Socialists Alaniz and Durham: Champions of unconventional solutions enliven Seattle City Council race

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The race is on — and this time two socialist feminists are in it! “Heidi Durham and I are running for Seattle City Council because we want to shake up City Hall and implement fresh ideas with dynamic new programs,” Yolanda Alaniz told the media as she filed on July 22. Backed by the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women, these two municipal workers campaigned hard for two months before the filing date, garnering dozens of endorsements and thousands of dollars from common folk disgusted with status-quo politicians.

Their electoral bid strikes sparks among workers, the poor, and the disenfranchised.

• When Durham proposed taxing big business to fund the revitalization of decaying cities and provide nationalized healthcare, she won enthusiastic support from elder citizens at a senior picnic.

• When Alaniz demanded community control over police and repeal of the city’s racist “drug-loitering” ordinance, she met with choruses of “Right on!” from African American Community Parade observers.

• When Durham, appearing with other candidates before Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, called for firing Metro Transit bosses who refused to negotiate a fair labor agreement, she was the only speaker interrupted by applause.

• When Alaniz called for extending domestic partnership rights to all workers and an end to forced HIV testing, she was wildly cheered by thousands at Seattle’s lesbian/gay pride march.

Alaniz and Durham give expression to a wave of anti-twin-party sentiment sweeping the electorate. They bring honesty and optimism to the hypocritical, jaded electoral arena by laying responsibility for Seattle’s ills squarely at capitalism’s door and proposing radical but obvious remedies.

For an independent Labor Party. Voters are ready for Alaniz’ and Durham’s message that Republicans and Democrats can’t represent the interests of working and poor people because the two parties are snugly in the pockets of big business. A recent survey by the Kettering Foundation shows that the reason people don’t vote is not apathy, but anger about being “locked out” of the system.

The reason the Democrats and Republicans exist is to preserve the capitalist system, including its worldwide imperialist offshoot. So both parties get behind wars for oil, campaigns to put cops on every corner, and other related atrocities.

Alaniz and Durham assert that the profit system can’t be reformed to meet the needs of workers, the retired, the unemployed, the disabled, students — especially not of the women and people of color and lesbians and gay men in these groups. That means the answer is socialism.

But if the system’s diseases can’t be cured short of revolutionary change, why are radicals running for office?

The campaign gives Alaniz, Durham, and FSP a unique, respected, and powerful forum to educate about socialism — to discuss society’s ills, their origin, and their cure. It provides the opportunity to listen to many different kinds of people.

And, win or lose, these candidacies make the working class stronger by uniting people around a fighting program to achieve reforms such as, historically, the eight-hour working day, women’s suffrage, and civil rights legislation. Although the world that working people want can’t be created by reforms alone, they need and deserve every advance gained along the way!

And the class unity and confidence shored up by socialists like Alaniz and Durham contending for office will bring closer the day that workers have their own mass independent electoral party — a Labor Party, built by the rank and file and strictly answerable to them.

Making headway against the Democrats. Alaniz and Durham are running for two of five council positions open this year. After a September 17 primary, the top two vote-getters in each position will be on the ballot in the general election on November 5.

Alaniz’ main opponent for Position #5 is Sue Donaldson, a liberal incumbent who supports the drug-traffic loitering ordinance, which is being used to harass people of color, especially the youth of color, throughout the city. Durham is competing for Position #1 against a pack of four Democrats — liberal lawyer Margaret Pageler, law-and-order small-businesswoman Jan Drago, State Representative Dick Nelson, and neighborhood activist Earl Sedlik.

Despite professed differences, all are Democrats supported by the downtown establishment to one degree or another, and all would continue the current policy of balancing budget shortfalls through layoffs and taxes on homeowners.

In the midst of this crowd, Alaniz and Durham are making quite a splash, and they are receiving wide media coverage.

At rallies, picket lines, community festivals, street fairs, and political events, supporters sport flashy Alaniz-and-Durham T-shirts, picket signs, and buttons. The brochure outlining their platform (see below) has been distributed by the thousands and translated into Spanish and Chinese, with more translations coming. Dozens of doorbellers have brought the campaign into workingclass and poor neighborhoods.

