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.