Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Puerto Rican Socialist Party

What Road for the Puerto Rican Movement? – PSP Replies

First Published: The Guardian, June 6, 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Guardian Introduction:The following contribution to the Radical Forum is a reply by the Puerto Rican Socialist party (U.S. zone) to a critique of their recent U.S. Congress held in New York City. The critique was written by the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO) and it appeared in the May 16 issue of the Guardian as a Radical Forum. The Congress produced a document called Declarations which set forth the PSP’s position on a number of questions.

In the past few weeks, a number of articles have appeared in various movement periodicals reporting on the PSP Congress held on April 8 of this year.

While some have basically just reported the events, others have attempted to analyze the political significance of the Congress and its most important product, the PSP Declaration (“Desde Las Entranas”). In upcoming editions of Claridad, our newspaper, we will publish a series of articles dealing with four central questions raised in the Declaration and to which many organizations and individuals have referred: the national question, the role of the PSP in the U.S., the left in the U.S. and the international question.

However, in this article for the Guardian we will respond specifically to the critique produced by the PRRWO which was recently published in Claridad and the Guardian. The relevance of the article is in its attempt to focus on the socio-political nature of the Puerto Rican population in the U.S.: that is, are the Puerto Rican people in the U.S. part of the Puerto Rican nation or not? In the article, the PRRWO characterizes the Declaration as presenting an “opportunist world view” which “divides the U.S. proletariat” and equates “the class question with the national question.”

The critique, although it attempts a political analysis of the Declaration, suffers from repeated blunders in its understandings and interpretations of the document. We doubt, however, that all these errors are entirely unconscious. In a number of instances, certain passages are selectively quoted out of context to conform to PRRWO’s interpretation even though there are sections all throughout the document which refute their interpretations. Even history is revised a bit to make some points.

In the final analysis, however, it is not the misquotations or misinterpretations which render the critique incorrect but rather PRRWO’s own failure to make a serious, scientific analysis of the objective conditions facing the Puerto Rican population which resides in the U.S. Since it has never done so, it is naturally incapable of applying Marxism-Leninism to arrive at a correct political strategy for Puerto Rican revolutionaries in the U.S. Let us examine the points raised in the article.


The article begins by saying that the PSP’s position on the national question is nothing more than the so-called “divided nation theory” once held by the Young Lords party and which YLP first presented in December 1970. It then suggests that PSP should “criticize” itself now because at that time MPI (the organizational predecessor of PSP) rejected the “divided nation theory” because it did not believe Puerto Ricans in the U.S. were part of the Puerto Rican nation.

Perhaps we should refresh the memory of our companeros at PRRWO by reviewing (not revising) history a little bit. First of all, the “divided nation theory” was nothing more than a concept which re-affirmed the nationhood of Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. This concept was presented by YLP earlier man they think. It first appeared in the Oct. 30, 1970 issue of Palante in an article entitled “We Are A Nation.” Also, as early as January 1970, the YLO, in its 13-point program, was calling for self-determination of all Puerto Ricans – in Puerto Rico and the U.S. This demonstrates that the YLO had articulated the concept of Puerto Rican nationhood much earlier than when the “divided nation” term was used.

The importance of raising this point is that it shows that the “divided nation theory” represented no real change or development over YLP’s or YLO’s prior position. In fact it only confirmed the general consensus of all independentistas at that time. And that was that Puerto Ricans in the U.S., even though geographically split from the island of Puerto Rico, still formed part of the Puerto Rican nation. This concept – although not very precisely articulated and often relying solely on subjective factors–predated even the early MPI years in New York. For it was inherent in the politics of the Nationalist party which had carried on much anti-imperialist organizing in New York during the previous three decades.

What the YLP presented was not in any way an advance or departure from previous theory. Its main contribution historically was that it popularized among the Puerto Rican communities (especially among Puerto Rican youth) the colonial case of Puerto Rico, at a time when the Puerto Rican people in the U.S. experienced a resurgence in their anti-imperialist consciousness. However, its contribution never really extended to the arena of political theory.

In light of this, PRRWO’s implication that April 8 was the first time PSP has viewed Puerto Ricans in the U.S. as part of the Puerto Rican nation is a total distortion of the facts: a distortion which they must retract if they wish to maintain organizational credibility. PSP’s current position on the national question represents a further development–this time supported by a much more concrete study of the objective reality facing Puerto Ricans – of the themes always inherent in the theory and practice of the early MPI.

