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.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians to the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
Rivera Sun
Accountability: An Abandoned American Value
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
Robert Koehler
The Heart of Order
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail