Socialists for City Hall – Sawant and Nygard Compared

by Marlon Pierre-Antoine (New Communist Party of America) on August 7, 2013

Donkey, Elephant… Hammer and Sickle?

 

As I write these lines, the news is coming in that Kshama Sawant, candidate of the U.S. left-wing organization Socialist Alternative (S.A.), has placed second in the primary election for a contested seat on the Seattle city council with almost 28,000 votes or 33%, trouncing a Democratic Party-backed challenger’s meager 17% and bested only by incumbent councilor Richard Conlin at 49%. Since neither Conlin nor Sawant won a majority, they will face off once more in what is undoubtedly a very unique, not to mention politically significant, second round.

What does S.A.’s campaign mean for the workers of Seattle? What can it tell us about the state of the working class movement in the U.S. as a whole?

Sawant’s current campaign isn’t S.A.’s first foray into the murky waters of the Big Business-approved ‘democratic process.’ Her first time as an openly self-described socialist was during last year’s general election, where S.A. selected her to run for the Washington state legislature. To give credit where credit is due, anyone openly labeling herself a socialist – such a maligned and hated word in the capitalist class’s official institutions, second only to communist – and still emerging with nearly 29,000 votes is incredibly impressive. Indeed, Sawant received more votes in her district than all of the 2012 socialist presidential candidates combinedShe repeated this feat yesterday, and it’s certainly a positive development that such a number of people chose to vote for the ‘red’ candidate, even if some ballots were only protest votes against the institutional politicians. There are similar S.A. candidates in Boston and Minneapolis. Spirits are high. One can almost reach out and touch the sense of mainstream relevance, freshly reborn.

Unfortunately, a closer look into the history of the workers’ movement reveals that S.A.’s results are shaping up to be more shallow and ephemeral than the initial euphoria might suggest.

America’s First Communist Mayor

 

Karl Emil Nygard, a second-generation immigrant born to Swedish parents who’d emigrated from Finland, was elected America’s first communist mayor in 1932 as part of the Workers’ Ticket. The Workers’ Ticket was a united front between the Communist Party (CP; Nygard was a leading local member), the socialists, and independent militant workers. Electing a Communist mayor in the small, somewhat rural and politically conservative town of Crosby, Minnesota certainly didn’t happen through a fluke – it was the result of years of dedicated education, agitation, and organizing work.nygard

The local CP branch organized a Young Pioneer group for working-class children, hosted film screenings and picnics, and supported (sometimes lead) strikes and demonstrations. They worked with devotion to make their press a household name in the area, distributing workers’ publications in both English and Finnish. They even lead the workers to seize control of the local citizens’ tax inspectorate after it had been turned into a hotbed of corruption and cover-ups for the local establishment. It is in this context that one should see Karl Nygard’s status as perennial communist candidate. Running for office time and again, failing to win the seat but succeeding in the goal of promoting class-consciousness and the CP’s main areas of work, it eventually came to pass that – as a side effect of the ‘main event’ – Nygard actually won the seat he was standing for.

The communists acquired a toehold in enemy territory, so to speak. The Crosby, Minnesota communists weren’t the first working-class formation to win some measure of presence in, as Karl Marx would say, the executive committee that manages the affairs of the ruling class. Before them there’d been local government victories for Socialist Labor Party candidates who found themselves unable to do much for their constituents because of their positions as town aldermen. There was also Victor Berger, who was elected to Congress but found the environment inhospitable to anything but proposals for modest social reform. When he took a principled, internationalist position in opposing the inter-imperialist World War One, the capitalist politicians threw him out of Congress and refused him re-entry even after he’d won the seat again.

Clearly, the capitalist state was and is from top to bottom filled with undemocratic structures, backdoor deals, and official corruption. Doors tend to open not for an elected official’s key, but for a high enough price.

Nygard had his work cut out for him.

Economism or a Marxist Program?

 

Kshama Sawant’s election platform is rife with economic demands – for a citywide minimum wage of $15 an hour, for a millionaire’s tax to fund direct job creation, corporate welfare abolition. Aside from some overly vague formulations (how to unionize Amazon / Starbucks? O.K., so we need rent control – what about it?) these demands are quite supportable as part of a revolutionary socialist minimum program.

sawantpride1

The problems begin when you look into the campaign’s democratic demands — there aren’t any.

