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Puerto Rico S Fight For Independence Kasama

  • July 25, 1898thousands of U.S. troops invaded Puerto Ricos southern coast from the sealanding at the small port of Guánica and then in the larger town of Ponce. A force of 16,000 moved onto the island, commanded by U.S. General Nelson A. Miles. In Puerto Rico, African slaves, Native peoples and Spanish immigrants had already forged a unique people and rich culture during 400 years of Spanish colonial rule. A million people lived on the island, mainly scattered in small villages, fishing and farming to gather the food they needed. These Puerto Rican people had long fought their oppressors.

  • The Taino Indian people had fought from the beginningin the face of genocidal policies that drove them into the highlands and left few of them alive. The captive Africans had risen up in repeated uprisings against their enslavement. And, in 1868, the independent Republic of Puerto Rico was first proclaimed in the famous armed uprising against Spain El Grito de Lares, the Cry of Lares.

  • The U.S. high command had chosen to land their troops on the islands southern coast because the people were known for their resistance to the central colonial authorities. When the U.S. troops landed, many Puerto Rican people welcomed them. Everyone knew that the U.S. had also once been a colony. And they believed that its armed forces had come to end Spanish oppression. In towns like Ciales, Adjuntas, Yauco, and Mayaguez, Puerto Rican guerillero bands took up arms against the Spanish. But when a treaty was finally signed on December 10, 1898 in Paris, passing the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to U.S. control, the people of those countries were not consulted or involved. Their local governing bodies were ignored.

  • When the Spanish flag was lowered at San Juans La Fortaleza palace, it was the Yankee Stars and Stripes that took its place. There was some armed resistance to the new U.S. domination. It was four years before it was finally silenced. As Maoist revolutionaries say: While the tiger was driven out the front door, the wolf had slipped in the back.

  • We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but, on the contrary, to bring you protection, not only to yourselves but to your property, to promote your prosperity, and to bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government.

  • An island or a small group of islands acquired for naval purposes does not differ greatly from a war vessel or fleet at anchor. It would be as improper to transfer the administration of such an island or island group from the Navy to another department as to turn over war vessels to any other than the Navy Department.

  • The U.S. ruling class had coveted Puerto Rico from the early days of the North American republic. And despite its claims to oppose colonialism, its troops came as new conquerors. Even before the July 25th invasion, the decision had already been made to take Puerto Rico as Spanish war indemnity. Senator Perkins described the island as a U.S. prize of war. The new U.S. rulers insisted that the Puerto Rican people needed protection and tutoring.

  • In crude racist language, Puerto Ricans were described as a mongrel people who needed to be taught civilization. Someday (it was implied), the islanders would be ready to govern themselves. This was classic colonialist self-justification. In 1900 this colonial rule was formalized. The U.S. Congress passed the Foraker Actwhich decreed that Puerto Ricans would be ruled by a governor appointed by the U.S. president. A century has now passed since the U.S. invasionand Puerto Rico is still not free. And the official life of this island continues to be dominated by the decisions made in this foreign and distant U.S. Congress. In 1917as World War 1 was ragingthe U.S. decided to tighten its legal annexation of Puerto Rico. U.S. citizenship was imposed on the Puerto Rican people by the Jones Actwithout their consent and over the unanimous objection of the islands House of Delegates.

  • In other countries, like Cuba and Panama, the U.S. was refining a system of neo-colonial rule, where they controlled countries through phony independent governments. But in Puerto Rico, they chose to impose colonial rulea sign that they intended to directly rule the Puerto Rican people forever. This same Jones Act created a new toothless legislature for Puerto Rico. This body asked the U.S. Congress five times to take up the question of Puerto Ricos statusWashington didnt even answer the letters.

  • The real control of the island was handed over to the Navy and the U.S. War Department who ruled it until 1934. The Puerto Rican independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos used to say in the 1930s that these invaders were interested in the cage, not the bird. The U.S. strategic planners intended to hold Puerto Ricos territory and make it a key military base for dominating the surrounding region.

  • U.S. capitalists quickly followed their troops into Puerto Rico, eyeing their new possession for ways to make money. Step by step, U.S. corporations snatched up the best land. The homegrown owning classes of Puerto Rico were bought out and shoved aside. Many working people lost their small farms and growing numbers were forced to work on huge Yankee-owned plantations as wage workers or sharecroppers. They often made as little as $1 a day, and lived with bitter poverty and hunger.

  • Meanwhile, the U.S. colonialists sent missionaries and enforcers to undermine the language and culture of the people. Puerto Rican teachers were ordered to teach children in English. The economy of the island was twisted to serve U.S. interests in the world market. And the rich land no longer produced the food that people ate. Production went for export, and the people were forced to buy U.S. products for their basic needs. Then in 1929 the Great Depression brought a sharp decline in the sugar economyand the people were left with almost nothing. The suffering was intense. Oppression gave rise to resistance.

  • A radical new Puerto Rican independence movement was born. Pedro Albizu Campos rose to the leadership of the islands Puerto Rican Nationalist Party (PNP) in 1930. Inspired by the anti-British struggle of Ireland, he led his followers onto a daring path of militant and uncompromising resistance.

  • The Nationalists were a revolutionary movement most firmly rooted among the middle classes of Puerto Rico. It did not have a clear perspective of how to win independence from the Yankees, and did not have a clear sense of the kind of society it would build after independence was won.

