Minneapolis: From Occupy Homes to Occupy City Council

by Manuel Barrera on February 28, 2013

The struggle to overcome years of urban neglect and “resegregated” education at the hands of Minnesota’s twin parties of war and plunder has been taken up.  On February 17, the Fifth Congressional District of the Minnesota Green Party endorsed two incumbent Green Party members and a one socialist in the upcoming 2013 Minneapolis elections: Cam Gordon, incumbent, for Minneapolis City Council Ward 2; Annie Young, incumbent, for Minneapolis Parks Commissioner; and the Socialist Alternative candidate, Ty Moore, for City Council Ward 9. Gordon and Moore are white men, and Young is an African-American woman. Gordon and Young are members of the Minnesota Green Party. All three have been known for their community activism and alliances with important struggles beyond the framework of community or city politics. Moore, as a member of Socialist Alternative since 1998, is most recently known for his significant involvement in the early stages of Occupy Minnesota and one of its more successful offshoots, Occupy Homes–Minnesota, a movement against home foreclosures and for the reclamation of vacant homes.

Gordon is a long-standing left-liberal activist considered friendly to many social struggles whose primary activities have involved improving recycling. Young, in her endorsement speech at the Green Party, spoke against the Keystone Pipeline and noted: “I have been invigorated by seeing uprisings all over the world, as we try to make things right.” Young is a longtime activist in the environmental movement and was first elected to the Parks Commission in 2009 as a member of the Green Party.

Minneapolis elections are officially nonpartisan. But city politics have historically been dominated by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), the Democratic Party’s state affiliate. In the upcoming elections, slated for November 5, only one declared Republican has decided to run — unendorsed. Social and political life in Minneapolis under DFL rule is marked by income disparities and the deterioration of public education despite the existence of a strong union base and a legacy of labor struggle exemplified by the historic Minneapolis Teamster organizing drive and strike battles of the 1930s. For example, White flight to the suburbs and exurbs surrounding the Twin Cities has resulted in significant concentrations of Black, Brown, Asian, and American Indian communities within several of the 13 wards that compose Minneapolis proper. Income inequality exists not only between these neighborhoods and the suburbs but also within the city, as pockets of gentrification in the urban core have developed through “resegregation”—the emergence of previously diverse multicultural communities becoming exclusively non-White owing to suburban flight or exclusively White owing to increased housing and living costs in some neighborhoods — within the Twin Cities metropolitan area. This disparity is doubly reinforced by segregation and the disproportionately higher cost of living and housing among the poorest neighborhoods.

The disparity takes its greatest form in the Minneapolis public schools, where the vast majority of teachers and administrators have historically been white, yet two-thirds of the students are of color whose educational achievement has remained at chronically low levels. As the drive to privatize education through ineffective charter schools threatens to worsen school segregation and inequality, (see “Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities”, Orfield & Luce, 2012) public education and its connection with income inequality in the city have become a source of ongoing but often publicly muted outrage.

Ty Moore’s campaign has emerged as a rare opportunity to merge the outrage lying just beneath the surface of oppressed communities in the Twin Cities with the promise of Occupy. The potential is also there for socialist and revolutionaries to connect with this campaign and plant seeds of greater resistance by educating working people and youth in how to challenge the bankers and billionaires’ representatives in the DFL. Many can learn from Moore’s campaign that politics, economy, education, and our civil rights are anything but “nonpartisan” and that what we need is determined, independent political action on the part of working people, the youth, and oppressed communities of color.

That kind of political work is already under way. Occupy Homes–Minnesota (OHMN), for example, has created a movement where homeowners in working-class Minneapolis have joined to fight to keep their homes by direct action and political organizing, pressuring the banks to negotiate with them for better terms on their mortgages, to prevent evictions, and, recently, to reclaim vacant foreclosed homes with families. The activists of OHMN have made connections with liberal city council members and portions of the labor leadership through organizations like Minnesotans for a Fair Economy.

As a result, homeowners and activists have been successful in winning some temporary reprieves from foreclosure for desperate families, and a growing coalition has begun to emerge in the process. Moore’s campaign in Minneapolis Ward 9 is part of his and Socialist Alternative’s role in working with OHMN to initiate the recent Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone, a community-organizing effort to create homeowner resistance to the banks as vulnerable families fall in danger of bank action on their homes. Moore has shown through his activism that “we can’t be satisfied with partial victories won through protest,” as he puts it.

