We’ve already talked about Kshama Sawant. Elected to Seattle’s city council in 2013, Sawant’s victory marked one of the greatest comebacks in American socialism- or at least, Americans’ openness to socialism- in a long time. While her endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders resulted in snide “I told ya so’s” from the radical left (for whom happiness is counterrevolutionary), everything was going relatively well. An open Marxist had been elected without the sky falling and in spite of the griping of its opponents, the $15 an hour minimum wage in the city of SeaTac appears to be promoting growth, rather than stifling it.
And then this happened:
The Freedom Socialist Party (who had been instrumental in organizing and mobilizing the “Fight for $15”), posted an ad for part-time web designer, offering to pay $13 an hour. Now the $15 minimum wage is only being phased in slowly, so the FSP is within their rights to offer that much, but nevertheless the right-wing has been going nuts with this story. After having to suffer the election of an open Socialist and see a (gradual) rise in the minimum wage, they managed to stumble upon an unforgivable hypocrisy on the part of the dreaded Reds. Since the news broke, the comment sections have been awash with the most agonizing, rehashed, Thatcher-esque quips about robbery and incompetence and all that.
Yesterday Evening, the FSP responded to these criticism… just not very well.
In an article on Huffpost, the party’s national secretary defended the ad on the basis that “We’re practicing what we’re preaching in terms of continuing to fight for the minimum wage… But we can’t pay a lot more than $13.”
Dude, that is literally the argument used by the critics of the minimum wage rise- that small businesses (or Socialist parties, in this case) would be unable to meet the wages needed. I get that you’re a party, not a business, and there’s not a profit margin that you can cut into, but come on. Ya couldn’t do an emergency fundraiser and get folks to chip in enough for a year’s salary? I know I’m just one voice in the left’s great armada of armchair critics, but you gotta see how counterproductive this was. Even if there was just a note in there saying that the wages would rise in compliance with the city minimum, or something, the right would have nothing to whine about.
And this isn’t just an issue of attacks by the right- it’s about the far left as well. It seems every time a socialist tries to do something impressive, there’s a chorus of criticism and cynicism from his or her own comrades. An error like this only serves to drive the left further apart in an era where unity is so desperately needed.
And of course, there’s apathy at large. So many folks will try to claim that politics is inherently corrupt, and that the FSP or any 3rd party is going to be just as corrupt as the Democrats and Republicans. It might seem negligible, but these things do come back to haunt ya.
Look, FSP has done great stuff, and that’s the reason why mistakes like these can’t be made. It’s gone from just another obscure organization to a nationally recognized party and perhaps even an indicator of the changing values of the American people. I want you guys to win, for yourselves, for myself, and for the left in general. But if you’re going to do that, you’re going to need to deal with gaffs like these.
Maybe hire a PR worker when the donations pick up. Just don’t pay him or her $13 an hour.