In order for the working-class majority to become society’s new ruling class and transform it on free, democratic, socialist lines we must have the widest possible democracy, not just in the socialist future but in the here and now. The capitalist state doesn’t simply accept a majority vote against exploitation, and considering we communists aim to replace the capitalist state apparatus with a working people’s republic, it makes sense for us to promote the widest possible freedoms under the present system as well in order to weaken the ruling class’s state machinery.

S.A. apparently thinks this means calling for a civilian review board to oversee the police, as though the front-line of capitalist property relations and notoriously racist, oppressive institution can be held in check by a glorified neighborhood watch association. The fact that even liberal politicians have already done this, without the desired results, speaks for itself.

S.A.’s almost myopic fixation on economic demands is a symptom of what Marxists call economism: the belief that “pure,” bread-and-butter economic struggles will grow into profound, system-shaking political struggles if they are lead by the right people. S.A. shares this with its sister organizations in the Committee for a Workers International, run mainly by the arch-economist Socialist Party of England and Wales.

The unfortunate reality is that economic, trade unionist struggles do not tend to spontaneously develop mass socialist consciousness, no matter how militant or how many single-issue campaigns are tied in with them. In order to advance genuine class consciousness and win lasting gains – let alone bring the socialist transformation of society ever-closer – it is necessary to combine agitation for economic and civil rights reforms with a rounded Marxist program encompassing revolutionary-democratic demands and a strategy for power based on building a working class party-movement.

By contrasting Karl Nygard and the Communist Party of Minnesota to Kshama Sawant and S.A., we can see the limitations of the latter and the tremendous potential of the former.

Municipal Communists in Power

 

Like Sawant, Nygard vowed on the campaign trail that he would use his mayoral post as a tribune of the people, an instrument of the extra-electoral mass movement as well as a tool to build it. He couldn’t have won without the workers’ organizations that were his base, and his unsuccessful runs helped to popularize those same organizations to wider audiences than was typical outside of election season. The communists knew that the mayor’s powers were limited and that the ruling class would throw yet more obstacles in his way; being the ‘party’ side of ‘party-movement’, they mobilized the latter to fulfill their election platform.

Nygard’s first act as mayor was to appeal to the account holders of the local bank to demand the owner return the deposits they’d been swindled out of. Exposing the local petty capitalist’s con and calling on the people succeeded: before long, the workers of Crosby saw $23,000 in savings returned safely to their pockets. Following this, the communists used Nygard’s public position to call for the creation of an unemployed council (UC). The UCs were being initiated by Communists all across the country to demand jobs or unemployment relief, organizing meals for the hungry and even blocking and reversing evictions through direct action.1

Next, Mayor Nygard called for the creation of a Workers Advisory Council made up of every workers’ organization in town that wished to join. He vowed that no legislation would be passed in Crosby that didn’t first get the approval of the Workers Advisory Council. Meeting frequently with this council, Nygard would receive instructions from the recallable, mandated delegates and also initiated policy on their behalf. Intimately connected with the people, the CP had created a de facto form of dual power by weakening the local state apparatus and elevating the working class to a higher, more democratic position. Of course, this arrangement made it easier to win economic demands. Relief stipends, free public utilities, and job creation were among the purely local gains, and the CP also used its position in Crosby to lend weight to statewide, national, and international causes.

What Kind of Party Do We Need?

 

S.A.’s ambition for their Seattle campaign, flanked by similar runs in Minneapolis and Boston, to spur the creation of a third party is quite realistic. If they reached a certain critical mass and were followed by a spattering of independent (or Green) left-wing populist candidates, it’s entirely plausible that some of them would win. After all, skillfully delivered left-populism sounds sweet to the ears when they’ve grown accustomed to the dull drone of austerity. They could coalesce into a broad left party numbering in the low to mid thousands. Officially S.A. still promotes a British-style Labor Party in America based on a section of the trade union leadership deciding (or being pushed into) breaking with the Democrats, but in practice the hybrid description of a broad left party based on the non-Democratic but non-socialist left, socialists, workers, and social movements.

