Socialist challenges make history

The US is seen as the home of capitalism, the world’s richest and most powerful nation. But it is also home to millions of working class people who are struggling to get by, let alone live the American Dream. In 2011 Occupy camps mushroomed across the continent, giving expression to the growing discontent as working class people, young people and black and ethnic minorities revolted against being made to pay for the crisis caused by the bankers in Wall Street.

United States capitalism is in a deep economic and social crisis. The political establishment is discredited, and, especially after the recent government shutdown, its system of government appears broken. The situation is crying out for an alternative.

But the resistance is growing. Occupy Homes grew out of Occupy in Minneapolis and has scored important victories in defeating attempted home evictions.

Fast-food workers have begun to organise and inspire with their ’$15 an hour and a union’ campaign. It is increasingly understood that both the Republicans and the Democrats stand for the super-rich 1%.

Shock waves

Against this background, two Socialist Alternative candidates sent historic shock waves through the United States left and beyond on 5 November. Both candidates, Kshama Sawant in Seattle and Ty Moore in Minneapolis, mounted the strongest election campaigns by open socialists in a major US city in many decades.

Ty, an Occupy Homes activist, got 43% of the vote as an open socialist for City Council in Ward 9 of Minneapolis. Socialist election candidate Kshama Sawant has now taken the lead in Seattle City Council elections. The count continues, now gaining national coverage in the Washington Post with some pundits betting Sawant will win.

Last night, Kshama increased her lead to 1,148. There is still some way to go but as the count progresses the votes are currently increasingly favour Kshama.

Regardless of the final count, the votes for these firebrand socialist candidates illustrate clearly the anger at the corporate-controlled establishment.

See www.socialistalternative.org for updates - Socialist Alternative are the Socialist Party’s co-thinkers in the US

Kshama’s campaign has received enormous support from volunteers and donors. It has also had very good press coverage in Seattle. Even when it looked like 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin had won after the first batch of votes were counted The Stranger, a weekly Seattle paper, wrote:

"Sawant may not win a cushy leather seat at the city council dais this time around, but there’s no question that she won everything else: the spirit award, a dedicated base of Seattle progressives who are committed to helping her run again (and again, and again, if need be), and most importantly, the public debate.

"She framed the discussions that dominated both her own race and the mayoral race (such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour), forcing incumbent council members to at least feign allegiance to working class voters instead of just the business bigwigs who routinely fund their re-election campaigns.

"Conlin [Kshama’s opponent] may have out-fundraised Sawant two-to-one and had 16 years of name recognition from his tenure on the council, but voters are now quite aware that he’s also had few memorable legislative victories-and they’ll expect Conlin and his colleagues to prove their progressive bona fides before the next election. Not bad for an outspent outsider who turned Socialism from a pox to a pistol."

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