He adds:

“As long as political power remains firmly in the hands of the 1%, whose profit-driven interests run counter to the needs of our communities, the injustices we face every day will persist. Our aims are far bigger than winning this election. We want to win a new world, a socialist world where the economy is democratically controlled and the needs of people and the planet are prioritized over the profits of the 1%. We want a society that works for everybody and a stable economy with opportunity for all.” (Ty Moore Statement “Why I am Running”).

Ty Moore arrested along with 13 community members on Feb. 27, 2013 during a civil disobedience action t Wells Fargo Home Mortgage center

Ty Moore arrested along with 13 community members on Feb. 27, 2013 during a civil disobedience action at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage center

Of course, the opportunity is also there for this campaign to unite socialists and revolutionaries in Minneapolis, who can support it and help broaden the appeal and, ultimately, to build a mass movement. Indeed, perhaps the most significant opportunity of a socialist election campaign for any office is to show how socialists can work together with the people we are actively trying to reach and to educate about the connections between local “civic” issues and the wider national and world issues. Such a democratically controlled — and expanded — campaign can provide activists and emerging revolutionaries significant and current examples of how to attract people to socialism and of the democracy that  only it is capable of producing.

In the coming months, I and hopefully more activists will follow and participate in this campaign to maximize the effects of building the socialist movement in the neighborhoods, communities, and schools of Minneapolis. Through showing that struggling to keep families’ homes, preventing the banks from leaving existing homes “fallow” for the sake of greater profits, and struggling to prevent economic and social disparity in working-class communities are the real framework for a democratic society — a socialist society — revolutionary socialists will be using the pretext of democracy in these capitalist elections to promote the veritable democracy where all have a say, all are satisfied according our needs, and all participate according to our abilities.

I say that these are the opportunities involved in this and any socialist election campaign. But to take advantage of these opportunities requires the will to engage in unified revolutionary support and the fortitude to realize that none of us —alone or in a group — can complete the dual objectives in conducting a socialist campaign inside a capitalist election process: (1) to confront the voices that defend the system of bankers and profiteers who benefit from their control of a capitalist economy and (2) to exemplify what it means to counter such a system with struggle and democracy.

A socialist campaign for Minneapolis City Council will be very plain in its support and understanding of the local fight against foreclosures and keeping homes with families, but it will also show the connection between that struggle and the fight to prevent further devastation of the environment for the sake of capitalist profit, as exemplified by the Keystone Pipeline. A socialist campaign will connect the fight to defend the planet from the capitalist ravages of forests and lands for profit with the need to create schools that educate historically and chronically underachieving youth to read and “write” the world in their interests. That campaign will show how we cannot successfully defend homes in neighborhoods without defending the homes and neighborhoods of children and families against the wars of conquest and plunder in which the U.S. is currently engaged worldwide. Neighbors and families will see, not read about, how socialists can unite to support each other and promote democracy by running a democratic campaign that is opened to the public for inclusion and discussion of those necessary connections.

In future contributions, I will be writing about my experiences as a socialist candidate of the Socialist Workers Party in the 1970s—our successes, our mistakes, and the lessons for socialists that we must draw if we are to make good on our promise of, in Moore’s words, “a society that works for everybody and a stable economy with opportunity for all.”

Manuel Barrera, PhD is Associate Professor of Urban Education at Metropolitan State University. A revolutionary socialist and political activist for over 40 years, he is a former member of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialist Alliance where he ran for numerous political offices including U.S. House against Barbara Jordan (1972) and Sheriff of Los Angeles County (1977) on a one-point program to abolish the Sheriff’s Department.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Pham Binh February 28, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Barrera’s piece and Moore’s campaign announcement (www.thenorthstar.info/?p=6423) both beg the question: who is the incumbent he is running against? What is his/her record on the “Foreclosure Free Zone” and other issues of interest to workers and the oppressed? Serious election campaigns are just as much about getting rid of incumbents as they are about electing people with leftist credentials.

The odd thing about Socialist Alternative’s call to run anti-corporate candidates in local races (www.thenorthstar.info/?p=3541) is that in both places where they seem poised to do this, Seattle and Minneapolis, the local offices they are running for are “nonpartisan.” That means these won’t be races of reds (or Greens) against Ds and Rs, or grassroots movements against entrenched party machines, but rather individuals against individuals. It’s also unclear who on the Seattle city council they’d want to try to oust, hopefully not someone like Nick Licata who on the face of it seems like he’d be a progressive ally to be worked with rather than a reactionary scumbag to be gotten rid of.

I’m all for left and movement candidates occupying local office and getting rid of Ds and Rs and I’ve been raising arguments along these lines since late 2011/early 2012 because I don’t believe a powerful mass worker-socialist movement can, has, or could ever emerge in a bourgeois democracy in any other way. Doing so successfully requires a lot of dialogue and conversation with forces far beyond the immediate periphery of one red group, and those discussions need to be thorough and a common consensus needs to be reached by all/most of those involved; it won’t work just because one person/group has this great idea, decides to do it, and tries to unilaterally create a bandwagon effect, i.e. a “coalition of the willing.” The end result of the latter approach will be a flash in the pan (or two) that leaves the two-party state unscathed on the local, county, state, and federal levels, ready to Wisconsin our next Wisconsin.


Ty Moore March 1, 2013 at 10:32 pm

To reply to your concerns, Pham, here is some background about our campaign in Minneapolis:
– The incumbent is Gary Schiff, who is now running for Mayor of Minneapolis, so unless he drops out of the mayoral race, its an open seat, which is quite favorable to us.
– The Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone is an initiative of Occupy Homes, but the main leadership in it has come from Socialist Alternative activists including myself, and this is respectfully recognized among Occupy Homes organizers and supporters. Most of the active homeowners within the “zone” have already agreed to publicly endorse our campaign.
– The formality of a non-partisan race is a non-issue. We will be able to put our “party preference” on the ballot and all our literature will differentiate use from the Democrats.
– I know our comrades in Seattle are taking the question of Nick Lacata’s left-liberal profile seriously and recognize that it is more favorable to run against a clearly establishment candidate. Having said that, if we limit ourselves to only running against centrists we effectively are creating a de facto electoral alliance with so-called left-dems, not fundamentally different than the New Party or Working Families Party fusion strategies which have clearly failed from the point of view of being a pathway toward independent working class politics.
– I agree that, wherever there is a basis, we should aim to build broader alliances/coalitions of left and working class forces in elections. Our broad strategy is to help build the groundwork for a mass workers party to emerge. However, in Seattle as well as Minneapolis, there are clear limits as to which other forces are prepared to join together in such a project. In both cities, we found that out by taking the initiative – declaring our own intent to run, showing the support we can gather, and inviting others to take similar initiatives in coalition with us – we have managed to inspire greater support and discussion than simply “opening a dialogue” without taking clear initiative.
– In Minneapolis, for example, we did attempt first to push the idea of Occupy Homes itself running candidates, which had the potential to achieve wider support than a Socialist Alternative candidacy. However, we met skepticism at this idea among a number of OH activists, both those concerned with burning bridges with liberal Democrats in the City, and those who considered electoral work a waste of time. So we took the initiative ourselves, which also had the advantage of giving the campaign a sharp socialist political profile, a sharper call for breaking with the Dems, and a clearer working class orientation. In the weeks since our launch we have gotten an excellent and almost exclusively positive response, including from many in OH who were initially skeptical. I feel this confirms it was correct for us to take the initiative. We would be very happy to see other left and working class forces mount independent left challenges to the Democrats in other elections, and I am actively encouraging this where possible.


Pham Binh March 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm

– Since Schiff is running for mayor, I agree that prospects for a win are much greater than if he were an incumbent. Has he anointed a successor?

– To me, how to deal with the Licatas on the local political scene is a tactical question. Deciding not to unseat him in the 2013 election and forming a temporary bloc with him on the city council to fight the council’s rightists, corporatists, and regressives does not preclude running against him in the future if/when circumstances change. It’s hard to imagine given today’s context what those circumstances might be since the main problem is the Lacitas are the exception rather than the rule in the American political system. Breaking the Democratic Party requires finding ways to split its progressive base from its funding base and running local left campaigns against left (or “left”) Dems like Charles Barron here in NYC is more likely to unite those two elements than it is to cause frictions and splits between them.

– Whether to take the initiative unilaterally or multilaterally is also a tactical question. There is a lot of value in challenging the conservatism of groups like the ISO with regards to electoral practice through the Sawant and Moore campaigns. People on the revolutionary left tend to forget that it was successful local campaigns by the early Socialist Party that gained socialism a mass following among workers in this country and a place in the country’s political life (and those campaigns didn’t start off being successful either). That practice needs to be revived if we’re to have a fighting chance against the two-party steamroller that is killing the Post Office, public education, union rights, rape laws, and evolution in schools; who revives it is less important to me than getting the job done and taking the fight to enemy in the halls of government where policy is made.

