‘We demand: End US colonial rule over people of Puerto Rico’

July 8, 2019
May 1 union protest in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Front placard says, “No more Promesa” — the U.S.-imposed law demanding Puerto Rico pay its foreign debt — and “No more lies.”
UTIERMay 1 union protest in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Front placard says, “No more Promesa” — the U.S.-imposed law demanding Puerto Rico pay its foreign debt — and “No more lies.”

The following is the statement by Seth Galinsky given for the Socialist Workers Party to the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization at its June 24 hearing on the colonial status of Puerto Rico.

Distinguished Madam Chairperson and committee members:

My name is Seth Galinsky. I am the Socialist Workers Party candidate for New York City public advocate. I join with those here today to demand that Washington take its boot off Puerto Rico. The fight for Puerto Rico’s independence from colonial rule is in the interests not only of the people of that nation, but of working people everywhere, especially in the U.S.

If you were to believe the big-business press, you’d think the Puerto Rican people are living off the largesse of the U.S. government. But the opposite is the case. U.S. corporations and banks — finance capital — have been bleeding Puerto Rico for more than a century. Are the big pharmaceutical companies there out of charity? No, they are there for cheap labor and superprofits.

The capitalists in the U.S. — with their junior partners on the island — make billions by keeping wages in Puerto Rico down, by buying up the island’s resources cheap and selling dear. By squeezing its people through a debt that is immoral and unpayable. We support the demand to open the books to the scrutiny of an elected committee of Puerto Rico’s working people. And we join with others to say: Cancel the debt now! All of it!

What working people need is not dependency on demeaning welfare programs, but jobs. The governments in the U.S. and on the island keep cutting social necessities, while refusing to fund a massive public works program that would put people to work at union-scale wages, building the things we need: from decent, affordable housing to mass transit and hospitals.

Even the much-vaunted food stamps are used to enrich U.S. agribusiness at the expense of Puerto Rico’s working farmers. When the people of Puerto Rico take power out of the hands of the capitalist class, kick out the fiscal board and make their country independent of U.S. imperialism, they will develop agriculture and grow enough food to feed the entire island.

The old imperialist world order is coming apart at the seams. The capitalist rulers of the U.S. and around the globe are in crisis. And they are taking it out on the backs of working people everywhere.

There are over 700,000 Puerto Ricans in New York City and 5 million in the U.S. — more than on the island itself. They are part of the working class in the U.S. and strengthen it with their experience and fighting capacity. Capitalism is creating its future gravediggers, here and in Puerto Rico.

Working people in the U.S. who faced the bureaucratic red tape and scorn of the capitalist rulers after Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Michael can well understand what was done to the Puerto Rican people, including the thousands still living in homes without roofs or adequate drinking water or electricity.

Here in the U.S., as in Puerto Rico, we face attacks by the bosses and their government on our jobs, wages, health care, and pensions, as well as unending imperialist wars abroad. What the U.S. rulers do to working people in Puerto Rico is the same they do to us here, only worse because of colonial rule.

Like our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, we are not victims — we’re looking for ways to stand up and fight. That’s why I have joined numerous actions, from pickets by union nurses fighting for better health care, to protests defending women’s right to choose abortion, demanding amnesty for immigrant workers, and saying: U.S. hands off Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran.

A successful struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence will strengthen working people in the U.S. in the fight against our common exploiters.

Cuba’s socialist revolution is living proof that it can be done. Working people in Cuba overthrew a U.S.-backed dictatorship, took state power, and established a workers and farmers government. In the process they won real independence.

Distinguished committee members,

No one is asking you to liberate Puerto Rico. That will be done by the people of Puerto Rico themselves. And they will have the solidarity of their brothers and sisters in the U.S. and around the world. But you can publicize the truth presented here about U.S. colonial oppression and the fight for independence.

I will be traveling to Puerto Rico in the coming weeks, not only to see firsthand the devastation colonial rule has caused — under Democrats and Republicans alike — but to speak with fellow working people and youth about their struggles and to bring solidarity. Not just in San Juan but in towns and rural areas. The Socialist Workers Party has remained true to our program going back to 1919, working side by side with all those who stand up and fight for the independence and freedom of Puerto Rico.

Thank you, Madam Chairperson and committee members.