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July 19, 2017

Freedom Socialist Party recommendations for the August 1, 2017 Washington State Primary election

Heightened polarization, political protest and voter disgust have shaken up the electoral arena this year. In Seattle this has led a whole slew of candidates to throw their hat in the ring for Mayor and City Council.

These positions are officially “non-partisan,” but Democrats predominate. This time around a number of candidates openly distanced themselves from the Democratic Party label, but in most cases the platforms they are running on remain liberal reform agendas. Only one candidate is urging workers to vote in their own interests for systemic change and an end to capitalism.

Mayor of Seattle – Vote Mary Martin, Socialist Workers Party (SWP)

The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) urges a vote for Mary Martin based on her clear socialist program. Her voter’s pamphlet statement raises important regional struggles from defense of immigrant workers to women’s reproductive rights, and goes further to urge workers to understand our capacity to organize and use our power for ending capitalist rule.

The FSP recommends a vote for Martin as a protest against this greedy, for-profit system. However, we can only give highly critical support to the candidate and her party, because they have not taken the time to apply their program to specific local issues which workers want answers to. Overall the SWP is once again running a boilerplate campaign that lacks seriousness.

We wish the SWP had taken their socialist program to the streets in an aggressive manner with publicity and tactics like those used by Nikkita Oliver’s mayoral campaign.

Oliver brings a fresh persona and has highlighted issues around racism, the housing crisis and police brutality. However, after a close examination of her platform, it’s clear that while Oliver delivers fiery prose, her concrete proposals stay within the safe boundaries of Seattle politics as usual: forming coalitions with developers to create affordable housing; promoting transparency; and promising “a vision to make Seattle a truly progressive city.”

At a time when working people are looking for radical change and are increasingly open to socialist ideas, electoral campaigns feeding the illusion that piecemeal reforms are the answer just don’t cut it. Another element of concern is that Nikkita Oliver is running as a candidate of the newly announced Peoples Party and says they will be accountable to the community. Yet they have no platform apart from Oliver’s campaign and appear to be more of a campaign committee than a real party.

Finally, on the mayor’s race, we want to tip our hat to candidate and former labor leader Bob Hasegawa. In 2013 he was one of only two state legislators who had the guts to vote against the massive $9 billion tax cut for Boeing. Hasegawa’s taken some brave stands, so it’s a damn shame he’s kept himself handcuffed to the Democratic Party, which is kryptonite to militant labor struggles!

In the Seattle City Council races, unfortunately, there are no candidates running as credible anti-capitalists on a working-class program.

Jon Grant, former head of the Tenants Union, is running for Position 8. Like Oliver, Grant puts forward many good reform measures that we support and wants “big corporations to pay their fair share,” but he doesn’t challenge the fundamental injustice of a for-profit economy. In the last city council election Grant ran as a Democrat, but in this election switched to the Democratic Socialists of America. Nonetheless, nothing socialist appears in his platform. And, despite calling itself socialist, DSA for decades has functioned as the left wing of the Democratic Party, with most of its endorsements going to Democrats.

Electoral campaigns can be very effective in bringing socialist ideas to a wide audience. But since Bernie Sanders it’s become popular to slap a socialist label on a “progressive” platform that only seeks to reform the existing system. This does a disservice to voters new to radical ideas.

And election campaigns should serve the grassroots activists’ efforts to build movements, not replace them. When electoral politics become focused on personalities, or become an end in themselves – then they exert a conservatizing influence on the movement.

This is the slippery slope that is turning Socialist Alternative into an electoral outfit losing its revolutionary socialist character. SA is campaigning for Oliver and Grant on the basis of their technical or formal independence from the Democrats and their rejection of corporate donations. This is a very low bar – what happened to class struggle?!

The FSP would like to see collaboration among those who want to bring thoroughly anti-capitalist ideas and activist strategies to the ballot box. Working-class voters across this state and country deserve it.

King County Proposition No. 1, Sales Tax for Cultural Access Program – Vote to Reject!

This proposition is being sold as an effort to expand access to arts, science, and heritage programming for public school students and serve diverse and underserved populations. It is funded by yet another regressive sales tax increase. This time it’s one-tenth of one percent for seven years beginning January 1, 2018.

The regressive nature of this tax would be cause enough for FSP to urge a “reject” vote, but further, the description on the ballot is very misleading as to who will benefit from this $500 million. In reality less than 10% of funds are allocated to the public schools. Over 50% of the funds are earmarked exclusively for “regional cultural organizations” that bring in at least $1.25 million annually – such as Woodland Park Zoo, Museum of Flight, Seattle Aquarium and the Pacific Science Center – large, well-funded, privately run organizations.

Reject Prop. 1, and all regressive taxes. Average people are staggering under the new Sound Transit tax increases and now face the prospect of gigantic property tax increases passed by Republicans and Democrats this legislative session in Olympia. We need to tax big corporations, institute a steeply graduated income tax, and entirely eliminate both the sales tax and property taxes on primary residences. It’s time for a working-class tax revolt!

If you’d like to discuss any of these recommendations further, please feel free to give me a call at 206-722-2453, or stop by New Freeway Hall, which houses our community center, bookstore and offices.

In solidarity,
Su Docekal
Seattle Organizer

PS. Good news! Rightwing organizations attempting to put Initiative 1552 on the ballot, which would have overturned equal rights protections for the transgender community, failed to get enough signatures! Congratulations to the Decline to Sign campaign.