Today, more young adults think positively about socialism than do about capitalism. Sadly, socialism in general is lacking a public face. The one exception is Seattle city council member, Kshama Sawant, an open socialist. She’s the most prominent socialist in the United States. That’s why what she does and what her group, Socialist Alternative does, matters for the entire socialist movement. We carry below an open letter from a member of Socialist Alternative. The letter criticizes Kshama Sawant.
Letter from Socialist Alternative member
Last week I almost talked myself into attending a fundraiser for a local Democratic party political candidate.
I almost justified this to myself, even though Socialist Alternative stands for breaking with the Two Parties of Big Business. I have been a dues paying member of SA Tacoma for 3 years. I am firmly and openly critical of the Democratic party to anyone who will listen. If I almost broke with those principles, I wonder how many other SA members/socialists/progressives were influenced by the latest move by Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant? How many other people will say, “well this democrat might help me with …… if I support their campaign,” “quietly attending their fundraiser as their friend won’t hurt anything,” “attending a fundraiser doesn’t mean I’m endorsing them.”
From “What We Stand For” in SA newspaper: “Unions and social movement organizations should stop funding and supporting the Democratic and Republican Parties and instead organize independent left wing, anti-corporate candidates and coalitions as a first step toward building a workers’ party.”
Guess why I almost justified going to this democratic party candidate’s fundraiser?
A new political party recently started by some activists who I know. I was going to ask them what their orientation will be towards the Democratic Party. I am 99% sure of what their orientation will be, based on what I know about the people who created the new political party.
But, then I thought, “do I really want to go there right now?” Do I really have a leg to stand on considering that Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant recently attended a fund raiser for one of Democratic party’s “progressive” gatekeepers? She was caught on camera defensively justifying it? I did watch the video myself, but it has since been removed from the internet.
Kshama is in the leadership of Socialist Alternative and she is the most famous “socialist” in America. Several of my fellow marxists have said that Sawant and SA have become like European Social Democrats. SA is no longer acting like a revolutionary socialist organization in my opinion.
I sent Kshama a private message regarding my concerns.
In the last few years I have had several political disagreements with Socialist Alternative. Nonetheless I have stayed in the organization because, despite the disagreements, SA seemed like the most viable left political party that had firm principles regarding the democratic party.
Kshama attending King County Council Member Larry Gosset’s fundraiser and her defense of him is a significant breach of principle. It just continue’s the pattern that I have observed, of SA leadership spending more time and energy trying to appeal to middle class voters and build relationships with union leadership and democratic party leadership than they do on building a base among workers, youth and the poor.
I know that Kshama is facing a fight to keep her seat on the city council. SA is thinking they must build coalitions with people like Gosset in order to do that. Three Democrats have announced they are running against Sawant. In my opinion it would be better to remain firm on the principle of not supporting Democratic candidates. SA could emphasize to Gossett’s supporters, “Look, Gossett should leave the democratic party if he really is so progressive. His party is running candidates against the only socialist, woman of color on the city council! “
Kshama Sawant is betraying our principles in an attempt to hold onto that city council seat. I have been told before by SA leadership that our political candidates are a reflection on our entire organization.
This is not what I joined SA for.
By Sarah Jane Morken, former member of Socialist Alternative in Tacoma, WA
Kshama Sawant’s support for Gossett is no accident. It flows directly from the reliance of her and Socialist Alternative on the union hierarchy – the union leadership, which is the representative of the liberal Democrats inside the unions.
Since writing this letter, its author left Socialist Alternative in frustration. It’s also significant that the leadership of Socialist Alternative has reportedly admitted (internally) that Sawant’s support for Gossett was a mistake. However, what they haven’t done is examine the cause of that mistake, and the result is that they have gone on to further similar mistakes, including de facto support for liberal Democrat Bernie Sanders and near-direct support for a series of liberal (and some not-so-liberal) candidates for Seattle City Council.
Some members of Socialist Alternative have been questioning this mistaken direction, but what’s needed is for that questioning to come out in the open in a systematic way.
For a more in-depth and more recent analysis of the politics of Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative, see this article.
Also, for more general coverage of the direction Kshama Sawant has taken, we have a series of articles here. We are not hostile to Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative; we supported her when she ran for office the first time. However, it is deeply disappointing to see the direction she has taken. We are also open to comments and disagreements. Anybody with questions should feel free to write us. Privacy guaranteed.