  • But the PNP did make several far-sighted and path-breaking contributions to the politics of the Puerto Rican people. The Nationalist Party promoted the principle of retraimientorejection of official politics and colonial elections. They boldly proclaimed that U.S. domination of Puerto Rico was illegal and illegitimateand refused to recognize the colonial authorities, their courts or laws. They pointedly accused the U.S. of causing the ruin and poverty of Puerto Ricos people. And they sought international recognition for Puerto Ricos right to independence. Most daring of all, they taught that Puerto Rican people had a right to wage armed struggle against the U.S. invaders.

  • Albizu Campos declared he was working to form a revolutionary army to drive out the North Americans. Knowing that they were challenging a ruthless and powerful military power, the movement trained its members in an intense sense of moral righteousness and fearless self-sacrifice. The poet-revolutionary Juan Antonio Corretjer talks of the movements mixture of nationalism, mysticism and revolutionary fervor.

  • In 1934 a major turning point arrived. In early January, thousands of jíbaros, the landless peasants of the island, walked out of the sugar cane fields of the Armstrong-owned plantation in Fajard. Their furious wildcat strike spread.

  • The farmworkers were disgusted with their sellout leadershipand they sought out the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, asking Albizu Campos to lead them. The Nationalists wholeheartedly threw themselves into the strikeand the combined movement shook the island. The colonial rulers were terrified at the specter of a mass revolutionary movement.

  • Agents of U.S. corporations formed the Citizens Committee of One Thousand for the Preservation of Peace and Order who cabled the U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, to report, A state of actual anarchy exists. Towns in state of siege, police impotent, businesses paralyzed. General Blanton Winship was appointed governor to suppress the people. His top aide, the soon-notorious Colonel Francis Riggs, became the islands police chief. The authorities moved to calm the movement with a series of concessions, while they prepared to break up its most organized forces using brutal means. The islands police were quickly militarized.

  • Teams of FBI agents secretly arrived on the island to target the independence movement. Wherever the new independence movement raised its head, these forces responded with harassment and killings. Several attempts were made on Albizu Camposs life. After repeated police murders of Nationalists, Albizu Campos announced that his movement would respond by targeting representatives of the U.S. imperialists.

  • In October 1935, three Nationalists were killed by police bullets outside the islands main university. On February 23, 1936, Colonel Frances Riggshead of this counterrevolutionary campaignwas shot dead. The two young Nationalists who killed him, Elias Beauchamp and Hiram Rosado, were then murdered in the police headquarters shortly after their capture.

  • On March 5, 1936, the Nationalist leadership was charged with seditious conspiracyconspiring to overthrow the federal government in Puerto Rico. The first trial (in the English-only federal courts) ended when the seven Puerto Ricans on the jury of 12 refused to convict. In a crude act of railroading, the authorities then handpicked a new jury with 10 Anglo-Americans and condemned Albizu Campos to federal prison in late 1936.

  • The authorities moved to suppress the remaining movement by force. The Nationalist Party called for a march to commemorate the abolition of slavery on the island. It was planned for Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937, in the southern city of Ponce. The local authorities first granted a permit and then, on orders from General/ Governor Winship, the permits were withdrawn.

  • Hundreds of police were rushed to Ponce to carry out a planned ambush. On the appointed day, PNPs youth group defied the ban on the march and lined up in ranks along Marina Street. About 80 young men stood proud, dressed as Cadets in black shirts and white pants. Then came a bold contingent of young women dressed all in white. Following them was a five-piece band playing La Borinqueña, the islands anthem. The crowd cheered. Suddenly, police lines moved into place, both in front and in back.

  • The cops were heavily armedincluding a special squad of nine men with Thompson submachine guns. The unarmed youth stood their ground bravely, without panic. The police simply opened fire on the march, and kept shooting. Marchers, supporters, bystanders, even small children went down before the police bullets. Then the cops rushed the survivors, shooting some at point blank range, and clubbing others.

  • Twenty-two were killed and over 100 wounded. Defying the threat of new police attacks, more than 15,000 attended the funerals at Ponce, and more than 5,000 in Mayaguez. The victims of the massacre were tried for conspiracy to commit murder. Permits were denied to future Nationalist marches.

  • More police killings followed. President Roosevelt refused to recall Winship. On July 25, 1938, Winship organized a military parade though Ponce to celebrate the U.S. invasion of 1898. It was intended as a show of force.

  • Under intense attacks, and with much of their leadership in prison, the remaining Nationalists continued to struggle. World War 2 soon broke out, and thousands of Puerto Rican men were ordered into the military. On President Franklin Roosevelts orders, steps were taken to create the worlds largest naval base on the eastern side of the island.

  • The Nationalists denounced the military draft as a colonial blood tax on their people. They organized the islands youth to resist the draft. This consistent anti-imperialism was considered shockingeven by many leftists of the timeand the Nationalists were even accused of being pro-fascist for refusing to join the U.S. imperialist military. Scores of young Puerto Rican draft resisters were actually condemned to federal prisons. Many suffered extreme punishments. Some were even killed. Their stand inspired future generationsand helped give birth to the powerful movement of draft resistance that grew up in Puerto Rico during the Vietnam War.

  • World War 2 brought intense changes to the worldand to colonial countries like Puerto Rico. The U.S. emerged as the worlds biggest imperialist power and wanted to establish neo-colonial domination of many countries throughout the world. It was going to be, the U.S. imperialists said, the start of an American Century. As they pursued these plans, the U.S. imperialists found their open colonial rule in Puerto Rico to be an embarrassment. So they wanted to work out a new political arrangement with the appearance of local self governmentwhile maintaining the reality of rule from Washington.

