Kshama Sawant’s Socialist Response to Trump’s State of the Union
Full transcript of speech follows.
Sisters and Brothers,
The first horrifying year of Trump’s White House has come to an end. A year of massive tax handouts to the corporate elite, of gutting regulations, of an assault on the hard won gains of working people, and attempts to criminalize dissent. A year of seemingly endless efforts to destroy healthcare for millions.
Trump spoke tonight about uniting Americans. This is after a year of the most divisive and racist attacks on immigrants. Not only has Trump gone after Dreamers, he is now moving to deport 240,000 Salvadoran and Haitian immigrants.
Trump is entering his second year with the lowest approval ratings of any modern US president at this point in his administration. But in spite of his incompetence and the chaos in the White House, we should not underestimate the damage done, nor the danger he still poses.
Sisters and brothers, one year of Trump is more than enough.
It is time to take stock not only of the damage done, but also of our movements. Because 2017 has been a historic year of struggle as well. And we must learn lessons from our ongoing fight against Trump’s right-wing agenda and the billionaire class.
The day after his inauguration, Trump was met with the biggest day of protest in US history. This year, on the anniversary of those women’s marches, over a million people again poured onto the streets to oppose sexual harassment, to say #MeToo.
This reemergence of mass protests shows the huge potential for struggle and for a new women’s movement. One that can build a powerful fight against sexual harassment and unequal pay as well as for paid parental leave, free child care and Medicare for All legislation that covers reproductive rights and the needs of the trans community. Over the past months, #MeToo shook the establishment with brave women coming forward to challenge predatory rich men. We must extend this movement into every workplace, to stop not only harassment by famous men but also the daily oppression facing working women. We can build on these struggles to take down the Predator in Chief and organize for mass protests on International Women’s Day, on March 8.
In his first weeks in office, the Trump Administration went on the offensive with a whole series of reactionary executive orders.
He was met with fierce and immediate resistance, especially against his Muslim travel ban. Protest broke out in more than a dozen airports, including in Seattle where we were able to shut down the airport for hours on end. Here and across the country, our protests forced the release of detained immigrants, put Trump on notice, and sent a powerful message to the courts which then temporarily blocked the bigoted travel ban.
This is the type of determined mass civil disobedience that can push back Trump and the ruling class. We will need mass action to defend the 800,000 DACA recipients and others now faced with the threat of deportation. We should stand firm not only against the threats to Dreamers, but also against the proposed border wall and policies of war, neoliberalism, and environmental destruction that create millions of refugees worldwide.
Trump spoke tonight about his proposed trillion dollar infrastructure project.
Infrastructure repair and a massive expansion of green jobs is badly needed. But Trump’s rhetoric tonight is yet another dishonest attempt to pose as a representative of working people, after having begun brutal attacks on our living standards on behalf of his billionaire buddies.
In reality, Trump has scorched the earth on which he proposes to build by slashing corporate tax rates. His catastrophic tax plan, a historic giveaway to corporations and the super-wealthy, has deeply undermined the ability to fund existing vital services, let alone major new public projects.
Are working people expected to believe that after all Trump is a builder of bridges? Trump in fact is a con man, and anything he builds will be with an eye to further lining the pockets of the corporate elite and ultra rich.
Tonight Trump cynically celebrated those who risked their lives saving others from devastating hurricanes and wildfires. But a few minutes later he celebrated the expansion of coal, which will only deepen the climate crisis endangering the planet and the lives of millions world-wide.
Trump also used his speech tonight to lob another backhanded and cowardly attack on Colin Kaepernick and other football players who have protested police brutality and racism during the national anthem. I know millions of Americans join me in offering my deep gratitude for Colin’s courage in taking a knee.
To drive out Trump we will need to build an ongoing and sustained movement – individual protests will not be enough. We will need to create new organizations of struggle – to develop our own independent strategies and tactics, teach a new generation of activists, and strengthen our forces to be able to strike more and more powerful blows against this reactionary regime and system.
We should remember how Trump came to power in the first place. In 2016, the corporate Democratic Party establishment embodied by Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign left a vacuum open for Trump’s right-wing populism. The Democratic leaders stopped at nothing to prevent Bernie Sanders and his message of a “political revolution” from making it into the general election. They sold the lie that Clinton’s establishment politics were the best way to defeat Trump.
