Los Angeles, California (TFC) – Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik is an American political activist for the Socialist Party USA. He has been nominated to be the party’s candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 election. [from wikipedia]
John: How did you get involved in social justice/activism?
Mimi: I think like so many who do this sort of thing, it’s been a process shaped by life experience. For me personally, I went from being a punk rock skateboarding kid who got into a ton of trouble to an adult who played in a band, still got into a lot of trouble, and who added substance abuse as a bonus. Things got pretty ugly for me. My health had deteriorated and I reached a point where life essentially became meaningless. I was fairly-well disconnected from any feelings of care for others or myself. It wasn’t necessarily a specific moment, rather a period of time where I felt that I was either going to fade out or I was going to somehow start to learn again and engage life. It wasn’t easy, and I was frequently confused and frustrated. But, I started taking very small steps forward. I started to read. I spent a bit of time reflecting on who I was and why I was here. Ultimately, I made a choice and here we are.
John: What is your definition of Socialism?
Mimi: To me, this starts with worker control of the means of production. Community control. Democratic participation. Of course, universal healthcare and universal healthcare would be part of the broader picture. I think it’s important to say at this moment that socialism is explicitly anti-capitalist. It’s not a reform to capitalism. It’s not a “greening” of capitalism. Capitalism is racist, sexist, imperialist, terrible (obviously) for the planet. Reforms to capitalism means that those systems of oppression and destruction continue, albeit, temporarily, in a kinder, gentler way. That’s unacceptable.
John: Was there a specific set of events that led you to adopt socialism as an ideology?
Mimi: This ties directly into the answer to your first question. Perhaps, for me, the want and ability to start listening played one of the more key roles. Hearing the words of the folks in my community really kicked my ass. It set off a chain reaction of sorts. And, and I don’t think I’m alone when I say this, once you acquire even just a little bit of information, it becomes incredibly difficult to turn back the clock to the moment before you learned that bit of information.
John: What are, in your opinion, the five main issues facing the United States Today?
Mimi: I see one giant issue and then a series of problems inherent to that issue, which is capitalism. This system is inherently oppressive. It must accumulate, and it does so on the backs of the people. It does so at the expense of the planet’s health. These oppressions, this destruction, is all interconnected. By tackling capitalism, we tackle those systems of oppression and destruction. There would still be factors we’d need to consider. The continuation of a productivist economy, post-revolution, won’t take care of our ecological problems, for example.
Our platform calls for an immediate 50 percent reduction in military spending, with an ultimate goal of a 90 percent reduction. Essentially, we’re working to eliminate the country’s ability to operate as an imperialist power, to take that option completely off the table. We know that healthcare and education are big issues, and yes, we call for universal healthcare and universal education. “Where do we get the money for that?” Let’s start by looking at that military budget.
John: What are your concerns, thoughts, and ideas for solutions toward preventing near term human extinction?
Mimi: I just don’t see any hope for the planet if the system continues. The planet just simply doesn’t have the carrying capacity, and it can not handle reformed versions of the capitalist system. There is most certainly an urgency we’re facing. One of the goals of our campaign is to draw as many folks into this conversation as we possibly can, helping folks to make connections whenever and wherever possible, putting them in touch with folks involved with movement work. We’re constantly trying to figure out new ways to reach folks with our messaging. Part of this involves calming fears folks have when they consider involvement with this type of work. If we are going to find a way forward, it’s because the people will be leading the way.
John: As someone who’s dealt with substance abuse, where do you fall between harm reduction, decriminalization and prohibition of controlled substances? As we’ve seen with marijuana, rich white men are making money off products that once got poor people of color life sentences. Does it follow that decriminalization might be better than legalization for some socialists? Is a black market better than a ‘free’ market?
Mimi: Is there anything about the free market that’s good for the people? Whatever the good or service, the people are going to be exploited and oppressed.
John: What are your thoughts on Democracy at Work and Participatory Economics?
Mimi: Our platform calls “for the right of all workers to organize, for worker control of industry through the democratic organization of the workplace, for the social ownership of the means of production and distribution, and for international solidarity among working people based on common opposition to global capitalism and imperialism.” This is key. My friends and I often talk about how we have little practice or experience with democracy, and how, when we find ourselves in an environment where we get a little taste of what it might be like, it can initially be both profound and startling. We quickly realize, however, that democracy should be the expectation.
John: Do you think Bernie might be coopting the term socialism and not only defanging it for a large majority, but also sort of doing what big box unions did, where unions, or socialism are acceptable but, only actually reform capitalism? IE might this campaign be a boon for state capitalism rather than for socialism?
Mimi: That’s a real concern. I’ve been part of quite a few conversations about this lately. I think this is a time where the U.S. Left, and I don’t mean the Democrats, needs to be prepared to engage in a big way. Just yesterday, I saw a meme on the internet that claimed that a democratic socialist could still be a capitalist. There’s an awful lot of bogus information floating around right now. What happens if these kinds of narratives continue unchecked? The messaging that appears to be coming from the Sanders campaign is telling the public that socialism is essentially a broad reform to capitalism. And the messenger has a pretty troubling record with regard to the military. Sure, he needs to play the game if he wants to win the election. But, I don’t believe this game can or should be won in the White House.
John: Do you think that automation and 3d printing will fundamentally change the means of production discussion or will it mostly be concerned with who owns the robots and how does this change what a revolution might look like in the future?
Mimi: I’m not gonna lie. My first thought when I read this was “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. I like to play air hockey.” But seriously…can these tools, developing technologies, be used to fight capitalism, to contribute to a revolutionary movement? Absolutely. Look at the role social media has played in global movements. Regarding automation, what it’s doing and right now and what it might afford the worker post-revolution are two different concerns. In a capitalist system, automation displacing the worker so the capitalist can profit is obviously bad news. My pharmacy has largely replaced its staff with self-service checkout lanes. It seems that every week I’m seeing more and more of this kind of thing. Post-revolution, in a worker-controlled environment, can automation free up more of the worker’s time to enjoy life? That’s another question.
John: Do you have any other shout outs or recommendations for radical art or movements you’re interested in promoting?
Mimi: There are so many folks out there doing amazing work. Here in L.A., the Socialist Party Los Angeles Local does work with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which fights police surveillance and oppression and the Converging Storms Climate Action Network, which is an ecosocialist coalition. We have members here who work with educational projects like Schools L.A. Students Deserve and health care projects like Labor United for Universal Healthcare. I know some of our folks in other areas of the country are working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, with Black Lives Matter, and with local skill sharing efforts, Bus Riders Union work, on and on. If there are folks, wherever they might be, who have an interest in getting involved with movement work, please feel to reach out to us through our website (http://www.rev16.us/) or our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Rev2016) and we’ll do our best to connect them to work.