By Matthew Tonoco
Originally published on Neon Tommy, September 10, 2014
Mimi Soltysik is the male co-chair of Socialist Party USA, one of the largest and most organized socialist factions in the United States today. Senior Reporter Matthew Tinoco met him for lunch at a cafe in Mid-City for a talk about the state of socialism and capitalism in contemporary America:
You’re the male co-chair of Socialist Party USA. That could get you shot in some parts of this country. What’s it like to be one of the leaders of a frequently demonized faction?
It’s not that bad actually. Sometimes I take for granted how easy it is in here L.A. We have members throughout the country and I know what they face on a daily basis, declaring themselves as open socialists. It’s got a bit of a taboo in some places. But here, nobody really bats an eye.
Generally, in the media at least, socialism is portrayed as this big evil institution out to get us all. Do you see that reflected in the people you interact with?
A lot of that comes from misconceptions about what it means. Really it’s just a lack of understanding about what the term means. But there’s definitely curiosity about it. Whether that’s positive or skeptical depends on who you’re talking to or where you are. I think people are generally surprised when they take that step forward and openly declare themselves a socialist, how minimal the negative response can be.
So if it’s a minimal response, could the case be made that socialism might be making a surge in the U.S.?
Conditions have become so progressively bad for folks, students, working people, etc. I think people are starting to realize that capitalism isn’t going to work for them. With the advent of social media and the Internet, people can do their own fact checking. They can hear something about socialism and look it up and question ‘is this true?’, ‘is someone bullshitting me?’ It becomes more challenging to spin tales about the evils of socialism now people can fact-check how evil something actually is. That’s been very helpful to us. Maybe 30 years ago it would have been more difficult for us, but now I can just say look at the facts.
Facts have a well-known liberal bias–
Exactly! People respond to the facts. When we go out to educate everyone starts saying ‘I didn’t know that!’ or ‘Why don’t more people know about this?’ They realize there’s a lot of important information that just isn’t getting through.
Why don’t more people ‘know about this?’
I think corporate media and capitalist institutions suppress a lot of the information that’s available. It’s not information they’re going to publicize. There’s a sort of vested interest that the information and facts get buried into irrelevance. The information and statistics aren’t very convenient for them. But it’s great for us.
People need to find out what’s actually going on, and ultimately it just comes from good journalists. Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and a bunch of others are doing a good job, and I hope that we see more.
Plus people reporting on the ground now with smartphones, whether it’s in Ferguson, on Occupy, or in Gaza. I read that Israel was having a real challenge of shaping the media portrayal of what was going on there because people can report so quickly on what’s actually going on there, and determine whether or not it jives with the official record. That’s fantastic; we have access to truth. And I think that in the long run, coming from a socialist perspective, this is good news.