Turn Tenants Into Working Class Soldiers! Summation on the People’s Committees at Pleasant Avenue

In Serve the People Los Angeles’s (STP-LA) previous summations, we mentioned the People’s Committee on Pleasant Avenue. This committee was one of our main focuses in terms of working class tenant struggles. Our People’s Committee fought against slumlord Roger Lee & the terrible conditions he forced his tenants to live under, all while having the nerve to raise their rents. In our fight against Roger Lee, we did not beg with him to lower the rent hikes or try and compromise with him. Instead, we saw him as one enemy out of many. Our fight with him was one battle in the larger class war against slumlords and all gentrifying forces.
After STP-LA released his personal information online, Roger Lee was quickly targeted by the community of Boyle Heights. Lee alongside his team of lawyers complained of actions taking place at his workplace, of graffiti being sprayed by anonymous militants, and even of being targeted in his own home. For all this, we thank the community of Boyle Heights for standing in solidarity with the tenants on Pleasant Avenue.
It is primarily because of the militancy of the community, because we fought back, because we dared to struggle, that we terrified Roger Lee. It was because of this terror that he began to meet some of our demands. Lee lowered the rent hike from $140 to $70 on all apartments (not just the one’s in the People’s Committee) & began fixing problems throughout the entire building. We understand that this was a double-edged sword. In one sense, it was a victory because we scared the shit out of him, which pressured him to act quickly to quench the fury of the organized tenants. But, in another sense, it was an attack on us because it ultimately undermined our work and the goals of the committee, which were to build working-class tenant power. Roger Lee provided temporary reforms which worked to reward tenants who did not want to participate in our committee. They felt that they could be rewarded without ever struggling the way tenants in the People’s Committee did.
We initially said we would continue this struggle at Pleasant despite these concessions. We said this because we know that Pleasant is not simply an individual tenant struggle but one battle in the larger war against gentrification. Some of the tenants understand this too. They know Roger Lee will continue these rent hikes as soon as he sees fit (i.e. as soon as he knows the tenants will not organize and fight back).
However, despite the support of these tenants and despite our correct analysis of gentrification, the objective conditions on Pleasant Avenue have changed. Because of this, we are no longer prioritizing the fight to build the community at Pleasant. After the contradictions softened with the rent hike lowered and repairs being made to the buildings, some tenants left our committee. Others stopped attending our meetings or attended meetings very inconsistently. We even had to cancel an action because of low attendance. For this reason, we are changing gears to continue building leadership among the committee members while preparing to move them to struggles that establish other People’s Committees.
We do not take the ceasefire at Pleasant as a failure or a loss. This is because we understand that we can only fight when we have people who want to fight with us. The fight will always come secondary to the fighters who develop through the course of struggle. So, in this way, we did not have failures at Pleasant but errors. We know that if we see these errors and analyze them correctly, we will not repeat them but will learn from them. As long as we criticize, self-criticize, and transform ourselves alongside the masses through struggle, we can never fail.
We know we have developed fighters at Pleasant and we will continue to develop them. We have not given up on the People’s Committee at Pleasant but changed our priorities for the time being. Not only have we learned from this struggle, but we have united the most passionate militant tenants and bringing them over to canvass with us. They will be a part of forming People’s Committees throughout Boyle Heights and eventually, throughout all of LA.

 

REDIRECTING FROM THE PEOPLE’S COMMITTEE AT PLEASANT

The main reason we have shifted away from the People’s Committee at Pleasant is that the objective conditions for fighting were not there. The direct actions we had against Roger Lee, alongside our shame campaign against him, terrified him but also changed the objective conditions of the tenants. Many – but not all – of the tenants found their living conditions were now tolerable enough that they did not need to organize. They figured paying $70 less while having some things fixed around their apartments was enough. This is why some left the People’s Committee while others de-prioritized the meetings. They did not see the point because the contradictions were not sharp enough.
Overall, many tenants only saw the struggle in the short-term and, from their perspective, they had won. We take responsibility for not being able to win tenants over to the larger class struggle or getting them to see the necessity of continuing the ongoing struggle, instead of being satisfied with small reforms.
At the same time, we know that objective conditions are key. The objective conditions for winning over the tenants to the larger struggle had mostly diminished. For most of the tenants, the time as well as energy needed to fight in the larger war could not outweigh the fear of possibly being deported (stemming from the fear of ICE being called on them due to organizing), the fear of being punished for possibly having extra people living in their apartment, or their reality of having to prioritize their families.

 

It is our duty to win tenants over to the larger class struggle. Accordingly, we must look for the sharpest contradictions. It is in these contradictions that tenants and workers will gain class consciousness therefore understanding their role in the class struggle.
We know that the objective conditions at Pleasant Avenue will worsen again. The apartments at Pleasant Avenue are in close proximity to Mariachi Plaza (a hotspot for gentrification in Boyle Heights), they are not rent-controlled and Roger Lee, the money-hungry slumlord, stated that he is charging the tenants below market value. We wanted to keep struggling because we knew that the victories we had won were not enough and only be temporary. However, most of the tenants do not feel that way. We can not fight a battle that they do not want to fight. It is wrong to mechanically continue a struggle without the support or will of the tenants. After all, as we stated before, the tenant struggle must be transformed into the workers struggle; the tenants must be transformed into soldiers for the people. If we are mechanically struggling for the people instead of with them, we are not transforming them. Instead, we are just continuing the fight against Roger Lee for the sake of continuing it.
We have not given up on the tenants at Pleasant Avenue or abandoned them. When the contradictions sharpen again with more tenants willing to fight, we will be there to fight right besides them. However, until that happens, we are moving on to build more People’s Committees in the areas of Boyle Heights with the sharpest contradictions.
WHAT ARE OUR GOALS? DID WE SUCCEED OR FAIL?
1) Transform the tenants into soldiers!
Our primary goal for the People’s Committees was not to improve the condition of the tenants living there but to transform the tenants into soldiers for their class. Why? Because we know that any improvements in their conditions are only temporary. Slumlords, like all other oppressors, will not give us anything on their own terms – we must take from them what is rightfully ours with blood and sweat. We cannot let our guard down for even a second because the moment we do, they will do everything they can to snatch back whatever scraps they’ve thrown us.
It is for this reason we need to take these fuckers down permanently. Our ultimate goal is revolution. We need to smash the system that allows them to exist in the first place. This will not happen in one instant. This will be a protracted struggle over generations. It will start small, with people’s committees like our own. As long as we continue to serve the people, struggle with the people, and fight side by side with the people, we will leap forward.
We cannot do this without transforming the masses. We cannot fight every single battle for them because then they will continue to depend on us further. They will not be liberated at all. We ourselves would not develop qualitatively – we would just do the same things repeatedly, jumping from one tenant struggle to the next and building nothing.
This is why we want the tenants to transform. In the short-term, we want the tenants to mobilize and learn to fight slumlords themselves. This does not mean we will stop supporting them. It only means the tenants will advance, forging into leaders themselves alongside STP-LA. In this way, as they advance, they will organize other tenants and help these tenants advance, forging into leaders themselves. This will continue on and on.
We have seen this happen with the tenants at Pleasant. The tenants who wanted to continue fighting Roger Lee took on leadership roles as time passed. They reached out other tenants at Pleasant, invited them to our meetings, proposed actions and strategies we could use,  and even brought up concerns with security culture. In the fight with Roger Lee, they qualitatively transformed in front of us. The fact that they are continuing to canvass with us, looking for new battles, shows a growing sense of class consciousness. We are sure that as we form new People’s Committees, the tenants from Pleasant will only advance further.
In the long-term, their transformation is a pre-requisite for revolution. We want these members to literally become soldiers in the class struggle. For these tenants – for all workers – the landlord is only one oppressor out of a thousand. The worker is exploited and attacked by capitalists in all directions within every aspect of their lives. Once they are paid a barely living wage by whoever they toil for, they are preyed upon by everyone else in the capitalist class. This is why most workers live month to month, barely making ends meet. They live to work and work to live. Roger Lee is only one parasite. He is not a parasite simply because he is greedy and money hungry (although he is both) but because capitalism allows him to leech off others while not contributing anything to society himself. This is how capitalism functions – through a parasitic class exploiting the working class.
So the real enemy of the tenants as well as of all oppressed people is capitalism itself. The only way to destroy capitalism is though a protracted violent revolution. The only way to wage this revolution is to build power structures that challenge as well as fight against capitalism. The only way to build these dual power structures is to transform the masses into soldiers who will defend themselves and  their class against all their oppressors. This is why we aim to transform the tenants, to arm them physically as well as ideologically. They must transform themselves to liberate themselves.
We know that the tenants are advancing in this aspect. When we started, many of them did not want to threaten Roger Lee or pursue militant direction action against him. They still had some sympathy towards him, they did not see the antagonistic contradiction between them and him. In many cases, they were afraid. We do not blame them for this. No one is born a brave militant anti-capitalist. After all, as Chairman Gonzalo from the Communist Party of Peru teaches us, “[No] one is born brave…it is society, the class struggle, that makes people & communists courageous.”
We know that the class struggle has made the tenants courageous. At a previous action in Roger Lee’s office, tenants physically confronted a security guard who shoved one of our members. They showed no fear when the security guard threatened us or when pigs sent out five cop cars to surveil them (these cowardly pigs are so afraid of the people that they needed to call five cop cars for unarmed tenants standing on public space!) At no point, did they ask to leave or say they were worried for their safety. They continued chanting in the face of pigs and pig sympathizers, despite the threats of the security guard. Point Blur_Jul192018_120827.jpg
We know they are becoming increasingly militant because they understand how sharp the contradiction between them and slumlords like Roger Lee to be. We are confident they will continue on to strengthen this militancy in future actions and campaigns.
2) Combat economism! 

