Stretch Before You Reach: Limits of Performative “Accountability”

“As for criticism, do it in good time; don’t get into the habit of criticizing only after the event.”

-Mao Tse-Tung, “Criticism and Self-criticism”

As a revolutionary mass organization, we welcome criticism. In fact, it is one of our points of unity. It is a necessary tool to forge us to become better comrades, but more importantly, to become a stronger organization so that we can serve the masses to our utmost capability. The process of Criticism/Self-Criticism (or C-SC) principally begins with the offering of a criticism to a comrade or organization with the intention of correcting their errors and helping them transform, not merely saving “receipts” and being petty. While it may be directed at a specific party, it can be applied to all comrades and members of an organization to prevent certain mistakes and errors. The process of self-criticism is to genuinely reflect on one’s errors or mistakes and not to get defensive, deflect, nor apologize and wallow in self-pity. Mostly importantly, C-SC cannot be done alone and it requires a process of rectification. These are fundamental requirements of C-SC. However, what we are about to delve into is an example of the exact opposite, a “criticism” sent to us that reeks of opportunism

After our recent statement against the sham politics of DSA, we received an anonymous email in regards to one of our comrades.  Given the context that 1) the comrade in reference was previously associated with DSA, left, and joined our ranks and 2) that this was just a whole day after the statement was released, we can only assume that this was sent by a DSA supporter or member. Overall, this won’t just be a response to the anonymous individual (or group) but a criticism of the weak and opportunistic nature of pseudo-“criticism” and performative accountability.

 

Blatant Opportunism

The email we received was entitled, “Racism and Ableism from your comrade [X].” (For security protocol reasons, we will not publish our comrades name, not because we fear criticism or accountability, but because as a revolutionary mass organization, we understand the risks of making public any of our identities). Attached to the e-mail were three tweets our comrade had posted six years ago, containing the n-word and the r-word. The anonymous individual/group requested that we “write a public statement” for their use of these slurs as well as post this requested statement on our website and Twitter “in solidarity with POC/disabled comrades”.

We understand that both the words in question are slurs which have been used against oppressed groups in horrific ways. If any non-black member of our group or the masses we organize with used the n-word or displayed that type of racist thinking, we would correct them immediately. In fact, we have done so repeatedly in the past. We do not intend to downplay the impact these words have.

 But where was this person/group’s criticism when our comrade initially joined STP-LA? What e-mails were sent to us then? If they truly believed this comrade had anti-black and ableist behaviors and truly cared about the good of our collective and community, wouldn’t they have contacted us immediately?

But they did not. Instead, they dug back six years to find “problematic” tweets. This shows a lack of political development and an unwillingness to genuinely confront the criticism sent in the previous polemic. It is sheer opportunism due to the fact that this was sent to us after the release of our polemic attacking DSA’s line AND because this in no way represents our comrade today. As Red Guards Austin states, ” Call-out culture is based on a subjectivism: individualism. It looks for targets instead of investigating reality in its full and difficult complexity, and so it jumps to conclusions and inevitably mistakes friends for enemies.” Furthermore, “No one (communist or not) should be expected to unite with attacks against them even if they are dressed up as criticism. Such sham criticism should be rejected outright and used to expose the opportunistic motivation of the person placing it.”

Instead of acknowledging the criticism, this person resorted to going back six years to show us tweets of our comrade using incorrect language and demanded that our comrade make a statement and apologize, all under the guise of C-SC.

This shows a lack of understanding that, with time and the tool of C-SC, people transform. No one is born a revolutionary, let alone iterating “woke” academic language out of the womb. The fact that tweets from six years ago (before STP-LA existed) appears to make the assumption that our comrade maintains continuity with this language, which they do not whatsoever. Six years ago, many of us used incorrect and offensive language, struggled with alcoholism, perpetuated patriarchal behavior with partners, and more, but this has changed as a result of C-SC and our dedication to serving the masses. We do want to clarify that if this was a serious accusation of abuse and extreme anti-people behavior, we would have taken it seriously and addressed it right away, but this is not the case.

We responded and addressed their opportunist performative accountability request and linked articles that reference C-SC, one of them being the RGA document linked above. Some of their main takeaways from our response to them were:

1) That they are not opportunists nor upholding call-out culture because they “have nothing to gain from this.”

