UDPR to the street vendor masses: against sham laws, in defense of rebellion

FeaturedUDPR to the street vendor masses: against sham laws, in defense of rebellion

The following is a polemic against the SB 946 law that would supposedly make street vending legal in California. It was sent to us by the People’s Revolutionary Defense Units (In Spanish, the UDPR) for the purpose of being published. We are told copies of the polemic will be made available in Spanish for the Spanish-speaking immigrant street vendor masses. We, RGLA, are in full support of the UDPR and their position against SB 946.

No one needs to be told that we live under an oppressive economic system because we experience it every day. But our system – capitalism – is designed to trick us. It pretends to fix itself, but it cannot be fixed. It isn’t broken. It is working exactly how it was designed to: with the capitalists, also known as the bourgeoisie, getting richer and more powerful and the workers getting poorer and more divided. That is why revolutionaries have an obligation to show the masses the most effective ways to fight and seize power.

One way capitalism tricks us is by telling us to vote, or to have faith in our politicians, like Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate Bill 946[1] – the so-called “Safe Sidewalk Vending Act” – that supposedly legalizes street vending.

On Sept. 17, Gov. Brown signed the bill. It goes into effect on Jan. 1 next year. But the bill is a sham. It is one big trick – even though there are some good things within it. But it hurts more than it helps.

What does the ‘Safe Sidewalk Vending Act’ really say?

Local cities or counties now, according to the bill, will make up new bureaucratic permit systems. And in order for you to get your permit, you must have a state ID, driver license of a government-approved identification card. You also must have a sellers permit by the state Department of Tax and Fee Administration. The cities or counties in California now, according to the bill, will have the right to pick and chose which vendors are allowed to vend and where and when and what they vend. The bill does, however, allow you to sell at parks but – and this is the scariest part – they need to know who you are, where you live and if you have a Social Security Number – which means they’ll have a pretty good idea if you’re an undocumented immigrant.

To continue being a street vendor, including those who sell at parks, you need to register with the city or county. And the same government that hands you over to ICE is the same government you’re supposed to trust? The language in the bill literally says if the city or county needs to hand your information over to the state or federal government, it will.

Requiring the sidewalk vendor to obtain from the local authority a permit for sidewalk vending or a valid business license, provided that the local authority issuing the permit or business license accepts a California driver’s license or identification number, an individual taxpayer identification number, or a municipal identification number in lieu of a social security number if the local authority otherwise requires a social security number for the issuance of a permit or business license, and that the number collected shall not be available to the public for inspection, is confidential, and shall not be disclosed except as required to administer the permit or licensure program or comply with a state law or state or federal court order.

The new bill does not – we repeat does not! – protect you, the immigrant street vendor masses! It lies to you! It betrays you.

The bill also keeps power in the hands of the Los Angeles County’s Department of Health, one of the main enemies of the immigrant street vendor masses. The Department of Health is still coming for your carts! They will keep stealing your property and destroying your food!

Remember when you were brutalized? Remember the terror in your children’s eyes when they saw the Department of Health workers and their police terrorizing you, stealing and destroying your property? Remember when your children were handcuffed? Remember how some of your hands used to tremble with anxiety at the sight of them? (We say used to because everyone knows you don’t fuck with a vendor in Exposition Park now!)

But we don’t say all of this to scare you. No, we say all this for you to keep trucha, to be vigilant, and to keep uniting, keep transforming into militants. It is only through struggle that we all change! It is only through struggle that we win!

No to charity, yes to revolution!

Earlier this year, Serve the People – Los Angeles (STPLA) started their People’s Committees to build power and turn working-class tenants into future people’s army or militia soldiers, and to involve them in other revolutionary struggles. The biggest danger or problem with this struggle was always the dangers of it falling into charity work. Charity work is fine but that’s what churches, nonprofit organizations and others do. We don’t do that. We don’t think it’s enough to give you free things or just help to make you live better under capitalism. Our lives will never be the lives we deserve until we get rid of capitalism. We call anything that only tries to make your lives better without changing the root cause for the problem economism.

What we are doing is building defense units, right now with the immigrant street vendor masses, against ICE. We are building revolutionary people’s soldiers. We don’t know how to make your sales better. We don’t know how to make you sell more hot dogs or sodas or ice creams. Our main concern and all we know is this: you are part of the people and you are being attacked – and in us defending you, we will guide you to defend yourselves and seize power.

Today it’s Exposition Park in South Central Los Angeles, but tomorrow the UDPR will grow both in quality and then in numbers.

