TNS: Thanks Seth for taking the time to do this interview. The first question is, why are you running.
SB: Im running because i believe the 21st century has great opportunity with all the wealth and technology that’s been created. Sadly so far its been nothing but more austerity and Reaganomics from both parties. I want to connect movements to electoral politics outside the two parties and push back at Capital’s control of our society.
TNS: You’re running for state senate in Maine. What is the state of independent left politics in Maine?
SB: I’m running for state senate because its an open seat and feel I can connect with issues affecting our whole state more effectively. The state of independent left politics is at a low point in Maine. Despite the Maine Green Independent Party doing great things over the years, Greens endorsing Democrats over the past years has done great damage. I’ve been working with some folks to start up a SPUSA chapter here in Southern Maine and I think that’s going to offer more promise medium term. The dysfunction within the state Green Party leads to nothing getting done and it drives honest people away.
TNS: You are on the ballot as a green though. What went into you making that decision rather than running as an independent socialist?
SB: Well back when I decided to run me and some other left leaning greens thought we could reform the party. A handful of us got on the state committee and soon realized it was a hopeless attempt. The party has little culture of politics discussion internally, a very anti socialist element exists and very little was able to be done in my brief time on the committee.
TNS: As of this interview one of the so-called leaders of the Maine Independent Green Party has come out and endorsed your Democrat opponent on Facebook. How will this not only affect your campaign but how you work with greens in Southern Maine going forward?
SB: Well its not really news to me, she’s been all about Chipman from day one. For many years until he left to get elected to a state house seat unaffiliated in 2010 Chipman was a green. On primary day she got in a big yelling match at a Portland green meeting about supporting him and went to his election night party. I’ve tried to stay positive and focus on what I can do with help from local SPUSA members, but Jacqui[Deveneau] combined with other dysfunction has led to little to no help from greens.
TNS: Understood. What type of independent political party would you like to help build in Maine?
SB: I’d like to build one that clearly rejects the major parties , is socialist and strives to maintain a healthy internal culture. I feel SPUSA is the banner to do that under. I joined in the early summer and went to the national organizing conference and knew it was the party for me. I love the anti sectarian nature of it overall.
TNS: As a candidate, what are the major issues facing your neighbors, your community in Maine and how would you like to help solve them?
SB: Gentrification is one of the major issues in Portland. Greater Portland is the only part of Maine with a half decent economy and rents are through the roof. Finding even a one bed room for under $1200 is near impossible to find in my district. Very soon Portland will be only for people who have six figure incomes. Rent stabilization, an end to developers having cozy relations with city hall and a $15 an hour minimum wage with no sub minimum tipped wage would be a start to dealing with the crisis.
TNS: Ok. What activism or groups were you involved with prior to your campaign?
SB: In college I was involved with the Maine Peace Action committee and briefly the Student Labor Action Project when it was around at Umaine. After college I lived and worked in central Maine for awhile where I grew up and was someone isolated from local activism. When I moved to Portland in late 2014 I got involved with the Portland Greens
TNS: What advice would you give young people just becoming activists and also learning about socialism?
SB: Read everything you can, always consider the material conditions of the 21st century and treat your comrades with dignity and respect. Its fine to have debates and disagreements and even be in different organizations but the last thing the left needs right now is silly sectarian fighting.
TNS: What does socialism means to you?
SB: Socialism to me means organizing our society around the needs of humanity. Its about breaking free of growth for growth sake and exchange value. Its about applying what workers have created for the well being of everyone on earth.
TNS: I have only a few more questions. What does the needed revolution looks like to Seth Baker?
SB: It means the American left working together and reaching out to everyday people who have been left behind. Although the Sanders campaign had its faults but what was amazing was the collection of everyday people it brought together. Not every Sanders voter is a socialist but many people are upset at the government’s inability to do anything for workers. We are not going to turn everybody into socialists overnight but reaching out outside our comfort zone and talking to people is what we need to do. Only socialism can offer the alternative to our cold alienated broken society.
TNS: Any thoughts on the campaigns of Stein/Baraka, Soltysik/Walker and a way to build left unity post November 8th, even if it only begins with comrades from the SP and GP joining forces around certain issues?
SB: I think the Green ticket does a good job on lots of issues especially the green new deal but I think Stein specifically uses a lot of “middle class” language and fails connect to working class concerns like Bernie did. To be clear I’m not questioning Jill’s values , I’ve met her I know she cares I just feel like the campaign doesn’t connect as well as it could. I think overall the green party can get into a trap of positioning itself as a mostly a middle class slash middle age party. I really like what the Soltysik/Walker ticket is doing and think they are both excellent organizers. I think they both do a great job of reaching out to people online and in person to folks who would otherwise be ignored by our political system. I think the goal in 2020 against what will likely be a Clinton reelection is left unity with one good ticket on all 50 ballots to counter the neoliberal decay of America.
TNS: Final question. What are your plans as fas as community activism and organising are concerned, whether you win or lose post election?
SB: My plans after the election is to build the Socialist Party of Southern Maine and work with the Portland Tenants Union to bring renters together to challenge gentrification and lower rents.
TNS: Would you like to add anything else?
SB: Think that covers it, thanks.
TNS: Thanks Seth and all the best to you comrade. Peace and solidarity always.