 2) That we are dismissing “concerned POC comrades” who have “legitimate concerns” and that this makes us “reactionary” (even though we are practically all people of color, even though this was six years old, and even though this does not qualify as a serious concern).

3) That our comrades “inflammatory remarks” will get in the way of our “goals of building solidarity with POC from Boyle Heights” (even though this comrade and a majority of us are POC).

4) And this last one is so good that we have to cite the entire thing: “In your reply you suggested that this request isn’t in good faith because the tweets are 6 years old, I would suggest the concept of statute of limitations is actually a bourgeoisie concept used by police & the ruling class to avoid accountability. Should the U.S. government not be held accountable for their imperialism throughout history simply because some of it happened decades or hundreds of years ago? At what age do demeaning remarks towards POC & disabled comrades ‘expire’ exactly?” Somehow, our comrade having said the n-word six years ago is comparable to the imperialist aggression of the US, as if they have the exact same repercussions, material consequences, and body count. This is ridiculous, but before we end this section, we would like to say that it is a joke to hold the U.S. accountable. We aim to destroy it.

The Masses, Language, and Performative “Accountability” Politics

While we have addressed the details of this exchange, we would like to take the opportunity to elaborate the failure of these types of approaches and why they are unproductive and even counter-revolutionary. As revolutionaries, we firmly uphold C-SC and also understand that the economic base of society (capitalism-imperialism) shapes the superstructure (ideology, politics, etc). Of course, there is a dialectical relationship between the two, where changes in one influence the other, but the base is always primary, and especially in shaping language. With that being said, proletarians (working class) and youth from proletarian neighborhoods often use language that postmodernists (who lack any sort of praxis) consider “problematic”, without offering any analysis of why this language persists. We understand that as long as the same objective conditions exist (enforced by the dominant mode of production), so will this language. Do we condone this? Of course not. In fact, we actively combat this language and type of behavior amongst the masses whenever we see it rise up. But we would be kidding ourselves if we assumed that politics should revolve around changing language, rather than changing material conditions, which can only be destroyed through violent revolution.

 As our comrades in Red Guards Los Angeles emphasize, “No longer will we suffice with the concept of unlearning – yes, men need to improve their gender practice but without an analysis as to why sexism exists and who benefits from it, unlearning becomes performative. Performative is generally radical in speech and reformist in action. One must literally arm themselves against patriarchy and build a revolutionary movement! If one commits to fight against patriarchy but not destroy the economic base that produces patriarchal ideas and relations, what was accomplished?”

This type of performativity and call out culture is ineffective and a sham and we can see how this plays out in other larger spheres such as the question of “white allies”. Instead of being built into militants who serve the masses, white allies are told to just listen, give us their money, hold their tongues from criticism (because, of course, it is racist if they offer criticism), check their privilege and use it to “benefit” marginalized people (usually by holding their tongues & giving money), and criticize their racist grandmas, as if any of these are revolutionary. As if any of these will transform the economic base or even challenge oppression. As if this is a form of Criticism/Self-Criticism. As if this will ever change the material conditions of the oppressed masses. No, this is mere performativity and self guilt which is what this anonymous person/group wishes for us to concede to.

In the same vein, we reject this phony “criticism” since it is completely detached from the context of where our comrade is today. We will never make our comrades or the masses “apologize” for petty mistakes they made years ago just to appease the pseudo-left revisionists and postmodernists petty, incompetent, counter-revolutionary conception of performative “accountability” which serves absolutely no purpose. Better make sure we pull out the receipts on all of our core and mass members and have them apologize for every singular time they used incorrect language!

The opportunists and identity politicians will squirm and attempt to twist our words and claim that we will not criticize people who are harming the masses, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. What we will not do is expect every individual whether comrades or the masses to write-up a sham apology for using incorrect language and claim that this is serving the people. What we will do is struggle with the masses so they can master the tool of C-SC as well as build them into soldiers so that they can take power and destroy the conditions that put them in the position that they are currently in. The revisionists and postmodernists who solely orient to the “left” and academics can keep their performative “accountability” politics. We’ll be with the masses.

