UPDATE: See Below:
(HT: Dyspepsia Generation) it seems that the residents of Seattle have elected a ‘Socialist Alternative’ candidate, Kshama Sawant, defeating the incumbent for position 2 (of 9), and president of the council, the notorious reactionary Democrat Richard Conlin. We might ask newly elected New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who took his honeymoon in Cuba, about it, but he’s merely a mainstream Democrat, which is very different from a Socialist.
Quote: “… Sawant the first Marxist to win a city-wide election in Seattle since the radical progressive Anna Louise Strong was elected to the School Board in 1916″
Do go and read that Wikipedia article about Anna, and you’ll see a lot of resemblance to Whitney. Strong met with Stalin and was friendly with Mao. During the war she did exactly what you would expect your average Seattle female politician to do – hang out on the Russian side of the Eastern Front and follow along with the Soviet advance.
In World War II, when the Red Army began its advance against Nazi Germany, Strong stayed in the rear following the soldiers through Warsaw, Łódź and Gdańsk. In great part because of her overtly pro-Chinese Communist sympathies she was arrested in Moscow in 1949 and charged by the Soviets with espionage. She later returned to the USSR in 1959, but settled in China until her death.
Later, in 1959, she wrote the great book, “When Serfs Stood up in Tibet” which, in a way probably opposing the attitudes of today’s Liberals, tends to put a bit of a pro-ChiCom spin on the narrative.
Anyway, back to Seattle. MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hays is all over it, “Socialist: No longer such a dirty word“. (don’t tell Sunstein or the Tea Party)
And just joking about that notorious reactionary part, except that’s the way Sawant characterized him – as a kind of squishy liberal overly friendly to the establishment – by unfavorably comparing him to that wretch Kerensky whose only grace was making way for (well, ‘being overthrown by’) our hero Lenin.
No, I’m not kidding.
Now, some Mission Impossible! Your challenge, all you Mr. Chambers out there, if you are willing to accept it, is to your aim your little slings at Ms. Sawant and somehow not also hit all those nasty Seattle Establishment Democrats.
I’ll add one caveat, in that that successful field agents must identify policies that are substantially different and are within a city councilmember’s legal authority. In other words, you only get credit for potential deliverables – what Sawant can actually achieve for her constituents. You don’t get points for Socialists merely signalling what they’d like to do, if only the Courts didn’t stop them, like Conservatives signalling about abortion.
Now, obviously Ms. Sawant believes there are important differences between herself and typical American Democrats. I’m sure she’s got some strong words of opposition for and criticism of President Obama’s policies, it’s just … I can’t seem to find any. The American left doesn’t seem to be attacking her very much on account of her Marxism either. Sunstein is right, Liberals are just being lazy with their indifference, and they’re going to let Glenn Beck brainwash all the moron Tea Partiers into thinking they tolerate, or – gasp – even have an affinity towards these nasty Socialists.
Let’s take a look at Mr. Richard ‘Kerensky’ (‘K-money’ to his capitalist Runnin’ Dawg friends) Conlin. Some excerpts from La Wik:
Under the banner of environment, he is involved in efforts to improve the salmon population.
Conlin spent time teaching public administration at the University of Botswana and University of Swaziland.
Conlin sponsored the 2007 Zero Waste Strategy, Resolution 30990 which directed Seattle Public Utilities to produce recommendations on how to eliminate residential solid waste,including whether to ban or tax plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam food containers. In 2008 Conlin sponsored Seattle’s Bag Fee Law, a 20-cent surcharge on bags. … The measure passed the city council by a 6-1 margin.
Huh. Well, maybe he was too pro-development and too cozy with the money men!
On October 15, 2012, both the King County Council and Seattle City Council approved a financing plan for a $490 million sports arena in the Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood, backed by venture capitalist Chris Hansen. The King County Council vote was 9-0, while the City Council vote was 7-2, with Conlin and Nick Licata as the only opposition
Ok, well, let’s take a look at his blog:
Public Financing of Campaigns (heh, he might not think so highly of it now – he had the financing advantage and still lost, it would have been worse without it)
Marriage Equality yadda yadda
So, a pretty doctrinaire modern American West Coast Liberal, not exactly a DINO. Environmentalist, highly regulatory, mildly anti-development, pro-gay, etc. If not ‘Socialist’, then pro social-democracy welfare state, with preschool and healthcare for all, amen.
