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June 27: Seattle ISO Working Meeting

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:11

Tuesday, June 27
7:00 p.m.
Common Good Cafe
(Downstairs at the University Temple United Methodist Church)
1415 NE 43rd St.
Seattle, WA 98105

This week’s meeting will be a working meeting. We’ll be discussing the Socialism 2017 conference happening in Chicago next week, our work on the UW campus, and breaking up into working groups to plan various aspects of our local work.

Categories: Political Parties

The question of caste

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:07


The debates about caste and class in India go back many decades, but they remain relevant today, writes Steve Leigh in a review of a new book by Arundhati Roy.

June 19, 2017

Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar (left) and Mahatma Gandhi

IN THE Doctor and the Saint, writer and political activist Arundhati Roy invites readers to take a new look at the “saint” M.K. Gandhi alongside a less-talked-about fighter for Indian independence and justice, Untouchable leader and intellectual Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

This book is based on an introduction that Roy wrote in 2014 for The Annihilation of Caste–a pamphlet of a 1936 speech by Ambedkar that he was never allowed to deliver. “When I first read it, I felt as though somebody had walked into a dim room and opened the windows,” writes.

After Ambedkar’s speech was canceled by the Hindu reformist organization that had invited him, it was printed as a pamphlet, and though the publishing houses were modest, it sold in the millions, becoming the source of great public debate over the question of caste in India–and social discrimination on the basis of caste. Gandhi was included among the opponents to Ambedkar’s views.

In The Doctor and the Saint, Roy uses this historic debate to underscore the centrality of caste in the past and present–and to take a deeper look at the myths about Gandhi.

Roy points out that the institution of caste continues today, as she outlines the brutal oppression suffered by the “scheduled castes” continues, not only in India but also in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and beyond.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

CASTE OPERATES throughout the population, but is, of course, especially onerous for the scheduled castes at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Estimates put this group at 17 percent of the population.

Besides Untouchables, there are Unseeables and Unapproachables–these are the scheduled or avarna castes, known as Ati-Shudras or subhumans. Other castes are grouped into four “varnas”: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (soldiers),Vaishyas (traders) and Shudras (servants).

Roy explains:

Untouchables were not allowed to use the public roads that privileged castes used, they were not allowed to drink from common wells…not allowed into Hindu temples…not allowed into privileged caste schools, not permitted to cover their upper bodies, only allowed to wear certain kinds of clothes and certain kinds of jewelry.

Some castes like the Mahars…had to tie brooms to their waists to sweep away their polluted footprints, others had to hang spittoons around their necks to collect their polluted saliva. Men of the privileged castes had undisputed rights over the bodies of Untouchable women. Love is polluting. Rape is pure. In many parts of India, much of this continues to this day.

Roy gives examples of horrendous attacks and murders still carried out today, based on and reinforcing caste.

There have been some attempts at “positive discrimination,” or affirmative action, so that some of the scheduled castes have made it up the social and economic hierarchy. But these efforts are extremely limited, Roy says, and have been resisted by right-wing movements that want to reinforce caste hierarchy, often leading to violence.

In spite of efforts at positive discrimination, the class structure lines up very well with the caste structure. Roy illustrates this with a list of the CEOs and billionaires who come from the upper castes. She goes on to explain the heavy overlap between lower castes and the poorest sections of the population.

Many lower caste people try to escape caste discrimination by converting to Christianity or Islam. But Hindu society treats the converts as if they are still in their hereditary caste. There are even cases of other religions in the subcontinent enforcing caste. “Though their scriptures do not sanction it,” writes Roy, “elite Indian Muslims, Sikhs and Christians all practice caste discrimination. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal all have their own communities of Untouchable sweepers.”

Thus, caste has a basis in religion, but the system of discrimination and privilege is embedded in society at a deeper level. In fact, Hinduism was at first the name given to caste society by outsiders. The promotion of Hinduism, and later Hindutva, was a political project.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

OF PARTICULAR interest to those on the left will be the section of the book looking at the Communist Party (CP) leadership’s disappointing view on the politics of caste. Under the guise of focusing on class divisions, they dismiss the importance of caste discrimination.

For example, CP leader E.M.S. Namboodiripad, the former chief minister of the state of Kerala, denounced Untouchable leader Ambedkar for focusing on caste, calling it “a great blow to the freedom movement. For this led to the diversion of peoples’ attention from the objective of full independence to the mundane cause of the uplift of the Harijans [Untouchables].” Harijan, or “Children of God,” was the condescending name that Gandhi gave the Untouchables.

Other political formations grew out of the fight against oppression, including Ambedkar’s Independent Labor Party and the Dalit Panthers in the 1970s. The Dalit Panthers descended in part from Ambedkar’s politics, but also from Marxism. They used the Marithi word “Dalit,” meaning oppressed or broken, to embrace all the oppressed of India. Unfortunately, the Panthers disintegrated, with some actually going over to the Hindu right.

According to Roy, the official Communist Parties became “bourgeois parties,” and their rejection of the importance of caste fit in well with their pro-capitalist politics. Even the more radical Maoist parties, the Naxalites, haven’t put caste at the center of their politics and haven’t won significant support from the scheduled castes.

Roy helps the reader conclude that without confronting caste, there can be no working-class unity and therefore no successful struggle against capitalism. Caste division hobbles a united working-class struggle.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE BULK of Roy’s book is an analysis of Gandhi’s politics in contrast to Ambedkar’s.

Gandhi has become revered around the world because of his part in the campaign for India’s independence and because of his commitment to nonviolence. But his first campaign in South Africa was in defense of upper-caste Indians, who were treated like Africans. Gandhi’s appeal was that apartheid should treat Indians better than Africans, especially businessmen from India.

Gandhi held a racist position against the “kaffirs”–a racial slur against native Africans used in South Africa by whites, Afrikaners and some Indians like Gandhi. One of his demands was that Indians not be put in the same jail cell with Africans. Through Gandhi’s life, he held a low opinion of the lower classes, castes and races–he felt they should get charity, but weren’t fit to actually take part in democracy.

Gandhi also wanted to reform the British Empire and work with it, rather than get rid of it. He signed Indians up to fight on the side of the British during the Boer War in Africa and supported Britain in First and Second World Wars. “Gandhi was not trying to overwhelm or destroy a ruling structure; he simply wanted to be friends with it,” writes Roy.

Funded by textile capitalist G.D. Birla, Gandhi preached collaboration between the classes. Roy quotes Gandhi, who argued:

It would be suicidal if the laborers rely on their numbers…In doing so, they would do harm to industries in the country. If, on the other hand, they take their stand on pure justice and suffer in their person to secure it, not only will they always succeed, but they will reform their masters…and both masters and men will be members of one and the same family.”

Gandhi’s attitude toward the scheduled castes was one of the main bones of contention with Ambedkar. Ambedkar proposed that the scheduled castes have a separate electorate so they could elect their own representatives and also be part of the general electorate.

Gandhi opposed this as “divisive.” Gandhi was for incorporating Untouchables into the Hindu body politic by allowing them to worship at Hindu temples, but otherwise leaving the caste system intact. Other changes in the treatment of Untouchables would be left to the good will of the privileged castes.

Gandhi only came around to the idea that it was acceptable for people from different castes to share meals toward the end of his life. For Gandhi, the caste system was necessary and an integral part of Hinduism. For Ambedkar, it needed to be abolished.

Ambedkar tried to support Gandhi, but broke with him on the issue of caste. His politics had a radical core–self-determination for the scheduled castes and abolition of the caste system, as well as for true equality generally.

But he often sought these aims through reformist methods. For example, he was part of the commission to design the Indian constitution, but quit when it became clear that it wasn’t going to achieve his goals. He organized independent political parties in support of the Dalits.

Ambedkar’s analysis of the struggle for independence was right on point. Referring to the Indian National Congress, the main representative of the nationalist movement, he wrote: “The question of whether the Congress is fighting for freedom has very little importance as compared to the question of for whose freedom is the Congress fighting.”

Replying to Gandhi, who questioned his sharp criticism of the Congress, Ambedkar argued in 1931, “No Untouchable worth the name will be proud of this land.”