  • Meanwhile the plantation economy of Puerto Rico had forced many people off the land into growing slums like La Perla (the Pearl) and El Fangito (Little Mud). The imperialists were determined to better exploit these propertyless Puerto Ricans. The government launched a major campaign to create sweatshop factoriescalled Operation Bootstrap. In Puerto Rico itself, many people had a radically different idea of change. The whole world was rumbling with major anti-colonial struggles. In 1949 the Chinese revolution led by Mao Tsetung achieved victory over the forces of imperialism. And many thousands of Puerto Rican soldiers came back from war to a country without jobsafter eye-opening experiences with U.S.-style racism. A new movement for liberation stirred.

  • In 1947, an unrepentant Pedro Albizu Campos returned to the island from federal prison. He immediately crisscrossed the island speaking passionately against the reorganization plans of the imperialists and against the suffering of the Puerto Rican people. The authorities permitted moderate political forces on the island to discuss various neo-colonial visions of independence. But they were determined to keep control of Puerto Rico forever. They responded to Albizu Camposs activities with intense repression. In 1948, the authorities passed the Ley de la Mordaza, the gag law. La Mordaza made it illegal to advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government in Puerto Rico. It was also known as the Little Smith Act because it was patterned after a similar fascist law passed for the mainland. In practice, such things as pro-independence speeches and poetry and even raising the Puerto Rican flag were treated as illegal.

  • The imperialists simply criminalized the politics of Puerto Rican liberation. And La Mordaza was immediately used to attack the PNP and eliminate its leadership. Albizu Campos was placed under intense police pressure. Police patrols followed him openly, occasionally in jeeps with mounted machine guns. Every person he talked to, even clerks in stores, would be visited by police and harassed. In 1948, Nationalists called on the Puerto Rican people to boycott the elections of a colonial governor. Almost half of the people stayed away from the polls. The U.S. ruling class was finalizing their plans to impose a new colonial arrangement on Puerto Rico. They wanted no militant, organized campaign against this new setup. And so, in April 1950, President Truman ordered his agents to destroy the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. The fascistic campaign that followed foreshadowed in many ways the murderous cointelpro operations unleashed against the Black Panther Party almost 20 years later.

  • The U.S. Secretary of War, Louis Jiohnson, went to Puerto Rico and met with U.S. military leaders for three days in April. Like Mafia godfathers, they met with the governor, Muñoz Marin, and gave him the order: either break up the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party or kill their leader, Albizu Campos. The Nationalists learned about this plot from their informants within the government. And they worked to alert the people of the danger. However, newspapers refused to carry the informationand would not even accept a paid advertisement. So the PNP organized a campaign of public meetings starting in Manati on June 11, 1950.

  • The Nationalists were determined to resist by any means necessaryand to take arms if they were denied peaceful avenues of resistance. On October 27, 1950, the police stopped a Nationalist car caravan near Panuelas. Four Nationalists and two police died in the resulting firefight. Albizu Campos called on the people to take up arms.

  • On October 30, 1950, Puerto Rican fighters attacked police headquarters in Jayuya. They set fire to the building and destroyed the government offices in town. They proclaimed the Second Republic of Puerto Rico and raised their revolutionary flag.

  • The U.S. air forces bombed from the air, as National Guard troops advanced to take back the village. Blanca Canales, a woman who helped lead the Jayuya revolt, described how the U.S. forces massacred those who surrendered during the nearby uprising in Utuado. Similar armed revolts broke out in Arecibo, Mayaguez, and Naranjito. In San Juan, independence fighters attacked the governors palaceLa Fortaleza, a symbol of colonial domination.

  • This was a time when the U.S. imperialists were perhaps at the most powerful and arrogant moment in their history. And in the face of such power, the independence forces of Puerto Rico dared to rise up in a powerful armed manifestoa Grito de Jayuya. Altogether it was the most powerful uprising in Puerto Rican history, and the largest armed revolt on U.S.-claimed territory since the last wars of the Native Peoples in the 1890s.

  • At the same time, it was a difficult moment to actually carry a revolutionary struggle through to victoryto the seizure of nationwide power. The armed fighting proved impossible to sustain. The various centers of revolt were put down one by one, as columns of National Guard troops moved across the island. The colonial police besieged Pedro Albizu Campos in his house for two days before the Nationalist fighters there laid down their arms and surrendered. Even then, the fighting was not over. November 1, 1950, the world was stunned to hear that the independentistas had taken the armed struggle to the U.S. mainland. Two Nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, attacked the temporary residence of President Truman in Washingtons Blair House. Torresola was killed at the scene and Collazo was wounded. Though the imperialist media had worked to suppress news of the uprisings on Puerto Rico itself, they could not ignore this armed act in their capital. At least 21 independentistas gave their lives in the uprising. And the whole world was made aware of the independence struggle of Puerto Rico. The U.S. imperialists unleashed an intense reign of terror on the people of Puerto Rico. Three thousand people were arrestedincluding virtually all known members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, and even many members of the reformist Puerto Rican Independence Party, which had always rejected armed struggle. Police were issued blank arrest warrants to seize anyone they chose. An internationalist Anglo-American, Ruth Reynolds, was seized by the authorities after the historic uprising of Jayuya.