This kind of half-way house, if it crystallized without the involvement of a sufficiently influential revolutionary tendency, would be an obstacle rather than a stepping stone to a mass socialist movement and a revolution. An American left party would be shackled by lowest-common denominator reformism, controlled by petty-bourgeois (middle class) elements to the detriment of worker members, and would probably shatter a few years after its birth when the Democratic Party realizes it can temporarily co-opt certain left-sounding demands and suck the air right out of the new party. Without basing a new party explicitly on the working class movement, the door is left wide open for the Green Party’s considerable resources and apparatus to hijack even a well intentioned left-reformist project in no time.

Like the old CP at its height, we need to build the institutions of a revolutionary workers’ party-movement if we are to evolve from small revolutionary fragments, to a small but united communist party, to a mass communist party. The Stalin-ordered U-turns between hysterical sectarianism and shameless opportunism that led to the CP’s downfall need not be repeated as long as our movement’s democracy is as close to the democracy of the socialist future as conditions will allow.

As for S.A., by all means, vote for their candidates if you live in Seattle, Minneapolis, or Boston. Volunteer your time, if you can. But keep your eyes open for a chance to engage with the worker-activists at the base of their branches. After all, our brothers and sisters deserve exposure to a different road to socialism than the one chock-full of activism while lasting achievements are all too rare. Without a common revolutionary strategy that includes a perspective of revolutionary unity, socialism’s rebirth as a mass force will continue to elude us.

Note:

1. To her credit, Kshama Sawant is an activist with a Seattle anti-foreclosure coalition and was even briefly arrested during a demonstration to prevent a local eviction. Ty Moore, another S.A. municipal candidate in Minneapolis, is active in Occupy Homes in Minnesota. The main difference between them and the old CP is that the CP had explicit goals with a worked-out solution of the way to achieve them rather than over-reliance on the catchall-phrase “building a mass movement” in the abstract.

Additional Reading:
http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/58/v58i03p168-186.pdf
http://www.socialistalternative.org/news/article10.php?id=2148
http://www.votesawant.org/issues

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl Davidson August 7, 2013 at 11:44 am

You can run left campaigns two ways, and both are valid in promoting our movement. One is to unite a militant minority, where you do revolutionary education around socialism and the bridges to it. The other is to unite a progressive majority. In the latter, you have to pay attention to what demands the masses see as important, what’s one their minds, what they are willing to embrace as their own that will both win seats and widen class consciousness and popular untiy. Do either one well, and you’ll make gains. Try to mush them together, especially in non-revolutionary circumstances, and you make a big mess either way. BTW, if I were in Seattle, I’d work and vote for her.

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Patrick A. August 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Hey Carl, that sounds like an endorsement to me! If you want to make it official, at the very bottom of this page – http://www.votesawant.org/endorsements – you can fill out a form to endorse if you like. Anyone else is welcome to do the same.

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Carl Davidson August 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Done…Send me a button

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Deran August 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm

This article makes no sense. Nygard was elected in a completely different world, back when the CP was not seen as the Stalinist stooge it was and in those days the immigrant population of Minnesota was already very much more politically aware than most people in the US are these days. And what policies did Nygard propose? Councils and a proletarian dictatorship? No. Nygard’s policies were born of the time and place he was elected to office in. As are Sawant’s.

I think the Sawant campaign is important because she has moved socialism into a the public discourse as a legitimate subject and a legitimate vein of possible explanations and solutions. Her campaigning for a higher wage for poor and working-class people is of key importance because Seattle has gone from being a working- and middle-class city port of lumber and fishing to being a 2%er enclave of tech money. People who are not rich software millionaires still need to live in the city, or want to live in the city, and why not? So rent stabilization is a legitimate proposal to make the city more “livable” for poor and working class people. I would have had her talk more about the city selling off the public housing to developers and land speculators (these things directly affect working class and poor people).

My critique of her campaign is that there was too much emphasis, especially toward the end, on the importance of the ephemeral Trotskyist sect-lette, Socialist Alternative and the would-be Trot International, Committee for a Workers International — these things are a distraction from building a socialist movement that is not shackled with the fossilized remains of failed Leninist fossils.

I think someone should do a serious study of her campaign (yes, the support of the liberal “alternative” weekly The Stranger is a fluke — they usually are diehard Democrats). Brian Carver, the third candidate for that council seat, is an Amazon manager and raised a great deal of money and Sawant raised a little money, but Carver only garnered 16% of the vote (it should be noted that Seattle, like all of Washington State, votes by mail, so there are many more votes due in through this week). Sawant did get the endorsement of numerous labor union locals and was very on-the-ground active about many local issues.