In contrasting Gandhi and Ambedkar, Roy doesn’t lionize Ambedkar. But she points out the weaknesses and betrayals in the politics of the “saint”–and points out that that even in Gandhi’s time, there was a political alternative.

The Doctor and the Saint provides important lessons about the need to fully incorporate the fight against oppression into the fight to abolish capitalism.

REVIEW: BOOKS Arundhati Roy, The Doctor and the Saint: Caste, Race and the Annihilation of Caste, The Debate Between B.R. Ambedkar and M.K. Gandhi. Haymarket Books, 2017, 184 pages, $15.95.
Categories: Political Parties

Justice for Charleena Lyles!

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 20:50


Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four, was murdered by Seattle cops on Sunday. Her children witnessed the cops kill their mother and then had to leave the apartment by being carried over her body. Community members from across the city will be taking action this week to demand justice for Charleena from the city and the Seattle Police Department. If you believe that Black Lives Matter, please come out to one of these events.

Categories: Political Parties

June 20: Crisis in the Trump Administration

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 16:51

Tuesday, June 20
7:00 p.m.
Common Good Cafe
(Downstairs at the University Temple United Methodist Church)
1415 NE 43rd St.
Seattle, WA 98105

This week’s meeting will include a discussion about the ongoing crisis in the Trump administration and how the left should respond to it.  We will also discuss the June issue of Socialist Worker newspaper and assess the “Seattle Stands with our Muslim Neighbors” protest that happened on June 11.

Suggested Readings:

Categories: Political Parties

Vote Nikkita Oliver for Mayor of Seattle!

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 13:54

The International Soicalist Organization is proud to say that we are endorsing Nikkita Oliver for Mayor of Seattle!  Find out more about the campaign at the Seattle People’s Party website and volunteer to help the campaign or make a donation.




Challenging Seattle’s broken system June 15, 2017

Jesse Hagopian, a Seattle educator, editor of the book More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing and a member of the International Socialist Organization, explains why the ISO has endorsed the Seattle People’s Party campaign of Nikkita Oliver for mayor.

Activist and artist Nikkita Oliver of the People’s Party in Seattle

“EVERY GREAT change that has occurred in this city in the past eight years has been because those communities have risen up and used their voice to ask for that change: shut down chambers, gone to people’s houses and into their offices, until we got the change that we most needed. It has not been because politicians moved for it.”

So declared the newly formed Seattle People’s Party candidate Nikkita Oliver–an educator, attorney, poet and political organizer–in the first Seattle mayoral debate in April.

Oliver continued her remarks:

HALA [Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda], MHA [Mandatory Housing Affordability], $15 [minimum wage], the No New Youth Jail campaign, Block the [Police] Bunker–even the [federal] consent decree [on the Seattle Police Department]–have all been because of movements of the people. What we need are leaders who listen to the needs of the most impacted in our communities and actually act on those solutions that are being brought forward by them.

Oliver, a Black, mixed-race, queer organizer, has been one of the most vocal leaders in the local movement for Black lives in Seattle. She has helped build actions against police brutality, against a new youth jail, and in support of local education initiatives that increase arts in schools and for the Black Lives Matter at School campaign.

She works full time in Seattle Public Schools as a resident artist educator with the Creative Justice program. As a renter in the city, she is all too familiar with rising rents and has been displaced from several homes due to high fees, even coping with homelessness during one difficult period.

When Oliver announced her candidacy for mayor in a video on March 8–International Women’s Day–she electrified the Seattle activist scene. A few weeks later, she drew hundreds of people to a standing-room-only campaign kickoff event–the auditorium was filled with a multiracial cross section of Seattle, including many youth and student activists.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHILE THE excitement for Oliver was already high among activists, youth and artists, at that point, Oliver’s campaign was widely viewed as a long shot against the incumbent, Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle’s first openly gay mayor.

Murray’s political power was based on his support from the political establishment, liberals and labor unions–which he solidified by using the language of progressivism, making limited concessions to organized social movements while maintaining a status quo approach to politics that made him quite acceptable to Seattle’s financial elites.

But in April, Murray’s re-election bid suddenly unraveled when four different men came forward to claim he had sexually abused them as teens.