A non-stop round of engagements by the candidates at meetings of labor and community organizations has helped to win dozens of important endorsements. Endorsers include AFSCME Local 435; Bill Andrews, Alaskan Tlingit activist; Asian Lesbians Outside Asia; Janice Bell, Co-Director, Mothers Against Police Harassment; José Cervantes, Chicano community activist; Citizens for Non-Violent Action Against Racism; Trish Coley, member of the IBEW Local 46 Executive Board; Christina Gallegos, President, Hispanic Association of City Employees; Maryamu Eltayeb-Givens, organizer for the homeless and against apartheid; Tiersa Hampton, member of IFPTE Local 17; Lillian Holcomb, psychologist and disabled activist; Jorge Ibarra, advocate for Latinos with AIDS; Mike Kearney of Washington Vets for Peace; Selma Waldman, artist and cofounder of Women in Black; and Perry Watkins, Black gay leader.

The upfront socialist electoral bid is having a telling effect on the other candidates, who are forced to address issues they would rather avoid, turning up at year-old picket lines for the first time, and trying to duplicate some of Alaniz’ and Durham’s heady oratory in their speeches.

Socialist Workers Party treachery. On July 26, two months after the FSP launched its candidates, the Socialist Workers Party entered candidates to run against Alaniz and Durham. The SWP chose only to run against these two socialist feminist women! Why didn’t they file for positions not being contested by socialists? Pure sectarianism, especially galling because the FSP for years has urged its supporters to vote for SWP candidates, since they offered a clear anti-capitalist choice, even though their campaigns were half-hearted and their program woefully incomplete.

FSP attempted to contact the SWP ahead of time in order to avoid competing in the same races, but the SWP didn’t respond.

The SWP’s move is breathtakingly irresponsible and destructive. In splitting the socialist and protest vote against the capitalist-party politicians, it breaks with a decades-long tradition of Trotskyist collaboration with other socialists in the electoral arena. The SWP is following the path of the German Communist Party Stalinists Who allowed Hitler to rise to power in 1933 by refusing to join forces with the Social Democrats to beat the führer at the polls.

What happened then could happen again; the rise of fascism is not an academic question. FSP has been on the front lines against the nascent Nazi movement across the U.S. In Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, FSP helped lead United Front Against Fascism demonstrations which kept the fascist Populist Party from gathering enough signatures to become a recognized party statewide. Nationally, more and more neo-Nazis are running for office.

Alaniz and Durham are the real socialist alternative not only to the mainstream parties but to the far-right and the pseudo-socialists as well.

Give ’em a choice. That alternative needs to be broadened. What the Left needs is to field more candidates in many different races in order to stand up to the ultra-right, better judge the amount of support for its ideas, and make the strongest possible statement against fascism, war, racism, and sexism.

That time will come. Meanwhile, Alaniz and Durham are running to win — because they are serious about running the city as representatives of the economic interest of workers and all who are currently shunted aside, mistreated, and oppressed. They and their energetic campaign committee, Advocates for Alaniz and Durham, are permanently changing Seattle’s political landscape.

As far as alternative-hungry voters are concerned, it’s not a moment too soon.

Vote socialist! Vote for Alaniz and Durham!

The candidates

Yolanda Alaniz

“It’s high time for a Chicana council-member committed to the needs of the poor, underpaid, and unrepresented.”

Alaniz, 41, comes from a farmworker family in Eastern Washington. She graduated from the University of Washington in 1977. A strong voice for immigrant rights, she is a longtime organizer on behalf of people of color, women, lesbians/gays, labor, and justice in Latin America and worldwide. She is co-author of “The Chicano Struggle: A Racial or National Movement?” an historical analysis of the nature and direction of Chicano efforts to end discrimination in the U.S.

A defendant in the Freeway Hall Case, she fights for free speech and privacy rights of social-issue organizations.

She is a board member of the Hispanic Association of City Employees and member of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 17. Past member of the Seattle Women’s Commission and former president of the United Workers Union-Independent, she was well-equipped to campaign for domestic partnership rights for city workers.

Her past employment includes Seattle Rape Relief, Seattle Department of Human Rights, Office of Women’s Rights, and driver for the Senior Services and Centers “Meals on Wheels.” She is now employed at the Water Department as a Customer Service Representative. She is on the Video Display Terminal Committee, a labor/management group that studies VDTs and makes recommendations on preventive care for workers using them.

She is a single mother and a veteran activists for quality childcare. She has also fought against the force sterilization of women of color and is a staunch supporter of abortion rights.

