Socialist Alternative (United States)

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Socialist Alternative
ChairpersonNational Committee
(no single chairperson)
FoundedApril 1986; 37 years ago (1986-04)
(as Labor Militant)
HeadquartersNew York City, New York
NewspaperSocialist Alternative
Student wingSocialist Students
Membership≈1,000 (2020)[1]
Revolutionary socialism
Political positionFar-left
International affiliationInternational Socialist Alternative
Colors  Red
Slogan"Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism"
Socialist Alternative's Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant

Socialist Alternative (sometimes shortened to SA or SAlt, and founded as Labor Militant) is a Trotskyist political party in the United States. It describes itself as a Marxist organization,[2] and a revolutionary party fighting for a democratic socialist economy. Unlike reformist progressive groups, it argues that capitalism is fundamentally incapable of serving the interests of the majority of people.

Socialist Alternative's highest-profile public representative is Seattle City Councillor Kshama Sawant, who was elected in November 2013.[3] It is active in over 50 cities in the United States,[4] and campaigns for socialist issues. In September 2013, it began publishing a monthly newspaper, Socialist Alternative,[5] along with various local newsletters and media outlets, including a radio show in the Boston area. It is a member of International Socialist Alternative, an international organization of Trotskyist parties.


Socialist Alternative was officially formed as Labor Militant in 1986 by members of the Committee for a Workers' International who had moved to the United States and formed the Labor and Trade Union Group in the early 1980s. Labor Militant was a small group with its membership made mostly of trade union members. By the mid-1990s, Labor Militant became part of a campaign to form the Labor Party where it was in the leadership of the New York Metro Chapter. The New York Metro Chapter, the largest in the country, saw Labor Militant and its allies run again for the leadership of the chapter under the United Action slate only to be defeated in an Executive Committee election. Labor Militant members and the United Action slate had argued that the Labor Party should vigorously run candidates against the Democrats, whereas the national leadership of the Labor Party refused to take such an approach. After the election, the New York Labor Party State Executive upheld the election results while suspending the New York Metro Chapter and several of its officers, eventually shutting down the chapter.[6]

In the late 1990s, Labor Militant changed its name to Socialist Alternative to reflect what was classified as a change in the political period.[7] From 1998 to 2002, the Socialist Alternative party was active in the anti-globalization movement. It was present at many of the major protests during this time, including the N30 Protests in Seattle. At these protests, it argued that the movement should take up the key demands of "abolish the IMF, World Bank and the WTO", "cancel the international debt", "papers for all undocumented immigrants" and "take the banks and financial institutions into public ownership".[8]

In 2004, Socialist Alternative party members initiated Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) as a sustained campaign against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. YAWR worked mainly in high schools primarily in counter-recruitment activism in several cities. In 2005, several hundred Seattle's high school students walked out of class in order to march in protest of the war in Iraq causing conflict with parents and school officials who contended that the students should focus on school during the day.[9] Following protests by members of YAWR and Socialist Alternative against military recruitment in schools, the Seattle School Board enacted some restrictions on military recruiters at Seattle high schools. The changes included limiting military recruiters to visiting twice a year to each school despite the demands by the YAWR protesters for a total ban on military recruitment at schools.[10]

In 2020, Socialist Alternative members began joining the Democratic Socialists of America, in order to encourage it to support a socialist independent party.[11]


Jobs Not Cuts[edit]

Socialist Alternative initiated a national campaign called Jobs Not Cuts in the fall of 2011 in reaction to the debt ceiling crisis and subsequent Budget Control Act passed by the Congress in August 2011.[12] The bill called on the federal government to make $2.1 trillion in cuts to the federal budget and issued the formation of a Supercommittee to decide how these cuts would be made. The goal of the campaign was to hold a national week of action from November 16 to 23 in protest against these cuts and advocating for a mass public works project that could create jobs. Part of its demands were that the United States ended military involvement and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and dramatic tax increases on the wealthy in order to fund the project.[13]

Occupy movement[edit]

