THE TRUMP PHENOMENA: A CONSEQUENCE OF CAPITALISM

By Carlito Rovira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Carlito Rovira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Puerto Rican nation

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

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

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

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

The Revolutionary Committees

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

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

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

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

Women also played an important role in the leadership of this revolutionary movement, such as Mariana Brecetti Cuevas and Lola Rodriguez De Tio. Both of these women partook in organizing the clandestine Revolutionary Committees. Mariana Bracetti Cuevas created what the revolutionaries hoped would become the flag of an independent Puerto Rican republic. Lola Rodriguez De Tio was the author of the Puerto Rican National Anthem — not the revised, non-revolutionary version approved by the U.S. colonizers.

Betances sailed on a ship with a cargo of rifles, cannons and other weapons from the island of Española (Haiti & Dominican Republic). These were weapons obtained during the Haitian Revolution’s defeat of French colonialism on January 1, 1804. Haiti had such an abundance of captured weapons that much of it was provided to other liberation struggles in the Western Hemisphere, especially to Simon Bolivar’s military campaign to expel Spanish colonialism.

But the Spanish colonial authorities discovered the plans. On his return from the neighboring island as he entered the harbor of Arecibo, the Spanish Navy surrounded the rebel ship, capturing the cargo and arresting the crew.

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

The Uprising Begins

At about 2 AM on September 23, 1868, 900 hundred insurgents on foot and horseback stormed the city of Lares. The army of freedom fighters entered the city, and as the sounds of shouts and gunfire were heard, the city awakened, crowds of people poured onto the streets, and the African slaves staged a revolt. The people were emboldened to fight which weakened the ability of the Spanish military forces to maintain control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Symbol of Struggle

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

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

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

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

It was this act of solidarity that solidified the centuries-long relationship between Cuban and Puerto Rican revolutionaries. This special collaboration became tradition. It is what motivated Lola Rodriguez De Tio’s famous poetic expression “Two Wings of the Same Bird”.

For many Puerto Ricans, the experience of Lares emphasis that the national salvation and liberation of the people can only be achieved with total independence and absolute freedom from foreign interference.

Added Meaning of El Grito De Lares

On September 23, 2005 Filiberto Ojeda Rios was killed in a gun battle with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents. Filiberto was leader of the clandestine armed group Los Macheteros. The FBI chose the date to launch this vicious attack on the revered leader as an attempt to shatter the fighting spirit of the movement.

But U.S. colonialism’s efforts of psychological warfare came short of it’s goal. All that Washington officials managed to do was to give the annual El Grito De Lares commemorations an added meaning. Boricuas continue to wage the liberation struggle.

Today, Puerto Rico has a developed working class population with a long tradition of fighting the exploitative horrors typical in a colonial setting. And with the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA)”, a law designed to intensify U.S. colonial domination, the U.S. rulers hope to destroy this rebellious nation. Regardless what Washington officials throw against the Puerto Rican people, the historic instinct to rebel will allow them to persevere in the tradition of El Grito De Lares.

The continued struggle for an independent state is the only suitable direction and the only guarantee for the right to self-determination for a people that has endured five centuries of colonial oppression. The sacrifices and lessons made by the martyrs of El Grito De Lares shall one day prove to inspire a decisive battle to bring about the defeat of U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico.

¡QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

Suicides spread as economic crisis deepens

By Carlito Rovira


Public disapproval for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has brought to light a growing problem with suicides committed by U.S. military personnel. Many of these men and women come from the working-class and oppressed nationalities, whose social plight is compounded by the abuses they endure from Pentagon military policy and the top brass.


But news reports rarely mention the growing crisis of suicides among the general U.S. population. According to a 2008 report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, U.S. suicides are on the rise for the first time in a decade. A report by the American Association of Suicidology shows that suicides figures for 2005 outnumbered homicides by almost two to one, ranking suicides as the 11th cause of death in the United States.


The suicide of a loved one touches the deepest emotions of families and friends. The physical destruction of one’s own life, dismissing forever the least sense of hope, may seem like the most inconceivable of all human acts.


