Statement by Sara Lobman for the Socialist Workers Party to the hearing of the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization of Puerto Rico, June 20, 2022.
Distinguished chairperson and committee members:
My name is Sara Lobman. I am the Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate here in New York. My party adds its voice in support of the fight for Puerto Rico’s independence from U.S. colonial rule.
The U.S. rulers have used their colonial domination to plunder Puerto Rico’s wealth for more than a century. From the pharmaceutical plants to the food-processing industry, it is workers who produce that wealth, and U.S. and other capitalists who rake superprofits from their labor.
They further squeeze working people with cuts in wages, pensions and living standards enforced by the U.S.-imposed fiscal control board to pay wealthy U.S. bondholders on a $72 billion debt. We demand Washington cancel that debt. It is not the workers’ debt, it’s the bondholders’ debt!
My brothers and sisters here have highlighted some of these brutal assaults, which are magnified by colonial rule. Here in the U.S., workers and farmers are ravaged by the same capitalist disaster, by the same bosses and their government. Inflation, now at a 40-year high, is devastating our livelihoods. Deaths from drug overdoses are soaring. Millions remain jobless or unable to work enough hours to support their families. Others face forced overtime that leaves no time for family life, while speedup threatens life and limb. Nearly one-third of young adults live with their parents, mostly because they cannot afford their own home.
These sharpening class conflicts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. are part of a growing world capitalist crisis. Today, the largest land war in Europe in 75 years threatens the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine and promises more wars to come, opening a new stage in the crisis of the world imperialist order.
But working people — in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. — are not helpless victims. Workers and their unions have waged island-wide protests against blackouts, utility rate hikes, and attacks on the jobs of electrical workers since the colonial government handed over management of the state-owned electrical system to Luma Energy.
Thousands of teachers and firefighters have marched for better wages and against pension cuts. Truckers waged a two-day work stoppage last summer, winning a substantial pay increase.
Here in the U.S., bakery workers, coal miners, oil workers and others have waged important strikes for sustainable hours, better pay and basic dignity.
Working people in the U.S. have a vital stake in championing the fight for Puerto Rico’s independence. A successful struggle to free Puerto Rico from U.S. colonial rule will also strengthen the hand of workers here in the fight against our common exploiters.
Is this possible? Yes. Cuba’s socialist revolution points a road forward. In 1959, millions there overthrew a U.S.-backed dictatorship, took power out of the hands of the U.S. and Cuban ruling classes, and established a workers and farmers government. They began to uproot all forms of exploitation and oppression, and have extended solidarity to others around the world fighting imperialist domination.
For more than 60 years Cuba’s working people have successfully defended their revolution, an example for workers and farmers both in Puerto Rico and the U.S.
I thank the committee for the opportunity to speak here today. The Socialist Workers Party urges you to continue to condemn U.S. colonial rule of Puerto Rico.