Powder Keg: The Migrant Caravan

At the time we are writing this, the majority of the most recent Central American migrant caravan has settled around the US-Mexico border. The group numbers over 7,000 people, many of whom are families. Some of the migrants in the group have decided to stay at shelters in Tijuana while they apply for asylum. Others, most likely discouraged and desponded by the the conditions at the shelters and the sheer inhumanity of the Mexican and US governments, have chosen to either go home or settle elsewhere in Mexico & Central America. But many other migrants – furious, daring, and united  by the hundreds – have attempted to cross the border.

This attempt to cross the border was met with international attention, particularly because of the outright brutality Customs & Border Protection (CBP) displayed against these brave migrants. Pictures of toddlers sprayed with tear gas and screaming in anguish have become famous. on the Internet. We have heard accounts of the migrants (victims of colonization and imperialism) courageously throwing rocks  at the heavily armed front guard of American imperialism, Border Patrol. Although revolutionary news services like Incendiary News have written on these border skirmishes, coverage  has largely been dominated by bourgeois media, politicians, and reformists.

With the exception of certain progressive articles and exposés, bourgeois media has mostly refused to take a stance or provide a real analysis of the caravan. News organizations have settled for more or less publicizing that a migrant caravan does, in fact, exist. Media corporations will point out the obvious – that the migrant caravan is made up of, you guessed it, human beings! – use these human beings for photo ops and clickbait fodder while offering them no actual support, and then pat themselves on the back for their groundbreaking and innovative journalism. Meanwhile, bourgeois politicians in the Democratic Party are opportunistically using the tear gas attacks on families and children to pretend that they care about immigrants and attack their rhetorical rivals (but ideological twins) in the GOP. Of course, they conveniently ignore that it was their own Deporter in Chief who expanded the budget for immigration enforcement by over 300%, more than doubled the number of people being federally prosecuted for re-entry in just two years, and oversaw more deportations than any other president. And the liberal reformists, who pretend to care so desperately for the migrants and their plight, have done little more than wring their hands, pander to bourgeois laws on seeking asylum, and march performatively. (We have it on good word from comrades on the ground that while migrants and their allies on the Mexico side of the border were militantly facing down the fascist Border Patrol and doused with tear gas, activists on the San Diego side spent at most twenty minutes near the border checkpoint).

None of these groups will help the migrants. Bourgeois media, politicians, and reformists all ultimately serve the bourgeoisie and capitalism. And it is capitalism which created the migrant caravan in the first place. As much as liberals would want you to believe that immigrants are running to America in pursuit of “liberty” and “justice”, nothing could be further from the truth. These people did not leave behind their homes, their families, their friends, and their lives because they wanted to come to America. They did so because they had to leave. They were forced to flee because of the conditions created by capitalism, but principally imperialism, which is the highest stage of capitalism.

As we will discuss in this paper, forced migration is principally a problem of capitalist-imperialism. The only way to resolve both the involuntary migration of oppressed masses and end their brutalization and exploitation is to destroy capitalist-imperialism. Because Serve the People Los Angeles (STPLA) is a revolutionary mass organization which places Maoist politics in command, we are fully committed to the destruction of capitalism and the liberation of all oppressed peoples of the world. We also know that capitalism will not fall of its own accord. Chinese revolutionary, Chairman Mao Zedong teaches us that everything reactionary is the same. It will not fall unless you hit it.

History has shown us that the way in which we hit is very important. We cannot strike blows in any which direction and at random. Nor can we strike once and see our enemy fall permanently. No single hit can be that strong. To see our enemies fall, we must tirelessly hit them from every angle as hard as we can. Like all successful wars, our war against capitalism will be protracted, meaning it will take place over a period of time. It will also be a people’s war, meaning the oppressed masses will make up the army, that this army will fight for the interests of the oppressed masses, and that it will carry out the mass line, which we will expand on later in this paper.

