Video and Report: Seattle Berns for a Party of the 99%

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On March 29th, three days after Washington voters delivered a 73% victory for Bernie Sanders, Socialist Alternative drew together over 100 people for a meeting at the Seattle Labor Temple titled “Which Way Forward for the Political Revolution?”

The discussion highlighted the international proportions of the struggle, with people all over the world looking for an alternative to establishment politics. Paul Murphy, an elected member of the Dáil (Ireland’s Parliament) representing the Socialist Party, spoke alongside Seattle’s socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

Working through the Movement4Bernie campaign, Socialist Alternative’s Seattle branches participated in all of the exciting activity around Bernie Sanders leading up to the March 26th Washington Primary. We organized marches, public forums, and a hugely successfully Labor for Bernie rally.

The success of our work came into full view at the crowded public meeting at the Seattle Labor Temple. While the whole country has been buzzing with the millions of individual donations and stadiums packed with tens of thousands for the Sanders campaign, Seattle – home to America’s second most famous socialist – has shown the concrete results of electing an independent candidate. Seattlites donated to Sanders more than anywhere in the country, and packed two massive rallies in one week leading up to the primary.

In this atmosphere of candidate-centred enthusiasm, Socialist Alternative members consistently pointed a bold way forward: if Bernie is blocked from winning the rigged Democratic Party primary process, he should run as an independent through November. In the lead up to Washington’s caucuses, SA members held discussions with thousands of enthusiastic people getting engaged and invited them to our public meeting.

In Seattle’s Labor Temple, the room was brimming despite the meeting being held on a weekday directly after work hours. The crowd was diverse in all ways but one: they were all excited to push forward on a plan to win bold demands like 15/hr federal minimum wage, universal healthcare, and free college tuition.

Paul Murphy, our guest from Socialist Alternative’s sister organization in Ireland, opened the debate with an international scope. Paul described how the political situation in the United States is an echo of what is happening globally. Establishment parties who have dominated politics in European countries for decades are losing popular support, and voters are looking for new answers. He pointed to movements in Greece, Spain and his own country. With the establishment at a crisis for credibility and ideas, there are exciting opportunities to boldly point toward a socialist future. Rising support for socialism is underscored by his own successful election in Dublin, the rapid rise of Jeremy Corbyn to lead the British Labour Party, and of course by Bernie Sanders.

Kshama Sawant’s speech was inspiring, yet posed the hard questions facing Sanders supporters. Bernie’s campaign is wildly popular, but what do we do if he loses the nomination? While losing Bernie’s fighting voice for left politics in the presidential campaign would be a major blow, ceding the ground of anti-establishment politics to Donald Trump makes the situation much more grave. Kshama repeated her call on Bernie to run all the way through November, as an independent if needed, both in order to push for his platform in the general election, but also to forge the grassroots organizing and campaign infrastructure from Bernie’s campaign into the basis for a new party of the 99%.

The crowd participated in an open mic discussion, and the hot topic of the day was how to use Bernie’s insurgent campaign, and the millions who have been drawn to his platform, to build a new party to challenge the two parties of big business.

Kshama Sawant gave a characteristically rousing opening speech, but the highlight of the night was in her closing remarks. The hunger and space for an alternative is there, she said, and the best thing you can do to help build it is to join Socialist Alternative! Through an organized socialist force, we can build not only a political alternative, but also an alternative to the rotten capitalist system. We have a world to win.

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