Salute to the life of El Maestro: PEDRO ALBIZU CAMPOS, on the date of his birth

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By Carlito Rovira

On September 12, 1891, in the municipality of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was born. This iconic figure continues to be highly regarded in Latin American history and revered as Puerto Rico’s leading symbol of Puerto Rico’s independence cause in the Twentieth Centur

On September 12, 1891, in the municipality of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was born. This iconic figure is highly regarded in Latin American history and revered as Puerto Rico’s leading symbol of the independence cause in the Twentieth Century.

Campos was raised by his aunt in a poor but humble family setting. His mother died due to illness when he was a very young child. And when he was only seven years old, on July 25, 1898, the United States militarily invaded Puerto Rico, an outcome of the Spanish-American War.

In the days leading up to the onslaught naval warships blockaded all commercial ports of the island nation. The young Pedro Albizu Campos experienced the panic caused by the U.S. Navy when they threaten to bomb the city of Ponce if the residents did not surrender. Witnessing firsthand the arrogance of foreign soldiers is likely why he held an everlasting contempt for U.S. colonialism.

During his formative years Campos was exceptionally gifted. Due to his academic skills he was put in an accelerated track in school. By 1912 he received a scholarship to study engineering at the University of Vermont. A year later, Campos applied and was accepted to Harvard University.

But with the outbreak of World War 1 in 1917 he joined the U.S. Army where he served as First-Lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s segregated All-Black units.

In 1919 Campos continued his studies. He achieved his law degree, as well as in Literature, Philosophy, Chemical Engineering, Military Science, and Language. Campos fluently spoke English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Greek and classic Latin.

Campos was a genius, not by bourgeois and Euro-centric standards but because of his high level of humanity. His humility, and ability to reaffirm Puerto Rican anti-colonial traditions earned him the nickname “El Maestro” (The Teacher). The common folks greeted him by the name handle “Don” (Don Pedro) – a salutation of endearment and respect in Latino culture.

Campos was the first Puerto Rican to attend Harvard University and graduate with the highest honors. Soon after finishing his education high paying employment offers were made to him, as Hispanic Representative in the Protestant Church, Legal Aide to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. State Department and so on. But Campos declined. Instead, he chose to be a lawyer for the poor, many times defending clients unable to pay him.

Because Don Pedro was adamant with his open condemnation of U.S. imperialism it earned him recognition by other contemporary nationalist and revolutionary figures, most notably Ernesto Che Guevara, James Connolly, Marcus Garvey, to name a few.

Don Pedro was a revolutionary nationalist with an internationalist criterion. In fact, Campos’s outspoken oratory against the “racist practices in the house of the empire” caught the attention of Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Garvey, who traveled to Puerto Rico to meet the renowned leader. Despite their differences in goals and tactics, this meeting was highly symbolic. The two leaders proceeded in their separate line of march but with the highest respect for each other.

Puerto Rican and Irish Solidarity

During his years at Harvard University Campos became involved in support work for the Irish Republican movement. Ireland was at a threshold in its historic liberation struggle against British colonialism. Campos’ admiration for the Irish cause served as his introduction to the ideals of revolutionary politics, which he eventually brought back to Puerto Rico.

Through his direct contact with representatives of Sein Fein in Boston and New York City, Don Pedro became good friends with James Connolly, The renown Irish socialist revolutionary and co-founder of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Connolly was also instrumental in the emergence of the Industrial Workers of the World, (IWW) also known as “The Wobblies”.

Irish revolutionary leaders Éamon de Valera and Connolly asked Campos to contribute a written draft for what would become the Constitution of a free Irish Republic. The collaboration between revolutionaries from two oppressed nations — Boricua and Irish — is of paramount significance in history.

Pedro Albizu Campos assumes leadership

In the earliest days of U.S. colonialism a movement capable of addressing the new circumstances did not exist. The Unionist Party was conveniently repudiating independence from its program in an opportunistic effort to appease the mainstream. After many internal conflicts, on September 17, 1922 the radical members broke away to form the Nationalist Party.

Campos came to prominence in 1925 at a Nationalist rally held in San Juan. Colonial decree required all public events to display the American flag. To stay within the bounds of legality organizers decorated the railing around the stage with small U.S. flags.

As Don Pedro walked to the podium he calmly began to remove the U.S. flags, one by one, and tucked them in his pocket. He began his speech by saying “American flag, I will not salute you, if you symbolize a free and sovereignty nation, in Puerto Rico you represent piracy and pillage.”

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos’ bold act shocked many in Puerto Rico and put into question the lack of militant energy in the Party’s leadership. The courage and charisma Campos demonstrated at this event is likely what propelled his ascendancy to the leadership. In 1927 he was elected Vice President and in 1930 he became President of the Nationalist Party.

In 1927 Campos traveled throughout Latin America and the Caribbean on behalf of the Nationalist Party. His mission was to seek support for Puerto Rico’s independence. Revolutionary nationalist movements were rising up everywhere during that decade.

When Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was elected President of the Nationalist Party in 1930 it sharpened existing internal contradictions. Campo’s more radical political views came into conflict with his rivals who tended to be conciliatory towards U.S. colonial policy.

In addition, due to the history of African chattel slavery in Puerto Rico, white members of the Party became contemptuous to the idea of following the leadership of a Black figure. Racism and reaction to a revolutionary direction compelled conservative forces to leave the Party.

Despite these internal contradictions Don Pedro’s oratory skills, tenacity, defiance, and fearlessness earned him the highest level of moral authority in the independence movement and from all social stratums in Puerto Rican society.

Once Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos assumed leadership the Nationalist Party was qualitatively transformed. In 1932 the Cadets of the Republic were organized — a para-military youth component of 10,000 members with Nationalist Raimundo Diaz Pacheco as its commander. The uniform of the Cadets was black shirts and white pants. They strove to become a liberation army, following the model of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Moreover, under Don Pedro’s leadership, an all-women component to the Party was also created. Among the heroines to rise up to prominence as a result were Rosa Rosado, Blanca Canales, Lolita Lebron, Leonides Diaz, Carmen Maria Perez, Ruth Reynolds, Olga Isabel Viscal Garriga, among others. The women of Puerto Rico have traditionally played exceptional roles as leaders and combatants in the anti-colonial struggle.

Anti-colonialism intertwined with class struggle

U.S. colonial agencies began scrutinizing Campos and the Nationalist Party, especially after they gained influence among the striking sugarcane workers in 1934.

Labor strikes frequently occurred during this period. The influence Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos had on the victorious sugarcane workers heightened the prestige of the Nationalist Party among wider sectors of the Puerto Rican working class.

Worker’s unrest in the United States during the Great Depression was enough havoc for U.S. rulers. Because Campos won the respect of the labor movement in Puerto Rico it compelled Washington officials to repress the Nationalist Party. A media campaign was launched to demonize Don Pedro and the independence cause. The mere sentiments of Puerto Rican nationalism posed a threat to U.S. capitalist interest.

Repression against Puerto Rican nationalism

FBI agents and the colonial police arrested, brutalized, and murdered Nationalists. On October 24, 1935 students at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) were killed by police for merely raising the Puerto Rican flag. In 1936 Don Pedro was imprisoned to ten years supposedly for Conspiring to overthrow the Government. In 1938 the Nationalist Party was banned by decree.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was praised by many, one of whom was the socialist U.S. Congressman Vito Marcantonio. Marcantonio was a staunch supporter of the Puerto Rican independence struggle and served as Campos’ attorney.

The following year on March 21, 1937, on a Sunday morning, in the city of Ponce, hundreds of people – women, children and men — gathered at the town plaza, in a peaceful demonstration to demand the release of Don Pedro. Once the gathering began to march the police carried out the unthinkable — they opened fire with rifles and Thompson submachine guns. The casualties were 21 people killed and 235 wounded. It became known in history as the Ponce Massacre.

U.S. rulers feared the moral authority Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos governed as well as his tenacity and valor. The colonizers were well aware of the legitimacy the Nationalist Party had in the hearts and minds of the people.

The “Gag Law” & defending Boricua dignity

After Don Pedro returned to Puerto Rico from a 10 year prison sentence his resolve proved to be untouched. From a San Juan based radio show Campos conveyed his anti-imperialist views to a listening audience. He also used this media to condemned the secret genocidal activities of Cornelius P. Rhoads, who was later discovered to be the mastermind behind the secret sterilizations of Puerto Rican women.

Washington officials sought ways to impose harsh decrees to minimize the threat posed by growing sentiments favoring independence. On June 10, 1948, Law 53 of 1948, better known as the Gag Law (Spanish: Ley de La Mordaza), was enacted by the U.S. installed San Juan colonial government in a blatant attempt to silence the pro-independence movement.

The Gag Law was filled with many outrageous draconian measures, such as forbidding the mere mention of independence in literature, billboards, music, and public speech. The decree also made it illegal to possess and display the Puerto Rican flag. This law created favorable conditions for repression.

While the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy carried out his anti-communist witch hunt in the United States, the ugliest forms of repression were seen in Puerto Rico. Advocates of independence were blacklisted, denied employment, jailed, or were systematically shot in open daylight.

From this point on advocating independence was considered a risk to one’s life. The persecution against the Nationalists was identical to what was inflicted on the Black Panther Party with the FBI’s Operation: COINTELPRO.

In 1950 Nationalist Party intelligence operatives discovered a secret plan to destroy the movement. Don Pedro was then compelled to make a general call to arms in order to strike the first blow. In response to his directive, Nationalists attacked colonial authorities in cities throughout Puerto Rico.

In San Juan, the headquarters of the Nationalist Party was attacked by police. Campos, Isabel Rosado and others undertook an armed battle until they were overwhelmed by tear gas.

On the morning of October 30, 1950, a young woman named Blanca Canales led one of the boldest actions in Puerto Rican revolutionary history. An armed contingency entered the township of Jayuya in the central region. The Nationalists forced the police to surrender, after a gun battle which lasted an hour. Blanca Canales then gave the command to burn the police headquarters to the ground. This event is remembered as the Jayuya Uprising.

On November 1, 1950 Nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola attempted the assignation of President Harry Truman. Torresola was killed and Collazo was critically wounded in a shootout with the Secret Service and Capital Police.

Adding insult to injury when the question of Puerto Rico was first proposed for discussion before the United Nations Organization in 1952 the U.S. immediately blocked the effort. Washington officials claimed that Puerto Rico was an “internal matter of the United States”. Justifiably, the imperial arrogance of the U.S. only stiffened the resolve of Nationalists living in New York City.

On March 1, 1954, Nationalists Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andres Figueroa Cordero entered the House of Representatives while proceedings were taking place. Lolita Lebrón shouted, “Que viva Puerto Rico libre!” The freedom fighters then aimed their weapons and opened fire on the U.S. Congress.

What followed was brutal suppression of the entire independence movement. Many Nationalists were randomly imprisoned throughout the 1950’s. Anyone with pro-independence inclination was deemed terrorist; civil liberties for Puerto Ricans were virtually non-existent. The prevailing state of fear and intimidation overshadowed colonialism’s tightening economic grip. The Draconian measures of the 1948 Gag Law continues to have a psychological imprint in Puerto Rico to this day.

At his 19th year of imprisonment, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was pardoned, on November 15, 1964, by the notorious Luis Munoz Marin — the U.S. approved Governor and greatest traitor in Twentieth Century Puerto Rcan history. Don Pedro’s release was a political maneuver by the U.S. colonizers to disguise the heinous acts committed against the Nationalist Party.

Despite U.S. government denials evidence showed that Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was tortured with radiation experiments during his incarceration. What was obvious to the naked eye corroborated with findings made by independent medical experts. When Campos was released from prison the physical condition of his body served as indisputable testimony of this heinous crime.

On April 21, 1965, the beloved Don Pedro died at 73 years old. In the final analysis, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was murdered by the U.S. colonizers through a gradual not-so-hidden process.

The Legacy

Although Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos came short of realizing his quest for an independent Puerto Rican republic, he succeeded in revitalizing Boricua revolutionary traditions. He also reaffirmed the self-identity of the Puerto Rican people, which the U.S. colonizers attempted to destroy. In short, Don Pedro left us with a new disposition for our people to utilize in future struggles. That in itself will continue to pose a threat to the U.S. rulers.

His repeated motto “The homeland is valor and sacrifice” describes what he knew the Puerto Rican people are destined to carry out.

El Maestro firmly believed that freedom cannot come about by blindly following posturing political figures or voting in meaningless elections, approved by enemies of our people. Campos was critical of political deceptions designed to corrupt and derail the national liberation struggle.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos knew quite well that his mission in life was to set a revolutionary example — the rest was up to future generations; it is the youth who are destined to smash U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico and make the Boricua contribution to the global defeat of U.S. Imperialism.

Long Live the Memory of El Maestro!

Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

Remember the March 21,1937 PONCE MASSACRE!

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By Carlito Rovira 

The colonization of Puerto Rico began as a consequence of the Spanish-American War in 1898. Cuba, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico were deemed as “spoils of war” — the result of Spain’s surrender to the United States. Puerto Rico was then colonized by a new tyrant. The island nation soon after became a staging ground for U.S. military ventures throughout the Caribbean and all of Latin America; a practice that continues to this day.

Throughout the history of the U.S. colonial presence in Puerto Rico outspoken advocates for independence have been the targets of Draconian measures. Members of the Nationalist Party lived under the constant threat of being blacklisted from employment, their homes firebombed, imprisonment, torture and being killed by the various repressive agencies.

U.S. colonial policy in Puerto Rico has always been administered with complete disregard for the wishes of the Puerto Rican people. It was precisely this disposition by the colonial rulers which brought about one of the most horrifying events in Puerto Rico’s history.

The Ponce Massacre

In the city of Ponce, a peaceful demonstration was planned for March 21, 1937. It was intended to commemorate the 1873 abolition of African chattel slavery in Puerto Rico and to demand the release of imprisoned Nationalist leader Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

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Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos

Although permits were not required the organizers requested permission to have the event out of respect for the sympathetic mayor of Ponce. The organizers were granted a legal permit to proceed with their plans.

The notorious U.S. Army General Blanton Winship was appointed colonial governor by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Despite the “progressive” and “liberal” projections made by bourgeois historians and apologists, Roosevelt was just as brutal as any colonizing head of state acting with impunity. Boricuas suffered tremendously under the FDR administration and Gen. Blanton Winship’s racist implementation of colonial policy.

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Outright brutality through military rule was the preferred form of administering colonialism. Winship tried everything possible to stop the scheduled nationalist event, including using blatant gangster-type methods aimed to intimidate.

In this period of intense repression, the U.S. government, through Winship, sought to stamp out all nationalist sentiments and the self-identity of the colonized nation — especially its quest for independence and self-determination.

On that Palm Sunday morning, hundreds of people — women, children and men — gathered at the town plaza, in defiance of the colonial government’s wishes. Among those who assembled were women dressed in all white who gathered as Nurses of the Republic; the mostly youth comprised Cadets of the Republic — the para-military wing of the Nationalist Party were present in uniform, black shirts and white pants; church congregations and others also formed their contingents.

A Nationalist color guard in military formation unveiled the outlawed Puerto Rican flag. With clenched fists in the air, the crowd began to sing “La Borinqueña” — the original (revolutionary) version of the national anthem of the Puerto Rican people.

At this point, the police had completely sealed off the area where the nationalist protest was gathering. With grenades, tear-gas bombs, carbine rifles and Tommy sub-machine guns, under the directions of Blanton Winship the police prepared for the bloody onslaught.

Once the crowd began to march, knowing that the mostly young participants were unarmed, the police did the unimaginable — they opened fire.

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Photo taken as the colonial police began their attack on Nationalists.

The barrage lasted about 13 minutes. The participants which included elderly and children helplessly attempted to escape the unexpected horror. People began to desperately run to save their lives from bullets flying everywhere. They screamed terrified witnessing the chaos and blood splattering bodies of compatriots who fell to the ground from gunshots wounds.

When the shooting ended, 21 people had been killed and over 200 wounded. The American Civil Liberties Union investigated the tragedy. It was concluded by forensic investigation that those who died were shot in the back. The event brought sadness and shock throughout Puerto Rico. The funeral procession for the martyrs was one of the largest in the country’s history — about 20,000 people attended.

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The cruelty of the Ponce Massacre sheds light on the many heinous acts committed by the U.S. in Puerto Rico. Destruction, death, plunder and rape are the trademarks of colonialism. U.S. rulers perceive Puerto Ricans as expendable; let us not forget how modern times Washington officials allowed 4,743 Puerto Ricans to die from neglect, following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

“It was love for the freedom of our homeland — Puerto Rico,” Nationalist iconic figure Doña Isabel Rosado once said, “that gave strength to the martyrs of Ponce. Nothing in this world is more powerful than this emotion — not even the guns of the colonial assassins.”

And it is precisely this emotion that worries U.S. colonialism even to this day — an emotion that will prove fatal to them when the Puerto Rican masses eventually rise up to avenge the Ponce Massacre.

Changing the form of colonial rule

The nationalist movement that rose up in the first half of the 20th Century compelled the U.S. colonizers to change their methods of subjugating the people of Puerto Rico. Long after the Ponce Massacre, decades later into the present day, the U.S. colonizers became more sophisticated in their methods of domination.

By 1952, Washington, DC allowed some semblances of democracy, in an attempt to fool the people with illusions of self-determination and to disguise the exploitative nature of the colonial relationship before the eyes of the world.

The U.S. colonizers developed such a confidence in their new tactics of colonizing that they became willing to allow individuals of Puerto Rican origin, like the notorious Luis Muñoz Marin, to serve on the highest levels of government — as in years later — the U.S. House of Representative and Supreme Court.

The rulers have no problem granting Puerto Ricans visibility — what they have problems with is granting Puerto Ricans political power, that is, the right to independence. And because freedom is never granted from the “goodness” of an oppressor, it will require a revolutionary mass movement to obtain it.

The U.S. empire is more vulnerable than what most people realize; it has brought on itself enemies in all parts of the globe. We should feel assured that Boricuas will rise up in rebellion and win the historical struggle for independence. On that glorious future moment Puerto Ricans will make their contribution to the worldwide defeat of U.S. imperialism.

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE! 

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ARTURO ALFONSO SCHOMBURG January 24, 1874 – June 10, 1938.

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By Carlito Rovira

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was born on January 24, 1874 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He was a Black Puerto Rican scholar, historian, author and activist, who devoted his entire life to compiling vast collections of writings and art documenting significant events in Black history.

When Schomburg was just 8 years old he was told by a school teacher that Black people had no history. This assertion naturally bothered him for a long time. But as he gradually grew older, Schomburg found the teacher’s claim to make absolutely no sense. That encounter became Schomburg’s motivation which led him to set out and prove wrong such racist notions.

The young Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, 1896

African chattel slavery also touched upon Puerto Rico, which became the consequence of Spanish colonialism in both Africa and Latin America. In 1527 the first slave revolt in Puerto Rico was among the bloodiest in the Western Hemisphere.

Despite the numerous contributions Schomburg made to the preservation of Black-Latino history, like many others he was not immune to anti-Black discrimination. Throughout his entire life, Schomburg experienced blatant racism, sadly within the Puerto Rican community as well.

Colorism, as an extension of white supremacy, often permeated conversations about “Los prietos” (the dark ones), “Pelo bueno y pelo malo” (good hair and bad hair), and so on. As in the United States, the not-so-hidden practices of racism has also existed in Puerto Rico and all of Latin America.

Arturo Schomburg was instrumental in documenting the role of African people in the cultural development of the Puerto Rican nation. The psychic, spirituality, linguistics, diet, music and dance of Puerto Rico pointed to the contributions made by Africans. Schomburg proudly identified as an Afroborinqueño (Afro-Puerto Rican).

Harlem Renaissance & Puerto Rico’s independence struggle

Schomburg became a prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He collaborated with famous individuals like Langston Hughes, Alain Leroy Locke, W.E.B. Du Bois and other pillars of that movement. The Harlem Renaissance succeeded in challenging the ideological facets of white supremacy through the literary, visual and performing arts. It was an exciting and enlightening period in history for the African diaspora, following the struggles to end the horrors of slavery.

Thanks to the powerful momentum inspired by Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) Black people now had relative freedom to develop culturally, economically and politically in the surroundings of a white racist society. This was the setting in which Arturo Schomburg was able to make his contributions to Black history.

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg in New York City, 1932.

Before moving to New York City, at 17 years old, Schomburg was a leader in the secret Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico. This organization was created several years before Schomburg’s birth for launching the 1868 anti-slavery & pro-independence revolt known as El Grito De Lares. Although the attempt to rid Spanish colonialism failed, the Revolutionary Committee continued to exist clandestinely.

Throughout his life Schomburg remained a firm advocate for Puerto Rico’s independence. In fact, he was the founder of Las Dos Alas (The Two Wings), an organization in New York City devoted to the independence cause of Puerto Rico and Cuba. In 1895 Schomburg partook in a meeting with other freedom fighters like Manuel Besosa and Juan de Mata Terreforte at the Chimney Corner Hall to discuss and approve what became today’s official Puerto Rican Flag.

But as the 19th Century came to a close with the U.S. military invasion and occupation of both Cuba and Puerto Rico, these conditions caused the independence movement in both countries to enter a period of stagnation. As a result, Schomburg and other like-minded activists who resided outside of Cuba and Puerto Rico, began to re-vise their activities based on the change in the climate of imperialism.

Schomburg’s shift in central focus

As the persecution of Black people in the United States intensified, with the extension of Jim Crow laws, lynching and white racist riots presenting a dangerous and menacing setting, coupled by Schomburg’s childhood memory of a demeaning comment made to him by a school teacher, raised his commitment to the idea of affirming the validity and truth of Black history.

Schomburg firmly maintained the validity and truth of Black history.

Ridiculing the racist fables about the origins and history of Black people became Schomburg’s central focus. His noble quest eventually proved the extent of white supremacy’s corruption and baseless reasoning for existing.

Once in New York City, and for the remainder of his life, Schomburg collected large amounts of materials relevant to the history of Africa and the African diaspora. His work unavoidably brought to light the falsehood of white historians who interpreted the history of human social development strictly from a European perspective, thus concealing what are the African people’s pivotal role in that process.

Although Arturo Schomburg never proclaimed to be a revolutionary, his academic achievements coupled with such fervent passion to preserve and protect the historic culture of the Diaspora shows otherwise. Long after his death, Schomburg’s accomplishments continue to shatter racist myths.

His devotion to raise Black history to its rightful grandeur contributed immensely to the ideological struggle against white supremacy, thus, adding to the majestic qualities of Black nationalism.

Moreover, Schomburg was a consistent leader of debunking the dangerous narratives of racial superiority that ushered in social Darwinism and Eugenics. These world perspectives were often used by capitalists to politically hinder and divide working class people.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture — Harlem, New York City

The vast and beautiful collection of literature and art materials he compiled throughout his life are permanently housed at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center For Research of Black Culture, located at 515 Malcolm X Blvd, in Harlem, NYC.

Arturo Afonso Schomburg shall be remembered for his bold intellectual defiance and as a hero of the oppressed. His lifelong contributions has strengthen the legitimacy of Puerto Rico’s independence cause as well as the historical struggle for Black liberation. Schomburg’s’ life embodied the epitome of Black & Puerto Rican solidarity.

Arturo Alfonso Schomberg – PRESENTE!

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

Long live the fighting spirit of the Aug 21, 1831 NAT TURNER REBELLION!

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By Carlito Rovira

 

Of the events in African American history that bourgeois historians and apologists of slavery tend to dread is the Nat Turner Rebellion. This monumental chapter in Black history occurred on August 21, 1831 at the Belmont Plantation in Southampton County, Virginia. Since then Nat Turner’s name symbolizes defiance for African Americans but for white privilege it continues to be a moment in history that torments the imagination.

White supremacy’s preferred narrative of that rebellion is overemphasizing the violence inflicted on the slave owning families. False interpretations of that history aim to project slavers as victims and insidiously criminalize the justified rage of Black people, both in the pass and present.

To understand why this slave revolt was one of the bloodiest in U.S. history it is necessary to have a grasp of the horrific experiences the African American people endured under that system.

Great Britain perceived the Thirteen Colonies as their goose that laid golden eggs, and valued them more than all of its conquered territories throughout the globe. Of all the countries where slavery was practiced it was in the United States where this system became the most lucrative and brutal.

The rapid economic accumulation of wealth created from enslaved labor allowed the United States to develop into the giant capitalist bastion it is today. The enormous financial power that derived from the harshest circumstances of human suffering compelled the rulers to develop a set of ideas which ultimately served as their ideological justification for Black oppression — White supremacy.

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Despite the glorification of the “old South” by the mainstream Black people were subjected to extreme forms of degradation, beatings, castration, torture, murder, and the rape of women, men and children alike. Black families lived under constant fear of being separated; Without warning children, mothers and fathers were sold to other slave plantations. In addition, among the most shocking and heinous acts committed by slave owners as a sport and for punishing insubordinate slaves was having their children tossed in rivers to be killed by crocodiles.

The gall of bourgeois historians who dare to make false judgement while minimizing the crimes inflicted on Black people. The blame for the not-so-pleasant details of slave uprisings falls strictly on those who firmly preserved the cruelty that came with this centuries-long system. Black people have historically been driven to use force as a means to end their suffering.

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No uprising in history has ever been pretty. When a subjugated people realizes that struggle is the only path to freedom there are no guarantees that bloodshed will be absent from the equation. Tyrants have always reserved the right to use violence, as a way to preserve their power. For oppressed people breaking away from the yoke of their plight has always been achieved by whatever means available to them.

Although Nat Turner was traumatized from abuses since childhood he managed to develop strong leadership qualities which allowed him to develop and serve as preacher among the slaves. According to his supposed “confession” made after his capture, to a Southampton attorney Thomas Ruffin Gray, Turner stated that he had received a message from God commanding him to lead the slaves in an uprising.

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On the evening of August 21, 1831, Under the leadership of Nat Turner numerous slaves abruptly began to rebel. They ran to the supply sheds to arm themselves with work tools used for toiling the land. With weapons in hand the enslaved laborers proceeded throughout the plantation to bludgeon and stab to death the well-armed overseers.

The intensity of the revolt continued with Nat Turner and his followers entering the hated resident mansion which symbolized the depth of their oppression as slaves. It was there where all members of the privileged White slave owning family were killed.

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A state of panic widely consumed the White populace of Virginia and neighboring states, as the Black insurgents were hunted by bands of racist vigilantes. Unfortunately, by October 30th all of the insurrectionists were captured and put on a showcase trial.

On November 11, 1831 Nat Turner and 56 of his followers were executed and about 200 non-participants of the revolt from neighboring plantations were beaten and tortured. The repressive decrees implemented throughout the South were intense which lasted until the Civil War.

As if killing Turner and his followers were not enough to satisfy the frenzied vindictiveness of slavers, the bodies of the martyrs were gruesomely chopped to pieces, burned and used to make oil and glue. In the aftermath whites proved to be psychologically impacted, they became increasingly fearful of Black people. New repressive measures were instituted throughout the South with harsher laws that restricted the movement of slaves and free Blacks alike.

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Nat Turner contributed to the rising momentum of that period which popularized the use of armed force against that vile institution. By all accounts Nat Turner’s Rebellion of 1831 inspired John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, which triggered the momentous political storm that resulted in the Civil War of 1861-1865 and the overthrow of the slave-owning class.

The Attempt to destroy slavery by the slaves themselves is of the utmost significance. This event will continue to inspire today’s anti-racist struggles as we continue to grapple with the historical consequences of slavery in the modern era.

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Although the rebellion was suppressed, with the martyrs tortured and executed, this history continues to inspire a yearning for freedom in the present period. The legacy of this slave revolt added to Black traditions that brought into being other heroic examples like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey, the African Blood Brotherhood, Malcolm X, Black Panther Party, and today’s Black Lives Matter movement.

History has given Nat Turner the noble title of revolutionary, during his lifetime. A future revolutionary struggle in the United States will surely bring about a broad desire for erecting statues and monuments dedicated to the memory of freedom fighters like Nat Turner. Giving the highest tribute to men and women who fought for Black liberation will be part and parcel of realizing the demand for reparations.

LONG LIVE THE MEMORY OF NAT TURNER, OCTOBER 2, 1800 – NOVEMBER 11, 1831

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Happy Birthday Tribute to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, “Lenin” April 22, 1870

(En Español desplazarse hacia abajo / For Spanish scroll down)

Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

V.I. Lenin was born on April 22, 1870. He was the leader of the October 1917 Russian Socialist Revolution – one of the most monumental events of the twentieth century. The militant rise of the Russian people on this occasion sent shockwaves throughout the world. Tyrants, colonizers, exploiters, and oppressors were left in disbelief.

His leadership inspired hundreds of millions oppressed and exploited people on every continent. The Russian Revolution under Lenin’s leadership impacted the Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Cuban revolutions, as well as many progressive movements throughout the world.

Lenin’s tactical prowess is revered by revolutionaries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As a result of his influential and strategic direction, Leninism became a guiding principle among revolutionary leaders, such as Amilcar Cabral, Celia Sanchez, Ho Chi Minh, Claudia Jones, Madame Nguyễn Thị Định, Fidel Castro Ruz, Nguyễn Thị Bình, Ernesto Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, Steve Biko and many more international historic figures.

A beautiful painting depicting Lenin address armed workers Soviets at the moment of revolution.

Moreover, renown Puerto Rican activists like Juana Colon and Nationalist Juan Antonio Corretjer, African American leaders like Cyril Briggs, W.E.B. Dubois, Harry Haywood, Paul Robeson, and others, were all influenced by what Lenin represented politically – the necessity to bring about a socialist society.

In the 1960’s-70’, both the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords Party (Puerto Rican/Latinx allies of the BPP) read Lenin’s writings as part of their mandatory political education classes. Their study curriculum included Lenin’s Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” andState and Revolution.”

After a century since the Bolshevik leader’s death, his legacy never stopped posing a threat to the capitalist system. And because Lenin’s persona is viewed with disdain by the mainstream, his name continues to be vilified by the anti-communism of bourgeois historians, educators, news media, and religious institutions.

In 1934 the billionaire John D. Rockefeller expressed precisely that contempt. Rockefeller ordered the destruction of a mural at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, because it contained a portrait of V.I. Lenin. The mural was the creation of renown Mexican painter Diego Rivera, who Rockefeller himself had commissioned.

Lenin standing with other Bolsheviks a few days after the seizure of power.

One of Lenin’s most fundamental principles was the need for the working class to create its own political and organizational system, with the highest sophistication. Despite attempts to trivialize and distort his teachings, Lenin was firmly consistent in his belief that human suffering could only end by denying the billionaire class the “right” to political power, that is, by working people eliminating the capitalist state.

Lenin was stern about eliminating the police, courts, prisons, and military under capitalist rule, due to its inherent disregard for the well-being of working class and oppressed people.

Given the current situation in the United States, with rampant police violence, food prices and rents skyrocketing, including the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic, the lessons drawn from Lenin’s leadership and teachings continue to prove applicable to the reality of today’s world.

My portrait of V.I. Lenin. 24″ X 30″, acrylic paint on canvas. Completed March 2022.

Part and parcel to stripping the capitalist class of their power is denying them “ownership” to the wealth they robbed from the people over many generations. According to Lenin “The expropriators would be expropriated.” His vision of a future socialist society was based on the Marxist premise where working people produce and provide services while also taking part in managing all aspects of the economy.

Today, Lenin’s views on the state and bourgeois “property rights” are targeted by enemies of socialism – including by some who claim to be “socialists” but are insidiously hostile to his teachings.

In addition, with the premise that the world is comprised of many nations, is why Lenin was adamant and uncompromising about respecting the right of self-determination for all oppressed national entities, specifically conquered and colonized people.

Lenin often spoke out about racism in the United States, specifically, the plight of the African American masses and their fight against racist discrimination and all forms of violence, especially the heinous act of lynching.

Lenin understood that the persecution of African Americans and the downtrodden economic position they have been kept in has served to perpetuate racial divisions. He also understood how the centuries-long enslavement of Black labor became the impetus for the economic might of United States imperialism.

At a meeting of the Communist International (Comintern), a body made up of representatives from various Communist Parties, Lenin voiced support for a proposed resolution that raised the right of African Americans to succession. That is, the right of Black people to break away and create their own state in a separate territory, presumably in the Southern part of the United States. Lenin believed that if African Americans wished to succeed it would be perfectly within their right to self-determination.

Additionally, Lenin was critical of the United States for launching the 1898 Spanish-American War, in which Guam, the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico were militarily invaded and colonized. It was Lenin who characterized that event as “the first Imperialist war.”

What V.I. Lenin demonstrated with his character and genius was the power freedom fighters possess when they fight for a better world. His teachings will undoubtedly continue to influence working class struggles and national liberation movements everywhere, until the emancipation of humanity is finally achieved.

LONG LIVE THE LEGACY OF V.I. LENIN!

Feliz Cumpleaño Tributo a V.I. LENIN, 22 de abril 1870

By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

V.I. Lenin nació el 22 de abril de 1870. Fue el líder de la Revolución Socialista Rusa de octubre de 1917, uno de los acontecimientos más monumentales del siglo XX. El levantamiento militante del pueblo ruso en esta ocasión provocó una conmoción en todo el mundo. Los tiranos, los colonizadores, los explotadores y los opresores quedaron incrédulos.

El liderazgo de Lenin inspiró a cientos de millones de personas oprimidas y explotadas en todos los continentes. La Revolución Rusa bajo el liderazgo de Lenin tuvo un impacto en las revoluciones china, vietnamita, coreana y cubana, así como en muchos movimientos progresistas de todo el mundo.

Como resultado de su influyente y estratégica dirección, el leninismo se convirtió en un principio rector entre líderes revolucionarios como Amilcar Cabral, Celia Sanchez, Ho Chi Minh, Claudia Jones, Fidel Castro Ruz, Madame Nguyễn Thị Định, Ernesto Che Guevara, Nguyễn Thị Bình, Amilcar Cabral, Mao Zedong, Steve Biko, y otras figuras históricas internacionales.

Una hermosa pintura que representa a Lenin dirigiéndose a los sovieticos de trabajadores armados en el momento de la revolución.

Además, renombrados activistas puertorriqueños como Juana Colón y el nacionalista Juan Antonio Corretjer, líderes afroamericanos como Cyril Briggs, W.E.B. Dubois, Harry Haywood, Paul Robeson y otros, se vieron influenciados por lo que Lenin representaba políticamente: la necesidad de llevar a cabo el socialismo.

La destreza táctica de Lenin sigue siendo venerada por los revolucionarios de África, Asia y América Latina.

En los años 60-70, tanto las Panteras Negras como el Partido de los Young Lords, integrado por puertorriqueños de Estados Unidos, leían los escritos de Lenin como parte de sus clases obligatorias de educación política. Su plan de estudios incluía “El imperialismo, fase superior del capitalismo” y “Estado y revolución” de Lenin.

Después de un siglo desde la muerte de este líder bolchevique, su legado sigue siendo una amenaza para el sistema capitalista. La persona de Lenin sigue siendo vilipendiada por historiadores, educadores, medios de comunicación e instituciones religiosas burguesas.

A pesar de los intentos de trivializar y distorsionar sus enseñanzas, Lenin fue firmemente coherente en su creencia de que el sufrimiento humano sólo podría terminar negando a la clase multimillonaria su “derecho” al poder político, es decir, mediante la eliminación del sistema capitalista por parte del pueblo trabajador.

Lenin de pie con otros bolcheviques unos días después de la toma del poder.

Dada la situación actual en Estados Unidos, incluida la devastación de la pandemia de Covid-19, las lecciones extraídas del liderazgo y las enseñanzas de Lenin siguen siendo aplicables a la realidad del mundo actual.

Uno de los principios más fundamentales de Lenin era la necesidad de que la clase obrera creara su propio sistema político y organizativo. Hoy en día, sus puntos de vista sobre el Estado son los más atacados por los enemigos del socialismo, incluso por aquellos que dicen ser “socialistas” pero que son insidiosamente hostiles a sus enseñanzas.

Mi retrato de V.I. lenin 24″ X 30″, pintura acrílica sobre lienzo. Completado en
marzo de 2022.

Lenin fue severo con la eliminación de la policía, los tribunales, las prisiones y el ejército bajo el dominio capitalista, debido al inherente desprecio por estas instituciones a la clase obrera y los oprimidos.

Además, con la premisa de que el mundo se compone de muchas naciones, es por lo que Lenin fue inflexible e intransigente sobre el respeto al derecho de autodeterminación de las entidades nacionales oprimidas.

Lenin habló a menudo sobre el racismo en Estados Unidos, específicamente, sobre la difícil situación de las masas afroamericanas y su lucha contra la discriminación racista y todas las formas de agresión, especialmente el atroz acto de linchamiento a negros. Comprendió cómo el trabajo esclavizado de los negros servía de impulso al poderío económico del imperialismo estadounidense.

Además, Lenin criticó a Estados Unidos por lanzar la Guerra Hispanoamericana de 1898, en la que Guam, Filipinas, Cuba y Puerto Rico fueron invadidos y colonizados militarmente por Estados Unidos. Caracterizó ese acontecimiento como “la primera guerra imperialista”.

Lo que V.I. Lenin demostró con su carácter y su genio fue el poder que poseen los luchadores por la libertad al tener una visión de un mundo futuro mejor. Sus enseñanzas, sin duda, seguirán influyendo en las luchas de la clase obrera y en los movimientos de liberación nacional hasta que se logre finalmente la emancipación de la humanidad.

 ¡VIVA EL LEGADO DE V.I. LENIN!

Reconstruction & African American political power

By: Carlito Rovira

A revolution drowned in blood

The period of U.S. history known as Reconstruction, following the Civil War, lasted from 1865 to 1877. During this period, former slaves in the South made some of the most far-reaching gains that African Americans have seen in U.S. history. Those gains, ultimately drenched in blood, were not to be seen again until the civil rights struggle nearly 100 years later.

The Civil War, which began in 1861 and lasted until 1865, was a profound social revolution. It brought an end to chatte slavery, which until that time had been the foundation for the rise of U.S. capitalism.

Although the victory of the North resulted in the end of slavery, that was not the stated aim of either President Abraham Lincoln or the industrial bourgeoisie that was the dominant social class in the North when the war commenced. The war began only as a result of the decision by most of the “slave states” to secede from the Union in 1861.

Lincoln refused to end slavery, assuring all slave owners who cooperated with the federal government that they would maintain “their property.” His eventual decision to issue the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which decreed the end of legal slavery, was fundamentally a military decision.

Without the enlistment of thousands of escaping slaves into the Northern army, the defeat of the Confederate army seemed remote. These newly enlisted Black soldiers, with their incredible resolve, determination and self-sacrifice, turned the tide. It was a case of law following reality: Slaves were deserting or refusing to work on the plantations in growing numbers, and they were demanding the right to join the battle.

African Americans were decisive in the outcome of the Civil War.

The military exigencies of the day overcame the white supremacist policy of the Northern army and the federal government, which had refused to abolish slavery until that time.

The Emancipation Proclamation had the effect of drawing into the struggle the Black masses—and it proved decisive. African Americans comprised a social class rooted in the slave system itself, and ultimately determined the outcome of the Civil War. After the proclamation, some 180,000 freed slaves enlisted in the Union Army and became fearless fighters against the army of their former masters.

When Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in 1865, the question of how to reintegrate the Southern states into the Union was sharply posed. This was the basis for the period of Reconstruction. It represented a continuation of the conflicts of the Civil War, but under new circumstances determining the direction of the life-and-death struggle between the overthrown and the overthrowing classes.

Suppressing counterrevolution

Like every revolution, the military conflict of the Civil War was followed by a period in which the remnants of the previous order were suppressed, both by political means and by force. The French Revolution, the 1917 Russian Revolution, the 1959 Cuban Revolution and others all relied upon extraordinary measures to survive and fight off the attempts of the former ruling classes to regain political power.

How to suppress these forces had been the subject of debate in the Northern political circles throughout the war. On the one hand were moderates like Lincoln who wanted to incorporate as many elements as possible of the old slave-owning class into a new pro-Union government. On the other hand, Radical Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner favored harsh repression and exclusion of Confederate society from political power.

The Radical Republicans were the political driving force of Reconstruction. They were in an objective sense the revolutionary, unwavering and determined wing of the divided capitalist class. Their political base was in Congress, where they held a majority that grew in the years immediately following the end of the war.

They understood that the freed slaves were the most solid base of support for the Union. African Americans rejoiced at the military defeat of the Confederacy. Across the South, ex-slaves organized meetings and political organizations to take advantage of their new freedom.

The freed slaves were the most solid base of support for the Union.

Social gains of Reconstruction

In March 1865, just weeks before Lee’s surrender, the federal government created the Freedmen’s Bureau. Under the military protection of Union troops, Black and white, the Bureau organized a vast education project for former slaves—a project which laid the foundation for public education nationwide. It was even authorized to carry out a land redistribution program, although such radical measures were never widely implemented.

The decrees following emancipation challenged racist notions and recognized former slaves as human beings. The formerly enslaved and property-less Black masses looked forward to a new beginning free from racist violence and with compensation for everything they had endured.

But differences emerged almost immediately over how to reconcile the interests of the freed slaves with the needs of the victorious Northern capitalist class. The tenuous political alliance of the anti-slavery forces during the Civil War soon broke apart.

The Radical Republicans understood the strategically important role of African Americans in smashing the former slave-owning class. The moderates, however, sought to rely on a partnership with the old ruling class as opposed to the revolutionary momentum of the Black masses.

Johnson’s ‘Black Codes’

President Andrew Johnson, who had assumed the presidency after Lincoln’s assassination, had postured as a Radical during the war. But he quickly emerged as the leading force of political reaction within the national Republican Party.

After the defeat of the Confederacy, Johnson installed new governments in the Southern states made up wholly or primarily of pardoned ex-Confederates. In late 1865, several of these Johnson-installed state legislatures passed laws known as “Black Codes.” These laws set up the terms for the newly freed Black population to participate in Reconstruction. They were in many ways precursors to the Jim Crow laws, creating a separate and unequal system for African Americans.

The Black Codes varied from state to state, but they had common features. They provided for labor contracts for Black laborers—often with terms not much different than slavery. They prohibited Blacks from migrating from one state to another unless they possessed papers specifying that he or she was bonded by contract to labor for an employer. They limited African Americans’ participation in politics with educational or property restrictions. Former slaves were generally described by the laws as “servants,” while the description used for employers was “master.”

Economically, the main thrust of the Black Codes was to reinstitute the plantation system. For example, Blacks were restricted from choosing where they worked and the type of work they did. In many parts of the South, they were forbidden to work in towns and cities. In some areas, skilled Black workers were required to receive a license or certificate in order to get employment in occupations other than in agriculture or domestic work.

In the eyes of many, both former slaves and Northerners, the power of the former slavocracy was being restored. Johnson’s “Presidential Reconstruction” was seen as selling out the gains of the Civil War. Further inflaming Radical sentiment, in 1866 Johnson vetoed an extension of the Freedmen’s Bureau and a Civil Rights bill that would extend citizenship to African Americans.

Radical Reconstruction and Black political power

New elections to the House of Representatives took place in 1866. With the southern states not yet readmitted to the union, Radical Republicans made big gains, winning enough seats to override Johnson’s vetoes.

The 10-year period beginning in 1867 is what is known as “Radical Reconstruction” and was a period of the most far-reaching social change seen in United States history. A Civil Rights Act was passed over Johnson’s veto in March 1866. The Congress passed the Reconstruction Act, which put the whole former Confederacy under military control and forced the creation of new state governments in accord with voting rights for African Americans.

African Americans organized into Union Leagues to exert their new political power. Over 600—a majority former slaves—were elected to state office during this period. A wide variety of social programs were introduced: widening public education, funding for health care for the poor in South Carolina, free legal aid for the poor in Alabama.

Racist violence

But each step forward for the newly emancipated African Americans was met by violent resistance by the former rulers. White Southern politicians colluded to undermine Reconstruction. As early as May 1866, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest rallied a group of ex-Confederate soldiers in Pulaski, Tenn., to form the infamous Ku Klux Klan. The Klan spread quickly throughout the Southern states.

The KKK invaded the homes of outspoken African Americans.

The KKK’s primary objective was to crush the new mobilization of African Americans. Knowing that the African American people had the will and numerical advantage to create the South in their own interests, the KKK targeted the families of outspoken Black leaders in twilight-hour raids of their homes. The terrorist organization also attacked progressive Northern whites who were serving the purposes of Reconstruction.

Throughout Reconstruction, political debates in Congress or in state legislatures were accompanied by violent massacres committed by organized white racist groups. Such massacres took place in New Orleans in 1866, Memphis, Tenn. in 1866, Pulaski, Tenn. in 1868, Opelousas, La. in 1868, Camilla, Ga. in 1868, Meridian, Miss. in 1870, Eutaw, Ala. in 1870, Laurens, S.C. in 1870, New York City in 1870 and again in 1871 and in Colfax and Coushatta, La. in 1873. The list of these atrocities continues for the duration of Reconstruction, setting the precedent for the lynchings and apartheid terror for African Americans into the 20th century.

African Americans defended themselves and the gains of emancipation through mass campaigns and with arms in hand. Regiments of Black soldiers patrolled streets throughout the South. But the weight of the racist whites’ organizations proved to be too powerful for the African American community to overcome—especially as support for Reconstruction waned in the North.

Racists sought to disarm the Black masses. Throughout the Southern states and neighboring regions, gun control laws were introduced—but selectively applied only to African Americans, who relied on their guns to defend themselves.

At the same time, economic depression in the 1870s along with corporate corruption scandals led to the emergence of a growing anti-Reconstruction coalition in the federal government. Federal troops were removed in one state after another, each time resulting in the reversal of political and economic gains for African Americans.

In 1877, Republican president-elect Rutherford B. Hayes—having lost the popular vote in the 1876 elections and with the election outcome uncertain in the electoral college — agreed to what became known as the Compromise of 1876, or in the Black community as the “Great Betrayal of 1876.” Hayes and the Republicans agreed to remove all remaining federal troops from the South in exchange for the Republicans retaining the White House.

A reign of KKK terror and lynching enveloped the South as the Northern troops were removed. The dictatorship of the Reconstruction period—with the old slave owners repressed and the ex-slaves living in a semi-democracy—was replaced by the reintroduction of the old dictatorship of the slavocracy.

The former slave owners could no longer possess human beings as their property, but they reemerged as junior partners of the Northern industrial bourgeoisie. In the southern part of the United States, this dictatorship of the Southern and Northern capitalists continued the legacy of unmatched cruelty and oppression of an entire people. The period known as Reconstruction was officially over.

The first real experience of Black political power—coming after centuries of attempted slave insurrections and resistance—was ultimately defeated.

Capitalist consolidation vs. Black liberation

The Civil War that was led by the Northern industrial bourgeoisie, uprooting the slave-owning class in the South, opened the door for the exploited Black masses to organize and make real social gains. During the period of Radical Reconstruction, the interests of this oppressed class dovetailed with the Northern capitalists’ short-term interests in crushing their former rivals. This was despite the fact that the African American masses’ class interests were hostile to both Northern capital and Southern chattel slavery.

The most important task for the U.S. capitalist class was increased centralization and consolidation. It was in the midst of the genocidal campaign against the Native peoples in the west. Life-and-death battles with the newly emerging industrial working class were taking place in railroads, mines and factories across the country. The capitalists were within 20 years of joining the worldwide race for colonial plunder.

The industrial capitalists made peace with the defeated slavocracy at the cost of many concessions—the easiest for them being the aspirations of the exploited African American working classes. Although subjected to renewed and constant terrorism from the forces of white supremacy, who had all the institutional threads to political power in the form of control over local and state police forces, the freedom movement of the African American community could not be extinguished. Generation after generation found new methods of struggle.

Between the mid-1950s and the 1970s, this freedom struggle culminated in the emergence of the broadest and most militant social movement in the history of the United States. It was this movement that would eventually force the U.S. government to formally outlaw the apartheid system that replaced the Reconstruction era following its overthrow in 1877. The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act restored the legal rights that had been violently suppressed 90 years earlier.

The Civil Rights and Black Power movements were the continuum of the Black liberation struggle.

The democratic aspirations of African Americans were betrayed by the capitalist class precisely because the interests of the bourgeoisie as an exploiting class could not be reconciled with the social interests of the exploited. The relatively young U.S. white working class of the 1860s and 1870s was too infected with racism to serve as a consistent ally in winning those aspirations, even though their objective interests overlapped and despite heroic instances of solidarity.

The completion of the tasks of Reconstruction and the later civil rights and Black liberation movements remains on the agenda today, more than 150 years later. Building a united class struggle against the imperialist ruling class remains the best hope of fulfilling that agenda.

Long Live the African American people’s struggle for emancipation!

Don’t Be Fooled By The Smear Campaign Against Carlos “Carlito” Rovira – By Rebekah McAlister

https://www.lindabastaya.com/file-c-users-19176-onedrive-desktop-20211012115234884-20-6-pdf

By Rebekah McAlister

Relevant Terms:

  • Restorative Justice A system which sees crime as an act against the victim and shifts the focus to repairing the harm that has been committed against the victim and community. Restorative Justice holds that the offender also needs assistance and seeks to identify what needs to change to prevent future violations.

  • Due Process Fair treatment, a citizen’s right.

  • Abuse to treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly. Smear Campaign – a plan to discredit a public figure by making false or dubious accusations.

  • Defamation – the action of damaging the good reputation of someone. Slander – the act of harming a person’s reputation by telling one or more people something that is untrue and damaging about the person.

  • Libel – a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation, a written defamation.

———————————————-

On Monday, September 13, 2021, the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (CBMH) NYC, released a public statement to their listserv which leveled a targeted smear at Carlito Rovira to defame his character and banish him from the NYC Left. This statement depicted Carlito as a sexual predator and even insinuated that he had engaged in sexual contact with a minor by repeating “our youngest, most vulnerable member” repeatedly. Shortly thereafter, an entire website devoted to this defamatory campaign was posted entitled “https://carlitoroviraexposed.com/.” In her statement on this site, the unnamed accuser says that she was in her twenties during her affair with Carlito! The age of consent in New York State is seventeen years old, so this propagandistic insinuation of Carlito’s having contact with a minor is false, deliberately misleading, and manipulative.


On Monday, September 13, 2021, the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (CBMH) founded and led by Dr. Johanna Fernandez, PhD and associate professor at Baruch College -CUNY, released a public statement to their listserv which leveled a targeted smear at Carlito Rovira to defame his character and banish him from the NYC Left. This statement depicted Carlito as a sexual predator and even insinuated that he had engaged in sexual contact with a minor by repeating “our youngest, most vulnerable member” repeatedly. Shortly thereafter, an entire website devoted to this defamatory campaign was posted entitled “https://carlitoroviraexposed.com/.” In her statement on this site, the unnamed accuser says that she was in her twenties during her affair with Carlito. The age of consent in New York State is seventeen years old, so this propagandistic insinuation of Carlito’s having contact with a minor is false, deliberately misleading, and manipulative.


The Truth is that Carlito and the Unnamed Adult Woman Had a Consensual Affair & She is Now Falsely Accusing Carlito in Order to Take Him Down


I will call the unnamed person making these claims against Carlito, Participant A. Sometime toward the end of the summer of 2016, Participant A whom I considered a friend and fellow comrade, told me that she was attracted to Carlito and was thinking about becoming intimate with him. Participant A expressed that Carlito had “offered to give her some sexual experience,” that this was tempting to her and that she was having sexual fantasies about Carlito. She said to me that wanted to have sex with him. Participant A expressed hesitation around the fact that she and Carlito were not actually dating, but in fact friends who were talking about having sex. I advised her in no uncertain terms not to do it. Also, I advised her that sex is very intimate for women, especially if she was exploring her sexuality. I told her that ‘just getting some experience’ was not a realistic plan and that she would develop deeper feelings for Carlito that would end in heartbreak and disaster. Surely, personal disaster that would hurt her and destroy her relationship with Carlito but damage the entire Campaign. The age difference was the least of my worries, but it did play into my advice. Don’t do it, I said. It is tempting, I know, but the consequences will be very hurtful.