One of our other goals for the People’s Committees was to move beyond economism. To move beyond economism means to focus on the long-term goal of seizing power over the short-term goal of improving people’s conditions. As we have said, any improvements to people’s conditions are temporary as long as capitalism still exists. This is why we need to focus primarily on transforming people so that they can seize power.
Our previous food distribution program was economist – it was not much more than a survival program. Although we tried our best to teach the people attending about the correct politics and class consciousness, it did not work. We were not successful in combatting bourgeois individualism or fully mobilizing the masses who came out to the food distribution. (Of course, this can be linked with the lack of sharp contradictions, which we will expand on later in this summation).
We had proof of this failure when none of the participants in the distribution showed up to support the struggle at Pleasant. This is not the fault of the masses attending the distribution. All knowledge comes from direct experience. Without fighting in the class struggle, it is impossible to understand it. We did not engage these masses in the class struggle. As much as we criticized charities, we, in essence, were nothing more than a more militant and darker red charity.
We are confident that we are in the process of moving beyond economism right now. This does not mean we do not struggle with it at all. Our People’s Committees have at times been economist too. We are sure that they will be economist in the future too. But now, we have a better understanding of economism and the experience of combatting and moving past it.
Since we started the People’s Committees and stopped our food distributions, we have seen qualitative leaps in core members and new mass members. As a collective we have grown closer, stronger, and begun truly transforming ourselves to better serve the people. This is because we are not simply mechanically distributing food to people every Sunday, but actively becoming soldiers for the people, fighting side by side with them against their oppressors.
Our mass membership has also qualitatively changed. The mere fact that we have retained members after the dissolution of the People’s Committee is proof of this. Again, this is because these tenants have fought side by side with us, seeing the fruits of militancy with their own eyes. The more we struggle, the more they will transform.

 

3) Find the sharpest contradictions!
The other problems with our food distribution, as well as why we have shifted away from the committee at Pleasant, is the lack of the objective conditions which are necessary to fight. The reality is that most people – and especially tenants – in Boyle Heights live under precarious conditions. They are targeted and terrorized by the LAPD, ICE, gentrifiers, slumlords, and that is only to name a few.
This is why, in our food distributions, we spoke consistently with the tenants about the contradictions between them and these enemies of the people. However, they did not feel the contradictions sharply enough to reach out to us. For the time being, they were willing to tolerate their conditions.
This is why our goal as STP-LA is to find those who cannot and will not tolerate the conditions they live under. We know that we will find these objective conditions primarily where tenants are being displaced and/or received drastic rent increases. We know these objective conditions exist in Boyle Heights because gentrification as an aspect to capitalism exists in Boyle Heights. We are confident that as long as we continue to look, we will find another battle to fight. Point Blur_Apr062018_193133.jpg
WHAT’S NEXT?
Since the redirection of the People’s Committee, we have been canvassing and searching for other sites of struggle. We have brought over tenants from Pleasant to canvass as well as work with us. We have learned from Pleasant that, at this moment, we must focus primarily on the objective conditions. We are looking for places with the sharpest contradictions.
But even after we find a battle to fight, we will continue to canvas. We want these People’s Committees to grow. Our People’s Committees are like seeds – the more we plant, the more will bloom. And the more there are, the more places they take over, the harder they will be to exterminate.
We are also going to continue developing the tenants with us. This will happen mainly through struggle since it is only through the class struggle that we can transform ourselves. This will happen in future campaigns and People’s Committees. We are planning on starting study groups with them. This will forge stronger links with them, arm them ideologically and have them advance even further.
CONCLUSION
We are focusing on tenants struggles at this point because gentrification is a very sharp antagonistic contradiction in Boyle Heights. Gentrification, of course, is an aspect of capitalism. We know we cannot defeat gentrification without defeating capitalism. But we also know that because of the objective conditions of gentrification, it is a strong site of struggle where tenants can more easily be mobilized as well as organized. Again, this will serve the long-term goal of transformation.
We must transform the masses because without them, we are nothing. We can organize them, work side by side with them, fight with them, but until they become soldiers with us, we will never win. This is because it is not organizers or leftists who make history – it is the masses. As we have said, tenants struggles are only a gateway to class struggle and class struggle is the way forward to revolution, to destroying  this filthy, decaying, oppressive world and, in the process, creating a new world, free of oppression, where the masses will decide their own destiny and take back what is rightfully theirs.
This new world will not arise because we compromise or play fair or wait our turn. This new world will arise because we will give our blood, our bodies, and our lives to destroy the old world. We will give everything we have to destroy everything that is.
To all enemies of the people, including gentrifiers, slumlords, all capitalists, we say – watch your fucking backs. Enemies of the people can repress us, push us down, fool themselves into thinking they have defeated us. But every single mistake that we make, every single time we are pushed down, we come back, stronger and smarter than before. The masses have revolutionary vengeance in their blood and nothing that any oppressor does will change that. It does not matter how many times they are pushed down – they will always rise back up, ready to fight back once again. And we will never abandon them.
We are ready to wait as long as we have to. There is nothing anyone can do to quench the flame that runs through our veins. After all, we have nothing to lose and a world to win! Our People’s Committees are simply a starting point; they are seeds that will sprout into a People’s Army which will stop at nothing to take what it deserves.
And when our turn comes, we will make no excuses for the terror. signal-2018-07-19-115542

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Slumlord Roger stealing from the neighborhood

This slumlord was gracious enough to give us an analysis on gentrification that confirms what we been saying, and what Defend Boyle Heights has been saying. Property value is raising as speculative capital is sought out by real estate vultures. Rents all across Boyle Heights have been rising because the ever-increasing appetite of gentrifier-capitalists. We maintain that parasitic slumlords like Chi “Roger” Wei Lee will continue to increase rent for working people unless they are met with the force and fury of the united working class who has decided to take matters into their own hands. Slumlords like Roger won’t stop attacking our people and the working class unless they are terrified of the repercussions.

