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Socialist Alternative (United States)

Socialist Alternative
Chairperson National Committee (No Single Chairperson)
Slogan Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism
Founded 1986
Headquarters New York City
Newspaper Socialist Alternative
Ideology Marxism
Political position Left-wing
International affiliation Committee for a Workers' International
Colors      Red
Seats in the Senate
0 / 100
Seats in the House
0 / 435
0 / 50
State Upper House Seats
0 / 1,972
State Lower House Seats
0 / 5,411
Other elected offices 1 (2014)
Politics of United States
Political parties

Socialist Alternative (SA) is a Trotskyist political party active in the United States. It describes itself as "a national organization fighting in our workplaces, communities, and campuses against the exploitation and injustices people face every day." It describes itself as "a community of activists fighting against budget cuts in public services; fighting for living wage jobs and militant, democratic unions; and a people of all colors speaking out against racism and attacks on immigrants, students organizing against tuition hikes and war, women and men fighting sexism and homophobia."[1] Socialist Alternative's main public representative is Seattle City Councillor Kshama Sawant who was elected in November 2013.

It is active in over 50 cities in the United States including New York City, Oakland, Minneapolis, Boston, Seattle, New Orleans, Madison, Tampa, Philadelphia, Mobile, Chicago and more.[1] It recently began publishing a monthly newspaper called "Socialist Alternative" along with various local newsletters and media outlets, including a radio show in the Boston area. SA is a member of Committee for a Workers' International, an international organization of Trotskyist parties in over 45 countries around the world.


Socialist Alternative was originally formed as Labor Militant in 1986 by members of the Committee for a Workers International who had moved to the United States. Labor Militant was a small group with its membership numbering mostly of trade union members. By the mid-1990s, Labor Militant became part of a campaign to form the US Labor Party where it was in the leadership of the New York Metro Chapter. The NY Metro Chapter, the largest in the country, saw Labor Militant and its allies run again for the leadership of the chapter under the "United Action" slate only to be defeated in an Executive Committee election. Labor Militant members and the United Action slate had argued that the Labor Party should vigorously run candidates against the Democrats, whereas the national leadership of the Labor Party refused to take such an approach. After the election, the New York Labor Party State Executive upheld the election results while suspending the NY Metro Chapter and several of its officers, eventually shutting down the chapter.[2]

In the late 1990s, Labor Militant changed its name to Socialist Alternative to reflect what was classified as a change in the political period[3] From 1998 to 2002, the Socialist Alternative party was active in the anti-globalization movement. It was present at many of the major protests during this time, including the N30 Protests in Seattle. At these protests it argued that the movement should take up the key demands of "abolish the IMF, World Bank and the WTO", "cancel the international debt", "papers for all undocumented immigrants" and "take the banks and financial institutions into public ownership".[4]

In 2004 Socialist Alternative party members initiated Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) as a sustained campaign against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. YAWR worked mainly in high schools primarily in counter-recruitment activism in several cities. In Seattle in 2005 several hundred high school students walked out of class in order to march in protest of the war in Iraq causing conflict with parents and school officials who contended that the students should focus on school during the day.[5] Following protests by members of YAWR and Socialist Alternative against military recruitment in schools, the Seattle School Board enacted some restrictions on military recruiters at Seattle High School's. The changes included limiting military recruiters to visiting twice a year to each school despite the demands by the YAWR protesters for a total ban on military recruitment at schools.[6]

The Socialist Alternative party supported the candidacy of Ralph Nader during the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. In 2012, they supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein in her run. Despite criticism from other socialist groups about supporting 'bourgeois candidates', Socialist Alternative argued that Stein supported a Green New Deal jobs program, ending wars, canceling student debt, a single-payer health care system, and other reforms supported by the party.[7]

In the time leading up to the 2008 presidential election the Socialist Alternative party criticized Barack Obama,[8][9] pointing to his pro-free market stance on job creation, his record in congress of voting in favor of bills such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, his stance on healthcare reform, and on other issues.[10]

In 2013, the Socialist Alternative party garnered attention because it successfully elected a member, Kshama Sawant to the Seattle City Council being one of the few elected Socialists in the United States.[11]

Political views

For general information about Socialist Alternative's politics, see Trotskyism.
Socialist Alternative members marching for LGBT Rights in Seattle, WA.

