Mumbai born socialist leader to ditch electoralism to win better lives and conditions for workers
After over a decade on the Seattle City Council, Indian American member Kshama Sawant plans to ditch electoralism and launch “Workers Strike Back,” a national campaign to win better lives and conditions for workers.
Claiming so-called progressive elected leaders fail to deliver, Mumbai-born Sawant, who worked as a software engineer there, before migrating to the US, will also host a video broadcast premiering this summer, according to an op-ed she wrote for The Stranger.
Read: Kshama Sawant claims cops ignored poop-tossing attacks on her home (October 26, 2022)
“We have no illusions that a mass movement can be built overnight, but we urgently need to get started. Working people have set a powerful example in this city,” she wrote.
“It is time to build on that nationally, to widen and strengthen the class struggle. Workers Strike Back will be launched in early March in cities around the country—from Seattle to New York to Chicago to Minneapolis to Oakland to Houston and beyond.”
The council’s lone socialist and most senior member, announced Jan 19 that she will not seek reelection for a fifth term this year. But until the end of her term, she’ll fight for a rent control trigger law, a cap on late fees for overdue rents, and ending the use of credit checks in rental applications.
“And when this term is over, we will continue to be disturbers of the political peace in Seattle, as well as nationally, whether inside or outside City Hall,” she said.
Sawant’s departure marks the end of an era, the Seattle newspaper said noting she helped win a $15 minimum wage for Seattle workers, she pushed the council to tax Amazon, and she championed renter protection after renter protection in her role as the Chair of the Renters’ and Sustainability Committee.
In a press conference Thursday morning, Sawant celebrated winning four elections and becoming the council’s most senior member, and doing so “not on the basis of go-along-to-get-along politics” or by enjoying “wine and cheese with the Chamber of Commerce.”
Rather, she called herself “a thorn in the side of the ruling class.” Still, she said that sort of inside-agitation strategy won’t be enough to overthrow the whole rotten system: “One City Council seat cannot replace a nationwide movement.”
Her Socialist Alternative party will not run another candidate to fill her seat, Sawant told reporters. The party believes the time and money it takes to run a candidate would be better spent organizing their new movement.
Sawant, 46, is Seattle’s most famous, outspoken and controversial politician. A veteran of the Occupy movement she was elected to the Seattle City Council in 2013.
In 2021, an effort to recall Sawant made it to the ballot with three charges of alleged “misfeasance, malfeasance and violation of oath of office.”
Among the allegations brought on by her opponents was one accusing Sawant of using city resources to support a proposed “Tax Amazon” ballot initiative, and acting out of compliance with public disclosure requirements, for which she settled with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission for $3,516.
Sawant admitted to this charge but said she was unaware it was a violation. She eventually survived the recall.
After earning her PhD, Sawant moved to Seattle and began teaching at Seattle Central Community College, Seattle University, and the University of Washington Tacoma.
She joined Socialist Alternative in 2006, and since then has helped organize demonstrations for marriage equality, participated in the movement to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was a visible presence in the Occupy Movement.
She has also been an activist in her union, the American Federation of Teachers Local 1789, fighting against budget cuts and tuition hikes.