Chairman Ernesto Bustillos, Presente!

The following statement was made on April 3, 2012 by African Socialist International Chairman Omali Yeshitela at the memorial service for Ernesto Bustillos, longtime revolutionary leader from Union del Barrio.

Uhuru! Compañeras y Compañeros:

On today we are here to remember a remarkable man of heroic stature, a man who has left a profound imprint on history and on those of us who knew him.

I am here as the Chairman of the African Socialist International, a revolutionary party of the African working class that is active in several countries and on at least four continents.

In 2004, Compañero Ernesto Bustillos brought a message of solidarity to our conference in London from Union del Barrio and the struggling Mexican people. His words at that conference help us to understand his significance as a genuine revolutionary thinker and activist:

“I was born to an extremely poor existence. My mother worked in the fields and restaurant kitchens and my father was lumpenized by the social contradictions imposed upon us by capitalism and colonialism.

“So I am not supposed to be here today talking to you and creating unity among colonized people. I was supposed to grow up and become an enemy of the people or a slave with no consciousness or a petty criminal or drug pusher to be put away in a prison or concentration camp in the United States.”

Unlike Marx, Che, Fidel and a host of other important revolutionary leaders who were born to the middle class and to assumptions of academic achievement, Compañero Neto was of the mass of impoverished brutalized and colonized workers whose deplorable conditions of existence continue to be a precondition for the success of imperialism and of middle classes and academics worldwide.

One measure of this man whom we are remembering today is the magnitude of his achievements based on the depths from which he had to ascend.

And what are those achievements? Of course, we can easily point out the academic achievements. Those are relatively obvious to most who know of Chairman Neto. However, his occupation and academic surroundings meant that he was often in the Compañy of those with academic achievement that was equal and often more impressive than his. So it is also obvious that his academic achievement is not what has brought us here today to remember this giant.

As we know, academic achievement, when offered to and attained by the colonized, is seen as a means by which select representatives of the colonized escape the obvious conditions of the people in the often vain attempt to become a representative of the colonizer.

In the same London presentation from which I have already quoted, Compañero Ernesto helped us to understand what distinguished him from the vast majority of the colonized who do acquire academic achievement:

“I was one of those people who came in contact with the revolution as a teenager. I came in contact with the ideas of Emiliano Zapata, the revolutionary leader of Mexico, Marcus Garvey, Che Guevara and others. These ideas opened my eyes, raised my consciousness and got me into struggle.

“Once I joined the struggle, my commitment to revolutionary change was further consolidated by the ideas of V.I. Lenin, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Huey Newton, Ho Chi Minh, Carlos Fonseca of the Nicaraguan Revolution and Comandante Fidel Castro.”

What is clear is that Chairman Ernesto was a working class intellectual whose investigation of the world and his place and future in it, his worldview, was informed primarily by his experiences in life. He was born to a brutalized, colonially subject people, chained to a system whose normal functioning required a permanent state of servitude and misery for the majority.

While colonial education was seen by many as a means by which one could advance one’s own interests and perhaps join with the oppressor, Comrade Ernesto remained rooted in the struggle against capitalism and colonialism, including colonial education.

Another achievement of this great man was his revolutionary stamina. While his journey began as a teenager, his revolutionary ardor did not diminish with the passing years, as was the case with so many of his contemporaries.

When revolution was the fashion, when the masses were in arms and victory apparently on the horizon, dynamic, romantic leaders like Mao, Che and Malcolm X dominated the consciousness of colonized people of every class. It was easy to embrace struggle and the thought of revolution.

However, the real test would come with the setbacks, when Malcolm and Che were murdered in the Americas and Patrice Lumumba assassinated in Africa. When the funerals of revolutionaries began to cast a pall over the universe, Che Guevara’s words became the template by which we were able to measure the true mettle of our leaders. Said Che:

“It is not a matter of wishing success to the victim of aggression, but of sharing his fate; one must accompany him to his death or to victory.”

Compañero Neto did not flinch in the face of the many setbacks and defeats of our revolution. He never fled the trenches even as those all around him, many of them longtime comrades, sought security in retreat and, sometimes, in surrender.

The Chinese Communist Party declared the 1960s to be a time when revolution was the main trend in the world. It would not last. And with the defeat of our revolution many of those who did survive remained locked ideologically and politically to another era. The political and ideological struggles within our movements that preceded defeat, though unresolved, were dogmatically accepted by many as the guides for our struggles today.