Heidi Durham

“City Hall needs a radical voice to challenge the stuffy status quo-ers and craft dynamic programs for the ’90s.”

Durham, 38, is a Power Dispatcher at Seattle City Light, where she has worked for 17 years. In 1974, she was one of the first ten women hired into the Electrical Trades Trainee Program at Seattle City Light. Fired along with five other trainees in 1975 for protesting the dismantling of their affirmative action program, she won a class-action sex-discrimination suite and was rehired the following year.

An outspoken member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77, she is a whistleblower against discrimination and management foibles and waste. She helped found the employee Committee for Equal Rights at City Light (CERCL).

In May 1991 she received the “Active Advocate of the Year” award at the Women in Trades Fair for co-authoring “Women Workers — Sparkplugs of Labor,” a ground-breaking analysis of demographic changes in the labor force. The document asserts that it is because of these changes that women have a new power in the workplace and also in society.

As co-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for Fair Employment and Open Housing, 1984 to 1987, and member of the City Council Human Rights Ordinance Review Panel in 1985, she helped roll back the city’s attempt to gut its own anti-discrimination law.

In 1982 she wrote “The War on the Disabled: Adding Insult to Injury.” She has been a tribune for the disabled ever since suffering a serious spinal injury in 1977, when she was one of City Light’s first female lineworker apprentices.

The platform

Fund the cities by dismantling the war machine

• Demand that Congress demolish the Pentagon budget and provide decent food, healthcare, education and training, transportation, and social services for all who need them.

End the free ride of big business — tax the rich, not the poor

• Provide a guaranteed annual income for poor families and individuals. No taxes on basic necessities.

• Eliminate tax escapes and increase taxes for major businesses. Slash property taxes on modest homes. Stop waste caused by expensive anti-labor and anti-human rights practices, futile lawsuits, and capricious mismanagement.

Stop bigotry — insure across-the-board civil rights

• End redlining. Fund poor neighborhoods.

• Jail and rehabilitate hate crime perpetrators. Organize the community to stop racist, homophobic, sexist, and neo-Nazi violence.

• Allocate public funds for full abortion services and AIDS prevention, research and treatment.

• Outlaw forced HIV and drug testing.

• Overturn the unconstitutional Drug Loitering Ordinance.

• Enforce affirmative action and hiring/promotion goals that include the disabled.

• Make the Human Rights Department independent of the mayor and city attorney. A captive agency can’t be a watchdog!

Mandate environmental sanity and job safety

• Make industry pay for a clean environment.

• Hold employers accountable for a safe, healthy and ergonomically sound workplace.

• Develop people spaces, not skyscrapers. Preserve our architectural heritage and historic places.

Make the city accountable to women, people of color, labor, city workers, lesbians/gays, the disabled and elderly

• Furnish socialized healthcare for Seattle.

• Establish 24-hour, quality childcare centers.

• Create an independent Citizen Review Board to prevent police abuses.

• Establish a Labor/Community Board to oversee union contracts, key city policies, and financial decisions of the City Council.

• Reduce utility rates. Free service for the poor.

• Stop all business with South Africa. Divest city monies, direct and indirect, including retirement funds.

Liberate the 1st Amendment

• Halt all arrests and jail terms for demonstrators, leafleteers/posters, and petitioners. Stop retaliation and harassment for whistle-blowers, critics, and those who file suits or belong to dissident groups. For free speech and association in Seattle without penalties!

Supply government-funded jobs for the unemployed and housing for the homeless

• Create a Seattle Job Corps, Intern Corps, and Artists Corps to eliminate unemployment.

• Reduce the work week for existing jobs without cutting wages.

• Secure public/private subsidies to build and maintain good low-income housing.

• Use vacant buildings to house the homeless.

Public ownership of utilities and major industries

•The rules about owning and distributing resources are set by society. That means us. Change the rules to benefit the majority.

Stop crime at its source

Adding more police won’t affect gangs.

Robberies and assaults stem from the lack of decent jobs, healthcare, and housing. Thousands of Seattleites are forced to steal.

Jobs, social services, housing, and training are the solution. Fund libraries and open neighborhood youth centers for arts/ crafts, sports, recreation and education!

And legalize drugs. Take the profits out of dope and let the community control drug distribution and treatment of abusers.

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