Thursday, November 11, 2010

Buy Nothing Day - What Will You Do?

November 26, the day after Thanksgiving, is traditionally a day where corporate dominance over our lives is asserted and our complicity in consumer capitalism is encouraged and expected. Known as Black Friday, consumers/citizens are prodded by media and business to flood stores en masse to start the holiday shopping season.

Buy Nothing Day is the resistance to this! A symbol of resistance to a symbol of consumer capitalism, ecological devastation, and neo-liberalism. Use this day as a start on reducing your consumption and ending participation in corporate expectations of you.

What will you do this Buy Nothing Day? The Socialist Party of Central Virginia is asking everyone reading this to participate in some way in the myriad of activities planned.

First off- don't buy anything on Nov. 26! Make sure you send us an e-mail before that day, or the day of, to let us know how you plan to participate.

Here are some ideas:
  1. Don’t buy anything!
  2. Attend, or help organize, a free store: Nov. 26- Really Really Free Market, Really Really Free Speech Zone, and Really Really Free Movie 1p.m.-8p.m. Random Row Bookstore, 315 West Main St., Charlottesville, VA. Nov. 27- Noon-3 p.m. Monroe Park, Richmond, VA.
  3. Organize a gift making party or workshop- reuse goods for art!
  4. Post about Buy Nothing Day on Facebook.
  5. Write and call your friends and family and ask them not to buy anything on Nov. 26.
  6. Visit a shopping mall and don’t purchase anything; tell shoppers to hurry up and start buying because we have a planet to consume!
  7. Zombie shoppers- get some friends to dress like zombies and wander around the mall with empty shopping bags.
  8. Cut up your credit cards. Offer to cut up other people’s credit cards- set up a stand at a mall, “Free Debt Reduction,” and bring scissors to cut up cards.
  9. Bike or walk to work.
  10. Pack a lunch for work- Thanksgiving leftovers anyone?
  11. Puppet or street theater at a Wal-Mart, or other big box store, or mall.
  12. Research a particularly vicious corporation and hand out fliers to shoppers at their stores.
So, what are you doing for Buy Nothing Day? Please post your ideas below and let us know!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Bird May Die

By Gary Shaw

Editor's Note: In 2009, Patrick Wilson, a reporter for the Virginian Pilot, contacted several SP-CVA members for interviews, etc. This was Mr. Shaw's response to Mr. Wilson (Wilson's resulting article being "Socialists Say Their True Beliefs Are Being Misconstrued"). The title, "The Bird May Die," was gleaned by myself from the body of Mr. Shaw's article, as it had none.

Author's Note: This was the original write-up for the Virginian Pilot article. It must have been too much truth for them, or, if published as is, Frank Batten would have battened down their hatches.

After looking up the true meaning of the word "socialist," I went on to research what the ideological, or world, view differences really were. "It's all about the money," so they say: who gets it, who deserves it. But a nagging question was "the massive debt." If our country is trillions of dollars in debt, then who exactly is in debt to whom... and why? I am a member of the Socialist Party USA, and have served as a seated delegate at the Party's National Convention; but like many members, have primary concerns. Mine is political economy.

The common people believe anything you tell them; the politicians play the term for advantage. If a socialist ever makes it into office, he is labeled an "Independent." This is the way we are told there is no alternative but the lesser of two evils.

Obama, a socialist? Certainly not. The "moderate" line has been drifting right for decades. The public is swayed by what they are going to get in the short term. We are racing into a brick wall. The question now is how hard does it have to be? Climate change, continued division of the rich and poor, exhaustion of natural resources: these are real. What in politics do we have now?

Two wings of the same bird, yet the bird cannot fly,
I call you to reason to ask yourself why?

They call the bird an Eagle, supposed to soar in the sky,
Yet there'll be a season the bird may well die.

Today we hear the word more, probably as a result of desperately grasping Republicans, warning the people that we are headed (with Obama) down the slippery slope towards - what amounts to - the "failed Soviet system." Rubbish.

Socialism is not an easy subject to understand, otherwise we would all be socialists. I wish we had more time to discuss what you actually need to spread "our gospel."

There must be a distinction between the neo-liberal agenda and that of Capitalism as a system. There are those who believe that the neo-liberal model needs adjustment; however, the basic adherence to Capitalism as an economic base must be addressed as well. Our president, as a Democrat (and not a socialist), believes our solution to the current economic conundrum is to work within the system of so-called "free enterprise" and world trade. Unfortunately, these lie at the core of the problem. To satisfy those who are in control of the current system (i.e. the major stakeholders- shareholders [Wall St.], the military-industrial complex, the media [Murdock, Turner, et al.], and others) only limited reforms within their worldview are authorized. Socialists are committed to an overhaul of the current system so that people's lives are under their own control, and they are the owners of the means of production, rather than just participants under "representation" (which we all know is not real). We believe in full-employment for those who are willing to work, not a mass of available workers in a reserve army pool of labor. Obama believes that we can tinker with a system which still favors the rights of the employer over the employed. The employed, although at the bottom of the Ponzi scheme structure of the economy, are still the entire support structure of all money-makers above them. The workers are not capitalists. To be a capitalist requires reaping the benefits of those workers who "work for you," so to speak.

