Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kshama Sawant Speaks in Oakland CA

Richard Mellor Afscme Local 444 retired

“There has been a deep hunger for an alternative to corporate politics.” Kshama Sawant

I attended a fundraiser for Kshama Sawant in Oakland CA last night. Sawant, as most readers are probably aware, is the socialist elected to the Seattle City Council and a major figure in the $15 NOW movement. She is a member of Socialist Alternative, the socialist group that a number of supporters of this blog were expelled from. There were about four hundred in attendance there, mostly older people but there were a number of young people present including SA members.

On the platform with Sawant was Chris Hedges, the writer and Gayle McLaughlin, former mayor and now councilmember from Richmond CA. She is also a member of the Green Party and the Richmond Progressive Alliance. I wanted to get this video clip up here and don’t have much time but I wanted to make some observations.

Comrade Sawant correctly talked of the importance of her victory in Seattle. The capitalist class and their media have gone after her as they have Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. She talks of the people being inspired by the events in Seattle which is important in that it offers a “Vision of independent organization” and politics, “Independent of corporate forces and the politicians that are beholden to them.”We need an alternative to the Democratic Party”. Sawant said and stressed that the “Only way to do it was to build our own party. We need an independent party for working people.”

There were a considerable number of Bernie supporters there as well, some of them young people. Chris hedges though was the only speaker to shed some light on Sanders saying that he was not going to vote for Sanders because he was not about to abandon the Palestinian people, he’d spent too long in Gaza to do that. He was the only speaker to raise Sanders at all in any serious way, Sawant as far as I can recall made no mention of him to any serious extent.

Sawant and Socialist alternative are in a bit of a quandary re Sanders as they are not really clear that Sanders, who is a Zionist, should not be supported at all from day one. Reading their website they argue that Sanders should run as an independent as opposed to in the capitalist Democratic Party and that he should do this in order, “to help build a political alternative to the corporate-owned political parties.” They accept that there will be a crisis in 2016 when, as is most likely, Sanders will not get the nomination and will call on his supporters to support the Democratic Party machine candidate, most likely Hilary Clinton. In this scenario, SA hopes that by building a strong enough base among Sanders supporters’ “A strong left current can mobilize Sanders’ supporters to demand Bernie continues running, or lead as much of the campaign as possible away from the Democrats if Bernie insists on endorsing Clinton.” (My added emphasis)

This is not a viable position, after all, what if Sanders were to get the nomination, what then? The main problem is that those people wanting to continue to fight, to participate in a national election in other words, want somewhere to go, where is Socialist Alternative leading Sanders supporters to? They do not make this clear although I will hazard a guess that what they have in mind is “join Socialist Alternative”, but are not saying this and that adds more confusion because it’s not telling workers the truth.

The PWPW in contrast has an alternative As Sean O’Torain speaking for the PWPW on this blog on Sept 11th, wrote: “The most important development as far as the movement around Sanders is concerned will come when he either supports the Democratic party nominee, most likely still Clinton, or when he himself wins the nomination and refuses to take on capitalism. The most likely development will be that Sanders will not win the nomination and will then throw his support behind the Democratic Party nominee. But either of these developments will lead to a major break in the situation. Meaning that tens and tens of thousands of Sanders supporters will be thrown into confusion and or be looking for some other way to pursue their struggle. In this situation unless something that looks reasonable and serious exists there will be the risk that many of these former Sanders supporters will drift temporarily out of political struggle. This would be a setback, a big lost opportunity. So the authors of this Blog offer this alternative.”

“We have joined and advocate that others also join the Green Party and support Jill Stein as the presidential candidate of that party. But we do not leave it there. We also advocate that the Green Party should become an open democratic socialist party. None of the problems that the Green Party considers core issues, climate change, poverty, unemployment, low wages, war, racism, sexism, and so on can be solved under capitalism. We also advocate that the Green Party seek to evolve into a mass workers party. That is build locals and put down its roots in the workplaces, the rank and file of the unions, the communities, the schools and the colleges. Only the united and mobilized working class can end capitalism and solve the problems of society which the Green Party sees as demanding solutions.”

Despite having a Green Party member and city councilor on the podium and stressing the need for an alternative to the two corporate parties, suggesting that Sanders supporters join the Greens, help build it and develop it’s character and program, never entered comrade Sawant’s head. It’s as if the Greens don’t exist. Given Socialist Alternative’s strong call for abandoning the Democrats, one could not be faulted for thinking that having a Green Party member on the platform might be a little opportunistic.

For the supporters of this blog, leading people “away from the Democrats” but with no stated arrival point as SA argues, or, if SA were to more open about their actual strategy, to call on the many young people involved in the Sanders’ campaign to join Socialist Alternative when the penny drops, is simply not a viable option.

Along with joining the Green party, which has some level of a national structure and is neither a capitalist nor a workers’ party, we stand for building an alliance of all who are against the destructive offensive of the 1%. That the most important issue facing us today is helping build a mass working class movement, an alliance of any groups confronting austerity and against the offensive of the 1%.
Such a movement will arise regardless as workers and youth, women and specially oppressed minorities, are forced to struggle against the system and against austerity. But when we have successes like SA has with the election of Kshama Sawant to Seattle City Council as well as the movement for a higher minimum wage, this movement should help build this alliance of working people, helping bring together the various movements that have arisen against austerity in a common and united struggle against the 1%.

These, we feel are the important issues facing us today.
You can download our flier on building an alliance of working people against austerity here.

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