Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization

What Road for the Puerto Rican Movement?

First Published: The Guardian, May 16, 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Guardian Introduction:The following contribution to the Radical Forum is a critique of the Declarations released at the first U.S. Congress of the U.S. branch of the Puerto Rican Socialist party. The Congress was recently held in New York City. The critique is written by the standing committee of the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), formerly known as the Young Lords party.

The U.S. Branch of the Puerto Rican Socialist party (PSP) recently completed its first Congress. This was a significant event, not only for the Puerto Rican movement but for the development of the American revolution. Significant because it produced a serious work, the Declarations, that will do much towards raising the level of ideological struggle among communists and advanced workers; and significant because the proletarian line that grows stronger from this ideological struggle will develop in direct combat with the opportunist world view presented in the Declarations by the PSP.

In this article, the PRRWO will not attempt a thorough critique of the PSP Declarations. We are in the process of producing a pamphlet for that purpose. However, there is a need for an immediate response to major points raised by PSP. We hope this is viewed as is intentioned, as a contribution to a much-needed ideological struggle that can only strengthen our movement, which, in the Puerto Rican sector, has been unfolding recently with the publication of PRRWO’s Resolutions from its first Congress in July 1972, El Comite’s theoretical articles in issues of Unidad Latina and PSP’s Declarations.

In this article, we will deal chiefly with one point, the national question with regards to Puerto Ricans in the U.S., as the incorrect analysis of this is the central error made by PSP, from which all else flows. For PSP, the crux of how to conduct revolutionary work among Puerto Ricans living in America lies in seeing our people in the U.S. as part of the Puerto Rican nation. The Declarations state: “We believe that Puerto Ricans in the United States and those on the island form one nation, the Puerto Rican nation.” This is the essence of PSP’s agreement. Its bankruptcy can be seen most clearly in the political direction to which PSP heads from the conclusions they reach. The Declarations say: “That is why we maintain that Puerto Rican workers on the island and in the United States have to establish for themselves the objective of obtaining the independence of Puerto Rico. Our independence is indispensable in order to guarantee the survival of our nation.

“That is why we must develop a common struggle, with a common strategy and directed by one party that organizes on the island as well as in the United States, wherever Puerto Ricans are found.”


In these words we find formulated none other than the “divided nation theory” first formulated by the Young Lords in December 1970. At that time, the position of the Movement for Puerto Rican Independence, now the PSP, was that this “divided nation theory” was ridiculous because Puerto Ricans in the U.S. were not “real” Puerto Ricans. We were a breed called “niuyorquinos.”

At no time do the Declarations sum this up as a self-criticism – it is not even mentioned. Yet it appears as though PSP arrived at their analysis of the national question with regards to Puerto Ricans in the U.S. through its own research – while all revolutionaries among the Puerto Rican people in the U.S. have been engaged in struggle over this question since 1968.

But that is not the major error in these paragraphs, the lack of self-criticism. What is key is in examining the danger of building one party for Puerto Ricans in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, of setting as the primary task for work among Puerto Ricans in the U.S. the independence of Puerto Rico. We must examine the conditions that led to PRRWO’s repudiation of the “divided nation theory” as opportunism, in its Congress of July 1972.

Let us see how PSP attempts to reconcile the illusions raised in the above-quoted paragraphs with reality. Immediately following we find:

“None of this negates the fact that Puerto Rican workers in the United States, since they are part of the exploited class in this country, must join forces with the rest of the working classes in the United States in order to struggle for the revolutionary transformation of the structure of capitalist exploitation in this country. Nation and class are two different categories that do not contradict each other. As Puerto Ricans we function with a national perspective in mind. As workers we form part of a social class that transcends national boundaries and we must articulate our struggle in an international perspective and specifically in relation to the immediate circumstances in which we live. That is why at the same time that we form an integral part of the struggle for the national liberation of Puerto Rico we must also seek revolutionary alliances with other sectors of the working classes of this country in order to achieve revolutionary change here in this country.”

First we are told that Puerto Ricans are unique in America beyond compare. We are told that the prime duty of Puerto Ricans “here” is to fight for the independence of Puerto Rico and that a party stretching from Puerto Rico to the U.S. is needed to insure success. All this would lead us to believe that PSP sees Puerto Ricans in the U.S. as a mystical body which exists outside of American society. More, we would believe from this that Puerto Rican workers in the U.S. function apart from the U.S. working class.

The next paragraph tries to deal with this. Now we are told we’re “part of the exploited class of this country.” But we’re also told: “Nation and class are two different categories that do not contradict each other.” Not so, and this opportunist (for it deviates from a proletarian) world view permeates the Declarations. Nation and class are not “two different categories.” To express it in this way is to say “this is national here and this is class there,” apart from each other, and this negates the dialectical relationship between the class and national struggles of oppressed people. PSP does not get over by saying “they do not contradict each other;” neither do they succeed by first stating the main task for Puerto Ricans in the U.S. is the independence of Puerto Rico, to be followed by saying “... we are part of a social class that transcends national boundaries. ...”

This is, at best, a halfway, lukewarm compromise between reality and petty-bourgeois idealism. Why? Mao Tsetung, in his monumental essay, “On Contradiction,” has said: “... one must not treat all the contradictions in a process as being equal but must distinguish between the principal and the secondary contradictions, and pay special attention to grasping the principal one. But, in any given contradiction, whether principal or secondary, should the two contradictory aspects be treated as equal? Again, no. In any contradiction the development of the contradictory aspects is uneven. Sometimes they seem to be in equilibrium, which is however only temporary and relative, while unevenness is basic. . . . The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the aspect which has gained the dominant position.”


