Socialist Party USA Presidential Candidate
How did you first get politicized? Radicalized? Active?
It’s been a long process, man.
I went through a lot of trouble, enough substance abuse to damage my health, and ultimately, I hit rock bottom.
I was at a point in my early-thirties where I realized that I didn’t feel like I knew how to learn anymore. It was surreal.
I had vague memories of being a small child, feeling hopeful about life. But damn, if there was a mistake to make, I was going to make it.
So, I suppose I had a choice to make. I chose to clear my head and figure out what I was here for. I had a lot of catching up to do, I felt.
Starting in my community, in Los Angeles, I started to connect with folks, hearing their stories.
A few of us started to organize things like bicycle drives for children in South L.A., and clothing drives for survivors of human trafficking. The more we dove into that kind of work, the more it became apparent to me that, while the organizations were engaged in much-needed work, these cycles of oppression weren’t going to break with topical measures.
Remember, at this point, I hadn’t begun to dig into socialism, so I’m sort of figuring this stuff out without really knowing much about systems, causes, etc. But, eventually, I got to that place. And once I got there, I really dove in.
Life moves by so fast, man.
Damn thanks for sharing that… Did music play any roles in this for you? I think I’ve seen a few things from you and interviews about you mentioning music as a key influence in your personal/political development?
I’m not sure it played a role in my political development, although I suppose all of our experiences contribute to who we are.
It was certainly an escape for me, like trying to reach another world where everything was going to be okay.
But, I’d be lying if I said that my definition at the time of “okay” wasn’t misguided and somewhat fucked up.
What was your definition of okay then, and whats it now?
“Okay” at the time mostly meant not being able to feel and not being held to account for much of anything. “Okay” today? Revolution.
I asked Mimi for his favorite song so that I could embed it into this interview.
Mimi chose “Masked Laughter” by dälek.
What are your current positions and roles with community organizing and the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA)?
At the local level, I’m the Secretary for the Socialist Party Los Angeles Local and I’m on the communications team for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. I’m on the Socialist Party’s National Committee.
You’re running for President as the candidate for SPUSA? Or for their nomination? What are your goals with that and does the work cross over with your local and national committee work?
I think we’re doing whatever we can to contribute to the revolutionary movement in the U.S.
Part of that involves taking advantage of media opportunities that pop up during a general election.
As an organization with words like “revolutionary” and “radical” in our Statement of Principles, it’s not like the media has us on speed dial on a daily basis. But, that does change a bit during the election, and with the inclusion of Sanders, the focus is even greater.
So, using those opportunities to express the need for system change, our hope was that folks would respond with interest.
If they were curious but fearful about getting involved with radical politics, we wanted to help calm those fears.
If they wanted to get involved but didn’t know where to start, we wanted to help them make connections.
If they were interested but didn’t have a place to turn in their community, we wanted to use technology (video conferences, etc.) to connect them to others.
And that’s what we’ve been doing.
We aren’t going to see socialism because a candidate was elected into office. It will happen because the people will lead the movement, bottom-up.
So in all of your organizing/political work, does it all intertwine guided by the goal of building a socialist society?
Or like, is it all fluid? Or are your roles pretty distinct from each other?
The ultimate goal with all of this is revolution.
The different projects all ultimately point toward the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a socialist society.
By revolution you mean “overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a socialist society,” ya? What is a socialist society? And so the projects intertwine but seem pretty distinct as far as the work loads go?
We start with worker control of the means of production.
I’ll also borrow from the Socialist Party USA’s Statement of Principles: “a radical democracy that places people’s lives under their own control — a non-racist, classless, feminist, socialist society in which people cooperate at work, at home, and in the community.”
There is a common theme that runs through the distinct projects.
Ok so next subject… your brand, haha! Its fun to ask a socialist presidential candidate about their brand because socialism to me kinda does away with branding but being a presidential candidate is the epitome of self-branding.
How would you describe the Mimi Soltysik brand?
A Mimi Soltysik brand? Ha! No! Really, the candidates aren’t what’s important. The ideas are important. We are just messengers.
For socialism to succeed, the people will lead. That rhymed.
That sounds all great and dandy but your working in capitalism where our brains are shaped around non stop professionalized brand marketing.
You have a logo right?
I fully understand the value of messaging. But, if the message comes and goes with a campaign, I’m not sure I see the value in running a campaign. As Eugene Debs said, ““I would not be a Moses to lead you into the Promised Land, because if I could lead you into it, someone else could lead you out of it.”
PS – in no way did I mean to imply that I deserve any comparison to Eugene Debs.
I don’t really value celebrity that much beyond the superficial power it wields so it’s cool with comparisons just don’t let your ego get out of control. Though I think you’re on top of it and that’s why I’m coming to you over other presidential candidates.
Yeah, the “I’m going to save the world” and “I’m going to do x, y, and z for you” candidate stuff makes me feel a bit like I’ve eaten too many eggs or too much cheesecake. No thanks, man.
I anticipated you might respond like you have, so I have been trying to prepare myself.
You are owning my question with the messaging but you’re also sorta dodging the raw truth of the fact that this is a capitalistic society using capitalistic narratives to raise and develop peoples consciousness, and that you indeed have a brand.
You are impressing upon peoples neurological scar tissue and preconceived ways of thinking with your own “brand.”
You call it messaging, which seems to be a good way to talk about it and help bring about new narratives, but while this is still a capitalist society, you still have a brand.
Operating electorally and with the media, even social media, who you really are as a person is not the brand product people are consuming.
Merriam Webster defines a brand as:
- a category of products that are all made by a particular company and all have a particular name
- a particular kind or type of something
- a mark that is burned into the skin of an animal (such as a cow) to show who owns the animal
You may not like being thingafied, but you are getting thingafied in this society, so lets described how you are thingafied.
I could describe your brand and thingafication for you, and probably will, but I want to hear it from you first. What sort of narratives and ideas and memes are you exposing to people and interjecting into their neurological synapses?
Also perhaps to put it a different way, play a little nicer on my end and not force the capitalism narrative on ya so harshly, I think there are ways to pervert these narratives, ways of thinking and branding that induce healing. What are people consuming from you that is inducing healing?
Key word in that last question is “consuming.”
I totally hear what you are saying. And hearing it, I stand by my response.
Having said that, we are definitely considerate with how we package the message. There are about 40 of us who work within the campaign on a daily basis, coming up with ideas, strategies, etc. We all have feelings about what might be an appealing way to message, and those feelings are informed by our experiences.
I think that so many are turned off by traditional campaign approaches to messaging. To me, a message coupled with a photo of the candidate is boring as hell. I’d rather see a piece of artwork. Show the people you give a shit about them, you know?
Now, I know that campaigns might construct messaging on the basis of demographic research.
What about the “I don’t give a shit about electoral politics because electoral politics doesn’t give a shit about me” demographic?
Are there any examples of the type of socialism you are advocating for already in practice that you could point towards? Would you say that your campaign is socialism/revolution in practice?
We’d see socialized medicine and universal education in a socialist society.
I think that much of what we’re looking for hasn’t fully been realized in practice. That’s sort of an exciting part of all of this – that the people, can collectively pave the way forward.
I also look at movements like the Zapatistas, at how they have challenged neoliberalism, patriarchy, etc. I find them so inspiring.
Then I gotta ask you because I’ve been meaning to ask a socialist about this stuff and you seem like an interesting one to ask given your position as presidential candidate.
What do you think of the works of Karl Marx?
I have a critique on him that Id like to run by you.
Also do you know of any other more recent works that have had a similar impact to the communist manifesto in revolutionary thought?
What do I think of the works of Karl Marx? Essential. I would hope people have critiques, but I think that Marx is terribly important. I also find many others terribly important.
I’m not sure that other works have had the impact of the Communist Manifesto on a broad scale.
That’s not to say that particular works haven’t had a bigger impact on an individual level.
I wouldn’t say The Communist Manifesto has had the biggest impact on my life. It’s had an impact, and a significant one at that.
It’s really been a long time since I last read Marx, and am realizing I am long due for an update, but bear with me here. I’m realizing that your critiques of capitalism seem to originate from Marxist trains of thought, do they?
Your advocating for socialism also seems a bit Marxist, but socialism actually predates communism and Marx right?
I have attended an International Socialist Organization meeting or two and it gave me a pretty weird taste as far as the term Socialism goes.
Seemed very dogmatic with the historical figures like Marx and Lenin.
Maybe you can help cleanse this taste or set it straight as far as SPUSA goes, which seems way less dogmatic in a sense, and very different all together.
If advocating for socialism seems somewhat Marxist, that would make some sense to me. I remember a while ago a friend, who doesn’t identify as a Marxist, said that “it’s kind of hard to be a socialist and not acknowledge the influence of Marx.”
We don’t advocate a singular “correct” line. We aren’t saying that Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, etc. had all the answers, and that we follow a single program exclusively. We’re a multi-tendency organization, meaning that our members bring a ton of different perspectives, influences, and ideas into the organization.
I think that there are many, many ideas and influences that contribute to an analysis of how we might move forward.
What makes advocating for socialism Marxist? The critiques on capitalism and building a future after it?
I’m not saying that advocating for socialism is solely a Marxist endeavor. What I”m saying is that Marx’s influence and impact on the socialist project is tremendous. There are folks who do tremendous organizing work who likely have yet to read a page of Marx. However, their work ties into a broader framework that is most certainly influenced by Marx.
What I really liked about Marx was when he talked about alienation from labor. I love the psychological aspects to his critiques on operating political theories… but I really got lost in a lot of the economic blather.
Perhaps in lay terms, could you describe what exactly is wrong with capitalism? Why can’t you green capitalism? Do you think there is money to be made destroying capitalism? Like wont capitalism try and make a buck off of destroying itself? Can we be the ones to make a financial living off of destroying capitalism?
I have never said to anyone “having read Marx validates your efforts as an organizer/activist.” I wouldn’t. Do I think that reading Marx is worthwhile and beneficial to an understanding of capitalism/socialism/communism? Damn right.
I fully understand how Marx can be challenging. I’m challenged when I read Marx, and often have to sit and think about a single sentence, really working to grasp its meaning. And, I think that’s wonderful. A bit ago, a friend suggested a book called “In the Wake of Terror” by E. San Juan, and I swear, I had to sit with every sentence, frequently making trips to the dictionary.
Gaining an understand of complex issues, systems, etc., isn’t always going to be easy. And at times, it can be extraordinarily challenging. Is it worth the effort? I think so.
Why can’t you “green” capitalism? So, capitalism is a system of growth/accumulation. The science behind climate change is clear – the planet can not handle the expansion of the system. As in none – not a greener expansion of capitalism – none.
That game is over. What’s tremendously sad is that you still see so much effort placed on reforms, which appeal to some sense of responsibility. But I simply can’t imagine that those promoting the reforms aren’t aware that we just can’t handle a reform-based approach.
The information is there. We’d have to choose to ignore it. And in choosing to ignore it, we’re sealing the fate of the planet and its ecosystems.
I’d highly recommend taking a peek at a book called “Ecology and Socialism” by Chris Williams. He does a pretty amazing job of explaining why system change must be the approach.
To your question “won’t capitalism try and make a buck off of destroying itself?” Absolutely. How many times do you see products packaged as “environmentally friendly”? Hybrid vehicles?
For that last question, I meant more of undoing itself… Like Marx said communism would happen naturally… I’ve seen even CNN and MTV put out some pretty revolutionary programming on the rare occasion that basically directly undermines MTV and CNN.
Like how the hell else are you getting mainstream media coverage? You’re helping them sell advertising right?
But you’re on their airwaves advocating for a revolution to overthrow capitalism which must include establishment media.
How are we getting mainstream media coverage?
Or are you asking if I feel there’s a hypocrisy in accepting mainstream media interview requests and then advocating for the overthrow of capitalism?
Even using social media is main stream. Its all about the advertising. It even looked to me at one point like your campaign paid for some facebook advertising right? Wouldn’t those ad dollars be capitalism making a buck off of its own destruction?
We live in a capitalist society, and as such, we will use the tools of capitalism to help defeat capitalism.
Mimi on CNBC
I find it interesting that doing campaigning on social media can really stick it to the man, but it is also creating content for the man to sell advertising.
Many, many folks who are working to defeat capitalism are using social media to connect with others, to discuss ideas, strategies, tactics, to message, etc. Should they reject social media because social media platforms earn money through advertising? I wouldn’t advise it. That doesn’t mean we’re ignorant to contradictions.
I cant pass up this opportunity to hit you with some of my propaganda as we start to wrap this all up.
So for this critique of Marx where I prefer the psychology in his works to the economics and having a super impactful text on the world, have you watched the documentaries “The Century of the Self” By Adam Curtis, yet?
I’ve heard people refer to the series as the communist manifesto of modern day in terms of how much it will and has impacted the world. I think that might be a stretch, but who knows, and I’d like your opinion on it.
It super blew my mind. Whenever I meet somebody who’s seen it, we definitely share a little bit of telepathy about how the world works.
Also I’m super curious how it lines up with your paradigm as a SPUSA presidential candidate, and a lot of this interview has sorta been about that.
It’s all about how things like the psychological effects of the alienation from labor Marx was talking about are extracted and exploited to manipulate the masses finding their roots in Freudian psychology and manifesting in the modern day focus group. The documentaries conclude by covering modern day elections (well 2002, so getting more out of date every day with the internet.)
In a sense the documentaries explain how our minds are getting branded by professionalized marketing.
They have really inspired my work here, as I am trying to do what you said before: “We live in a capitalist society, and as such, we will use the tools of capitalism to help defeat capitalism.”
I feel like we can repurpose the tools they talk about in this documentary to replace capitalism with something amazing, because the internet is some crazy next level shit, and so is this marketing and campaigning, and so that’s what I am trying to do right here with this blog interviewing you.
I don’t know enough about socialism to call it socialism, but y’all seem to be into a lot of what I am into, and I’ve seen you really pervert these capitalistic marketing tools as well…
And then to really conclude, if it’s o.k., I’d like to run by you what I’ve perceived as your “brand” or “messaging”, and get your feedback on how that lines up with how you perceive it.
I haven’t seen it! I will – I promise! And of course – feel free to run by what you see as the messaging.
The Century of the Self, Episode 1: Happiness Machines.
I have been bugging Mimi for over five months to watch this documentary.
You said you’ve got a team of 40 people working on it all right? Is it non hierarchical? Or how do you organize it? Where are you autonomous and where is it a group effort and who gets the final say on messaging when?
What I see as the end result of your organizing is your slogan obviously: “Pro-Worker Anti-Capitalism.” You also use the terms socialism and revolution a lot.
Your logos have consistent themes, and look graphic designed and hand drawn depending.
You like to crowdsource and democratize your campaign media and have a ton of loving and engaged supporters.
You really put a ton of effort into connecting with all of your social media supporters and followers.
You’re great for interviewing and readily accessible, probably one of the easiest people to interview, though I’d hope most top quality candidates are accessible and easy to interview.
You tend to be down with whatever is new and fresh in the news, you’re very clued into the happenings, and offer on point critiques that don’t pander or hijack and rather show solidarity.
You’re really juxtaposing yourself to Bernie for extra coverage.
And then your flavor:
You love cats, metal/punk sorta music, and being yourself.
You’re a peoples person with t-shirts with stains on em, not some presidential bullshit suit and tie wearing ego inflated mofo trying to fit into the cut set forth by the billions of dollars of professional marketing getting poured into the reality t.v. shows known as U.S. federal elections.
You sorta remind me of Jello Biafra in an archetypal sorta way, but way less of a celebrity and way more of an actual organizer in the streets that means business and isnt trying to fuck around.
Regarding how the campaign group operates: a possibility is floated and the floor is open for discussion.
For example, we have routine public video town halls where the campaign chooses a theme and the video discussions work around those themes.
The theme of our last video town hall, which took place last night, was suggested by a campaign member (Sam from Madison, WI) – we discussed the choice and ultimately agreed on the theme.
With regard to graphic design: there are 5 or 6 folks who put together the images, and they tend to put together designs that they feel best represent the campaign. We’ll collaborate, discuss, etc.
And damn, man. I’m truly humbled by your kind words. Humbled and very grateful!