While Labour leader David Cunliffe was saying that socialism is not a word he uses, Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant was getting voted on to the Seattle City Council , defeating the longtime Democrat incumbent. She told the media: “I think we have shown the strongest sceptics that the socialist label is not a bad one for a grassroots campaign to succeed.'
While our corporate media have been diligently chronicling the private life of television chef Nigella Lawson and the death of a cartoon dog, it has paid zero attention to the election of Kshama Sawant to the Seattle City Council this month.
Normally the election of one councillor to one city council would pass by without a lot of comment,
but the significance of Kshama Sawant's victory is that she is a socialist who defeated the four-term Democrat incumbent and his party machine. It was an election that few, bar her supporters on the left, expected her to win.
For those who think the mere mention of socialism is election suicide and campaigning to overturn the neoliberal applecart is just the daft talk of the politically naive, Sawant's victory could be an enriching learning experience.
Sawant, a former organiser with the Occupy movement , told Associated Press: “I think we have shown the strongest sceptics that the socialist label is not a bad one for a grassroots campaign to succeed.'
Speaking about race and poverty issues she said:
" We need to recognize what is at the root of racism, this hatred and fear of black people, of people of colour, of poor people,The root cause of racism is the capitalist system itself … this system does not work for us. Racism is necessary for this oppressive system to exist. It prevents ordinary people from coming together of different races and turning their fire towards Wall Street, corporate politicians and the ruling elite as a whole … the bankers, the billionaires, the capitalists — they are the criminals of our society. They are amounting unimaginable wealth by exploiting the rest of us and maintaining their power by dividing us.”
“We must reject this divided rule and build an independent united working class movement that will put on trial American racism, sexism, class and gender exploitation, and capitalism itself,”
Without exaggerating the importance of Sawant's victory, the fact remains she has played a significant role in changing the political conversation in America. Whatever Fox News and the rest of the corporate media may want people to believe, socialism is not a dirty word in America. There is a growing number of American's who want a clear left alternative to the big business and neoliberal politics of both the Democrats and the Republicans. Indeed a recent poll indicated that 60% of American voters, including half of Democrats, believe that the two major parties “do such a poor job that a third major party is needed.”
Why is there no such political alternative in New Zealand? Would it not be refreshing - and inspirational - to have just one prominent politician who will call themselves a socialist and raise the issues that are of concern to ordinary people? Where are our Kshama Sawant's?
Instead we are being told - and will be told throughout 2014 by the usual suspects - that the 'only alternative' is a Labour-led government, with the Green Party and the Mana Party as the junior partners.
Let's be clear. Such a government will represent no threat to the neoliberal order. It will be business as usual - as both David Parker and Grant Robertson have already publicly said.
Unlike Kshama Sawant - a proud socialist - the leader of this government will be a man who has declared that 'socialism is not a word I use'.