Further Resources on C-SC:

“On Some Points Regarding Criticism-Self Criticism”:

http://www.signalfire.org/2014/11/07/on-some-points-regarding-criticism-self-criticism-june-1973/

Red Guards Charlotte, “Without Criticism We Cannot Improve”:

https://redguardscharlotte.wordpress.com/2017/11/16/without-criticism-we-cannot-improve-2/

Interview with Allyn Rickett:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BySF5Soi1og

Interview with Allyn Rickett Part 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMineyQ0s58

“Rethinking Self-Criticism: What Does It Mean Today?”

https://anti-imperialism.org/2014/10/08/rethinking-self-criticism-what-does-it-mean-today/

A Handbook on Criticism/Self-Criticism:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByaCtqLr5W7XdnF5ME5NSGZBWnM/view?usp=sharing

 

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Against Phony Socialism

As an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-gentrification organization, Serve the People-Los Angeles (STP-LA) always places our politics in command. This means that, regardless of the tactics used, our goal to destroy capitalism will always guide our struggles. This applies to all organizations we do not work with or do work with. We will not work with organizations, regardless of their tactics, if their politics are inherently antagonistic to our principles. Principally, in the context of this paper, this means that STP-LA will not work with political parties and/or political organizations whose primary reason for existing and primary goals are to reform the state. We may work with community organizations that push reformists tactics in their larger, principal goal of standing in solidarity with the community, but we will not work with organizations that use community organizing as a tactic for their larger, principal goal of reforming the United States as the answer to capitalism.

 

We are writing this piece because despite having a struggle session with the Democratic Socialists of America – Los Angeles’ “Food for Solidarity” committee and telling them to stay away from Boyle Heights for their shitty politics, it has come to our attention that DSA-LA plans to initiate a food distribution in communities in NELA . We refuse to accept this and will do everything that we can to stop these “Food 4 Solidarity” programs, if DSA votes to implement them. We will not bite back our tongues for the sake of “unity”.

 

We want to be clear here – we do not reject principled unity with DSA. We will unite with them against common enemies, such as fascists or slumlords. We will even applaud them when they fight these enemies of the people with militancy.

 

But there is a difference between principled unity and unprincipled unity. Unprincipled unity would be allowing them to organize not only in Boyle Heights but in any of the oppressed communities surrounding it. In fact, unprincipled unity would be allowing them to spread any of their reformist bullshit to any of the oppressed communities of LA.

 

Before we speak on why we do not want DSA organizing in our community or any community like ours, we need to put them in the context of contemporary US politics. We want to emphasize the difference between DSA distributing free food and a community organization, like a church or a school, distributing free food.

 

We would be lying to the community if we ever stated that even focusing on the smallest reforms (lobbying, registering people to vote, canvassing for “progressive” candidates, etc) is a step in the right direction to challenging capitalism. All reforms attack only minor aspects of a larger problem. They are band-aid solutions; they do not treat the wound, only cover it for the time being. Ultimately, they preserve the institution of capitalism which oppresses us with every breath we take.

 

Reformism: Opium of the People

 

When organizations like DSA-LA push reformist goals and focus principally on reforming the United States, they are serving the interests of the ruling class, whether or not they know it. If DSA-LA was insular, working only in activist circles and staying out of working-class communities, then we would see them as a less antagonistic threat. But it is primarily because they come into working-class communities and lie to the people living there (and, perhaps, lie even to themselves) that we see them as an antagonistic force and, in fact, possibly even class enemies.
When we say they are class enemies, we mean that their organization serves the ruling, bourgeoise class of this country, as opposed to the working class and its communities.

 

Nothing short of revolution will bring about socialism, which DSA-LA claims that it seeks to establish. However, regardless of their intentions, this organization’s shitty reformist political line will ultimately set the community back by leading them to capitulate to capitalism. In essence, regardless of what they say or call themselves, we see what they want to do as no different than the Democratic Party coming into any working-class community. Ultimately, they are tricking people for votes and calling themselves a solution to injustice when, in reality, they preserve the cause of injustice, capitalism. In the end, they will harm the communities they peddle their “Food4Solidarity” programs to.