More often than not, suicide is reduced to an individual choice, a personal tragedy, removed from any social context. But the growing suicide epidemic has its obvious connections to the economic reality. It is not coincidental that the last significant jump in the rate of suicides in all U.S. history was during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Rising suicides are not just a domestic phenomenon. In the last half century, suicides worldwide have increased by 60 percent. Imperialist penetration in subjugated countries, with all of its ugliest features, has had a devastating impact on millions of people around the world.

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

The JHBSPH report found that suicides have increased in the United States for the first time in 10 years. One of the main contributors to the increased statistic is a decline in the standard of living for white men and women between the ages of 40 and 64. The capitalist economic crisis has disrupted the more privileged social position the white population has enjoyed historically.


Native Americans, one of the most impoverished peoples in the United States, continue to suffer the highest rate of suicide, 32.4 per 100,000. Compare the rates of suicides among the different sectors of the population: 14.2 per 100,000 whites, 9.9 per 100,000 Latinos, 8.5 per 100,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders and 7.4 per 100,000 African Americans.

Widespread distress

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

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The national suicide rate is 10.9 per 100,000 people. More than 90 percent of people who die from suicide live highly stressful lives attributed to financial situations. Among other causes stemming from economic-related deterioration of social life are family violence, divorce, and drug and alcohol abuse.


The economic deterioration has only intensified the plight of children. Millions of children in this country live parentless, with a 50 percent school drop-out rate, and an increasing number are incarcerated. Capitalism cannot guarantee working-class children a decent, well-paying job in their future, let alone a decent education, leaving many with a sense of uncertainty.


Not surprisingly, a Surgeon General report disclosed that suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people. Suicide rates are 1.3 per 100,000 for children ages 10 to 14, 8.2 per 100,000 for adolescents ages 14 to 19 and 12.5 per 100,000 for young adults ages 20 to 24. The last group beats the national average.

In a 2006 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one of every 12 adolescents in high school attempted suicide, and 17 percent considered making an attempt.


For older or retired workers, ages 65 and up, suicide rates are also high. A 2004 report by the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention revealed that the rate of suicide for people 65 years of age and older is 14.3 per 100,000.

Working-class seniors are often neglected. The capitalist system takes little interest in workers past the prime age for profitable exploitation. If they can stay in their jobs long enough to retire, they face many difficulties, including the threat of losing their retirement plans, medical insurance and other services.

Resources exist, pilfered by wealthy

With modern technological and scientific advancements, the means exist for a scientific approach to address these problems. In a society that has such an enormous amount of resources and wealth, there is no reason for people to be in need. The resources to eradicate misery and want exist, but capitalism perpetuates social and economic inequalities—the material conditions responsible for pushing the most vulnerable to the far depths of hopelessness.


Under capitalism, socially created wealth is pilfered by the rich. While government officials hand over the public treasury to the wealthy, the working poor must confront the consequences of this injustice. Hospitals are closed and health care is denied to working people. Psychiatric and psychological care is part of the comprehensive medical care which should be a right. The vast majority of people are left to suffer in various ways.

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

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

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

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

By: Carlito Rovira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE COMPETITION BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND SPAIN

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

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

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

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

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

A PRETEXT FOR WAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On July 25, 1898 about 26,000 U.S. troops rampaged throughout Puerto Rico.
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Puerto Ricans did not invite the U.S. invaders, Puerto Rico was militarily conquered.
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The U.S. military invasion was a shock and disruption to the lives of the Puerto Rican people.
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While American troops began their onslaught on Guanica, U.S. warships entered the Bahia De Ponce (Ponce Bay). These warships threaten to use their destructive heavy guns on the city of Ponce if the inhabitants did not surrender.

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

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

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

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

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A depiction of  the tyrant Theodore Roosevelt conquering the Caribbean.

CONTINUED ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLE

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

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

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

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

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

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The militant legacy of Malcolm X

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

 

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Malcolm X addresses a crowd in Harlem in 1963.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The Nation of Islam

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘No man should have so much power’

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Diverging politics

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Government inflames split

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

An example of militancy

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Long live the revolutionary memory of Malcolm X!