But it was Clinton’s corporate policies and clear ties to Wall Street which gave Trump the ability to cynically pose as an outsider against the “swamp” of lobbyists, billionaires and career politicians which fills the halls of power. These same Democrats are now horrified at the prospect of a Bernie 2020 campaign.
They have not learned their lesson, but we must learn ours. We can’t depend on the “politics as usual”, backroom negotiations of the corporate-controlled establishment to defeat Trump.
Last week, Senate House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made clear just how far Democratic leaders are prepared to go to appease Trump – that they would help build his racist wall on the Mexican border. Immigrant activists and many lifelong Democratic Party voters are furious with their leadership for this policy of appeasement. Bernie Sanders and others voted against the deal.
As the new February 8th deadline approaches for another potential government shutdown, we should prepare for determined mass protests and civil disobedience. If Democrats are once again preparing to concede, we should occupy their offices. There should be mass demonstrations in every city before February 8th to stop a sell-out from occurring.
We should connect the struggle of immigrants to the struggles of all workers and for real sanctuary cities: a $15 minimum wage nationally, Medicare for all, free college tuition, rent control and democratic community control over the police. It is this type of program that can inspire millions into action, not the warmed-over milquetoast approach of establishment politicians.
Around the world, Trump’s occupation of the White House has given a boost to the right wing. But we’ve also seen internationally that the best way to cut across this is with working-class politics, from Jeremy Corbyn in England to Jean-Luc Melenchon in France.
The global threat of right populism makes it all the more urgent that we build a movement capable of driving Trump from office, to force his impeachment or resignation. What we do here in the US, the belly of the beast of world capitalism, can have an electrifying effect worldwide.
Tonight, Trump spoke optimistically about the US economy. However, the economic recovery has benefited overwhelmingly those at the top while inequality skyrockets, and large sections of the country are left behind. The three richest Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 50% of the population.
The recovery is based on economic bubbles that will eventually burst. The capitalists and their politicians offer no way out of the low wage jobs,astronomical debt and housing costs. Neither corporate globalization nor “America First” protectionist trade wars offer a way forward.
While Trump gives empty promises of good jobs, the Supreme Court is threatening real jobs and the labor movement itself with the Janus case. This “Right to work for less” policy must be met with determined resistance. A mass labor march on Washington should be organized to warn Trump that we can shut down vast sectors of the economy and pave the way to the defeat of not only Janus, but the broader corporate agenda.
We can’t wait until November. We have to fight now to stop the attacks on working people.
Local housing campaigns, though not given attention in the mass media, are gaining steam across the country. In Houston, Texas, Socialist Alternative helped build struggles against slumlords trying to profit from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. And in Minneapolis, building upon the momentum of Ginger Jentzen’s campaign for their City Council last year, we are fighting for renters rights. And here in Washington State we are fighting for publicly owned affordable housing as well as to end our state’s undemocratic ban on rent control.
Rev. William Barber, a leader of the Moral Mondays movement, has launched a Poor People’s Campaign to build on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. This can be a starting point to link up our struggles.
As Dr. King said ““The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.”
Millions of people are becoming interested in socialist ideas, especially youth who face a future of low wage jobs, racism, sexism and student debt. Socialist Alternative is growing, and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) now have tens of thousands of members.
Socialists and activists are grappling with the questions of how to build the broader movement against Trump. Elections are only one aspect of how we struggle to change the world, and will likely dominate political conversation as the 2018 elections draw closer.
We stand in solidarity with the millions of people who want to drive out Trump and the Republicans. At the same time, we need to build the self-organization and political independence of working people – the real power that can defeat right-wing populism and the billionaire class.
Challenging the big business political establishment means running strong independent campaigns. We need a left political alternative that will inspire people with bold demands and grassroots organizing, rather than depending on the money of billionaires.
That means running strong independent left candidates, who refuse to take a dime in corporate cash.
Alongside the urgent tasks of defending the Dreamers and defeating Trump and the Republicans’ billionaire-backed agenda, we must make concrete steps here and now towards our own organized and independent strength and a new party for working people.
We need a powerful movement capable of bringing to an end, once and for all, this broken system which breeds poverty, environmental destruction and future Donald Trumps. Join me in building the struggle for a socialist future, based on solidarity, democracy, and equality.
Sisters and brothers, we have a world to win!