On Election Day 2016, I became a radical. Like millions of others, I was fed up with the twin parties of corruption. So I began looking for ways to fight back and soon joined the Freedom Socialist Party to do just that. Who knew that I’d end up being Assistant Campaign Manager for Steve Hoffman, the first revolutionary socialist feminist to run for the U.S. Senate?
It’s hard for radicals to even get on the ballot. Washington state requires a candidate to turn in 1,740 valid voter signatures on a filing fee petition or pay $1,740.
Collecting that many signatures took lots of organizing and volunteers, but we got more than enough! Wherever we went — to anti-war or March for Science demonstrations, #MeToo marches, immigrant rights rallies, anti-tax protests — people were happy to sign. Their personal struggles are connected to a rotten system and they want to be free of it.
West Seattle High School invited Steve to speak on a “Socialism and Equity” panel. He underscored the need for government to spend more on education, public housing and healthcare instead of funding endless wars while cutting taxes for big business. The students were open-minded and very curious. One volunteered to help the campaign!
Going east. One of the biggest highlights for me was a trip campaign team members took to Spokane, Wash., which doesn’t exactly have a reputation for leftist politics. Socialist Alternative there hosted a “Meet Steve Hoffman” event at the public library to discuss his platform of labor militancy and social justice.
It was a politically diverse bunch — anarchists, Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), reform socialists, and Trotskyists. The discussion ranged from tackling police brutality and building an independent Labor Party to restoring fair-hiring practices. “Affirmative action means class solidarity,” Steve told them passionately. “It teaches us to trust each other as workers.” Everyone spoke frankly about taking on the capitalist system — and, importantly, about how to work better together.
The next day our motley crew joined with others to confront alt-right honcho Joey Gibson, who says he is running in the same Senate race Steve is in (but does not seem to be collecting signatures or actively raising money). Founder of the group Patriot Prayer, a magnet for white supremacists and Nazi thugs, Gibson is holding an “Open Carry” march in Seattle in May.
On the day of the supposed Spokane rally, however, Gibson and his goons no-showed at the last minute. Nor did a bunch of theoretically ultra-conservative Spokane residents materialize to cheer him on. A fine victory for anti-fascist organizers!
Each day stronger. On May 1, International Workers Day, the Hoffman campaign celebrated in Seattle with a march for immigrant and labor rights and in Olympia, the state capital, with labor songs, tales of activism, and rowdy comradery.
The lively May Day festivities in Olympia were organized by the local chapters of the Wobblies and Democratic Socialists of America. People there eagerly asked for information about the Hoffman campaign, thrilled at the prospect of supporting a socialist candidate.
Workers at Burgerville in Oregon, meanwhile, told of their successful fight to make their employer the first U.S. fast-food chain with union employees. “Forming a union is just one step of the struggle,” they told an approving crowd.
Every new day campaigning is part of the struggle to build working-class independence from the parties of big business. This is no small feat. But, as U.S. Trotskyist leader James Cannon said, revolutionaries deal in what is necessary, not what seems possible. Organizing to elect a socialist feminist certainly teaches you how to make it possible.
For more about the campaign, check out VoteSocialism.com.