Statement by Magally A. Miranda Alcazar
I am one of the dismally few members of DSA LA with roots in East LA and Boyle Heights AND in the radical Chicanx/Latinx communities therein. My family currently resides in Boyle Heights where I was born and raised; I also have a history of organizing in community spaces such as the Ovarian Psycos, Defend Boyle Heights, Espacio 1839 and others; and, as a PhD student at UCLA in Chicana/o Studies, I have an intellectual commitment to the study of space, race, gender and labor as can be seen in my 2017 article “Artwashing, or Between Social Practice and Social Reproduction” in A Blade of Grass.
I am weighing in to unequivocally oppose the F4S proposal as it stands and to strongly encourage others in the chapter to oppose it as well. I believe that many of the problems raised by the F4S proposal and its advocates are of the utmost importance, but the current F4S proposal and its proponents have already demonstrated they are NOT the ones capable of broaching these topics. I believe that the ONLY viable option before DSA now is for its proponents to retract this proposal, for members to vote it down if it passes and as a chapter to have a reflection session about the ways in which this proposal has antagonized and alienated internal and external socialists and community members in ways that have undermined the project of socialism in the city of Los Angeles as a whole. I feel this way and have spoken to dozens of people of color both internally in DSA and in socialist organizations led by people of color in the city to this effect.
ANTAGONIZING ANTI-GENTRIFICATION EFFORTS IN BOYLE HEIGHTS
Boyle Heights is a radical hub in the city of Los Angeles and has been an important place for explicitly socialist organizing by organizations for decades. In recent years, it has gained international attention for its successful resistance to gentrification based around the one principle of Chicanx/Latinx self determination. The community has spoken for itself time and time again against well-intentioned individuals with notions about what it needs see the fight against art galleries on Anderson St. For good reasons, members of Serve the People, a Maoist organization and would-be socialist ally on the eastside, rejected the F4S plan for a food distribution and political education project months ago. This proposal should have been a dead letter THE MOMENT that voices on the rejected it, period. This should have been an opportunity for F4S members to self-reflect, and to borrow a phrase from our Maoist comrades, self-criticize as a way to move forward. Instead of doing this, comrades in DSA have proposed a variety of ways to circumvent accountability such as gaslighting members of DSA raising legitimate concerns, proposing to move the distro to another location on the eastside, and working with various community partners who are not socialist and/or not Chicanx/Latinx organizations based in the community. Why? I can only assume that they suffer from the same myopia of the social practice art galleries which cannot see past its own white, middle class guilt.
The F4S proponents have critiqued some white comrades in the organization of not understanding how this is not charity or not patronizing, but let me take the opportunity, as a Chicana woman of color from the eastside to declare that this proposal is unredeemable. I will offer some examples that are illustrative of how ignorant this proposal seems to be about life in marginalized communities: “Someone struggling under capitalism to meet their basic material needs has no time for leisure, education, or socializing—time being another resource of which they have been robbed”; “where food insecurity is a problem identified by its residents” although he only sources cited are city demographics and not any inquiries with residents; “The desired outcome is not just a better-fed participant, but a participant that is more politically aware, has a better understanding of why they suffer from food insecurity, and knows they could join DSA to change those conditions” as if we don’t know better than the average DSA member why. Capitalism, racism, xenophobia, sexism, etc.
The insistence by some in DSA on continuing to push F4S in spite of a range of negative sentiments expressed by both internal and external actors, from skepticism to discomfort, accusations that it is a charity effort, accusations that it is gentrifying, accusations of condescension and racism is evidence that some in our chapter are more invested in feeling good about their actions than they are in doing the difficult but necessary work of diffusing tensions and building solidarities between ourselves and other socialist organizations led by people of color in marginalized communities. Not only that, but it diverts resources from the democratically elected Costa Hawkins campaign which is an opportunity to work with members of the LA Tenants union in marginalized communities in the eastside and beyond. As a socialist from the eastside, I cannot express my frustration about F4S enough.
F4S’s inability to self-criticize effectively after the incident with Serve the People earlier this year is telling. F4S has done more harm than good. It has driven an even deeper wedge between two relatively small socialist organizations which should be allies and, if it goes down this same trajectory, it will others. I’ve spoken in a personal capacity to a half dozen leftists of color in the city in organizations including Black Rose/Rosa Negra, Ultra-Red and LATU, Serve the People, AF3IRM, who are all skeptical of this project, even in its new location and with its new community partners. I am told that a member of DSA who is a former Black Panther is also skeptical of it.
This proposal is a painful example that DSA is a majority white organization that lacks community ties to marginalized communities and the capacity to relate. Moving forward with this proposal reflects poorly on the entire chapter and actually creates an untenable situation for those of us working at the intersection of socialist politics and marginalized communities by further marginalizing us in both spaces! It should come as no surprise that one of the women of color organizing F4S actually defected from DSA to join STP after the incident.