A continuación publicamos un mensaje que recibimos desde West Virginia donde en días recientes la lucha de la clase trabajadora se ha intensificado. (Trabajaremos una traducción pronto.) Además de la valiente postura del magisterio en West Virginia, que desafió a su propio liderato sindical burocrático para mantenerse firme en su huelga por un aumento salarial digno y la financiación del sistema de seguro médico (PEIA) de las jugosas ganancias acumuladas por los capitalistas, los trabajadores de las comunicaciones agrupados en la CWA (Communication Workers of America) declararon una huelga a partir de anoche después de meses de engaños por los patronos. Esta intensificación de la lucha de clases no se limita a West Virginia. Los maestros desde Arizona y Oklahoma son algunos de los otros sectores de la clase obrera en EEUU que están haciendo preparativos para defender su derecho a una vida digna mediante la huelga. Desde Puerto Rico, donde toda la clase obrera se encuentra bajo las mismas agresiones capitalistas, expresamos nuestra solidaridad y voluntad para ampliar la lucha obrera.
From the Wobblies of West Virginia to the Workers of Puerto Rico
The impact of American imperialism over the last century and a half has had a devastating effect on the economic, political, and social lives of those it has come into contact with. Imperialist forces, working with the support of capitalists at home, have invaded, colonized, and plundered numerous lands and destroyed countless lives all for the sake of greed. In the case of Puerto Rico, self-determination has been too distant a promise. With the expulsion of the Spanish in 1898 and the continued colonization of the island thereafter, this time from white American imperialists, Puerto Rico’s economic condition throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries has been shaped by a history of land exploitation, resource control, and privatization brought on by outside forces.
West Virginia, as a peripheral state within the belly of the empire, knows these conditions far too well. West Virginia has the highest rate of obesity in the country, some of the highest rates of arthritis and cancer, and one of the lowest median household incomes in all fifty states. Centuries of economic exploitation, resource robbing, and inadequate health care has proven to us, too, that the capitalist class cares deeply for our land and people when we can be exploited for profit, and neglected where appropriate.
Yet both lands share a similar identity of resistance to said imperialism. In West Virginia, this led to the Mine Wars, a series of conflicts between workers and agents of the US government. At the Battle of Matewan in 1920, miners began opening fire against the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, a private agency that was known for its violent confrontations with labor unions in the early 20th century. At this battle, miners rose up in revolt against forced evictions from local housing, killing 7 class traitors in the process. At the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest armed uprising in the US since the American Civil War, 10,000 coal miners rose up against scabs, agents, and eventually the US military when economic conditions began to worsen and the increase in strikebreakers became too much for everyday workers. While in both battles the miners were ultimately defeated, their actions remain in the cultural memories of those who still inhabit this land. Their sacrifices are remembered by those who carry on their traditions of upending an established imperialist occupying force, meeting blow for blow and refusing to concede an inch to the merchants of death.
In Puerto Rico, likewise, a long-standing history of rebellion and revolt exists. Throughout the 1950s, a series of violent confrontations between the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and the United States-backed government of the island occurred, a direct result of decades of imperailist attempts to subvert the democratic process, end freedom of speech, and impose an island-wide gag order on any talk of independence. Similarly to the Mine Wars of West Virginia, these conflicts ultimately ended with the victory of imperialists over the workers of the land, yet such feats remain in the cultural memory of our people.
It is our people’s shared history of exploitation by the same forces that has united us in our class consciousness as workers. Yet it is in our responses to those forces that we find our commonalities as workers, opposed to American and international capitalists who would see us enslaved. Puerto Rico and West Virginia have faced impressive challenges in the past century. It is our desire that the struggle for labor rights in our state at present can act as some measure of unifying force in this present century — indeed, in this very moment — to unite workers across our great divide in the common cause of liberation.
We send our deepest gratitude to the workers of Puerto Rico for their inspirational words they have sent us. In our solidarity, we give thanks, knowing that the workers of all lands may soon join in the struggle for emancipation from the bondages of capitalism.