Tag Archive | "Kshama Sawant"

Sawant, Stein, and Post-2012 Left Strategy

With nearly 12,000 votes (a whopping 27% of the vote), the campaign of Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant in Washington’s 43rd legislative district is a bright beacon of hope on the otherwise bleak horizon of the 2012 election for the American left, although you wouldn’t know it by reading the party-line and left-liberal news outlets. Both focus on praising/blasting the two major parties and take solace in a handful of progressive initiatives that passed in a few states while occasionally mourning the poor performance of third parties nationally.

The first presidential election since Occupy brings with it a few lessons that the left should take to heart concerning the long haul, short-term strategy, and sectarianism/left unity. Every experience, no matter how depressing, traumatic, or distasteful is an opportunity to learn and grow, and 2012 is no exception.

The Long View. The failure of voting for the Great Evil as a strategy to arrest Evil’s victorious march over the past 10 election cycles does not need to be reiterated here. Rest assured, President Obama will show his true colors soon when his tax cuts for the 1% expire again (they stopped being Bush’s tax cuts the moment Obama chose to extend them), giving him the opportunity to attempt a second drone strike on Social Security and/or other “entitlements” under the heady guise of a “Grand Bargain” (“kill list” would be more accurate). I can already hear liberals squirming, moaning, and making excuses for Obama’s Faustian bargain, just as they did when Bill Clinton razed the first rampart of the New Deal to the ground in 1996 when he ended welfare. Some things never change, no matter how long your long view is.

Voters who decided to reject seppukuas a lesser evil to beheading are understandably demoralized at the turnout for Jill Stein, the 2012 Green Party candidate, who came up far short of the 5% needed to secure $20 million in federal matching funds for 2016.

Party/Candidate 2000 2004 2008 2012
Democratic 50,999,897 (48.38%) 59,028,109 (48.27%) 69,456897 (52.92%) 60,674,557 (50%)
Republican 50,456,002 (47.87%) 62,028,285 (50.73%) 59,934,815 (45.66%) 57,836,867 (48%)
Nader 2,882,955 (2.74%) 463,647 (0.38%) 738,475 (0.56%)
Green Nader 119,862 (0.10%) 161,603 (0.12%) 408,568 (0.3%)
Peace and Freedom Nader 27,607 (0.02%) 49,508 (0%)
Justice Party 36,408 (0%)
Socialist 5,602 (0.00%) 10,822 (0.01%) 6,528 (0.00%) 3,924 (0.0%)
Socialist Workers 7,378 (0.01%) 11,119 (0.01%) 7,571 (0.00%) 3,509 (0%)
Workers World 4,795 (0.00%) 1,656 (0.00%)
Socialism and Liberation 6,808 (0.01%) 8,603 (0%)
Socialist Equality 1,857 (0.00%) 1,139 (0%)

A political machine that consistently gives parties of the 1% 99% of the vote and a party of the 99% 1% of the vote, without producing revolution, is an instrument unmatched anywhere in the world for maintaining the status quo. Until the left finds a way to break up, undermine, and successfully sabotage this machine, 1% rule in the United States will forever remain secure. This setup weathered the storms of the 1930s and the 1960s and emerged from both periods largely unscathed, with 1% rule firmly intact. Now that unions are on the endangered species list, our generation has been left with no institutional legacy or defensive position from which to successfully resist naked market forces and unchecked state power.

What does that have to do with Stein’s showing? She was up against this machine with little to no social/political forces behind her and almost zero name recognition of her own on a national scale. The Green Party’s support doubled compared to 2008 with Nader’s absence from the race, the activist resurgence sparked by Occupy, and Hurricane Sandy’s reminder that climate change is a serious problem, but doubling from 0.12% of the vote to 0.3% is a far cry from the 5.0% necessary to really begin to make a dent in the national political machine. The point here about the long haul is that it was totally unrealistic to expect Stein to do better than she did in the face of all of the above factors given that this was her first time on the national political stage. She was arrested repeatedly during the campaign and did not yield or bend a centimeter in the face of liberal hysteria about “the lesser evil.” In other words, she means business. The Green Party has come a long way from 2004 when David Cobb exploited the party’s undemocratic voting system to block the party’s popular choice (Nader/Camejo) from being nominated, a mistake Cobb himself came to regret.

