Emidio "Mimi" Soltysik died Sunday after a battle with liver cancer.
A longtime member of the Los Angeles activist community, Soltysik ran for president in 2016 for the Socialist Party USA.
What follows is an interview from 2016 in which Soltysik talks about his background, how he got involved in radical politics, and his views on socialism and capitalism.
Eoin Higgins: Hi Mimi. Thanks for doing this interview. Let's start off with an introduction: Who are you?
Mimi Soltysik: I suppose I'll always be trying to figure that one out. I think I look pretty silly when I'm clean-shaven, so I usually have a beard. I love music and I love to read. I love to laugh. I loathe injustice. It makes me feel violent.
My name is Emidio "Mimi" Soltysik and I am the Socialist Party USA's 2016 presidential candidate. I live in Los Angeles with my wife and two cats.
EH: What is the Socialist Party USA?
MS: The Socialist Party USA is a multi-tendency, revolutionary socialist organization that emerged from the 1972 split of the Socialist Party of America.
One group decided that it made strategic sense to work within the Democratic Party.
The other group chose to work independent of the capitalist parties, and was also staunchly opposed to the Vietnam War. That second group became the Socialist Party USA.
EH: Where are you from? What is your background?
MS: I was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, went to grade school there, and moved just outside the city when I was in elementary school. I was basically a punk rock, skateboarding kid who hated being told what to do. I frequently found myself in trouble. Unfortunately, it wasn't the run-of-the-mill high school shenanigans kind of trouble.
After high school was over, I played music professionally for about fifteen years. I had a lot of fun, I think. As a matter of fact, that was really all I cared about. I developed some habits that really took a toll on my health, and by my early-thirties, I pretty much ran out of steam.
For a bit, the thought of trying to pull myself together felt like it would require more effort than I could muster.
But I did start to clear my head a bit.
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I started trying to learn. That was tough. I frequently found myself confused and frustrated. As time passed, I think I started to really see the value in listening, hearing the voices in my community.
That was really, really painful. I felt pretty ill equipped to process what I was hearing. One foot in front of the other, moving forward, I started to take an interest in socialism, and began to make some connections. Finally, I think I achieved some clarity, and I might not have the words to express what that felt like. But, here I am…
EH: How did you become involved in radical politics?
MS: Many of those experiences I mentioned earlier played key roles in that process.
There's one thing I'd like to add: A small group of us were starting to do work around Los Angeles. We'd collect and deliver goods for survivors of human trafficking, collect bicycles for young people in South Los Angeles, things like that.
Almost without fail, staff at the non-profit agencies we'd work with would tell us some variation of "this is like trying to cure cancer with a band aid."
I understood. Shortly after, I started to do a bit of research, hoping to find a place where I could work to help fight the cancer, and, eventually, I found the Socialist Party USA.
MS: I'm not in either of those organizations, so I can't really speak much to how they operate. What I can tell you is that I'm glad I am a member of the Socialist Party USA.
I feel allied with most anyone who seeks the overthrow of capitalism. The sectarianism on the Left is exhausting and so incredibly time-consuming if you allow yourself to engage in that sort of bullshit.
I just don't have time for it.
EH: What do you think of Bernie Sanders?
MS: I don't think a whole lot about Bernie Sanders.
However, I do think about how critical it is that we be prepared to engage in a dialogue with our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, etc., who are taking an interest in socialism as a result of his campaign. I see that many are, which is fantastic.
EH: Thank you very much for talking with us, Mimi.
MS: Thank you!