Hurricane Maria Brings Out the Hypocrisy in “American Citizenship” for Puerto Ricans

By  Carlito Rovira

 

In the days following the massive devastation caused by Hurricane Maria news reports have emphasized the “American citizenship” of Puerto Ricans. But why are Puerto Ricans suddenly being projected actively as American citizens when, traditionally, this has not been the case?

The same media outlets have discovered that most people in the U.S. do not know that Puerto Ricans hold U.S. citizenship. For many North Americans—who often suspect that people who speak Spanish and come from a territory in Latin America are “illegal”—the concept of Puerto Ricans as “citizens” must be baffling indeed.

What is needed to clear up the confusion is a discussion of the origins of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S. and the peculiarities of Puerto Rican “citizenship.” The contradictions of that relationship have been vividly captured in the savagely unequal deployment of relief to Houston, devastated by Hurricane Harvey, and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the underlying reason for the different responses—the colonial relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico—has not been clearly understood.

Puerto Rico was one of four countries colonized by the US in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1917, then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones–Shafroth Act. Commonly known as the “Jones Act” it imposed a second-class version of citizenship on Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico. The U.S. government expressed it’s imperial arrogance by ignoring opposition to the law by an organized sector of the island, including outspoken figures like Luis Muñoz Rivera and Jose De Diego.

The law identified the people of the island as “statutory citizens,” a new concept never before applied to anyone, anywhere, which means that certain rights and benefits of citizenship do not apply. Puerto Ricans residing on the island are denied the right to vote in Federal elections and the ability to declare bankruptcy, among other rights and benefits.

The double standard in the supposed “American citizenship” for Puerto Ricans was fueled by the same racist logic of the not-so-hidden second-class citizenship status this country maintains for Indigenous People and African Americans, only in the case of Puerto Ricans the second-class status was actually spelled out in the Jones Act itself instead of just existing de-facto.

The U.S. rulers concocted a way of disguising the fact that they had conquered and colonized a distinct nation, in a separate territory, with a separate economy and a distinct history, culture, language and national-identity. In short, the Jones Act allowed the U.S. rulers to disguise their colonizing intent and undermine the existence and identity of another nation.

At first many Puerto Ricans believed that “U.S. citizenship” would benefit them. But they soon discovered the opposite.

 

Statutory Citizenship and World War I

 

On April 6, 1917, barely a month after the imposition of “U.S. citizenship” on Puerto Ricans, the U.S. declared war on Germany. This was a war like none that had come before. It engulfed all the industrialized capitalist countries of the world. Their aim was the seizure of each others’ colonial possessions in order to obtain new commercial markets, new sources of raw materials and the labor of already-conquered and colonized people which they could then exploit for profit.

It was a struggle of global proportions facilitated by the most ruthless capitalists of the various imperialist countries. U.S. rulers did not want to be left out of the expected lucrative feeding frenzy, and so they sought ways to persuade the broader U.S. public to support corporate America’s desires to join one side in the conflict.

By November 1917, just 8 months after the imposition of citizenship, the military draft was applied to Puerto Rico. This came after government and military officials realized that Puerto Ricans were reluctant to voluntarily join the U.S. Armed Forces. About 20,000 young men were taken and sent to kill or be killed in the trench battles of Europe.

Many of these soldiers died or were maimed as a result of highly lethal chemical weapons used in this war. But the death toll among these soldiers is still unknown because U.S. military officials kept no records of Puerto Rican battle casualties.

It was of no concern to the warmongers in Washington that these Puerto Rican men did not have the slightest clue what the war was about in the first place. If we consider the chronology of events it becomes clear that the Jones–Shafroth Act, which imposed “U.S. citizenship,” was simply designed to use young Boricuas as cannon fodder.

 

2nd Class “Citizenship” and the Social & Economic Life of Puerto Rico

 

Today it has become indisputably clear that all of the facets of the Jones Act, especially its economic component, are designed to diminish and destroy the Puerto Rican nation—as Puerto Rican nationalist leader Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos predicted.

 

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Puerto Rico’s Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos.

 

Giant U.S. corporations are now the sole beneficiaries of the imposed American “citizenship” in Puerto Rico. While it is true that Puerto Rico receives limited benefits from the colonial relationship it has also been historically subjected to a range of laws that benefit only the billionaires of Wall Street, and this is the primary effect. Not only are these avaricious capitalist enterprises exempt from paying taxes to Puerto Rico, they also extract from the country an annual average of $30 billion in profits. For an island with a population less than 3.5 million this is one of the highest rates of colonial exploitation per capita in the world.

And now there are new austerity measures known as the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), which aims to forcibly collect an imposed $73 billion dollar hedge fund debt by shutting down public schools, libraries, hospitals, and other public services, as well as eliminating pensions and reducing the minimum wage. This simply reveals what the aims of the U.S. colonizers have always been, since they militarily invaded Puerto Rico in 1898.

The draconian measures of PROMESA have become the latest version of U.S. colonial policy in Puerto Rico. Combined with the fact that Puerto Ricans residing in all U.S. territories constitute the second poorest nationality, this makes “American citizenship” for Puerto Ricans more meaningless than ever before.

 

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What Trump was expressing in this humiliating scene was not unique but the general disposition of U.S. colonialism.

 

When President Trump came to Puerto Rico it was certainly not to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Maria. Despite his stupid behavior of throwing paper towels at a Puerto Rican audience and offending them with false claims of how much money Puerto Rico was “costing the federal treasury,” etc., he was consistent by expounding the traditional racist views of U.S. colonialism. Trump was insidiously reminding Puerto Ricans, in his own disrespectful style, how worthless their “U.S. Citizenship” really is.

Puerto Rican citizenship, in the truest meaning of the word, can only come about when the Puerto Rican people achieve the freedom to exercise their human rights: that is, to exercise their right to political independence and self-determination free from the domination of the U.S. Colonizers. The U.S. rulers shall then be brought before justice and forced to provide Puerto Ricans with the reparations due to them.

 

Continue reading “Hurricane Maria Brings Out the Hypocrisy in “American Citizenship” for Puerto Ricans”

Long live the fighting spirit of NAT TURNER’S REBELLION!

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 plantations; Among the most shocking and heinous acts committed by slave owners was punishing insubordinate slaves by having their children tossed in rivers to be killed by crocodiles.

 

The gall of bourgeois historians who dare to make false judgement while minimizing what 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 served 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 shacks 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 insurrectionists, as well as many non-participating slaves were executed.

 

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 antiracist 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!

BLACK LIVES MATTER!

 

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Lolita Lebrón, a bold fighter for Puerto Rican independence

By Carlito Rovira

 

¡Que viva Puerto Rico libre!

 

 

 

 

AFRICAN AMERICAN REPARATIONS & THE STRUGGLE FOR SOCIALISM

By Carlito Rovira

 

Among the historical demands of the African American liberation struggle viewed with the utmost contempt by the capitalist class is the demand for reparations. At least 12 million Africans were kidnapped and taken to the Americas in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

 

The demand for reparations is based on the outright theft, degradation and genocide of the African American population during the hundreds of years of slavery in the United States. It is based on the continued impact of this period that lasts to this day in the form of systematic racism and inequality experienced by the Black community throughout the country.

 

It is also based on the continued benefits the U.S. capitalist class still derives from the wealth extracted from Black labor during the period of chattel slavery.

 

Unlike the human bondage of slavery in antiquity, African chattel slavery arose in the 15th century based on the expansion of capitalism. The exploitation of the labor of millions of African slaves allowed the then-infant European capitalist economies to achieve a level of growth never before seen by any social system.

 

Chattel slavery began around 1441 when armed Portuguese “explorers” captured Africans and shipped them to Europe. Once Christopher Columbus made his infamous intrusion into the Western Hemisphere, chattel slavery expanded and lasted well into the second half of the 19th century. This system formed the economic basis of deeply embedded racist ideology among people of European descent in the United States.

