For over half a millennia, our people have survived the reality of colonial rule. For over a century, we have endured occupation wrapped in a flag of ‘liberty.’ The labor and resources of our Islands have been robbed and exploited, and our people scattered and oppressed. Until we have power over our own lives and end the colonial occupation of Borikén by the United States, the destruction of our land and people will not stop. Until we can achieve meaningful self-determination, we will continue to be the unwilling servants of a greater power.
Self-determination, for us, is bigger than just endorsing an independence party in Puerto Rico and achieving a separate state. Many former colonies still face resource extraction at the hand of their “former” occupier through multinational corporations although they are legally independent. For us, self-determination is the construction of a government by the Puerto Rican people, of the masses of workers and peasants that make up our nation and who are the foundation of our culture. Without the defeat of imperial governance, which benefits from exacerbating racism, machismo, and other forms of bigotry, we will not be in a position to overcome these systems of oppression that have plagued our society since our Spanish colonial past. Self-determination is also the victory of the Diaspora and other oppressed people in the United States in achieving a multinational socialist government that can truly represent the masses of exploited people in the United States and end imperialist expansion. Self-determination is having our communities choose where they want to live without economic duress and to return to our motherland if desired. We are a nation amongst many nations in the global south that are still fighting for true sovereignty apart from the dictates of global capitalism led by the United States. Our proposal is simple, fight for self-determination at home while mobilizing the diaspora to fight for self-determination in the belly of the beast. Together with other oppressed nations, whether they are our sibling nations in the Caribbean or other diaspora communities in the United States, we are at our strongest.
We often talk about the privilege of the diaspora. We wish to reframe this talking point because I believe it to be unproductive. We must talk about the responsibilities we have as the diaspora and focus on action, not on moral positioning and identity opportunism (oppression Olympics) between the various identities within our Boricua community as well as between the islands and the diaspora. The past several decades have been defined by divided identitarian organizing that imperialism easily co-opts, we will not make that same mistake.
We as the diaspora in the United States live in a community with a multinational and multiracial working class that is actively organizing. We have a responsibility to join organizations that are developing working-class political power in the U.S. because our struggle for national determination does not exist only on the islands. The majority of our nation is still an internal colony of the United States, as the Young Lords and the Black Panthers taught us over a half-century ago. If the islands are free but the diaspora is still oppressed along with the rest of the multinational working class in the United States, we have not successfully achieved national liberation. Simply put, if we liberate the islands but not the diaspora, the U.S. will be able to use military and economic force to destroy our islands and further oppress our communities. At the same time, simply achieving “representation” for the diaspora in an imperial government and not liberating the islands leaves our motherland to the whims of the capitalist exploiters.
The path to sovereignty requires both halves of the nation to actively engage in the struggle for self-determination. As oppressed people organize in the U.S., and as a multinational socialist movement grows, the diaspora has a responsibility to join political organizations where they live presently to weaken the imperialist state and agitate for revolution along with other oppressed people. The islands cannot achieve independence if the imperialist state is at its full strength. Our movement cannot be successful if we are not unified and at full strength either. We must acknowledge that we are outgunned and not in a position to wage revolution the same way other Caribbean nations have. Importantly, joining revolutionary organizations will also develop our ability as organizers and socialists, while expanding our visibility thereby gaining more allies that can support our struggle in a material way.
We want to bring attention to the plan to abolish the current system of governance in the U.S. and replace it with a multinational socialist government. There are plenty of examples of multinational projects from Bolivia to the USSR. Multinational governments aim to give different nations and peoples representation. In Bolivia, different indigenous nations fought for and won a new kind of government that recognized their ancestral claims to the land. In the United States, this socialist reconstruction requires abolishing the supreme court and rebuilding a justice system based on the abolition of the prison complex, and developing restorative justice through rehabilitation Secondly, it requires abolishing the Senate, the seat of white capitalist power, and replacing it with an elected Congress of Nations. In other words, it would mean that Black people, Indigenous nations, diaspora Boricuas, and other oppressed people would secure real political power by replacing the House of Congress reserved for the ultra-wealthy. Seizing political power is necessary to halt militarist expansion outside the U.S., restore the land to indigenous nations and administer collective reparations to oppressed people. We have the responsibility to build meaningful political power and alliances in the U.S. so that we can amplify the struggle of Boricuas on the islands and make advances to politicize the diaspora. This is the path that we walk as the diaspora.
The path for those on the islands is to develop political power and national unity in Borikén, Vieques, and Culebra. There are many organizations working to address different systems of oppression on the islands. From our elders in the struggle for Independence and Socialism to younger generations organizing to fight land theft and destruction. Feminist groups who are actively leading the fight against machismo as well as organizations of Afro-Boricaus unpacking racism in the Caribbean. All of these organizations and more play important roles in politicizing the people. Political power will come when divided organizations with the same political goals come together and unify in action. More precisely, political power will come when the leadership of the many political organizations can work together and adopt a shared line of struggle. Here, when deciding the line of unified actions to fight for self-determination, the Islands lead and the diaspora follows.
