The following is an interview conducted by Paul Pipkin with Joel Benavidez responding:
1) Joel, you’re an officer of the Socialist Party?
I am. I was elected Vice-Chair of the Socialist Party of Texas in August of 2011; nominated by SPUSA’s current Vice-Presidential candidate, Alex Mendoza.
2) SPUSA is the party founded by Eugene Debs? It was once very powerful in Texas, was it not? Yea, Socialist Party USA was once called Socialist Party of America and The Social Democratic Party before that. Debs was our founder. He was a real American hero, and a model for anyone in the Occupy movement. He protested for workers rights and the draft and was arrested as a result. He once won 6% of the presidential vote from prison. He had lot of influence in Texas as well. The party shook state elections in the early 20th century, and had tens of thousands of supporters from my understanding. Socialism is as American as Apple Pie, and as Texan as a pair of boots.
3) Why are you running for Bexar Co Justice of the Peace (precinct 2, pl 1)? JP’s have a direct impact on the people in their communities. They resolve small claims disputes, evictions, and misdemeanor charges. This translates into real money that is now, more precious than ever for the poor and working class people of precinct 2. As the Green Party Candidate for JP, I’ll be in a position to be a real people’s judge.
4) Tell us something about Joel Benavidez. I wish I didn’t have to concern myself with politics. I’d much rather wake up to my daughter smiling and a round of Yoga. I keep a wheat grass garden, work an honest job for my family, take them down to the coast for a weekend of water sports when we can… But there is too much poverty and suffering going on not to care. Sometimes I nod my head in disbelief. Did you know that in 2009 one in every 5 San Antonio residents were living beneath the poverty line? That’s a lot of families out there right now, choosing between a bill and groceries.
5) What is your agenda? I mean, what issues do you want to press? Well, like I said, nearly 20% of San Antonians are living in poverty and it’s only been getting worse. Whenever it is in my power to help someone in need, I help. I’m not going to change that policy when I win the JP seat., I’ll continue to make the calls that help, within the confines of the law.
6) Green is not a socialist party. How did you come run on the Green Party line? It was a coordination between the Greens and Socialist Party USA at the state level. David Wager from the Greens asked me to video conference in during one of their state meetings, and the purpose of the call was to compare our platforms. That is, the party platforms of the Greens and SPUSA. And what we concluded, was that they were fairly similar. It’s around that time that Greens issued an invite to third party groups such as SPUSA and the Occupy movement to join the Greens in reclaiming our government.
7) How do you see the relationship between the Democrat and Republican Parties & Corporate America? I make very little distinction between the Democrats and the GOP. They’re both well within the pockets of Verizon, Walmart, and Goldman Sachs to name a few. And lately, it seems to me they vote the same way on a lot of issues. There is no alternative vote in DC. It’s all very homogeneous and draconian. Many Democrats feel that the Greens are a threat to liberal and leftist command on the ballot, but what they fail to see is that, on the global political spectrum, the Democrats are entirely on the right. In other words, while not as far to the right as the Republicans, the dems are still a right wing party. And the mainstay of US politics is on the right; there is no mainstream left-wing party left in the U.S. There is an extremist element out there co-opting the dems and it’s with the Corporations and the big Banks.
8 ) Bexar County Green Party has rather “married” Occupy. Do you think the Occupy movement has entered a more political phase? The Occupy folks are as varied as the day is long. Which is not to say they are incohesive; They have the GA and for now, direct democracy is their path, but look at what it has spawned. People from Occupy has fanned out and are now working on neighborhood initiatives, they’re lobbying for campaign reform, they’re running for representative seats with the Green Party! I think there is a political aspect to occupy that’s weaved itself into countless institutions and organizations across the globe. Covertly or overtly, it’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with.
9) Please address the concern that the name “socialist” has been demonized to the point of scaring the general public. Republicans enjoy socialist comforts everyday! They send their kids to public schools and drive on public roads, they get mail, and let’s hope they all get social security. In San Antonio we have the city waste disposal, SAWS, unionized public transportation and semi-socialized energy. These are all socialist programs and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of republicans to want toll roads everywhere. Too many people think Socialism and Stalinism are synonymous. They’re not! It’s up to us to make sure that false meme is squelched.
10) How do you see the impact/outcome of your electoral effort?
I’m gonna win. Or we continue to get much of the same. That’s the way I see it.