“I’m from Sterling Heights, MI which borders the city I currently live in and am running for mayor of, Warren,” stated mayoral candidate Matt Kuehnel. Matt is running as an open communist, which is a first for his town, and the first communist to run for office in the state of Michigan in decades. His campaign has been gaining a lot of media attention from the left and unfortunately from fascist trolls. Matt is no stranger to electoral politics “I first ran for public office in 2018 as a Libertarian for state representative. I then received a dual nomination from the Socialist Party of Michigan.” In fact he was one of the founders of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus of the Libertarian Party, although he no longer plans to continue involvement with the Libertarian Party. “I use the term libertarian socialism to mean personal freedom and social equality. More broadly or more specific, I identify as a communist in solidarity with the struggles throughout world history against oppressors, and I uphold Marxist science in mobilizing the proletariat and improving our material conditions.”
Currently Matt is a member of the DSA and is very active in the Detroit branch that he says is “is filled with talented people and dedicated activists.” The 2016 election prompted Matt to run for mayor in the upcoming election. “The current mayor, James Fouts, was recorded saying things like ‘r*t*rds should be Kevorkian’d’ and ‘Black women look like apes.’ These recording are still being introduced to the public and he still denies them. However, it’s the mindset in Warren. Bordering Detroit, the rhetoric is often dehumanizing and racist. Things like ‘keeping the trash out’ which is what a former employee of his said, which is an obvious cue the majority Black, impoverished residents of Detroit.” Obviously the current Mayor, Fouts, is not very popular with his constituency. Also, judging from his official Mayoral photo, he has the charisma of a tranquilized three toed sloth, (apologies to sloths) which in turn gives Matt the opportunity to present a real alternative, the alternative of socialism.
Matt’s policy proposals do not shy away from proposing radical solutions and he does not refrain from using cutting rhetoric, both of which has brought him some hate from the right wing. “I’m on record endorsing the unspecific execution of landlords and I called soldiers proud of their service violent sociopaths, so I’ve invited some hostility from the right.” Openly identifying as a communist in the United States is sure to attract attention both negative and positive, which has led Matt to be “quick with the block button.” In fact Matt’s Facebook profile humorously brags, “I’ve blocked more people than communism has killed.” All jokes aside, Matt admits some of the harassment can prove to be a bit intimidating. However, he reminds himself “that this is what marginalized people face daily their entire life. I’ve been privileged to live a rather safe life up until my public advocacy as a cis white man, but it’s a privilege that I’d sacrifice to unburden others. So, I take the criticisms head on and I don’t back down.”
Undeterred by the trolls and harassment, Matt has gained incredible support and his platform proves to be radically practical. Matt’s campaign platform admittedly is not fully complete but nonetheless he offers concrete socialist solutions. His main platform proposals centers around police reform, zoning reform and banning evictions.
Matt firmly believes in the abolition of prison and police, but he understands the need of incrementalism. “So, I decided to offer voters reform, including the decriminalization of victimless crime and the end to debt through citations. I’m also calling for the police to be secondary to medical professionals and first responders, massively cutting spending on officers and weapons and directing spending toward hiring medical professionals and mental health resources.”
On the concept of zoning reform, Matt suggests “transforming the Planning Department from an administrative office that fines residents and charges them for services, into a community workforce made of laborers. Laborers who, instead of issuing citations and fines, assists our residents in keeping their homes up to beauty and safety standards.”
Banning evictions is Matt’s self described radical proposal, which would require the support of city council, local judges, and the police. But his proposal proves to be surprisingly practical. As he explains, “My proposal is that the city courts, who process and judge most evictions in the city, to stop processing and approving of evictions. I want Warren to be a place where no one has to face losing their home to any bank, landlord, or municipality. I want Warren to be the first place where everyone who lives here is a homeowner. I want to stop paying my mortgage, and I want everyone to stop paying their rent and mortgage. I want our police to defend our residents from any and all outside attempts to remove an inhabitant for an absentee offender. It essentially abolishes private property, at least on the residential level.”
Matt’s proposal to end residential level private property is strikingly similar the Cuban revolution’s agrarian and land reform and Mao’s revolutionary land reform. Matt also has proposal for commercial private property. “Commercial property I believe should be land leases voted on by the residents, and I would hope part of that would be taking back the land that the federal government stores and produces weapons of mass destruction on. TACOM (Tank-automotive and Armaments Command) rests in the center of the city, and I believe we should seize their assets, distribute the weapons to people of color, and use their facilities for indoor community gardens and sanctuaries. Having reform, which isn’t exactly moderate, mixed with radical allows for the reform to seem moderate and forces an audience to consider the radical.”
In total there are ten candidates running against Matt including the incumbent and a sitting council member, but it is safe to say that Matt has the only communist platform and the most radically practical proposals. In his opinion, it is entirely possible that he could end up on the final ballot. The campaign for Matt has been instrumental in raising class-consciousness and spreading radical socialist ideals. Matt’s electoral activism hopes to show other leftists how easy it is to exploit the electoral politics platform. “We all have ideas and beliefs; many of us are active in our communities and doing things worthy of attention. When you put ‘candidate’ in front of your name, it amplifies your voice. More than me winning this race, I’d like to see hundreds of socialists and communists of all different stripes running for office across the US next year with solidarity among us.”
Matt’s campaign is currently not accepting donations, and certainly not accepting corporate money, which shouldn’t come as a shock. Instead of monetary donations, Matt hopes to create a radical grassroots movement by “mobilizing people against capitalism, because I don’t see any ethical way to compete with money against candidates who are already bought and paid for.” He continued, “If we can get a force out in the community, not only do we have a chance at impacting this election, but we could also be building tenant unions and community defense structures through our political work.”
If you would like to show support or solidarity with Matt’s campaign and do not live in his area, he asks that you “just keep the hype going. Like, follow, share, whatever we can do to get these ideas out there and normalized.” He also stated that anyone should feel free to reach out to Matt via Facebook or email (provided below) and share your “ideas, experience and concerns.”
Matt has provided another example of how bourgeoisie elections can be an instrumental and influential tool for the radical left. He has used his platform to spread radically progressive yet realistic policy proposals. His platform truly is worthy of being named communist and revolutionary. It is no doubt that if he won the bid for Mayor, his proposals would greatly improve the lives of thousands of residents in his district. At this current historical stage, we on the left should utilize every tool in our arsenal to agitate, educate, and organize for a socialist future. That includes getting our hands dirty in the electoral process while keeping in mind our goal is not merely to reform the system, but to radically change it.