A SALUTE TO JOHN BROWN ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH — May 9, 1800

By Carlito Rovira

On May 9, 1800 one of the greatest representatives of oppressed and exploited people was born in Torrington, Connecticut. His name was John Brown.

John Brown did not perceive himself as a revolutionary, but was instead, according to him “doing the work of God”. However, his resolute stance against the widely accepted and legally sanctioned system of slavery made him in every sense a revolutionary.

Brown was a very religious man who saw the enslavement, torture and rape of Black people as an abomination of Christian beliefs and doctrine. The slave owning class used religion as an ideological pillar to justify their cruel practice, while most of organized religions were silent or supported slavery outright.

The exemplary acts of courage as well as the humanity John Brown exerted has secured him an eternal place of honor in the archives of the class struggle in the United States. His militant disposition towards the practices of this system contrasted tremendously from other abolitionists who tended to be non-threatening with their passive, reformist approach towards slavery.

John Brown sincerely believed that since slavery was upheld with violent force it was absolutely necessary to overthrow it with the same intention. He led a number of attacks such as the Battle of Black Jack and the Battle of Osawatomie, in which slave owners and supporters of slavery were confronted for their heinous actions.

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Tragic Prelude, a mural at the Kansas State Capital. By artist John Steuart Curry. 

On October 16, 1859, Brown and a large group of men, that included two of his sons and former slaves, launched a raid at the U.S. Army Harper’s Ferry armory in Virginia. The site became known later in history as “John Brown’s Fort”. The plan was to capture the large stockpile of weapons and distribute them to Black people throughout the region in preparation for battle.

The legendary Harriet Tubman, who had intricate familiarity with the Harper’s Ferry region, provided Brown with detailed information about the armory. Harriet Tubman and John Brown had become friends and had great mutual respect for one another.  Tubman eventually helped to recruit brave and willing men for Brown’s planned raid at Harper’s Ferry. As a ode to her leadership skills, Brown gave Tubman  the nickname “General Tubman”.

Tragically, due to many tactical mistakes made by the liberators, the local militia of white citizens was allowed time to galvanized forces in response to the attack. Under the leadership of then U.S. Army Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee, they surrounded the armory. Soon after a bloody gun battle ensued for two days. Due to Robert E. Lee’s skills in military tactics and the superior weaponry of the U.S. Army, John Brown and his men were over taken and arrested despite many casualties on both sides.

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An engraving depicting John Brown and his men under siege at the Harper’s Ferry Armory.
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The site of the Harper’s Ferry armory, later in history named “John Brown’s Fort”.

John Brown’s eventual execution by hanging ultimately proved to be the beginning of the end for slavery in the United States.  Brown succeeded in legitimizing the use of armed force as a viable option to end slavery. The story of John Brown and the Battle of Harper’s Ferry become a critical point in U.S. history, in which the country came to the opening gates of the Civil War.

Similarly, this courageous act was arguably mirrored by Cuba in the 1953 Attack on the Moncada Barracks led by Fidel Castro. Although both battles ended with the loss of many courageous fighters, each of these events ignited the flames of a revolution.

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The Last Moments of John Brown (1884) by Thomas Hovenden 

To this day, John Brown’s persona continues to be the target of vilification and ridiculed by bourgeois historians. Many historians depict Brown as fanatical and unstable. John Brown’s life is often distorted to seemingly discredit his passion for the abolitionist cause and dilute his relevance to American history, especially the circumstances of race relations today.

The ruling class in this country fear more than anything the prospect of mass rebellion. The Black struggle has inspired every oppressed and exploited sector of the population. It is no wonder why the Black Panther Party and other African American political expressions were targets of repression whenever they became recognized among broad sectors of the population.

It makes sense why those with power and wealth today would continue to dread the memory of John Brown as they would the contributions of revolutionaries such as Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Harriet Tubman, Lolita Lebron, Fidel Castro or V.I. Lenin.

John Brown was never critical nor was he defensive about the emancipation aspirations and self-identity of Black people. These sentiments which later on developed to become the ideological pillars of Black nationalism were deeply rooted in the horrific experiences of slavery. By all historical accounts, John Brown did his part to defend and enhance these sentiments.

