California dreaming

California dreaming

Subversion on the class elements of the LA riots of 1992.

When Capitalism is confronted by events which rupture the smooth facade of its peaceful order (the peace of slavery) and challenge the grip of its talons on our bodies and on our minds, it responds in a practised manner.

Just as an act of Class rebellion has two parts - both the physical fight itself and the salutary effect which that has on the consciousness of other proletarians - so is the retaliatory strike of our rulers also twofold.

Firstly, it uses physical force against acts of insurrection, whether they be strikes, riots or anything else. And secondly, the class nature of these struggles these appeals in physical form for solidarity from the rest of the working class - are countered by lies, lies and more lies from the ruling class.

The recent riot in Los Angeles, with its echo in many other U.S. cities, illustrates this well.

RACE RIOT, CRIME SPREE

First we are told that it was a race riot, blacks attacking whites etc. Then we are shown the acts of "criminals" racial assaults and looting of stores blending together in the image. And finally we are told it was the revolt of an "underclass" which has been left out of the prosperity enjoyed by "most Americans". Lies, lies and more lies.

What started on the night of Wednesday 29 April was an explosion of class anger such as happens all too rarely. The acquittal of a bunch of racist pigs of a crime which had been recorded for all the world to see was merely spark for a generalised class action by working class people of all colours. Starting with the attack on the police station and proceeding to the looting of everything food and other basic necessities to things such as televisions, our class fought back against the system which oppresses it. Workers everywhere should applaud this resistance.

However, this "carnival of the oppressed" had a goodly share of gatecrashers.

BLOODS, CRIPS AND OTHER SCUM

Riots, whatever their cause, often attract anti-social elements who swarm in like flies to a plate of uncovered food. The two major drug gangs, the Bloods and the Crips, have always been just as much an enemy of working class interests as the Police - their endless bloody conflict has taken vast number of lives, both their own members and innocent bystanders.

In the L.A. riot, these murderous gangs declared a truce, so they could devote their energies to participating in the riot. Not, of course, from a working class standpoint, but from an ethnic (anti-white and anti-Korean) and from a business standpoint - they have put forward a joint programme of reconstruction of their neighbourhood involving a partnership between themselves, the state and business interests. If you didn't already know it, this must convince you that the gangs are just another part of Capitalism - if anything came of these plans, the drug gangs would simply be an extra tier of the state machine. The participation of these gangs in the riot was the participation of a faction of capitalism fighting for its own sectional interests.

What the presence of the gangs shows, together with that of other anti-social elements including a definite racist element (which overlaps with the gang element), both against whites and against Koreans, is this: rather than ONE riot there were really TWO riots which took place simultaneously - the class riot and the "anti-social riot/pro-capitalist riot" which was parasitical on it.

ELEMENTARY

A similar confusion, a similar distinction between positive and negative elements exists in many social movements - a typical strike, for instance, will be imbued with Trade Union ideas which merely aim to reform Capitalism. An example is the 1984-85 Miners' Strike. Central to the NUM's strategy was the "Plan for Coal" which was an alternative way of running Capitalism "in the Miners' interest". This reactionary nonsense existed alongside a genuine class-struggle element.

THE CRUCIAL DISTINCTION

For revolutionaries it is CRUCIAL to differentiate between the class element and the reactionary element in all such cases. despite the capitalist media, both left and right, which will always try to merge the two parts into a single "phenomenon". The presence of counterrevolutionary, pro- capitalist organisations (whether the Bloods, the Crips or the NUM) alongside workers engaged in class struggle. And indeed the presence of confused ideas in the minds of many of the workers involved, must not be allowed to muddy the issue. Revolutionaries take a clear, uncompromising stance - we support ONLY the class element and oppose the reactionary element.

Aside from the attempts of the media to clothe the L.A. class rebellion in the anti-social garb of its "parasite- riot", they also tried the other tack of using the "underclass" theory.

WE'RE ALL MIDDLE CLASS NOW

According to this, the bulk of working class people are not, in fact, working class at all but middle class. Below the middle class is a small, impoverished, chronically unemployed class called the underclass. They it was who were responsible for the riot, so even if it was a class rebellion, the story goes, it has nothing to do with most workers, who are middle class in any case.

This theory is of course reactionary garbage. The working class is a single class united by its position in society of possessing nothing but its ability to work. Some workers may earn more than others but they are still powerless in any real sense power is exclusively in the hands of the owners of society's wealth, the controllers of the state machine, namely, the capitalist class.

This divisive nonsense about an underclass is peddled not only by the capitalist mainstream but by the Left - this is but one example of the way the Left acts in practise as just another part of capitalism.

95 MILES FROM L.A.

We said a couple of sentences ago that the working class is powerless. This is true in everyday life, but there is one situation in which workers DO have power - when they engage in class struggle.

