Congratulations to socialist candidate for Seattle City Council Kshama Sawant. Sawant won 33% of the vote in yesterday’s election in that city and faces a runoff against incumbent Richard Conlin. This is the second time Sawant has done extremely well in an election, the first time winning nearly 30% of the vote for the state legislature.
Many activists, especially young activists, are skeptical about running candidates for public office. They argue that what is needed is organizing mass direct action on the ground. They also argue that running a candidate focuses too much attention on the individual, whereas what really matters is the working class as a whole.
This view is understandable, but we think it is a bit oversimplified. The struggle against capitalism is one for the “hearts and minds” of the working class. Participating in the struggle – by everything from going out on strike to mass occupations and even mere protests – is an absolutely essential ingredient. Workers and young people will only be convinced of their own power when they see it in action.
However, the struggle around ideas should not be undervalued. The propaganda of the corporations through its many different means (TV, movies, the education system, etc.) has a tremendous effect. An important part of this propaganda is what workers hear from the politicians. To have a credible candidate openly arguing for socialism and for pro-worker policies such as a $15 per hour minimum wage and one who exposes police brutality, etc. – this is an important weapon in the class struggle.
And if such a candidate were actually elected, this would be a huge step forward. We need only imagine what role such a representative of the struggle could play. In the first place, consider the material resources they have – an office, staff, finances, etc. But more important, imagine the effect of their voice both on the city council and in the struggle.
More information on Sawant’s campaign can be found at http://www.votesawant.org