Dissolution of Yet Another Micro Left Org

It is with a heavy heart that Richmond Struggle is now announcing its dissolution, which has been an ongoing process beginning in late September, 2017.  The circumstances by which this collective’s internal contradictions became insurmountable are worthy of consideration by any reflecting on the state of metropolitan communist politics in the 21st century.

The reconstitution of proletarian politics today entails two inextricable but distinct levels of political practice:

  • the organization of intervention within the economic struggles of the class with a class based position of intransigent defense of wages, living and working conditions refusing the class collaborationist positions of the reformist bureaucracies.

This entails both work within existing mass organizations of the class and the construction of new organizations depending upon the concrete circumstances.

  • the construction of organizational nuclei of communist militants in the line of party construction through a continual ideological struggle to grasp the methodology of historical and dialectical materialism and synthesize the lessons of the victories and defeats of the international workers movement in order to advance towards the formulation of immediate and general programs adequate to our current conjuncture.

This level of practice requires a perpetual struggle against the alien ideological trends which as a result of the historic defeat of our class are almost universally predominant.


The trajectory of Richmond Struggle was a product of the ideological disorientation of a small grouping of communist militants who failed to develop work on either level resulting in the formation of an eclectic “multi-tendency” point of coalescence for everything currently fashionable in petty bourgeois radicalism.

Furthermore this entire trajectory occurred at a distance from the class struggle and was characterized by a disinterest in intervention within it. In the struggle to reconstitute proletarian politics within and never at a distance from the class struggle there is no room for unprincipled peace with petty bourgeois identitarianism or with revisionist distortions of the Marxist theory of the state. Without revolutionary theory no revolutionary movement and without a continuity of intervention in the class struggle no capacity to implement revolutionary theory in the conjuncture.

Deviations and errors are unavoidable but the struggle to construct proletarian politics within the class movement continues as an inevitable product of the contradictions of the capitalist relations of production themselves.

New River Workers Power Strike at Target

Richmond Struggle is proud to announce our solidarity with workers who participated in the strike against the Target in Christiansburg, Virginia.  After years of abuse at the hands of store manager, Daniel Butler, workers called a strike to demand the following:

  1. The immediate termination of Daniel Butler from Target
  2. Official recognition of (their) independent workers committee, which will handle all worker grievances at the Christiansburg Target store.

The strike was announced following the release of a series of current and past employee testimonials, collected by our comrades at New River Workers Power (NRWP), which are available for viewing [here]. The content of the testimonials is both shocking and disturbing, though all too common for workers across the world. The abuses that Daniel Butler has committed against his employees range from racist comments to non-consensual sexual advances and overt acts of physical violence. One anonymous worker states the following about him physically attacking them:

“At one point he lost control and grabbed me by the neck to stop me from trying to calmly explain why I didn’t move fast enough to help him out… When he grabbed me my supervisor was too intimidated by him and in fear of losing her job to document the event. He still verbally insults me every chance he gets.”

Another anonymous worker describes their experience with Daniel Butler’s unwanted sexual advances:

“I was sexually harassed and publicly humiliated on several different occasions. During a morning huddle of a major holiday, we had over 20 management and team members attending, Butler awkwardly announced the amount of weight I had lost and that I needed to get in the middle for everyone to see. Another incident, I was writing the daily line up on a whiteboard. He approached me, ran his hand from my elbow to my shoulder moving the sleeve of my blouse. He said ‘I just want to see your tattoo’.”

The testimonials all describe a pattern of behavior from Daniel Butler that not only created an agonizing environment for the majority of workers, but also made them fear for their physical safety. On different occasions, workers describe times that they went to the Human Resources department to file complaints about Butler, only for him to find out and victimize them for doing so. In this way, those who were wronged by Butler were intimidated out of filing complaints with the threat of violence or termination. A former HR worker describes Butler’s MO in their testimonial.

“Reports were never made due to fear of him finding out. When reports were made, he would find out. He would purposely seek out the workers who had made the report and follow them around the store during their shift.”

Another testimonial details Butler’s actions after making a racist comment that a worker immediately tried to report.

“One of the cashiers who was in the group ran directly to HR. He followed the cashier to make sure no report of the incident was made. The report was never made”

The events described above make clear the attitude with which Daniel Butler has conducted himself. However, he is not the only one that is to blame. It would be naive to only attribute all of the negative experiences of the Target workers to the actions of a depraved man who holds a position of power over them. Instead, it is the Target corporation itself that allowed this cruel behavior to continue after having been notified of its existence. On multiple occasions, workers notified the appropriate “authorities” within the Target corporation who are supposedly there for the safety of their employees. This unsurprisingly turned out to be false, and the complaints of the workers went ignored. The reality is that unless Target’s profits are threatened, it has little reason to care about the plight of those who labor to create its appropriated surplus value. Only the threat of a strike and boycott could motivate the Target corporation to pay attention.  

The strike itself enjoyed a great deal of attention and participation from the local community, according to NRWP. Many who came to the store refused to cross the picket line, and instead decided to shop elsewhere.  Workers from other sectors wrote [letters of support] and provided strikers with free food and water. Some workers even expressed interest in cooperating to build autonomous working class power in the New River Valley.  

