Everything Changed/Nothing Changed: Minneapolis a Year After the Rebellion

kites received the following submission from a group of readers who undertook a social investigation project this summer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This report is drawn from those conversations and interviews, which took place in the time period following the murder of Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center and the conviction of killer cop Derek Chauvin but before the partial eviction of George Floyd Square and the killing of Winston Smith.

In front of a housing project, a young sister who had participated in the uprising told us that the people were like ants getting together to take down an elephant. Speaking both to the actual events of the rebellion and the larger context of the oppression of Black people and proletarian life in Minneapolis, she told us that the people were out protesting the murder of George Floyd and didn’t want to start fires until they were pushed up against a wall. Once they finally pushed back, they proved to the police that they were more powerful.

The expression “Minnesota nice” describes a passive-aggressive attitude, whereby public politeness conceals private anger and disappointment. In the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the outer appearance—pleasant, progressive, with a dash of stuck-in-the-90s crunchiness—barely conceals the inner reality: cities where Black people are gunned down by the police, gentrification and rising rents are forcing out longtime residents, the homeless are threatened by the police and by vigilante violence, and small businesses struggled to survive the pandemic. As one sister told us,

You’re not surprised. You continue to watch this same brutality across the country. Minneapolis is what we call a performative state. This is one of the wealthiest states, and we suffer the worst disparities. There’s no way we can have the number one education system, ranked number one in the US, and you look at Black and brown communities and you are dead fucking last. You can educate white folks, but these other folks…there’s no fucking chance.

The situation of Black masses, especially Black proletarian masses, is reminiscent of conditions in cities all over the US: on one side, self-styled progressive Democrats in political leadership and hip arts districts for the woke petty-bourgeoisie, and on the other side, Black people driven out of the urban centers, locked in prison, and struggling to get their basic needs met. Yet the inequality in Minneapolis is so extreme as to have been given its own term—“The Minnesota Paradox”—by the economist Samuel Myers, Jr., who defines it as “The simultaneous existence of Minnesota as the best state to live in, but the worst state to live for Blacks.”1

Clarion Call

The Afro-American struggle is not only a struggle waged by the exploited and oppressed Black people for freedom and emancipation, it is also a new clarion call to all the exploited and oppressed people of the United States to fight against the barbarous rule of the monopoly capitalist class.

Mao Zedong, A New Storm Against Imperialism2

In the summer of 2020, for a few days, Minneapolis was the most important place in the world. The audacity of the proletarian youth of Minneapolis, culminating in the burning of the 3rd Police Precinct,was a beautiful sight for anyone with rebellion in their heart. A year later, while everyone had a slightly different story to tell and a different version of events, every individual and group of people we spoke to agreed in one way or another that the uprising was necessary. A comrade on our social investigation team succinctly summed up that “everyone claimed the rebellion.”3

There was an older brother in George Floyd Square who told us about moving to Minneapolis to get away from the racist South only to nearly be killed by the police after being falsely accused of stealing a car. There was a group of middle-aged people smoking weed in a homeless encampment who told us that not all police were bad, but, in this case, they felt they had to join the protests, and that they were necessary. A nonprofit activist giving out free food in George Floyd Square told us that the uprising was traumatic, and yet there was a consensus across the Twin Cities that the police had to be taught a lesson, and especially that the Precinct had to be burned down. A Black proletarian we met in the Cedar-Riverside section lamented that many local stores had been looted or closed during the uprising, making shopping for groceries difficult, but followed up by wishing that the rebels had gone out to the suburbs to target the property of the rich instead.

Notably, among people we spoke with who didn’t fully embrace the rebellion, there was a sense of understanding its necessity. A Somali small business owner (the Twin Cities is home to the largest Somali diaspora in the US), who told us about her generally friendly relationship with the police and
complained of the difficulty keeping her business open during the uprising and the pandemic, ended her interview with us by saying that she sympathized with the reasons behind the uprising. In the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, near the sight of the Daunte Wright killing, our team interviewed a middle-aged Black woman who was an advocate for Black capitalism and Black people investing as a solution to oppression and inequality. She told us that she understood the reasons for the uprising, referencing the famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A riot is the language of the
unheard.”4

The George Floyd Martyr-Industrial-Complex

Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice.

Nancy Pelosi

He was not [a martyr]; you don’t consciously sign up for that when you’re casually strolling into the store. You can sign up for that, [though]. We’ve seen that with Rosa Parks, with Medgar Evers, with King, when they knew: “Our lives may be cut short for this fight we’re doing. At any point, we may be cut down. We know that.” Malcolm knew that. They knew that’s what they were signing up for: “The moment I began to butt up against the system and call out what it is, there’s a chance that I may die.” George did not sign up for that, at all.

Alisha, a Black woman who runs a farmers market near the former 3rd Precinct

Following the uprising, the Minneapolis city leadership gained national attention when the majority of the members of City Council issued a shocking statement: they would abolish the Minneapolis police department in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Yet the following year, during the trial of Derrick Chauvin, not only were the police not abolished, but the National Guard occupied the city. It was during this National Guard occupation that a routine traffic stop turned into the police execution of Daunte Wright, yet another Black man gunned down for no damn reason at all. While the Daunte Wright killing was the work of local police in Brooklyn Center, it’s more than likely that the presence of the National Guard helped create the atmosphere of impunity. And it’s definitely true that the moment protest broke out after that murder, the National Guard was there to repress protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The National Guard occupation of Minneapolis during the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Comrades on our social investigation team wanted to understand the disconnect between the claims that the Minneapolis Police Department would be abolished, the facts on the ground, and how the masses of people of Minneapolis understood the disconnect. What we found in Minneapolis was a concentrated expression of the phenomenon that has occurred in the last year and a half: unlike during previous periods of unrest (notably the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion), the ruling class has not been trying to dismiss the rebellion as simply a criminal act of looting or rioting, or lock hundreds up with heavy charges. Instead, the politicians, media, corporations, and nonprofits (in short, the ideological state apparatuses) have sought to repackage the protests and uprisings as simply George Floyd’s tragic death causing a racial reckoning and a series of reforms. This is visible in obvious ways, such as massive corporations like Amazon declaring that “Black Lives Matter” (while earning insane profits from a heavily exploited labor force, including many Black proletarians), the revolting sight of devils such as long-trusted ruling-class politician Nancy Pelosi donning Kente cloth and taking a knee in the halls of Congress, and the popularity of books such as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility.

