Categorized | News, Opinion


Salon and Independent Political Report has a fascinating story about the first open socialist elected in decades to a big-city council – in that home of Starbucks, Seattle Washington.  And they don’t call it the Left Coast for nothing!  For the next two or four years, city council meetings will be reality TV for political junkies!  (Here is the place to go for the video of Seattle city council meetings!)  Here is Kshama Sawant’s campaign webpage.  She ran under the party banner of Socialist Alternative, the US branch/affiliate of this UK Trotskyist group of political movements.  That’s right:  A Trotskyite was elected to a city council!

Let me start by saying:  I do admire Kshama Sawant – for standing for her beliefs and going out there and running for office and actually winning.  But her ideas are silly – and dangerous.

I cannot speak to the economic issues (mainly because that brunette in econ class was more interesting that the marginal whatever or wherever!  I am well suited for politics – I don’t know a thing about economic theory!) but here’s some highlights:

Along with our [state Legislature] campaign last year and [city council] this year, we’ve seen a movement towards $15 an hour through the fast food movement … workers have courageously gone out on one-day strikes … The workers of [nearby airport city] SeaTac and the labor movement, they put a $15 an hour minimum wage initiative on the ballot for SeaTac city, and that is now leading …

Now what does she expect the companies to do when they pass these insane $15 minimum wage laws?  Stay in town until they go bust?  Nobody thought of that apparently…see I did learn something in econ class!  Here’s a quote from Milton Friedman (from Playboy magazine in February 1973 but don’t go there but go here instead!)

In 1956, I think, the minimum was raised from seventy-five cents to a dollar—a very substantial rise. In the early Fifties, the unemployment rate among male teenagers was about the same for blacks as for whites. Both were about eight percent when the over-all unemployment rate was about four percent. In the late Fifties, after the minimum-wage rate was raised from seventy-five cents to a dollar, the unemployment rate of black teenagers shot up from eight percent to something like 20 to 25 percent. For white teenagers, it shot up to something like 13 percent.

 Maybe I did learn something in that econ class!  I learned enough to find Milton Friedman!

Prof. Sawant will not like this (I imagine she’ll say this is Koch brothers propaganda) but here’s a quote from Cato about Chile’s success with (gasp!) free market reforms!

Let’s first recapitulate where Chile stands today: Thanks to the free market reforms implemented since 1975 by the military government of Augusto Pinochet – that were subsequently deepened by the democratic center-left governments that ruled the country since 1990 – Chile can boast the following accomplishments:

  • It’s the freest economy in Latin America and it stands 11th in the world (ahead of the United States) in the Economic Freedom of the World report.
  • It has more than tripled its income per capita since 1990 to $19,100 (PPP), which is the highest in Latin America.
  • According to the IMF, by 2017 Chile will reach an income per capita of $23,800, which is the official threshold to become a developed country.
  • According to the UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Chile has the most impressive poverty reduction record in Latin America in the last two decades. The poverty rate went down from 45% in the mid-1980s to 11% in 2011, the lowest in the region.
  • It has the strongest democratic institutions of Latin America according to the Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Project.
  • It’s the least corrupt country in Latin America according to Transparency International.
  • Along with Costa Rica and Uruguay, it has the best record in Latin America on political rights and civil liberties, according to Freedom House.
  • High income inequality, which has always been a sore in the eyes of many, has decreased in the last decade.

That is pretty impressive for free markets.  Now try this from the new councilperson – an endorsement of mob rule over property rights:

The Occupy movement, what it did was it ended that silence and people were more openly talking about the economic crisis, the fact that the banks got bailed out and the rest of us were left with unemployment, low-wage jobs, and an epidemic of foreclosures and evictions. So I think, contrary to what people thought…It’s really been a period where newer, small but new movements are starting to rise up. There’s been the Occupy Homes campaign in Minnesota, which has actually prevented several foreclosures…

I’m not sure I’d openly ally with Occupy but I find it interesting that Prof. Sawant does identify with a campaign that sounds like lawlessness – occupying homes to prevent foreclosure by lawful means.  From their own website:

We work with homeowners to help them stay in their homes by building public support around their cases and putting pressure on banks to negotiate in good faith. We facilitate neighborhood assemblies in order to build communities that can fight against foreclosure and economic injustice. We hope to organize homeowners to resist foreclosure en masse, with the objective of ending foreclosures in Minnesota and nationwide.

Now I always say that mortgage companies are a good argument for communism but we have to avoid mob tactics that deprive companies of rightful property rights.  If Occupy Homes MN prevail, lots of people will be barred from the homeownership market because lenders will simply decide to make money elsewhere.

But here’s a quote about Trotsky and capitalism from the website of Prof. Sawant’s own party:

If Karl Marx was the man of the millennium, then Leon Trotsky was undoubtedly, with Lenin, Friedrich Engels and Rosa Luxemburg, also one of the greatest figures of the millennium, and certainly of the 20th century. His ideas, his method of analysis, and the conclusions drawn from this, are as relevant today as in the past.

I am not responsible for broken computers or keyboards caused by laughing with coffee in your mouth as you read this!  Don’t drink again before you read this little gem:

We hail Trotsky as a great theoretician and leader of the working class but we do not merely acclaim past leaders. It is necessary for us, particularly the new generation of workers, to study the writings of Leon Trotsky alongside of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg but, above all, to seek to acquire his method which will allow us to create a mass Marxist force that will eradicate from the planet the scourge of capitalism and all that goes with it.