In the People’s Committee struggle landlords were fearful of revolutionaries and the people but some of these landlords are smart. One example was slumlord Roger Lee from the 1330/1350 Pleasant Ave. People’s Committee in Boyle Heights. He reduced the rent increase from $140 to $70 and reduced it for all of his tenants and not just the ones who were organizing. Some of the tenants didn’t even care about the rent hike decrease!

STPLA’s work in the 1330/1350 Pleasant Ave. People’s Committee campaign gave the UDPR an important lesson: the masses cannot be transformed without actions in the class struggle.

Here at Exposition Park we see the capitalist state violently brutalizing you all, the immigrant street vendor masses, and we see how you all fight back so courageously!

The UDPR was created, as a defense unit, to defend but to also help train the masses into revolutionary defenders.

Economism, in the end, is harmful because it tricks you into thinking it’s not right to rebel. Economism is harmful but the way it looks and feels is often safe and sweet. That’s why we say they are sugar-coated bullets. But bullets are still bullets, and they kill!

So just like how our comrades in STPLA’s People’s Committees suffered from economism in the struggle against the slumlord Roger Lee, we see the new street vending law and much of the street vending struggle overall as an economist struggle.

It’s not enough to vend safely in public parks. The state, city and county will still attack you in other ways. Even if Peter Lee, the dreaded Department of Health worker, were to be fired or transferred. Or if officers Rodriguez or Williams, the cowardly State Police pigs, were to be fired or transferred. Or if K. Cardoza, the reckless and egotistical California Highway Patrol pig, were to be fired or transferred, the war against working-class immigrants will still go on.

Like the family dog underneath the table getting scraps of food, the state is trying to trick you all by satisfying you with scraps of reforms. But you are not dogs! You are the people! You deserve to have the police cower at the sight of all of you united and powerful!

‘With unity and power, nothing is impossible!’

The supporters of the UDPR, like STPLA, have posted several videos capturing the brutality of the state and county pigs at the park. These pigs that are representatives of capitalism and exist to uphold bourgeois laws openly terrorize you all – they have chased some of you to the train tracks. They have violently shoved you all and toppled your carts. They have seized your property roughly. And they have ambushed you on sidewalks and street corners. They do not try at all to hide their brutality and hatred of immigrant street vendor masses. We have heard about the state and county pigs entering your homes and stealing your property without any type of warrant.

The capitalists who so passionately defend private property are nowhere to be found when immigrant street vendor masses’ carts are brutally seized away from them. Why? Because under capitalism, the right to own property exists only for a wealthy minority. As the German revolutionary Karl Marx [2] teaches us:

[In capitalist society], private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths.

As mentioned earlier, this is why we should be so suspicious of capitalist laws which claim they will help oppressed people. If the California government really wanted to help the immigrant street vendor masses, they would have destroyed the pigs that terrorize them day in and day out. But, of course, they don’t really want to help the immigrant street vendor masses. They only want to help themselves, to fill their own pockets. The state will never do anything for anyone unless it will ultimately benefit them.

The immigrant street vendor masses are the victims of capitalism and of gentrification. The city, county and state pigs have shown us they will push out and terrorize the masses by any means necessary. Would a law be enough to fix this? Would a law transform the pigs from monsters who handcuff children into friendly bureaucrats?

You and your children see that capitalist laws, even before SB 946, will not help you enough and they will not transform our enemies into friends. Our enemies, like Officer Rodriguez or Peter Lee in the video, have no sympathy for you. They are pigs and traitors.

We have seen how you declare your hatred of the pigs and the local government, the County of Los Angeles. We’ve seen this since we first began working with you all.

On your own, even before us, you all have said how the pigs are not to be talked to or trusted. So this hatred of pigs is not new, but it has only recently begun to grow into something else. Before, some of you were scared. This is not because you are cowards; in fact, most of you (and especially the children) are unwaveringly courageous.

You had to continue vending, with the unrelenting stress and fear, day after day, constantly looking over your shoulder for the Department of Health trucks or State Police white Ford sedans. Every single time you had to go to the park, you’d face the very real risk of being intimidated, ticketed, shoved around, chased and have your carts and food stolen.

Yudis Leonel Cruz, the vendor who went missing for a few days after the Sept. 23 confrontation with the pigs (after escaping the park, he stayed home with little to no communication with anyone), even reported to us that he was arrested and held for 15 days without being able to speak to his family or lawyers. Why? Because he warned the other vendors about the police in Spanish and the racist pigs took this as a death threat.

The pigs, with their inhumanity and lack of morality, loved this fear. Pigs want people to be terrified of them. They want to leave the immigrant street vendor masses trembling and children crying. This is how they hold onto power – through fear and intimidation.

