FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Radical Campaign for Seattle City Council Causes a Stir

by BRUCE LESNICK

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.

February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail