Socialist Seattle city councilmember in Seattle. She is a member of Socialist Alternative, a nationwide organization of social and economic justice activists.
We speak to Socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, who has expressed support for socialism. In 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman who boarded her school bus, but she survived and continued to campaign for the rights of girls to go to school. While she was recovering in England, she sent a message to a meeting of Pakistani Marxists in Lahore that "I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation." "I think she’s right on the mark," Sawant responds. "All the places which have been the target of brutal imperialism from the West … where is the solution to all of this? The only solution can be on the basis of rejecting capitalism." Sawant also comments on the Indian child labor rights Kailash Satyarthi, who was jointly awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Yousafzai.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to switch gears a little bit to get your comment on the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai. It was announced on Friday. She’s 17 years old. In 2012, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman who boarded her school bus. She survived and continued to campaign for the rights of girls to go to school. While she was recovering in England, she sent a message to a meeting of Pakistani Marxists in Lahore. She wrote, quote, "I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation." Now, a lot was made of the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee, or the announcement on Friday—she’s not just the nominee; she will win this award on December 10th. But there wasn’t much reference to this quote. Can you talk about it, Kshama Sawant, as a Socialist, the first Socialist city councilmember in Seattle in, what, a century?
KSHAMA SAWANT: That’s a very important question. And in fact, first of all, let me start by saying that I am so humbled and just absolutely stunned and impressed by how courageous this very young woman has been, against all the odds and, you know, fighting not only for her own right to education and her right to an identity as a woman, but using her platform to bring about attention to the many, many children, young children, especially girl children, who are struggling for survival and for their rights. And I think that she might be—I mean, I’m not sure, but it seems to me she might be the first socialist who has been given a Nobel Prize since Albert Einstein. He won a Nobel for physics, and I think very few people know that he was a socialist. Same with Helen Keller, she was a Socialist. And these stories are not told, because most of the media is dominated by the very system which needs to keep these stories buried, because it will end up empowering people. I mean, imagine how empowering this is going to be to young people everywhere to know that Malala Yousafzai has expressed solidarity with the idea of socialism.
And I think she’s right on the mark. If you look at the extreme suffering that is being meted out to the people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, all the places which have been the target of the brutal imperialism from the West, the bloodbath that Iraq is going through, where is the solution to all of this? The only solution can be on the basis of rejecting capitalism, the system that, you know, means that a few billionaires and a few ruling-class politicians at the top get to decide how they’re going to divide up the world’s resources and go to war in that process. And who fights the wars? It’s the poor of the United States. Who dies in the war? It’s the poor of those countries. So I think she brings a message of solidarity that we need to recognize, that our solidarity lies not only as American working people, but as working people globally against a system, against a billionaire class that is continuing to exert such brutality and really miserable conditions for most of us.
AMY GOODMAN: Kshama Sawant, I also wanted to get your response to the fact that it was actually two people who were named Nobel Peace Prize winners. Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani Muslim. And Kailash Satyarthi, who is 60 years old, a man from India, a Hindu, who has also been working to stop the exploitation of children, especially around the issue of making those rugs, started Rugmark. Can you talk about the significance of the message the Nobel committee is sending to India, where you were born, and Pakistan?
KSHAMA SAWANT: I think the fact that the Nobel committee chose these two people—I mean, obviously, I was not a fly on the wall when they decided that, but it seems to me that this is indicating the understanding that even the establishment figures, you know, the people who run these countries, the people who run these committees, they are understanding that things have gone so far to the point that they’ve gone too far—meaning that for decades people all over the world, but especially in those countries, especially in the neocolonial countries, have been pushed lower and lower and to the brink—and the whole process of neoliberalism, that was visited on countries like India, which is where the public services, the funding for public education, all of this was cut in the name of the structural adjustment program that was brought to these countries by the IMF and the World Bank. And the fact that they’re now honoring genuine activists and fighters for justice, as opposed to, say, Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize and then carried out a troop surge, that shows that they are also realizing that there’s is a shift happening, not only in terms of how miserable the conditions have become for the majority of the world’s population, but the fact that the people who are at the receiving end aren’t going to be quiet. I mean, look at the amazing movements that have happened all throughout this world, especially in the less developed part of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to break to talk about one of those movements, and it’s the whole movement about not only increasing the minimum wage and a living wage, but looking at the different sectors of workers and what they make, particularly restaurant workers, like waitresses. And I’d like to ask you to stay with us for that segment—Kshama Sawant is a Socialist city councilmember in Seattle—especially because she has helped win a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all workers in the Seattle area. This is _Democracy Now! We’ll be back with Kshama Sawant as well as playwright Eve Ensler, who herself was a waitress for many years. Stay with us.