[With the recent renewed interest in Settlers, as well as the release from u.$. interment of the great Oscar López Rivera, we thought it might be prudent to provide our readers with a choice tidbit from the book in question. As the revisionists and the imperial left, devoid of real solidarity, decry the treatment of Puerto Rico at the hands of the imperialists, we ought to remember where they stood when the democratic forces of Puerto Rico rose up. The following is section 3 of Chapter X, ‘1950s REPRESSION & THE DECLINE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY U.S.A.’ and, as always, is provided for the purposes of study and discussion.]
It is generally known that U.S. imperialism chose neo-colonialism as the main form for its expanding Empire in the immediate post-WWII years. In 1946 the U.S. Philippine colony was converted with much fanfare to the supposedly independent “Republic of the Philippines” (to this day occupied by major U.S. military bases). In 1951 the Puerto Rican colony was converted into a “Commonwealth” with limited bourgeois self-government under strict U.S. rule. What is less discussed is that neocolonialism is no less terroristic than colonialism itself. Neo-colonialism, after all, still requires the military suppression and elimination of the revolutionary and national democratic forces. Without this political sterilization after WWII imperialism’s local agents would not have been able to do their job. This was true in the Mexicano-Chicano Southwest, in the Philippines, and other occupied territories.
The 1950 U.S. counter-insurgency campaign in Puerto Rico is a clear example of this. It also gives us a comparison to further illuminate the CPUSA by. By 1950 U.S. Imperialism had decided that its hold over Puerto Rico would not be safe until the Nationalist Party was finally wiped out. That year U.S. Secretary of War Louis Johnson spent three days in Puerto Rico planning the counter-insurgency campaign. The puppet Governor, Muñoz Marin, was told to arrest or kill the Nationalist leaders. Police pressure on the revolutionaries increased. Nationalist Party leader Don Albizu Campos was openly threatened. U.S. Congressman Vito Marcantonio complained on October 19, 1949:
“The home of Pedro Albizu Campos is surrounded day and night by police patrols, police cars, and jeeps with mounted machine guns. When Dr. Albizu Campos walks along the streets of Sun Juan, he is closely followed by four or five plainclothes policemen on foot, and a load of fully armed policemen in a car a few paces behind.
“Every shop he enters, every person to whom he talks, is subsequently visited by representatives of the police department. A reign of terror descends on the luckless citizens of Puerto Rico who spend a few minutes talking to Dr. Albizu Campos. “
By late October of that year the colonial police had begun a series of “incidents” – of ever more serious arrests and raids against Nationalist Party activists on various charges. Finally in one raid police and Nationalists engaged in a firefight. Faced with certain annihilation piece-meal by mounting police attacks, the Nationalists 130 took to arms in the Grito de Jayuya. On October 30, 1950 Nationalist forces captured the police station and liberated the town of Jayuya. They immediately proclaimed the second Republic of Puerto Rico, as more uprisings broke out all over the island.
The defeat of the Second Republic required not only the police, but the full efforts of the colonial National Guard. It was an uprising drowned in blood. The seriousness of the combat can be seen from the Associated Press dispatch: “National Guard troops smashed today at violently anti-United States Nationalist rebels and drove them out of two of their strongholds with planes and tanks …”
“Striking at dawn, troops armed with machine guns, bazookas and tanks recaptured Jayuya, fifty miles southwest of San Juan, and the neighboring town of Utuado. Fighter planes strafed the rebels. They had seized control of the two towns last night after bombing police stations, killing some policemen and setting many fires… Jayuya looked as if an earthquake had struck it, with several blocks destroyed and most of the other buildings in the town of 1,500 charred by fire. Another Guard spearhead was racing towards Arecibo to crush the uprising there. “
Even in defeat the heroic Nationalist struggle had great effect. In the 1951 referendum for “Commonwealth” status Governor Marin could only muster enough votes for passage by falsely promising the people that it was only a temporary stage leading to national independence. The revolution had exposed the lie that colonialism was accepted by the Puerto Rican people. Throughout Latin Amerika mass solidarity with the Puerto Rican Struggle blossomed. In Cuba the cause of Puerto Rican independence had won such sympathy that even the pro-U.S. Cuban President, Carlos Prio Socarras, sent off a public message interceding for the safety of Don Albizu Campos and the other Nationalists. The Cuban House of Representatives sent a resolution to President Truman asking that the lives of Don Albizu Campos and other captured leaders be guaranteed. In Mexico, in Central Amerika, throughout Latin Amerika the 1950 Grito de Jayuya stirred up anti-imperialist sentiment.