This time, there was no question of the Greens endorsing Obama and they managed to qualify for some federal matching funds in 2012 and got on the ballot in 43 states. This recovery after their near-death experience in 2004 was the result of a lot of thankless and hard work by Green Party cadres. However, hard work should not blind us to the sobering reality that the left-of-Democrat vote all but disappeared nationally in 2012 without Nader on the ballot. This is an indication of just how divided, weak, and unpopular the post-Nader American left is. A left presidential candidate to reaching the vaunted 5% popular vote threshold in 2016 or 2020 remains almost a pipe dream, given the current constellation of left forces that are badly divided, struggle hard just to survive, and survive to compete with rather than collaborate with one other.

There is no excuse for the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Justice Party, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers’ Party, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation to fight over “their” sliver of 1% of the electorate. Their presidential campaigns are money, man-hours, and credibility wasted, and when the left has so little of all three, squandering any of it is criminal. The Green Party is the only rooted national force among these efforts, and the smart thing for non-Green forces to do would be to find ways to collaborate and work with the Green Party, strengthen their efforts, and weld an indivisible united electoral front against the two-party state. At a bare minimum, they should list the Green presidential candidate on their ballot lines in 2016 (barring any 2004-style Cobb-ery); 5% or bust is the name of the game if we’re serious about breaking the Democratic Party over the course of the coming decades.

Eugene Debs’ 1912 run where he garnered 6% of the vote on the Socialist Party ticket was his fourth attempt, something to keep in mind when assessing Stein’s first run. Furthermore, the Debs-era Socialist Party was the result of a few splits and many mergers of several national and dozens of local socialist groups that, by 1912, beat Democrats and Republicans to win local and state offices. Today, there are fewer organized socialists than the 6,000 there were in 1898, and we would do well to study our past if we want our future to look dramatically better than our present.

Short-Term Strategy: Lessons from Seattle. The contrast between Kshama Sawant’s and the Jill Stein’s vote totals could not be more stark, although comparing a district race for statewide office to a national fight for the most powerful political office in the world is a bit more than an apples and oranges comparison.

Nonetheless, Sawant nearly topped the combined national votes of all the socialist candidates in a single district! No segment of the American electorate has ever voted for a clear-cut revolutionary socialist against a powerful Democrat by anything close to 27% of the vote, and certainly not with the endorsement of a union local. Make no mistake: Sawant and Socialist Alternative made history in Seattle.

Socialism was on the ballot in Seattle’s 43rd district.

The race was highly unusual because there was no Republican in the running. This was a straight capitalism-versus-socialism contest, and Sawant’s 27% nearly matches the one-third of Americans who say they have a favorable view of socialism. It is proof positive that the potential for a mass-based socialist movement in America far outstrips the actually existing socialist movement’s capacity to translate that potential into something meaningful by at least several orders of magnitude.

So what are the strategic implications of all this? District and city races are where the action is at, or should be at, while presidential races are (almost) hopeless fights and should be de-prioritized for the time being, given the left’s meager resources and national unpopularity. The best way to get ready to fight for and win 5% of the vote national vote for a left candidate in 2016 and 2020 is to win some local or state races. Concentrating our attack where the enemy is strongest and where we are weakest is stupidity, a recipe for more decades marked b y failure, frustration, and powerlessness. Local races require a lot less money to win, and the danger of billionaires emptying their bank accounts into super PACs to defeat us is far lower than it is when governorships, Senate seats, and the presidency are up for grabs.

If we win office at any level, we will be in a position to begin reversing neoliberalism, using Republican-style obstructionist tactics against Republican attacks, and begin undoing  the anti-democratic practices of the American electoral system. This is essentially how Hugo Chavez built massive popular support for smashing and grabbing (or “redistributing”) the wealth and power of Venezuela’s 1% to the 99% over the past decade one step at a time. Socialist Alternative’s call for Occupy candidates to run in local races is a big step in the right direction. SYRIZA’s near-win in the Greek elections earlier this year exposed the fact that many on the left internationally are deathly afraid of wielding state power within the framework of capitalism, as if there were some other way to stop 1% politicians from slashing and burning whatever is left of social safety nets and union rights (waiting for soviets to form or dual power to emerge has not stopped neoliberalism anywhere, sorry).

Modern protest politics — showing up at demonstrations with all kinds of clever and just demands — are insufficient for today’s class war; Greece has taken this brand of protest politics to extreme levels, where 16 general strikes have not stopped the austerity juggernaut. Until we recognize that we have to wrest as much political, economic, social, and cultural power from the 1% by any means necessary and act on that recognition, we won’t stand a chance at stopping them. 