 

The initial process of rapid capital accumulation, a requirement for capitalist economic development, was accomplished by the European capitalist classes from the wealth created by enslaved Black labor and the massive theft of gold and other wealth from the Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere also victims of genocide.

 

Today, bourgeois historians try to exonerate or distance the capitalist class from complicity in the brutal system of chattel slavery. But slavery, while not based on the “free” wage labor associated with capitalism, was inextricably bound to the development of capitalism. Slavery became an inseparable appendage of rising capitalism until its abolition in the 19th century.

 

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The wealth accumulated from slave labor strengthened capitalist industries and commerce. Textile industries, agriculture and shipbuilding prospered as a result of cheaper goods and raw materials obtained by enslaved African labor. The more Black slavery expanded, the more it became an impetus for capitalist economic development not only in the United States, where slavery was strongest, but throughout the world.

 

But what was first a tremendous stimulant for capitalist economic growth ultimately became an economic depressant in the United States. The slave-based plantation economy in the South competed directly with the growing manufacturing economy in the north, based on “free labor.”

 

The competition between these social systems was the basis for the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865. African chattel slavery in the United States was the most lucrative of all.

 

Slavery was abolished after the Civil War. But the impact of that brutal system of exploitation remained, both in the wealth of the U.S. ruling class and the devastation and continued racist oppression of the Black population.

 

The colossal wealth today, amounting to trillions of dollars, is boasted about in stock market reports by the world’s richest corporations like FleetBoston Financial, the railroad firm CSX and the Aetna insurance company. These entities owe their growth to the brutally exploited labor of millions of African people.

 

But like any system of exploitation, slavery also provoked the aspirations of the Black masses for justice and compensation. The demand for reparations is an expression of these aspirations to benefit from the vast wealth that millions of enslaved people produced.

 

The exact formulation of the demand for reparations has varied over the many phases of the Black liberation struggle through the era of slavery itself, the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War, to the present day. But whatever the form in which the demand has manifested, it has always expressed the collective desire of African Americans to be compensated for the criminal exploitation they endured as an enslaved people.

 

`Forty acres and a mule’

 

During the Civil War, the southern slave-owning class held a special hatred for the northern general William Tecumseh Sherman. In 1864 and 1865, Sherman led an army of Black and white Union soldiers marching through South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Along the way, he ordered the total destruction of munitions factories, crops, railroad yards, clothing mills, warehouses and other targets to deny resources to the Confederacy. It was an effective measure of psychological warfare aimed at all who resisted the will of the Union Army.

 

On Jan. 11, 1865, Sherman met with leaders of the Black community in Savannah, Georgia. Most of them were former slaves. The spokesperson of the Black leaders was 67-year-old Garrison Frazier, who was born a slave in North Carolina.

 

Frazier gave voice to the aspirations of the millions of African Americans who had just been released from slavery as a result of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. “The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land,” Frazier told the Union general.

 

These African Americans were a principal factor in Sherman’s decision to issue Special Field Order 15 on Jan. 15, 1865. That military order provided 40,000 former slaves with 400,000 acres of land confiscated from the defeated slave owners. It is believed to have been the origin of the demand for “40 acres and a mule.

 

For the first time, a representative of the northern capitalist class had recognized, in a limited way, the rights of former slaves to receive some form of compensation for their centuries of oppression. And while the order was issued for tactical purposes by the northern capitalist government in its campaign against the southern slavocracy, it provided a glimpse of what the oppressed Black nation could achieve in a full-blown social revolution.

 

Reversal of Civil War gains

 

Hopes for real economic reparations for former slaves were short-lived. The immediate needs of the northern ruling class in crushing their southern competitors were replaced by the overall goal of stifling the aspirations of the oppressed Black masses. Sherman himself went on to unleash U.S. government terror against the Native American people.

 

The overthrown slave owners were enlisted as allies in this project. Former members of the Confederacy engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, setting up the terrorist Ku Klux Klan to roll back the gains of the postwar period of Radical Reconstruction.

 

One of Andrew Johnson’s first acts as president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was to rescind Special Field Order 15, returning the old land titles to their former owners. Throughout Johnson’s presidency, he vetoed every proposal that granted land to former slaves in the southern states and the western frontier.

 

Radical Republicans made other attempts to pass legislation compensating former slaves, such as providing pensions for the former slaves. These bills met fierce opposition in Congress; none survived.

 

As the United States entered the 20th century as a rising imperialist power, it became ever clearer that the capitalist class’ motives during the Civil War had nothing to do with genuine Black emancipation. Instead of receiving reparations, African Americans were the constant target of disenfranchisement, persecution and racist terror.

 

The struggle to win reparations for African Americans diminished in the earlier part of the 20th century, largely overshadowed by the necessary struggles against lynching and KKK terror. At the height of the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 60s, reparations once again became a central demand of the Black liberation struggle. The Black Panther Party, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Nation of Islam and others reintroduced the demand for reparations, often in militant and defiant ways.

 

The complicity of white people in Black oppression can only be rectified when they raise the banner of Black liberation as their very own.

 

During the course of the mass civil rights and Black liberation movements, the U.S. government was forced to allow some progressive legislation. In particular, voting rights, expanded welfare programs and some elements of affirmative action were achieved although all of them are under constant attack.

 

The question of property rights

 

But throughout this period, all sectors of the U.S. ruling class have been hostile to any form of reparations to the African American community. The reason is simple: The demand raises the question of property rights. The bottom-line function of the U.S. government is to preserve capitalist property against all demands from those without property.

 

Economics is the lifeblood that allows for human social development. Destroying, hindering or depriving a people of an economic means of life is an essential step for an oppressor in carrying out the business of subjugation. This is why the capitalist class is hostile toward any reference to reparations.

 

Of course, the capitalist rulers never hesitate to demand reparations in the form of financial compensation when it comes to their own property or interests. For example, they still whine about property that was expropriated by the Cuban people after the 1959 revolution.

 

Ruling-class commentators and pundits try to use bourgeois legality in arguing that African slaves are no longer living and that the claim for reparations should not apply to their descendants. But the wealth created by slave labor became the foundation of many U.S. corporations, and was the basis for the rise of the U.S. capitalist class: the railroad conglomerate CSX, Aetna, JP Morgan Chase, Westpoint Stevens, Union Pacific and Brown University, to name just a few.

 

It is by that bourgeois legality that the wealth created by the slaves and appropriated by the slave owners has continued in the form of corporate wealth and passed down through inheritance laws to families and individuals.

 

Under the legal codes of capitalism, the debt owed to the ancestors of the vast majority of African Americans in the United States today should be recognized by the same inheritance laws by which the rich have benefited. The denial of these rights is another example of the racist disenfranchisement of the Black nation in the United States.

 

What will reparations look like?

 

Of course, the concrete expression of how reparations should be granted has generated discussion and debate, even among advocates of reparations. For example, some call for reparations in the form of material incentives such as funds for education programs.

 

At a September 2000 forum sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus and initiated by Rep. John Conyers, Congressperson Tony Hall supported a call for a panel to study the call for reparations. “I would hope that it would consider among many things, investments in human capital for scholarships, for a museum like Congressman [John] Lewis has proposed, for things that would improve the future of slaves’ descendants,” he testified.

 

The Black Panther Party placed reparations at the center of their political perspective. Hall, who is white, articulated a modest message. He had sponsored legislation calling on Congress to issue a formal apology for slavery—something that the U.S. government has never done. The version of reparations he described is one designed to be tolerated by some sector of the capitalist class itself.

