The Militant Legacy of Malcolm X

By Carlos “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 become known in history as Malcolm X.

Malcolm X addresses a rally in Harlem, New York City on June 29, 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.

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.

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.

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.

A portrait I painted as a tribute to Malcolm X.
The painting is 24″X 36″, acrylic on canvas.

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.

Malcolm X meeting Dr. Martin Luther King

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 X meeting with Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz at Harlem’s Theresa Hotel in 1960.

Malcolm suspected that the FBI and police kept him under very close watch, a suspicion that was proven correct in later years with the revelations of Operation COINTELPRO. 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

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, Revolutionaries of all nationalities and others who strive to build a unified, 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.


Tribute to a Boricua feminist warrior, Luisa Capetillo

Haga clic aqui para ver la versión en español

By Carlito Rovira

Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Luisa Capetillo (October 28, 1879-October 10, 1922) was a warrior woman who made history in the struggle against women’s oppression. She was an advocate for Puerto Rico’s Independence who became one of the most famous labor leaders in the history of that colonized nation. She was also a writer, poet, a feminist, political activist, a socialist, and more specifically an anarchist.

There is so much to be told about Luisa Capetillo’s exceptional life and her numerous contributions to our history. At a young age, she became acquainted with Socialist literature which defined who she would be for the rest of her life.

Luisa Capetillo lived at a time in history when the world became engulfed in workers struggles. Labor strikes erupted everywhere as the fight for the eight-hour day, equal pay for women and the right to organize unions took centerstage in most countries.

Poster by Vagabond

The working class and poor peasants rose to the occasion in bitter struggles against the avaricious capitalist class. This historical current was accentuated with the 1917 Russian Socialist Revolution and the 1910-20 Mexican Agrarian Revolution.

In the colonial setting of Puerto Rico capitalist exploitation was no different, and so too was the instinct of Puerto Rican workers to rebel. Throughout Puerto Rico workers sought ways to resist the harsh conditions they faced being doubly exploited by foreign corporations under U.S. colonial domination.

Luisa Capetillo was a single mother who worked as a reader. Her job involved going to different cigar making factories to read out loud newspaper articles and short stories to tobacco workers as they sat performing their labor.

A depiction of Luisa Capetillo reading stories and newspaper articles to tobacco workers.

During the rise of the women’s suffrage struggle in Puerto Rico, Luisa was very active as an organizer. However, Luisa’s views differed sharply from others concerning the solution to stop the oppression of women. She believed that the fight for women’s emancipation was inseparable and intertwined with the class struggle.

A Portrait I made of Luisa Capetillo in September 2021.
Dimensions: 24″ X 30″, painted with acrylic paint on canvas

As a leader in the Federation of Tobaco Rollers (Federacion de Torcedores de Tabaco) and the Free Libertarian Federation of Puerto Rican Workers (Federacion Libre de Trabajadores de Puerto Rico), Luisa traveled throughout Puerto Rico challenging the inhumane conditions of workers – especially for women. As a labor organizer, Luisa fought for workers’ rights and equal pay of women in the Tobacco industry. She wrote many articles in union newspapers that were circulated throughout Puerto Rico.

Capetillo believed that her activities would usher in a better world. As a result of this conviction, she aspired to build an all-Caribbean labor organization. As part of this endeavor she travelled to New York, Tampa, Cuba, Dominican Republic and other locations.

Luisa Capetillo is perhaps most known for challenging backward traditions of gender and clothing. These absurd traditions were ingrained in Latin American culture by the Roman Catholic Church. Luisa preferred wearing men’s pants for comfort and as a statement of protest to women’s oppression.

Luisa Capetillo dressed to challenge backward traditions.

In 1915, while walking the streets of Havana, Cuba, she was arrested for her choice of garment. Her defiance was widely felt when she ridiculed the logic of her arrest, by proving in court that no laws were broken by her clothing preference. As a result, the case was dismissed and Capetillo was characterized by the press throughout the Caribbean as the “Puerto Rican Joan Of Ark”.

Today, Luisa Capetillo is remembered for her courageousness as a labor organizer. Her legacy is monumental in working class history and for her valor defending the human rights of Puerto Rican women.

Homenaje a una guerrera feminista Boricua, Luisa Capetillo

For English click the link below:

Por Carlito Rovira

Nacida en Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Luisa Capetillo (28 de Octubre 1879-10 de Octubre 1922) fue una mujer guerrera que hizo historia en la lucha contra la opresión de la mujer. Fue una defensora de la Independencia de Puerto Rico que se convirtió en una de las líderes sindicales más famosas en la historia de esa nación colonizada. También fue escritora, poeta, feminista, activista política, socialista y, más concretamente, anarquista.

Hay mucho que contar sobre la excepcional vida de Luisa Capetillo y sus múltiples aportes a nuestra historia. A una edad temprana, se familiarizó con la literatura socialista lo cual definió quién sería por el resto de su vida.

Luisa Capetillo vivió en un momento de la historia en el que el mundo se vio envuelto en luchas obreras. Las huelgas laborales estallaron en todo el mundo capitalista cuando la lucha por la jornada de ocho horas, la igualdad salarial para las mujeres y el derecho a organizar sindicatos ocuparon un lugar central en la mayoría de los países.

La clase obrera y los campesinos pobres estuvieron a la altura de las circunstancias en amargas luchas contra los gobernantes capitalistas. Esta corriente histórica se acentuó con la Revolución Socialista Rusa de 1917 y la Revolución Agraria Mexicana de 1910-20.

En el entorno colonial de Puerto Rico, la explotación capitalista no fue diferente, y también lo fue el instinto de resistencia de los trabajadores puertorriqueños. En todo Puerto Rico, los trabajadores buscaron formas de resistir las duras condiciones que enfrentaron al ser doblemente explotados por gigantes corporativos extranjeros bajo la dominación colonial estadounidense.

Luisa Capetillo era una madre soltera que trabajaba como lectora. Su trabajo consistía en ir a diferentes fábricas de cigarros para leer en voz alta artículos de periódicos y cuentos a los trabajadores del tabaco mientras se sentaban a realizar su trabajo.

Representación de Luisa Capetillo leyendo cuentos a trabajadores tabacaleros.

Durante el auge de la lucha por el sufragio femenino en Puerto Rico, Luisa fue muy activa como organizadora. Sin embargo, los puntos de vista de Luisa diferían marcadamente de los demás con respecto a la solución para detener la opresión de las mujeres. Ella creía que la lucha por la emancipación de la mujer era inseparable y estaba entrelazada con la lucha de clases.

Un Retrato que hice de Luisa Capetillo en Septiembre 2021.
Dimensiones: 24″ X 30″, pintado con pintura acrílica sobre lienzo.

Como líder en la Federacion de Torcedores de Tabaco (Federation of Tabacco Rollers) y la Federación Libre de Trabajadores de Puerto Rico (Federation of Libertarian Workers of Puerto Rico), Luisa viajó por todo Puerto Rico desafiando las condiciones inhumanas de los trabajadores, especialmente para las mujeres. . Como organizadora laboral, Luisa luchó por los derechos de los trabajadores y la igualdad salarial de las mujeres en la industria tabacalera. Escribió muchos artículos en periódicos sindicales que circulaban por todo Puerto Rico.

Capetillo creía que sus actividades marcarían el comienzo de un mundo mejor. Como resultado de esta convicción, aspiraba a construir una organización laboral para todo el Caribe. Como parte de este esfuerzo viajó a Nueva York, Tampa, Cuba, República Dominicana y otros lugares.

Luisa Capetillo es quizás más conocida por desafiar las tradiciones atrasadas de género y vestimenta. Estas tradiciones absurdas fueron arraigadas en la cultura latinoamericana por la Iglesia Católica Romana. Luisa prefirió usar pantalones de hombre por comodidad y como una declaración de protesta a la opresión de las mujeres.  

Luisa Capetillo se vistia para desafiar tradiciones atrasadas.

En 1915, mientras caminaba por las calles de La Habana, Cuba, fue arrestada por la selección de su manera de vestir. Su desafío se sintió ampliamente cuando ridiculizó la lógica de su arresto, al demostrar en la corte que no se violó ninguna ley por su preferencia de vestimenta. Como resultado, el caso fue sobreseído y Capetillo fue caracterizada por la prensa en todo el Caribe como la “Juana de Arca puertorriqueña”.

Hoy, Luisa Capetillo es recordada por su valentía como organizadora laboral. Su legado es monumental en la historia de la clase trabajadora y por su valor defendiendo los derechos humanos de las mujeres puertorriqueñas.

En el 100 Aniversario del Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico

Gracias a Daniel Vila por la traducción del inglés al español.

For English version click link below:


Por Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

Al conmemorar el centenario del Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico (PNPR), honramos y saludamos a estos revolucionarios que ocupan un lugar especial en la historia de Puerto Rico. Lo que nos viene a la mente son las muchas lecciones aplicables en la actual lucha por la liberación nacional.

El espíritu de lucha del Partido Nacionalista tenía sus raíces en las tradiciones de resistencia existentes desde hace mucho tiempo. Los innumerables y sangrientos levantamientos lanzados por los indígenas taínos y los africanos esclavizados durante casi 400 años es lo que dio origen a la existencia y la identidad propia de la nación puertorriqueña.  

Cuando Puerto Rico fue invadido y colonizado militarmente el 25 de julio de 1898, fue un momento crucial para que Estados Unidos se convirtiera en una potencia imperialista mundial. Los principales estados capitalistas compitieron entre sí para obtener colonias mediante la conquista. En el marco de la guerra hispano-estadounidense, Cuba, Filipinas, Guam y Puerto Rico fueron conquistadas por Estados Unidos.  

Una representación del tirano Theodore Roosevelt conquistando el Caribe.

Raíces Históricas del Partido Nacionalista

En febrero de 1902, el Partido Unionista fue formado por Luis Muñoz Rivera, Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón, Antonio R. Barceló, José de Diego, Juan Vías Ochoteco y otros. Al principio, el Partido Unionista pedía la independencia, pero poco a poco se redujo políticamente a pedir una versión diluida de la “autonomía”  

El Partido Unionista intentó apaciguar a las autoridades ocupantes-colonizadoras utilizando una lógica oportunista que, en última instancia, significaba repudiar la independencia. Los funcionarios de Washington estaban encantados de contar con una perspectiva sumisa procedente de los propios puertorriqueños.   

Sin embargo, la reacción a las despiadadas prácticas avariciosas de los industriales estadounidenses hizo que los ideales de la independencia fueran ampliamente aceptados en diversos círculos. El derecho a la autodeterminación se convirtió en una cuestión urgente.  

A medida que Estados Unidos reforzaba su control sobre Puerto Rico con la Ley Jones de 1917, el Partido Unionista se volvió cada vez más conciliador. La Ley Jones incluía la imposición de la ciudadanía estadounidense a los puertorriqueños. Muchos en Puerto Rico se opusieron al nuevo decreto, incluida la Asamblea Legislativa de Puerto Rico, que votó unánimemente en contra de la imposición de la ciudadanía estadounidense.   

La opresión colonial engendra luchas

La agitación política encendida por los nuevos decretos, unida a un impulso revolucionario en todo el mundo que incluía la Revolución Mejicana y la Revolución Socialista Rusa, dio contexto a la militancia que caracterizó el surgimiento de un nuevo y poderoso movimiento nacionalista.  

A medida que el Partido Unionista se desviaba hacia la derecha, los miembros radicales optaron por separarse para formar la Asociación de la Independencia, predecesora del Partido Nacionalista, el cual se constituyó el 17 de septiembre de 1922.   

A diferencia del Partido Unionista, el Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico estaba firmemente arraigado en su creencia en la independencia y en la retirada incondicional de los invasores estadounidenses. El PNPR era indiscutiblemente un partido político revolucionario.   

En ese momento, el Partido Nacionalista poseía un bagaje originado por sus conexiones pasadas con el Partido Unionista, así como por la falta de experiencia. El 11 de mayo de 1930, la elección de Pedro Albizu Campos como presidente del PNPR no sólo cambió la organización, sino que dio paso a un estilo de liderazgo nunca antes visto.

La capacidad de oratoria de Campos, unida a sus conocimientos de historia y política mundial, generó un gran entusiasmo en todo Puerto Rico, lo que le valió el apodo de “El Maestro”. Era muy respetado por las capas más pobres de la población, hasta el punto de que a menudo se dirigían a él como “Don Pedro”, un saludo de respeto en la cultura latina.  

Influencias de las luchas en

Irlanda y de India

La perspectiva internacionalista del PNPR surgió en su mayor parte gracias a la introducción de Campos en la política revolucionaria cuando era estudiante de la Universidad de Harvard. Don Pedro estuvo muy involucrado en el trabajo de apoyo a los movimientos republicanos irlandeses y de independencia de la India, que estaban librando sendas batallas contra el colonialismo británico.  

El pueblo irlandés estaba a punto de conseguir su independencia del colonialismo británico. Gracias a la amistad que Campos entabló con el líder revolucionario socialista irlandés James Connolly y otros representantes del Sein Fein, su sentido de la política revolucionaria floreció.

James Connolly

El estrecho contacto de Campos con los patriotas irlandeses, además de su experiencia militar como oficial del ejército estadounidense en la Primera Guerra Mundial, le permitió desarrollar una apreciación de la importancia de que los movimientos revolucionarios tuvieran una sofisticación organizativa.   

Se reconoce la inspiradora militancia de Campos

El Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos saltó a la fama en 1925 en un mitin público celebrado en San Juan. El decreto colonial exigía la exhibición de la bandera estadounidense. Para mantenerse dentro de los límites de la legalidad, los organizadores decoraron la barandilla que rodeaba el escenario con pequeñas banderas estadounidenses.  

Cuando Don Pedro subió al podio, retiró tranquilamente las banderas estadounidenses, una por una, y se las metió en el bolsillo. Comenzó su discurso diciendo “Bandera americana, no te voy a saludar, si simbolizas una nación libre y soberana, en Puerto Rico representas la piratería y el saqueo”.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos

El audaz acto del Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos conmocionó a muchos en Puerto Rico y puso en tela de juicio la falta de energía militante en el liderazgo del Partido. La valentía y el carisma que Campos demostró en este acto es probablemente lo que impulsó su ascenso a la dirección.  

Transformación del Partido Nacionalista

Poco después de que Campos asumiera su cargo de líder del PNPR, el 11 de mayo de 1930, trabajó diligentemente para transformar el Partido en una organización de lucha disciplinada y unida. El líder nacionalista comprendió que para desafiar a un enemigo bien organizado era necesario desarrollar una fuerza contraria igualmente poderosa.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos en su oficina en la sede del Partido Nacionalista, San Juan.

Las Mujeres del Partido Nacionalista

Don Pedro era consciente del obstáculo que podían suponer las tradiciones retrógradas para la construcción de un movimiento fuerte. Observó cómo el potencial de liderazgo revolucionario de las mujeres se mantenía sofocado por el dominio machista del PNPR.  

En la isla municipio puertorriqueña de Vieques, Campos desempeñó un papel directo en la creación del primer comité de mujeres del Partido Nacionalista, llamado “Enfermeras de la República”.  

Este acontecimiento inspiró a muchas mujeres a unirse al Partido Nacionalista. También obligó a los hombres a cuestionar rasgos de su comportamiento en el contexto de ciertas tradiciones atrasadas. Además, el nuevo papel de las mujeres en el PNPR reveló los beneficios que la igualdad de género tendría para la causa independentista.  

Las mujeres guerreras tenían ahora la libertad de ejercer políticamente. Mujeres poderosas como Blanca Canales, Leonides Díaz, Carmen María Pérez, Isabel Rosado Morales, Doris Torresola Roura, Olga Isabel Viscal Garriga, Lolita Lebrón y tantas otras se unieron a esta lucha. En muchos casos, las mujeres del Partido Nacionalista destrozaron muchos mitos misóginos y superaron las acciones de sus homólogos masculinos, especialmente en las circunstancias más severas.

De izquierda a derecha: las nacionalistas Carmen María Pérez González,
Olga Viscal Garriga y Ruth Mary Reynolds.
Las mujeres nacionalistas también fueron acorraladas y arrestadas tras la revuelta de 1950.
Poco después de salir de prisión, de izquierda a derecha: Nacionalistas Juanita Ojeda Delgado, Blanca Canales Torresola, Isabel Rosado Morales & Carmen Pérez González.

El derecho al uso de la fuerza armada

Fundamental para la convicción del PNPR bajo el liderazgo de Campos fue tener una estructura organizada y disciplinada que constituyera un ejército popular en preparación para la batalla. A Raimundo Díaz Pacheco se le encomendó la tarea de dirigir los Cadetes de la República, siguiendo el modelo del Ejército Ciudadano Irlandés (ECI), organizado por James Connolly.

Los Cadetes de la República fueron el componente armado del Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico

Poco después de que Don Pedro llegara a la presidencia, las opiniones políticas del Partido sobre cómo lograr la independencia se agudizaron. El PNPR ya no participaría en elecciones falsas que estaban incuestionablemente controladas por los colonizadores estadounidenses.  

La posición clara del Partido de defender el derecho a la fuerza armada para lograr la independencia llamó la atención de los agresivos y vengativos funcionarios del gobierno.

Represión vs. Dignidad Nacional

Don Pedro y los cuadros más comprometidos fueron con frecuencia objeto de persecución por parte de la Oficina Federal de Investigación (FBI). Estar afiliado de alguna manera al Partido Nacionalista significaba arriesgarse a ser arrestado, encarcelado o muerto.   

El 24 de octubre de 1935, en lo que se conoce como la Masacre de Río Piedras, la policía colonial abrió fuego y mató a cuatro estudiantes del Partido Nacionalista y a un transeúnte en la Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR). El supuesto “crimen” de estos jóvenes fue izar la bandera de Puerto Rico y pronunciar discursos independentistas en los terrenos del campus.  

En represalia por las muertes de los estudiantes de la UPR, el 23 de febrero de 1936, dos miembros de los Cadetes de la República, Hiram Rosado y Elías Beauchamp, dispararon armas de fuego en una reunión pública para asesinar al gobernador colonial, el general estadounidense Blaton Winship. En su lugar, las balas alcanzaron al jefe de policía, el coronel Francis Riggs. Tanto Rosado como Beauchamp fueron golpeados y asesinados en la comisaría de la policía.

Los cadetes nacionalistas Hiram Rosado y Elias Beauchamp llevaron a cabo la justicia revolucionaria.

Pero el escrutinio sobre el Partido Nacionalista alcanzó nuevos niveles durante la huelga de los cañeros de 1936. Fue una de las luchas laborales más importantes de la historia de Puerto Rico. Gracias al apoyo y al liderazgo político proporcionado por el Partido Nacionalista, los sindicatos de todo Puerto Rico se solidarizaron con los cortadores de caña de azúcar. Esta poderosa lucha laboral por unos salarios más altos terminó con una victoria. Como resultado, el movimiento obrero de Puerto Rico se sintió fortalecido.  

El Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos dirigiéndose a los trabajadores de la caña de azúcar en huelga.

Al ver interrumpido su flujo constante de beneficios, los inversores capitalistas estadounidenses se pusieron furiosos con el Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos. Los funcionarios coloniales decidieron intensificar sus esfuerzos para reprimir al Partido Nacionalista.  

La Masacre de Ponce, 21 de marzo de 1937

Unos meses más tarde, el Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos y otras figuras destacadas como Juan Antonio Corretjer fueron acusados de “conspiración sediciosa para derrocar al gobierno de los Estados Unidos”. Campos fue condenado a 10 años de prisión junto con muchos cuadros del PNPR.  

El líder nacionalista Juan Antonio Corretjer bajo custodia.

El Domingo de Ramos, 21 de marzo de 1937, el PNPR del municipio de Ponce convocó una procesión pacífica para conmemorar la abolición de la esclavitud africana en Puerto Rico el 22 de marzo de 1873 y exigir la liberación del Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.  

Las autoridades coloniales hicieron muchos intentos para presionar la cancelación del evento del PNPR, incluso utilizando tácticas intimidatorias de gánsteres. Pero los patriotas se mantuvieron firmes en la creencia de que tenían todo el derecho moral de hacer lo que quisieran en su patria.  

A medida que aumentaba el número de participantes, la policía acordonó la zona. Bajo la dirección del Gobernador General Blanton C. Winship, designado por Estados Unidos, la policía se preparó para una sangrienta embestida.  

La manifestación comenzó con la multitud cantando la versión revolucionaria original del Himno Nacional de Puerto Rico, La Borinqueña. Una vez que la procesión comenzó a moverse, la policía hizo lo inimaginable: abrió fuego utilizando bombas de gas lacrimógeno, rifles de carabina y subfusiles Thompson.

Cuando terminó la carnicería, murieron 19 nacionalistas y 2 policías, además de 200 heridos. Casi todos los hombres, mujeres y niños alcanzados por la lluvia de balas recibieron disparos por la espalda, lo que indica que intentaban huir de la embestida policial.   

Este trágico suceso se conoció como la Masacre de Ponce. La noticia de esta injusticia recorrió inmediatamente todo Puerto Rico, ya que muchos se quedaron incrédulos ante la crueldad del colonialismo estadounidense.

Mártires de la Masacre de Ponce.

En el periodo que siguió a la Masacre de Ponce, el mundo entero fue consumido por los horribles acontecimientos de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Puerto Rico se convirtió en una guarnición para el ejército estadounidense que vigilaba América Latina, mientras que la isla puertorriqueña de Vieques se convirtió en un campo de prácticas de tiro para los buques de guerra estadounidenses y de otros países aliados.   

La “Ley Mordaza” y la revuelta nacionalista de 1950  

En los años siguientes, a finales de la década de 1940, el director del FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, recibió el mandato de intensificar el atroz acto de colonialismo estadounidense en Puerto Rico. El objetivo de esta operación era desestabilizar y destruir al Partido Nacionalista.

En noviembre de 1948, la Ley 53 de 1948, más conocida como la “Ley Mordaza“, fue instituida por el gobierno colonial instalado por Estados Unidos. Fue el decreto más draconiano de la historia de Puerto Rico que pretendía acabar con las aspiraciones independentistas.   

La Ley Mordaza convirtió en contrabando la bandera de Puerto Rico. La mención de la independencia en la literatura, las letras musicales y los discursos públicos pasó a ser ilegal. Se prohibieron las reuniones y manifestaciones independentistas. La intención era suprimir cualquier esperanza de independencia para el pueblo puertorriqueño.  

Integrantes de la inteligencia nacionalista cercanos a los funcionarios del gobierno descubrieron un plan secreto del gobierno para eliminar el movimiento independentista. El liderazgo del PNPR decidió “dar el primer golpe” para exponer ampliamente la verdadera naturaleza de la presencia estadounidense en Puerto Rico.  

Revuelta Nacionalista de 1950,

el Levantamiento de Jayuya

En la mañana del 30 de octubre de 1950, una joven llamada Blanca Canales lideró un levantamiento nacionalista y tomó el control de la ciudad de Jayuya. Tras un tiroteo entre la policía colonial y los nacionalistas. Estos luchadores por la libertad consiguieron hacerse con el control de la comisaría. Blanca Canales dio entonces la orden de quemar el despreciado edificio.  

También se produjeron violentos enfrentamientos entre la policía y los nacionalistas en Utuado, Ponce, Mayagüez, Arecibo, Naranjito, Ciales, Peñuelas y otros municipios.  

En San Juan, la policía atacó la sede del Partido Nacionalista. El Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, Isabel Rosado y otros emprendieron una batalla armada hasta que fueron abrumados por los gases lacrimógenos.  

Para llamar la atención del mundo sobre la represión desatada por los colonizadores estadounidenses, el 1 de noviembre de 1950, los nacionalistas Oscar Collazo y Griselio Torresola intentaron asesinar al presidente Harry Truman en la Blair House de Washington, DC.

Los nacionalistas Griselio Torresola y Oscar Collazo.

Por la misma razón, el 1 de marzo de 1954, los nacionalistas Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores y Andrés Figueroa Cordero organizaron un ataque armado a la Cámara de Representantes en el Capitolio de Estados Unidos.

De izquierda a derecha: los nacionalistas Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores, Lolita Lebron y Andres Figueroa Cordero.

La represión que se vivió en Puerto Rico durante este periodo fue equivalente a la de los regímenes más asesinos de la historia de América Latina. La policía colonial actuaba con impunidad, matando a tiros a los individuos considerados “terroristas” o nacionalistas armados. Hacía falta un valor inimaginable y un amor intransigente por la patria para soportar la constante amenaza que suponía ser nacionalista.

Familias enteras fueron consideradas sospechosas de simpatizar con la independencia.
Los hombres jóvenes eran rutinariamente detenidos para interrogarlos y/o arrestarlos.

Durante este periodo de represión y persecución despiadada contra Partido Nacionalista, los gobernantes estadounidenses buscaron nuevas y engañosas formas de disfrazar la criminal presencia estadounidense en Puerto Rico.

En 1949, se celebraron las primeras elecciones a gobernador con candidatos puertorriqueños aprobados por Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, hasta el día de hoy, el gobierno estadounidense se reserva el derecho “legal” de anular el resultado de las elecciones en Puerto Rico.

Debido a la rebeldía demostrada por los puertorriqueños desde el inicio de la colonización estadounidense, en 1957 se eliminó la Ley 53 de 1948 (Ley Mordaza) y también se levantó la prohibición de la bandera puertorriqueña. Además, la defensa de la independencia dejó de ser ilegal.

Los intensos años de represión anteriores provocaron un periodo de inactividad política en el seno del Partido Nacionalista, entre mediados de la década de 1950-1960. Este escenario se acompañó de hipócritas insinuaciones por parte de políticos que afirmaban falsamente que Puerto Rico era un “escaparate de la democracia”.

Nada más absurdo y alejado de la realidad. Muchos miembros del PNPR permanecieron encarcelados, como el Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, que fue sometido a tortura por radiación durante su cautiverio.

Lecciones extraídas de la experiencia nacionalista

A pesar de las dificultades y los horrores, los gallardos hombres y mujeres del PNPR sabían perfectamente cuáles serían las represalias a manos de los colonizadores. Sus sacrificios no fueron en vano. Lucharon gallardamente como centuriones de los oprimidos, manteniendo la dignidad de las tradiciones revolucionarias puertorriqueñas.

Hay una lección clara que podemos utilizar para la lucha actual al entender los puntos clave de la historia del Partido Nacionalista. El logro de nuestra la liberación no será posible sin el desarrollo de la sofisticación política y la estructura organizativa.

No podemos desafiar con éxito a un enemigo bien preparado y altamente organizado a menos que nos propongamos ser más hábiles que el colonizador en la aplicación de las técnicas de la política y la guerra. De ahí la necesidad de desarrollar un partido político revolucionario. Con esta acción honramos la obra y el legado del Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos y del PNPR.

La evolución de la lucha de liberación nacional puertorriqueña continúa hoy en día en las muchas luchas que existen en toda la patria y la diáspora. La valentía y el amor por el Puerto Rico demostrado por el Partido Nacionalista les han asegurado un lugar muy especial en la historia, así como en los archivos de todos los pueblos oprimidos y explotados. 

Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

On the 100th Anniversary of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico 

Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español de este artículo:

En el 100 Aniversario del Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico – carlitoboricua


By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico (NPPR), we also honor and salute these revolutionaries who have earned a special place in Puerto Rican history. What comes to mind are the many lessons gained applicable in the ongoing struggle for national liberation.

The fighting spirit of the Nationalist Party was rooted in long existing traditions of resistance. The countless bloody uprisings launched by the indigenous Taínos and enslaved Africans for nearly 400 years is what brought into being the existence and self-identity of the Puerto Rican nation. 

When Puerto Rico was militarily invaded and colonized on July 25, 1898, it was a pivotal moment for the United States to become a world imperialist power. Leading capitalist states raced against each other to obtain colonies through conquest. In the setting of the Spanish-American War, Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico were conquered by the United States. 

A depiction of  the tyrant Theodore Roosevelt conquering the Caribbean.

Historical Roots of the Nationalist Party

In February 1902, the Unionist Party was formed by Luis Muñoz Rivera, Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón, Antonio R. Barceló, José de Diego, Juan Vías Ochoteco and others. At first, the Unionist Party called for independence but gradually dwindled politically to a diluted version of “autonomy”

The Unionist Party attempted to appease the occupying-colonizing authorities using opportunist logic that ultimately meant repudiating independence. Washington officials were delighted to have a submissive perspective originating from Puerto Ricans themselves.  

However, the reaction to the ruthless avaricious practices of U.S. industrialists caused the ideals of independence to become widely accepted in various circles. Having the right to self-determination became a matter of urgency for all social classes in Puerto Rico.

As the U.S. tightened its grip with the 1917 Jones Act, the Unionist Party became increasingly conciliatory. The Jones Act included imposing U.S. citizenship on Puerto Ricans. Many in Puerto Rico opposed the new decree including Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly, which unanimously voted against this imposition.

  Colonial Oppression Breeds Struggle

The political turmoil ignited by new decrees coupled by a revolutionary momentum throughout the world, which included the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, and the 1917 Russian Socialist Revolution, gave context to the militancy that characterized the emergence of a new and powerful nationalist movement.

As the Unionist Party drifted further to the right, radical members chose to break away to form the Independence Association, a predecessor of the Nationalist Party, which was created on September 17, 1922.  

Unlike the Unionist Party, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico was firmly entrenched on its belief in independence and the unconditional withdrawal of the U.S. invaders. The NPPR was indisputably a revolutionary political party.  

At this time, the Nationalist Party possessed baggage originating from its past connections to the Unionist Party, as well as from lacking experience. On May 11, 1930, the election of Pedro Albizu Campos as president of the NPPR not only changed the organization it ushered in a never-before-seen style of leadership.

Campos’ oratory skills combined with his knowledge of world history and politics generated widespread enthusiasm which earned him the nickname “El Maestro” (The Teacher). He was highly respected by the poorest layers of the population to the extent that they often addressed him as “Don Pedro”, a salutation of respect in Latino culture. 

Political Influences of the Irish & Indian Struggles

The NPPR’s internationalist perspective for the most part came about through Campos’ introduction to revolutionary politics while a student at Harvard University. Don Pedro was deeply involved in support work for the Irish Republican and Indian independence movements, which were both waging battles against British colonialism.

The Irish people were at the threshold of winning their independence from the British colonizers. As a result, Campos’ well-established friendship with the Irish socialist revolutionary leader James Connolly and other representatives of Sein Fein, his sense for revolutionary politics flourished. 

James Connolly

Campos’ close contact with Irish patriots, along with his military experience as a U.S. Army officer in World War I, allowed him to develop an appreciation for the importance of revolutionary movements having organizational sophistication.  

Campos’ Inspiring Militancy is Recognized

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos came to prominence in 1925 at a public rally held in San Juan. Colonial decree required displaying 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 stepped to the podium, he calmly removed the U.S. flags, one by one, and tucked them into his pocket. He began his speech by saying “American flag, I will not salute you, if you symbolize a free and sovereign nation, in Puerto Rico you represent piracy and pillage.”

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos

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.

Nationalist Party Transformed

Soon after Campos took his NPPR leadership post, on May 11, 1930, he worked diligently to transform the Party into a disciplined, tight-knitted fighting organization. The Nationalist leader understood that challenging a well-organized foe required developing an equally powerful counter force.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos in his office at Nationalist Party headquarters, San Juan.

Women of the Nationalist Party

Don Pedro was aware of the potential hinderance that backward traditions had on building a strong movement. He observed how the revolutionary leadership potential of women was kept stifled by the chauvinistic male dominance within the NPPR.

In the Puerto Rican Island municipality of Vieques, Campos played a direct role in the creation of the first women’s committee of the Nationalist Party, called “Nurses of the Republic”. 

This development inspired many women to join the Nationalist Party. It also compelled the men to question traits of their behavior in the context of certain backward traditions. Moreover, the new role of women in the NPPR revealed the benefits gender equality would have for the independence cause.

Women warriors now had the freedom to exert themselves politically. Powerful women like Blanca Canales, Leonides Diaz, Carmen Maria Perez, Isabel Rosado Morales, Doris Torresola Roura, Olga Isabel Viscal Garriga, Lolita Lebron and so many others joined in this fight. In many instances, Nationalist Party women shattered misogynistic myths while exceeding the actions of their male counterparts, especially under the most severe circumstances.

From left to right: Nationalists Carmen María Pérez Gonzalez, Olga Viscal Garriga and Ruth Mary Reynolds.
Nationalist women were also rounded up and arrested following the 1950 revolt.
Shortly after release from prison, from left to right: Nationalists Juanita Ojeda Delgado,
Blanca Canales Torresola, Isabel Rosado Morales & Carmen Perez Gonzalez.

The Right to Use Armed Force

Fundamental to NPPR’s conviction under Campos’ leadership was having an organized, disciplined structure constituting a people’s army in preparation for battle. Raimundo Díaz Pacheco was entrusted with the task of leading the Cadets of the Republicmodelled after the Irish Citizen’s Army (ICA), organized by James Connolly.

The Cadets of the Republic were the armed component of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico


Shortly after Don Pedro became president the Party’s political views on how to achieve independence became sharper. No longer would the NPPR participate in phony elections that were unquestionably controlled by the U.S. colonizers.

The Party’s openness of upholding the right to armed force to achieve independence caught the attention of aggressive and vindictive government officials.  

Repression vs National Dignity

Don Pedro and the most committed cadres were frequently targets of persecution by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Being affiliated in any way with the Nationalist Party meant risking arrest, imprisonment, or death.  

On October 24, 1935, in what is known as the Rio Piedras Massacre, colonial police opened fire, killing four Nationalist Party students and one bystander at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). The supposed “crime” of these youths was raising the Puerto Rican flag and making pro-independence speeches on campus grounds.

In retaliation for the deaths of the UPR students, on February 23, 1936, two members of the Cadets of the Republic, Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp fired guns at a public gathering to assassinate the colonial governor, U.S. General Blatant Winship. Instead, the bullets struck the police chief, Colonel Francis Riggs. Both Rosado and Beauchamp were beaten and murdered at the police station.

Nationalist Cadets Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp carried out revolutionary justice.

But scrutiny on the Nationalist Party reached new heights during the 1936 Sugar Cane Worker’s strike. It was one of the most significant labor struggles in Puerto Rican history. Thanks to support and political leadership provided by the Nationalist Party labor unions throughout Puerto Rico came out in solidarity for the sugar cane cutters. This powerful labor struggle for higher wages ended in victory. As a result, Puerto Rico’s labor movement felt empowered.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos addressing striking sugarcane workers.

Having their steady flow of profits disrupted and fearing the strength of the workers movement, U.S. capitalist investors became feverishly furious at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos. Colonial officials found themselves compelled to step up their efforts to repress the Nationalist Party.

The Ponce Massacre, March 21, 1937

A few months later, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos and other leading Nationalist figures like Juan Antonio Corretjer were accused of “seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government”. Campos was sentenced to 10 years in prison along with many outspoken NPPR cadres.

Juan Antonio Corretjer in custody.

On Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937, the NPPR in the municipality of Ponce called for a peaceful procession to commemorate the March 22, 1873, abolition of African chattel slavery in Puerto Rico and to demand the release prison of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

Colonial authorities made many attempts to pressure the cancelation of the NPPR event, including using intimidating gangster tactics. But the patriots remained firm on the belief that they had every moral right to do as they wished in their homeland. 

As the gathering of participants grew larger, the police sealed off the area. Under the direction of U.S.-appointed Governor General Blanton C. Winship, the police prepared for a bloody onslaught.

The demonstration began with the crowd singing the original revolutionary version of the Puerto Rican National Anthem, La Borinqueña. Once the procession began to move the police did the unimaginable – they opened fire using tear-gas bombs, carbine rifles and Thompson sub-machine guns.  

When the carnage was over, 19 Nationalists and 2 police officers were killed along with 200 wounded. Nearly all the men, women and children struck by the hail of bullets were shot in the back, indicating that they were attempting to flee the police onslaught.  

This tragic event became known as the Ponce Massacre. News of this injustice immediately traveled throughout Puerto Rico, as many stood in disbelief from the shock of U.S. colonialism’s cruelty.    

Martyrs of the Ponce Massacre.

In the period following the Ponce Massacre, the entire globe was consumed by the horrific events of World War II. Puerto Rico became a garrison for the U.S. military overlooking Latin America while the Puerto Rican Island of Vieques was turned into a target practice range for U.S. and other Allied naval warships.  

The “Gag Law”

In the years following, by the late 1940’s, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was mandated to escalate the heinous act of U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico. The goal of this operation was to destabilize and destroy the Nationalist Party.  

In November 1948, Law 53 of 1948, better known as the “Gag Law” was instituted by the U.S. installed colonial government. It was the most draconian decree in Puerto Rico’s history which aimed to wipe out the aspiration for independence.  

The Gag Law made the Puerto Rican flag contraband. The mention of independence in literature, musical lyrics and public speech became illegal. Pro-independence meetings and demonstrations were outlawed. The intention was to suppress any hope of independence for the Puerto Rican people.

Nationalist intelligence operatives close to government officials discovered a secret government plan to obliterate the independence movement. The NPPR leadership decided to “strike the first blow” in order to widely expose the real nature of the U.S. presence in Puerto Rico.

1950 Nationalist Revolt – The Jayuya Uprising

On the morning of October 30, 1950, a young woman named Blanca Canales led a Nationalists uprising and seized control of the city of Jayuya. After an ensuing gun battle between colonial police and Nationalists. These freedom fighters were able to seize control of the police station. Blanca Canales then gave the command to burn down the despised building.

Violent clashes between police and nationalists also occurred in Utuado, Ponce, Mayagüez, Arecibo, Naranjito, Ciales, Peñuelas and other municipalities.

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

To bring about world attention to the repression unleashed by the U.S. colonizers on November 1, 1950, Nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola attempted the assassination of President Harry Truman at the Blair House in Washington, DC.

Nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo

For the same reason, on March 1, 1954, Nationalists Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores, and Andres Figueroa Cordero staged an armed attack on the House of Representatives in the U.S. Capitol.

From L to R: Nationalists Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores, Lolita Lebron & Andres Figueroa Cordero.

The repression witnessed in Puerto Rico during this period was tantamount to the most murderous regimes in Latin American history. The colonial Police acted with impunity, gunning down individuals deemed suspected “terrorists” or armed Nationalists. It took unimaginable courage and uncompromising love for the homeland to endure the constant threat that came with being a Nationalist.

Entire families were deemed suspect of sympathizing with independence.
Young men were routinely rounded up for questioning and/or arrest.

During this period of repression and vicious persecution of the Nationalist Party, U.S. rulers sought new and deceitful ways to disguise the criminal U.S. presence in Puerto Rico.

In 1949, the first elections for governor were held with U.S. approved Puerto Ricans serving as candidates. However, to this day, the U.S. government reserves the “legal” right to annul the outcome of elections in Puerto Rico.

Due to the rebelliousness demonstrated by Puerto Ricans since the start of the U.S. colonization, in 1957, Law 53 of 1948 (Gag Law) was eliminated and the ban on the Puerto Rican flag was also lifted. In addition, advocating for independence was no longer illegal.

The previous intense years of repression caused a dormant period of political activity within the Nationalist Party, between the mid 1950’s-1960’s. This setting was accompanied with hypocritical overtures by politicians who falsely claimed that Puerto Rico was a “showcase of democracy”.

Nothing was more absurd and further from the truth. Many NPPR members remained incarcerated as Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was subjected to radiation torture while in captivity.

Lessons drawn from the Nationalist experience

Despite difficulties and horrors, the gallant men and women of the NPPR knew precisely what the reprisals would be at the hands of the colonizers. The sacrifices made by these freedom fighters were not in vain. They fought gallantly as centurions of the oppressed, maintaining the dignity of Puerto Rican revolutionary traditions.

There is an obtainable lesson that we can utilize for the ongoing struggle by understanding key points in Nationalist Party history. Achieving our national liberation will not be possible without the development of political sophistication and organizational structure.

We cannot successfully challenge a well-prepared and highly organized enemy unless we aim to be better skilled than the colonizer in applying the techniques of politics and warfare. Hence, the necessity for the development of a revolutionary political party. By taking this action is when we truly honor the work and legacy of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

The evolution of the Puerto Rican national liberation struggle continues today in many forms throughout the homeland and diaspora. The bravery and love for Puerto Rico demonstrated by the Nationalist Party has secured for them a very special place in history, as well as in the archives of all oppressed and exploited people.





By Carlos “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.

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 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.

Prominent figures like Queen Mother Moore, the Black Panther Party, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, 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 essence 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 Indigenous-First Nation 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.


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

Para versión en español:

Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

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

Lenin was a firm believer in Marxism. He set out to apply the principles of this doctrine to the socio-economic & political reality of Russia.

Lenin believed that by overthrowing the ruling class in that vast, semi-feudal country would serve to hasten the downfall of the entire capitalist-imperialist system, making it possible to facilitate socialist revolution throughout the world. It was this motivation which led him to spearhead the creation of history’s most sophisticated revolutionary force, a Bolshevik party.

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

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

A beautiful painting depicting Lenin address armed workers Soviets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reconstruction & African American political power

By: Carlito Rovira

A revolution drowned in blood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suppressing counterrevolution

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

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

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

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

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

Social gains of Reconstruction

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

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

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

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

Johnson’s ‘Black Codes’

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

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

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

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

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

Radical Reconstruction and Black political power

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

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

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

Racist violence

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

The KKK invaded the homes of outspoken African Americans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capitalist consolidation vs. Black liberation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Rebekah McAlister

Relevant Terms:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Participant A Is Being Duplicitous and Manipulative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johanna Has a Vendetta Against Carlito

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restorative Justice and Due Process

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

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

Survivors Must Have Agency

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

My Time in the Campaign

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

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

My Own Escape from Abuse, Recovery, Healing and Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lolita Lebrón, A Bold Fighter for Puerto Rican Independence

By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

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

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

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

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

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

My canvas portrait of Lolita Lebron. 24″ X 30″, acrylic paint on canvas.

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

The Nationalist Party

Flag of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico.

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

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

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

From left to right: Irvin Flores, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Lolita Lebron and Andres Figueroa Cordero.

Colonizers shift tactics.

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

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

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

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

A bold and daring attack

Lolita Lebron among other Puerto Rican Nationalists after
the attack on the House of Representatives.

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

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

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

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

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

On October 26. 1977, protesters took over the Statue of Liberty to demand the release of
Lolita Lebron and all Puerto Rican Nationalist political prisoners.

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

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

In 1980, Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz invited the formerly imprisoned Nationalists to Cuba.

Each of the Nationalist heroes received the Medal of the Order of the Bay of Pigs by the Cuban government.

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

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