Calls for a "Mass Workers' Party"

In November 2008, following Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election, Socialist Alternative called for "a mass workers' party" that would draw together workers, young people and activists from workplace, community, civil rights, environmental and antiwar campaigns, in order to provide a fighting, political alternative to what they called the pro-big business parties.[1] It paid specific attention to the role of unions in this push because according to them, unions and other social movement organizations needed to stop funding and supporting the Democratic and Republican Parties and instead organize independent left-wing, anti-corporate candidates and coalitions as a first step toward building a "workers' party."[1]

In 2012, the Socialist Alternative party proposed that the Occupy movement should run its own candidates as part of a challenge to what it called the "two-party corporate duopoly" in politics.[12] The following year, the party would run its own candidates in Boston, Minneapolis and Seattle[13] resulting in the election of Kshama Sawant in Seattle and the defeat of Ty Moore in Minneapolis.


The Socialist Alternative party advocates socialist democracy as an alternative to bureaucratic socialism of the former Soviet Union and the capitalist democratic model which it alleges is designed to only benefit the "ruling class and disenfranchise working people". The party proposes that a socialist society would change the relationship with "working people" running the economy.[14]

The party holds that the former Soviet Union was not socialist, but instead a "tragic degeneration" of the Russian Revolution and the socialist tradition.[15] While it views the Russian Revolution positively as a mass democratic revolution of the working class in Russia, it opposes Joseph Stalin's reign of terror following the death of Vladimir Lenin.[15]


The party's ideology is based upon Marxism and Trotskyism.[16]

  • The party advocates nationalizing the top 500 corporations and banks within the U.S. economy and running them under the "democratic management of elected representatives of the workers and the broader public."
  • The party advocates for creating "living-wage union jobs for all the unemployed through a massive public works program to develop mass transit, renewable energy, infrastructure, healthcare, education, and affordable housing."
  • The party wants to replace all health insurance companies with a publicly funded single-payer system.
  • The party wants the federal government to bail out states in order to prevent cuts and layoffs. It seeks a massive increase in taxes on the rich and corporations.
  • The party wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, adjusted annually for cost of living increases and regional differences, as a step towards a living wage for all.
  • The party wants a minimum guaranteed weekly income of $600/week for the unemployed, disabled, stay-at-home parents, the elderly, and others unable to work.
  • The party wants to end home foreclosures and evictions, primarily through nationalization of the major banks.
  • The party advocates nationalizing bankrupt and failing companies and reshaping them for the purpose of green production.
  • The party seeks to establish free, high quality public education for everyone from pre-school through college, full funding for schools to dramatically lower teacher-student ratios, and stopping what they call the focus on high-stakes testing and stopping private education institutions by putting them under public ownership.
  • The party seeks to repeal all "anti-union" laws. It advocates for democratic unions run by union members in order to advocate for better pay, working conditions, social services. The party advocates for full-time union officials to be regularly elected and receive the average wage of those they represent.
  • The party wants to establish a guaranteed living wage pension.
  • The party wants to shorten the workweek with no loss in pay and benefits and to share out the work with the unemployed and create new jobs.

The party takes a strong anti-war stance, and as such advocates:

  • The party holds that the US needs to completely withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq, bring all US troops stationed outside the US home and end all combat operations overseas.
  • The party wants to massively slash the military budget and divert funds into social programs instead.
  • The party seeks to abolish the PATRIOT Act and any other legislation it believes "infringe on American's rights."

The party takes strong stances on equal rights and as such advocates:

  • The party seeks to fight discrimination on the grounds of race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, and all other forms of prejudice. It seeks to establish an equal pay for equal work system.
  • The party wants to end what it calls the "police brutality and the institutional racism of the criminal justice system" which it wants to do by investing in rehabilitation, job-training, and living-wage jobs, instead of prisons. The party seeks to abolish capital punishment.
  • The party wants full amnesty for all undocumented immigrants.
  • The party wants to fight sexual harassment, violence against women, and all forms of sexism.
  • The party seeks to support abortion rights. It wants free reproductive services, including all forms of birth control and safe, accessible abortions, comprehensive sex education, paid maternity and paternity leave, and fully subsidized, high-quality child care.
  • The party advocates for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, including same-sex marriage.