In more subtle ways, however, the uprising has been actively defanged of its real proletarian rebellious character. By declaring it a “Black Lives Matter” movement, the media subtly allows the Black Lives Matter organization and its well compensated leadership to take credit for the spontaneous protests and rebellions and channel their impact into NGO-speak and electoral politics, thus not only severing the rebellious proletarian politics of the uprising, but also literally separating the rebellious proletarians from the leadership, approved and appointed by the bourgeoisie.5 Alisha, describing the disconnect between supposed abolitionists and the Black masses of Minneapolis, explained: “People will talk to one person in the neighborhood, or find one person who’s been elevated as a leader… We have to be careful, because white people choose our leaders, right, like people will decide that ‘Alisha, she’s the leader of the black community,’ and all of a sudden you’ll be like, ‘What the fuck? Hold up.’”

Having stripped away the uprising of its militant proletarian character and appointed a leadership approved by the bourgeoisie (or at least large sections of it), the final act of the counter-revolution was to bury the militant proletarian rebellion and mass protests and to sell the events of last summer back to the masses as simply peaceful protests and “racial reckoning.”6 Central to this project of bourgeois myth-making is the creation of what one of our comrades named “The George Floyd martyr-industrial complex.” Thus, while elements of the police and reactionaries in the media (and the defense at the Derek Chauvin trial) ran the old victim-blaming playbook on George Floyd and his family, there was also a more sophisticated operation at work. For the liberal bourgeoisie and those who wanted to use the uprising to promote their own political careers and petty grifts, it was crucial that the police murder of George Floyd and the resulting uprising be presented as a moment of reckoning with the racist past that ultimately was transformed into a moment of progress against racism. Ideologically, this serves to steer the opposition to police murder and brutality, and other modern-day exemplars of white supremacy, back into the warm embrace of bourgeois politics. Politically, this helped sections of the bourgeoisie and their ideological state apparatuses steer mass outrage towards the election of Joe Biden and other members of the Democratic Party, a Houdini-like achievement given Biden’s own history as a committed upholder of white supremacy and police brutality. Practically, the invention of the George Floyd martyr-industrial complex also ensured a new flow of funding and prestige to NGOs and nonprofit activists.

The clearest expressions of this phenomenon are the naming of the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act” (a paltry reform that, in some aspects, would increase funding for the police) by the US Congress as well as the in-person meeting between Joe Biden and the Floyd family and the video message Biden delivered to George Floyd’s funeral. This level of involvement by a US president with the family of a police murder victim would have been unthinkable in previous generations, and serves the purpose of making George Floyd’s death something seemingly exceptional instead of a concentrated expression of white supremacy. Hand in hand with the use of George Floyd’s murder by bourgeois politicians was the cynical and callous embrace of his name and likeness by corporations such as Twitter and Amazon.

A concentrated (and contradictory) expression of this phenomenon and the general process at work around the murder of George Floyd and the resulting uprising is the area of Minneapolis’s Powderhorn Park neighborhood, known as George Floyd Square (GFS). GFS, the series of blocks surrounding the Cup Foods store where George Floyd was killed, served as a hub of protest and activity since the killing and was barricaded from street traffic for a little over a year until June, 2021, when the city removed the barricades that activists had set up to blockade the area from vehicle traffic. Activists posted a sign declaring GFS to be the “Free State of George Floyd” and worked to prevent the police from entering the area. In addition to the memorials to George Floyd, there were murals and other art projects, a garden, and the Speedway gas station that had been burned down during the uprising was renamed “Peoples’ way” and was a hub for free food distribution.

We spoke to two white men who were staffing one of the barricade locations, who told us that GFS had been a target for reactionaries over the past year, including people attempting to walk through with “blue lives matter” flags and one person who attempted to attack the Square with an axe. Activists attempted to maintain the space as a “police-free zone,” and the police seemed to have largely avoided entering that area during the year that the street was barricaded. This seems due to a desire on the part of the police to avoid further confrontation with the people, a deliberate policy of the police standing down to increase crime (more about this below), and the role of city-connected nonprofits, who could serve as intermediaries between the city and GFS, thus maintaining the illusion that the area was somehow “autonomous.”7

Whatever the intentions of the various actors within and without, GFS itself served to reify the George Floyd martyr-industrial complex. George Floyd’s image is placed next to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s and John Lewis’s in a bizarre attempt to have a brother who was murdered after leaving a store enter the pantheon of civil rights heroes. Most bizarre is the fact that GFS has become a major tourist destination, and we saw whole families posing for selfies in front of murals. One sister succinctly said, “It’s disgusting, it’s inappropriate. This isn’t honoring, or appropriate, or respectful, or anything like that. I think it’s really creepy to see white people with their little kids and dogs running around. It’s very uncomfortable.” Alisha, quoted above, succinctly told us that people are comfortable acting like tourists in GFS because “People feel that it’s complete. It’s a failure to recognize that there’s three other officers who need to be held accountable. There’s still a fight here. We have Daunte Wright. We have Ma’Khia Bryant.”8

In, perhaps, the most bizarre expression of the George Floyd martyr-industrial complex, Justice For George Floyd joins advertisements for beer, banks, and insurance companies at the Minnesota Twins Target Field.

Contradictions Among the People

In GFS, several people told us that since the uprising, the police had begun to back off of the people; they were less likely to mess with people for small-time things, and that this was overwhelmingly a good thing. Outside of GFS, reactions were much more contradictory. Minneapolis, like a number of other major American cities, has seen an increase in crime since COVID and the uprisings, particularly shootings and other violent crimes like carjackings. Around the time of our investigation, there had been several high-profile incidences of children killed in Minneapolis. Describing the realities of crime in many proletarian neighborhoods, Alisha explained,

These three babies were shot with their families; these are kids being killed within communities. Infighting within poor communities, this is a real thing. Violence is contagious, it’s just like a cold. That’s what we’re seeing: we’re overwhelmed with it all the time, [and] there’s nothing to address it. It’s all systematic. If I kill her, and it’s brown-on-brown crime, it’s the same fucking system as police brutality. It literally is, it’s [just] a different uniform. The same system that pitted the police against Black people in particular, against brown people in particular, is the same system that says her life is not valuable, and I can take it. It’s all white supremacy.

There was much disagreement among the people about the causes of the increase in crime, but many people we spoke to agreed that the police were intentionally slowing down their response times. Some felt that the the protests and rhetoric around defunding the police had reduced police morale. A number of people, however, felt that the police were intentionally slowing down their response times to punish the masses of people who had risen up in the first place. And there’s a real possibility that the police are allowing crime to go up by allowing guns and drugs to come into the city and stirring up gang beefs on purpose.

