Reconstructing California From the Bottom Up (LSCC)
          RECONSTRUCTING CALIFORNIA FROM THE BOTTOM UP

     One of the greatest myths of our time is that public funds
are used for "social welfare," whereas the "private sector"
amasses obscene levels of wealth because its top executives take
risks and work on their own without government help or subsidy.
The reality is that the lion's share of public spending is used
to subsidize entire industries and many people got rich this way.
In other words, corporations and the highest income groups have
used their economic and political power to transform the U.S.
into a "wealthfare state".

     Our "upside-down" welfare system occurs through two hidden
"wealthfares": first, through direct subsidies and credits to
assist corporations, banks, agribusiness, and defense industries;
and, second, through tax loopholes~legal mechanisms by which the
government officially permits certain corporations and
individuals to pay lower taxes or no taxes at all.

     It is important to remember that while separated here due to
the two different tax systems~personal income and corporate
taxes, in reality, the heads of corporations and the highest
income groups (the richest 1 percent to 5 percent of the
population) are closely interconnected and essentially the same.
As Cynthia Hamilton points out, the first objective of
government, as it functions in the U.S., is to make specific
companies and industries rich. Then, individual wealth is
achieved by first paying exorbitant salaries, benefits, and stock
options, and second, by using political power to ensure that tax
loopholes allow almost all of this money to be kept. In other
words, while a few of the most wealthy families at the top are
lawyers married to lawyers and a sprinkling of music and sports
stars, the vast majority own and manage the Fortune 500
companies. This is reflected in the skyrocketing pay of chief
corporate executives. By the end of the 1980s the average
corporate executive was making 120 times the wages of a worker
and 72 times that of teacher~compared with 35 times the wages of
workers in the mid-1970s.


Why Worker and Community Demands for Socially Responsible
     Investment Must Replace Pleas to "the Market"

     Readers of the above may say: "such ineqality may be
interesting, even shocking, but let's get realistic.  We are
living at a time when companies are running away, when community
movements and the labor movement are weak, when racial tensions
between and within communities are growing, when big business
seems to hold all of the cards as it operates internationally,
and when the Clinton administration is obsessed with the middle
class, deficit reduction, and business incentives. Face it--the
market is defining everything."

     Our response is to point out that when people think about
civil rights, or an end to police brutality, or a demand that
existing firms hire women or people of color, there is some sense
of activism and of having some "rights." This consciousness is
not innate, but is the product of social movements and actual
historical experience of the past century, when civil rights,
women's, and labor struggles shaped oppressed people's sense of
the possible. In the arena of "community economic development"
and "industrial policy," however, the rhetoric and the practice
is very conservative, even among people whose overall politics
are quite progressive. This is reflected in the campaign slogans
of the day that tell us that in the name of "realism" we must:
make communities "attractive to industry;" "work together with
business in a "public private partnership;" "streamline
permitting processes" to get rid of "unnecessary environmental
regulations" and "redtape;" "re-structure union contracts" to
give away wages and benefits; and embrace "labor/management
cooperation."

     To some degree this behavior is understandable. Given the
growing internationalization of capital, the more ruthless
behavior of corporations in the past few decades, and the
failures of most social movements to check the behavior of
multinational companies, many labor and community activists have
been beaten into compliance. For example, in virtually every
movement in Los Angeles to keep open Goodyear, Firestone, GM
Southgate, and GM Van Nuys, there was a pattern of contract
concessions by workers, sell-outs by international union
leaderships that refused to challenge management's rights, and a
complete refusal by the Reagan (Republican), Jerry Brown
(Democrat), Deukmejian (Republican), or Bradley (Democrat)
administrations to challenge the "right" of companies to come and
go as they please. Isn't bipartisanship wonderful?

