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Socialist Kshama Sawant Sworn in to Seattle City Council

January 8, 2014 by Brett Wilkins in Progressives, Rich & Poor with 0 Comments

A former economics professor and Occupy Seattle organizer who won a citywide election last year has been sworn in as the first Socialist member of the Seattle City Council in modern times.

Kshama Sawant, 41, of the Socialist Alternative party was sworn in to raucous cheering and applause as she took her oath and served in her first council hearing on Monday. She then delivered a rousing speech to a crowd of more than 1,000 supporters at a packed City Hall.

“I wear the badge of ‘socialist’ with honor,” Sawant proclaimed during her address.

“This city has made glittering fortunes for the super-wealthy and major corporations that dominate Seattle’s landscape,” she began. “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,” Sawant continued. “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,” she railed. “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 percent.”

Sawant vowed to do her “utmost to represent the disenfranchised and the excluded, the poor and the oppressed.” She promised to “fight for a $15/hour minimum wage [and] affordable housing” and to “tax the super-rich for a massive expansion of public transit and education.”

While pledging to work with “the establishment,” Sawant said she wanted “to make one thing absolutely clear.”

“There will be no backroom deals with corporations or their political servants,” she promised. “There will be no rotten sell-out of the people I represent.”

“To all those prepared to resist the agenda of Big Business, in Seattle and nationwide, I appeal to you, get organized,” Sawant implored at the end of her speech. “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!”

Sawant’s victory surprised many in the largest city in the Northwest. The former incumbent, Richard Conlin, enjoyed the support of the city’s political establishment. But Sawant ran a grassroots campaign whose platform, “Fund Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed,” resonated with thousands of city residents alarmed by growing inequality and corporate crimes.

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