The Somali small-business owner, an older immigrant women, that we spoke to described having seen an uptick in violent crimes in her neighborhood, including robberies and a recent daytime shooting, making her question how long she could keep her store open. A sister with no love for the police told us, “I don’t want to feel like someone’s going to walk up to me while I’m leaving my house and come up to me and kill me for my fucking car. What we’re dealing with…the masses have that fear now. Before it was relegated to certain parts of the city or certain groups in those cities.”

Not only is it the case in the Twin Cities and other major North American cities that crime is real—i.e., that robbery, random shootings, carjackings, etc. have a real material impact on the masses of people—it’s also true that the impact of those crimes are largely concentrated up in proletarian neighborhoods and largely affect proletarian masses. So when activists simply say “abolish the police” and have no real plan or strategy to replace the police with something meaningful (and no, vague appeals to “community” don’t count), not only are broad numbers of proletarians left out of those conversations, but it’s also laying the groundwork for more reactionary “war on crime” rhetoric to take hold among the masses.

We spoke to a brother who was living in a homeless encampment about the struggles of the homeless over the last year and the response of the city and the police. He described how that group of homeless people had come together as the city put homeless people in empty hotel rooms when the COVID pandemic first hit. After they were kicked out of their hotel rooms, they were staying together in various parks, shunted to more and more dangerous locations. The current location of the encampment was isolated near railroad tracks, not far from a gentrifying neighborhood. While the brother described different groups of people stopping by to drop off food or other supplies, he also described tension with one particular hipster bar nearby that was working with the police to push the homeless out of yet another part of the city (and, he asked incredulously, “What the fuck kind of bar only serves gin?”). He went on to describe the support from the community during one evening when the city was threatening their encampment with eviction, particularly the anarchists militants who came to support the homeless: “I’m chilling with antifa! I figured if Trump hates them, they can’t be all bad.”

When we visited a shopping area with a large proportion of Somalis, we learned more about the contradictions among the people and how different people perceive the police. On one single street, we met a Somali on one side who told us that relations between Somali immigrants and the police used to be bad, particularly with the police harassing Somali youth, until the city established a civic association to foster better relationships and hired several Somali police officers. On the other side of that street, a middle-aged Black man told us that he had several negative interactions with the police, especially in his youth, and that they still harassed him even though he did his best to stay out of trouble. He felt like the police didn’t harass the Somalis as much, that they had their own police force that treated them less harshly. Within these very real contradictions also exists the spark for revolutionaries to fan: a sister told us that she knew of several young Somalis, previously apolitical, who gleefully took part in the rebellion.

The Other Minnesota Paradox

We spoke to three young Black men in a park near GFS. When we asked them whether anything had changed in the way the police treated them since the rebellion, pointing two blocks towards GFS, they told us that “Nothing changed. Maybe over there. Not here. Not for us.” This is, in concentration, another Minnesota paradox: the widespread dissemination of the videotaped killing of George Floyd and the uprising that began in Minneapolis and spread internationally exposed, for millions of people, the rotten white-supremacist core of the United States.9 The uprising delivered the all-too-rare sight of a killer cop going to prison. And there is, in Minneapolis, the beginnings of a revolutionary people, or what could become a revolutionary people were there a revolutionary organization to integrate with them and lead them.

On the other hand, there is no such leadership. Among the masses that we talked to (including people in GFS), not one of them named a single organization that they belong to or felt represented their interests and aspirations. And those three young brothers who told us that nothing had changed are hardly an aberration. There are millions of proletarians who can look at the congressional laws passed, the infographics, and the “Black Lives Matter” yard signs and say “nothing changed.”

Crucially, looking back on the long year that followed the rebellion, we should evaluate that the rise of abolitionist politics—the demand that police be defunded and abolished—and its particular expression in Minneapolis (with the City Council claiming that they would abolish the Minneapolis Police Department) objectively served to hold back the development of emancipatory and revolutionary politics and organization. Describing the advocates of defunding and abolishing, Alisha told us that “This is tied to a larger fight. It’s so systemic. That really become the real disconnect from people. We’re excited about this right now. It’s sexy. Abolish the police/defund the police: it’s sexy, and soon it’s over. ‘Let’s go to our beach house, we gotta get back to our normal life.’” She described the way the politicians acted: “I thought it was terrible… Even when you look at some of those leaders who stood there, they’ve backtracked to say ‘That’s not how we should have done it,’ or ‘Maybe that’s not what we should do; we need to think of a different strategy.’”

The Minneapolis City Council was never going to “abolish” the police, because that is an impossible petty-bourgeois fantasy in a capitalist-imperialist society where white supremacy reigns.10 What was possible (and may come to pass through a ballot measure) is the renaming of the police, the shifting of responsibility to sheriffs or private security, etc. At a time when the bourgeoisie was already promoting its own appointed leadership (namely Black Lives Matter-approved abolitionists, schooled in all the latest nonprofit-speak), the City Council making national headlines by declaring that they would abolish the police smoothly shifted the terms of the debate away from the streets and into the halls of power. Furthermore, this was part of a broader shift away from the demands with mass support (stop killing Black people, justice for George Floyd, put killer cops in prison) to “defund/abolish,” which has become the vogue in academia, nonprofits, and activist circles, and nowhere else (save for Instagram, perhaps). Whether by accident or design, this astute maneuver was a key element in defanging the uprising and creating the everything changed/nothing changed paradox.

A New Storm

Minneapolis is rich with contradictions and ripe for intervention by revolutionaries. We know that many young would-be radicals are fearful of leaving “their own” communities, feel like they have to build relationships with people through first giving them free stuff, and/or would rather hide their true beliefs behind Leftist platitudes or stay in safe silos on the internet. Our short investigation found that none of those rationales for not going to the masses holds any water. Some people didn’t want to speak with us, of course, but most people we simply walked up to and said, “George Floyd,” and the conversations began, and not a single person (including the backwards, including those who didn’t want to speak with us) asked us where we were from or what “community” we belonged to. We had serious engagement with the people as well as real discussion and debate.

What this reveals to us is that the principles outlined in the kites call for social investigation11 were true, and that people in Minneapolis have had a profound experience of collective struggle. We know that Minneapolis now has a home in the hearts of the oppressed all over the world because of its unique role in waging—and sparking nationwide—rebellion in the summer of 2020. We know that the forces of counter-revolution have been on the move since then, especially the ideological state apparatuses with their sugar-coated bullets. The future is unknown. When we asked that sister in front of the housing project what had changed since the uprising, she told us that “The police know we can run things now.”