The term "socialist" has become an epitaph, a term to be used among the dead. In light of the fallen Soviet Union, a bad taste has been left in the mouth of post-Cold War warriors: "Socialism [sic] has failed, and there is no alternative to the capitalist system which has triumphed [also sic]." Too many times our natural progression (invention is the mother of necessity) towards socialism, has been characterized in light of earlier experimental failures. Let it be known that there are so-called "mixed economies" (e.g. Scandinavia) which in part incorporate both economic systems. However, they are not socialist. The fact that they do succeed as Western European economies does not mean that they have incorporated that which is necessary to ensure full equality and services to their citizens. It may be instructive to look to the new South American Model (read ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean]) to understand the possible future of other developing countries.

Save WTJU, Keep It Weird!

By Brandon Collins

Those who don't listen to WTJU 91.1 fm should tune in more often. So should I. I say "should" the same way I say "I should practice Yoga more often," or "I should read more Tolstoy." For 53 years, WTJU has been bringing Charlottesville eclectic Classical, Jazz, Folk, Rock, Kid's, and Current Events programming in a way that is healthy for our minds. It is healthy because the all volunteer staff has complete freedom to select their programming, and have very specific individual shows to broadcast educational and artistic music.

All of this came under assault recently. Under the banner of increasing revenue, listenership, and student involvement; the new station director, Burr Beard, sold UVA's Office of Public Affairs on the idea that WTJU should overhaul how the station is programmed in order to become "more competitive in a commercial market." These changes, we found out rather hastily, would include switching to a mostly "Americana" format, the inclusion of playlists, the elimination of classical music programming, and the elimination of individual shows in favor of generic "block" programming.

The changes originally were slated to take place in a matter of days. News leaked out, and some announcers hit the press. The sudden attention granted the station a "temporary stay of execution," with management claiming they would open up the process to the announcers and the public. Through more leaked information, it became clear that management was not listening to input, and was planning to implement programming changes with the appearance of inclusion to quell dissent.

Simultaneously, some announcers looked for help. One announcer, and former Wobbly, contacted IWW in Richmond, which then contacted the Socialist Party of Central Virginia. We quickly set to work trying to get the announcers to organize in some fashion. There was no time for a formal organization to be formed, so an organizing committee had to suffice. That took some doing. The announcers were emotionally frazzled, overworked, and freaked out, and they had a lot to discuss. An organizing committee finally formed and began keeping all announcer discussions and meetings outside the ears of management. They decided to stand in solidarity to protect the different genres and unique nature of the station, rather than defend their individual turf. Points of unity were discussed and a plan of action formed. The announcers came up with their own proposal to make changes to increase revenue, listenership, and student involvement without destroying what is best about WTJU- that it is eclectic, diverse, and grants announcers the freedom to decide what to play. Added to the list of goals was protecting the station's mission statement, which quite specifically states that the station is to be run free from the restraints of commercial competition.

It was determined early on that a highly visible and vocal pressure campaign from the community was needed as well. The idea was to make the issue visible everywhere; and to put pressure not only on management, but on their bosses at UVA. It was thought that creating any kind of hassle for UVA administrators could be very effective. Bringing negative attention to UVA's assault on the arts and academic freedom would also gain us some ground. A solid show of unity could convince the bosses that we were prepared to continue the campaign at all costs.

We did this through e-mail "bombs" and rallying any community members we could find. We had musicians address their audiences at every turn. One recently resigned DJ addressed the large crowd gathered at Fridays After Five, a weekly concert series at the Charlottesville Pavilion. Handbills and fliers went out everywhere. We got around 250 people to attend a community input session with management. It was an inspiring meeting. The community was unanimous in its support of the announcers. Community speakers were not organizers in this effort, just regular folks who see the importance of retaining one of the last bastions of true art dissemination in the country. After hearing from very prolific and moving speakers, management not only succumbed to the announcers' demands but are now genuinely prepared to be advocates for the unique nature of the station and strong supporters of art for the benefit of all, rather than as a commodity in a commercial market. WTJU will remain freaky and in the hands of a capable volunteer staff!