 

 

We know that this is the case because that is what social democracy is. We know this is the case because the organization’s politics in command means working with the police and even having pigs in national leadership roles. We know that this is the case because we have seen the national organization gladly work with the Democrats since, when it comes to their politics and our livelihoods, they compromise and push quantity over quality. We know that this is the case because we have spoken to DSA-LA members and found that their big-tent organizing tactics include working with open Zionists. We know that this is the case because DSA is not an organization that is principally for the masses. There are times where they can almost read as a commercial. (Petty-bourgeois activists, call now and for the low, low price of $750, get a lifetime membership in DSA!!) DSA as an organization is spineless and their politics are empty. They cannot save or liberate anyone.

 

 

This is not to say that all members of DSA-LA are spineless or have empty politics. We know that this absolutely is not true. There are many members who are new to the organization that might be unaware of other community organizations that they can turn to. There are many members who might have misguided politics but truly wish for liberation – they simply don’t know how to get there. To these folks, to people who truly care about serving the people and liberating the masses, we encourage you to question the politics of your organization. Why does DSA simultaneously criticize Democrats and run candidates as Democrats? Why do they work with pigs and pig unions? How is DSA revolutionary? How can its social-democratic politics change the system of inequality and oppression in the long-term? That DSA can not answer these questions is a reflection on both the local chapter of DSA-LA and of DSA nationally. It is a reflection of other revisionist organizations and parties that state they are building socialism when in fact they will happily work with enemies of the people (like pigs and politicians), push reforms and even run as Democrats. DSA may quote revolutionaries but these quotes only mask their hollow, liberal politics.

 

Therefore, this organization, as opposed to other community organizations we do work with, stands on the side of the oppressor. They will beg for scraps and call it revolutionary. They will work within the limits of the law, even when they know full well that the laws of a bourgeois society are laws for the bourgeoise, established by capitalists and their servants to maintain their hegemonic control over the masses. These bourgeois laws will always be on the side of the oppressor. This has been true since day one and it will not change because some fools will campaign for Bernie Sanders and call themselves socialists.

 
An organization like this stands in opposition to community organizers precisely because of these politics, because they are social-democrats. As opposed to DSA-LA and other revisionists organizations, community organizations, made up of the community, organize because they stand in solidarity with their neighbors. Community organizers organize because they understand the precarious conditions their neighbors in Boyle Heights and Los Angeles live under. To them, it is a necessity to organize and act in solidarity with other community organizations. Although they may push reformists tactics in campaigns, they principally organize to act in solidarity with their neighbors. STP-LA has been honest with all the organizations that we work with; we tell them directly that we know voting will never accomplish anything. But because we both have the primary goal of acting in solidarity with the community, we are able to work with these organizations non-antagonistically. In fact, in some cases, these organizations even applaud our militancy. This is because their only goal is to truly help the people and they know that militancy gets things done. This is opposed to DSA which will always bow down to to its long-term goal of pushing reforms and electing “progressive” candidates. While the community organizers we work with prioritize the community and use reforms as a (incorrect) tactic to help them, DSA prioritizes reform and uses the community as a tactic to pass these reforms.

 

Fauilure of Red Charity
We have discussed our own experience with food distributions in previous summations. We know now that food distributions are economist programs which act as a band-aid to cover larger wounds in the community. STP-LA is an organization that wishes to end the principal injustice of capitalism by creating an army in the community that will defend itself against all oppressors. Food distributions can not get us to this point. We know this from our experience of distributing free food in Boyle Heights for over 2 years. Of course food scarcity is a real problem, especially in oppressed communities. However, we have seen that most folks in the community see these programs as types of charities and, therefore, treat them as one. Although charities provide necessary materials in the community, they also hinder revolutionary organizing and therefore, should be avoided.

 

Organizations that are truly seeking to build socialism should avoid economistic mistakes. We know that the masses make history and we also know that they must be organized and mobilized against their class enemies. Handing out free food does not organize or mobilize anybody. It did not do anything progressive in our case, despite our revolutionary politics and militancy. It will not do anything progressive in DSA’s case and, in many cases, will deter the community because of their reformist tactics and faith in the electoral system.

 

We criticize food distributions because we know that charity ultimately work against community interests. If hundreds of people are starving in our communities and an organization provides basic resources to a handful of them, it is likely that these people will not organize. So, ultimately, this will hurt their interests and the interests of the community at large. Like we have said, this is a decaying band-aid on a bullet wound. It will never cure the underlying problem of capitalism.

 

We will not lie to community organizers we have worked with in our community about food distributions. We will tell them to their face – food distributions will not and cannot address the root of the problem. They are decaying band-aids on a bullet wound. But we do not blame these community organizations because we know that their primary reason for existing is to feed and help people in the community. Again, they share our goal of helping the masses. They might be unfamiliar with why hunger exists or how to ultimately combat injustices in Boyle Heights. But we will still work with them because they are a part of the community and they share our goal of empowering the community. As we have said before, they have no ulterior motives of reform.

 

As much as we criticize food distributions, we are not saying that food distributions should never be organized. We are not against food distributions in and of themselves.  We can see how they have been utilized by organizations such as the Black Panthers in the past to gain community support. Even we ourselves will provide whatever possible resources that we can to fulfill the community’s immediate needs. However, this is primarily as a last resort and not because it is a solution to anything. For example, we have fixed broken doors, pipes, and leaky roofs for tenants we work with because certain repairs are very urgent and landlords will wait months to fix them. However, this is a short-term solution because ultimately, it is on the landlord to fix it. And seeing as the majority of the community we work with have these issues as tenants, we know that we cannot fix all of their problems over and over again. STP-LA nor any other organization can be anyone’s savior. The people must learn to fight for themselves. It is on them to take back what is rightfully theirs and demand landlords fix whatever is broken. Our role as organizers is principally that – to organize them, to work with them, to stand side by side with them. Organizing them is only the first step forward and it must serve the long-term goal of destroying capitalism, not of electing a “leftist” candidate. Any organization that puts elections first is betraying the people.

 

Conclusion

 

If it isn’t obvious already, we do not uphold the incorrect and treacherous line of left unity, i.e. unprincipled unity. We do not seek unity with the left – we seek unity with the masses. And, although this message is directed towards DSA, we are addressing all red capitalist organizations here. We will not allow these groups to betray the masses and sell them false liberation. In the final analysis, all those who are against the masses are our enemies. We advise the conscientious members of DSA to abandon and denounce their reformist leadership and join the ranks of the revolutionary masses. If they refuse to do so, no one can say we did not warn them. Collateral damage is an inevitable part of war.
We want to state that we will not recognize DSA-LA’s politics. Ultimately, we see them as a threat to the working-class communities of Los Angeles. We will not allow them to lie to the people and promise them false messiahs in liberal politicians. If DSA-LA refuses to listen to us, we will continue to win over the community they pretend to serve and show who they are at face-value. We will shed no tears for their organization being run out of the hood.

 

As we said, we have previously struggled with DSA-LA on this very topic. We thought we made our message clear but apparently we didn’t. For that, we self-criticize and we will boldly restate our position. As DSA-LA cowardly whispers criticisms of neoliberalism, STP-LA will shout to the sky our hatred of capitalism and our love of the masses. We proclaim that all attempts to trick the masses into reform will end in one result; a traitor’s conviction. We will let DSA-LA decipher the verdict.

 

STP-LA has been organizing in Boyle Heights for three years and we can proudly say that, in this time, we have established a mass base. The masses trust us and we trust them. They have united with our line to join our ranks. However, the first two years of our organizing were marked by the economist practice of food distributions. We can say with confidence that DSA-LA, with their “Food 4 solidarity” initiative, will resurrect failure and death.

 

DSA states that Food 4 Solidarity will “strengthen the organization and move us closer to building socialism from the ground up”. In reality, they want to generate good traction to push them on the ballot and push the nation closer to welfare capitalism. DSA simply wants capitalism with a better healthcare package. That they call themselves “socialist” is a spit in the face of every revolutionary socialist who has given their life to serve the people. They do not grasp that, at its very core, socialism can only be built through the violent confrontation between the working class and its exploiters. All organizing efforts must aim to bring forward this confrontation and end exploitation once and for all. DSA’s planned economism seeks to liquidate class antagonisms, hide contradictions, and call small concessions victories. At their core, food distributions aim to make capitalism more bearable for the exploited – thus, they give another leg for capitalism to stand up on. Food distributions trick the masses into becoming dependent on small guarantees. This is a lesson we have learned in the last two years. Food distributions are a dead end – they mechanically distribute food week after week, empowering no one. They cannot fulfill the primary goal of any revolutionary organization, which is to transform the masses into militants who are ready to wage war. We declare that the seizure of political power is the principle objective for organizing.  As the masses have stated,”tenemos nada y queremos todo.”. We know that they will seize todo by force, whether it be against a pig or a capitalist with a red rose banner.

