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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

People’s War to address gentrification in Los Angeles — Maybe just political action here in Maize

By សតិវ ​អតុ
It's been a long time since anyone has considered launching a Maoist People's War here in the US. For many of us, it seems almost impossible. We don't have large rural areas that are undeveloped enough to put a guerrilla army. It is hard to hide a guerrilla army anywhere in the US. But the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) of Canada discussed launching a people's war in that country starting about some time between 2002 and 2014. And now the Red Guards – Los Angeles (RGLA) have declared“The time for activism is over. Now is the time of war.” That is a pretty big statement. Do they mean an all-out war with people shooting guns at each other? Or maybe they mean a more heightened sate of activism.
Some of what they mean is in their latest article:

The plan, as it was revealed, was to march to the art galleries in the so-called “arts district” of Boyle Heights and focus on the main target, the new breweries…….
….Hollenbeck Division pigs were adequately prepared as they have a seemingly good, but incomplete, understanding of the high level of militancy of the Boyle Heights anti-gentrification movement. ……
…..We say they have a good understanding of the all-around growing militancy of the movement, but it is incomplete because they do not grasp its essence. They do not fully understand the high-level of discipline and naked revolutionary selflessness of the movement’s soldiers, who have shed the dead skin of their activism.

The issue they are concerned with is the gentrification of the Boyle Heights neighborhood, in the Los Angeles area. I’m very familiar with that issue since a form of gentrification is taking place in my present hometown of Maize, KS. Gentrification is a real serious problem for either minority people, as in Boyle Heights, that would be Chicano people, and it always affects poor people in a negative fashion.
I strongly expect that the people’s war as proposed by the RCP of Canada is similar to what the RGLA is planning here in the US. Canada does have a lot more rural underdeveloped spaces. Canada is bigger land wise than the US. But the population is less than one tenth as big. So there could be rural guerrilla war fare. But I’m guessing they are also looking at a more heightened militarism. Their last article was in February of 2015 and it included a rebuttal of Curtis Cole’s Idealizing PPW: A Response to the PCR-RCP, written for the new defunct Kasama Project.

“In hack internet speak we could accuse Cole of “straw-personing” our position, and we will go into this in more detail in later sections, but since it is not enough to just dismiss a critic of making this mistake (after all, it is equally unprincipled to accuse someone of this without going into detail—as Cole does at one point), we’re left with the unfortunate job of trying to correct an erroneous depiction while, at the same time, responding to those critiques that are half-correct.”

And RCP Canada wrote a lot to explain that Canada is not the same as the US nor does it require the aid of a US revolutionary “people’s war:”

“The fact that Cole asserts that “[a] revolution in Canada cannot survive without a revolution in the United States of America” as if this is a fact of nature (there is no real argument, it is simply justified with rhetoric about the power of the US media, the reactionaries who would not allow us to make revolution, etc.)—which is perhaps the basis of his conflation of Canada with North America as a whole—is proof of this exceptionalism. It could also be a holdover from the imperialist chauvinism that has hampered the international communist movement for over a century, that deep-seeded assumption amongst first world communists that the revolution must be accomplished in the imperialist centres first or any revolution at the peripheries will be doomed.”

