Currently, Seattle councilmember Kshama Sawant is facing a right-wing recall vote to remove her from the council.
Sawant is a vocal socialist, a member of Socialist Alternative (SA), and an active supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. For standing up for her principles, she has faced waves of attempts by the rich to oust her from power. But this attempt is occurring during the pandemic of COVID-19, which prevents organizers from going door-to-door to raise awareness about her cause and rally support.
To that end, members of SA invited Chicago DSA members and alders Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, Byron Sigcho Lopez, and myself to speak to help kick off the first of a series of online fundraiser rallies to raise the visibility of the campaign and raise money for it.
Below, I wanted to share what I said at the rally.
But before that, I want to underline the key issue here: if the ruling class of Seattle can unseat Sawant, then the ruling class of Chicago will use that lesson to try to unseat Rossana (33rd ward), Byron (25th ward), Jeanette (20th ward), Carlos (35th ward), and Daniel (1st ward). We have to defend Sawant in order to defend our own alders and build a national perspective on socialist politics. Learning how to build defense campaigns will be critical in the months and years to come.
Also, while I have your attention: please donate generously!
Comrades, I want to start by thanking you for having me here. Very honored to be able to publicly support Kshama, since she has directly inspired so many of us.
This fundraiser is so crucial because COVID prevents comrades in Seattle from safely door-knocking and canvassing to build up support for Kshama. So they have to rely on things like sending out mailers.
I was a part of Rossana’s election campaign and I remember that paying for mailers, which was a critical part of our success, was easily the single most expensive component of the entire thing. So every dollar we can raise to support Kshama is critical.
Now, I want to step back and also provide some political context for why we’re here as Chicagoans. The fact is that what happens in Seattle affects Chicago, and vice versa.
Kshama’s win in Seattle was a tremendous inspiration for all of us in Chicago and there is a direct connection between her City Council win and the kick-off of our campaigns. That's a positive connection.
If this reactionary recall succeeds, there can also be a negative connection. Her class enemies in Seattle will inspire our class enemies in Chicago. The ruling class and the working class have one dynamic thing in common: we learn from each other across city borders, state borders, and national borders.
This recall campaign has to be defeated. Defeating this campaign can help us learn how to handle future defense campaigns that both prevent us from losing power while also helping us rally wider layers of support to our side.
The attacks are political
I would add, we’ve seen first-hand the ways in which attacks against our elected comrades are about much more than the individuals.
This attack against Kshama is a political attack against socialism but more immediately against the Black Lives Matter movement. During the campaign for Rossana, and especially after, the pro-cop and anti-Black Lives Matter movement has focused special attention against her because she has loudly and consistently supported the call to Defund Police and build non-police alternatives to safety.
We need to keep that frame of reference: we need to defend our comrades, but we need to remember that we’re defending much more than the individuals, we’re also defending the movements that helped put them into power and they have helped push forward.
The coming wave of liberal anti-communism
The Democratic Party has openly signaled that they are ready to blame the far-Left for all of the party’s failures. After 4 years of having socialists use their ballot line, they are preparing to kick us out and launch a liberal version of McCarthyism.
Solidarity across cities will become increasingly important as we need to build different types of defense campaigns.
We’ll be seeing a heightened amount of smearing, scapegoating, and political sabotage from The Democrats. We need to be prepared and leverage these defense campaigns into conversations and stepping stones to building our own independent party.
Last thing I’ll say.
Accountability is something that is regularly discussed and most of us are figuring out how to actually implement it.
Here in Chicago, DSA recently made a public statement and censure when one of our members voted YES on an anti-Black, anti-working class city budget. We see this as the start of the accountability conversation in Chicago.
But, as our comrade Merita recently pointed out: accountability is a two-way street.
We need to let our comrades know when they veer from the path.
But we also need to be ready to defend our comrades when they courageously stay the path and face repression for it.
So, I hope everyone contributes generously to Kshama’s defense campaign because she has boldly and consistently stayed true to her political principles, to the demands of the movement, and to the fight for socialism.
For all of that courage, she deserves all of our support.
Please donate generously!