But pigs, like all other oppressors and reactionaries, are paper tigers. As Mao teaches us:

In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality, they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are powerful.[3]

The pigs are outnumbered by the masses, one million to one. They are not unbeatable and the immigrant street vendor masses with the UDPR see this with their own eyes. With the guidance of the UDPR and with ever-increasing unity among themselves, the immigrant street vendor masses are learning to unleash the revolutionary potential of their hatred. The same vendors who used to sprint away from the pigs (trembling furiously, pulling heavy carts with boiling oil and children with tears running down their faces) now lead jeers against the pigs. More and more, they do not run away. They stand their ground. They scream at the pigs, openly shame the pigs and pull their carts back from the pigs by force. If their voices waver, it is with passion. If they cry, it is with fury.

This transformation and courage did not come from some capitalist law which protects only some street vendor and not all. Revolutionary courage is never born from bourgeois legality. Revolutionary courage is born from struggle and principally from the class struggle. The immigrant street vendor masses will not be empowered by bourgeois politicians who do not give a fuck about anything except maintaining capitalism. You will only be empowered by actually seizing power with your own two hands.

And as you all have been transformed by struggle, we have been transformed by you.

It is no longer us defending the vendors and confronting the pigs for them – vendors now defend each other and confront pigs alongside us, and without us. As the struggle sharpens, immigrant street vendor masses grow more fearless. This, in turn, makes us more fearless. There is a dialectical, meaning connected and changing, relationship between your bravery and our own. This relationship is driven primarily by class struggle and it is fueled by a growing militant unity among immigrant street vendor masses and relentless fury toward our enemies. This cyclical relationship is dangerous for our enemies and one day, it will be deadly. Historical materialism, which means that history is driven by material forces and made by the masses, has shown us it is a formula for invincibility.

That’s why our slogan is: “With unity and power, nothing is impossible!”

No to legal reforms, yes to building power!

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History has shown us that legal reforms are poisonous to the masses. Reforms exist to protect capitalism against a rising working-class threat. Most people will not even see the benefits reforms falsely promise them, let alone be liberated by these bourgeois laws. Most immigrant street vendor masses, especially undocumented immigrants, will continue to be chased and terrorized by the police and ICE, no matter what the reformist law pretends to do for them.

Don’t fall into the trap of reformism, and be weary of those who call themselves socialists or Communists but don’t do anything for the people except yell at them to read their newspaper, like the Revolutionary Communist Party USA that hang around Jesse Brewer Jr. Park, also known as Turtle Park. Where were they when your personal property was being stolen? Where were they when your children were being handcuffed? Real Communists are with the masses. We call these people revisionists. Like reformists, revisionists may say things that sound good and true but at the end of the day they cannot be trusted.

The masses know they cannot rely on representatives of the same government that terrorizes them every day. They can only rely on their comrades in struggle, which are other advanced immigrant street vendor masses and the UDPR. Nothing will end oppression except the seizure of power.

This power must be used to take back the park, to kick out the Los Angeles County Department of Health workers and to terrify all pigs in the area. They must know we are a force to be reckoned with!

But the struggle will not end when we kick out County workers and the pigs. The struggle is a long and protracted one. It requires us to be active, optimistic, enthusiastic, militant and above all else to never lose faith in the masses. Without them, without you, we are nothing.

Together with the principally Maoist collective, Red Guards – Los Angeles (RGLA), and with the support of STPLA, we are daring to build something monumental and historical. We are students of history and we are defenders of our people. We know nothing changes unless you change it, unless you hit it. For this, we pledge our lives to you, the masses, and we dedicate ourselves to this end.

The political tasks of the UDPR are to fight, to produce and to mobilize. This means we are not just fighters. We are political educators, organizers and workers. If we do these tasks, the UDPR and the masses will establish revolutionary political power. Everything we do is about revolutionary political power. Without it, all else is illusion.

Like how the capitalists have their own army – the pigs – so too must the masses. Like how the capitalists have their own war, so too must the masses and especially the workers. But instead of the parasitic capitalist state’s army, we want a heroic and selfless People’s Army. And instead of an unjust war against the people, we want a People’s War against the capitalists. UDPR exists principally to create that army – starting first with small defense units guided by RGLA – and to fight that war.

Build the People’s Revolutionary Defense Units (UDPR)!

Build the People’s Army!

Long live the immigrant street vendor masses!

[1] For the full bill, go here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billVersionsCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB946

[2] Bourgeois laws, however progressive they pretend to be, can never serve the people. Just like the pigs who enforce them, these laws exist to protect capitalism and this unequal and oppressive distribution of wealth.

[3] TALK WITH THE AMERICAN CORRESPONDENT ANNA LOUISE STRONG. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4_13.htm

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