When the Occupy movement began in the fall of 2011, Socialist Alternative became active within it in cities across the country,[14] and issued a statement of solidarity. The party argued that the movement should develop concrete demands along working class lines.[15] When the encampment at Occupy Minneapolis began to depreciate, Socialist Alternative shifted its focus into an anti-foreclosure campaign.[16] The party assisted in outreach, planning and organizing public meetings to help grow the campaign.[17]

15 Now[edit]

After the election victory of Kshama Sawant and inspired by Proposition 1 in Sea-Tac, Socialist Alternative launched the 15 Now campaign. According to the campaign, their mission was to "empower working people and activate them into fighting movement" to win a $15-an-hour minimum wage.[18] Led by Socialist Alternative, 15 Now in Seattle built a local campaign based on neighborhood action groups and won the endorsement of several major unions like SEIU, ATU, AFSCME and IBEW as well as community groups and national and local left-wing activists including Noam Chomsky, Tom Morello and Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report.[19] It launched a signature drive to push an amendment to the Seattle City Charter for a $15 an hour minimum wage because a winnable ballot initiative was considered the best tool in order to get the wage instituted, but the decision to pursue a charter amendment saw the loss of support of many of 15 Now's labor allies.[20]

On May 1, 2014, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced his proposal for a $15 an hour minimum wage to be considered for adoption by the Seattle City Council. 15 Now considered that this included what the party called many "corporate loopholes", but despite a fierce campaign, it eventually supported Kshama Sawant voting in favor of the Mayor's proposal as they had lost the resources necessary after many of the labor unions stopped supporting the movement.[21] On June 2, the $15 an hour minimum wage was voted into law in the city, making Seattle the city with the highest minimum wage in the country at the time. Since 15 Now's work in Seattle, they initiated several different campaigns across the country, notably in Portland, Oregon, Minneapolis and Boston.[22][23][24]


In January 2016, Socialist Alternative launched an initiative in support of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders's campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. This campaign was called #Movement4Bernie. According to the organization's website, "to achieve Sanders' demands for $15 an hour, single-payer healthcare, tuition-free college and the end of mass incarceration it will take an organized mass movement."[25]


In 2013, the Socialist Alternative party garnered attention when it elected a member (Kshama Sawant) to the Seattle City Council.[26] Sawant is one of few elected socialists in the United States. In January 2023, Sawant announced that she would not seek re-election, and would instead promote the Socialist Alternative campaign Workers Strike Back to unionize workers.[27]

In February 2017, Socialist Alternative reported that party membership had grown by more than 30% since the presidential election of Donald Trump.[28] In February 2020, SAlt stated it had "just under 1,000" members.[1]

Political positions[edit]

Socialist Alternative members marching for LGBT rights in Seattle, Washington


Socialist Alternative is a revolutionary socialist party[1] that advocates socialist democracy as an alternative to bureaucratic socialism of the former Soviet Union and the capitalist democratic model which it alleges is designed to only benefit the "ruling class and disenfranchise working people". The party proposes that a socialist society would change the relationship with "working people" running the economy.[29]

The party holds that the former Soviet Union was not socialist, but instead a "tragic degeneration" of the Russian Revolution and the socialist tradition.[30] While it views the Russian Revolution positively as a mass democratic revolution of the working class in Russia, it opposes Joseph Stalin's reign of terror following the death of Vladimir Lenin.[30] Like other Leninist and Trotskyist parties, it upholds the principles of democratic centralism in order to ensure "bottom-up democracy" among party members.[31]

Electoral history[edit]

Seattle City Council[edit]

In 2013, Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University part-time economics professor Kshama Sawant was elected to the Seattle City Council from Position 2 as a candidate for Socialist Alternative. She had previously won 35% of the vote in the August primary election and advanced into the general election against incumbent Richard Conlin.[32] On November 15, 2013, Conlin conceded to Sawant after late returns showed him down by 1,640 votes or approximately 1% of the vote.[33][34] This made Sawant the first socialist to win a citywide election in Seattle since the communist supporter Anna Louise Strong was elected to the School Board in 1916.[35] Sawant went on to be reelected in 2015 and 2019 with 56% and 51.8% of the vote respectively. Additionally, she defeated a recall in 2021 with 50.4% of the vote.