ENDNOTES

  1. Samuel L. Myers, Jr., “The Minnesota Paradox,” University of Minnesota Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs,
    hmh.umn.edu/research-centers/roy-wilkins-center-human-relations-and-social-justice/minnesota-paradox (accessed
    August 1, 2021).
  2. Mao Zedong, A New Storm Against Imperialism, April 16, 1968.
  3. The question of exactly who started the fires and what the roles of white participants were in the initial hours of the uprising took on a Rashomon-like quality among those we spoke to. We met people convinced that outside white reactionaries or police agents were present, as well as those equally convinced that the white people who joined uprising were anarchists, either misguided or welcome.
  4. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Other America, April 14, 1967.
  5. While here I’m making a largely metaphorical point about the separation of the proletarian content of the uprisings from the petty-bourgeois politics of Black Lives Matter, in the case of Patrisse Cullors, she’s literally separated from the proletariat because one of her houses is in a gated community.
  6. This process has also involved a willful ignorance of the repression directed against the uprisings in different cities in the summer of 2020. Neither social movement organizations nor Leftist media outlets have paid sufficient attention to the number of people killed during the uprisings by police and vigilantes, those left facing criminal charges, or the repression of protests with police brutality and other acts, such as imposition of curfews and shutting down public transportation.
  7. Our criticisms here are attempts to draw lessons from an important wave of struggle, and come from our desire to overthrow this rotten system with revolution and upend white supremacy as part of the revolutionary transformation of society. We respect the right of George Floyd’s family to pursue justice how they see fit, and we have a tremendous amount of love for the rebels of Minneapolis.
  8. Ma’Khia Bryant was a 16-year-old Black girl killed by the police in Columbus, Ohio in April of 2020.
  9. As an aside, the video of the killing of George Floyd, taken by the brave sister Darnella Frazier, absolutely contributed to spreading the righteous outrage and to the conviction of Derek Chauvin. The recent vogue of postmodernist activists saying not to watch and not to share videos of police abuse is fucking insane.
  10. See “Defund, Abolish… But What About Overthrow?” in kites #2 (2020).
  11. “A Call for Communist Social Investigation a Year After the Summer of Rebellion,” kites #4 (2021)

Queensbridge Projects and the NYCHA-mare of Disrepair and Neglect

by kites readers

A small, multinational crew that has been reading kites journal united with the call to do social investigation about how the last year of pandemic and protest affected the lives of people. This past summer we spent dozens of hours talking with residents of the Queensbridge housing projects in Queens, New York.

Made famous by a number of excellent rap songs, Queensbridge is the largest and most populous housing project left in New York City (NYC). After the destruction of Chicago’s Cabrini Green 20 years ago, Queensbridge became the most populous housing project in the entire US. Tucked away below the 59th Street/Queensboro Bridge between Queens and Manhattan, Queensbridge was once a place ignored by real estate capital in a neighborhood the petty-bourgeoisie avoided. Over the last decade, however, the neighborhood surrounding the projects has shown signs of gentrification, and Queensbridge’s location right across the river from Manhattan has put it in the sights of real estate capital. Given that Queensbridge is now in the crosshairs of NYC’s larger battle over displacement and gentrification, we thought this would be the perfect neighborhood to conduct social investigation. From talking to Queensbridge residents, we learned that many of their day-to-day problems got worse during the pandemic, they sense the looming threat of gentrification and feel trapped with nowhere to go, violence among the youth related to the drug trade is a concern of many, and the police do nothing to solve violence and only bring more of it to the projects.

A mural in Queensbridge celebrating Nas, just one of the great rappers to come out of “the worlds largest and most notorious projects.” This mural is by radical Italian muralist Jorit Agoch, famed for his stunning portraits of significant pop culture personalities and revolutionary figures, tags all of his portraits with the signature curved-scarring on his subjects’ faces.

People’s Problems Only Got Worse During the Pandemic

In the heat of the afternoon sun, we found many Queensbridge residents trying to catch what breeze they could drifting off the East River. Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and in a city and borough hit hard early on, the pandemic wasn’t the main thing on people’s minds. Not because the pandemic had no effect, but because the bigger things people felt they were facing were the violence, particularly amongst the youth, and the overall intensification of all the problems that residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have had to deal with.

NYC was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic early and quick in the spring of 2020. The death rate in NYCHA housing projects, including in Queensbridge, was higher then surrounding areas. According to one news report, “Although the infection rate at the Queensbridge Houses was only 1 percentage point more than the development’s ZIP code, 11106, the death rate at the houses was 51 percent higher than the overall area rate.”1

The pandemic served to mainly increase the existing problems that residents of public housing already felt. A group of mainly Spanish-speaking Dominican residents related how the buildings weren’t being cleaned, there was very little sanitation despite being in the midst of a pandemic, and repairs took even longer than they did before—a request for repairs may not get a response until a year later. Another woman confirmed the long waits for repairs, saying she had a court order from 2018 for repairs in her unit that still haven’t been done.

We talked to a near-lifelong resident of Queensbridge and current community activist, and he echoed how some of the typical problems for NYCHA residents have been heightened by the pandemic:

The lack of cleaning, the negligence of NYCHA has been exacerbated during the pandemic to see that they really don’t clean to their guidelines. Cleaning the buildings, making the surfaces, the common spaces as clean as possible—they’re not doing that. The fact that during the pandemic people are already stressed and worried. The fact that people still have mold. People still are going with no heat in their apartment, people are still going with no hot water in their crib so people can’t properly clean themselves, their dishes, their clothes.

In addition to conditions getting worse, access to officials with NYCHA was more difficult than ever. As the same community activist put it,

With all the issues people have in their apartments, the fact that work spaces [for NYCHA employees] have changed so that it’s harder to contact someone. It’s harder to reach someone at your housing office, because they’re leaving early or some days they not in because of whatever thing they are making up.

Elderly and other residents that were already isolated felt even more isolated, barely coming out of their apartments except when necessary. Single mothers and working parents who were already struggling now had to become teachers to their children attending school remotely; some parents had to leave their jobs in order to do so. Those that were able to be at home with their kids often became monitors for multiple children from extended family and friends. Cousins and nieces and nephews were trying to go to school online with few computer resources.

Buildings that were already dirty and deteriorating were left with even less cleaning and upkeep. Repairs that already took forever were taking even longer. Residents were forced to wait longer stretches of time without heat or water before repairs were made. Mold, insect, and rodent infestations were not taken care of. One resident talked about getting a cat, even though she hates them, to deal with the mice in her apartment.

