By Ty Nolan
The right-wing in Seattle is trying to undemocratically recall the city’s only elected socialist in 100 years.
Kshama Sawant is Seattle’s socialist city council member responsible for spearheading movements to win a $15 minimum wage, the Amazon Tax to fund affordable housing, and the first-in-nation ban on the use of weapons against peaceful protests.
Since 2014, Kshama and Socialist Alternative, our sister organisation in the United States, have demonstrated how socialists can win elected office independent of the Democratic Party and use their position to lead movements to win historic victories.
Kshama’s organising has repeatedly led her into direct conflict with the city’s billionaires and right-wing establishment since taking office in 2014. Now, those same forces have launched the “Recall Sawant Campaign” to undemocratically remove her from office. So far, they have received funding from over 130 Trump donors and over 500 Republican donors including Seattle’s notorious slumlord Carl Haglund and the billionaire union-busting Nordstrom family.
Right to protest under attack
The Recall campaign claims to be bringing three charges against Kshama. One of the charges is for her support for the Tax Amazon movement, and the other two are for her participation in the Black Lives Matter protests, during which she was tear-gassed by Seattle police alongside other activists.
This right-wing backed effort is a part of a nationwide attack on the right to protest that has come in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter uprising. Since last summer, eight states have passed anti-protest laws while twenty-one more states have anti-protest bills pending. If the Recall campaign succeeds, the right-wing will feel emboldened to wage further attacks on socialists and the right to protest.
The Recall campaign recently announced they have over 90% of the signatures needed to get on a ballot. This actually puts them in a position to hand in their signatures before 3 August to qualify for the November General Election ballot. However, their campaign manager has previously said they prefer having a special election in the winter when voter turnout drops by an average of 25%.
By deliberately choosing to avoid being on the November ballot, they are ensuring themselves a whiter, wealthier, and more conservative electorate turning out. This amounts to voter suppression by another name and is part of a national trend where the right to vote is coming under attack. This year 14 states have passed 22 laws suppressing the right to vote.
Kshama and Socialist Alternative have responded to this attempt to suppress votes with a bold strategy of telling the Recall campaign it’s time to, “Put up or shut up” before signing their own Recall petition and urging her supporters to do the same.
The plan is to collect the remaining signatures needed to get on the ballot before the 3 August deadline in order to force the vote onto the November ballot. They have already collected more than the number of signatures needed to force the Recall onto the November ballot, but the Recall campaign seems determined to avoid November at all costs.
“…disturber of the political peace”
It is worth noting that Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was recalled in 1919 for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I. In the words of James Connolly, “The role of a socialist in elected office is to be a disturber of the political peace.”
Kshama has done just that as she has repeatedly stood unabashedly on the side of workers and the oppressed during her time in office. This combative approach has allowed her to lead movements winning massive victories for the working class, and it has also put a target on her back by the right-wing establishment and their billionaire backers. Now, Seattle’s working-class must go all out to protect the right to protest, stand against blatant voter suppression, and defend their socialist city councilmember Kshama Sawant.