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/

 

DONALD TRUMP, RACISM & CAPITALIST ELECTIONS

By Carlito Rovira

 

What may very well distinguish the 2016 Presidential race from others in many decades is the media sensationalism the Republican candidate Donald Trump has received. Many people, especially people of color, have been angered or distressed by Trump’s openly racist speeches at campaign rallies and comments made to the news media. African Americans, Mexicans and other non-white people, along with Muslims and immigrants, have been the targets of Donald Trump’s vile depictions and slanders disguised as “speaking truth” or “freedom of speech.”

As a real estate giant, Trump is clear where his social class interests lay. He is a member of the capitalist class. In the numerous hotels and condominiums he owns, many of the employees are Black, Latino and women. It is precisely these wage workers who are the ones to have created the $4.5 Billion net worth Trump has accumulated through decades of exploitation.

The way the media has featured Trump’s arrogant hate speech, one might easily believe that Donald Trump is the only racist among all of the 2016 presidential candidates, both Republicans and Democrats. If we were to take into consideration the overall picture of U.S. history and the role played by white privilege and entitlement today, we can then come to the conclusion of how there is so much more hidden behind Trump’s theatrical style campaign.

In a society founded on racist hatred and genocide centuries ago, where white supremacy came to define many habits, customs and traditions in which it operates in the general culture like an unofficial religion, can we honestly say that Trump’s remarks are the exception?

Whichever candidate wins the presidential election, the reins of political and economic power will continue to be in the hands of the various groupings of multi-billionaires. It is precisely the views and interests of these billionaires that decide the thinking and actions of these politicians.

Capitalist democracy is designed to hide the iron-clad dictatorship of these billionaires. Bourgeois politics consists precisely in fronting professional politicians—more or less reactionary, more or less populist—to convince the working class first of all that they have a choice in their oppression, and second that the outcome of the political cycle reflects “the people’s will.”

What a big lie.

No matter what happens on Election Day 2016 our oppressors will continue to rule. The police will continue to murder poor, working class youths, especially people of color; the prison system will continue to enslave Blacks and Latinos in prison industries; public officials (“elected”) will continue to pass legislation that allow the closing of hospitals, schools, daycare centers while granting landlords greater powers to increase the push to gentrify our communities.

Manipulating public concerns by projecting worst case scenario is one of the oldest psychological tactics the ruling class has learned to master. They have dominated this society with the politics of deception, especially when they present to us the “good cop-bad cop” scenario. Highlighting constantly the latest racist and misogynist comments made by Donald Trump serves this purpose.

Take for example the strategy government and transportation officials use whenever they wish to raise bus and subway fares, as well as bridge and tunnel tolls. They will announce outrageous and unaffordable fare hikes in order to scare the public into accepting a lesser increase amount.

Shamefully, many progressives, including some on the “socialist” political Left, have allowed themselves to be drawn into the widespread Trump panic. These are people who should be quite familiar with the purpose and nature of the bourgeois elections.

These political forces fail to realize how the rulers use extremist figures like Donald Trump as a ploy to divert attention away from the actual political strategy of the ruling class. Some have even characterized Trump as some sort of a representative of a new U.S. fascism, as if the other candidates were not subordinated to the wishes of the most exploitative and racist sectors of the ruling class.

 

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Of course, those who disrupt Trump’s campaign appearances to denounce his racist bigotry deserve our applause. So do the young Black Lives Matter activists who have disrupted “socialist” Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ events.

But “dump Trump” protests that focus on this one politician as “worse than” the others , however well-intentioned, fall into the pitfall of bourgeois electoralism. Absent a militant and class-conscious struggle, the political orientation of these protests leads directly toward the deception of bourgeois elections. New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is quite conscious of the political trajectory, which is why she organized her own City Hall protest against the “disgusting, racist demagogue”—as she presides over a city plagued by racist police violence and abuses by billionaire landlords.

What is downplayed and kept away from the general public is the intricate mandate handed to whoever wins the presidential election. Whether it be Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mark Rubio or Donald Trump, the winner in 2016 will be obligated to follow a strict set of protocols which are written into Federal Law and set-up to protect the capitalist system.

The Donald Trump campaign does not reveal anything new about the U.S. ruling class. It is not a turn toward fascism, where the ruling class mobilizes other class forces to do battle with the working class in the streets. Rather, the Trump campaign shows the inherent racism of the whole ruling class and the bankruptcy of bourgeois “democracy.”

The bottom line is this: the main objective of the bourgeois elections and capitalist politicians, from Trump to Sanders, is to provide oppressed and exploited people with the illusion of “democracy” in order to better exploit us. Fundamental change can only come about with the force of a people’s movement engaged in revolutionary struggle.