It is the first time in at least a century that a Socialist candidate has won a seat in Seattle and Fox News are getting suitably excited.
To clarify: many people claim to be socialists. Emmet Stagg thinks he's a socialist. But the less said about him the better. And Joanna Tuffy thinks she's a socialist; although in that case I use the word 'think' in the loosest possible sense. The Republicans regularly accuse President Obama of being a socialist. But then they also say the same of pretty much anyone a little to the left of the late great Barry Goldwater.
Kshama Sawant, on the contrary, is actually a Marxist revolutionary. For example, she has called for one Seattle based company, Amazon.com, to be taken into public ownership i.e. collectivised Bolshevik style. This is a thought no member of the Irish Labour Party would allow themselves, even during a dark sexual fantasy featuring a young Eamonn Gilmore.
Socialist Alternative is the American sister party of the Irish Socialist Party (Militant Tendency as was) of which I was a member of for twelve years until 1994. It would be fair to say that I have, over the past few years, uttered the odd savage word about the political group of which I was for so long a member.
Today though is a day to celebrate. Whatever else it is, Kshama Sawant's victory is also a most beautiful kick in the soft bits for the Stephen Collins/Fintan O'Toole school of mad moderation. I dedicate this poem below, about socialist hopes from another era, to Kshama Sawant in this hour of her impending victory.
Ode To The Russian Revolution
after Warren Beatty & John Reed
Not the continent of tractor factories
you became. Nor the photographs of those
later killed by questions they didn’t ask.
But the banners made of bed linen
flooding Nevsky Prospect. A boy’s laughter
at an old man’s shout of “Down with everything!”
on a street packed with serious talk.
Another man vanishing into the morning
with some odd vases of valuable porcelain.
The high white letters of the crowd’s
new sounding slogans, as they move
around the corner on their way
who knows where.
from FrighteningNew Furniture (Salmon Poetry, 2010)