Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lessons for new generations of would-be political activists in St Louis: Kshama Sawant's strategies in Seattle: via Alternet: Socialist Win in Seattle: Anomaly or Harbinger?

Socialist Win in Seattle: Anomaly or Harbinger?

"It was November 2013. Sawant had just been elected to the Seattle City Council as a member of the Socialist Alternative party. And Boeing was threatening to cut thousands of jobs if its machinists didn’t give up their pensions and Washington State didn’t hand the company $8.7 billion in tax breaks.

Patricelli, a public hospital nurse active in her union, had joined a downtown Seattle rally for the Boeing machinists with labor leaders and allies. When Sawant took the microphone, she declared her solidarity with Boeing employees, adding that if the aerospace giant wanted to engage in “economic terrorism,” the workers should take over the factories and place them under democratic control.
“I come from a conservative background,” Patricelli told me later. “It was like, I’m with you, I’m with you… but workers running factories? Oh my god, she’s crazy-pants!” 
Yet two years later, on election night 2015, Patricelli was celebrating Sawant’s reelection along with hundreds of union members, students, housing rights advocates, LGBTQ activists, and radicals of various stripes at the campaign’s party. 
Patricelli’s journey from Sawant skeptic to Sawant enthusiast offers an important glimpse into how political action can radicalize. It also counters the myth that in order to be viable, progressive political candidates have to tack to the center. 
In winning over people like Patricelli and securing reelection, Sawant hasn’t just demonstrated that ordinary people are receptive to unapologetic left politics — she’s fostered a citywide discussion about capitalism and socialism.
However, socialists in Seattle now face a mayor and City Council majority more united than ever in their desire to marginalize Sawant and the movement around her. Can Seattle socialists expand their base and advance progressive reforms like rent control and a tax on the richest residents? And what can left activists elsewhere take from Seattle to launch their own progressive candidacies?"