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The Internationalist
June 2021

Right-Wing Recall Campaign
Targets Kshama Sawant

Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, a supporter of Socialist Alternative, is facing a recall campaign fueled by right-wing forces. The recall grew out of a call by Seattle’s Democratic mayor Jenny Durkan last June (2020) to investigate the council member after Sawant had demanded Dukan’s resignation or impeachment for unleashing police brutality against anti-racist demonstrators. The mayor charged Sawant with using her office to promote the “Tax Amazon”¯ campaign; supporting demonstrations at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) that occupied several blocks in Sawant’s district; letting demonstrators into City Hall during COVID lockdowns, and leading protesters to Durkan’s home, which was supposedly secret “because of her law enforcement background”¯ (Seattle Times, 28 June 2020).

The recall process was kicked off with the filing of a petition last August based on the mayor’s complaints. Petition sponsors are now collecting signatures and if they gather a little over 10,000 signatures (a quarter of the votes cast in the 2019 election when Sawant was reelected by a narrow margin) in District 3, a yes/no vote on her removal would be held, possibly in the November general election. If Sawant is ousted, the city council would select a replacement to finish her term. The recall campaign is being pushed by real estate interests in particular, notably billionaire property developer Martin Selig (a prominent backer of Donald Trump) and Sawant’s 2019 opponent, Egan Orion, leader of the Broadway Business Improvement Area.

We are opposed to the reactionary recall campaign, while making clear the counterposition between our communist standpoint and the politics upheld by Sawant and SAlt. It should be clear that none of the infractions she is charged with are reprehensible from the standpoint of the working class. The recall is clearly a reaction to the CHAZ occupation which greatly angered Republican Trump, the police and the Democratic Party establishment of Seattle and Washington state. However, as we noted last summer, while the occupation was hailed by virtually the entire opportunist left, “The arch-reformist Socialist Alternative (SAlt) had a little trouble with this, as its city council member Kshama Sawant had voted for and vociferously supported Police Chief Carmen Best”¯ (“‘Abolish the Police’ Under Capitalism?”¯ The Internationalist No. 60, May-July 2020).

When Seattle police veteran Carmen Best (left) was appointed chief of police, city council member Kshama Sawant (right) of Socialist Alternative voted to confirm the top cop. Police are the armed fist of the capitalist ruling class.
(Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)

From the time of her initial election in 2013, we have noted that SAlt’s social-democratic program is no “alternative”¯ at all to the Democratic Party, and in fact Sawant was backed by top Democrats (see “Socialist’ Elected in Seattle on Platform of Liberal/Populist Reforms,”¯ The Internationalist No. 36, January-February 2014). Her call for a $15/hour minimum wage (which SAlt made its signature campaign) is also supported by many bourgeois figures, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Sawant embraced Democratic senator Bernie Sanders and hailed the election of five members of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) to Congress as Democrats. This past March, Sawant announced she was joining the DSA, which is functionally part of the Democratic Party. Many SAlt supporters have done likewise.

The Internationalist Group has underlined that “the Democrats are the key strategic enemy whose stranglehold on labor, black and immigrant organizations and populations must be broken.”¯ We call to build a multiethnic revolutionary workers party that fights against all the capitalist parties and politicians. Their pseudo-socialist pretenses aside, SAlt and Sawant instead chain workers and the oppressed to this imperialist party of war, poverty and racism. For those who would like to investigate this vital issue, we recommend reading the Internationalist Group pamphlet, Left Reformists in Existential Crisis (June 2019), at www.internationalist.org, with documents of militants who broke from SAlt to take up the fight for authentic Trotskyism. ■