Since STPLA works primarily with the immigrant masses of Los Angeles and is, at the moment, based in Boyle Heights, most of the masses we work with are from Latin America and many are undocumented. So we have much to gain from analyzing the migrant caravan and linking it with mass work aimed at revolution.

It is important to say that we applaud and deeply admire the fearlessness and militancy of the most recent migrant caravan, as well as the fearlessness and dedication of all migrant caravans! Even unorganized, the masses are endlessly courageous and a force to be reckoned with. It is our job and the job of all other revolutionary organizations to organize them to their full potential, to guide them in smashing capitalism and oppression on Earth.


UNDERSTANDING THE CARAVAN

The most recent migrant caravan has received the most attention of any migrant caravan this year. This migrant caravan is not the first of its kind but it is perhaps the biggest caravan yet. This is particularly important for two reasons. First, this migrant caravan was not organized by NGOs or nonprofits but by the migrants themselves. Volunteers with Pueblo Sin Fronteras – a progressive organization which organizes caravans and provides them with logistic and legal support – have called this caravan an exodus, citing the desperate conditions in Central America (particularly Honduras, where the caravan began) as pushing an unprecedented amount of migrants to not only brave the journey to the US, but to organize themselves. These masses firmly grasp the necessity of unity in making what was once impossible, possible. They have organized an unprecedented amount of people to defend each other against common enemies. This is deeply commendable and speaks to the heroism, creativity, and ingenuity of the masses.

Second, the size of this caravan is most likely not an anomaly but represents a growing trend. The objective conditions of the migrants in the caravan have worsened significantly over time and they will continue to worsen as capitalism decays and imperialist plunder worsen. It is much more likely than not that we will see similarly sized if not larger caravans in the near future. The Mexican revolutionary communist organization Corriente del Pueblo Sol Rojo explains thoroughly how capitalism has always relied on forced migration here. They state:

In reality, from a scientific and historic position, capitalism arose precisely from the emigration of the labor force available for the accumulation of capital, something which the xenophobes easily forget. Since capitalism has existed, emigration has never stopped flowing. Migration always has been and is a constant in capitalism, the most brutal form of the mobility of the waged workforce.

Capitalism could not exist without the destruction of the commons and the ruling classes seizing land from the peasants. It was only when the peasants (producers and farmers) were separated from their means of production (the land) that they could proletarianize, meaning that they no longer worked to sustain themselves but to enrich capitalists). Since most people no longer had access to land that they could use to feed themselves, they had to work for a wage that they could use to survive. To do so, they had to find a capitalist to employ them. But not only is capitalism, by its very definition, unstable, it requires that there are more workers than jobs so that workers, competing for jobs, can be paid as cheaply as possible. When the supply of a product exceeds its demand, its prices will invariably become lower. If there are more workers than are needed by capitalists, their labor will essentially be sold for less.

So a surplus population of workers who cannot find work will always emerge. We have seen that this happen rapidly in countries that are developing capitalism, where peasants are violently pushed off of their land and forced to labor for a wage. They must migrate to wherever they can find wages in order to survive. Countries developing capitalism (most of which are former colonies) contain the vast majority of the people on Earth and have large surplus populations.

This means that forced migration is inevitable. As long as capitalism exists, migrant caravans will exist. This is an objective fact that helps us better understand the exodus of migrants from Central America. However, we must also understand that these migrants are oppressed by a specific type of capitalism, which is imperialism. Imperialism hyper-exploits workers in third-world countries and depletes these countries of their natural resources. Since the 1800s, US imperialism has plundered the countries of Latin America and oppressed the masses of people within these countries.

1. Imperialism & Forced Migration in Central America

Through mass organizing primarily in Latin American communities, we have seen that working-class and undocumented immigrants have an advanced understanding of US imperialism. Many of the masses we work with understand clearly how imperialism oppresses their native countries. Many of the tenants at Pleasant Avenue specifically spoke at length about how countries in Latin America were poor because of colonization and US imperialism. They understood clearly how US imperialism operated. This is because they have directly experienced imperialism and many of them came to the United States to flee its effects.