Newly built hotels that used to house an influx of tourists were converted during the pandemic into housing for the homeless. While homeless people now outfitted with their own rooms with TVs and showers felt they were in a better position and didn’t want to leave the situation, it had caused conflict with local residents that felt it was dumping more people in a neighborhood already dealing with the problems caused by poverty. While the people we talked to who were staying in the hotels felt that some of the services, including vaccinations and personal protective equipment availability, were adequate, they felt that services for homeless people with mental health and/or drug addiction issues were lacking. This lack of crucial services led to an increase in men hanging out on the streets, nodding off on corners from drug use, and harassing women and children, adding more stress to Queensbridge residents’ lives and conflict between different sections of people.

All the hallmarks and difficulties of living in public housing were compounded by the pandemic, adding even more stress to an already unprecedented and stressful situation. The previously quoted community activist emphasized that “Everything that you can do, when someone is already under stress to heighten stress levels, NYCHA did. If it wasn’t NYCHA, it was the city.”

In the Crosshairs of Gentrification

Many residents feel the push of gentrification alongside the systemic lack of repairs and housing deterioration and have a sense that the powers that be are doing a whole lot trying to push people out of the area. Queensbridge residents are being forced to live in deplorable conditions. NYCHA’s message is clear: If you don’t like it, find somewhere else to live, because we’re not going to fix it.

This section of Queens was historically an industrial sector that once had factories and warehouses. Public housing was originally built using land that was cheap, because the industrial setting made it an undesirable neighborhood for the petty-bourgeoisie to live in. Over the last decade or so there has been a tremendous amount of build-up around Queensbridge, with high-rise office buildings and condos in a business development area within a mile and fancy hotels within blocks. The area also attracts tourists with its close proximity to parks on the waterfront and easy transportation into Manhattan.

In one conversation, several women residents related how, before COVID, there was a situation of white tourists from Europe or other places in the US staying in the surrounding hotels taking over the area. They talked about how tourists came through the neighborhood “looking at us like we came from the Planet of the Apes,” looking at residents “like they’re on a tour or something,” watching seniors doing art or exercise at the community center. They began to wonder, “Is this neighborhood ours anymore?”

Between the lack of repairs and rumors and news stories about raising rents and privatization, many residents fear that the city government wants to push people out of the projects. Seeing the general gentrification of many poor NYC neighborhoods and the build-up of condos and hotels in the area around Queensbridge makes this fear an entirely rational reaction.

Trapped

The amount of rent that NYCHA residents have to pay is determined by their income, so there isn’t a situation of evictions or threatened evictions due to COVID-caused unemployment, even for residents who have lost jobs. There is, however, a double-edged sword of, on the one hand, the ties that bind you here because of that cheap rent, and, on the other, a vague notion of the system wanting to move you out.

A Black woman in her 60s who is a longtime Queensbridge resident said, “A lot of people want to move, but they can’t move. Because…anytime you get a little raise, they raise the rent. You can’t get ahead.” Some “people pay a lot of money in these places…, 2 or 3 thousand dollars or whatever situation for these places,” because it’s based on how much money you make. She continued, saying that “as you make more money…, they increase that rent. And that’s not fair. Because one person can never make it out of here. If you lose your job like me, I went back to nothing. But the principle is you can’t make it out of here. There is no way you gonna make it out of here [when] other [rent] prices all around you is sky high. So it’s not fair.”

Violence…Among the People and By the Police

While we did hear stories about harassment by the police, many Queensbridge residents we talked to felt that violence amongst the people, and in particular amongst youth, as well as drug-dealing were big problems, if not the principal problems, facing people in the neighborhood. The first day we started our social investigation, we ran across an expansive memorial of candles and booze bottles for a teenage resident who was caught up in the middle of the violence and killed. A Dominican woman, who holds court regularly on benches overlooking where the memorial was, talked about knowing the young man who was killed. She said he was a good kid that would help her out by running to the store for her since she uses a cane. He would help her carry stuff to her apartment and let her know when the situation outside was getting intense due to gang rivalries so that she could go inside to stay safe. She lamented his passing but didn’t know details about what had happened. Many residents did have stories of police harassment and brutality. One woman, who was chilling on the benches by one of the courtyard basketball courts fenced off for repairs, opened up with a story about how they would often be harassed by the police before smoking weed was legalized. She talked about hanging out with her cousin, minding their own business, and smoking when the cops came by and harassed them. She showed them her city work ID, and they just threw it down; they didn’t care and just arrested them. Even though she thought they harassed people less nowadays, she didn’t think the cops were ever going to change. The community activist we talked to felt that, since COVID, there were “more police—definitely more police, which is an issue in and of itself. Even if you are pro-police, the fact that they’re sitting there with their lights flashing, even if there’s nothing happening, that is psychological terrorism. We have to call it what it is. So that is happening more in the pandemic.”

Many people noted that the police don’t really get out of their cars though, and “since ending the stop-and-frisk/broken windows policies,” they have been even more hands-off, according to a Black woman that sometimes participates in charity giveaway events for the local community. Nowadays, they will just sit there and watch “all kinds of crazy going on” in terms of drug dealing and other activities, which was related to us by a lifelong Latino resident. They stay in their cars and just watch it go on.

Some identified a lack of programs and opportunities for young people as contributing to the problem of violence. One nearly lifelong resident reflected on how the community center, Jacob A. Riis Settlement, used to be much more of a center of activity for young people in the neighborhood. He talked about how, when he grew up, “the moms all knew where to find their kids; they were there at the center. They had dance parties on the weekends, art classes, music classes, therapy sessions—everyone went to it,” and the moms would come by and round up the kids for dinner.

Others echoed the same sentiment of the community activist we talked to that

[the cops] never cared. They never really cared about whenever we kill each other in the hood. We have to understand that [the] system of policing in America comes from slave catchers. Black people are still considered property of this American government. Slavery didn’t end, it just changed. They never respond to beef that is happening [amongst the people]. They just respond to lock you up.

So while violence among the people is a real problem, the police would let that go on but harass anything positive that happened that tried to counter it. For example, a recent poetry event in one of the courtyards, designed to be a positive alternative for the youth, wound up being harassed by the police

Conclusion

Over the course of the summer we gained a deepened sense of the daily indignities and struggles of people living in public housing as national programs of gentrification and privatization take hold, leading, by design or by default, to increased deterioration of a most basic need: a place to call home for yourself and your family. We actually expected the question of police harassment and brutality to be a more acute question on people’s minds, especially after the 2020 summer of rebellion against the police murder of George Floyd and what it represented about the continued treatment of Black people by police in this country. But while police brutality remains a concern among the people, the violence amongst the people is a real problem and a real concern for people that live in its midst. Many Queensbridge residents pointed out that the police just sit back and allow violence among the people to happen, with some wanting more action from the police and others recognizing that the police are not a solution to stop violence amongst the people and, in fact, perpetuate it.

