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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 theJayuya 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 Corderoentered 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.
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.
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.
For those with familiarity, like myself, with the consequences of Operation: CONTELPRO, during the 1950’s, 60’s & 70’s, should never become complaisant and naïve to think that such activities against progressive activists ended. On the contrary, it continued with greater sophistication.
We have learned a lot about covert operations during that period and how it was aimed to destroy the Black liberation, Puerto Rican independence, Chicano, Indigenous and the movement against the war in Vietnam. But what we tend to underestimate is that the rulers themselves have also gained lessons from that experience.
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 liberation movement.
COINTELPRO was created in the 1950’s to spy on socialists and the early Civil Rights movement, at a time when 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 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 within progressive entities.
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 to speed up the process of persecuting the Black Panther Party – the most politically skilled and outspoken members who were murdered or imprisoned.
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 Puerto Rican youth organization the Young Lords.
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 Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP).
Professional covert operatives from the FBI, CIA, and police are trained to utilize gossip and false accusations as one of their primary techniques, to manipulatively prey upon the sentiments of the emotionally weak.
Moreover, to achieve this necessary part of spying on progressive groups, both in the pass and present, is maintaining files with psychological profiles on individuals, as they search for potential weak links, to utilize them for inciting internal disputes and cause further divisions.
A necessary tactic the state uses to assure their desired outcome is destroying reputations, in order to discredit what the targeted individual(s) politically represent. In so doing they divert energy away from people either engaged or aspiring to involve themselves in political activity.
A close examination of what Edward Snowden revealed should easily allow us to conclude that while Operation: COINTELPRO destroyed a significant growing revolutionary mass movement, whatever it may be called today surely aims to prevent one from rising up again.
We should never allow ourselves to be played and lured repeatedly into that trap; We would become guilty of complicity in hindering the re-emergence of a people’s movement.
There is always a politically mature way of reaching resolution to any problem. We must have the struggle for human emancipation at the heart of our convictions.
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 the challenges before us. A severe economic crisis is looming, accompanied by an intensity of racism and fascist legislation.
For those who doubt this assessment as accurate 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 with such rapidity?
The horrible murder of George Floyd by police and the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, are also warning signs that serve to alert us of an approaching crisis in this country, which we must all confront.
Regardless 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 in what they’ve been doing to us.
Social media should be used as a tool for educating ourselves about the revolutionary history of our people’s struggle and for building a movement of resistance to the powers.
The police state is not invincible. Their strength relies on our infighting over pettiness. The state’s covert activities against progressives can be stifled and stopped, provided that we begin the process of closing ranks to have a politically mature disposition in a steeled culture of solidarity and self-respect.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 17, 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.
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 a13-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.
The Young Lords were socialist youth
Shamefully, because the Young Lords no longer exists, diluted, non-revolutionary interpretations of that period 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, May 11, 2019 marks one year since the death of Ana Luz Lopez Betancourt, the woman whom I grew to love, respect, cherish and from whom I learned tremendously. After having a stroke months before many had hoped that Ana would heal. What resulted instead was an unexpected heart attack which eventually claimed her life. Being a witness to her suffering in those final moments became the greatest trauma that I have ever experienced.
Ana was a beautiful human being who had earned the respect and affection of many people, especially fellow poets and her students, many of whom were immigrants from various countries. She was a teacher of creative writing and assisted these students in the use of the English language for job applications. But her humanity was not strictly in her profession, Ana’s premise was selflessness on every level. If Ana were to see someone in need she would immediately step in to help.
Ana was a Buddhist who consciously practiced her spiritual beliefs by always making an extra effort to help others in need. Her humanism was undeniably expressed through her poetry. Ana wrote about love, sorrow, pain, joy, as well as poetic renditions of political themes in both English and Spanish.
Ana was very proud of her Puerto Rican heritage as well as for being an Afro-Boricua. She would always challenge the influences of white supremacy with individuals who demonstrated to be impacted when they would express anti-Black notions by tending to deny or downplay the African blood among Latino people.
And having been born in Puerto Rico, suffering the consequences of colonialism, Ana’s steadfast became inseparable from her contempt for the U.S. colonization of her homeland, especially in the last days of her life when it became apparent how U.S. colonial policy welcomed the destructive forces of Hurricane Maria, in order to intensify their rule. Ana lived with the hopes of living long enough to see Puerto Rico as a free and independent republic.