The same is true for refugees pushed out of their respective countries in Central America, mostly Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. US imperialism has devastated whole countries through imperialist economic policies and general economic plunder. These policies have flooded oppressed markets with US goods, enforced stagnating wages, crippled social services, and unleashed nearly unregulated free-trade policies. There are entire tax-free industries and there is virtually no recognition of minimum wage and labor rights. The US acts as if it has total dominion over these oppressed countries, so much so that it will unseat or murder any politician who poses even a minimal threat to their domination. Zelaya, the former Honduran left-of-center president was unseated by US-backed coup because of the far-left radical reforms he introduced, reforms as far-reaching and anti-US as…providing free education for children & subsidies to small farmers. US imperialism is so hyper-exploitative that it mistakes reformists for revolutionaries. (Interestingly enough, Zelaya’s removal & the fraudulent installation of conservative candidates contributed immensely to the mass exodus of Hondurans.)

Because of this hyper-exploitation, the masses in these countries are quite literally pushed to the margins. They represent the decrepit, closing-circle nature of imperialism popularized in the saying “The chickens have come home to roost.” Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism. It cannot go any further. The US capitalists have off-shored and outsourced large percentages of industries that, instead of raising up living standards and wages in third world countries, have secured them like contemporary colonies. If an oppressed nation isn’t ravaged by war, it is ravaged by imperialist plunder and capitalist crises. The working people of the US also feel the effects of imperialism. This is evident in the mass layoffs of workers due to companies outsourcing to countries with cheaper labor. The economic crisis of imperialism are actually choking the US and benefit only the richest of the US capitalists. In the long run, imperialism does not benefit the masses and, in fact, the masses have a vested interested in smashing imperialism.

The migrant caravan is a visible representation of what US imperialist plunder and domination looks like for the masses of Latin America. The majority of the migrant caravan comes from the oppressed and exploited classes of Central America: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. (Although we haven’t heard much about Nicaraguan immigrants, it can be assumed that they too have been represented in caravans due to the crackdown of the revisionist Ortega regime on popular uprisings in Nicaragua).

The Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin wrote that revolutions happen when the people and the capitalists can no longer go on living the way they had been. We can see this clearly with the Central American masses. It isn’t only the thousands of people in caravans who can no longer live as they have been living; it is also the millions of Central Americans left behind. They have been pushed to change their material conditions. Whether this is through an upsurge is popular uprisings at home or the organization of the largest migrant caravan to the United States, the Central American masses refuse to live as they had been.

In the absence of revolutionary leadership organizes the masses to overthrow all that oppresses them through revolution, many Central Americans can only attempt to escape the misery and oppression they face. Nonetheless, there is a strong and deep-rooted progressive character within the Central American masses who have witnessed and often even fought in People’s Wars waged for national liberation and socialism. The oppressed people of Central America have tasted revolution, even if the trauma of this revolution and the betrayal of the revisionists have left a lingering bitter taste in their mouth. They know the future that awaits us and have much to teach us.

But they are rarely seen as teachers. With imperialism and colonization comes national chauvinism, which has particularly been hurled against Central American migrants. While imperialism pushes migrants out of their countries, national chauvinism justifies the brutality they face when fleeing to other countries.

2. National Chauvinism & the Brutalization of Migrants

National chauvinism has reared its ugly head on both the Mexican and US sides of the border. Mexicans in Tijuana especially have taken to social media in ridiculing the migrant caravan, hurling racial attacks on the Central American masses. A video of a Honduran woman complaining about food has been treated as if it is an unforgivable national offense (but who cares if she doesn’t like beans – there are thousands of Chicanos who also don’t like beans!). Salvadoran masses have been called and treated as if they are MS-13 gang members, a racist generalization which mirrors Trump’s own racist attacks on Mexicans and the “bad hombres” he wants to deport. There are many more instances like these.

