The Illusions of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Why nothing short of revolution will meet the needs of humanity

From a Revolution Club writing team

| Revolution Newspaper |


A couple months ago, I went to see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speak. The main theater was packed, hundreds, maybe a thousand people came to see her. Mainly young people made up the crowd; they were super-enthusiastic, looking to her as a symbol of “hope.”

The program started with local grassroots activists talking about local issues and how they are organizing to fight back against what’s happening. People fighting back against city-wide rent hikes and protecting tenants against the property owners, talking about divesting from Wells Fargo and how they were the movement that accomplished putting “public banking” on the ballot for the November elections. Others talked about the police murders of Black and Brown people, focusing on those who have been killed locally with the demand that the local district attorney resign.

There was a lot of enthusiasm in the crowd for all these local issues.

Then Ocasio-Cortez took the stage and got into a lot of things. She talked about the Democratic Party, about what kind of America she wants to live in, about how she made it and defeated her powerful opponent in New York City.

There were a few things that stood out to me about her program that I want to get into here.

One, when she talked about the Democratic Party, she said, “People always tell me that when you become one of them, they change you and you end up selling out your people. But I’m gonna say this: The Democratic Party is not going to change me! I’m going to change the Democratic Party.”

Two, when she talked about what kind of America she wanted to live in, she said, “I want to live in an America that doesn’t incarcerate Black men for having a small amount of weed, or kills them off.”

Three, when she talked about how democratic socialists are going to solve some of these problems, including the problem of homelessness, she said, “I took a walk this morning through Skid Row, and there were thousands of men and women living in the streets. This is unacceptable, when down the street there are vacant luxury apartments that they can live in and we would still have some housing left over.”

But let’s look at the reality!

Bob Avakian says, “If you try to make the Democrats be what they are not and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are.” (BAsics 3:12)

I think this speaks to the heart of it. We are dealing with a fucking bloodthirsty, monstrous system. If people like Ocasio-Cortez don’t play by their rules, they will be crushed. (See “Revolutionary Communism vs. ‘Democratic Socialism’: Two Basic Points.”) It’s not as simple as just voting in a majority of democratic socialists, and even if that were to happen, in the framework of electoral politics, because of the very nature and purpose of these parties, the democratic socialists will become what the Democrats are right now: a ruling class party that has used and does use a violent state to maintain the horrors of police brutality, wars of empire, and the brutal laws that are used to enforce these horrors. And worst of all, the Democrats play a big role in training people to think this nightmare is good, normal, and the way things are supposed to be.

So let’s just take one of these main points and see what’s wrong here.

First, how does this system actually function?

In a profit-driven system like capitalism where companies and even countries are compelled to compete with each other, constantly fighting to be the top dog, profit is the bottom line and people and the environment are the means of exploitative profit-making.1 That competitive drive forces companies, representing blocs of capital, to look for cheap labor and resources in order to keep up their profits, which later can be used to invest to make more profits, in order to continue to compete and stay on top, and on and on. This constant search for more and cheaper labor and resources has forced companies to move their production from the inner cities of the U.S. to countries with significantly lower wages2 and weaker labor laws that allow companies to pay pennies a day and abuse their workers and violate hundreds of safety laws that are supposed to protect the lives of people. In order to maximize profits, goods not only have to be made with cheap labor, but the materials that make up these goods also have to be gotten cheaply. Usually this involves natural resources as well as minerals, oil, and agricultural products, not all of them found in the U.S. Some companies, like Apple, that require specific minerals like coltan, get them from the mines of countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where people are used for cheap labor to mine these materials in extreme conditions of poverty and exploitation. And this is also fueling horrific civil wars.

What if a country doesn’t want to play ball with the U.S. and its interests? What if it doesn’t want to allow companies to go in and take its natural resources and give back whatever they want instead of nationalizing its resources and using the profit from that for their own interests? Or if it doesn’t want to put in place laws that allow international companies to super-exploit its people? The U.S. does what it has done time and time again. It goes in, supports coups, topples governments, crushes resistance, and places in power puppet dictators or governments friendly to U.S. interests, as was done in Chile, Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, and on and on.

So with that as a backdrop, let’s start to grapple with what would happen if Ocasio-Cortez tried to put all these homeless people in the vacant apartment complexes that she’s talking about.

In order to speak to this, we can’t start with the buildings as they stand; we have to look back at where did the money to build the apartment complexes come from, at who owns them.

In order for the landlord—or property developer—to build an apartment complex, it would have to invest a certain amount of money, turning that money into capital, and that means they would have to invest in labor power, raw materials, and everything else that is necessary to build the apartment complex.3 So this landlord, instead of asking, “What is a human need that I can put my money into,” would ask, “How do I make back my investment, and make a profit?”

