“The Most Dangerous Woman in America”

An interesting discussion of prospects for a leftist third party in the US.This individual provides an opportunity to point out the differences between the ARV-ATS approach and that of the “normal” Left.

I would actually consider ATS to be considerably further to the left of this woman. She represents the reformist-socialist-statist and (probably) progressive moralist and “cultural Marxist” left whereas we represent the revolutionary-anarchist-libertarian-decentralist and anti-Communist left (see the recent piece that was posted here on Murray Rothbard’s analysis of the left/right model of the spectrum). Her criticisms of the Democratic Party-oriented center-left establishment are largely correct, and I would share her goal of “building of radical mass movements and a viable third party.” However, my guess is that she wants to do this merely within the context of left-progressive, welfare statist, social democratic and cultural leftist politics. I would see building radical mass movements and third parties (or a federation of dissident parties), merely as a prelude to the wider ambition overthrowing the state altogether by means of pan-secessionism and other related tactics of the kind that have been discussed here. Further, an authentic and comprehensive anarchist agenda means recognizing anti-imperialist, anti-statist, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, and decentralist tendencies not only from the Left but also from the Right and Center, and incorporating these into a wider meta-political and meta-strategic paradigm.

As an illustration, ATS associates who achieved positions of leadership in local politics may or may not push for an increase in the local minimum wage or seek to reform housing policy or impose excise taxes (ATS sympathizers probably disagree among themselves on some of these issues, and to some degree they are irrelevant to the wider ATS philosophy and strategy). But such actions, whatever they were, would only be a means to the wider end of building a revolutionary base for the purpose of developing local secessionist currents and eventually bringing the down the federal system and the empire altogether.

By Chris Hedges


  Kshama Sawant outside Seattle City Council chambers shortly before she was elected in November 2013. (AP / Ted S. Warren)

SEATTLE—Kshama Sawant, the socialist on the City Council, is up for re-election this year. Since joining the council in January of 2014 she has helped push through a gradual raising of the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Seattle. She has expanded funding for social services and blocked, along with housing advocates, an attempt by the Seattle Housing Authority to allow a rent increase of up to 400 percent. She has successfully lobbied for city money to support tent encampments and is fighting for an excise tax on millionaires. And for this she has become the bête noire of the Establishment, especially the Democratic Party.

The corporate powers, from Seattle’s mayor to the Chamber of Commerce and the area’s Democratic Party, are determined she be defeated, and these local corporate elites have the national elites behind them. This will be one of the most important elections in the country this year. It will pit a socialist, who refuses all corporate donations—not that she would get many—and who has fearlessly championed the rights of workingmen and workingwomen, rights that are being eviscerated by the corporate machine. The elites cannot let the Sawants of the world proliferate. Corporate power is throwing everything at its disposal—including sponsorship of a rival woman candidate of color—into this election in the city’s 3rd District.

Sawant’s fight is our own.

I met Sawant in a restaurant a block from City Hall in Seattle. She is as intense as she is articulate. Sawant, born in India, is a leader of the Socialist Alternative Party. She holds a doctorate in economics from North Carolina State University and before her election to the City Council was a professor at a community college. She knows that there will be no genuine reforms, let alone systemic change, without the building of radical mass movements and a viable third party. She is as familiar at Seattle street demonstrations, where she has been arrested, as she is in City Council hearings. If there is any hope left for the absurdist political theater that characterizes election campaigns it is in renegades such as Sawant.

“The idea that things have to get a lot worse to have some sort of awakening and bring about an alternative to this corrupt and defunct corporate political system is inaccurate,” she said to me. “What we need is a big surge for an independent working-class political alternative while people are experiencing a sense of confidence, after decades of bitter defeat. The $15-an-hour victory in Seattle is going nationwide. And while unions are under massive attack, as you see in Wisconsin with Scott Walker, there are also successful labor initiatives getting onto the ballot. Four states—two of them Republican states—increased the minimum wage last year. Occupy and the Black Lives Matter movement have radically shaken U.S. consciousness. Now is the time for us to strike.”

Sawant said it is incumbent upon socialists and the entire U.S. left to swiftly begin the task of building working-class political campaigns independent of the Democratic Party in order to create the space for a viable national party. Efforts to reform the Democratic Party, whose leaders are in the service of the corporate oligarchy, amount to pouring energy into “a black hole,” she said. The Democratic elite dominate Seattle government, and the Democratic elite, as they did with Ralph Nader, have declared war against Sawant. As long as she remains in office she will expose the leaders in the Democratic Party for who they are—corporate puppets.

Sawant believes that because of the presidency of Barack Obama—who has served corporate power, expanded imperial wars, carried out a massive assault on civil liberties and failed to address the needs of the mounting numbers who are unemployed or underemployed—many people, especially young people, are hungry for political alternatives to “the two big business parties.” Poll after poll, she pointed out, shows the American majority to be disgusted with the Congress. And she cited the problems of Chicago Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel in seeking re-election as evidence that even the very beginnings of movements by working people and communities of color can shake and weaken the Democratic Party establishment. “He was considered undefeatable,” she said of Emanuel. “But look now at his vulnerability. Look at the campaign ad he just put out saying, yes, I made mistakes, but I am a human being. Who could have imagined that kind of false humility from him? Even spending $15 million on a mayoral race and having President Obama come and campaign wasn’t enough to buy him an easy victory. This demonstrates the wide opening for the U.S. left to present a principled working-class alternative. This is why we need to begin that project now. It won’t be easy. But this moment is qualitatively different from the period when Ralph Nader ran. The consciousness of the American people has changed. Uprising is in the air.”

