Originally published here. As a prominent figure in Occupy Seattle, Kshama Sawant brought the spirit of this uprising against Wall Street into the election year. One of the main slogans in the Vote Sawant campaign was “A voice for the 99%,” pointing towards a new force, a real activist political party of workers, the poor, young people and the 99%.
Socialist Alternative used the electoral front to stimulate a debate about the need to break from the Democratic Party, popularize socialist ideas, and to help build for future battles for and of working class people themselves. Outlined in “Imagine 200 Occupy Candidates This Year”, Socialist Alternative argued there was an real opportunity to challenge the two-party corporate duopoly this year if credible working class campaigns were organized – and was able to set an impressive example with its own campaign in Seattle.
Despite all special circumstances in Seattle’s 43rd district, who could deny the power of this argument now? Unfortunately, the call to the Occupy activists to put forward a whole number of candidates and actively support them, was not followed despite a few notable exceptions. The trade union leaders overwhelmingly rejected all attempts to support candidates independent from the two-party system. Instead of endorsing and actively campaigning for independent, working-class based candidates, enormous sums were spent to support a big business party.
The message of the projected 20,000 votes for Socialist Alternative’s candidate in Seattle is clear: The unions have to break with the Democrats and use their resources and influence to build a voice for workers and the 99%. Rank and file union members will need to led the way in demanding their organizations take up such an approach.
Wall Street has two parties, and the 99% need a party of their own. We need a party that challenges the 1% not just in elections but also by organizing struggles against budget cuts, layoffs and police brutality. We need a mass working class party with democratic structures to keep candidates accountable. We need a party that takes no corporate donations with representatives who take the wage of an average worker. We need a party to break the power of the big banks and the 1%. Socialist Alternative is looking to build links and make steps in this direction.
The Sawant campaign is an example for Occupy and union activists of how to link together protests and social movements with the opportunities of presenting a program of resistance and anti-capitalism to a broader audience through elections. This is urgently needed. Since his re-election, Obama has signaled he is prepared to move even further to the right with offers to the Republicans to carry out major attacks on Medicare, Medicaid and other social services as part of the negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” These are just some of the battles to come.
That is what the “beginning” Kshama Sawant spoke of. Socialist Alternative will do everything in its reach to make sure that the agenda of the 1% will see working class and community resistance. Together with activists from Occupy, unions, and other social movements, Socialist Alternative is working to organize left-wing independent challenges for Mayor and every city council seat in Seattle’s 2013 elections.
On a national level, Socialist Alternative is appealing to prominent figures in progressive politics, along with left-wing, Occupy, and working class activists, to organize a joint speaking tour around the country to provoke a discussion and debate on the need to build towards working-class representation, a new mass force of resistance and left electoral challenges to the two parties of Wall Street in the coming years.