  • Trials lasted for three years. The hundreds of people on trial were almost all convicted and condemned to prison. In some cases, people were reportedly imprisoned simply because some government spy testified that they had shouted Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

  • One example: The independentista Carlos Feliciano and twelve other people were convicted of killing four cops in Arecibo. Feliciano was sentenced to 465 years in prison. (He later joked, They thought I was Methuselah.) A state witness later testified that Feliciano had been in his home town, Mayagüez, when the cops died. And the conviction had to be overthrown. The government refused to release him, but instead set up new charges of advocating the overthrow of the government and sentenced him to prison for his views. Membership in the PNP was itself a felony.

  • The colonialist police, working with the FBI, developed a huge blacklist of independence supporters who were pursued over the coming years. Independentistas, their families and employers were harassed. In 1988, when this blacklist was challenged in court, it contained more than 100,000 files.

  • The colonial Popular Democratic Party rose to power in the new elections and on July 25, 1952 (again the anniversary of the notorious U.S. invasion!), they and the U.S. proclaimed the so-called Estado Libre Asociado (ELA) or Commonwealth.

  • This put in place the political arrangement the U.S. has used to exploit and dominate the Puerto Rican people for the last 46 years. Historian Afredo López describes it as a sophisticated colonial enterprise where everythinglaws, administrative organization, even popularly accepted ideologyworks toward the efficient exploitation of the lands natural resources and labor. This new arrangement set up a phony political system in Puerto Rico that was modeled on electoral politics within the U.S. And based on this set-up, the U.S. pushed through a UN resolution in 1954 that removed Puerto Rico from the official list of non-self-governing territories. In other words, the U.S. (and the United Nations) were trying to claim that Puerto Rico was no longer a colony. Puerto Rico independence fighters again took up arms to answer this lie. On March 1, 1954, four NationalistsLolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrés Figueroa Corderowalked into the gallery of the U.S. Congress and opened fire on the congressmen below. They were in the middle of a debate about immigration, and one politicians had just referred to Mexicans as wetbacks. Five congressmen were wounded.

  • In prison, Albizu Campos faced intense mistreatment. He accused the authorities of bombarding him with radiationcausing painful illness. Afraid to have him die in prison, the authorities released him, a few months before his death in April 1965. The movement he had built suffered heavily from the ruthless repression of U.S. imperialism. But just as he died, the 1960s were heating up. And a whole new generation all around the world was rising in struggle against U.S. imperialism.

  • In addition: about 2 years ago, in Morelia, Michoacán there was an extremely powerful exhibitwhich exhibit traveled around Méxicoof the art (mostly ceramics) and poetry of Carlos Alberto Torres and Oscar Lopez Rivera, who were arrested in the U.S. some years after Lebrón, etc. They had spent 26 and 27 years in prison, respectively, on seditious conspiracy charges after prosecutors were unable to charge them with anything else.

  • The curators replicated an actual cell of these political prisoners (more like a jaula (cage)), which you could enter, and all over the 3 walls was much of the poetry written during their incarceration. There was so much interest generated by this exhibit that it was extended, and people brought their entire families to learn more about Puerto Rico and the Independence Movement, etc.

  • My understanding is that the Independence movement is divided and that the PIP represents only one part of it. That doesnt mean, of course, that independence enjoys the active support of more than a small minority of Puerto Ricans presently. But I imagine that if the people here thought that the present popularity of their own politics was the metric that mattered that wed all go to the beach instead.

  • Yeah, amp; another thing is that it really matters what conditions the independence is gained under. Some in PR who are not currently for independence may be aware of this consciously, some subconsciously (amp; yes, some against independence anyway). As in, who cares about independence in quotes?

  • The Philippines is independent, but it doesnt do the people there a lot of good. Or, of course socialism would be good for Ethiopia or Romania or anywhere, but socialism in name only doesnt mean squat, so why should the people be for socialism in name only?

  • Marx said that the proletariat must make itself fit to rule, through the process of making revolution. Thats the thing with Eastern Europe: in addition to whatever line problems the parties had, they didnt actually make revolution. They fought against the Nazis (to varying degrees), amp; then were handed socialism on a plate by the USSR. How can one have a revolutionary society, without making revolution? One cant.

  • To bring it back to PR, there wont be any real independence gained through some US-sponsored referendum, there must be a mass struggle. If there is a huge mass struggle, amp; at some point in that context there is a referendum, well thats one thing. But right now, although struggle isnt of course non-existent, this voting booth stuff really doesnt mean very much.

  • Elections, held by the U.S. government, under conditions where people are openly threatened with having their social services and pensions abolished (in the case of independence), and held while the neighboring island of Cuba is threatened and isolated for daring to be independent these are hardly free elections. And the vote for PIP (which was arguing for independence in order to evade U.S. environmental laws etc and so better attract corporate investment) is hardly a sign of the popularity of independence.

  • The Spanish were never oppresors since we were been granted autonomy from Spain the year before US Invasion, and were also considered a Province of Spain by that time, either way we were more related to the Spaniards by language, history, family and other interests than to the invading and uninvited US people. Imposing their ways of government when we were already governed by a system much older and more proven than theirs. And about promoting property and prosperity, first thing US people (we are all Americans, from Alaska to Argentina)did was to devaluate our currency so that the people who managed to become wealthy before the invasion, had half or less of that and that way debilitate the ruling economic class and use this as a way to gain more control of the island and its riches, but therefore making harder and longer the road to form a strong economical class to improve our economy in favor of their own interests.

  • Either way if this relationship with the US does not work (and it seems not to) I do not believe Puerto Rico will go or should go towards independence but back to Spanish Sovereignty as a Province, just as before the invasion, and might as well say as part of a more liberal, efficient, prosperous and less racist European Union.

  • Puerto Ricans, who desire to be free, must always know that the federal government, here in the States has no “subject matter jurisdiction” over the person, case or location and should be challenged to proof it.

  • You won’t be told this in court but: All jury members, judges, attorneys, and employees working in federal court, must reside in federal territory to legally be a federal juror or touch your case or they can be commercially sued, disbarred and financially ruined for violating your constitutional rights etc.

  • The USA has been the biggest alien invaders the world has ever known. In order to win your freedom you must oppose them by knowing that their weakness lies in the Constitution and the common law and common law remedies.

  • The majority of Anglos have no idea that the USA has killed more Latinos, than Hitler Killed Jews, The USA has supported traitors, Gringitos, Butchers, Sociopaths, and Megalomaniacs who were supported and kept in power by sucking up to the Anglo Alien Invaders.

  • If the Alien Invaders would get out of each and every Latin Country and stop interfering in our affairs—it would make sense to say such a stupid thing. But unless the Snakes get out of Latin America-we have just as much right to be here!!! So, grin and put up with it—this was once our land.

  • The fact that the public does not know that we are NOT free, makes no difference, to the desire to be free. The PR that wants Statehood is a Gringito, who has no soul of a man left in his traitors heart. Freedom is happening all over the world and yet we allow Gringitos to kill our right to be free.

  • The fight will NOT succeed if you dont fight the Gringito enemy at home first. He is there next door and claims he is a real man and tries to give you many excuses of why PR cant be a free Country.

  • There are two representatives missing here today, Ortega said Friday. Theyre absent from this meeting. One is Cuba whose crime has been that of fighting for independence, fighting for sovereignty of the peoples. Cuba whos crime has been to offer solidarity without any conditions, with out conditions to our peoples. And just because of that theyre punished theyre penalized. Another people that is not here present because, different from the case of Cuba, and independent nation.

  • This other people is still subjected to the colonialist policies and Im talking about the sister nation of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico. And the day will come when Latin American and Caribbean peoples, as is already happening where in that huge alliance well have the people of Puerto Rico, Im convinced the day will come, the day will come,

  • I,m not real sure why all you Puerto Ricans are upset, or what the U.S. has done to u or your country,I say your country ,which is a bit confusing,cause your here and its there. But either way we all live in God,s world,and if this problem u have is hurting your heart,I will be praying 4 you,that this problem or heartache will not stand in the way of your relationship with your Father God.but either way this is a problem on your heart, I feel 4 you. and if you can consider my heart brother,this is the country I live in ,I LOVE IT. I believe there are traders in washington, trying to take my country and our freedoms. We all have to live somewhere,PuertoRico,US,Mexico, where ever you live ,we still have to live in this world Together. John 15 Jesus says to love each other, therfore I love brother ,Puerto Ricans,Mexicans,Canadians,Muslims, Christian,Jews, . I will pray 4 you,,,you pray 4 me.

  • The answer is not complicated, william: The U.S. conquered puerto rico with an invasion. And has held the island under colonial dominaiton with all the economic, military and police power of an imperial power.

  • Mike, while I generally agree with a lot of what you say on this site, I think your understanding of the complexity of Puerto Rican history is seriously lacking. For someone who consistentlt argues that communists need to be in tune with the complexity of the real world in order to carry out revolution, this is no small flaw. And I think it has to do in part with the literature that, as a US leftist, youve been exposed to, which is produced mostly by Puerto Rican academics and nationalists.

  • While many of these have been valuable comrades in the struggle against imperialism in the past, and some, as I said in a previous comment about Lolita Lebrón, are genuinely committed revolutionaries, that does not mean either, a)that they currently have any political relevance in revolutionary struggles in Puerto Rico, or b) that their version of history is of any use to Puerto Rican communists (or our US allies) in understanding and revolutionizing our situation.

  • As an avid Kasama lurker, Ive been playing for a long time with the idea of producing a full-length analytical and theoretical piece on the history of the complex relationship between Puerto Ricos class and national liberation struggles, as a sort of primer for US-based allies. I just havent found the time yet. In the meantime, heres some food for thought on several points in this particular essay and its comment thread:

  • 1. The sugar cane strike of 1934 was not, and could hardly be, a peasant uprising. The really-existing jíbaros (an originally derogatory term used for rural folk in general, regardless of class) of that time were by and large agro-industrial wage earners, and their demands, organizations, and forms of struggle were all recognizably working class. Independence was not one of the demands of that struggle.

  • It is true that the workers were abandoned by their traditional leadership (which had achieved electoral success in the colonial system through an alliance with the sugar burgeoisie), providing a leadership vacuum into which Albizu and the Nationalists were invited. However, the fusion between the Nationalists and the workers, and the strike itself, were largely failures because of the Nationalists elitist, petit-bourgeois notions of organization and leadership (Albizu appointed a dentist to lead the Nationalist Workers Association!)

  • 2. Elections in Puerto Rico are not run by the US. They are run by a local elections board that is controlled by the ruling New Progressive and Popular Democratic parties, and to a lesser degree, the PIP, but are not subject to federal law. In fact, elections in Puerto Rico, although far from perfect, tend to be more transparent than in most US states.

  • This is of course not to legitimize a system that is designed to perpetuate the capitalist and colonial status quo, and which has more legal safeguards against, than genuine opportunities for, popular participation. But understanding the situation in which and against which we are struggling also implies being clear on what that entails, and being honest with ourselves.

