Serve the People Kansas City (STPKC) was formed on January 20th, 2017 with the purpose of forming an organization that catered to the needs of the proletariat and served as a vehicle for the deepest sections of the proletariat to organize under. We announced ourselves on the inauguration of Donald Trump, and were present with over 1,000 people who marched in rage and anger demonstrating in front of city hall. Because the presence of various radical and revolutionary organizations the state called upon snipers on rooftops, various armored vehicles and undoubtedly plain clothes policemen.
Our collective grew out of the Progressive Youth Organization – Kansas City (PYO). It was created partially as a means to get non-students and non-youth/older members involved in proletarian struggles outside of the campus, and partly as a means to physically separate a clique that had originated inside PYO and was led by the Treasury Secretary which began to undermine the leadership of PYO.
This clique was responsible for consistently pushing anti-revolutionary and post-modern lines and sought to replace revolutionary politics with identity politics. Instead of contributing to a healthy culture of criticism and self-criticism, which leads to a greater unity and strength within the collective, they practiced a form of internet call-out culture and unprincipled bullying. This was dangerous for the survival of PYO. Instead of simply driving the entire clique out, leadership decided to split those that could be struggled with and won back over between the two organizations and suspended (and later expelled) those who could not be.
As expected, this strategy didn’t immediately resolve all of the ideological issues within the two organizations. The clique members within Serve the People took months of struggle to totally break from their incorrect lines. And in the meantime, there was the expected amount of disagreement over what kind of organization STPKC would be. It was mostly the former clique members who wanted to shape our infant organization into a red charity, devoid of revolutionary character. This was not out of any kind of malice, as some of the struggles within PYO had been, but out of a lack of ideological development. After months, one clique member left of their own accord and another had to be forced out, but two were able to be developed ideologically and eventually rejected the red charity model.
Our organization took inspiration from the other Serve the People formations in Austin, Texas and Los Angeles. STPKC however, did not base our proposed organizing on them but rather the Seattle Solidarity Network (Seasol) which was an anarchist-tinged organization dedicating much of its work to tenant struggles with landlords and various workplace struggles. We sharply differed in organization from Seasol in that our organization did not shun hierarchy or structure. We also did not view discipline as inherently negative, but as natural instincts which our class – the proletarian class – understood very well.
Initially the organization wanted to build off from half the membership of PYO, which at the time reached nearly 60 people. We planned to take with us only the older members and non-students, as their role in PYO was less clear at the time and we felt they could be more easily integrated into the proletarian struggles outside of youth and university life. PYO leadership expressed concern that this strategy would remove veteran members of PYO all at once and potentially lead to demoralization or a loss of direction, as it was not yet clear that the newer and younger members were prepared to step into leadership roles. We took a mix of veteran PYO organizers as well as splitting some of a postmodern clique as a compromise.
We began a period of research and study once membership had been selected, but also a period of intense two-line struggle over direction that would last for months. Before her departure, the former clique member that had to be forced out represented a rightist line, focused on scattered good deeds and apolitical kindness. She managed to sway several other members who likewise lacked ideological clarity. Meanwhile, veteran organizers pushed a left line of action that demanded a revolutionary content to the programs we initiated. This struggle was a necessary part of our development, but it stalled us from work for longer than any of us had anticipated, which led to several members becoming frustrated and demoralized. There was a push from more centrist members to “stop arguing politics and start working on something.” While this was understandable, it would have been incorrect.
This struggle led to greater unity amongst the majority of membership, but this was only the beginning of our challenges and our growth.
Struggles and Challenges
We believed it was important to situate ourselves in a physical site to launch struggles from, conduct meetings, and act as a general base of operations. The original strategic focus of our organization was to target the Northeast neighborhood of Kansas City. Statistically it is the largest neighborhood in Kansas City, and it is also the most ethnically diverse and economically depressed neighborhood. This decision was contested by an anarchist in the organization (the biggest proponent of the rightist lines mentioned earlier) who believed that a base of operations would limit our work, but it was democratically decided that we would choose and strengthen our efforts in one neighborhood, forming substantial connections with the proletariat in this area, and then build out from there.