The whole campaign came at us fast and furious. As is all too often the case, problems arose that needed a workers'/volunteers' union to confront. No such organization existed, though at some point in the past the idea had been raised. From the standpoint of a socialist, being able to assist workers organizing on their own behalf is a victory in itself. The volunteers have managed to remain organized and are actively engaging in promoting their station as is. Even more interesting is that the community understood the need for solidarity, and that the concept of market driven art and education is completely abhorrent to the majority of the people! This too is a victory. I truly believe that if the Socialist Party of Central Virginia had not been known and available, the station I love would have been destroyed. We have made many contacts since our founding, some of those being IWW members in Richmond. We greatly appreciate the advice we were given and look forward to working with them in the future (see "Joint Statement"). Again, another victory, but none of this tastes as sweet, or sounds as beautiful, as an activist win for something meaningful and vital to our community- that is weird, educational, and inspiring art from WTJU 91.1 fm.

SP-CVA Secretary, Brandon Collins, discussing the WTJU campaign:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Austerity: What is to Be Done?

Joint statement on austerity and the September 29th general strike in Europe from the SP-CVA, the Richmond IWW, and the VCU SDS.

By Brennan S. Chambre

austerity - an economic policy in which nations reduce living standards and development projects, and shift revenue out of the economy, in order to satisfy the demands of outside creditors

On September 29th, 2010, Europe’s finance ministers met in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss fiscal policy for the European Union in response to the global financial crisis.

On that same day, so did workers all over Spain, and all over Europe, to discuss fiscal policy of another sort. In response to austerity measures passed by the Spanish state which chip away at the hard fought rights of working people, no surprise being touted as “labor reform,” workers all-over the country are calling for a general strike to oppose these attacks and fight for true labor reform.

Since May of this year, in several European countries, most notably and inspiringly in Greece, workers have been organizing and taking to the streets to take back their lives directly from the capitalists in charge who seek to balance national budgets on the backs of the working class.

We in the United States are no strangers to this situation, and ought to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Europe, and elsewhere. For how many years has the government forsaken working people in America in order to enrich themselves and the bosses? How many factories here have we seen closed or safety measures ignored in order to make a few extra bucks? How many cuts to social programs and education are handed down every year, while corporations get tax breaks and military spending rises like the national debt? And then of course there are the ironically titled “right to work” laws which do everything they can to impede just that right. All of these measures are presented, both in Europe and in America, as “necessities” in order to recover the country and prevent any further slide into economic collapse. Yet, all they actually serve to do is to rescue the elites from their own mess and leave common people out to fend for themselves, a situation which has appropriately been called “socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.”

What we do seem to be strangers to, however, is the response with which our European comrades meet these measures.

While they march through their streets, we write letters to our out-for-your-vote Congresspeople. While they occupy buildings, we file grievance forms. While they are forming community self-help programs, we are asking for help from the very monster that put us in this mess in the first place. In short, while they strike, all we do is vote. While they demand, we ask.

Of course, this is not at all to trash-talk the labor movement in America. Certainly we have fought long and hard for everything we have gained, and there is much to be commended. But the general attitude toward social progress among a great many of Americans indeed seems to be top-down, that all that we have gained has been mercifully bestowed upon us by a kind and benevolent state. The logical conclusion of this mindset is that any ills we see in society can be easily fixed by merely voting out the “bad guys” and voting in the “good guys.” If voting is the extent of democracy, then there is no hope for any of us.

The English peasant revolutionary John Ball once made a speech to his comrades in which he said, “Let us go to see King Richard. He is young, and we will show him our miserable slavery, we will tell him it must be changed, or else we will provide the remedy ourselves. When the King sees us, either he will listen to us, or we will help ourselves.”

It is time to tell our kings and queens, as well as each other, that either they will provide for the needs of working people everywhere, or we will provide the remedy ourselves.

It is time to start demanding, and stop asking.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Report on the Socialist Party of Central Virginia - Summer 2010

By Brandon Collins

The Socialist Party of Central Virginia continues to work for justice and socialism in Virginia! May Day 2010 was a success. Attendance at our workshop was healthy; we had many inquisitive folks participate, offer radical perspectives, and we gained some new interest in our local from folks around the commonwealth. The parade itself was quite inspiring; about 300 radicals, leftists, anarchists, socialists, and activists took to the streets with huge puppets and great energy. SP-CVA met a lot of new folks, and, in the process, continued to build our relationship with the Richmond IWW. Video of our workshop and the speeches can be found on our blog, under the post "May Day 2010."

Moving forward from May Day, we endorsed and participated in "Brown Bag Vigils" in Charlottesville at Rep. Perriello's office, demanding an end to funding the Afghan War. As we began to re-evaluate directions for our local, a solid campaign to keep WTJU in the capable hands of radio announcers got underway. Ultimately victorious, we began to strengthen our relationship with the Richmond IWW (see "Save WTJU, Keep it Weird!").