I recognize that a multilateral/multi-tendency approach is often used as an excuse not to seize the initiative and move forward. Making a fetish of such an approach leads to tailing what every body else wants to do (or doesn’t want to do). Tailism is why the ISO in Chicago shows no interest in finding a way for CTU to challenge Rahm Emmanuel electorally despite the opportunity to do so coming out of the teacher’s strike that the ISO played a role in.

If the concern expressed at the end of my first comment is a non-issue, that is a good thing.


David Berger March 5, 2013 at 9:59 am

Pham Binh: on the face of it seems like [Nick Lacata’d] be a progressive ally to be worked with rather than a reactionary scumbag to be gotten rid of.

David Berger: Can we assume by this that you are advocating blocs with liberal Democrats? If so, do advocate: (a) not running candidates against liberal Democrats; (b) since you are in a bloc with these “allies,” do you advocate supporting them in elections?

Pham Binh: Serious election campaigns are just as much about getting rid of incumbents as they are about electing people with leftist credentials.

David Berger: Are they? In that case, in the absence of a socialist candidate would you support a “progessive” Democrat against a Tea Party Republican?

In my opinion, electoral campaigns designed to achieve “victories” under capitalism, as opposed to building a movement, will lead, invariably, to supporting Democrats, directly or indirectly(as in parties like the Working Families Party in New York).


David Berger March 1, 2013 at 8:06 am

One more time, I see a campaign that is run by socialists, with no mention of the working class, as the working class, not as tenants, neighbors, but as the working class, unorganized or organized, as the primary subject of the campaign.

How are the candidates going to relate to the unions? Are they asking for union support?


David Walters March 1, 2013 at 9:54 am

Pham, I don’t think the issue of non-partisan raises is at all relevant. As I’m sure the author of this essay will attest, and in my own experience also supporting 1970s style SWP campaigns, a race that is “partisan” with party labels or “non-partisan” is almost wholly irrelevant. Everyone will know Moore’s politics as a socialist because he, and his campaign, will make it so and will run as such. It is simply not an issue as I see it. In fact the exposing of fake term “non-partisan” will likely be part of his campaign and will draw attention to it. That one doesn’t appear on the ballot “as a socialist” is not likely going to be an issue.

The larger issue is what this means to be an “anti-corporate” candidate and what it is his campaign is going to be arguing for, which is the real issue.


David Walters March 1, 2013 at 10:28 am

Actually, David Berger addressed the real serious, larger issue in all this. I only addressed a very small issue because Pham Bihn raised it. And, often enough, the whole demeanor of these discussions, most notably here on North Star but on other self-described Marxist lists is not about the working class but about left or socialist regroupment.

Our main critique of all these campaigns, including the high vote turn out in the ultra-liberal district in Seattle and then engendered a polemic between the ISO and SALT has the same problem: nothing about the working class. It’s all about “socialists” (a politically influential amorphous grouping in the U.S. and one with deep roots in the working class). The other side is the almost obsessive-cumpulsive hatred for ‘sects’ by ex-members of such groups expressed in blogs like these and others. The problem is not discussing the problems of small self-defined “Leninist” groups and how they are sectarian or useless.

The problem is how to shift the working class itself away from reliance of, and subordination too (by this I mean the unions) the Democrats. How the *class* moves or not is never, it seems poised by these “left” campaigns. There is almost no tie in with actual struggles by the class against cut backs and concessions. By tie-in, I don’t mean rhetoric, I mean these camapigns become the tribune of these struggles.

Everyone involved with this, ISO and SALT included, seems bent on the small things, and reduced the entire discussions to an electoralist perspective for “The Left”. As a socialist myself I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about “The Left” and it’s different electoralist perspectives. [This is why I can’t wait to read this blog entry author’s second part on his view of the SWP campaigns of the 1970s (and before).] I am looking forward to see a discussion of the class politics and how our class can move. Successful socialist campaigns to be successful should be focusing not on “program” and bullet items, but on proposals to move our class as a whole, not small activist groupings like the Greens or SALT.


