The following article is written by Kshama Sawant (CWI-USA) who is currently running for a seat from Seattle in the State House of Representatives, Washington State, USA. She will be challenging Frank Chopp – the Democratic speaker of the House in a bid not only to challenge the status quo but also the two party domination in the USA (both shamelessly representing the interests of the corporates). In her own words, “During an election dominated by career politicians who are loyal to big business, I am running as a Socialist Alternative candidate to make sure there is at least one independent left-wing, pro-worker candidate in Washington State worth voting for.”
Unlike her opponents whose interests in politics or elections is very much connected to their careers and corporate interests, Kshama’s foray into elections as a conscious socialist, is to represent the voice of the 99% of mainly working people, poor and other oppressed people not seen and not heard in the mainstream corporatized media of the United States. And also to put forward the ideas of socialism as the only alternative to the crisis ridden system of Capitalism. Incidentally, Kshama is of Indian origin and originally hails from Bangalore.
I am running against the Democratic Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp, for the state House of Representatives in the 43rd District in Seattle to build a stronger movement that fights for the needs of regular working people and the poor. The Democratic and Republican Parties represent the interests of the 1%, and I believe it is essential that we, the 99%, have our own representation.
Since the Great Recession broke out in 2008, the Washington State legislature has cut $10.5 billion from essential services such as education, health care, and human services, as well as cutting benefits and jobs for state employees (www.ofm.wa.gov/budget12/highlights/4_2011-13Budget.pdf).
The state Basic Health program has been decimated with $1.7 billion in funding slashed, cutting 60,000 off its rolls. Other cuts include $2.7 billion in K-12 education; $1.7 billion in state and K-12 employee compensation; $1.3 billion in higher education; $551 million for disability, long-term health care, and mental health; and $730 million in other human services. Referring to the 2011 budget, Adam Glickman, vice-president of SEIU Healthcare 775NW, stated to reporters that the politicians “should be ashamed of themselves,” (WA State Budget and Policy Center).
These brutal cuts have been implemented at a time of historic economic crisis when working people and the poor need these services more than ever.
As a teacher of economics at Seattle Central Community College and an activist in the American Federation of Teachers Local 1789, I know all too well that public education has been savaged. Initiatives to fund smaller class sizes and cost-of-living raises for teachers have been canceled, and huge tuition increases have been pushed through. With the legislature passing devastating cuts to financial aid and other programs, it’s more and more difficult every year for ordinary people to afford to go to college.
These cuts were enacted at the same time that Washington-backed corporations enjoyed massive profits, assisted by bailouts and subsides paid for by working and middle-class taxpayers.
Washington State is home to some of the nation’s wealthiest corporations, including Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. Over the last three decades they have extracted over 500 tax exemptions for big business from the state legislature. These total an astonishing $6.5 billion a year in lost revenue – enough to reverse all the cuts and improve our state services (Washington State Budget & Policy Center, 12/9/2010).
The same political parties who today say there is no money for vital social services granted Boeing a $3.2 billion handout in the last recession, while simultaneously making it harder for seasonal workers to claim unemployment benefits. In 2011 the state legislature completely ignored the will of the voters who rejected Washington ballot initiative 1082 and went ahead and reduced the amount corporations have to pay to compensate workers injured on the job.
My opponent, Democrat Frank Chopp, will try to blame Republicans for this program of subsidies for wealthy corporations and cuts for the rest of us. However, this argument doesn’t hold water. The Democratic Party has held the governorship and a majority in both the state House and Senate during this entire period.
In fact, as Democratic Speaker of the House since 2002, Chopp has been the most powerful member of the Washington State House. Yet he has used his position to consistently oversee legislation that benefited the richest 1% at the expense of the 99%.
Chopp, like Democratic Party politicians across the country, has adopted the viewpoint that business interests must be safeguarded and that cuts in public services are the only realistic response to budget deficits. I believe it is absolutely necessary that we challenge that fallacy and fight against the self-serving corporate agenda it represents.
If elected, I will publicly and relentlessly expose the corrupt big-business policies of the state government, and instead provide a political voice for workers, youth, the poor, and all those oppressed by capitalism such as women, people of color, and LGBT people.
As an activist in the Occupy Wall Street movement, I have seen how people are ready to fight Corporate America’s domination of our society and stand up to Wall Street’s two political parties.
The struggles of Occupy succeeded in shifting the national political agenda in a matter of just a few months. This shows the potential power that ordinary working people and youth have when we begin to get organized and struggle together for our common interests. History shows we have the power to change society through building mass movements that are prepared to engage in a determined struggle.
This election campaign will be a platform to build support for all grassroots movements of the 99% and to appeal to workers and young people to join these campaigns. But we cannot win our goals only through struggles in the streets. We also need to expose and challenge the corporate agenda in every possible arena, including the elections.
For example, Occupy struggles have faced a brutal response from the city and state police and security forces. This was ordered by elected politicians who should be providing security to our citizens as opposed to doing the dirty work for the 1%. I will demand a full investigation into how our state and local government ordered these actions, and push for legislation that bars security forces from attacking social struggles, whether by Occupy, labor, community activists or those defending their homes from foreclosure.
We also need to not only protest inequality and say what we are against; we need to say what we are for, by putting forward a clear alternative to the corporate-dominated political and economic system. Capitalism has clearly failed the 99%. The interests of workers and young people cannot be served within the framework of this rotting system.
As socialists, we believe another world is possible – and necessary – a world based on the needs of humanity and the environment. Please support our campaign and join the struggle for democratic socialism!
What We Stand For:
# We need massive state and federal jobs programs to provide a living wage job for everyone who is looking for work, rebuild our economy with green technology, and expand public transit, education, health care, and affordable housing. Create a publicly owned state bank to invest in jobs in Washington.
# No cuts to social services! No layoffs or attacks on public sector workers! Reverse all budget cuts to education, health care and the Disability Lifeline. Build a powerful anti-cuts movement to force the legislators to listen to our needs, not the corporate agenda.
# Tax the rich and big business! Cancel the hundreds of tax breaks for big business and establish a wealth tax on the super-rich. Use this revenue to expand public services for the 99%.
# Expand funding for K-12 public schools and establish free public higher education. Reduce class sizes. Stop attacks on teachers and our unions. No to the corporate-backed charter school proposals, which will further weaken public education.
# End all cuts to Basic Health and expand it into a comprehensive, statewide single-payer health care system.
# End police brutality and the institutional racism of the criminal justice system. Invest in rehabilitation, job training, and living wage jobs, not prisons or detention centers! Abolish the death penalty.
# Full legalization and equal rights for all undocumented immigrants. No to E-Verify.
# For a woman’s right to choose when and whether to have children. Defend abortion rights. Full reproductive rights, including free birth control, sex education, paid maternity and paternity leave, and high-quality, affordable child care.
# Equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, including same-sex marriage.
# End the war in Afghanistan. Bring all the troops home now!
# Break with the two parties of big business! For a mass workers’ party drawing together workers, young people and activists from Occupy, workplace, civil rights, environmental and antiwar campaigns, to provide a fighting, political alternative to the big business parties.
# Unions, Occupy, and other social movement organizations should not fund or support the Democratic and Republican Parties and, instead, run independent left-wing, anti-corporate candidates.
# Take bankrupt and failing companies into public ownership and run them under the democratic management of elected representatives of the workers and the broader public. Compensation to be paid on the basis of proven need to small investors, not millionaires.
Seattle, Socialist Alternative (CWI-USA)