Last month, I had the opportunity to talk with Carlos Alvarez, the Peace and Freedom Party candidate for governor. He was in Fresno the same day Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman held their debate at Fresno State, which was broadcast throughout the state. Alvarez and other third-party candidates were banned from participating in the debate and have a difficult time getting their message out to voters. In an attempt to provide balance and give our readers the opportunity to hear alternative voices, we present this interview with Carlos Alvarez, a socialist who is running to be governor of California.
Community Alliance (CA): Why are you running for governor, and tell me a little bit about yourself.
Carlos Alvarez: Well, I’m 24 years old. I grew up in south-central Los Angeles and I still live there. I’m running for governor as a socialist. I believe that currently we have a huge waste of resources under the current system. Under capitalism, what you have is a super-rich minority continuing to make super profits while the rest of us see continuing cutbacks to education, housing and healthcare. I’m running because there are a lot of things we can do right now: We can end cutbacks, we can tax the corporations, we can tax big oil, we can tax the banks and take back the money they are trying to take from us.
CA: What makes the Peace and Freedom Party different from the Green Party?
Alvarez: The Peace and Freedom Party is a socialist party. I’m also a member of the party for Socialism and Liberation, one of the groups that functions within the umbrella of organizations that is the Peace and Freedom party. The Peace and Freedom Party is a socialist ballot access party. It differentiates itself from the Green Party because the Green Party has, for example, progressive stances on many issues and we, of course, support and unite with them on those issues, but we believe that we need to go further than to look for solutions within the current system. We believe that it is ultimately limited—what we can do within the current system. We cannot, for example, have a planned economy under capitalism.
Capitalism—what it does is it functions to serve the profits of a minority of individuals that can employ the rest of us. That is what the current system is. I believe you need to plan the economy. You need to see how many houses you need, how many hospitals you need and where. How many roads need to be built, how many homes are in shoddy condition, how many homes need to be upgraded to make sure people are living in decent housing, how many pipelines need to be fixed.
Recently, we had the destruction that happened because of Pacific Gas and Electric up in San Bruno; it was a tragedy, but it was also a crime. It was a crime on behalf of PG&E. PG&E asked for $5 million in 2007 because they saw this pipeline needed to be repaired. Then they asked for $5 million again in 2009 and they made no repairs. Up to the point of the explosion, they had made no repairs. That is criminal negligence on the part of PG&E, and the utilities should be taken out of their hands and put in the hands of the people. The utilities belong to the people. Those are the natural resources of the earth. We should all share those. You could do that through municipalization, for example. Ultimately, we need to stop all cut-offs, make sure that people have electricity, people have gas. I stand for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures as well.
CA: Where do you and the Peace and Freedom Party stand on social issues like marriage equality, a woman’s right to choose and the war on drugs?
Alvarez: I unconditionally support marriage equality. I am actually the only queer candidate on the ballot, as far as I know. I demand free abortion on demand when somebody asks for it. The war on drugs is a war on the poor. It is a war on the most impoverished communities in our society.
You are talking about mostly communities of color. You are talking about communities that see real social ills, that see real problems in their society, but instead of actually dealing with those problems, instead of giving those communities resources to education and housing, instead of doing that, what we do is ballooning the prison population. We increase the police on the street; it becomes a militarized state, almost a police state. That is where the interest lies in the current system—that they use the prisons to create higher profits for certain corporations that use prison labor and pay inmates cents for work that other workers outside of prison would be paid much more to do.
I am for the ending of “three strikes,” and I believe we need to decrease the prison population. It costs $45,000 to jail an inmate for a year. With that money you can send 15 students to school for a year. That parallel shows where the priorities are in the current government and the corporations that run it.
CA: Let’s talk about the failed drug wars in this country. There is a related proposition on this November’s ballot, Proposition 19. What is your position on 19, and what do you think about the ongoing drug wars?
Alvarez: I am for the legalization of marijuana. I think people should stop ending up in prison for violating parole for smoking a joint. The war on drugs is a war on the poor. If you are talking about the health concerns, you know I rarely even hear them talking about the health concerns. What we hear about really is criminalization. We hear about how these people must be in jail, how these are criminals doing this, very gung-ho sort of language and you end up with the biggest prison population in the world. Instead of actually dealing with these issues as a health concern, which it could potentially be the case of drugs like heroin, for example—instead of treating it like a health concern, you treat them as criminals and you throw them in jail. What does that do for a person’s inability to cope with life or their inability to get off of heroin? That does not help. What that does is throws millions of people in prison and creates the sort of society that just funnels our people straight into prison, out of jobs and into further destitution.
CA: Let’s talk about the immigration issue and our relationship to workers that come from Mexico and Central America. What are your thoughts on the immigration issue?
Alvarez: I’m for full legalization. Immigrants are the most exploited labor in this country. They are also the most repressed people in this country, repressed by the government. I recently came back from Arizona. I was in Phoenix for several months, and I saw firsthand the type of repression that is happening against the immigrant community. Immigrants in Phoenix fear to leave their houses. They fear to even speak to white people because they are concerned they might get some kind of aggressive hostile response. That is what the state government wanted. The state government wanted to divide people on this basis. SB 1070 was a situation that harmed the entire Latino community in Arizona.
I stand for full legalization and an end to raids that separate families and an end to deportations. We hear so much about these people breaking the laws; they say these people break the laws, they come up and they cross the border. Well, why is it illegal for a person to leave a country where the economy is in a shambles and look for work?
But, yet the same system that created corporations in the country of origin of that worker and that same system that destroyed that same economy, why isn’t that illegal? Why isn’t it illegal for capital to cross borders? Why can capital and profit cross borders? NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, or even free trade agreements with Asia and Africa—we’ve seen what these free trade agreements do. What they do is deteriorate the economies of other nations and they undermine the sovereignty of those countries.
I’m from El Salvador and recently what’s been happening is that the government has declined the entrance of a Canadian mining company. That mining company is now suing the Salvadoran government. What kind of message is that? Putting corporations above the governments of these countries.
I also stand for the people of these countries, of course, above their governments, but it is something that definitely affects the people, the workers of these countries that see their jobs taken away, small businesses completely destroyed because of large monopolies that come in and use up all the resources, pay low wages for workers leaving rural areas and destroying agricultural work in many parts of Latin America. It has really changed the economic systems, at least in its structures in Latin America and we are seeing the effect of it.
We are seeing a mass exodus of people leaving because they just have nothing left. Leaving because they need to make money for their families. They are leaving their families. This is a crime. Immigrants are not the criminals. The criminals are the ones that exploit the people of Latin America, and the criminals are the ones that also exploit the labor of immigrants once they come here. The criminals are the ones that deport immigrants. Those are the criminals, not working people that are trying to make a living, trying to feed their families, and trying to house their families. Those people are not criminals.
This interview, which originally aired on KFCF 88.1 FM, continued as we talked about revolutionary changes taking place in Latin America, why voters should support the Peace and Freedom Party and how you can become involved. The entire interview is available at www.indybay.org/centralvalley/, and you can learn more about the Peace and Freedom Party at www.peaceandfreedom.org/home/.