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

May Day speech: Rise up, soldiers of the people: May Day belongs to the working class!

We demanded discipline like a military command but we also offered compassion because the masses are hungry. They are hungry for both sustenance as well as theory – not like how these dumb fucks would trick us into believing “the masses can’t eat theory” yet we see them clamor to transformation and the politics of liberation. These other activists justify their inaction and cowardice by saying the masses aren’t ready for revolutionary theory or revolution. But through our work we see the opposite. Cast away these fools. Cast away the politics of capitalism – anything that tricks the working class into staying home, not studying, not transforming themselves and their struggles into trenches of combat.

The following was delivered as a speech on May Day in Boyle Heights as part of the Red Guards – Los Angeles-led march and rally. We were honored to participate and we will continue to work alongside our comrades! Together, and most importantly with the militant participation of the masses, we will rid Boyle Heights of all the parasitic slumlords, gentrifiers and ICE terrorists!

Rise up, soldiers of the people: May Day belongs to the working class!

We give militant greetings to all the militants and the masses of Boyle Heights!

May Day, as we all know, is an important day of sacrifice and victory for the working class; not just here in LA, but across the world.

We are here today in the spirit of rebellion – a rebellion that lives inside the veins of our people, the masses of Boyle Heights. As the sun rises and sets  can we say we don’t struggle on any given moment, any given day?

Struggle is all we have known and all we will ever know. Let’s not shy away from that shit. This is how things are but like all things it can change and we must change.

Change comes from struggle. Wherever there is conflict, there is change – whether it is between a slumlord and a tenant or a worker and their boss or an undocumented working-class immigrant and ICE.  Let’s rejoice that we are in struggle. It’s brought us victory, not just defeat. It has brought us here today and will carry us to tomorrow!

This year, 2018, has brought us an end, but a necessary end so we could make room for another beginning. This year we stopped our food distributions. After two years of weekly food distributions – about 40 bags per week, every week,  serving more than 2,000 people in a year. We came to realize that this wasn’t working. We weren’t reaching our goals: creating militant soldiers of and for the people to bring us independence and closer to revolution in this country, under this inhumane system. Handing out bags of food wasn’t creating militants. It was only re-creating individuals. This was one of our main problems. Instead of creating bags for each other, many community members would create their own bags of food and guard them. We tried to reform this individualism by implementing rules to squash it. But individualism, like all creations under capitalism, is only destroyed through real working-class struggle. Struggle was a missing part of the food distribution. Really, it was like a weekly guaranteed victory. The masses became dependent on us like a charity with only a few becoming independent revolutionaries. We demanded discipline like a military command but we also offered compassion because the masses are hungry. They are hungry for both sustenance as well as theory – not like how these dumb fucks would trick us into believing “the masses can’t eat theory” yet we see them clamor to transformation and the politics of liberation. These other activists justify their inaction and cowardice by saying the masses aren’t ready for revolutionary theory or revolution. But through our work we see the opposite. Cast away these fools. Cast away the politics of capitalism – anything that tricks the working class into staying home, not studying, not transforming themselves and their struggles into trenches of combat. 

However, we’ve learned , even though we can be stubborn. Once you give the masses the weapons to use against those that oppress them, then gah-damn you’ve done something, something permanent. Worthy of a moment of pride, and a subsequent speech.

Look around you. Do you know where you are. But really, really know it, like grasping what this neighborhood actually is and that the masses are the only force that gives it definition?

Boyle Heights is a battlefield that is part of a larger class war. Gentrification is just a concentrated form of class struggle at the community level. Gentrification, like all things that are reactionary, will inevitably fall. But it won’t fall by itself – only an organized and committed army that is willing to push can make things fall!