 

Activist and author Sam Anderson, representing the Black Radical Congress at the same 2000 panel, projected a more radical vision of the movement for reparations. “[A] comprehensive reparations campaign embraces all of our sites of struggle and areas of concerns,” he said. Anderson laid out a program of fighting for free health care, debt cancellation both for the Black community in the United States as well as African nations and freedom for political prisoners. “A reparations campaign is fundamentally anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist,” he said.

 

Reparations and socialism

 

Throughout the decades that the demand for reparations has been raised, it is clear that the ruling class is vehemently opposed to any form of economic redress for the descendants of victims of slavery. Every effort to make the most moderate version of reparations is rejected out of hand.

 

Every effort of groups like the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America and others deserves the support of all working people of every nationality. Solidarity among the working class means recognizing the right of oppressed nations to real redress for the exploitation of centuries.

 

Reparations for African Americans automatically means the expropriation of the capitalist class. In short, taking back the wealth, and everything connected to it, that the rulers stole from oppressed and exploited people since their existence first began.

 

Socialists and revolutionaries concern themselves with raising the anti-capitalist essence of the demand for reparations, making it a central theme for the revolution in this country. For anyone to claim that they are “socialist” but are either ambiguous or opposed to reparations are in essense promoting a sham version of “socialism.”

 

Given the dynamics of the class struggle in the United States and the extreme reliance on racism by the ruling class, reparations for the oppressed automatically imply the expropriation of the capitalist class.

 

The demand for African American reparations has wide-ranging implications with regard to the history and social structure that prevails in this society.

 

It is a demand that has been taken up around the world by other oppressed nationalities. In fact, reparations for Native American people after the U.S. genocidal campaign, for Mexican people for the conquest of territory, for the Puerto Rican people, for more than a century of U.S. colonialism, for Cuba, Palestine, Haiti, Venezuela and so on. These and more are part and parcel of the U.S. working-class program for socialist revolution.

 

 

REPARATIONS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS & ALL OPPRESSED PEOPLE, NOW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salute to the martyrs of the Oct 30, 1950 Jayuya Uprising!

By Carlito Rovira

 

On October 30, 1950 an armed battle took place in the municipality of Jayuya which spread throughout Puerto Rico. It became known as the Jayuya Uprising. Men and women  determined to make their dream of an independent republic come true, carried out daring armed confrontations with U.S.-trained police and the National Guard.

 

The fury that ensued was attributed to the inhumane colonial policy of the United States, which began with the 1898 military invasion. Leading up to October 1950 the U.S. colonizers were putting in place a plan to crush the independence movement and all expressions of anti-colonialism with brute force.

 

The colonization of Puerto Rico was motivated by capitalist economic interests of giant banks and corporations. Countries like Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Japan and the United States engaged in savage competition among themselves to obtain colonies. With the conquest of the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico the U.S. became an imperialist power. U.S. rulers envisioned themselves controlling the world, especially Latin America where they had defined their intentions to make it their own in the 1823 Monroe Doctrine.

 

However, this historical trend did not go unchallenged. Millions of people resisted the savage onslaught by this system, especially after World War II and well into the 1960’s with the emergence of organized nationalist movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

 

It was a momentous period in history with national liberation movements becoming an integral part of the global class struggle, which came to a head at the height of the so-called Cold War. At the political-military poles of this conflict were the United States on one side and the Soviet Union on the other. Most notable in this historic turmoil were the Algerian, Angolan, Chinese, Vietnamese and Cuban Revolutions, as well as the inspiring liberation movements of  Palestine, South Africa and Northern Ireland. Imperialism did not foresee the resistance of its victims who chose to pick up arms in their quest for freedom.

 

The 1950 Jayuya Uprising

 

Under the leadership of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico proclaimed the inalienable right of colonized Puerto Rican people to independence. These freedom fighters gained the respect of multiple sectors of the population.

 

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Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos

The Nationalist Party also became known for advocating the right to use whatever means necessary to achieve liberation, including the use of armed force. This made them the primary target of colonialism’s repressive agencies that sought to destroy the independence movement.

 

When the political Left in the United States was persecuted in the 1940-50’s, the result of an anti-communist witch-hunt spearheaded by the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy, Puerto Ricans witnessed a harsher version of that same hideous campaign. People in the U.S. hardly knew that Nationalists were systematically imprisoned and murdered.

 

Laws were created to justify the killings of Nationalists in plain view. The cause for Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination was criminalized outright. Such was Law 53 of 1948 better known as the Gag Law, (Spanish: Ley de La Mordaza);  it banned the Nationalist Party, prohibited possession and display of the Puerto Rican flag, outlawed public gatherings, literature and musical renditions that mentioned independence or were critical of U.S. colonialism.

This vicious law aimed to destroy the self-identity and aspirations for nationhood among the people. The tactics used by government officials and the colonial police were intended to instill fear in the entire population.

 

U.S. news media outlets aired the false claims of Washington officials which projected the uprising as an “internal matter among Puerto Ricans.” But nothing can dismiss the cold facts pointing to the contrary: the supposed “Government of Puerto Rico” did not come into existence by the will of the people, it was installed by the U.S. colonizers. Federal law mandates the U.S. President taking direct charge of matters there in cases of emergency. In addition, the governor of Puerto Rico is required to report and take directions from the White House.

 

Early in October 1950, Nationalist Party intelligence operatives obtained information of a secret government plan to eliminate the independence movement. The tactics in the planned onslaught involved attacking offices and homes of Nationalist Party members, especially its leader Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

 

With knowledge of the imminent attack Party leadership chose to uphold national dignity and their right to armed self-defense and decided that it was best to take the initiative by landing the first blow.

 

On the morning of October 30, 1950, a young woman named Blanca Canales led an armed contingency of Nationalists towards Jayuya. Once they arrived into the city the patriots launched their attack on the police headquarters. The Nationalists then surrounded the despised facility and a gun battle ensued.

 

Civil and police officials were shocked by the unexpected tenacity of the freedom fighters. The police were ordered to surrender and come out of the building with their hands raised. As soon as the Nationalists gained control of the situation Blanca Canales proceeded to give the command to burn down the building.

 

Surrounded by crowds of town residents the brave patriots displayed the prohibited Puerto Rican flag. With her weapon raised in the air Blanca Canales agitated the onlookers by shouting  the historic words of the struggle — “QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!” She defiantly declared the independence of Puerto Rico.

 

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Blanca Canales

 

Violent clashes between police and nationalists also occurred in Utuado, Ponce, Mayagüez, Arecibo, Naranjito, Ciales, Peñuelas and other towns. In San Juan, the police attacked the headquarters of the Nationalist Party. Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, Isabel Rosado and others undertook an armed battle until they were overwhelmed by tear gas.

 

The colonial government in San Juan imposed new repressive measures throughout the country, including martial law. Military airplanes were deployed to bomb Jayuya in which 70 percent of the municipality was destroyed. The National Guard immediately pushed to suppress the uprising and regain control of city.

 

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Nationalists were rounded up throughout Puerto Rico.

 

Well aware of the potential political impact news of the rebellion would have in the court of public opinion the U.S. government imposed a news blackout of the situation. To silence the voice of the emerging struggle, there was a gradual but intense effort to twist the facts.

 

Nationalist Party members Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola went to the Blair House in Washington, D.C. to assassinate President Harry Truman. Their intended purpose was to counter Washington’s lies about the conflict before the world. Torresola was killed and Collazo was critically wounded in a shootout with capital police and Truman’s bodyguards. But their brave act did bring about exposure to what was occurring in Puerto Rico.

 

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Puerto Rican Nationalist Oscar Collazo in custody.

 

The meaning of Jayuya

 

As Puerto Ricans rebelled with guns in hand, anti-colonial struggles in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America waged on. The Jayuya Uprising in Puerto Rico was part of the global resistance of oppressed and exploited people.