Pham Binh March 1, 2013 at 11:38 am

Evidently you responded without reading any of the links I referred to.

Socialist Alternative’s argument for these electoral runs is predicated on capitalizing on “real opportunity to challenge the two-party corporate duopoly” (http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=3541). This is why the issue of Ds and Rs is relevant and why I raised the question.

“The problem is how to shift the working class itself away from reliance of, and subordination too (by this I mean the unions) the Democrats. How the *class* moves or not is never, it seems poised by these ‘left’ campaigns. There is almost no tie in with actual struggles by the class against cut backs and concessions. By tie-in, I don’t mean rhetoric, I mean these camapigns become the tribune of these struggles.”

I guess residents of a working-class neighborhood fighting foreclosures doesn’t qualify as an “actual struggle by the class”? Talk about doctrinaire.

“As a socialist myself I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about ‘The Left’ and it’s different electoralist perspectives.”

If that’s the case, you have no business commenting here.


David Walters March 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Pham, the issue at the end of the day is how to organize our class for power, yes? The debate is how to get there. That Ty is active in the foreclosure movement is good, and it is important, but it speaks mostly to his credentials, not a ‘movement’ of the class. I would argue that the polemics of the lack of the ISO supporting the Sawant campaign in Seattle, no doubt it is repeating in Mpls. as well, is wholly irrelevant to the issue of how the Moore campaign projects a class alternative and not just a rivalry between socialist groups or the building of a ‘socialist’ campaign that remains, maybe, a SALT asset.

Is the issue simply an amalgam of Green and socialist/left electoralism, or is the working class in *all* it’s manifestations, unions (as an organized expression of the class), remnants of Occupy, foreclosure movement, anti-cutbacks in education, anti-racist and immigrant rights campaigns seen as something that needs to come together to build a workers party?

In Seattle, a few unions did endorse the Sawant campaign organized by SALT. But it was not them that projected this campaign. It was SALT, correctly from their point of view, seeking endorsements. What was the follow up to this? Did SALT seek to build a broad based committee to explore a future working class alternative that transcends their group? Did they map out a campaign to get the other 99% of unions in Puget Sound to consider breaking from the Democrats?

Just ‘challenging the duopoly’ by running an anti-Democrat isn’t what is needed. Left groups have doing this in their own name for decades. Big deal. At the end of the day, as in Seattle, it was ONE group that ran the campaign and not matter the percentage of the vote, there is little evidence that any movement around this got out the University district of Seattle or that it has gone beyond SALT. Maybe it has. But I think without addressing the purpose of the campaign besides 3rd partyism, it probably won’t go that far. I hope it does.

In the summer of last year, SALT sent out invitations to discuss developing a “Left party” to challenge the Democrats. Of course they sent it to left groups. Why? Why focus on socialist groups? Why not send it to the unions, the groups fighting budget cuts, and so on? I know if the very active Bay Area this was not done.


Pham Binh March 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm

You’ve indicated that you don’t “give a rat’s ass about ‘The Left’” and yet you seek to re-litigate issues related to the Sawant campaign of last year.

You say, “the whole demeanor of these discussions, most notably here on North Star but on other self-described Marxist lists is not about the working class but about left or socialist regroupment” and yet had nothing to say when we posted a lengthy article about the experience of the U.S. labor party:

(Something else I’d recommend on that topic: http://www.labornotes.org/blogs/2013/02/corporations-have-two-parties-now-what)

If you aren’t interested in these issues, you don’t read what anyone posts, and yet you carp and comment despite your self-proclaimed lack of interest in these topics, it’s not worth engaging in discussion with you.


David Walters March 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Pham, you hostility is amazing. So out of context of a serious discussion.

I’m glad N. Star reprinted the blog on the Labor Party originally published in another publication and sent out quite widely. I don’t read N. Star all the time, only when people point me here.

I would say most of the discussion around this document by Isaac and Dudzic was discussed elsewhere. The fact that only two people one of whom was yourself, commented on this is telling of the interest in this project.

I agree, for what it’s worth, with your second comment about running in elections. It goes to the first comment you made though this has been explored a lot elsewhere. I was chapter chair of the SF Chapter of the LP. The problem that Dudzic and Isaac avoids is that they don’t see the contradiction on the founding of the LP as a non-electoral formation from the get go. This allowed the union bureaucracy to use the LP not as a challenge to the Dems on the electoral field but as a lobby on the Clinton-ear Dems in office to leverage ‘better policies’ from the pro-right-to-work Democratic president.