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Slumlord, Chi Wei Lee (AKA “Roger”) of 1350/1330 Pleasant Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90033, who can’t manage to fix leaky roofs, pest infestations and fix the simplest of issues – however – was able to raise the rent for tenants, as he does every year. This time from $140 and up, all the while believing that this increase is fair! Why? Well, Roger said that he’s actually doing the tenants a favor because the market value in Boyle Heights, specifically around Mariachi Plaza, is much higher.

How generous! How saint-like! How charitable of this parasite!

A slumlord that residents say they’ve hardly ever seen, as he doesn’t come around to see the decrepit state of his buildings, but we’re sure he’s available when it’s time to collect rent no doubt.

Chi “Roger” Wei Lee has acted more swiftly in sending a three-day notice to tenants on a rent strike than he has acted on making repairs that tenants have been demanding for months, even years!

This slumlord was gracious enough to give us an analysis on gentrification that confirms what we been saying, and what Defend Boyle Heights has been saying. Property value is raising as speculative capital is sought out by real estate vultures. Rents all across Boyle Heights have been rising because the ever-increasing appetite of gentrifier-capitalists. We maintain that parasitic slumlords like Chi “Roger” Wei Lee will continue to increase rent for working people unless they are met with the force and fury of the united working class who has decided to take matters into their own hands. Slumlords like Roger won’t stop attacking our people and the working class unless they are terrified of the repercussions.

Call and demand the following:

1. waive the rent increases,
2 meet with the tenants and
3. stop harassing tenants with 3 day notices.
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Chi Wei Lee is co-owner of the Ritz Group II, LLC. His business phone number is 626.964.0999. Be sure to ask for “Roger.” His business address is 17700 CASTLETON ST. STE 358. CITY OF INDUSTRY, CA 91748.

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The people want revolutionary justice: a brief report back on building our People’s Committees in Boyle Heights

While STPLA as an organization and Boyle Heights as a community are not at this level of militancy just yet, we’re getting there. In the near-future the line that separates our organization with these militant revolutionaries will become blurred and will eventually be erased. This is our main task. This is what gives us life, what motivates each and every one of us in STPLA, what gets us up in the morning and what gives us dreams when we go to bed at night.

The people want revolutionary justice: a brief report back on building our People’s Committees in Boyle Heights

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Boyle Heights is transforming in two ways – mass displacement caused by gentrification and the growing militancy. The two are obviously related to each other. Gentrification causes militancy when there are die-hard motherfuckers leading the way. But this militancy does not cause gentrification. It actually curbs it and, in certain scenarios, stops it.  

At the same time there are those like us – the die-hard motherfuckers – who seek not only to challenge the transformation of our community, the gentrification, but to destroy it along with those who enable it. We know the culprits of gentrification, like the high-end art galleries at the west side of Boyle Heights and their vendido political supporters like Jose Huizar, AKA Sleazy Huizy. But one gentrifying group deserving of our attention are the slumlords.

As mentioned in our previous summation, we are in the middle of developing our People’s Committees, which will mobilize tenants inside their buildings to stop rent hikes, do repairs that slumlords neglect – because slumlords want poor working-class tenants gone and rich yuppy ones in substitution who can pay more rent – and the committees will make sure that slumlords don’t harass or take advantage of their tenants.

But isn’t this dangerous? Doesn’t this put families at risk? What will happen to the tenants?

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The DHKP/C – The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front/Party – is a Turkish group that militantly fights gentrification and builds community dual power in Istanbul.

The Turkish organization, the DHKP/C – The Revolutionary People’s’ Liberation Front/Party – has been a source of inspiration for us ever since we began approximately three years ago. While Boyle Heights is not Istanbul, both communities are part of larger capitalist countries. Capitalism means exploitation and oppression. Wherever it exists, there is also resistance. Istanbul is probably one of the most militant anti-gentrification communities in the world right now.

We’re crazy enough to say that we want to be right up there with them. Our fight against rent hikes and slumlords is a part of that.

We should understand that actually rent increases alone put families at risk of being homeless or having to search for a new place to live in a growing unaffordable city. Slumlords who don’t resolve rodent and pest infestations, or leaks or window and door repairs, because they want to save a buck, put families at risk of disease and an unsafe environment. And like we mentioned earlier, it’s also a tactic to push tenants out to make room for the yuppy gentrifier-hipsters. We won’t force anyone to go on rent strike, but if the masses themselves are already reaching out to us telling us we have to do something, then we will and must support them in any way possible. Like Malcolm X said, “By any means necessary.”

The reason we bring this up is because one of our struggles in mobilizing tenants has been this fear of retaliation from the slumlord. They think the slumlord will immediately evict them or sic ICE on them – we have heard stories of this already happening. So some say they will continue to pay even past the point where they can no longer afford it. It’s survival. They need to survive. In the beginning, the tenants don’t see how building these People’s Committees and waging rent strikes is a necessary part of survival too.

So we respond to this in three key ways:

  1. While there are serious risks in going on rent strike, the fact is that displacement is an inevitability, especially under the conditions of gentrification in Boyle Heights.

    We have a saying at our meetings and distributions:

    “There is never a victory without a fight. But when you don’t fight, defeat is guaranteed. Fighting increases the chances of victory.”

    Not fighting essentially delays your turn at getting displaced. Tenants are getting kicked out little by little, all the while they could have fought together and had the chance of winning. While some tenants may be fearful, there is a necessity of taking these risks to fight. 
  2. Since one of the risks involves the landlord calling ICE, we assure them that the community and militant revolutionaries will back them up. By any means necessary.

    While we commend organizations who provide workshops on knowing your rights and knowing lawyers who defend people kidnapped by ICE, we want to reach a point where ICE fears for their very wellbeing when they have the arrogance to step into our communities. We want to reach the point where we no longer have “Know Your Rights” workshops (rights or not, it is legal to detain and deport – we don’t give a fuck about laws, we care about our people), but instead have ICE vans set ablaze, destroyed by rocks, glass bottles, pipes, bats, and anything else these militant revolutionaries can get their hands on.

    We tell the cautious and fearful masses: There’s something happening in our community, in Boyle Heights, that is really quite special. Organizations are building an army, but not an army of paid soldiers of the state, not an army of gangsters. A People’s Army. One that is dedicated to fighting, defending and if need be giving their lives for the people. We let tenants know that we work closely with these militant revolutionaries. It’s our secret weapon (not anymore!).

    While STPLA as an organization and Boyle Heights as a community are not at this level of militancy just yet, we’re getting there. In the near-future the line that separates our organization with these militant revolutionaries will become blurred and will eventually be erased. This is our main task. This is what gives us life, what motivates each and every one of us in STPLA, what gets us up in the morning and what gives us dreams when we go to bed at night.

    One of the organizations in Boyle Heights, and all of Los Angeles, leading the movement in building the People’s Army are our comrades in Red Guards – Los Angeles. To them, we are indebted and our work will be how we will show our appreciation. 
  3. We know that doing criticism/self-criticism (CSC) helps us and the masses keep sharp and effective. CSC, not only for ourselves but for the masses, is what we mean by arming the masses – only in part – and getting them ready for the coming war and for building the new world to replace this old, unfair and greedy one.
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The DHKP/C – The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front/Party – is a Turkish group that militantly fights gentrification and builds community dual power in Istanbul.

A change to our Sunday distribution, putting politics in command, not food

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Since the beginning of the year, our Sunday distributions have been going through some positive and negative changes. Some are listed in our recent summation, but something new and not mentioned is that the organization and the masses have decided to only distribute food and clothing every other week and not every week. The Sundays we don’t give anything out, we hold political development meetings and presentations – currently, our main focus is on the tenants in two buildings we are organizing under our People’s Committees (more will be announced in the coming weeks).  

Why did we change our weekly food-and-clothing distribution?

This past Sunday, dedicated to the tenants we’re working with, a Sunday without the distribution, we were disappointed with the lack of presence of our regular volunteers and even many mass members. The tenants who showed up needed the support of our volunteers and mass members. Many said they would be there even if there was no food to not only stand in solidarity with the tenants, but to also dedicate time to their own political development.

We make it a point to constantly say that we are not a church or a nonprofit (which uphold charity and reformism) and that anyone can provide free food as they do on skid row. So we decided with those who attended this Sunday’s food-and-clothing distribution that if they didn’t show up to support their fellow community members, the tenants, the following week (no distribution), we will stop the food-and-clothing distributions indefinitely.

Politicization is primary. We need the masses to be supportive of each other and not only of their individual needs. Not because it will make them, or us even, feel good. But because gentrification’s displacement affects all working-class people! It’s only a question of time, of when, your turn comes.

Furthermore, if the volunteers and mass members show up we of course will continue with the food, but we will also implement a new method of making bags (the current method is also mentioned in the summation). Since the current process tends to result in individualism, specifically the masses filling their bags with food they personally want, ignoring or speaking over our members who lead discussions, and then guarding their own bags, rather than making all the bags equally and then putting back what they don’t need, we will require regular volunteers and mass members to be stationed at different sections of the food tables to only give out a certain portion of that food. The goal is a more collective understanding of helping one another and thinking about belonging to a community above just being an individual. The objective is for all the bags to be equal.

Eventually, newer volunteers will replace the role of previous regular volunteers and mass members, becoming new mass members themselves and deepening their political outlook.  

If we are successful, leaders will emerge from the masses. If we as selfless and guiding die-hard motherfuckers lead in an effective way, revolutionaries will emerge from the masses!

“Why don’t you struggle for the people, why don’t you die for the people”

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Fred Hampton on the right-hand side

As comrade Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense once said, “If you dare to struggle, you dare to win. If you dare not struggle then god damn-it you don’t deserve to win.” If we truly want to stop evictions, gentrification, and deportations (and eventually get rid of capitalism) we have to push militancy. The masses aren’t opposed to revolutionary violence. Reformism has been pushed onto them left and right and as we have seen, it has not gotten us closer to revolution. Mere survival and existence will not destroy the system that thrives off of our blood, sweat and tears. We reject the idea of “upholding,” AKA diluting, revolutionaries such as Assata Shakur, Fred Hampton and other Black Panthers while pushing a reformist lines – all in their name! The arrogance, the offensiveness! These were revolutionaries, most, who gave their lives to the people! They belong to us, not the state – no matter how progressive your nonprofit or classroom is!

To serve the people does not mean to use them for careerist aims, but to carry the torch forward and give our lives to the masses in a way that will bring about revolutionary transformation. To say otherwise is to mock their struggles and ignore their history of militancy.

Fred Hampton once said, “Why don’t you struggle for the people, why don’t you die for the people.”

We’re here, willing, able, and getting ready.

 

Growth Through Contradiction: A 2017 Summation of Serve the People – Los Angeles

Anyone can feed someone. Anyone can teach someone where to go to get the food directly. But we’re not a food-and-clothes giving group. We are a revolutionary-tools-giving group. We are arming the masses with the tools to break down the old capitalist world and create a new better world in its place based on human needs and not profit. Individualism belongs in the old capitalist world.  

“Numbers and force are the only things that have changed history. Nothing else is effective in fighting gentrification.” – Serve the People – Los Angeles

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Introduction:

The following is a summation of last year’s – 2017 – organizing as the Boyle Heights-based political community organization Serve the People – Los Angeles (STPLA). We aim to do regular summations to make sure the community can see where we have succeeded and where we have failed and need to improve. We aim to do regular summations also for our comrades and supporters around the country who also have Serve The People (STP) programs so we can help them, so they can learn from us, critique us and offer us any advice.

Although we are based in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, we see ourselves as part of a larger struggle. We are for the uniting of the working class and its supporters across the country and building independence from our capitalist system, defending our people, our community and creating a massive and militant movement. Because of that, we stand in unity with all other STPs (Austin, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Charlotte, and San Marcos) in the country who work closely with the Red Guards and other Maoist collectives. We do not shy away from this.

A revolution is coming. And we are on the side of the people, the working class and these daring and inspirational collectives.

The following summation is broken up into seven sections: 1.) our structure, 2.) individualism, 3.) a strange face, 4.) mass members vs. core members, 5.) the danger of becoming a charity, 6.) building the people’s committees, 7.) lessons for our comrades and friends, 8.) and a conclusion.

One of our organization’s points of unity is criticism/self-criticism. That means we understand we cannot get better without reflecting on our errors and developing plans on how to be better. Everything we do we should be self-critical about. Each section of this summation will have a self-criticism.   

If after reading the following you want to send over your thoughts, please email us at servethepeopleLA@gmail.com.

  • Our structure: three levels, three presentations, three goals

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People not in Boyle Heights sometimes ask us: so, like, what exactly do ya’ll do?

The question means we’re not doing a good job in showing the people outside of Los Angeles what we’re doing. For that, we have to be better. STPLA is part of a national movement. We are bigger than Los Angeles.

Every Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. we set up at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. We typically get there 10-30 minutes before and set up approximately 5-to-6 tables, two fold-out benches, two canopies, a literature table, two clothes racks and a bunch of banners and informational signs.

All core and mass members assist and get there at different times with different supplies. Volunteers, who are not core or mass members, always help out. Everyone helps out. We are like a small guerrilla unit. When we are not fighting (destroying), we are building (creating).

STPLA has three categories inside the organization:

1.) core members

2.) mass members

3.) volunteers

But the constant goal is to merge the first two categories and bring up the third into the second and then into the first. This is one small way we measure how effective we are being.

We’ve struggled in finding a strong and efficient structure where all members and volunteers are efficiently helping out, where no one is wasting time. We think our new structure is a step in the right direction.

Before making food-bags, we announce that there will be a three-part structure for the day, briefly introduce ourselves, make announcements, gather ideas, pick apart those ideas, breakdown how to make bags, and let folks know that we will have a meeting before giving out bags.

This is our first presentation, which usually goes briefly over a concept or two or an announcement related to a struggle in Boyle Heights like the rent strike at 1815 E. 2nd Street. The goal here is to lay out the structure for an efficient distribution.

Then afterward we usually have one person explain what to put in the bags and explain to folks that they cannot take the bags until everything is done. This is necessary because folks have often left bags half empty after they have made a bag they consider to be theirs and because folks have oftentimes tried taking food without permission, a case of individualism. We remind folks of our guidelines and explain that having one person take food will unnecessarily create problems to where more and more folks simply grab food and go and, in essence, we become a charity.

