¡Viva la revolucion! Mary Martin's consistent voice for the working class

The Socialist Workers Party candidate talks about her campaign for mayor.
Mary Martin during an interview

Mary Martin during an interview Photo: Craig Thompson

As the Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor, Mary Martin has quickly earned a reputation for ideological statements and a focus on issues that stretch far beyond Seattle's city limits. She comes across in public forums as a bit of a nagging teacher, regularly urging audiences to take to the streets in support of unions, the working class and the end of capitalism.

In a small group, Martin, 60, is quietly charming, with a small smile, dressed neatly in a jacket, striped blouse and silver earrings. Talking with Crosscut writers and editors last week, she was also consistent about her themes: the importance of unions, her support for class struggles, Cuba as a model and the end of capitalism.

If elected, she said, "all I promise is a fight." Rejecting the idea that any well-known local politicians – "capitalist politicians" – could serve as examples she might follow, Martin said she would take a different tack. "My model would be to strongly defend the working class." Questions about the specifics of how she would manage the city's large work force produce few specifics beyond union support. She would urge people to the streets to support the working class when needed.

Her passion for change flashes frequently on national issues such as health care, civil rights and the National Security Agency's phone and email surveillance. ("They say it is for terrorism, but it is really aimed at the working class.") When she takes on more local or regional issues, they are generally labor disputes, the police department's use of force in cases involving minority residents or the conditions of homeless encampments.

So, call her predictable, consistent, serious. But she does break the mold when it comes to some of the campaign's recurring themes:

On police reform in Seattle, where most candidates promise to move forward aggressively with changes, Martin says, "The police are not reformable under capitalism." Under capitalism, she said, the role of police is to protect private property rather than the citizens of Seattle.

Where other candidates have called for stronger city focus on improving Seattle Public Schools, Martin says that education "is class-based" and should be focused on lifelong learning. She notes that Cuba dramatically eliminated illiteracy with a massive public campaign. "We should draw on the skills of many people. What about retired people?" She also said she would favor teaching the "hidden history" of the United States, including racism and lynchings.

She said homeless shelter policies are "structured to make it impossible for people to work." She recounted talking with people who have been homeless and faced with rules like late 11 p.m. check-ins that interfere with their ability to get up early for work. "We need to release the housing stock," she said, suggesting that unoccupied homes and hotel rooms should be made available to those without shelter.

On transportation and tolls, which will be used to help finance the new waterfront tunnel, she says, "I oppose any taxes on the working class." Like other candidates, Martin supports better funding for transit, although she favors turning to the federal government for support. "We will fight for the money and we will get it," she said. "But it is a fight. Everything that I am talking about is a fight."

She pointed to civil rights and the end of segregation as the result of public willingness to take to the streets. And she noted the acceptance of gay marriage in Washington and other parts of county: "This is the result of working people fighting and the fact that working people have the most to gain" from changes.

Martin and her husband, city council candidate Edwin Fruit, live in a West Seattle apartment. She works at a popcorn factory in south King County. No, it isn't unionized. Only 6 percent of private sector jobs have union representation, she said, and the economic crisis has made it even harder to find union workplaces.

Joe Copeland is political editor for Crosscut. You can reach him at Joe.Copeland@crosscut.com.

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Posted Mon, Jun 17, 2:11 p.m. Inappropriate

While I like Martin and some of the things she's saying, too... Why not ask her how she sees running for Seattle Mayor this year as a good platform for promoting Socialist causes and the work of her Party? In particular, doesn't it actually make a mockery of her party and its platform when she attends forums and answers specific questions about governance in Seattle with general anti-capitalist platitudes? Especially in front of city audiences that are likely to be broadly supportive of her pro-worker causes already???


Posted Mon, Jun 17, 10:50 p.m. Inappropriate

"I oppose any taxes on the working class." That includes cigarette taxes, which are disproportionately "imposed" on the lower income. That is not the view of most Seattle voters.

Her model is Cuba. Do you believe that suspension of all Constitutional rights is a "pro-worker cause"?


Posted Mon, Jun 17, 9:17 p.m. Inappropriate

She's a repetitive platitudinous extreme candidate. If she were on the other edge of the spectrum, a self-proclaimed fascist perhaps, would Seattle and Crosscut be as polite to her? Will her candidacy encourage a more diverse spectrum of marginalia?

I want to know when her non-unionized employer, the popcorn manufacturer, will go on strike. Until then I will boycott it in solidarity with her.


Posted Mon, Jun 17, 9:27 p.m. Inappropriate

The problem with capitalism isn't that it doesn't work. It does but it has no or not near enough ethics. It should be the number one class taught to business people. Ethics. Do unto others as you would have done to you IF you were at the bottom instead of the top. Then unions and other foes of capitalism would be ok or at least be able to work together. But of course I suppose you could say the ones at the bottom should treat the ones at the top like the bottom would like to be treated if they were at the top.

Posted Sun, Aug 4, 2:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Is Mary Martin trolling the Mayoral race? If that is the case I guess I sort of appreciate it for the entertainment value. I mean touting Cuba as the model?! You can't make this stuff up. Now if she really believes this stuff it might benefit her to get out of academia and into the real world for a second. She sounds like a College freshman who's read Karl Marx for the first time. She's been in an academia bubble for so long that she can't see outside of her personal idealogical bubble and realize what a huge waste of time and resources this is for her and her supporters.

When naysayers tell her it's a waste of time and resources she may tell her critics and supporters of a time when Jesse Jackson was given those same critiques and decades later we have President Obama. Sure you gotta start somewhere, but come on socialists, really?! Although Libertarians have a similarly naive approach to governing, at least they have views that align with both sides of the aisle. Socialists have a political approach that aligns with people who can't or don't vote. Even unions won't vote for or endorse Socialist Mary. But more power to you Mary, at least it brings an added element of entertainment to the mayoral race. Maybe you can use it as an opportunity to get some paid speaking gigs, write another book, or get a good job at The Evergreen State College. In light of that, this might just work out for you...

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