Sectarianism/Left Unity. The other strategic lesson of the Sawant campaign concerns the problem of sectarianism/left unity. The International Socialist Organization’s (ISO) refusal to endorse and work with/for Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative materially weakened the campaign against the Washington legislature’s Democratic speaker, Frank Chopp. The ISO’s support could have brought much-needed publicity and funds to a dynamic and promising but under-funded campaign since the ISO is the largest revolutionary socialist organization in the country. Here was an exceedingly rare and golden opportunity to unite a fractured local left against the most powerful Democrat in state politics and instead of seizing the opportunity to weaken the Democratic Party, the ISO refused to get on board, preferring silence, inaction, and isolation while Chopp twisted the arms of unions and nonprofits alike to endorse him or stay neutral (as the ISO did). Sectarianism must be exposed to the light of day and combated in the here and now, while the stakes are low. When the stakes are high, we cannot afford the “luxury” of this kind of needless and counterproductive sectarianism. In Greece, the Communist Party’s (KKE) sectarianism towards the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) gave the European Union’s banksters the security of knowing they would face a workers’ movement and a left unwilling to unite, and like Germany in the 1930s, the Communist Party’s unwillingness to unite has opened up the space for a menacing fascist movement, the Golden Dawn. What we really need is an American SYRIZA, not an American KKE in miniature. Creating one and overcoming the other remains our central task. Update 11/10/12: Sawant has 15,896, or 28.21%.

Posted in Politics

Democrat debates Socialist in Washington state race

About 100 people, mostly students, turned out on September 25 to hear incumbent Democrat Frank Chopp of the Washington House of Representatives’ 43rd legislative district debate challenger Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative at Seattle University.

Sawant received over 10% in a blanket primary vote against Chopp during the summer, allowing her to run against him in the November election on a separate ticket. Washington’s Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed challenged her ability to declare her party preference (Socialist Alternative) on the November ballot since she did not do so as a write-in candidate during the blanket primary, so she successfully filed a lawsuit against Reed.

Now, voters in Washington’s 43rd legislative district will choose between a Democrat and a socialist to represent them in the state legislature this November.

Chopp focused narrowly on his accomplishments as Speaker of the House without mentioning any failures, setbacks, or significant hurdles. The overall picture he painted could be described as, “yes we can, and we are.”

Sawant, an adjunct professor of economics at Seattle University and Seattle Central Community College, took Speaker Chopp and his House Democratic majority to task for not doing more or what was possible. She pointed to referendums in 2000 (initiatives 722 and 728) to shrink class sizes that passed with overwhelming approval by voters but were never implemented. Sawant placed responsibility for that failure on Chopp and his House Democratic Majority. Chopp replied dryly that the initiative was “not paid for,” as if it was the voters’ job to figure out all the legislative details to make a referendum a reality rather than his job. He claimed that there was “no revenue” to pay for the ballot initiatives, ignoring Sawant’s point that $3.2 billion that could have been used to fund them went instead to Boeing as a tax break; Boeing pocketed the money and laid off hundreds of workers.

In his closing argument, Chopp claimed that he had increased transportation funding, never mind the recent end of the free bus service in the down town Seattle area.

The most interesting part of the evening’s event was the question-and-answer period with the audience. There was no red-baiting or anti-communist diatribes, a stark contrast to the health care town halls of 2009. Instead, audience members asked both candidates for solutions to pressing problems like homelessness, unemployment, poverty, and draconian cuts to social services like education. They were interested in were results, not party loyalty or ideology. Droli Rainey, the 84-year-old woman pepper sprayed in the face at an Occupy protest in 2011, needled Chopp for “not fulfilling your duty under the state constitution” by not stopping the yearly cuts to education funding and wanted to know when can voters expect could expect something different from the House Democratic majority. The second question came from a teacher who asked Chopp why the state declined federal funding that could have been used to provide health care for the children of immigrants, including the undocumented.

After only two questions from his constituents, Chopp exited the debate, claiming to have a prior engagement. He missed a question about homelessness from an Iraq war veteran and discussion of the cuts to transit by an activist bus riders’ union.

The debate portion of the event can be viewed on YouTube and the full event after Chopp’s early exit can be viewed here.

Posted in News

LIVESTREAM: Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant Debates Democrat Frank Chopp Tonight

Democrat Frank Chopp of the Washington House of Representatives’ 43rd legislative district has agreed to debate his opponent, Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant. Sawant received over 10% in a blanket primary against Chopp, allowing her to run against him in the November election on a separate ticket, that of Socialist Alternative.

Their historic debate will be held this evening, September 25, at 7:30 PDT (10:30 EST) at the Seattle University Student Center. You can watch the event live by clicking here.

Like and share this event on Facebook.

Please consider making a donation to Vote Sawant today and help strike a blow against corporate politics in 2012.

* A maximum donation of $900 can sustain a full-time organizer for a month.

* $500 will allow us to print 250 yard signs.

* $200 will help pay for a political consultant to analyze the most likely voters.

* $30 will allow us to make a laminated full-color sign for our tables.

* $10 will help us maintain our website for a month.

Make donations at VoteSawant.org

Other Ways You Can Support our Campaign:

1) Like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/VoteSawant

2) Volunteer
We are running a 100% grassroots, working-class campaign. We rely on ordinary people contributing their time and energy to build our campaign. We need you to get involved! There are many things that we need help with, so you can definitely pick a task that works for you! Sign up at www.VoteSawant.org

3) Endorse
Invite the candidate and/or a campaign representative to talk with your organization about an endorsement. Please also contact us if you want to personally endorse as an individual. Include exactly how you want to be listed, for example, as “John Gallup, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 member.”

4) Get organized – Join Socialist Alternative!
We have weekly activist meetings, events, and education programs to help understand the key lessons of past movements, revolutions, and how to change society.

For more information or to get involved in the Sawant campaign and/or Socialist Alternative:
www.VoteSawant.org
www.SocialistAlternative.org
(206) 486-0099
VoteSawant@gmail.com

Posted in Politics

Red vs. Blue: Kshama Sawant to Debate Frank Chopp

Breaking News! Kshama Sawant to debate Frank Chopp. Democrat Frank Chopp of the Washington House of Representatives, representing the 43rd district since 1995 and current Speaker of the House has agreed to debate his opponent, Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant!

Join Socialist Alternative Club at Seattle University as Chopp and Sawant discuss their campaigns and how they plan to address the needs of the 99%!

Tuesday, September 25 at 7:30pm (PDT)
Seattle University Student Center, Room 160

Like and share this event on Facebook:

Please consider making a donation to Vote Sawant today, and help us strike a blow against corporate politics in 2012.

* A maximum donation of $900 can sustain a full-time organizer for a month.

* $500 will allow us to print 250 yard signs.

* $200 will help pay for a political consultant to analyze the most likely voters.

* $30 will allow us to make a laminated full-color sign for our tables.

* $10 will help us maintain our website for a month.

Make donations at VoteSawant.org

Other Ways You Can Support our Campaign:

1) Like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/VoteSawant

2) Volunteer

We are running a 100% grassroots, working-class campaign. We rely on ordinary people contributing their time and energy to build our campaign. We need you to get involved! There are many things that we need help with, so you can definitely pick a task that works for you! Sign up at www.VoteSawant.org

3) Endorse
Invite the candidate and/or a campaign representative to talk with your organization about an endorsement. Please also contact us if you want to personally endorse as an individual. Include exactly how you want to be listed, for example, as “John Gallup, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 member.”

4) Get organized – Join Socialist Alternative!
We have weekly activist meetings, events, and education programs to help understand the key lessons of past movements, revolutions, and how to change society.

For more information or to get involved in the Sawant campaign and/or Socialist Alternative:
www.VoteSawant.org
www.SocialistAlternative.org
(206) 486-0099
VoteSawant@gmail.com

Posted in News

Imagine 200 Occupy Candidates This Year…

Imagine 200 Occupy candidates running for Congress this year –- independent of the Democrats and Republicans.

Imagine if these candidates were not careerist politicians, but activists and ordinary people, running as accountable representatives of a real, fighting movement of the 99%.

Imagine homeowners who are facing foreclosure running against local sheriffs, and pledging to stop all evictions.

Imagine teachers fighting union-busting; debt-ridden students fighting for free education; low-wage workers fighting for a living wage; and environmentalists fighting big oil.

Imagine them all running with tens of thousands of Occupy activists backing them up: going door-to-door, rallying, protesting, and using these candidates to build the power of our grassroots mass movement.

Last year, the Occupy Wall Street movement showed that when the 99% speaks up, the seething anger of millions can transform into social power and change the whole political landscape.

But, this year, the 1% is making a comeback, using their domination of electoral politics. Had hundreds of independent working class candidates run, it would have been a different story.

And that’s why it’s absolutely crucial to support the few candidates who are running and challenging the two-party corporate duopoly this year.

Credit: capitolhilltimes.com

In Seattle, Occupy activist and Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant – a teacher – is running for State House against the most powerful legislator in Washington State, Democratic Party leader and House Speaker, Frank Chopp.

For the rest of the article, please visit The North Star.

Posted in Politics, Running


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