"Jobs Not Cuts"

Socialist Alternative initiated a national campaign called "Jobs Not Cuts" in the fall of 2011 in reaction to the debt ceiling crisis and subsequent Budget Control Act passed by the US Congress in August 2011.[17] The bill called on the Federal Government to make $2.1 trillion in cuts the Federal budget, and issued the formation of a "Supercommittee" to decide how these cuts would be made. The campaign was endorsed by notable public figures like Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, and Cindy Sheehan, and organizations like the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Veterans for Peace.[18] The goal of the campaign was to hold a national week of action from November 16 to 23 in protest against these cuts, and advocating for a mass public works project that could create jobs. Part of its demands were that the government could generate money for these projects by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and dramatic tax increases on the super-rich.[19]

The Occupy Movement

When the Occupy Movement began in the fall of 2011, Socialist Alternative became active within the movement in cities across the country.[20] The party issued a statement of solidarity to the movement on October 6, 2011. The party argued that the movement should develop concrete demands along working class lines.[21]

Occupy Homes MN

When the encampment at Occupy Minneapolis began to depreciate, Socialist Alternative worked to continue the Occupy Homes MN campaign and push the Occupy movement in Minneapolis into an anti-foreclosure campaign.[22] The party assisted in outreach, planning, and organizing public meetings to help grow the campaign.[23]

15 Now

After the election victory of Kshama Sawant and inspired by Proposition 1 in Sea-Tac, Socialist Alternative launched the 15 Now campaign. 15 Now is a grassroots campaign to "empower working people and activate them into fighting movement" to win a $15 an hour minimum wage.[24] Led by Socialist Alternative, 15 Now in Seattle built a local campaign based on neighborhood 'action groups' and won the endorsement of several major unions like SEIU, ATU, AFSCME, IBEW and community groups. As well, several national and local activists endorsed 15 Now including Noam Chomsky, Tom Morello, and Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report).[25] While Kshama Sawant was pushing for $15 inside the City Council, 15 Now was organizing demonstrations and public conferences. On April 26, 15 Now held an open conference for all of those participating in the movement from around the country to democratically decide the direction and tactics of 15 Now in Seattle and nationally, with over 500 people attending. The conference decided to launch a signature drive to push an amendment to the Seattle City Charter for a $15 an hour minimum wage because in their words "the credible threat of a winnable ballot initiative is the best tool – under the current conditions of a weak union movement and a historically low level of strikes – that working people have to push back attempts by big business and politicians to dramatically water down any effort for a $15/hr minimum wage. The April 26 Conference aims to launch dozens of new local 15 Now Action Groups as the basis for a powerful mass movement to, if necessary, overcome the millions big business will pour in to defeat a ballot initiative." The decision to pursue a charter amendment saw the flight of many of 15 Now's labor allies due to pressure from the Democratic Party and fear of an open fight with big business.[26] On May 1, 2014, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced his proposal for a $15 an hour minimum wage to be considered for adoption by the Seattle City Council. The Mayor's proposal was not the "no exceptions" one that 15 Now had wanted and included many "corporate loopholes" including phase-ins for certain businesses and exceptions for tipped workers.Despite a fierce campaign to close the 'corporate loopholes', 15 Now eventually supported Kshama Sawant voting in favor of the Mayor's proposal, as the mass forces necessary for carrying out the Charter Amendment campaign did not materialize after many of the labor unions left the movement.[27] On June 2, the $15 an hour minimum wage was voted into law in the city, making Seattle the city with the highest minimum wage in the country. The $15 an hour minimum wage represents what amounts to a $3 billion transfer in wealth from business owners to working people in Seattle. 15 Now said that fact and its results being a first 'offensive victory for working people in several years represented a massive positive change in the situation for social movements of working people. Since 15 Now's success in Seattle, 15 Now has initiated several different campaigns across the country, notably in Portland, Oregon, Minneapolis and Boston.[28][29][30]

Electoral history

Seattle City Council

In 2013, Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University economics professor Kshama Sawant was elected to the Seattle City Council from Position 2 as a candidate for Socialist Alternative. She had previously won 35% of the vote in the August primary election and advanced into the general election against incumbent Richard Conlin.[31] On November 15, 2013, Conlin conceded to Sawant after late returns showed him down by 1,640 votes or approximately 1% of the vote.[32][33] This made Sawant the first socialist to win a city-wide election in Seattle since the communist supporter Anna Louise Strong was elected to the School Board in 1916.[34]

Sawant had previously run for election as the Socialist Alternative candidate in the 43rd district of the Washington House of Representatives against incumbent Democrat Frank Chopp, in 2012.[35][36] Sawant advanced past the primaries for Position 2 while also advancing in Position 1 where she was on the ballot challenging Jamie Pedersen. The Sawant campaign won a subsequent court battle against the Secretary of State for the right to list her party preference on the ballot in the elections. Sawant was endorsed by the Local 587 of the Amalgamated Transit Union,[37] and the alternative newspaper, The Stranger.[38] She received over 20,000 votes, or 28.62%.[39]

Sawant's platform included a minimum wage increase to US$15/hour, rent control, and taxes on higher-income individuals.[31]

