2 June 2017

Salute Independence Fighter Oscar López Rivera

Colonialist Backlash Against Puerto Rican Day Parade

This year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City will honor Oscar López Rivera, a courageous independence fighter who was imprisoned by the U.S. for nearly 36 years for opposing the colonial subjugation of his homeland. After organizers announced that the June 11 parade would recognize López Rivera as a National Freedom Hero, Coca Cola, Goya, JetBlue, Univision, Corona and other corporations pulled out as sponsors of the event, which each year brings two million celebrators to Fifth Avenue. For their part, the Daily News and New York Post tabloids are whipping up a hysterical campaign against the parade, including labeling the Puerto Rican independentista a “terrorist.” In fact, the real terrorists are the U.S. imperialists, who have enslaved the island and mobilized, including through the CIA and FBI, to crush pro-independence militants, many of whom have been thrown into prison dungeons.

López Rivera is a hero for many Puerto Ricans, reflecting the keenly felt national oppression of the Puerto Rican people, including those in the U.S. In 1981, he was framed up for his political views and convicted of “seditious conspiracy,” for which he was sentenced to 55 years. After decades in prison, including 12 years in solitary confinement, his sentence was commuted in January.

The U.S. government targeted López Rivera because of his ties to the Puerto Rican nationalist group Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN, Armed Forces of National Liberation), which carried out armed struggle for Puerto Rican independence and the freedom of imprisoned independence fighters. In the 1970s and early ’80s, the FALN claimed responsibility for bombings of symbols of colonial rule, such as military and government sites, as well as banks and corporate buildings. We defended the FALN against state repression; it is justified for an oppressed people to fight for their liberation, including through the use of force against the imperialist state power oppressing them. At the same time, we condemn indiscriminate attacks like the 1975 bombing of the Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan, which killed four people and injured dozens.

As we wrote in “FALN Bombs Symbols of Colonial Rule,” (WV No. 83, 31 October 1975):

“We uncompromisingly support Puerto Rican independence and liberty for the nationalist prisoners. In this context we defend the FALN against the bourgeois state....

“While we understand the legitimate rage of those who daily feel the boot of U.S. imperialism upon their necks we cannot defend the FALN in those instances when frustration leads to acts of indiscriminate terrorism.”

The Spartacist League stands in opposition to the strategy of groups like the FALN of individual terrorist acts. As Marxists we want to mobilize the power of the working class against colonial oppression and capitalist rule.

Denouncing this year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade, the New York Police Department’s “Hispanic Society” as well as Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced that they would be boycotting the event. Good! We welcome the fact that these cops won’t march. The cops’ daily routine is to terrorize black people, Latinos and others, as part of defending this racist capitalist system. Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that he will march at the parade. This is but a cynical maneuver to lure the Latino vote for his re-election bid later this year. De Blasio is the boss of the racist NYPD, and his job is to manage NYC on behalf of Wall Street.

In Puerto Rico, the imperialist lackey governor, Ricardo Rosselló, has joined the witchhunt against the parade, including by calling on sponsors to pull out. The issue of Puerto Rico is much broader than a parade. The U.S. imperialist oppressors want to crush any sentiment against the status of the country as a colonial possession. Today, the people of Puerto Rico are suffering one of the worst economic crises in their history—a direct consequence of U.S. colonial domination. Among those fighting against austerity are the students who have been on strike at the University of Puerto Rico for two months. It is a good thing that NYC’s Transport Workers Union Local 100 will have a contingent in this year’s parade. The U.S. working class must side with the workers and oppressed of Puerto Rico and demand: Cancel the debt!

As forthright opponents of national oppression and U.S. imperialism, we favor Puerto Rican independence. Puerto Ricans hate their second-class status as residents of a U.S. commonwealth, but their feelings about independence are mixed. On the one hand, people on the island have a very strong sense of nationhood; on the other, many are fearful of losing the ability to live and work in the U.S. and of sinking to the level of poverty of their Caribbean neighbors. We oppose any attempts to forcibly impose independence against the will of the population. Thus in the U.S., we emphasize the right of independence. In Puerto Rico, we emphasize the fight for socialist revolution and the creation of a workers republic. Our perspective is to build Leninist parties in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico whose goal is to establish workers rule.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1113, 2 June 2017)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.