The 'Socialist Alternative'

A close look at one of the key organizers of the anti-Trump protest movement.

An organization called Socialist Alternative (SA) has been one of the key orchestrators – along with the ANSWER Coalition, the Occupy Movement, and MoveOn.org – of the massive, sometimes violent, anti-Donald Trump protests that have been staged in cities across the United States ever since Hillary Clinton's defeat on Election Day.

Inspired by the example of a United Kingdom-based group known as Militant Tendency, SA is a Trotskyist revolutionary political party that first emerged in the U.S. as “Labor Militant” in 1986. With branches in almost 50 American cities, SA proudly claims to be “in political solidarity” with the Committee for a Workers’ International, which is a worldwide socialist organization with a presence in nearly four dozen countries. On the premise that “the global capitalist system” is “the root cause” of poverty, discrimination, war, inequality, and “environmental destruction,” SA aims to promote the creation of “a socialist United States and a socialist world.” Asserting that “the dictatorships that existed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were [unfortunate] perversions of what socialism is really about,” SA instead advocates a form of “democratic socialism where ordinary people will have control over [their] daily lives.”

In the late 1990s, SA tried to help the now-defunct U.S. Labor Party to advocate for electoral opposition to Democratic Party politicians, whom SA viewed as being too moderate. 

SA was particularly active in the anti-globalization movement from 1998-2002, and it continues to speak out against free trade and capitalism today.

In 2004, SA members initiated a project called Youth Against War and Racism, which sought to persuade high-school students to resist military recruitment efforts and oppose the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beginning in September 2011, SA supported the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement. Early the following month, SA issued a statement of solidarity with Occupy.

On the premise that “the Republicans and Democrats are both parties of big business” and are thus unworthy of holding political power, SA seeks to “build an independent, alternative party of workers and young people to fight for the interests of the millions, not the millionaires.” In 2013, SA for the first time ran, on its own ticket, two openly socialist candidates – Ty Moore and Kshama Sawant – in carefully selected political races. The results were encouraging for SA: Moore lost his bid for a Minneapolis city council seat by a mere 229 votes, while Sawant won a seat in the Seattle city council by defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent by more than 1,000 votes. Last year, Ms. Sawant was re-elected.

Professing an uncompromising commitment to “fighting for the 99%,” SA supports measures that would: raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour “as a step toward a living wage for all”; provide “free [taxpayer-funded] … public education for all from pre-school through college”; ensure “free … health care for all” in a system of “fully socialized medicine”; forbid any “budget cuts to education and social services”; impose “a major increase in taxes on the rich and big business”; ensure “a minimum guaranteed weekly income of $600/week for the unemployed, disabled, stay-at-home parents, the elderly, and others unable to work”; “shorten the workweek with no loss in pay and benefits”; and institute “public ownership” of “bankrupt and failing companies” as well as “the top 500 corporations and banks that dominate the U.S. economy.”

To promote “environmental sustainability,” SA demands that America's federal and state governments “fight climate change” by minimizing the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with human industrial activity. Toward that end, the organization recommends “massive public investment in renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies to rapidly replace fossil fuels”; “a major expansion of public transportation”; and “democratic public ownership of the big energy companies.”

In its “Equal Rights for All” initiative, SA supports the Black Lives Matter effort to “build a mass movement against police brutality and the institutional racism of the criminal justice system.” Further, SA favors massive “invest[ment] in rehabilitation, job-training, and living-wage jobs, not prisons”; the abolition of the death penalty; the “immediate, unconditional legalization and equal rights for all undocumented immigrants”; “free reproductive services, including ... abortions”; and at least 12 weeks of paid family leave for all workers.

With regard to national security and defense issues, SA demands that the federal government “slash the military budget” of the United States, shut down the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, and repeal the PATRIOT Act.

In summation, Socialist Alternative's agendas and worldviews bear a striking resemblance to many of the Democratic Party's political priorities. Thus it is hardly surprising that SA members are heartbroken over the fact that a greedy, immoral, power-hungry criminal with a totalitarian mindset was defeated in this year's presidential election.

 

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