Interview: Bernie Sanders Isn't The Only 'Socialist' Running for President
What follows is my interview with Socialist Party USA presidential candidate, Emidio "Mimi" Soltysik. Soltysik previously ran in California's 62nd Assembly district in 2014.
AJ: What is the motivation for running for an office, especially on a presidential ticket?I think we can acknowledge that a general election offers some pretty unique media opportunities for a radical socialist organization like the Socialist Party USA. Given the inclusion of Sanders and his use of "democratic socialism" throughout his campaign, it makes sense to use those opportunities to introduce different voices into the dialogue. In our case, we can use those opportunities to shift the focus from D.C. politics to the local level. The kinds of changes the people and the planet need will not happen in D.C. and a POTUS candidate certainly isn't going to deliver those kinds of changes. This revolution will be led by the people, the community level. So, using this platform, we can connect folks who are interested in the ideas to one another. When folks reach out to the Campaign, we can help to plug them into movement work in their communities.
AJ: In a June Gallup poll, 47% of US resident said they would vote for a Socialist. Plus 49% of independents said they would vote for a Socialist. Do you feel that there is a strong sense of people wanting to vote for a Socialist? If so, then why this growing trend?
Mimi: While polls may be imperfect, I suppose the figures you report represent both a dissatisfaction with the capitalist parties and likely the support among Democrats for Bernie Sanders. However, in 2011, the Huffington Post did report a poll that said that more folks between the ages of 18-29 favored socialism than those favoring capitalism. So, I think there are signs that many are understanding that the capitalist system is the crisis.
AJ: There are so many socialist organizations out there and some are running presidential candidates as well. How can you contend with other socialist organizations? More specifically, How can you convince the public to side with your ideology?
Mimi: I don't think this is necessarily about convincing the public to side with our ideology. I think this is largely about establishing a dialogue at the local level, sharing a dialogue about the ideas, and finding ways to work together to challenge and ultimately overthrow the capitalist system.
AJ: I don't need to tell you that Sen. Sanders has proclaimed that he identifies as a “democratic socialist.” He has addressed some examples of how he could curtail some of the problems we have, when it comes to the economy, environment, and society. How does his “democratic socialism” match up to yours and is there any overlap?
Mimi: It appears that what Sanders promotes is more of a social democratic vision, somewhat similar to what we might find in the Scandinavian countries. When we say "democratic socialism," we do mean worker control of the means of production. We mean community control of the institutions that affect our lives. We mean democracy in the workplace. Sanders may advocate for a single-payer health care system, which may be a transition to a socialized medical program of the sort that we promote, and he does seem to promote universal education. But, we do not see support for imperialism as being part of any reasonable definition of democratic socialism.
AJ: Do you hope to debate with some of the other third party candidates during the campaign?
Mimi: If it happens, that's great. If not, that's okay. I think that we may have different objectives, but I don't see how an exchange would hurt.
AJ: Is your campaign hoping to get on the main stage with the eventual Democratic and Republican candidate?
Mimi: I don't think we are consciously hoping to get on the main stage with the eventual Democratic and Republican candidates. We acknowledge the farce that is the presidential debates, and the exclusion of voices outside of the two-party system is pretty disgusting.
AJ: Third party ballot access has traditionally been hard due to various state election laws. How will your campaign address these laws, specifically when it comes to signatures?
Mimi: We assess our capacity as an organization and work with folks on the ground. If folks on the ground determine that ballot status is a project worthy of their efforts, we are ready to support that work. We already have some working groups established throughout the country who are interested in obtaining ballot status.
AJ: Do you have a message for the readers out there?
Mimi: Our planet simply can not handle capitalism. That's not hyperbole. That's a fact. We can not rely on our elected officials to deliver the changes needed to save the planet. We can, however, work with another and build from the bottom up. This is all about that community work, about building from the bottom up. It's time to get revolutionary.
Author's note: If you would like to learn more about the campaign, follow the campaign's Facebook page.
About the Author
For 15 years I have worked as an activist, political campaigner, and social entrepreneur. During that time I have helped organize in the areas of social justice, economic rights, education, and the environment.
Along with my work, I have spoken at one day workshops, conferences, and conventions to speak on issues and to train those to improve their skill set.
Outside of my work I have taught in academia in the fields of cultural studies, political philosophy, and sociology.