• Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • First Elected Socialist Seattle Council Member in a Century

    TRNN speaks with Socialist Kshama Sawant about her vision of an alternative to capitalism. -   November 20, 13
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


    Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

    The Real News is a vital answer to The New York Times, the house organ of the oligarchs. - Al Salzman
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


    Kshama Sawant is the first open socialist to be elected to Seattle City Council in over a century. She is an economics professor at Seattle Central Community College and a member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 1789. She was an activist in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is a fighter for workers, women, LGBTQ people, and immigrants through her work in the organization Socialist Alternative.


    First Elected Socialist Seattle Council Member in a CenturyJESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

    For the first time in more than a century, the city of Seattle elected a socialist City Council member. Her name is Kshama Sawant, and she joins us now from Seattle.

    Kshama is an Occupy activist, union member, and economics professor. And as I mentioned, she's the first open socialist to be elected to Seattle City Council and the country's first big-city socialist councilmember in decades.

    Thanks for being with us.


    DESVARIEUX: So, Kshama, I read a great Q&A on Salon recently, and you mentioned how young people can see that the two-party system does not offer any solutions. It's basically not working for them. Well, what is the alternative? What kind of alternative are you offering?

    SAWANT: Okay. So, first of all, yeah, I just wanted to say that it's absolutely true that young people don't see a solution. And, you know, a Pew Research poll recently showed that people who are aged 18 to 29 years of age, in that age group, a much greater number of them see socialism favorably than capitalism.

    And in order to understand what kind of alternative we need, I think it helps to look at what kind of system we have today. You know, we have the capitalist system, around which the global economy is organized. And what capitalism offers is a recession every five and a half to seven years. And once in a while, one of those recessions will be a full-blown devastating recession like this one, the one we are in, the Great Recession. We started in 2008. And there is no solution to this great recession anywhere on the horizon as far as the capitalist system is concerned. And instead what we're seeing is that the the burden of the recession is being placed squarely on the shoulders of working people, elderly, disabled. And young people in some ways are going to bear the brunt of this collapse, because they are just entering the job market, they are just starting out their adult life, and what they have staring in front of them is a bleak future of low-wage jobs, tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, and a slashing of social programs. So, you know, new young parents are going to have very little support in terms of child care, health care, and any prospect of, you know, building a retirement or pension cushion for their old old age.

    And look at the devastation that it has wrought in many cities like Detroit. You know, entire auto plants that could be really productive have either been moved to the South, where there are workers who are poorer and more desperate enough to accept jobs that are lower wage. And on top of that, you have lots of machines staying idle while lots of people out there are looking for jobs.

    And, you know, when people say that capitalism is an efficient system, I would argue very strongly against it. Capitalism has made possible tremendous technological achievements. The human race is capable of, you know, many kinds of brilliant innovations. But in reality, at this moment, capitalism is a deeply inefficient system which has tremendous resources lying idle while people are struggling to put food on the table and to put a roof over their head.

    DESVARIEUX: Can we talk a little bit more about your platform as a socialist? How do you see sort of turning this tide?

    SAWANT: Yes. I was getting to that. And the only way to turn this tide is to find ways to improve the standards of living of all the people who are being, you know, pushed to the bottom.

    And that's why concretely our campaign has been fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle. And I don't think we should have any illusions. Fifteen dollars an hour is not a living wage in a city as expensive as Seattle. But it will be a significant improvement in people's lives. And there is a huge momentum to fight for $15 an hour. And that's the main variable we have to go down to, that if we want to make any kind of social change, even within capitalism--I will talk about what alternatives I have for capitalism itself--but even if you want to make any slight bit of change within capitalism, that will require a mass number of workers and young people and other people to come together in an organized movement.

    And so, for example, we are not going to get $15 an hour in Seattle unless we have a mass mobilization of working people to demand for it. And throughout history, in every example where the labor movement or social movements or women's rights and, you know, people of color rights and so on, if they were able to gain any victory, it was by fighting against the capitalist system, not with it, because capitalism does not offer those solutions. And so we have to be fighting for those reforms within capitalism.