     And today, it is certainly reasonable to ask, "Given that
the virtually every non-union and low-wage furniture industry has
already run away to Mexico (even after the AQMD negotiated very
reasonable air quality rules for the industry), how can we demand
high wages, unions, and stricter environmental standards without
driving many other companies and entire industries out of the Los
Angeles area? Moreover, with the advent of the North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and very weak labor and
environmental protections, these problems will get even worse.
How can low-income communities demand higher wages, community
standards, and environmental protection if the existing low-
wages, and weak environmental standards have not succeeded in
attracting companies?" After twenty years of Bradley, twelve
years of Reagan and Bush, a year of Peter Ueberroth, and a few
months of Bill Clinton, the common mantra in the country and the
city is, `the only way to bring in business is to play ball with
business.'

     These are real challenges to community environmental and
economic sustainability. These challenges must be met by a
strategy that ensures democratic intervention in the economy,
that is, public control over the use of capital, both private and
public.

     To begin with, remember that it was the "market strategy"
that deindustrialized South L.A.: For the past twenty years, the
Bradley administration (and the power elite behind it) gave
business the keys to the city, which included substantial funds
from the CRA and the unfailing support of local governement that
might as well have renamed itself `the Chamber of Commerce.' So,
if the market strategy is so effective, and after 20 unimpeded
years in which to operate, where are all the decent paying jobs?

     Similarly, recall that for a full year Peter Ueberroth and
his Rebuild LA group were given a honeymoon by the press and
virtual carte blanche by Mayor Bradley and Governor Wilson. What
have they accomplished? Peter Ueberroth, our greatest advocate of
the role of the market in urban development, has hit a dead-end
precisely because of the inability of a market strategy to meet
the needs of low-income communities. Companies don't want to
invest in the inner city, especially in predominantly African-
American communities, when they can get cheaper labor and lower
environmental standards elsewhere. They hope to avoid the
historical militancy of the African-American movement, the
assertiveness of many African American workers who are union
veterans, and the potential for another rebellion. Thus, for
those who say it's time to be "realistic," a practical look at
the work of RLA should indicate that the disadvantaged can expect
to see, realistically, very few of their urban problems solved by
the market.

     Rather, urban communities in need must challenge the market
strategy and place our demands directly on capital. A multiracial
anticorporate united front thus advances a vision of society in
which a job is a right, not a privilege, in which low-income
communities have a voice in industrial policy and community
economic development, and in which corporations are subject to
socially responsible criteria of behavior, not avaricious pursuit
of profit.



Setting Standards with Companies that Need to or Want to Locate
     in Los Angeles

     Companies have cleverly made it seem like capital flight is
a weapon that all can use equally, but in fact, L.A. attracts
many companies who want or need to locate here.

     First, the hotel and restaurant industry needs to operate
here. There are nine million people in L.A. County: for McDonalds
and Wolfgang Puck, for Motel 6 and the Beverly Wilshire, there is
nowhere to run.

     Second, there are industries and utilities that need to be
near Los Angeles, from Southern California Edison to the Gas
Company, from Union Pacific to Harbor Area oil refineries that
need to be near tankers and the harbor.

     Third, government should become the model employer. The L.A.
Unified School Board's cutting of public school teacher salaries
by 10 percent and the County of Los Angeles' contracting-out of
services to sweat-shop employers are policies that must be
challenged. It will be more difficult to win higher wages and
more jobs in the private sector if government is cutting back
essential social services and public workers. Conversely, if
government becomes a higher-wage, pro-union employer, this can
place "market pressure" on private industry and pull wages and
conditions upwards.



Pressuring Companies with Substantial Markets in Los Angeles for
     Socially Responsible Investment in L.A.: The GM Van Nuys
     Model

     The Campaign to Keep GM Van Nuys Open pressured GM to
postpone closing down its last auto plant in Los Angeles. The
union local, warned of a closing by GM in 1982 with the
anticipation of gaining contract concessions, organized a
proactive movement against GM, focusing on the rights of workers
and the special concerns of L.A.'s Latino and African-American
communities (given that the plant was 50 percent Latino, 15
percent African American, and 15 percent female). The workers and
their union, The United Auto Workers (UAW), organized a
Labor/Community Coalition to Keep GM Van Nuys Open. Made up of a
broad cross-section of groups~Catholic priests and Baptist
ministers, Latino and African-American student groups as well as
students of all races, other labor unions, entertainment
celebrities, and even some elected officials, the Coalition
threatened GM with an L.A. county boycott of its products if it
ever closed the plant. Because L.A. was the largest new car
market in the U.S., GM was particularly vulnerable to that
threat; and the plant was kept open with almost 4,000 jobs
maintained for another decade before it eventually closed in
1992.

