“Classes only exist in the dialectic of their struggles” — Daniel Bensaid
The name Francisco Madero, “the idealistic scion of a landowning family, whose call for democracy in Mexico sparked a wider revolt” as Stuart Easterling describes him in his book The Mexican Revolution: A Short History. 1910–1920, is no way a popular one in contemporary LA, like Pancho Villa, and the same goes for Venustiano Carranza “the aristocratic state governor turned rebel. Walk into many food spots in LA that sell tacos, burritos, and other Mexican-American food, and you will see a picture of Zapata, or of Villa but never of Francisco Madero, or of Carranza. That is because the Villa symbol in LA is also one of non-bourgeois culture, even at the level of owning a restaurant, as many other symbols suggest dignity in resisting.
Why resist? Isn’t California just perfect. Angelinos know their city well, some are prioritized over others, to the point where they have rights that others do not have. Who, for example, has the right to dream and execute a dream of a concrete built environment for Los Angeles, despite the weather? Who then has to live in it?
Look no further than city hall, where the Mayor of Los Angeles now extracts on an old native (Tongva) settlement turned beaux-arts building, to why LA resists. Garcetti’s term, the product of a low turnout election, has been dedicated to bringing peace (53 percent of budget to LAPD) and development to LA. Eric Garcetti Mayor of Los Angeles has especially tasked himself with making LA “more user friendly for building” in order to boost construction, in a city essentially built by developers to paraphrase Edward Soja. This also includes affordable housing units and bridge housing for the houseless. All this amounts to building permits, zoning exceptions, etc, building politics that prioritize neoliberal bourgeoisie.
Eric does much of his biting in broad daylight. On his website, he touts proudly that the city has given 164,000 new building permits in the year of 2017 alone. On the same website, he also touts the fact that he, and only he, has given the largest business tax break ever in LA municipal history: $90 million in tax relief.
ED19 (executive directive) is his attempt at “streamlining” transportation infrastructure and housing infrastructure. As per his website:
This new executive directive builds on the Mayor’s efforts to transform the built environment in a way that creates economic opportunity for all Angelenos. That agenda includes making planning reforms, strengthening the City’s stock of rent stabilized housing, expanding the safety net for homeless Angelenos, and fundamentally transforming how the City incentivizes developers to produce affordable housing.
In his own words, ED19 will allow the City to build transit infrastructure and housing more quickly and efficiently by fostering collaboration among City departments, and with the MTA. Under the directive, City departments will each appoint a Transportation Infrastructure Liaison to form a dedicated committee with the Mayor’s Office and the MTA. The Mayor’s Transportation Infrastructure Committee will work together to streamline the delivery of transportation projects across the City.
Who benefits? So, tax cuts, permits, and a streamlined state that works together and cuts out much of the red tape is now in power with Garcetti. What’s worse is that no one can stop him or them. The only enemy his size often being on his side, the Unions, the task is left to the LA Tenants Union, groups like LACAN (very successfully), and much less well financed others committed to some form of justice for the Angelinos who are their members. A tactic that has emerged is the radical public comment, which seems to not quite bring Jericho down.
First, in Garcetti’s LA, who dreams of concrete for Los Angeles, despite our environmental crisis? Those who not only “build” LA but also are mostly being represented by Mayor Garcetti. Those who live far away from where the cocktail that is concrete, extreme heat, and the cutting down of trees to police people of color such as South LA, in lush Beverly Hills or other green parts of the city. They and Garcetti are those who speak a new language of community, and unity for whom they execute contracts. This concrete is their imagination of what city life should look, and feel like and their vision of our habitat. They are LA’s Beaver class, builders of its dams, shelters, etc.
As this happens, it becomes less and less possible to live in LA without a middle class income. Next in line to be a San Francisco, Garcetti is overseeing the birth of city eventually rid of possible shelter for most young workers, who, college educated or not, work in menial jobs such as barista-ing, as in a recent UCLA Labor Center on LA’s young workers. What’s more is that LA’s public education system has forced teachers to move towards striking, where UTLA recently voted at 98 percent to strike.
Whose dreams of Los Angeles are materialized? Who dreams of Los Angeles? Angelinos, precariat for the most part. Most yell out that the taxes are too high and so is the rent, but so be it. They vote for measures that they hope will lead to the city that they want but that really only finances the Beaver government. What must these dreams be like when few are participating and even popular participation, like in the case of LA’s neighborhood councils, is becoming a vast tragedy. Do they dream of rioting? Perhaps of leaving this time, as friends and family have.