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The Cuban revolution, and possibly recent events in Algeria, demonstrate the possibility that a radical bourgeois nationalist movement can be transformed in the course of its struggle into a revolutionary socialist movement; that the requirements of consistent anti-imperialism may cause sections of the radical bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie to desert their own class interests in behalf of their human and national interests. This transformation began in the Sierra Maestra, where a small group of middle class radicals who had had some contact with Marxism but who were still working within the traditions of student radicalism, first came into close contact with the agricultural population. It became critical in the immediate post-victory months when the split developed between those who regarded Batista’s flight as the beginning, and those who saw it as the end, of the revolution. It became irrevocable when the socialists, seeing what was taking place, gradually abandoned their suspicion of Castro to join in wholeheartedly. Thus, the transformation of the bourgeois radicals took place simultaneously with the change in class composition of the revolutionary movement.
Enemies of the Cuban Revolution have seen this process as a betrayal of the original program, and attribute it to events outside the revolution itself (such as the conniving of the communists and the perfidy of Fidel). Many supporters of the revolution also have failed to grasp the significance of the changes. Confounding the refreshing lack of dogmatism of the Cuban leaders with their lack of theory, writers such as C. Wright Mills and Jean-Paul Sartre elevated the empiricism and improvization of the early days into a virtue. They saw in Fidelismo the only successful socialist revolution not led by the communists and regarded the Cuban revolution as a refutation of the dogma of working class hegemony and the need for a revolutionary Marxist party. Thus, they saw in the Cuban revolution the prototype of a radically new kind of revolutionary struggle.
A full evaluation of this question would require the detailed study of a number of countries, the roles of the various classes and their parties, the influence of the organized left tradition on the transformation of the radical bourgeois movements, etc. Here we will concentrate on only one aspect of the problem: to what extent and in what ways can a radical bourgeois nationalist movement transcend these limits? Since the leading radical independentist organization in Puerto Rico today is the Movimiento Pro Independencia, most of the discussion will refer to this group (MPI), the ways in which it has gone beyond the earlier independence movements, the limits of its development in the short-range future.
We cannot here present a documented, extensive analysis of the present situation in Puerto Rico, but the following assertions, which can perhaps be discussed more fully another time, provide the starting-point for the analysis of recent political developments:
1. The Puerto Rican economy in recent years has been typical of the commercial-colonial side of world capitalism. There has been a permanent balance-of-payments deficit made good by new investment from the United States. There has been a boom in trade, finance, real estate, and construction concentrated in the San Juan area and a few other urban centers. New jobs have been created in light industry which, together with emigration, have just about balanced the growing unemployment in the sugar industry, the waterfront, and agriculture in general. On the whole the standard of living has improved noticeably although unevenly among classes and regions. The rate of growth of the economy has been above average for colonial areas but behind that of recently liberated socialist countries.
2. North American capital has increasingly spread out from its traditional spheres of investment to invade almost all sectors of the economy. In the process it has been absorbing the more energetic Puerto Rican businessmen as executives, concessionaires, and sales representatives. Even those enterprises which are completely owned by Puerto Ricans are linked to United States capital through credit, sources of supply, or their owners, who frequently are also distributors for North American firms. Finally, the 50,000 or so resident continentals are a conspicuous part of the upper and middle class environment, which is becoming increasingly Americanized.
3. The present government of Luis Munoz Marin’s Popular Democratic Party is a liberal colonial administration, relatively free from personal corruption. A large part of its budget goes for education, health, welfare, low cost housing, and road building. Puerto Rico is an excellent test case of the limits of reform within the colonial system and is Washington’s prototype for other similar regions of the world.
The liberalism of the regime extends also to civil rights. There has never been any mass McCarthyism, and the local government has arrested the opposition only reluctantly, under pressure from Washington. Most of the political prisoners today were arrested in connection with the Nationalist uprising of 1950, so that they must be defended in terms of a people’s revolutionary right to resist rather than as civil liberties cases in the usual sense. The police surveillance and harassment of independentists has been increasing in recent months, and a press campaign is attempting to exclude the left from the sphere of legitimate politics through red-baiting and anti-Castro propaganda. However there is not anything resembling police terrorism, nor are the organs of suppression a major factor in the weakness of the liberation movement at this time.
4. The principal determinant of United States policy toward Puerto Rico is now the State Department, whereas in the 1940’s it was the Pentagon (which insisted on holding the “Gibraltar of the Caribbean”) and previous to that time the sugar companies. In exchange for services to United States foreign policy, the Munoz government has been given a relatively free hand locally. His administration includes many New Dealers who see in Puerto Rico the last stronghold of FDR’s social program, and although conservatives in the Departments of Agriculture, Justice, and elsewhere regard many local policies as socialistic, they have not succeeded in curtailing them completely.
Since 1898, the struggle for independence and the struggles of the working class over economic issues have been generally waged by separate, often hostile, movements.
Santiago Iglesias, the founder of the Socialist Party, was released from a Spanish prison when United States troops landed in San Juan. Himself a Spaniard without strong personal ties to Puerto Rico, he believed that nationalism was merely the appeal of one’s “own” bourgeoisie to sacrifice the class struggle to a spurious national unity. The replacement of the autocratic, semi-feudal rule of Spain by that of a vigorous, democratic empire seemed to him (and to many former autonomists as well) to be a major step forward. Populist pressure in Congress had forced through the 500 acre law limiting corporate land ownership (not enforced). Political rights were increased. Fraternal ties with the Socialist Labor Party and later the Socialist Party in the United States held out the promise of benefits from the new ties. Living conditions improved and it was soon decided that it was better to work for a big United States corporation than for a local petty exploiter. In 1902 the Puerto Rican Socialist Party affiliated with the United States Socialists at the latter’s Rochester convention despite the advice of August Classens, Meyer London, and others who urged an independentist program and fraternal ties. The labor movement subsequently joined the AFL. Having allied itself to the United States in order better to fight the local exploiters, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party ended up in electoral coalition with the Republican Party (organ of the local rich) in order to defeat the independentists, and the birthday of Santiago Iglesias is celebrated each year by a banquet to labor-management peace.
The national bourgeoisie (with its strongest base among the coffee planters of the western highlands), the professionals and intellectuals were represented by the Unionist (later Liberal) Party. Its program included independence, but this was not pursued vigorously. Within the heterogeneous assemblage of this party, independence feeling was strongest among three elements: First, the coffee farmers, who were ruined by inclusion within the United States tariff, lost their European market, lacked the resources to recover from the hurricane of 1898, and sank into mortgage debt; second, Conservatives who shared Santiago Iglesias’ evaluation of the “change of sovereignty,” drew opposite conclusions, resented any outside interference in their freedom to exploit the Puerto Rican workers, and feared the progressive features of United States society; and third, the intellectuals and students who felt most sharply the cultural impact of the invasion, resisted Protestantization, resented the imposition of English, and protested against the boorish behavior of yankee tourists and sailors. These categories overlapped broadly and found their outstanding spokesman during the first quarter century of United States rule in Jose de Diego. His poetry resounded with stirring calls to “Awake! Arise! Resist!” but in the insular Senate he earned the enduring hatred of the working class by his opposition to University scholarships and by other reactionary positions. He objected to disinfecting holy water in the churches during an epidemic, and based his opposition to the imposition of English on the argument that English is a closed-mouthed language adapted to cold climates and is biologically incompatible with an Hispanic civilization. De Diego is still a major hero to the independentists, who celebrate his birthday annually, but it has never been possible to attract the workers to this celebration.
The third major political force in Puerto Rico has been the pro-American, conservative, Republican Statehood Party (PER) which is the direct spokesman for big business and the sugar industry.
These three currents clashed and combined in peculiar ways. After the Russian revolution, when Socialist strength was at its height, the Unionist Party joined with the Republicans to suppress the workers. In order to do this the Unionists temporarily dropped their demand for independence from the platform. A group withdrew from the party in protest and founded the Nationalist Party, which after a decade of foundering became the organ of militant, uncompromising anticolonialism under Pedro Albizu Campos. Meanwhile, the wave of socialist revolutions had receeded internationally, and the upsurge of nationalism seemed to be the greater danger. The Republicans then formed a coalition with the Socialists against the independentists.
The coming of the New Deal created new contradictions. Although the pro-American Republican Party rejected the Roosevelt reforms and denounced Washington’s “colonialism,” the independentist Liberal Party (the Unionists reorganized) collaborated with FDR.
The career of Munoz Marin is a particular history of the contradictory relations between the economic and political struggles. The son of Luis Munoz Rivera, autonomist under Spain and later Unionist leader, the young Munoz was certainly for independence. While living in New York he associated with the left, and returned to Puerto Rico determined to struggle for the emancipation of the rural poor. He wrote,
I am the pamphleteer of God,
and I go with the mob of stars and hungry men
toward the great dawn...
In the twenties he worked with, but did not join, the Socialist Party because he believed that liberty would have no meaning to starving people. Later he collaborated with the New Deal, but broke with the New Deal administrator in Puerto Rico when the latter demanded that he denounce the Nationalist violence. Munoz participated in the struggle to free the Nationalist political prisoners, and in the early days of his Popular Democratic Party (P.P.D.) attempted to combine the struggles for national and economic liberation. Although he believed that both were good, he saw no necessary relation between them. “Political status is, in the special case of Puerto Rico, a political problem... but is not, as in other places, an economic problem.” Thus the two parts of the Popular program were added to each other, not united. Conditions of the moment would determine priority.
This jumping back and forth between national and economic issues has earned for Munoz the reputation of a man without any political principles, a pure opportunist, but there is no such thing as a “pure” opportunist. Opportunism consists in sacrificing one set of principles to another set, usually of less significance. It does not answer the question “which principles are being sacrificed to which?”
The Popular party owed its exceptional vigor in the early days to the combination of the national and social struggles. It awoke the rural masses to political activity with a new sense of dignity and militancy, and inspired the intellectuals to scheme vast projects. Within six years the illusions of wartime liberalism had convinced the PPD leadership of the possibility of virtually unlimited social progress while linked to Washington. Independence was to be postponed, it was not “at issue” for the moment, but the social program initially was pursued vigorously. The government built several factories, began to enforce the 500 acre law, passed legislation protecting the rights of the agregado (laborer who lives on the plantation where he is employed).
Soon what had begun as a tactic became a principle: by 1946 one could no longer advocate independence within the PPD. The acceptance of “permanent association” soon affected the social program as well. No new government factories were built and the existing ones were sold to private interests; no land was expropriated after 1948; the idea of a Puerto Rican merchant marine was abandoned. Having sacrificed independence to begin the sweeping social changes that would make independence meaningful, the PPD had to abandon the social changes that proved to be incompatible with continued colonialism.
The Popular coalition fell apart. Those who would not defer independence formed the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueno, an electoral party which was usually to the right of Munoz on social issues. It flourished briefly during the 1950’s, reached a maximum of about25% of the vote, and declined thereafter. Others stayed on in the PPD, hoping that the Munoz program would lead indirectly to independence or that they could at least do something through the ministries of health or education or the Institute of Puerto Rican culture. The local rich started drifting into the Popular party machine.
Thus, the heritage of sixty years of American rule was a reformist labor movement, a liberal regime which favors all kinds of progressive changes except the essential ones, and an independentist movement which has contempt for social issues and speaks in the romantic rhetoric of an archaic hell-fire and brimstone nationalism.
Then came Cuba.
The Movimiento Pro Independencia (MPI) was founded in 1959 from among the more militant local leaders of the defunct Partido Independentista Puertorriquena who were disillusioned by that party’s domestication as “his majesty’s opposition,” former Nationalists who had lost faith in terrorism, a sprinkling of unaffiliated independentists and Marxists. Its initial declaration proclaimed its purpose “to consolidate the independentist forces in an integrated movement, a powerful crusade of exclusively patriotic motivation, and in the honest and firm purpose to maintain itself as a non-partisan organ of struggle.”
In the three years since then the MPI has in fact brought together most of the best elements of previous independence movements, has become the authoritative spokesman of Puerto Rican independence at home and internationally and has begun to forge a common ideology and strategy out of the heterogeneous currents present at its founding. This is embodied in its Draft Political Thesis, a comprehensive evaluation of Puerto Rican society, its place in the world situation, and a program of struggle. The draft has been under discussion for about half a year and will be presented to the next National Assembly in November 1962. The mere fact of this program’s existence is unprecedented in Puerto Rican politics where Party programs have generally been simply a list of good things the authors propose to do if elected.
In the discussion that follows, the draft program is the source of all material not otherwise identified. Emphasis will be given to those aspects of the program which help evaluate the extent to which the MPI has gone beyond the traditional limits of independentism and the extent to which it is still a prisoner of the past.
To conservative independentists, the continued occupation of Puerto Rico is an anomaly, alien to the true spirit and interests of the United States and a stain on the banner of the Free World. They anticipate no drastic changes following independence, and a major part of their strategy is to convince the United States that they are not communists. The radical nationalist tradition is primarily a moral judgment: the Treaty of Paris, ceding Puerto Rico without consent. Colonialism is bad and is to be traced to North American desires to build an empire. The various manifestations of colonialism are seen as equally bad, but the strongest reaction is often against its relatively secondary expressions.
The MPI sees the struggle for independence as “the result of a conflict whose opposite poles are the general interest of Puerto Rico as a nation and the vested interests of the United States as an imperialist power.” This conflict is traced through a number of issues, with emphasis on the economic, but not class, aspects of empire. It is shown that there are super profits derived from colonialism and perfectly good reasons to hold on to the empire. Therefore, the conflict is inevitable.
The small size of Puerto Rico has caused all political movements to be aware of and interested in international events. The government party sees Puerto Rico’s small size as requiring dependence on the United States, whereas the revolutionaries have always looked for support from abroad to attain independence. To Albizu’s nationalists the support was primarily to be found in Latin America, where ties of language and culture were expected to create sympathy for a brother nation. He also welcomed but probably did not understand the diplomatic support given by the USSR. Other independentists at one time flirted with Trujillo. Thus, international support was expected either because of ties of blood or out of opportunism, and was reciprocated only to the extent of a vague sympathy for the Irish and Israeli struggles and an awareness that colonialism was dying.
The MPI sees the anticolonial struggle as the dominant political fact of our era. It sees the struggle of Puerto Rico as part of the international struggle and recognizes that the socialist countries and the left in general is anticolonial permanently and as a matter of principle, not simply momentarily and as a question of tactics. Further, a distinction is made between mere formalin-dependence and national liberation: “The struggle for national liberation is something more than mere independence in its formal aspect. National liberation means the recovery of the patrimony of our peoples, now alienated to foreign hands. In those countries which have formal independence it is expressed in terms of giving real content to this independence, freeing our peoples from the neo-colonial domination of the United States. In those countries which are still subject to classical colonialism the struggle points to political independence as a first necessary step toward total liberation..” (Carta Semanal #74, September 28, 1962).
The test of internationalism for any Latin American movement today is Cuba. To conservative independentists Cuba is a major embarrassment. Some have abandoned the struggle for fear of communism, whereas others want to make it clear that they have no intention of following the Cuban example and accuse the left of selling out independence to the communists. Four organizations, the MPI, Accion Patriotica Unitaria, the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party, support the Cuban Revolution.
The Cuban Revolution has a double significance for Latin America: 1. It is the first place where the struggle for national liberation has triumphed in our America. 2. It is the first socialist revolution in Latin America.... The revolutionary government is a natural ally of all the peoples who struggle for national liberation. It is our duty, and the duty of all who struggle in the different countries of Latin America, to support the people and revolutionary government of Cuba against imperialist attempts to reconquer her. Thus the MPI declares that the defense of Cuba’s right to self determination, and solidarity with her efforts to free herself from imperialism, is coextensive with our independentist struggle and the duty of every member of the MPI. This does not mean that a member of the MPI has to support the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution, or its details and methods. . .The MPI aspires to realize its tasks of national liberation within the framework of Christian doctrine which is the ethical basis of the Puerto Rican nation.... (Carta Semanal #74).
This view, expressed by the secretary general Juan Mari Bras, is more or less a consensus of the leadership, but there is a range of opinion including the Marxist in the movement. When Fidel Castro announced that he was a Marxist, Mari declared (El Mundo 12/7/61):
Marxism-Leninism is a philosophical, economic, and political doctrine whose theoretical base was developed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and later extended, in the light of experience, by Lenin.
I reject completely and totally the philosophical aspect of Marxism which is based on a materialist conception of life and of man which is incompatible with my firm Christian faith, which is the foundation upon which my whole scale of values rests and upon which I base my ideology. ... .1 subscribe completely to the economic thesis of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Because of its correctness and accuracy this economic aspect of Marxism-Leninism will prevail universally as a substitute for decadent capitalism.
