever there is conflict, wherever there is confrontation. Because, ultimately, progress is made through struggle. One divides into two. Serve the People – Los Angeles (STPLA) organizes around this understanding, especially against gentrification.
Earlier today, Nov. 22, 2015, the youth of Boyle Heights protested the gentrifying hipsters of Hopscotch, a mobile alternative Los Angeles-based project of their parent company The Industry. The company is bringing opera to the masses, whether they want it or not.
Additionally, and more importantly, the company is bringing gentrifiers into Boyle Heights. The mobile opera performs throughout Los Angeles, with many stops at local historic centers and parks, including Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights.
What is the Hopscotch opera? Hopscotch tells the story of a Mexican immigrant woman, “Lucha,” who falls in love with a white American, “Jameson.” Jameson becomes obsessed with his scientific research at a jet propulsion lab. Lucha marries her best friend, Orlando. The rest of the story is of all characters reflecting on their lives. They pontificate on the complexities of the human condition, etc.
The Limousines drive around Los Angeles with performers and ticket-holders (with some tickets going for around $125). The limousines escort groups of people throughout Chinatown, Elysian Park, Boyle Heights and other places (most, if not all, places that have had or are currently facing gentrification). These poverty tourists temporarily invade our communities for the opera, but it’s through these projects that gentrifiers are convinced that they can settle in historically oppressed neighborhoods, that “Boyle Heights aint so bad. These brown people are nice, complacent.”
We first noticed Hopscotch invading the park in October. After seeing their exclusively white petite-bourgeois circus-like performance (complete with rollerskaters riding around with parasols, white paleteros banging on the paletero cart like a drum, and other sights of bourgeois absurdity), we spoke to the local park vendors, the families and other regular park visitors. There was a consensus of negative feedback about Hopscotch’s unwanted presence at the park. The vendors complained that they couldn’t understand what the singers were singing about. The vendors, much like the rest of the regulars at the park, are exclusively Spanish-only speakers. The vendors are predominately Mexican immigrant women. Several of the women complained about recent rent increases, about not being able to afford to pay rent and how Hopscotch Los Angeles and their supporters do not purchase anything from them.
After a confrontation, we urged Hopscotch to leave and never come back, that Boyle Heights is in the midst of a struggle against white petite-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie-led gentrification and all threats to our community’s wellbeing and culture are to be taken with extreme seriousness. We warned them that other community members may not be as nice as our organization, that their very wellbeing is at risk. To read more about our previous confrontation with the company, go here(http://servethepeoplela.org/post/130515728865/against-gentrification-against-bourgeois-art).
But instead of taking our advice, Hopscotch reappeared one following Sunday with security, Chicano security. The liberal/bourgeois response in solving the contradiction of ethnic representation. Never mind structural oppression; the capitalist state, or a company, just needs more people of color/oppressed nationalities. But we are not liberals; we are communists.
Little did they know but both security personnel have been politicized against gentrification, one of which was displaced by gentrification as a resident of Highland Park, a neighborhood in North East Los Angeles which has lost big chunks of its community to gentrification.
Earlier today, local community members saw Hopscotch’s performance and quickly began calling on other Boyle Heights residents to come out to Hollenbeck Park and confront the company. At approximately 3 p.m. we were preparing the grocery bags for the day’s distribution when we received notification that a protest had erupted at the park and that STPLA should join. We immediately sent out two STPLA members while most of us stayed behind to prepare the rest of the grocery bags.
We arrived at the park at approximately 3:45 p.m. Marching band students from Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights were leading the confrontation with their horn and percussion instruments against performers and the company’s production crew. Some people held signs that read, “Your art is displacing people of color “AntiGentrification.” The crew and their performers, instead of seeing the clear and obvious message to get out, played their instruments, pranced around and attempted to make light of the community’s voiced grievances. However, little by little, the students, STPLA and supporters forced out all of Hopscotch from the park. According to Hopscotch’s website and various sources, today was the company’s last performance at the park.
After Hopscotch left, the students thanked us for our work. But we said, “No, you are the heroes; You are the leaders, and we are your supporters.”
We gave out more than 40 bags of groceries, spoke with the vendors, students and dozens of other people at the park. The consensus remained unchanged: Hopscotch Los Angeles and their art, their performers, their supporters, their capital, are not welcomed in Boyle Heights. One anti-gentrification activist said the company doesn’t understand why they’re so hated. He told them everywhere people of color/oppressed nationalities have gone, it has been met with white capitalists attempting to “discover” our neighborhood, our culture, and ultimately to displace us. He went on to say, “As indigenous people, we have been fighting this for 500 years. It never ended.”
STPLA commits itself, publicly and perpetually, to the defense to Boyle Heights, to our community and other communities that are fighting against gentrification.
We spoke to the students about connecting anti-gentrification and other mass work to revolution. The only way to effectively fight against the bourgeoisie and the vacillating petite-bourgeoisie is through revolution, where groups, classes and individuals can unite against the capitalist state.
There are numerous lessons here, and we will revisit this experience repeatedly to aid us in bettering our work in serving the people, but two things stick out immediately: 1.) the masses already know who the enemies are; communists need to understand this or else they (we) will fall behind, 2.) the youth, ultimately, are going to be the ones that inherit and lead the anti-gentrification and revolutionary struggle.