by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
In a stunning victory for workers and the poor, Seattle’s Kshama Sawant won 33% of the vote in the Seattle City Council race and faces the incumbent Richard Conlin in a runoff. Conlin flush with cash and name recognition received 49% of the vote and was expected to get an easy victory for a fifth term as mayor.
Ms Sawant ran as the Socialist Alternative candidate for the Washington State Legislature in November last year against House Speaker Frank Chopp and lost, but she received 14,000 votes, about 27% of the total. She now has a real chance of defeating Conlin in the council runoff
Sawant said of her victory last year, “We achieved this election result as an openly Socialist campaign that was largely ignored by the corporate media, with no corporate donations, on a shoe string budget,” and added in a statement "Occupy gave a voice to working people’s rage at Wall Street, and our campaign gave voice to mass anger at the corporate politicians. It shows the potential to build a powerful left electoral challenge to the two corporate parties.”
In her campaign for city council Sawant received endorsements from Two Seattle union locals, American Federation of Teachers Local 1789 and Communication Workers of America Local 37083. A major part of her platform is a campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage as well as affordable housing, rent control, and against cuts in education and other social programs and public services. Ms. Sawant is an economics professor at Seattle Central Community College.
While socialists, or most socialists do not believe we can change society at the ballot box, participating in the electoral process is important in that it is a means to publicly challenge the ideology of the 1% and offer an alternative view of society and how it should function. It is a platform through which we can build an independent working class movement that can challenge the dictatorship big business has in the electoral sphere but also the 1%’s control of economic life and the production of human needs in society.
The support Ms Sawant has received in the past two elections shows that socialist candidates can win the support of American workers if these campaigns are run in a way that appeal to workers and our families. Her victory is a victory for all of us.
Most importantly, it is now the responsibility of the trade union movement, socialists, left and all other anti-capitalist activists to follow in the steps of the two Seattle locals that supported Ms Sawant and get involved and help build her campaign and spread it beyond Seattle and Washington State. It is an opportunity we must take advantage of. There are numerous campaigns nationally around issues like the minimum wage, housing and the defense of other social services as well as civil rights, and Ms Sawant's political victories are an opportunity to bring these campaigns together in a united movement against the 1% and the dictatorship the corporations have over US society.
Facts For Working People congratulates Ms Sawant and her campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage, will assist her campaign in any way we can, and urges our readers to support it.