As these allegations surfaced, a flurry of candidates entered the race–some 21 candidates are now running, including former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, state Rep. and former labor activist Bob Hasegawa, and business favorite Jenny Durkan.

Mired in scandal, Murray withdrew from the race, making this perhaps the most tumultuous and wide-open mayoral race in Seattle’s history.

Nearly all of the mayoral candidates are fluent in liberal talking points, including advocating for a city income tax on the rich, affordable housing and programs to address homelessness.

However, Oliver’s campaign has separated itself from the pack by being closely aligned with social movements in the struggle for oppressed and exploited communities in Seattle, which are being left behind by a massive tech boom and brutalized by an unaccountable police force.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE DIVIDE between the rich and “the rest” in Seattle could not be more apparent. Seattle has the fastest growing rental rate of any city in the U.S., and ranks eighth in rental prices nationally.

The city has over 3,000 homeless students in the public schools and over 3,000 people are on the streets every night–making the city fourth in the nation for homelessness, behind New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The Seattle Police Department is also notoriously brutal and has been operating under a federal consent decree since 2012 when the Department of Justice (DOJ) found a disturbing pattern of excessive use of force, particularly against people of color. The DOJ report also found that one in four arrests involved a violation of that person’s constitutional rights.

Oliver’s policy platform forcefully takes up these issues of race, class and oppression.

Among other things, her policy agenda calls for rent control, 25 percent of all new up-zoned developments reserved for low-income tenants, increased public housing, and restorative justice programs in the courts and schools as an alternative to mass incarceration and school expulsions.

As she said at her campaign kickoff: “To actually stop the school-to-prison-pipeline, we must transform the legal system…We cannot arrest our way out of unaddressed social problems. We cannot imprison our way out of the trauma that the criminal injustice system has created…In fact, we must restore our way out of it…The system is broken, not our children.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

OLIVER’S ROOTS in social justice movements, her refusal to take any corporate donations, and her decision to run her campaign outside of the confines of the corporate two-party system show she is accountable to regular people and not business elites.

Seattle’s alternative weekly newspaper The Stranger wrote of her decision to run with the People’s Party, “Oliver’s independence from the Democratic Party may prove to be her greatest weakness in an increasingly competitive mayor’s race.”

Yet it is precisely her decision to run outside of the Democratic Party–a party that makes promises to be champions for the oppressed, but is more concerned about pleasing its corporate sponsors–that makes her campaign an important contribution to the struggle for social justice.

While the Seattle mayoral race is technically “nonpartisan,” it is a given that most candidates run as members of the Democratic Party. While Seattle and Washington state have long been run by Democratic strongholds, however, the state has the most regressive tax structure in the nation, and the city of Seattle has the highest taxes on low-income earners and fourth-lowest taxes on high-income earners.

While it may be true that running outside of the Democratic Party will cause some people not to vote for Oliver, it may also energize many people who don’t usually vote because they see nothing on offer from the political status quo that has resulted in Seattle’s affordability crisis.

Crucially, the activists and organizers that make up the People’s Party say that they envision the party as long-term project that can serve both to run social justice candidates in many different races, but also engage in actions and organizing to hold politicians accountable between elections.

As Oliver’s campaign manager, indigenous rights leader and member of the Blackfeet Nation Gyasi Ross, told me of the decision to launch the People’s Party:

We need an institutional memory of how we organize. Because this isn’t a one-year project. This isn’t a one-year experiment. Hopefully it’s a 10-year or 20-year project that says we are going to retain some of this knowledge and network of how we seep into some of the machinery and get involved in a more strategic level.

As a People’s Party position statement explains about the decision to launch a party outside of corporate duopoly:

We live in a time of grave political upheaval. The upheaval is the symptom or manifestation of issues that have plagued the United States since its inception. The political system in the United States has grown increasingly more dysfunctional. With each successive election the two-party system has become more adversarial. Accordingly, the system grows increasingly ineffective at addressing solutions that we, the People, care about and to which we require immediate action and response.