A comrade in PYO put us in contact with the Whatsover Center in the Northeast which we had hoped would serve this purpose. Two of the employees who ran the center sympathized with our purpose as an organization and agreed to help us in any way they could by spreading the purpose of the organization to parents who came to leave their children at the center and by allowing our organization to leave flyers for informational purposes.
It should be noted that our earlier propaganda lacked a clear political content. It was post-election and there was much tension in the Northeast, and so an anti-Trump angle dominated initial flyers. The truly effective and well-received propaganda that people responded to was the leaflets we printed on ways for undocumented community members to protect themselves from law enforcement. Still, even this was something that could have come from any other left organization in our city. We neglected to incorporate our politics fully into what we had put our name on. This is a lesson we learned for later propaganda.
Serve the People Kansas City held our first open meeting on February 28th 2017, in preparation, our organization took to flyering in the surrounding neighborhood by leafleting and knocking on doors inviting people to come to our mass event. This was our first attempt at flyering as an organization and many errors were made. There was only one or two nights dedicated to door-knocking and flyering to people on the street and they were too close to the day of the event. Many new members, who made up most of the initial flyering team, had very little experience with this type of outreach. It was good that these less experienced members were diving in and learning to better talk to people, but only having one or two days of flyering gave these members little time to improve and potentially draw more community members in.
At the Whatsoever Center we had learned that the director of the center was not sympathetic with STP as he was a Trump supporter and had glanced at the propaganda which we had left at the center. One of the sympathetic employees sought to downplay this to him to allow us to use the space. This was an early example of the contradictions within organizations like the Whatsoever Center. While the workers on the ground, members of the community, were sympathetic to our cause, the owner of the building held ideas that were contrary to the interests of the working class neighborhood that they operated in.
In the end we had our event in which we were able to present the purpose of STP and our points of unity. This launch was, in many ways, a failure. We failed to gain community support and most of those in attendance were other activists (mostly PYO and some representatives of Food not Bombs). There were a handful of community members from the area we briefly flyered in. One family only spoke Spanish. We had two Spanish-speaking comrades ready to help translate and hearing their concerns – largely focused on anxieties over the anti-immigrant trends in the country – informed some of our later direction. Still, there was little we could immediately do for them and this was an obvious disappointment for them.
The other community member was an older woman who was only concerned with what we would be doing for the local environment. She was disruptive frequently and added an additional complication to the meeting. She was also not someone we were able to build any further relationship with or to gain any better working knowledge of the neighborhood from.
The lack of community engagement was one problem, but the biggest was our approach to the open meeting. What we had to present about our organization was more geared towards other leftists than it was towards the community we wished to reach out to and build within. This was later pointed out to us by a volunteer at the Whatsoever Center. Her criticisms were crucial to helping us redirect. This experience as a whole showed us the ways in which we had failed to apply the mass line and we left that night still enthusiastic, prepared to come back with what we had learned and to correct our course.
The next day however, one of the employees had told us that the director of the Whatsover Center had researched our organization, visited our Facebook pages and website, talked with the NGOs attorney and stated that the Whatsover Center cut all ties with STP-KC due to possible violations in non-profit tax exempt status due to the political nature of the organization. We knew this was all bunk and simply a way to deny a space for a revolutionary organization seeking to do work in a working class neighborhood. We tried to argue this but in the end those sympathetic workers could not argue to convince the director and our relation with the Whatsover Center ended almost as soon as it began. A lesson we took from this is the limited capacity of NGOs and non-profits, and although this was a Trumpite reactionary that sought to deny us physical space to organize from, this very well could have been initiated by his liberal counterpart, of which there are a plethora from in Kansas City and who have opposed our comrades in PYO in the past.
8 months of Inaction
As a result of this major setback our organization began to flounder and seek purpose in which to organize. We had talked of refocusing to Kansas City, Kansas for a time as it also was similar to the Northeast, and a comrade who was from there also had ties with the local non-profits. We even managed to recruit someone from this sector into STP for a sizeable time period. But as months went on we initiated a period of what can be deemed as “social investigation” before action, which basically amounted to months of meetings and tailing the events and actions of PYO as an auxiliary and support group.
For nearly 8 months STP was stuck in a period of stagnation. It was constricted by its fear of failing and was constantly waiting for the “right moment” in which to act, shutting down taking on cases for struggles because of a fear that we were not at capacity to handle them. At the same time this was going on, the contradictions between the Pomo Clique and the Secretariat of PYO was coming to a point of antagonism, this struggle spilled into STP due to the ties some STP members had with the wrecking ringleader of this clique. Eventually this force was defeated and remnants remained in STP until the last loyal member of this wrecker faction was expelled from our ranks.
During this period of inaction we misunderstood the Marxist theory of knowledge, which was partly due to our desire to “bend the stick” in the opposite direction to combat a trend of productivism that was growing within the organization. Here we define productivism as a trend, especially popular within the framework of NGOs and activist groups, which seek to do anything, no matter the political content (if that is even considered) as long as it helps the “marginalized” in the community. This is not new, and is in fact a classic manifestation of opportunism and economism based not on an analysis of the objective conditions but on a moralistic framework. This is not to say that our commitment to our class and revolution has no moral content, but that we believe the conditions and justification for them lay in objective reality, independent of our own moral considerations. When revolution becomes tied to the subjective oscillations of individual morality, our compass has then gone awry.
Their line was opportunist in the sense that those who upheld this line could not see that it made us little more than an appendage of the NGOs and charities, albeit providing much lower quality goods and services, doomed to tail behind them politically rather than chart our own course with independent revolutionary politics as our guide. It was also an economist conception of what it meant to “serve the people”, an almost literal reading of our organization’s name to justify a political line incapable of differentiating itself from Churches and NGOs, but also confining revolutionary action to the bare minimum of the possible. This kind of approach imagines that just with our very meager efforts we could keep a few members of our class on life support indefinitely by giving them free groceries, as if this is a suitable substitute for revolution!
Furthermore, this line eschewed all politics as the purview of “armchair philosophizing”. This leaves politics to the class enemy, neglects the need and possibility to politicize the masses through struggle, and bows to the spontaneity of the working class instead of building and steeling its organizations and leadership.
This opportunist and economist trend of productivism was pushed by several anarchists, who composed the rightist political line in the organization. In response, a left line emerged composed of the majority of members who recognized the politics of the right for what they were. In combating the right, the left hyper-focused on theory over practice to the point where we slid into isolation and dogmatism. The left could not articulate a coherent strategy for the organization, but was solely positioned as the opposition to the right, which the right’s program was functionally indistinguishable from the anarchist organizations that they floated between, i.e. Food Not Bombs.
The rightist line was defeated by patient struggle within the organization, which resulted in several of the rightists dropping out of the organization, while the rest submitted to the left’s line. The rightists that stayed, as well as those who left, remained disgruntled and could not accept that their politics were indistinguishable in essence from the “conscious capitalism” pushed by the technocratic elements of the bourgeoisie like Elon Musk and Bill Gates, albeit dressed in black garb. The rightists who remained in the organization were eventually expelled from the organization due to months of inactivity, which violated their membership requirements of the organization.
In sum, our 8 months of inaction was due to both a protracted line struggle taking place within the organization that effectively put all practical efforts in a deep freeze, but also the left line, which in the main was correct, insisting that we had not yet investigated the communities we wished to work in yet. This was a misunderstanding of the dialectic of theory and practice. The left was correct in stating that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary practice, but incorrect in formulating the development of theory as an insular process totally separated from all practice. The effect of this was that the organization was apprehensive to initiate any struggle or campaign without first undergoing a lengthy, and basically infinite, amount of investigation beforehand, rendering an organization that was supposed to be a fighting organization of the working class toothless. Theory and practice develop in a spiral-like way and are interrelated, not separated by a wall, something we understood only abstractly at the time but failed to grasp its totality until we finally threw all caution to the wind after seeing the work of Serve the People-Pittsburgh and summarizing our joint meeting with PYO.
During these 8 months STP focused itself on anti-fascist events, particularly mobilizing most of our membership to oppose the arrival of ACT for America fascists in their “National March Against Sharia” on June 9, 2017. The counter-demonstration turned out to be a success, with errors. We had managed to outnumber the fascists and prevent them from marching. We had obviously frustrated them with our heckling and did not give them an opportunity for anyone to hear the speeches some of them were trying to make to further advance their Islamophobic agenda. What we failed to do was mobilize large sections of the masses who were not already part of the existing Left in Kansas City and ultimately the fascists had their event.
After the horrible events in Charlottesville in which Heather Heyer was martyred, PYO and STP and other anti-fascist forces in the City sought to mobilize a solidarity rally on September 9th in honor of her and other victims of Nazi fascist violence in Charlottesville. Originally this was supposed to be another counter-demonstration against ACT for America but the events from Charlottesville caused them to cancel. As a result only a handful of them actually showed up and the anti-fascists took to it to open carry, but as with most events the rallies failed to bring the overall masses and brought out the pre-existing Left. In the span of these events antifascists in Kansas City revealed collusion between the KCPD and III%er militia and using of out of service city buses to escort the handful of Nazis and fascists to safety.
While we viewed these actions as necessary, we began to notice that too much reliance on PYO and our lack of autonomy from it was taking away from the duty we had to organize the proletariat. A comrade issued a criticism and resignation letter highlighting this observation, which many of us had begun to see. It had become incumbent on us to call for a joint meeting of the sister mass organizations to discuss these things in person.
PYO-STP Joint Meeting and the inspirational case of Serve the People – Pittsburgh
The joint meeting was held at a local community center from which PYO had been working out of for over a year. Representatives from STP insisted that our organization needed autonomy in order to perform our function of organizing the working class, and that continuing down the path of being PYO support was a recipe for stagnation and disillusionment. It was agreed that by both sides that in order to build both organizations into strong revolutionary organizations that they needed to stand on their own two feet. In the case of STP, our representatives put forward the purpose of our work to be organizing the proletariat in the fight for housing and against gentrification. This idea was shown to us by the inspirational case of Serve the People-Pittsburgh and their then recent case with a local tenant Mark.
Our First Case: Paul the Parasite and the Enriquez Family
Our General Strategy
Our general strategy begins with flyering. From experience we have observed that too much reliance on technology for outreach actually has little results, or more accurately, does not reach the members of our class but rather the “activist scene”.
Our first organized attempt at flyering had mixed results. We were investigating a local company named KC Home Rentals, which owned some apartment buildings, but mainly owned individual houses. We printed some general flyers that contained our contact information and a brief purpose of our organization and split into teams to go door-to-door flyering. The problem with this method was that there was no central location, but rather, our efforts were scattered across the city, offering us no real site of struggle to unite the tenants around, but instead just KC Home Rentals in general, which was more abstract to tenants rather than concrete.
In summarizing this method of flyering we concluded that it was principally a failure, as it did not result in establishing a case against KC Home Rentals or the recruitment of any new members to the organization. While we still upheld flyering as the best method of outreach, we criticized our method (individual door-to-door flyering) and our geographic area (scattered) as being unsuitable for us to jump start any campaigns and unite tenants politically. In response some members suggested that we flyer at bus stops, grocery stores, strip malls, and neighborhoods where the working class, in general, frequented. While this was more general than picking houses owned by a specific company and going door-to-door to talk to tenants about their problems, it was much more successful at meeting working class tenants who were eager to bring their issues to our organization directly. After our first time flyering using our new strategy, the results were night and day, as we immediately got several phone calls from prospective cases, many of which evolved into ongoing cases.