Several weeks later, we spoke again, and she said that while she was very much enjoying the attention from Carlito, she had decided not to engage with him sexually. She stated that she wanted them to stop interacting in a way that was flirtatious and sexually suggestive. I asked if she had asked him to stop and she said she had not. At no point did she say that she felt threatened or coerced. I said that Carlito is a respectful person and adheres to boundaries and suggested that she should tell him that she wanted to end the sexual talk. I believe that they were going to the movies, or dinner or something around 96th street in Manhattan. According to Participant A, she followed my advice, told him she wanted to talk, and told him she no longer wanted to engage in sexual conversations. She told me afterwards that I had been correct in my prediction of how such a request would go: he agreed that they would end the sexual talk and that they would continue to be friends. This issue was done – as far as I knew.


About a year later, in the summer of 2017, Participant A mentioned casually to me that once again she and Carlito were having sexually suggestive conversations that she was enjoying, but she was not sure it was a good idea or if she should engage intimately with him. She mentioned it as if all our previous conversations about their relationship had never happened. At this time, Carlito was engaged to be married to Ana Betancourt, whom I knew and cared for. I was incredulous that Participant A was being so casual about continuing her relationship with Carlito. She was clearly still enjoying the attention. I found the resurfacing of this past conversation to be exasperating – as if I were trapped in the film Groundhog Day. One thing I discovered about Participant A over years of our friendship, was that she will listen to your advice for hours and shine you on, and then completely ignore any counsel you have given and even act surprised that you have any opinion on the matter. It appears she refuses to grow or challenge herself at all. (This was corroborated by at least one current and one former member of CBMH with whom I was close).


As a result, this time when the conversation about Carlito reemerged, I advised against it again, especially considering his current relationship, but I also said that I did not have energy to talk to her about it anymore. After that, Participant A stopped confiding in me regarding this affair, perhaps because she knew I did not approve, and she had not taken my advice. She had obviously decided that she wanted to continue to engage him, as evidenced by the text-message screenshots that are posted on the website. That’s the last I heard about it until now. The accusation leveled on the CBMH’s defamatory website that I ‘enabled the abuse’ and then told Participant A to ‘stay silent’ and that ‘no one would believe her’ is not only a slanderous lie it is an inversion of the truth.


Furthermore, according to the afore-mentioned text-message screenshot ‘evidence’ on their own website, Carlito was very explicit with Participant A about their mutual sexual attraction. Is it crude, offensive? -perhaps. However, this was a private exchange with a 27–28-year-old adult woman. If he had been ‘grooming’ her, he would not have been so direct about wanting sex. In my experience, abusers pretend they are up to something else, they are not direct and explicit with sexual requests, as Carlito was in the published text-exchange. At no point does she say, “don’t talk to me like that” or “no, I do not want to have sex.” Participant A may have been hurt because she wanted an actual relationship, (which the texts suggest and was my concern when advising her not to do it). While I certainly have compassion for her pain, this is not a sexual violation nor abuse.


Participant A Is Being Duplicitous and Manipulative


Participant A has refused to come forward, even amidst a flurry of support. She has posted online claiming to ‘defend the victim,’ even though she herself IS the victim – she is playing two roles. This is hard to wrap your mind around. This is not only a truly disturbing level of dissociation, but it also suggests that the goal here is not to give the accuser her chance to speak publicly against the accused. The CBMH members who know who she is and are going along with her playing victim and savior are also duplicitous. Maybe they are not seeing that it’s duplicitous to play both roles. It is not ethical nor honest to be both the victim and the savior writing statements on behalf of the anonymous victim. She was not interested in the self-help resources dealing with abuse that I gave to her to support her around conversations we had about her abusive relationship with her father. This deliberately misleading behavior is manipulative. This is in fact abuse. I am aware that sometimes individuals reporting sexual assault or sexual harassment need to remain anonymous for safety reasons. However, given that no sexual violation occurred here, and this individual is being deceitful, she cannot legitimately claim the need for the cloak of secrecy. I therefore reveal that Sophia Williams is making these false claims also known as “Participant A”


Johanna Fernandez’s Secret Affair with Her Younger Former Student at Baruch College & How She Manipulated Us in a Smear Campaign Against Him


I will call him Participant B. Both Sophia Williams and Participant B were students of Johanna’s at Baruch and were recruited by her into the CBMH. Johanna disclosed to me that she felt sexual tension with Participant B when he was her student. After recruiting him into the CBMH, Johanna put him in the position of Co-Chair of the group (talk about grooming) and at some point, they began to have a relationship that Johanna insisted be kept secret from the group. At a certain point, frequent and visible hostility between the two of them forced the relationship into the open. He turned to me for help, and confided in me about the relationship, asking for my help to mediate between them. Johanna was outraged that he had disclosed their affair to me, despite she and I having a very close friendship at the time. She and I had discussed the tension between her and Participant B on numerous occasions, at great length. She had never breathed a word that they were secretly dating.


After I was brought in on this secret sexual relationship, Johanna related to me a tale of him covertly abusing her. The accusation was vague, but I believed it because I trusted her unconditionally. Johanna pressured me to send him a long letter detailing all her complaints about him, with which I thought I agreed at the time, but did not feel right sending to him and refused. She only relented on pressuring me to send it when I told her that my mother, a psychiatrist, had advised me that my sending such a letter would be inappropriate, unhelpful, and not mediation – which I am not qualified to do anyway. Johanna subsequently told a few other CBMH members who were close to her (including Carlito) that it had been an abusive relationship and she needed our help to confront Participant B. Again, she gave no specifics, and none were asked for. We loved her, we felt protective of her, and we wanted to defend her. So, we went along with it and tied him to the (metaphorical) whipping post – twice.


During the first confrontation, involving Carlito, Johanna, Sophia Williams, myself, and Participant B, we berated him for hours in Carlito’s (and Ana’s) house. All the way home in the car, Johanna was upset with me and Sophia for not being willing to continue to castigate Participant B on the way out the door. She ranted about how awful he was and how we were not defending her sufficiently. Several months after this, we ambushed him in a full CBMH meeting to discuss his alleged ‘abuse.’ During this meeting, Johanna accused us of not “protecting” her from this abuse, which in the public meeting some members pushed back on (including one of the signers of the letter against Carlito) – how could we protect you when the relationship was kept secret from us? We did not get a clear answer, just insinuations that we had let her down. That we had ‘enabled abuse.’ I pushed it into the back of my mind at the time, but the accusation had been leveled: we had not had her back, our loyalty could not be trusted. She manipulated the situation to appear as if she was a victim who had been abandoned by her allies, and implied that we were responsible for her being allegedly abused. This, despite our not knowing about the relationship.


Johanna continued to assert that she had been abused, despite her not going into specifics. Since Participant B did not actively refute the accusations, none of us openly questioned the narrative. Participant B left the organization, of his own volition not long after that. However, I cannot say I blame him for feeling exiled and acting on that feeling. I would have done the same (in fact I did leave when I felt that such manipulative attacks on me were imminent). He left, but no one asked Johanna for a shred of accountability, although the leader and founder of our organization had engaged in a secret, toxic relationship with a former student, causing our organization to become sidetracked in our purpose. Indeed, this chapter risked the very existence of our collective. We were all deceived by Johanna; yet we were blamed by her as well.


Moreover, since the CBMH’s statement repeatedly highlights the age difference between Carlito and Sophia. Johanna’s former student /co-Chair / secret boyfriend (Participant B) is nearly twenty years younger than she – and I do not remember anyone ever bringing this up. Which situation has more of an unequal power dynamic: an older unofficial mentor or your older college professor? In any case, the hysteria over the age difference is blatant hypocrisy. One last point of import here is that Johanna turned to Carlito for help when she decided to confront Participant B publicly. She relied on Carlito’s tough demeanor and history as a fighter in the YLP to intimidate Participant B. It is ironic, contradictory, and hypocritical that it is those very same qualities of Carlito’s that she is targeting now through another smear campaign.


Johanna Has a Vendetta Against Carlito


During the winter of 2018 – 2019, Johanna was working on finishing her book on the Young Lords Party, for which she had interviewed Carlito countless times since 2008. Carlito’s fiancé had just died tragically the previous spring. Seemingly out of nowhere, he and Johanna started butting heads over the history of the YLP. This seemed strange, as they had been close friends for years, together they were the political backbone of our organization, they had worked closely on Johanna’s research together for over a decade. Additionally, she and I, and a several other CBMH people had been giving Carlito a lot of support as he grieved the loss of Ana. Since I was close with both Johanna and Carlito at the time, they both called me frequently to vent about the constant arguments. As I recall, they were clashing on the history of the Young Lords, an organization Johanna was researching and authoring a book on, of which Carlito was a vital member. He relayed one anecdote to me that from this period that I feel is very revealing: During a meeting that the two of them were having, Carlito disagreed with her about how something or other had happened, and she told him, “Carlito, I wrote the book,” – as a way to communicate that she knew better than he, even though she hadn’t been born at that time and he was there.


Johanna’s perspective in our many conversations about conflict with Carlito was never clear to me. She kept saying he was “crazy” and asking, “what’s wrong with him?!” When I suggested at one point that he might be wrestling with grief at the loss of his fiancé, she dismissed this possibility. During my conversations with Carlito about arguments with Johanna, he was calm, albeit frustrated, when telling me what happened. In contrast, Johanna was highly agitated when relating her disagreements with him. One day while speaking on the phone with Johanna about Carlito, I remember becoming frustrated because she was saying the same thing over and over again and working herself into a frenzy. I remember saying something like “I need you to stop and focus on something else and we can come back to this,” to which she responded, “okay fine but…” and launched right back into the anti-Carlito diatribe. This conversation went on and on and I finally just excused myself.


Shortly before I left the organization, we were in her car on our way to an event and I spoke with Johanna about how she and Carlito seemed locked in a conflict out of which there was no clear exit. I remember comparing what I was seeing with a metaphor of two sharks locked in conflict: Both of their teeth face backward, so constantly tugging just leads to further enmeshment. In order to resolve or reset, one of them must let go. I said that it was difficult for me and other CBMH people to have them constantly arguing and that this was disruptive to our collective. She immediately zeroed in on my distress and proceeded to tell me that this was hard for me because of my own childhood trauma. I was aghast at this blatant deflection and pop psychology judgement on something that was irrelevant and untrue.


During meetings when Carlito was not present, Johanna began turning CBMH calls into complain-about-Carlito sessions and was consistently leveling the accusation that he was acting in a way that was chauvinistic and macho, an assessment for which I saw no grounds and said so at the time. Johanna did not level this critique to Carlito in public or to me when we spoke one-on-one. At one point when Carlito was on the call, he volunteered to make a flyer for an upcoming event, and Johanna accepted. When he subsequently emailed us a draft of the flyer, she began texting me on a thread with Sophia and Gwen. Her texts were coming in quick and angry succession: She appeared to be having a total meltdown about how much she hated the flyer and how awful and misogynistic Carlito was for producing it. It was a picture of Mumia and a slogan in solidarity with Venezuela, and I did not see her point at all, but I was the only one who pushed back. When she texted us that he was “swinging his dick around,” I had had enough – I took myself off this text chain. Shortly thereafter, Carlito and I both chose to leave the CBMH. The truth, regardless of whether Johanna or anyone else wants to face it, is that she pushed us out, just as she pushed out the former co-chair with whom she had had the secret toxic relationship.


Johanna Knew About this Consensual Affair Between Two Adults WHILE it was happening in 2017 & She is Currently Running a Smear Campaign Against Carlito


The unfortunate cascade of emails many on the Left have been receiving recently represent the final phase of a pattern that Johanna has repeated and again: she recruits people, she becomes very close with them, she builds them up and encourages them to take responsibility within projects she’s working on, only to subsequently devalue them. As soon as her control over them starts to slip she begins to discard them. She did it to Participant B, she did it to me, and she is now attempting to discard Carlito from the entire Left and even from the entire world. In Johanna’s mass email of 10/4/21 she claimed to not be the author of the CBMH’s smear of Carlito, as the twelve signers of a previous email also attested. I was there for many times of drafting of a document with these very people, and I distinctly recognize Johanna’s hand of influence when I see it. I also recognize in the flurry of emails coming out over the last few weeks in favor of this defamation plot, the recruiting of allies by a manipulator to attempt to gain control over a target.


Johanna is using an “old ruling class trick” (her words) known as lying. She has taken things she knows to be true and has distorted them, all to take down a target. For example, Johanna knew at least as far back as 2017 about the exchanges between Carlito and Sophia, as she and I discussed their consensual relationship and agreed that while it was ill advised it was their personal business. Johanna knew as far back as 2014 about the information from forty years ago written salaciously within the CBMH’s libelous website. Thus, the claim made repeatedly in the CBMH’s statements, that they began ‘investigating’ these incidents ‘as soon as they found out, one year ago’ is false. Johanna has known the truth about these parts of Carlito’s past for years, as she worked closely with him throughout, on research for her book.


Johanna’s aim is clearly to take down Carlito, and from the wanted poster, even for his death because of this extreme character assassination. The Campaign to Bring Mumia Home is running an event on 10/16/21 under the guise of survivors of abuse testifying, but there are no actual survivors scheduled to give testimony. Additionally, two prominent, longtime MOVE supporters who have left MOVE expressed concerns under a flyer for the event that Sophia posted on her Facebook page. The former MOVE supporters said while they were certainly in solidarity with survivors of abuse, that two of the panelists at the CBMH’s 10/16 event are implicated in the abuse of MOVE survivors. In response to their questioning the event’s lineup, no one from CBMH addressed their concerns, one member saying only that the event was not all about MOVE survivors. Johanna commented publicly, going after both former MOVE supporters with vicious, vague, and hyperbolic attacks on their character.