We found that there is a real basis to mobilize people in struggle. They are in the crosshairs of several contradictions that the system of capitalism-imperialism can’t resolve. It is clear to many Queensbridge residents in a very immediate way that this system puts “the economy” and profits before the interests and lives of the people. But there are lots of contradictions amongst the people to work through. Several acute ones include the division between Spanish-speaking Dominican and Puerto Rican residents, on the one hand, and English-speaking Black residents, on the other. It’s not an antagonistic division, but there is a separation based on life experience and language, which manifests in where people hang out outside. Another contradiction holding people back is their lack of envisioning how people can actually come together and fight the system and the great potential strength they have if they do. Moving through these contradictions will take the persistent work of dedicated revolutionaries committed to integrating with the masses and organizing them in struggle.

ENDNOTES

  1. Kayla Levy, “Astoria, LIC NYCHA Tenants Died From COVID At Higher Rates: Data,” Patch, September 16, 2021, patch.com/new-york/astoria-long-island-city/astoria-lic-nycha-tenants-died-covid-higher-rates-data.

From editors at kites:
The Coming Battle of Real Estate Capital vs. NYC Housing Project Residents

As is well known, New York City has been radically transformed by the forces of real estate capital and gentrification over the last three decades. The valiant but ultimately lost battles over the Lower East Side squats of the late 1980s and early 1990s proved a prophetic microcosm of the coming onslaught by the local ruling class, in which art galleries were the seemingly innocent beachheads of something much more sinister. Apartment buildings were left in disrepair, and residents were run out so that real estate capital could renovate or demolish to pave the way for glass-wall condominiums and turn a ghetto into a site of rising rents attractive to the new petty- bourgeoisie. Public spaces were cleared of the homeless and other “undesirables” by ever-eager police. The mayoral administration of Rudolph Giuliani in the 1990s, then-celebrated by virtually the entire US bourgeoisie as a grand success, codified this practice and unleashed draconian police criminalizing the homeless, proletarian youth, and Black people and other oppressed nationalities. “Giuliani time” was the era of unrepentant aggressive police brutality and harassment with a clear message: make way, you discarded trash, for real estate capital’s radical transformation of NYC and the new classes of renters crucial to the functioning of imperialism’s number one center of finance capital, Manhattan.

Finance capital attracts, requires, and fosters numerous fellow travelers, from yoga instructors to artists to designers to tech workers to fashionistas to, yes, Leftist activists. And with the influx of these fellow travelers came the wider gentrification of NYC, especially Brooklyn. What began with the plethora of shitty indie rock bands that permeated the Williamsburg neighborhood soon spread to encompass the hipsterfication of much of Brooklyn and parts of other boroughs. Make no mistake about it: while new Brooklynites voted for the progressive candidate, Maya Wiley, in the recent mayoral primary and attended or sympathized with protests against police brutality in the summer of 2020, their unacknowledged allegiance is to Giuliani, for most of them would never have set foot in their current neighborhoods had the police not sent out a clear message that they were welcome there, while longtime residents would face police harassment and brutality and displacement.

The gentrification of Brooklyn is mostly complete and quickly spreading to other boroughs, but several obstacles remain in real estate capital’s way. Practically, imperialism’s capital of finance still requires proletarians to make the city run from day to day, those proletarians have to live somewhere, and thus NYC proletarian culture lives on with them, including the influx of new immigrants among them. Geographically, real estate capital faces two main barriers to its continued expansion: individual home ownership and the massive buildings and over 400,000 residents of NYCHA housing projects. The former are either left alone, in neighborhoods that have not yet been featured on the cover of Time Out magazine as “up and coming,” or, if they have been so featured, forced to sell amid rising taxes or incorporated into the gentrification process.

The housing projects of NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority), however, cannot be dispatched so easily. They are publicly owned, making them more difficult to take over. Many NYCHA residents have lived in their apartments for decades or generations. NYCHA residents are an important constituency for NYC politicians, whose electoral campaigns benefit from being able to “get out the vote” in large numbers from housing project populations. And overall, NYCHA housing projects are longstanding fixtures of life in NYC, geographically spread throughout the five boroughs.

Nevertheless, while the NYC bourgeoisie cannot move quickly to empty NYCHA buildings, demolish housing projects, and open the empty lots to developers, they have been working slowly and methodically towards those ends. NYCHA has taken up the slumlord’s playbook, refusing to make basic repairs even when residents have holes in their ceilings and burst pipes, leaving residents without heat in the middle of winter, and allowing rats, roaches, and mold to multiply. When residents move out of a NYCHA apartment, the apartment is often left vacant despite the city’s crisis of affordable housing. The police have conducted a number of “gang raids” targeting youth in the housing projects, who are criminalized as “guilty by association.” The NYC bourgeoisie clearly want to gradually diminish the number of housing project residents and make it ever more difficult to live in the projects, ultimately paving the way for privatization, evictions, demolition, and gentrification. The city government has even come up with a “Blueprint” to partner with private developers and make them the landlords of public housing, with project apartments turned into Section 8 rentals. This “Blueprint” for privatization has already been implemented in some housing projects, with a few improvements in the buildings touted as a great success and proof that privatization works in order to fool the masses to go along with it.

As the forces of real estate capital, privatization, gentrification, the criminalization of proletarian youth, and city government conspire to end public housing, the question over the next decade is: Will NYC’s housing project residents be organized to stop this?

Revolution has vanished, replaced with fantasies of dual power, counterpower, “base areas,” abolition, and other “bottom-up” bourgeois-democratic illusions

By Kenny Lake

For all their aversion to collective discipline and democratic centralism, for all their anti-vanguardism, for all their donning of dogmatic ideologies and petty sectarian bickering, it’s striking how firmly united most Leftists under the age of 35 in the US are on the notion that passing out free food, doing community gardens, and (maybe…most never get this far) some NGO-style tenant organizing will lead to…revolution? Beneath the absurdity lies the fact that revolution—in the sense of a civil war in which the bourgeoisie is overthrown, their state apparatus is destroyed, and the means of production are seized—has vanished from people’s political horizons. It has been replaced with grandiose illusions bearing monikers such as dual power, counterpower, “base areas,” and abolition. Unifying all these illusions is the notion that it’s possible to carve out “bottom-up” direct democratic forms of territorial (or “community”) control by the proletariat and oppressed people that gradually supplant bourgeois power without having to launch an all-out offensive aimed at the seizure of power—in other words, eating away at bourgeois rule without ever having to decisively overthrow it.