It is another gross distortion of the facts to claim – as PRRWO does in its article – that MPI rejected YLP’s position on the national question, saying that Puerto Ricans in the U.S. weren’t “real Puerto Ricans.” This is a very simple matter to demonstrate: PRRWO must produce an official document or issue of Claridad where this alleged position of MPI was published. If it can perform this miracle, then we will stand corrected. On the contrary, they will find that back in November 1971 in our political thesis of the U.S. branch of the MPI (at the assembly which occasioned the transformation of MPI to PSP) the following reaffirmation of our position on the national question:

”... the Party understands that Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. form an integral part of the Puerto Rican nation, that the struggle for independence and socialism in Puerto Rico contributes to the development of the revolutionary struggle in the United States.”

They will also find that throughout its 11 year history in New York (1960-1971) MPI always struggled for the right of Puerto Ricans to maintain their national identity; that the Puerto Ricans in the U.S. were clearly seen as part of the Puerto Rican nation even though it was understood that there was a tremendous struggle taking place between the forces of assimilation and the resistance to it.

It is even significant to note that the MPI thesis (first formulated in April 1968 and approved in July 1969) held out for the double citizenship of Puerto Ricans in the U.S., once the (Independent) Republic of Puerto Rico was established. It stipulates that Puerto Ricans residing in the U.S. (including the succeeding generation born in the U.S. would be citizens of the Republic of Puerto Rico; that is, that they would continue to be part of the nation. In future articles we will elaborate more extensively on our position on the national question but for now we must make clear that PRRWO’s version of the facts is totally inaccurate.

What our companeros and companeras from PRRWO are referring to is the attitude of individuals (inside and outside of MPI) who at one time may have criticized Puerto Ricans born and raised in the U.S. for being “assimilated,” for speaking English, etc. It must be understood that the source of these attitudes is the cultural nationalism which results from an overreaction to the cultural genocide of U.S. imperialism. It is a subjective feeling which must continually be combatted. However, it is one thing to say that individual members of MPI had these attitudes. It is an entirely different thing to suggest that MPI, as an organization, claimed that Puerto Ricans in the U.S. were not part of the Puerto Rican nation. This is totally untrue and must be retracted by PRRWO as a factual error on their part.


After this false start, the article continues on to construct an interpretation of the Declaration which is totally at odds with what is written down in black and white. The article extracts a quote from the Declaration which goes as follows: “Nation and class are two different categories that do not contradict each other.”

From this PRRWO concludes that PSP has equated the national question with the class question! PRRWO, in their words, claims: “Nation and class are not two different categories; to express it this way is to say ’this is national here, class there,’ apart from each other, and negate the dialectical relationship between class and national struggles of oppressed people.”

However, nation and class are two different categories! As we explain in the document: “As Puerto Ricans we function with a national perspective in mind. As workers we form part of a social class that transcends national boundaries. ...”

Here there is a simple misunderstanding of the context in which the word “contradiction” is used. The passage in the Declaration obviously refers to the fact that the two terms “nation” and “class” are not mutually exclusive; that one does not necessarily exclude the other. It does not say (which is how PRRWO interpreted it) that there are no contradictions between class interests and national interests. Nevertheless, PRRWO leaps at this opportunity to call PSP “nationalists,” for equating the class question with the national question. Aside from the fact that we never do this, PRRWO then proceeds to develop a line which strangely enough views the question of national liberation struggles as basically being an obstacle to world proletarian revolution.

It is ironic that this organization, which at one time upheld “revolutionary nationalism” as one of its principles, is now the bold defender of proletarian internationalism against PSP’s “petit-bourgeois nationalism.” The article even quotes from Mao, Stalin and the Communist Manifesto, as if to assure us that even they came out against nationalism. Unfortunately: (a) the quote from Mao has nothing to do with the point at hand (PRRWO’s misinterpretation of the nation-class categories as being non-contradictory); (b) the quote from Stalin is not applicable to PSP’s position (where does PSP say that the national question is “self-contained, and constant” and “basically unchanged throughout history?”); (c) and finally the quote from the Manifesto, selectively chosen, by no means represents Marx’s and Engels’ full position on the national question. (Does PRRWO know for example, that Marx supported the national movements of the Polish and Hungarian peoples against Tsarist Russia and that he supported the right of Ireland to self-determination against British imperialism?)

In the final analysis, PRRWO is so concerned about establishing the predominance of class over nation – a relationship which we never disputed – that it loses total perspective on the national question as it applies to Puerto Ricans in the U.S. PRRWO is so obsessed with tagging PSP with a “petit-bourgeois nationalist” label that it forces itself into minimizing all considerations of the problems of Puerto Ricans as an oppressed nationality. In the end it falls just short of liquidating the national question. But not quite. PRRWO is quick to assure us that it doesn’t believe that Puerto Ricans in the U.S. have exclusively a class character. And the formal proof they offer? ... their own existence! We assume, then, that the national character of Puerto Ricans will not be officially dissolved until PRRWO integrates into the “New Communist Party” –t he formation of which it sees as an immediate task for all revolutionaries in the U.S.


There are other serious errors made by the critique which we shall refer to in future articles but which deserve mentioning here:

1. PSP does not say that the main task of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. is simply to support the liberation struggle for a free and socialist Puerto Rico. This is a false representation of what the Declaration states and is clearly refuted by several sections in the document:

“That is why at the same time that we form an integral part of the struggle for the national liberation struggle 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 in this country.”

The whole second part of the Declaration is devoted to a presentation of the principal objectives and strategies of the U.S. branch in the immediate future. This clearly indicates the seriousness we place in organizing in the U.S. It would be ridiculous for any Puerto Rican revolutionary organization to think that it could build a mass support movement for the independence of Puerto Rico without relating concretely to the democratic demands of Puerto Ricans residing in the U.S. (and vice versa!). For us it is not a question of which task has priority. It is a matter of interrelating the two struggles. Again we quote from the Declaration:

“Its (PSP’s) primary role in the U.S. is to unleash, in all its fury, that national liberation struggle/in the very centers of the North American cities, and to incorporate our people into the struggle for the revolutionary transformation of North American society.”

The PRRWO has constructed an artificial dichotomy for Puerto Rican revolutionaries: you either give priority to Puerto Rico (which, they believe, flows from seeing Puerto Ricans in the U.S. as part of the nation) or you give priority to the U.S. (which, they believe, flows from seeing Puerto Ricans as a national minority). However, no such dichotomy exists and PSP is proving it. We can and must organize for both struggles because neither contradicts the other but rather each complements the other.

2. PSP does not separate Puerto Rican workers from the U.S. proletariat. There is nothing in the Declaration which suggests that we consider Puerto Ricans “beyond compare” or that they are a “mystical body” outside the working class in the U.S. This poor attempt at literary cynicism only reflects PRRWO’s failure to read what is plainly written in the document. We fully recognize that Puerto Rican workers are a sector of the proletariat in the U.S. and that it is a sector which has certain characteristics peculiar to its history and development. This is not something new but rather was expressed in our First Declaration (November 1971). It is reaffirmed several times in our current Declaration.

The main purpose of this article has been to clarify several errors which appeared in the critique presented by PRRWO. There is no point in discussing theoretical points if we are not talking about the same thing.

The critique certainly contains points with which we disagree (the national question, the left in the U.S., the international question) and to which we will address ourselves in future publications of the party. But above and beyond that, the critique suffers from a fundamental misunderstanding and false representation of what the Declaration is all about: PSP has always maintained (implicitly or explicitly) that Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are part of the nation; PSP does not equate nation on the same level with class; PSP does not set up priorities (“Puerto Rico vs. U.S.!”) with respect to the role of the party in the U.S.; PSP does not separate Puerto Rican workers from the proletariat in the U.S. PSP does not propose this in theory nor in practice. Anybody who reads the entirety of the Declaration will know what we are talking about.

A final observation which we would like to make is that the critique is singularly lacking in any concrete examples in the actual policy of the PSP which would demonstrate the major criticism which is made: namely that the PSP is dividing the proletariat in the U.S. This is the real test of their analysis. Where, in our practice, has the PSP divided the proletariat in this country?

On the contrary, PRRWO recognizes that PSP has been very ambitious in seeking unity with other progressive forces in this country around concrete issues. PRRWO is well aware of our political work in a number of workplaces, schools and communities which have involved various forms of multi-national unity. PRRWO is well aware of our political work in the defense of political prisoners and in the antiwar movement. In fact, true to its infantilism and sectarianism, PRRWO accuses us of being too willing to work with different left groups! In any event, this is the reality which flies in the face of the critique and which ultimately disproves its arguments. If the PRRWO’s analysis were correct, then the PSP would in effect be an isolated or sectarian organization, removed from the revolutionary struggle in this country.

But in reality it is the PSP which has begun the process of relating masses of Puerto Rican people to the struggle in the U.S. Through hard work and patience, correct theory and practice, we are reaching broader and broader sections of the Puerto Rican people, constantly raising their anti-imperialist and class consciousness. It is from this experience and with the application of Marxist-Leninist principles that we will chart the course for the future.

The course which the PRRWO has chosen – to immediately begin the construction of a “New Communist Party”–is totally removed from the reality of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. This decision does not result from any serious theoretical study of the objective reality facing Puerto Ricans nor does it flow from any extensive practical work among Puerto Rican workers. PRRWO is deluding itself if it thinks it will bring any significant base into that new party.

The most important contribution which Puerto Rican revolutionary organizations can make at this time is to intensify political organizing in the workplaces, communities and schools where Puerto Ricans work, live and study and simultaneously tie local struggles to the struggle for the national liberation of Puerto Rico and socialism in the U.S. That is the road ahead for us. We are breaking the chains!