March 15, 2020
Saturday morning saw an escalation in the proletarian revolutionary housing struggle in California. Homeless families, inspired by the success of Moms4Housing in Oakland after a sharp struggle, reproduced the tactic and seized control of a house in El Sureno. The LA Times reports that they seek to spread the tactic to new properties in the future. This development comes on the heels of orders to self quarantine. Naturally, homeless people cannot self-quarantine, because they have no homes.
“I am a mother of two daughters. I need a home,” said Martha Escudero, 42, who has spent the last 18 months living on couches with friends and family members in neighborhoods across East Los Angeles. “There’s these homes that are vacant and they belong to the community.”
Escudero and her family moved into the house with Ruby Gordillo, 33, and Gordillo’s three children. The Gordillos had been living in a small studio in Pico-Union. Joining the two families in the El Sereno home is Benito Flores, 64, a welder who had been living in his van.
Like the Moms 4 Housing group in Oakland, the protesters in L.A. are receiving assistance from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, an organizing group that’s advocated for state measures to expand rent control and other tenant protections.
As the interview shows, the homeless are, by and large, working class people and semi-proletarians who have been priced out of their historic neighborhoods across the country by so called “urban removal”, but what can more accurately be called “prole removal”. In many cases the neighborhoods are bulldozed and cleared for gentrification and “redevelopment purposes”. This process has been going on for decades, targeting and clearing Black and Brown working class neighborhoods as “slums” and destroying them. Naturally, this leads to large numbers of housing insecure or outright houseless people. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, this becomes even more a matter of literal life or death.
The property that was rightfully seized by the masses is owned by the State of California. State and local governments routinely buy up or take over large amounts of property and allow them to remain vacant when “redevelopment” plans fall through, which is often. The City of Saint Louis wiped the Black city of Kinloch off the map in this manner:
Neoliberalism had its day in Kinloch in the 1980s. The City of Saint Louis, which owns Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport, literally bought most of the city’s land and razed it to the ground. Generations of work put in by New Afrikan hands were wiped out by bulldozers and wrecking balls for a proposed airport expansion that never came, displacing thousands of people. The vast majority of them ended up in neighboring, formerly colonizer dominated towns such as Florissant, Ferguson, and Berkeley.
This occupation is an example of the Maoist dictum that the masses are fully capable of taking steps for their own well being. They did not ask permission or seek to go through the courts in the beginning – they saw an empty house, and they took it for their well-being. This is the demonstration of what Mao said regarding “the masses being the true heroes, we are often childish and foolish”. While the “Left” engages in positional wrecking warfare against itself, repeats the same old tired arguments, or engages in electoral cretinism, the masses are displaying heroism and courage. This shows from where the revolution comes. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, mutual aid networks are mobilizing or being formed, securing needed hygiene and food supplies, and delivering them to individuals in quarantine. Revolutionary organizations are conducting political education around the causes of this pandemic, the response in countries such as Cuba and Venezuela compared to the United States, and mobilizing the masses around revolutionary proletarian demands that originate from the concrete conditions of the masses themselves. The demands of the FTP movement led by the MCP-OC during this epidemic are:
1.) Eviction and Rent Freeze
2.) Public utility shutoff freeze
3.) Universal paid sick leave
4.) Free testing and treatment
5.) Free food and other necessities for all in quarantine
6.) Immediate release of those being held in jail on cash bond and closing of all courts for the duration of the emergency. Immediate compassionate release for immunocompromised and elderly prisoners in light of their increased risk for contraction and death from COVID-19
We support all direct actions of a housing and material nature and encourage their spread, along with the development of revolutionary coalitions and people’s councils which administer the provision of material support for occupiers, the involvement of people’s self defense organizations such as Coalition of Armed Labor, working in conjunction with legal collectives such as the National Lawyers’ Guild to ensure the legal and physical defense of space seized by the masses, and the development of tactical unity between revolutionary organizations around the slogan “Housing is a Human Right – Don’t Ask For It, Take It!” This is not just the demonstration of proletarian revolutionary principles in practice but the learning of warfare through warfare – these struggles will escalate and spread in the future and it is essential to struggle for revolutionary Communist leadership. These are the struggles that build cadre and we must immerse ourselves in them.