Sawant had previously run for election as the Socialist Alternative candidate in the 43rd district of the Washington House of Representatives against incumbent Democrat Frank Chopp in 2012.[36][37] Sawant advanced past the primaries for Position 2 while also advancing in Position 1 where she was on the ballot challenging Jamie Pedersen. The Sawant campaign won a subsequent court battle against the Secretary of State for the right to list her party preference on the ballot in the elections. Sawant was endorsed by the Local 587 of the Amalgamated Transit Union[38] and the alternative newspaper The Stranger.[39] She received over 20,000 votes, or 29%.[40]

Sawant's platform included a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, rent control and taxes on higher-income individuals.[32]

Washington State House[edit]

In 2014, Socialist Alternative chose Jess Spear, an Organizing Director for one of their campaigns, to run for Washington State Representative against Speaker of the House Frank Chopp.[41] Spear's platform included rent control, increasing education funding through increasing taxes on the wealthy and stopping the use of all fossil fuels in Washington. During her campaign, Spear led several protests against oil and coal trains moving through Seattle and was arrested after trespassing at one of the protests.[42] In the general election, Spear received 8,606 of 48,630 non-write-in votes (17.7%).[43]

Boston City Council[edit]

In 2007, Matt Geary ran for Boston City Council as the Socialist Alternative candidate in a plurality-at-large election in which each voter could vote for up to four candidates.[44] Geary received 3,025 votes of 46,249 non-blank ballots (6.5%).[45] In 2013, Seamus Whelan ran for Boston City Council as the Socialist Alternative candidate. Whelan was a registered nurse and union activist.[46] In an unusually crowded municipal election, with 19 candidates for City Councilor, Whelan was eliminated in the preliminary election with 3,118 votes of 113,319 non-blank ballots (2.6%).[47] Whelan's main support was from working class areas in West Roxbury and Dorchester.

Minneapolis City Council[edit]

In 2013, Ty Moore ran for Minneapolis City Council as the Socialist Alternative Candidate.[48] He received support from SEIU MN State Council, Occupy Homes, the Green Party of Minneapolis, some immigrant rights organizers and some neighborhood leaders.[49] In the final round, Moore received 1,758 of 3745 non-exhausted ballots (46.9%).[50]

In early 2017, Ginger Jentzen ran for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 3 as the Socialist Alternative candidate.[51] Jentzen won the first round with 3,290 votes, but eventually finished in second place behind Steve Fletcher in the final round with 3,844 of 8,705 non-exhausted ballots (44.2%) under Minneapolis's ranked choice voting system.[52][53]

Labor unions[edit]

Socialist Alternative has also fielded candidates for labor union leadership positions. In 2017, Socialist Alternative member Ryan Timlin was named President-elect of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 in Minneapolis after running unopposed.[54]


Socialist Alternative supported the candidacies of Ralph Nader during the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Prior to the 2008 presidential election, Socialist Alternative criticized Barack Obama,[55][56] pointing to his pro-free market stance on job creation, his record in congress of voting in favor of bills such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, his stance on healthcare reform and on other issues.[57]

In 20122016, the group supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Despite criticism from other socialist groups about supporting "bourgeois candidates", Socialist Alternative argued that Stein supported a Green New Deal jobs program, ending wars, canceling student debt, a single-payer health care system and other reforms supported by the party.[58]

In 2020, it endorsed Green Party of the United States and Socialist Party USA nominee Howie Hawkins for the 2020 general election as a protest vote against the two major parties of the United States.[59]

On June 16 2023, Socialist Alternative endorsed academic Cornel West, saying that it had "enormous potential" to change the political system.[60]

Newspaper and publications[edit]