After we’ve completed the bags we have a large meeting with the community that lasts around twenty minutes. This is our second presentation. This is typically by 4:30-4:45 p.m. Still, no one is allowed to take any bag of food, or individual piece of food before or during this. No one is also allowed to take any piece of clothing until all clothes are on hangers and on the clothes racks, regardless of how long it takes. After our second presentation, then, everyone is free to take a bag and we ask that folks stay for our final third debrief meeting where core members speak on different organizational points too. Each week we sometimes engage with a different organizational point of unity and narrow it down to something specific in the community. We try to keep the community engaged by asking tons of questions and try to see what they think. Sometimes it’s easy questions like:Who wants to pay $400 more in rent?” Other times it’s more difficult questions like: “Why is rent going up?” We make sure to focus on something local and in-your-face while connecting it to a bigger and more general concept like anti-capitalism or solidarity. We don’t talk at them. We engage with them, getting their ideas, connecting them with capitalism and figure out ways with their direct participation to change their lives through confrontation and struggle under our committed leadership. This is mass-line organizing. All STPs across the country are doing this.

This is our second goal: connect something local and in-your-face in the masses daily lives with a bigger and more general concept from STPs points of unity or politics.

At the end we invite people to our debrief meeting at the end. This is the third and final meeting. We introduce ourselves again, give pronouns, make a criticism or self-criticism of the distribution and highlight something positive. It is in this space that we plan or announce what we have been doing with the organization the past week or in the upcoming week. This is where we have the most trouble retaining community members. Most leave but a handful have stayed.

This is also where, in our final analysis, the organization’s most important problem is seen: political development. This is the goal for the third presentation. We have struggled on how to better ourselves in politically developing mass members and the few volunteers that stay. Another problem connected to this main problem is our inconsistent follow-up in calling members.

Recently, we have decided to focus heavily on the general concept and tactic of direct action and militancy as part of a larger strategy to resist displacement and gentrification in Boyle Heights. Our slogan has become: “Numbers and force are the only things that have changed history – Nothing else is effective in fighting gentrification.”

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It’s true. The only thing to stop, or at least interrupt, gentrification is uniting the working class, the most affected, and encouraging their anger and fury and directing it at the enemies of the people. We’re hoping by doing this we will be able to bring people from our distributions into actions and campaigns – away from Sunday’s distribution at Mariachi Plaza – and into the streets.

In rethinking STPLA’s distribution as a three-part structure we are fighting against the danger of falling into charity work, which we describe as only handing out food and talking. Instead what we do is focus more on political development and mobilization for our newest campaigns, such as our tenants outreach and organizing.

  • Individualism: Among members, volunteers and throughout the community

Individual needs become a serious obstacle when building community dual power. It is a danger that must be combatted wherever we find it. No individual is free of this. Individualism is a result of capitalist culture. This culture promotes selfishness, and selfishness is the opposite of what Serve the People – Los Angeles is attempting to build: community dual power.

Throughout this past year we have witnessed this even within ourselves, not just in the community. Every member must work to destroy this. For that, we use the method of criticism and self-criticism. This method, if you do it regularly, helps people become better and stop in making the same old mistakes.

We must act selflessly, putting aside our own individual needs. Newer members often show individualism in their inconsistent and employee-like work. They sometimes treat STPLA like a job or worst, community service!

Volunteers are victims of this. By this we mean work that is mainly seen as a routine. For example, only contributing to the regular Sunday distributions without connecting with the masses, not sticking around for the debrief, not working in the week-long preparation before Sundays. This attitude of routine is individualism because they are putting themselves before the needs of the community, the masses, whether they see it or not. There is much work to be done. Part of that work is being enthusiastic in serving the people. A person is enthusiastic only if they really, truly, understand why they are serving the people, why the need is so great – from putting a bag of food together, to knocking on doors and hearing our neighbors out, to challenging everyone  – masses, volunteers and members alike – to be more daring and courageous.

Community members who are new to our organization sometimes reflect the culture of individualism. Our free food program is community-led, the masses make the bags themselves, and then put the bags on a table. Occurrences happen where community members construct a bag filled with food only to guard that bag for it is the one they want to take. This goes against our idea of building a community, it is yet another case of individualism. This is the culture we are currently daring to struggle and daring to win against.

When problems arise they must be handled properly through practice, and this is what we have done. Among members we are continuously strengthening our study and reflecting on what it exactly it means to, “Serve the People.” We investigate and find new issues within the community and promptly put our best effort into solving them. This can be seen from our support of anti-gentrification work, the development of a rapid response network for those in danger of ICE, and the building of People’s Committees. Volunteers are being reminded of the necessity of thinking of the community before themselves. They have practiced this in cases where they see a community member attempting to take or guard a bag for themselves. To the community we explain the importance of combating individualism. An unwritten rule of, “making a bag as if it was your own” has been adopted to our distributions. Regular community members who are accustomed to this will naturally enforce this idea into practice if they see someone breaking it.

We see growth through contradiction, and this growth will advance with our work in the end. We fully understand that this is not a temporary process but rather a long struggle. We also completely comprehend that we have the whole interests of the community at heart.

  • A strange face: moving away from strangers to comrades

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Questions may arise if you ask who we are: Are we temporary or permanent? Stagnant or progressive? We declare that we are permanent and progressive, struggling against backward ways. It is wrong to think of us as a temporary face. The community is tired of foreign temporary faces, here one day and gone the next. Tourist activists. We belong to the humiliated and exploited, from our origins we serve their interests. Abusive landlords, food scarcity, poverty, fearing police, fearing la migra, these and many more are common grounds which we share. So long as struggle is present, our construction of community will also be present.

Through this common background we have developed very personal connections with community members. The process of trust is initiated and it is a contagious process, spreading from each body that carries struggle within its veins. Thus, consistent community members are created and then soon reflect the ideas of a community. One of the initial steps of building trust is the recognition of faces and remembering of names. The community which we serve must know the names of the faces that serve it. Therefore throughout the year we began projecting our names to community members. At our weekly distributions during the setup we spark conversations with community members, introducing ourselves and following with a question concerning their life. Along with this we sometimes play a name-game. Before or after our discussion we ask community members if they’ve remembered our names, and if so what are they. Weeks went by where a couple of people did but it wasn’t the majority. Then we saw progress, more and more hands were raised when asked, and on one specific Sunday it took no hesitation for them to answer with our names. Thus, the collective line was once seen again, a community being built through its many names. Not strangers, not just friends, but comrades in it to win it.

STPLA is no strange face to Boyle Heights. For our faces are those of a community in struggle.

  • Mass members and core members

One of the main problems we have faced in the organization, as we’ve said, has been even political development with mass members and core members. Core members are the more committed and politically developed activists, typically younger college or university students exposed to revolutionary ideas but new to our specific type of organizing, mass-line organizing. They are dedicated and regular members who put the collective in front of their own interests. Mass members are people directly from the community who are committed but are not initially as politically developed. They are typically older, typically women, from immigrant and working-class backgrounds, who are dedicated.

As we mentioned in our last summation, we have prioritized focusing on, and of course recruiting from, the masses of Boyle Heights instead of the activists from other parts of Los Angeles – even if they are more eager. We did this because we know 1.) our current struggle is mainly in Boyle Heights and so the organization must reflect the very community it is defending, and more importantly 2.) the masses of Boyle Heights are the main force capable of real change and real victory – specifically against slumlords, fake-ass leaders (nonprofit poverty pimps), community snitches, gentrifiers and ICE; that means we must always focus mainly on the masses and the working class, not only activists.

