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What, Exactly, Is
A Modern Socialist?

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Campaign photo of Mimi Soltysik and Angela Walker, the Socialist Party USA's 2016 presidential ticket
Image by Altparty3 was cropped and used under a Creative Commons lisence.
Emidio Soltysik, The Actual Presidential Candidate For The Socialist Party USA, Talks Bernie Sanders And The Other Candidates

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

March 25, 2016 — With the presidential primary season in full swing, voters must  decide which candidate they would like to support for president. And for Democrats that means choosing between former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Yep, despite a big loss in Arizona, Sanders campaign is still chugging along.

While Clinton has been a household name in American politics for decades, Sanders was relatively anonymous on the national stage until he parlayed what seemed like a gimmick run for President at first into a serious push for the Democratic nomination.

While many were initially put off by the self-described democratic socialist, Sanders’ leftist policies have gained traction with many (predominantly young and white) voters, and his upsets in states like Michigan have proven that some Americans are ready to embrace socialist-type policies like a single-payer healthcare system.

Sanders run raises many questions in an American political system that hasn’t seen a serious candidate skew this far to the left in some time. Is America ready for a socialist presidential candidate? And is Bernie Sanders a socialist at all?

To answer these questions, I spoke with socialist presidential candidate Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik. Soltysik, along with his running mate Angela Walker, represent Socialist Party USA.

Modern Times Magazine: For people in places like Arizona where we hear a lot of rhetoric about what socialism is, can you explain what your party platforms and what you stand for?

Mimi Soltysik: This all starts, when we talk about socialism, with worker control of the means of production. Community control, democratic participation. We don’t see capitalism as a reformable system, because capitalism is inherently racist, sexist, imperialist, terrible for the climate. By accepting reform as ends in themselves, it’s almost as if we’re saying that we’re okay with a kinder, gentler racism, sexism, imperialism. And that’s just not acceptable.

MTM: With that in mind, would you consider Bernie Sanders an ally? Do you consider him one of yours? How would you view him?

MS: What he seems to be putting forth is more of a social democracy type of approach, which [includes] an expanded social safety net, a stronger welfare state. He’s pointing to Scandinavia and he uses words like middle class quite a bit in his rhetoric. To us, again, those are reforms that work within the capitalist system.

I would say that the inclusion that the inclusion of Bernie Sanders in the election has sort of opened the debate or the discussion about what is socialism, what does it mean, etc. And I think that [for us] and the U.S. left, this is a time to engage in a dialog about what socialism is all about.

MTM: As far as your campaign goes, what are your goals this election cycle?

MS: Outside of an election cycle, mainstream media is not banging down our door to find out what we’re doing on a daily basis. That changes a bit during a general election and then when you throw Bernie Sanders into this election, it’s changed quite a bit. So, what we do is when we have those opportunities, we talk about the bottom up approach, a revolutionary approach. And that’s not something that can happen from in [Washington D.C.]. That’s something that’s led by the people, so as we convey this message and folks respond to that message, either wanting to know more or they want to get involved or they’re fearful, what we do is we plug them into movement work that is happening around the country.

As they’ve been contacting us and some of them say ‘this is the first time I am taking a step forward in this direction, but I’m fearful,’ we can have a dialog with them about their fears and try to help them in any way we can to calm those fears.

It’s essentially a mechanism to help build at the local level. It’s in alignment with that bottom up approach.

MTM: When you’re talking about people’s fears, what would you say to someone who may have grown up in a predominantly conservative environment where socialist is seen as a dirty word and there are a lot of misconceptions about the term? What would you say to someone new to the movement like that who is interested in learning more?

MS: I think one of the first things that we can do is to extend support to let them know that there is support. The climate in the U.S. is changing a bit. I think that we know from polling data from a few years ago — I think either Pew or Gallup did a poll that showed that between the ages of 18 and 29, more folks had a favorable response to socialism over capitalism, so the climate is changing and I think folks can expect to see a bit more of a positive reception as they take that step forward.

I think that most important thing is to let them know that there is support, there are solidarity networks, and, you know, what can we do to help folks feel supported to try to calm those fears? How can we help them to build local support networks and solidarity networks?

This interview has been edited for clarity.
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