Economism: From Nothing, Through Nothing, To Nothing
Economism is the idea that political organization and activity should only be confined to winning immediate results and improvements to workers’ lives, with politics tailing behind the economic struggle. In the case of tenant work this might be better sanitation, rent reduction, monetary compensation etc. But no matter the case the thread is the same, the rejection of a politicized protracted struggle aiming beyond just immediate improvements and alleviations. We are first and foremost a political organization, not a charity. While we are concerned with conquering gains for the working class through open struggle, we see the consolidation of worker tenants and their political development through class struggle and collective study to be our principal goal. In this way politics guides and commands everything, where material gains flow from that. It’s not that we are “unfeeling” or blind to the conditions of our class, in fact we are fine tuned to them, but that in contrast to the reformist and economist organizations our work is not based on a moral or ethical stand, but politics. Our ethical and moral positions arise from our uncompromising class stand and revolutionary world outlook, not the other way around.
It is a historical fact that in the absence of revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. By theory we mean the experience of the working class of all countries that is generalized in such a way as to describe certain universal laws of class struggle and revolution. However, promoting theory unconnected to any revolutionary practice would be a waste of time in the same sense that promoting any practice devoid of theory, as the economists do, would be. The importance of theory lies in the fact that it can give the working class movement confidence, the power of political orientation, and an understanding of the inner relation of events, especially how and in which direction classes are moving currently and also how they will move in the future as the struggle advances.
The economists, many of whom mask themselves as revolutionaries, state that the working class in general, and in our case working class tenants, have no interest in learning revolutionary theory or that they are not yet ready to learn it. That, in an infantilizing way, the most they want is immediate material changes to living conditions with no concern for politics. We know this to be false. In their embrace of spontaneity the economists and NGOs have neglected to see that the working class is already coming to a rudimentary understanding of the problem of housing, gentrification, and the parasitic nature of landlordism, but as of yet cannot express it as a coherent political expression. The economists want to stop them there! To say, “To become political is to ignore the gains to be made here and now,” while we want to spur them on in a centralized way, to accelerate and guide this lower level feeling to a higher political consciousness. From feeling indignation at their own individual condition to indignation for their whole class, to eventually indignation, from a consistent revolutionary standpoint, for all manifestations of oppression no matter what class they effect.
This position of the economists is dominant within tenant struggles and is reflective of a worship of the spontaneity of the masses. Spontaneous struggles of the masses can take many forms but at root what unites them is their lack of leadership and a lack of political consciousness. That is not to say that the spontaneous rebellions of the masses are devoid of a positive aspect, as they show the combativeness especially of the working class, and do show a primitive form of consciousness. However, this primitive consciousness rarely moves beyond the scope of desperation and vengeance, from resistance to struggle. For example, a tenant, acting as a tenant and not yet as a conscious member of the working class, will strike back as an individual tenant. They might throw dead rats at their former place of residence as a message to their landlord, they may call and demand repairs be made backed by threats, or any other actions that are deemed by landlords and their defenders to be the purview of “unruly” tenants. In STP we see this as a good beginning, but insufficient on its own, as this is merely resistance to the abuse endemic to the parasitic nature of landlordism rather than struggle. In apartment complexes tenants tend to see the necessity for collective resistance more easily, as collective living has already created fragile bonds of solidarity between them, as opposed to house renters who might exhibit an individual rebelliousness rather than a collective one due to their living situation being individual rather than communal.
From this we can generally characterize resistance as a reactive form of rebellion while struggle is a proactive form of rebellion. The former is only to maintain a base level of living conditions that are humane and protect the minimal rights of a tenant by lashing out in righteous anger, while the latter is not only to protect those rights and dignity but also to conquer new ones and to wrest them from the clenched fists of the landlords. The leap from resistance to struggle requires the active intervention of a revolutionary organization in order to transform the scattered nature of a reactive rebellion into a concentrated force proactively fighting for the interests of our class against a clear and present class enemy, the landlord, and landlordism in general. Secondly, we must distinguish between a tenant and a worker, as the economists like to obscure the two, when the distinction is an absolute necessity to any revolutionary organizing.
A house, apartment, or duplex are all commodities, as every basic need has been transformed into a commodity by capitalism, housing is no exception. However, this commodity exists as a finished product to be bought and sold in the marketplace, not at the point of production, it is a finished good. Just as a television, a car, or furniture are finished goods to be bought and sold in the marketplace after production, housing is the same, and therefore the relationship between the buyer and seller is not analogous to the relationship between the proletariat and bourgeoisie at the point of production. In the process of production the proletariat meets the bourgeoisie as a proletarian, i.e. first and foremost as a worker with one commodity to sell, their labor-power (their ability to work). The bourgeoisie are the purchasers of this universalized commodity and exploit it to their own gain. However, with the wages any worker gets they are free to take that money and to buy the products of other proletarians’ labor in the marketplace, in this case housing. When a tenant and landlord meet in this marketplace the tenant comes principally as a buyer, not a worker, and the landlord is a seller. The economists would have us believe that this simple money transaction and contractual agreement is the same as it is between the proletariat and bourgeoisie in the process of production. But just as when a worker goes to buy a car, food, a television or any other commodity they are first a buyer and secondarily a worker, so too is the case with housing. The mistake the economists make is seeing all tenants as principally workers, or at least the majority of them, and concluding that the consciousness of tenants is a working class consciousness at root (because after all, the relationship between tenant and landlord is exactly the same as between proletariat and bourgeoisie), thus requiring no intervention by a revolutionary organization to impart revolutionary consciousness or to organize them for struggle. This means that even if the economists decide to assist tenant resistance it can never become a struggle, as the political transformation of worker-tenants is neglected by default as all tenants are already in possession of a revolutionary class consciousness, and that their organization is doomed to tail behind the interests of all tenants instead of advancing and consolidating the interests of advanced worker-tenants to lead the fight. This is why the economists cannot escape the pitfalls of reformism in tenant work, because their strategy actively obscures the political economy of landlordism in general and has no understanding of political consciousness and therefore bows to spontaneity.
Counter to this we understand that tenants enter into contractual agreements with landlords as purchasers of a commodity, and therefore first as buyers. However, the proletariat is not the only class that purchases housing, the petty-bourgeoisie does as well, and we must differentiate between the two classes and not mash them together as tenants broadly speaking, as that strategy, employed by the economists, leads not to revolution but populism. From this we understand that both political intervention is necessary to transform the political consciousness of tenants of our class, and this means uniting working class tenants (to make them worker-tenants rather than tenants through political education and collective struggle through our organization), and that working class tenants are the principal force we must organize, with tenants of other classes falling in behind the leadership of worker-tenants.
This brings us to the issue of leadership, a question that the economists won’t touch. Leadership is forged through struggle and must be organized to continue to lead that struggle. By rejecting political intervention and implicitly committing themselves to tailing tenants generally speaking the economists reject the possibility and necessity of leadership. It is a historical law that leadership emerges in all struggles, in all revolutions, independently of human will. Even if the liberals and economists want to deny it by paying lip service to “horizontal” organizing (which even then a de facto leadership emerges) it is an inevitability. Leaders are generated from non-leaders through class struggle, proving themselves in theory in practice to continue to advance our class towards greater and greater victories. Our organization promotes this understanding as a powerful tool in the hands of our class with which to wield against class enemies.
The question of leadership is not only a political question, but also an ideological question, which here too the economists reject. The economists imagine that tenants can create their own ideology independent of political intervention by a revolutionary organization, an ideology that is wholly unique in that it is neither proletarian nor bourgeois ideology. In our capitalist world the proletariat and bourgeoisie are the two main classes, and each have formulated their own ideologies, the proletariat has communism and the bourgeoisie has capitalism, there is no middle road. To deviate from proletarian ideology, or to ignore or negate it, means strengthening bourgeois ideology. Bourgeois ideology holds sway, and is what passes as “common sense” even amongst the masses, which is why we must actively combat it through proletarian ideology. Bourgeois ideology doesn’t hold sway because of some conspiracy of hooded figures in a dark room controlling the world like a marionette, but because the ruling ideas of every economic and social order are the ideas of the ruling class. The media, the schools, the churches, the workplace etc. all are headquarters of bourgeois ideology, and from this view it seems as if the cards are stacked against us, but we have proletarian ideology. Proletarian ideology is ideology, but it is scientific, meaning that it unmasks the real political, economic, and social relationships that exist in capitalist society and serves as a guide to totally transform it. Although our economist detractors try to debase and defame it, proletarian ideology is not a simple method but a comprehensive world outlook that is the only fighting chance our class has to achieve victory.
