Keeping alive my family’s socialist roots

Luis Tejada speaks from the floor at the FSP 2019 convention. PHOTO: Alison Thorne / FS
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The Dominican Republic was once a stepping stone of mercenary European explorers who arrived with the aim of exploiting and colonizing the land and the inhabitants of what they called “The Americas” for their monarchs. It is home to experienced resisters of U.S. imperialism. And it is also the neighboring country to Haiti, the first nation of the world founded by a slave-led rebellion. All this history of oppression and radicalism has been part of my life because of my upbringing in this island nation.

Because I enjoyed socializing with elders, I had the opportunity to hear from my relatives of the communist revolutionary experiences of the 1960s and the dwindling movements of the 1980s. As a Black teenager, my grandmother organized with the 14th of June Movement and the Dominican Communist Party. She shared stories of radical women leaders organizing protests to overthrow the corrupt government of Joaquín Balaguer and replace it with one organized under the wings of the leadership of the most oppressed. These women supported the aim for socialism in the Dominican Republic as inspired by Cuba and the Soviet Union by writing for the party’s paper, writing agitational flyers, supporting and organizing with the people’s armed fronts.

The struggle was bloodily crushed by the corrupt tyrannical counter-revolutionary government of Balaguer with help from U.S. armed forces. The hope for workers, women, and young students to take control of the means of production and to alter a bureaucratic government for a democratic system was brutally taken away. Organizers were either killed or incarcerated and through major fear-mongering tactics, others became afraid to participate in the movement.

All this colored my relatives’ perspective. They believe that the imperialists are too powerful to overthrow and they became disillusioned with the bureaucratization and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Regardless, I chose to continue participating in collective movements with the potential of giving the oppressed majority more control and rights. I was also motivated by the radical leadership of my grandmother and other female relatives who stuck to their socialist and feminist principles despite all the terror.

Unexpected radicalism. It had never occurred to me that in New York City or the United States there would be socialist organizers. I had seen the U.S. as a roadblock to liberation and socialism. Across the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. offers support to corrupt and tyrannical governments to extinguish socialist movements in their backyard.

I thought I saw a reflection of this in a privileged working class without an inch of solidarity for the oppressed workers of the world and a consciousness infected with the racist and sexist virus fueled by an elite profit system. But I was wrong.

As I participated more in street movements for social justice in New York, I noticed that socialist principles were not foreign nor repulsive to the U.S. people. The majority called out for socialized medicine, free public education, and holding cops accountable.

I met organizers of the Freedom Socialist Party in the coalition that is working for community oversight of the New York Police Department through an Elected Civilian Review Board. The grassroots message of FSP members and their revolutionary socialist feminist program spoke to my political principles. I saw great opportunity in their organizing and political program to be a strong challenger in the next mass socialist revolutionary movements like those of the ’60s.

Since then, I’ve seen a cadre accountable to socialist revolutionary politics and participant leaders in mass movement work. This organization is not a “talk-shop”; it does not encapsulate itself in a bubble disconnected from the masses. The party has a long tradition of educating, agitating and leading.

So, I joined.

I appreciate FSP’s core belief in the leadership of the most oppressed — women, youth and people of color — in any movement. The FSP recognizes that a militant working-class struggle includes more than “bread and butter” labor issues, as the Black Lives Matter rebellion in the streets vividly illustrates.

Our socialist feminist program and seriousness to organizing a new society with respect and participation for all is why I believe all revolutionaries should join me in the FSP.

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