Political education is not only an entry point to united class struggle, but a site to return to again and again for guidance in our anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist organizing. New and long-time comrades and interested community members are invited to join the Political Education Committee’s current ongoing Night School series Lost Angles: Piecing Together a Socialist LA. This 5-part series is designed to explore leftist perspectives and critical moments in the history of Los Angeles, with the aim of generating a deeper, shared analysis of what a socialist organization like ours should do to build a working class movement oriented towards a socialist horizon in our city.

List of calendar links to RSVP to Night School below (more complete details follow):

  1. Kickoff Event: Set the Night on Fire 6pm Thursday, July 2nd
  2. The Horizontal City – 6pm on Thursday, July 16th
  3. Building a Radical Los Angeles – 6pm on Thursday, July 30th
  4. Red Hollywood – 6pm on Thursday, August 13th
  5. Legacies of LA’s Third World Left – 6pm on Thursday, August 27th
  6. The LA Secession Wars – 6pm on Thursday, September 10th

 

  1. The Horizontal City – 6pm on Thursday, July 16th

South of the 10 Freeway. Going North on the 405. The 110 South. Freeways denote racialized and classed geographies of Los Angeles in profound ways. But who decided how, when, and where to build Los Angeles freeways? Which communities were torn apart when they broke ground? And, importantly, how did working class Angeleanos fight back in their dream to envision a Los Angeles built for everyone? In this class we’ll explore the important histories of working class struggle around the Los Angeles Freeway system. By exploring resistance to our current vehicle regime, we will also begin to imagine a future where public transportation, sidewalks, and other public spaces feature prominently in our vision for Los Angeles. 

Recommended readingsbeginning page 16 in the Night School Reader

  • If You Build It, They Will Move:The Los Angeles Freeway System and the Displacement of Mexican East Los Angeles, 1944-1972 (Estrada)
  • Why L.A.’s Freeways Are Symbolic Sites of Protest (Meares)
  • Why Isn’t There a Freeway to Beverly Hills? (Masters)
  • To Rebuild our Towns and Cities, We Need to Design a Green Stimulus (Fleming & Lillehei)

 

  1. Building a Radical Los Angeles – 6pm on Thursday, July 30th

Despite its frequent portrayal as a region of sun-drenched bungalows, citrus trees and quaint conservatism, Los Angeles in the first half of the 20th century was roiled by radicalism. A rise in worker militancy led to the development of the Los Angeles CIO, one of the most diversely led labor formations in the United States. Labor organizing and a racist judicial system, clearly seen in the trials following the Zoot Suit Riots, brought together community leaders, radicals, and communists in broad coalitions dedicated to defending the rights of the multiracial working class.

 In this class we’ll explore how leftists built multiracial organizations in fields, factories and communities and think through the lessons these experiences might hold for socialists today.  

Recommended readingsbeginning page 57 in the Night School Reader

  • Radical Movements, Radical Communities, and Radical Spaces (Struthers)
  • Raising Consciousness at the Workplace (Laslett)
  • The Promise and Perils of Radicalism (Kurashige)
  • The Defense Committees of Sleepy Lagoon (Barajas)

 

  1. Red Hollywood – 6pm on Thursday, August 13th

“Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?”

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, a wave of anti-communist hysteria took hold of the United States. Many across the US feared that a second Bolshevik revolution was imminent, one that would sweep away the cherished institutions of the West – “Church, home, marriage, civility, and the American way of Life.” This was the first Red Scare. It led to massive wartime strikes, deportations, and a sustained, brutal crackdown on the political freedoms of the left, including the newly formed Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA).

The Second Red Scare began after World War II. Anti-communism, now a product of the Cold War, was back on the menu. And while no aspect of society remained free from its suffocating grip, a Los Angeles neighborhood known as Hollywood became the site of one of its most infamous expressions – the blacklist. The CPUSA, which since the 1930s had established a small but growing membership in Hollywood, was the prime target.

In this class, we’ll take a look at the real radicals whose lives were shaped and, in many cases, ruined by the blacklist and the pitched labor battles they engaged in to expand and protect the rights of labor in Hollywood.

Recommended readingsbeginning page 120 in the Night School Reader

  • The Radical Community in Hollywood (Prime)
  • Hollywood and the Union Question (Humphries)
  • Salt Of The Earth (dir. by Herbert J. Biberman) – special event at 6pm on Friday, August 7th

 

  1. Legacies of LA’s Third World Left – 6pm on Thursday, August 27th

What if I told you that from the elected officials who manage the affairs of the bourgeoisie, to principled socialists who’ve soldiered on in proletarian struggles for decades, many figures in LA’s contemporary political landscape trace their lineage to radical organizations of the ’60s and ’70s? 

The August 29th Movement, Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, El Centro de Accion Social Autonomo, East Wind — many of these groups were explicitly socialist organizations who organized largely along racial/ethnic lines and were part of what scholars call the Third World Left.

What were the material conditions and economic arrangements that shaped the development of these organizations? What kind of work did they undertake, and what fruit did it bear? How did their internal structures influence their external capacities? How did they relate to different class forces within nationalist movements? Through both firsthand accounts and secondary sources, this class session explores these questions as well as what all this means for socialists working in LA today.

Recommended readingsbeginning page 148 in the Night School Reader

  • Serving the People and Vanguard Politic:The Formation of the Third World Left in Los Angeles (Pulido)
  • Statement by the East Wind organization on its unity with the League (Saba)
  • Commentary: Lessons from the battle for Japanese redress/reparations (Hibino)
  • Expendable Youth (Davis)

 

  1. The LA Secession Wars – 6pm on Thursday, September 10th

In 2002, 67% of voters in Los Angeles City and 49% of voters in the San Fernando Valley came out against the proposed secession of the San Fernando Valley, San Pedro, and Hollywood regions. Nearly two decades later, though these geographies remain part of LA City, the political forces and city government responses that shaped this political battle are very much with us today. 

Through the lens of the secession vote, this class explores the development of homeowners associations as political forces in Los Angeles, and examines tactics deployed by this movement in response to a shifting political and demographic terrain. As a reaction to the burgeoning movement for secession, LA City government reworked the city’s 71-year-old charter in the late 1990s “to provide a more responsive and less complicated political structure” — introducing for the first time Neighborhood Councils, described by the city today as a source of “local expertise and a local voice on the delivery of City services to their communities.” The limitations and opportunities of Neighborhood Councils remain contested today; this class seeks to ground contemporary debates and strategy in a deeper understanding of the origin of these political forces and structures. 

Recommended readingsbeginning page 191 in the Night School Reader

  • Ruling Los Angeles: Neighborhood movements, urban regimes, and the production of space in Southern California by Mark Purcell (Purcell)
  • “These Communities Have the Most to Gain from Valley Cityhood”: Color-Blind Rhetoric of Urban Secession in Los Angeles, 1996-2002 (Connor)

 

Political Education Committee’s Study Series Archive:

We periodically revisit past study series curricula in Night School formats, and previous readers are freely available below:


Class on Class ( 2018)

A study series which examines a selection of foundational concepts and inquiries, including: Class under Capitalism; Surplus Value & Exploitation; Class Struggle & Political Struggle; Capitalism Today – “Late Capitalism.”

Imperialism Study Series (2019)

Building on concepts introduced in the Class on Class, this series examines the relationship between imperialism and capitalism as articulated by leftists thinkers from the 19th century through today. Across installments, this series is designed to highlight the deep and varied theories on the left and create a space for open, healthy discussion. Topics include: 

  • Is imperialism the highest state of capitalism?: The trajectory of British capitalism and leftest debate on Pre-WWII theories of imperialism
  • America’s ascent as an imperial power: An examination of financialization and globalization 
  • The national question: An introduction to leftist dialogue on self-determination, intervention, and nationalism
  • Imperialism today: An investigation of study series concepts through contemporary case studies

Socialism & Electoralism Night School Series (2019-2020)

A series of informal Night Schools designed to complement DSA’s local and national commitments to Bernie’s campaign and  engage with this candidacy within the broader context of socialist strategies and perspectives on electoral politics.