Jacobin - April 7, 2021

We’re almost getting used to seeing socialists win public office, a silver lining that has appeared every election cycle since 2018. But Kshama Sawant was elected to Seattle’s City Council in 2013, five years before this was so. Now, she’s at the cutting edge of the ruling class backlash that all socialists will likely face, if they’re effective.

Sawant’s accomplishments — like any socialist in this position, not hers alone, but also those of the activists she works with and her party, Socialist Alternative — are impressive. She got Seattle to raise the minimum wage to $15, which the national Democrats are still struggling to do, even though the value of $15 has considerably depreciated since she took it up. In the wake of the uprisings last summer in response to the ruthless murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by cops, she led a successful local struggle to ban the police use of choke holds, as well as chemical weapons and other violent means of crowd control. Like Julia Salazar in the New York State Senate, Sawant has also succeeded in expanding renters’ rights.

Savant has also led a three-year, ultimately victorious battle to pass legislation taxing large companies to pay for crucial social needs. That bill, which became law last summer and goes into effect this year, will initially fund coronavirus relief but will later fund affordable housing, help address homelessness, and support a local Green New Deal. The legislation, which passed the city council by an enthusiastic 7-2, grew out of Sawant’s “Tax Amazon” campaign and was a major political defeat for Amazon and the rest of the city’s ruling class, which has been fighting her efforts hard for the last three years. 

That’s why, although Sawant won reelection in 2019, the elites are not accepting the results. Instead, they’re waging a well-funded recall campaign against the socialist public servant. The pretext is pathetically thin: the recall petition accuses Sawant of illegally using city resources for the Tax Amazon campaign and revealing the mayor’s confidential home address to protesters, among other charges. Sawant denies those allegations and in general, denies breaking the law. Last week the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the recall could go forward, which means Amazon (um, I mean the grassroots efforts supporting Jeff Bezos in his struggle against one socialist city councilor) can begin petitioning. The recall election is expected either to be held on this November’s usual Election Day or early next year. ...
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