Most notably, the strike was not pushed by an established union, but was sparked by the initiative of rank and file hourly workers. Free from the constraints that many modern labor unions place on their members in an effort to prevent striking, workers were able to take power into their own hands independently. The willingness for workers to organize outside of corporatist structures that seek to sublimate their collective discontent into ineffectual paper tiger resolutions is the first step towards the construction of a truly autonomous working class power. The rejection of Neoliberalism’s injunction to renegotiate the terms of employment without flexing the workers’ ability to forcibly halt production/reproduction is vital to the achievement of a revolutionary class consciousness in the twenty-first century.

Though the strike has ended, for now, it seems like a victory for the workers who we applaud for fighting back against an abusive management. Sales did not hit their quota for this week at the Christiansburg Target, and that itself should serve as a warning to Daniel Butler’s superiors. The workers are the ones who create the wealth of your business, and our society as a whole. Their power is the only one that matters.  Yours is built on a foundation of sand, and as was demonstrated this week, is a lot more delicate than you would like to believe. Wherever there is oppression, there is resistance!

Points of Unity

Points of Unity

1) We reject patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism.

Patriarchy and capitalism necessarily reinforce each other.

We see patriarchy as a constitutive element of all class societies. The capitalist mode of production is premised upon the super-exploitation of women’s waged labor in the sphere of production and the appropriation of women’s unwaged labor in the sphere of reproduction. Exploitation and appropriation mean violence against bodies. The accumulation of capital is inextricable from rape, femicide, and domestic violence, which permeate its everyday reproduction.

Globally, women form the most exploited part of the working class and take up a leading role in the most advanced manifestations of anti-imperialist resistance, from Kurdistan to India. Likewise, the foundation of the international tendency towards a “new fascism” is the convergence of the rebellion of declassed men seeking to reinforce their ownership over women from “below” with imperialist capital’s need to preempt any proletarian subjectivity by reinforcing patriarchal relations of domination among the exploited from “above”.

Therefore, communist politics is inseparable from the strategic primacy of women’s liberation as the necessary basis and content of communist subjectivity and relations of production. This entails both an appreciation of the objective vanguard position of women within the global working class and of the necessity for the continual ideological revolutionization of every organization and individual militant.

White supremacy and capitalism also necessarily reinforce each other.

We see the United States as a white supremacist settler-colonial society. Any discussion of the composition of this U.S. working class which does not depart from this fact is irrelevant in relation to the formulation of a strategy for revolution here. White supremacy is a hegemonic mode of reproduction of bourgeois class rule internal to the working class in this country. Therefore, a necessary premise of any communist politics is the defense of the unconditional right to self-determination of all oppressed peoples as the first step towards proletarian unity.

The primary moments of political intensity in recent years (Ferguson, Baltimore, Standing Rock, the prison uprisings and strikes) only further confirm that the struggles of oppressed peoples against settler-colonial, white supremacist genocide are the core of proletarian resistance in the United States. White workers must be organized around a program of destruction of white supremacy in the tradition of the white farmers who fought under the banner of the Sharecroppers Union with its program of self-determination for the Black Belt.

2) We fight for workers’ power against bureaucracy and capital.

The way to power for workers and the oppressed is not through the existing state machinery. It must be smashed, step by step and piece by piece, over a long process of forceful struggle. This is true not only in relation to the “hard” side of the state (police and military), but also for its “soft” aspects (NGOs, union bureaucracies, etc). We need new organs of power–revolutionary mass organizations built up through militant mass action and based on the broadest possible internal democracy. A focus on electoral politics and entryism within existing civil society structures exhausts our energy and prevents the ruptures we need to create space for the independent action of the working class.

We should remember the failure of the original Black Panther Party in Lowndes County to build a sustainable revolutionary base–despite its brilliant capacity for organizing–as a warning on the perils of a politics which integrates with bourgeois democracy. We don’t need city council seats or county governments. We need moments and spaces of a qualitatively different counter-power articulated within a general strategic line for the destruction of the state and transition to communism.

We think it is worthwhile to note that the Russian term utilized by Lenin in describing the relation between the Soviets and the Provisional Government which is commonly translated as “dual power” can be better rendered as “oppositional sovereignty”. A dual power orientation means a commitment to building the new state of workers’ democracy through the destruction of the old, not the formation of any kind of counter-institution (however useful it may be).

3) We organize ourselves democratically and reflect a plurality of opinions.

Every process of political struggle sees the emergence of vanguard forces who formulate the strategic line via a synthesis of the countless, diverse tactical experiences of the mass movements. However, any insistence upon a pure, monolithic, and singular central leadership only results in the fossilization of metaphysical and dogmatic policy lines formulated at a distance from the real diversity of experience of the mass movements. This prevents the pluralistic and open internal debate required for the application of self-criticism as a scientific practice and not as a mere technique of domination.

All communists should seriously consider how the idea of the monolithic party without factions was only established following the 10th Congress of the CPSU as a maneuver against the left and how it played a key role in the bureaucratic degeneration of the CPSU and of the international communist movement. Moreover, we should reflect on how the Yenan rectification movement destroyed any space for democratic discussion within the CPC and targeted those who criticized the bureaucratic and patriarchal practices prevalent in the Party.

The question, as always, is “Freedom for whom to do what?” The answer for us is the broadest possible freedom for communists to debate, discuss, and express themselves within a polycentric movement.

4) We are able to criticize actually existing socialist states while still recognizing their importance.