The defeat of the patriotic uprising was followed by an intense reign of terror over all of Puerto Rico. In addition to the many martyrs who fell on the field of battle, some 3,000 Puerto Ricans were arrested by U.S. imperialism. Many were sent to prison under the infamous “Little Smith Act”, which made it a crime to advocate revolution against the colonial administration. Many were charged with murder, arson and other crimes. One woman, for example, was sentenced to life imprisonment for having cooked some food for her husband and sons before they went to join the uprising. The neo-colonial “Commonwealth” scheme was only possible because of the terroristic violence used by U.S. imperialism to pacify the patriotic movement and the Puerto Rican masses.
It isn’t difficult to see that the level of imperialist repression inflicted upon the Puerto Rican Nationalists was qualitatively far greater than that used on the CPUSA. It is somewhat obscene to even compare the two. It is enough to say that U.S. Imperialism had to use tanks, air attacks, machine guns, mass imprisonment and terror to crush the Puerto Rican Nationalists, for they were genuine revolutionaries.
What did the CPUSA and the U.S. oppressor nation “left” do in solidarity to help their supposed allies in Puerto Rico? Absolutely nothing and less than nothing. The CPUSA’s main response was to concern itself only with saving its own skin. The single Euro-Amerikan imprisoned with the Nationalists after Jayuya – the anti-war activist Ruth Reynolds – did more in solidarity with the anti-colonial struggle than did the entire CPUSA with its thousands of members.
For years during the 1930s the CPUSA had won support from Puerto Ricans in the barrios of the continental U.S. by posing as proponents of Puerto Rican independence. In order to win over Puerto Ricans the CPUSA pretended to be allies of the Nationalist Party. One Euro-Amerikan CPUSA organizer in New York’s Spanish Harlem recalls: “The main issues were unemployment and Puerto Rican independence. ‘Viva Puerto Rico Libre’ was the popular slogan. The Nationalist movement in Puerto Rico, headed by Pedro Albizu Campos, dominated the politics of ‘El Barrio.’ ” In 1948 CPUSA leader William Z. Foster made a well-publicized trip to Puerto Rico, in which he met with Don Albizu Campos. Afterwards, Foster wrote a mass pamphlet on poverty in Puerto Rico (The Crime of El Fangito) to show CPUSA solidarity with the Nationalists.
But when U.S. Imperialism unleashed its counterinsurgency, when the Revolution joined battle with the mighty U.S. Empire, where was the CPUSA? On its knees proclaiming its loyalty to the U.S. Empire, begging in the most cowardly fashion to be spared by its masters. On November 1, 1950 – the second day of fighting – two Puerto Rican patriots, Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo, attacked Blair House in Washington, D.C. (the temporary residence of President Truman). This bold sacrificial action against U.S. tyranny occupied headlines around the world. Joining the rest of the oppressor nation media, the CPUSA’s Daily Worker also made the attack on Blair House their leading, front page story.
This issue is completely revealing. Tucked away on its inside pages, as a second-rate story, the CPUSA’s Daily Worker routinely reported the revolution in Puerto Rico and gave some very routine, luke-warm words of sympathy. But on its front page it carried an official Party statement on the Blair House attack. That statement was signed by CPUSA leaders William Z. Foster and Gus Hall. It was not only under a major headline, but the full text was printed in extra-large heavy type. And what was the meaning of this obviously very important statement? A cowardly and shameful slander of the heroic patriots Torresola and Collazo, and a cowardly assurance that the CPUSA joined ranks with the rest of their oppressor nation in supporting President Truman. The treacherous statement read:
CP ASSAILS TERRORIST
ATTEMPT IN WASHINGTON
“Like all our fellow Americans we Communists were profoundly shocked by this afternoon’s report of an attempt to enter Blair House with the apparent purpose of taking President Truman’s life.”
“As is well known, the Communist Party condemns and rejects assassination and all acts of violence and terror. This can only be the acts of terrorists, deranged men or agents…”
With war waging in Puerto Rico was it a shock for the struggle to be brought to the front door of imperialism? What kind of “Communists” reject “all acts of violence”? What kind of “anti-imperialists” would join the imperialists in saying that the martyr Griselio Torresola, who so willingly gave his life for the oppressed, was either “deranged” or an “agent”? This disgusting statement was transparently begging U.S. imperialism to spare the CPUSA. Far from being the main victims of the 1950s repression, as they so falsely claim, the Euro-American “left” were still house-broken accomplices to the crimes of U.S. imperialism. They were the U.S. Empire’s loyal opposition.