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Free Elections or Business as Usual: Los Angeles News Group or Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce?

Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik is pictured campaigning for California State Assembly. Mimi for California State Assembly, 62nd District

Editor’s note: This letter by Truthdig contributor Scott Tucker was written in response to the May 8 candidates’ interview with the Los Angeles News Group, as described in the second paragraph. A message from Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik is reprinted following Tucker’s letter.

To Workers and Citizens of Los Angeles,

Free press? Free market? Free elections? And pie in the sky when you die.

Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik of the Socialist Party of the United States is running as a candidate for State Assembly in the 62nd District. I have attached his own statement (see below) explaining how he was invited to the Long Beach office of the Los Angeles News Group on May 8 for a group interview of the candidates in order to decide on an endorsement. Though not able to attend in person, he participated by teleconference. Far from being given equal time to state his views and public policy positions, Soltysik was cut off repeatedly.

For the sake of full disclosure, I am also a member of the Socialist Party. That means I’ve just given readers more information than you will likely get from the great majority of big media editors and journalists who maintain the pretense of political objectivity, but are in fact members and propagandists of the capitalist parties. They thus serve as well oiled gears in the vast machinery of public relations for big business, and of the two big parties of corporate rule: the Democrats and the Republicans.

The typical editorial policy of big media oriented to big business is premised on the fiction that the “free market” is both the foundation and outer limit of any “free election.” This is one form of what George Orwell called “organized lying.”

Sure, the Los Angeles News Group can do whatever it damn well pleases — as long as it does nothing that truly displeases big business and the capitalist parties. Like giving an honest socialist a fair chance to reach a wider public. When there are collapses of the banking system and crises in high finance, of course even the big media must cover such stories. But then they do so as a seasonal flu might be noticed in a basically healthy organism, or as blow jobs might be noticed in the White House, with both being filed away under Fevers and Scandals. They are not in the business of questioning the coercion and class division built into this system of corporate rule.

True, this was an interview of candidates for an endorsement, not an interview for publication. Yes, but in this case the censorship was so reflexive that it dismissed a socialist from getting a fair hearing even in such an editorial inner circle, never mind having his views published in what passes for the “free press.”

Soltysik was cut off in making his introduction, cut off in discussing public health care, and cut off when he tried to give a class conscious response to the question of “job creation.” He was told that he was not answering the given questions, but any truly free discussion of public issues must include answers that challenge the false premises of the questioners. If a free debate is ruled out of order even in the rarefied interviews designed to endorse a capitalist candidate, then we the people cannot expect liberty of thought in the kind of news the Los Angeles News Group might see fit to print.

Once in a while, even the capitalist media is forced to pay attention when a socialist is elected to public office, as happened when Kshama Sawant took up the fight for wages beginning at 15 bucks an hour. Thus she vaulted over a deadbeat Democratic opponent into her seat on the Seattle City Council. And how has the capitalist establishment responded? By trying to extract health, pension and other benefits from the cost of paying workers fair wages, and by trying to portray any socialist as an extremist.

On the contrary, corporate rule means the rules apply only to workers, but not to corporate CEOs and the ruling class. Unrestricted corporate power is capitalist totalitarianism. Extremism means burning down the planet for profit, and throwing millions of workers into the void when corporations chase the cheapest labor markets round the globe.

Sometimes a detour is the best way home — so permit me an anecdote here: I recall doing my jury duty in this city not long ago, and in the process of jury selection it became clear that a man (African American, in this case) was being charged with possession of “a small amount of crack cocaine.” The judge happened to believe in justice, and allowed me to address my fellow potential jurors in making my case against “three strikes” legislation, and indeed against the penal crusade against all street drugs. I asked the judge directly, “with all due respect,” whether he considered the legal process fair, when jurors accompany an accused person only part of the way during a journey by train, but have no say in the final judgment at the final station. The judge responded likewise, “with all due respect,” that I was free to raise the question but the question would remain open under the existing law. Fair enough, since I was able to swim against the current (if only briefly) in that single jury pool. Sure enough, the prosecutor turned angry questions upon me, but I was free to reply, “You are not getting the answers you want and this is how the system should work.” I was bounced out of jury selection in the next five minutes, but a small patch of the republic remained green in that courtroom.

And the point of my anecdote is to draw an analogy.

The Los Angeles News Group may feel bound to play by the given rules of this brutal capitalist game, but the interviewers of candidates for public office might show at least the same tolerance for dissent that a good judge shows to a potential juror. In any democracy worthy of the name, we, the people, have the freedom to confront any tyrant, any corrupt banker, any self-serving “public servant,” and any corporate thief with our deliberate judgment: “Overruled.” That becomes near impossible if the “free market” exists only to enforce wage slavery, if the “free press” is a commodity far beyond the means of common citizens and if “free elections” force us to vote by rote for the capitalist candidates. Either the Los Angeles News Group tries harder to give equal time to freedom of speech, or it advertises itself as one more arm of enforcement for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

Not one cent and not one vote for the parties of war and empire! That is, of course, only a direct political challenge to the capitalist parties within and beyond the borders of this country. And that struggle builds on a false foundation if we take any dictatorial short cuts. The only way to regain our republic is for members of the democratic left to commit ourselves to “forty years in the wilderness,” and to begin the fight here and now. The notion that a country this big in geography and population, with more than 318 million people, will do well by following the 18th century rules of mercantile capitalism, or even the up-to-date neoliberalism of the Clintonistas, is grotesque.

Obama was so expert in the fine art of triangulation that he beat Bill and Hillary at their own game, but his administration has not diverged in any significant degree from Clintonian corporatism. Obama’s self-defined “evolution” on the issue of same sex marriage only meant that yet another social movement had left career politicians in the dust. As for the Affordable Care Act, the signature law better known as Obamacare — and please keep in mind that even MoveOn prefers that brand name now — it was a grand business deal with private insurance companies, putting patients last in line after bureaucrats, executives and lobbyists. The Physicians for a National Health Care Program tried making the case for a single-payer system, by extending Medicare for all. Dr. Margaret Flowers and other single-payer advocates were arrested when they tried to speak up during congressional hearings on health care reform, but the commander-in-chief had given the command that single payer (and even the much weaker “public option” plan) was “off the table.”

Under Obama, the reach and intrusiveness of the surveillance state was greatly extended. In foreign policy, Obama has been a commander-in-chief fully at the service of imperial interests and has likewise extended the use of drones in air warfare, and yet there are “progressives” who argue that Obama will prove to have been a “kinder, gentler” imperialist in the recent run of presidents. Who knows? That may be a self-fulfilling prophecy if Hillary Clinton becomes our next commander-in-chief.

Congress remains the front office of the ruling class. If the neo-Keynesian nostrums of Paul Krugman (regularly published as op-ed columns in The New York Times) truly interested Obama, then Obama would have hired Krugman already. Instead, Obama recycled the usual Wall Street fraternity through his inner circle. And if Elizabeth Warren was really the new face of populism in the Democratic Party, she’d be throwing sharp elbows into Hillary Clinton’s game by now. And does anyone remember Dennis Kucinich? A sweet guy with good values, but it was all over once he took a ride with Obama on Air Force One. Now Kucinich is making automated phone calls to endorse the candidacy of Marianne Williamson, a stellar fixture of the New Age movement.

Bernie Sanders, the only avowed socialist in Congress, is officially an independent. If Sanders intends to run a fair and square oppositional campaign in the future, he should consider building the base of independent political action in this country. That includes building the base of independent parties of the democratic left, including the Socialist Party and the Green Party. Otherwise, Sanders will be a small voice of conscience at the mercy of the capitalist chorus in Congress, and he will not build class-conscious traction against the big corporate parties.

If Hillary Clinton commits to running for president in 2016, a new coalition of the juvenile and the senile will laud yet another hologram of hope and change. Class-conscious workers and citizens, however, will judge such “public servants” by a much higher standard than the mere breaking of stratospheric “glass ceilings.” The ground of equality is the only sure foundation for public office, and the real test of class-conscious solidarity does not arrive only on the calendar days of big elections.

The Socialist Party of the United States is a historic party of democratic socialism, and our members are committed to peace, equality and ecological common sense. Socialist candidates for public office deserve a fair hearing in public debates. If the big media wants to market itself as a bullhorn for big business, then that news should also be spread by every class-conscious worker and citizen.

Solidarity,

Scott Tucker

From: Mimi Soltysik
Date: Thursday, May 8, 2014 7:51 PM

I posted this on Facebook today after going through an interview process with the Los Angeles News Group:

“Yesterday at 4:37pm I received an email from the Los Angeles News Group, which includes the Daily Breeze and the Long Beach Press Telegram, asking if I could come to their Long Beach office today at 4 p.m. to join the candidates in an interview session as the Los Angeles News Group goes through its endorsement process. I responded when I got home from school at 10 p.m., stating that I would not be able … to make the trip on the short notice, but that if they would be willing to allow me to participate via teleconference, I’d be happy to attend. They agreed.

When I was called to participate, I was patched in to the room where all of the other candidates were already present. After the other candidates were given full opportunity to introduce themselves and explain why they were running, it was my turn. I was cut off after about two minutes as one of the representatives from the Los Angeles News Group said, “We get it.”

That was about the extent of my participation in the interview, which lasted roughly one hour. Following a question about pensions for state employees, another candidate mentioned the cost of medical care versus countries in Europe. I tried to offer a direct response, and yes, I did mention the need for a socialized medical program. I was cut off and told that my response wasn’t relevant to the pension question.

I tried once more to offer my perspective when the issue of job creation was brought up, and I was cut off once more and the conversation between the Los Angeles News Group and the other candidates continued.

I understand that the socialist message might be uncomfortable to Democratic and Republican candidates running for office. I can see why it would. I did not mince words when I gave my introduction. I am not running to make friends with the capitalist establishment. And while I don’t expect to be treated with respect by a news agency when asked to participate in an endorsement process, it doesn’t mean I can’t express myself when I feel I have been treated disrespectfully.

I’m not writing this looking for sympathy. I do want to say to those looking to the two parties of capitalism for representation, take a closer look. You are being conned. Your close attention is not only unexpected, it’s unwelcome.”

Scott Tucker
Contributor
Scott Tucker is a writer and a democratic socialist. His book of essays, "The Queer Question: Essays on Desire and Democracy," was published by South End Press in 1997. He met Larry Gross in 1975, and they…
Scott Tucker

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