John Bell [Alberto Moreau]

Tasks of the Party in Porto Rico

Source: Daily Worker, Vol. VIII, No. 148, June 20, 1931
Transcription/Markup: Paul Saba
Copyleft: Internet Archive( 2018. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons License.

Among the countries in the Caribbean where we observe the absence of crystallized Communist parties, Porto Rico presents all the requisites for the objective conditions as the basis for the immediate development of the Communist movement.

What are the objective conditions? 1) the existence of a proletariat partly organized in trade unions which for a long time have been under the influence of social-fascist leaders and the head of which is the arch betrayer Santiago Iglesias. We witness today a rapid organizational disintegration of the Federation Libre due to the long standing treachery of the misleaders of the Socialist Party and the American Federation of Labor; 2) the unorganized workers in the plantations who are the most downtrodden, exploited stratum of the toiling masses of Porto Rico are showing signs of combativeness and willingness to organise in class trade unions; 3) the oppressed non-proletarian masses of the Island, the peasants and city poor, driven by despair and starvation as a result of the domination of Yankee Imperialism, are beginning to turn their backs to the native bourgeois politicians, the alliancistas, Unionistas, socialists and the demagogic nationalists. They are ready to struggle for the complete national liberation of Porto Rico. Even Hoover was compelled to admit in his recent imperialist trip to the island, that there is a growing demand of Porto Ricans for the independence of their country. To what extent has Communist influence penetrated the very minds of the workers and poor peasants can be seen by the response of the masses to the calls of the Communists–although not yet organized in the homogeneous groups–at mass meetings and demonstrations against unemployment In the city of Ponce, more than 1,000 workers responded to the call of the Communists on May Day in the Plaza Munoz Rivera. The Communist speakers were cheered. The workers hailed the Soviet Union.

The economic crisis in the United States has tremendously accentuated the crisis in Porto Rico which dates back for years. Because of the very monocultural nature of the economy of the country, the crisis in the sugar market brought the country to the brink of ruin and starvation. More than 60 per cent of the workers are unemployed today. American imperialist domination of Porto Rico for the last 30 years brought untold misery and physical degeneration to the nation. More than 600,000 people are suffering from the dreadful disease of hook worm. The “blessings” of Yankee occupation can be found in Governor Roosevelt’s report. For the last 20 years 300,000 people died of malnutrition and 33,000 of tuberculosis in the last decade. Roosevelt’s report presents the darkest picture in this history of Porto Rico. The huge surplus profits of American sugar barons and bankers and the native latifundists are extracted from the very blood of the toiling masses in the city and countryside. Illiteracy is widespread. There is a meagre provision for children’s education. The Porto Rican children sit at school benches with their stomachs empty. They are pale, emaciated.

In the last years a series of spontaneous strikes took place. Because of the lack of militant and sincere leadership, the workers were betrayed by the yellow socialist leaders. The leaders of the American Federation of Labor are not interested to organise the workers. More than 40.000 women and children toil in the sweatshops. These yellow leaders consciously hinder the organization of the workers in the plantations (sugar, tobacco and fruit). The plantations constitute the key position of the imperialists and landowners in the economic life of the country.

In the face of this situation, important and urgent tasks confront the Communists of Porto Rico. The crystallization of Communist groups which must inevitably lead to the organisation of a strong mass Communist Party, is conditioned by their daily activities in the class struggle. The Communist Party can only develop and thrive through the participation in the daily struggles of the working-class in all aspects of the work. Let us enumerate some of the most immediate tasks of our Communist sympathizers and groups in Porto Rico:

1. Within the existing trade unions, controlled by the reactionary yellow leaders, the Communists must strive to organize revolutionary opposition or left wing groups on the basis of a concrete program for the betterment of the conditions of the workers, for higher wages, sanitary conditions in the shops, insurance against accidents, recognition of the unions, etc. The Communists must be the live wire within the left wing groups who are to explain to the workers the necessity for the militant struggle against the yellow leaders and win over the majority to their aide around the program of immediate economic demands.

2. The organization of the unemployed workers into unemployed councils. Here the Communists must elaborate a program of action for concrete demands: Social insurance to the unemployed to be paid by the government and the imperialist enterprises, the funds to be administered by committees of workers. The unemployed councils must strive to link up their struggle with the employed workers within and without the unions.

3. The most urgent task of the Communists is the organisation of the agricultural workers in the plantations. These workers are the most exploited in the island and constitute the majority of the wage earners. The comrades must elaborate a program of partial demands in accordance with the existing conditions in the plantations. The organization of agricultural workers into revolutionary unions and their strike actions will shake the rural population and as Lenin said:

Only the strike struggle is capable to shake off the lethargy of the countryside, to wake the class consciousness and the understanding of the complete necessity of a class organisation for the exploited rural masses, to reveal to them in a practical way the value of their alliance with the workers in the cities.

The Fifth Congress of the Red International of Labor Unions has elaborated concrete suggestions as to the close collaboration and alliance that we must strive to establish between the city and agricultural workers. It is therefore, fundamentally important, that we must organize the thousands of unorganized workers in the cities into revolutionary Independent unions. This, of course, does not mean that we must not organize our left wing opposition in the reformist unions.

4. The Communists must be in the leadership in the movement for the national liberation of Porto Rico. The bourgeois political leaders are using more demagogy than ever in an attempt to retain their influence among the masses and check the growing demand of the people for complete independence. They also are for the “independence” of Porto Rico but in reality they work hand in hand with Yankee imperialism. The socialist party sends its representatives to the White House for more American loans the huge interests of which are to be paid by the workers and peasants. The Nationalist Party is more demagogic with its “left” phrases on this burning issue before the people of the islands. They must strive to win the toiling masses and the petty bourgeoisie, the students and city poor for the struggle for the independence of the island. On the basis of a concrete program of partial political demands, the Communists will succeed to lead the working class of Porto Rico for the hegemony in the struggle for national liberation.

In carrying out the above outlined tasks, the Communists will gain strength and prestige among the working class and the oppressed people, in the course of their activities, the Communists must and will secure the most militant elements in the trade unions, mills, plantations, shops, etc., for the building of the Communist Party of Porto Rico. The members of the existing Communist groups must be immediately organized into shop or street nuclei. They are to regularly pay their monthly dues at their unit meetings.

The passivity of the Communists and the lack of initiative for Communist work, is due to the lack of understanding of the daily tasks. However, we feel certain that the above given suggestions as to the immediate tasks of our comrades, if carried out, will ensure the way to the formation of a strong militant and mass Communist Party capable to lead the oppressed masses to the overthrow of imperialism and the rule of the native bourgeoisie in Porto Rico and the establishment of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.