At the bottom of the flyer for the 10/16 “speak-out” it says ‘for more information’ click here, on their “exposing Carlito” website. What?! This does not add up. So, we are speaking about survivors of abuse but not hearing from them, but for more information, please ingest our smear of one person. Wait, are we hearing from survivors or taking down Carlito with no hint of due process and very vague manipulative accusations of serious crimes? I think the purpose is clear. This has nothing to do with survivors. There is no attending to their healing, their needs, or any semblance of restorative justice. Johanna is lying and manipulating the truth to take down someone whom she perceives to have challenged her power. To accomplish this, she is utilizing a covert smear campaign, to which she has recruited a handful of allies who admire her so much that they trust her word unconditionally. I know, I used to be one of them. This, in fact, is narcissistic abuse.


Restorative Justice and Due Process


The call for actual restorative justice “shifts the focus to repairing the harm that has been committed against the victim and community” as well as seeking to support the perpetrator in repairing the damage, in a way that feels safe for survivors, as well as to come together as a community to prevent further harm, and to plan for a healthier, safer environment for all in the future (Zehr, 1990). That is not what we were doing with Participant B, and that is not what the CBMH and supporters are seeking to do with Carlito. This character assassination campaign against Carlito claims to be advancing the cause of “justice,” yet nowhere was there any hint of due process or restorative action of any kind. What is the purpose of these letters and the entire ‘Exposing Carlito’ website? What is the end goal? A public crucifixion? Carlito beat up or even killed? The poster with Carlito’s photo looks like a wanted poster and the “Carlito Rovira Exposed” website looks like you have uncovered a mass murderer, not dug up painful anecdotes to fit a vendetta.


What is the goal of a targeted smear like this without any attempt at anything resembling due process or restorative justice? If we are to exist within a democratic framework, even those whom we despise are entitled to a fair hearing to determine innocence or guilt. If you genuinely believe in due process, then you defend it even for your enemies – you do not pick and choose based on what you think about the accused. You either believe in due process or you do not. I am reminded of Martin Niemöller’s famous post-war piece “First They Came,” which cautions us that if you stand by passively while someone else’s rights are being curtailed, it is only a matter of time until your own liberty is at risk. I would hope that we are all in agreement with wanting to rebuild society in a just and humane manner. Allies of Carlito have been asking politely and diplomatically for a meeting to openly discuss these allegations. These requests have been flatly refused and demonized as chauvinistic, when what they represent is transparency, due process, and the potential for restorative justice.


Survivors Must Have Agency


We must inject responsibility and agency into this conversation about survivors. I reject this infantilizing of women, where they have no agency. At some point you have to say, “these are my standards – I don’t date unavailable men or I want my first sexual experience to be with you or I don’t.” CBMH did not have any clear standards. No rules. No boundaries. No structures and routines for negotiating conflict, recognizing harm, or facilitating reconciliation and healing. The CBMH was an anything-goes, chaotic cult of personality where whether what you were doing was up ‘to snuff’ was up to our leader and could change on a whim. As a result of this disorder, messy relationships of all kinds will happen. As we know, they happen even when guidelines and structures are in place! This is not to say we should not hold people accountable. On the contrary, there should be structures in place to prevent exploitation of power to prevent abuse in the first place, especially for leadership. We should have processes for protecting survivors and we need to hold abusive men (and women) responsible for their behavior. We must expect men to be responsible for themselves, but we also must expect women to have agency and control over their own choices. If someone manipulates and coerces you, physically or emotionally, that is an abuse of power. If you are unable to leave a cult and forced into child-marriages, as is alleged by the MOVE survivors, that is abuse. However, being in a relationship with someone who has a different standard than yours may cause you pain or an unpleasant experience, but you have the agency to say that is not my standard and I will not engage with you like that. That is not abuse.


My Time in the Campaign


I joined the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home in January 2013 after attending a screening of a film about Mumia’s case and meeting and connecting with Johanna. I met Carlito not long after joining the Campaign, sometime in the Spring of 2013. I worked closely with both Johanna and Carlito, as well as many other CBMH people on many projects about which I felt and feel great pride. We hosted screenings, concerts, and book talks, made our own mini movies, put on a play for which we wrote lines and music, we interviewed long-time activists and created a film series around their invaluable work for our collective freedom. I maintain that we did good work together: we helped to raise awareness around the importance and details of Mumia’s case, and we worked to advance both the cause of freedom for political prisoners and the wider struggle for revolutionary justice. Were we bringing Mumia closer to freedom? We were trying with all our hearts. Though victories were few and far between, there have been a handful, and I pray that one of these victories will unlock the door forever and bring Mumia home to his family, to live out his days in health, peace and safety, as the brilliant teacher that he is, advancing the causes of radical education, justice, and prison abolition into the future.


I cut my political teeth in this organization. I learned so much from Johanna and from Carlito. My favorite time, ironically, used to be when they disagreed politically because it was extremely illuminating to listen to their argument and reflect on each of their points. They were my political mentors, and the Campaign was my political home, its members were my family. There was a long time where I felt more comfortable and accepted within the Campaign than anywhere else, I had ever been. I came of age politically in this organization and owe a great debt of gratitude to both afore-mentioned mentors, among others, who, over countless hours, endless conference calls, car trips, conferences, protests and demonstrations, book talks, late-night (hilarious) meetings and work sessions, helped me shape and hone my political identity.


My Own Escape from Abuse, Recovery, Healing and Growth


During my time in CBMH, I escaped from an abusive relationship (with someone outside of the group). A vital part of my recovery journey has been to sharpen my boundaries around what type of behavior I will and will not tolerate, instead of giving everyone many chances to be better than the last time they treated me in a way that was manipulative or otherwise unacceptable to me – my standard. Over years in CBMH, I began to see increasingly clearly that the group had problems with boundaries, that our leader was chaotic and enforced chaos while blocking other people’s attempts at implementing structure or boundaries. There was a huge amount of time spent on interpersonal drama, with nothing to show for it on a personal level or for the wider movement. A prime example is the time we spent being dragged into the drama of Johanna’s relationship with her former student, with nothing positive accomplished in the end.


An essential tool of my healing from abuse was going into psychotherapy (which ironically, Johanna strongly supported). I went into private counseling and mentoring around surviving abuse, as well as healing and thriving afterwards. As the years went on and I was learning how to draw healthier boundaries, I started to recognize what was unhealthy about both the Campaign and Johanna’s dysfunctional behavior. Out of the growth of recovery, it slowly dawned on me that I was enmeshed in a cult-like atmosphere in the CBMH at the very least that I was being manipulated. When Johanna heightened the frequency and vitriol of her attacks on Carlito and began to insinuate that I was also to blame for the flaws she perceived in Carlito, I finally realized it was time to go. It is with no joy that I dig all of this up. To those of you who are still in solidarity with Johanna and who mean well, I am sorry if you are hurt by this. As a former member of this collective and close friend of many of the signers, the accuser as well as the accused, I am in a unique position now to shed light on the veracity of the claims against Carlito and the motivation for this character assassination campaign.


What Does This Have to Do with Freeing Mumia and Building a Better World?


Mumia needs this like the plague. The enemies of Mumia- there are many – would love nothing more than to catch wind that his name has been pegged to this imagined scandal that bears no relation to him. Furthermore, what is the history of Mumia’s case? He’s a man who was falsely accused. He is a man who was not allowed to speak for himself, who was denied due process. Mumia’s name was slandered publicly, and he was denied a fair hearing. He was convicted in the court of public opinion without the public getting to hear his side of the story. For obvious reasons, an entirely baseless smear campaign has no place in the CBMH.


Most enraging about this situation is that the silencing of women of color, the silencing of Black women, the silencing of Indigenous women, the silencing of all women, does happen. Sexual and emotional abuse and exploitation happens. These and other awful things happen. When false allegations are made publicly and salaciously like this with no legitimate goal and no due process, to satisfy someone is twisted egotistical political and personal envy, it makes it more difficult for victims to come forward and be heard and taken seriously. Shame on you Johanna, and shame on everyone uncritically going along with this public crucifixion. Of course, we support survivors, but we cannot uncritically demand someone’s head. No good will come of this.


There should be enough revolutionary love and celebration for all of us and it is heartbreaking to see people unwilling to make the room that so many of us so desperately wanted to accommodate for both of the CBMH’s political leaders to be amazing, and yes – flawed human beings. Fellow revolutionaries, there is so much work to be done. Conflict happens. Let us proceed with caution, compassion, and honesty. May we all live to see a world without prisons, police, and the horrors of capitalist exploitation. A world where Mumia and all our beloved political prisoners, and indeed every one of us, will be free.


Rebekah McAlister
October 2021
Former member of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, NYC


Lolita Lebrón, A Bold Fighter for Puerto Rican Independence

By Carlito Rovira

Throughout Puerto Rican history, women have played an exemplary and leading role in the struggle against colonialism and oppression. Political and military leaders like Mariana Bracetti, Lola Rodríguez De Tío, Juana Colón, Blanca Canales and many others, have been models of courage and devotion to the struggle for independence and self-determination.

One of the most widely known and respected women from the 20th century Puerto Rican liberation struggle is Lolita Lebrón.

LOLITA LEBRON

Lolita was born on November 19, 1919 to a poor working class family, at a time when U.S. colonial rule was openly brutal with rampant social misery. Her family lived in the legendary city of Lares, known for the 1868 “El Grito de Lares” uprising against Spanish colonialism and chattel slavery.

The hardships Lolita’s family faced during her youth, brought upon by the tightening of U.S. colonialism’s economic dominance in the country, contributed to Lolita Lebrón’s strong character. As a young woman, like so many of her compatriots, she decided to leave Puerto Rico in 1940 in search of a better life.

After World War II and into the 1960s, an average of 63,000 people migrated annually to the United States from Puerto Rico. By the end of this migration, nearly half of the Puerto Rican nation would be uprooted. They were pushed off their land in order to make way for lucrative agricultural and mining industries. This was an aspect of Washington’s colonial policy in the interests of giant capitalist corporations but at the expense of the Puerto Rican masses.

Lolita Lebrón settled in New York City’s East Harlem, then the largest community of Puerto Ricans outside of Puerto Rico. Like so many who migrated to find work in New York City, Lolita was employed as a stitcher in the city’s garment district. She immediately came face to face with the racism and exploitation that defines life for immigrant workers in the United States.

The Nationalist Party

Flag of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico.

Having a proud sense of her self-identity and a strong belief in the cause for Puerto Rico’s independence, Lolita increasingly developed resentment for the presence of a foreign invader in the homeland she adored. And because Lolita witnessed first hand the suffering of her people who were compelled by colonialism to migrate to a distant land to endure racism and discrimination, she joined the New York committee of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, led by Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

The Nationalist Party was banned in 1938. It continued its activities under intense repression, especially following the 1950 Jayuya Uprising and the attempted assassination in the same year of President Harry S. Truman by Nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola in retaliation for the crackdown that followed Jayuya. During the anti-communist, anti-labor and racist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era, the Nationalist Party committee in New York City secretly operated under the name “Movimiento Libertador” (Liberation Movement).

The New York committee served as a rear guard within the colonizing country to gather political and financial support for the movement in Puerto Rico. They held many public meetings with the hope of organizing the Puerto Rican community and to draw allies around the issue of independence.

Colonizers shift tactics

Taking advantage of the imprisonment of the revolutionary leadership, the U.S. government shifted its methods to disguise its role as colonizers. The governorship of Puerto Rico was no longer to be a military official appointed by the U.S. president. Instead, the U.S. granted supposedly “free elections” from among Puerto Rican candidates who were approved exclusively by the U.S. rulers. In addition, in 1952 the U.S.-dominated United Nations was persuaded to approve a resolution that designated the case of Puerto Rico as an internal matter of the United States.

Faced with this new reality, anti-colonial activists had to find new tactics to expose the colonial reality that Puerto Rico still experienced. Albizu Campos put out a call to carry out any form of action that would highlight the criminal nature of the U.S. domination of Puerto Rico.

A group of members from the New York committee—Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andrés Figueroa Cordero, Irvin Flores and Lolita Lebrón—secretly prepared to respond to Albizu Campos’s call. For many weeks and months the four patriots met to discuss the target, chosen with no regard for their own personal safety or survival.

With no mention of their plan to their families or friends, the four left for Washington, expecting never to return. Their only concern was to achieve the political objective in the action they were to take.

A bold and daring attack

On the morning of March 1, 1954, members of the House of Representatives were meeting to discuss immigration policy and the government of democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz of Guatemala—a government that the CIA overthrew in November of that year. The four patriots calmly entered the Capitol building, passing through the lobby and up the stairs to a balcony designated for visitors.

As the proceedings went on, the Nationalists unfurled the Puerto Rican flag. Lolita Lebrón then shouted, “QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!” Within seconds of brandishing and aiming their automatic weapons, the four revolutionaries opened fire on the U.S. Congress.

Gunfire broke out and bullets whistled through the air. Panic erupted in the chamber. Many congressional figures and their staff began screaming as they frantically pushed one another to get to the exit doors. Others avoided being shot by running to hide underneath tables and behind chairs

Before it ended, 30 rounds were fired. Five congressmen were wounded. All government buildings were shut down, and security throughout the city of Washington was increased.

The four Nationalists were immediately apprehended. The mass media launched a vicious campaign to demonize them and the entire Puerto Rican independence movement. The four were ultimately convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Members of the NYC Committee to Free the Nationalists took over the Statue of Liberty to demand their release.

As the Puerto Rican people mounted their struggle for the right of self-determination in Puerto Rico and in the United States during the upsurge of the 1960s and 1970s, more and more people raised the demand for the immediate release of Puerto Rican political prisoners. Thanks to the diplomatic work and solidarity of the Cuban revolutionary government, an international campaign galvanized widespread support for their release.

The political pressure paid off in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andrés Figueroa Cordero, Irvin Flores as well as Oscar Collazo. All five were released from prison.

Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz invited the formerly imprisoned Nationalists to Cuba to receive that country’s highest honor, Medal of the Order of the Bay of Pigs.

Lolita Lebron was arrested in 2001 for civil disobedience demanding the U.S. Navy out of Vieques.

The bold action taken by the four Puerto Rican patriots was an event that shocked the imperial-minded men of privilege — a shock that the U.S. ruling class has never forgotten. The colonizers of Puerto Rico never imagined that the people they victimized would dare such a bold act within the capital of the empire.

What Lolita, Rafael, Andrés and Irvin did on that day symbolizes not only the fury of the colonized Puerto Rican nation but of every oppressed people that strives for a world without imperialist oppression.

¡QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

TRUMP SUPPORTERS WERE NOT LURED TO DC — THEY ARE HIS WILLING FOLLOWERS

By Carlito Rovira

Since the white supremacist rebellion on January 6, 2021 at the Capitol building there has been an exerted effort by the mass media, and other apologists, to describe the people who attended as “misled” by Trump’s rhetoric.


This narrative is not only false but also patently dangerous.


The MAGA loyalists descended upon Washington, DC from every part of the United States days before the attempted coup to eagerly support Trump on his “wild” rally. Each of the participants were committed to support Trump, and others in the G.O.P, in a pathetic last stand of failure to suppress the Black vote and the will of the people.


Denying African Americans the right to vote has historically been a symbolic feature of white privilege based on Black oppression.

White supremacy has existed like the official religion of the United States.

Since the start of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign his supporters were well aware of his white supremacist stance, beginning with his derogatory attack on Mexican people. Needless to mention his hurtful and racist overtures towards the Puerto Rican people when Hurricane Maria claimed nearly 5,000 lives; Trump has also been quoted as saying that “Puerto Ricans are dirty and poor”. Let us also not forget that Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.”

Trump’s offensive trivializing gesture on Sept 12, 2018 following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.

Trump supporters were not lured, they have been his willing followers. They have had ample time to figure out what his rhetoric represents and its potential deadly consequences for Black and Brown people.

One only needs to ask what were the attitudes of these Trump followers towards the police murder of Breonna Taylor and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that sought justice for her and the many Black and Brown people killed similarly. But yet, we can see how even the media will tend to lend sympathy for the fanatical Trumpster Ashli Babbitt who was shot to death by Capitol Police.

The rage that was displayed by these insurrectionists is rooted in the historic backward traits deeply embedded in the customs, habits and traditions of white people ever since African chattel slavery in the United States. These “patriots” were driven by the need to preserve their white privilege.


In every objective sense they are more than just Trump supporters, they are participants in a menacing fascist movement in this country. Overtures for “national healing” now being made by politicians, the media, liberal commentators and so on, serves to obscure who in this society has the onus to make amends — history proves that it is NOT Black and Brown people.


The only solution to this potential rising fascist-racist movement is for unity on a meaningful basis, in which a militant people’s movement comes about. Our white brothers and sisters must adopt the disposition of the abolitionist John Brown and raise the cause against racist oppression as their very own. As long as unity on that basis does not exist the beneficiaries of white privilege will continue to have complicity in racist oppression.

Operation: COINTELPRO — The Original Social Media

By Carlito Rovira

When Whistleblower Edward Snowden chose to defect from his professional allegiance to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the rulers of this country went into crisis mode. We now know how advancements in computer technology, especially the Internet and its many social media outlets, are being used to gather intelligence and serve as a tool to stifle the creation of a new people’s movement of resistance.

Edward Snowden

For those with familiarity with the consequences of Operation: CONTELPRO, during the 1950’s, 60’s & 70’s, should never become naive to believe that these government projects aimed against progressive activists ever ended. On the contrary, it continues to this day with greater sophistication.

We have learned a lot about covert operations during that period and how it was used to diminish the strengths of the Black liberation, Puerto Rican independence, Chicano, and Indigenous movements. Operation COINTELPRO was also used against the movement opposed to the war in Vietnam. What we tend to overlook is that the government has also gained lessons from that experience, to be used against the rising of a new movement.

Operation COINTELPRO employed the most shocking tactics imaginable. They used subtle and emotionally convincing methods to carry out their deceit. Cunning techniques were accompanied by open repressive force aimed to have a devastating psychological impact on the entire movement opposed to the status quo.

COINTELPRO was created in the 1950’s to spy on socialists and the early Civil Rights movement, at a time when the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy launched his anti-Communist, racist and anti-labor campaign. It utilized information obtained from wiretaps, intercepting postal mail and informants. Today much of that has become obsolete thanks to the invention of non-other than the Internet, specifically social media.

The upgraded methods of surveilling and manipulating by the police state involves specialized units of trolls whose sole purpose is stirring up fights to foster disruptions among progressive circles.

The notorious J. Edgar Hoover would have been quite content if Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram existed during his time as FBI Director. It is certain that Hoover’s use of that technology would have been for speeding up the persecution of the Black Panther Party – targeting the most outspoken members, like those who were murdered or imprisoned for life.

The New York Police Department (NYPD), the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and others, in coordination with the FBI, also used the same divide & conquer tactics against the Black Panther Party’s fraternal ally, the Young Lords.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were both targets of COINTELPRO.

One of the many things that the racist J. Edgar Hoover openly bragged about was his disdain for leaders of the African American people and the Puerto Rican independence movement, specifically the Nationalist Party and the predecessor of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party – Movimiento Pro-Independencia (Movement Pro-Independence).

Professional covert operatives from the FBI, CIA, and police are trained to utilize gossip and false accusations as one of their primary techniques, especially to manipulate the sentiments of the emotionally weak.

Moreover, to achieve this necessary part of spying on progressive groups, government agencies maintain files containing psychological profiles of individuals, in order to search for potential weak links to utilize them for inciting internal disputes.

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The FBI and police placed primary focus on destroying the Black Panther Party.

The state uses these methods to achieve their desired outcome of destroying reputations and stir divisions. The final strategy is to cause demoralization, diminish people’s energies and ultimately discredit the politics of a movement.

A close examination of what Edward Snowden revealed should easily tell us how Operation: COINTELPRO destroyed an existing revolutionary movement, and whatever name it’s been given today the goal is still the same – to prevent a movement from rising up.

We should never allow ourselves to be played and lured repeatedly into that trap; We would become guilty of complicity in hindering the people’s struggle for emancipation from oppression.

The Young Lords were also targeted by Operation: COINTELPRO’s divide & conquer tactics.

History tells us that we should never underestimate the police state. They will utilize all situations and any issue to steer our focus away from challenges before us. A severe economic crisis is looming, accompanied by an intensity of racism and the possibility of war.

For those who doubt this assessment and hold a contrary view, should ask themselves: Why is white supremacy showing its ugly face so blatantly at an increased pace as civil liberties are eroded? Events today serve as warning signs to alert us of an approaching crisis in this country, which we must all confront.

Regardless of what our platforms may be, socialist, anarchist, nationalist, feminist, LGBTQ rights, and so on, we must not have complicity in what the rulers are attempting. The police state does not need our help to divide us further.

There is always a politically mature way of reaching resolution to any problem. We must have the victory of the liberation struggle in mind.

Social media should be used as a tool for educating and organizing ourselves against the common enemy. If our oppressors use the Internet to keep us disoriented and preserve their power, we should strive to become better users of that technology in the name of our liberation struggles.

The police state is not invincible. Their strength relies on poisonous gossip, rumor mongering and petti divisive discourse. The state’s covert activities against progressives can be stifled and stopped. However, we must adapt a standard of using critical analysis of solidarity and respect, when issues or crisis arise among us. It is imperative to our growth that we not employ the reactionary use of cancel culture.

The African Blood Brotherhood and the Proletarianization of Blacks in Amerika

As a tribute to the African Blood Brotherhood I am re-posting this article on my blog. The history of the ABB and the role of African Americans in the socialist movement should be of the utmost importance for all to research.                                                                                                                                                                              -Carlito Rovira


 

The African Blood Brotherhood and the Proletarianization of Blacks in Amerika

 

By Comrade Tom Big Warrior (2010)
Reprinted from Right On! #1

 

The African Blood Brotherhood for African Liberation and Redemption (ABB) was the first Marxist, Revolutionary Black Nationalist organization in Amerika. Founded in 1917, it grew rapidly during the wave of white racist riots known as the “Red Summer of 1919,“ the ABB was a secret, armed, community self-defense-oriented society headquartered in Harlem.

 

Many of the “Blood Brothers” were combat vets who had fought in France in World War I. Many were workers, conscious of their proletarian class exploitation and oppression in capitalist society, as well as their caste oppression as “Negroes,” and national oppression as members of a nation of a new type defined by color and refined by slavery, terror and segregation.

 

The Nation of New Afrikans in Amerika, which was then a peasant nation concentrated in the cotton-producing “Black-Belt South,” was also evolving into a proletarian nation in the industrial centers and defined urban ghettos. The white riots were pogroms directed at these ghettos, which were expanding with the “Great Migration” from the South to the North and the West that had been encouraged by the need for industrial workers during the World War. Many of the white rioters were also returned war vets. There was also a big resurgence of the KKK at this time that peaked in the mid-1920s.

 

The urban Black proletarian had to be tough to survive. They were consigned to the dirtiest, most menial and demeaning jobs, and there was brutal competition for these jobs. The ghettos were overcrowded and transient, and Black on Black violence was rampant. Rubes from the country were sheep to slaughter for the lumpen criminals who preyed on them, and they kept coming as mechanization was displacing share-cropping in the South. Black workers quickly learned that whites who were not racist against them were probably class-conscious and Socialist. Militant unions like the IWW brought together workers of all ethnic backgrounds. But the core of leadership of the ABB was part of another migration from the Caribbean to the U.S., and particularly to Harlem.

 

The African Blood Brotherhood was the brain-child of Cyril Briggs, a light-skinned native of the Caribbean island of Nevis, where he was born in 1887. He migrated to New York on July 4th, 1905 and joined a growing community of West Indian Blacks in the city. That was the year of the first attempted revolution in Russia in which the Leninist Bolsheviks played a conspicuous role. The successful October Revolution of 1917 sent a shock wave around the world that was felt by oppressed people everywhere.

 

 

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CYRIL BRIGGS – Founder and leader of the African Blood Brotherhood.

 

 

Lenin particularly had a lot to say to the colored peoples of the colonial and semi-colonial countries and directly to the Black people in Amerika. Eventually, the ABB was absorbed into the underground communist Workers Party of America (WPA) which evolved into the CPUSA. The communist party founded by the Russian Federation declared its stance on the Negro Question in 1920: “The Communist Party will carry on agitation among Negro workers to unite them with all class conscious workers.”

 

Leninism distinguished itself from earlier Marxism by its conscious commitment to the national liberation struggles of the colonial and subject peoples which Lenin recognized to be closely linked to the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution. The class conscious ABB veterans and West Indians shared an understanding of a wider world of exploitation and oppression than the “Jim Crow” South and the ghetto street corner, the world of global capitalist-imperialist empire and world proletarian socialist revolution – a world illuminated by Leninism.

 

The ABB was committed to the liberation of Afrika and the whole of the Afrikan Diaspora from white world supremacy and capitalist-imperialism and saw the necessity of overthrowing this system to end the racist oppression of Black people and other people of color. As the immediacy of defending the oppressed Black communities from the violence of vigilante white mobs subsided, the ABB comrades began to see more and more the need to win white comrades to fight against white racism in the overall workers movement and all strata of society and prepare the U.S. for proletarian socialist revolution.

 

Former ABB members formed the core of the CPUSA’s Black cadre, and they were rigorous in opposing white racism in the Party and the unions and mass organizations influenced by the Communist Party. In the 1920s & 30s, the Communist Party initiated work in the South, including forming sharecropper unions uniting both Black and poor whites and unions among southern textile workers.

 

This was the CP’s most revolutionary period – though it tended towards “left economism” and “dual unionism” — and a period when many Blacks were first exposed to Communist ideology and organization. The “Harlem Renaissance” saw a flowering of Black consciousness and culture, and most of the artists and intellectuals involved were strongly influenced by Marxism-Leninism and leftist ideas.

 

The World War had shaken things up and raised Black expectations. Most expected progressive changes after the war and were disappointed and frustrated by the resurgence of KKK activity and overall reactionary backlash that swept white Amerika. Large numbers turned to the new Communist Party looking for direction.

 

LONG LIVE THE MEMORY OF THE

AFRICAN BLOOD BROTHERHOOD!