  • Socialist Alternative – a national monthly newspaper
  • Boston Organizer – a local bi-monthly newsletter produced in Boston, Massachusetts
  • New York Socialist – a local bi-monthly newsletter produced in New York, New York
  • The Battle of Wisconsin – "History and Lessons from the Working-class Revolt of 2011" by George Martin Fell Brown (February 2012)
  • Challenging the Two-Party System – "Can a Left Alternative to Corporate Politics Be Built?" by Tony Wilsdon (September 2010)
  • Save Our Schools – "The Fight to Defeat the Corporate Attack on Public Education" by Tom Crean (2010)
  • It Doesn't Have to Be Like This – "Women and the Struggle for Socialism" by Christine Thomas (August 2010)
  • Manifesto of the Fastfood Worker – by Tony Wilsdon and Brent Gaspaire (2013 edition)
  • Trotsky's Relevance Today – by Peter Taaffe, Laurence Coates and Lynn Walsh (2000)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Axelbank, Elan (February 14, 2020). "What's the Difference Between Socialist Alternative and DSA?". Socialist Alternative. Archived from the original on March 12, 2020.
  2. ^ "Why You Should Join Socialist Alternative". August 30, 2019. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  3. ^ A Rare Elected Voice for Socialism New York Times, December 28, 2013
  4. ^ "Who We Are, What We Stand For". Socialist Alternative. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  5. ^ "Publications". Socialist Alternative. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  6. ^ "From The Archives Of The Socialist Alternative Press-Articles on the US Labor Party (1997-2002)". Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  7. ^ "Name Change Debate". Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  8. ^ Locker, Philip. Global Capitalism and the Socialist Alternative. Seattle: Socialist Alternative.
  9. ^ "Group organizes walkout by students to protest war". Seattle Times. November 1, 2005. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  10. ^ "School Board limits military recruiting in high schools". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. August 1, 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  11. ^ "Why Socialist Alternative Members are Joining DSA". Socialist Alternative. December 15, 2020. Archived from the original on December 15, 2020.
  12. ^ Sahadi, Jeanne (August 2, 2011). "Debt ceiling: What the deal will do". CNN Money. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  13. ^ Mosgrove, Ryan (October 25, 2011). "Massive Budget Cuts Coming – Take Action to Defeat the Super Committee". Socialist Alternative. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  14. ^ Denvir, Daniel (October 4, 2011). "Answers from Occupy Philly organizer Justin Harrison". Philadelphia Citypaper. Archived from the original on June 2, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  15. ^ "End the Dictatorship of Wall Street! – A Socialist Strategy to Build the Occupy Wall Street Movement". Philadelphia Citypaper. October 6, 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  16. ^ Moore, Ty (January 11, 2012). "Building Foreclosure Free Neighborhoods – What Strategy to Beat the Banks?". Archived from the original on June 18, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2012. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ Fletcher, Steve. "Occupy Homes Community Forum: Creating Foreclosure Free Neighborhoods". Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  18. ^ "About 15 Now". 15 Now. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  19. ^ "Endorsements for 15 Now". 15 Now. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  20. ^ "Winning $15 in Seattle – A Socialist Strategy". Socialist Alternative. March 27, 2014. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  21. ^ "Seattle on Verge of Passing $15 Minimum Wage". Socialist Alternative. May 28, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  22. ^ "15 Now PDX". 15 Now. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  23. ^ "Fight for $15 at Minneapolis Airport Sharpens". 15 Now. October 6, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  24. ^ "$15 Wins in Roxbury, Boston". 15 Now. November 30, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  25. ^ "#Movement4Bernie Takes Off Across Country". Socialist Alternative. February 2016. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
  26. ^ "Victory for $15 in Seattle! How Socialists Built a Winning Movement". Socialist Alternative. May 29, 2014. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  27. ^ Taylor, Sarah Grace; Beekman, Daniel (January 19, 2023). "Kshama Sawant will not seek reelection to Seattle City Council". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on January 20, 2023.
  28. ^ "More Americans joining socialist groups under Trump". Al Jazeera. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  29. ^ Gray, Chris; Ty Moore (June–July 2011). "Budget Myths 101 – Understanding the Debate on Taxes, Deficits and Jobs". Justice (78).