I did vote for her, and will do so again in November.

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Karl Grant August 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Hopefully this is the start of the radical left giving Sawant’s campaign the close analysis it deserves.

Marlon’s point about how the campaign has achieved a higher vote than the combined Socialist vote in presidential elections seems to contain a lesson that the SWP/FSP/Greens have yet to learn – that its important to target the low hanging fruit and think strategically about where to apply campaign resources when approaching election campaigns.

Local politics are more fertile than national. Even within local politics running a viable City Council race is more plausible than a Mayoral race (evidenced by Mary Martin, the SWP candidate for Mayor in Seattle achieving a paultry 1100 votes or 1%). I’d guess School Board/Port Commissioner seats are even more vulnerable, but probably make less of a city-wide splash.

What else makes Sawant’s campaign far more effective than Mary Martin/theSWP’s ritualistic running for an out of reach office? For one, a thoroughly considered program that resonates with the aspirations of local struggles around the minimum wage, addressing wage theft, police brutality, housing for all, and preventing the city from becoming a key node in the coal industry.

Articulating achievable demands that fall within the actual capacity of city government to implement is an important distinguishing factor of Sawant’s campaign from Martins, whose program and approach is far more oriented towards the protest vote and reads along the lines of ‘All power to soviets’ and ‘down with capitalism’. Sawant’s messaging reads far less abstractly and instead consists largely of ‘here are the concrete things a socialist city council could do to make life better in Seattle and drive forward a movement towards workers power’, though I think at times she has been prone to slip into abstractions in a way that doesn’t do service to the campaign.

It also makes sense to note that Sawant achieved a higher vote than the entire Washington state-wide vote for Jill Stein as the Green presidential candidate in the last election. To me this points to the fact that the Greens could learn a lesson from S.A. in terms of the value of developing a strong activist base/party building in a way which can drive forward an election campaign with limited resources.

The combo of better messaging, ‘transitional demands’ in the SA parlance, and aiming at the low hanging fruit/local politics goes a long way towards explaining Sawant’s success. On top of that I’d add the vigorous public relations/communications campaign pursued by Sawant’s talented staff and volunteers which actively solicited prominent endorsers (including several union locals, the Greens, NAACP, Homeless and Transit advocates, and the city’s most prominent alternative newspaper ‘The Stranger’), cultivated relationships with relevant local movements, and constantly sought press points to raise the profile of the campaign.

To round out the praise with a bit of criticism I’d say that achieving a degree of success can solidify a way of operating within a left group which impedes further growth. Running as the SA runs the risk of reproducing the SWP’s crusty old strategy of ritualistically running elections to raise the profile of the organization and pick up recruits in the one’s and two’s along the way.

Developing a broader structure that reflects the transitional demands of the campaign can go a long way towards bridging the gap between the few dozen S.A. cadre sustaining the campaign and the tens of thousands in the city who vote for the Sawant’s broad program. It also remains to be seen how this strong electoral showing can be translated into concretely driving forward movements locally in-between elections.

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Deran August 7, 2013 at 8:58 pm

I do think a person can not ignore that comrade Sawant got the endorsement of Seattle’s leading weekly, The Stranger. They have a lot of sway on popular opinion. And The Stranger is not usually a friend of Left of Center ideas, Dan Savage and much of the rest of The Stranger editors supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Sawant campaign got a lot of ongoing coverage from The Stranger which I don’t think many local candidates in other locales can can’t on.

Also, Kshama Sawant actually campaigned, and did so everyday all over the place. Mary Martin did not do any campaigning that I know of? Maybe the meets with the newspaper editorial boards?

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Karl Grant August 8, 2013 at 7:44 pm

The Stranger endorsement certainly cannot be ignored but I think its too dismissive to characterize this as a fluke, as some have. Publicity on that blog is just the tip of a professional communications strategy which involves constantly updating social media, twitter, facebook, their website, photobombing protests and riding their media coverage, and apparently covering the city in VoteSawant posters.