Surviving the trauma of Ana’s death was very difficult, especially with the death of my very best friend Andy McInerney who died six months later. But I was very fortunate to have many friends who came to my support at a moment when I needed it the most. The people whom I shall forever be grateful to were members of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, most especially Johanna Fernandez, Sophia Williams, Gwen Debrow, Robyn Spensor, Rebekah McAlister, as well as Xen Medina, Mariana McDonald and my beloved dear friend Andy McInerney.
Ana shall always be remembered by many who grew to love her. And being that her convictions and morality also impacted me, which helped to strengthen my resolve in political struggle as well as making me a better man, Ana shall always have a very special place in my heart.
You say you’re disappointed – what on earth were you thinking about when Mueller was first appointed special counsel?
Sure the rulers are not homogeneous and are contentious among themselves, but keep in mind that it was an inquiry created by and approved by them. Mueller, who is also a Republican, is a staunch cadre of the ruling class, and is highly regarded by them. His military career and as Director of the FBI under both Republican and Democratic presidents confirms his complete loyalty to this system.
If there is a strict rule these villains in power live by is to protect the political integrity of the capitalist system. Mueller’s investigative mandate was not aimed to protect “democracy”, but rather, to protect a system of exploitation, social privilege and inequality.
Whose interest did you think the special counsel really represented? Certainly not our’s, the tens of millions of working class people who are being impacted by the policies of the Trump administration, and every administration that came before — which have acted consistently with the interest of the ruling class — a class interest that Democrats also represent. This fiasco was more like thieves investigating thieves.
Of course Trump should be indicted, most people in this country will agree. In fact, people are now speaking about the Mueller Report everywhere with the highest level of disappointment. But what Trump should have been investigated, indicted and imprisoned for goes beyond collusion — which many in the ruling class are also motivated to engage in for their business interest.
What Trump is indisputably guilty of is stepping up the full agenda of billionaires in this country, who conspire daily to execute an onslaught against poor working class, people of color.
What Trump is guilty of is working feverishly on eliminating the gains African Americans made during the Civil Rights movement and openly legitimizing traditional racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazies. He is also guilty of degrading Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Muslims, and other people of color. Special Council Mueller’s mandate did not include addressing questions of social oppression which are the unavoidable consequence of capitalist society.
Trump should also face criminal charges for plotting war against Venezuela; his disgusting and offensive disposition towards the Palestinian people when he established a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem; and his hurtful, chastising imperial behavior towards Puerto Rico, as thousands died horribly as a result of Hurricane Maria.
YES, Trump should be investigated, indicted and imprisoned, but by a people’s tribunal that can guarantee justice in the fullest sense, independent of financial interests and the intricate connections within the ruling class. Such would require a people’s revolutionary movement. Not only would Trump be held accountable for his criminal activities but so too would the capitalist system and the white supremacist movement which he represents.
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.
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 “liberal” 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.
Outright brutality through military rule was the preferred form of administering colonial rule by U.S. rulers. 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.
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. After many attempts by the colonial government and the FDR Administration 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.
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 the Puerto Rican people 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.
Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a Black Puerto Rican scholar 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.
African chattel slavery also touched upon Puerto Rico, which became the consequence of Spanish colonialism in both Africa and Latin America. In fact, in 1527 a bloody slave revolts occurred in Puerto Rico, one of the earliest in the history of the Western Hemisphere.
Before moving to New York City, Schomburg was a member of the secret Revolutionary Committees of Puerto Rico. Decades before Schomburg’s birth the Revolutionary Committees were organized to launch an anti-slavery & pro-independence uprising in 1868 known as El Grito De Lares. Although that attempt to rid Spanish colonialism failed, the movement for independence continued to exist clandestinely.
Throughout his life Schomburg remained a firm advocate for Puerto Rico’s independence and self-determination. In fact, Schomburg partook in establishing a branch of the Revolutionary Committees in New York City, where he joined other Puerto Rican freedom fighters in approving what would become the Puerto Rican Flag of today.
As the persecution of Black people in the United States intensified, with 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.
Ridiculing the racist fables about the origins and history of Black people became Schomburg’s central focus. His noble quest eventually proved indisputably 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.
Schomburg’s scholarly work was indeed revolutionary; it was part of a historical countering trend in academic and scientific fields that exposed the hypocrisy of racist and anti-working class apologists for capitalism — such were adherents of Social-Darwinism, Eugenics, etc.
Schomburg became a prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance. Along with famous figures like Langston Hughes this movement succeeded in challenging the ideological facets of white supremacy through the literary, visual and performing arts.
The collection of literature and art materials he compiled are permanently housed at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem. Arturo Alfonso Schomberg shall forever be remembered as a hero of the oppressed, by those who fight for Puerto Rico’s independence and by those engaged in the historical struggle for Black liberation.