 

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Statue in honor of the African Blood Brotherhood, at the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma 

The Young Lords, Palante: Lessons in Struggle

By Carlito Rovira

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, news headlines focused on a group of Puerto Rican youth in New York City who used daring tactics and unusual forms of protest against racist oppression. These defiant and militant youths called themselves the Young Lords.

Their examples, and the mass movement from which they arose, continue to inspire young people, especially today as we see greater proof that the only solution to oppression is organization and struggle.

The Young Lords developed in Chicago during the 1950s. They were composed of unemployed students and working-class youth, who were among many street-youth organizations targeted by police and demonized as “gangs” by the capitalist-owned mass media.

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These youths came from families compelled to leave Puerto Rico between the 1940s and 1960s as a result of the economic hardships caused by U.S. colonialism. They continued to experience oppression but under new social circumstances, as they became victims of extreme exploitation in factories, greedy slumlords, police brutality and by the viciousness of racist white gangs.

The Puerto Rican migration occurred during the same years the Civil Rights movement arose. The newly arrived Puerto Rican immigrants were impacted by the struggles of the African American people who also experienced the vile nature of racism in this country since chattel slavery. In many instances, Puerto Ricans identified with the demands of the Black Power movement.

In 1966, the Black Panther Party was formed. Panther leader Fred Hampton of Chicago sought to politicize the street organizations, particularly the Puerto Rican youths. The BPP’s efforts were successful when, in 1968, under the leadership of Jose Cha-Cha Jimenez, the Young Lords became a revolutionary political entity; they then became part of a fraternal alliance known as the Rainbow Coalition (unrelated to Jessie Jackson’s later Rainbow/PUSH Coalition), which also included the Brown Berets, I Wor Kuen, Young Patriots and the Black Panthers.

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Fred Hampton with leaders of the Rainbow Coalition. Jose Cha-Cha Jimenez, 2nd to the right.

Young Lords in New York

On July 26, 1969 the Young Lords made their debut in New York City at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution held at Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side. The Young Lords admired and supported the Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro Ruz and Ernesto Che Guevara. Two months later the Lords opened an office on Madison Avenue in the East Harlem, “El Barrio” community.

For many years, Black and Latino people complained about the New York Sanitation Department’s double standards in trash pick up. White affluent areas were serviced properly with regular garbage pick-ups, while Black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods were left in unhealthy conditions.

In the summer of 1969, the Young Lords in New York began sweeping the streets and amassing large piles of garbage that were a nuisance to the community of East Harlem. Many people wondered about what the young, seemingly “good Samaritans” were up to. But the mystery did not last long.

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Banner reads: “Young Lords Party serves & protects its people.”

In August 1969, the Young Lords used the garbage they had collected as the means to execute a political offensive with military tactics. Tons of trash were dumped and set ablaze across the main arteries of Manhattan to disrupt traffic, including on the affluent 5th Avenue. The Lords demanded an end to New York City’s racist municipal policies on sanitation. In neighborhoods where the “garbage offensive” was launched, the Lords galvanized community support; many joined the organization.

The mass media’s attacks on the Lords only worked in their favor. Within months, YLP chapters appeared in Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Jersey City, Boston and Milwaukee—cities with concentrations of Puerto Ricans. While mainly composed of Puerto Ricans, the organization also allowed members of other oppressed nationalities to join the Young Lords.

The Young Lords Party had a military-type structure with a process for recruitment and rules of discipline that were strictly enforced. The YLP believed that in order to defeat a politically and militarily sophisticated foe oppressed people had to prepare for their liberation by developing greater sophistication.

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The Young Lords functioned with a military-type discipline.

In the years following the Garbage Offensive, the Young Lords engaged in numerous campaigns that involved bold actions and drew widespread attention. One example was the physical takeover of the First Spanish Methodist Church on 111th Street. The Lords repeatedly pleaded with parishioners for space in order to feed hungry children, but to no avail. This church was closed throughout the week and only opened for a few hours for worshiping by a congregation that mostly lived out of town.

Backed by community sentiment, the Young Lords entered the church during a Sunday mass and expelled the congregation. Using the church as a base, the Young Lords operated a free childcare service, breakfast program and legal clinic. Medical services were also provided.

Disease and poor healthcare have long been an issue in the Puerto Rican community. Other actions taken by the YLP included the seizure of an unused tuberculosis testing truck, equipped with X-ray technology. After the truck was seized, the city was compelled to provide technicians to run the machine. The truck was then taken to East Harlem, where many people were tested for the lung ailment.

The Lords demanded that Lincoln Hospital, which served the people of the South Bronx, expand its services. Because this facility originated in the mid-1800s, when it treated even escaped slaves from the South, its facilities were outdated and did not meet the current needs of the people. An infestation of rats and roaches in the hospital further exacerbated the deplorable conditions.

In the early morning hours of July 14, 1970, about 100 members of the Young Lords boldly seized control of Lincoln Hospital. For 24 hours, the Young Lords and progressive medical professionals in the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement provided free medical services to community people. Today’s modern Lincoln Hospital—with its new facilities—is the result of a community struggle of which the Young Lords were in the leadership.

Young Lords held many demonstrations leading up to the takeover of Lincoln Hospital.

The Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization

In the summer of 1972, the Young Lords Party held its First Party Congress (and its last) in New York City. The event highlighted a new energy and direction for the organization. At this time,  the membership voted to change the name from Young Lords Party to Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO). Moreover, the changes solidified Marxism-Leninism as the entity’s ideological and political premise.

However one may view this stage in the organization’s development, many things proved to be certain years later — the Young Lords/PRRWO was undergoing a process of deterioration unseen by its members. The attempts made to rejuvenate its existence with a new line of march at the 1972 Congress came a bit too late. Making an erroneous decision to establish chapters in Puerto Rico, losing its base of mass support in the community, aggravated by internal hostilities which were instigated by FBI Operation COINTELPRO activities, eventually sealed the death of the once powerful organization.

El Frente Unido – The United Front

One of the least talked about areas of work of the Young Lords/PRRWO was the collaborative relationship it had with other organizations also part of the Puerto Rican national liberation movement in the United States; These organizations were the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP), El Comite-MINP, Resistencia Puertorriqueña, the Puerto Rican Students Union (PRSU), and the Young Lords.

A great amount of the collaborative work these groups did jointly was centered around burning issues in Puerto Rico, such as the struggle to end the U.S. military’s practice bombings on the island of Culebra. Other issues compelling the joint work was the demand for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners, such as Carlos Feliciano, Edwardo “Pancho” Cruz and the 5 Puerto Rican Nationalists.

Other actions El Frente Unido committed work towards were protest demonstrations against injustices inflicted against Puerto Ricans and opposing the U.S. War in Vietnam. Grave mistakes were indeed made of a sectarian nature that eventually made the coalition vulnerable to the divide & conquer tactics by Operation COINTELPRO. But nevertheless, the attempts made by El Frente Unido provided the Puerto Rican struggle with a wealth of experience to benefit the long-range fight for national liberation.

The ideology of the Young Lords Party

The YLP drew up a 13-Point Program that outlined the group’s political objectives. It included independence for Puerto Rico, as well as liberation for all Latinos and other oppressed people, like the Palestinians. The Young Lords upheld the struggle against women’s oppression and eventually voiced support for the rights of LGBTQ people.

These young revolutionaries believed that the power of the people would eventually overwhelm the power of the oppressors. In that spirit, the YLP believed in the right of armed self-defense. This became evident in actions they took while patrolling the streets in areas they organized. Whenever the Young Lords witnessed the police arresting community residents, they would intervene to confront the racist cops and often liberated the prisoners.

In late 1970, YLP member Julio Roldan, who had been arrested at a demonstration in the Bronx and was pending arraignment, was found hung to death in his cell at the “Tombs” prison facility in lower Manhattan. During this era, many prisoners were found mysteriously dead in their cells, but prison officials always labeled them “suicides.”

The Young Lords responded to Roldan’s death with militancy, accusing the state of murder. Following a procession with Roldan’s coffin through East Harlem, the YLP returned to the First Spanish Methodist Church, which they had seized a year earlier—but this time, they came armed with shotguns and automatic weapons. They demanded an investigation into Roldan’s death. Deeply entrenched community support for the Young Lords prevented a gun battle, as government officials knew there would be an enormous political fallout if they initiated a police onslaught. The Young Lords held the church for three months.

There are many examples of heroism among these young revolutionaries—not only in New York or Chicago, but also in chapters formed in other cities where the Puerto Rican people rose up in struggle.

Women of the Young Lords

As with all movements of importance, it was the women of the Young Lords who served as the political backbone and spirit of the organization. At the height of the YLP’s development women comprised at least 40 percent of the membership in the organization. Their nobility and courageous leadership among the ranks was beyond exemplary.

However, respect and acceptance of their roles as leaders was met with resistance and obstacles often rooted in the oppressive traditions of male dominance. But the sisters were steadfast and formed the Women’s Collective, an internal organizational vehicle to enable launching the necessary fight against sexism in the Young Lords.

Yet, despite many internal battles, these sisters used the persuasiveness of politics and education to move forward the entire entity. We owe a debt of deep gratitude to all of these women.

As a result of their determination and work, many groups of women from international movements recognized them for their contributions against capitalism and its many forms of oppression.

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Young Lords women were the backbone and soul of the organization.

The Young Lords were socialist youth 

Shamefully, because the Young Lords no longer exists, diluted, non-revolutionary interpretations of that history persist today.

The YLP openly denounced the capitalist system and called for a socialist society; they increasingly gravitated towards the ideals of Marxism. The organization had mandatory study of revolutionary-Marxist literature, such as Mao Ste Tung’s “Red Book,” The Communist Manifesto by Marx & Engels, The Wretched Of The Earth by Frantz Fanon, and so on.

Historical revisionism currently depicts the Young Lords and other frontline groups of the 1960’s-70’s as harmless to the capitalist system and irrelevant to the struggle for socialism today. In other words, despite historical versions that seek approval by the publishing houses of the mainstream the Young Lords were fundamentally revolutionaries and sought to smash the present social, economic and political order.

Regardless of what may be argued, the Young Lords openly called for the destruction of capitalism and establishment of socialism in the United States. This is made indisputably clear in the YLP’s “13-Point Program and Platform“, as well as in the pamphlet titled “The  Ideology Of The Young Lords Party.

The Young Lords, like the Black Panther Party, attempted to build a highly disciplined organization. They understood that without the organizational sophistication of a vanguard party, revolution is impossible. It is precisely this lesson that revolutionaries today should embrace and emulate in order to realize the future victory of socialism.

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LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTIONARY EXAMPLES OF THE

YOUNG LORDS!

 

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BERNIE SANDERS ONLY POINTED TO THE TRUTH ABOUT CUBA’s HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

By Carlito Rovira

 

 

Bourgeois political figures from both the Republican and Democratic Parties are now hung up about Bernie Sanders’ praises for Cuba’s sophisticated healthcare system.

 

Get over it — objective truth belongs to no one. The entire world is knowledgeable of Cuba’s prioritization of healthcare for its people. The advancements in medicine and accessability to healthcare are among the many achievements of the Cuban Revolution.

 

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Senator Bernie Sanders

 

Needless to mention how many poor people in countries subjugated by U.S. and other imperialist powers have been able to be seen by medical doctors for the first time thanks to Cuba’s international medical programs.

 

Whatever you may opinionate about Bernie Sanders version of “socialism” his limited and mild praise for Cuba’s medical system was enough to throw every defender of the capitalist system into a feverish frenzy of anti-Communist hatred.

 

 

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Cuban Revolutionary leaders Fidel Castro Ruz and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

 

Why? Simply because Cuban medicine sheds a positive light on the Cuban Revolution led by its historical iconic figures Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz and Ernesto “Che” Guevara. It also sheds light on what is possible in a revolutionary socialist United States.

 

Before absorbing and mimicking the attacks of the right-wing against Bernie Sanders remarks let’s ask ourselves the following: Why is there such a sense of uncertainty and insecurity among the working poor in the United States when it comes to healthcare?

 

Everyday we hear Donald Trump threatening to cut Medicaid and Medicare while Democratic presidential candidates echo his views by expressing doubts or disapproval for everyone to receive healthcare — a fundamental human right.

 

We have yet to see how Bernie Sanders will withstand the onslaught of attacks for his comment recognizing Cuba’s medical achievements. However this controversy results, there are ways to criticize him from the left as opposed from the right. For those with critical views of Bernie Sanders’ version of “socialism” or “Democratic Socialism” we must distant our criticisms from those made by bourgeois elements on the political right.

 

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Cuba pays for its sophisticated healthcare system from its national resources.

 

To his credit, Bernie Sanders pointed to Cuba’s achievements, despite the criminal U.S. economic blockade against that country. His right to state an indisputable fact about Cuba is something we must defend him on, just as much as criticizing his positions that are conciliatory to capitalism.

 

Healthcare for all was made possible in Cuba simply because the country’s resources are no longer horded by a privileged and wealthy minority, like in the United States. The 1959 Cuban Revolution was launched to abolish that.

 

Now, imagine what is possible if we were to be free of the parasitical capitalist class in this country. That is why we do not need a new president — we need a new system, where free healthcare, free education, housing for all, dignity and respect for humanity becomes the law.

 

LONG LIVE THE CUBAN REVOLUTION!