Virginia Worker Editorial Board member Sal Rojo offers this reply to former ATU Organizing Director Chris Townsend on their thoughts regarding the Draft Platform for the Virginia Working Class


Thanks so much for your response, it’s the most substantive I’ve seen thus far. You ask good questions, raise good points. As you said the last 30-40 years have largely been abysmal for the working class, especially in our state, as reaction and neoliberal capitalism were on the offensive. Perhaps that conjuncture was ultimately too hostile for such efforts to have a chance at success.

That said, I think this all gets into the issue of economism as Lenin argued in regards to some tendencies in the Russian socialist movement fighting for “pure and simple” unionism. Yes, organize, but for what purposes? To enlarge auxiliary organizations for the benefit of liberals and their party politics? I don’t think that’s a standard we want to further as communists.

I do think workers by and large – especially the unorganized – find these questions and arguments irrelevant to their lives and agree that this is geared towards a minority of the working class who may have some sense of class consciousness. I don’t think the issue is “are these points relevant to the class and communists?” But “how do we make it relevant to workers?” I think this is the role of a media project like The Virginia Worker, it isn’t a party newspaper, but attempting to function as a popularizer of marxism, of independent working class thought, to educate, agitate and propagandize to the class as a whole on 1) the necessity of economic organization, 2) the necessity of political organization, and 3) the necessity of both in how each aspect furthers the development of the other.

It should facilitate a statewide effort to cohere the minority of advanced workers and communists into a singular organization based on solid ideological and political foundations. It doesn’t have to be mass, at least initially, and can’t be in the beginning. But having an organized force of workers operating on a shared vision is the only way a qualitative break will happen with the labor movement as it currently is.

One focus The Virginia Worker has had is on the party question and even hosting events featuring other organizations’ efforts at building out the two tracks of working class economic and political organization.

A theme that emerged in these conversations is that these efforts at building state level party formations and running campaigns have helped aid their economic organization and vice versa. If we fail to advance in the party question we default into “pure and simple” unionism, leaving ideological control of workers to the liberals, and economic organizational control to the Democrat party and capitalists inside the unions.

As many socialists and communists of the past have said “unions are schools for socialism”. We have to build a strategy and orientation that allows us to do this. I think workplace newsletters that deal with both the bread and butter issues as well as providing a larger perspective of the class struggle is one way we can do that.

Education, both on unionism and politics is one of our core tasks. So much of labor organizing is happening without much consideration or attention by the class, we have to massify this however possible. We have to build class consciousness both through the economic struggle and labor organizing, but also through general propaganda that can reach workers outside of their workplace without the presence of a union staffer.

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