Brown set the bar for White people to embrace their obligation to the fight for Black self-determination if they were to honestly consider themselves revolutionaries or socialists. White privilege also existed during John Brown’s lifetime in the form of slavery. Although conditions have somewhat changed from that era, the obligations of white progressives to fight white supremacy has not.

Claiming to be “anti-racist” is not enough if there is not action to match. In other words, being anti-racist today means engaging in an uncompromising struggle against all forms of white privilege. Because of historical circumstances, there cannot be equal responsibility among the races.

In order for the first steps to be taken against racism in the U.S., the white population must raise the anti-racist banner as their very own. This disposition is precisely what John Brown was committed to live by. The standards required for white progressives in the struggle for fundamental change do not have to be re-created but updated based upon the blueprint established long ago by John Brown.

 

LONG LIVE THE MEMORY OF JOHN BROWN!

My portrait of John Brown created in 2008. 24″ X 36″,
acrylic paint on canvas.

Black Emancipation Poses Threat to White Supremacist Traditions at 2016 Superbowl

By Carlito Rovira

 

 

For the most part, no one ever expected such a barrage of condemnation against the super-star African American singing artist Beyonce for her performance during halftime at the 2016 Superbowl. It is an institutionalized extravagant sport event viewed by tens of millions of people throughout the United States.

 
The controversy began immediately after a dance troupe of about 50 women, with Beyonce at the helm, took center stage in a beautifully choreographed arrangement and dress attire that made references to the legendary Black Panther Party and Malcolm X. To many people nothing could have been a better tribute to the annual tradition of Black History Month (February) than to depict figures so symbolic in U.S. history.

 

But in order to understand why this performance became such a controversy we must first explore the causes that triggered it. Anyone who closely examines the norms of this violent “sport” will easily see how it tends to present itself as a feverish gladiator ritual. The definition of “sport” has been changed to mean inflicting bodily harm among high priced members of opposing teams and in some cases with permanent damage.

 

With military music bands playing and jet fighters flying high above the airspace of stadiums, the Superbowl has become an event that insidiously promotes a peculiar version of militarism. It accentuates sexism, white supremacy and big nation chauvinist arrogance – all of the not-so-hidden ideas that prevail in the general thinking of capitalist culture.

 

With this kind of historically rooted setting it came as no surprise when arch racists and notorious figures like New York State Representative Peter King and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani launched a barrage of attacks against the prominent Black female performer.

 
They were appalled that Beyonce would dare pay homage to heroic African American revolutionaries, even in the most minimized implicit manner. The vindictive outcry by these and other white supremacists has little to do with Beyonce or what they perceived as “offensive” during the halftime performance.

 
Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party and the mass upsurge that occurred during the 1960’s – 70’s, the height of the Civil Rights movement, continues to haunt the imagination of our oppressors to this day. Their apprehensions are attributed to the militant traditions of the African American masses which brought about the rise of Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party.

 
The lessons that came as a result of those experiences are indisputably applicable in our reality today – and that is precisely what these villains fear. Blacks, Latinos, Indigenous and other people of color continue to be brutalized and murdered by the police across the United States.

 
Unlike the lies asserted by Guilliani and King it was the police who attacked, imprisoned and murdered Black Panthers in a criminal campaign organized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) known as Operation COINTELPRO. However, both Malcolm X and the BPP boldly advocated and practiced the right to use armed self-defense against the racist terror of the police in the Black community.

 
What the representatives of the ruling class are most upset about at Beyonce is that her Superbowl halftime performance reminded everyone of a period in U.S. history when Black people defiantly posed a threat to this racist system by galvanizing many sectors of the general population. This phenomena presented the potential for revolution in this country under the impact of the Black liberation struggle.

 
The role Black people played in the events of that period in history is something the ruling class can not forget or forgive. They will naturally dread the mere thought of a revolutionary upheaval until the day of their final doom.

 

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The Black Panther Party believed in the right to armed self-defense from police terror.

 

This is why former Black Panther and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal has stated: “The tyrants, oppressors and racists who continue to hold political power in this country by using the most ruthless means can not afford a repeat of the 1960’s.”

 

The plight of Black people, from the 300 years of slavery, Jim Crow discrimination and the mass incarceration and police brutality today, are facts that our oppressors and those who benefit from white privilege and entitlement would like us to ignore and forget.

 
Regardless what Beyonce’s motives may have been she touched upon a vulnerability of white supremacist America and because of that she merits our applause and praise. If her halftime performance were a projection of jingoism, militarism or a glorification of white supremacy she would not have received the flack that she is now a target of.

Remembering the Black Panthers

An example of revolutionary defiance and militancy

By Carlito Rovira

Fifty years ago, in October 1966, the Black Panther Party was born. It is one of the highlights in the history of the U.S. revolutionary movement, and the Black liberation struggle in particular.

Young African Americans dared to stand up and challenge the reins of the capitalist state, to the point of arming themselves to demand an end to Black oppression. Their vision of Black emancipation evolved into a vision of the liberation of all oppressed people and the smashing of the capitalist system.

The U.S. government, terrified by the potential for revolution and the influence these Black leaders and freedom fighters were gaining, resorted to the most extreme violence to destroy the BPP. It is a campaign that is still felt today.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, as the party was first called, was formed in Oakland, Calif., by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The name—and the famous panther logo—came from the Lowndes Country Freedom Organization in Alabama, that which organized for independent Black political action with the help of Stokely Carmichael and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

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BPP Chairman Bobby Seales and Minister of Defense Huey P Newton

The formation of the Black Panther Party was the culmination of a resistance movement over the long history that characterizes the oppression of African Americans in the United States, from the lashes of slavery to the beatings and murders by the police in modern times. It grew up in the aftermath of the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X—a powerful voice for militant Black self-determination and liberation. It drew inspiration from the Deacons for Defense and Justice, organized for African American self-defense against racist Klan and police terror in the South.

The Panthers recognized the need for an organization that was capable of addressing the racist violence that the Black masses faced. Every gain being made by the Civil Rights movement was being matched by violence and lynching by racist cops and the Ku Klux Klan, in the North and South alike.

The Right to Armed Self-Defense

The Panthers won respect and admiration for their militancy and defiance in the face of the racist police state. For example, less than a year after their founding, on May 2, 1967, a group of 30 Black Panthers walked into the California state capitol building armed with shotguns and automatic rifles. The armed but peaceful demonstration was to protest the Mulford Act, aimed at prohibiting citizens from carrying firearms on their persons or in their vehicles.

As the Panthers walked towards the entrance of the capitol building, they were approached by television and other news media. They used the occasion to call upon African Americans everywhere to arm themselves against the systematic brutality and terror practiced by the power structure.

But the party’s efforts went far beyond their call for armed self-defense and their patrols of racist cops. They also carried out consistent community work, gaining the confidence of the people not only in the Black community but among other oppressed nationalities as well.

Panther chapters sprung up in the African American communities of major cities from coast to coast. Wherever they established branches, they tried to set up outreach programs like free breakfast for children and free clothing drives. They used every one of these opportunities to expose the avaricious nature of the rich and powerful who exist at the expense of the poor.

The Panthers were influenced by Malcolm X’s rejection of “turn the other cheek” pacifism for the Black liberation struggle, as well as by the socialist movement in the United States and around the world. Their “Black Power” salute combined with street corner sales of Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Books” of quotations.

The international situation during this period also contributed to the birth of the Panthers. The 1949 Chinese Revolution, the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the Vietnamese Revolution and the heroic struggle of south Vietnam’s National Liberation Front against U.S. imperialism, along with the other national liberation struggles in Africa, Latin America and Asia had a great impact in inspiring revolutionaries in the United States, including the Black Panthers.

Their militancy and revolutionary politics quickly put them in the center of the African American liberation struggle, as well as in the growing mass movements that were sweeping the country.

Capitalism Is The Problem

More and more, the party put the blame for the plight of the African American people on the capitalist system. It rejected the view that the problems of racism could be solved within the confines of the exploitative system, or that it was possible to accumulate enough capital in the Black community to rival capitalism with “Black capital.” Instead, Panther speakers called for socialist revolution within the context of the Civil Rights era.

Their uncompromisingly revolutionary and anti-capitalist stance was the most prominent in what became a new trend within the Black liberation struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.

As part of the political training of its membership, the BPP studied Marxist literature like the Communist Manifesto and the writings of Mao Zedong.

The Black Panther Party was a disciplined and organized revolutionary political entity. The Panthers put forward the need for professional, organizational sophistication in building a revolutionary political party.

While the party’s Ten-Point Program reflected its political views and line of march, it was the membership rules that ensured the internal discipline of the organization. Membership rules touched a range of matters, including mandatory collective study of revolutionary theory; respect for women inside and outside the BPP; and respect for the property of the poor.

Revolutionary Multinational Alliances

The Panthers advocated a united front of revolutionary organizations to guarantee the success of a revolutionary struggle in the United States. Their organizing efforts extended to Puerto Rican, Chicano, Asian, other nationally oppressed people., and the white working class.

They forged alliances of various kinds, such as with the American Indian Movement and Cesar Chavez and the farm workers’ movement. The Panthers stood in solidarity with the struggle for women’s equality, especially supporting those sectors of the women’s movement that were anti-imperialist and anti-racist. To the surprise of many, on the heels of the Stonewall rebellion, Panther leader Huey P. Newton publicly supported the struggle to end gay and lesbian oppression.

The Panthers perspective was toward building a multinational alliance of revolutionary organizations. Their most notable effort was the Rainbow Coalition, organized in June 1969 in Chicago by Panther leader Fred Hampton, which consisted of the Black Panther Party; the Young Lords, a U.S. organization of Puerto Rican revolutionary youth; and organizations representing Chicanos, Asians, and poor whites. Hampton’s vision was to eventually merge these allied organizations into a single revolutionary entity, to forge a revolutionary organization with representation from the full spectrum of the working class.

Wherever their agitation work was conducted, on the streets, in on campuses, or at public events, the Panthers upheld the principle of solidarity with the liberation movements in the oppressed and colonized countries. At the height of the Vietnam War, the Black Panther leadership made an open gesture of internationalism by offering to send party members to fight alongside the National Liberation Front in their struggle against U.S imperialism.

Fierce U.S. Repression

Faced with the Black Panther Party’s tremendous growth and revolutionary orientation, the U.S. government struck back. It organized a massive political-military campaign, involving the FBI and police departments around the country, to destroy the Panthers’ leadership.

In a now- well-documented campaign called “Operation: COINTELPRO, or Counter Intelligence Program,” the FBI orchestrated covert operations—personally overseen by FBI Director director J. Edgar Hoover—to provoke conflicts between the Black Panthers and other organizations. They employed a network of infiltrators and provocateurs to disrupt the party’s discipline and leadership.

Police attacks were common. Cops routinely raided party offices and the homes of Panther members. Dozens of Panthers were killed outright, often in cold blood. The most notable of these cop assassinations was the Dec. 4, 1969, murder of Fred Hampton in Chicago while he slept. He was 21 years old.

Dozens more Panther members and leaders spent years in prison. The campaign to jail Panther leaders and activists long outlived the organization itself. Mumia Abu-Jamal, who at 16- years -old had been the Minister minister of Information in the party’s Philadelphia branch, was framed up and sentenced to death in 1981. He has been in prison ever since despite a worldwide effort calling for his release.

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The Black Panther Party ultimately could not withstand the government onslaught. The combined police attacks and covert operations compounded internal differences. Unable to withstand the tremendous repression, by the mid-1970s the Black Panther Party was essentially defunct.

Lessons for today

Bourgeois historians often try to downplay the role of the state in the destruction of the Panthers. At best, they point to the Panthers as a lesson to revolutionaries, especially from the oppressed nationalities: Do not dare to struggle, you can not stand up to the power of the capitalist state.

Revolutionaries draw different lessons. The rulers were not then and are not now invincible. The fact that the U.S. government relentlessly attacked the Panthers before they had a chance to steel the discipline of their rank and file only points to the need to build disciplined organizations of professional revolutionaries today in preparation for the battles to come.