The emergence of the socialist states and the global wave of national liberation movements were a major advance in the class struggle, constraining the capacity of imperialist capital to act and opening up new spaces of possibility for oppressed people. However, even when the socialist states restricted commodity production and provided new social rights for women and workers, they failed to overcome bureaucratic and patriarchal relations of domination. The bloody repression of mass democracy by the PLA during the Cultural Revolution in China and the rapid implosion and looting by their own elites of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact states show the limitations of 20th century socialism which must be transcended in the future.

We are open to a wide range of perspectives on what successful transition to communism in the 21st century could look like. To quote imprisoned comrade of the French revolutionary organization Action Directe:

Social history is a totality and to explore it, one must be free to criticize all diversions and all errors wherever they come from. We wanted to learn from the experiences of Che, of Maoism, of council communism as well as from the struggles of the Spanish anarchists……One always has to explore and reexamine the essential questions of the revolutionary road. And for this, one has to leave the old paradigms and models. That’s why we, in the course of our struggle, rejected the old doctrinal debates to rediscover a sense of social experimentation and the theory of the real movement.”

5) Our political action is informed by theoretical practice.

We assert the necessity of a solid grounding in historical materialist theory and the historical record itself. Strategy must be formulated on the basis of a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of the capitalist mode of production and the relations of domination which constitute it concretely, as well as the historical experience of the international revolutionary movement.

The reappropriation of knowledge by the majority of the working class, forcibly severed from intellectual production by the capitalist division of labor, should be a strategic task of any communist organization. We must carry out a continual process of ideological revolutionization, with the objective of progressively collectivizing the production of the strategic line. Otherwise, the internal functioning of the communist organization becomes a mirror image of the division of labor internal to the capitalist enterprise, and Marxism transforms from a critical methodology into a discourse of domination.

6) We believe that the best way to oppose war and imperialism is to build mass power on the ground.

Imperialism stratifies the working class globally between the imperialist centers and the neo-colonial peripheries. This division appears within the imperialist countries in the exploitation of internal colonies and immigrant populations. Communist politics require internationalism and support for revolutionary struggle throughout the world. We must struggle to apply in action the principle that we are one front of a global war against genocide, restructuring, and displacement. The blood spilled daily in anti-imperialist resistance worldwide is our blood.

6) Our primary focus is building a base in the Richmond area among the poor and working class and against the enormous concentration of wealth and power in the West-End of the city. We want to build workers’ power in neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and prisons. Struggle Committees Everywhere!

We are not interested in building paper tiger national organizations encumbered by needless bureaucracy or carrying out adventurist and militarist “commando actions” which do nothing to build the autonomous power of the masses. The construction of people’s power begins at the smallest, molecular level on the basis of struggle for immediate demands against local class enemies. Only on this basis can we build a social force strong enough to intervene decisively at the strategic level.

We do see the necessity of working towards the building of a nationwide revolutionary left front as the transitional base of a possible future party. But this must occur step by step, taking into consideration the real status of revolutionary politics in the mass movement.

Sanctuary Means Counter-Attack

In Richmond and in the world at large, ordinary workers are every day crushed by an inhuman system of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Public service cutbacks starve our families, a racist campaign of gentrification displaces us from our homes, and a militarized, white supremacist police force harasses, imprisons, and deports us. Those of us who manage to find work in these conditions find ourselves increasingly exploited and fighting one another in a job market that automation, robotics, and information technology has made increasingly precarious. In the world at large, this same system is destroying the environment for a quick buck, and starting imperialist wars of aggression to protect the bottom line.

Trump’s attacks on immigrant workers–and his supporter’s dreams of total ethnic cleansing—are part of a global trend towards fascism and the militarization of society; paving the way for the genocides which the capitalist system will have to carry out to protect profits in the 21st century.

In a nightmare scenario such as this, we can find sanctuary only in our own organization and discipline, through our ability to use force to defend our communities from the system’s onslaught. City governments can offer us protection all they want, but ultimately security for the working class ends where the capacity of the police to act begins.

As Richmond Struggle we are committed to building unity among diverse social sectors, identities, and struggles around a common program of working class power. This program means pushing back against VCU expansion and tuition hikes, it means mobilizing to disrupt the attacks on public education and public transit, it means fighting to block gentrification and the displacement of the Black working class from the city, most of all it means linking all our struggles in a counter-attack against the common enemy: a local government that cares only for the wealthy, and imposes upon us development model of low wage, precarious work.

The only real sanctuary we have is in building a combative unity with the strength to physically fight back against state attacks on immigrants. Lobbying and requesting a “seat at the table” with politicians only perpetuates our weakness and isolation. True power comes from independent, organized, and forceful action by the oppressed. Only when we have built this power can we say “Ni Uno Mas/Not One More” and really mean it: not as a plea to the powerful, but as a threat against them.

Building Anti-Imperialism from the Ground Up

And so it begins. Yet another American intervention to bring regime change and democracy to a poor, benighted people, suffering at the hands of a sociopathic dictator who is basically just Hitler. Or at least, that’s the story we hear every time the United States decided its imperial interests have been threatened. The media falls into lockstep, and whatever liberals who may have been tepidly against such intervention now celebrate our murderous aggression with pornographic glee. For those of us in the Left, this jingoistic insanity is profoundly depressing, and the constant stream of disinformation can be confusing and disheartening.

But beyond all the lies and propaganda, we know that the answer is simple: America never intervenes for humanitarian reasons. The sarin gas attack has in no way been conclusively linked to the Assad government, but that doesn’t matter—a pretext has been found. Photos of dead children are cynically invoked by the American empire to justify killing more children. A foreign government will be overthrown and replaced with one more genial to the interests of the Empire. Business as usual. This time, though, the State Department has decided to step up its game. Threatening one war was not enough: no, now we’re also threatening war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The imperialist media treats the DPRK’s decision to acquire nuclear weapons as an existential threat to every American, with stories that resemble Tom Clancy novels more than any sort of factual reporting. Really, it’s no mystery why the DPRK would want to be better able to defend itself, especially against the one country in the world that has actually used nuclear weapons, the same country that conducted a genocidal bombing campaign against them that killed 20% of their people. Despite the laughable falsity of most of the claims being advanced against the Enemies of the Week, the center of the debate should never be about the particular characteristics of the government being overthrown, or the moral value of the leader we’ve decided to depose. Kim and Assad are far from the sociopathic monsters the media presents them as, but they’re also far from the leaders that we as communists believe the Syrian and North Korean people deserve. That question, however, should ultimately be up for the people of Syria and North Korea decide, free from the meddling of imperialists.

Within Richmond Struggle, there are a multitude of conflicting lines on the Kim and Assad governments. None of this debate will be reproduced here, as we are all united on the one thing that matters: imperialist intervention should be unconditionally opposed. That is not a complicated question. But what becomes complicated is the question of how. How do we as leftists stop an imperialist war? The short answer: in our current state, we can’t. While we support the counter-messaging and protests organized by UNAC and ANSWER, we can’t help but feel that such actions do not pose any significant threat to the functioning of the imperialist war machine. Millions of people marched worldwide in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War. February 15, 2003 marked the largest protest in world history. The overwhelming public opposition to the war was made clear to the Bush administration. The result? Less than a month later, shock and awe proceeded in Iraq, leaving hundreds of thousands dead.

These mobilizations were no doubt impressive, but ultimately based on a fundamentally flawed idea: that imperialism cares what people think of it. Imperialism is a system of organized violence and the only thing that has ever stopped it is greater violence. Nixon did not pull out of Vietnam because the peace movement made him feel guilty about the system he was serving. Nixon ended the war because of the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people, who had faced imperialism on the only terrain it understands—organized violence—and defeated it.

Assata Shakur has noted that: “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” The Left should know this by now, but in our desperate situation, delusions flourish. In thinking that protests and public outrage will stop capital from pursuing its bottom line, we are essentially buying in to the liberal logic that we live in a “democracy.” In reality, of course, we live under the dictatorship of the wealthy, a dictatorship secure enough in its power to allow us marginal Left groups to organize all the protests and publish all the outraged literature we want. The Left in its current state can be safely ignored. We are not a threat.

The goal, of course, for all of us, should be to become a threat. To be the sort of force that makes the Empire think twice before starting another war, because the domestic opposition they may face will not simply be moral outrage, but physical resistance. Richmond Struggle is not saying—in the typical grandiose leftist fashion—that we are anywhere close to being such a force, nor are we saying that we would be the eventual vanguard of such a force. What we are saying is that it’s necessary for the Left to move away from moral outrage, and toward the building of militant, anti-imperialist workers’ movements.

How, concretely, do we build resistance to imperialism in America, in the belly of the beast? The task is enormous, and there is no magic formula for turning the average American into a staunch anti-imperialist. We must strive to build autonomous organizations that do not just focus on stopping the war, or, conversely, do not just focus on improving the lot of American workers. We must strive to show that there is one common enemy: imperialism, and that the struggle is global. These ideas are not ones that take hold through discussion groups or Facebook posts. You may pledge “critical support for the Lion of Damascus”, but how ready are you to sacrifice your life in the struggle against imperialism? How ready are any of us? A truly anti-imperialist consciousness can only develop through concrete struggle. The late revolutionary James Yaki Sayles writes, “Too many of us still fail to understand that the underlying aim of social revolution is to promote a change in people and to assist in the development of political and social consciousness. Everything else that we usually associate with “revolution” or “national liberation” comes through and after a change in people’s consciousness!”

Though we are weak now, we can already see a stirring of this anti-imperialist consciousness emerging. The Movement for Black Lives has included solidarity with the Palestinian resistance in its platform, a decision for which it has faced considerable opposition. But how could a principled movement against white supremacy take any other position? In the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore, BLM organizers faced a militarized police force deploying tear gas, pepper spray, and totally disproportionate violence. Is it any mystery that such militants would identify with Gazans facing the same repression? BLM has recognized that the Palestinian genocide and the Black genocide are both pursued by the same system, for the same reasons.

Here we see the beginnings of the anti-imperialist consciousness we must forge through concrete struggle. We must build it from the ground up, with grassroots, local struggles against specific class enemies with concrete material stakes. We must connect the everyday oppression of workers in America to the global system of imperialism it is part of. In every victory, and in every loss, we will better understand our role in the battle against imperialism. We must always emphasize that no matter how localized the fight, it has a global character. In the process of building an organization that poses a significant material threat, we will have created a militant consciousness that does not just understand, but feels, that any imperialist “intervention” is a direct attack on us. And we will respond accordingly, in the only language that imperialism understands.

Who’s Running Virginia Commonwealth University?