We also prioritized volunteers and potential members who speak Spanish or are learning to speak Spanish. Activists standing around unable to communicate with the masses is not effective organizing, obviously. How can you be in solidarity with someone if you can’t even communicate basic ideas with them? It actually is more similar to charity, like a church group dropping off food in Skid Row (but at least church groups typically speak the same language!).

We have only allowed certain non-Spanish speaking individuals to become members with them understanding they 1.) will actively learn Spanish, 2.) while their input is valued, they are not priority – the masses of Boyle Heights are, and 3.) we all must work together to focus on, help politically develop and recruit from the masses as top priority of the organization.

Since our last summation, even though it is still relatively low, we have seen more participation from the masses, and therefore a modest increase in regular volunteering and membership. It is a long process and has had many ups and downs. As mentioned earlier, there has been recurring cases of individualism and lack of discipline –  mass members and mass volunteers hoarding bags of food or suspicion that they are selling the clothes from the distribution, not helping in putting bags of food together, and sorting through all the clothes first to pick out the best before putting them on clothes hangers and on the clothes racks.

Additionally, the organization has suffered the lost of some key members and leaders. One of the main problems continues to be mobilizing our mass members outside of the center of our work in Mariachi Plaza. We see all this as a key issue of lack of political development. We, therefore, are more up front with all who mess up and fall back on individualism. We are compassionate but we are disciplined, and we expect our members and regular volunteers to be the same. We directly approach people we see attempting to make their food bag more full and tell them we practice stern equality here – everyone makes their bag as if it were their own. We stamp out individualism, even the smaller examples of it. We create lessons around this. We ask why people do this. We examine it, break it down, hear from the people, hear their criticism, take the good, throw away the bad. And we see the masses are engaging, hungry not just for food but for revolutionary political and philosophical discussion.

Anyone can feed someone. Anyone can teach someone where to go to get the food directly. But we’re not a food-and-clothes giving group. We are a revolutionary-tools-giving group. We are arming the masses with the tools to break down the old capitalist world and create a new better world in its place based on human needs and not profit. Individualism belongs in the old capitalist world.  

Our new approach is a little scary. We may lose most or all of our members and supporters. Or we may develop into a better, more disciplined organization. We’re not sure what’s going to happen. But we remain committed to carrying out this new course. If we fail horribly, so be it. At least we can say we dared to try.

  • The danger of burnout and becoming a charity

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Since we started Serve the People – Los Angeles in April 2015, almost three years ago, we have enjoyed small victories and failures. We have had regular moments where we fall back on the routine of gathering the donations, loading our cars, bagging the food, hanging the clothes, setting up tables, saying some political words, breaking everything down and going home.

We have had moments where we treat the organization and the work as a part-time job or worse-still community service with a political slogan in the background. This is only charity work. When STP programs fall back on this type of routine, they stop being actual Serve the People programs. They’re meant for revolution, not to make you feel good. This danger is always present, and must be rigorously fought against.

One of the reasons for this mentality is a wrong political understanding of STP, and a wrong general analysis of the community and the country, which directly leads to so-called “activist burnout.”

If you are expecting the masses to react a certain way, to say the right things and act the right way after you deliver your political serman, and when they don’t and you get frustrated, you don’t have the right political understanding of STP and how people generally are.

The masses have experienced the selfishness and violence of capitalism for generations. They are exploited every day. They have visited loved ones behind bars or six-feet under. Their kids go to bed traumatized from ICE raids, police violence, and gang violence. So if one day they see a free bag of food and are eager to take it without wanting to sit down for a meeting, it is not their fault. Generally, it is your fault for not convincing them of their need to change their lives, to transform, for revolution.

We fight against the charity danger by focusing more time and attention, not on the material we give out, but on the discussions we facilitate like in our three-part structure. Instead of telling the people the problems of gentrification or capitalism, we ask who has experienced rent increases, or who has experienced landlord harassment, or who has experienced selfishness. We ask people to talk about their experiences. We open up discussion. Often, we connect it back to one of the organization’s points of unity. But we don’t save the people, we serve them. We serve the people toward revolution.

  • Building the People’s Committees

 

 

STPLA’s newest campaign has been the tenants outreach and organizing. We know we have to mobilize the masses, not simply give them food or clothes. We need to focus on the class struggle of the masses of Boyle Heights, which also takes place inside their apartment buildings.

We began doing bi-weekly door-knocking around the area of Mariachi Plaza. We talk with tenants, inviting them to our distribution, popularizing our work and our rapid response network phone number, but also offering our services in any housing issues – repair, rent increase, eviction, etc.

Tenants have invited us into their homes, shown us the lack of proper upkeep and maintenance by the lying and cheating property manager or landlord, or both. We are aiming to unite tenants within a building into a People’s Committee that can serve as a local force against the bureaucratic and capitalist property managers/landlords. We’re not just fixing apartments; we are exposing the greediness of landlords and the laziness of property managers; we’re taking that anger and, little by little, are building to unleash it onto the property managers and landlords.

In this way, in building up People’s Committees as independent working-class tenants organizations, we aim not only to push apartment managers and landlords to do their job but to build the committees to act as a bargaining unit in stopping rent hikes, evictions and tenant harassment.

This is a new area we are marching in and only time will tell if we fail or if we win. But again, we don’t really think we’ll fail. Not because we are arrogant, although maybe we are a little, but because failure doesn’t really exist if you are armed with a correct way of studying and analyzing things.

If you see where you’ve failed and take away lessons from it and, most importantly, try again, then you have not actually failed. You are simply, slowly, winning.

  • Lessons for our comrades and friends across the country

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As the second STP organization to develop in the U.S., the first being Serve the People – Austin which we took direct inspiration from, we feel we can speak with a bit of boldness and well-earned authority and experience. STP organizations, or programs, must always be aligned with the interests of the masses of those respective cities they operate in. They cannot be an activists weekend radical homework. This is obvious, and we would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees. However, these organizations cannot be limited to only food or clothing distributions. They cannot be thought of as not being charities simply because activists talk about politics. STPs, if they are true to what the name historically and politically means, must be daring. And they must not give up at the soonest signs of fatigue or obstacles, the main one being the danger of turning into a charity. STP programs must not be afraid to fail, to retreat, try and fail again. STPs must win, side by side, with the people and close the gap between those we are serving and those who are serving them – while prioritizing political development. Like all things, we must look within, focus on what is internal. If we are failing, we shouldn’t think, “Oh, it’s because we have lazy members” or worst “the community is just too dumb or ‘too problematic,’” or “there are too many obstacles in this city.” Do y’all really think you’ve found that one community where capitalism has stopped screwing people over?

There is a reason why STPLA is arguably the leading mass-line organization in the country. We don’t give up. If we are failing, we retreat and try to come up with something better and more meaningful. For in the end it is not the masses or our will that fails, it is our politics and how we practice it that fails.

Comrades and friends, we have to be daring. We have to be willing to put our politics and bodies on the line if we claim to be revolutionaries, to be disciplined servants of the people.

This does not mean we should beat a dead horse. If an organization or program is failing, and by failing we mean there are no victories and the masses don’t care about you or what you say (this would probably look like three people at a table giving out sandwiches or fixing tail lights  for months like a church group, not even talking with the people because they’re shy or maybe don’t speak Spanish), then, yeah, you probably should stop and retreat.

