Last year, this paper carried an interview with Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik, a Socialist Party USA candidate for the California State Assembly. Now he’s seeking the SPUSA nomination for its presidential campaign. I spoke with him on behalf of The Red Vine:
What is your message to supporters of Bernie Sanders, or even the Green Party’s Jill Stein, who see those campaigns as a more realistic avenue to build some kind of anti-corporate politics?
They are of course free to lend their efforts to whichever direction or whichever candidate they feel worthwhile. I have an opinion, of course, about the value of working to overthrow capitalism by focusing on D.C. The overthrow of capitalism will not be determined by who gets your presidential vote. It can and will happen as we strengthen our local focus. I don’t mean to imply that the candidates you mention are, however, focused on destroying capitalism. When supporters of any candidate are willing to have a discussion about socialist revolution, I’ll be there with a friendly smile, prepared to talk strategy and tactics. So many are doing fantastic work in spreading the revolutionary message, and they are finding better ways to deliver that message, better strategies for engaging in a healthy and productive dialogue with the people. I might sound optimistic when I say that many elements of the U.S. Left are headed in the right direction, but I truly believe that.
Your campaign’s purpose is convey a “radical message,” what are some of the key demands or policy points that you think socialists should be fighting for right now?
I think that, by working together, we can identify strategic pressure points in the capitalist system, and focus our energies on organizing around those points. This might require a great deal of cooperation, enhanced communication, and the development of working relationships across organizations and with those who are unaffiliated. I think that developing those relationships, having those strategic discussions, and finding ways to work together despite political sticking points is so important. The Socialist Party’s Los Angeles Local puts a lot of effort into developing relationships with folks who are both in other organizations and who are unaffiliated. We hold strategic planning sessions, asking ourselves how we can better develop these relationships. One approach we’ve taken is to host what are essentially parties, (we call these events the “Radical Ruckus”), and invite folks from as many different organizations as possible, as well as inviting as many unaffiliated folks as we can. So far, it seems to be a really good approach. We make new friends and allies, and I think the relationships we’re building will help us kick capitalism’s ass. Approaching critical issues like climate change, police violence, imperialism, etc., with an eye toward revolutionary change becomes less daunting when your list of allies is continually expanding.
How do you see your campaign intersecting with social movements such as Black Lives Matter and the Fight for $15?
Regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, the campaign will listen and will stand in solidarity, offering support whenever and however possible. I think, regarding the Fight for $15 movement, it’s important to look at what $15 an hour means. Does it go far enough? The living wage for one adult with one child in Los Angeles is $25.72. Is $15 hour putting food on the table for that adult? I don’t say this to disparage the Fight for $15 movement. In the context of the data I just provided, I think the fact that we are fighting for $15 an hour shows us how incredibly ruthless capitalism is. There is a line from a piece Greg Pason had written that I think offers critical insight on how we might approach the fight for higher wages: “The focus is not just to get a higher wage but also to challenge an economic model (i.e., capitalism) that takes power from the workers who provide the labor power and the communities affected by the decisions of business.” http://www.thesocialist.us/socialists-and-the-living-wage-issue/
Your campaign wants to support local socialist candidacies. Would you support a formal socialist electoral alliance, with its points of unity being independence from the Democratic Party, internationalism and extreme democracy?
I endorsed the “Future of Left/Independent Politics” held in Chicago this year because I do see value in organizations who pledge independence from the Democratic Party working together. I look forward to seeing this dialogue develop. Again, I’m optimistic about what might be possible.
Your campaign aims to “smash sectarian walls” on the socialist left. What does “sectarian” mean to you? What is and is not negotiable in the quest for socialist unity?
When I hear “sectarian”, I envision an individual or organization unwilling to work, or in some cases even have a dialogue, with those in other organizations because of differences in political tendency. It’s depressing as hell, in my opinion. I have many great friends who are anarchists, Leninists, Trotskyists, etc. What a disservice I do to myself if I refuse to hear what they have to say because I might not personally subscribe to their particular orientation. Conversely, there is so much I can learn by allowing myself to keep an open ear and an open mind to different voices and perspectives, you know? If I can’t sit down and enjoy the company of someone in the Red Party, hopefully finding ways that I can work with that person in the future, because I’m in the Socialist Party USA, I wouldn’t see myself as being righteous. I’d see myself as being an asshole. I most certainly have principles that I feel strongly about, but if socialists are willing to make a break from the Democratic Party, I’m down to listen. Maybe I’m not going to agree with everything folks say, but I’m ready to listen and I’m ready to work.
Given the SPUSA’s history of expelling or proscribing self-described Leninist currents despite being a “multi-tendency” organization, what do you see the Party’s role as being in the future of the socialist movement?
I can’t offer a response with “given the SPUSA’s history of expelling self-described Leninist currents despite being a “multi-tendency” organization” because it hasn’t been part of my experience; I have yet to witness the expulsion of a Socialist Party USA member because they were Leninist. I joined the organization five years ago. What role do I see the organization playing in the future of the socialist movement? If we aren’t making a contribution to the socialist movement in the U.S. as a multi-tendency, democratic socialist organization, I think it’s time to close shop. I think we are making a contribution, however. So much that’s happened within the organization over the past few years has me incredibly excited for the organization’s future.