Richmond Struggle is proud to introduce to you the people running your school. These are the folks who continually vote to increase the tuition at VCU, even while the University is sitting on a $1.6 billion dollar endowment, one of the largest in not just the country, but in the world. This information demonstrates just how little these people care about the students, faculty and staff at VCU, but unfortunately the problem is much bigger than any of these individuals. The nature of these particular people simply indicates the character of the system they serve. The whole board of visitors is not represented here, because some members are doctors, lawyers, or public servants who seem genuinely well intentioned. But intentions aside, in their position on the Board of Visitors they serve a patriarchal, white supremacist, capitalist system intent on expansion and profit, no matter the cost to students, faculty, staff, or the working class of Richmond. We must understand that no matter who fills these seats, these oppressive social relations will never change unless we force them to: organizing to build power, then smashing their structure and building our own. A genuinely democratic VCU is possible, with workers, faculty, and staff collectively supporting and empowering each other, and building real connections to the marginalized Black, immigrant, and working class communities of Richmond. This vision will never come to fruition, however, if the current administration is not challenged. And, without further ado, we now present…

Michael Rao

It’s good to be President. Michael Rao is really cleaning up in his position at the University, with an annual compensation of over $900,000 every year. University administrators are highly paid, but even in this elite group Rao stands out. He is not only the most highly paid public university president in the state, but the most highly paid state employee in all of Virginia. Clearly, Rao is on the right path. And that’s what life seems to be about for him: rapid growth and development. His career has taken him from Boston to Florida to Montana to Michigan and now to Richmond. Rao’s fast track to success indicates he is more concerned about personal aggrandizement than building a community of students, teachers, and workers. His tenure at Central Michigan University saw rapid growth in both the size and national prestige of the University. Rao’s grand vision involves much the same thing: he calls it the “Quest for Distinction.” In the administration’s own words:

Our strategic plan continues to provide a framework for capitalizing on the outstanding assets that form the VCU experience — a commitment to educational quality, an environment that embraces diversity, an evolving research program with substantial increases in extramural funding, pre-eminent academic programs, an engaged community and a growing alumni base.

The use of “capitalizing” is particularly telling. The goal is to grow the University, mostly through colonizing Black working class areas of the city. Rao’s membership on the board of Venture Richmond, a pro-gentrification think tank, is enough to betray these intentions. The statement above clearly shows that all the most vaunted things about VCU—research, a diverse student body—are seen by Rao as simply tools to support more growth and national distinction. This is not the mindset of an educator—it is the mindset of a businessman. Rao has shown himself to be quite a successful businessman—his $900,000 salary certainly indicates that—but is that the sort of person we want running an institute of higher learning? Higher tuition for students and lower wages for workers certainly promote “growth” of VCU, but who benefits from this growth? A quick look at the board of visitors will show you exactly who.

John A. Luke

The rector and chairman of the Board, John A. Luke is a true capitalist. He serves on the board of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think-tank dedicated to lobbying for pro-corporate and anti-worker initiatives. He is currently Chairman of the Board for Westrock, a $15 billion a packaging and specialty chemical business, the second largest corporation of its type. If “specialty chemical” sounds a little sketchy to you, you’re right. Westrock was formed from the merger of Rock Tenn Company and the Meadwestvaco corporation, the latter for which John A. Luke served as CEO. Some of Meadwestvaco the “specialty chemicals” include sulfuric acid, chlorine dioxide, chlorine, and methyl iodide, chemicals so special that Meadwestvaco, with Luke as CEO, felt it right to release 35,000 pounds of them into the air annually, in 2002 earning them the distinction of the 57th largest corporate producer of air pollution. But hey, when you’re earning John A. Luke’s compensation of $6 million a year, why let breathable air get in the way of your profits?

H. Benson Dendy III

With a name like H. Benson Dendy III, you pretty much have to be part of the American ruling class, and this man does not disappoint. Dendy spent most of his career working in the Virginia State Government, but has since branched out to the private sector. His VCU bio proudly declares that he has “extensive experience in helping international corporations develop business in the United States.” In the wacky world of the ruling class, that apparently sounds like a good thing. How exactly does he do this? Through the time-honored tradition of corporate lobbying (read: bribery and corruption), of course. Dendy uses his government experience to serve as president of the ominous-sounding Vectre corporation. Vectre offers its services to such corporate behemoths as GlaxoSmithKline and JP Morgan Chase to help them buy influence on both a state and local level. Dendy has moved beyond just Vectre, however: he also serves on the Board of Directors of The Advocacy Group, a nationwide initiative that connects corporate power with state lobbyists nationwide. Oligarchy doesn’t just happen—it takes a lot of dedicated people, and H. Benson Dendy III is doing his best to help.

 John W. Snow

At 69 years of age Snow’s net worth of $90 million puts him among the 100 richest people in Virginia, and he’s made a career of defending the interests of his fellow plutocrats. In the 80s, he was an advisor to Reagan’s policy team, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a neo-liberal thinktank dedicated to furthering the interests of big business through privatization and tax cuts. Other figures associated with it include neo-cons Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and John Yoo. He came to Richmond in the 90s as CEO of railway company CSX, which paid him $29.3 million over six years. From 94-96, he was chairman of the Business Roundtable, the main actor behind the passage of NAFTA, which devastated Mexico and Central America to reap profits for corporations. In 2003, he was Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush. His main accomplishment there was in selling the Bush tax cuts to Congress and the public, which amounted to a massive transfer of $670 billion from the public coffer to the private hands of the rich. Right now, John Snow is Chairman of Cerberus Capital Management, a multi-billion dollar private equity fund that owns shares in hundreds of multinational corporations. Among its assets is Freedom Group, which it owns wholly. Freedom Group is a coalition of firearms manufacturers, which Snow promised to divest from after the Sandy Hook shooting. Cerberus owns it to this day. Other interesting companies Cerberus owns are Dyncorp and IAP World Services, military contractors that profit from war by selling weapons, equipment, and mercenaries to the United States government for its imperialist adventures. Whether in the US or abroad, murder means big profits for John W. Snow.

