‘A Fighting Campaign’: Gloria La Riva Brings Socialist Option to US Presidential Race

© Pax Ahimsa Gethen; Wikimedia CommonsGloria La Riva, 2016 presidential candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the California Peace and Freedom Party, speaks at a rally against Donald Trump's presidential inauguration at United Nations Plaza in San Francisco, California, on January 20, 2017
Gloria La Riva, 2016 presidential candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the California Peace and Freedom Party, speaks at a rally against Donald Trump's presidential inauguration at United Nations Plaza in San Francisco, California, on January 20, 2017 - Sputnik International
Sputnik recently sat down with Gloria La Riva, a California labor activist running for US president on a third-party ticket who says her socialist campaign offers a real alternative to Donald Trump and Joe Biden, who are united in upholding American capitalism. In 2016, she received 74,000 votes - the most any socialist has received since 1976.

MA: This is Morgan Artyukhina, I’m here today with Gloria La Riva.

GLR: Hi, my name is Gloria La Riva and I’m running for President of the United States as a socialist for the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) in 15 states, but one of them as a candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party of California and in Vermont for the Liberty Union Party. And it’s been an incredibly vital campaign, with the members, activists supporters of the PSL all over the country.

MA: And I just have a few questions for you today, Gloria. Biden and Trump, your two competitors - two millionaires - have claimed to be candidates for the working class, and their parties do the same. However, a glance at their spending concerns suggests otherwise. Can you tell me how your platform and concerns differ from theirs in this field?

GLR: It’s a difference of night and day, my campaign versus that of the two candidates of the Democrats and the Republicans. For example, their role, really, as the executive of the United States, the ruling class, is to maximize profits, when you think about it. That’s why the policies of every president has been to decrease taxes for the rich and increase taxes for the poor. They couch it in terms of the working class - oh, like we’re against taxes - but it always comes down to taxation on the working class through overt and covert taxation. 

What we’re calling for is for the takeover of the banks and the major corporations in order to use that wealth, that enormous wealth that comes from workers’ labor, to create free health care, free education, housing for all and all the needs that people have day-in and day-out. 

So, as a socialist, we would employ many executive orders. I think the interesting thing about Trump is that he has used the executive power in so many ways that others previously haven’t done: jailing immigrants, separating children, trying to build a wall against Mexico and abrogating all the protections of the environment. 

So, we would reverse those: we would free the people from the jails and also reduce greatly the prison population. Use the wealth - instead of rescuing the banks, as they did in the early part of the pandemic and continue to do so by trillions of dollars, that wealth should be used to providing income for all adults so that the families can be safe at home, so that they can acquire, through the takeover of Apple, and HP and Microsoft, computers for every child, internet for every child and for every household. These are just fundamentals: to use the resources of the government, to use the Defense Production Act in order to create all the needs to combat the COVID virus.

​​MA: You and your running mate, Sunil Freeman, are on the ballot in 14 states and Washington, DC, and an official write-in candidate in another 12, with those numbers increasing weekly. Tell me about your campaign’s struggle as a third party to get on the ballot and to get into other events, such as debates.

GLR: What most people don’t know in the country is that it’s more than Democrat and Republican. However, third parties have an enormous obstacle to try to overcome to try to get on any ballot. For example: in every state there is a different process. Thousands of signatures or tens of thousands, or even 150,000, as in California. So, for us to get on the ballot in 15 states, where it took our members to collect more than 6,000 signatures in New Mexico or 4,000 in Illinois, is quite a feat. But the problem is also not just being on the ballot, it’s having media access. And all the major corporations, the television stations especially, will not have any third-party candidate in the media this year.

​MA: In your home state of California, we have seen catastrophic wildfires devastating lands and lives. Point 2 of your platform’s 10-point program is “combat the climate crisis.” How would your administration do that?

GLR: To save the planet from the environmental destruction, which is accelerating every day - it needs international cooperation. And there needs to be more than the Kyoto Protocol; it needs to be much, much tougher. For example, banning deep-sea fishing from all the main countries that really trawl the oceans and destroy so many of the fishing stock - Norway, the United States, Japan, even China - all the countries could cooperate together to put a ban on fishing for a year, two years, until the ocean can recover. The other part is the issue of plastics and petrochemicals and the oil industry. We must stop fracking immediately. We must stop the use of an inordinate amount of plastics. Now, plastics have been needed in the pandemic, but there’s a way to really eliminate much of the use of household plastic and really reserve it only for medical use. 

That’s just a little bit of what we need to do for the environment. But certainly, to move toward [a] fossil fuel-free environment immediately. And that is necessary - again, in using the Defense Production Act. That is a law that was passed in 1950 to build weaponry to bomb, to carpet-bomb Korea in the Korean War, but the essence of the law says that any factory, any industry can be taken over for production for defense purposes of the population. Certainly, we need to save the planet, and that is the ultimate defense.