Washington State House

In 2014, the Socialist Alternative party chose Jess Spear, an Organizing Director for one of their campaigns, to run for Washington State Representative against Speaker of the House Frank Chopp. Spear's platform included rent control, increasing education funding through increasing taxes on the wealthy, and stopping the use of all fossil fuels in Washington. During her campaign, Spear led several protests against oil and coal trains moving through Seattle and was arrested after trespassing at one of the protests.[40] Spear garnered 17.7% of the vote or roughly 8,600 votes in the 2014 general election.[41]

Boston City Council

In 2007, Matt Geary ran for City Council in Boston, Massachusetts as the Socialist Alternative candidate. He received 3,025 votes (2.41%) in a plurality-at-large election in which each voter could vote for up to four candidates.[42] In 2013, Socialist Alternative ran Registered Nurse and union activist Seamus Whelan for Boston City Council. In an unusually crowded municipal election including 19 candidates for City Councilor and 10 for Mayor, Whelan was eliminated in the preliminary election with over 3,000 votes.[43] Whelan's main support was from working class areas in West Roxbury and Dorchester.

Minneapolis City Council

In 2013, Ty Moore ran for City Council in Minneapolis, Minnesota as the Socialist Alternative Candidate. He received support from SEIU MN State Council, Occupy Homes, the Green Party of Minneapolis, some immigrant rights organizers, and some neighborhood leaders. Moore received 42% of the final vote and lost by a margin of 229 votes.[44]

Newspaper & publications

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Socialist Alternative. "Who We Are, What We Stand For". Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Locker, Philip. Global Capitalism and the Socialist Alternative. Seattle: Socialist Alternative. 
  5. ^ "Group organizes walkout by students to protest war". Seattle Times. November 1, 2005. Retrieved October 14, 2014. 
  6. ^ "School Board limits military recruiting in high schools". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. August 1, 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2014. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Obama's Key Promises". Washington Post. Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  9. ^ Jones, Alan (March–April 2008). "Democrats Raise Hope for Change – Populist Rhetoric Conceals Pro-Corporate Policies". Justice (59). Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  10. ^ DiMaggio, Dan (September–October 2008). "Beyond the Rhetoric – Would Obama Really Bring Change?". Justice (61). Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Gray, Chris; Ty Moore (June–July 2011). "Budget Myths 101 – Understanding the Debate on Taxes, Deficits and Jobs". Justice (78). 
  15. ^ a b Madsen, Brandon (January–February 2012). "Answering Common Questions – Socialism FAQs". Justice (81). Retrieved June 13, 2012. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Sahadi, Jeanne (August 2, 2011). "Debt ceiling: What the deal will do". CNN Money. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Mosgrove, Ryan (October 25, 2011). "Massive Budget Cuts Coming – Take Action to Defeat the Super Committee". Justice (80). Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  20. ^ Denvir, Daniel (October 4, 2011). "Answers from Occupy Philly organizer Justin Harrison". Philadelphia Citypaper. Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  21. ^ "End the Dictatorship of Wall Street! – A Socialist Strategy to Build the Occupy Wall Street Movement". Philadelphia Citypaper. October 6, 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  22. ^ Moore, Ty (January 11, 2012). "Building Foreclosure Free Neighborhoods – What Strategy to Beat the Banks?". Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  23. ^ Fletcher, Steve. "Occupy Homes Community Forum: Creating Foreclosure Free Neighborhoods". Retrieved June 15, 2012. 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b Young, Bob (August 6, 2013). "For Seattle council: Conlin against Sawant, O’Brien against Shen". Seattle Times. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  32. ^ Joel Connelly. "Socialist Sawant wins City Council seat". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 
  33. ^ Martha Kang and Manuel Valdes. "Conlin Concedes to Socialist Sawant in Seattle Council Race". 
  34. ^ Seattle elects first socialist City Council member. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
  35. ^ BCC. "From Capitol Hill's academic halls, a 'Socialist Alternative' to Pedersen in 43rd race". Retrieved June 10, 2012. 
  36. ^ Ballot Access News. "Socialist Alternative Party Places a Nominee on Washington State Ballot for Legislature". Retrieved June 10, 2012. 
  37. ^, "", July 21, 2012, "[1]", 9/4/2012
  38. ^ STRANGER ELECTION CONTROL BOARD, "The Stranger", July 17, 2012, "[2]", 9/4/2012
  39. ^ Ballot Access News, "Ballot Access News", November 13, 2012, "[3]", November 13, 2012
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ Election results from the City of Boston.
  43. ^
  44. ^ [4]

External links