As we move forward into fall we are determining where our focus should be. This is a time to analyze and build our local. So far, we have agreed to focus on bringing labor activism to parts of Virginia where worker's movements don't exist and work to bring a radical perspective to those places where there is already healthy labor organizing. We will be strengthening and continuing our anti-war work in various ways, but really need to discuss what types of action will best bring a socialist perspective to anti-war organizing. It is our hope to become involved in stopping the assault on immigrant rights in Virginia. Again, more analysis and thought needs to be done on this in the coming months, but rest assured we will be there in solidarity with our undocumented sisters and brothers. In all of these things, members of our local overwhelmingly feel more direct action is needed. Join us as we move forward through the fall and into winter in coming up with creative ways to actively assert a socialist perspective in Virginia.

We've planned a workshop, "Roads to Democratic Socialism," in Charlottesville Sept. 26; a screening of Rethinking Afghanistan and anti-war discussion in Richmond late October/early fall; the launching of workers' organizing websites for Tidewater and Charlottesville; and participation in IWW organizer training in November. Stay posted on these events and more by visiting our website and Facebook page. As always, we invite you to participate and organize with us for a democratic socialist future!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Joint Statement of the Socialist Party of Central Virginia and the Richmond Industrial Workers of the World

The members of both the Socialist Party of Central Virginia and the Richmond Industrial Workers of the World would like to extend their deepest congratulations to the announcers of WTJU and the community of Charlottesville for their recent victories in retaining democratically selected programming at the radio station, and we share in your celebration!

We wholeheartedly recognize, and respect, that this struggle was waged by the dedicated volunteers at WTJU and the listeners that support them; we are happy to have been able to contribute in some way to that effort!

Additionally, we wholeheartedly recognize, and respect, that this struggle is far from over. We stand prepared to remain in solidarity with the announcers and community supporters as they continue to ensure that WTJU remains a place where culture and education is in the capable hands of people who are intrinsically aware of the delicate and important place community run radio holds worldwide.

It is our belief that the arts are an integral part of daily life; that music treated as a commodity, produced or dispersed purely for financial gain, is antithetical to true artistry; and that attempts to make educational, cultural, and musical institutions more competitive in a commercial market is folly to the highest degree. In short, we hope you might agree that art should be produced and disseminated not for profit, but for the bettering of our lives. We acknowledge that WTJU may be the last of its kind in resisting musical hegemony, and commoditization of the arts, and we applaud your hard fought battle as being a part of a larger, worldwide, struggle to promote the arts and arts education as something being worthwhile, and a necessity for a better life for all.

Furthermore, we are inspired when we see workers (yes, volunteers are workers too) gathering in unity to better their situations and workplaces. Even more inspiring is when workers are not only exerting their authority and expertise over their own workplaces, but actively struggling for a better community and world. The announcers of WTJU have done an incredible service to musical and educational culture. Not for profit, but to better the world. Your efforts are a testament to the natural desire of humanity to live in peace and prosperity despite what their bosses want.

We urge you to continue to struggle to make this victory a long lasting one. We highly encourage you remain in solidarity with one another and to organize into some kind of organization, be it an IWW union, or simply an organization of volunteers. We also encourage you to remember this fight whenever you see workers engaged in efforts to better their lot in life. Remember all of the people who took action to support your efforts, and remember to return the favor to your fellow workers involved in struggles everywhere. Please recognize that activism and worker solidarity are worthwhile efforts and bring about changes that not only affect individual workplaces, but also better humanity and our world.

You don't have to be a union member or a socialist to enjoy the benefits of organizing, but please recognize that your struggle is a grand example of the type of organizing our two groups believe are the most important, that is that workers and communities should hold the ultimate authority over their workplaces and communities, not bosses, not corporations, not profits.

In Celebration, Unity, and Solidarity,
Richmond Industrial Workers of the World
Socialist Party of Central Virginia

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day 2010

Photos from the May Day march in Richmond can be viewed on our May Day 2010 Picasa Web Album.

Video of SP-CVA's workshop, beforehand, "Roads to Democratic Socialism":

Video of all speakers at the rally in Abner Clay Park:

CTNews' report on Richmond's May Day:

For more information visit May Day RVA.  View their photos on Flickr.

Photos of nationwide SP-USA actions can be viewed here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

State Capitol March 1/9/10

The Socialist Party of Central Virginia, as we marched on the state capitol on January 9, 2010 with the Virginia People's Assembly:
On Saturday, January 9, 2010, hundreds of activists from labor, civil rights, immigrant, prisoner advocacy, student, health, and anti-war movements and more gathered to meet, march, and rally to tell the new governor and the Virginia General Assembly: 
  • Don't balance the budget on the backs of Virginia's workers!
  • Raise Virginia's income tax on large corporations – the 2nd lowest in the country!
  • Enact an immediate moratorium on layoffs, cutbacks, evictions, and foreclosures!
  • No scapegoating of immigrants! Equality for people of color, women and the LGBTQ community!
  • Money for jobs and education; not for prisons, wars, and occupations!