Los Angeles is a particular city. As a capital of labor politics and spatial justice politcos with a non-white majority, it has the potential of being what Petrograd was for the October Revolution of 1917. To be such a city, it’s important that organizers understand the role that its churches play and why, like with radical Global South politics, liberation theology is central to the fight as a counterweight to the power of the church for the oppressed of LA.
LICOC Los Angeles
In Eurocentrism, Marxist economist Samir Amin defines modernity has when human beings began to construct a world on which they were the principal legislators, as opposed to God being the principal legislator. This was expressed as “separation of church and state” and was the cultural aim of political advanced Bourgeois activist organizers and vanguard intellectuals, some poor and some wealthy, such as Baruch Spinoza and Voltaire. Without criticizing this, let us accept that we all know this to be “reason”, and the foundations for the contemporary “state” where God has no place in constitutions or parliaments, despite the codified expression “In God We Trust”. In Los Angeles, modernity does not quite rule political thought given the power of both Catholicism and Protestantism, though it guides government thanks to low voter turnout.
Working class life in low-income communities of color, LICOCs, are for the most part guided by churches. These churches are not of the same political persuasion, and the leadership of church leaders in LICOCs are notorious. The churches are parallel institutions to local governments, often walking hand in with local government or rarely but it must said opposing government. As institutions built with grassroot dollars, they take on a style of rhetoric and leadership that is often beloved by the grassroots, as opposed to many 503c community organizing entities. A great example of this is in South Los Angeles. South LA is home to a post 90’s boom in community organizing and home to Community Coalition, Dignity and Power Now led by BLM founder Patrisse Cullors SCOPE, SAJE, California Calls, The Labor Community Strategy Center: all well known and most well financed organizations all who compel members to question government. Holman United, a well known church, has clout in the community and in politics and policy that these community groups can only dream of, enough to stand up to a politician if ever they wanted to. This is important to note: it is because churches like Holman choose to work with politicians that these politicians are in power.
Los Angeles. Modernity, as Samir Amin, comes about with nascent capitalism and as such creates centers and peripheries. These centers are understood to be today North America, Europe, and Japan. Furthermore, there are centers and peripheries within these centers, enclaves of working class and poor community life. There, manufacturing (despite seeing a revival downtown) began to close up shop in 1978, and jobs are rare. Residents must travel out of there communities to work in mostly service jobs. What’s worse is that multicultural rainbow state capitalism pretends to represent these workers as a “sunshine” liberalism. Instead, police prey on these communities whose children make up the most incarcerated city in the US: Los Angeles.
Back to politics. In LA, liberty and property are central aims for the center, and survival for the periphery. For the centers more liberty and property, and the mix of the two, is what is sought through state capitalism. For the peripheries, it is an end to survival, anxiety producing, bloody as it is, that is coveted. For this peripheries turn to human legislation but first and foremost to God.
As Samir Amin notes in Eurocentrism, of the three religions of the book (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) Christianity in capitalist centers has evolved to become non-theocratic, and this has a lot to do with the political skill of every post Glorious Revolution of 1688 bourgeoisie and its product a Bill of Rights. State capitalism will not allow it for the separation of church and state allows for the freedom of property and markets (which, as we know, are not actually free). Nevertheless, modern Christianity settles with non-theocratic rule.
In LA, the city of human cages, this means that church goers turn to both humans and God for legislation. Humans are understood to be writing legislation and executing legislation at their own will but that, for most, in the end, God will have His say (very important). Here “The Objective Determinants of The Development of Society” economies, etc, gage human activity but the Kingdom of Heaven and Hell has only to do with God. Perhaps this is why most civic participation happens in churches, with dwindling participation it must be said, and not in protest and or voting, which have truly abysmal numbers in LICOCs amongst those able to vote if compared to public despair and the absolute need to get engaged.
Legislating LICOC Los Angeles
The main legislator of LICOC Los Angeles is the priest, preacher, etc.. Such a person guides, confesses, but most of all legislates to the community from the book and its interpretation. Parallel to this person is the lesser legislator the politician, for the most part a nuisance whose main skill are language and translation in a world where the language of power is very unlike the subaltern language of working class community. This ability to speak and explain to and as power allows this person to participate in spaces wherein legislation is being written for life on earth. This legislation, however, is born of deceit, corruption, and individualism, as opposed to the spiritualism and moral intellect of the higher legislator, God’s representative on earth.
Why has God’s representative not joined the ranks of those legislating and executing local government? Some would say because there is no need for theocracy. Which is great. God’s rep, however, participates in the wider culture of criticism that can lead to class consciousness. Therein lies the how it should join the alliance, as a critic.