Robert D. Holsworth

Robert D. Holsworth is a friend to pigs city-wide. His company DecideSmart Inc. “is committed to an ethos of public service and to providing clients with real world, cost-effective solutions to the challenges they face.” Now whatever the hell that means, we know one of the major clients Holsworth provides with “real effective solutions” is the VA Department of Juvenile Justice, which our city provides with bountiful funding while our schools crumble. There are certainly many “challenges” the department faces in its quest to criminalize and repress the Black youth of the city, but rest assured that Holsworth is finding them “effective solutions.” But that’s not all! Robert Holsworth did Richmond-Pig-in-Chief Rodney Monroe a solid by awarding him a degree for completing 6 out of the necessary 121 credit hours. Holsworth lost his position as dean for this fraud, but now he’s back in action on the Board of Visitors.

William M. Ginther

Want your university run like a ruthless, profit-driven corporation? Look no further than William Ginther. He has lots of experience with ruthless, profit-driven corporations, having spent 37 years of his life as Corporate Executive Vice President at Suntrust Bank. But even more interesting than the company he ran is the company he keeps. Disgraced former Governor Bob McDonnell—convicted by a federal court of felony corruption—received campaign donations of over $16,000. That probably has something to do with the fact that McDonnell later was the one to appoint him to the board. McDonnell may be out, but his appointees are carrying on his legacy. 

Colette W. McEachin

Collete McEachin is Richmond’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, making her one of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in her jurisdictions, a real pig’s pig. Her job description is to prosecute defendants for the State of Virginia, a state that disproportionately targets the poor Black population. No matter her own skin color, McEachin serves a key role in this city’s war on the black population, a war that counts among its casualties 85% of our city jail’s prisoners. McEachin is doing just fine for herself, though. She and her husband have multiple houses and apartments throughout Richmond and Washington DC. For her multiple residences. For you, a concrete cell.

Alexander B. McMurtrie Jr.

With a net worth of over $100 million, Alexander B. McMurtrie, Jr. doesn’t have to do much of anything, but keeps busy nonetheless. When he’s not raising your tuition, or kicking back at his multiple estates throughout Virginia, McMurtrie enjoys buying influence in elections. Over the years he has offered hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts to politicians, in exchange. One of the recipients of his largesse was corrupt, convicted former Governor Bob McDonnell. McMurtrie paid over ten thousand dollars to fly Bob and his family to see a Notre Dame football game, among other things Something tells us he doesn’t show this same generosity to people who can’t grant him favors.

Ron McFarlane

Ron McFarlane is no stranger to the corridors of power. He’s married to Nancy McFarlane, the current mayor of Raleigh North Carolina. With the mayor’s office under their control, the McFarlanes have made sure to help their own circle come to power in Raleigh, and to continue in Raleigh the nationwide project of gentrification and the displacement of poor people. However politics turns out for them, they can always fall back on MedProRx, the $80 million dollar company they own.

Michael D. Frazier

Michael D. Frazier is ruling class to the core. He served for 24 years at corporate giant GE in various leadership roles, including CEO of GE Japan and executive vice-president of GE as a whole. He came to Richmond, however to work as CEO of local GE-offshoot Genworth Financial. For this position, he earns $2.72 million a year in salary and benefits. He’s also tight with disgraced Gov. Bob McDonnell. Frazier is a sports fan, which is why he headed the committee that brought the enormous waste that is the Washington Redskins training camp to town. Michael D. Frazier feels that he has not done enough to our city, however. That’s why his current position is an adviser to Blue Heron Capital and The Frontier Project. These two finance firms are instrumental in the gentrification and displacement plans that the ruling class has in store. Their function is to provide capital and assistance to hip, white business people seeking to displace the historically black residents of neighborhoods like Church Hill and Jackson Ward. The name Frontier Project is apt: they believe these territories must be colonized and civilized. Shame for the people that have lived there for decades, but such is progress. People like Michael Frazier know that progress necessitates casualties. Whether it’s black residents forced out of their homes, or poor students forced out of their school, he’s happy to oblige.
Rick Wagoner

Rick Wagoner is the former chairman and CEO of General Motors. During his tenure, the company lost $85 billion and laid off more than 25,000 workers. Rick Wagoner is one of the many people responsible for the 2008 financial crash that suffered very few repercussions. In exchange for GM receiving almost $50 billion dollars of public money, Obama personally asked Rick Wagoner to resign, which he promptly did. Don’t feel too bad for Rick, though, despite his incompetent leadership he retired with an exit package of over $10 million: $1.65 million in benefits per year for his first five years of retirement, $74,030 per year pension for the rest of his life, and a $2.6 million life insurance policy that can be cashed out at any time. And that’s not to mention the nearly $40 million he “earned” during his tenure. It sounds like GM takes care of its retirees, right? Not so much: while Wagoner was walking away with $10 million, working-retirees saw their benefits slashed.

