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Tuesday, January 27 2015 @ 12:54 PM CST

Against Gentrification

It wouldn’t be very groundbreaking to assert that the Bay Area is currently undergoing an unprecedented wave of gentrification corresponding to the second ‘tech boom’. Nor would it be newsworthy to lay out all the evidence thereof. The fact of a renewed process of gentrification can be plainly seen everywhere as a solidified and seemingly impenetrable social reality .

 Against Gentrification

from Fire Works: A Bay Area Anarchist News Magazine


It wouldn’t be very groundbreaking to assert that the Bay Area is currently undergoing an unprecedented wave of gentrification corresponding to the second ‘tech boom’. Nor would it be newsworthy to lay out all the evidence thereof. The fact of a renewed process of gentrification can be plainly seen everywhere as a solidified and seemingly impenetrable social reality . This phenomenon is particularly obvious in the Mission District. New megalithic condo developments sprout from the ground in the blink of an eye; Google buses crisscross the neighborhood; hoards of tech yuppies wander from one hip bar to the next; new gourmet restaurants open their doors so rapidly that even other gourmet restaurants think it is a problem; all the while the median rent for a one bedroom in the Bayview has skyrocketed to an unprecedented $2,353 a month. The mouthpieces of the new technological elite even have the audacity to arrogantly publish articles asserting that gentrification is ‘no longer a dirty word’.

In a sense, the sycophants in the mainstream press are correct. Whereas the gentrification of 1990s saw widespread opposition by leftists and progressive activists, there has been no such equivalent in recent years. The few efforts on the part of the left has so far been miniscule and lackluster. One such activist coalition, MATCH (Mission Alliance to Cultivate Home), perfectly illustrates some of the problems with the contemporary response. The ‘alliance’ determined that its initial messaging of ‘stopping gentrification’ was too hostile and that instead its mission should be ‘changing the face of gentrification’. At one meeting of the ‘alliance’ attendees articulated a desire to get different ‘communities’ involved in the process: communities such as ‘party goers’, ‘coffee culture’, the Sheriffs office, and even tech yuppies and condo owners themselves. The logic behind this proposal is that to make any difference, everyone has to come together and dialogue as communities. This ideology of the so-called community sounds all too familiar, being the same way that local police departments and business empires justify and promote their agendas. The language of “the Community”, serves to hide the very real conflict and antagonisms that exist within and between such communities. It makes us unable to perceive who the enemies are.

The lack of visibility and recognition of our enemies is perhaps what is most lacking in the current discourse around gentrification. In the anti-gentrification struggles of the late ‘90s, the most radical actions were those that clearly exposed those responsible for the development of the neighborhood. These included occupations and blockades of tech start-ups, posters illustrating how to sabotage luxury cars and listing restaurants and bars worthy of destruction, even the arson of development projects. These actions succeeded in disproving the myth that the gentrification of neighborhoods is a law of nature, showing instead that the process of displacement was intentionally and skillfully deployed by specific individuals and companies: individuals and companies with names, spaces and addresses of their own. Without this type of clarity, current efforts against gentrification will fail.

People may be angry, but this anger is lost in the fog and confusion of ‘community organizing’ and an inability to perceive ones enemies. We walk through the neighborhood with our eyes to the ground, quietly grumbling about each new glimmering atrocity on the block, wracked with nausea and frustration at having to listen to assholes on the BART rattle on about their trust funds or the start-up they work for, losing sleep over our inability to find a place to live or to afford the place we’re already in. What we lack, in part, is a way of seeing.

A sustained and ongoing project of seeing and exposing of our enemies would reveal that the seemingly endless instances of gentrification actually comprise a single project: the creation of a new world for Capital. The world they are building is closed to us, yet the image of it is everywhere. They strive for it to be fast-paced and fluid, while at the same time indestructible and permanent. It has an ever expanding appetite for places, destroying them and building an ever-present placelessness.

