On Wednesday, I called Socialist Workers Party member Alyson Kennedy. A 2016 presidential candidate, Kennedy is running in this year’s election for Dallas mayor. Here’s the conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Why’d you decide to run for mayor?
The Socialist Workers Party has 13 candidates in 10 states this year. I was asked to be the candidate to represent the party in this election. We’re running in this election to be a voice for the tens of thousands of working people in the Dallas area that are not part of this recovery they keep talking about. Working people face rising rents, home and farm foreclosures, increasingly unsafe working conditions, and a lot of workers have to work two and three jobs just to make it.
You have an economic system—capitalism—that is a system that does not meet the needs of the vast majority and will never meet the needs of the vast majority because it’s a system that’s based on making profits for a tiny minority.
I want to back up for a second because I’m not sure many people are familiar with the Socialist Workers Party. What is that?
Our party is part of the fights by working people and has been for many years. It’s a party that believes we live in a class-divided society. We have confidence that in the coming years we’re going to see bigger struggles by workers and farmers for our rights and to change our conditions. We will build the kind of movement in this country that will take political power for our side, and reorganize and build a new kind of society. A society that’s capable of meeting the needs of the majority.
How that all gets played out—I believe that once working people become the government, take political power, we will build the kind of society that uses the profits we actually produce in the factories, the companies we work for. It’s our work that produces the wealth, but this wealth is taken from us.
When you say that you believe that will flip, that workers and farmers will take control, how do you see that happening?
That’s a good question. We think this prospective is possible based on—if you look at the history of the United States, there have been two revolutions. There was the American revolution against the British. And then there was the revolution of the Civil War that eradicated slavery. You can imagine what this country would look like if that hadn’t happened.
You look at the labor struggle in the 1930s. There was a little bit of an upturn during the Depression in the ’30s that led to more jobs and gave workers during the time the confidence to fight. When the Depression first happened, people were stunned. No one really stood up to what we faced. But eventually that happened and you had big change. You had major industries, the auto industry, steel industry, that were organized. It took real fights from ordinary working people to do this. They put their lives on the line. Another example is the Civil Rights struggles in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
You’ve mentioned the Civil War, the American revolution, and also the Depression, and the Civil Rights fight. Are you talking about some sort of violent uprising or revolution?
Well, I think that—no, we’re not talking about that. What we’re talking about is when working people mobilize and begin to fight in bigger numbers for our rights. I think the violence against us will come from the wealthy. And we will organize to defend ourselves.
During the Civil Rights struggles, for example, the violence against black workers and farmers that were fighting against what they faced came from the Ku Klux Klan and the state governments throughout the south. The hosing down of blacks in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, when they were fighting to desegregate that city. It came from the wealthy class that benefited and profited from that racism. What black workers did during that time is they did defend themselves against it. That’s what we think will happen. We’re not saying working people should be violent. We’re saying we have to be prepared for attacks against us. But this is many years ahead.
Let’s talk about right now then. Are you running for Dallas mayor as someone who would like to be Dallas mayor—
—or as someone who would like to have a platform to talk about some of these things?
No. If elected as mayor of Dallas, I would use the mayor’s office to defend the rights of working people. One of the things that my campaign stands for is amnesty for the more than 11 million undocumented workers. I would use the mayor’s office to fight for this. I would use the mayor’s office to create affordable housing in this city. You can see the sky-rocketing rent and mortgages because of the densification and the big boom in the population here. Real estate companies, they’re making out big time in this situation. We’re facing rising rents and rising housing costs. We would create a government finance jobs program putting tens of thousands of working people to work in Dallas, building affordable housing and rebuilding infrastructure.
So you would need to raise taxes to pay for—
No. I’m not talking about raising taxes. I’m against taxes on workers.
So how would you pay for those workers and that new construction?
We’d use the profits, not taxes. The profits of wealthy that we work for in the factories, the oil fields, other industries. They make tremendous profits. They make far above what they need to live on. Look at the salaries of CEOs in this country. Instead of using the profits to benefit a vast majority, they use profit to invest in all kinds of stocks and bonds and, you know, invest in trade internationally to make more profit. It’s a very greedy class.
But how would you go about taking profit from people like that to fund your program?
If I was elected mayor, it would indicate a big change among working people in Dallas because it would mean a lot of people agree with these kinds of things. We could begin to organize the struggles that are needed to do these kinds of things.
I was a coal miner for many years, a member of the United Mine Workers. In the state of Utah, I worked in a coal mine that was majority Mexican and Mexican immigrants. Most of them were getting paid minimum wage. I wasn’t getting paid very much either. We went to the coal miners union and asked for help in organizing a union. We got a lot of support for this. I think as we begin to struggle for our rights, we will get support for what we’re doing.
There’s all kinds of ways that you could begin to use your power. I don’t think working people realize that we do have a lot of power in this country, because we produce the wealth.