Ever since we’ve been alive we have been sold the idea that when it comes to politics we have only two options, the Democrats or the Republicans. Some phrase it as liberal versus conservative, no matter which way you wish to frame it, it all boils down to the same thing: we only have two options. But we are here to tell you this is a lie, when it comes to politics there are more than two options and there is more to political action than just voting.
Both parties are the parties of the ruling elite, they both serve corporate america, whether that be the oil companies, coal companies, pharmaceutical companies, banks, fast food companies, it doesn’t matter exactly who, they all serve big business first and foremost. This last election should make that clear, with the help of the leaks we found Hillary Clinton giving secret paid speeches to Wall Street assuring their interests will be protected, and with the DNC leadership she sabotaged the closest representative of working class interests in their party, Bernie Sanders. But Sanders has also revealed he is more than willing to capitulate to corporate control of the party and the state. We can find no working class fighters inside their party. But neither can we find working class fighters in the Republican Party.
The Republicans have helped to bring about the rise of a literal white supremacist movement in the US, Trump has even appointed some of these people into very powerful positions under his administration (Steve Bannon, Julie Kirchner). As workers who are against racism and sexism we can’t tolerate the oppressive actions carried out by Trump and company. While the Democrats pander to workers and the poor, claiming to be their representatives, the Republicans don’t mask whose interest they serve, rich white men. In the end of the day they both work to further impoverish the working class, neither party wants to enforce a universal living wage for all workers. They want to keep us fighting among ourselves for crumbs.
But it’s not just the national leadership of either party that serves big business over us workers, it’s also local party leaders. For instance local Democratic Party leaders had no problem assisting real estate developers in displacing poor, working class, and disabled people out of the remaining two trailer parks in Blacksburg. As one resident said “The town is not as concerned about this as they pretend to be or they’d have made sure people are taken care of … Blacksburg — they don’t have a place here for poor people.” This is what we can expect from local Democrats, totally consistent with their national leadership. Even on the local level they pander to the poor as if they have our interests at heart, but how can we take them seriously when we see what they do versus what they say? They clearly aren’t above political opportunism, as we can see with the recent controversy around Democratic Party member Erica Williams, who haphazardly fired half of her deputy clerks and others who resigned in protest. Much like a gang, once you are committed to the party you fight for the party regardless of what its members do, this is why we see other Democratic Party members rallying to the defense of Williams, despite her hugely unpopular actions that has spurred a local movement to recall her.
Not only this, but the local Democratic Party is also pro-cop, they do not want criticism directed against police at all, so much so they fought to remove former sheriff candidate Lisa Lucas Gardner from the Democratic ticket because she ran on a platform against the militarization of local police, specifically armored personnel vehicles – basically tanks – decommissioned from wars abroad. The Democrats and Republicans alike have more in common with one another than they do real divisions, in fact they both agreed that they deserved and gave themselves pay increases on the Board of Supervisors, an addition $3,600 per person every year. Mind you that these people are lawyers, bankers, many work in the real estate industry, let’s just say they all make a comfortable living.
They are the kings of the New River Valley, they have the gold and they make the rules, meanwhile we see things like 22,000 Montgomery County residents living in poverty which is a twenty year-high. We see close to a 20% poverty rate among White people here and double that among Blacks. We see things like the largest use of food stamps in over twenty years in Montgomery County alone. A decrease in home ownership since the ’08 financial crisis, and 37% out of 9,703 students receiving free or reduced lunches, that’s 3,638 students in the Montgomery County school system. We have 13.9% of the total county population without insurance, that’s 13,573 people and with the repeal of Obamacare we can expect those numbers to grow. This isn’t surprising considering how many workers in the area are stuck in service sector jobs, over 20%, which are nothing more than poverty-wage jobs.
Of course we all know that Virginia Tech is the linchpin of the local economy, billions of dollars circulate through it, but it does not trickle down, instead it is horded. We have real needs for working class people here in every facet of our lives, adequate jobs, housing, education, healthcare and community. All of these are denied to us as Blacksburg becomes more and more the center for the affluent. Just look at the schools, all the best performing public schools, K-12, are in Blacksburg. The local rich will ensure only the best for their kids, the rest of us should just feel lucky to even be sitting at the table. Parks, buildings, pedestrian infrastructure, that all goes to Blacksburg, the rest of the county gets the scraps. You basically have free wifi in the town, yet Shawsville kids have to get a converted school bus parked near their trailer parks to give them a semblance of wifi. Sidewalks galore for Blacksburg residents, ditches and debris on the side of the roads pass for sidewalks everywhere else in the county. Democrats and Republicans alike are fine with this social arrangement, but we bet most of you are not.
That is why we formed our organization, to provide a real alternative for the local working class, we don’t do this in the hopes of having a political career and buddying up with wealthy benefactors, we don’t do this for votes (as if workers could ever gain power through the ballot box), we do this because we want to see a real change where the local elites give back the wealth they appropriate from the workers who cook and serve them food, who do their laundry, who watch their kids, who take care of their elderly, who clean their buildings, who basically do everything but manage and control the local economy. It’s time we build independent working class power, to get not more than what we need, but just enough to live a decent life. We do this through building worker organizations on the job, in our neighborhoods, in the schools, with our own media, with our own culture, we cannot settle for anything less.