​MA: You were recently in Louisiana knocking on people’s doors. Tell me about what brought you to that area and how it relates to your campaign.

GLR: On August 27, Hurricane Laura hit and destroyed the city of Lake Charles, Louisiana. So twice, my campaign - PSL members and myself - we traveled to Louisiana, first to Lake Charles. We gathered money, spent a lot of money to bring food and water to people who were abandoned, stranded in the city without any water or food. 

Then we returned for a week of organizing in New Orleans, where thousands of people are housed temporarily in the hotels. The reason that we went - FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is refusing to give the people what they need to recover. So we went there to organize with the community a protest, which received a lot of media coverage.

Our fight is not over there, but this is part of why we say our campaign for president is a fighting campaign.

​MA: Keeping with the theme of struggle: recently in Denver, four activists with your party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, were arrested and given what your campaign has called “trumped-up charges” after they led protests against the Aurora Police Department’s refusal to hold officers accountable for the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. Can you tell me how your campaign is supporting the Movement for Black Lives and what a La Riva/Freeman administration would do to address the crises of racism and police violence in America?

GLR: The socialist campaign of the PSL is really an expression of the politics of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. And in that, we believe that the struggle against the War on Black America is essential. Without the struggle against racism, we can’t talk about a legitimate fight for justice. 

And starting with the assassination of George Floyd, we have been in the streets everywhere, from New York to Miami to Los Angeles to Seattle, Washington. And that includes my campaign, where we - I, personally, have been in Portland, Oregon; in Rochester, New York; Nashville, Tennessee; Burlington, Vermont; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Washington, DC; Providence, Rhode Island; and in Boston marching against police brutality, for justice for Breonna Taylor. In these days we’ve seen the outrage of no police being prosecuted for murdering her in her home. And also, every day there’s probably about three police killings of people. The rate has not slowed down; this year it will be more than 1,000 people - because we’re only still at the end of September - a thousand people murdered by the police. That’s intolerable, and why we say one of our essentials in our 10-point program is jail killer cops.

​​​​MA: Okay, I want to turn to the sphere of foreign policy for a moment. Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy has outlined Russia and China as the most important US policy concerns internationally, saying that the US needs to engage in “great power competition” with these countries. It’s dedicated more than $760 billion towards the Pentagon’s annual budget. What would your administration’s top priorities be internationally?

GLR: First of all, the $760 billion in military spending is far more than that. It’s more like $1 trillion, because nuclear weapons production and the whole industry is in the Department of Energy budget, and so it’s more like $1 trillion. But all this weaponry, and the building up of the arsenal of the Pentagon, is intended solely for global domination, for taking over countries’ resources, such as that of Venezuela, where the US is still trying to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Nicolas Maduro for the oil. And there is nothing in the US policy, in the US military policy, for protecting the people of the United States or the people of the world. It’s strictly for expanding imperialist interests in the world.

What we would do is shut down all 800 US bases that are known, and then shut those that we don’t know of yet. Those military bases are occupying other countries. You cannot be free if you have a foreign entity, foreign troops on your soil. South Korea’s occupied by the United States; that’s part of the reason the country has not been reunified, both North and South. Cuba has 47 square miles of its territory, Guantanamo Base, stolen from it all these years; it must be returned back to Cuba. In essence, we’re saying that the military should be shut down, the Pentagon budget should be stopped, and all those resources - $1 trillion - could be used to create jobs, housing, health care and to rebuild the infrastructure. Instead of bombs, rebuild this country. 

You know, Cuba sends thousands of doctors around the world - the US sends bombs. It’s the difference between a socialist and a capitalist country. But the US, as Martin Luther King said, is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and our campaign, our struggle for socialism, is about ending that threat to the world and bringing true peace.

​MA: In Point 1 of your platform, you call for the creation of a completely free and public health care system and say health care should be a guaranteed right. Recently, Biden’s Twitter account tweeted out: “Health care is a right - not a privilege.” This follows news that more than 200,000 Americans have died of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Can you tell me how your administration would address the pandemic and the general health crisis in the US in ways that Trump has not and Biden has not proposed?

GLR: Well I think, in the immediate sense, just taxing Amazon the way they should be taxed, which did not pay a penny last year, that alone would pay for health care for everybody in this country. It is an astounding fact that the reason there’s no health care for people and a national plan is because the major corporations get away without paying taxes. And why is it that people have to depend on their health care with their job? And if you lose your job - as 50 million people have done in this pandemic - you lose your health care. It’s one of the biggest crises in the middle of the major, unprecedented crisis called COVID-19. People need health care, they need to be able to get preventive care and treatment in a hospital, if it reaches that stage if they get sick. It’s a catastrophe. And we think everybody, including those who are not citizens, those who live in the United States, should have the access of free, universal health care.

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