But the most disgusting and offensive sector of Mexicans in Tijuana came in the form of Nazi Mexicans marching on the streets. Just as Nazis in America wave American flags and demand that Mexicans leave, Mexicans waved Mexican flags and demanded Central Americans leave. The fact that the reactionary elements of the Mexican masses felt emboldened enough to march openly in the streets and that no reports (that we are aware of) have been made of Mexican Communists or the masses attacking these Nazis, is deeply troubling.

Chauvinism and white supremacy on the US side of the border are expected. The crimes of the fascist law enforcement, especially Border Patrol and ICE  been recorded by news sites such as The Guardian and Incendiary News. Because CBP are offered greater leeway than even local US police (who routinely get away with murdering black and brown children), the US border has become a testing ground for barbaric and sadistic crimes against the people.

Civilian fascists have been even more emboldened in recent years. They openly march in the streets (though the cowards are almost always protected by their pig friends) and repeat racist lies about “illegals” and crime and white genocide. They also routinely commit hate crimes, ranging from assaults to murders to racially motivated mass shootings and have special squads like the Oath Keepers that exist specifically patrol borders. Fascist politicians and commentators have defended even the tear gassing of children.

Of course, solidarity has also been shown on both sides of the border, particularly the Mexico side. Throughout the caravan’s journey, working class Mexicans have overwhelmingly and selflessly provided food, water, clothing, and other forms of support to the migrants.Meanwhile, affluent Mexicans have been spearheading racist attacks against migrants. (In instances like this, we see that the idea that working-class people are more likely to be xenophobic or racist is demonstrably false)

Similarly, progressive sectors of the masses in the US have spent significant time and effort collecting and delivering supplies. Immigrants and non-immigrants alike, including comrades of ours, have traveled to Tijuana to stand side by side with the migrants facing down CBP. Many have been tear-gassed as well.

It is important to understand that national chauvinism is an integral aspect of capitalism and it is aggravated when capitalism is in crisis. It is used by capitalists to justify the most heinous of crimes committed against the most vulnerable of the nationally oppressed masses. To combat national chauvinism, we must differentiate between chauvinism amongst the people that can be combatted non-antagonistically and chauvinism which is anti-people and must be combatted with revolutionary violence. We must organize the masses around the basis of class, reinforcing militant anti-racism. In the United States, race has historically been used to divide the working-class and misdirect their anger. For example, tenants we have worked with have made racist comments about Asians. This was immediately corrected and the tenants united with the correction, understanding that no one should be attacked on the basis of race but on the role they play in exploitation.

We cannot use the same approach for racists and fascists who view nationally oppressed people as less than human. They are enemies of the people and must be treated as such. Anyone who believes that children deserve to be tear-gassed for being “illegal” deserves to feel the wrath of revolutionaries.

3. The Heroism of the Masses 

Stories spread by fascists about the migrants deserving to be tear-gassed because they “launched projectiles” against CBP are largely false and intensely exaggerated. However, the masses facing down CBP did defend themselves by hurling rocks at border patrol agents. They were not helpless and innocent victims without any agency. Lacking revolutionary leadership, lacking real weapons, lacking the numbers to match the border patrol agents – lacking all of this, the masses still refused to be beaten down. They held their heads high in defiance and fought back.

President Gonzalo of the Communist Party of Peru writes:

Since ancient times, the masses have been subjected to exploitation and oppression. They have always rebelled, it is a long and inexhaustible history

If the fascist commentators were correct and the migrant masses had thrown more than just rocks at the fascist border patrol agents who routinely terrorize, imprison, torture, and kill Central American migrants, we would fully support the masses. In fact, we would think even higher of them and praise their courage and resilience. It is correct to defend yourself and your people against reactionary enemies by any means necessary.