In relation to the State, tenant struggles at our stage face two main obstacles: the police and lawyers. As we said in our summation of the Enriquez case, lawyers are roadblocks to politicization. In the absence of revolutionary lawyers, that is, lawyers dedicated to serving the people by defending them legally which can be used by organizations to keep organizers out of the hands of the State. Lawyers seek to limit or cut off all involvement with outside organizations and to confine the tenant’s case to a purely legal matter to be handled in the courts (even though only .2% of cases between landlords and tenants end in favor of the tenant). The presence of a lawyer ends the possibility of a sustained campaign and impedes the politicization of the tenant(s), as lawyers frequently advise tenants to not take any “ill advised” advice from others, or engage in any outside action that could damage their case, i.e. direct confrontation with the landlord, pickets, rent strikes etc. In short, the lawyer lowers the scope of the possible to the bare minimum (compensation, striking an eviction from a tenant’s record etc.), so it is no wonder lawyers are a tool advocated for so fiercely by the economists as they reign in the combativeness of the masses and make any campaign into an economistic one that revolves around simple maintenance or “fair reimbursement” for the tenant.
As for the police, they are the purveyors of violence against the working class and are foot soldiers of landlords and the ruling class. Their primary purpose is to corral the working class and to protect property, and by property it is meant the property of the landlords and the bourgeoisie and their right to acquire it, our money, and our labor.
In order to end gentrification, the proliferation of bad housing conditions, and the lack of housing for our class it is necessary to abolish the exploitation of the ruling class and their ownership of housing in general. The bourgeois state is both incapable and unwilling to solve the question of housing for our class so we know the reformism of the economists is a dead end. The lack of construction of affordable housing for workers, the displacement of our class to make way for high-rise apartments or hip cafes, will not stop unless we organize a struggle against it in order to conquer power for our class to organize and maintain its own housing, to for once see an end to the parasite landlords and their hired muscle used for forcible eviction. The working class builds the houses, apartments, and duplexes, so let the working class live in them, maintain them, and run them!
Drawing Lines in the Sand: The Kansas City Activist “Left”
The organized Left in Kansas City is a hodgepodge of organizations content to protest hop and to tail behind every event, never anticipating a struggle or leading one but following in its wake, riding the dying wave as it crashes into the rocks. The rest are organizations engaged in various kinds of legal work, which does nothing but carry our class back into the arms of the bourgeoisie, or worse, making peace with landlords through pacification. In this climate the birth of our organization was like drawing a line in the sand demarcating us from all others in the city. We don’t follow the “protest scene” nor do we entangle ourselves in the swamp of legal work. Our goal from the outset was simple, yet a revolutionary departure from all others, immerse our organization amongst the deepest sections of the masses and patiently organize them for revolution for that is where the real power resides, in masses in their millions. Because of this what passes for the “Left” in Kansas City doesn’t care much for us and they have never supported our work, and it is this fact that we take great pride in, because our concern is with orienting towards the proletariat not the activist scene. This activist “Left” orients towards themselves and the petty bourgeoisie. Events are made primarily through social media outlets like Facebook in lieu of flyering and direct contact with the masses in their daily lives and in areas they frequent. This is why the turnout for these supposed “leftist” events are devoid of most community members and are known mostly to other activists.
