The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Graffiti Artists versus Capitalist Private Property

Feb 12, 2024

Over a period of three nights in early February, teams of young graffiti artists clambered over broken fences and spray-painted the outside of three abandoned, unfinished skyscrapers, each over 20 stories tall, in downtown Los Angeles. The taggers finished just in time for the glitzy Grammy Award ceremonies that took place across the street at the Arena at the L.A. Live entertainment complex.

These abandoned buildings were slated to be one of the biggest real estate developments in downtown Los Angeles, with over 500 super-luxury apartments, a hotel, and retail stores. But back in 2019, the developer’s funding ran out, and construction stopped. The developer eventually abandoned these massive structures. And they’ve been abandoned ever since … in a city that has some of the biggest concentrations of homelessness in the country. In fact, Skid Row, with thousands of homeless, is only a few blocks away.

So, graffiti artists placed a great big spotlight on buildings that have turned into monuments of capitalist waste, corruption, and greed. And they did it with artistic flair and vibrancy.

For many, many decades, graffiti has been an art form of working-class youth. While the authorities demonized it as vandalism, capitalists swooped in and appropriated it. Large corporations and art collectors made boatloads of money buying and selling the works of famous graffiti artists, such as Keith Haring and Banksy, for millions of dollars.

But the dozens of Los Angeles graffiti artists who tagged those buildings weren’t in it for the fame and fortune. Many of them risked great big fines since they knew that the police were waiting for them at the bottom of the buildings.

One way or another, the young artists were making a statement: "All of this doesn’t just belong to the developers. It belongs to all of us," Michael Lopez, one of the artists, told Gustavo Arellano of the Los Angeles Times.