I agree that support of such a mainstream/liberal/alternative paper/blog is important, but its also not an entirely unrepeatable phenomenon. Left campaigns need to be constantly releasing press releases to even the most unlikely of supporters, and work to cultivate relationships with reporters at liberal papers and alternative blogs where they might gain a toehold. I imagine with the right approach, a similar platform for socialist publicity could be achieved in other locales or even nationally.

Its also notable, in terms of new media strategies and Leninism 2.0, that the Stranger’s blog, which is the kind of blog I understand folks go to for entertainment/light politics on a long afternoon at work, became such a crucial factor in amplifying the impact of the socialist left. It wasn’t SA’s paper ‘Justice’ or some Marxist Journal that brought the masses into contact with the SA’s ideas.

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Marlon P-A August 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Deran,

Having written the article above in one sitting, then compounding that mistake by doing my own proofreading, I’m afraid I’ve obscured the fact that, as far as your comment goes, we don’t disagree. As far as what relevance Nygard has for us today, I can’t really go into too much depth in a comment format but a few things do stand out:

1. Systematically building up the institutional strength of the working class as a class for itself. Formations like the Unemployed Councils, the workers’ cultural network (the name escapes me), communist-led unions of the Profintern type, strong communist-backed militant caucuses in the mainline labor unions… Hell, even the Pioneers are a form of workers gaining the “movement” side of “party-movement” that is necessary if we are ever to take power as a class. Is this irrelevant?

2. The use of radical-democratic demands. No, the CP local of a small town in rural Minnesota didn’t call for the “Soviet Republic of Crosby.” That would be insane. They did, however, advocate and implement democratic gains that not only put the people in a better situation but fostered class consciousness – I’m thinking of the advisory council when I say that. Is that irrelevant? Radical-democratic demands are a *crucial* component of the socialist program of struggle.

Anyway, I will say it’s possible I bent the ‘critical support’ stick too far in the direction of ‘critical.’ The organization I’m in did critically endorse Sawant last year, albeit symbolically since we have no Washington presence. Like many socialists around North America I am following the developments of S.A.’s campaigns with an avid interest and I applaud the work they’ve done in raising the profile of socialism – clearing socialism’s good name, so to speak.

That being said, I think the problems of democratic demands, movement-building and perspectives on where this type of thing is going (toward a Left Party? toward a more unified socialist organization?) need to be addressed and, hopefully, corrected before they halt and reverse the progress made by Socialist Alternative so far.

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damage August 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm

“This kind of half-way house, if it crystallized without the involvement of a sufficiently influential revolutionary tendency, would be an obstacle rather than a stepping stone to a mass socialist movement and a revolution.” That’s laughable. Step one for building an effective left in this country requires that we actually acknowledge the realities that we live in and stop retreating to whatever formulas we happen to like at the moment, which is one of the easiest professions in the world.

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J.B. August 7, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I would suspect Sawant like most socialists would love to see these kinds of workers organizations backing her. The problem is that the world has moved on from there. During the past century, even during the Depression, workers had more bargaining power than they have now, and more of a sense of a class identity. I’m not sure this version of bottom-up politics is still viable. We live in a world where even the venerable public sector unions will probably be gone in a decade or so. Community organization participation is at an all time low, and people can watch movies at home if they want to, they don’t need a “working class organization” to lighten their burden with public film showings. Furthermore, socialists face a country psychically scarred from multiple generations of relentless, cradle to grave anti-red and pro-liberal propaganda. Therefore, a socialist future for America will have to involve a more explicitly ideological and political struggle than before, particularly in the beginning. We need to punch a whole in the ideological system, where new forms of working class organization appropriate for modern times will be able to develop. The most important step is to start destigmatizing the concept of socialism, and start radicalizing the young people who say they believe in socialism but don’t really know what that means. Something like the Sawant campaign is a fantastic step in this direction.

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Pham Binh August 7, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Here are the problems with Marlon’s criticisms:

– He claims the Sawant campaign’s approach to democratic demands is lacking — “there aren’t any” — two paragraphs before he blasts the campaign for demanding a civilian review board to police the police which is undoubtedly a democratic demand and certainly not economist!

– He compares Sawant on the campaign trail with Nygard in office, which isn’t even apples and oranges. Campaigning to govern and actually governing are very different — different tasks, challenges, and priorities. And even if Sawant beats Conlin and takes office the comparison won’t wash because a mayor as an executive is far more powerful than a city councilor. Might as well criticize Bernie Sanders for not stopping Obama’s drone attacks in that case.