People do not believe their voices can impact the political process and actually lead to long lasting transformational change. For these reasons Nikkita and the People’s Party have chosen to declare independent. We are pushing a solution-based agenda which focuses on the issues faced by everyday working people rather than party politics.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

FOR THESE reasons, the International Socialist Organization has endorsed Oliver’s campaign for mayor. She is running the kind of independent, left-wing campaign that is needed to challenge both an emboldened right-wing in Trump’s America and a corporatized Democratic Party.

The ISO is not alone in our recognition of the importance of Oliver’s campaign. She has been gaining momentum with a growing list of endorsers that include the Seattle Education Association (the union representing teachers and other educators in Seattle), numerous community organizers, the Green Party of Seattle, Seattle Democratic Socialists of America, and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative.

The mayoral election primary will take place on August 1, and the top two candidates in the primary will advance to the November 7 general election. While Oliver’s independent bid for mayor will face an uphill battle, and she will likely continue to be portrayed as an “outsider,” with Mayor Murray out of the race, Oliver not only has raised the most money from small donations, she also has the largest activist base.

Win or lose at the ballot box, Oliver is clear that her campaign and the formation of the Seattle People’s Party is a step forward for Seattle’s 99 Percent.

As she said of her bid for mayor, “We need to create a sustainable model for political power for everyday people who may not have an interest in being career politicians but do have an interest in seeing the system being effectively transformed to show what access and equity actually look like.”

Categories: Political Parties

How free is “free” labor?

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 13:05


In the latest installment of our User’s Guide to Marxism series, Leela Yellesetty explains why exploitation is the secret behind the inequality built into capitalism.

June 14, 2017

RECENT ARTICLES in the New York Times and elsewhere have highlighted the spread of so-called “noncompete clauses” in employment contracts.

While such clauses have long been commonplace for executives or highly paid professionals– and justified by companies as a means of protecting trade secrets or market share–they are increasingly being demanded of even low-wage, blue-collar workers.

According to a recent University of Maryland study, about one in five workers are bound by noncompete clauses, and 42 percent of workers have signed one at some point in their working lives.

These clauses have rightfully come under fire for essentially trapping workers in their current jobs–and leaving them with little leverage to demand better wages and working conditions, since they couldn’t find another job if they left. For employees with a skill set for, or experience in, a certain field or industry, this could be crippling to their career trajectory. For low-wage workers, it could mean a lack of any job opportunities at all.

Take, for instance, the agreement that Amazon makes their warehouse employees sign: “During employment and for 18 months after the separation date, employee will not…engage in or support the development, manufacture, marketing or sale of any product or service that competes or is intended to compete with any product or service sold, offered or otherwise provided by Amazon.”

Given that Amazon sells practically everything, this would seem to effectively bar any employment for 18 months.

Often, these provisions don’t stand up to legal challenge–the sandwich chain Jimmy John’s, for instance, was forced to remove clauses barring workers from taking jobs at any other sandwich shop for two years after a lawsuit. In other cases, employers have successfully sued to prevent workers from leaving to go to a competitor.

As there are no federal regulations about noncompete clauses, enforcement varies from state to state.

Enforced or not, in the context of an economy in which the majority of workers are struggling to get by, many feel they have no choice but to sign whatever terms an employer demands–out of fear of losing their livelihoods if they challenge these provisions.

Connecting this issue to trends in health care coverage–which, since it is tied to employment for many workers, is also a means of keeping workers stuck in their jobs–New York Times columnist Paul Krugman observed:

You might say, with only a bit of hyperbole, that workers in America, supposedly the land of the free, are actually creeping along the road to serfdom, yoked to corporate employers the way Russian peasants were once tied to their masters’ land. And the people pushing them down that road are the very people who cry “freedom” the loudest.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

FOR CRITICS like Krugman, the solution lies in enacting progressive policies and reining in the worst excesses of employers, to the extent that they infringe on the free workings of the market. But for socialists, the problem–and the solution–goes much deeper.

Proponents of capitalism often claim that this is the ultimate expression of freedom: Workers and employers are free to enter into contracts for their mutual benefit. Yet even Adam Smith, one of capitalism’s early theoriests, acknowledged that employers have a built-in interest in limiting that freedom:

What are the common wages of labor depends everywhere upon the contract usually made between those two parties, whose interests are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little, as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower, the wages of labor.