RCP Canada has not given us a lot of details as to what they meant by people’s war. The group is still active today. They are preparing for a special May Day event in 2019. It would be nice if they do something this year as well. 
I sure don’t want to be one of those old experienced Marxist-Leninist who keep shooting down the more militant young Marxists all of the time with all of that “The time isn’t right yet…We just don’t have enough people…. We just don’t have enough resources….society is not approaching a revolutionary situation.…today’s young Marxist lack the maturity, the understanding, the experience….etc.”
I see enough of that and I have to wonder if such people will ever decide the time is right for either people’s war or the more militant style of political action—and I would include the black block tactics. Such Marxists will probably never approve of the idea that US society is ready for an actual revolution. I don’t want to be like one of those old fogy Marxists. In 1968, France was near a Marxist revolution, by Marxist students and if the old fogies of the French Communist Party  had supported the revolt, it may have succeeded. France has never come that close to a revolution and neither has any of Europe’s other nations. That opportunity was lost and nothing like that has ever happened since. Let’s not make the same mistake in the US today by condemning those who are willing to take risks. We need to let people try new things.  
That brings us to the issue of gentrification. I live in Maize, a small town of about 3,420 people. It had been a small farming oriented town, with a lot of rural people living in it. It was about 10 miles from Wichita only a few years earlier. About 10 years ago, or maybe more, wealthy people began moving into the town. Wichita and Maize grew until today, where they are side by side. The new people voted in their representatives who began to draw up stricter rules on what people could do with their lawns and public property. They also began to change policies that were in place to help the poorer people make payments when their water bills and other utilities were too high for them. Everything that has benefited the poor residents have been scrapped. All agreements made with citizens have been replaced with strict rules that allow utilities to cut off services if a resident is even a day late paying their bills. At one time they cut the water off of a busy restaurant in Maize, at noon, during the rush hour, for being late and without warning. They came up with strict laws to Levy huge fines over those who grass and landscaping don’t appease the newer regulators and their regulations. The town has many new housing developments that offer much more expensive housing that the town has had in the past. As with any gentrification scheme, the idea is to run poorer people out and allow wealthier individuals to come in and replace them.
Such efforts in Boyle Heights include bringing in art galleries designed to drive up housing costs and rent. The RGLA has also focused on some new craft beer breweries. The RGLA has focused on what they call “hipsters” which they have declared war on. As RGLA described their actions;  

“Another stop was at artist live-in lofts where militants launched heavy trash on top of cars over a tall wrought-iron fence. Other militants shook the fence, repeatedly slammed a dumpster with heavy debris. The goal was to ensure the lofts residents were awake and aware of the march-bloc and its thirst for revolutionary violence.
Gentrifier-hipsters[1] were terrified. The pigs were seen shining lights on hipsters walking out of or around the art galleries and breweries, being told to go inside, to probably lock the doors, and stay away from the windows. This was emergency code red for gentrifier.”

I found an article by the Los Angeles Times that covered these militant actions:

……He (Jackson Defa) said that in San Francisco, he saw his rent jump from $700 to $2,000 in a year because of gentrification and moved to L.A. for a new start. He worked at a coffee shop in West L.A. until the owner sold it.
Schwarz, 33, a video game developer, lost his job last June. He held a few jobs to make a living and rents a room for $700 in the West Adams area.
"I wasn't surprised," Defa said of the protesters. "I was surprised they didn't want to listen."

On one hand this article gives a dim view of the anti-gentrification group, which is not well defined as to what groups are in this action. They never mention the RGLA by name. On the other hand it makes it clear that these art galleries and other attempts a gentrification are raising rents and costing poor people a lot, even pushing them out of the Boyle Heights district. The quote above shows the heavy rent increases for people. But they also gave a negative look at the tactics used by the anti-gentrification crowd. While the Los Angeles Times didn't mention the breweries discussed by the RGLA, they wrote about a coffee house that was under attack, called Weird Wave Coffee:

"Anti-gentrification forces spent weeks trolling the coffee house on Instagram before and after it opened June 15. They held protest rallies outside the business, holding posters, including one that read "… White Coffee" and included an expletive, and another that said "AmeriKKKano to go." They passed out fliers with a parody logo that read "White Wave."
Some Latino residents who defended Weird Wave Coffee said they were called "coconuts" by activists. Brown on the outside, white on the inside.
"It makes us look bad," Koda Torres said of the confrontational tactics used against the cafe. "The way they handle the situation of gentrification wasn't appropriate. They were almost vandalizing their windows, harassing the customers, calling people sellouts and racists."

I don’t have the man power to put together such “revolutionary activities” as where done by RGLA. In Kansas City, MO, (about a four hour drive from Maize) there is The Kansas City Revolutionary Collective (KCRC). They are also a Maoist group and they seem very similar to the RGLA. But they haven't published anything on their web site since last May.
 I have not even begun to oppose the gentrification that has been put in place in Maize. But that may change. I now have plans to run for city council. Most Maoist oppose using elections, but my idea is to bring together residents who have been harmed by the gentrification and start an actual activist group or groups that can come up with ways we can fight for our rights, especially for those who lived here originally. For me the time to swing into action is now. Maybe later we can start a people's war, but today we are no where near that stage, at least not here in Kansas.

An endless stream of clutter.

[1] I have to wonder if these hipsters were easy to identify, for example did the men have those scrawny beards that look like just a few days growth on them, as such celebrities as Jimmy Kimmel have on them? Do they have certain clothing to identify them?

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