The defining feature of capitalism is profit in command—and that profit is accumulated privately, taking place in the form of private capital and profit in private hands. In the world today, much of this happens through investment and speculation. For example, many of these luxury empty apartments that Ocasio-Cortez was talking about are just sitting there empty, not waiting for somebody to rent them, but as an investment for large companies or finance capitalists. Or in other cases, a landlord will involve major financial capitalists, banks, etc., in order to get funds to purchase or build the complex. Even if the landlord didn’t care about winning back its profits, it has already involved major finance capitalists, who won’t be giving up their investments so easily. It’s not just up to one “nice” billionaire to give their whole building or buildings to house the homeless, because there are major investments in that building, and that’s all privately owned. In order for that building to be used to house the homeless, without making profits or being privately owned, the government would have to come in and take the building from the landlord and the investors, which goes against this whole system of capitalist private ownership.

Or what if the homeless people decide to just start taking over the properties and live in them? The police, the same police that evict people from their homes when they miss payments to keep a roof over their heads, would come and forcefully take the homeless people out of the apartments. These are the same police that jail and kill people to enforce and maintain this system’s rule of law. Why? Because, again, this whole building would be privately owned, and in the case of the luxury apartments Ocasio-Cortez is talking about, would exist mostly to make profit, not to meet the basic needs of people.

If you’re a “progressive politician” in this context, you would be faced with a choice: either stand with those homeless people and end up in jail or be repressed in some other way, or have to call out the forces of the state to clamp down on the people trying to occupy those apartment complexes.

So, it’s not as simple as just coming into an empty apartment complex and winning over a landlord to permanently open up its building to house the 75,000 homeless people in this city because the apartments are empty—there are these underlying dynamics of the capitalist system at work.

American Lives Are NOT More Important Than Other People’s Lives

In addition, the world that Ocasio-Cortez is fighting for is a world with America on top—an imperialist world. How is this so? Even if she were able to successfully house all 75,000 of the homeless population in the city, the wealth that exists to do this is gotten on the backs of the vast majority of the oppressed people of the world.

Where did the wealth come from to build all those vacant luxury apartments? And how was the U.S. able to get to the point where it is the top superpower? It has accumulated the spoils of empire on the backs of the exploited here and around the world and from the theft of land. First the foundation of the U.S. economy was built on slavery, which allowed the U.S. to grow economically and militarily. The need to continue to grow led to westward expansion, the theft of land from the indigenous people and Mexico, which was largely to expand the slave system... to today, where the profit is being made by the super-exploitation of people all over the world that are kept in conditions hardly any better than those of slaves.

There may be good intentions in wanting to house the homeless, and doing this would be great for all those this system has cast away in the literal shadows of these luxury apartments. These conditions of suffering really are an outrage—and again, you have a system that needs this kind of suffering in order to gain these spoils to have empty luxury apartments. Meanwhile, millions of people throughout the world would continue to live a life of tremendous suffering and misery. So, yes, let’s house the homeless, but that’s not possible under this system, and even if it were, what about the rest of humanity?

As communists, we want to house all people—not just here, but all over the world. Because not only are American lives NOT more important than other people’s lives, but housing all people IS possible. You just can’t do it under this system, which requires and needs to exploit people to accumulate the wealth as it has through centuries of oppression.

The means are there to house and feed all of humanity, so let’s raise our sights and think more than just about Americans first but ALL of humanity. Only a communist revolution can deal with the problem of homelessness, not just in this country but throughout the world. This revolution is possible; we have the science in the new communism, the strategy in HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution and the leadership of the Revolutionary Communist Party and Bob Avakian—the most radical revolutionary alive! Take this up! Get with this revolution!

1. For more on this, see “On the ‘Driving Force of Anarchy’ and the Dynamics of Change. A Sharp Debate and Urgent Polemic: The Struggle for a Radically Different World and the Struggle for a Scientific Approach to Reality”, by Raymond Lotta at [back]

2. Since the beginning of the 20th century, this system of capitalism has developed into capitalism-imperialism on a world scale, a highly lopsided system with the vast majority of humanity living in the oppressed countries, mostly the previously colonized countries of the Third World, such as Mexico and Bangladesh, where due to the workings of this system, the wages are significantly lower than the imperialist countries, like the U.S. and Western Europe. [back]

3. For a much deeper look at this, see Bob Avakian’s work, “‘Preliminary Transformation into Capital’... And Putting an End to Capitalism.” [back]

Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution

A speech by Bob Avakian
In two parts:


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CONSTITUTION For The New Socialist Republic In North America

CONSTITUTION For The New Socialist Republic In North America
(Draft Proposal)

Authored by Bob Avakian, and adopted by the Central Committee of the RCP

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Clip: "Why is it the Democrats can only try to resolve this on the terms of the system?"



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