– Claims the Green Party has “considerable” resources and apparatus to derail/co-opt a third-party effort. The persistence of the Peace and Freedom Party in the Greens’ stronghold, California, says otherwise. The Greens are a half step above life support on a good day.

-All of the above gets in the way of seriously evaluating the strengths and limits of the latest Sawant campaign. The biggest issue or shortcoming I sense — following Karl and Deran — is that there is no organized form to engage and involve the many, many people who will vote Sawant and support socialism but have no interest in joining Socialist Alternative. This is the engagement ladder problem Charles Lechner alluded to in the “Four Projects” thread (he wrote about the ladder here:
http://tech.nycga.net/2012/01/05/three-complaints-about-ows/). When a flaming red can consistently win 20,000+ votes and the same reds consistently cannot grow much beyond their existing small membership, it’s proof positive that the existing organizational forms of the socialist left are no match for the objective potential that exists as Dan Dimaggio argued elsewhere on this site:
http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=4409

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J.B. August 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm

The other problem with these criticisms is that it is so easy to call them “criticisms” rather than, say, constructive comments. There is no reason why this article couldn’t have been written in a different tone and made most of the same points. Rather than contrasting Sawant unfavorably to Nygard, why not delve into the problems, challenges and successes of the CP mayor back in the day and then explain why those are relevant or not relevant today. The author could then put in a plug for broader working class organizations (I actually think he and Pham are basically on the same page here- the key problem is how to get those 20,000 people involved in an ongoing way with some organizational form that can be more than a flash in the pan), which surely are something that would be an addition to, not a contradiction to, a campaign like Sawant’s.

So why is the piece written like this? I can’t help but think it’s just for attention. A bit of unnecessary controversy to bring in the comments. An awful lot of articles nowdays seem to use unnecessary controversy to help sell the subject matter, and I think it gets in the way of thinking things through intelligently.

I suppose I’m not being part of the solution by continuing to comment on this article myself, though, so goodbye.

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Aaron Aarons August 8, 2013 at 4:13 am

The one article at socialistalternative.org that’s linked to above (at the end of comrade Pierre-Antoinne’s article), Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle – Why We Run Independent of the Democratic Party, gives a much more “economist” impression of Sawant’s campaign than do various less sweeping, more specific, articles on Sawant’s interventions in various situations. It’s frustrating to try to intelligently discuss the campaign without knowing how it is perceived by the people it is appealing to, few of whom likely spend time reading or searching Socialist Alternative’s web site. It would be interesting to read both friendly and more critical reports on the campaign by leftists who are following it up close.

Any links, anybody?

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Deran August 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm

The easiest way to find such links is to go to votesawant.org and the campaigns Facebook page, the FB page is especially good because they’ve made a habit of posting all local media discussion of what comrade Sawant has been up to. She was arrested at a blockade to stop a home foreclosure and during a protest for higher wages for service workers and such. I recommend the FB page, and the website as second best source. Or, go to Google News and search for “Kshama Sawant”?

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southpaw August 8, 2013 at 8:50 am

I don’t know what the point of this article is. On the one hand, I’m happy to know more about the Sawant campaign from a place other than SAlt, but then on the other hand this reads like its out to score points and blast someone for having an ‘insufficient program’. I agree with Binh that comparing a campaign to a seated official, especially when you’re talking about one left-wing alder in a major American city to a communist mayor in the 30’s in rural Minnesota, to an electoral campaign has no honest value and just reads like its out to promote a narrow set of ideas anyway it can.

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Tim Horras August 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm

The author’s throwaway remark to Victor Berger is unduly pessimistic when the story he refers to should be on the contrary a testament to socialist resolve. Yes, Berger was brought under federal indictment for opposing the war. Yes, he was denied his duly-elected seat in 1918 and 1920. But he didn’t give up. He came back and won again in 1922, and this time he stuck around. He was reelected twice after that. One is reminded of Samuel Beckett’s words: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

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Aaron Aarons August 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I suspect that Berger’s less hostile reception in Congress in 1922 and after was due to (1) wartime patriotic hysteria had passed and (2) the left wing of the Socialist Party had split off to form Communist parties, so that the Socialist Party that remained was no longer a serious nemesis for the capitalists.

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