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Seattle socialists show what's possible

Parry Singh Mudhar

October 7, 2014

Seattle City Council member and socialist activist Dr. Kshama Sawant has been part of recent victories including a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15/hr and a recent vote to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. On September 28 she spoke in Vancouver, discussing the failures of capitalism and ideas of how to build a socialist movement.
Sawant spoke from experience about an effective form of organizing that has not been seen in our Canadian mainstream political spectrum: putting the needs of the community in view. First, clear ideas come from mass debate, study, and analysis to determine their legitimacy; only then should the question of leadership be discussed. Not only does mainstream politics not include those affected, but it does not study the proposed effects. Stephen Harper’s anti-climate science stance clearly demonstrates this ineffective brand of decision making.
“People are hungry for change” was one of Sawant’s key points, and the People’s Climate March is a recent example. Emissions have drastically increased in the last 20 years, and Sawant said that problem has been that too much faith entrusted in world leaders—who have failed the environmental movement conference after conference.
Sawant explained that the key ingredients of debate, discussion, and analysis must be thoroughly processed for real change to occur. For the Seattle branch of Left Alternative, their analysis led them to the decision that an electoral campaign was the best use of resources and time with a goal of establishing a standard for working class campaigns. And although not all left wing activist groups will agree on all topics, communications and support is vital. This was evident in the fight for Seattle’s $15 minimum wage success. 
While fellow council members tried to retain the status quo around the $15 minimum wage issue, Sawant said that her courage stems from her clear intentions brought about by her group analysis and support. The fight for the working class can’t be played along with the ruling classes rules: “I didn’t go to McDonalds and ask what’s ok for you.”
Interestingly, Dr. Sawant takes the average wage of the people she represents rather than the full salary received by a council member. For her, the economic divide between union leadership and its members is clear: “If we had left it to the labor leaders, we wouldn’t have gotten anything.”
With every group putting their effort into the fight for socialism, a cohesive group willing to hold through their victories and defeats is necessary. As Sawant explained, “Winning isn’t automatic, you have to fight to win.”

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