As to the political formulations of Marxism-Leninism, I have major reservations about its ability to guarantee a democratic process.
Thus, that Juan Mari Bras, and many of the other MPI leaders, are not Marxist is not due to ignorance of Marxism or a blind anti-communist hostility, but rather a conscious and informed choice which is unlikely to be modified in the near future. On the other hand, the movement cannot be split by anticommunism (although its growth may be impaired) nor will it abandon the struggle for fear of the communists.
The Nationalist Party deliberately avoided discussion about what kind of society should be built after independence, for such discussion was regarded as potentially divisive at a time when the task was to achieve independence. In private conversation Nationalists would say that after the republic is established they would be communists or social democrats or Christian democrats, each going his own way.
For the MPI, independence would be the beginning of a radical reconstruction of the national life. The aims, set out in Volume two of the Draft Political Thesis, are:
Recovery of the national patrimony for the Puerto Rican people, reduction of living costs, development of a diversified agriculture which, as far as possible, would provide the raw materials needed locally, development of industry to meet the needs of the national market, and reorganization of the basis of the distribution of wealth. Among the measures proposed for these ends are the nationalization of foreign holdings and government control of foreign trade and credit. The land holdings of foreign companies, land currently held by the government, and land held in excess of the 500 acre limit would be organized into state farms, and to some extent cooperatives. Private farming would be encouraged within the 500 acre limit, with government credit, marketing, and technical facilities integrating the three kinds of land property in a national planned economy.
There is also some discussion of the industrial pattern. Although Puerto Rico does possess natural resources, none are unique to Puerto Rico; therefore, the island’s role in the future world economy will depend on the development of special skills in industries that do not depend on very bulky cheap materials.
With respect to the private sector of the economy the program states “The liberty of one man cannot be based on the slavery of others. Thus, the social necessities which affect everybody will take priority over the individual’s. The individual rights to property can never be allowed to be an obstacle to the rights of the whole society to provide the material base for the human development of all.”
Other sections discuss the need for socialized medicine, solution of the housing problem, commercial relations with other countries, and many other issues. The question of political democracy is discussed at length. The MPI recognizes that formal democratic proceedures do not guarantee a democratic national life. ”In order for there to be democracy the people must participate in government in a permanent way... The permanent mobilization of the people through political parties, unions, community organizations, etc., and the constant communication between government and people will provide the basis of popular government. .. (The legislative organs) will be made up of representatives of all sectors of the country with the requirement that the representatives continue in their previous occupations. They will not receive payment beyond their expenses... so that instead of condemning the elected peasant, worker, intellectual, or businessman to a bureaucratic existence cut off from the people, the true purposes of representative government in a democracy will be attained: the formation of policy will flow from the people.”
To the modern independentist, national independence means not isolation but internationalization: reopening of many diverse ties with the whole world and an especial affinity towards the other former colonial areas. It is expected that an independent Puerto Rico will join the Afro-Asian “Neutral” bloc.
Thus the MPI program shows that although not a socialist movement the MPI has adopted many aspects of socialist thinking and has proceeded sufficiently in a socialist direction so that the logic of events would be likely to lead it further. It has no special affection for “free enterprise, ” recognizes the need for a planned economy, and accepts the principle that only a thorough reorganization of society can make independence meaningful.
Within this context it is of secondary importance that such a mixed economy cannot be permanent or that there are utopian illusions of a bourgeois cooperation in such a program. Many of the MPI leaders themselves had never heard of socialism until the Cuban revolution and have been attracted to socialism primarily through its successful opposition to imperialism.
The MPI thesis accepts the analysis of Puerto Rican politics outlined in Section III and maintains that the national and the social struggles are both part of the progressive tradition of the past and must be synthesized in a new movement. “From this analysis it follows that the MPI is a new way of uniting the two traditional liberation currents: the struggle for independence and the economic struggle. Thus will be ended finally the tendency to counterpose the economic interests of the country and even of classes and sectors of the population, to the political interests which are the general interests of the nation. ”
After describing the ease with which the big bourgeoisie can accommodate itself to the colonial regime the program adds that, “the struggle for independence is being displaced from the bourgeoisie to the workers. And as a corollary of this, the workers, especially the industrial working class, is called upon to play an ever more decisive role in the independence struggle not merely as followers but as active participants in the top leadership. ”
Class analysis is new to most of the leadership. Several pages later the program declares, “The struggle for independence must take into consideration the whole of the national question. The nation is a complex, not a simple organism formed by set of interests that come together in a common interest. We deal here not with the struggle of one class but of all the classes that retain national sentiment. Thus the struggle must be regarded in terms completely opposed to political sectarianism and dogmatism. ”
This view of the nation as a harmony of interests carries with it the feeling that national struggles are in some way not political but on a plane above, and hinders the full assimilation of views that were adopted in the draft. Confusing dogmatism with principle, this outlook results in joint united actions by all independentists on the lowest possible political level.