It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of these two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms…A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer or merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two upon the stocks which they have already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year, without employment. In the long run, the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate.

Karl Marx–who studied the work of Smith far more closely than many modern-day libertarians seem to have–argued that the apparently “free” market masked a hidden coercion.

In the first place, capitalism depends on one group of people that owns the means of production–factories, offices, machinery, raw materials, etc.–and another, much larger group that owns none of these, and must go to work for the smaller group to survive.

In this way, Marx argued that workers are free in a “double sense”–free to work or free to starve. As he wrote in Wage Labor and Capital:

The worker leaves the capitalist, to whom he has sold himself, as often as he chooses, and the capitalist discharges him as often as he sees fit, as soon as he no longer gets any use, or not the required use, out of him. But the worker, whose only source of income is the sale of his labor-power, cannot leave the whole class of buyers, i.e., the capitalist class, unless he gives up his own existence. He does not belong to this or that capitalist, but to the capitalist class; and it is for him to find his man–i.e., to find a buyer in this capitalist class.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THERE IS nothing natural about how this state of affairs came about. It was the result of a long and violent campaign of forced expulsions of peasants from the land in Europe and the conquest and enslavement of millions in the colonized world. As Marx put it, “[C]apital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”

Marx further observed that even the minimal freedom granted to workers to choose their particular employer evaporates once they set foot on the job. At work, the bosses exert complete control.

That this is a given is illustrated in a line in the New York Times article on noncompete clauses, which notes in passing: “Companies have always owned their employees’ labor, but today’s employment contracts often cover general knowledge as well.”

For Marxists, this goes to the heart of how the capitalist system works. Employers purchase not a given amount of work, but a certain number of hours of labor power–and their profits derive from the value of the goods produced for them beyond the cost they pay out in wages.

Employers therefore have every incentive to squeeze as much labor out of workers as possible at the lowest cost. Noncompete agreements are just one of many methods of intimidation and compulsion used to achieve this purpose–to get employees to work harder for less.

This exploitation is the secret behind the tendency toward inequality built into capitalism. What masquerades as a free and equal exchange–a certain amount of work for a certain amount of pay–is actually a system of organized theft.

That such theft is taking place can be verified simply by observing the tremendous rise of worker productivity in the past few decades, even as wages continue to stagnate. As a result, we have the highest levels of inequality in human history–and the ruling class uses its wealth and power to further control and subordinate the rest of us.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THIS LACK of freedom for workers has both a material and a spiritual cost. The vast majority of people are stuck in jobs we don’t find intrinsically meaningful or fulfilling, but are simply a means to survive.

This state of affairs leads to widespread alienation, not just from our work, but from ourselves and each other–which manifests itself in skyrocketing rates of depression, suicide and substance abuse, to name just a few of the bitter fruits of our so-called “free” society.

As British Marxist John Molyneux wrote in a pamphlet about the future socialist society:

The ultimate goal of Marxism, of socialism, and of the struggle of the working class is freedom. The bourgeoisie are, of course, keen to proclaim their commitment to freedom: freedom of speech, of the press, of the individual to do what they please with their money and so on. They know full well that as long as they control the means of production and therefore the wealth, the media, and the state, these freedoms remain enormously restricted and almost meaningless for the vast majority. They know also that they have the power to limit or indeed trample on such freedoms whenever they find it necessary.

In contrast, Marxists recognize that in a society divided into antagonistic classes, founded on exploitation and ruled by capital, there are and can be no “absolute” freedoms. We expose the sham abstract freedom offered by the bourgeoisie because what we want is real concrete freedom.

Freedom from hunger and poverty (without which all other freedoms mean nothing), freedom from war, from endless toil, from exploitation, from racial and sexual oppressions–these are the real freedoms we fight for. They can be made a reality only by establishing the positive freedom of the working class to run society.

Categories: Political Parties

Pride and justice stand together

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 13:00


Steve Leigh reports from Seattle day of protests for LGBTQ pride and equality.