  30. ^ a b Madsen, Brandon (January–February 2012). "Answering Common Questions – Socialism FAQs". Justice (81). Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  31. ^ "Review: Lenin's revolutionary legacy". Socialist Alternative. January 20, 2014. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  32. ^ a b Young, Bob (August 6, 2013). "For Seattle council: Conlin against Sawant, O'Brien against Shen". Seattle Times. Retrieved August 7, 2013.
  33. ^ Joel Connelly. "Socialist Sawant wins City Council seat". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  34. ^ Kang, Martha; Valdes, Manuel. "Conlin Concedes to Socialist Sawant in Seattle Council Race". Archived from the original on July 25, 2017. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  35. ^ "Seattle elects first socialist City Council member". Archived from the original on November 18, 2013. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
  36. ^ "From Capitol Hill's academic halls, a 'Socialist Alternative' to Pedersen in 43rd race". CHS Capitol Hill Seattle News. June 3, 2012. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  37. ^ "Socialist Alternative Party Places a Nominee on Washington State Ballot for Legislature". Ballot Access News. June 3, 2012. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  38. ^ "Seattle Transit Union Endorses Socialist Kshama Sawant for State House". Socialist Alternative. July 21, 2012. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  39. ^ "Endorsements for the August 7 Primary Election (Plus Cheat Sheet!)". The Stranger. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  40. ^ "Both Minor Party Candidates for the Washington State Legislature Poll Approximately 25% of the Vote in Two-Candidate Races". Ballot Access News. November 13, 2012. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  41. ^ "Reviewing the Jess Spear Campaign". Socialist Alternative. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  42. ^ "Legislative candidate Jess Spear arrested in oil-train protest". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on November 16, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  43. ^ November 4, 2014 General Election Results: Legislative - All Results (Report). Washington Secretary of State. Archived from the original on November 4, 2014.
  44. ^ "Vote for Matt Geary: A Voice for Boston Workers and Youth". Socialist Alternative. September 7, 2007. Archived from the original on March 18, 2014.
  45. ^ "City of Boston Municipal Election - November 6, 2007 City Councillor At Large" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on April 2, 2012.
  46. ^ "Seamus Whelan on the Ballot!". Socialist Alternative. June 3, 2013. Archived from the original on June 19, 2014.
  47. ^ "City of Boston Preliminary Municipal Election - September 24, 2013 City Councillor At Large" (PDF). City of Boston. September 24, 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 25, 2014.
  48. ^ "Ty Moore for Minneapolis City Council, Ward 9". Socialist Alternative. April 18, 2013. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014.
  49. ^ "In Minneapolis, Socialist Comes Within 230 Votes of Victory". Socialist Alternative. November 25, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  50. ^ "2013 Minneapolis Municipal Election Results: City Council Ward 9". City of Minneapolis. November 8, 2013. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013.
  51. ^ "Ginger Jentzen announces run for Minneapolis Council seat under Socialist Alternative banner". Minneapolis Post. January 26, 2017. Archived from the original on January 29, 2017.
  52. ^ "2017 Minneapolis Election Results: City Council Ward 3". Archived from the original on October 28, 2020.
  53. ^ "No winner in Ward 3 race Tuesday night". Minnesota Daily. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  54. ^ "Interview: Ryan Timlin for President of ATU Local 1005 – Minneapolis, MN". Socialist Alternative. October 15, 2017. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  55. ^ "Obama's Key Promises". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  56. ^ Jones, Alan (March–April 2008). "Democrats Raise Hope for Change – Populist Rhetoric Conceals Pro-Corporate Policies". Justice (59). Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  57. ^ DiMaggio, Dan (September–October 2008). "Beyond the Rhetoric – Would Obama Really Bring Change?". Justice (61). Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  58. ^ "Break from the Two Parties of Wall Street!". Socialist Alternative. August 29, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  59. ^ "Break from the Democrats: Protest Vote for Howie Hawkins". Socialist Alternative. October 2020. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
  60. ^ Arsdale, Greyson Van (June 16, 2023). "The Enormous Potential Of Cornel West's Independent Campaign For President". Socialist Alternative. Retrieved July 16, 2023.

External links[edit]