A riot is not a revolution. Nor, for that matter, is a strike. We have a long way to go, but the Future develops out of the Present, and great struggles develop out of small ones. The L.A. riot is one of a number of signs of increasing class struggle from around the world in recent months. Let us take heart from it.

I'd be safe and warm if I was in LA.
California dreaming on such a winter's day.

Posted By

Steven.
Jun 12 2011 18:27

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Juan Conatz
Jun 17 2011 23:45
Quote:
In the L.A. riot, these murderous gangs declared a truce, so they could devote their energies to participating in the riot. Not, of course, from a working class standpoint, but from an ethnic (anti-white and anti-Korean) and from a business standpoint - they have put forward a joint programme of reconstruction of their neighbourhood involving a partnership between themselves, the state and business interests.

Um, I don't know about an "anti-white and anti-Korean" standpoint, unless one equates all ethnic pride as always anti-other ethnicities, which I don't and I think is tough to argue.

Also, how does one participate in a riot from a "working class standpoint". People rioted and looted because they were angry at the police and saw an opportunity where the balance of forces shifted from the state to the streets and they got to get the things they needed and wanted.

I only vaguely remember the reconstruction efforts, but I remember they (the factions of B&C's that wanted to be a part of it) were looked at extremely suspiciously by all levels of government, the media and police. There was a legitimate effort to 'go legit' that collapsed due to noncooperation from the establishment and a new generation that came up that didn't remember the truce.

Quote:
If you didn't already know it, this must convince you that the gangs are just another part of Capitalism - if anything came of these plans, the drug gangs would simply be an extra tier of the state machine. The participation of these gangs in the riot was the participation of a faction of capitalism fighting for its own sectional interests.

Everyone is a part of capitalism. We reproduce our own roles, which I'm assuming Subversion, based on their political perspective, would agree with. But this analysis of the Bloods & Crips is akin to the Crimethinc former outlook of capitalism in general, that workers were the same as bosses, and they should both be looked at with disgust. There are different levels within the gangs that mimic corporate structures or military structures to an extent, but I doubt Subversion would have seen the worker or the solider in such similar terms.

Not to mention that the Bloods & Crips were not and are not a homogenous grouping. They (and the Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Latin Kings, etc) are as much a culture as an organization, in some ways, much more so. I think any analysis of gangs in the United States requires to look at it as both, which is not done here.

Quote:
is this: rather than ONE riot there were really TWO riots which took place simultaneously - the class riot and the "anti-social riot/pro-capitalist riot" which was parasitical on it.

Seems like a pretty big stretch with undefined, bombastic terms. So who was in the "class riot" and who was in the "anti-social riot/pro-capitalist riot"? Which activities determined which one you were in?

Juan Conatz
Jun 18 2011 00:01

Also, this piece fails to take into consideration how many U.S. gangs have roots in revolutionary movements or had revolutionary factions emerge in them.

The Crips, had at least, some ties and influences from the Black Panther Party, and may have been set up as an imitation organization for younger members1

The Vice Lords, in the beginning, had a contradictory existence, at the same time a gang and a community group that received funding.

The Latin Kings started as a group to overcome racial prejudiced, and had a revolutionary faction emerge in the 1990s, which still exists to some extent on the East Coast.

And of course the Black Panthers had many former gang members and Young Lords Organization in Chicago was a gang prior to their establishment as revolutionary groups.

Without keeping these things in mind, talking about gangs reveals one's ignorance of the subject.

  • 1. There is some level of dispute over this. Tookie Williams refutes this, but Mumia and others contradict this. I remember reading something that clarified the relationship much more, but I don't remember what it was.
Spikymike
Jun 18 2011 16:08

There were some real contradictions in the L.A. riots (as with some of the earlier riots in Britain), so although this article in 'Subversion' may not have dealt with all the subtleties and nuances that existed, it did move beyound the simple 'celebration/condemnation' common amongst much other material produced at the time.

The 'Subversion' journal was very much a discussion journal expressing debates which were ongoing in the wider movement, as can be seen from other issues, perhaps closer to home, that were taken up. Suprisingly this article did not ellicit quite so much response at the time, but might still be useful (despite it's deficiencies) if it leads to some development in discussion here from others with more knowledge.

Juan Conatz
Jun 19 2011 02:23

Sorry, gangs are sort of a sensitive subject for me. I had a lot of interest in them when I was younger, reflected by the poor white and Mexican kids I hung out with, who also admired what their equivalents were doing in the bigger cities. I also flirted with gang involvement as I got older, and many of my coworkers (especially the black and latino ones) in most jobs I've had in my life have had some relation to gangs.

I think they're a criminally (ha!) overlooked subject by the far left (which reflects the race & class demographics and composition of the far left...), but often, when they are taken up they are condemned as the equivalent of executives of a corporation or glorified to the point of ridiculousness.