We can all reflect on the state of the U.S. front of the Mexican National Liberation Movement during the period of its defeat or downturn. It was very similar to that of the U.S. front of the African Liberation Movement. We were both pretty clear that we existed as nationally oppressed people.

However, it fell to comrades like Chairman Neto to take us beyond this rather obvious conclusion. History was exposing the reality that there were others who apparently became victorious in the struggle against national oppression without victory being translated into progress for the suffering people.

It was his further development that allowed Chairman Ernesto to state at our London conference that, “We believe it will be the workers and the poor who will not only make revolution but must lead the revolution. We understand… that there is a worldwide struggle taking place between capitalism and imperialism and the colonized, oppressed peoples. We understand and we uphold that the Mexican Liberation Movement is part of this worldwide struggle of the colonized and neocolonized people against capitalism and imperialism, which in the main represents itself as white power.”

Comrade Ernesto must be remembered because he continued to develop ideologically and politically beyond the era of defeat. He continued to seek and develop theory and organizational forms that are suitable for our struggle today. He sought and trained a new generation of revolutionaries to replenish the ranks of our revolution. He helped our movement to stop living in the past and to take responsibility for forging a future in our own image.

I am here today as a representative of the suffering masses of African people primarily because of the efforts of Compañero Neto. This speaks to an essential feature of his significance as a revolutionary leader of these times, one whose works guide us to the future where suffering and misery are shifted from the now stooped backs of the colonized. His works guide us to a future where the bloated imperialist purveyors of war and oppression will face the judgment of our people as part of the process of constructing a world without capitalist exploitation and colonial oppression.

I am here today because of Chairman Ernesto’s determination to concretize the unity of the African and Mexican peoples through the unity of Union del Barrio and the African People’s Socialist Party.

He will always be remembered for this major contribution to the liberation of African and Mexican people. It was his incredible vision, going back for years, that is concretized by this relationship.

This relationship represents a major, critical step in our joint struggle, along with the suffering peoples of the world, to defeat U.S. and world imperialism. And, as Chairman Ernesto has said, it is an unprecedented relationship. This is a relationship that has gone beyond the formality usually reserved for political relationships between different organizations: we have shared homes, communities, conferences and mobilizations. It is a relationship that has created the ability of our people to embrace in deep, politically informed affection that is informed by the joy of united combat against death and imperialism.

Nearly two years ago, on July 10, 2010, speaking at the Fifth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA, Chairman Bustillos spoke eloquently of our organizational relationship and its significance. These are the words of this great leader:

“Comrades, Compañeros y Compañeras, for 25 years Union del Barrio and the African People’s Socialist Party have enjoyed what we consider to be an incredible and unprecedented fraternal and comradely unity.

“We don’t know that you can find two organizations that have worked so closely and with so much unity and in as principled a way, as has been the relationship between Union del Barrio and the African People’s Socialist Party…

“We believe that all people and all forces who believe in justice and freedom should know about and understand this alliance, because this solidarity, this unity between our organizations proves to the world that the unity of the oppressed people is possible.

“The unity between our organizations, we believe, is of major importance because it provides a historical materialist example to all revolutionaries, to all colonized people, that the oppressed people can and will unite to fight together for our common freedom.”

Compañeras y Compañeros, the African and Mexican peoples are two peoples who, because of the leadership of Comrade Chairman Ernesto Bustillos, have made a major contribution to the unification of the oppressed peoples of the world in our common humanity. Because of him we have advanced miles in the achievement of a liberated world of free people without exploitation and oppression and without borders.

Brothers and Sisters, Union del Barrio and the African People’s Socialist Party are two different organizations that, because of the leadership of Chairman Neto, are closer to functioning as one, with a division of labor that defines our task in a process that will result in the creation of a real Communist International that will finally unite the workers of the world in the struggle to rid humanity of capitalist and imperialist exploitation and colonial oppression.

It is because of these achievements that the African Socialist International and its members and supporters on at least four continents are able to share this occasion of remembering Comrade Ernesto Bustillos with you.

He was a proud son of the Mexican people and revolution, but Compa Neto belongs to Africans and the world as well.

Ernesto Bustillos, Presente!

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