An Indomitable Spirit of Resistance
by CARLOS BORRERO
This past Saturday, thousands of people marched from San Juan to Brooklyn demanding the release of Oscar López Rivera. Oscar López Rivera has served 32 years in the dungeons of imperialism for the crime of fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico as a member of the Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN). At 70 years of age, López Rivera is
recognized as one of the longest held political prisoners in the world.
Contrary to the false image of passive acceptance of colonial rule
promoted by imperialism, the struggle for Puerto Rican independence has
continued for more than 115 years. At times openly combative while at
others primarily in more muted forms, the struggle for independence in the
colonial world is a peculiar expression of class struggle. As such, it is
important to view the campaign for the release of López Rivera, an
important symbol of that struggle in Puerto Rico, from that perspective.
In recent years there has been increased awareness and activism around the case of Oscar. However, it is impossible to truly understand the growing support for Oscar without putting the campaign for his release in the current social and economic context of Puerto Rican society. That is to say, the renewed popular support of a militant jailed for waging armed
struggle against imperialism coincides with and reflects a general disgust
with a colonial system in irreversible decline. Massive, structural
unemployment, as well as unprecedented levels of public and private debt
have come to characterize Puerto Rican society just as the rest of the
capitalist world. A decaying infrastructure, inadequate public services
in the areas of public health and education, and endemic violence complete
the picture of a territory once hailed by US imperialism as the “showcase
of the Caribbean” during the cold war era. The result has been a constant
stream of people forced to abandon the country in an attempt to secure a
better life for themselves and their families. As a direct colony of the
United States, the responsibility for what happens in Puerto Rico falls
directly on the US ruling class and its political representatives,
notwithstanding the incompetence and corruption of the colonial lackeys
that administer the daily operations of the colonial-state apparatus.
It is certainly true that the expansion of the campaign to release Lopez
Rivera, which includes a significant number of people that do not identify
as independentistas or progressives, and much less socialists or
communists, has been accompanied by a growing tendency to separate the man from the cause for which he is imprisoned. This is a deliberate strategy often used by the ruling classes to dull the militant edge of popular
manifestations with the potential to radicalize consciousness. Among the
35 thousand that marched in San Juan on November 23rd, the media, as is
custom, highlighted the appearance and statements of a few opportunist
politicians and “celebrities” to reinforce this tendency.
Notwithstanding, the fact that the bulk of those that marched consisted of
labor, both organized and non-organized members, unemployed, students,
etc. proves the growing connection between the daily concerns of working
people and questions of justice and the right to political independence in
the collective consciousness. Over the past couple of years, Puerto Rico
has been the scene of violent protests of university students that
resulted in the occupation of the campus of the University of Puerto Rico,
massive mobilizations against the efforts of capital to loot public
pension funds, and a recent march demanding the creation of a jobs
program. Although these struggles are by no means evidence of a
widespread revolutionary consciousness capable of radically transforming
society in the near term, they do highlight the will to fight back, to
resist, to not passively accept the conditions imposed by capital in one
of the oldest colonies in the world. They are the germs without which
higher forms of consciousness are impossible.
The continued militancy of Oscar López Rivera, after more than three
decades of imprisonment, is a living testimony of the indomitable will to
resist all attempts to break the combative spirit of a man, who has become
a symbol of his people, yearning for freedom.
Carlos Borrero is a New York based writer.
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