Message to Socialism 2015 from re-elected Seattle council member Kshama Sawant

Sisters, brothers, comrades,

It gives me great pleasure to bring you all warm, comradely greetings from Socialist Alternative in the United States. Greetings to everyone in the Socialist Party in England and Wales and to all those attending Socialism 2015!

Earlier this week in Seattle, we succeeded in winning my re-election as a Socialist Alternative City Councilmember. This is an historic achievement for workers in Seattle and throughout America. A veritable army of 600 working class volunteers and 30 unions defeated the combined forces of big business and the political establishment that cravenly serves corporate interests.

My opponent was financially backed by millionaire executives of corporations like Microsoft, Amazon.com, Alaska Airlines; by every business that fought against our historic 15 dollar an hour movement last year; by every anti-union business entity, such as the Washington Restaurant Association and the Hotel Association; and by giant city developers who are making profits hand over fist as working people get pushed out of the city due to skyrocketing rents. My opponent’s campaign was fully backed by Republicans and Big Money Democrats.

In contrast, we ran an unapologetically anti-corporate, pro-working class campaign that did not take a dime from corporate interests, but was funded only by ordinary working people and by the labor movement. And on such a principled basis, with a median donation of 50 dollars, we raised nearly 500,000 dollars, making it the largest city council campaign in Seattle’s history!

This monumental scale of our grassroots campaign is testament to the hunger of the American working class for a bold and clear alternative to the bankrupt politics of both the Democratic and Republican party establishments. It also reflects how Socialist Alternative has earned the confidence of Seattle’s working people, by using our position on the City Council to relentlessly push for the interests of working people and everyone who is marginalized by the system. In our two years on the Council, we not only won the 15 dollar wage, we also successfully fought against rent hikes at public housing, won millions for human services in the city budget, actively assisted the recent historic and successful teachers’ strike, and replaced Columbus Day with a citywide Indigenous People’s Day.

We have shown that the election of a socialist in a major US city was not a flash in the pan, but that socialist politics are here to stay in Seattle. We have given a genuine socialist expression to the deep discontent and anger of working people at income, racial and gender inequality. We are doing this by campaigning for rent control, fighting the slumlords, and demanding that big developers and the rich are taxed to pay for affordable housing and mass transit.

Our success comes at the same time that there is a growing enthusiasm at the campaign of Bernie Sanders standing as a socialist for the presidency of the United States. His call for a political revolution against the billionaire class, while also refusing any corporate cash, has opened up a new space for a discussion about socialist ideas, albeit unfortunately within the context of a race in the corporate-dominated Democratic Party.

The remarkable victory of Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party shows that the dissatisfaction with corporate-sponsored capitalist politicians is a global phenomenon and provides new opportunities for socialists everywhere to provide a real alternative to capitalism and its attacks on working people. The Committee for a Workers International is uniquely placed to provide a clear analysis and programme. Socialist Alternative in the United States looks forward with you in the UK to the victories of our comrades in the Irish elections as they defy state repression fighting the hated water tax.

I wish you every success with Socialism 2015 and with the wider struggle against Tory austerity and pro-capitalist Blairism. Solidarity!