    However, it's not going to be enough, it is not going to be enough to fight for $15 an hour, because even if we get it, the value of that wage will be eroded over a couple of generations, and then will be back to very where we started. And so we have to find an alternative to capitalism itself. And the alternative we are fighting for is democratic socialism, which is a way of organizing the human economy and society globally on the lines of economic democracy, meaning that all the resources, the tremendous natural and technological resources that we have in our society, all the capability, innovative and creative capabilities that we have, all of that should be harnessed for social good, not for the profit of a small elite, which is what capitalism offers. And that has to be done in a sustainable way. And that is another reason why we are fighting for our socialism, because capitalism has proven itself completely incapable of fighting against climate change and ending the use of fossil fuels. So how [crosstalk]

    DESVARIEUX: Okay. I want to get a sense from you how you work within this current system, because, as I stated before, you are the first open socialist to be elected to Seattle City Council. How do you plan on working within that paradigm? Are you going to be--how's your agenda going to be different or the same as liberal Democrats, for example?

    SAWANT: No, the agenda is going to be, you know, you know, completely different than liberal Democrats'. Liberal--and it's not just a superficial label when I call myself socialist or when we say we're a socialist alternative organization. We don't--it's not simply a nominal label that we where. We are socialist because we reject the function, we reject that the only possible economic system is capitalism, and so you have to work within it.

    But, you know, this is what liberal Democrats believe in. I mean, they except the limits of capitalism. So in spite of the fact that many rank-and-file Democrats are very genuine and many of them have ended up supporting our campaign, when you accept that capitalism is the only option you have, then you end up, even though you don't want to, you end up accepting the logic of big business and the super wealthy.

    And what does that mean concretely? That means that, you know, I'm on City Council and I'm fighting for $15 an hour, if I was a liberal Democrat, I would easily get coopted into the agenda of big business, because all big business has to do is to schmooze me, you know, take me out to dinner, say, you know, I really like your passion, I admire your passion, you're doing great things, but look, we can't push for it in such a dramatic way; you know, it has to take time, you have to invite big business to the table; and, look, let's do this over several years, and, you know, maybe not let's start with $15 an hour; let's say let's do $11 an hour for now, and let's just target it at some businesses, and we'll take it slow. This is how the Democratic Party functions. And you can see how miserably it has failed, because the Democratic Party does not offer an option to the--an alternative to the Republican Party, which is--you know. And then the reason they don't offer an alternative is because they accept the same system the Republicans do.

    Look at what happened with single-payer health care under Obama. People voted for Obama in big numbers because they hoped that he would bring single-payer health care, which would ultimately, you know, which would finally bring decent health care provisions for all Americans in the wealthiest country in the world. I mean, look, it's high time that happened. But that wasn't possible under Obama, because Obama, when he comes with the mandate of big business, when he is a candidate that has historically high campaign funding from financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, when he's in the White House, he has to serve their interests, because they're not stupid. They're not going to get him into office and then let him do whatever else he wants to do for working people. So what happened with single-payer health care? All the people who were calling for single-payer health care, including Dennis Kucinich, were shut out from the debate. And who was invited to the table? It was insurance companies, CEOs, and pharmaceutical Corporation CEOs. And they finally delivered this rotten public option, which may have a few positive characteristics to it, but on the whole is going to fail the needs of working people. That's a concrete example of how the liberal Democrat approach works out in the end.

    DESVARIEUX: Alright. Kshama Sawant, thank you so much for joining us. This is just the first part of our interview. In our next part of the interview, we'll discuss the contract dispute between Boeing workers and executives and we'll get into what's at stake for workers after Boeing received a record state corporate tax break of $9 billion. Please stay tuned for that.

    Kshama Sawant, as I said, thank you again for joining us.

    SAWANT: Thank you.

    DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


    Latest Stories

    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7), Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting