A Conversation with Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik, the 2016 Socialist Party of the United States of America Presidential Nominee
In the turmoil of the current political climate in the United States, and much of the world, millions of people are finding themselves without a voice. As the Corporatist Parties tighten their grip on the government structure, Progressives, Humanitarians, Environmentalists, and Anti-Capitalists have been leaving those Establishment Parties in droves, searching for like-minded people and friendlier environments. Centrists and Moderates are finding their numbers are lessened, and more and more people, realizing that the Status Quo Politicians don’t represent them, are becoming what some would call “extremists” and – dare I say it? – radicals.
As people are coming to understand the urgent and intense need for a new direction and a new vision if we are to hold any hope for the future of humankind, we reached the point in time where we must look beyond the Centrist Corporatism that has brought us to our current twisted version of reality. Opening our minds to different ideas that challenge our deeply ingrained world view is a big part of the concept behind A Mostly Accurate View, and, in that spirit, we are committed to giving a voice to those ideas and sharing that message with a wider audience.
On Thursday, March 9, 2017, I had the great pleasure of speaking with Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik, who, along with Angela Nicole Walker, represented the Socialist Party of the United States of America (SPUSA) in the 2016 US Presidential Election. Never heard of them? Not surprising, considering the SPUSA is inherently Anti-Capitalist and would be offered very little exposure in the Corporatist Propaganda Outlets that, for some unknown reason, carry the banner of “Journalistic Media” in our country.
We spoke about a number of issues, including the principles of Socialism, the SPUSA platform, and the urgency of finding a new path for our global community, especially when it comes to Environmentalism. This interview was included in the AMAV Revolution Radio podcast for Friday, March 10. For those who might prefer or have a need for it, the following is a written transcript of our conversation (edited slightly for clarity).
AMAV: Here on A Mostly Accurate view, we try to make a point to be as accurate in our commentary as we possibly can, and one of the ways we do this is by taking in as many different viewpoints and sources of information as possible, thinking critically, and engaging in discussions about various issues so that we can have a better understanding of each other and of the world around us. So, today I have with me Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik of the Socialist Party of the Unites States of America, or SPUSA, and we’re going to talk a little bit about Socialism, the Socialist Party Platform, and the importance of examining new ideas. So, first, I want to welcome you, Mimi, and thank you for taking some time out of your day to join me on AMAV.
MS: Thank you for having me on, I appreciate it.
AMAV: It’s absolutely my pleasure. So, you were the Socialist Party USA nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 Election. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience?
MS: We ran a Presidential Campaign primarily with the goal of expressing ideas, working to help in any way we can to build community throughout the country. Community exists throughout the country, but how might we have, through the campaign, been able to help connect folks who hadn’t been connected before. How do we help to put them in touch with folks who are organizing around radical ideas throughout the country, how can we use the platform of the campaign to help share their voices and their stories. So, that was really wonderful. I think both Angela Nicole Walker, who was the VP Candidate, and I were just really thrilled with the way that it all turned out.
AMAV: Obviously you are still affiliated with SPUSA. What is your current position or capacity within the Party now?
MS: The first thing is I’m the Secretary of the Socialist Party’s Los Angeles Local, and I also am on the Socialist Party’s National Committee. I do work with the Social Party’s EcoSocialist Commission and with the Prison-Industrial Complex Commission.
AMAV: Can you tell me just a little bit about the basic principles of Socialism, and how the Socialist Party USA platform adapts those principles into a working solution for our current political climate?
MS: Sure. I’ll start by saying that the Socialist Party emerged from a 1972 split of the Socialist Party of America – that was the party of Eugene Debs, etc. And in 1972, there were a couple of factions. One faction thought that it made strategic sense to try to work within the Democratic Party around a strategy of what’s called ‘realignment’. The other faction, which was called ‘The Debs Caucus’, sort of in honor of Eugene Debs, wanted to maintain complete independence from the Capitalist Parties. That faction became the Socialist Party USA, that’s who we are. The faction that we became, they were also staunchly opposed to the Vietnam War, whereas the other wasn’t. So, we have our origins in that Socialist Party of America.
I think first and foremost, we see Socialism as the worker ownership and control over production. Community control, radical Democracy. To me, it’s a really empowering move. What we do is we work throughout the country at the grassroots, at the community level, to help build around these ideas.
AMAV: Continuing on that path just a little bit, in what fundamental ways would you say that a Socialist society would differ from the overtly Capitalist society that we live in today?
MS: Every way. Capitalism is a system that’s built on exploitation and oppression. Socialism is an inverse. It’s where each of us have a democratic say in these institutions that affect our lives. Like I said, Capitalism, it’s built off exploitation. If the workers own and control, if the community controls, it removes that opportunity for exploitation and oppression. So, it’s sort of an inverse.
To me, it’s like – and I think as folks get involved with this – it sounds like common sense. Often times, folks will say ‘Well, why don’t we do this? Why aren’t we already doing this?’ The key here is that those forces, those folks that have a vested interest in making sure Capitalism remains intact, of course they’re going to fight very hard to maintain their position, those positions of power. So, the challenge is really, really great in the US – we’re a very Conservative country, Patriarchy still is a system that’s so thoroughly embedded in the US – the challenges are great, but I think we’re seeing progress every day.
AMAV: When I reached out to you last week, I told you a little about my own journey to the leftist ideology, in that basically I always knew I had leftist tendencies, but that I really didn’t have a grasp on how far left I landed on the political spectrum until the past couple of years. A lot of that had to do with the fact that I hadn’t been really exposed to the true left, and I thought that the Democrats were as far left as it got. Obviously that’s far from the truth, but if you don’t mind a somewhat personal question, can you point to a particular moment or a shift in your thought that started you on the path to embracing Socialism as your personal political ideology?
MS: Sure! By and large for me, it was, I think, when I really understood the idea of listening, and listening to my community, and hearing their voices and the challenges that they faced. For so long, for me personally, I was, up until my early 30s, incredibly self-absorbed, really self-destructive, destructive to folks around me, and for all different reasons I kind of hit a spot in my early 30s where it was like ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ I had a lot of problems with substance abuse and, like I said, everything for me was about self-gratification, and I kind of reached a point where it was sort of a crossroads, where it’s like I could go in one direction, the direction that I’ve been going on, and, you know, this life isn’t going to be very long for me. Or I look in another direction and start to consider learning, and listening. And I think once you start to hear and really listen and open yourself up to the voices of your community, I don’t think Socialism is too far around the corner. I think you learn that all these oppressions that are inherent to Capitalism – the racism, the sexism, the homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, Climate Change, all these sorts of things – it all becomes readily apparent that there’s systemic causes to this suffering. I think we’re sort of trained in the US to look at Candidates as solutions. Well, we can replace candidates within a system, but the system is still going to drive that exploitation and oppression. So, I think I felt a lot like, shit, I had spent so much of my time focused on myself that I felt like I had some catch-up to do, and really wanted to make an effort towards addressing the systemic problems.
AMAV: On a personal note, I can 100% relate to exactly what you were just talking about. I’m in my mid-30’s myself, and kind of the same journey for me.
MS: Right on. Glad you’re here, you know?
AMAV: Absolutely. So, to go in a little bit of a different direction for a moment – a lot of the general public believed that there were really only two candidates in the recent US Presidential election, or two viable candidates anyway, but of course there were several more, which you and your running mate Angela Walker were among. Now, it seems to me that, for many Third Party candidates, the biggest obstacles to overcome are going to be media exposure and ballot access. Can you talk a little about some of the negative effects that the duopoly the Republicans and the Democrats have on media coverage during elections and how that affects public exposure and ballot access?
MS: So, I think that the first part of this is when you sit down on the front end of this and you make a strategic plan, you do kind of an environmental scan, like ‘What sort of opportunities are we going to have?’ Now, we knew that, as a radical organization in the US, Mainstream Media’s coverage of what the Socialist Party does, usually those pieces are few and far between. We do know that that changes a bit during a General Election, and we also thought that, with the inclusion of Bernie Sanders in the race, we might see heightened coverage, and we wanted to be prepared to take advantage of that. And we did get that heightened media coverage. Now, we certainly wanted to make best use of those opportunities, and really make sure that we were sticking to the message, and that we weren’t watering down what we were trying to say, that we were maintaining our integrity as candidates representing an organization. So, we did a lot of pieces that I think we were really happy about, like Vice, UniVision, CNBC, LA Times, that were really wonderful.
As far as ballot access goes, yes, it’s a pretty incredible barrier to a Third Party making it on to the ballot. However, with our campaign, votes really weren’t a primary concern. Socialism is not something that you’re going to vote into office at the Presidential level, it’s something that starts at the bottom, at the grassroots level, and works its way up. So, we wanted to see if we could use the campaign as a tool to help to build at that grassroots local level. So, Angela and I, we would travel to spots throughout the country and basically engage in these community meetings that were just really, really wonderful, and discuss the idea of community and how we can work together strategically to identify pressure points within the system and to be able to target them and work on replacing them with alternatives.
What we also did was, in acknowledgement that the two of us had a limited budget, we’re not going to be able to reach everybody throughout this country, so we worked really hard to use technology to reach folks. We frequently hosted these video Town Hall discussions, and that was really wonderful. And a lot of those relationships that were built throughout the course of the campaign, they still continue, which is what our hope was, and more and more folks are working together on this revolutionary project.
AMAV: I’m really glad that you brought up the Bernie Sanders campaign and the grassroots movement. So, with his campaign, we saw how a grassroots movement can stand up to the media juggernaut of the Capitalist party in the US, and even shift the political discussion towards a more populist or socialist-like theme. But, aside from other factors that impacted it, even the momentum that the Sanders’ campaign had ultimately couldn’t defeat the mainstream media narratives. How do you think we can change that?
MS: I think that people are incredibly powerful, and I think that, as folks step into that power, we start to see the results, you know, they’re seismic. I think we’re going to continue to see more and more of that. I think as folks understand the obstacles, which are pretty tremendous, of trying to work within the Democratic Party, the challenges to the Democratic Party, the threats to the Democratic Party, are going to increase. As folks continue to make connections and build relationships with one another, the likelihood that those two Parties – and more importantly, the system – the likelihood that they’ll topple increases. We saw so much tremendous coverage yesterday of International Working Women’s Day, and it’s really inspiring, and I think you’re seeing folks step into their power, and I think the sky’s the limit.
AMAV: On AMAV, I talk quite a bit about the importance of words – particularly understanding the words we use and how we can help others to have a better understanding of those words as well. Now, as I’m sure you know very well, the word “Socialism” has a certain stigma attached to it that many people find difficult to get past. So, what do you think is the best way to engage people who are so steadfast in those misconceptions of Socialism and other “isms” that carry those negative connotations without alienating them or scaring them off?
MS: Well, I think one thing is that, as we see distance from the Cold War and that effort to attach Socialism to this propaganda, we see a decrease in that stigma. That’s really wonderful, so I think this is an opportunity to really be forward with speaking about these ideas, with talking about Socialism.
Another thing that I think is tremendously important that each one of us as Socialists, we’re vehicles of that message. I think we play a very direct role in the progress of the movement. How do we work and dialogue with our community, and I think, how we establish relationships that are built on trust. As we go, the movement goes. For me personally, I talk to my neighbors about this, and I listen to them, and treat them as people that I care about. So, if they see the messenger of these ideas as somebody who’s listening to them, who cares about them, somebody who they can trust, that goes a long way toward breaking down the fears and misconceptions that people have about what Socialism means.
AMAV: One last question. So, we can see the waste and environmental destruction that Capitalism causes, from specific things, like oil pipelines and deforestation, to broader things, like Climate Change and global food insecurity. How does Socialism address these problems and what solutions does it offer?
MS: Well, Capitalism as a system is built on accumulation, but the planet’s resources are finite. So, the science tells us that the planet’s carrying capacity just cannot handle Capitalism as a system. So, we actually can take the data, the science, and use it to support our position. I think the challenge with that is when that information, that data is presented to folks, I can understand how in the face of that data it can feel kind of hopeless, sort of a feeling of nihilism like ‘Holy shit, we’re in such tremendous trouble’. The data tells us that we need to change systems in order to essentially save the planet, that next question from folks is generally going to be ‘What do we do?’, and this is where we come in – how can we work together to make the progress that we’re going to need to make sure that there’s a home for life on this planet.
AMAV: Absolutely. Is there anything that we didn’t touch on that you feel is important or any message in particular you’d like to put out?
MS: I would definitely say that – you mentioned Climate Change – there is real urgency here, we’re on the clock. There’s tremendous urgency with this move towards system change. I think Imperialism on a daily basis continues to slaughter folks throughout the world. Our Law Enforcement continues to slaughter our oppressed communities here at home. There’s real urgency here, and I highly suggest that if folks haven’t already, that they get involved. If folks are sort of on the fence, like ‘Well, I want to, but I’m kind of scared’, now is the time to take that next step toward getting involved.
AMAV: Absolutely. So, where can people find out more about you and the Socialist Party?
MS: If you do a Google search for ‘Socialist Party USA’, you’ll find links to the Party’s website. We’re all over social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. We have chapters local throughout the country, if you go to the national website for the Socialist Party, you’ll find a directory of local organizations or areas that are organizing that you can plug into. So, a simple Google search of ‘Socialist Party USA’ is going to bring up a lot of information that folks can access.