Jaquelyn E. Stone 

Jaquelyn Stone is a partner at consulting firm McGuire-Woods. The sort of “consulting” this firm does is nearly exclusively that which serves the interests of massive corporations against the working class. For instance, for a large fee they can help your company avoid being charged for committing financial crimes, or as they delicately put it “prevent regulatory inquiries from becoming criminal issues” At the moment, McGuire-Woods is representing telecom giant Verizon against its striking workers. They are also taking the side of Goliath in a suit brought by the Seminole Indian tribe against the bank Wells-Fargo. In addition to her work with McGuire-Woods, Jaquelyn E. Stone also sits on the board of Venture Richmond, the organization doing its utmost in our city to push forward gentrification and displacement of poor black communities.

Well, that was fun…

From these brief bios, the class character of VCU’s administration becomes clear. They are not interested in creating a democratic space for learning. They are interested in rapidly growing the university, earning national distinction, and from that profit. It all comes down to the bottom line. Administration salaries continue to rise at the same time tuition goes up. If the University truly is in crisis—which seems unlikely, given the $1.6 billion endowment—why can’t they just cut their own obscene salaries? While they take home hundreds of thousands a year, students, faculty, and workers are shafted.

The Board has voted to increase student tuition has risen every year for the past decade. If they truly cared about making the University “inclusive,” a freeze on tuition is the only answer. They want “inclusion,” sure, but only from a specific subset of people: the ruling class. As more and more students balk at the idea of taking out predatory loans for a degree that today promises very little, VCU will increasingly become an enclave of the rich. The goal is not to include all students, but to massively increase the size and “distinction” of the school. VCU is metastasizing, buying up land in working class Black neighborhoods, gentrifying the city to make not just VCU but the entire city of Richmond a safe-space for the privileged few. Tuition increases don’t bother them—in their minds, if you can’t afford the tuition, you don’t belong at the school.

While VCU expands in size and prestige, spending its money buying up land and starting new construction, the faculty is increasingly being transformed into a low-wage, precarious body of adjuncts. 76% of VCU’s teachers are now adjunct faculty, taking home a pittance of usually less than $20,000 a year. There are no benefits, no healthcare, and absolutely no job security. The adjunct professor doesn’t know whether she’ll have a job next semester, much less in five years. Factoring in the hours and hours of grading and planning, the adjunct professor makes less than minimum wage, often relying on government benefits like Food Stamps just to get by. Without job security, there is no real academic freedom. Professors cannot take any risks or attempt bold new research when they know they can be dropped at any time if the administration disapproves. The school can certainly afford to pay more, provide tenure, a living wage and job security. But they don’t want to. It’s not about academic freedom for them, it’s about control. A low-wage, precarious workforce is a disciplined workforce. Adjunct, non-tenure track faculty are terrified to explore new or radical ideas with their students, and that’s just what the administration wants.

Professors are far from the only ones exploited. The food and sanitation workers of VCU are in a similar position. In line with neo-liberalism, VCU doesn’t hire food and sanitation workers directly, but contracts it out to Aramark. Aramark is known nationally as one of the lowest paying contractors, paying experienced workers around $10/hour, far less than a living wage. The corporation has been embroiled in multiple scandals regarding wage theft, unfair firings, and other exploitative business practices. They are also deeply connected with the prison-industrial complex, contracting with prisons and serving scarcely edible, maggot-infested food to prisoners, all to increase profits. By contracting out to Aramark, VCU is making sure those that do the most work on campus are paid the least and treated the worst. The workers are the life-blood of the University. It would shut down without their labor, and they deserve better than the corporate criminality of Aramark.

The VCU administration is set on unlimited growth, more construction, more “distinction.” In this quixotic “Quest for Distinction,” the people who truly make up the VCU community are left behind. The students, faculty, and staff of VCU do not care about how nationally distinguished or large the University is. They’re more worried about how much debt they can possibly take on, how they’re going to put food on the table. Just as the administration and Board shares a concern for growth and profit, students, teachers, and workers share a community of interest in creating a truly democratic university. Each of these groups deserve an equal voice in determining how the University is run. It is only through an organized coalition of workers, teachers, and students that we can throw off this parasitic administration, a worthless group of business, politicians, and bureaucrats that have no right to dictate to the real VCU community. At its best, higher education can serve the cause of liberation, liberation not just of its students, but of humanity. It is only in a truly democratic environment that this sort of education is possible. It is only through struggle that this democratic environment can be achieved. And it is only through organization that we can win this struggle.

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January 20th statement

If Donald Trump has done one good thing, it’s that he’s brought us together today. Mobilizations like today’s are happening across the state and across the country–gatherings of people who terrified for themselves and their families, infuriated at the state of things, and determined to stand up and resist.

We all know it’s going to be a rough four years. It’s not clear how serious our future president is about his policies of exclusion and ethnic cleansing, but the fascist movement that has brought him to power certainly is. Trump’s base is composed of the most reactionary, backwards elements of the white middle and working classes. Some say we should feel empathy for them: their standard of living has been declining. They are suffering under neoliberalism. But does that absolve them of their votes, votes that they knew would harm people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community? Absolutely not.

It is important to remember that most of the white working class didn’t support Trump, because they didn’t support anyone. Even in a contentious election like this, voter turnout was at an all-time low. But for those who do support Trump, there will be no conciliation. We will not negotiate with them. We will not try to reason with them. Now is not a time for “understanding” or “coming together.” Now is a time for militant opposition.