But more than anything the reason people and groups do that and fail, like the Democratic Socialists of America, is because their politics are wrong. They are materially pro-capitalist even if they say they’re not. That is why their actions are guaranteed to fail. They are recreating capitalism. They are literally fixing the tiny points in capitalism, and they are creating dependency like parents with their kids. They are not creating independence and creating new socialist values and transforming people into future revolutionaries by leading them into battle against enemies of the people, like greedy landlords and poverty pimps.

We have to be harsh on these charity groups who trick the masses into thinking they are anything but a charity because, in the end, they will lead the masses off a cliff.

The political purpose for STPs is for mobilizing the masses to change society through their direct participation (we call that revolution). Even though STPs have to adapt to specific conditions to those specific cities, there are a few things that must always remain consistent:

  1. Direct participation and recruitment from the masses – with the working class being the group we mainly focus on
  2. The organization must be in regular contact with the masses – ideally weekly but biweekly can work too. Monthly is not encouraged, but in place of irregular contact, monthly can temporarily due.
  3. Regular political development must also be top priority, accessible but also dynamic to all mass members or volunteers.
  4. Challenge the masses – sometimes it is good to push the limits and test a person’s capability – in this way we are both building leadership and going against a common kid-like thinking of the masses as being dumb or not wanting to get all political.
  • Conclusion

As we have stressed throughout this summation, we do not shy away from criticism or self-criticism. In fact, we seek it. We need to be better, not just for us, but for the masses more importantly. We also do not shy away from confrontation and militancy. Arguably, this is the most important part of our present and future focus of organizing.

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The past year has brought many lessons for us and we are proud to say in many areas we are advancing. In other ways we are suffering. With solidarity, we wish our work to not only be useful for us, but also for those like us, daring to win for today and tomorrow.

We hope our friends, comrades and enemies alike can read this document and take away some key lessons from it.

We hope our friends and comrades become stronger and more effective.

We hope our enemies change their minds and their bad politics and follow us, but even if they don’t we will still be here, getting bigger, stronger, growing like a small guerrilla as part of a bigger army, an army of the people. A concept the masses at our distributions have been calling for on their own. It’s our job to fulfill this grand task.

We end our 2017 summation optimistically and critically with a great undying love and lifelong commitment to the beautiful struggling people of Boyle Heights!

Long live the working class of Boyle Heights!

Long live the Serve the People programs!

Death to gentrification and displacement!

Defend Boyle Heights – a call to serve the people!

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Boyle Heights, so close to a bustling, sanitized, safe, towering and trendy downtown Los Angeles, has attracted much attention from outsiders of the community. Boyle Heights, which sits just east of the Los Angeles River, has seen a growing amount of attention from west-of-the-river real estate agents, east coast art gallery owner Michele Maccarone (maccarone.net) and major developers (Metro, Fifteen Group, Adaptive Realty, etc.) and petite-bourgeois hipsters looking to relocate, redevelop and settle in Boyle Heights like 21st century colonizers.

On Saturday night, a group of people, mainly university students – a diverse but mainly white group –  including several urban planning students from the University of California, Los Angeles, embarked on a walking tour of downtown Los Angeles and attempted to explore historic parts of Boyle Heights.

Serve the People – Los Angeles (STPLA) and several residents of Boyle Heights contacted the organizers of the event, which was titled on Facebook as “6th St. Goodbye/Hello Spelunks,” several weeks in advance and had a meeting with them on Monday, Dec. 7 in Mariachi Plaza.

During the Monday meeting, STPLA members and other Boyle Heights residents expressed concerns/presented questions of the event, such as:

1.)    Why weren’t Boyle Heights people/organizations notified about this as potential partners from the beginning (or to check with them and see if it would be OK)?

2.)    Additionally, there’s a bad history of non-Latin@ people with no real community connection, trying to trivialize/tokenize our community’s needs and culture.

3.)    Who would be attending the walking tour event?

4.)    When non-Boyle Heights residents, especially affluent white people, visit Boyle Heights, some of us view it as a threat against people who have called this community home for years and generations. How would the event prevent this from happening? Are you aware of past events of non-Boyle Heights people coming in and basically “touring” Boyle Heights, such as Hopscotch/The Industry? (Which resulted in Boyle Heights residents confronting these gentrifiers and the kicking them out of Hollenbeck Park. Read more here and here).

At Monday’s meeting, the walking tour organizers expressed criticism against gentrification and empathy and regret in not having planned the event better and not having reached out to Boyle Heights organizations and residents, to which they explained was due to the informal nature of the walking tour.

Additionally, at the meeting it was decided that the individuals would report back to their respective collectives and discuss what the demands would be, of which the organizers of the walking tour event would respect.

STPLA and others decided that it would be best to tell the organizers of the walking tour event not to come into Boyle Heights and that STPLA and others would speak at the event to talk about our understanding of gentrification (not to convince the organizers necessarily, but rather to let the audience know why all such events not involving Boyle Heights input/support should be seen as a threat to the community, however seemingly trivial).

We communicated our demands to the walking tour organizers several days in advance, to which they said they’d be visiting Aliso Village, an almost exclusively-industrial section of Boyle Heights, to talk about gentrification. We, again, messaged them to say this violated our simple demand of not stepping into Boyle Heights. Furthermore, we said we would be meeting them during the walking tour.

STPLA walked near the L.A. River from 1st Street Bridge to the 6th Street Bridge on Mission Road looking for the walking tour. We headed back to the 1st Street Bridge where we ran into a group of approximately 40 people from the walking tour. We expressed our demands again and spoke briefly on why their event was seen as antagonistic toward residents of Boyle Heights, to which we all are.

We stated the following:

1.)    Boyle Heights is under attack in the form of gentrification and therefore must be defended.

2.)    Our priority is Boyle Heights and stopping gentrifiers from coming in and moving in.

3.)    In doing this, we commit ourselves in protecting our community by any means necessary, which means that outsiders should not be made to feel safe.

After a slight back-and-forth, which involved one of the walking tour attendees saying some #AllLivesMatter bullshit about members of all communities should feel safe anywhere – to which we said, while true, our priority is defending Boyle Heights – it was agreed that we’d escort them into the L.A. River and from there they had to leave Boyle Heights.

Some things need to be said.

While STPLA remains committed in building a multi-national/multi-racial/multi-ethnic/multi-gender diverse organization that has the political maturity to have a political line that encompasses all intersections of oppressive systems, we are against identity politics. Identity politics prioritizes individuals and identities divorced from liberation struggle (revolution).

Simply put, just because you’re brown or non-white does not exempt you from being a gentrifier, such as was the case with Palestinian immigrant Bana Haffar (formerly) of Adaptive Realty, a real estate firm that was pushing for non-Boyle Heights residents to buy up cheap homes in Boyle Heights back in May 2014.

Haffar designed a flier which invited people on a bike tour of Boyle Heights and publicized the community as “Charming, historic, walkable, and bikeable neighborhood” and posed the question in bold, “Why rent in downtown when you can own in Boyle Heights?”

The bike tour was called off after threats of violence and death were made against real estate agents of Adaptive Realty. Since then, there was been little-to-no publicity of Adaptive Realty in Boyle Heights.

In a quote in an LA Weekly story about the incident, Haffar said, “I’m of Palestinian origin … If anyone knows about displacement, it’s me. My family was displaced a number of times.”

No one should deny her seemingly good intentions of wanting to help people save money. Perhaps she didn’t think about the inevitable consequences of younger people with more finance capital moving into a working class oppressed community made up predominately of low-income families. However, good intentions matter little in the real world, in the political world.