The protest hoppers, which comprise various anarchist and radical bourgeois feminist sects, base themselves on an unsustainable strategy of jumping from protest to protest, which functions as a kind of event tourism absent any real links or participation from the masses. Their work, or more accurately their absence of it, is matched only by their liberalism and opportunism. In the first case being nothing more than friend circles devoid of any theoretical understanding and practical purpose, that uphold political lines that parade as “revolutionary” but are functionally no different than the charitable ventures of “conscious capitalism.” The charitable work of groups like Food Not Bombs, while coming from a well meaning place, is of the same character, albeit significantly worse quality, as a Catholic charity house. The Anarchist Black Cross, of which no tangible work can be shown, traffics in outdated pamphlets that contain no more than general platitudes against exploitation and works closely with Food Not Bombs in their economistic charity venture masquerading a revolution. The radical bourgeois feminists in groups like Squad of Siblings are content to host poetry readings at art bars that cater to the disaffected children of the petty-bourgeoisie.
The other larger organizations are the Democratic Socialists of America and the local branch of the Green Party, both of which actively seek to funnel struggle back into the electoral circus and appeal mostly to disaffected strata of the petty bourgeoisie and intellectuals. The DSA functions as the left wing of the Democratic Party and operates under that illusion that the bourgeois state can be captured by progressives and “socialists” to be made more “democratic”. Of course this strategy is not new, and is one that actual revolutionaries have struggled against for over 150 years, and in places where it has succeeded it was immediately drowned in blood by the bourgeoisie. The Green Party operates along the same theoretical basis, but it more cautious with using the term socialist to describe anything they wish to accomplish, although the focus more heavily on running their own independent candidates rather than supporter the Democrats, a party of the bourgeoisie. Both organizations are based on incorrect political lines and do not take the tasks of revolution seriously, or imagine it in an idealistic fashion where the bourgeoisie can be gently pushed to the backstage of history.
Consequently, there is no possible political unity to be had with these organizations as we hold diametrically opposed political lines. Even if our political lines were identical we would see no benefit in abandoning our duty to organize the proletariat for a protest here and there, or to support a call in campaign for some mealy-mouthed politician. In fact, we actively oppose these organizations, and we stand for conquering hegemony and pushing them aside because we are serious about the necessity for revolution. Revolution cannot be organized in the halls of Congress or from the ballot box, and to stand aside and watch as organizations actively try to lead our class down an avenue of destruction is not only the grossest indifference, but also an outright betrayal. Revolution means conquering, not peacefully building up alongside the class enemy. This applies to landlords, NGOs, and the activist “Left” because they are an extension of the bourgeoisie trying to gain hegemony over the working class, yet they peddle strategies that will end in defeat and the preservation of this doomed social order. Being an organization composed of advanced workers, worker-tenants, we are fighters for our class, which demands that we combat those who would attempt to lead our class astray, no matter if they call themselves “anarchists”, “socialists”, or “radicals”.
We are in the beginning stages of building dual power here in Kansas City through Serve the People, but within our brief time so far working with its tenants and working class people, we can already feel a hunger for answers. There will be solutions, and the masses of Kansas City will make them happen through militant actions against the local slumlords. There will be bumps and roadblocks, but we are confident these will only serve to strengthen the people in our city, building discipline and resolve.
Our first hurdles we faced taught us some big things about Kansas City. Like, that we’re late to this game. The tenants have been waiting for us to get here, and they’re not here to waste any time getting these slumlords out of their neighborhoods. These working class people we’ve met are already more class conscious than some of the petit bourgeois and student activists we’ve worked with previously. Because they are so riled and ready, they come with a fire that helps light us up for action too, and it moves the organization with it. There’s no heat like the fury of the proletariat, and we intend to guide that fire to its full potential.
There is nothing revolutionary about being an internet activist, and a few of our members have learned that through the course of our work here. Those of us that already knew it, we feel have even grown stronger in their independence from the online Leftbook culture that does nothing for the working class movement. We pride ourselves on the emphasis we put into face-to-face interactions. We get to know our tenants on an individual basis, with no need for Facebook to be close.
Serve the People Kansas City has also learned that when faced with contradictions, we can’t wait to handle them. They must be struggled with immediately, or they will fester and cause more problems that only threaten the work, which would be a huge disservice to the people. When the work gets hard, Serve the People Kansas City has learned that we are doing our jobs. When the slumlords fight back, we are on the red path.