Continue reading “Revolution has vanished, replaced with fantasies of dual power, counterpower, “base areas,” abolition, and other “bottom-up” bourgeois-democratic illusions”

Abolish Grifterism

What no democratic centralism does to a motherfucker: former “Maoist” and current CNN talking head Van Jones receiving a 100-million dollar donation from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, following Bezos’s vanity 10-minute space flight.

by the kites Editorial Committee

The title of this intervention is doubly ironic. First, because “abolitionism” is so often itself a grift, with the creation of an abolition-industrial complex consisting of Angela Davis speaking gigs, academics writing abolitionist books, activists securing Ford Foundation funding and partnerships with major corporations, nonprofit organizations garnering government and grant money to pay their employees higher salaries, and media appearances by abolitionists used to boost their following, fame, and finances. And second, because kites has been consistently polemicizing against abolitionism for its underlying reformist assumptions that somehow you can dismantle the bourgeoisie’s repressive apparatuses (police, prisons) without overthrowing the bourgeoisie and destroying its state apparatus through revolutionary civil war.1 The only abolitionism we can fully unite with is the call to abolish the sex trade, not because we think it will be possible to do so short of revolution, but because the call to abolish the sex trade draws a firm line of demarcation between revolutionary principle, on the one hand, and postmodernist petty-bourgeois apologies for capitalism-imperialism and its most insidious forms of exploitation, on the other hand.

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Lessons from Beyond the Grave

A Case Study of Opportunism and a Summation of Efforts by Renters Together in Lawrence, Kansas

by Akio (Written March 2021)

kites received the following from a reader in Lawrence, Kansas in response to Welcome to Splitsvillle. Population: Every Leftist Organization of the Last Decade—A Call for Summations, not Subtweet Recriminations.

Author’s Preface

Communists can’t succeed if our practice and ideas aren’t ever-developing with the political landscape, and we can’t develop as such if we never face our failures. This is precisely the hard lesson that forced Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China to learn to summarize their experiences and to use their failures to come up with new strategies that would carry them to victory. It’s also the reason I first felt compelled to sit down and start writing this reflection almost two years in retrospect. Because for almost two years, this experience was something I had largely shut out—memories that I considered to be worthless because they belonged to a time before I gained the knowledge and skills that I have now. Failing to sum up this experience denied me the ability to move on from it, to grow politically, and to further refine the political work I do.

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“We are both the subject and the object of the revolution”

An Interview with Italy’s CARC Party by the kites editorial committee

Part 1 of On Granite Conviction:
Revolutionary Communism in Italy Today

For a printable PDF of this article, click the cover image above.

Editorial Introduction from kites

In early May 2020, the kites Editorial Committee conducted this interview with comrade Marco Pappalardo and other cadres of the CARC Party based out of Milan, Italy. The CARC Party was established as a party in 2004, however it emerged as a communist organization in the early ’90’s out of the prison solidarity movement that arose in the previous decade in resistance to the mass repression and the thousands of arrests of members and supporters of the Red Brigades and other fighting communist organisations of 1970’s. A distinguishing feature of the CARC Party is that it is one of two fraternal communist parties in Italy-the other being the (new) Italian Communist Party, ((n)PCI)-that uphold Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and follow compatible strategies, with each playing their own distinct role in the revolutionary process. Whereas the (n)PCI is a clandestine party that promotes and carries out protracted revolutionary people’s war,1 the CARC is an open party fighting for form the “People’s Block Government” (PBG). A PBG is conceptualized as a kind of government that will allow the popular masses to face the worsening of capitalist crises, and each of the two organizations see its formation as an important task in the first phase of the protracted revolutionary people’s war. That is to say the CARC Party and the (n)PCI see the PBG as a tactical measure within the overarching strategy of protracted revolutionary people’s war, particularly within its first, defense stage. In sharp contrast to the dogmatism of what kites has been calling the “church of PPW [protracted people’s war] universalism,” what impresses us is that the caravan of the (n)PCI has articulated the content of a revolutionary strategy on the basis of a comprehensive and concrete analysis of Italian conditions (which can be found in the Manifesto Program of the (n)PCI), and is has spent the 17 years since its founding as a party carrying out the actual work of the first phase of protracted revolutionary people’s war.2

In the interest of learning everything we can from seasoned and still-in-the-struggle communist revolutionaries—especially those in other imperialist countries, and even more especially those with a strong connection to and summation of the generations of revolutionary struggle that precede them—we in kites are in equal parts proud and humbled to present this interview with the CARC Party, an organization whose strategy and practice for bringing about a proletarian revolution in their imperialist country has achieved a level of clarity and development of thought that revolutionaries in other imperialist countries should expect and demand of their organizations. This interview, conducted in May 2021, is the first in a two-part series that we’re calling On Granite Conviction: Revolutionary Communism in Italy Today. Along with the forthcoming second part—an interview with Umberto Corti of the Central Committee of the (n)PCI—these interviews provide a sweeping overview of the movement of communist revolutionaries in Italy who are organizing to establish the PBG, overthrow “the Papal Republic,” and, through the protracted revolutionary people’s war, establish socialism and remove Italy from its position as an oppressor country within the overall capitalist-imperialist system. The final translation and edits to the contents of this interview from their Italian original have been reviewed and approved by the CARC Party. The footnotes in this interview have been written by the CARC Party, while pictures and captions are the work of kites editors.

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Chairman Gonzalo’s Legacy of Steadfast Revolutionary Principle and Strategic Innovations

by the kites Editorial Committee

On 11 September 2021, the international proletariat and oppressed people of the world lost one of the greatest revolutionary leaders of the last several decades. Abimael Guzmán, AKA Chairman Gonzalo, leader of the Communist Party of Peru–Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), passed away, having spent the last nearly thirty years of his life in prison. We do not know the exact cause of his death and must treat information coming from his captors with skepticism. Gonzalo had been kept isolated from the outside world, denied much contact with even his lawyer. He was suffering from health problems in the last months of his life and was denied adequate access to medical treatment.

Following the announcement of Gonzalo’s death, the bourgeois media has been busy howling in unison about the supposed carnage caused by Gonzalo through his leadership of the revolutionary people’s war that rocked Peru from 1980 through the 1990s. The reality is that the masses of Peru during that period were suffering from bitter poverty and even starvation caused by the workings of capitalism-imperialism, with the United States, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank holding Peru hostage to debt payments and mandating structural adjustment policies that further impoverished the Peruvian people. What Gonzalo’s leadership achieved was to give the Peruvian masses a means to not only fight back, but to dare to overthrow the system of capitalism-imperialism at the root of their suffering and create a whole new social order.

