Radical anti-gentrification

lhjail
Photo of Lincoln Heights Jail (1936). Out of use since 1965, but used for non-prison use into the 90s. Now set to be “revamped.”

An anti-gentrification strategy which counters the “good local business” to the “bad, ‘gentrifier’ business,” and thus does not question capitalism itself, is a strategy which may garner popular support, but it is one which is ultimately shallow & reformist in nature. It confuses the symptoms of gentrification for the causes. If we take gentrification as an opportunity to truly interrogate what housing means under capitalism for proletarians, we would see that this society will always have us living as close to the edge as possible.

It’s easy to say “Fuck Hipsters” because of their hyper-visibility at the surface/cultural level. But if we are radicals, we have to be able to see beyond the white-tiled cafés, the art galleries which used to be party supply stores and the breweries which used to house manufacturing machines. Gentrification is very much a homogenizing force: every gentrifying city looks like every other gentrifying city but what unites these cities more than a spreading basic aesthetic are the intensifying capitalist social relations which they are a product of. Capitalism ever deepening its teeth into proletarian life.[1]

If we were to remove every ‘gentrifier[2]‘ business from Los Angeles, or any other city in the world, we would still have to pay the rent, go to work and lead a life so disconnected from our own needs & desires.

Of course, a strategy which takes into the consideration the totality of capitalist society is difficult to imagine at the level of everyday life, but if we are radicals then this is part of the dream we must make. Surely we will have to level antagonism towards the shocktroops of gentrification, but like a moldy piece of bread the shocktroops are but the end of a lifecycle of the parasites they are. They go on as contagion, but the deep work happened before their arrival. In the same way, we must look and think deeply. It is not simply “the community” vs “the not-community.” It’s about liberation of those of us under the thumb of capitalism and those who gain from pressing the thumb. And those pressing the thumb are more likely to be local & State government, international financial institutions investing in real estate, the police, local real estate agencies and banks…than those pressing French coffee presses.

Note on the font used in this banner image: this font was recently popularized by White artist, Cali DeWitt when he used this font for merchandise for Kanye West. This was a font first used by Chicanxs in the 80s, most notably on sweaters made to memorialize those recently deceased, often by gang or police violence. Using it here is an act of taking back what a White artist has appropriated for their own financial gain & furthering of their career off of Chicanx pain and cultural innovation.

Lincoln_Heights_funeral_scene
Man in a motorcade funeral procession in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles shows-off his shirt that reads “FUCK LAPD.” Photo by Gary Leonard (1995).

Lincoln Heights funeral scene

[1] In other words, the intensification of the extraction of profit from the cycle of accumulation under capitalism: an intensification necessary to the very being of capitalism.

[2] Here, we also have to call into question what exactly is a ‘gentrifier’ business. Some would say it is a business run by the ‘gentry’! But what is the ‘gentry’? Is the ‘gentry’ the petit-bourgeoisie? The shopkeeper? If so, then even the small, local, longtime shopkeeper is also the ‘gentry.’ Some say it is a business which tends to promote the forces of gentrification, but in a way most businesses do exactly this by requiring our money in exchange for their commodities and/or services and thus act as a way of impoverishing us., making it harder to pay the rent. Although, often times cultural connections cultivated in ethnic and/or proletarian neighborhoods act as a mask, a cover for the fact that there too does capitalism wield its control.

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