June 13, 2017

Marching for LGBTQ pride and equality in Seattle

MORE THAN 2,000 people gathered in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on June 11 and marched to the city center in support of LGBTQ pride and equality.

The march was one of several across the U.S., including a gathering in Washington, D.C., that were aimed at being more political than the official LGBTQ pride marches later in June, which started as a commemoration of the Stonewall Rebellion, but have morphed into an apolitical event, sponsored in part by corporations.

Brooklyn activist David Bruinooge called for the day of protests on a Facebook page back in January, saying he was inspired by the Women’s Marches on January 21. The vile homophobia of the Trump administration continued to drive interest in the demonstrations around the country.

Transgender pride was a strong theme throughout the day in Seattle. Speakers also expressed solidarity with other groups under attack in the age of Trump. One speaker introduced herself as a “radical, proud, out lesbian and Muslim” to loud cheers from the crowd.

Speakers urged people not to give their signatures to put Initiative 1552 on the ballot. If passed, the referendum which would enforce a law like the notorious one in North Carolina that forces people to use bathrooms of their birth gender, rather than the gender they identify with. Activists circulated through the crowd with ” decline to sign” petitions.

One extremely popular act was a beautiful rendition of John Lennon’s utopian socialist anthem “Imagine.”

The radical political message of solidarity was mixed with calls for support of gay businesses. One of the sponsors was the Greater Seattle Business Association, which also sponsors the official Pride event at the end of the month. Politicians in support of LGBTQ rights were also featured from the speakers’ platform.

Meanwhile, sections of the march broke out in chants defending immigrants, Muslims, the African Americans and other oppressed groups. One of the most popular was “When queer rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

Categories: Political Parties

June 13: The Red in the Rainbow: Socialism and Queer Liberation

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 18:13

Tuesday, June 13
7:00 p.m.
Common Good Cafe
(Downstairs at the University Temple United Methodist Church)
1415 NE 43rd St.
Seattle, WA 98105

RSVP on Facebook

Not many know that the radical fight for sexual freedom is deeply rooted in a socialist tradition. Some of the earliest pioneers for gay rights were proclaimed socialists and believed that the fight for queer liberation was a crucial part to building a society free from the policing of sexual freedoms.

Our agenda is different from the modern, “socially progressive” wing of the capitalist class that promotes formal equality within the bounds of a highly unequal society. Queer liberation for socialists is about questioning the fundamental nature of capitalism that is designed to pit us against each other.

In the 1970’s, a newspaper called The Body Politic emerged to become the leading international outlet for gay people to discover and explore the meaning of queer liberation. In an article called Strategy for Gay Liberation, the author highlights that the “aim for gay liberation is to root out the source of our oppressions”.

That is why queer liberation, and the liberation for any oppressed peoples, is at the heart of socialism.

An injury to one, is an injury to all!

Categories: Political Parties

June 6: Marxists and Elections

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 18:07

Tuesday, June 6
7:00 p.m.
Common Good Cafe
(Downstairs at the University Temple United Methodist Church)
1415 NE 43rd St.
Seattle, WA 98105

Our meeting this week will focus on the question of how Marxists should approach electoral politics.  For revolutionaries, there are a number of factors to consider when deciding when and how to participate in electoral politics within the capitalist political system.  For background on this discussion, read the article “Marxists and Elections” by Paul D’Amato from the International Socialist Review.

We will also be discussing our recent endorsement of Nikkita Oliver’s campaign for mayor of Seattle and the upcoming Socialism 2017 conference in Chicago on July 6-9.

Categories: Political Parties

May 30: Fighting for Reproductive Rights in the Age of Trump

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 18:37

Tuesday, May 30
7:00 p.m.
Common Good Cafe
(Downstairs at the University Temple United Methodist Church)
1415 NE 43rd St.
Seattle, WA 98105

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Join us for a discussion about Sharon Smith’s article in the most recent issue of the International Socialist Review, “Fighting for reproductive rights in the age of Trump.” We’ll be discussing the state of the movement to defend abortion rights and the political debates that exist within the movement.

The second half of the meeting will be devoted to breakouts to plan various aspects of our local work.

Categories: Political Parties