Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative councillor, speaks.
Sisters and Brothers, in just five weeks, Donald Trump has unleashed a series of vicious attacks on one group of Americans after another: From his Muslim ban to the ramping up of ICE raids; to his anti-trans executive order; to his budget proposal to slash vital public services; and more.
The ruling class is sharply divided about Trump. Capitalist strategists are horrified by the growing popular revolt and the damage his reckless policies and conduct will inflict on their system. Yet much of big business is salivating at the prospect of Trump’s corporate tax cuts and radical deregulation.
But amongst millions of working people like us, there is a growing unity, that we want no part of Trump’s bigoted, misogynist, anti-immigrant, racist agenda. We’re seeing a mood of rebellion on a scale not seen since the Vietnam war.
Trump can be defeated. The protests in this first month were a tremendous starting point, but far more will be needed.
We need to disrupt business-as-usual through peaceful mass civil disobedience. Shutting down airports, highways, ICE offices, and prominent businesses.
On March 8, International Women’s Day, a “Women’s Strike” has been called by the organizers of the January 21 marches. Let’s take this up, and build for the largest actions possible.
May 1, or “May Day,” is International Workers’ Day, and has long been a day of working class action globally.
In 2006, immigrants brought the tradition of May Day back to the United States. Millions marched, many went on strike, and helped force back egregious anti-immigrant legislation.
This year, facing Trump’s brutal attacks, immigrants are again organizing en masse.
Discussions are also underway about strike and protest action in the labor movement, which is facing unprecedented attacks, with national “right to work” laws coming down the pike.
Working people have enormous potential power to fight Trump by shutting down the profits of big business.
This can be done through traditional strikes by the majority of workers at a workplace, but also by many non-union workers through taking the day off, calling in sick, or through other creative means.
Bottom line: We want the largest possible show of force on May 1st, while keeping in mind that some actions would be too risky for some workers to participate in.
To be successful, however, we cannot limit our movement to purely playing defense against Trump.
We need to also fight offensively for concrete gains that can inspire the broader working and middle class.
We must not only oppose, for example, the attacks on women’s rights and Planned Parenthood, but also fight to extend reproductive care, for it to be free and accessible to all women. For paid family leave, for affordable childcare, and for a national $15/hour minimum wage.
I supported Bernie Sanders’ call for nationwide protests to defend the positive aspects of Obamacare, and to demand Medicare-for-all: a universal single-payer healthcare system.
This approach offers a real potential to undermine Trump’s own base, but the problem is this: Most of the Democratic Party leadership completely rejects this idea, because of their ties to the insurance industry and Big Pharma.
We just heard Donald Trump say that healthcare “is complicated,” but we have a simple solution. Many Democratic Governors, including Governor Inslee in Washington state, have been denouncing Trump’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act. But why don’t these Democratic Governors immediately move to implement single-payer systems in their own states?
California is already discussing such a plan. Our own state of Washington, along with Oregon, could come together in this effort. Along this “blue” West Coast we can develop a joint, single-payer alternative to the dysfunctional private health insurance system.
To most effectively fight the Right, we need an opposition party that is 100% against Trump and the Billionaire Class – a party that helps organize mass movements from below.
The Democratic Party leadership is completely opposed to such an approach, as we saw yet again this past weekend in the DNC chair election.
While the Democratic establishment has stood against Trump, their opposition has been unreliable and far from sufficient.
To the extent that the Democrats have opposed Trump, it has been grassroots pressure that has dragged them into it. This is due to their multi-faceted links to big business, their pro-capitalist program, and their conservative outlook.
Tens of thousands of people, primarily young people, are joining socialist organizations like Socialist Alternative, but particularly the Democratic Socialists of America.
We need to build this emerging socialist movement towards a new socialist party. It is very clear there is a space for such a force of 50,000 members to develop rapidly.
Such a new left party can be a forerunner to a mass workers’ party at a later stage.
This new left party will need to work alongside the larger number of anti-corporate workers and youth who are still looking towards progressive Democrats in their fight against the corporate establishment. We need to work together.
But if Democratic Party activists do not succeed in fundamentally transforming the Democratic Party – and I do not believe that they will succeed in that mission – they should draw all the necessary conclusions, and leave the Democratic Party to work to build a new mass party.
Because, sisters and brothers, we know that this is not only about Trump.
It is this predatory system of capitalism, in decline and in crisis, that has given rise to Trumpism. Oxfam recently reported that eight people now own more wealth than half the world’s population. This is the reality of the failed system of capitalism.
We need fundamental change. We need an overturning of the capitalist oligarchy through a political, economic, and social revolution which puts power in the hands of the overwhelming majority: The workers, the youth, and all those marginalized by this oppressive system.
Sisters and brothers, the wealth of these eight richest billionaires – and I just heard that Bill Gates is on his way to becoming the world’s first trillionaire – the wealth of these eight richest people needs to be confiscated and democratically allocated for the needs of the majority.
Wall Street and the big fossil fuel companies represent an existential threat to the future of humanity and our environment. As you just heard, Trump extolled the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline – he’s boasting about it. These fossil fuel companies also must be brought into democratic public ownership, and their resources deployed for socially necessary production, including a massive expansion of renewable energy.
Sisters and brothers, let’s take the energy that has been building against Trump within the first month of his presidency to build the largest possible action next week for the March 8 International Women’s Day rallies throughout this nation, including here in Seattle.
And let’s use March 8 as a springboard to build the largest possible actions on May 1, with strike actions and every other creative idea that we can use, in order for workers around America, young people, students on campuses, and more, to show that we are absolutely feeling the urgent need to disrupt business-as-usual.
And let us tie our message for massive actions to the call for solidarity among the 99%, based on a movement that runs on what is needed for us to fight Trump, and not what is acceptable to the corporate Democrats.
Let us tie our struggle, also, to the idea of socialism itself. Because socialism is not only possible, it is necessary. Our fight is not only against Trump and the right wing, but for a different kind of society – for a world based on equality, democracy, and environmental sustainability: In other words, a socialist world.