Islanders in turn have a responsibility to recognize the diaspora as displaced members of the nation. By accepting displaced Boricuas and by recognizing Boricuas communities in the diaspora as part of a greater Borikén, we will act as a whole and not as disjointed parts. By recognizing the diaspora as part of a single nation, Islanders and diaspora can truly begin to merge our communities and develop a unified movement that transcends borders. The diaspora must follow the islands’ lead while contributing to the struggle by developing themselves politically and building national unity and consciousness. When those in the diaspora that decide to rematriate come to the islands, they will be experienced organizers and can begin to integrate into the struggle on the islands thereby strengthening unity by expanding organizational capacity.
As the struggle intensifies and the crisis of colonial dictatorship continues, the Islands will see a renewed spark for self-governance. The unprecedented popular movement against ‘Ricky’ Rosselló is just one example of growing political consciousness. We as a diaspora must also be aware of the developments on the islands so we can amplify their struggle and encourage national unity. Rosselló was not only pushed out by action on the islands but by coordinated action all over the Diaspora. The Free Associated State and the U.S. government could do little to stop Rosselló’s expulsion in the face of a united nation. After that victory, however, the movement splintered and the US puppet government clique reclaimed power. To maintain our power, the diaspora must be able to react quickly to the events in Borikén and maintain discipline and focus. This is possible if the Diaspora is tuned into the islands and if leadership on the islands has a clear line of communication with leadership in the diaspora.
Toward a United Front Against Occupation
The DPC has the potential to be a bridge by bringing diaspora Boricuas with organizing experience and connections in the wider movement against imperialism to the islands. We have chosen to build that bridge through our brigade program. By developing political education and building alliances in the wider anti-imperialist movement, we can politicize the diaspora and bring people on the brigades. We encourage members to be politically active outside of our organization to strengthen our position and to grow as revolutionaries. Our liberation depends on weakening our enemy through international solidarity while we simultaneously build national unity.
Adopting this strategy allows us to continue our mission while popularizing self-determination in our allied movement spaces. We can establish legitimacy by being serious and strategic about our actions. Our relationship with the Black Alliance for Peace and the Party For Socialism and Liberation is a good example of this. They will amplify our line in their circles and bring other Boricuas to us. We must develop physical organizing skills and discipline by being actively engaged in our local struggles. These skills are invaluable. They also facilitate group flow and effective teamwork by exposing people to real-world problems and getting people off the internet.
Emphasizing self-determination and nation-building allows us to reframe independence in a new light for those disillusioned by political repression, a century of debates, and a weakening independence party. We don’t even need to mention independence to people, we can frame things by pointing out that currently there is no party that has a strategic path to real democracy. Popularizing self-determination and socialism will lead to the inevitable conclusion that Borikén must become a sovereign republic. As Borikén and the Diaspora continue to converge, there will be an opportunity to build a unified front against the occupation.
Learning from the Palestinian Youth Movement
The strategy laid out above has been influenced by many different liberation movements. First, we are students of the struggle for liberation in Palestine. We understand that the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian diaspora is inherently connected to the ability of the United States to occupy our own land. There is a similarity between our two nations in that the majority of Palestinians and Boricuas are displaced and not living on our ancestral land. The Palestinian diaspora is very active in amplifying the struggle in their motherland to the communities, cities, and countries they live in. They have formed their own diaspora organizations specifically for the purpose of amplifying the struggle in Palestine. When Gaza is under attack and resistance is fierce, the Palestinian Diaspora responds and responds quickly. It is impossible to miss the actions of the mobilized Palestinian diaspora. When our beaches are being destroyed and our people attacked, we as Diaspora Boricuas should be able to respond quickly and efficiently so that the resistance on Borikén en cannot be hidden by corporate media or by social media algorithms that will be used against us.
The Palestinian diaspora built strategic relationships with other organizations and political parties to expand their reach and pull in other Palestinians to their organization. They have also played a leading role in joining other organizations fighting imperialism. Since the Diaspora is not in Palestine, they do not hesitate to join other organizations to develop political power to weaken the zionist influence in the imperial center. Diaspora Boricuas must have a similar strategic approach. The DPC can serve to connect and link the two halves of our nation. This is a large task and one that will require members and leadership to be active not only in our own group but actively seek collaboration and membership in the struggles of the working and oppressed communities around us.
Learning from Cuba
Few nations have taken the defense of our Borikén as seriously and persistently as Cuba. We share many characteristics and although the Cuban revolution began in the 1950s, we have a lot to learn from their movement. The Cuban Revolution had the task of organizing a multiracial nation controlled by a puppet state with a Spanish colonial past. We have the task of organizing a multi-racial nation with a Spanish colonial past that is openly occupied by the United States. Cuba is one of the few nations to defend our right to self-determination on the global stage. Without allies like Cuba, as soon as independence is achieved, Borikén would immediately become a neo-colony controlled by multinational corporations. We need trade partners in our region. Betances, Campos, and Ojeda Ríos have all spoken about the importance of unity, specifically, unity in the Caribbean.
