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Socialist Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Up for Re-Election, Visits New York for Fundraiser

Kshama Sawant, the first socialist to be elected to the Seattle City Council since 1877, attended a fundraiser for her re-election campaign at the All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City on May 31.

Sawant, who represents District 3, is in her first term and won against Democrat Richard Conlin in 2013. She is best known for her efforts in pushing for the $15 per hour minimum wage, which was passed by the City Council last year.

Journalist Chris Hedges, activist and Socialist Alternative member Eljeer Hawkins and former Green Party Gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins attended the event to support Sawant.

Hawkins discussed his own candidacy last year when running for governor of New York and how Sawant had helped him raise funds. In addition, he emphasized how it was vital for Sawant to win in Seattle to ensure other third-party candidates across the US are able to build-off the success of her campaign.

“That’s why this election is so important. Kshama needs to win so we can have credibility as a progressive, independent movement,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins noted how the Democrats would prefer to see Sawant lose in order to incorporate independent movements into the party. He pointed at a comment by a Workers Families Party member who wrote it would be better to see a Tea Party Republican win than Hawkins.

“Their whole point is to prevent independent politics. That’s what the Democratic Party really wants to do,” Hawkins said.

Eljeer Hawkins, an activist, spoke next about the poor conditions throughout the world and why it was still important to not only mobilize, but organize as well. Moreover, he focused on the rise of SYRIZA in Greece and Podemos in Spain.

“We must always remind ourselves we are part of a global majority,” Hawkins said.

Moreover, Hawkins emphasized the successes Sawant pushed for, including the $15 minimum wage in Seattle.

“Kshama Sawant has done more in one year than most politicians have done in two or three terms,” Hawkins said.

Hedges was introduced next and highlighted the successful “corporate coup d’etat” in the U.S. Although, Hedges said there was still an opportunity to change the country.

“The only response, if we are going to recover a country that does not slip into a corporate, oligarchy tyranny…is if we overthrow the system,” Hedges said. “Let me repeat that word in case anyone from Homeland Security is here and that’s overthrow.”

Earlier this year, Hedges wrote a piece for Truthdig on Sawant where he called her the “Most Dangerous Woman in America.” He wrote how “Sawant’s fight is our own.”

A month ago, Hedges said he was in Montana when New Jersey’s Department of Correction contacted him to say prisoners held a sit-down strike. The organization believed, to his amusement, Hedges was behind it.

“Like those prisoners, we must revolt. We are not fighting for what we will accomplish, but who it allows us to become,” Hedges said.

Sawant spoke last and it should be noted her presence in New York City was criticized by Pamela Banks, president of Urban League in Seattle and one Democratic contender against Sawant, for leaving Seattle and missing public testimony on transportation.

Meanwhile, a separate fundraiser in Seattle for Banks was created over the same weekend. In fact, her campaign told “supporters that hefty out-of-state donations were going to be coming in from top-tier-donor counterparts from around the country who are antsy about Sawant’s growing influence in a prominent city like Seattle—and they don’t want her to be reelected.”

Sawant focused part of her speech on the changes since her successful campaign against Conlin in 2013, especially with the word “socialism.”

“We have shown that socialism is not a dirty word for those generations that did not grow up in the propaganda of the Cold War. As a matter of fact, capitalism is a dirty word for many of us,” Sawant said.

Furthermore, Sawant highlighted how people in areas like Vancouver or New York City, there are efforts underway to deal with issues like housing.

“So many people are fed up and are willing to fight,” Sawant said.

Sawant stressed how there were forces ensuring her defeat as she presented a threat to the two-party system. Yet, she felt, if re-elected, it could assist in inspiring other groups to run in their areas without the banner of the Democrats.

“If we prevail this year—in the face of the attack by the ruling class—[then] that will send a powerful message to working-class and the labor movement everywhere of the possibilities of independent left politics and completely breaking from the Democratic establishment,” Sawant said.

Sawant will appear at a re-election rally in Seattle on June 6 featuring not only Hedges but also speakers such as 2012 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Washington state senator Pramila Jayapal.

*Disclosure: The author, like Kshama Sawant, is a member of Socialist Alternative.*

*In the interest of fairness, I posted the four speeches below. Apologies for the mediocre quality. I used Audacity to the best of my ability to fix it. If any reader believes a clip needs to be refined more, I will do so. The speakers are in order: Howie Hawkins, Eljeer Hawkins, Chris Hedges and Kshama Sawant.




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Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan is a freelance journalist in Queens, NY and written for publications such as The Nation, In These Times, Truthout and more.

  • bsbafflesbrains

    Would the Green Party platform be considered socialist? Think so. 3rd parties will be US salvation once the asses in the masses find out what asses the 1% are because Real Democracy has a socialist arc built into greatest good for greatest amount of people.
    This is a good piece of writing Brandon so kudos and keep it up. (p.s. I submit this comment as an example of bad writing as well) 🙂

  • http://mosquitocloud.net/ aprescoup

    Any confab that presents itself as a party has already one foot in the mire of power politics, inexorably leading to absolute corruption.

    Yet the working class must take power first, in the political realm, before letting go of it in behest of direct democracy and, given a self interested and educated public, of economic justice.

    “Their whole point is to prevent independent politics. That’s what the Democratic Party really wants to do,” Hawkins said.

    And hey, they(Killary and Co.) want to preregister everyone to be able to vote for either corporatist tweedle dee or corporatist tweedle dum! They want democracy to express itself fully, within the narrowest of narrow political-economic bands. Whoppee!

  • bsbafflesbrains

    From AP…Obama is courting Democrats for his trade agenda against vigorous opposition from labor unions, environmental groups and liberal organizations. A majority of Republicans support the legislation, which allows Congress to reject or approve, but not change, trade deals negotiated by the administration.

    Any doubt about what you say regarding the duopoly when you see the support of Big Business from “bipartisanville”

  • Brandon Jordan

    I would say so as well. I respect the work of the Green Party, including Howie Hawkins here in NYS.

    Thanks! This took quite a while to write down. No worries about the bad writing haha

  • dubinsky

    a Seattle socialist politician raising funds in a NYC church.

    what a country.

  • PCM

    Hey, Brandon, as a Seattleite and big supporter of Kshama’s, I really appreciated your write-up. And hey, everyone else, I just wanted to assure you that Seattle Democrats really aren’t that bad: the Party recruits only the most progressive-sounding and diverse-looking operatives who will do absolutely everything Amazon, Starbucks, Vulcan, Boeing, and Microsoft tell them to.

  • stella blue

    Stalin and Mao were socialists.

  • Brandon Jordan

    A strawman argument. Stalin executed members of the Hungarian Communist Party in the 1950s.

    Besides, this is a poor generalization. There are different strands of socialism and communism. To lump together is not only an injustice, but to ignore history.

  • Brandon Jordan

    No problem! Glad I could write about it. I met Kshama a few times myself and she’s an insightful person.

  • stella blue

    You are correct Brandon there are different strands of socialism. Hitler was a socialist, but he hated the Bolshevics and Jews. Karl Marx, the creator of socialism, also had a low regard for Jews. Bernie Sanders who calls himself a socialist, is a Jew. Also, Stalin and Mao murdered tens of millions of their own people. Hitler was a piker in comparison.

  • Brandon Jordan

    Again, you ignored everything I said. Enjoy ignorant bliss!

  • That Revolutionary Brother

    Great article, though the audio clips quality is quite poor.

  • Brandon Jordan

    Thanks! Yeah, apologies again. I only realized when I got home how muddled they were due to the fans in the church. I’ll have to invest in a high-quality recorder when I have the chance. Thankfully Audacity is there to help in the meantime.