For over 10 years Socialist Alternative, a national organization of workers and young people, has produced the newspaper Justice. In that decade, we have consistently raised a critique of the capitalist system and its two big-business parties. We reported on local and national issues, international movements, and the lessons learned from the history of class struggle. We challenged the right-wing attacks from the Bush administration and were at the forefront of organizing the anti-war movement, starting immediately after 9/11 when many on the left shamefully bowed to the intense pro-war hysteria.
In the lines of Justice, we also warned of the dangers of supporting the Democrats as an alternative to the Republicans. We argued for the building of an independent movement and political party to fight for the interests of working people and youth. Justice has stood out on the left for its consistent opposition to both parties of big business – Republicans and Democrats – and its support for independent left political challenges, even when politically unpopular.
We swam against the stream of popular opinion in 2008 by our analysis of Obama as a big-business politician. We argued at that time that he would deeply disappoint the tens of millions supporting him in hopes of real progressive change and that this would inevitably lead to mass opposition and protests against him.
The global crisis of capitalism beginning in 2007-2008 was a clear,but also tragic,confirmation of another key aspect of our analysis over the previous period: that capitalism was heading toward a deep crisis and the ruling elite would seek a way out by trying to place the burden of the crisis on the backs of ordinary working people.
We were also confident that these policies of the ruling parties in the U.S. and around the world would be met by resistance from below and that this would begin to expose the bankruptcy of the system and the political parties which defend it. At the end of 2010, we wrote that we were at a turning point which marked “the eve of mass movements” around the world (Justice #75) – and we were right!
The beginning of 2011 saw the incredible wave of revolution that swept Tunisia, Egypt, and much of the Arab world. In the U.S. the uprising in Wisconsin, despite its defeat, demonstrated the determination of the U.S. working class to fight back and the potential to win.
Occupy Wall Street
Finally, the fall of 2011 brought the Occupy movement, which forced into the mainstream debate a sharp critique of Wall Street, the political establishment, and the immense inequality in U.S. society. It inspired millions, who saw others like them who were just as angry and fed up. Occupy made the ideas of activism and struggle credible once again. It showed that it was possible to challenge the power structure and build social movements in the U.S.
Out of Occupy, Socialist Alternative called for organizing concrete campaigns with the fighting edge and boldness of Occupy but also with clear demands and goals. In Justice we called for hundreds of Occupy candidates to challenge the two parties of Wall Street in the 2012 elections.
Unfortunately, in 2012 a huge opportunity to run such campaigns was missed. In Seattle, however, Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant got an incredible 29% of the vote for the Washington State House! Kshama, who is running this year for Seattle City Council, again as a Socialist Alternative candidate, came in second in the August primary, moving on to the general election with a shocking 35% of the vote!
For a socialist running with limited funding against corporate-backed candidates, this was a truly historic vote. While much of the more than 44,000 votes for Sawant represented a broad anti-corporate, anti-establishment mood and were not necessarily a full endorsement of socialism, it is clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that being openly socialist is not an obstacle to gaining support.
Fight for Fifteen
One of the key slogans of the campaign is a “ $15 minimum wage,” giving a clear political voice to the fast-food and other low-wage workers who have walked out and taken action for better wages and conditions. This struggle, although so far on a small scale, has many of the features of Occupy – like the willingness to take bold direct action – and it shows that working people are looking for far-reaching demands that actually speak to their needs.
There is clearly a mood for action, an opportunity for a new political voice, and an openness to socialism that did not exist even a few years ago. For instance, a Pew Research Center poll in December of 2011 showed that 18-29 year-olds preferred socialism to capitalism, a sharp change from even just one year before. It is for these reasons that we are now producing a new publication calledSocialist Alternative that can boldly appeal to this growing desire for something new. The launch ofSocialist Alternative will go together with a new website and plans for a greatly improved social media presence.
More and more, there is a questioning of the society we live in and a deep disillusionment with the two-party system. The National Security Agency scandal this past summer only solidified in the minds of many the undemocratic and pro-big-business character of the Democratic Party.
Since the Occupy movement, Socialist Alternative has been growing and expanding to new cities throughout the U.S. The youth of this country, who only have a fading or secondhand memory of the Cold War propaganda, are particularly interested in socialist ideas and in fighting for a better future.
Now is the time to raise the banner of democratic socialism as a clear alternative to a bleak capitalist future of growing poverty, gross inequality, attacks on democratic rights, environmental destruction, racism, and sexism.
We appeal to all of our readers to join the struggle for socialism today. Join us and help distribute our new newspaper, Socialist Alternative and reach a new audience with socialist ideas.
It’s time for something new. It’s time for something audacious. It’s time to rise up, shake off the cobwebs of the past, and say that capitalism doesn’t work for the 99%. We need an alternative, a socialist alternative!