The Cuban experiment teaches that it is up to us to maintain ideological integrity and defend our position as well as the work of other working-class revolutionaries. After their initial victory, the Cuban people ardently defended their revolution and their ideology, in order to prevent the United States from turning the island into a neo-colony. If we don’t defend our position and convictions for self-determination, no one will. We together maintain unity by upholding our political line and defending it when liberals or conservatives attack our stance. At a time when the Communist party of Cuba has passed the most progressive family code in the world and Nicaragua requires 50% of elected officials to be women and restored indigenous land rights, we must be ready for liberal arguments that minimize the achievements made my mass movements by attacking individual figureheads.
Our opponents will target problematic individuals in order to erase the work of the masses of black and brown people, women, and queer people in the movements for socialism and self-determination. For example, liberals will criticize the homophobia in the Cuban revolution in the 50s but erase the mass work of queer Cubans within the Communist party today that achieved the current revolution in family policy. Although Cuba has functionally achieved economic equality for Cubans of African descent, U.S. propaganda attempts to convince American leftists that the Cuban Communist Party is a racist institution while erasing the massive achievements that AfroCubans socialists have made since the 50s. Some Americans believe Cuba is as racist as the U.S. despite the fact that Cuba desegregated earlier, created economic plans to bring AfroCubans out of poverty, and ultimately achieved economic racial equity. There are proportionally more AfroCubans in the Cuban government than the United States has ever been able to achieve. No other place in our hemisphere has achieved more for people of color. Americans, however, will point to the poverty created by the blockade and wag their finger at Cuba as if they are to blame for the economic war that the United States is waging against them. We must actively combat this kind of propaganda in our movement space. It not only weakens our allies, it also undermines our own work.
Another example is the attempt to discredit socialist development in Nicaragua by attacking President Ortega for problematic characteristics in order to erase the work of women and indigenous people who make up a large part of the mass movement. Imperialist politics tries to equate everything with individuals and figureheads, we must resist this flawed thinking and look at movements as a whole. Yes, Ortega has displayed machismo. What are women in the movement doing to address this? Let us recall that the Nicaraguan constitution requires 50% of all elected officials to be women. Are we going to engage in saviorism and pretend they don’t have the agency and power to solve their own issues with machismo? How are indigenous people interacting with the socialist system? They have achieved rights to their lands and practice self-governance. Has that happened in the United States yet? Are the masses able to democratically decide their own fate? These are the questions we must ask when our opponents try to create strawman arguments against self-determination and socialism by attacking individuals.
This kind of divisive rhetoric will undoubtedly be used against our movement as well and we must be ready to defend our line and the mass movement. Estadistas and Democrats alike will try to break down the movement by attacking leaders, erasing the masses, and driving wedges between our different identities. If we are to be successful, we cannot fall into these rhetorical traps and have trust in our organization. The Cuban revolution teaches us that the principled defense of the movement is vital for its survival and success. The Cuban revolution also teaches us that systems of racism and machismo cannot be fully addressed until the people take power over our own land. Therefore, we must defend our own movement as we grow and avoid being put off track by our opponents.
Closing Notes on Strategy
We are not a political party, instead, we are a democratically organized collective of Boricuas who aim to reconnect the Diaspora with the islands. A political party’s main objective is to develop political power, our objective is to bridge our communities and develop national strength and unity. As Diaspora, we will need to be flexible in our approach to organizing as we educate our own. However, it is important to understand that we will need to join political parties in the future when the time comes to establish a new form of governance for the islands and for our people in the United States. Therefore, it is important for our members to join political parties and organizations where they are located. By positioning ourselves strategically we are better equipped to develop ourselves as organizers as well as to spread our politics to organizations that have a concrete plan for building political power.
In the United States, we must look for principled organizations that work with the masses and that have adopted Puerto Rican self-determination in their platforms. On the islands, we must look similarly for organizations that are doing mass work and developing political power. It is important to build alliances with organizations that are working with the masses. We must avoid getting weighed down by organizations that are exclusive groups for a particular political subculture. While we may share politics with some of these political groups, sectarian organizing weakens the movement as a whole. We must build alliances based on action not simply political self-identification. Many will claim to share our politics, we must develop the ability to distinguish between those whose actions match their politics and those who only talk the talk. We must also be wary of those who are only active in exclusive circles and spend time condemning the actions of others without proposing a solution. Finally, we must be aware of those taking up space online but who do not follow through with concrete action. We are not idealists, we care about action above all. If organizations say they want to build socialism without working with the masses, they are not an organization to ally with. If organizations say they want to address machismo or racism, but do not engage in popular education they are not an organization to ally with. Revolution is not built on moral positioning. If an organization only wants to show up on the street but not do the daily work of organizing or if they only want to talk politics but not be on the street we must also evaluate if the alliance will be fruitful. Revolution is not built by only doing the exciting front-line work or by only having the ‘best’ talking points. Revolution is doing the necessary work as a collective to dismantle imperialism and build socialism in its place.
Que Viva Borikén libre y socialista
Que Viva nuestros antepasados en lucha
Que Viva el movimiento contra el imperialismo