There are many other indications that the present draft is the product of an as yet unresolved conflict between the older traditions of cultural nationalism and a radicalized class-conscious movement of total liberation. In part it is a reflection of the collective authorship of the document, but there was not much conflict in the course of writing it, and the 200 or so leaders who discussed it at the Second National Seminar last June were not aware of any inconsistencies. Rather, the contradictions in the thesis are contradictions within the same collective consciousness. For the present the working class, socialist element of the thesis must be regarded as unassimilated ideas which affect the interpretation of events but not yet the functioning or planning of the movement.
This is seen most clearly when we examine the strategic goals of the MPI as expressed in the Draft: “The organizational consolidation of a patriotic vanguard with a common program and strategy; the alliance of this vanguard with all independentist elements; the mobilization of the “active, passive, and potential forces of independence” through many kinds of struggles aimed at exerting pressure on the United States; the definitive defeat of the annexionist forces (statehood); the focusing of our demand for sovereignty through the United Nations plan for the total elimination of colonialism; and the rallying of world anticolonial sentiment in support of our demand.”
Whereas in the analysis of Puerto Rican politics the aim is proclaimed to unite the political and economic struggles, the section on strategy talks only of uniting the independentists. There is another section in which trade union matters are discussed and the aim put forth of forming a Puerto Rican-controlled central labor organization as opposed to the domination by United States unions. Aside from expressions of sympathy for the struggles of the working class, the MPI limits itself to independentist demands within the labor movement. There is the desire to win workers for independence, but as yet no program which suggests how, or which sees the interests of the working class as having autonomous validity. This weakness is a reflection of the fact that the movement has had its greatest success among the intellectuals. The leading artists and writers are independentists, and they have held the offensive consistently on cultural questions. The labor movement is still alien territory. Even though there are workers active in the leadership of the MPI, there is no indication that they have any special workingclass outlook. Rather, they too are bourgeois nationalists who happen to be workers. For the present the class element in the analysis has not reached the program.
The MPI has already achieved its aim of becoming the vanguard of the independence struggle. In at least half the municipalities, all the militant independentists belong to the MPI, and of the 4,000 or so who made the pilgrimage to Lares to commemorate the 1868 rebellion, at least three quarters were brought by the MPI. The period of organizational growth now seems to be leveling off at about 2,000 to 3,000 members derived mostly from previous independentist background. The next phase, that of winning the non-independentist masses, is yet to begin. To some extent it is hindered by the efforts to unite all independentist groups. For example, the oratory at the Lares meeting on September 23, 1962 touched only on points of common agreement and reduced the message to the lowest ideological and sentimental nationalist rhetoric, uplifting but unconvincing.
The vanguard role of the MPI is not considered only in terms of numbers. Juan Mari Bras (Carta Semanal #75) writes:
The vanguard does not have to lead the great masses of the people directly. The vanguard opens the breach, and in the course of the natural development of the historic process the people climb through the breach made by the vanguard even if they are unaware of it and do so spontaneously...
Over two years ago we initiated a campaign against the assimilationist propaganda of the Catholic Church in Puerto Rico. We denounced the teaching in English in the Catholic schools.. .We accused the Bishop of Ponce of having become a spokesman for assimilation, to the detriment of his ecclesiastic dignity... We opened the breach. Since it was a correct attack, since our protest was right, there have now arisen within the church itself protests which came to a head when even the Secretary of Education had to condemn those who use the private schools to Americanize Puerto Rico. Can anyone hope that the Secretary of Education join the MPI? Can we even expect that all the members of the Bishop Arismendi Society (Catholic lay group campaigning against Americanization in the Church – M.B.) join our movement? Surely not. The Secretary, and many members of the Arismendi Society continue to regard us as subversives. Nevertheless they have begun to move through the breach we opened, that is what is important.
