Gloria La Riva’s talk at Peace and Freedom Party 50th Anniversary Commemoration

Photo: Steve Patt

Thanks to my fellow panelists. I don’t go back as far as some, as I joined PFP when I moved to San Francisco in 1981.

All the corporate media coverage of war criminal and former president George W. Bush’s October 19 speech focused on his very thinly veiled attack on Trump on behalf of the political establishment. But what wasn’t paid much attention to was this passage from early in the speech:

“There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning.”

Let me repeat, “especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning.”

The genocidal U.S. wars on Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos; the mass torture regimes established by the CIA in Iran, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Argentina, Uruguay, and more; the assassination of countless revolutionary and progressive leaders; the U.S. armed and funded Israeli wars against Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian people; the blockades of Cuba, Iraq and Nicaragua; support for the apartheid regime in South Africa; the counter-revolutionary wars in Central America; the ongoing threat of a U.S. first-strike nuclear war; etc., etc.—all of this was “the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War,” for Bush and the establishment he represents. Many liberals praised Bush as a “voice of reason” and “moderation.” But then again, they are as much a part of the imperialist ruling class as are the conservatives.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, we know that what brought “ruin” to the Soviet Union was not “socialist central planning”—which in fact had enabled the USSR to rise from extreme backwardness to becoming the second largest economy on earth. It was the abandonment of socialist planning under the Gorbachev/Yeltsin regime with support from Washington that brought down the Soviet Union.

The interesting question is why Bush and his advisers chose to make this point in the midst of a polemic mainly directed against Trump and extreme right-wing supporters.

And the answer is that they are aware that along with the rise of the neo-fascists, there is also a dramatic rise in interest in socialism, particularly among young people. U.S. society is experiencing a kind of polarization that has not been seen in many decades. Socialist organizations are growing across the country. And the interest in socialism and revolution is not just in the big cities on the coasts but in many of what are called the “red states.” At the People’s Congress of Resistance held at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in September, more than 700 delegates from 38 states and more than 200 cities and towns came together, many of them from Southern and Midwest states. As one of the organizers put it, “Our aim is to make the red states truly red!” Peace and Freedom Party was one of the early endorsers of the People’s Congress.

The last time there was the kind of polarization we are seeing today was the 1960s, and it gave rise to the Peace and Freedom Party, as a joint effort of forces in the anti-war movement, the Black Panther Party, and other left forces. The new radicalization that is taking place offers both a big opportunity and challenges to PFP today. Can the PFP become an electoral vehicle in California for the growing socialist and radical movements? Can PFP retain its ballot status and broaden its base inside California and establish connections with socialist organizations outside California?

The year 2018 is very important for Peace and Freedom in this regard. There will be elections for all the statewide offices—governor and lieutenant governor, treasurer, insurance commissioner, and others. I know that C.T. [Weber] has already announced that he is planning to run for secretary of state. While due to the reactionary “Top Two” proposition, it is almost impossible for any third-party candidate to make to the November ballot, getting 2 percent of the vote in the primary for a statewide office now maintains ballot status for “third parties.” In 2014, Nathalie Hrizi won 5.6 percent of the vote in a three-way race. It is critical for a PFP candidate in one of those races to achieve the 2 percent threshold next year. The process of qualifying for the June 2018 primary ballot will begin very soon, in about two months.

The California primary will be moved to March for the 2020 election year, but for 2018 it will remain in June.

The Peace and Freedom Party is an achievement of the people’s movement that must be defended and strengthened. We hope that everyone here tonight—if you are not already registered—will register Peace and Freedom, join in active support, and donate to help build the party.

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