Let’s take a look at Kshama now, who calls herself an “Occupy Wall Street” activist and teaches part time at Seattle Central Community College (stealing generously from La Wik):
Sawant was born … in Pune, India. Sawant’s family were middle class members of the Brahmin caste. [heh] … grew up in Mumbai … studied computer science … B.S from the University of Mumbai in 1994. Sawant married her husband Vivek, an engineer at Microsoft [Fwd.us!], and moved to the United States. … began to pursue study in economics due to what she described as her own “questions of economic inequality.”
She entered the economics program at North Carolina State University where she earned a PhD. … Sawant moved to Seattle in 2006 and became a citizen in 2010.
I don’t see any issue with a recent recipient of an taxpayer-subsidized American Economics PhD also being a Marxist. I mean the Socialist President of Ecuador got one too in Illinois. That is, you know, decades after the collapse of every Marxist economic system. But, whatever. I blame the Jews. It’s funny though, neither of Seattle’s Socialists, Sawant nor Strong, were Jewish. I don’t get it, that clearly doesn’t accord with the Standard Theory of Socialism, right? We obviously need to do more research.
Let’s go through her Socialist, but certainly nothing like Democrat or Liberal, issues: First from La Wik:
She is a supporter of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour
[The residents of Seatac, Washington just voted for this, hardly radical in a state where the MW is already $9]
implementing rent control [you mean like in NYC?], single-payer health care [You mean like Pelosi?], protecting public sector unions from layoffs [You mean like Wisconsin teachers?], instituting higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for public union jobs and services [You mean like the entire Democratic party?], using government to organize mass protests [Organize For
ObamaAmerica!], a moratorium on deportations of illegal immigrants from Seattle [Dreamers!] and granting unconditional citizenship for all persons currently in the United States without citizenship [Amnesty!]. She opposes the E-Verify system [You mean like ‘Libertarians‘?]
Sawant has called for expanded government funding of renewable energy and efficacy technologies while opposing nuclear energy
So … yeah. How much daylight between her an Obama are we talking about it? You could try to seize on this:
In previous campaigns she has advocated the nationalization of large Washington State corporations such as Boeing, Microsoft, and Amazon.com.
Now, that is a bit out of the Establishment Democrat mainstream who only want to nationally socialize the sixth of the economy dedicated to medical care, and it’s fun to ponder exactly how effectively ‘national’ (that is – reliant on government-directed expenditures for their profit margins) companies like Microsoft and Boeing already are.
But remember the caveat above. Sawant does not have the legal authority or jurisdiction to nationalize Amazon. These days she’s matured from her youthful radicalism of two years ago and merely wants to forcibly unionize these companies, which Democrats have already wanted to do to Walmart forever, and anyway, Bezos owns the Washington Post now, so good luck with that.
Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place. Let’s take a look and see if there’s anything additional at the issues page on her own site:
Put the brakes on the coal trains! [uh, see Conlin above]
Dramatically expand public transit & bikeways
End homelessness in Seattle. Fully fund services for the disabled, veterans, seniors, & families in crisis.
Build a mass movement against police brutality & racial profiling. [Very different from the Democrats, of course]
Stop defunding public schools. Lower class sizes. Support Seattle teachers & students boycotting the MAP standardized test. [No teacher left unemployed!]
Expand anti-bullying efforts & curriculum promoting LGBTQ equality, anti-racism, and anti-sexism.
You’ve got to help me here people. Maybe my short-term memory is going kaput in my old age, but I seem to recall ordinary, center-mass, middle-of-the-bellcurve Democrats supporting all these things. Help me Kshama! You certainly aren’t shy about using the term ‘Socialist’, and you defend it:
The job of socialists is to point the way forward, and we are not shy about it. We invite to people to debate with us on ideas of socialism. But we are not shy and we have been proven, resoundingly correct, that we should not be shy, because there is no excuse for being shy or reticent when you are talking about such serious issues as fighting against the enormous misery that capitalism unleashes on us, all over the world. So let’s be clear about it, let’s not be shy. This is not a time for modesty; this is a time for boldness and courage.
Well, ok, you don’t like capitalism, but, really, Why Socialism? To answer, she puts forward an article by Ramy Khalil, her campaign manager, and ‘a long-time social justice activist’ (something no Democrat ever called themselves)
One of my favorite swipes:
These glaring contradictions, alongside the Republicans’ ludicrous claims that Obama is a “socialist,” have generated a surge of interest in socialism as an alternative way to organize society.
Ludicrous. Clearly. But Khalil’s basic answer is, “Your entire system of government is incurably … unjust”
However, governments that merely regulate the excesses of capitalism are incapable of escaping the system’s inherent flaws and grotesque inequalities.
There this piece of pure logic:
But as long as corporations are privately owned, no matter how regulated they are, they will be locked into a system of cut-throat competition and our entire society will be structured around one fundamental purpose – maximizing short-term corporate profits, not the needs of humanity or the environment.
Quite a leap from ‘corporations’ to ‘our entire society’. Now, as we all know, competition never did anybody any good, and it certainly never met any human needs. And regulations were never able to get corporations to refrain from poisoning the environment. Oh, wait, no, the exact opposite of that is true. On the other hand, in ‘Communist’ countries like China where there is not really much competition for various giant State Owned Enterprises we don’t see a lot of serving of the needs of the environment or the locally-poisoned humanity. Strange…
Still, it’s a difference. Democrats: “Privately-held corporations can be regulated enough, we’re just not sure where that limit is, and we keep adding to the list of rules”. Socialists “Never enough!” A vast chasm of distinction! He goes on:
The amount of resources wasted on war is another stark example of how the needs of capitalism are directly opposed to those of the vast majority of society.
Because Socialist countries never go to war or spend much of their resources on their militaries.
This requires taking the top 500 corporations that dominate our economy (the Wal-Marts, Exxon-Mobils, United Health Groups, Halliburtons, Microsofts, etc.) into public ownership and placing them under the democratic control of elected representatives of workers, consumers, and the community at large.
On the basis of a democratically planned economy, we could finally guarantee everyone on the planet a living-wage job and high-quality healthcare, childcare, education, and housing.
Planned economies have a great track record. North v. South Korea. East v. West Germany. Post-Socialist Israel and China vs. their actually socialist periods, etc.
But, again, we see the sole difference yet again. Nationally Socializing all the big private corporations, and public ownership of the means of production. “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state“, just like
Marx Mussolini said.
There is followed by a lot of … suspect … history, but he ends with some nice quotes from the pantheon of our latter-day Saints, MLK, Helen Keller, and Albert Einstein. Let’s read King’s:
“The movement to date has done much for the middle class but little for the black underclass. We are dealing with class issues. Something is wrong with capitalism…maybe America must move toward democratic socialism.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
How far we’ve moved in the direction of democratic socialism for the black underclass, and whether it is doing much for them, depends a great deal on one’s perspective. But there’s definitely a lot of government redistribution heading in their direction thanks to their electoral numbers (which, if that’s not the definition of ‘democratic socialism’ what is?), and no Democrat I know of has ever said, it’s ‘enough’, let along ‘too much’.
So folks, there we have it. Unless you can solve the Mission Impossible Challenge in some other way, the only discernible difference between the the Seattle Liberal Democrats and the Marxist Ms. Sawant is basically a disagreement about Clinton / Blair-style post Cold-War revival Neoliberalism. Funny, that used to be the disagreement amongst Democrats, who didn’t call themselves Socialists, even if they were on the con side of the neoliberal debate.
So, the fundamental distinguishing question is whether leftists can ‘tame’ market capitalism through regulation and redistributive taxation to serve their social-justice objectives better than crude collectivist central-planning, or not. Contemporary Establishment Progressive Democrats say ‘yes’, the Socialists say ‘no’.
But in the end one gets the impression that it’s more a question of means, rather than ends, and that’s the point. It’s certainly not obvious that, in changed economic conditions where national socialism could serve the progressive enlightened agenda better than tamed capitalism, that Democrats would oppose it because of some commitment to some other overriding principle.
Now, like I said above, (and thank God) Ms. Sawant cannot actually do anything to nationally socialize all the top corporations in the country, and since she probably won’t be expected do anything very different than Conlin, one should try to explain why she won the election.
One reason is that the American left still thrives on a kind of ideograph of being anti-establishment, of being the rebels, speaking truth to power, fighting for the poor worker and organizing their communities into as-much-revolution-as-feasible against the oppressive old, white, male, wealthy capitalists who control everything, etc. It’s always Berkley in 1968.
The problem with this ideograph is that the progressives are the establishment now, and their politicians are often wealthy, well-connected elites who make the deals in the smoky-filled back rooms and like to network at the country club. Will Obama be our first billionaire former President? If you don’t pay him (or his wife) a quarter-million a speech then you’re obviously racist, so I wouldn’t bet against it!
But if the progressives insist on preserving this ideograph then they run the risk of occasionally letting the mask slip and appearing as very ‘establishment’ to voters who have been socially conditioned to always support the most anti-establishment candidate. Frustrations with governance are inevitable, but in purple districts, Democrats can always blame the Republicans. But how can you blame anybody if the Democrats have a rock-solid, super-majority (or even unanimous) hold on power?
Well, you can, apparently, go on blaming George W. Bush for at least half a decade, but eventually it gets tired – and that’s at the national level. What do you do in a place where Democrats have dominated everything forever? Anti-establishment leftist frustration only has one place to go, and that’s Socialism.
So, Ms. Sawant’s case may turn out not to be some random aberration but instead a harbinger of things to come in parts of the country where political and demographic realities have made one-party Democratic rule uncontested because uncontenstable, now and forever. The leftist ratchet may proceed in part through this ‘more anti-establishment than thou’ mechanism.
In a way, we can only hope that the progressive establishment recovers from their shock, learns their lesson, and doesn’t make the same mistake in the future. If they don’t, then pretty soon it’ll be the anti-establishment Maoists and Stalinists attacking the establishment Troskyites, etc., etc.
So it’ll be interesting to see how the progressives react next time a Socialist in on the ballot. Who knows, maybe they’ll even try to draw a distinction or two.
Yay! More distinction! So Boeing was having a bit of a classic post-globalization labor-management tiff with their machinist employees. “Yield, or we outsource!” To other, ‘right-to-work‘ states, presumably, in this instance. The current state of the economy with its crappy labor market means that Boeing has a reserve army of domestic unemployed, ready, willing, and able to do the job for much less – a precarious position for a union to find itself in.
Boeing told the machinists to give up their defined-benefit pensions in exchange for eight years of guaranteed high-paying manufacturing work. The machinists balked and struck (though this is a typical ritual in these negotiations).
What was not typical was Sawant’s advice. She told the machinists that if their jobs were moved out of state, then that
“…will be nothing short of economic terrorism because it’s going to devastate the state’s economy,”
Terrorism! And how do you respond to terrorist threats? “Extrajudicial Expropriation” (in the most legally euphemistic expression) or “Conspiracy of Burglary” (in the more common one). They ought to:
“…take over the factories, and shut down Boeing’s profit-making machine.”
She calls that “democratic ownership”, but how far the franchise extends is a bit fuzzy. I don’t think the senior foremen will be sharing equally with the apprentices.
“The only response we can have if Boeing executives do not agree to keep the plant here is for the machinists to say the machines are here, the workers are here, we will do the job, we don’t need the executives. The executives don’t do the work, the machinists do,”
Remember folks, this woman has a PhD in Economics from an American public university. Apparently they never explained what it is that executives actually do. But even so, if they are well compensated, and they can be done without, then economic theory says that profit-seeking, cost-cutting corporations would have already done that. So, some of the senior foremen will have to do those things, and have authority to make decisions, and of course they’ll decide to compensate each other well, and start to hire and intermingle with other experienced, competent executives, and, didn’t someone write a book like this once?
Thankfully, Matthew Yglesias is one the case, calling these ‘bad ideas’, and defending the non-triviality of executive functions. So I guess we can be confident that he’s a sensible liberal and not a Socialist. After all:
I hope her political career blossoms so as to provide sensible liberals with someone noteworthy to triangulate against.
That’s accurate enough. “I’m not a crazy Socialist like Sawant who is stuck in the leftist syndicalist rhetoric of the 1910’s.” But Conlin was a sensible liberal, he did try to point that out, and he still lost.
This goes back to my theory. ‘Sensible, not Socialist’ is a perception a Democrat wants to project to fence-sitting moderates in a contested electoral contest with Republicans. “He’s a Socialist!” – “Oh, that’s silly, if not a lie. Sawant’s a crazy Socialist, but I’m nothing like here. She’s crazy, and my opponent is crazy for comparing me with her.”
But in a blue district, and in a blue-on-bluer election, ‘sensibility’ seems ‘establishment’ and is thus not how the progressive electorate is conditioned to vote. Triangulation won’t help you there – and that’s where the future is.