Presidential candidate Claudia De la Cruz on reparations and her fight for a socialist third option
New York, New York - Claudia De la Cruz is shaking up the 2024 presidential race with a platform centering reparations and people-powered change. TAG24 NEWS spoke with the socialist candidate about her fight to break the two-party stranglehold on US politics and deliver for working-class Americans.
Claudia De la Cruz announced her presidential campaign, along with running mate Karina Garcia, on September 7. The two women represent the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), founded in 2004 to offer a people-centered alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties.
In their policy program, Cruz and Garcia call for reparations for Black Americans, a demand they see as inextricable from a socialist transformation of society.
"We have the capitalist system that we currently have because slavery and colonialism were the downpayment for the capitalist system," De la Cruz told TAG24 NEWS in an exclusive interview.
"The exploitation, the brutal violence, and the level of expropriation, not only of human beings but also of land, is something that has created the system in which we live and has created the wealth in the hands of a few," the South Bronx native continued.
"For us, the question of reparations is at the center of our work."
Delivering on reparations
De la Cruz's pledge to support reparations efforts comes amid growing calls for a comprehensive reckoning with the US' legacy of enslavement and structural discrimination.
After the 2020 police murder of George Floyd, HR 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and had enough committed supporters to advance further. But the bill was never brought to a vote on the House floor.
Republicans retook control of the House in 2022, and reparations advocates shifted their demands to President Joe Biden, who has the authority to enact a federal reparations commission without congressional approval. Biden expressed support for such a commission on the 2020 campaign trail, but has so far failed to follow through on his promise as president.
This lack of meaningful action on reparations comes as no surprise to De la Cruz: "Capitalism was created precisely to have a large pool of people to be exploited. Taking the steps to build any kind of structural change or infrastructural change that would bring about an actual transformation from the root is not something that benefits the Republicans or the Democrats."
De la Cruz argued that the capitalist system is adaptable when it comes to preserving the status quo, giving people just enough to prevent a popular uprising.
"The methods of oppression and exploitation have changed significantly in this country, but at the very core, slavery is still very real and segregation is still very real, by race and by economics," she said.
"If we continue to put our destiny, our hopes, our aspirations, and our needs in the hands of politicians who serve profit, who serve capital, then we'll continue to lose, no matter what promises they make and what colors they come in."
Fighting for a radical redistribution of wealth and power
One of the primary obstacles to reparatory justice is the myth that there is not enough wealth to go around, De la Cruz said. She pointed out that top corporations are making trillions in profits, while the US government is sending tens of billions to fund the war in Ukraine.
"Everybody wants to be a full human being. Everybody wants to develop to their full capacity. But we can't because we've been told there's not enough. We have to break from that. There is more than enough, but it's being held by a few. We have to fight to be able to access all we've produced," De la Cruz insisted.
While cash payments are most certainly due to Black Americans, De la Cruz believes true freedom will not be possible if the capitalist model is allowed to continue largely as is. For De la Cruz, this means massive investments in services and infrastructure as well as the creation of organs to keep the government accountable to the communities it serves. Her platform also calls for the seizure of the top 100 corporations in the US, which have reaped enormous profits at the expense of everyday working people.
"What I would like to see is some sort of people's tribunal. Why don't we establish a commission of truth and bring forth all the criminals of war who are still alive, bring forth all of these so-called CEOs of big corporations, all of the corrupted politicians, all of the enemies of working-class people? Let's bring them to trial as we expropriate the shit out of them," she said.
"The question is having economic, social, and political power so we can have control of our destinies, so that our generations can be guaranteed better lives, so we can transform society from its roots."
Building a people-powered movement for change
For De la Cruz and the PSL, breaking through the corporate duopoly is about decolonizing the land; ensuring basic constitutional protections like access to housing, health care, public transportation, and recreational spaces; and transforming the way people relate to each other and to their workplaces.
"We know that capitalist electoral politics is a sham. We know that the system is rigged. We know that it serves the Wall Street bankers and corporations and war-makers," De la Cruz said.
"But even knowing that, we're here. We're ready to expose what the system is, and we're ready to petition with people in the streets of communities all across the States because we need to be able to build people power."
In 2020, PSL succeeded in getting candidates on the ballot in 15 states and hopes to exceed that number this cycle, while encouraging voters in other states to write in De la Cruz for president.
"The biggest thing for us in this electoral process is being able to engage with communities, being able to uplift struggles, being able to contribute to building the confidence of the working-class to know and understand that we deserve more than what we've been given, that we shouldn't be okay with crumbs, that we shouldn't be okay with the limited perspective that these are the only two options we have," De la Cruz explained.
"We can build a new future; we just need to be able to get organized. We really don't have anything more to lose than our chains. They've taken everything."
Cover photo: Claudia de la Cruz for President