If a new LP project gets going, and I hope it does, it should not make the mistake of forming an actual “party” based on unions and community allies without clarity on running in elections. IMO, the actual formation of the LP from the older Labor Party Advocates was an error because of this. We were not ready to launch a LP with a strong will to challenge the Democrats and break the union dependency on them.

On the “I don’t give a rats ass” comment. I will clarify. I don’t give a rats ass about how left groups put forward election strategies that is simply based on those same left groups. It’s irrelevant to pushing our class forward and even the still born LP effort of the 1990s was a 1000% better in raising this issue than any ‘red’ campaign today. Of course if one is on the left, even broadly defined, then the SALT campaign is still of interest. I’m not hostile, at all, to any of these groups. We work well with any and all where we are based. But it’s all for naught if it is only around some kind of regroupment nonsense. That would be avoiding the real tasks ahead. This is why I don’t give a rats ass about the polemics and all that.

In California, with the ballot qualified socialist party, the Peace & Freedom Party, that has been on the ballot, off an on, for the last 40 years, they are engaged in a national effort that is worth following if it gets any traction. However, the actual experience of the P&F in this state is perhaps where more lessons can be had. There re 40,000 registrants for the P&F in this state. This means that there were 40,000 folks registered to an avowedly socialist party. 10 years ago or so, when the Green Party go organized onto the ballot (with help from P&F), the GP sucked all the registrants…and votes…away from the P&G even though the “programs” of each party were miles apart. it took a LONG time to get back on the ballot.

But the core cadre of the P&F…around 100 or so…remains the same. It’s influence which is unfortunately every little, remains the same. Any left formation that seeks to run for state wide office will have to use the P&F spot to do this unless a large galvanized section of activists and workers builds something new. However, at this time, I see no motion at all in this direction.



Pham Binh March 1, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Pointing out your hostility hardly towards qualifies as hostility towards serious discussion on my part and I’m glad to see that it led to some positive engagement on your part of the issues broached by Barrera’s post.


Brandy Baker March 7, 2013 at 1:06 am

As far as the sects, if they want nothing to do with these socialist elections, then we really need to move on from them and not worry about it, they are too small to worry about and frankly, most of them are dying. They won’t tell you this, but their membership numbers are decreasing or at least stagnant. The younger generations, in this age of Wikileaks and Anonymous, coming up do not care for the secretiveness and especially the top-down nonsense that sects entail. They are, however, trying to change some in order to widen their appeal. For example: this is why you are seeing a change in positions on how to relate to feminism, etc. Because of the conditions on the ground and more young people of all genders are calling themselves feminist and are working around issues of women’s rights. Of course, much more change is needed on feminism and change is needed in pretty much everything that they do. They will change or they will die. It is that simple.

And they will change their stance on electoral politics if they see it going anywhere on a national level. Trust me: if this informal united socialist alliance that is popping up goes anywhere in the next few years, they will be there to run their own agendas, we just have to run our groups in a way where they do not have any more power than anyone else or any other group. Where we all have an equal say. But they should not be too much of a problem as their numbers, as I stated above, are waning.

And the Democratic Party machine runs local politics: maybe not for school board so much, but for City Council, you better believe it. We have to build in between election years in order to build our “machine”. And we have to really be careful about the Greens, and only support the left wing of the Green Party, if we support the party at all. I don’t think we should support them at all, but I know that there are socialists who will, so they should only support the radicals. Socialist candidates have, or at least they should have, a whole different agenda. Socialists want systemic change, their campaigns should be advertisements to working people arguing for socialism, socialists have no business believing that getting a body or two in the City Council will give us better government. The Greens (I was a Green organizer between ’04 and ’07) and any socialists worth their salt have different agendas at the end of the days. Hopefully, left Greens can be won over to socialist politics.


Pham Binh March 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Sawant is running against Richard Conlin:

“In targeting Conlin, Sawant says she is tackling everything that is wrong with the Seattle City Council. Under Conlin’s leadership—he served as council president for the two immediate previous biennial terms—most of the council has coagulated as a conservative bloc that scuttled meaningful policy reforms while backing mega-projects that benefit the wealthy (such as real estate and highways). Conlin himself was the lone council member to oppose paid sick leave, and he backed a controversial measure to fine panhandlers, against the unanimous recommendation of the city’s human rights commission.