The MPI is not an electoral organization. Although it refuses to make either abstention from or participation in elections questions of principle, it considers its present role to be primarily educational. Most of the activity of the MPI consists of public demonstrations, protests, observation of historic anniversaries, rallies, etc. The mood of the membership, and of other independentist groupings is such that any decision to participate in an election at present would be divisive, since the Nationalist tradition of boycott of all colonial institutions has been reinforced in recent years by the dismal experience of the electoral Partido Independentista Puertorriquena.
The same tendency to regard the national struggle as above classes also sows illusions about the United Nations. The growing importance of the former colonies who are committed to anti-imperialist foreign policies has given rise to the belief that a majority of the UN can be won to demand independence for Puerto Rico.
Many of the newly liberated countries have conservative governments, and as the class struggles within these countries become sharper the right wing elements must seek an accommodation with the United States. Their own traditions will continue to demand that they denounce Portuguese colonialism, with its open terrorism, and to defend South Africans against the fascist government, but they will be able to find ambiguities to justify vacillations with respect to the United States’ colony.
Regardless of any UN resolutions the United States will not concede independence. Only prolonged mass struggles will finally bring about a situation in which both locally and internationally the costs of holding Puerto Rico will outweigh the political and economic benefits.
Even then it is likely that the United States will carry out a “strategic withdrawal” rather than be routed; that it will leave power in the hands of a puppet government which will try to save something, and a new cycle of struggle will be necessary before full liberation.
The victory of the Puerto Rican people is not imminent, and the MPI must orient toward a very long and difficult period. There is already a growing awareness of this, and after the next session of the UN, when the case of Puerto Rico is expected to be heard, the illusions will die. This may produce a certain let down before a new and more realistic strategy is evolved.
The MPI marks the highest level yet achieved by radical bourgeois nationalism in Puerto Rico. The red-baiting campaign against the militant independentists has already produced in Puerto Rico the splits that began in Cuba after the conquest of power; it has left a united movement that definitively rejects anticommunism. Despite an avowedly idealist philosophy, its analysis of the nature of imperialism and the history of Puerto Rico is materialist. It is sympathetic to socialism, sees its own struggles as part of a world wide anti-imperialist front, calls upon the working class to assume a decisive role in the struggle, and regards independence as only the first step toward total liberation.
It is still a bourgeois movement. It appeals to workers in an attempt to win them to the national struggle, but does not yet support the workers’ interests as such.
Therefore it has not yet taken any real steps toward a true merging of the two militant traditions of nationalism and socialism.
The immediate future for the MPI will be a continuation of its present course. It is likely to become even more overwhelmingly predominant among the independentist groups. Its analysis of the world situation and of the needs of the struggle in Puerto Rico will become more accurate, and will begin to be assimilated by the membership. And very slowly it will outgrow that empty rhetoric which sometimes encourages the convinced but alienates the doubtful. In the course of this development it will be able to carry the ideological struggle at least to the intellectuals of the Popular Party.
To the extent that the MPI succeeds in consolidating its role among the independentists, its weakness vis-a-vis the working class will become more obvious. The masses continue to follow the PPD, albeit with more cynicism than before. They do so because no movement, including the MPI, has yet presented them with an alternative program that is convincing.
Here we see a fundamental difference between the Cuban and Puerto Rican situations. In Cuba, the bourgeois radicals were able to win the working class by convincing it that they were consistent in their anti-imperialism. Once convinced, the workers joined in transforming the class composition and content of the revolution. In Puerto Rico the working class is yet to be won to an anti-imperialist outlook.
This brings to the fore the contradiction in the MPI’s situation. The biggest obstacle to its further advance, to its leading a mass breakaway from the colonial parties, is the dead weight of the old nationalist tradition, but this tradition can only be overcome very slowly as long as the movement does not recruit among the workers and socialist elements.
It cannot win these sectors with its present make-up and mode of action. Only among the Marxists do we find an independentist current that does not come from the old nationalist tradition. Theirs is a special responsibility. Working on the basis of the MPI’s formally accepted but not yet assimilated program, they may be able to reach out to the nonindependentist progressives and take the first steps toward bringing the national and social struggles together in a new, vigorous movement of National Liberation.