 

Although the efforts of the Nationalist Party failed to expel colonialism a political victory was won. This episode proved that the colonizers will compel the people to rebel. It does not matter how great the repressive reach is it can never erase from the minds of colonized people the pride of their national identity and their revolutionary traditions.

 

The foreign rulers will unavoidably show contempt for the people it subjugates and robs, as vividly demonstrated by a not-so-hidden campaign of neglect following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.

 

If one were to examine the chronology of the atrocities committed by the U.S. in Puerto Rico, like the secret sterilization of women, the cancer epidemic caused by the bombing destruction of Vieques, the thousands of deaths caused by Hurricane Maria and the deliberate policy of neglect that followed and other examples of genocide.

 

The impositions by the U.S. Government on the Puerto Rican masses explains why the heroic stance of the Nationalists during the 1950 Jayuya Uprising was justified.

 

For their own reasoning the U.S. colonizers will also remember the Jayuya Uprising as they recognize the great potential for the Puerto Rican people to rise up. And in that inevitable moment the valuable lessons gained from the Jayuya experience shall prove decisive in the battle for a free Puerto Rican nation.

 

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

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THE TRUMP PHENOMENA: A CONSEQUENCE OF CAPITALISM

By Carlito Rovira

Never before in the history of bourgeois electoral politics in the United States have we witnessed anything more bizarre than what has taken place throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. The U.S. rulers have had their share of absurd individual personalities run for the highest political office but never one who has been so recklessly open with his reactionary views as presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The revelation of a 2005 “hot-mic” tape of a recorded conversation from the NBC’s show Access Hollywood with Co-Hosts Nancy O’Neal and Billy Bush has proven to be disastrous for Trump. It involved Trump making lewd, vulgar, demeaning and degrading remarks about women and how he used his “star power” to assault them. This is the latest in Trump’s long list of self-damaging blunders.

But what is perhaps the thing that we should take notice about and examine is, how sectors of the ruling class are now making it a point to distance themselves from Donald Trump and the contents of his remarks, as if they have been pro-women all along. The Republican Party’s gradual coldness towards Donald Trump resulted once they saw that a Frankenstein was created instead of a winning candidate.

What should be most telling to progressive minded people is that the Donald Trump phenomena in this year’s race for the presidency is not isolated from the vile existence of capitalist culture, in particular, its misogynist, homophobic and white supremacist practices and perspective.

Can anyone really say that anti-Latino, anti-Black, anti-women and anti-Muslim sentiments began with Donald Trump? White supremacy and misogynism has always been fostered by both Democratic and Republican figures. These two aspects of our reality under capitalism will continue to be expressed as “norms” as long as this system exists.

What the news media will not focus on is how Donald Trump is not an isolated case but the consequence of long established traditions in this society.

The rallying call for Donald Trump to resign from the Republican presidential ticket came about once he severely embarrassed that grouping in the ruling class. A huge crack was made in the wall of pretentious morals and respectability for the Republican Party, and potentially for the credibility of all bourgeois politics as well.

It is also possible that key elements among the most powerful and influential members of the ruling class decided that Hillary Clinton was their preferred candidate for president. Using a loose cannon like Donald Trump who is unable to think strategically and abide by the discipline of politics, would clear the way for the first woman to take office in a traditionally male dominated post.

It undoubtedly appears that the capitalist owned mass media sought ways to destroy whatever respect Trump may have had even within his own feverish racist circles. And why would this possibility not be far fetched? Trump’s reckless comments have in every objective sense clashed with the desires of significant sectors of the ruling class who wish to maintain a false projection of fairness and decency, in order to preserve a “peaceful” exploitative capitalism.

What we need to ask now is, how much “better” than the Republicans will the Democrats be in the White House? Consider the increasing poverty, mass incarceration, police terror as well as attacks on women, that we have experienced while Democratic Party presidents and politicians of both parties continue to live comfortably in their own privileged world. It is an increasingly doubtful proposition.

The understandable expectation that women in the U.S. will benefit from a Hillary Clinton presidential administration in Washington is just as doubtful as Blacks and other people of color having benefited from an Obama presidential administration. Of course Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party will benefit from this latest bombshell. There is no reason to believe otherwise. In fact, the discovery of the 2005 “hot mic” recording may have very well sealed a Clinton win in November.

But as oppressed and exploited people let’s not ignore or pretend otherwise, Hillary Clinton, like Donald Trump, is herself another prominent member of the capitalist class.

The birth of Puerto Rico’s fight for independence & the affirmation of a nation — EL GRITO DE LARES

 

By: Carlito Rovira

 

On September 23, 1868, in the city of Lares, Puerto Rico, was the historic site of an uprising against African chattel slavery under Spanish colonial domination. The event is known as “El Grito de Lares”—the outcry of Lares— which affirmed the existence of the Puerto Rican nation and its struggle for national liberation, first against Spanish and then against U.S. colonialism. It is a struggle that continues to this day.

 

El Grito de Lares took place in a world context of bourgeois democratic revolutions against the remnants of feudalism in the dominant European powers. Feudal states like Spain, basing themselves on the wealth generated by large land holdings and colonial exploitation, were forcefully compelled to give way to the growing power of world capitalism.

 

The Haitian Revolution of 1802-04, coming in the wake of the French Revolution that began in 1789, marked the first Black republic in history. The victory of African slaves who rebelled and broke away from French colonial domination inspired millions throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and the world. Slave owners everywhere  became apprehensive about this event, especially in the United States.

 

In 1810, Indigenous people in Mexico under the leadership of Miguel Hidalgo launched a drive to force the Spanish out of that country. Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1824.

 

Throughout the 1810s and 1820s, Simón Bolívar led an army of Indigenous people and former African slaves in an effort to win the independence of South American colonies from Spain. These successful military campaigns shattered the prestige of the Spanish Army. Puerto Rico and Cuba were Spain’s only remaining colonies in Latin America.

 

In the 1848 revolutionary upheavals that took place in France, Germany and Italy, workers took to the streets against the feudal monarchies. Despite the monarchies’ desperate efforts to hold on to political power, the development of capitalism and the rising of the working classes meant the end of the centuries-long rule of feudal states.

 

In the United States, the Civil War of 1861-65 led to the overthrow of the slave-owning class in the South. And because slavery in the U.S. was the most lucrative and brutal of all it’s defeat served as a death blow to that system everywhere. Due to the vigorous efforts by the African American masses, especially when they fought in organized, armed detachments of the Union Army, the final destruction of the slave system was certain.

 

In all these struggles, the political demands of freedom and independence were meant to benefit the growing capitalist class, although it was the most oppressed social layers in society that fought the battles to destroy feudalism and chattel slavery.

 

The Puerto Rican nation

 

Under Spanish colonialism, the people of Puerto Rico—like the people in the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America—evolved to have the characteristics of self-identity typical of nationhood. The development of nations in the Americas inspired many to seek their freedom. Colonialism defined the class relationships that the newly formed nations would have to Spanish imperial power.

 

By 1867, there were close to 650,000 people in Puerto Rico. Slightly over half were of white Spanish background; the others were Black slaves, mulattos and mixed-race mestizos. The economy was largely centered on sugar production and the sugar trade, although there was a native capitalist class that gave rise to the Puerto Rican working class.

 

Spanish colonial rule in Puerto Rico was harsh and allowed for little political participation by the local elites. All policies relating to politics and economy were dictated by the Spanish monarchy. Taxes were heavy. Any expressions for more autonomy—not to mention independence—were brutally put down.

 

El Grito de Lares took place in the context of increasing resistance to foreign oppression and the socioeconomic developments in the Western Hemisphere.

 

The Revolutionary Committees

 

A central figure in the Grito de Lares uprising was Ramón Emeterio Betances. The son of an African mother and a white father, he was reared in a relatively wealthy and privileged family. However, Betances began to question the causes for the inequalities that existed under a slave-owning colonial system. He was active in the movement to abolish slavery and in the anti-colonial movement. Today, Betances is considered the “father of the Puerto Rican homeland.”

