Puerto Rico: A history of resistance

Based on a talk given at the Feb. 5 webinar “Global Class War: Lessons from Sam Marcy for workers struggles today.Go to https://youtu.be/5Arb33Q8SN0 to view the webinar.

Deborah Rodriguez Feb. 5, 2023. (WW PHOTO)

In order for any organization to even consider destroying the system of imperialism with its white-supremacist Western hegemony, it must defend the self-determination of the most oppressed Black, Brown and colonized nations of the world. 

Puerto Rican people living on the island and in the U.S. have been a colonized nation for over 400 years. The people have struggled and fought for their land and the right to live a dignified life.

Since its arrival on the shores of Puerto Rico, the U.S. has ruled over the archipelago with policies that have extracted the self-governance powers, which should be in the hands of the Puerto Rican people. The imposition of the Jones Act, the Gag Law and the Foraker Act, combined with unbound pillaging of our land and control of our economy by foreign invaders, along with some of our own compradors, have made it clear that a class war has been waged on the Puerto Rican people. 

From day one, my people have resisted with the firm and unrelenting understanding that we have to control our destiny as a nation. From the antillano and abolitionist Ramón Emeterio Betances, to the Nationalists who stormed the capital in 1954 — Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andrés Figueroa and Irving Flores Rodríguez – to the leadership of Pedro Albizu Campos and Juan Antonio Corretjer; to the solidarity of Roberto Clemente with the Nicaraguan people and the love for the people shown by comrades in the Young Lords Party, who took over a hospital to provide free health care in the community. 

Former political prisoners, who have laid themselves on the line for the revolutionary love they held for their people, include Oscar López Rivera and Luis Rosa Perez and Ana Belén Montes, recently released after years of serving a sentence for standing in solidarity with the Cuban people.

The same fight lives today in the voices of the Puerto Rican masses demanding the ousting of a foreign electrical company, LUMA, that replaced union-protected jobs for Puerto Rican people with foreign consultants and persistent increase in electrical bills, all while people experience blackouts, placing them at health and physical risk.

The people have resisted the PROMESA Act passed by President Barack Obama, and its governing board La Junta, a group of business people who are enemies of the Puerto Rican working class. La Junta has enacted policies impacting education, pensions, salaries, health care and that have resulted in the theft of our land. 

And our conditions in the U.S. are no better. Puerto Ricans in the U.S. often struggle with similar conditions faced in the mainland. The poverty rate is slightly higher among Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. than other Latino groups. Puerto Ricans are among the 56% of the Latino population who are part of the unjust criminal justice system. This is more evidence that being a “citizen” of the U.S. doesn’t translate to a decent and just life.

Sadly this is not unique to Puerto Rico. These conditions are similar to those faced by the Global South and the internal colonies of the U.S. The only way that this white-supremacist, patriarchal, genocidal settler state will be dismantled is by building solid and principled alliances with the working class and the most oppressed nations. Their freedom and self-reliance guarantees the freedom for all. V.I. Lenin understood why it’s necessary for our call to be: “Workers and oppressed of the world unite.”

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