We are inspired by the masses who took part in the migrant caravan. The initiative they took in organizing the caravan, the unity that they showed with one another, their tireless resilience in marching forward, and the militancy of those who marched to the border checkpoint – all of this only reaffirms to us that the masses are the true heroes and that they are the makers of history. If they are capable of this much unorganized, what can they do when organized and united by revolutionary organizations? Without the masses, we are weak and can never win. But with the masses, we can shake the very earth. It is our duty to lead the masses, to transform them into soldiers for their class, capable of seizing power. The principal way to accomplish this goal is through mass work.

entre-las-unidades-quemadas-habia-1
One of the dozen reoccurring confrontations between day laborers, majority comprised of super-exploited migrants, and state police, San Quintin, May 9 2015

NECESSITY OF MASS WORK

In Los Angeles and its surrounding areas, the undocumented immigrant masses number over 1 million. In all of Serve the People’s work, they are the majority. They are the working-class tenants fighting against their landlords, the mothers and fathers fighting for public education, the students putting their bodies and futures at risk to fight law enforcement and ICE.

The majority of the undocumented immigrants in the US are part of the masses; they are of the oppressed and exploited classes and sectors of Latin America, pushed over into the US. They share much in common with the migrants attempting to cross the border right now because they too are victims of imperialism.

However, not all undocumented immigrants are working-class or small petite-bourgeoisie. Some are affluent and some are even reactionary Trump supporters. These would constitute the backwards of the masses because, despite their backwards ideas, they are still oppressed by US imperialism and have a material interest in revolution. (Of course, the reactionary and fascistic elements of these backwards masses must be isolated.)

Our analysis of the migrant caravans shows that both forced migration and the brutalization of migrants (and undocumented immigrants) arise principally from capitalism-imperialism. So we must address the issue at its root. If we attempt to provide scattered and unorganized on-the-ground support every time a migrant caravan arrives and leave it at that, we will fail to protect the migrants every single time because it is much easier for the US government to heavily arm and fortify the border than it is for us to mobilize the massive amounts of people it would take to rush and overwhelm the border. Also, non-strategic and spontaneous on-the-ground support do not solve the root problem of capitalism.

We believe that the only way to resolve the linked oppression of undocumented immigrants and migrants is through the destruction of capitalism. The only way to destroy capitalism is through a revolution or a Protracted People’s War. The only army capable of waging and winning a Protracted People’s War is a People’s Army. And the only way to build up the People’s Army is through the Communist Party and the United Front. These are not the bogeymen that your history professors and the liberals and conservatives would have you believe. Historically, this is how revolutions are won. And the Party, the Army and the United Front use the mass-line method of leadership.

The mass line understands that the masses are segmented. There are advanced sectors of the masses, who must be brought up to be revolutionaries and soldiers, there are intermediate sectors of the masses, who must be brought up to the advanced, and there are backwards sectors, who must be brought up to the intermediate. As we have mentioned, within the backward, there are reactionary elements which must be isolated and seen as enemies of the people. For example, a working-class fascist might materially have the same interests as the basic masses but, because they are a fascist, they are a reactionary class traitor and, in fact, are an enemy of the people.

If we are patient and principled in transforming the masses, even the most backwards can be brought up and transformed into revolutionaries. We have already seen qualitative leaps with some of our mass members, who have developed more progressive ideas and expressed, repeatedly, the need for people to be brave and stand up for what is right. We cannot force our ideas upon the masses; we cannot command them to do what we want because that will ultimately result in failure. The mass line goes “from the masses, to the masses”. We do not solve the problems we think need to be solved but listen to the problems addressed to us by the masses. We must act in accordance to the objective needs of the masses, not to what we think are the needs of the masses. But our actions should be governed by our ideology and by our goal, which are revolution and the destruction of capitalism, the generator of all oppression. This means we cannot tail behind the masses, follow them for the sake of following them or do whatever they want to do. It’s paternalistic to not criticize the masses, to not challenge their ideas. They are not fragile and weak. They are strong and courageous!

