2014 Seattle City Council Socialist Alternative Inauguration Speech: Councilmember Kshama Sawant

My brothers and sisters,

Thank you for your presence here today.

This city has made glittering fortunes for the super wealthy and for the major corporations that dominate Seattle’s landscape. At the same time, the lives of working people, the unemployed and the poor grow more difficult by the day. The cost of housing skyrockets, and education and healthcare become inaccessible.

This is not unique to Seattle. Shamefully, in this, the richest country in human history, fifty million of our people – one in six – live in poverty. Around the world, billions do not have access to clean water and basic sanitation and children die every day from malnutrition.

This is the reality of international capitalism. This is the product of the gigantic casino of speculation created by the highway robbers on Wall Street. In this system the market is God, and everything is sacrificed on the altar of profit. Capitalism has failed the 99%.

Despite recent talk of economic growth, it has only been a recovery for the richest 1%, while the rest of us are falling ever farther behind.

In our country, Democratic and Republican politicians alike primarily serve the interests of big business. A completely dysfunctional Congress DOES manage to agree on one thing – regular increases in their already bloated salaries – yet at the same time allows the federal minimum wage to stagnate and fall farther and farther behind inflation. We have the obscene spectacle of the average corporate CEO getting seven thousand dollars an hour, while the lowest-paid workers are called presumptuous in their demand for just fifteen.

To begin to change all of this, we need organized mass movements of workers and young people, relying on their own independent strength. That is how we won unions, civil rights and LGBTQ rights.

Again, throughout the length and breadth of this land, working people are mobilizing for a decent and dignified life for themselves and their children. Look at the fast food workers movement, the campaigns of Walmart workers, and the heroic activism to stop the Keystone XL pipeline!

Right here in SeaTac, we have just witnessed the tremendous and victorious campaign for fifteen dollars an hour. At the same time, in Lorain County, Ohio, twenty-four candidates ran, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as ‘Independent Labor’ and were elected to their City Councils.

I will do my utmost to represent the disenfranchised and the excluded, the poor and the oppressed – by fighting for a $15/hour minimum wage, affordable housing, and taxing the super-rich for a massive expansion of public transit and education. But my voice will be heard by those in power only if workers themselves shout their demands from the rooftops and organize en masse.

My colleagues and I in Socialist Alternative will stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who want to fight for a better world. But working people need a new political party, a mass organization of the working class, run by – and accountable to – themselves. A party that will struggle and campaign in their interest, and that will boldly advocate for alternatives to this crisis-ridden system.

Here in Seattle, political pundits are asking about me: will she compromise? Can she work with others? Of course, I will meet and discuss with representatives of the establishment. But when I do, I will bring the needs and aspirations of working-class people to every table I sit at, no matter who is seated across from me. And let me make one thing absolutely clear: There will be no backroom deals with corporations or their political servants. There will be no rotten sell-out of the people I represent.

I wear the badge of socialist with honor. To the nearly hundred thousand who voted for me, and to the hundreds of you who worked tirelessly on our campaign, I thank you. Let us continue.

The election of a socialist to the Council of a major city in the heartland of global capitalism has made waves around the world. We know because we have received messages of support from Europe, Latin America, Africa and from Asia. Those struggling for change have told us they have been inspired by our victory.

To all those prepared to resist the agenda of big business – in Seattle and nationwide – I appeal to you: get organized. Join with us in building a mass movement for economic and social justice, for democratic socialist change, whereby the resources of society can be harnessed, not for the greed of a small minority, but for the benefit of all people. Solidarity.


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Showing 11 reactions

commented 2014-01-10 14:59:39 -0800 · Flag
Yes! (Unfortunately I live in Tacoma, where the voters regard mass transit as “welfare” and are thus killing the transit system while the Democrats play their usual game of mouthing liberal platitudes but serving the Ruling Class, in this instance by stalling city council action on paid sick leave.) We desperately need Kshama to come down here and organize us!
commented 2014-01-07 20:04:55 -0800 · Flag
Imagine if she had a chance to debate Obama on national TV on one of his 2012 presidential debates. Imagine the kind of national support she would of been having behind her demanding a radical overhaul of the political establishment.
commented 2014-01-07 16:11:13 -0800 · Flag
Congratulations and thank you for helping people understand that Socialism = Progress!
commented 2014-01-07 07:46:16 -0800 · Flag
At your inauguration party afterwards, I enjoyed meeting several of your supporters. Great speech from the gentleman from Ireland’s parliament. Your Speech, and the words of the poet, were the highlight of the inauguration.
commented 2014-01-07 07:45:32 -0800 · Flag
You don’t have to be a socialist to recognize a champion of the 99%. Go get ’em, Ms. Sawant!
commented 2014-01-07 00:28:42 -0800 · Flag
Enjoyed every minute. Well worth giving up half a days pay to be there, and $23. parking. Looking forward to help in any way I can.
commented 2014-01-06 21:20:27 -0800 · Flag
Wonderful speech, and best wishes for a great start at the City Council.
commented 2014-01-06 19:52:26 -0800 · Flag
Magnificent speech. Let us indeed continue!
commented 2014-01-06 18:15:51 -0800 · Flag
Loved your speech Kshama!! There was a huge amount of energy in the room today at Seattle City Hall. People are reved up to fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in our city. Thank you for standing up for working people and calling b.s. on the crisis machine that is end stage capitalism.
commented 2014-01-06 17:32:41 -0800 · Flag
Great speech. I was there to hear it, but it’s nice to see it in print, as I missed some words due to all the clapping and cheering!!! I’m inspired and hopeful……

Ruth Yeomans
commented 2014-01-06 17:28:31 -0800 · Flag
Kshama, Your speech at the City Hall glittered as a Shining Star! You spoke for the Millions and Billions of working people and the poor and oppressed around the world.Solidarity!!
Jagadish G Chandra
New Socialist Alternative (Cwi-India)