BY GREG McCARTAN AND ELENA TATE
BOSTON - A broadly sponsored meeting here April 29, "From the Spanish-American War to the Present: 100 Years of Resistance to U.S. Imperialism," was attended by 125 people at Roxbury Community College (RCC).
Tom Reeves, a professor with the Caribbean Focus Program of RCC, welcomed participants by noting that the Caribbean teaches the lessons of imperialism and slavery, but also teaches the lesson of the slave revolt, of resistance to imperialism, and of victories of masses of people fighting oppression and exploitation. Claudia Kaiser-Lenoir, a professor at Tufts University and the chairperson of the meeting, explained that the Spanish-American War marked Washington's emergence as a world imperialist power. Rather than signifying the liberation of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from Spanish colonialism, it signaled another stage of their oppression, and the need for more resistance, she said.
Terry Marshall, a member of Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation at RCC and the co-chair, spoke of the experience of being an immigrant, and of the effects of colonialism on his country, Barbados.
Sponsors of the event included the July 26th Coalition, the Caribbean Focus Program of RCC, Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation (RCC), Education for Action (Radcliffe College), the National Committee to Free Puerto Rican Prisoners of War and Political Prisoners, Latinos for Social Change, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Young Socialists.
The example of the Cuban revolution in the fight for national sovereignty and independence was cited by many speakers. Another major point of discussion was the political situation in Puerto Rico today.
Dagoberto Rodríguez, First Secretary of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., began the evening by explaining that the difficult relations between Cuba and the ruling rich of the United States did not begin in 1959, the year the Cuban people overthrew the U.S.-back regime, opening the first socialist revolution in the Americas. "For 200 years our small island has faced the aggression of their great neighbor," he said.
Rodríguez described interventions such as the Southern states' attempt to annex Cuba before the U.S. Civil War; the U.S. intervention in Cuba's second War of Independence in 1898; the imposition of the Platt Amendment on the Cuban constitution, which authorized U.S. intrusion into Cuban affairs; and Washington's backing of dictator Fulgencio Batista. "All this, and the poverty and social conditions imposed on us, explains why the Cuban people had to make a revolution," Rodríguez said.
With the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1991, and the tightening of the U.S. embargo of the island, "some thought that Cuba would fall as well," he said. "But we won our own right to freedom and sovereignty, a right won only through revolution. Cuba will never sacrifice the sovereignty, independence, and socialist system that we have gained and defended at a very dear price."
Luis Cabral, a member of the Revolutionary Dominican Party, explained the history of U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic, pointing to invasions organized by Washington in 1916 and 1965. Before leaving, the U.S. invaders formed an army in the Dominican Republic, "not to defend the nation's sovereignty, but to defend the interests of the United States.
The U.S. government and corporations made the "economy of the Dominican Republic totally dependent on the United States, and remains so to this day," Cabral said. He ended by saying that he was inspired to see people in the United States -"in the monster's entrails" - who stand up to the power that wants to keep subjugated the peoples of the Third World.
"They invaded you in 1916?" said panelist Frances LaRoche, a Haitian rights activist who participated in the New England observer delegation to the last elections in her home country. "They got us in 1915. They stayed eight years [in the Dominican Republic]? They stayed 24 years in Haiti. They had to come back again - and they're still having a bad time!" she exclaimed.
Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press, noted that unlike the period following World War II, U.S. imperialism today is relatively weaker. The brutal face of imperialism has emerged much more clearly, she said, but "its roots are sunk in every powder keg that is about to explode the world over."
One of the greatest blows to imperialism is the Cuban revolution, which brought a government of workers and peasants to power for the first time in the Western Hemisphere. Waters pointed out that this year Cuba is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the decisive battles of the revolution. "In 1958, the Cuban people mobilized in their millions. Only by breaking the economic power of imperialism could they chart a course toward independence. The first free territory of the Americas and the first socialist revolution had to be inseparable."
In today's world, Waters said, the "ranks of those who struggle will grow. In the United States, the stakes are higher than in anywhere else in the world."
Waters ended by quoting a message that Ernesto Che Guevara, Argentine-born leader of the Cuban revolution, wrote in 1966 to the Tricontinental conference of anti- imperialist fighters from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. "What is at stake is the destiny of humanity.... Our every action is a battle cry against imperialism and a call for the unity of the peoples against the great enemy of the human race: the United States of America."
Rafael Cancel Miranda, a Puerto Rican independence fighter who was imprisoned in U.S. jails for 28 years, said that the U.S. rulers "have a crisis - it is us. When we come together, they are small. We are the strong ones when we are united. We fight for the Cuban revolution because it is our revolution."
Cancel Miranda spoke of the subjugation of Puerto Rico by Washington and the island's colonial status for the last century. He pointed to the Puerto Rican political prisoners in U.S. jails as examples of fighters today. During the discussion period Cancel Miranda was asked about the plebiscite being discussed in the U.S. Congress to decide the fate of Puerto Rico. He said, "Let's be free first. Only the free have the power to deal equally. A slave doesn't have any power - only the power to obey or fight back."
Another participant in the meeting asked about the idea that Puerto Rico could not survive as an independent country. Cancel Miranda answered, "Puerto Rico is `Profit Island, USA.' We work for them. We multiply their capital. It is a forced market for them. Puerto Ricans live in poverty, in prisons, and in projects. And even worse, the U.S. government uses Puerto Rican youth as cannon fodder in their wars," he said, citing the invasion of Panama, the imperialist wars against the people of Korea and Iraq, and the NATO occupation of Bosnia. "They use the bases in Puerto Rico to invade other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America."
An RCC student asked if the Cuban revolution would continue after President Fidel Castro. Excilia Saldaña, a Cuban poet visiting the United States who was also on the panel, responded. "We love what the generation of Fidel has realized," she said, "and what all of us have been able to do together. It is not Fidel's strength alone, but the intelligence of a people confronting a reality."
The day after the meeting, Cancel Miranda spoke about the Puerto Rican struggle for independence to an American history class and to the Latino student club at a local high school.
Elena Tate is a member of the Young Socialists. Greg
McCartan is a member of Local 1 of the Union of
Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees.
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