The class question and the national question are in themselves great contradictions with many aspects. Together, they form two aspects of the overall contradiction which oppressed working people living in a multi-national state or in colonies face. Of the two, one is generally primary, indeed, fundamental, and this PSP does not make clear. Instead, PSP settles for a centrist position somewhere between bourgeois, narrow nationalism and a proletarian solution to the national question – a position between two diametrically opposed points. This is a key aspect of PSP’s petty-bourgeois opportunism on the national question, and opportunism revealed here as well as throughout the Declarations as centrism.

What is primary and what is secondary, class or nation? Joseph Stalin, acknowledged by Lenin as the Bolshevik party’s leading authority on the national question, and one of the greatest teachers of the world’s proletariat, says: “One of your mistakes is that you regard the national question not as a part of the general question of the social and political development of society, subordinated to this general question, but as something self-contained and constant, whose direction and character remain basically unchanged throughout the course of history.”

Perhaps these words will weigh heavier with PSP: “The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.” (“Manifesto of the Communist Party,” Marx and Engels.)

What is primary, then, is class and the national question is subordinate to and its resolution must help resolve the fundamental question – the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat. The PSP’s analysis only serves to hamstring proletarian revolution in the U.S. and any aid the multi-national U.S. proletariat can render the proletariat of Puerto Rico by metaphysically and opportunistically separating Puerto Rican workers in the U.S. from their class.

Is the PRRWO saying that the struggle of the Puerto Rican sector of the U.S. proletariat assumes only a class character? Are we putting forward a Progressive Labor or some other, Trotskyite line? Of course not. If that were the case, we would liquidate the PRRWO. What is the need of a national form of communist organization, prior to the formation of the party, if you have a “sole-class” perspective?

Life has proven that the Puerto Rican people, along with other peoples of color in the U.S., suffer intense national oppression. Proletarian as well as non-proletarian strata among our people, to varying degrees, have this in common. What rights should we have as a people in America that we do not have now? Is our fight a fight for self-determination? No. That right is reserved only for nations and we do not constitute a nation in the U.S. We would all agree that secession to our barrios or demanding two states on the East Coast would be a farce. Are we part of a “divided nation?”

In one sense, yes. Here our research coincides with PSP’s finding: 48.4 percent of Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. were born in Puerto Rico and they make up the overwhelming majority of Puerto Rican workers.

Definitely, the ties to Puerto Rico, the love of Borinquen, is tremendous among our people. And at one time we did draw the conclusion from this that they were part of the Puerto Rican nation. It’s true that when a people migrate, especially under forced conditions, from one country to another, they bring the characteristics of their nation with them, particularly its cultural forms.


But upon arrival in the U.S., and with settling down, working, raising a family, a new dialectic is created. The subjective feelings of the masses clash with the objective conditions of the state they must live under. Many things happened to Puerto Ricans as a result. Children grew up looking down on their folks as hicks. Many adults never learned English. Some of us passed as whites, others as Blacks. Others talked of going back to Puerto Rico: some did; some did and returned; others talked of it, while growing old in the U.S. We have found that all Puerto Ricans, irregardless of length of stay in the U.S., have summed up this collective experience and demanded: “If we’re here, let’s fight here.” Travel back and forth is not the main point. The shape of the struggle created by material conditions in either place is.

Corsicans in France, Filipinos in America, Koreans in Japan, have all brought their national customs and languages, and except for European immigrants to America, have not assimilated into the society fully. They have become a minority, a national minority, and their nation – Corsica, the Philippines, Korea, Puerto Rico – was left behind. The Puerto Rican situation is not unique in history. Some of the particulars are our particulars only, but they do not dominate the character of the Puerto Rican “experience” so as to create a unique situation in proletarian history, a “divided nation.” We are a national minority in the U.S., deprived of our democratic national rights – an oppressed people. Our national struggle is a struggle for these rights, short of self-determination. Most of us form part of the multi-national U.S. proletariat. It is one class, divided by national differences, but one class. The immediate task confronting communists in America is uniting the class. If not, wt divide it further, through “divided nation” schemes; Asian exceptionalism; Pan-Africanism; “white-skin privilege.” All these petty-bourgeois notions are trying to assert themselves in the working class movement.

Out of this mass struggle, we will build the class’ general staff, its Communist party. One party for one class with one line: Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.

Nowhere do the Declarations speak to these things. There is talk of “uniting the left” in the Declarations but we are not interested in the “left” as PSP views it, their “disorganized North American left.” We hold nothing in common with the revisionists, Trotskyists, centrists and other agents of the bourgeoisie parading around out there. But this view of the American situation directly stems from PSP’s “divided nation” stance. It leads to class division and this certainly is not in the interests of the proletariat.

To sum up: PSP’s opportunist world view of the national question has these two main aspects:

1. The “divided nation” position, which serves only to divide the U.S. proletariat.
2. Equating the class question with the national question.

Honest forces everywhere, including PSP, must struggle to purge this opportunism from our ranks. We will never give concrete aid to the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico as long as this opportunism is with us; we will never fulfill our international responsibility in smashing the grip of U.S. imperialism on the world’s peoples if we do not lead the U.S. proletariat correctly in battle against the U.S. bourgeoisie.

This must be the basis of our policies, our mass work, our statements – our very life’s blood. It is demanded of us or we fall on the scrap heap. Will American communists meet the challenge, many ask?

We answer: the future is ours! We have nothing to lose but our chains!