Born in 1934 in Mollendo, Peru, Gonzalo became a philosophy professor at the National University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga in the capital of the Ayacucho region in 1962. He was no armchair philosopher, however: by that point he was a devoted communist, and he used his university position to reestablish communist organization and to learn about the lives of the masses in Ayacucho. Gonzalo combined his love for the oppressed with a keen grasp of the greatest advances in theory and practice in the international communist movement. He firmly rejected the betrayal of communist principles by the leadership of the Soviet Union following Stalin’s death and embraced Mao Zedong’s radical innovations to the communist tradition, including the strategy of protracted people’s war in semi-feudal oppressed nations and the recognition of the persistence of class struggle under socialism. On the latter innovation, Gonzalo gained firsthand experience by visiting China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a mass revolutionary movement launched and led by Mao to overthrow capitalist roaders within the Communist Party and further revolutionize socialist China. He internalized the lessons of this all-out struggle, and, when capitalist roaders took power in China in 1976 following Mao’s death, Gonzalo stood firmly behind communist principles, condemning the counterrevolutionary coup and upholding Mao’s revolutionary legacy.

Beyond standing firmly on the right side of fundamental dividing lines in the international communist movement, Gonzalo also applied the lessons of the Chinese revolution to the concrete realities of Peru. He recognized the rural Indian masses of Ayacucho as a potential revolutionary force that could take advantage of its distance from the center of bourgeois power in Peru to launch a revolutionary people’s war. Gonzalo worked tirelessly to recruit his students at the university as communist cadre and ingeniously used their connections to rural communities, including when they worked as teachers in those communities after graduation, to develop an organized mass base for revolution. This process of social investigation, the recruitment and training of cadre, and the development of mass organization and struggle that began in the 1960s laid the groundwork for attacks on police stations and local oppressors when the people’s war in Peru was initiated in 1980. Ayacucho fast became a center of revolutionary struggle, with the leadership of the Communist Party of Peru (hereafter referred to as Sendero Luminoso) inspiring bold struggle and heroic sacrifice from the revolutionary masses in the face of vicious brutality by the Peruvian military.

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Exceptionally Serious Responsibility

Some notes on the history of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and prospects for unity in the international communist movement today

For a printable PDF of this article, click the cover image above.

by Hinton Alvarez

“…the Marxist-Leninst movement is confronted with the exceptionally serious responsibility to further unify and prepare its ranks for the tremendous challenges and momentous battles shaping up ahead.”

-Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement

Despite what certain hagiographies and posters produced in the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China when they were socialist might have us believe, the international communist movement has never progressed with the unity of the proletariat and oppressed marching in a straight line. Instead, it’s been the moments of conflict and contradiction, often expressed in two-line struggle, that have advanced the communist movement and demarcated the revolutionary road from opportunism and revisionism. Marx and Engels waged their polemics against the utopian socialists from within the First International. Lenin and other Bolshevik revolutionaries founded the Third International (Comintern) “in clear repudiation of the bankrupt opportunist and revisionist line of the Second International,” as Jose Maria Sison wrote.1 For some sense of how sharp the debates were in the Third International, watch the movie Reds.2

The most recent attempt at forging genuine unity among communist revolutionaries internationally was the Revolutionary International Movement (RIM), active from the early 1980s to the mid 2000s. As the ruling capitalist-imperialist system is increasingly gripped by crises without a new tide of proletarian revolution to seize upon the opportunities they present, revolutionaries are taking a fresh look at the history of the RIM in order to forge new forms of unity among genuine communist revolutionaries. In particular, this article’s content was inspired by and is intended to be in conversation with comrades from India, Nepal, Italy, and Canada who have published documents, issued statements, and partaken in interviews with the aim of developing revolutionary clarity of line and in the spirit of internationalism. It’s my hope that, through a ruthlessly critical examination of our communist past, revolutionaries today can forge the higher levels of communist theory and practice so desperately needed in the world today.

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Welcome to Splitsvillle. Population: Every Leftist Organization of the Last Decade—A Call for Summations, not Subtweet Recriminations

For a printable PDF of this article, click the cover image above.

The past decade has seen a rapid growth in new and a few previously existing Leftist organizations across North America, matched almost tit for tat by splits within and the dissolution of said Leftist organizations. A number of the larger, crusty old Leftist organizations have fallen apart after decades of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. In other and overlapping cases, their ideological rot was exposed after their leadership tried to cover up rape within their organizations. To them, we say good riddance to your organizations and to the rancid revisionist ideology behind them. To the handful of crusty old Leftist organizations who managed to rebrand themselves and garner new recruits by appealing to postmodernism and dogmatic internet “communism,” we say your days are numbered. Sooner or later your new membership will by and large burn out from the same old routine or realize that they have joined opPortuniSt manipuLators who don’t tell new recruits that they’re Trotskyists.

Continue reading “Welcome to Splitsvillle. Population: Every Leftist Organization of the Last Decade—A Call for Summations, not Subtweet Recriminations”

Picking the Ripest Fruit for Harvesting a Revolutionary People

by Kenny Lake (Written in 2015)

For a printable PDF of this article, click the cover image above.

Picking the Ripest Fruit for Harvesting a Revolutionary People is the fourth and final part in the series The Specter that Still Haunts: Locating a Revolutionary Class Within Contemporary Capitalism-Imperialism, and will appear in print in kites #4. Originally written in 2015 and published at revolutionary-initiative.com, this piece was written during the second term of the Obama administration, after the rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore but prior to the emergence of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. As such, it does not reflect some of the radical shifts that have taken place since then. However, its analysis of who constitutes the proletariat in the US remains accurate.

* * *

Having laid a theoretical foundation for understanding the proletariat as a concept in part one, drawn a broad outline of changes in the capitalist-imperialist system in part two, and extracted lessons from the successes in forging a revolutionary people in recent communist people’s wars in part three, here we turn our attention to understanding who constitutes the proletariat in the United States and especially its most potentially revolutionary sections. Given the lack of any real communist pole in the US (and in most of the world), it will be crucial for those seeking to build communist organization to do so by picking the ripest fruit for harvesting a revolutionary people. Since, as argued throughout this series, it is in the processes of dispossession and proletarianization and in the social antagonisms created by the anarchic movements of capital that those most prone to revolutionary possibilities can be found, communist practice requires a keen analysis of just who those people are to be most effective.

Continue reading “Picking the Ripest Fruit for Harvesting a Revolutionary People”