As long as capitalist oppression exists, the rise of revolutionary movements, like the one that gave rise to the Black Panther Party, is a historical certainty. The Panthers showed that revolutionary ideology and organization, embraced by the most oppressed sectors of the working class, is what the ruling class fears the most.

Everything they did and the sacrifices they made will not be in vain. Eventually, those who aim, in the sincerest sense, for socialism, Black emancipation and the liberation of all oppressed people in the United States must embrace that history and strive to emulate their courage and revolutionary spirit.

LONG LIVE THE MEMORY OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY! 

THE IMPACT OF THE BLACK STRUGGLE ON PUERTO RICAN IMMIGRANTS

by Carlito Rovira

Racist Oppression Gives Rise to Solidarity

The historical struggle of the African American people was the inevitable consequence of the introduction of slavery by capitalists in the Western Hemisphere. The collective experience of the African American people over the course of many generations ran parallel to the development of U.S. capitalism at every stage. Their plight, from the era of the slave trade to the present day, reveals the inherent oppression within capitalism.

Racist terror, degradation, and discrimination were the objective circumstances that compelled into existence the militant tradition of resistance in the African American masses. Their steadfastness in many key moments in history proved exemplary to the U.S. working-class movement, and particularly to other oppressed nationalities. African American history is replete with displays of genuine solidarity with other liberation struggles.

The Black press, the Black church and outspoken African American figures such as W.E.B. DuBois, openly condemned the motives behind the 1898 Spanish-American War. The U.S. government and giant banking enterprises sought military conflict with Spain to win colonial control of Guam, the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.

Black Puerto Rican scholar Arturo Alfonso Schomburg devoted his entire life to compiling vast collections of writings documenting significant events in Black history. Before moving to New York City’s Harlem community, Schomburg was a member of the clandestine Revolutionary Committees of Puerto Rico, which organized the famous 1868 Grito de Lares uprising  — a revolt that called for the abolition of slavery and the independence of Puerto Rico. Schomburg eventually became a prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance, which challenged the ideological facets of white supremacy through the literary, visual and performing arts.

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Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

At many of his performance appearances, renowned African American singer, actor and Communist Paul Robeson would call upon his audience for a moment of silence to express solidarity for the incarcerated Puerto Rican revolutionary Nationalist leader, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

The young Pedro Albizu Campos gained recognition among African American figures for being very critical of the racism within the United States. Campos’s mother was Black, which gave him first-hand insight into the impact of racist oppression. Campos’s outspoken oratory against the “racist practices in the house of the empire” caught the attention of Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Garvey, who traveled to Puerto Rico to meet the renowned leader.

Despite their differences in goals and tactics, this meeting was highly symbolic for that period in history. The Russian Revolution emboldened workers’ struggles and nationalist movements throughout the world, including the United States and Puerto Rico, and instilled a sense of vulnerability in the U.S. capitalist class.

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Black Struggle Inspires Puerto Rican Militancy

The Spanish-American War had a significant impact on African Americans, especially Black soldiers who were sent to wage colonial war on behalf of U.S. imperialism. Black troops resented their white officers using racial slurs against Filipino people, which were reminiscent of their own experience in the United States. Many Black soldiers defected to join the anti-colonial Filipino guerrilla army. The most notable of them was David Fagan, of the 24th Infantry Division. Fagan won the admiration and respect of the Filipino people and was made a commander in their guerrilla army.

Puerto Ricans have migrated to New York City and surrounding counties since the mid-1800s—in most cases, to escape Spanish colonial persecution. But in the years after World War II and well into the 1960s, Puerto Ricans migrated to U.S. industrial centers at an annual average rate of 63,000 due to economic hardships caused by U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico.

What the Puerto Rican migrants encountered was not what they expected when they uprooted in search of a better life. In addition to the agony of having to come to a strange land, the Puerto Rican experience now included greedy racist landlords, housing and job discrimination, cultural stigmatization by the mass media, police brutality and the terror of racist white gangs.

While Puerto Ricans began their exodus in the late 1940s African Americans were already involved in their “Great Migration” from southern states where they had been historically concentrated. Fleeing racist Jim Crow laws and Ku Klux Klan terror, more than 5 million African Americans migrated to the North, Northeast and California between the 1920s and the 1960s.

The instinct of any oppressed people is to seek allies and find ways to resist. Puerto Ricans facing the realities of colonialism and impoverishment could relate to the Civil Rights movement and were attracted to its boldness.

The Nation of Islam began to approach the newly arrived immigrants with the aim of politicizing them. And when the Black Panther Party began organizing in the Puerto Rican community of Chicago, it caused the transformation of a street youth group (“gang”) known as the Young Lords.

The Young Lords were the first Puerto Rican revolutionary organization to arise in the United States based on the concrete political circumstances of this country. They were a decisive factor in the spread of militancy in Puerto Rican communities in various U.S. cities. Like the Black Panthers, they advocated for a multinational revolution in the United States.

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As this movement gained momentum, Puerto Ricans gained a sense of hope and became inspired to fight for their political and economic rights. By the second half of the 1960s, Puerto Ricans in the United States had become much more politically adept, thanks to the struggles of the African American masses.

African Americans and Puerto Ricans further developed their mutual affinity based on a resistance to racist oppression. In cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, at street demonstrations and on college campuses, African American and Puerto Rican masses instinctively aligned with each other in common struggle. It was not unusual for the Black liberation flag (red black & green) to be accompanied by the Puerto Rican flag.

A particularly significant examples of solidarity, one that became a great concern to the ruling class, is the 1969 student takeover of City College in New York City. African American and Puerto Rican students captured the attention of many throughout the U.S. when they defiantly seized control of campus buildings to demand free tuition in the City University system. To further demonstrate their boldness, these students lowered the U.S. flag from the tallest flagpole and hoisted the Black Liberation Flag and the Puerto Rican Flag. It was an imagery of defiance and resistance never seen before in this country.

The great lessons gained from this experience are still deeply relevant today. Black oppression was instrumental in the rise of U.S. capitalism, and the African American masses have confronted head-on some of its most oppressive manifestations. Their struggle will continue to be a source of inspiration to the working class and oppressed peoples, and help forge genuine solidarity with deep consequences for struggles at home and abroad.

LONG LIVE BLACK & BORICUA SOLIDARITY!

BERNIE SANDERS IS NO SOCIALIST IF HE IS NOT FOR REPARATIONS

 

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By Carlito Rovira

The demand for reparations for centuries of African chattel slavery has always been dreaded by the capitalist ruling class and argued against with contempt by every form of white supremacy, both hidden and open. Bernie Sanders who makes every attempt to project himself as a “socialist” can very easily be proven a complete hypocrite on just the topic of reparations.

Socialists who truly uphold their convictions for an uncompromising struggle against capitalism can not speak of ending capitalist oppression without fighting for reparations for African Americans, Africa and the entire African diaspora.

The unimaginable colossal wealth in the hands of the capitalist class today was initially created by enslaved African labor centuries ago. The racial injustices that exist today in this country against African Americans, Latinos and all Third World people is rooted in this question.

For Bernie Sanders to speak of reparations with indifference only brings to light why his campaign rallies continue to be just as predominantly white as his fellow contenders in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Reparations for the historically super-exploited sectors of the population is a fundamental matter for those who call themselves socialist.

Reparations will not just mean economic compensation, its implementation will also require incarcerating those who inherited wealth and their position of social privilege at the expense of Black people. Reparations can not avoid also addressing putting an end to white privilege and white entitlement by decree. A theme that the followers of the Sanders campaign as well as Bernie Sanders himself are by their very nature unable to grapple with.

Bernie Sanders’ “sincerity” or “insincerity” is irrelevant. There are many things which he has critiqued about this system which are true, such as the greed of the banks and the entire capitalist class. However, Mr. Sanders is embedded in the surroundings of white privilege. The progress and salvation of working class people, especially people of color, can not co-exist in this society with tyrants, exploiters and racists.

Changing the circumstances of capitalist oppression, including reparations for the victims of this system, will require a mass movement capable of launching revolution. This is the line of departure between revolutionary socialists and Bernie Sanders apologists who speak of a harmless kind of socialism acceptable to our oppressors.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/bernie-sanders-reparations/424602/