But who will join us in this opposition? Certainly not the Democrats. Historically, they have been no friend to the oppressed. Under Bill Clinton, we saw the rise of mass incarceration and the evisceration of welfare. Under Obama, we’ve seen the consolidation of the mass surveillance state—a development Trump will certainly enjoy— a continuous state of war and the bombings of seven separate countries. While uprisings shook Baltimore and Ferguson, Obama stayed silent on issues of police violence and racial justice. The Democrats offer nothing essentially different from Trump: repression at home, imperial war and expansion abroad.

Even now, we see the Democrats circling the wagons around the CIA and fomenting xenophobic, anti-Russian hysteria. What we’re seeing here is a struggle between two segments of the ruling class. In the fight between liberal and conservative, or in this case liberal and fascist, we do not have a voice.

The liberal wants a kinder, more subtle form of oppression. Keep the massive prison population, but maybe give them some GED programs. Keep the white supremacist institution of the police, but maybe give them some body-cams. Keep the obscene divide between rich and poor, but maybe make the rich pay a little more to the government. The liberals and the Democrats simply want to make the system seem a little less nightmarish to the people it oppresses.

We, as radicals, reject that logic. We want no prisons, no pigs, and no poverty. We are not just opposed to Trump. We are opposed to the entire white supremacist, capitalist order that gave birth to him. No one in power represents our demands. The entire government is set up to oppose those demands. Appealing to power—whether to Hillary Clinton or Levar Stoney—gets us nothing.

The only solution is to build working-class power from the ground up. Mobilizations like the one today allow us to feel that power, if only for a day. Our goal is to sustain the energy of today’s mobilization, and to build a counter-culture that actually resists. In the coming years, we seek to do more than simply react to Trump’s provocation. We seek to challenge the entire white supremacist, patriarchal capitalist system that he represents.

What do we do?

These are going to be a rough four years. The question is, what do we do? We have no mass movement. Let’s face it: there is no credible Left alternative to the status quo. Instead, we have a proliferation of micro-sects and affinity groups that offer very little, and pose no threat to the powers that be. We include ourselves in this analysis: for years, we adhered dogmatically to a narrow Maoism that excluded most potential allies. We accomplished very little. Now, more than ever, is the time for Left groups to overcome the sectarianism that has plagued us for decades. It’s time to get over the quasi-theological disputes over doctrines and texts, and find what unites us in the present.

But the question of what unites us is not an easy one. Is opposition to Trump enough to forge a mass movement? It’s tempting to build a coalition of Hillary supporters, Stein supporters, Bernie supporters, “democratic socialists,” environmentalists, communists and anarchists. Such coalitions are certainly being built. A big tent politics like that, one that allows anyone nominally to the left of the Democratic party, is capable of some impressive mobilizations. If your goal is simply to get thousands of people in the streets opposing Trump, including absolutely everyone may be a wise idea. But where do you go from there? Another mobilization? Then another? Richmond Struggle is fully in support of such mobilizations, but as a means, not an end. Mobilizations—such as the one we and others put together in June, as well as the mostly spontaneous one in November—serve to radicalize people. Marching along with a thousand people allows a person to feel—if only for a moment—the power that we could hold. When you can ignore the commands of the pigs, stop traffic and shut down a city, you know that the status quo is not invincible. But that feeling is ephemeral—it’s not the reason we’re out there. The real goal is to take people’s newfound feelings of power and channel them into an organization.

Organization is vastly more difficult than mobilization. To build power that lasts beyond these sporadic mobilizations is what is necessary for a serious movement. It is here that we must draw a strict line of demarcation between enemies and friends. In organizing, we need to be sure that we are all working toward the same goal. Here, a principled unity is necessary, and it’s a unity that does not include liberals. Our Lines on the Left piece goes into more detail, but to put it simply, the liberal thinks the system can be reformed; the radical knows that it must be abolished. The liberal calls for civil discourse in politics; the radical knows that politics is inherently violent. The liberal wants a piece of the class power that dominates them; the radical wants to abolish this class power altogether. The liberal focuses on symptoms, the radical goes to the root of the problem. Plenty of groups call themselves “socialist,” “communist,” or “anarchist” but then dedicate themselves to working within the electoral system, boosting the Democratic party, and condemning the violence of the oppressed. These groups are not a part of the Left we need to build.

If we work with liberals, what happens when Trump is out of office? Will these liberals still want to fight the system if a Democrat is in the white house? If the anti-war movement after Bush is any indication, they will not. Any “big tent” organization we build will be co-opted into the establishment, weakened and de-radicalized. If we hope to build an alternative, we cannot work with anyone in the establishment, or anyone hoping to become part of the establishment. We cannot bother with the electoral system. We cannot work with cops, bosses, politicians, established unions, or NGOs. We must build our own power, from the ground up. We need to build a counter-culture that consists of more than just posturing—a counter-culture that does not just drop-out of but actively resists the status quo. If you hate the system, if you hate more than just Trump but the entire white supremacist, patriarchal capitalist system that gave rise to him, we want to work with you. If you are a communist, an anarchist, or any sort of radical, we want to work with you. And, above all, if you are one of the millions of working Americans abandoned by the Democratic party, we want to work with you. We don’t just want Trump out of office. We want the abolition of all existing social conditions, and we’re going to need some help with that.