Just because one was displaced or is oppressed does not negate their ability in being oppressive or displacing others. Putting politics, not identities, in command would argue that all oppressed and exploited people must organize toward serving the people, toward building with the people. Nothing else should lead us.

Similarly, at Saturday night’s walking tour event, the organizers and perhaps most of the attendees meant well. They wanted to talk about gentrification. They wanted to learn about the history of downtown Los Angeles and Boyle Heights with its rich Japanese, Jewish, New Afrikan, Chican@, Mexican and Central American immigrant history. But, again, in the end, intentions don’t matter as much as revolutionary politics.

Gentrification cannot be viewed as a gross, immoral growth of capitalism that can be combated in the legal realms of urban planning, city development and bourgeois reformism. It can be regulated, yes, and it can be stopped, but only momentarily somewhere; it will always make a resurgence. Because gentrification is a form of necessary violence that manifests under capitalism, a cannibalism that pits wealthier (powerful) individuals and organizations against poorer oppressed and exploited (powerless) communities.

We must look to revolutionary politics and strategies to fight gentrification, such as the Turkish communists of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front, Devrimci Halk Kurtuluş Partisi-Cephesi (DHKP/C).

DHKP/C, which traces its origin to 1978 under the name Dev-Sol (Revolutionary Left), has been waging a war against the repressive Turkish state for nearly 40 years. After a period of reformation, its activities accelerated in 2012, and has since been simultaneously building up an autonomous community with the power to kick out developers and other agents of the bourgeoisie. The oppressed and exploited people of Turkey, including religious and ethnic minorities, especially in Istanbul, support the DHKP/C wholeheartedly. They see gentrification as the direct and real threat to their way of life, and correctly see DHKP/C as an example of a popular people’s force capable of defending their communities. (See the short Vice documentary about them here).

Join STPLA and help us serve the people by giving out meals twice a week in Echo Park (Friday at 4 p.m. at the Belmont Art Space) and Boyle Heights (Sunday at 4 p.m. at Hollenbeck Park), while we defend Boyle Heights from gentrification and other nuanced, low-intensity assaults. Join us in building up community power to a point where we can effectively turn away developers and individuals from our communities and eventually connect with other communities in struggle in Los Angeles and outside of Los Angeles, outside of Southern California, all across the nation to say, there’s only one solution to the onslaught facing our disempowered communities; there’s only one solution to gentrification: revolution.

 

Biopolitics, Dual Power, and the Revolutionary Characteristics of “Serve the People” Programs

“Unlike simple charity programs, these revolutionary programs functioned as ways for people to seize control of their own lives and their own destinies, rather than being dependent on private charity or state-controlled welfare programs. We can see this being the case in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when the Black Panther Party established “Serve the People” programs across the United States. We can also see right-wing/conservative analogues of this in the form of Hezbollah, and the power they draw from being in control of basic goods and services in the slums of Lebanon.
The development of programs that bring benefits to the people, by the people, also serves as a way to begin building larger systems of governing political, economic, and social life autonomous from and opposed to state and capital—institutions of the proletariat. As such, programs centered around controlling or delivering material resources forces radicals and revolutionaries to delve into questions of how to actually sustain such programs. How does one establish sustainable sources of funding? How does one establish and expand effective and efficient methods of resource distribution? How does one defend against possible attacks from counter-revolutionary forces? These are questions that force people to move beyond short-term acts of rebellion, and into the realm of longer-term questions of governance, and the optimal ways in which proletarian institutions ought to function, communicate, and evolve–and eventually, how they ought to replace the institutions of capitalism.”

Biopolitics, Dual Power, and the Revolutionary Characteristics of “Serve the People” Programs

Against gentrification, against bourgeois art

Today Oct. 4, 2015, as is customary on every Sunday, Serve the People – Los Angeles went out to Hollenbeck Park to serve the poor and working class community of Boyle Heights.

However, when we arrived we witnessed a group of exclusively white people strolling around the park; one person, dressed like a pseudo-vaudevillian in front of a paletero cart, playing it like a drum, a woman on the Hollenbeck Park stage playing the cajón, dressed like a forgotten purple Power Ranger, a woman on roller skates with a parasol, and a man, in a deep white V-neck T-shirt with a fedora singing, leading the entire absurd group.

A circus of white, privileged petite-bourgeoisie literally occupying a historically oppressed neighborhood that has and is fighting against gentrification.

The group was Hopscotch Los Angeles, a mobile alternative Los Angeles-based opera project of their parent company The Industry. The company is trying to bring opera to the masses, irrespective of the content of the Opera or its relation to the communities in Los Angeles.

After serving the people groceries, we confronted the all-white performers, the all-white staff and the all-white audience members, who each paid $125 to watch this vapid, boringly avant garde, anti-proletarian (bourgeois) waste of instruments, breath and time.

White tourists, exploring and fetishizing a predominantly Chicano/Mexican/Central American community.  Their responses were predictable, racist and colonialists.

Several members of Serve the People – Los Angeles interrupted their performance, heckled the performers.

“We’re not gentrifiers! We’re putting on an art show!”

“We’re entertaining the community!”

Hollenbeck Park is known for its huge lake with ducks. Some of our members fed and lured the ducks over to the performers, the quacking interrupting the performance. A spin on Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary.” By any quacks necessary.

But the oppressed nationalities of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles do not want empty art that says nothing of Chicano/Mexican/New Afrikan struggle and history. Our communities cannot afford, nor do they want, to follow around white performers singing in our parks, on our hills.

We told them that Boyle Heights is not a safe space for their circus, that the masses of Boyle Heights won’t tolerate gentrification, that they are, in fact, in danger, that they will get physically hurt. Not by us. But by the people.

At their behest, we spoke with an employee of the park. Unbeknownst to the Hopscotch Los Angeles crew, the employee himself is a survivor of gentrification and a resident of Highland Park (Northeast Los Angeles). The park’s employee was sympathetic. We urged him to send the message to the Hopscotch crew that Boyle Heights is not a safe space for gentrifiers. And for the sake of their safety, they should immediately leave.

The woman with the parasol and roller skates said she, and her crew, were not gentrifiers because they were not from Boyle Heights. This is an incorrect and incomplete understanding of gentrification.

Gentrification is the natural development of savage and developed capitalism, a sort of colonialism, where poorer communities and their culture are displaced by people with more capital. While it is true that the Hopscotch crew may not be developers or real estate agents, their inaccessible, white high-art is a cultural attack on the history and contemporary culture of Boyle Heights. Projects like Hopscotch open the doors for white artists and hipsters and gentrifiers and city council sellouts and city agencies who don’t give a fuck about building proletarian power and preserving community.

One of the facets of gentrification is cultural hegemony and white supremacy. And the only effective way to combat the totality of gentrification is by emphasizing its connection to capitalism-imperialism. And you fight capitalism-imperialism with war, a Peoples’ War.

Serve the People – Los Angeles is committed to the masses of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Echo Park and everywhere in the city where poor and working class people are struggling to survive.

Death to gentrification!

Gente si, gentrification no!

It won’t stop unless you stop it!

Down with capitalism-imperialism!

Build Serve the People – Los Angeles chapters! Run the hipsters out of our communities, our hoods, our barrios!

 

#MLM #BUILD THE PARTY #SERVE THE PEOPLE #GENTRIFICATION #BOYLE HEIGHTS #HOLLENBECK PARK #EAST LOS ANGELES