I am glad that the Socialist Worker site has finally responded to the the issue regarding Kshama Sawant’s candidacy in the state of Washington. Your Web site continues to serve as an useful resource for socialist activists. However, I have some criticisms regarding both the article itself, and the fact that this is the first article to even mention her campaign.
Her campaign reached out to the Seattle International Socialist Organization (ISO) as early as July, which is normal considering those who wish to do coalition work should not have to contact the heads of the national organization. When The North Star reprinted the Socialist Alternative article, a self-proclaimed member of the ISO frequently made the criticism that if Socialist Alternative was genuinely interested in forming a coalition, they should have contacted the national party first.
For anyone who actually does coalition work in local communities, they could tell you that this is far from the truth. This is a fundamental concept of rank-and-file work, which aims to make existing organizations more democratic. It concerns me if this view is indeed a prevailing one among the ISO, and so I would like clarification on this. Many comrades of mine are members of your organization, and if I were to form a coalition I would go to them, not over their heads to the national organization. In this way you treat comrades with more dignity then you would otherwise.
Back to the Sawant campaign, your article neglected to mention that contact began as early as July, and instead said that “SA does admit that it first attempted to contact the ISO as a national organization about supporting its candidate with an e-mail sent in mid-October.” While not necessarily a lie, it skirts the underlying truth that coalition efforts with the local were made early on.
Regarding the article itself, I find that it has an overall negative tone. It doesn’t come across as constructive comradely criticism, but rather it engages in the very “point-scoring” that you accused Socialist Alternative of. You accuse them of dogma for engaging in electoral action, which to me is just plain silly. Tactical differences are just that; there is no need to make unjustified accusations.
Looking toward the future, I would like to see more coalition efforts between socialists. Both the ISO and Socialist Alternative have earned my respect in various ways. Now I would like to see coalition efforts towards building a common political party. Find some common points of agreement, work together to build a democratic socialist political party of some sort, and invite other socialists in this country to assist in this effort. The old divisions have become irrelevant, and increasingly it seems like labor struggle is making a comeback.
We either utilize this energize and renewed interest now, or risk losing it.
2013 should be the year of socialists organizing locally, running at least a campaign or two through many cities. We should maintain contact lists, and use these towards the building of such a coalition. 20,000 votes for Sawant in Seattle, 25,000 for Dan La Botz in Ohio, and socialist Pat Noble’s election in New Jersey are all positives towards the future. We shouldn’t delude ourselves as to the limitations of electoral action, but neither should we constantly refuse to engage in it. And for those who are uncomfortable with electoral action, they should be much more involved in democratic union action. Despite tactical disagreements, we can help build a stronger socialist movement for tomorrow.
Andrew is affiliated with Revolutionary Unity, and has had experience being a member of both the Socialist and Green Parties.