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.