 

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Ramon Emeterio Betances

 

Betances and Segundo Ruiz Belvis founded the Revolutionary Committees of Puerto Rico on Jan. 6, 1868, while they were in exile in the Dominican Republic. Soon, Revolutionary Committees were formed throughout Puerto Rico to organize for an eventual revolt among all sectors of the population. Under the most secretive measures, organizers reached out to Africans who were toiling as slaves. The punishment for slaves caught in seditious activity was harsh.

 

A significant portion of the Puerto Rican combatants galvanized by the Revolutionary Committees were former African slaves who had escaped and were living in hiding. In some cases African slaves were granted freedom in exchange for partaking in the planned war; Some of these slave owners also desired to break away with Spain, but their class interest was different from most people in Puerto Rico, their aspirations were to develop economically free of hindrance by a  foreign power.

 

Other freedom fighters were Tainos, the original Indigenous people of Puerto Rico who were living in the mountains and working as day laborers in the towns. Haitians, Dominicans and Jamaicans were also among the insurgents who fought in Lares.

 

Betances sailed on a ship with a cargo of rifles, cannons and other weapons from the Dominican Republic. But the Spanish colonial authorities discovered the plans. On his return from the neighboring island as he entered the harbor of Arecibo, the Spanish Navy surrounded the rebel ship, capturing the cargo and arresting the crew.

 

News of the ship’s capture reached the revolutionaries in the mountains who were preparing for the rebellion. With Betances in Spanish custody, the leading organizers of the movement decided to call for the rebellion ahead of schedule.

 

The uprising begins

 

On the evening of Sept. 23, 1868, about 800 hundred insurgents on foot and horseback stormed the city of Lares. The army of freedom fighters entered the city, and as the sounds of shouts and gunfire were heard, the day laborers of the city stopped working while African slaves staged a revolt that weakened the defenses of the Spanish garrison.

 

The principal demands of the revolutionaries were the abolition of chattel slavery, an end to the “libreta” (notebook) system and the independence of Puerto Rico. They called for the right to bear arms, the right to determine taxes and freedom of speech and of the press.

 

After an hour of gun battle, the Spanish military authority was overwhelmed. Government and military officials were forced by the fury of the people to lay down their weapons and surrender. The rebels declared the Republic of Puerto Rico.

 

The Spanish prisoners were then paraded and displayed for all to view as trophies of war. Colonial officials who were guilty of crimes against the people were dealt with. What was unimaginable at one time—defeating by force an oppressor that projected itself as invincible—was now a reality.

 

The people rejoiced at the power they now had over their oppressors while celebrating their new freedom. With jubilant emotions the revolutionaries held their weapons in the air as crowds gathered at the town plaza in the center of the city. The Spanish flag, a dreaded symbol of tyranny, was lowered, stepped on and burned. In its place, the flag of the newly proclaimed Puerto Rican republic was raised on a pole at the municipal building.

 

 

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The flag used at the Lares uprising and the symbol of the newly proclaimed Boricua republic.

 

It was on this occasion that the people heard for the first time the solemn words of the Puerto Rican struggle: “¡QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!”—long live a free Puerto Rico!

 

The revolutionaries’ plans were to capture Lares, then attack the surrounding cities where other groups of revolutionaries awaited instructions. Lares was chosen for the initial attack because of what was believed to be a strategically advantageous location for a starting point, in the mountainous region.

 

But because the Spaniards were better equipped and more experienced in the techniques of war, the victory at Lares was short-lived. What followed was the suppression of the independence and abolitionist movement throughout Puerto Rico. Many were imprisoned, tortured and murdered. Madrid issued new decrees and sent troop reinforcements to secure its domination over the Puerto Rican people.

 

But the uprising did lead to some concessions. For example, amid continued turmoil over the question of slavery — something which politically troubled Madrid did not want — the Spanish National Assembly abolished the hated system on March 22, 1873. In addition, the Spanish government granted a limited form of home rule to Puerto Rico in 1897. But one year later, in the course of the Spanish-American war, U.S. troops invaded Puerto Rico which remains a U.S. colony to this day.

 

Before his death on September 16, 1898—a few months after the U.S. invasion—Betances stated, “I do not want to see Puerto Rico under the colonial domination of Spain nor the United States.”

 

A symbol of struggle

 

El Grito de Lares is today a celebrated and respected holiday in the U.S.-colonized Caribbean island. Even the U.S.-installed colonial government recognizes El Grito de Lares as an official holiday, closing schools and government offices — while trying to strip the holiday of its revolutionary content.

 

Although the martyrs of Lares did not achieve their quest, they provided the movement today with a sense of the necessity to build a people’s movement that can defeat U.S. colonialism. Their fierce attempt to end slavery is a continuing model for anti-racist struggle as well.

 

Betances and his fellow revolutionaries also provided a living example of the internationalism of oppressed peoples against colonialism. The “Society for the Independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico,” founded in the 1860s by exiled revolutionaries living in New York City is such an example.

 

Many of the Lares combatants that managed to survive the Spanish onslaught throughout the country chose to continue their efforts by retreating to join the struggle in Cuba, including Juan Rius Rivera who became a commander in the Cuban rebel army. About 2000 Puerto Ricans seized Spanish vessels in order to set sail to join their Cuban comrades in the “Grito de Yara” uprising, three weeks after El Grito de Lares.

 

It was this act of solidarity that solidified the historic relationship between Cuban and Puerto Rican revolutionaries, known today by Lola Rodriguez De Tio’s famous poetic expression “Two Wings of the Same Bird.”

 

To many in today’s movement for Puerto Rican independence, the experience of Lares underscored that the national salvation and liberation of the people can be achieved only with complete political independence and absolute freedom from foreign interference. It is having pride in the well rooted self-identity of the Puerto Rican people that the U.S. colonizers tirelessly strive to eradicate.

 

On September 23, 2005 Machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios was killed in a gun battle with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents. They chose the date to launch a vicious attack on the most revered leader of the struggle for independence in modern times in an attempt to shatter the fighting spirit of the movement. But U.S. colonialism’s efforts of psychological warfare came short of it’s goal. All that Washington officials managed to do was to give the annual El Grito De Lares commemorations added meaning. Boricuas continue to wage the liberation struggle.

 

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The late Machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios.

 

Today, Puerto Rico has a developed working class population  with a long tradition of fighting the exploitative horrors typical in a colonial setting. And now with the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA)”, a law designed to intensify U.S. colonial domination using the pretense of a $73 billion debt imposed on Puerto Rico, suffering has undoubtedly intensified.

 

And in a colonial setting of neglect following the massive destruction of Hurricane Maria one can expect a potential for mass rebellion. It came as no surprise when an outpouring occurred when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets and succeeded in forcing the resignation of the U.S. puppet and scoundrel Governor Ricardo Rossello.

 

Puerto Rico is a country that is still under the complete military and political domination of U.S. imperialism. The continued struggle for an independent state — the only way to guarantee the right to self-determination to a people who have endured five centuries of colonial oppression — is today part and parcel of the international struggle against imperialism. The sacrifices made by the martyrs of El Grito De Lares shall one day prove to inspire a decisive battle that will bring about an independent and sovereign Puerto Rico.

