Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

League for Proletarian Revolution (Marxist-Leninist)

Self-Determination for the Puerto Rican Nation!

The Puerto Rican revolution is a two stage revolution (Part I)

First Published: Resistencia, Vol. 7, No. 9, October 26, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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October 30th is one of the most significant dates in the history of the Puerto Rican nation. Under the leadership of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican patriots rose in arms against Yankee imperialism on October 30, 1950. The town of Jayuya was taken by the revolutionaries and there the second Republic of Puerto Rico was declared. (The first republic was declared on September 23, 1868 in the town of Lares.) While it is true that militarily the insurrection failed, this is no reason for us to fail to recognize the importance that this revolutionary act has in the development of the struggle of the Puerto Rican nation for its independence and national liberation.

Puerto Rico is a colony of the U.S. since 1898. As a result of the Spanish-American War, the defeated Spain ceded its colonies – Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines – to the Yankee imperialists. On July 25th, the imperialist troops invaded Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican patriots under the command of the revolutionary Fidel Velez met them in armed combat. The Puerto Rican people’s struggle for liberation was reaffirmed in that unequal combat in which dozens of patriots armed only with machetes faced a whole infantry battalion.

Since the first moment of the invasion, the struggle of the Puerto Rican nation for its independence has been uninterrupted. All struggles have their ebbs and flows; thus, the first 30 years of domination were largely a period of ebb. The Puerto Rican independence struggle was led by the petty bourgeoisie and the weak national bourgeoisie of Puerto Rico. Without any real support from the working masses, the independence struggle took the route of reformism, raising parliamentarism as the main and exclusive form of struggle. They expected to achieve independence in “peace and friendship with the United States,” through negotiations which would receive impetus by the “triumph of the independentistas at the polls.”

In the 1930’s, there was a radical change in this picture. Objectively the political, social and economic situation in the colony became intolerable for the vast, masses of toiling people – starvation wages, malnutrition, lack of medical and educational services, no electrification or running water, etc. Subjectively, the Puerto Rican Independence movement, now with the support of the masses took a radical turn. The rise of Pedro Albizu Campos to the presidency of the Nationalist Party in Puerto Rico helped to turn the reformist and electoral independence movement into one that was revolutionary and anti-imperialist. The next 20 years were full of continuous struggles m which the Puerto Rican nationalists raised the need for armed struggle as the method by which independence was to be achieved.

As we pointed out, on the 25th anniversary of the Nationalist uprising:

The anti-imperialist nationalism of Albizu, the politics of non-collaboration with the system, (electoral boycott, resistance to the military service, etc.), the preaching that only armed struggle will smash the imperialist siege in P.R., moved the U.S. to try to destroy once and for all, the resistance of the Puerto Rican people against the politics of imperialism. The greatest acts of repression known in our history are directed against the nationalists. Nationalists are massacred in Rio Piedras and Ponce; Albizu and the leadership will be found “guilty” in kangaroo trials and sentenced to jail in the empire. To be a member or a sympathizer of the Nationalist Party is to bring down all the fury of the empire upon oneself in this historical moment in Puerto Rico. But it was not only direct repression that the empire used against nationalism. Another leadership had to be created, another way out for the people. That is why the Popular Democratic Party, with its “bread, land and liberty” and “independence is just around the corner” was created. The nationalist leadership jailed, and the lack of political leadership to guide the people (the “Puerto Rican Communist Party”, which was and continues to be an appendage of the American party, hid like an ostrich) could not detain the coalition between imperialism and the Puerto Rican petty bourgeoisie elements grouped in PPD. That is why in 1940, the PPD rose to power and began rapidly to complete the sale of P.R. and Puerto Ricans to the Yankee interests. Thus, when the Yankees no longer need sugar, the industrialization program was initiated. This program in less than 20 years, industrialized the country causing at the same time the complete ruin of Puerto Rican agriculture and the exodus of more than 1 million Puerto Ricans to Northamerican ghettos in which we find ourselves.

But the revolutionary movement was not liquidated and with the return of Albizu and other leaders to the island in 1948, they began to organize once again for battle, imperialism prepared to bury them forever. On October 30, 1950, two unequal forces confronted each other in a struggle to the death in P.R. On one side, imperialism with all its power, its colonial police, its lackey national guard, its FBI, CIA, radio stations, newspapers, judges and D.A.s. On the other side a handful of sacrificing, honest, and valiant patriots who were willing to give up their lives in a sacrifice in order to declare Puerto Rico’s right to liberty and sovereignty. The Nationalists failed in their attempt to establish the Republic of Puerto Rico; but they showed clearly the path that must be followed to get there. That is why the history of Puerto Rico cannot be written without dedicating a chapter to this historic struggle of the Puerto Rican nationalists who spilled their blood for our people’s right to liberty.

Armed struggle, not only in words but in revolutionary deeds commits life, property and personal liberty, was promulgated and put into action by the anti-imperialist P.R. nationalism, continues to be today the only existing road for those who seriously propose to liberate Puerto Rico from the yoke of Yankee imperialism.

Eliminating the most dedicated enemy that imperialism had at this moment, it moved to fortify its domination. On July 25, 1952, they established the Free Associated State (Commonwealth), a colonial political system which is not a state, nor free nor associated, It was no coincidence that the colonialists chose that particular day, July 25th the day of the invasion, to inaugurate their disguised colony. But their actions backfired because the 25th of July is the date Puerto Ricans associate with the colonial status of the island more and more each day. Now for two reasons: the invasion of 1893 and the Commonwealth farse of 1952.

It is important that we understand that the Commonwealth is the Yankee imperialists answer to the militant struggle of P.R. Nationalist struggle for the establishment of a republic. Again, imperialism’s two favorite ways of resolving contradictions coincide, this time in P.R. On the one hand, brutal repression of the revolutionary movement. On the other hand, the granting of reforms to the compradour bourgeoisie and the native intelligentsia.

Since the establishment of the Commonwealth to the present, there have not been any fundamental changes in the political structure of the island. The colonial character of this imperialist gimmick has been exposed not only before the P.R. people but also before the nations of the world. This is so obvious that recently the United Nations has come out in favor of the right of the P.R. nation to self-determination as an independent country. The U.S., in an attempt to disguise its imperialist domination, ordered the celebration of a plebiscite in 1967, and is apparently in the process of ordering another one in the near future. But all the plebiscites in the world will not stop the forward march of history. Resistencia, Vol. 6, #12, p. 4

“Countries want independence; nations want liberation and people want revolution.” This is an irresistible trend in the world today. This irresistible trend is REVOLUTION, the main trend in the world today. Thus we see the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America moving along the path of revolution despite the criminal attempts of imperialism, especially Yankee imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism, to halt the wheel of history.

In the case of Puerto Rico, it is Yankee imperialism which controls the economy and government of the island. Their military bases occupy more than 14% of the Puerto Rican national territory. It is their repressive agencies – F.B.I., C.I.A., etc. – which operate on the island. Thus, it is important that in our support for the cause or Puerto Rican national liberation, we direct our main blow, at North American imperialism, since at this moment, the principal contradiction is clearly between Yankee imperialism and the oppressed Puerto Rican nation. However, this does not mean that Yankee imperialism is the only enemy. In the last few years, attempts by the Soviet social-imperialists to dominate the Puerto Rican national liberation movement have increased. Unable to dominate this struggle through its official puppet, the Puerto Rican “Communist” Party, the Soviet Union has made strides to place PSP under its complete control. The Soviet Union wants to project PSP internationally as the only legitimate representative of the Puerto Rican national liberation movement. Their control over PSP is exercised by way of the Cuban revisionists. Examples of their attempt to place the Puerto Rican liberation struggle under their influence have been their maneuvering in the U.N. and their Havana Conference (see the article in this issue, “Unite to Expose”). This would clear the way for making out of Puerto Rico another Angola in the future. So, without losing the perspective as to what constitutes the main danger, one must also struggle against the secondary danger. In struggling against the wolf in the front door we must also guard against the tiger trying to get in through the back door.

The warning of the Chinese comrades is one we must consistently raise in the case of Puerto Rico, as well as in all the national liberation struggles which take place around the world. (In our analysis of the Havana Conference, we did precisely this.) The danger which the Soviet Union represents to all the national liberation struggles in general and to Puerto Rico in particular cannot be fought with such slogans as the October League’s “Superpowers out of Puerto Rico.” This slogan does not establish the difference between the main and the secondary danger in Puerto Rico and obscure the fact that actually, principal contradiction there is between the oppressed nation and yankee imperialism. Puerto Rico is part of the Third World and as such it is necessarily part of the worldwide united front against the two superpowers. However, from this objective fact to the O.L.’s slogan, a lot is left out. The slogan in point of fact tends to protect yankee imperialism by placing the Soviet Union on a par with the U.S. inside of Puerto Rico.

We believe that historically our organization has dealt with this question in a consistent manner and with a relatively correct line (relative to the lines of other M-L organizations in the U.S. in regard to this question). Our “Analysis of the Political Declaration of PSP in the United States,” “The Puerto Rican National Question,” “Analysis of the Havana Conference in Solidarity with Puerto Rico,” “On October 27th in Madison Square Garden” are examples of this fact. However, despite the fact that the principal aspect of all our practical and theoretical work around the question of Puerto Rico has been positive, it is important to point out that throughout this same period, we have been defending an incorrect line in regard to one of the most fundamental aspects of the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico. This has been on the question of the character of the Puerto Rican revolution.

Will this be a one stage revolution or a two-stage revolution? We have, since the beginning of our organization, maintained that it would be a one-stage revolution. This is an incorrect view – a Trotskyite view – which if carried out in practice would condemn the Puerto Rican revolution to failure.


The ideological basis of our error was primarily: a poor understanding of the national and colonial question in the era of imperialism after the first imperialist world war and the Great October Revolution; and secondarily: liberalism. This allowed us to remain consolidated around this incorrect position for such a long time, in spite of the fact that there was always opposition to this position within our ranks. The fundamental theoretical errors we committed in analyzing the Puerto Rican colonial question were:

1. One-sidedness in our analysis. We did not consider the question in all its aspects. We did not make a distinction between the first period of the national question, the period or rising capitalism in which the bourgeoisie, in search of markets, leads the national movements, and the second period – the period of imperialism, in which only with the proletariat as the leader and vanguard can the national movement achieve a real victory against imperialism. Basically, we remained in the first period and we alleged that to advocate a two-stage revolution was to advocate a “banana republic.”

2. We maintained that the concept of New Democracy put forth by Mao Tse Tung only applied to colonial countries where feudal and semi-feudal relations of production existed. Thus we held that New Democracy applied only to countries such as the Dominican Republic, but not to Puerto Rico, stemming from the erroneous conception that (a) both characteristics (feudal and colonial relations) had to be present for it to apply, and (b) the objective reality of a high development of capitalism in the island. Today we understand that the existence of either of the two characteristics makes the principle of New Democracy applicable.

3. The role of allies. We also failed in our analysis by underestimating the role played by the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie and small (but existent) sector of the national bourgeoisie as possible allies of the Puerto Rican proletariat. Basically, we discarded the question of allies with mere statistics such as that only 5% of the work force is involved in agriculture, or that the bourgeoisie as a whole was of a comprador nature, etc.


The liberalism in this question allowed the consolidation of the incorrect position within our organization. This was manifested in various ways:

1. Self-complacency. We developed a “lazybones”, attitude and self-complacency in relation to our line on Puerto Rico. The incorrect position of the one-stage revolution in Puerto Rico was part of our general line on the Puerto Rican National Question. This line was developed in the course of the struggle against the revisionist theses of PSP – the “divided nation theory”, “the multi-party vanguard”, the role of Puerto Ricans in the U.S., etc. In the struggle that we initiated against PSP’s revisionism, their thesis of the “divided nation” was beaten, and more and more Marxist-Leninist organizations adopted the correct position that Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are a national minority. The Bundist thesis of PSP that every national group in the U.S. should have its own party had been also defeated and the correct Marxist-Leninist position, which is that the multi-national working class of the U.S. needs a multi-national communist party, made headway. But these victories for Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought made us “dizzy with success” and we did not maintain a critical attitude towards our own position. We did not apply MLMTT with the necessary scientific rigor, and our position was only proven correct in comparison to PSP’s revisionism. We took for granted the correctness of all the component parts of our line on Puerto Rico.

2. We adopted the same liberal attitude towards the criticisms on the one-stage revolution put forth by other Marxist-Leninists. Instead of dealing with the criticisms to see if they were correct or not, we dealt with who was doing the criticism. However, as almost always the criticism was put forth by right opportunists or narrow nationalists, we dismissed them by pointing out their opportunism. We confused form with essence and this aid not allow us to deal with the criticism itself, but rather to give more emphasis to who had said it, and how rather than what was said.

3. Concilation. “To go against the tide” is a Marxist-Leninist principle. But the comrades who historically opposed this incorrect line within our ranks were not resolute enough in defending their position and ended up conciliating with the incorrect position. Instead of studying more the problem, looking for more evidence and information and trying to win the majority of the organization to their correct position, these comrades opted to go along with the tide.

These comrades’ error reflects not only liberalism but also a poor understanding of democratic centralism in the organization. There’s room within a Marxist-Leninist organization for comrades who have differences with the line. As long as these comrades don’t propagate their ideas outside the organization, don’t factionalize within the organization around their ideas and they submit to democratic centralism carrying out their tasks and responsibilities, they can and should be cadres of the organization.

It was precisely in the midst of a combat-liberialism-campaign within the organization, that these comrades became aware of their error and decided to wage ideological struggle within the organization, which resulted in our repudiation of the error being committed, and moving to correct it. In the process, we were able to understand better the question of democratic centralism and the deviations we were making in this fundamental principle of communist organization.

4. Marxism for others, liberalism for our comrades of PSR In our fraternal relations with the comrades from PSR-ML of Puerto Rico, we have always been very conscious to avoid falling into “great nation chauvinism”. We cannot expect to dictate, from the U.S., how the revolution in Puerto Rico is going to develop. However, often one tendency covers another, and we fell then into liberalism towards the comrades. So as not to intervene with what we called “the internal affairs” of Puerto Rico’s revolutionaries, we conciliated with PSR-ML of Puerto Rico and did not develop an open and strong ideological struggle with them. On the contrary, for a long time we limited ourselves to recommending certain readings and to privately question their line. This error – a right opportunist error – instead of aiding the comrades to understand their errors helped to consolidate them more.

Summing up this part, it is important that we understand that it’s not enough to repudiate publicly an incorrect line that has guided our work in support of the national liberation of Puerto Rico. It is necessary to correct these errors in our practice. A campaign of serious self-criticism in front of the masses and rectification must follow this repudiation. Our error in this question can only truly be corrected when we are able to develop among the multi-national working class in general – and the Marxist-Leninists, advanced workers and revolutionary minded people in particular – real support for the struggle towards Puerto Rico’s independence.