The voters of Seattle ought to be embarrassed for generations to come.  Your city – yes the beautiful one with the Space Needle – just elected a Trotskyist to the city council!  You’ll make history.  Here’s in Trotsky’s own words (Chapter 4 of Terrorism and Communism) his manifest evil:

You do not understand this, holy men? We shall explain to you. The terror of Tsarism was directed against the proletariat. The gendarmerie of Tsarism throttled the workers who were fighting for the Socialist order. Our Extraordinary Commissions shoot landlords, capitalists, and generals who are striving to restore the capitalist order. Do you grasp this … distinction? Yes? For us Communists it is quite sufficient.


The man who recognizes the revolutionary historic importance of the very fact of the existence of the Soviet system must also sanction the Red Terror.

Maybe the new councilperson is not a violent revolutionist.  But she already condoned mobs preventing rightful foreclosures.  But wait, there’s more…

That’s the kind of system that we need, where the decisions on what to do with resources, and what to produce, how much of it to produce, that is made in accordance with democratic principles, and in accordance with what human society needs, not because the Wal-Mart CEO needs to make 2 percentage points more profits this quarter.

How do I answer this?  Production in accordance with democratic principles?  What human society needs?  At the risk of being accused of being a McCarthyite – how would she do that?  Communism?  Force?  Taking it away from the capitalists?  Ask Trotsky how that worked for him.  Or Mikhail Gorbachev.  Lenin had to allow small cpaitalist businesses to keep communism going in the early days of the USSR.  The New Economic Policy.  Try this riposte from Milton Friedman on alleged social responsibility of corporate leaders (in the same Playboy interview cited above!):

I wouldn’t buy stock in a company that hired that kind of leadership. A corporate executive’s responsibility is to make as much money for the stockholders as possible, as long as he operates within the rules of the game. When an executive decides to take action for reasons of social responsibility, he is taking money from someone else—from the stockholders, in the form of lower dividends; from the employees, in the form of lower wages; or from the consumer, in the form of higher prices. The responsibility of a corporate executive is to fulfill the terms of his contract. If he can’t do that in good conscience, then he should quit his job and find another way to do good. He has the right to promote what he regards as desirable moral objectives only with his own money.  (emphasis mine)

I am not sure I totally agree with that but Friedman’s logic is unassailable.  A corporate CEO is a steward of other people’s money.  His duty is to increase profits – within the rules – but make a profit.

Capitalism does not have the ability to generate the kind of living wage jobs that will be necessary in order to sustain a decent standard of living for the majority…

What about all those generations who managed to get ahead before Clinton and Obama came along?  Didn’t the Greatest Generation come home and bought houses, raised their families, and got ahead?  Many of their kids went to college – I’m one of them.

Boeing has an enormous factory, [as well as] all the auto factories that are lying defunct right now in the U.S. — they all have enormous capacity for production. And there’s any number of workers with the skills, and people who have the potential of learning those skills. And instead we have a situation where, because we don’t have a say in the production, either the machines are lying idle, or the machines are being used to produce destructive machines like drones.

What can I do with this?  Councilwoman Sawant has a thing for Boeing – they won’t negotiate and they screw the workers.  Here’s the hourly pay at Boeing and here’s salaried workers!  Hardly being screwed, I think.  And, how did in the fifth year of Obama did we end up with empty factories?  Maybe the workers did get screwed:  By both parties with so-called free trade and globalism!  But Sawant’s solution is magically get them going because the workers will run the factory!  How will she get the means of production into the hands of the workers?  Eminent domain?  I doubt it.

I am afraid I’ll exceed fair use to criticize all that I am critical in Prof. Sawant’s interview for Salon.  I also criticize Salon for not asking tough questions:

Do you agree with Trotsky about the Red Terror?

Do you see Lenin as a role model?  If so why?

How about Che Guevara?  He is mentioned at the website of the international group her party is a member of.

How would you buy out the means of production and give it to the workers?

But Prof. Sawant admires the health plan in Cuba (Yes really!) and thinks that we’d never had “socialism in one country” (Yes she used that phrase!  Twice!  Dare I say it?  For my readers’ benefit “socialism is one country” was a phrase used by Stalin to describe how the USSR was to be the leader of the communist movement.  She may well be saying to people in the know:  I am a Trotskyist not a Stalinist.)

Prof. Sawant’s vision of a better world arise from the poverty she saw in India:

But I would say more accurately that I have always been a socialist, but less consciously. From my very childhood, it was just the experience of growing up in Mumbai, India, and seeing just the ocean of poverty and misery all around me. And for me, it was not simply a question of outrage or fellow-feeling. Of course that’s the starting point, but for me it’s a logical question as well. Which is: How is it possible that there is so much wealth in society, and you can see that there are so many wealthy people who are just wealthy beyond measure, and you have such unimaginable poverty and misery, and just absolute horrendous conditions that human beings are living in …

It just seemed very, just unacceptable to me logically that that situation was a natural one. I mean, I could see that it had nothing to do with resources or productivity. It was clearly a political obstacle to eliminating poverty.

I agree.  Poverty is terrible.  But her solution is a god that failed. The new councilperson will be something like a museum piece – back to the future – not 1985 but 1917 instead!

The answer is not to follow Trotsky but rather Jesus Christ.  That’s right:  to become a Christian.  Yes I mean it.  Become a follower of Jesus Christ.  Followers of Christ have done more to alleviate poverty and social injustice than any other movement in world history.  Ask William Wilberforce.  Or William Lloyd Garrison.  Or the monk who gave his life to stop gladiator games in ancient Rome.  Or Mother Teresa.  And only Jesus can fix the world system – when He comes again.  To be ready, go here!

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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