Sawant emphasized that the process of building a radical alternative will be long and difficult. The obstacles the Establishment will throw up to prevent such a movement will be numerous, costly and unscrupulous.

“We cannot have illusions,” Sawant said. “We want to win. But we also know that in one year we are not going to vanquish the money machine of the Democratic establishment. The goal of this campaign should be to launch a massive grass-roots effort nationwide, and to build on it after the election, something that Ralph Nader failed to do. We have to provide a place for people looking for something different, especially the younger generation. Any presidential campaign cannot be run as an end in itself. That will dishearten people. People know what is going to happen in 2016. It is going to be Hillary Clinton or some Republican. Our campaign needs to be a launching pad for something bigger. It needs to be about building a mass movement, a viable radical alternative. This is what is happening in Greece and Spain.”

3 replies »

  1. As a further illustration of how ATS differs from “the Left” consider this:

    “Sawant believes that because of the presidency of Barack Obama—who has served corporate power, expanded imperial wars, carried out a massive assault on civil liberties and failed to address the needs of the mounting numbers who are unemployed or underemployed—many people, especially young people, are hungry for political alternatives to “the two big business parties.”

    This statement certainly identifies what the big issues are: imperialism, civil liberties, and class oppression.

    However, the ATS philosophy does not limit any critique of these issues to a conventional left analysis alone. Instead, ATS recognizes the entire range of anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-state issues and philosophical tendencies including those raised by groups outside the Left. These would include the criticisms of the excesses of statism offered by libertarians, criticisms of imperialism offered by paleoconservatives, and criticisms of totalitarian humanism offered by tendencies like the European New Right, or those who prefer some kind of conspiracy analysis, or some kind of religious perspective, without fully embracing any of these perspectives in their entirety.

    For example, ATS would certainly recognize 2nd Amendment issues. We would work with right-wing as well as left-wing civil liberties groups. We would also be inclined to see legitimacy in the anti-state positions of groups like the “sovereign citizens.” Many of us would recognize many legitimate issues that are raised by social conservatives in the areas of free speech, free inquiry, academic freedom, freedom of association, local sovereignty, home schooling, taxes, privacy rights, personal property rights, due process, etc. We would be inclined to recognize issues of economic freedom such as those involving excessive regulation of small businesses, zoning, occupational licensing, land use, housing, building codes, etc.

    We would also be inclined to reject the “compulsory cultural leftism” of the totalitarian humanist/left-fascist/antifa/safe space/anti-oppression/trigger warning crowds as special pleading by narrowly focused and obtrusive special interest groups and recognize that the wider revolutionary struggle involving the “Big Three” issues (imperialism, civil liberties, plutocracy) involves organizing and working with people from all across the cultural, political, religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic spectrum.

    Additionally, we would recognize many issues and oppressed groups that the Left doesn’t recognize or pays little attention to. One is the oppression of young people by schools, compulsory education drinking age laws, etc. Another is sex worker rights (an issue where the Left is usually either ambivalent or even opposed). Another is militant opposition to the war on drugs (another issue where the Left is usually wishy-washy, ambivalent, or opposed). Another is repealing consensual crimes altogether (an issue the Left pays little if any attention to). Another is prisoner rights, an issue where only the very hard left shows any solidity at all.Yet another is opposition to anti-gang laws (which has the potential to bring over a million armed rebels into our political camp). Another is the total overthrow of the so-called “criminal justice system” police state in favor of neighborhood watches, community militias, private defense agencies, and libertarian common law courts based on the non-aggression principle. Another is the dismantling of the military-industrial complex in favor of localized or federated fourth generation militias.

    Then there is the need for economic re-organization beyond the statist social democratic or corporate plutocratic model (again, the Left offers very little insight on this question).

  2. In many ways, what Kshama Sawant has done in Seattle is a prototype for what I envision the future leaders of pan-anarchism actually doing, i.e. using a minor party affiliation to accumulate a local power base and localized political influence. However, the pan-anarchists would not be merely agitating for a particular narrow ideological focus, such as socialism or libertarianism, but would instead be seeking to apply the Mailer model strategy in communities all across North America through such methods as “power to the neighborhoods” that transcends normal ideological and cultural barriers.

  3. In places like Seattle, the pan-anarchists might well pursue a leftward strategy somewhat similar to Ms. Sawant’s. In Alabama, they might pursue a rightward strategy more comparable to that of the Constitution Party, and in libertarian regions like New Hampshire they might pursue an explicitly libertarian strategy (like the Free Staters are doing). In inner cities they might pursue an alliance with black nationalists, and they might pursue radical center populist strategy similar to that of the Reform Party in more moderate-leaning areas.

    However, the common thread that united all of the leaders and activists would be the advancement of pan-anarchism by means of pan-secessionism.

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