Questions & Issues Regarding the Upcoming Seattle DSA Local Council Elections
By DSA members Emily McArthur & Kailyn Nicholson
The Seattle DSA Convention is fast approaching and we will soon be democratically electing a new leadership for the coming year. These important elections come at a crucial time for the left and socialist movement in Seattle and nationally. At last week’s general membership meeting, the Nurturing Connections Slate — running unopposed for the 13 local council positions — answered questions from the chapter’s members.
We were both at that important meeting, and sent our own questions for the candidates in advance. Unfortunately, our questions did not get asked, so we are writing this letter to get further clarification and to explain our views as dual DSA and Socialist Alternative members. In general, we felt it was unfortunate that last week’s candidate forum did not focus enough on points of platform and candidate’s political positions.
In our view, the questions we submitted relate to decisive issues that are at debate in the socialist movement nationally at present.
Our most important question relates to the candidates’ views on public ownership. We asked whether the candidates support democratic public ownership of the big energy corporations to end use of fossil fuels and retool them for clean energy. Connected to that, we asked whether they support democratic public ownership of big corporations generally.
The question arises because in January, some of the leading members of the Nurturing Connections Slate spoke out against (and presumably voted against) the inclusion of democratic ownership of energy corporations in the Seattle DSA platform. We believe this vote, which succeeded in excluding this crucial platform point, was a mistake and should be revisited.
Democratic public ownership poses the question of who runs society and for what end. In the case of the big energy corporations, without democratic workers’ control we feel we have no hope of avoiding climate catastrophe. We saw the impending dangers once again exposed earlier this month with the collapse of Texas’s profit-driven, deregulated energy grid. Here in Seattle just last week we saw a fire and near disaster with natural gas lines in the Central District. Fighting for the democratic public ownership of big energy corporations is not only necessary, but urgent.
As Marxists, we also believe this is not just a question of democratic public ownership of one corporation or another but of the commanding heights of the economy as a whole. We believe what’s needed to take humanity forward is a rationally planned, sustainable socialist economy run democratically by workers themselves. Capitalism is a system of crisis, and one which is increasingly threatening human civilization. We believe the alternative is a socialist society, and not some version of a kinder, gentler capitalism.
Unfortunately, those leaders who spoke against democratic public ownership at the January meeting centered their arguments on points of process and procedure and not on the issues themselves. In our view, this only makes it more important to clarify: do the Nurturing Connections Slate candidates support democratic public ownership of big energy corporations and the commanding heights of the economy, or do their votes in January mean that they believe capitalism can be reformed?
Our second question also relates to the January meeting. Leaders of the Nurturing Connections Slate spoke there against calling on DSA candidates running for public elected office to accept only the average workers’ wage, as Councilmember Kshama Sawant does. This vote against the inclusion of this key program point also unfortunately succeeded.
We believe that socialist candidates accepting the average workers’ wage (approximately $87,000 in Seattle, hardly a vow of poverty), is a key question of accountability. We think socialist elected officials should live according to similar living standards as the people they represent, not elevated above ordinary working people. This is a block against careerism in the socialist movement — of people choosing to run for office as a way to lift themselves up individually (there is sadly a long history of this) rather than fighting to lift up the working class and marginalized communities as a whole.
We would like to know where the candidates stand on this key issue which will only become more relevant as DSA continues to grow, and DSA candidates continue to be elected and then come under the enormous pressures of elected office.
Emily & Kailyn