[Editor’s Note: The Socialist wishes to thank Autumn Minery and Bryer Sousa for this in depth three part interview with SPUSA VP candidate Angela Nicole Walker.]
It’s Liberation that we want; it’s Liberation for every body…
A Conversation with 2016 SPUSA VP Candidate Angela Nicole Walker by Autumn Minery & Bryer Sousa
Bryer: Welcome Angela and thank you for being here. If you’d like to introduce yourself, that would be great. Of course, you are Mimi Soltysik’s running mate, the Vice Presidential ticket for the Socialist Party USA. But to be able to represent SPUSA, you must have engaged in quite a bit of activism during your life?
Angela: Yeah, my name is Angela Walker; I am a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I currently live. I have served as the Legislative Director for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998. I served the union for two years and was also a member of Occupy the Hood…[W]e were able to get a lot of linking between the unions and tried to make sure that they kept touch with other unions and organizations; grass roots organizations that were doing really important work. So I did that for a few years. Then in 2014, I ran against David Clark here in Milwaukee County as an independent socialist at the time, and we all pulled 21% of the vote… as an unknown, broke socialist…
Bryer: You pulled 21% of the vote?
Angela: Yeah, and I say “we,” because it was a collaborative effort. I was a working class candidate and the others who were working on the campaign were working class members as well. But 67,000 something people out of 350,000 in the county put their bets on an unknown broke working class candidate, who was explicitly socialist, so I thought that was pretty dope.
Mimi and the SP watched that campaign, which was unknown to me, but it was a big deal, apparently. Evidently, it got people really excited about it, so when he was considering this run for President, he called me.
Bryer: That’s quite the story. Especially because you were able to bring around a collective of working class individuals. That being said, what does ‘socialism’ mean to you? That is, where did you get the inspiration to lean towards socialism? Was it an American intellectual? Was it working class people?
Angela: For me, it’s working class people. I mean, my family is all working class folks and they’ve practiced socialism without ever calling it that. So I’ve been exposed to socialist ideas my whole life. Nothing new. For me it just makes sense. We are talking about people primarily in black and brown communities that have been so horribly affected by capitalism (and the violence that is brought about) in so many ways. People are ready to embrace concepts that we know that are explicitly socialist, but also…it is just common sense. I mean, if you’re having an issue with housing and affordability and things like that in your area, and if people can pull their resources and go in on one of the many abandoned buildings in our community, and then turn that into a co-op which works to get people not only housed, but housed at a rate they can afford, why wouldn’t you do that? Why wouldn’t you talk about that? You know, at the time of Fight for $15, why are we not talking about worker ownership of the workplace? It makes sense. You know there is this issue of ‘deserve;’ who deserves living wages? Everyone does! I don’t care if you scrub toilets for a living…you deserve a living wage, and you deserve a say in how your workplace is run. You should be up in arms. Such things make sense to me.
Bryer: I think it makes sense too, especially if you talk about democracy. In other words, most of our time is spent in the workplace. To be able to vote once every four years is not a form of direct engagement with the things that affect you, so I hear you.
Angela: It makes sense. Also, letting people question the two party system. If you have to “hold your nose,” and that is a direct quote from some good friends of mine, “Hold your nose and cast a vote, then we are not doing it right.”
Bryer: I presume that one of the ways in which people are trying to address the two party system conundrum is to have public financing of elections, and I suppose that might be on your idea list? How would you overthrow the two party platforms?
Angela: Flood them with 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th parties and build enough of a ground swell with that flooding to where you have some actual leverage to push to be part of the discussion. You know, they have enough money and resources to block us out. But if you gather the disgruntled people together, to build a movement first and we need to build it up until the point where there is enough of a critical mass to force our way in and open the discussions, because there isn’t any.
Bryer: If you look at mass media stories as far as third party and fourth party, the one that does get any attention is the Libertarian Party, which is horrendous to me and extremely right wing as well as Neo-feudal as far as making everyone compete against each other. Instead of having government, it would just allow for each corporation to act as a kingdom. Moreover, I think with the emergence of Sanders, even though he ran through the DNC, if you look at the funding of his campaign, it appears as though people were willing to get engaged as far as getting someone who was a little bit outside of the usual scope.
Angela: Even though he is not really much outside of the usual scope.
Bryer: Exactly, exactly. That leads me to another question: What do you think he has done to the word socialism, where you have mentioned a more explicit conception of socialism?
Angela: I think that for what his campaign was worth, the value of it for me personally, is that he opened up the discussion; a national discussion. It became an international discussion; I think that was necessary and I thank him for that. He has a much bigger platform than we do, and he spoke to the mainstream rather than the folks who are already with us. So, it got people thinking, even if it didn’t do anything else.
Bryer: That being said, let us turn to the question of the Green Party. Here in Maine, I know there is a pretty significant conglomerate of Green Party members in ‘Vacationland,’ so it will be good for them to hear this part of the story. What’s transpired between the parties? Jill Stein is encouraging Sanders supporters to jump over to her. But then in Illinois you said, something has transpired where now it’s a battle against other third party groups. It’s unfortunate, for I would long for them to stand in solidarity with other organizers.
Angela: You would think, especially in a time where there is a target on all of our backs, and because we have a need for unity on the Left like I have never seen, especially now, when we have momentum. I mean I think that we need to have as much unity on our side as we can get. We don’t need to be seen as running against each other… so I am very disappointed in the way that worked out. One of the things that happened with my sheriff campaign was that we had a fellow of the Green Party running for treasurer, so we had a green/red alliance. It never occurred to me that it would be anything else, and so to know that there are factions that work against [you]…is just mind blowing to me. Maybe I am being naïve, but it really caught me off guard.
Bryer: I think that it is quite fair.