Photo: Former Los Angeles District 12 Council Member Mitchell Englander
By Ulrike Salazar
On Monday, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander. The arrest comes over a year after federal agents raided the city office and home of conniving City Councilman José Huizar as part of an ongoing federal investigation into political corruption.
Englander, former Council Member in District 12 covering part of the San Fernando Valley, was not originally named in the federal warrant made public in January 2019, and is the first to be charged and arrested since its release. He resigned from City Council a month before the raids on Huizar in November 2018.
The investigation is focused around big real estate deals, tracing them back to the Los Angeles City Council’s Planning Land Use and Management Committee (PLUMC), which oversees major redevelopment projects throughout the city. Huizar sat as the chairman of the PLUMC, at the time making him one of the most powerful city officials directly responsible for gentrification and displacement in working-class neighborhoods like South Central, Boyle Heights, Northeast Los Angeles, and Chinatown.
The disgraced Englander has been charged with seven counts of obstruction of a federal investigation. He accepted money and gifts from real estate developers and attempted to convince colluding private capitalists (currently not named by investigators and reports) to not cooperate with the investigation. Reports indicate that Englander spent the money (approximately $50,000) on prostitution, lavish meals, gambling, and other bourgeois decadence.
Although it has been popularly understood that the state, from the local to federal level, has long-since worked in service of private capitalists including developers, Englander comes as a clear-cut example of collusion in what is known as “pay-to-play” politics, where private capitalists directly pay government officials in exchange for green-lighting their projects.
The old, decaying bourgeois state seeks to use its legal system to make this everyday manifestation of capitalism appear as an exception to an otherwise well-functioning system. This is just one form of propaganda the state uses in an attempt to trick the masses and solicit their support – especially during elections.
This year’s District 14 election, just like all of the country’s elections, was a farce. The choices for Huizar’s city council seat were between a high-level imperialist career politician, who ultimately won (Kevin de León), two small private capitalists (Raquel Zamora and Cyndi Otteson), the head of a nonprofit that collaborates with police (John Jiménez) and a school board member in support of the privatization of public education in Los Angeles (Mónica García).
All candidates ran on a platform against political corruption, particularly against developer money influencing city officials. But like all bourgeois political parties, they seek to revive a failing exploitative economic system. Even if bourgeois politicians aren’t taking bribes from developers, gentrification and displacement will march on because of capitalism’s never-ending quest for the expansion of capital.
Local revolutionary organizations have a responsibility to rally around and lead the masses who rightfully reject the parlor tricks of the corrupt City Council. Organizations in Los Angeles have unfortunately not done a good job on taking the concerns of the masses, their clear denunciation of corrupt city officials, and turning that into a long-term organizational platform.
It isn’t enough to shout slogans and talk about revolution. The trust of the masses, and their subsequent pivotal participation, is only won through advancing the class struggle, through concrete demands and gains.
Revolutionaries should have their fingers on the pulse of the masses and take their concerns and turn them into a concrete revolutionary strategy. They should strategically use instances of political corruption, despite its basis in bourgeois law, as part of the greater revolutionary movement, including the anti-gentrification and neighborhood defense movements. They should use this as a rallying point, showing how politicians and developers as part of the larger bourgeois state directly benefit off the exploitation and displacement of the masses.
The state defends whichever class is in power and suppresses the disempowered classes. No amount of progressive-sounding candidates, including phony socialists, can get rid of the very economic system that exploits the vast majority of working people. The ruling class knows this and that is why it allows one or two of its officials to go down, to deceive the people into believing the decaying bourgeois state is still thriving and trustworthy.
Political corruption didn’t create Huizar or Englander. Capitalism did. Even if they go to prison, more bourgeois politicians will pop up and take their place. Some will be more corrupt than others, but all serve the capitalist ruling class.