     While the movement was eventually broken by an unholy
alliance between GM and the UAW International in Detroit
(including the firing of the local union president Pete Beltran
with the complicity of UAW). However, that struggle at its height
showed the possibility of social movements changing capital
investment decisions. From the United Farmworkers' lettuce,
grape, and Gallo wine boycotts to the movement for disinvestment
in South Africa, large-scale consumer pressure, as part of an
overall social movement, can force changes in corporate policies.
What if all L.A. high school students refused to buy Nikes or
Reeboks unless they built a manufacturing plant in L.A., or
churches, unions, and governmental bodies with relatively large
budgets demanded that a certain number of key companies invest in
L.A. or lose their business? This strategy has the potential to
compel capital investment, as well as generate a long overdue
debate about the responsibilities of firms to invest in oppressed
communities where they earn significant profits.


Companies that Receive Government Contracts, Subsidies, or Grants

     The critical principle here is that government funds are a
public trust, and business cannot receive funds and then operate
contrary to broader public interests.

     The Capital Flight Contract Model. Capital flight or its
threat~when companies constantly say they will relocate their
factory if unions organize or if governments regulate~is the
single greatest obstacle to any model of sustainable community
economic development. If companies continue to have that trump
card, how can workers or communities have any leverage, and how
can government and elected officials attempt to regulate
corporate behavior without being threatened with "having driven
jobs out of Los Angeles or California"?

     Again, government and the public have more leverage than is
admitted, for virtually all "private companies" in fact look for
ways to have their businesses and profits subsidized by public
funds. What if L.A. City and the State of California passed
legislation stipulating that any funds passed from government to
business, whether research and development grants or government
contracts, must include contractual prohibitions against capital
flight? Companies violating this agreement would have to repay
the grants or a substantial portion of the contract before being
allowed to leave the city.

     This overall approach differs sharply from both the
Ueberroth RLA strategy of deregulation and overall business
subsidy, and also differs from the  "targeted business subsidy"
strategy of Joel Kotkin and David Friedman of the Progressive
Policy Institute. While Ueberroth proposes subsidizing the entire
business class and granting wholesale environmental deregulation,
Kotkin and Friedman focus on subsidizing and deregulating only
the winners~cutting-edge companies with greater job development
potential. Kotkin and Friedman oppose social welfare spending in
the inner cities, oppose race-specific solutions to address
centuries of race-specific discrimination, and essentially, call
for a targeted and selected use of government funds to back the
winners in a world economy. They argue that this approach as
necessary to fuel economic growth. By contrast, the Strategy
Center, which embraces economic sustainability as a strategic
goal rather than the economic growth inherent in the mechanism of
the "free" market, supports targeted investment to help certain
business entities; however, its definition of "winning"
industries is determined by more socially responsible
characteristics, of which job development is certainly one, but
so is strict adherence to environmental regulation, a high wage
strategy, responsible policies towards surrounding communities,
acceptance of higher corporate and upper income individual income
taxes, and non-interference in union organizing efforts.

      All of these ideas are complex and will have to be refined
in the realm of organizing. But they all point to a diametrically
different approach to economic development, one in which a
broader social agenda must govern business behavior, and one in
which workers and communities have rights in directing capital
investment.


Wages and Working Conditions: Making Los Angeles a Union Town and
     Demanding Community Labor Standards

     We cannot demands "jobs" without simultaneously emphasizing
high wages; humane working conditions; medical, dental, and
retirement benefits; and the right to union representation. While
wages are to some degree a product of the market, government
policy and social movements can significantly impact wage levels.

     Government policy: Present "Enterprise Zones" offer
businesses tax breaks to come into communities without placing
any restrictions on corporate behavior other than "encouraging"
job creation. While the Strategy Center believes that the entire
program of Enterprise Zones should be rejected, nonetheless, it
is urgent to develop a "business subsidy/high wage" set of laws
that require any company receiving any public funds~for new
technology, for small business loans, for research and
development~to adhere to selected requirements regarding working
conditions such as paying at least $8 per hour. Combined with new
laws setting the minimum wage at $6.50 per hour or more,
government policy could help raise the bottom of the wage scale.

     Union representation: Wage levels are as much a reflection
of the relative power between labor and management as they are of
market pressures and industry "competitiveness." During the
1960s, when most downtown office buildings were unionized, with
most of the janitors being African American, the average wage was
relatively high. When the Service Employees International Union
(SEIU) was dealt a severe setback by the "contracting out" to non-
union janitorial companies that hired primarily immigrant labor,
the wages in the industry fell to less than $5 per hour. Since
SEIU has initiated its impressive Justice for Janitors Campaign,
more office buildings have once again been forced to sign
contracts with union janitorial firms and the wages in the
industry have slowly begun to rise. However, because the firms
being unionized are still "independent" sweat-shop contractors,
virtually all the African American workers who worked at decent
wages under previous union contracts have been driven out of the
industry.

     For African American and Latino workers, unions represent an
opportunity to have greater power in the workplace, some sense of
protection from management abuse, and an organizational base from
which to exercise political power in the city and the nation.
Workers in non-union firms work for less, live in constant fear
of being fired, and go home from work alone, exploited, and
powerless. In Los Angeles, the LAPD's beating of Justice for
Janitors demonstrators and the Bradley administration's ongoing
lack of support for Hotel and Restaurant Workers as well as the
downtown janitors have reinforced a low-wage economy even in
unionized workplaces. Thus, it's not enough to "want" unions. If
we want a high-wage economy, community groups must become
involved in campaigns to actually help unions. Such involvement
is critical in several areas:

      First, changes to federal, state, and local laws are needed
that expand the rights of workers to organize unions. Examples of
such changes are: laws prohibiting companies from hiring
permanent replacements during strikes; repeal of laws restricting
the number of pickets at a worksite; and changes in the
procedures of the National Labor Relations Board such as the
immediate reinstatement with back pay of workers fired for union
activity while the unfair labor practice is being debated. (At
present, militant workers are fired on the spot, and are kept out
of work for years while "appeals" are filed.)

      Second, community campaigns can support union campaigns.
Numerous successful union struggles have been rooted in community
campaigns. It was strong community pressure threatening a boycott
that forced General Motors to keep open the Van Nuys plant for an
entire decade longer than it planned to. Similarly, due to
protests from both the Korean and Latino community, the Koreana
hotel that originally fired all of its union workers and replaced
them with scabs, was forced to rehire much of its original union
workforce who are members of the Hotel and Restaurant Local 11.
Because of community boycott pressure, the United Farm Workers
Union was able to get contracts for agricultural laborers with
lettuce growers, grape growers, and the Gallo corporation.