  • 3. The propagandized negative example of Cuba is hardly the main reason Puerto Ricans dont vote for independence (by the way, the PIP may be a petit-bourgeois social democratic electoral party, but by no means has it demonstrated in practice that it seeks independence to evade environmental laws, etc.; on the contrary, it has consistently been a major voice in favor of environmental protection, above and beyond existing regulations). If there is a relevant negative example today, it is the Dominican Republic, whose standard of living in the early 20th century was arguably higher than Puerto Ricos.

  • The fact of the matter is is that since the 1950s, US imperialism in Puerto Rico has pursued a strategy that some have called modern colonialism and is similar to that pursued by the French and Dutch in their remaining Caribbean possessions. That strategy was geared in part to offsetting Cubas revolutionary example (sorry, China wasnt even on the radar of Puerto Ricans until the early 70s, and then only for a handful of people), in part to creating a tax haven for US corporations (no longer useful since the 90s), and in part (since the mid-70s) toward stimulating credit and aid-driven consumption to favor US banks.

  • Its contradictory effect was the dramatic increase in the standard of living of the majority of the population, which combined with the the spectacular selling out of the petit-bourgeois nationalists and the labor movement leadership after the fall of the wall, as well as the blunders and general inefficacy of the real left (not unlike the situation in the US), has been catastrophic for the independence movement.

  • 4. (and this is perhaps my main and most controversial point) the major contradiction in Puerto Rico is not between the US and the Puerto Rican nation, but between (mostly US, but also Puerto Rican and increasingly international) transnational financial and commercial capital, and Puerto Rican wage-earners (blue-collar, white-collar, and no-collar).

  • scratch that, not Puerto Rican wage-earners, but wage-earners and the oppressed in general. One of the main differences between a revolutionary communist and a nationalist understainding of the struggle is about the role of (mostly Dominican) immigrants. Our position is that immigrant workers are an integral part of the oppresed masses.

  • Mike, while I generally agree with a lot of what you say on this site, I think your understanding of the complexity of Puerto Rican history is seriously lacking. For someone who consistentlt argues that communists need to be in tune with the complexity of the real world in order to carry out revolution, this is no small flaw.

  • I have no doubt that I have much to learn about the history of Puerto Rico nor do I doubt my now-twelve-year-old essays may contain evaluations or formulations about events and forces that may prove incorrect.

  • These essays were quickly written, werre not based on deep personal involvement with either the theoretical or pratical work of Puerto Ricos liberation and they inevitably reflect the outlook and assumptions of the movement I was then part of. And this movement tended, with real grandiosity, then and now, to overestimate its own ability to understand complex things from afar.

  • I think it has to do in part with the literature that, as a US leftist, you’ve been exposed to, which is produced mostly by Puerto Rican academics and nationalists. While many of these have been valuable comrades in the struggle against imperialism in the past, and some, as I said in a previous comment about Lolita Lebrón, are genuinely committed revolutionaries, that does not mean either, a)that they currently have any political relevance in revolutionary struggles in Puerto Rico, or b) that their version of history is of any use to Puerto Rican communists (or our US allies) in understanding and revolutionizing our situation.

  • And I am particularly curious to unravel what are differences of fact and what are differences of line and analysis In my experience, differences often first appear as disagreements over matters of fact, and then (on examination) reveal themselves to be matters of line.

  • For example: Class analysis of cane-cutters as workers or peasants is not simply a factual matter, but also a matter of important line distinctions. A different theoretical assessment of rural laborers earning wages is one of the major historical differences between Maoism (which has often viewed them as landless peasants) on the one hand, and (on the other hand) both Trotskyism and Castroism, which tended to view such laborers as rural proletarians.It has to do with the applicability of agrarian revolution in those struggles, with whether the goal in such situations is breaking up plantations (land to the tiller) or socializing them directly (as post-revolutionary state farms). It has to do with evaluations of the Cuban revolution and its path, etc. And it is a matter that is not (fundamentally) resolved in a dispute over definitions but a very practical exploration of historical context of the land questions, how the specific workers are actually exploited, and how they are connected to the larger world of commodity exchange.

  • Another example: Whether elections in Puerto Rico are colonial elections and the implications of that for strategy (abstention or participation). I am interested to learn the details you are raising about how, precisely, these elections are organized and controlled. But here too need to inject the line question that the colonial nature of such elections is not simply determined by the aparatus and personnel that directly administer the voting, but the overall context: including the basic fact that partisans of Puerto Rican independence have been hunted down and murdered, and the fact that many people have been made depenendent of U.S.-signed pensions and checks (and the withdrawal of such things is injected by the imperialists into any discussion of independence). In other words, the question of whether these are colonial elections is a larger matter of context than simply administration. (Though here too I am eager to learn from those, like you, who have given a great deal more thought and time into unraveling these contradictions.)

  • Finally, these articles are aging. they are twelve years old. An analysis of PIP based on documents then, might well be contradicted by practice since (as your example of environmental questions suggests.) Puerto Rico has gone through a lot of changes since the first time I traveled through the newly mechanized pineapple and sugarcane fields the proletarianization of life has deepened in profound ways, the close connection between island and mainland has gone through generational shifts, rise and fall of independence sentiments have had their impact, and more.

  • Even if we discover that the issues you have to raise are mainly questions of line I look forward to listening and learning, and dont assume that my own previous understandings are correct.

  • As an avid Kasama “lurker”, I’ve been playing for a long time with the idea of producing a full-length analytical and theoretical piece on the history of the complex relationship between Puerto Rico’s class and national liberation struggles, as a sort of “primer” for US-based allies.

  • I agree that the question of rural proletarians vs. landless peasants is one of line. Its a debate a look forward to developing and having. I obviously lean more towards the former. However, I also agree that its more a question of practical exploration of historical context than definitions. Part of the reason that I brought it up as the first point is that I intentionally want to challenge the sort of mechanical assumption (which I know you have yourself questioned) that the maoist line about semi-feudal and semi-colonial contexts (i.e. peoples war) is, or was at some point in the past, applicable to Puerto Rico.

  • This is a view that I think is implicit in the analysis of many of the Puerto Rican armed groups of the 70s and 80s, and in some way, whether conscious or not, repeated in your twelve-year old essay. By the way, Im aware of how dated it is, and that you are conscious of the fact part of what I want to do is to stimulate some discussion about conditions NOW, and how they may be related to conditions and questions of strategy in the US.

  • From afar, I think the best course to steer would be an alliance with Caribbean and Spanish-speaking nations, an expanded ALBA, and away from the wreckage of the USA but thats far off the horizon. What is to be done in Puerto Rico?

  • We have all supported independence for Puerto Rico. The people there have been exploited, brutalized and deprived of self-determination. And Puerto Rico is not an internal nation (like the African American people) but an external people who were directly conquered and dominated by force of arms.

  • At the same time, Puerto Ricos people have the final say on whether they choose independence or not and it is not clear to me what the actual politics around this is among Puerto Rican people themselves. And what they are likely to become in future moments of crisis and opportunity. What impact on Puerto Rican politics is felt from the many ties that now exist between the island and the mainland (ties of family, experience, and economics)?

  • it might be claimed as well that the people of the USA chose obama, but that cant be a step forward (despite the obama-tailing line promoted successfully by progressives). the human smoke emanating from the obamaproject tells the story.

  • my understanding is that the independentistas are marginalized at this point. The student strike at UPR campuses, which got no traction on US campuses, was really inspiring, and a great antidote to passivity. Id really like to hear from some people on the island about how thats being followed up. the globalvoices online website has had some excellent coverage.

  • The third why is also complex. In a nutshell, the model of the modern colonial state that I have briefly described is in the throes of a deep crisis (closely tied to the global crisis). Current popular support for the decrepit status quo is, as Zizek tells us of capitalist democracy, cynical at best. Deteriorating conditions may and probably will lead to an increased support for statehood. But PR statehood is an impossibility that huckster politicians use as a carrot to get votes, which US Congress would reject in a heartbeat. So its an impasse that only liberation can break.

  • The last why is simple: because as a colony Puerto Rico has and will continue to be a springboard for US imperialism, especially in Latin America; because colonialism seriously impairs the possibilities for further revolutionary struggle in Puerto Rico; and because national self-determination is a right of peoples, just as much as revolution is.

  • While of course the global crisis does affect Puerto Rico, there is an independent tendency in economic de-development in Puerto Rico that began in the 70s oil crisis, and the subsequent macro-economic decisions made by the local government, and by the colonial administrations.

  • 1) 70s oil crisis, which resulted in the losing of the bet the government had made in large-scale petrochemical refinery production centered around that state-owned Caribbean Oil Refinery Corporation (CORCO). Until then PR had ridden a wave of generosity from the US that meant not only entitlements, but significant direct macroeconomic investment in the form of subsidies, corporate investment (often as a loss leader), and other monies meant for the colonial project of turning Puerto Rico as a showcase for Pan-Americanist welfare state ideology the economic component of what the Commonwealth meant politically. When this crisis hit, both that waning generosity and the bet meant to replace it were destroyed. This crisis meant that for the first time in PRs history the state sector laid-off workers, and there was a recession in the private sector. By the mid-1980s a surge in the finance and construction sector, well-managed such as not to create a housing speculation bubble, gave the impression of a recovery. So did an increasy of light industry and the technology sectors, fueled by the PC revolution, a decent engineering public college, and tax incentives.

  • 2) Late 80s, early 1990s. Yet the financial crisis that hit the USA during the Bush I regime put lie to the miracle the dependency in essentially non-productive private sectors tied to each other (finance and construction) and on industries already moving to greener Asian pastures created a longer recessionary period in Puerto Rico than in the USA. It was during this period that the government first attempted to privatize the public sectors corporations as a way to pay off debt and increase the temporary bond rating for capital projects, mostly infrastructure (which would help the construction sector recuperate). The crisis rebounded thanks to the Clinton era financial sector rebound, and the ability of the government to get large numbers of bonds for their projects without needing much re-structuring, or promising this restructuring later.

  • 3) The late 90s to present. In 1992, a pro-Statehood governor of neo-liberal, rather than keynesian persuasion won. His first four years were marked by relative quiet, as a more or less popular private single payer health system was implemented to replace the previous public health system. Behind the scenes, significant changes to the makeup of Puerto Ricos economy were being made, both reasons of corruption and ideologically motivated neo-liberal models that fit the USA better. But upon re-election in 1996 all of this became open warfare. By the end of the decade, many public corporations were either privatized, closed, or semi-privatized, including the healthy Telephone Company. This created a short-term credit boost, but the loss of collateral significantly diminished the ability of future governments to secure cheap credit. Coupled to this aggressive program of dismantling the welfare state, all the agricultural subsidies were significantly reduced, at the same time a hurricane in 1998 made it prohibitive to rebuild lost farms (this has led to a curious condition were PR, which harbors great land for plantain production, is a net importer of plantains). More importantly, all tax incentives for industry other than tourism were eliminated or reduced significantly (Puerto Rico spends so much in tourism promotion that it almost matches the net contribution of tourism to the economy!) this led to massive layoffs as plants after plant closed to go to other places. Then the dotcom financial collapse and the 9/11 attacks generated a USA-wide crisis so there was no buffer.

