By Carlos Rovira
Puerto Rico's mass labor stoppage and demonstration against privatization on Oct. 1 reaffirmed the working class's militant tradition in that country.
A coalition of labor unions raised the theme "Puerto Rico is not for sale" as the rallying call for an event that produced an outpouring of people. The material conditions creating grounds for struggle helped this call touch the deepest sentiments of the masses of people in the historically plundered nation.
Gov. Pedro Rossello wants to sell off the government-owned telephone company, electric and water utilities, and hospitals to private business. The sales would benefit U.S.- based multinational corporations and lead to mass layoffs, rate hikes, and further impoverishment for the Puerto Rican people.
Rossello is acting on behalf of U.S. capitalists by opening the door for their further economic penetration via privatization.
Transnational corporations have plundered Puerto Rico since the 1898 U.S. military invasion. The invasion signaled the advent of U.S. imperialism--a period that has continued ever since, with corporations combining into monopolies impelled to expand around the globe in search of markets.
Motivated by projections of corporate profits, the push to privatize Puerto Rico is but the latest scheme to intensify the plunder of the colonized nation. Like "Operation Bootstrap"--initiated after World War II to grant companies there tax-free incentives--privatization will allow giant conglomerates to increase profits faster.
It is no wonder that so many people came to the Oct. 1 protest in the capital city of San Juan. The vast majority of the population opposes privatization.
The global economic restructuring of cap italism is triggering opposition throughout the world. In 1997 alone, massive worker demonstrations have occurred in Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Haiti, Romania, France--and now, Puerto Rico.
STRENGTHENING ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLE
In the case of Puerto Rico, the struggle has significant anti-colonial undertones. Most significant, it points to the working class's potential to lead the fight to smash U.S. colonialism there.
Workers can hurt the camp of the colonizers. Who else has at their control the machinery, equipment and infrastructure that make up the sweatshop Puerto Rico has been converted into?
The Puerto Rican working class will eventually establish its own political direction and formulate the necessary strate gies and tactics to achieve the country's right: independence and self-determination.
The Puerto Rican working class will eradicate the imperialist relations that constitute the basis for colonial oppression. The workers' anti-capitalist instincts will assure the completion of national liberation.
As a super-exploited colony, Puerto Rico has a definite class relationship to imperialism. As a result, conditions are favorable for the labor and national-liberation movements to fuse.
The imperialist ruling class is conscious of this, and has been concerned about it for many years. Take for example the focus imperialism placed on Nationalist Party leader, Don Pedro Albizu Campos, after he addressed the massive sugar- cane workers strike in 1936. The Nationalist Party always condemned the plundering transnational corporations and declared them the fundamental reason for colonial oppression.
Today Puerto Rico is industrialized and developed, with a population whose vast majority is now working-class. So this is an area of great weakness for the exploiters.
Beyond specific details about the Oct. 1 protest, its significance is that the colonized nation rallied behind the working class to oppose the leading global capitalist oppressors.
This is an event that has many ramifications for working and oppressed peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere, especially here in the country that colonizes Puerto Rico.
What else can explain why the capitalist media in the United States avoided reporting on the Oct. 1 events in Puerto Rico? Only limited coverage could be found, buried in the financial-business sections of English-language newspapers.
This shows the ruling class is worried about these developments that ultimately threaten its privileged social position in a colony. Keeping U.S. workers ignorant of what they have in common with exploited peoples of others lands is typical of the capitalist-owned mass media.
But the desire to struggle against oppression can not be repressed. Under this system of deceit and exploitation, workers everywhere will find the methods and means to fight and win.
It will then be a world without racism, cutbacks, layoffs, colonialism or any of the horrors capitalism breeds. And at that time, "Que viva Puerto Rico libre!" will be a reality for all Puerto Ricans.
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the October 16, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper
Thu, 9 Oct 97
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