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Communist Dialectics


Oakland's Ghost Ship Fire:

We Need Art for Communist Revolution, not for Capitalist Development

Text Size:  ABC  ABC

OAKLAND, USA, Dec. 2—A sudden raging fire consumed the lives of 36 young party-goers in an old warehouse in the black and latino working-class neighborhood of Fruitvale. The warehouse, renamed the Ghost Ship and recycled as an artists’ work-live community space, burned like hell fire. Gentrification, homelessness and skyrocketing rents, all features of capitalism in crisis, channeled 36 young artists and friends into a cheap space and left them as charred corpses.
Under capitalism, profit is everything; the well-being of the masses, nothing. In the communist revolution we are organizing, the well-being of the masses will be everything and profits won’t even exist.
Those who lived in the Ghost Ship paid $400 a month to a Derick Almena, who had no permit to sub­lease. The owner, Chor N. Ng, who owns multiple properties, claims to know nothing about any subletting. Both of them, however, knew when to collect the rent!
One out of five Oakland residents lives in poverty. Rents increased in Oakland almost 70% over the past nine years to an astonishing median level of $2,200 a month. That’s the fourth highest in the US. Compare that to the $3,100 a month a new Oakland bus driver makes!
 If statistics like this disgust and anger you, you are beginning to think like a communist. For capitalists like Ng and his sidekicks, statistics like these reveal “niche markets” that can be exploited.

Art for Capitalist Development
Capitalists don’t own buildings to house the homeless. They own them to make profits. The money goes one way, from the renters or mortgage payers to the landlords or bankers. It’s called exploitation. If our revolution wins out money and exploitation will be destroyed. People-to-people relationships will replace it. We’ll share resources to meet all our needs as best we can.
This culture of co-operation however, won’t just drop out of the sky. It will only develop out of an all-round struggle against racism, sexism, and individualism. The fire at the Ghost Ship was a tragic event in a long-term plan to “ethnically cleanse” Oakland. Under the label of “gentrification,” one fourth of Oakland’s black residents have already been displaced.
This is a story that is repeated in city after city. It has become a familiar pattern. A targeted neighborhood suffers through gang violence, police violence, cuts in services, rent increases and at a certain point in the development a largely white artistic community appears.
“Popuphood” is the latest example in Oakland. Operating in another part of Oakland, it shows how the “private-public” partnership combines to “ethnically cleanse” a neighborhood. Property owners band together to offer 6-month free rent to new stores. A government agency makes thousands of dollars available in grant money to the same stores. Property values begin to rise and the “gentrification” has reached its final phase.
Money (grants) and support (6 months free rent) that is denied residents is made available to the business owners. No wonder the City of Oakland applied for a local state of emergency. In part, it will allow Oakland to subsidize the local businesses that may have lost customers as a result of the fire! Government exists to serve capitalists and for over 400 years, racism has provided them a key source of profits.

Art for Communist Revolution
These artist communities are not consciously racist. One of the Ghost Ship’s victims was a supporter of Standing Rock. And not all become pawns of the real estate developers. However, artists in capitalist society are, by and large, the products of an education system that presents art either as a career choice, or as individual self-expression isolated from the interest of working class communities.  Generally, they fail to interact with their neighbors.
Paul Robeson said, “The artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or for slavery.” As Red Flag grows in readership and volunteer writers and artists, we will be able to influence these artist communities, turning them from occasional vanguards for capitalist gentrification into centers of working-class resistance and communist development!

Communist art from a friend in El Salvador: “Long Live the Working Class!” “Long Live Communism” “Take up the Red Flag Against Capitalism, Fighting for Communism”

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