This will be done, in part, by our People’s Committees – with the very first committee being formed at the Pleasant Avenue apartments. The tenants of Pleasant Avenue have been neglected for years by a slumlord who still dared to raise their rents! Fuck that! You don’t get a bonus for letting your apartment buildings deteriorate while tenants suffer from your greed. So what did we do? We gathered the scattered anger of the tenants and organized it! Through struggles, the tenants began to realize their power, like a sleeping giant waking up. The committee held a small protest with 30 people for about two hours in front of slumlord Roger Lee’s office. Unsurprisingly, he was missing! He was afraid of the torrent of working-class power coming from the committee members. If we were slumlords (thankfully we’re not, eww) and our tenants were militantly confronting security guards and holding signs saying “Down with Roger Lee”, we would also be shaking! This small flex of force gave the tenants years of what was stolen from them. Slumlord Lee quickly began repairing the apartments and lowered the rent increase from $140 to $70. What a nice and generous guy! 30 people, two hours, and small displays of militancy conquered so much. So imagine 60 people, four hours, even more militancy. Imagine the fear this slumlord would feel then! Imagine how much more the tenants could conquer! As we’ve stated elsewhere, “Numbers and force are the only things that have changed history. Nothing else is effective in fighting gentrification.”

The committee knows that it can shake the world. A few repairs and a fraction of a rent increase is far from what we want. When we asked the tenants if they were satisfied, they responded “No”! When we asked what they wanted, a resounding “Everything” was heard. So when slumlord Roger Lee and the other slumlords (we’re coming for you – your days are numbered) ask us what we want, that will be our answer – everything! If our demands are not met, we will reassure these slumlords that there are militants who are not afraid to struggle, who are not afraid of a jail cell or even death if it means serving the people! All slumlords who do not end their corrupt and shitty ways will be washed away by the torrent of working-class tenants and the militants. Let us also remind slumlords like Roger Lee that the militant masses are growing and aligning themselves to our leadership. Today, there might be a handful of militants but tomorrow, we are certain there will be more – an army, eventually. In Boyle Heights and throughout the world, there is an ever-growing army who fight for the conquest of one thing – everything!

Long live Serve the People – Los Angeles!

Long Live the Peoples Committees!

Long live the militant masses who defend the people!

Shake the World!

An end to the ceasefire with Roger Lee: all-out war against slumlords

Call, mail or better yet visit the offices of Roger Lee: 17700 Castleton St, Industry, CA 91748-1705. Third floor, Suite 358. Office phone number: (626) 964-0999, ask for Roger Lee.

Copy and paste, share far and wide. The more people hear about this injustice, the more pressure he will be to sit down and hear the grievances of his tenants!

Yesterday Roger Lee’s lawyer, Rose, told Serve the People – Los Angeles’ People’s Committees that Roger does not have time to meet with the tenants and that he will not be waiving the rent hikes, not now, not ever.

And, so, with grave concern we told his lawyer that we will be calling an end to the ceasefire and resuming actions against Roger Lee. Come what may.

To the people of Boyle Heights: what have we learned from the battle and rent strike at 1815 E. 2nd Street against landlord Frank “BJ” Turner? What do we know already about the laws of physics – that every action has an opposite and equal re-action.

Welp. Here we are.

To the militant masses of Boyle Heights and all of Los Angeles: resume the campaign to pressure Roger Lee to sit down with us and his tenants, to stop raising the rent, to repair their homes! Call, mail and visit his office! Strike with chaos! Make slumlords tremble!

To Roger Lee: not wanting to meet with your very own tenants is an act of cowardice and arrogance. It’s unforgivable. As we have said previously: “It must be understood that we are not a force that can be tamed. A fury of centuries lives in our veins, explodes in our hearts. A fury that eagerly yearns to be strategically released as if it had a life of its own. Any tactic to destroy us will only aid us in our construction.”

Call, mail or better yet visit the offices of Roger Lee: 17700 Castleton St, Industry, CA 91748-1705. Third floor, Suite 358. Office phone number: (626) 964-0999, ask for Roger Lee.

Copy and paste, share far and wide. The more people hear about this injustice, the more pressure he will be to sit down and hear the grievances of his tenants!

Long live the united and militant people!

Ayer, el abogado de Roger Lee, Rose, le dijo a El Comité Popular de Servir al Pueblo – Los Angeles que Roger no tiene tiempo para reunirse con los inquilinos y que no renunciará al aumento de la renta, ni ahora, ni nunca.

Y, entonces, con grave preocupación, le dijimos a su abogado que pondría fin al alto el fuego y reanudaríamos las acciones contra Roger Lee. Pase lo que pase.

Para el pueblo de Boyle Heights: ¿qué hemos aprendido de la batalla y huelga de renta en 1815 E. 2nd Street contra el propietario Frank “BJ” Turner? ¿Qué sabemos ya sobre las leyes de la física? Que cada acción tiene una reacción opuesta e igual.

Entonces. Aquí estamos.

 

A las masas militantes de Boyle Heights y todos Los Angeles: reanudar la campaña para presionar a Roger Lee a sentarse con nosotros y sus inquilinos, para dejar de aumentar la renta y reparar sus apartamentos. ¡Llama, envía por correo y visita su oficina! ¡Huelga con caos! ¡Haz temblar a los dueños desgraciados!

Para Roger Lee: no querer encontrarse con sus propios inquilinos es un acto de cobardía y arrogancia. Es imperdonable. Como dijimos anteriormente: “Se debe entender que no somos una fuerza que pueda ser domesticada. Una furia de siglos vive en nuestras venas, explota en nuestros corazones. Una furia que anhela ser lanzada estratégicamente como si tuviera un vida propia. Cualquier táctica para destruirnos solo nos ayudará en nuestra construcción “.

Llama, envía por correo o visita la oficina de Roger Lee: 17700 Castleton St, Industry, CA 91748-1705. Tercer piso, Suite 358. El número de teléfono de la oficina: (626) 964-0999, pregunte por Roger Lee.

Copie y pegue, comparta por todas partes. ¡Cuanta más gente escuche sobre esta injusticia, más presión tendrá para sentarse y escuchar las quejas de sus inquilinos!

¡Viva el pueblo militante e unido!

 

 

Help Luis Enrique Estrada Perez fight his deportation!

That is why our organization, Serve the People – Los Angeles’, reaffirms that ICE is a total and vicious enemy of the people, specifically working-class undocumented immigrants! Undocumented immigrants are under attack by the federal government – we must fight back!  We must move away from defensive strategies into offensive, preventative strategies beyond the endless Know-Your-Rights workshops, to fight ICE. To be clear: we need defense units to prevent ICE from taking our people.

This past Tuesday, 4-17-18, Luis Enrique Estrada Perez was taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in front of his house in the private housing projects of the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments. He is being held in the Adelanto Detention Facility, a private federal prison, in San Bernardino County. Although he most likely will be transferred to other detention facilities.

Luis is the latest casualty in the federal government’s war against undocumented working-class immigrants! More than 100 immigrants have been taken by ICE, according to the LA Times. Just in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles there has been approximately 10-to-12 people already detained, with some having been deported! All, without exception, were hard-working providers for their families. This is not coincidence. Our communities are been targeted most likely because of the high-level of militancy and revolutionary organizing.

Undocumented immigrants are held to high, moralistic standards. They can’t make mistakes. They must be ethical Americans. Whereas citizens can go to jail, accumulate tickets, sin, and then be forgiven, undocumented immigrants are chewed up, sucked dry of their labor and spat out!

But we are not deterred. His girlfriend of 18 years and mother of his children, Petra, is diligently working with lawyers to represent him in court and demand his release. But the family needs help with the legal fees. It is approximately $8,000-to-$10,000! But we are initially starting off with $1,000.

That is why our organization, Serve the People – Los Angeles’, reaffirms that ICE is a total and vicious enemy of the people, specifically working-class undocumented immigrants! Undocumented immigrants are under attack by the federal government – we must fight back!  We must move away from defensive strategies into offensive, preventative strategies beyond the endless Know-Your-Rights workshops, to fight ICE. To be clear: we need defense units to prevent ICE from taking our people.

We urge our supporters and all supporters of undocumented working-class immigrants to call Adelanto Detention Facility and/or visit and demand the immediate release of Luis! Here is his family’s YouCaring fundraiser page! Please donate and share!

Call them! (760) 561-6100 or (760) 530-9300

Visit them! 9483 Commerce Way, Adelanto, CA 92301

Luis Enrique Estrada Perez. Date of birth: 02/27/1979. File no: 213 019 980. Subject ID: 361124569. Warrant issuing officer: Ryan Hicks.

SAPLA