The hidden geography of this world can be mapped from the headquarters of enormous tech companies and newly formed start-ups, through the private buses and shuttles that bring their employees to their new multimillion dollar condos; from the so-called ‘transit villages’ along the nodes of the BART system to the hip corridors of cafes, restaurants, and galleries plaguing both sides of the Bay. This world can be seen in the grocery stores and boutiques selling green and natural products, images of wild animals, revolutionary and street-based aesthetics – selling the representations of the wildness that it is quickly extinguishing. And nothing more perfectly illustrates the ever-present nothingness than the virtual void in everyone’s hand, the applications which fund this new world and keep us tethered to it.

A recent piece about gentrification proposes a combative struggle against infrastructure as a response to our current situation. The anonymous author make a compelling point, citing anti-infrastructure attacks against railways in Italy, garbage dumps in Greece and oil pipelines in Afghanistan. And yet the article overlooks that the ferocious rebellion against the imposition of the new world is not based in an idealistic or political opposition to development, but rather in a defense of our lives and the visceral disgust at the way of life that is trying to replace our own. In short, an anti-development revolt has to be based in the material and spiritual conflict between our world and theirs: a conflict which plays out in evictions, imprisonment, and street-level executions of black and brown people at the hands of the police. If we cannot locate and use such a sense of clarity, place and hatred, then any effort is over before it begins.

None of this is to say that action is impossible or that the situation cannot be altered. In the same way that we have to develop our ability to see our enemies, we also need to be able to see and realize our connections to the activity of potential friends. In the couple of years both collective and clandestine trashing of businesses and condos in the Mission District have caught the attention of the neighborhood, police have (figuratively and literally) come under fire, small acts of anti-gentrification graffiti and vandalism abound, and thousands of people assert in their own quiet way that they won’t be forced out without a fight. In the last few months alone, the offices of the KONO gentrifiers were attacked by anarchist people of color in Oakland, condo developments in Seattle and Vancouver were burned down as blows against gentrification, and Mission residents held a block party where they symbolically smashed piñatas of Google Buses and condominiums. All of these actions have, in different ways, located enemies and struck out against them. We cannot wait for some mythical community or mass movement, for the progressives and leftists to save us. We need to expose our enemies and more importantly find our friends. This process can only happen through action and experimentation. It has been said many times before: let’s block their world to unleash our own.

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Against Gentrification | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Against Gentrification
Authored by: Jonathan on Saturday, September 14 2013 @ 10:09 AM CDT

Was this written by a booster of gentrification posing as an anarchist? I mean, the writer's 'solutions' are a virtual recipe for the acceleration of gentrification. Does he/she really think that random acts of vandalism and street violence are going to slow down the most powerful sector of capital in the modern world? Really? Do you want to know what will happen? For every limited act on the part of self-described anarchists or otherwise marginalized person, the police and associates will respond with ten times the action, suppressing on a purely material level any gains that might be made against gentrification and the general advance of capital. On a more abstract level, violence, graffiti, and vandalism merely reinforce the feeling in the public at large that not only is there nothing wrong with gentrification, but that it is a positive force, driving the violent lumpenproles from prime real estate and making cities safe again.

If you want to combat gentrification, you have to be pro-active, and constructive. Show that it is possible for shitty neighborhoods to be revitalized and livable again without massive injections of capital or state intervention; or even if you can't show it to the world, at least accomplish it. Acting, instead of reacting.

Against Gentrification
Authored by: Admin on Friday, January 10 2014 @ 02:54 PM CST

Property destruction against gentrification may be the only thing that will stop gentrification. What are the alternatives? Lobbying city government? Forming the perfect anarchist organization. Mass organizing of common people might work, ala Occupy Wall Street, but you have to find good organizers who can stand up to the bullshit that other activists will throw at them.

Destroying property also makes sense as a strategy if we follow what some activists have argued in the past. If you want a world free of corporate chains, for example, it makes sense to get rid of those structures and corporate infrastructure. If they aren't going to exist in a post-capitalist world, why not get rid of them as you go along?

At least that is how one argument goes and it is worth considering.