 

¡QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

 

 

 

 

 

Suicides spread as economic crisis deepens

 

 

By Carlito Rovira
Public disapproval for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has brought to light a growing problem with suicides committed by U.S. military personnel. Many of these men and women come from the working-class and oppressed nationalities, whose social plight is compounded by the abuses they endure from Pentagon military policy and the top brass.
But news reports rarely mention the growing crisis of suicides among the general U.S. population. According to a 2008 report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, U.S. suicides are on the rise for the first time in a decade. A report by the American Association of Suicidology shows that suicides figures for 2005 outnumbered homicides by almost two to one, ranking suicides as the 11th cause of death in the United States.
The suicide of a loved one touches the deepest emotions of families and friends. The physical destruction of one’s own life, dismissing forever the least sense of hope, may seem like the most inconceivable of all human acts.
More often than not, suicide is reduced to an individual choice, a personal tragedy, removed from any social context. But the growing suicide epidemic has its obvious connections to the economic reality. It is not coincidental that the last significant jump in the rate of suicides in all U.S. history was during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Rising suicides are not just a domestic phenomenon. In the last half century, suicides worldwide have increased by 60 percent. Imperialist penetration in subjugated countries, with all of its ugliest features, has had a devastating impact on millions of people around the world.

 

Studies have shown that most suicides do not spring from a desire to die, but a desire to escape overwhelming and irresolvable situations. African chattel slaves chose to take their own lives rather than continue experiencing the horrors inflicted upon them by the white overseers and masters. Similarly, today’s impoverished workers, losing their jobs and made homeless in growing numbers, may find no other way to cope with despair.

 

The JHBSPH report found that suicides have increased in the United States for the first time in 10 years. One of the main contributors to the increased statistic is a decline in the standard of living for white men and women between the ages of 40 and 64. The capitalist economic crisis has disrupted the more privileged social position the white population has enjoyed historically.
Native Americans, one of the most impoverished peoples in the United States, continue to suffer the highest rate of suicide, 32.4 per 100,000. Compare the rates of suicides among the different sectors of the population: 14.2 per 100,000 whites, 9.9 per 100,000 Latinos, 8.5 per 100,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders and 7.4 per 100,000 African Americans.

 

Widespread distress

The capitalist class has placed the burden of the economic crisis on the backs of the working class. Two million more unemployed within the last year, growing home foreclosures, families left without health coverage, a 25 percent rise in incidents of police brutality since 2001 and civil liberties blatantly diminished—no wonder there is widespread distress.

 

 

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The national suicide rate is 10.9 per 100,000 people. More than 90 percent of people who die from suicide live highly stressful lives attributed to financial situations. Among other causes stemming from economic-related deterioration of social life are family violence, divorce, and drug and alcohol abuse.
The economic deterioration has only intensified the plight of children. Millions of children in this country live parentless, with a 50 percent school drop-out rate, and an increasing number are incarcerated. Capitalism cannot guarantee working-class children a decent, well-paying job in their future, let alone a decent education, leaving many with a sense of uncertainty.
Not surprisingly, a Surgeon General report disclosed that suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people. Suicide rates are 1.3 per 100,000 for children ages 10 to 14, 8.2 per 100,000 for adolescents ages 14 to 19 and 12.5 per 100,000 for young adults ages 20 to 24. The last group beats the national average.
In a 2006 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one of every 12 adolescents in high school attempted suicide, and 17 percent considered making an attempt.
For older or retired workers, ages 65 and up, suicide rates are also high. A 2004 report by the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention revealed that the rate of suicide for people 65 years of age and older is 14.3 per 100,000.
Working-class seniors are often neglected. The capitalist system takes little interest in workers past the prime age for profitable exploitation. If they can stay in their jobs long enough to retire, they face many difficulties, including the threat of losing their retirement plans, medical insurance and other services.

 

Resources exist, pilfered by wealthy

With modern technological and scientific advancements, the means exist for a scientific approach to address these problems. In a society that has such an enormous amount of resources and wealth, there is no reason for people to be in need. The resources to eradicate misery and want exist, but capitalism perpetuates social and economic inequalities—the material conditions responsible for pushing the most vulnerable to the far depths of hopelessness.
Under capitalism, socially created wealth is pilfered by the rich. While government officials hand over the public treasury to the wealthy, the working poor must confront the consequences of this injustice. Hospitals are closed and health care is denied to working people. Psychiatric and psychological care is part of the comprehensive medical care which should be a right. The vast majority of people are left to suffer in various ways.

 

Capitalism is to blame for the suffering wrought upon working people day in and day out—the epidemic of suicides being one of its more extreme manifestations. Any system that compels so many to such drastic ends must be indicted, prosecuted, condemned and done away with. Only in a world without class exploitation can human beings progress in surroundings of solidarity and cooperation. Only then will human life be accorded the appreciation and respect it deserves and will all human beings live with dignity.

 

 

 

https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/26/suicide-rate-rising-american-women-cdc-report

 

 

July 25, 1898 — Invasion of Puerto Rico & the Emergence of U.S. Imperialism

 

By: Carlito Rovira

 

For the many people who have engaged in the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence, July 25 has a special significance. On that date in 1898, U.S. troops invaded Puerto Rico, beginning a period of U.S. colonial domination on the island that continues to this day.

 

The United States invaded Puerto Rico, along with the Philippines, Guam and Cuba, in the setting of the Spanish-American War. That war was the opening of what would be the menacing role and predatory nature of the U.S. capitalist class in the Caribbean, Latin America and the entire world.

 

The seizure of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines by the United States signaled the quest of the U.S. capitalist class to become a world power. European powers had pursued a policy of colonial acquisitions since the end of the 15th century.

 

But only in the late 19th century had the mature and developed capitalist powers virtually colonized the entire planet. The projection of U.S. power outside of the North American mainland signified a rush not to be left behind in this global division of markets.

 

Imperialism was transforming from a policy into a global system. No capitalist power could stand on the sidelines. Eventually this scramble and competition for colonies led to the First World War in human history, from 1914 to 1918, involving all the major capitalist powers.

 

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (the renown leader of the 1917 Russian socialist revolution) noted this trend in the very first sentence of his classic 1916 work “Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism.” “During the last 15 to 20 years, especially since the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the economic and also the political literature of the two hemispheres has more and more adopted the term ‘imperialism’ to describe the present era.”

 

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Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin.

 

Until the Spanish-American War, capitalism in the United States was focused on expansion within North America. The expansion came from the push westward which came with seizure of Indigenous/First Nation people’s lands and the theft of nearly half of Mexico’s territory in the 1846-1848 U.S.-Mexican War.

 

Following the end of African chattel slavery and the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War in 1865, industrial capitalism was able to grow rapidly. Facilitating trade and the transfer of raw materials by laying railroad tracks throughout the entire stretch of the U.S. territory. Mining of raw materials increased. Factories, ports, bridges and dams were constructed at a greater pace.

 

Beneath this supposed “progress” in U.S. society, there was a tremendous cost in human suffering. The consolidation and expansion of capitalism in the country could be measured by the many horrific acts of genocide on Indigenous/First Nation people.  What began at Plymouth Rock proceeded to become a tradition and custom of white supremacy. Outright murder and rape became a requirement for U.S. capitalism’s further development. By the late 1890’s, Indigenous people were virtually annihilated within continental United States, as the so-called “Indian Wars” came to a close.

 

However, the westward expansionist drive by the white supremacist policies of Washington officials encountered the resistance of many Indigenous tribal nations. Their fighting spirit shall forever be exemplary to the freedom struggles of oppressed people everywhere. Tribal figures like Chief Joseph, Crazy Horse, Captain Jack, Red Cloud, Cochise, Sitting Bull and Geronimo, all stood up with dignity and led their people in many fierce battles against the encroaching white racist conquerors.

 

 

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The legendary Apache  leader Geronimo (far right) with three of his most trusted warriors. Geronimo lead his people in many battles against the encroaching U.S. Army.

 

Eventually the dynamism of capitalism meant that the home market was insufficient. New markets, raw materials and cheaper labor were increasingly required for continuation of a vast increase in productive forces. Capitalist development began to be propelled in the direction of a new kind of expansionism, aimed at subordinating the economies of other lands.

 

 

THE COMPETITION BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND SPAIN

 

 

The more benefits that U.S.-based companies derived from economic investments made in the Spanish colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico before the war—amounting to $50 million in 1897—the more that U.S. manufacturers and bankers desired direct control of these markets.

 

Throughout the 1890’s, there was a growing war fever among the U.S. ruling class. Prominent bourgeois figures, politicians, journalists and the clergy encouraged hostilities and openly called for the military seizure of Spain’s remaining colonies. “Democracy” and “freedom” became the banner for all sorts of demagogic warmongers.

 

Militarism and racist arrogance, in the centuries of campaigns to expel Indigenous people from their lands and enforce a genocidal system, were now utilized to justify imperialist expansion. The use of brutal force against people in the invaded lands was justified as “divine will” or “manifest destiny.”

 

With mounting tensions between Washington and Madrid, the U.S. Navy targeted and harassed any vessel flying the Spanish flag in the open sea. U.S. Navy warships were instructed to stop Spanish freighters, carry out searches, and in many cases seize the cargo. This was despite the fact that a state of war did not yet exist.

 

Spain was a crumbling feudal power facing severe internal political strife. It no longer had the empire status that it enjoyed centuries ago. The Spanish government was not in a position to engage in hostilities with any country — especially the United States, which was demonstrating its industrial might and was eager to test its military ability.

 

 

A PRETEXT FOR WAR

 

 

On the evening of February 15, 1898, the battleship USS Maine exploded while docked in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. While 266 sailors were killed as they slept in their quarters the ship’s captain and his close officers were not harmed. None of the officers were on board.

 

Washington officials were quick to blame the Spanish government, claiming that the explosion was caused by a floating mine. The fact that many eyewitnesses saw the force of the explosion coming from within the bow of the ship did not matter to U.S. investigators. Later investigations discounted the possibility of a mine explosion altogether. Whatever the cause, the Spanish government was in no way responsible.

 

 

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The Battleship Maine in the Port of Havana before and after the explosion.

 

Despite Spain’s repeated diplomatic efforts and willingness to compensate for the loss of life and the destroyed ship, the U.S. government exploited the situation as a perfect excuse for war.

 

On April 25, 1898, the notorious U.S. President William McKinley, with the consent of the U.S. Congress, made his infamous declaration of war against Spain. The United States would now be recognized as a world imperialist power.

 

The military campaigns that followed impacted the lives of millions of people in the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico. They were now to become subjects of a new colonial oppressor.

 

 

THE U.S. MILITARY INVASION & COLONIZATION OF PUERTO RICO

 

 

In the early morning hours of May 12, 1898 a fleet consisting of several U.S. Navy warship began the military campaign for the conquest of Puerto Rico. These Warships conducted a devastating bombardment on the port city of San Juan, by firing a volley totaling 1,360 shells. Several Spanish Navy vessels were sunk while in the interior of the municipality many buildings were destroyed. What came after the bombing of San Juan was a naval blockade of Puerto Rico’s principle ports.

 

 

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On May 12, 1898 a fleet of U.S. Navy warships bombarded San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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Attempts were made to repel the U.S. Navy bombing attack on San Juan.

 

 

On July 25, 1898, 26,000 U.S. soldiers stormed the shores of Guanica, Puerto Rico — the stepping-stone to the invasion of the entire island nation. The invasion was led by the war criminal U.S. Army General Nelson A. Miles — a reliable servant of the U.S. capitalist westward expansion.

 

Miles was infamous for his role in the vicious suppression of the 1894 Pullman strike and other labor struggles fighting for the eight hour day and the right to unionize. He was also known for his capture and mistreatment of Indigenous leaders like Geronimo and Sitting Bull. But Miles’ most outstanding crime was the December 29, 1890, massacre of 300 Indigenous men, women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

 

 

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On July 25, 1898 about 26,000 U.S. troops rampaged throughout Puerto Rico.
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Puerto Ricans did not invite the U.S. invaders, Puerto Rico was militarily conquered.
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The U.S. military invasion was a shock and disruption to the lives of the Puerto Rican people.
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U.S. troops marched through the island until it was completely conquered.

 

While American troops began their onslaught on Guanica, U.S. warships entered the Bahia De Ponce (Ponce Bay). These warships threaten to use their destructive heavy guns on the city of Ponce if the inhabitants did not surrender.

 

As the U.S. Army marched through the mountains, they encountered peasants who had been forewarned of the invasion’s brutality. These mountain people (Jibaros), armed solely with machetes, valiantly attacked the U.S. soldiers. The peasants who were captured by the invading forces were often bound to trees and shot by firing squad.

 

 

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The U.S. military occupations in the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico were the opening shots of a wave of imperialist invasions over the next decades in the Western Hemisphere and other parts of the world.

 

U.S. troops were sent to Nicaragua in 1898 and again in 1899, 1907 and 1910, and from 1912 through 1933; to Panama from 1901 through 1914 and again in 1989; to Honduras in 1903 and again in 1911; to the Dominican Republic in 1903 and again in 1965; to Korea in 1904 and again in 1950; to China in 1911; to Mexico from 1914 through 1918; to Haiti from 1914 through 1934; to Cuba in 1906 to 1909, 1912 and again from 1917 through 1933; to the Soviet Union from 1918 through 1922; to Guatemala in 1920; to Vietnam from 1955 through 1975; to Grenada in 1983, and so on.

 

The list of U.S. military invasions continued throughout the 20th century. With hundreds of military bases and interventions around the world it became a constant feature of world affairs to the present day.

 

 

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A depiction of  the tyrant Theodore Roosevelt conquering the Caribbean.

 

CONTINUED ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLE

 

The corporate media has always made every effort to disguise the foreign subjugation of Puerto Rico. But events occasionally occur that push the truth to the surface, especially when the colonized people are driven to rise up and rebel.

 

The U.S. invasion of July 25, 1898, is the core reason as to why Puerto Ricans have no say in their fundamental civil and human rights. This insurgence by the U.S military included all aspects of economic and political life of our homeland. Moreover, the imposition of the 1917 Jones Act and the more recent 2016 Puerto Rico Oversight Management & Economic Stability Act — also known as “PROMESA”, have all contributed to the island’s current deplorable reality.

 

Due to colonial circumstances Puerto Rico is one of the most plundered inhabited territorial entities on the globe. Giant U.S. corporations extract an average of $30 billion dollars annually in profits. For a country with a population less than 4 million makes the rate of exploitation one of the highest per capita in the world. And because its resources are robbed by multi-billionaires in the U.S. Puerto Rico continues to suffer economic devastation, especially after Hurricane Maria and the present COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Because the United States is the most advanced capitalist country in the world, for it to use the oldest form of foreign subjugation dating back to the Assyrian, Greek, Byzantine and Roman Empires, says volumes about the barbarity and cruelty of U.S. colonial policy. That is why denying the right of self-determination and independence justifies the continued people’s resistance, in Puerto Rico and throughout the diaspora.

 

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

 

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The militant legacy of Malcolm X

 By Carlito Rovira
On May 19, 1925, an admirable and resolute revolutionary figure was born in Omaha, Nebraska. This figure, who would achieve prominence in the liberation struggle of the African American masses, would go down in history as Malcolm X.

 

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Malcolm X addresses a crowd in Harlem in 1963.

Malcolm was one of eight siblings, children of Louise Norton and Earl Little. Earl was an outspoken Baptist minister and a follower of the Black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. His defiant character drew the attention of white racists like the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Legion. These thugs often harassed Malcolm’s family, and one evening their house was set on fire.

 

The 1920s were a decade that bourgeois historians describe as the “roaring twenties.” This is a false and vain glorification, considering that this period of capitalist prosperity meant something totally different for African Americans—who were the victims of widespread white mob lynching and other forms of racist terror.

 

In 1929, Malcolm’s family moved to Lansing, Michigan in pursuit of a safe and better life. But the family was not able to escape the racist violence. Earl Little was murdered, his body mutilated and found lying beneath a streetcar. Malcolm X always maintained that his father was the victim of a racist killing.

 

Malcolm was a studious child with ambitions to become a lawyer. One day, when Malcolm expressed his aspirations to a teacher, he was told that he would never become a lawyer because he was Black. This experience with racism disillusioned Malcolm and discouraged him from continuing school.This tragic event had a heavy impact on Malcolm’s family. Unable to cope with the emotional consequences of her husband’s death and the financial hardships involved in raising children alone, Louise Norton suffered a breakdown and was committed to a mental institution. The state took custody of all the children and placed them in separate foster care environments.

 

By the time Malcolm was a teenager, he made his way to New York City. He worked as a waiter for a period at the famous Small’s Paradise Club in Harlem. But he soon became a middleman for drugs, prostitution and other kinds of illegal activity.

 

In 1946, he and his closest friend Malcolm “Shorty” Jarvis moved to Boston. They were both arrested and convicted for burglary shortly after. Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Nation of Islam

 

It was in prison where Malcolm began to become political. He became acquainted with the Nation of Islam, led by Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm was attracted to the Muslim organization because it addressed the plight of racism and called for the right of African American people to have their own state.

 

Malcolm converted to Islam. Upon his release from prison in 1952, he became a devoted member of the NOI. It was at this point that he chose to repudiate his family name Little and instead use “X.” He considered the use of European names part of the legacy of chattel slavery. Black people were given the names of their slave masters to establish property ownership.

 

Elijah Muhammad was highly impressed with Malcolm X’s oratorical talents and charisma. Malcolm proved to be an important asset to the Muslim organization, and he became a ranking minister. Malcolm’s ability to draw the attention of many with his magnifying persona convinced the leadership to entrust him with the task of establishing NOI mosques in other U.S. cities.

 

Many viewed his captivating personality and the power of his imagery as surpassing the persuasiveness of Elijah Muhammad. People were drawn to rallies precisely to hear Malcolm X speak. His talents contributed to the astounding membership increase in the Nation of Islam from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963, according to the Malcolm X Estate.

 

‘No man should have so much power’

 

In one famous incident in 1957, before Malcolm X left the NOI, a member of the NOI was beaten by the police in Harlem and did not receive medical attention. Malcolm X demonstrated the power of a disciplined people’s campaign by marching members of the NOI to the police precinct. They stood in formation in front of the police station.

 

Malcolm insisted that the Black prisoner had a right to medical attention. Fearing a possible rebellion by the growing number of community residents who were emboldened by the Malcolm X’s leadership, the police brass agreed to obtain medical attention for the detainee. Thousands of Harlem residents followed the ambulance from the precinct to Harlem Hospital.

 

The police then ordered that the Muslim formation disperse. Malcolm very calmly but firmly explained to the police commander in charge that the crowd standing at attention did not recognize his authority and was not going to listen to his orders.

 

At that point, after ensuring that the beaten man was being treated, Malcolm gave a hand signal. With military discipline, the Muslims about-faced and marched away. The police commander was overheard saying to his subordinates, “no man should have that much power.”

 

In 1963, following the assassination of President John Kennedy, Elijah Muhammad instructed his followers to refrain from making public statements. He was concerned that any inflammatory statements could be used by the racist U.S. government to repress the NOI. But Malcolm could not resist demonstrating his disposition towards the rulers.

 

His blunt assessment—“the chickens have come home to roost”—was a widespread sentiment in the most oppressed communities, who had been shut out of the gains of the white capitalist United States. Kennedy was killed by the same violent methods that the power structure perpetrates on the conquered and oppressed.

 

But it was a shock to wide layers of the white population, unaccustomed to such a calm and critical assessment of U.S. society. The statement was used by a hysterical media to whip up a fear campaign against Malcolm and the Nation.

 

Diverging politics

 

The statement infuriated the NOI leadership. Elijah Muhammad forbade Malcolm X from speaking publicly for 90 days.

Along with these organizational issues, political differences between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad became more difficult to reconcile.

 

Elijah Muhammad’s program was premised on the conservative notion of appeasement with the status quo. He sought to win legitimacy—but not on the basis of participating and giving leadership to the developing rebellious upsurge of the 1960s. He sought to promote a concept of Black capitalism, where the African American community would use the wealth it generated to enrich a Black elite that could ultimately compete with U.S. racist capitalism on its own terms—but would not compete with it until the elite was powerful enough.

 

Malcolm X, on the other hand, was attracted to the militancy of the civil rights movement. His approach was characterized by no compromise with the oppressors. His understanding of the depths of racism in the United States led him to conclude that the present system was inherently hostile to the interests of the African American people. Struggle was necessary to face the challenge. On every issue connected to the plight of the Black masses, he never hesitated to be critical in assessing the cruelty of the existing power structure.

 

In March 1964, after many bitter internal battles, Malcolm X severed his relationship with the NOI. He set up the Muslim Mosque, Inc. The same year, Malcolm traveled on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Coming in contact with Muslims of different races, including whites, was an experience that qualitatively changed his outlook towards race relations and the liberation struggle in the United States. For the first time, Malcolm saw a potential for a revolutionary struggle on the basis of a united front in this country. Upon his return, he again changed his name, to El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz.

 

Government inflames split

 

Malcolm X became the target of a number of assassination attempts, including the Feb. 14, 1965 firebombing of his home where he lived with his family, Betty Shabazz and their four daughters. When Malcolm publicly disclosed the reasoning for his departure from the NOI, the relationship with his former colleagues grew dangerously antagonistic.

 

Malcolm’s tremendous leadership and ability to project hope for the oppressed Black masses was undoubtedly under close watch by police and federal intelligence agencies. This scrutiny would have been in full swing after he met with Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Sept. 19, 1960, at the Hotel Theresa, in Harlem.

 

Malcolm suspected that the FBI and police kept him under very close watch, a suspicion that was proven correct in later years. He also suspected that the government was inflaming differences between the NOI and his organization. Malcolm was convinced that a scenario was being created that would lead to an attempt on his life.

 

On Feb. 21, 1965, in New York City’s Audubon Ballroom, three armed men approached Malcolm as he spoke on stage. The assassins repeatedly fired their weapons at close range, taking the life of the beloved and respected African American leader.

 

An example of militancy

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Malcolm meets Fidel Castro in the Hotel Theresa in 1961.
Photo: Gamma Presse

 

 

There is no telling how Malcolm’s politics and tactics would have developed if he had not been assassinated. But one thing is certain: Malcolm X was a revolutionary. In the entire stretch of his political development, he demonstrated a quality of fierce hatred toward the status quo of racism and oppression. It was this trait that made him a militant and exemplary leader.

 

His impact was felt long after his death. Most notable, the Black Panther Party’s political line was heavily influenced by Malcolm’s defiant and revolutionary Black nationalism, as well as by Marxism-Leninism.

 

The struggle that ensued within the Nation of Islam between Malcolm X and his followers, on the one hand, and Elijah Muhammad and more bourgeois conservative elements, on the other, was essentially a struggle between forces who sought a revolutionary direction and those who desired to end oppression by mimicking the oppressors. This phenomenon has always existed in the movements of socially oppressed sectors.

 

Malcolm died when he was 39 years old. Although he lived a short life, he had a powerful impact on the African American and other revolutionary movements in the United States.

 

In particular, communists of all nationalities and others who strive to build a unified, revolutionary struggle learned from his powerful example of defiance against the grim reality of racism and alienation. They learned the need to build a unity based on respect for the revolutionary potential of the African American masses.

 

 

Long live the revolutionary memory of Malcolm X!