May 20, 2000
The League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) stands with those who are struggling against the Navy’s occupation of Vieques. As revolutionary workers in the heart of the world’s most powerful and vicious power, we salute all who combat our common enemy, the imperialist U.S. ruling class.
Our common cause has been dealt a setback by the arrest of the protesters who were occupying the bombing range and the Navy’s resumption of bombing. But we hope that this does not long remain the case. To assure that it does not, we must look carefully and critically at the strategies and tactics that have been used so far, in order to determine the way forward.
For 60 years the island of Vieques, with its 10,000 residents, has been used for target practice by the Navy. For 60 years, the best land for farming and coasts for fishing has been unilaterally expropriated by the Navy, leaving the people of Vieques the poorest in an already impoverished land. For 60 years, their rates of cancer and other illnesses have been notably higher than those in the rest of Puerto Rico, with no hint of an explanation forthcoming from the Navy. Now the people of Vieques have said “Enough!“, and the rest of the masses of Puerto Rico said it with them.
Despite Clinton and Rosselló’s propaganda, their sellout “deal” does nothing to address these just demands of the people of Vieques and their supporters throughout Puerto Rico, here in the U.S., and elsewhere. “Ni una bomba más!“ means exactly that – not one more bomb – and nothing less.
At one point, the political pressure was too great for even moderate politicians in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland to ignore. And so even Gov. Rosell appeared to jump onto the Vieques bandwagon, telling the U.S. Senate at one point that the bombing exercises had reached “the point of no return.” For a period of time the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) went so far as to hail the fact that there was a unity across party lines on the matter of Vieques. But, as we warned consistently, this was never really the case: this has been made absolutely clear by the facts.
Protests in Vieques have posed a threat not only to the Navy’s ability to use that island for training, but also to the ability of the military as a whole to exploit Puerto Rico and its people. With some of the best land and harbors in Puerto Rico taken up by massive military bases, it has served for a century as a staging ground for U.S. imperialist invasions throughout the Americas–in Haiti, Panama, Nicaragua, Colombia and elsewhere. It serves as a training ground for the fleets assigned to the all-important Mediterranean Sea, from which the U.S. can patrol unstable regions like the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus.
And since 1917, when Puerto Ricans were granted “citizenship” so they could be drafted to fight in World War I, they have provided a disproportionate number of those sent to the front lines as cannon fodder in U.S. imperialism’s wars for world domination. For all these reasons the fact that the struggle for Vieques is stirring up sentiments opposed to the U.S. military is no small problem for the administration.
As the representative of U.S. imperialism’s military interests and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Clinton had no desire to give in to the protesters’ demands, and did not. His political counterparts in Puerto Rico did everything in their power to ensure he would not have to. As long as the U.S. remains imperialist and Puerto Rico remains a de facto colony, the U.S. will be looking for ways to use Puerto Rico as a staging ground for attacks in the Caribbean.
U.S. imperialism has no regard for the well-being of the Viequenses or any other Puerto Rican. As long as Puerto Rican workers, on the island or the mainland, can be super-exploited as a source of underpaid labor, the U.S. capitalists and their agents in Puerto Rico will continue to do so.
As revolutionaries, we stand for speaking the truth. A full struggle against U.S. imperialism, even just on the matter of Vieques, requires more than can be gained through negotiations – or even through civil disobedience.
This is more than any of the current lot of political and religious leaders who support capitalism want, and that is why there has not been the necessary mass mobilization yet. It is no accident that the civil disobedience campaigns have been designed to keep the working class passive. Now it is clear that civil disobedience is not enough.
The power of the Puerto Rican working class must be mobilized, including in the form of a new general strike that will have to be prepared to go further than in 1998. Some forces in Puerto Rico, such as the Frente Socialista, have taken up this call, and we support it. But we must stress that building for this general strike will require organizing a political fight against the sell-out, pro-capitalist union bureaucracy, as well as sharp opposition to bourgeois nationalist and clerical pacifist strategies that offer no real hope for liberation from imperialist attack.
Workers in the United States have a special responsibility. “Our” government’s attack on the Vieques protesters was an act of war against an oppressed people. Like the murderous police attacks in our communities, it shows that the capitalists’ state is an oppressive force directed against all workers, but most of all against workers of color and oppressed nationalities. We must fight in the unions and all other possible organizations here in order to build a mass protest – against the do-nothing bureaucrats who merely urge us to choose “Democratic” over Republican executioners.
We stand with the aspirations of Puerto Rican workers for a better life, against the attacks of the U.S. imperialists and the austerity program of both the U.S. and Puerto Rican bourgeoisie. For imperialism to be defeated will require the building of an authentic working class revolutionary party in Puerto Rico, in the U.S. and internationally.