“So if there’s any council member ripe for an incendiary leftist opponent, it’s Conlin.

“‘The city is dominated by the Democratic Party elite, who are in cahoots with the Downtown Seattle Association and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, along with the very powerful construction industries and Paul Allen’s Vulcan, which is a shark devouring real estate while we are having continued problems with homelessness and skyrocketing rent,’ said Sawant.

“But she has an uphill battle, for sure.

“‘I don’t think an avowed Socialist party candidate can win a citywide council race,’ says veteran campaign consultant Sandeep Kaushik. He says it’s hard enough for a liberal Democrat to raise the money and marshal the votes to oust an incumbent, but, he adds, ‘Sawant could make some noise in a council race, and perhaps draw heightened public attention to the issues she cares about.’

“Sawant plans to do exactly that: She is proposing a citywide income tax on millionaires to fund schools, an outright ban on drones, rent control to cap the booming costs of apartments, an elected civilian oversight committee to run the police force, and a citywide minimum wage of $15 an hour. Not all of those things are within the council’s legal purview (for instance, an income tax would likely require the legislature’s authorization first). Sawant recognizes that she’s using a bully pulpit to advance discussions that, without her voice, aren’t happening at all on the council.

“But running against Conlin is a very different type of challenge from her previous campaign. Rather than reaching voters of the 43rd District in the liberal core of Seattle, Sawant must appeal to voters citywide; instead of taking on the Democratic Party, council races are nonpartisan; and unlike the few thousand dollars spent in legislative district races, she’ll be facing big money. Conlin raised an average of $226,000 in his last two runs, and he already has banked $53,000 for this year. “

As of today, Socialist Alternative has raised $24,500 for this race (and possibly its efforts in Boston and Minneapolis).


Deran March 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I think this is a good choice for Ms. Sawant. Conlin got his start with the support of the former Seattle Green Party in 1998, and local Greens worked on his campaign that first time. very quickly Conlin (and other Democrats who had taken support from the Greens after Nader’s 1996 campaign) abandoned and denounced the GP and third party politics. Since then, Conlin has played the “green development” card to give Downtown money and developers all they want.

I’m hopeful makes it through the primary, but there are several other more mainstream “progressivists” are looking at taking Conlin on.

I am glad to see that Sawant has taken up the call for some sort of residential rental stabilization, but that is a state regulation, that she should have used to hold Frank Chopp’s feet to the fire in her state legislative race last year (Chopp came up via being a “housing activist”, now he is the Speaker of the House and gives the developers what they want.

It will be interesting to see if the Freedom Socialist Party signs on with Sawant’s campaign. The ISO seems unlikely to do so.


Pham Binh March 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm

– What primary are you referring to?

– Who are the other progressivists?

– Agreed re: Sawant and rent stabilization. I noticed during her run against Chopp a pronounced shift in that she kicked off the campaign making arguments about the two-party system, we need a voice for working peopke, the Democratic Party is part of the problem, all very general and true points that had little concrete relevance to Chopp or Seattle-based issues. This changed as time went on; calls to “tax the rich” eventually became “tax Boeing and Amazon.” So that was good. However, when she was asked how she would legislate differently than Chopp, she fell back on vague statements about mass movements are what change society, not legislation/legislators, as if one could separate the civil rights movement from the 1964 Civil Rights Act! This inability to give a good solid answer has become magnified this time around based on the exchanges between herself and reporters at the press conference announcing her run against Conlin:

She completely rules out working with anyone on the city council for a progressive agenda and paints all of them as a single reactionary mass, which is false. Governing is serious business, and running to win the right to govern in an election is not or shouldn’t primarily be propaganda or “changing the conversation,” it should be about advancing the interests of the 99% by any and every means necessary as Chavez did which includes legislating, wheeling and dealing with friends, enemies, and frenemies alike, and most important of all, governing.

– It remains to be seen if Socialist Alternative (SA) will take the ISO’s lame excuses for refusing to endorse or campaign with/for Sawant at face value and email their national office with a formal invitation to begin discussions and explore how best to collaborate. At the same time, it would be wise for SA to create a space or a vehicle for independent socialists and radicals (like Geov Parrish) who support Sawant but are not interested in joining them at this time to participate in and help shape/run the campaign. Monopolizing every/most things is a recipe for burnout and narrowing the appeal.


Pham Binh March 25, 2013 at 10:16 pm

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