Undocumented immigrants will not transform into soldiers against imperialism in one day. Like everything in life, transformation is a protracted process. What we must do is draw out the progressive elements in the masses by tirelessly fighting side-by-side with them, using the most revolutionary methods that they are ready for. If we prove that we are devoted, that our methods are correct, and that we will correct our inevitable mistakes through criticism and self-criticism, we will win them over. If they are won over, if they are being transformed into leaders, if we are arming them physically and ideologically, then they themselves will be the revolutionary force which fights oppression. They will compromise the base of the People’s Militias, under the leadership of the People’s Army.

Here in Los Angeles, we have seen a glimpse of how a revolutionary people’s army can look like with the Unidades de Defensa Populares Revolucionarias. It would be foolish to say that the UDPR is an actual People’s Army since we are not currently fighting a revolution and the UDPR doesn’t appear to be carrying out fully guerrilla or mobile warfare attacks. But we believe that we have read and heard enough to conclude that they are seriously engaged in the project of transforming the immigrant masses into soldiers. In their polemic against SB 946, they write about the ever-increasing bravery of the masses

With the guidance of the UDPR and with ever-increasing unity among themselves, the immigrant street vendor masses are learning to unleash the revolutionary potential of their hatred. The same vendors who used to sprint away from the pigs (trembling furiously, pulling heavy carts with boiling oil and children with tears running down their faces) now lead jeers against the pigs. More and more, they do not run away. They stand their ground. They scream at the pigs, openly shame the pigs and pull their carts back from the pigs by force. If their voices waver, it is with passion. If they cry, it is with fury.

The articles written by Incendiary News also show the rapid transformation of the street vendors. It seems that, in the matter of months, street vendors have gone from sprinting away from the pigs to standing their ground resolutely. Incendiary News reported that on the very same day a vendor was arrested by the pigs for confronting them, other street vendors bravely confronted the police and essentially pushed them out of  a city park.

If UDPR has seen such rapid transformation in months, we can only assume it is because they are correctly practicing mass line. As a revolutionary mass organization which also works with undocumented immigrants to organize them for revolution, we stand in full support of UDPR. We believe that their militant work, work that refuses to give an inch to the pigs and other enemies of the people, will illuminate the path forward to revolution and liberation.

WE CANNOT SMASH IMPERIALISM WITHOUT MASS WORK AIMED AT BUILDING A PEOPLE’S ARMY

We cannot talk about organizing the masses of undocumented immigrants without talking about revolutionary defense and offense. We cannot talk about mass work with anyone without talking about the concept of militarization. The undocumented immigrant masses should be violent against their oppressors – principally U.S. imperialism, secondarily the imperialist-aligned settler-colonialist citizenry and lastly against the most reactionary elements of the masses.

We see the U.S. armed attacks on the unarmed masses of immigrants, especially on women and children. Soldiers fired tear gas grenades and rubber bullets at the Central American masses because a minority was attempting to breach the border. At least one serious injury has been reported, initially the woman or young girl was said to have been killed but it has not been confirmed. Other reports state a mother was impaled in front of her children while climbing over the border fence.

While the immigrants are courageous, only strategically retreating but generally staying put, they have no defense. There’s a saying: without a People’s Army, the People have nothing. The masses of the Migrant Caravan are a powder keg. The only thing missing is the spark. The spark of the People’s Army guided by revolutionary leadership and mass support. The Migrant Caravan is severely suffering in the absence of revolutionary leadership that can convert their rage and aspirations into a militarized forces not only capable of coming head to head with the U.S. soldiers guarding the border but to win! The most important lesson here is that revolutionaries must always be with the masses. We must always be organizing and militarizing them and ourselves. We must be in constant preparation for armed conflict with the state and not lose sight of the coming revolution ahead of us.

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