Radical Campaign for Seattle City Council Causes a Stir


Something important is happening on the upper-left coast.  On August 6, socialist Kshama Sawant garnered 35% of the vote in a “top two” primary for Seattle City Council.  This allows Sawant to advance to the general election on November 5where she will face Democratic incumbent Richard Conlin who received 48% of the vote.

Considering that working people from coast to coast have been beaten and battered both economically and politically for more than a generation, and that we have been playing a losing game of defense for as long as most of us can remember; considering that one of the chief reasons for labor’s losses has been a tragic reliance on and obsequious deference to so-called “friends of labor” in the form of representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties, it is highly significant when an avowedly working-class campaign makes headlines.

And the Sawant campaign has not been the least bit shy about stating the case for the millions of folks who live from paycheck to paycheck, if they’re lucky enough to have a paycheck; the millions who, as it happens, don’t work on Wall Street and don’t own any banks or mines or factories.  Or, in the vernacular of Occupy: the 99 percent.  The campaign boldly proclaims, “Fund Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed.”

They advocate raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; taxing millionaires to fund the construction of mass transit, the creation of union wage jobs for all, and an expansion of needed social services; ending corporate welfare, and shifting the tax burden from home owners and working people onto big business.  They also call for environmental sanity, affordable housing, and for fighting against racism, sexism, gender discrimination and police brutality.  The campaign champions union rights and well-funded public schools, supporting input and control by teachers, students and parents instead of overreliance on ineffectual standardized tests.  There is no question that this campaign sees society in “us vs. them” terms, and unhesitatingly proclaims which side they’re on.

When it comes to assessing the two corporate parties, again the Sawant campaign pulls no punches:

The Democratic Party has run this city for decades. The mayor and all the city council members are Democrats and are representing only a tiny spectrum of political opinion and the interests of the people of Seattle, namely Paul Allen and the richest 1%, along with Amazon, Starbucks, big property developers, and downtown business interests. …While the Democratic Party pays lip service to working people, in reality both the Democrats and Republicans serve the interests of a tiny financial aristocracy. The Sawant campaign is an opportunity to break out from the prison of corporate politics.

Since a small boy blithely proclaimed that the emperor had no clothes, such a clear statement of the truth has rarely been heard, let alone openly embraced by a healthy percentage of the voters.

On September 1, more than 50 people attended a campaign volunteer kickoff meeting.  A range of ages, races and city neighborhoods were represented.  Campaign coordinators project quadrupling the number of volunteers before the general election.  Plans for postering, leafleting, phone banking, tabling and door-to-door canvassing were discussed.

The Sawant campaign was conceived and launched by a group called Socialist Alternative.  But the campaign is drawing support from a wide range of individuals, not all of whom agree with every nuance of every statement ever put out by the sponsoring party.  It is the general tenor and thrust of the campaign that has people excited.  The campaign is providing a rallying point for labor activists, fighters for racial, social and economic justice, environmental advocates, anti-war organizers, and others.  In a nation divided into opposing classes, some are seeing this campaign as a way to proclaim, loudly and clearly, which side they’re on.

Sure, the Sawant campaign isn’t the first or only working-class campaign ever to make the scene.  But it’s highly significant because 1) It demonstrates a complete break from the dead-end practice of supporting the “lesser evil” of the Democrats and Republicans, 2) It offers a clear message and a distinct, fighting alternative for working people that points a way forward which could, if embraced and extended, actually turn things around for our class.  3) And most importantly, the Sawant campaign stands out from the many others like it now and in the past because has caught fire; because it has attracted people’s attention; because folks are listening and taking notice!

At present, one could hold forth with radical ideas in a town hall in Allentown or on a street corner in San Antonio and people may or may not pay you any mind.  But right now people are watching and listening to the Sawant campaign.  As such, it remains relevant for anyone who works for a living (or wishes that they could), be they from New York City, Memphis, San Francisco or Seattle.

Bruce Lesnick is a long-time political activist who lives and writes in Washington State.  He blogs at open.salon.com and is an occasional contributor to Counterpunch.  He can be reached at blesnick@bugbusters.net.

Bruce Lesnick is a long-time political activist who lives and writes in Washington State.  He blogs at blogspot.com.  He can be reached at blesnick@bugbusters.net.

November 26, 2015
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda