The U.S. military reflects the racism of the U.S. capitalist system.
African Americans’ role in the military during the Civil War was wholly progressive. Indeed, Black soldiers had a vital stake in smashing the hideous system of slavery.
While President Abraham Lincoln often expressed his indifference to the issue of emancipation, he was forced to recognize the absolute necessity of arming African Americans.
Black soldiers soon became feared by the Southern slavocracy. Their tenacity, skill and valor proved decisive to the North winning the Civil War.
For instance, when Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was sent to fight Gen. Robert E. Lee’s military forces in Virginia, he requested Black regiments as his principal troops.
Then there was Harriet Tubman. A former slave, she became an intelligence officer for the Union Army, operating behind enemy lines.
Tubman’s courage made possible the capture of Confederate garrisons–and the famous “Underground Railroad” she organized led to the liberation of hundreds of slaves.
All told, 200,000 African Americans served in the Army and Navy during the Civil War. Thirty thousand died in combat.
The Civil War was the last time Black people had a positive stake in a U.S. war’s outcome. After they were betrayed during Reconstruction, the African American people were further undermined and impoverished when the South was overrun by capital investments in manufacturing, lumber and agriculture. Then capital cast its eyes abroad. The Monroe Doctrine had already reserved all of Latin America to be exploited exclusively by U.S. capitalists.
The mysterious explosion of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana on Feb. 18, 1898, served as an excuse for Washington to declare war on Spain. The U.S. invaded the Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Guam, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, colonizing them anew, this time under U.S. control.
Many Black soldiers played a military role this time, too- -but on a different side.
RESISTING THE U.S. ARMED INVASION
In 1899 under the leadership of Aguinaldo, the Filipino people furiously fought the new invaders. They inflicted many casualties on the U.S. Army, which claimed to be “helping the people’s quest for freedom.”
The U.S. government retaliated by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Filipino women, men and children.
This genocide was not passively accepted inside the United States, as mainstream historians contend. For example, the Anti-Imperialist League held mass protests in major cities throughout the country.
Significant anti-war sentiment was also expressed widely in Black communities. The Black press as well as other representatives of the African American people vigorously denounced the war. The great historian and African American leader W.E.B. Du Bois played a notable role in this movement.
Most important, Black resistance surfaced inside the U.S. military. Four Black regiments sent to fight in the Philippines established a bond with the Native people there, who also were dark-skinned. These Black troops resented white officers and soldiers describing Filpinos with the same racist slurs applied to African Americans in the United States.
Filipino insurgents appealed to Black soldiers not to fight on the side of imperialism. Posters denouncing racist lynchings in the United States were placed throughout the islands.
This political agitation helped lead to many Black troops deserting the U.S. military.
Some of these African Americans went over to the other side, joining the Filipino guerrilla fighters.
The most notable was David Fagan, formerly of the 24th Infantry Division. The Filipino freedom fighters so respected Fagan that he was made a commander in their army.
David Fagan’s example demonstrates how unity is possible. This is a highly relevant lesson today. Once unity among the working classes and peasant farmers of all nationalities can be established, it lays the basis for overthrowing the tyrannical reign of U.S. imperialism–and preventing another 120 years of terror.
Since the earliest human societies, people have used animal images to express their beliefs. Painting animals on pottery, garments and cave walls arose from ritual notions about the power of this imagery.
With the development of class society, animal symbols took on new meaning. Animal characteristics have been interpreted in folklore to explain the miserable reality of the poor or to justify social privileges for wealthy rulers.
Leading capitalists like J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie promoted Herbert Spencer’s “social Darwinism” during the rise of imperialism. This “theory” described the exploited and oppressed as “weaker species”, etc.
On the other hand, the predatory bald eagle was chosen to glorify a government that sanctioned genocide and chattel slavery.
But the oppressed have also used symbols-in this case to express their resistance. One famous example is “the two wings of the same bird” concept. This metaphor was created by the legendary Puerto Rican revolutionary poet Lola Rodriguez De Tio and later on was put into musical rendition by Cuban poet and revolutionary leader Jose Marti. It was used to describe the historical relationship of solidarity between Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Since some of the most beautiful birds in the world inhabit the Caribbean, it was easy for Lola Rodriguez De Tio and Jose Marti to use this life form as poetic symbolism. The “bird” they described is made up of the island countries of the Greater Antilles-the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica, with Cuba and Puerto Rico on opposite ends in the region functioning as wings.
Both Lola Rodriguez De Tio and Jose Marti were internationalists. They identified with all anti-colonial struggles. They both had a special affection for each other’s country, which shared a common suffering under brutal Spanish tyranny.
De Tio and Marti expressed a revolutionary tradition in poetic form. In the early 1860s revolutionaries from both countries secretly met in a hotel on Broome Street in New York City to form the Society for the Independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Members of this group helped facilitate the 1868 “El Grito De Lares” uprising. Under the leadership of Ramon Emeterio Betances, African slaves, workers and peasants fought this battle. When their attempt at independence failed, hundreds of Puerto Rican rebels went to Cuba to continue the fight against Spanish colonialism.
Caribbean people fight for Cuba’s and Puerto Rico’s freedom
Haitians, Dominicans, Jamaicans and Puerto Ricans were among the insurgents who fought in El Grito De Lares and Cuba’s El Grito De Yara, both in 1868. This inspired Jose Marti to preserve the use of the “two wings” metaphor.
Marti recognized the threat a rising U.S. imperialist power would pose to the Caribbean peoples. His wish for a united Caribbean federation was based on a calculated necessity. Familiar with the atrocities the U.S. rulers committed against the oppressed at home, Marti knew he could expect no better treatment from the United States than from Spain.
In 1895 Cuban revolutionaries launched a war for independence. They were gaining the upper hand in the war against Spain. But in 1898 their efforts were interrupted when the United States invaded Cuba, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.
Two years later on March 24, 1897 Puerto Ricans attempted once again to use force in their quest for freedom at the uprising known as “Intentona de Yauco.”
Jose Marti died in 1895. He never saw his wish for a free Cuba in a Caribbean federation come true.
But thanks to the 1959 Cuban Revolution, his ideals remain alive today. Although Puerto Rico and Cuba live under opposite social systems, there is still solidarity between the peoples of the “two wings.”
Cuba’s revolutionary government has officially recognized Puerto Rico’s independence struggle. It even established an “Office of Puerto Rico.”
Cuba has also given political asylum to Puerto Rican anti-colonial fighters sought by the U.S. government. At the United Nations, Cuba has fought for world recognition of Puerto Rico’s right to independence and self-determination.
Many Puerto Ricans return this solidarity by continuing to break the criminal U.S. blockade against Cuba, traveling there from Puerto Rico itself. For decades these anti-colonialists travel back and forth to Cuba.
In 1997 renowned Puerto Rican Salsa musician Andy Montanez invited Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez to perform in Puerto Rico. When right-wing Cuban exile singer Celia Cruz objected, many in Puerto Rico, including radio disk jockeys, prepared to launch a boycott of Cruz’s music.
Those people in San Juan who proudly acknowledge the “two wings” tradition greeted Silvio Rodriguez’s performance with cheers.
The oppressed peoples’ drive to unite and maintain such traditions in their common struggle is a vital weapon to end U.S. imperialism’s rule. No country in the world has remained committed and firm in their solidarity to Puerto Rico’s struggle for national liberation than Cuba.
Forty years ago, on July 25, 1978, Puerto Rican police assassinated two young pro-independence activists. This brutal and blatant murder, known as the Cerro Maravilla murders, exposed for the world to see the violence with which U.S. imperialism keeps Puerto Rico in chains to this day.
The controversy and the cover-up that followed were like none other in Puerto Rico’s political history. It involved government officials at the highest level, top police brass as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Justice Department.
Arnaldo Darío Rosado, 24, and Carlos Soto Arriví, 18, had been involved in pro-independence groups before. Inspired by the heroes of independence who championed the liberation of the homeland from U.S. rule by any means necessary, they joined the Armed Revolutionary Movement (MRA). The MRA had no experience in such matters, it never carried out any military actions in the past.
Arnaldo Darío Rosado and Carlos Soto Arriví
A police agent, Alejandro González Malavé, infiltrated the group. He recruited Darío and Soto to set fire to a communications tower on the mountain named Cerro Maravilla. The act was supposed to protest the imprisonment of Oscar Collazo (imprisoned for the 1950 armed attack on U.S. President Harry Truman) and Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores, and Andres Figueroa Cordero (imprisoned for a 1954 armed attack on the U.S. Congress).
By 1978, the freedom of these political prisoners was a campaign of paramount importance, both to the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico and to human rights advocates around the world. In fact, it was a frequently mentioned issue in news outlets throughout the world and at United Nations Organization discussions on decolonization.
It was a clever manipulative tactic by the Puerto Rico Police. First and foremost, July 25th is the date of the U.S. military invasion in 1898. And because Arnaldo and Carlos were highly devoted to the cause for Puerto Rico’s independence but were too inexperienced to detect how they were being lured into a trap, it was easy for the police to lead them to their deaths.
COLONIAL POLICE MURDER ARNALDO & CARLOS
On the evening of July 25, 1978, the three forced taxi driver Julio Ortiz Molina to drive them to the communications tower at the top of the mountain in Cerro Maravilla.
Once the vehicle arrived at the location, heavily armed police opened fire on the cab. Darío and Soto shouted, “Don’t shoot, we surrender,” according to well-documented testimony. The two were dragged out of the car, savagely beaten then forced to kneel. They were then shot, execution style.
Cops who testified during the investigation disclosed that several hours before the murders, officers assigned to the sting were ordered by Col. Angel Perez Casillas, commander of the Intelligence Division, that, “These terrorists should not come down (from the mountain) alive.”
Eyewitness accounts confirmed what many in the independence movement had all along asserted. The assassination of the two independence activists was a political statement on the part of the colonial Puerto Rico Police.
Then Governor of Puerto Rico, Carlos Romero Barcelo, of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, immediately hailed the cops as heroes.
Pretentious investigations were conducted by the colonial government, as well as by the FBI and the Justice Department, but only to assist in a systematic cover-up motivated by the already existing colonial setting in Puerto Rico.
In the aftermath of the killings, every agency involved in the investigation was quick to exonerate the killer cops and demonize the two victims, and for clear-cut and well-defined reasons. The Puerto Rico Police exists as the principle enforcer of U.S. colonial policy.
Historically, every political repressive act by the U.S. rulers involved the complicity of the Puerto Rico Police. It has served as the pit bull of U.S. agencies, most especially the FBI; dating back to the attacks on Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, the Nationalist Party and the brutal Rio Piedras and the Ponce Massacres.
This specially trained armed attachment of U.S. colonialism is perhaps one of the most sophisticated apparatuses of law enforcement in all 50 states and occupied territories. It is defined by colonial law as a “quasi-military” organization which is granted assistance by the National Guard, in everything involved to the work of a “civilian” police force.
TYRANTS ARE NOT INVINCIBLE. POLITICAL ADVANTAGE CAN SHIFT
Regardless of differences in political beliefs, widespread indignation to these murders came from all sectors of the population. A momentum grew to such a degree of pressure that it caused a political crisis for the U.S. colonizers in Puerto Rico.
On April 29, 1986, undercover cop/provocateur Alejandro González Malavé was assassinated in front of his mother’s house in Bayamón. He was shot three times by a group identifying itself as the “Volunteer Organization for the Revolution.” Boricuas in Puerto Rico and the diaspora applauded his death and viewed it as a well deserved act of justice.
The FBI considered this group “one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the United States.” On December 3, 1979 the V.O.R. claimed responsibility for an attack on a U.S. Navy bus in Puerto Rico in which two Navy personnel were killed and 10 injured, and the destruction of 6 jet fighters at a National Guard base on January 12, 1981.
In the end, eight police officers were convicted and given prison sentences, ranging from 6 to 30 years. But these prison sentences were merely a concession made by the colonial court to ease the mounting outcry for justice. The greatest concern Washington officials have always had about it’s stranglehold on Puerto Rico is the everlasting potential for mass rebellion.
Protest demonstrations occurred everywhere in Puerto Rico and the diaspora, demanding justice for Arnaldo and Carlos. News of the details surrounding this case reached global attention and pointed to the inhumanity of the U.S. presence and domination in Puerto Rico.
The Cerro Maravilla murders were not the first lives to be taken away from brave men and women who fought for independence and loved their homeland. Nor will the threat be gone of future incidents like Cerro Maravilla in 1978, so long as U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico continues to exist. It is the armed agencies of U.S. colonialism who have repeatedly proven to be the real terrorists.
No matter where, when or how the decisive battles for Puerto Rican national liberation may ensue, it shall certainly be a contribution to the worldwide defeat of U.S. imperialism. The murders of Arnaldo Darío Rosado and Carlos Soto Arriví will most definitely serve as reason to condemn and bring about the demise of this vile system.
Arnaldo Darío Rosado & Carlos Soto Arriví – PRESENTE!
In the past week many people have been devastated, especially in New York City’s Bronx community, by news video coverage of 15 year old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, who was also known as “Junior.” The graphic video shows Lesandro being savagely stabbed and hacked to death by members of a street youth gang known as “Los Trinitarios.”
There has been a tremendous outpouring of sympathy by people throughout the city and across the country for Lesandro Guzman-Feliz’s grieving mother and family, who will be impacted by this tragic event for years to come. Unfortunately, public discussion of this case was immediately limited by the media and has not addressed the social context that fuel these events in poor working-class communities.
Media reports have emphasized the perpetrators’ life-time record of criminal activity and zeroed-in on outcries for justice by neighborhood residents. And understandably so, mainstream news outlets sensationalized reports of this tragedy and have in various ways called upon stepping up police activity in oppressed people of color neighborhoods while insidiously attempting to facilitate community support for this end.
First we must ask, why is the racist police —with the assistance of the news media— trying to manipulate the justified anguish of this predominantly Dominican Bronx neighborhood? Why is the police controlling the narrative of these events?
As we well know, the police have never been a friend of the Latino community. The NYPD has historically been responsible for killing scores of unarmed Black and Latino people in this city, with violence comparable to that which was deployed against Lesandro.
And despite the police’s repeated mention that Lesandro Guzman-Feliz aspired to be a cop and that he was a member of the Explorers, a youth club under the auspices of the NYPD, when the police was called to the scene it treated Lesandro with the same contempt it treats all youth of color.
In fact, the attitudes of the two responding NYPD officers serve as a window into how the police view violence among people of color. A later-released video shows that as Lesandro laid bleeding to death two uniformed cops stood back without attempting to save his life.
No one can deny that these hideous crimes merit punishment and justice. Such acts are indisputably a clear indication of a mental and emotional departure from basic moral values and a sense of humanity. Death by senseless violence continues to be part of a disturbing panorama that describes the reality for many communities of color.
Violence conducted by individuals for the pettiest of reason is a behavioral matter that can only be addressed in a discussion of culture of the society within which it happens. That is, the violent historical setting from which capitalist culture developed. And because culture is at the heart of this matter, it is unfortunate that a percentage of unstable individuals among oppressed people will tend to mimic the violence of our oppressors.
Violence among oppressed people will never be a problem that the police will attempt to eradicate. They will point to its existence but only as a ploy to convince us that diminishing civil liberties and other meager freedoms works to our “safety.” In short, the deviant behavior of a few will always be used to enhance the powers of the police, courts and prisons.
In fact, since the very beginning of the police, dating back to slavery, their profession centers on inflicting violence on our people whenever they deem necessary. For this reason alone poor working class people cannot rely on the police state for salvation.
Gang violence was never as acute of a problem as it is now, until the 1980’s, when an influx of drugs consumed many communities of color. There was ample evidence, then, pointing to law enforcement, along with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as the main perpetrators in what soon thereafter became a widespread crisis. Gang leaders were corrupted which made these organizations an essential part of the operations that led to funneling drugs into poor communities.
Ultimately every oppressed person in this country will be compelled to realize that peace and security can only come about from our own actions and organizing efforts.
Historically, not all street organizations involved themselves in hideous criminal activity. Many youths joined these groups for noble reasons and simply to obtain a sense of safety and belonging. There are instances in history where street youth groups protected neighborhood residents from crime.
One good example is the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican/Latino youth group that developed on the streets and prisons in Chicago during the 1960’s. They were influenced by the political events of that decade, especially by the activist work of the Black Panther Party. Eventually the Young Lords transcended to become a revolutionary entity.
Such is the direction that these street youth groups of today must take. They must either side with the people and fight on their behalf or allow themselves to be absorbed by the efforts of the police state. In which case they would risk feeling the wrath of a rising revolutionary mass movement.
Justice and protection from criminal elements that have gone to the point of no return, and forgiveness, as Lesandro Guzman-Feliz’s killers, can only come about with a politically and organizationally sophisticated militant mass movement. And that would automatically imply our people exercising the right to use all techniques and methods of self-defense.
On December 22, 1895 Puerto Ricans in the Cuban Revolutionary Party, created the Puerto Rican Flag at a meeting held in the Chimney Corner Hall in New York City. The leader of this effort was the prominent Puerto Rican revolutionary Manuel Besosa.
The Puerto Rican revolutionaries chose to invert the colors of the Cuban Flag following the traditions of the “Two Wings of the Same Bird” – a poetic metaphor of the legendary Puerto Rican literary Lola Rodriguez De Tio and later on used in musical rendition by Cuban revolutionary leader Jose Marti. Revolutionaries of both countries collaborated with each other for centuries in a mutual struggle against Spanish tyranny.
To Puerto Ricans the flag represents many things. It is the one aesthetic that compels us to express our aspirations and deepest sentiments as a people, connected to history, culture and heritage.
In light of the devastation that occurred in Puerto Rico following the destructive force of Hurricane Maria and the continued crisis of earthquakes followed by many tremors, the flag has also become a symbolism of hope. But the destructiveness of nature can never compare with the outcome of a study made after Hurricane Maria that revealed a death toll of 4,645. That can only serve to accentuate in our minds the intentional neglect by the U.S. Government. The criminality of the Jones Act and the full spectrum of U.S. colonial policy in Puerto Rico affirms the charge of genocide.
When we wave the Puerto Rican Flag in annual events let’s do so without taking the flag for granted, as what we are always encouraged to do by those who have colonized our homeland and who want us to interpret our national symbol as just a fad. The Puerto Rican Flag came about as a result of the sacrifices made by many who fought for the freedom of our people; freedom fighters who struggled against the predatory aims of first the Spanish and then the U.S. colonizers.
On March 24, 1897, the present-day flag of Puerto Rico was flown for the first time in the municipality of Yauco in an uprising called “Intentona de Yauco.” The aim of this revolt was the independence of Puerto Rico from Spanish colonial rule.
After the U.S. invasion and colonization of Puerto Rico in 1898 use of the flag was discouraged and stigmatized as something evil by U.S. officials. But it was during the imposition of Law 53 of 1948, better known as the Gag Law, ( in Spanish: Ley de La Mordaza), anyone caught displaying or possessing the flag was immediately arrested by the colonial authorities. Thanks to the nationalist fighting spirit of the Puerto Rican masses the U.S. rulers were forced to eliminate this law.
Adding to the continued disrespect for the people, once Law 53 of 1948 was removed in 1957 and the ban on the Puerto Rican flag was lifted the original turcois blue on the triangular part of its design was replaced by the same dark blue used in the U.S. Flag. The reasoning for this imposed change was an attempt by the U.S. rulers to aesthetically create a resemblance between the Puerto Rican people and their colonial oppressors.
If we are to display the Puerto Rican Flag with meaningfulness know that our right to do so came at a cost that involved the lives and imprisonment of many who loved the homeland, Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican Flag is not for displaying in vain, it is a symbol of defiance and the highest representation of a people’s revolutionary traditions.
That is why on this date, December 22nd, we cherish and celebrate the Puerto Rican Flag. Despite everything that the colonizers have thrown at our people — physically with police terror and psychologically in their attempts to destroy the Puerto Rican self-identity — Boricuas continue to raise their symbol with pride. Que Bonita Bandera!
On May 5, 1818 in the city of Trier, Prussia, a great historic figure was born who would eventually send shock waves towards every school of thinking. Karl Marx would impact all of society, including those who served to protect the insecure class of oppressors, tyrants and exploiters, during his time.
This gallant revolutionary eventually formulated ideas that would serve to provide oppressed and exploited people with a comprehensive revolutionary theory, based on the social and economic status of the working class. It was in collaboration with his most trusted comrade and friend, Friedrich Engels, that Marx was able to develop a scientific approach for examining capitalism — in order to expedite it’s overthrow.
One of the greatest achievements made by Marx was his analytical conclusions of how capitalist profits are created. The capitalist class were not the lords of society because they worked harder or were smarter than anyone else. Their position was thanks to their theft of surplus value — the value of commodities above and beyond what is socially necessary to produce them. This surplus value is the fruit of unpaid labor, which becomes the nucleus of the vast wealth stolen by the capitalists.
The rapidity of production that resulted meant that abundance tended to cause scarcity, when overproduction caused job layoffs thus making commodity goods unaffordable for workers, while capitalists were only interested in satisfying themselves with a lust to maximize the rate of surplus value.
Once these commodity goods circulated in the market and sold the already created surplus value would then be realized as profits.
And because capitalism collectivized commodity production with concentrations of workers organized for a distribution of labor, a socialization of production was introduced. The magnitude of production gradually reached levels never before seen in human history. The capability of the productive forces meeting the needs of everyone in this society several times over revealed why poverty and want are an absurdity that is inherited in this system. This is a phenomenon that shall inevitably compel working people to rebel.
In the words of Karl Marx: “The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.“
It was this analysis that led Marx and Engels to become adamant and unforgiving in their critiques of Political Economy, that is, the deceitful methods and hypocritical overtures used by the rulers to justify their parasitic behavior in the brutal exploitation of working people.
This analysis was also central in Marx’s world outlook that defined his conceptions in philosophy, ideology, politics, history, culture, but most important of all his attitude towards the antagonistic relationship between opposing social classes.
KARL MARX’S TREMENDOUS IMPACT ON THE WORLD
Marx’s ideas impacted progressive and revolutionary movements on every continent throughout the 20th Century, long after his death. Thanks to the political leadership of the Russian V.I. Lenin, Marx’s ideas guided the developments of the Soviet Union, the world’s first experiment in socialist planned economy.
For the most part Marx’s theories proved consistent with his expectations as workers in industrialized capitalist countries rose up in fierce rebellion while in the plundered and colonized regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America capitalist imperialism was challenged by the fury of national liberation struggles.
It is no wonder why revolutionary figures like Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, Kwame Nkrumah, Juan Antonio Corretjer, Chris Hani, Mao Zedong, Walter Rodney, Patrice Lumumba, Kim Il-Sung and many others, resorted to embrace Marxism and sought ways to apply it’s many lessons to their respective realities.
Contained in Marx and Engel’s earliest writings like the Philosophical & Economic Manuscript, The Communist Manifesto, The Origins of the Family, Private Property & the State, The Civil War in the United States, Utopia and Scientific Socialism, On Religion, Wage, Price and Profit, along with the rest of their vast collection of writings, are many valuable lessons which are indisputably applicable in our experiences today. That is why, to this day, 135 years after his death, Karl Marx continues to be despised and dreaded by the capitalist rulers.
In the United States, African American figures like Cyril Briggs, Harry Haywood, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, and many more, were able to see how the Black liberation struggle had natural affinities with the fundamental analysis of Marxism. By the 1960’s-70’s Marxism’s most notable writing “The Communist Manifesto” became one of several political education study requirement for members of the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords.
KARL MARX & THE CIVIL WAR IN THE UNITED STATES
One of the most notable of Marx’s political involvements was his intervention in the events of the Civil War in the United States. African chattel slavery in the U.S. was the most lucrative and most brutal in all of history. It was a system that served as the economic impetus for capitalism and allowed it to grow into the colossal wealth it comprises today.
Through his correspondence with President Abraham Lincoln and through his column in the New York Tribune Karl Marx sought to build pressure by being firmly insistent about the need for a decree that made slavery technically illegal.
On January 1, 1863 Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This monumental document became the legal precedent for recruiting and arming former slaves. Although Lincoln’s motives were of military consideration the Emancipation Proclamation hastened the outcome of the war and would eventually guarantee the defeat of the Southern Slavocracy.
Sectors of the British ruling class who had vested economic interest in the South’s slave economy had desired to militarily intervene in support of the Confederacy. Thanks to Karl Marx’s leadership in the powerful International Workingmen’s Association of England the British rulers were prevented from coming to the aid of the Southern slave owning class.
Karl Marx’s leading role mobilizing the English working class to prevent the prolongation of African chattel slavery in the United States was in every objective sense a profound act of solidarity to the African American people. Marx’s convictions were firm, it is why he stated, “Labor in the white skin can never free itself as long as labor in the black skin is branded.”
MARXISM MORE RELEVANT TODAY THAN EVER BEFORE
The revolutionary contributions of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels continue to be the target of bourgeois philosophers, economists and historians. Ruling class scholars demonstrate their contempt for working class people by falsely accusing Marxism of being “totalitarian” or by asserting that it is filled with nothing but “unrealizable fantasy,” etc.
Similarly, there are those even within the predominantly white socialist left of this country who claim, dripping with social arrogance, that Marxism and the nationalism of oppressed people are contradictory, and can never be reconciled to compliment one another, in the fight against the capitalist rulers. Others in the more conservative sectors of the national movements, strictly concerned with the narrowest, cultural sentiments of nationalism, mistakenly assert that Marxism is a European or “white thing” and is therefore irrelevant to national liberation struggles.
Both of these views only serve to promote the reactionary notions of white supremacy and anti-communism. Objective material facts prove the opposite. Under the intense circumstances of imperialism today all oppressed entities have a definite class relationship to capitalism. It is a phenomenon which no one can escape.
People of color in the United States are the most exploited, persecuted communities. They are victims of police violence and imprisonment. If anyone is to have a greater stake and say in the downfall of this vile system and the establishment of a new society, it is those who have been historically on the bottom of social and economic disparity.
It is an absurdity and a reflection of how deeply embedded white privilege is in the culture to believe that mastering Marxism requires that people of color dismiss their self-identity as historically constituted national groupings within the broader population. This distortion of the meaning of Marxism dismisses the necessity of socialism coming about on equal terms and has resulted in preserving bourgeois traditions disguised under the mantle of upholding working class “unity.”
The teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are today more relevant to the liberation struggles of Black, Latino, Asian, Arab and Indigenous people than ever before, especially because of the super-exploitation and increasing numbers of these national groups coming into the U.S. working class.
The capitalist ideological institutions like the church, the mass media, public education, etc., will implicitly and explicitly encourage us to accept what exist, that is, to be submissive to the racist injustices of the police state and the rule of wealthy exploiters. It was precisely the social class oppression, bringing so much suffering in our world that Karl Marx selflessly devoted his entire life to condemn and worked towards undoing.
If Karl Marx were alive today he would have surely been part of the movements condemning the persecution of immigrant and undocumented families in the United States, the racist police killings of African Americans, the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation of Palestine as well as the U.S. colonization of Puerto Rico.
It is Marx’s uncompromising devotion to revolution on behalf of the workers and oppressed people of the world that explains the ruling class’s utter hatred for the conceptions he developed, including the relevance of Marxism to every question facing the world today. The rulers can not bear the thought of a well-articulated analysis that calls for an end to capitalism and points towards the only direction for bringing about the complete emancipation of the human race.
Latin America has produced many revolutionary figures who have left imprints in history with their outstanding examples of courage and selfless deeds. Whether or not these freedom fighters were conscious of it what they demonstrated in their actions would serve for future generations to emulate to complete the task of eliminating the reign of oppressors forever.
These exemplary men and women, like Anacaona, Simon Bolivar, Petra Herrera-Ruiz, Celia Sanchez, Augusto César Sandino, Lolita Lebron, Fidel Castro and Valentina Vazquez, just to mention a few, came about as a consequence of the determination of oppressed people who seek whatever means to achieve their freedom.
Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, the once leader of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and present-day icon of the Puerto Rican liberation struggle, has secured an important place in the history of struggle of all oppressed people.
The imagery of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, like the photographic or artistic depiction of other renown revolutionary figures, ceases to be the visual property of the individual once it becomes a representation of a people with a cause. In actuality, such depictions are the visual expression of a people in a historical endeavor for emancipation.
And because it is an artistic rendition symbolizing a historical revolutionary quest it must therefore be treated with the utmost respect, as if it were a people’s national flag.
The recent defamation of a well known photographic pose of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos has to be viewed critically and the motives behind its creation must be questioned because of the context of who Don Pedro Albizu Campos was and precisely what would have been his disposition of the devastating events now occurring in Puerto Rico, which have exacerbated the impact of U.S. colonialism there.
Some will argue that this is an “art challenge”, elevating LGBTQ themes and so on. However, there is good art and there is bad art, no equilibrium among the two. There is art that serves the oppressors and art that serves the oppressed, that is, the liberation struggle. A quick view of the defamed image would tend to make the revolutionary appear as a clown or charlatan.
I know quite well that the once transgender leader of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and eventual member of the Young Lords Silvia Rivera, would have been appalled by this.
To superimpose color shading on the facial features of this revolutionary is to diminish the dignity and seriousness of the memory of someone who the U.S. colonizers continue to despise and dread.
Placing lipstick and eyeshadow on an imagery many revolutionary nationalists view as unassailable is equal to placing shades over his eyes, a baseball cap over his head and a blunt in his mouth. That would naturally be offensive at the highest degree to anyone who embraces the meaning of Don Pedro.
Needless to mention, that the creation of such images can only entertain the wishes of those who are hostile to the cause for Puerto Rico’s independence.
Shame on those who endorse this display of self-hatred, whether implicitly or explicitly, especially as we approach the 53rd anniversary of Pedro Albizu Campos’ death, April 21, 1965.
The colonizers also understand that art is political and that it can be used as a weapon. The question automatically then becomes — who do you want art to serve, the aims of the colonizers or the aims of the colonized?
With this article is a rendition of the same pose ( featured photo ) which I painted 3 years ago. Dimensions: 24″ X 34″, acrylic on canvas. It was created with my love for Puerto Rico, our people and our historical national liberation struggle.