  • This current crisis is a structural crisis of colonialism: the dependency of the welfare state colony clashed with the dependency of a statehood project to generate a perfect storm of deindustrialization, deagriculturalization, construction sector stoppage and credit crisis. Puerto Rico today is not able to support itself without the drug economy, which has not always been the case: the drug economy sustained a level of luxury, but was not essential.

  • I do not share Islas optimism regarding independence, although I do agree with his analysis in the main. I fear Puerto Rico is on the road to becoming a narco-democracy, and an independent Puerto Rico in those conditions would mean civil war, a civil war which the left is ill equipped to fight, politically, theoretically, structurally, militarily in any effective way.

  • There is a way out for the USA, which is free association of the type they are engaged with a number of the Pacific colonies. It would allow them to switch funding from the domestic to the foreign aid budgets, but also allow the USA to accept a narco-democracy, as they do with Colombia.

  • sks and isla, while i dont have a lot to contribute on this (im learning here), i hope the discussion proceeds. the puerto rican sense of being a people, the greater militancy of certain sectors (evidenced by the student strike and the earlier, large anti-government demos) combined with the simple fact of the islands small size give me some optimism that they may find a way forward. not an easy way, of course.

  • none of it not the actual cite, not the explanation precludes your doomsday scenario of narco-democracy (which i in fact believe is not on its way, but currently existing) and civil war, although i must admit the latter suggestion is far-fetched to say the least.

  • you know (very well) that my conception of actually-attainable independence involves a long process of working-class mobilization and pre-revolutionary struggle under deteriorating material conditions.

  • the probability of civil war, at least at the pre-revolutionary stage, however, on an island with (increasingly) limited rural expanses, zero history of armed (non-insurrecctional) factionalism, virtually no remaining conflicting feudal or even semi-feudal classes, and no professional standing army of its own, is close to nil.

  • more likely -in a much deteriorated situation is a jamaica-style standoff between urban narco-guerrillas and equally narco-financed state forces. but while this may be an obstacle to the growth of revolutionary politics, it is also a possibility highly unrelated to the so-called status issue.

  • in fact, the emergence of a radical working-class led popular movement increasingly oriented towards national liberation as a result of increasing clashes with US imperialism, the colonial state, and its rotten micro-bourgeoisie may indeed even help to derail this possibility.

  • and what are their class and political differences)? This issue recently came up here on Kasama in a discussion of rural uprisings in Puerto Rico, and whether the canecutters there were peasants or rural workers, whether their

  • Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Kasama has published articles previously on the independence movement for Puerto Rico and injustice of jailing those who fight for the island’s liberation. Share this petition, and

  • Los Puertorriquenos traicionaron a su patria y a los Lideres como Albizu Campos al NO respaldarlos. Todos son unos traidores a su propia Patria que los vio nacer! Se vendieron por dinero al Gringo invasor!

  • hey uh.. just asking, what do puerto rican natives think about independence and does everyone support them. I hear that there are also other political parties, like the puerto rican party of statehood and the puerto rican party for common wealth(which means to stay as it is being nor state nor independent)

  • It is so interesting to read documented and educated oppinions about freedom and citizenship in general, starting with Purto Ricos independence movement. So glad to see this type of forums, regardless of personnal oppinion on the matter. As a Mexican born, I consider latinamerican relationship with USA so complex that, including time dimension and society evoultion mixed with generational get used to factor is not a fair analysis for pro independence movement or prostatusquo.

  • Not talking about people, but assigning a personality to governments, it is obvious that egocentrism at some level plays a role in expansionism spirit in USA actions since nation inception. Forced agreement on spaniards and smart war strategies from USA invasion, while free souls and consistent latinamerican brotherhood and solidarity provide origin and current value on topic. Not that I propose an utopia or

  • Lets face it, Family links are preserved if independence is provided/achieved, just paperwork and formalization is required, economy as an independent country prevails as local power is stronger per capita than other caribean nations. Puerto ricans have earned USA citizenship as any inmigrant in US soil recognized by their governments has, while most migrants are still in the dark (Do not misunderstand me please, I am not pulling topic towards Mexico, I am just using the example) That is a right earned, as an associated state as it is recognized, while from my perspective, a nation can make any agreements with another nation on their populations behalf. Now, with current delivery of soveregnity to other country, PR is not a fully acting nation

  • PR was a province of Spain, same as Mexico, so on Paris it just moved from one country to another, loosing the cultural link to mother nation Spain. Finally, the issue os not the military base or the existance of a right to assume other countrys nationality, but issue is if the island is a Nation by itself or not. So, forces pro and against indepencdence tend to loose ground when time consumes most of the citizens potential interest in a change to the sttsquo. What cannot be denied whatsoever, is that Puerto Rico deserves to be a nation with same levels of rights as Dominicana, Haiti and Cuba, and USA expansionism does not provide a right unilaterally as it is assumed on the Guano act, where uninhabited islands where just absorbed. PR would not loose the right to decide again on its future if it was part of the decolonization program by UN as it was a colony/province and it was absorbed by another power. Decolonization cannot be used only for europowers, as ameropowers have expanded too without the regions consent (Even inside Latinamerica with Brasil representing expansion and neighbors ceding regions), or ask Guatemalans and Soconusco and Belize are still counted as we in Mexico count Clipperton or some US states.



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