      Third, while communities strive to support workers,
responsible, community-supportive behavior must be demanded from
organized labor. Many community residents do not see support of
organized labor as a priority, because experience has taught them
that there are forces at the center of power within the L.A.
County Federation of Labor who have supported policies that have
hurt the economic, social, and public health interests of many
low-income communities. These conservative forces within the
labor movement have carried out a narrow and self-interested
strategy to pursue "jobs" for a relatively limited number of
workers at the expense of the larger society, tying these
workers' interests to the most reactionary interests of
corporations. For example, the conservatives within the County
Federation of Labor have helped lead the Community Redevelopment
Agency in its destabilization of communities and its advancement
of a downtown building frenzy that provided jobs for relatively
well-paid construction workers while reinforcing a low-wage
economy for most of the other workers in the area. They have
lobbied the AQMD and other agencies against community protective
standards by advancing the interests of developers, oil
companies, chemical companies, and any other companies that used
the threat of capital flight and "job loss" to gain deregulation
of emissions, thereby risking the public health of low-income
communities. These conservative unionists supported the Cold War
and the Reagan military build up (and the policies of the defense
contractors who moved out of the city) and played no role in
demanding conversion to peace time production. They did this in
order to keep the supply of high paying military jobs flowing to
"their members" when such policies were directly against the
public interest.

     Most significantly, they have suppressed dissidents within
the United Auto Workers, the Teamsters, and other unions who were
disagreeing with the company's agenda in their industries or the
unions' complicity with that agenda.

     With this track record, it is not surprising that community
groups and progressive organizations often view unions in general
as reactionary. This is shortsighted, however. There are also
many independent, democratic, and very progressive unions and
individuals within the labor movement in Los Angeles that
constitute a progressive wing. And there can be no doubt that
union organization provides the much needed organizational power
to wage the fight for worker rights within any workplace. The
Strategy Center is unwavering in advocating a pro-union strategy
of development for the union movement's present and future. Of
course, this means advocating a reform strategy for the labor
movement and making a commitment to the interests of the most
militant and principled labor and community activists~not
expanding the influence of labor elites. Community residents must
become more aware of the conflict within the labor
movement~between progressives and conservatives; between those
who support environmental objectives and those who work with
companies to destroy environmental laws and agencies; between
those who support a multiracial membership and affirmative action
in hiring and those who use unionism to maintain white racism;
and between those who support debate and democracy within unions
and those who work to crush it. In this way, community
organizations can help the labor movement rediscover its soul and
its potential role as a major progressive force in U.S. society.


Creating a Multiracial, Anticorporate United Front: Confronting
     White Racism and Ethnic Balkanism in Confronting the
     Domination of Big Business

     Since the brief moment of "black and white together" and
"Third World Solidarity" during the 1960s, the urban politics of
the past 20 years has focused on a pluralist model of social
change which argues that the system can accomodate demands when
communities organize around immediate self-interest and fight
their way to the table. Thus, separate African-American, Asian-
American, and Latino organizations are seen as the way for one's
"people" and one's "community" to organize for power and
"inclusion." The problem is that all too often, the system
creates a "zero-sum game" in which African Americans, Latinos,
and Asians are fighting for a limited number of city council
seats, government contracts, or even seats on the RLA board,
while middle-class demagogues in each ethnic group attempt to
instill anger against the others to advance their own economic or
political agendas. We have to find a new politics that can go
past the tame and worthless "multiculturalism" that is used to
paper over rather than confront the real political, economic, and
cultural conflicts between groups. We have to create a more
compelling organizing model in which those conflicts can be
struggled out, and if not resolved, then at least minimized in
the context of a broader set of objectives.

     The Labor/Community Strategy Center is a multiracial "think
tank/act tank" which generates analysis and policy proposals on
urban issues and organizes working-class and low-income
communities in L.A. For the past five years, we have been working
to reconstruct a social theory that requires at least as much
ideological coherence and strategic thinking as that displayed by
our government and corporate adversaries.

     While not a totalizing worldview, this theory begins with
the proposition that the domination of society by the most
monopolized and internationalized forms of corporate capital is
against the interests of the vast majority of people. This kind
of class analysis, we believe, can galvanize a multiracial
anticorporate united front: workers (employed and unemployed);
people of color of all classes except the most corporate; women,
especially working class and of color; poor and working-class
people; small business owners; progressive intellectuals; and
even segments of the white middle class.

     From the perspective of political consciousness, this united
front can, again at least in theory, unite activists and scholars
around a common critique of corporate behavior without assuming
agreement as to the causes of that behavior. At a time when the
movement is fragmented, a sharper united front politics can
attract a wide variety of progressive political forces:
liberation theology activists; Rainbow Coalition Democrats;
Marxists re- evaluating the achievements and failures of the many
experiments in socialist alternatives to capitalism; Latino,
African-American, and Asian-American community activists who do
not necessarily define themselves ideologically but who are
involved in community-based struggles against toxic polluters and
corporate developers; Mexican, Korean, and Central American
immigrants with long histories in the left, and anticolonial
politics regarding their native countries and an interest in
making the difficult transition into U.S. politics; former
activists from the Black Panthers, Student Non-Violent
Coordinating Committee, CASA, and SDS whose critique of U.S.
racism is undiminished after all these years but who have
"settled in" to union or social service agency positions and find
themselves thwarted by the narrowness of their own social
practice.

     Such a united front provides a theoretical and practical
vehicle to allow diverse points of view and constituencies to
work together on immediate and compelling projects while
continuing to debate social theory that is integrally related to
organizing and activism.

     An anticorporate discourse needs to be reopened in the
movement. Challenging corporate power must include challenging
the ideological stranglehold of the political right in
suppressing criticisms of the market economy and capitalism
itself. If international capitalism wants to proclaim itself the
only game not only in town, but in the world, it must take
responsibility for its glaring social problems and what appears
to be its structural inability to solve the problems of poverty,
racism, unemployment, and environmental degradation within a
profit-oriented system.

     A proactive role for white progressives in a multi-racial
movement needs to be created.  Challenging the growing racism
even among former liberals must begin with a positive vision of
the place of white people within the new demographics of cities,
and with the most up-front cultural challenges to the assumption
that white people must always be the majority. While some forms
of white supremacy can remain dormant in comfortable,
predominantly white liberal settings, the new social dynamics of
the cities will require a conscious organizing strategy to reach
out to white people as part of a transformation of consciousness.
The Strategy Center, through the process of building a
multiracial organization in which the majority of members are
people of color, but with large numbers of white members as well,
has learned that antiracism is not an "issue;" antiracism must be
a component of all work on the environment, foreign policy, urban
transportation, and the rights of unions to bargain collectively.

     Openings for the socially committed middle class need to be
created. Socially concerned and committed doctors, architects,
attorneys, environmental scientists, public health nurses, and
even socially responsible owners of small businesses can play a
critical role in the fight to defend the rights of society's most
oppressed. While most middle class people are attracted to a more
tepid and reformist politics that protects and even reinforces
their narrow class interests, there is a long history in this
country, especially among professionals of color who continue to
experience racism and discrimination, of dedicated professionals
who have made important contributions to social movements. The
job is to recreate those social movements among the oppressed,
rather than continuing to criticise the middle class for its
inaction and somewhat predictable evasion of social
responsibility. The anticorporate united front, with its more
class-conscious politics and emphasis on working people and
communities of color, creates the clear class confrontations that
turn off many middle class people, but more effectively attract
others.

     Challenging the growing ethnic balkanization can only be
achieved by a long-term strategy in which there is a real and
discernible common target and common set of objectives. The
anticorporate united front is one concrete strategic way to bring
together the races on many of the issues raised in this paper.
While there is a legitimate and even essential role for race-
specific organizations among oppressed groups, there is an even
more urgent need for multiracial organizations in which people
are organizing and working together for common goals. By
multiracial organization we do not mean simply "coalitions" in
which each race and ethnicity is organized separately and then
"negotiations" take place; we mean a common project in which
people work together closely to develop a multiracial,
multiethnic political culture.

     Today, the Latina garment worker and the African-American
unemployed worker, the Korean shop owner and the African American
artist, the Japanese student and the Latino street vendor, the
white welfare mother and the Cambodian skilled craftsperson, the
Salvadorean high school student and the Chinese teacher, the
white worker with a disability and the Chicano supervisor who is
not disabled can barely speak to each other, barely understand
each other and, too often, operate in either the realm of polite
multi-cultural "tolerance" or overt racial and cultural hatred
and contempt.

     Reconstructing Los Angeles from the Bottom Up focuses
sharply on workers and unions because the workplace is one of the
few arenas where people of different races and ethnicities, often
not really liking or trusting each other in the beginning,
develop longstanding relationships. For example, during the
Rolling Thunder strike of SEIU Local 660, Strategy Center members
played a small role in solidarity and attended several of the
meetings of union members. So many African American, Latino,
Asian, and white workers fighting together for a common cause set
an example of what the labor movement at its best can look
like~and provided a workshop that at least offered the
possibility for multiracial cooperation and class solidarity.

     Since many Strategy Center members have worked in large
multiracial workplaces, we have no illusions about the many
racial and ethnic tensions that exist at the job site and within
labor unions. Our intent here is not to romanticize the
experience, but simply to point out that one terrible toll of the
deindustrialization of South L.A. was the loss of more than
75,000 jobs in workforces where there was a large multiracial
character. The bustling factories of GM Southgate and Van Nuys,
Bethlehem Steel and Firestone Rubber created large scale centers
where workers of all races and nationalities, Chicanos and
Italians, African Americans and Koreans, Jews and Salvadorans,
men and women, were at first forced to work together, and, over
time, came to have a greater cultural appreciation (or at least
tolerance) than in virtually any other place in the city. And as
hundreds of workers left a union meeting or a softball league
game and drove to communities throughout L.A. county, large-scale
production, and the social relationships that developed out of
it, provided at least a skeleton of a hopeful multiracial future
for this dynamic city. Our emphasis on demanding private and
public reinvestment in large-scale factories and offices is
partially motivated by the positive vision of large multi-racial
workforces.

     The challenge of multiracialism has to be faced at the
community level as well. Today, communities are often categorized
by the predominant racial group when, in fact, all areas of L.A.
are both multiracial in present composition and in a continual
process of changing their ethnic and racial character.

     The future of South L.A. must focus on the reconstruction of
a new social movement based on an acceptance and embracing of a
new demographics, requiring new models of organization and
organizing. South L.A. is now approximately 50 percent African
American and 50 percent Latino, with some outmigration of African
Americans from Los Angeles and a larger inmigration of Latinos,
many of whom are immigrants. The African- American community can
contribute not just numbers, but a rich history of struggle and
resourcefulness in a never-ending battle against racism and
national oppression. Similarly, many of the Latino immigrants in
the city immigrated from Mexico and Central America where they
were involved in progressive social movements, often against very
repressive regimes supported by the U.S. government.

     Moreover, communities such as South L.A., East L.A.,
Pacoima/San Fernando, and Wilmington cannot become viable if they
see themselves in economic or political isolation. There are some
who talk about sustainable economic development in a utopian,
separatist manner, with quaint little ethnic communities somehow
solving the enormous problems of employment, education, crime,
police, and public life on their own. The idea of L.A. as a
series of balkanized areas at best trying to work out
"coalitions" or at worst going to war over city council seats or
federal funds is a disaster waiting to happen. If, after
considerable community pressure, a new plant opens up in East
L.A. instead of South L.A., or South L.A. instead of Pico Union,
does that mean that people in other nearby or even adjacent
communities are barred from getting many of those jobs? Will we
have wars between communities, as strong community-based demands
quickly degenerate into offers of concessions as each community
is played against the others by potential corporate investors?
The future of each community and each racial and ethnic group in
Los Angeles is best served by that community becoming a part of
an L.A., regional, and nationwide movement for economic and
political transfor-mation.

     Greater Los Angeles, with more individual and corporate
wealth than any city in the U.S., offers the possibility of
transforming despair into hope by initiating radical innovations
in urban strategy~ because the resources exist here to be fought
over. But to take on corporate and governmental forces of that
magnitude, "neighborhood" organizing must be seen as a building
block of a larger regional strategy.