Inspired by the example of the United Kingdom-based group known as Militant Tendency, Socialist Alternative (SA) is a Trotskyist revolutionary political party that first emerged in the U.S. as “Labor Militant” in 1986. A decentralized entity with branches of varying sizes and levels of activity in almost 50 American cities, SA proudly claims to be “in political solidarity” with the Committee for a Workers’ International, which is a worldwide socialist organization with a presence in nearly four dozen countries. On the premise that “the global capitalist system” is “the root cause” of “poverty,” “discrimination,” “war,” “inequality,” and “environmental destruction,” SA aims to promote the creation of “a socialist United States and a socialist world.” Asserting that “the dictatorships that existed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were [unfortunate] perversions of what socialism is really about,” SA instead advocates a form of “democratic socialism where ordinary people will have control over [their] daily lives.”
In the late 1990s, SA tried to help the now-defunct U.S. Labor Party to advocate for electoral opposition to Democratic Party politicians, whom SA viewed as being too moderate.
SA was particularly active in the anti-globalization movement from 1998-2002, and it continues to speak out against free trade and capitalism today.
In 2004, SA members initiated Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR), a project that sought to persuade high-school students to resist military recruitment efforts and oppose the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Beginning in September 2011, SA supported the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. Early the following month, SA issued a statement of solidarity with OWS.
In the fall of 2011 as well, SA endorsed a national “Jobs Not Cuts” campaign in response to proposed congressional budget cuts. This initiative was endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Cindy Sheehan, Jill Stein, Veterans for Peace, the American Federation of Teachers, Students for a Democratic Society, and the International Socialist Organization, among others.
On the premise that “the Republicans and Democrats are both parties of big business” and are thus unworthy of holding political power, SA seeks to “build an independent, alternative party of workers and young people to fight for the interests of the millions, not the millionaires.” In 2013, SA for the first time ran, on its own ticket, two openly socialist candidates – Ty Moore and Kshama Sawant – in carefully selected political races. The results were encouraging for SA: Moore lost his bid for a Minneapolis city council seat to Democrat Alondra Cano by a mere 229 votes, while Sawant won a seat in the Seattle city council by defeating longtime Democratic incumbent Richard Conlin by more than 1,000 votes. Two years later, Ms. Sawant was re-elected.
In the wake of Republican Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election of November 2016, SA helped organize massive, sometimes violent, anti-Trump protests in cities across the United States. Other notable organizers of these disruptions included the ANSWER Coalition, the Occupy Movement, and MoveOn.org.
Professing an uncompromising commitment to “fighting for the 99%,” SA supports measures that would: raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour “as a step toward a living wage for all”; provide “free [taxpayer-funded] … public education for all from pre-school through college”; ensure “free … health care for all” in a system of “fully socialized medicine”; forbid any “budget cuts to education and social services”; impose “a major increase in taxes on the rich and big business”; ensure “a minimum guaranteed weekly income of $600/week for the unemployed, disabled, stay-at-home parents, the elderly, and others unable to work”; “shorten the workweek with no loss in pay and benefits”; and institute “public ownership” of “bankrupt and failing companies” as well as “the top 500 corporations and banks that dominate the U.S. economy.”
To promote “environmental sustainability,” SA demands that America's federal and state governments “fight climate change” by minimizing the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with human industrial activity. Toward that end, the organization recommends “massive public investment in renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies to rapidly replace fossil fuels”; “a major expansion of public transportation”; and “democratic public ownership of the big energy companies, retooling them for socially necessary green production.”
In its “Equal Rights for All” initiative, SA supports the Black Lives Matter effort to “build a mass movement against police brutality and the institutional racism of the criminal justice system.” Further, SA favors massive “invest[ment] in rehabilitation, job-training, and living-wage jobs, not prisons”; the abolition of the death penalty; the “immediate, unconditional legalization and equal rights for all undocumented immigrants”; “free reproductive services, including... abortions”; “at least 12 weeks of paid family leave for all”; and “universal … publicly run child care.”
With regard to national security and defense issues, SA demands that the federal government “slash the military budget” of the United States, shut down the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, and repeal the PATRIOT Act.
To help promote and disseminate its ideological precepts and political agendas as effectively as possible, SA publishes a newspaper out of its New York City location.
SA supported the presidential campaigns of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008. In 2012 the organization supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and in 2016 it backed Bernie Sanders.